Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Is It Always Right to Forgive?

Many Christians believe that they don’t have to forgive someone else until they apologize. In fact, some Christians even think it would be wrong to forgive someone else until they apologize. They use Luke 17:3-4 to argue their point:
Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, “I repent,” you shall forgive him.
But what they miss is that Jesus is not, at this moment, focusing on the offender’s need to repent; He is addressing the disciples and their need to forgive. “Take heed to yourselves,” He says. Regardless of what someone else may have done against us, the point of greatest concern is not whether they have repented, but whether we have forgiven.

Our forgiveness of others is not based on whether they repent. Iit is based on faith. The disciples realized what Jesus was calling them to do, for they said, “Lord, increase our faith” (v. 5). It is at that point that Jesus spoke to them about faith as a mustard seed.

On another occasion, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I do not say up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). Notice again that Jesus’ focus was not on the repentance of the offender but on the forgiveness of the disciples.

In another place, in a teaching on prayer and faith, Jesus said, “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him” (Mark 11:25). Our forgiveness is not conditioned on whether the offender has repented, but whether we have anything against anyone (these parameters are pretty inclusive). If we do, then our duty is clear: we must forgive.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies and bless them.” How can you love your enemies without extending forgiveness to them? How can you bless them, if you are unforgiving? But if they are your enemies, they have not yet repented and apologized, or else they would no longer be at enmity with you. Yet, Jesus tells us to love them anyway. Not only to love them, but to bless them, as well. That requires forgiveness.

That is how Jesus Himself lived, all the way to the end. When He was being nailed to the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Here were the enemies of Jesus, putting Him to death. Not only were they not apologetic, they did not even realize what they were doing. There was no repentance or compunction in them. Yet, Jesus cried out to the Father to forgive them.

Or consider Stephen. He was stoned by the synagogue council for teaching and preaching Jesus. As he lay dying, he cried out to the Father, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” His last words were forgiveness for those who were in still in the act of killing him. They had no repentance, showed no remorse, offered no apology.

It is always right to forgive others, to love your enemies and bless them — even if they have not repented. In fact, it is required of all who would be disciples of Jesus.

Monday, January 30, 2006

My Mouth Shall Not Transgress

You have tested my heart;
You have visited me in the night;
You have tried me and have found nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

Concerning the works of men,
By the Word of Your lips,
I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.
(Psalm 17:3-4)
Here again is the heart/mouth connection. David set his heart before the Lord and purposed that his mouth would not transgress. It is important that we establish our heart upon the right things, but it is just as important that we align our words with the right things.

David made a determination that he would not overstep the boundaries by the words of his mouth, but that he would line his mouth up with the Word of God, for it was by the Words of God’s lips that David was able to avoid the path of the destroyer. Not only did the Word keep David from walking that path himself, it also kept him from crossing that path — and so he was kept from destruction.

David purposed, therefore, that he would not speak anything contrary to the Word of God. If you want to walk a successful and prosperous path, you must determine that you will not transgress with your lips, but that you will speak in agreement with the Words of God’s lips.

Set your heart on the Word of God, then when your mouth speaks out of the overflow of your heart, it will keep you from destruction and bring forth the creative power of God into your life. For the Word of God not only reveals things, it also causes things to be.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

What Does It Cost to Change the World?

Everything! But it is well worth the price.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Small Things Change the World

Do not despise these small beginnings. (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven. (Matthew 13:33)

If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move form here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible. (Matthew 17:20)
This is how the world works. Everything begins as a seed, a bit of leaven, seemingly small and insignificant. Consider the Creation, for example: God spoke a little word and the worlds were framed.

Mathematicians have developed an explanation to address how the world hinges on small beginnings. It is called Chaos Theory, “sensitive dependence upon initial conditions.” The classic paradigm is that the beating of a butterfly’s wings in Beijing can affect the weather patterns over Central Park in New York.

Bankers and investment counselors expound on the miracles of compound interest, the snowballing effect of a little bit of interest accumulating over time.

In the beginning, God created a man and a woman and gave them this amazing assignment: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion” (Genesis 1:28). Quite a job description for the very first couple, and yet eminently doable in the providence of God.

Jesus said “The kingdom of God is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened” (Matthew 13:33). The leaven, though very small, eventually works throughout all the dough. The kingdom of God works in the same way.

Jesus also compared the kingdom to a mustard seed, “which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches” (Matthews 13:31-32).

Faith, too, is like a mustard seed, He said. A little bit goes a long way — if you plant it. Mountains move. In fact, Jesus made a statement so startling that we gloss over it as hyperbole, but it is not. He said, “Nothing will be impossible!”

We don’t really need to understand how it happens, we just need to know that it happens. Jesus said,
The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. (Mark 4:26-29)
Have you ever noticed in a vegetable garden, how a gardener will often take the empty seed packet and put it on a stake at the end of the row? Carrots, cabbage, peas. Why does he do that? It is not for the benefit of the seed, but simply to help him keep track of what is planted where. The seed already knows what it is, and that is how it will come up, regardless of how the rows are marked.

The seed carries its destiny within itself, and the soil knows what to do with it. Our job is simply to be faithful — full of faith — to sow the seed. In its proper time, it will begin to breakthrough the soil, to grow and develop, to bud and blossom and bring forth fruit. When the fruit ripens, there is harvest — much greater than the seed that was sown.

Start small, finish big. Take your faith and plant it. Speak the Word of God over you life, over your world. Believe the leaven and watch it work. Scatter your seed freely. The world waits in sensitive dependence upon the initial conditions of your heart, so turn your heart in faith to the Lord, and nothing will be impossible.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Looking for Breakthrough

One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek;
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to inquire in His temple.
(Psalm 27:4)
The Hebrew word for “inquire” is baqar. Literally, it means to plough, but generally it means to “break forth” in the sense of searching and seeking out. Other versions have:
  • To visit early in His Temple. (Jewish Publication Society Bible)
  • To meditate, consider and inquire in His Temple. (Amplified Bible)
  • Getting wisdom in His Temple. (Bible in Basic English)
  • I’ll study at His feet. (The Message Bible)
David was in a tough position, completely surrounded by his enemies. An angry army was encamped around him and fierce war was being pitched against him (v. 3). False witnesses opposed him, hostile voices breathing out violence (v. 12). David was in serious need of breakthrough in his situation, and that required a breakthrough in his spirit, to break forth with an intense focus on the LORD.

Perhaps this was the occasion we read about in 1 Chronicles 14. David had just been established at Jerusalem as king over Israel. When the Philistines got word of this, they came looking to oppose him. David went out against them. The Philistines made the first move and raided the Valley of Rephaim. (vv. 8-9). Then in verse 10, we read,
And David inquired of God, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hand?” The LORD said to him, “Go up, for I will deliver them into your hand.”
The word for “inquire” here is shalal and means to ask, beg, borrow, and on occasion, even to demand. It is an earnest request. God answered and released David into victory:
So they went up to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there. Then David said, “God has broken through my enemies by my hand like a breakthrough of waters.” Therefore they called the name of that place Baal Perazim. (v. 11)
“Baal Perazim” means “Master of Breakthroughs.” When David broke through and focused himself on the LORD, the LORD broke through his enemies in a mighty way.

One final encounter remained in this battle, for afterward, the Philistines made another raid on the valley (v. 13). This was a fresh battle and required a fresh word from the LORD. Yesterday’s breakthrough is no assurance of today’s victory.
Therefore David inquired again of God, and God said to him, “You shall not go up after them; circle around them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear a sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall go out to battle, for God has gone out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” So David did as God commanded him, and they drove back the army of the Philistines from Gibeon as far as Gezer. Then the fame of David went out into all lands, and the LORD brought the fear of him upon all nations. (v.v. 14-17)
This was the final triumph over the Philistines, and it happened because David broke through and inquired once more of the LORD. God went forth before Him, then David went forth in God’s footsteps and appropriated the victory.

If you want to breakthrough to a place in your life you have never been before, you must breakthrough to God in a way you have never done before. You must come to the place in your life where you realize that it is all about God and that true and lasting success will never come to you apart from Him. Then seek Him with all your heart. Get in His presence and lay claim to His promise and provision with single-minded focus. Let no other words fill your heart but His, and He will lead you to complete victory.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

How to Cast Your Cares

Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Some people “drown their sorrows” in alcohol when they encounter difficulties in their life. Some people chain-smoke to “calm their nerves.” Others, when things are not going well, head to the refrigerator for “comfort food.”

God has a better idea. Instead of drowning your sorrows, cast all your cares on Him. The Greek word for “cast” means to fling, toss, hurl in a sudden motion.

There are two different Greek words for “care” in this verse. The first one refers to the distractions and anxieties of life that so often eat away at us, sapping our strength and destroying our peace of mind. These are the cares we are to quickly heave over onto Him.

The second word for care speaks of the interest or concern one person has for another person or thing. God has a great interest and concern for us and our well-being. He invites us to freely cast all our worries and concerns upon Him, for He desires to manifest His love and grace, and take care of us in every way. Those things that are anxious distractions to us are no problem for Him. He is not distracted or overwhelmed at all by them, but has already prepared the solution for each one.

Whenever care or concern comes into your heart, take it quickly to Him. Let it be no more on you, but totally upon Him. He can cope. Nothing is too big for Him to handle or too small for Him to care.

Here are some practical ways to cast your cares on Him:

1. Humble yourself before God. That is the point of the verse immediately preceding the one we are considering. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). Realize that it is all about Him and not about you. Quickly yield yourself to Him in every matter and abandon yourself completely to His will, for that is exactly where your solution will be found. Give yourself to Him and say, “Yes, Lord” and “Thank You, Lord.”

2. Trust in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has a promise to the righteous: “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). And who are the righteous? All who receive the Lord Jesus Christ. “For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

3. Keep your thoughts focused on the LORD. The prophet understood the importance of this. He said, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). Whatever you focus on is what you will become dependent upon. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

4. Do not speak words of worry. Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (Matthew 6:31). Notice that worry is exercised and expressed by what we say. Jesus says don’t do it. Worry is meditating on the lies of the devil. When we speak words of worry, we are giving voice to the thoughts of the enemy. It will do nothing to solve your problem, but will only increase the burden of your heart.

5. Speak only words of faith. It is not enough just to refrain from words of worry, although that will help keep your situation from deteriorating. You must go a step further and replace words of worry with words of faith. Jesus told Jairus, “Do not be afraid, only believe” (Luke 8:50). Notice the declaration of the psalmwriter: “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust” (Psalm 91:2). Just as worry and fear are exercised by our words, the same thing is true of faith. Jesus said, “Whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says” (Mark 11:23). Search out the promises of God’s Word. Let them fill your heart and mouth, then speak them over everything that concerns you.

When troublesome thoughts and cares try to enter your heart, don’t drown your sorrows. Instead, cast them quickly upon the Lord, for He will not allow you be moved, but will sustain and establish you.

Keeping the Faith When Things Get ToughKeeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Remembering the Benefits at the Table of the Lord

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits.
(Psalm 103:2)

Do this in remembrance of Me. (Luke 22:19)
The other day, as I went to Table of the Lord, He put me in mind of Psalm 103. I had actually begun meditating on another psalm at the time when 103 entered unbidden into my thoughts. So I went with it.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:

Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:1-5)
Remembering. That is what the Lord’s Table is about. It is a continuing sign of covenant. When Jesus took the cup, He said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). “This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:25).

The making of covenant is the shedding of blood, but the essence of covenant is in exchange: He gives me all that is His; I give Him all that is mine. Isaiah shows us a vivid picture of the exchange Jesus the Messiah made for us:
Surely He has borne our griefs [literally “sicknesses”]
And carried our sorrows [literally “pains”];
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted [as if for His own account]

But He was wounded for our transgression,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:4-6)
In the New Testament, Paul tells us that
He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Jesus took our sin and gave us His righteousness. He took our sicknesses and pains and gave us His healing. He took our chastisement and gave us the wholeness of His shalom (His peace). He took our poverty and gave us His riches. These are benefits that belong to us in the new covenant which is in His blood.

Now, it is true that, as many have said, we seek not the gift, but the Giver. So we come to the Table of the Lord in remembrance of the Benefactor. But it is also quite appropriate to remember the benefits Jesus came to give us. He went to the Cross that we might receive and enjoy all the elements of salvation. It would be rude and ungrateful of us to neglect that for which Jesus gave His body and shed His blood.

The Table of the Lord, therefore, is a powerful opportunity to remember the work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the Cross and apply the benefits.
  • If you have sinned, it is an opportunity to confess and receive forgiveness and cleansing.
  • If you are sick, it is an opportunity to receive healing.
  • If you are in the bondage of addictions, emotional or mental confusions, demonic influences, or other strongholds, it is an opportunity to receive deliverance and freedom.
  • If you are in need of guidance, it is an opportunity to receive the wisdom of God.
  • If you are in need of finances or other resources, it is an opportunity to receive the provision of the Lord. He will satisfy your mouth (your desires) with good things.
  • If you are in need of renewal and refreshing, it can be found at the Table.
Paul said, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The Table of the Lord is the witness of the exchange made at the Cross. It speaks to us of the victory Jesus won and the provision of God poured out for us.

Come often to the Table of the Lord and remember all His benefits. As you come, bring all the concerns of your life and let them be dealt with by the promises of God and the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which cries out on your behalf. Then go forth, walking confidently in the victory He has won for you.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Remarkable Clarity of Spirit

Someone recently directed me to the website dedicated to a young man whose life shined with the glory of Jesus Christ. Johnny Chase struggled with cancer, losing a leg to that foul thing, but always rejoicing in God. He passed away in the very early hours of December 22, 2005. He was sixteen. Here is the notice posted at the website by his father:
John died this morning. For some reason Laura and I couldn’t sleep so we sat up and dozed on and off in the living room with John. He was sleeping more soundly than usual and suddenly he woke up bright and excited and said, “I’m going home now. It’s awesome. I’m going to be with Jesus.” He was so happy about it. Then he fell into a restless sleep and died peacefully several hours later. God is so merciful.
It was a remarkable clarity of the spirit he experienced as he prepared for Home. This same sort of testimony can be found over and over concerning the home-going of the saints. It is the same clarity of the spirit that we who know the Lord Jesus ought always to have while we are still on this planet. For we are born from above, our citizenship is from above, and we are presently seated in Christ Jesus in the throne room of heaven. Jesus taught us to pray, “Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven!” So we certainly ought to be able to see in the spirit what is going on there. It is that clarity of the spirit which, I believe, God intends when He tells us so often in Scripture, “Behold!” Johnny Chase was beholding.

 Learn to behold the things of the spiritual realm.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Either Way—Forgive!

Someone asked my grandmother, when thoughts of offenses they received in the past come to mind, is it God or is it the devil who is reminding them? My grandmother replied, “Who cares? Either way, the answer is to forgive.”

Exactly right!

If God is bringing it to mind, it is because we need to forgive. If it is the devil bringing it to mind, it is because he wants to ensnare us in thoughts of how we were so terribly mistreated. He wants to entangle us in feelings of past hurts and keep us offended. For offense is a stumbling-block, and when we are offended, we are tripped up — unable to move forward. So if it is indeed the devil reminding us of past offenses, we can short-circuit his plan by forgiving — and moving on.

As often as the thought of past offenses comes up in your heart, forgive.

(See also Don’t Let the devil Outsmart You.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

When You Learn How to Hear, You Will Know What to Say

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens me morning by morning,
He awakens my hear ear to listen as a disciple.
(Isaiah 50:4 NASB)
This is discipleship, to hear what the Lord is saying, and to speak in agreement with him. Jesus is the prime example, and this was His modus operandi:
For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak. (John 12:49-50)
Jesus spoke only what He heard the Father saying. He was listening in the Spirit, hearing what is going on in the spiritual realm. This is important because the natural, physical realm comes forth from and is fully dependent upon the spiritual. For God is Spirit (John 4:20) and He created the heavens and the earth. What is more, He did it by His words (Hebrews 11:3).

If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, you have the same capacity to listen in the Spirit, to hear what the Father is saying, for you have been born again by the Holy Spirit:
For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches. (1 Corinthians 2:11-13)
You have the ability to hear the Shepherd, for Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27).

You also have the ability to hear the Word of God, for that is how the Holy Spirit ministers faith to your spirit. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Jesus said that it is out the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). When you hear the Word of God and faith begins fill your heart to overflowing, you will find that what comes out of your mouth will be faith-filled words — and that is the ability to move mountains. Jesus said to His disciples:
Have faith in God. For assuredly I say to you, whoever says t this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (Mark 11:22-23).
In this verse, to have faith in God literally means to have faith of God, and that comes by hearing the Word of God.

When you learn how to hear the Word of God, you will know what to say. Let it fill your heart to overflowing, then you will have both the words and the faith to speak to mountains, and you will know how to sustain the weary one with a word. This was how Jesus operated, this is how He taught His disciples to operate, this is how you and I are to operate.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Inheritance is the Heart of Ministry

Reading in The Order of a Son by Mark Hanby:
Only those who understand and follow biblical father/son relationship can comprehend the generation of Christ that will bring the appearing of Jesus to the world. Only those who understand the absolute necessity of replicating their ministries in future generations will be able to pass on inheritance. (p.15)

We in ministry should not be marking the effectiveness of our ministries by what we have been able to accomplish but by whether or not we have been able to successfully pass down the inheritance, given by God, to the next generation… What God is doing cannot be completed in any one generation. (p. 15)

It is not too strong of a statement to say that a ministry that fails to pass on inheritance to sons is a ministry that has failed to complete its purpose in Christ. (p. 18)

The heart of ministry must be turned toward raising sons and passing on inheritance. (p. 31)
Exactly! God always works through inheritance, and inheritance always involves the father/son relationship. God brings us sons, in the spirit and in the natural, so that we may pass on to them the inheritance He has given to us.

(Note: This is not about gender but about generation. See also The Hearts of the Fathers and God Works Through Fathers.)

The Beginning of Joy

“You'll never realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you've got.”
~ Mother Teresa
Someone else said,
  • Brokenness is realizing that Jesus is all you have.
  • Hope is realizing that Jesus is all you need.
  • Joy is realizing that Jesus is all you want.
Following that logic, brokenness is the beginning of joy.

If you have come through brokenness to the place of hope, realizing that Jesus is all you need, why not enter into the fullness of joy and let Him be all you desire?

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Mystery of Godliness

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.
(1 Timothy 3:16)
Paul presents us with a powerful confession of faith concerning the “mystery of godliness.” The Greek word for “without controversy” literally means “confessedly.” To confess means to agree, to say the same thing. What Paul presents is what the apostles taught and what the Church has confessed from the beginning.

A mystery is a secret God is revealing to His people, and through His people to the world. The mystery of godliness is the revelation of what the Christian faith is about. Paul presents it in six phrases.
  • “God was manifested in the flesh.” This is the mystery of the Incarnation, the revelation of God in human flesh. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
  • “Justified in the Spirit.” Though He was in manifested in the flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ was vindicated in the Spirit. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:17-21; Acts 10:38). Paul opens his letter to the Romans with this two-fold mystery of flesh and spirit: “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4).
  • “Seen by angels.” Angels attended and announced both the incarnation and the resurrection of Jesus. They were present to minister to Jesus after the temptation in the wilderness. The author of Hebrews demonstrates the superiority of Jesus, Son of God, over the angels of God. Angels are not to be worshipped as some false teachers taught (this was one of the errors Paul addressed in his letter to the Colossians). Rather, Jesus is worshipped by the angels. When He ascended to the throne of heaven, angels surrounded Him. Peter said that the angels greatly desire to look into the mystery of the Gospel, the Christian faith (1 Peter 1:12).
  • “Preached among the Gentiles.” The Greek word for “Gentiles” is ethnos. The coming of Jesus the Messiah was not just for the Jews, but for the whole world — every tribe, every tongue, every ethnic group — the nations. Peter learned the depth of this mystery in Acts 10, when He was sent to Cornelius, a Roman who reverenced the God of the Jews. Paul understood His own calling to be especially to the non-Jews, apostle to the nations.
  • “Believed on in the world.” These mysteries of the Spirit are very improbable to our natural perceptions, which have been turned upside down by the deceptions of the evil one and the bondage of sin. And yet, Light entered the world and blind eyes have been enabled to see by the proclaiming of the mystery, the preaching of the Gospel. “Faith comes by hearing,” Paul says, “and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
  • “Received up in glory.” Forty days after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven and was received up into glory. The kingdom of God has broken into the world, and the King has taken His rightful place on the throne of heaven to reign in glory forever as Lord of heaven and earth. Paul tells us that every believer in Jesus Christ is now seated together with Him in that heavenly dimension (Ephesians 2:6).
These mysteries have been revealed for our benefit, that we may fully enter into the life Jesus came to give us. They demonstrate the depths of God’s grace toward us. Good works do not bring us to this place. Godliness is not primarily what we do but what we receive by faith in Jesus Christ. And so we are changed.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Mystery of Glory

I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God has willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:25-27)
Paul is speaking again of the stewardship of the mysteries of God. This stewardship is not earned, but given as a matter of grace. The mystery of God has to do with the Word of God: The Word reveals the mystery; the mystery fulfills the Word.

In the Bible, a mystery is a secret that God is revealing to His people. We cannot reason our way to the mysteries. They must be revealed to us, and that is what God has done, by His Word and Spirit.

The mysteries of God are revealed expressly to His saints. But don’t misunderstand. Saints are not some sort of super-duper spiritual guys. In the Bible, a saint is one who has been sanctified. To be sanctified simply means to be “set apart.” We receive it by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). If you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, you are a saint; God has set you apart for His own wonderful purposes.

Now God’s plan is not only to reveal these mysteries to His saints, but through His saints as well. He has chosen to make known the glory of this mystery among all the tribes, ethnic groups and nations of the world (the Greek word for “Gentile” is ethnos).

But what is the rich and glorious mystery God has chosen to release through us to the nations? It is:

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

“Christ” is the equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah. That is, He is the One Anointed by God to remove the burdens and destroy the yokes of sin and all its oppressions. The promise of Messiah was first revealed to Israel, but He comes not only for the Jews, but for all the nations of the world. And so He is revealed to the whole world by the people of God.

What is the “hope of glory?” Hope is positive expectation, joyful anticipation. Glory is the manifestation of God’s greatness and goodness. The hope of glory is the joyful anticipation of the greatness and goodness of God being fully and completely revealed in all the nations.

It is only in Jesus the Anointed that we have this positive expectation of fullness. When we receive the Lord Jesus Christ, God seals us with His Spirit, who is the “down payment” of our inheritance, the guarantee that we will experience the fullness of His glory (Ephesians 1:13). Paul said, “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but them I shall know just as I also am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

God does not keep Himself hidden, but reveals Himself to His people, and through His people to the nations. We are stewards of His mysteries, until His glory is fully made known to all the world. Let us therefore be full of faith to believe His promises, and they will come abundantly into manifestation.

(See also Stewards of the Mysteries of God .)

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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

Friday, January 13, 2006

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1)
We are stewards of the mysteries of God, mysteries of His kingdom. Jesus said to the disciples, “It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 13:11.

In the Bible, a mystery is a secret that God is revealing to His people. God reveals these mysteries to us by His Word, by His Spirit, and finally, by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

These mysteries were first revealed to Jesus’ disciples, whom He sent out as apostles, and later to Paul. They were all stewards of these mysteries. The job of a steward is to properly distribute that which has been given into his care.
And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?” (Luke 12:42)

Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52)
Not only were Jesus’ disciples privileged to know these mysteries, but they were also given authority and power to bring them forth, to proclaim and demonstrate them to the world.

By extension, it has likewise been given to us to be stewards of these same mysteries, for Jesus commissioned His disciples to teach us everything He taught them (Matthew 28:19-20). As they were stewards of these mysteries toward us, we, in turn, are to be stewards of these mysteries toward others.

Paul said, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Then he added, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). As stewards of the mysteries of God, we need to be faithful — that is, full of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). God is looking for us to believe these mysteries, to speak and act according to them. For these mysteries make Jesus known in our lives, and by our lives, to the world.

If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, you are in the privileged position of being His servant, and a steward of the mysteries of God. You have been given authority and power to reveal His glory and release His love, through bold witness, and through signs, wonders and miracles, declaring the kingdom of God.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hear a Just Cause, O Yahweh

Hear a just cause, O LORD. (Psalm 17:1)
David is the psalm writer here. He is crying out to God for justice. The word for “just” can also be translated as “righteous.”

“Hear a righteous cause, O LORD.” David is calling on the God of Covenant. The name “LORD” (all caps) signifies the Hebrew Yahweh, the personal name of God and the name by which He entered into covenant with His people. David has a complaint, a situation that needs to be set right, and He is calling on God to fulfill the provisions of the covenant on His behalf.

Now, God is not bothered by these complaints, not one tiny bit. In fact, He delights in them, for it means that the petitioner is taking His promises seriously. That requires faith, and faith greatly pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). God wants us to bring every unjust situation before Him so that He can set it right. Isaiah gives us a good example of this. The LORD says,
I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
They shall never hold their peace day or night.
You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent,
And give Him no rest till He establishes
And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
(Isaiah 62:6-7)
God made promises concerning Jerusalem, and He established watchmen who were to come before Him night and day to bring those promises before Him continually. They were to “get in His face” with the provisions of His Word.

That was under the Old Testament covenant. But now we have a new and better covenant, based upon even better promises. This new covenant is mediated to us by Jesus Christ.
But now, He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)
The blood of Jesus cries out on our behalf. The author of Hebrews says that we have now come “to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things that that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24).

In Genesis, after he was murdered, Abel’s blood cried out to God. God spoke to Cain and said, “What have you done? For the voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). The blood of Abel had a voice and it cried out to God for justice.

(Notice also that this blood cried out from the very ground on which Abel was murdered. Even the land itself must have justice before God. But that is a discussion for another day.)

In the same way, the blood of Jesus has a voice and cries out to God on our behalf, to bring us the justice He established for us in the New Covenant. In fact, this New Covenant is established in His blood. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took the cup and said to His disciples, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20).

Under this new and better covenant, Jesus has taken our sin upon Himself and given us the righteousness of God. “For [God] made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

In other words, if you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, you now have a righteous cause before God. You have the right to come before Him on the basis of the blood of Jesus and have your situation set right according to the promises of God.

Under the new and better covenant established in the blood of Jesus, God’s people have the right and authority for every blessing that belongs to the righteous, for Jesus took our sin and gave us His righteousness. We can now enjoy all the benefits of the children of God, including forgiveness, healing, and prosperity. (See Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Psalm 103 and Psalm 112 for more on the blessings that belong to us.)

When you know the Lord Jesus Christ, His blood continually cries out before God on your behalf. It declares that you are completely righteous before Him. Bondage, sickness and want now have no right to you. Cry out for God to hear a just cause — the blood of Jesus — and claim all the promises of His covenant. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Yahweh Laughs Again

The wicked plots against the just,
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
The Lord laughs at him
For He sees that his day is coming.
(Psalm 37:12-13)
In Psalm 2, we see that the LORD laughs at the nations in their rage because they cannot do anything to stop or hinder His plans. For He has already anointed and established His King.

Now in Psalm 37, we see the LORD laughing again, this time at the plots of the wicked against the just. He laughs because He sees that, not only will His own plans come to full fruition, but the plans of the wicked will reduce to nothing. For their day is coming, the day of their destruction. God will not have to lift a finger, it will happen of its own accord. They will fall apart under their own weight.

It is a matter of sowing and reaping. God established that principle in the world at the very beginning of creation: Everything brings forth after its kind. In the New Testament, Paul put it this way,
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
Harvest is the judgment of God. If you sow good, you will reap good, and the judgment is favorable for you. If you sow evil, you will reap evil, and the judgment will be favorable for those against whom you have sown. No wonder God laughs. His judgment on the wicked is that He lets them reap what they have sown:
The wicked have drawn the sword
And have bent their bow,
To cast down the poor and needy,
To slay those who are of upright conduct.
Their sword shall enter their own heart,
And their bows shall be broken.
(Psalm 37:14-15)
That is why David begins this psalm with “do not fret.”
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.

Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:1-4)
Trust in the LORD and sow good seed, and your harvest will be very pleasant. Sow bad seed, and your harvest will hit you hard. It is the difference between God laughing with you and God laughing at you. “With” is better.

(See also Yahweh Laughs)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Yahweh Laughs

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The LORD shall hold them in derision.
(Psalm 2:4)
Yahweh is not the God of “Oh, no.” He is not troubled by the wicked, not one bit. In fact, He laughs at them, makes sport of them, makes merry at their expense. Pay attention to the set-up:
Why do the nations rage,
  And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
  And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
  “Let us break Their bonds in pieces
  And cast away Their cords from us.”
(Psalm 2:1-3)
“He who sits in the heavens shall laugh,” comes the response. “The LORD shall hold them in derision.” The nations rage, kings fuss and fume, the peoples plot against God and His Messiah. But it is all in vain, because here is the punch line:
“Yet I have set My King
  On My holy hill of Zion.
I will declare the decree:
  The LORD has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
  Today I have begotten You.’
(Psalm 2:6-7)
All the plots and schemes of the nations do not deter or delay God’s plan one single bit. God has set His King. To Hebrew for “set” means to pour out, as an anointing. God has already anointed His King and established Him in Zion. He has made the decree, and nothing in all the world can stop what God has declared. The King has been anointed, the Anointed has been exalted, the Son has been declared. It is irrevocable. But there’s more:
“Ask of Me, and I will give You
  The nations for Your inheritance,
  And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron;
  You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
(Psalm 2:8-9)
The nations were plotting to overthrow the King. But it turns out that they themselves will be overthrown. They are but an inheritance, give to the Anointed One for the asking.

Yahweh laughs, but He gives these nations and their kings an opportunity to get in on the joke. For He turns and says,
Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
  Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
  And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
  And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
  Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
(Psalm 2:10-12)
God always has the last word, but for those who will receive it, it is a good word. He always gets the last laugh, but He is not stingy with it. He invites all to laugh with Him, to stand in awe of Him and join in His wonderful work. The laughter of the LORD is suddenly revealed to be great joy and blessing for all who will run to Him, and not away from Him.

(See also Yahweh Laughs Again)

Monday, January 9, 2006

An Unexpected Anointing for Wisdom

Let the righteous strike me;
It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me;
It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it.
(Psalm 141:1-5)
A hit on the head is not much fun; receiving a rebuke is not much better. But do not discount the wisdom and anointing you might receive by such means. King David, a man after God’s own heart, understood the value of a well-placed rebuke.

“Let the righteous strike me, it shall be a kindness.” A righteous man is one who is right and just in his dealings. He seeks the kingdom of God and God’s way of doing and being right, and everything else is added to him (Matthew 6:33). He is a wise man, for he stands in awe of God, and that is the beginning of wisdom.

“Let the righteous strike me,” says David. “Let him smite me, hammer me, strike me down.” Why? Because “it shall be a kindness.” The Hebrew word for “kindness” is hesed, the same word used for the covenant mercy, love and faithfulness of God. It is a manifestation of divine love — tough love, real love, faithful love. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6).

“And let him rebuke me, it shall be as excellent oil.” The semantic range of the Hebrew word for “rebuke” includes to reprove, judge, convict, correct, dispute, argue, decide, reason. “’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:18).

It is wonderful to have people who will cheer us on with sweet tones and pleasant sayings. But what we really need are friends who will love us enough to speak a difficult word, a needed correction, an honest criticism.

“It shall be as excellent oil; let not my head refuse it.” Such a rebuke is actually oil upon the head—that is, it is an anointing. Isaiah described the power of the anointing as that which removes burdens and shatters yokes (Isaiah 10:27, particularly in the KJV).

David’s response to rebuke: “Let not my head refuse it.” When someone rebukes or corrects or criticizes or judges you, there is a decision you must make: to receive or refuse it. If you refuse it, you may well be hit with it again at a later date (and let us hope that is so—often known as a “second chance”). But if you receive it, it will be a kindness that will do you good, an anointing that will set you free. Yes, there may be some things in it that are not for you, but there may be much that is.

Even a fool may unwittingly do you a favor by rebuking you. Though he does not have your best interest at heart, and his words may sting mercilessly, there might still be a kernel of truth in them that will improve your life, or even set you free.

Wisdom and anointing may come from unsuspected places. Do not refuse the rebuke of any man who walks in awe of Yahweh. It may be just the thing to launch you deeper into your destiny.

(See also Repentance is a Wonderful Thing)

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Repentance is a Wonderful Thing

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD.
(Isaiah 1:18)
Repentance is a wonderful thing. Most people associate it with “sorrow for sin.” Now, sorrow for sin may lead to repentance, or it may even result from it. But that is not what repentance itself is. The Greek word behind it is metanoia and literally means to “change your mind.” In the Bible, it is an exchange of our thoughts and ways for God’s.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
   Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   So are My ways higher than our ways,
   And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:8-9)
God’s thoughts and ways are much higher than ours, but that does not mean we cannot know them. In fact, God invites us to come and know His thoughts. That is what He means when He says, “Come now, and let us reason together.” In other words, come and learn God’s ways, come and know His thoughts, come and get His wisdom. Proverbs 3:5-6 puts it this way:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
   And lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
   And He shall direct your paths.
Many people believe that we cannot know God’s ways and thoughts. They often quote 1 Corinthians 2:9, where Paul says, “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’” Most of them don’t go on to quote or even read the very next verse: “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).

So we do not have to be stuck with our own thoughts and ways. We can know God’s thoughts and walk in His ways. My ways are feeble and my thoughts limited, and I am more than ready to get rid of them and receive God’s thoughts and ways.

Thank God for repentance! Now I can wake up everyday and go the Father to learn what new thing He has for me. It is a joy when He shows me where my ways have been ineffective and my thinking has been off. Because then I get to repent, to change my mind and start thinking God’s thoughts about whatever issue I am facing. I look forward to repenting because I know that I am about to receive an upgrade in my life. My own understanding will always ultimately fail, but God’s thoughts and ways will always bring success.

Repentance is a wonderful thing, and a good way to begin every year, every month, every week, even every day. Have you repented today and experienced the delight of changing your thoughts for God’s? His thoughts are found in the Scriptures, and if you ask, the Holy Spirit will open them up to you.

Friday, January 6, 2006

How About an Epiphany?

Today is the first day of Epiphany. Here is what I wrote about it in my article The Reason for Every Season:
Epiphany means "appearing" or "manifestation." In this season, which begins on January 6th, we celebrate the ways Christ has made Himself known as the Messiah and Savior of the whole world, revealing Himself by many divine miracles and teachings. We think of the Babe made known to the wise men of the East; the Son made known at His baptism; Christ made known at the wedding feast in Cana. We also watch for the ways Jesus is making Himself known in the world today through His Church.

Jesus is the "Light of the World." In Advent, we celebrate the promise of the Light. In Christmas, we rejoice in the coming of the Light. In Epiphany, we wonder at the shining of the Light, just as the wise men marveled at the Star which led them to Jesus.
Is it time for an epiphany in your life? “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

(See also Getting a Revelation of Jesus)

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

The Will of God in Your Wallet

We call our ministry Walking Barefoot Ministries and our mission is simple: to help you take the next step of faith in your walk with the Lord and experience the presence and power of God in your life. We believe that God has a plan for every area of your life, and that every plan He has for you is full of blessing and goodness.

God even has a plan for your finances, and if you will step into it, you will be tapping into the flow of His abundance and prosperity. So we want to help you take the next step of faith in your walk with the Lord regarding your finances. We want you to experience the presence and power of God even in your wallet.

Here is a simple step you can take in this area, and it is based on the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught His disciples to pray this way: “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven!” (Yes, these are commands because the words in Greek text, the original language of the New Testament, are in the imperative mood.)

Does the kingdom of God have anything to do with your finances? Of course it does. Does the will of God have anything to do with your wallet? Yes, it has everything to do with your money and all your resources. Since that is so, it is very appropriate to pray, concerning your finances, the same way Jesus taught.

So here is a simple step you can take (and a good way to start the new year). Open up your wallet — whether it has anything in it or not — and pray this:
Kingdom of God, come into my wallet!
Will of God, be done in my wallet just as it is being done in heaven!
Of course, the religious spirit will be offended by this because the spirit of religion is, in reality, a spirit of poverty. It wants us to focus on our own works and take pride in how much we can do without. The abundance and prosperity of God is an offense to this spirit because it wants its own will to be done in your wallet, not the will of God.

Well, what is the will of God for your wallet, anyway? Remember that we are praying for the will of God to be done in our finances just as it is being done in heaven. So what do finances look like in the heavenly dimension? Paul answered that in his letter to the Corinthians (and in a specifically financial context, no less):
And God is able to make all grace abound towards you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Isn’t that exactly what heaven looks like? Doesn’t God make all His grace abound there? Of course. If that is His will for the heavenly realm, then that is His will for you in this earthly realm, as well, for Jesus taught us to pray, “Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Now, notice the fullness of Paul’s statement: all grace, always having all sufficiency in all things, plus abundance (that is, more than enough) for every good work.

That is the flow of God’s prosperity. It flows in to meet your every need, and it flow through to meet the needs of others. There is a continual giving and receiving and giving and receiving.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17), so let the Lord’s Prayer and 2 Corinthians 9:7 stir up your faith. Then, when you have no doubt about it, open up your wallet and pray over: “Kingdom of God, come into my wallet. Will of God be done in my wallet just as it is being done in heaven.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

The Year of Breakthrough and Enlargement

“Sing, O barren,
  You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,
  You who have not labored with child!
For more are the children of the desolate
  Than the children of the married woman,” says the LORD.

“Enlarge the place of your tent,
  And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings;
Do not spare;
  Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.
For you shall expand to the right and to the left,
  And your descendants will inherit the nations,
  And make the desolate cities inhabited.”
(Isaiah 52:1-3)
Last year you may have felt barren, desolate, unproductive, useless, insignificant. But this year is the year of the favor of the LORD, the year of breaking forth, breaking through and breaking out. It is the time of your expansion, the enlargement of your territory. It is the season of fruitfulness, fulfillment and the habitation of God’s glory in your life. Notice how it begins, with a song of joy.

“Sing, O barren! Break forth into singing and cry aloud!” It is the cry of elation, the creaking of joy, the breakthrough of loud, clamorous rejoicing. It is unmindful of present barrenness, but instead lays hold of God’s declaration of fruitfulness with active faith. Present circumstances do not dictate future conditions, for God has spoken His Word (God always gets the last word, and it is a good word!) and this is the year of the LORD’s favor.

“Enlarge the place of your tent. God has a breakthrough for you, and the way to get ready it is to enlarge your tent. Begin by enlarging your thinking with a repentance that lines your thoughts up with God’s — start thinking His thoughts, which are revealed in His Word. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

Enlarge your vision and enlarge your heart to receive God’s promise, and He will enlarge your territory. Jabez enlarged the tent of his heart and prayed, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory” (1 Chronicles 4:10). And God did.

“Let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings.” As you enlarge your vision, you are going to be stretched. New wine must go into new wineskins because the fermenting action causes them to expand. Old wineskins cannot bear the strain. Let God burst your old wineskin and take you out of your comfort zone. Let Him give you a new wineskin, washed with the water of His Word and conditioned with a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit. Then you will be ready for the new wine of His prosperous love.

“Do not spare.” In 2 Kings 4, the widow of one of the sons of the prophets came to the prophet Elisha in dire need. She was deep in debt and her sons were about to be sold into slavery. “What do you have in the house?” he asked. “Nothing,” she said, “except a jar of oil.” Then Elisha said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors — empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.” She went out and gathered as many empty vessels as she could find, came home, and poured out her little jar of oil into them until they were all miraculously filled. The oil was sold, the debts were paid, the sons were freed, for the woman did not spare. “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,” Paul said. “And he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

“Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.” There are walls that have to be demolished, paradigms that must to be shifted. Give up your small ambitions; your life is meant to be so much larger than you have ever imagined. Start believing, start imagining, start speaking of the prosperity of God coming to overflow in your life. God is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). Imagine bigger, expect more, for His power is in all those who trust Him — the power for every breakthrough you and I ever need is already resident in us.

“For you shall expand to the right and to the left.” The Hebrew word for “expand” is parats. It is the word for breakthrough. In the year of the LORD’s favor, you will breakthrough to a larger place. Former boundaries no longer apply; God is bringing increase. “The LORD give you increase more and more, you and your children” (Psalm 115:14).

“Your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.” This is not just about you and me — it is about our children, as well. There is an inheritance. “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD” (Psalm 127:3). “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22). God has a powerful inheritance that affects all nations: “Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession” (Psalm 2:8). In this inheritance, the desolation for the nations will come to an end, for in the year of the LORD‘s favor, they shall be filled with a habitation of His glory.

Enlarge your thinking to the promise of God. Enlarge your heart and your imagination. God is breaking you out to enlarge your territory. God, who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or imagine, is bringing His power to bear in your life. In fact, if you know the Lord Jesus Christ, it is already at work in you, even now. So, regardless of your present situation, break forth with loud shouts of joy, for God is bringing the breakthrough into your life.

Sunday, January 1, 2006

The Year of the Favor of the LORD

And He [Jesus] was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
  Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
  He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
  And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
  To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17-21)
Jesus came to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, that is, the year for God to show His favor. Ever since then, every year has been the year of favor of the LORD for all those who look to Him and claim it by faith. This year, 2006, is the year for God’s favor to show up in your life.
  • It is the year for the Holy Spirit of God to come upon you. Jesus promised, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8). This witness is the testimony of God’s great power and love in the work of Jesus Christ.
  • It is the year of anointing, that is, the year for burdens to be lifted and yokes to be destroyed (Isaiah 10:27). Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One. All authority in heaven and earth belongs to Him, and He has commissioned us to minister with this same anointing (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • It is the year for good news to be preached to the poor. Poverty is not good news, lack is no blessing. But the overflowing provision of God’s grace and power is wonderful news for all those who are poor in spirit, that is, those who trust in Him. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, so that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
  • It is the year of healing for the brokenhearted. Last year you may have felt defeated and crushed by the circumstances of life. You might be emotionally distraught or deeply depressed. But this year is your year. The LORD builds up His people; He gathers together the outcasts; He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:2). This is the year for restoration and wholeness.
  • It is the year to proclaim freedom for the captives. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Strongholds are broken, chains are loosed, addictions have no power over those who look to the Lord Jesus Christ and are born again by the Spirit of God.
  • It is the year for recovery of sight to the blind. “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them …” BUT, “… It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, 6).
  • It is the year of liberty for those who are oppressed—the bruised and broken, in body and spirit. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Sickness and disease come from the devil, not from God. God’s desire is to heal and restore—that is why Jesus came.
Today, in the year 2006, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!

If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, this is your year to experience the favor of God, to walk in His freedom and wholeness, even to experience His anointing and power to minister His freedom and wholeness to others. If you have not yet received the Lord Jesus Christ, this is the year of invitation. “Behold, now is the accepted time [the time of favor]; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

(See also The Year of the Favor of the LORD)