Friday, March 31, 2006

You Become Like What You Delight In

Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4)
It is a truth that we become like whatever it is we focus ourselves on. It is also a truth that we attract whatever it is that we are. These things work in both directions: good attracts good; evil attracts evil.

Here is an example of the latter:
The wicked prowl on every side
When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.
(Psalm 12:8)
Or as the NIV puts it:
The wicked freely strut about
When what is vile is honored among men.
You can tell what someone honors by noting what has free reign over them and who freely struts about around them. If they delight themselves in wickedness, they will receive the desires of their heart—evil. They may not like what they get, but they will get what they desire.

David recommends the former: “Delight yourself in the LORD.” The Hebrew word for “delight,” literally means to luxuriate yourself in. It is like a treat, or a delicacy to you. When you think of the Lord, does it put a smile on your face? Do you want more and more of Him? That is delight.

You become like whatever it is you delight in. When you delight yourself in the Lord, focusing your life on Him, you become more and more like Him. That is what godliness is all about — becoming like Him. Some people think that godliness is about keeping rules and scoring points. But that is dead religion, the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and what they are really only focusing on is themselves.

Delighting yourself in God is not about rule-making and scorekeeping; it is about relationship, focusing on Him, luxuriating in Him, letting Him have His way in you. You don’t have to change yourself—in fact, you can’t. But if you yield to Him, He will change you by His love, by His Word, and by His Spirit. Then, as your heart begins to beat in sync with His, and you begin to love what He loves and hate what He hates, your desires will become like His desires, and He will gladly fulfill every one of them.

Paul prayed for Christians “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give to you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Ephesians 1:17). This is intimate, personal knowledge of God that goes deeper and deeper and results in knowing Him more, loving Him more, trusting Him more. It is a personal revelation that comes by the Holy Spirit, and if you ask Him, He will gladly do it for you, too. That’s why Jesus came, so you could know the Father more and more.

Tell me what are the desires of your heart, and I will tell you what you are delighting in. Delight yourself in the Lord, and not only will you receive the desires of your heart, you will really like what you receive.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Don’t be Afraid of Money

On a Christian writer’s forum I frequent, somebody asked if it is okay for a Christian writer to want to get paid for his work (there were also a few other issues involved). Here is how I replied:

There is nothing at all wrong with wanting to get paid for your writing. In the Old Testament it says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4). Paul quoted this twice in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18). Also, Jesus said, “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7). Paul quoted this in 1 Timothy 5:18.

Yes, there are many Christian publications, online and off, that pay little, if anything. This is often because they cannot afford to pay more. Some do not compete very well in the financial aspects of their business, in the business aspects of their ministry, or in the quality of their publication. Others have a vision of being able to offer better pay to writers, God bless ’em.

There is also nothing wrong with Christian writers plying their trade in secular venues. Is there any place where light can shine brighter than in the darkness? Christians should be involved in every legitimate field of endeavor — marketplace, business, arts, entertainment, media venues, education, government, etc. Let the leaven of heaven work through the whole lump.

Do not fear rejection — if you know Jesus, you are already accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). It doesn’t get any better than that!

Do not fear unworthiness. Unworthiness is something we think about when we think everything is about us and what we can do. But when we begin to understand that it is all about the Lord and what He can do, fear of unworthiness has nothing in us to hold on to. Go ahead and study your craft and develop your skills, but always fully leaning on the wisdom, direction and ability of the Lord. Remember, also, that God is bigger than any mistakes you could ever make. If you are trusting Him, He will not let you go astray or lead anybody else astray. If you ask Him for bread, He will not give you a stone.

Don't feel guilty about making money, or wanting to make money. Poverty does not come from God; He is a God of provision and prosperity, of abundance and success. He has given you the ability to create wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18 ), so don’t be shy about using it. The world needs to see how godly people get and use wealth.

The Bible says that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance [more than enough] for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8 ). In context, you'll find that he is talking about money and finances.

Some ministries have a poverty mentality. So they usually go a’begging, and the oxes that tread out their grain go starving. They need to get over the fear of money and begin learning how to use if for the kingdom of God.

The Lord bless you with assignments that pay very handsomely.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Kings of the World

In the movie Titanic, there is a scene in which the character Jack Dawson (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) leans forward on the railing at the bow of the boat and shouts into the wind, “I’m the king of the world.” It is a moment of elation.

Jack did not realize how right he was. He was not being literal, of course, but merely expressing the sense that things seemed to be going very well for him at the time (even though we know that things ended very badly for both the ship and for Jack Dawson).

Still, I am struck by his words, and I want to consider them very literally, because I believe that is what the Bible teaches us: We are kings of the world. Go back to the creation account in Genesis 1, where God created man.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, ad over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Genesis 1:26-28)
Notice the divine mandate: Have dominion. It encompasses, not only every living thing, but the earth itself. That is how Psalm 8 understands it:
What is man that you are mindful of him,
And the son of man that you visit him? …
You have made him to have dominion over the works of your hands;
You have put all thing under his feet.
(Psalm 8:4, 6)
To have dominion means to rule and reign. The dom in the word “kingdom” is short for the word “dominion” or “domain.” The kingdom is the dominion or domain of the king; it is that over which the king has authority to rule and reign.

Man was created to rule and reign over the earth. That is our domain and our destiny. We were created to be the kings of the world (notice that this mandate was addressed to women, too). Jack Dawson or (rather, the writer who put that line in Jack’s mouth) did not realize how right he was.

God has never revoked the divine mandate, even though Adam and Eve submitted themselves to the wiles of the devil and fell into sin. Instead, He had a plan for redemption, which He Himself would fulfill in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was fully divine, therefore, capable of redeeming all the world; He was also fully human, therefore, qualified to represent all the world before the Father.

Jesus came and exercised His kingship in His humanity, proclaiming the kingdom of God and demonstrating its power by miracles of healing and deliverance. Then, by His death on the cross and His resurrection three days later, He destroyed all the works of the devil and restored us to the royal role God originally intended for us.

C. S. Lewis depicted this wonderfully, in allegorical fashion, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Book 1 in the Chronicles of Narnia series). After the scene of redemption, there is the scene of coronation, where the “Sons of Adam” and the “Daughters of Eve” are restored tother role as the kings and queens of Narnia.

The truth we need to understand is that all of creation is now waiting for us to take up the divine mandate and assume our royal identity.
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)
Creation longs for the revealing of the sons of God — the kings of the world.

If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, you have been restored as a king of the world. Have you stepped up into the place of dominion and discovered your royal identity in Him?

(See also Having Dominion.)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

See What He is Saying

You have probably been in a conversation with someone who stopped in the middle and said, “See what I’m saying?” They are asking if you understand. Or perhaps you have been the one who interjects, “Yes, I see what you mean.” You mean that you have just gotten a revelation of what they are talking about. You are experiencing it in a way you did not before. It has suddenly become real to you at a deeper level. You can actually see, in your mind’s eye, exactly what the other person is speaking of. You can imagine it, see an image of it internally.

This is something that happens, not only in human relationships, but also happen in your relationship with God. There are many places in Scripture where God gives a message that begins with the word “Behold!” It is a powerful word that focuses your attention. It is the beginning of a revelation, an invitation to see in the spiritual realm what cannot yet be seen the natural.

There are two realms: the spiritual and the natural. The spiritual realm is the greater, for it is the source of the natural. In the beginning, God, who is Spirit, created the heavens and the earth, the natural realm — and He did it with words.

When God says “behold,” He is about to create something with His Word, and He is calling us to imagine it, to see it in the spirit, to lay hold of it by faith.

Paul said, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). He was, of course, talking about natural, physical sight.” But walking by faith is a matter of spiritual sight. We might paraphrase Paul this way, “For we walk by spiritual sight, not by natural sight,” for that is what faith is about. It is seeing what God has said, seeing it with God in the spiritual realm, and expecting it to come to pass in the natural.

The author of Hebrews said that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). He added, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

These two things comes together: Faith is seeing in the spiritual realm; faith is based on the Word of God.

Perhaps you have had the experience of reading along in your Bible, perhaps reading a passage you have read a hundred times before, but then one day, it seems to come alive, to open up to you in a way it never has before. Suddenly, it is no longer just in your head; it has planted itself in your heart. It has become real to you, and now you can see what God is saying to you.

That is the experience of the rhema word. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word [rhema] of God” (Romans 1:17). There are two words for “word” in the Greek New Testament: logos refers to the Scriptures and everything God says; rhema speaks of the acutely spoken word of God, the word God is pressing upon your heart at a given time. It is when we hear this word, pressed in on us by the Holy Spirit, that faith begins to arise in our hearts.

Faith is seeing in the spiritual realm what cannot yet be seen in the natural, and it comes by hearing the Word of God acutely articulated by the Holy Spirit. So faith comes by hearing the Word, and seeing comes by hearing.

The prophet Habakkuk said something very interesting about seeing: “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me” (Habakkuk 2:1). When God speaks to him, he not only expects to hear it, he expects it to form an image, a vision, inside him. And, indeed, that is what happened, for in the next verse, the LORD answers and says, “Write the vision.” Just as the vision was relayed to Habakkuk by the Word of God, so it would be relayed to others by the words he would write.

Now John says something similar in the Book of Revelation. Jesus has just spoken: “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches” (“Revelation 1:11). John says, “Then I turned around to see the voice that spoke with me” (v. 12). He is referring to Jesus, of course, but he recognizes that what Jesus says to him cause him to see. It is a vision, a revelation in the spiritual realm of things not yet revealed in the natural.

If you will hear the Word of God, you will see what He is saying.

Friday, March 24, 2006

How to Have the Understanding That Leads to Success

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
(Psalm 111:10)
The Hebrew for “good understanding,” refers to the kind of knowledge that leads to success. How does one get this kind of knowledge?

By fearing the Lord and doing His commandments.

Now we might just as well say, “by keeping His commandments,” or “by obeying His commandments.” But I like “doing” — it has a certain tangibility to it. I mean, you can keep something in your heart; you can obey something in your mind. But doing implies a “hands on” kind of activity and provides a solid way to measure your response: You either are doing something or you are not.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)

Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great. (Luke 6:48-49)

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)
Now, the first line of Psalm 111:10 says that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. The second line shows us what the fear of the LORD looks like — doing His commandments.

Actually, the words “His commandments” are in italics. That means that they are provided by the translator for clarification. A more literal reading of the line would be: “A good understanding have all those who do.” But do what?

That leads us back to the first line: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. This wisdom is the skill and insight that shows you what to do. What we are supposed to do, then, is act on the practical wisdom and insight that comes from fearing the Lord.

But what does it mean to fear the Lord? God is not a terrorist. He does not want you to live in anxiety, worry and panic. The fear of the Lord is quite different. When you have this, you need not fear anything else. Here is how I have described it elsewhere:
The fear of the Lord is to live in absolute awe of God, to love what He loves and hate what He hates, to treasure His favor above all things and avoid His displeasure at all costs, to take pleasure in His word, His will, His ways and His works and to honor them in everything you do.
The awe of God is like the breath-taking experience of seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, or looking out from the top of the Empire State building. It is like the respect an electrician has for electricity — he knows what a great benefit it is, but he also realizes that he doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of it.

The wisdom of God is found in His Word; His will and His ways are revealed in His commandments and promises.

Living in awe of Yahweh God is the beginning of practical wisdom and insight. Doing what that practical wisdom and insight teaches you brings you to the kind of knowledge makes your way prosperous and leads you to good success.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

God is Not Moved By Your Need

God is not moved by your need. Not one bit. Does that surprise you? Shock you? Offend you? Then here is something else that will surprise you: God has already done everything He’s ever going to do about your need.

What? He’s not going to do anything to take care of you?

That’s right, because He has already done all that is necessary. He has moved heaven and earth to provide for you in every way. That’s why Jesus came to this planet 2,000 years ago and went to the Cross. It was to rescue you and meet your every need.

If God is not moved by your need, because He has already made full provision for it, then how do you access that provision. In other words, what does move God?

One word: Faith.

The Bible says,
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Without faith, there is no pleasing God. He is not moved in the least when you come to Him apart from faith. Oh, but when faith enters the picture, when you come to Him fully trusting His Word, the passion of God is aroused on your behalf.

Remember how Paul talked about the “thorn in the flesh,” the “messenger of satan” he had to deal with. He asked God three different times to remove that “thorn.” But God simply said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The grace of God had already provided for Paul in this situation. It empowered him to meet the need and deal with this demonic messenger. All Paul needed to do was to lay hold of this all-sufficient grace.

The same thing is true for you. Whatever your situation, whatever need is pressing in on you, whatever you are facing, God has already made provision for you concerning it. His grace is sufficient to meet every need and deal with every circumstance. His grace empowers you.

So how do you lay hold of His grace? Paul answered that in the book of Ephesians:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
You lay hold of God’s grace by faith. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). That is because the essence of faith is to believe the Word of God. It is the Word of God that tells us of His provision and His promises.

Jesus is the Word made flesh, and all God’s promises are fulfilled in Him. It is by faith in Him that we receive God’s provision for every need.

See also Pulling Paul’s Thorn.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Waiting on the LORD

Those who wait on the LORD
  Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
  They shall run and not be weary,
  They shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:31)
The Hebrew word for “wait” is qavah, and literally means to bind or collect. It is a gathering together. As used in the sense of waiting, it is a focusing of one’s attention, indeed, of one’s whole self. The focal point is the Lord.

This kind of waiting is not about “killing time.” Nor is it about occupying yourself with distractions while you wait. No, this kind of waiting is an attentiveness to the Lord, earnestly looking to Him in expectation. It speaks of complete trust. Therefore, it has no back-up plan; it is an all-in kind of faith.

It is young Samuel at night, when he heard the voice of the Lord. Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:10). He was attentive for the word of the Lord. He was expectant.

It is David at prayer: “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up” (Psalm 5:3). Having directed his prayer to the Lord, he waits in anticipation for the answer.

It is the pilgrim in Psalm 84 as he pours out his heart: “My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (v. 2). His whole being is fixed on the Lord. Nothing else will do; nothing else will even come close.

It is the watchfulness of Habakkuk: “I will stand watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me” (Habakkuk 2:1).

When our trust and expectation are fully set on the Lord, there is a great strength that comes. We mount with wings like eagles to soar high above whatever may be pressing in. There is steadiness for the daily walk and endurance for the long run. For the Lord is faithful and will always come through.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Evangelism of Being Blessed

God be merciful to us and bless us,
  And cause His face to shine upon us. Selah.
That Your way may be known on earth,
  Your salvation among all nations.
(Psalm 67:1-2)
Here is a benediction with which we can bless ourselves. It echoes the Aaronic blessing found in Numbers 6:22-27. The Hebrew word for “mercy” used here literally means to bend or stoop. It carries the idea of being gracious and showing favor. The word for “bless” literally means to kneel. When man blesses God, it is an act of adoration; when God blesses man, it is an act of favor and kindness. The blessing of God releases His power and goodness on our behalf.

The benediction, both here and in Numbers, calls for God to “cause His face to shine upon us,” to be bright and luminous towards us. We desire the presence of God, and for Him to look favorably upon us. Show us the glory of Your face, Lord.

In the mind of the psalm writer, being blessed has an evangelistic purpose: “That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.” When we are blessed, it is a revelation of God’s glory to the rest of the world.

The way of the Lord is the method of His operation, the manner of His thoughts, the workings of His heart. It is the expression of His purposes and desires. His way is seen in His Word and in His works. His ways are not our ways; they are different, and operate at a higher level (Isaiah 55:8-9). But He delights to reveal them to us. He showed them to Moses (Psalm 103:7) and here we see that He desires to reveal His way to all the earth, for His way is a way of mercy and blessing.

The Hebrew word for “salvation” here is yeshuah. It is deliverance from whatever has you bound. As a name, it translates into English as “Jesus.” The blessing comes so that Jesus — the ultimate expression of salvation — may be revealed.

The blessing God has for you is not just for you alone; it is a gateway for God to bring His salvation to all the world. Do not shy away from asking God to bless you, as some have done, for someone is waiting to see if it is real in your life before they give their life to God.

The blessing of God is bigger than you and me. It is an abundance that reveals His way on earth and His salvation even to the nations. The evidence of God’s presence and favor in your life sheds a light that attracts others.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Ordained Strength, Perfected Praise

O LORD, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
(Psalm 8:2)

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful thing that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise?” (Matthew 21:14-16)
There might seem to be a contradiction here: Is it “ordained strength” or “perfected praise?” The answer is: both. Let’s examine each and then see how they come together.

Ordained Strength

The Hebrew word for “ordained” means to set, appoint, establish or found. The word for “strength” can refer to boldness, might, power, strength, security, majesty, and praise. The Septuagint (early Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, designated by LXX) translates it using ainos, the Greek word for praise.

This psalm declares that the name of the LORD is great in all the earth, and that His glory is established above the heavens. But what is more, God establishes His strength even in the utterances of infants and toddlers (mothers nursed their children longer in those days), and thereby stills the voices of those who hate Him and carry a grudge against Him.

Perfected Praise

In the New Testament, the Greek word for “perfected” means to be thoroughly complete, leaving nothing lacking. The word for “praise,” ainos, literally refers to a tale or narrative, but came to be used in the New Testament to extol the Lord. You might say that praise is the tale of His goodness, or the narrative of His greatness. The greatness of the Lord is demonstrated in that even small children declare His name fully and freely. That is what happened in Matthew’s account.

Perfected Praise IS Ordained Strength

Jesus was in the temple. First, He drove out the money changers, saying, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12-13). That upset some people (mainly, the money changers). He probably upset more people when He healed the blind and the lame — for these were not allowed into the sanctuary, but were restricted to the outer court (v. 14). Yet these were the very ones Jesus had chosen to minister to.

But the thing that really set off the ire of the chief priests and scribes was what happened next. There were children in the temple area, who, seeing the miracles Jesus performed, recognized their significance and began shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

Now, children had no standing in the realms of the religious — and just what were they doing in the temple anyway? To make things worse, now they were raising a ruckus, crying out with Hosannas! to Jesus — and Jesus did nothing to stop them, but gladly received their praise. The indignant officials went to Jesus: “Do You hear these children — what they’re saying?” Imagine them impatiently waiting with a “Well, are you just going to stand there?” look on their faces.

What Jesus did next stunned them. For He not only affirmed the praise offered up by the children, He even backed it up with Scripture:
Yes. Have you never read, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise?”
You see, the children had readily received what should have been apparent to all who were around. Their young eyes had perceived Messiah in their midst, and they openly declared His praise. But the chief priests and scribes had already shut their hearts to Jesus, and now the praises of the children had shut their mouths — they had nothing else to say.

Praise is a powerful weapon in spiritual warfare (make no mistake, this warfare is going on all around us all the time). The more thorough our praise, the greater our strength. The enemy cannot stand to be around when the name of Jesus is exalted. The accuser cannot accuse when we are praising God for His mercy and pouring out our thanks to Him. Simple, child-like worship and adoration stills the God-haters and silences the grudge-holders, for thorough, perfected praise is the foundation of strength.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

How to Develop Solid Expectation

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)
We can have confidence in God, that when we ask anything according to His will, He hears us and will grant what we ask. This is solid expectation — but where does it come from? How can we know what the will of God is? Consider Paul’s words to the church at Rome:
But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach … So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:6-8, 17)
In this context, Paul is speaking about the will of God as the “righteousness of faith.” That, in essence, is what the will of God is always about. And it is not hard to know what the will of God is. We don’t have to die and go to heaven or pass through hell on earth before we can discover it. God has already revealed it, very simply. It is close by, “in your mouth and in your heart.” It is the “word of faith.” For, as Paul adds, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. That is where we discover the will of God.

We often think of the will of God as something we must learn to resign ourselves to, as if it were some terrible burden. But the will of God is His delight, desire and purpose for you and the world. It is not a negative thing, but a very good and positive thing. Consider the word the Lord delivered through Jeremiah to the people of Israel in the midst of their captivity in Babylon:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:11-12)
No matter what your need or circumstance, God has made some wonderful promises to you concerning it. His great desire for you is peace, to give you a future and a hope — solid expectation! Here is how you can develop that expectation:
  • Get into the Word of God and begin learning His heart.
  • Make note of those Scriptures which speak particularly to your situation.
  • Let these Scriptures fill your heart and stir up your faith.
  • Let them fill your mouth, also, declaring and decreeing the will of God over your life.
  • Then ask God whatever you desire, according to His will, knowing that He not only hears you, but that He will give you what you ask.
God desires the very best for you—peace and wholeness, a future and a hope. You can know His wonderful will for your life, ask Him to fulfill it, and have a solid expectation that it will be done.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Giving Substance to Hope

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Many people have hope, but no faith, so their hope is vain. Hope without faith has no substance, no underlying reality to it. It is merely a wish, a desire which may or may not be fulfilled. It is faith that lays a foundation and gives substance to hope. Faith gives evidence about what is going on in the spiritual realm and must one day appear in the natural.

The Bible says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). If you need real hope — hope that has substance, hope that has evidence — get into the Word of God and believe His promises. For whatever God says, comes to pass, and He has many wonderful things to say about those who turn to Him in faith.

Faith gives substance to hope.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Abundantly Available Help

God our refuge and strength,
Abundantly available help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear.
(Psalm 46:1-2)
I understand that first line to be a name by which God reveals Himself to us. It is the nature of His commitment to us, what we can expect from Him in our covenant relationship: shelter and strength. The “our” makes it personal.

Your Bible version may read “a very present help.” I prefer the margin note in mine, which reads “abundantly available help” (I always go with abundance).

God is abundantly available help for you in the time of trouble. This reveals God’s willingness to help. Many people realize that God is able to help in any situation. That requires very little faith. But what takes faith is to say that, not only is God able to help, but He will help (See God Will Deliver Us — Without a Doubt for a wonderful example of this in the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace.)

The Hebrew word for “trouble” means “narrow or tight; in anguish, distress or tribulation, beset by enemies, adversaries and foes of all kinds; pressed hard.”

Whenever you find yourself in a jam, a tight spot, “between a rock and a hard place,” God is more than willing to help. That’s why Jesus came. He will be your refuge, the place were you can go for safety. He will be your strength — you do not have to deal with adverse circumstances in your own strength. God is more than willing to help you, to protect you, to bring you out into a wide place.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

A Covenant Without Curse

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 old covenant God made with Israel was a marvelous covenant with many wonderful provisions and blessings for all who kept it (see Deuteronomy 28:1-14 for a good summary of these benefits). Alas, Israel was unable to keep the Law of Moses, so all that was left was the curse (see Deuteronomy 28:15-68). For God said,
I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and our descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
The covenant that was meant for life and blessing became a covenant of cursing and death. However, Israel was not without hope. For the Mosaic Law made provision for sacrifices which would cover willful sin and inherent iniquity. These sacrifices were types which pointed toward a greater fulfillment that would one day come in the person and work of the Messiah (see Isaiah 53, where the prophet describes this work).

In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul speaks directly to the issue of the blessing and the curse, and what Messiah (Christ) has done about them:
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)
Where there is curse, there is no blessing, but where there is blessing, there is no curse. Jesus has freed us from the curse of the law and brought us into the blessing of Abraham (which predates the law by 400 years). Therefore, the curse has no right to be on those whom God has blessed.

Once we were under the curse, dead in trespasses and sins. But now we have a new and better covenant with God, mediated to us by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. This covenant does not come up short in any way. It does not lack any of the benefits of the Old Covenant, but adds to them. In the New Covenant, there is no curse, for Jesus has completely taken all of the curses and nailed them to the Cross. In effect, He has cursed the curse, for the Bible says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

The curse no longer applies to those who have become the children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. The devil may try to tell you that you are still cursed, but you can be free from his deceit by reminding him that Jesus the Messiah has redeemed us from the curse. You may still find the effects of the curse still operating in your live (see Deuteronomy 28:15-68 for a thorough listing of these effects), but you now have the right to bring them under submission to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. The power of the curse has been broken, and its right to be on you has been revoked.

Dear Lord Jesus,
I thank You that You have redeemed me from every curse, so that the wonderful blessing of Abraham can come upon me. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, who comes to empower and teach me how to walk in the life of blessing You have provided for me. Thank You for the new and better covenant You have established by Your blood on my behalf. I trust Your provision, and I receive this New Covenant and all its blessings. And now, in the authority of Jesus’ name, I tell the devil, the curse and all its effects to take a hike — they no longer have any right to be in my life. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

To go along with this article, listen to Choosing Life, a free MP3 download from our CD, Healing Scriptures and Prayers Vol. 2: New Testament Scriptures (Actually, it is based on an Old Testament passage, but it is a bonus track on CD 2).

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

The Rest of Faith

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.
(Psalm 3:5)

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4:8)

Be still and know that I am God.
(Psalm 46:10)

Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.
(Psalm 127:1-2)

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day. (Mark 4:26)

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the Word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest,” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.” (Hebrews 4:1-4)

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest. (Hebrews 4:9-11)
When you enter into faith, there is no striving, no sleepless nights of worry, no fear. There is only rest, peace, and the intimate knowledge that He is God. It is the way of God, the way of His kingdom, the way of faith.

Enter into the rest of God by believing His Word.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

How the Faith of God Works

Have faith of God. (Mark 11:22)

God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did. (Romans 4:17).
Jesus said, “Have faith of God.” Your version might say “Have faith in God,” but a literal rendering of the Greek text is “Have faith of God.” Some Bibles note this in the margin.

What does it mean to have faith of God? It is the faith that comes from God. It is possible to have a sort of faith that comes from other sources. But the kind of faith the Bible talks about comes from God. It is the gift of God and it comes by hearing His Word (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 10:17).

What is faith? It is believing the Word of God. God is full of faith — He believes everything He says and always expects it to come to pass, fully and completely (Isaiah 55:10-11).

How does this faith work? Paul answered that in Romans 4, where he talks about the faith of Abraham:
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” (Romans 4:16-18)
God calls things which do not exist as though they did. In the beginning, when darkness was over the face of the earth, God called for light. Light did not yet exist, it had not yet been created. God called for it anyway — “Light, be!” And there was light, because God called it.

God called Abraham “a father of many nations.” In fact, God changed his name from Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of multitudes”).
No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. (Genesis 17:5)
But at the time, in the natural, Abraham was not a father of any kind, not even the father of one, much less of multitudes. So what was God doing? He was calling things which did not exist as though they did. Notice that God was not speaking in the future tense, “I will make you a father of many nations,” but in the past tense, “I have made you a father of many nations.” It was a done deal, because God was calling for it. And because He was calling for it, it could not be otherwise. God fully expected to see it happen in the natural. That is how the faith of God works.

Man was created to operate in the God kind of faith, to call things that do not yet exist as though they did. Consider the first assignment God gave to Adam. Adam was created in the image of God, and the breath of God was puffed into his nostrils. Then God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would call them. He did not tell him what to call them, but simply observed what he would call them. “And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name” (Genesis 2:19).

Names are very important. They call things into existence. When Adam gave names to the animals, he was calling forth their nature and destiny. He actually set their destiny by the names he called them. He assigned their character by these names. Though the creatures themselves existed before Adam named them, their nature and destiny did not. Adam assigned these to them by the names he gave them. He called those things which did not exist as though they did.

Jesus taught His disciples this principle of faith in Mark 11. One day, He spoke to a fig tree and said, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again” (v. 14). The next day, He and His disciples passed by the tree, when Peter noticed and said, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which you cursed has withered away” (v. 21). Jesus answered,
Have faith in [of] God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (Mark 11:22-23)
What was He doing? He was teaching them how to call those things which do not exist as though they did. If there is a mountain standing in the way, tell it to move. The removal of that mountain does not yet exist—that’s why you call for it to move. You are calling for something which does not yet exist (the removal of the mountain) as though it already did. Jesus says, when you do that, and you believe in your heart that what you say will be done, you will have whatever you say. In the next verse, He drives this point even further:
Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (v. 24)
The NIV render this, “believe that you have received them.” They may not exist yet in the natural. No matter — believe you have received them anyway. Treat them as if they do exist in the natural. This is calling things which do not exist as though they did.

Calling things that don’t exist is how God operates. It is also how the faith of God is to operate in us.

Friday, March 3, 2006

The Seed of the Kingdom

Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32)
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It starts out very small; it grows up and becomes huge, offering refuge for all who would come under its shade. The life of the kingdom and the entire pattern of its development is all within the seed at the very beginning. When it hits the soil, it goes to work and begins to emerge.

Jesus also talked about faith as a mustard seed:
If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,” and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6)
It is not the size of the seed that matters, but what you do with it. It must be planted, then it can bring about amazing, seemingly impossible results. The way you plant faith as a mustard seed is by what you say. Jesus said, “If you have faith … you can say” (see also Mark 11:22-23, below).

In the same way, the kingdom of God is planted by words. In the parable of the sower, earlier in Mark 4, Jesus identifies the seed as the word (v. 14). In Matthew it is called the “word of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:19). Luke’s account identifies it very plainly: “The seed is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11).

When the seed hits the soil, it immediately goes to work and starts to grow. Likewise, when the Word of God, the word of the kingdom, comes into the world, it immediately goes to work and begins to grow. For the world was created by the Word of God in the first place(Hebrews 11:3), therefore it must always respond to it.
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
(Isaiah 55:10-11)
It is by the Word of God that the kingdom comes forth and flourishes. It does not matter whether that Word is in God’s mouth or ours, it will always produce when it is spoken in faith. For Jesus has given all those who believe in Him the authority to speak the Word of God and call forth the kingdom of God upon the earth. He taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven!” (Matthew 6:10).
Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)

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

Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (Mark 11:22-23)
The Word of God, whether in His mouth or in ours, is the seed that brings forth the kingdom of God on the earth.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Sowing the Kingdom

And He 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 4:26-30)
Jesus likened the kingdom of God to a man sowing seed. His role is simple.

He scatters the seed. The Greek text uses the definite article — “the seed.” This man has seed to sow, and he does with it exactly what you are supposed to do with it; he sows it.

He sleeps by night and rises by day. He goes about his business. He does not worry about the seed. He does not keep pulling it up to see how it’s doing. He knows that he has done his part, and he trusts the seed to do its part. He does not know how the seed will do what it does; he just knows that it will. And so he rests and goes about his business.

When the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle. He watches for the grain to ripen, then he harvests the fruit of the seed he has sown. It is an age-old principle: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest … shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).
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. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not. (Galatians 6:7-9)
This man does not sow in fear, but in expectation. From the beginning, he has a vision of the harvest. He has an expectation of reaping, and he is patient. He does not reach for the sickle when the seed begins to sprout and the blade comes up. He waits. It begins to bud and blossom. Still he waits. The fruit grows and comes to its proper fullness. But it is not yet ripe, so he keeps waiting and watching. When the fruit is fully ripe — now it is time, and he reaches for his harvesting tools.

Notice that puts in the sickle immediately. All the while he has been waiting, he has been watching, for he knows that the time of harvest, when it comes, comes suddenly, and there is a short window of opportunity to gather it in.

Many people have sowed their seed, but missed their harvest because they were not waiting or they were not watching. They either killed it off early, or else they were not aware or prepared when the time came to act. But the man in this parable was wise: He sowed, he waited, he watched, and then he quickly gathered the harvest.

That is what the kingdom of God is like. It is like a seed that we sow. If we will sow the seed, the kingdom of God will do the rest. Jesus said, “The earth yields crops by itself.” This has very much to do with the kingdom of God, for Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The kingdom of God is His will being done on earth exactly as it is being done in heaven. The whole earth, all of creation, is waiting for this to happen. Paul said,
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:19-22)
What is the seed that brings forth the kingdom of God? Jesus spoke of it earlier in Mark 4, in the parable of the sower. Explaining this parable to the disciples, He said, “The sower sows the word” (v. 14). This is the word that comes from God. Peter called the Word of God incorruptible seed “which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).

This incorruptible seed, this eternal Word, was present at the beginning of creation when God spoke the world into existence. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God” (Hebrews 11:3). Now all creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God — the people of God who will sow the seeds of His kingdom by taking His Word in their mouths and say, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Our job is to be faithful in sowing the seed, to believe the seed to do its work, to watch with patient expectation, and be ready to gather in the harvest.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Taking On Lent

Lent begins today, Ash Wednesday, six weeks before Easter Sunday. It is a time of repentance and preparation. The ashes on the first day of this season represent mourning over sin and the longing for holiness. In Lent, we remember the temptation of Christ in the wilderness and His journey to the Cross. We become aware of how Christ humbled himself and how God calls us, also, to humility as we participate in his redemptive purposes. We consider, also, what our own place of service and sacrifice is in his divine plan.

Lent concludes with Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, we think of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, knowing that soon he would be rejected by the Jewish leaders. The irony of this is subtly observed by the burning of this year’s palms to become next year's Lenten ashes.

Many Christians talk about what they are “giving up” for Lent. But that needs to be understood in the context of what we are taking on. That is, what am I willing to let go of so that I may accomplish the destiny God has for me? Jesus extends this invitation:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30)
Paul reckoned it this way:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
The forty days of Lent is an opportunity to enter again into the purpose, passion and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and be made more like him.