Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Wealth of God

My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
In a very real sense, the glory of God is the wealth of God. The Hebrew word for “glory” is kabod and literally refers to weightiness, as in the weight of gold or the measure of wealth. It is the value of every good thing one possesses. The glory of God is the manifestation, the substance of His goodness. It is His treasury, His wealth.

The substance of glory manifests even as financial wealth. Just after the Exodus, when they tired of waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, the children of Israel gave Aaron some of their gold and told him to form it into an idol, a calf of gold (Exodus 32). Speaking of this, the Bible says,
They made a calf in Horeb,
  And worshiped the molded image.
Thus they changed their glory
  Into the image of an ox that eats grass.
(Psalm 106:19-20)
What irony! The gold they had received from the Egyptians as part of God’s restoration plan was the very gold they used to dishonor the One who delivered them and made them wealthy. They changed their “glory,” their wealth, into an idol.

Now, God is not stingy with what belongs to Him. He always desires to share it with His people:
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
  The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
  From those who walk uprightly.
(Psalm 84:11)
The NIV has, “The LORD bestows favor and honor.” Favor corresponds to grace; the grace of God is the favor He has toward us. Honor corresponds to glory. Honor does not come empty-handed, but brings with it the substance of wealth. The glory God gives to the righteous includes every good thing. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Paul said that God “gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). We are not to trust in riches, of course, but in God, who blesses us.

The glory of God’s wealth belongs to those who belong to Him, who are made righteous in Him. It is for those who walk uprightly, who fear the LORD and delight in His ways.
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD;
  Who delights greatly in His commandments …
Wealth and riches will be I his house,
  And his righteousness endures forever.
(Psalm 112:1, 3)
The only righteousness that endures forever is that which belongs to God. But He freely gives that to us, also. That is why Jesus came. “For [God] made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We receive this righteousness by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, wealth is not necessarily the sign of God’s favor in your life. There are many wicked men who prosper in finances and material things—but they will not endure, for they are not well-founded. Their wealth will inevitably end up in the hands of the just. The Bible says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children; but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22).

That is what happened to the wealth of Egypt — it went out with the children of Israel in the Exodus. God said:
So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians. (Exodus 3:20-22)

He also brought them out with silver and gold,
And there was none feeble among His tribes.
(Psalm 105:37)
God plundered Egypt, stripping it of all its wealth, and gave it to His people—for their children, and their children’s children. That is also what He would do for them in the Promised Land; the wicked inhabitants would be routed, and God would distribute the spoils to His people.

Just before He lead His people across the river Jordan into Canaan land, God renewed His covenant with them. The book of Deuteronomy is the document of that renewal. God said,
And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:18)
And God made this wonderful promise:
The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you.

And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the LORD swore to you fathers to give you. The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. (Deuteronomy 28:8-13)
God has a covenant to establish, a promise to fulfill. His purpose is to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory — and He intends to do it through His people. Just as the surrounding nations trembled at the manifestation of God’s wealth to Israel, so shall the world stand in awe of His provision to His people today. For His provision is the revelation of His glory — His greatness, His goodness, His wealth. As Paul said, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Peter on Blessing Your Enemies

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that your were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:8-11)
Often, our enemy may be one who is in our community, our own church, even our own family. They do us wrong, and we want to return the favor. We want to give back to them what they have given us. But that is not the way to go, Peter says. We were made for much better things, and to respond in much better ways. We were made for blessing — to inherit blessing, to walk in blessing, to extend blessing to others, even those who do us evil and revile us.

If you want to enjoy life and see many good days, give up the idea of paying back evil with evil. Seek peace with your enemy. Love your enemy and bless him. If you find it hard to speak kindly toward him and bless him, then do yourself a favor — shut your mouth. For whatever evil you speak toward him will invariably be a lie. Oh, it may be accurate and based in fact — but it will not be the truth. The truth is that God wants to bring him to the place of blessing and reconciliation. Your curses will not help.

If you want to enjoy life and see many good days, love your enemies and bless them. Then you will be walking in your divine inheritance.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Paul on Blessing Your Enemies

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
God knows how to deal with your enemies, and He doesn’t need your help. He is not out to destroy them, but to give them opportunity to repent, so He can bless them.

If you try to repay evil with evil, you do not settle the score, but only make things twice as bad. For then there will be two acts of evil instead of one, and the evil you perpetrate is just as damaging to you as the one perpetrated against you. No, always meditate on and present what is good, and let that become evident to all.

It may not be possible to live at peace with all men — some just will not have it, and you cannot make them wear it. But you can control what you do (one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, Galatians 5:23). Regardless of what your enemy may say or do, your efforts must always be toward peace. That is where the wisdom of God is found (James 3:17).

Now Paul quotes from Proverbs 25:21-22:
If you enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
For so you will heap coals of fire on his head,
And the LORD will reward you.
You are not going to be able to starve out your enemy and have any satisfaction from it. Any evil you do to him will boomerang against you — it’s a matter of seedtime and harvest. But the kindness you show will heap coals of fire on his head. That is, it may well cause him to come to repentance (earlier, in Romans 2:4, Paul said that the kindness of God leads to repentance). But if not, God knows how to deal with the matter.

So the best option is always to respond with good, not evil. If you try to repay evil with evil, you will yourself be overcome, swallowed up by your own evil. Good is greater than evil and must eventually overcome it — for God is great and God is good.

Return evil for evil, and you will have to deal with the consequences yourself. Keep doing good, and let God deal with the consequences, and you will get the reward.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Moses and David Blessed Their Enemies

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
We have seen how Joseph blessed his enemies. Now let’s take a look at how Moses blessed his enemies. After the tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn, hit all of Egypt, including Pharaoh’s house, Pharaoh called for Moses:
Then he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, “rise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve the Lord as you have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone; and bless me also.” (Exodus 12:31-32)
The Hebrew people have always been a people of blessing. Even in their captivity, they did not forget how to bless. Apparently, this was not lost on Pharaoh. When he decided to let the children of Israel go, he had finally had enough of the plagues, so he begged a blessing from Moses.

Cecil B. DeMille never showed it in The Ten Commandments, but can you picture Moses (Charlton Heston) placing his hands on Pharaoh’s (Yul Brynner) bald pate, and speaking a blessing over him? Of course, Pharaoh changed his mind, and soon the chase was on (a really dumb move on Pharaoh’s part).

David also blessed his enemies, and he details it for us in the Psalms.
Fierce witness rise up;
  They ask me things that I do no know.
They reward me evil for good,
  To the sorrow of my soul.
But as for me, when they were sick,
  My clothing was sackcloth;
I humbled myself with fasting;
  And my prayer would return to my own heart.
I paced about as though he were my friend or brother;
  I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother.
(Psalm 35:11-14)
When David’s enemies were sick, he did not triumph over them. Rather, he went into mourning for them, grieving over their distress. He fasted, and bowed his head in intense prayer for their recovery. He responded to the news of their pain as if they had been his friend or brother, or even his own mother. This was no affectation, but a sincere expression of concern.

David thus loved his enemies and blessed them, even though they did not return the favor. For in the next verses we read:
But in my adversity they rejoiced
  And gathered together;
Attackers gathered against me,
  And I did not know it;
  They tore at me and did not cease;
With ungodly mockers at feasts
  They gnashed at me with their teeth.
(Psalm 35:15-16)
This was certainly not the first time David prayed for his enemies and had it thrown back in his face. But that did not change his ways. Saul tried to kill him, but when he had a chance to kill Saul, he refused. Even so, Saul did not relent. Absalom instigated a rebellion and tried to overthrow him, but David wept bitterly at his demise.

David was a skillful warrior and king, but at heart, he was still a shepherd, and so he blessed. This is instructive for us, especially considering that it comes to us from one whom God called “a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22).

Now, we might look at the examples of Moses and David (and Joseph; see Joseph Blessed His Enemies) and think, “Yeah, but they were holy men of God.” But consider what Jesus had to say about that:
For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. (Luke 7:28)
John the Baptist was the last prophet of the Old Testament era. No one was greater than he — not Joseph, not Moses, not David. And yet, even the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, you are in the kingdom of God, and therefore, greater than John the Baptist. You have the stuff to do what they all did, because it is not longer about you, but about God in you.

If Joseph, Moses and David could all forgive and bless their enemies, so can all those who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only is it possible, it is God’s way for you and me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Joseph Blessed His Enemies

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Joseph was cruelly treated by his ten older brothers. They hated him because he was their father’s favorite, and because he dreamed of greatness. At first they conspired to kill him, but then decided to abandon him in a pit in the wilderness. While they were about that dirty work, an Ishmaelite caravan came along, so they figured it would be more profitable for them to sell their little brother into slavery.

So Joseph became a slave in Egypt. Before long, because of the treachery of Potiphar’s wife, he spent many years in prison. But God was good to Joseph, even in the midst of hard circumstances, and through wonderful providence, Joseph rose to power and became second in command over all the land of Egypt.

When famine came upon Egypt and the surrounding territories, Joseph’s father, Jacob, sent all his brothers down to buy grain. Joseph was presented with a delicious opportunity for revenge. At first he hid his identity from them, spoke roughly and tested them. Finally, he revealed himself to them: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt” (Genesis 45:4). Was he about to lower the boom on them? Quite the opposite; he reassured them.
But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life … And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt … You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children, your children’s children , your flocks and your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, lest you and your household and all that you have come to poverty; for there are still five years of famine. (Genesis 45:5, 7-8, 10-11)
So Jacob and all his family came and settled in Goshen, and there they prospered, just as Joseph promised. But then Jacob died, and Joseph’s brothers began to wonder.
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.

Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against met, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21)
Joseph discovered that God is far greater than our circumstances and any evil that can be perpetrated against us. So he was able to not only forgive, but to bless and love those who had betrayed him and treated him so shamefully.

God is greater than any evil or betrayal done against you, to deliver, heal and restore you in every way. If you will forgive, His love will enable you to love and bless even those who have hurt you the most.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Beyond Forgiveness to Blessing

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45)
Some Christians think that you don’t have to forgive unless the other person has apologized. But in the sermon on the mount, Jesus blows that idea out of the water. He tells us to love our enemies. He tells us to bless those who curse us. He tells us to do good to those who hate us. He tells us to pray for those who spitefully use us.

These are obviously not people who have repented and apologized to us, and yet, we are called to do much more than forgive them. To forgive means that we let go of the offense someone has perpetrated against us. We give up the right for pay-backs or revenge. We forgive, not just for their sake, but for ours as well. By releasing the offender, we release ourselves from the offense, and are no longer held back by it — we are free to move forward with our lives.

But it is not enough to take a neutral position, simply to refrain from hating our enemies, cursing those who curse us, doing ill toward those who hate us, and being spiteful to those who use us. Such restraint is wise and healthy and good. But much more is required of those who follow Jesus.

Now, someone will say, “But you don’t understand what so and so did to me.” And maybe I don’t. But Jesus does, for He was mocked and scorned and nailed to a cross. And He tells you to love and bless your enemies.

Yes, it is very difficult — even impossible — to live that way. In our own strength, we cannot do it at all. We need divine assistance. That’s why Jesus adds, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” The essence of fatherhood is inheritance, which means that a son is like his father. Our Father in heaven shows love and forgiveness even to those who hate Him. They may reject that love and forgiveness and so never enjoy His blessing, but that is because of their own unbelief and rebellion, not because the Father is unwilling.

And indeed, we might love our enemy and it won’t make one bit of difference to them. We might bless those who curse us, and find that they curse us still. We might do good for those who just continue to hate us. We might pray for the sake of those who spitefully use us, and they may yet persecute us.

No matter. It is the nature of the sons of God to manifest the character of our Father in heaven. Now, that is not how we become the sons of the Father. We become His sons through faith in Jesus Christ. “But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Through faith in Him, we are born again, born from above, by the Spirit of God. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can begin to forgive, love and bless our enemies. When we do, we demonstrate that we truly are sons of the Father, because that is what He does. Indeed, we have the authority and power to act that way precisely because we are His children.

As children of God, we have the right to display His love, His grace, and even His power to the world. Jesus invites us to move past our own resources and step into divine sonship with Him, to let the love of the Father be revealed in and through us. It is a radical shift for us, but that is why He has given us the Holy Spirit. It is in this divine empowerment that we learn, not only how to forgive, but to move beyond forgiveness to blessing.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Writer's Block

A few scattered thoughts about writer's blockage (but can also be applied to many other things):

  • Your identity is much bigger than about being a writer, and writing is much more than sitting in front of a keyboard.
  • Live well, and that will help you write well.
  • Writer's block is a signal that you need to get up, get out and give your life a stretch. Enjoy who you are in Jesus and let Him teach you something new.
  • You have so much going for you in the love of God — what if you never got back to writing?
  • When you can let it go, then it has become your servant, not your master.
(If not fully satisfied, your money will be cheerfully refunded.)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Praying in Faith, Healing the Sick

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:13-5)
Is anyone troubled, afflicted, undergoing hardship? The appropriate response is to take it to the Lord in prayer. Peter said, “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). God cares enough to do something about all the things that worry us. (See How to Cast Your Cares)

Is anyone happy, of good cheer, free from care? The appropriate response is to give thanks and praise, making melody to the Lord. Perhaps James has in mind the previous situation where someone was afflicted, but is now free from care because He cast it upon the Lord.

What if someone is sick, feeble, diseased, without strength? Then the appropriate response is for him to call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a one is, apparently, too sick to go to the elders; he must call for them to come to him.

Up until now, it might seem like James is simply suggesting ways to cope, to learn to live with adversity. But in the next verse we see that that is not his attitude at all. No, he actually expects to get results:
And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up! (v. 15)
There is no if about it. When you offer the prayer of faith over this fellow, he will recover; the Lord will raise him up from his sickbed.

The problem many people have when they pray for the sick is that they do not pray in faith; they pray in ifs: “If it be Thy will.” That sounds good and pious, but it is not how Jesus went about healing, nor is it how He taught His disciples to go about healing.

When He sent them out, is was not so they could go and pray if it was the Father’s will. He sent them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and cast out demons (Mark 3:14-15). And that is exactly what they did:
So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast our many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them. (Mark 6:13)
They understood the prayer of faith, that it is not about finding out if it is God’s will to heal, but that, yes, it is God’s will to heal, otherwise Jesus would not have sent them out.

The prayer of faith has no wavering to it. In the first chapter of his letter, James says,
But let him ask in faith, with not doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that ma suppose that he shall receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6-8)
Then in chapter 5, he says this:
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5:16-17)
The Greek phrase translated “he prayed earnestly,” literally means he prayed prayer! In other words, he was able to accomplish what he did because he knew how to pray the prayer of faith. (See The Effective, Fervent Prayer of Elijah)

When we begin to understand that Jesus is the perfect expression of the Father’s will (John 5:19, 30; John 8:28,29); that He never turned away anyone who came to Him for healing, but healed them all (Matthew 9:35; Luke 6:17-19); that He bore our sicknesses and pains, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 8:16-17; 1 Peter 2:24) — then we will begin to heal as Jesus and His disciples did. Our prayer will not be if, but when. It will not be please, but thank You! That is the prayer of faith.

Healing Scriptures and Prayers

Healing Scriptures and Prayers
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Declarations for Morning and Evening

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night.
(Psalm 92:1-2)
When you got out of bed this morning, what did you declare? Was is the lovingkindness of the Lord? If not, you missed out on a sure thing — a good thing. Before you went to bed last night, did you speak about the faithfulness of God? If not, you missed out on another good thing.

The Hebrew word for “declare” is nagad. It means to report conspicuously, to announce boldly, to declare, proclaim, and make known with certainty.

As those who have been reconciled to the Father by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have wonderful things to declare every morning and every evening: His loving kindness and His faithfulness.

The Hebrew word for “lovingkindness” is chesed. It is the steadfast love and mercy of God, which He has promised to always show to His people. The word for “faithfulness” is emunah and is based on the word for “faith.” Today, we say that “faithful” means “trustworthy.” That is absolutely true, but it misses an important point: God is trustworthy because He is faithful, that is, full of faith. We can trust God to do what He promises because He believes everything He says and fully expects to see it come to pass.

What does it mean to declare His lovingkindness every morning? It is the bold proclamation that the lovingkindness of the Lord is going to be with you all through the day. There will not be any moment of the day in which He has forgotten the love He has for you, or the promises He has made to you. This is an announcement you make by faith, trusting completely in Him. What a way to start the day.

How about declaring His faithfulness every evening? Take a moment before you go to bed and see how the Lord has been good to you, how He has kept His promise to you, how it was right on target for you to put all your trust in Him. But don’t just see it; say it!. Make a bold proclamation of it: “God has been faithful to me today.” Even if you don’t see it, declare it anyway, because it is true; because we walk by faith, not by sight; and because it will help you become more aware of God’s faithfulness the next day. It will also help get a good night’s sleep.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, even before you get out of bed, open your mouth and declare to yourself and all the world, “The lovingkindness of the Lord is going to be with me all day today.” In the evening, as you review your day, boldly announce, “God has been faithful to me today. But don’t just whisper it. If your surroundings permit, without disturbing the peace of others, get loud with it. Shout it out, even. It will break the bondage and cast off the chains of some things in your life, and your declaration will become even more confident.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Holy Saturday

On this Holy Saturday, we remember that Jesus, crucified on Good Friday, was dead for three days. We know His body lay in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. But what of His spirit?

The Apostle’s Creed says, “I believe … He descended into hell.” Today we think of “hell” as the place of the damned, but the word “hell,” as used here, refers only to the place of the dead.

To the thief crucified next to Him, and who believed on Him, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Then, before He died, He cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).

By the former, He may have only been referring to the blessed place of the dead, known as Paradise, or Abraham’s Bosom. By the latter, He may have only meant that He committed His human spirit to the Father to do as the Father desired. There was a separation of His spirit and His body, but when He was made alive again the third day, spirit and body fully united.
Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. (Ephesians 4:8-10)

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): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:6-9)
The important thing to know is that, wherever Jesus was on this day, He did not remain there.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Restoration of Glory

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)
We were created to bear the glory of God. Indeed, we were created to be the glory of God on the earth. That is why we were created in the image of God, given the breath of God, and made to be “speaking spirits.” Adam and Eve were covered in divine glory, until the day they disobeyed God.
Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and hid myself.” (Genesis 3:9-10)
Look again at why Adam was afraid. He did not say, “I was afraid because I disobeyed,” but “because I was naked.” When Adam sinned, he disconnected from God, and he immediately became aware that he was no longer clothed — the glory of God had departed!

Think of a light bulb that has been unscrewed from its socket. It is cut off from the power source and cannot function as it was intended. When that happens, we say that the lights are dead.

That is what happened with Adam and Eve. The day they sinned was the day they died. And that is the legacy they passed on to all of us. We are the heirs of their death. That is why the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

But, thank God, there is also another inheritance they left behind — the promise of restoration. God immediately had a plan to deliver them from their terrible predicament, but it would require a terrible price.

Adam and Eve, seeing that the glory was gone, tried to replace it with something sewn together out of fig leaves, but that crude covering could never do. A divine solution was needed, so God made tunics of skin, and that required the shedding of blood (Genesis 3:21). This was just a stopgap measure, but it pointed toward a divine covering. To the deceiving serpent, God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).

This is the first promise of Messiah, the coming Deliverer, who save His people from their sins. And so, though the wages of sin is death, the Bible goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

How does this happen? The Bible says, “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). A great exchange has taken place, and it happened on the cross:
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 received the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15)
This is the message of the Gospel — the Good News. It is the return of the righteousness of God in our lives, and that is the restoration of the glory. That is why Paul declared,
But we are bond to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)
For all those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in Him, that glory is now present, though it is not fully apparent. We are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, but it will not be fully revealed until He returns at the end of this present age. The apostle John said,
Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
We were created to wear the glory of God. Though we have fallen far short, God has given His Son, Jesus, to bring us back to the Father and clothe us in His righteousness, to restore us to glory.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A New Commandment

A new commandment I give to you that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34)
We have come to the end of the season of Lent. Today is Holy Thursday, which commemorates the institution of the Lord's Supper. It is also called Maundy Thursday because of the new commandment Jesus gave His disciples to love one another (maundy comes from an Old Latin term for “mandate” or “command”).

One day, a scribe asked Jesus which was the first and greatest commandment. Jesus answered:
The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD you God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31)
James, the brother of the Lord Jesus, understood the law of love: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well” (James 2:8).

John, who has been called the “apostle of love,” also understood this very well. In his first letter, he wrote:
Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:7-10)
In his Gospel, John called Jesus “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9). In Christ we no longer belong to the darkness, which is passing away, but are of the light, which is already shining. The essence and expression of this light is love. Those who do not love are living in darkness; those who walk in love are those who walk in the light of Christ — it is, in fact, his love which is being expressed through them.

The apostle Paul was captured by the commandment of love:
Owe no one anything except to love one another; for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Love does not harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 8-10)

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)
Love is about much more than refraining from harming another. Love is proactive — it is the nature of love to give and to serve.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13)

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
Tomorrow, Good Friday, we will celebrate the greatest act of love: The Father gave his Son; the Son gave his life to save us from our sins and the power of death. But on the night he was betrayed, and abandoned by all, and knowing full well what was about to happen, he gave this commandment to his disciples: “Love one another.”

In Jesus Christ, we belong, not to that which is passing away, but to that which has already begun to shine. When we walk in love, we are abiding in the light of Christ.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

About Forgiveness

Thought I’d take a moment to compile a few posts I’ve written about forgiving others. That is such a major issue for so many people, and it is also one of the biggest hindrances to faith.

Friday, April 7, 2006

Faith is Not Generic

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17)
Many people think of faith in a vague, generic sort of way. “Oh, just have faith,” they say. But faith in what? Many Christians are the same way: “Just have faith in God.” But what about God? What can we believe God to do for us? And how can we know?

Generic faith will not do. Fortunately, the kind of faith the Bible talks about is anything but generic. It has a specificity to it. The apostle John said,
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)
John speaks of confidence and relates it directly to the will of God. Someone has said that faith begins where the will of God is known. If something is not in the will of God, there is no reason or basis for us to believe that it will be so. It is only when God has spoken and expressed His will concerning a matter that we can begin to have faith that it will come to pass.

Has God made His will known? Yes, He has, in His Word. He has revealed His will and His ways by the words He has spoken. Ultimately, we see His will expressed in Jesus Christ, the Living Word. For Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

It is possible for us to have faith only when we know the will of God. And it is possible for us to know the will of God only because He has revealed it to us in His Word. That is the essence of faith — confidence in the Word of God.

Now, sometimes we might pray, “Thy will be done,” because we don’t know or have not yet understood God’s will about a particular situation. That is a prayer of consecration — we are giving it over to God to do with as He wills. But even then, it is based on the revelation that God is good and wise, and His will is always best.

But in most things, we can search out the will of God in the Scriptures, where He has revealed His ways and expressed His promises for every area of life. As we receive those Scriptures and mediate on them in our hearts, the Holy Spirit will bring forth faith, not generically, but specifically.

Biblical faith, the only kind of faith worth having, comes only by hearing the Word of God.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Words Were Made to be Heard

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17)
Words were made to be heard. Yes, I know, and you are correct. You are indeed reading these words, seeing on the page (or the monitor) what I have written down. But in the process of reading, there is a little voice inside you that is decoding and speaking these words to you, even as your eyes are scanning them. You can hear that voice inside as you read along. Often, people even move their lips when they read. Why? Because they are giving utterance to that little voice. In fact, it is difficult, if not impossible, to shut the little guy up. So even when you are reading, you are actually hearing.

“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” It does not come by seeing. In another place, Paul said, “We walk by faith, not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:7). No, faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God. It is when the Word becomes internalized by the Holy Spirit that it comes alive inside you and brings forth faith.

When that happens, it is actually the voice of the Holy Spirit you have been hearing. The Bible says that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Words were made to be heard, and we were created to be spirits who speak with the very breath of God. God puffed the breath of life from His lips into Adam’s nostrils, and Adam became a living being (Genesis 2:7). An ancient Aramaic translation/commentary on this passage says that Adam became a “speaking spirit.”

The Word of God was made to be spoken, and we were made to speak it. Not only that, but all of heaven and earth are tuned to the Word of God. That is how everything was created in the first place. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God” (Hebrews 11:3). God spoke, and it all came into existence. God said … and there was (see Genesis 1).

The Bible says that all creation is eagerly waiting for the Sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19). How will they be revealed? By their words. We were created to have dominion on the earth, and we exercise that dominion by speaking the Word of God to it. Creation is tuned to the Word of God and eagerly waits to hear it come forth from our lips. It will respond to the voice of His Word. That is why Moses could speak the Word of God to the rock in the wilderness and cause it to bring forth water. That is why Jesus could stand in the boat and speak to the wind and waves, “Peace, be still,” and the obeyed. And that is why, when He spoke to the fig tree, He used it as an opportunity to teach His disciples about speaking to mountains.

You were created both to hear the Word of God and to speak it to the world.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Giddy With Joy in His Strength

The king shall have joy in Your strength, O LORD;
And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
You have given him his heart’s desire,
And have not withheld the request of his lips.
(Psalm 21:1-2)
In the first line of this psalm, consider the relationship between joy and strength:
The king shall have joy in Your strength, O LORD.
Now, compare it with Nehemiah 8:10:
The joy of the LORD is your strength.
Here we discover a wonderful reciprocal truth:
The joy of the LORD is your strength; the strength of the LORD is your joy!
[It is like what we saw in an earlier blog: Ordained Strength, Perfected Praise.]

The strength of the Lord is His power, the ability of God to do great and mighty things. We might think of the joy of the Lord as His goodness, His kindness — the willingness of God to show favor to His people and bless them. It is His will, His pleasure, His delight to do so. When I realize that God is ready, willing and able to bless me and show me good, that fills me with joy and gives me strength to keep going.

So who is this king who has joy in the Lord? Since David is the psalmwriter here, he is first talking about himself, but in the third person.

Second, it can apply equally well to any king who turns and trusts in the Lord; the strength of the Lord will be their joy and the joy of the Lord will be their strength. Now, the truth of Creation is that you and I were made to be kings of the earth; we were created in the image of God to represent God on the earth (see Kings of the World).

Ultimately, it applies to King Jesus Himself, who came to restore His kingdom, His domain, to righteousness. He came preaching that the kingdom of God is now here, demonstrating its power and presence by healing signs and miracles of deliverance. He taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven!” After His death, burial and resurrection, He ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father, where He rules and reigns forever. God also raised us up with Him, in the Spirit, and has seated us in Him in that place of ruling and reigning. His kingship restores our kingship.
And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
The word for “salvation” here is yeshuah, the name form of which is Yeshua, the Hebrew name for Jesus. Salvation, kingship and all the fullness of divinity and humanity are embodied in Jesus. No wonder there is gladness and joy for every king who understands this.
You have given him his heart’s desire,
And have not withheld the request of his lips.
God grants the heart’s desire of all who delight in Him (Psalm 37:4, see You Become Like What You Delight In). He did it for David. He certainly does it for Jesus; and He will do it for you, too. Jesus said,
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14)

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

Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:23-24)
The Father does not deny the Son, and the Son has authorized all those who belong to Him to ask in His name. The assurance is that those who ask in His name will receive what they ask.

Now, asking in Jesus’ name is not about tacking on “in Jesus’ name” to the end of your prayers. It is not some kind of magic talisman. Nor is it about asking Jesus to pray to the Father for you. For He said,
In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. (John 16:26-27)
By His blood, shed on the cross, Jesus has reconciled to the Father all those who believe in Him. We do not need to ask Jesus; we can ask the Father directly, in the name of Jesus. That means we come to Him on the basis of what Jesus has done for us. To ask in Jesus’ name means to ask as Jesus would ask on our behalf. When we ask the Father in Jesus’ name, He has promised, “You will receive, that your joy may be full.” That brings us back around to the beginning of Psalm 21:
The king shall have joy in Your strength, O LORD;
And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
The word for “joy” means to be lighthearted and glad. The word for “rejoice” refers to giddy joy, one that whirls and twirls and spins with delight. That is fullness of joy.

Take your place of kingship in Jesus. Let the strength of the Lord be your joy, and the joy of the Lord be your strength. Delight in Him and ask of Him freely, in Jesus’ name. He will not withhold the request of your lips, but will give you your heart’s desire—that your joy may be full.

Monday, April 3, 2006

The Power That Works in You

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
The Greek word for “power” is dunamis, the ability to get things done. Notice that God is not only able to do superabundantly above all we can ask or imagine according to His own power, but more precisely, according to the power that works in us. It is His power, of course, but it is present in us to work in this wonderful way.

How can that be?

Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus promised the disciples, “You shall receive power [dunamis] when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

By the dunamis of the Holy Spirit at work in them, the disciples would be witnesses concerning the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. A witness is one who brings evidence or produces proof. By this power, the disciples not only preached boldly in the name of Jesus, but in His name they performed signs, wonders and miracles, just as Jesus had done.

Preaching to Cornelius, the apostle Peter spoke of this same power at work in Jesus:
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power [dunamis], who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38)
Although He is the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, that is not how Jesus performed His miracles of healing and exorcism. Rather, it was by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in Him—that same power He promised would come on His disciples. By that power, God is able to do much more than we can ask or even imagine.

Remember the woman with the issue of blood who came up behind Jesus, saying to herself, “If I can just touch the hem of His garment, I will be healed.” She did, and she was. She felt healing power flow into her body (see Matthew 9:20-22).

Jesus was not even aware of her until she received healing power from Him. He turned around and said, “Who touched me?” Peter answered, “Lord, there’s a lot of people pressing in all around — and You want to know who touched You?” Jesus said, “Yes, I know somebody touched me, because I felt dunamis flow out of me” (see Luke 8:43-48).

Jesus had not asked the Father for this woman’s healing, nor did He think about her being healed. He did not even know she was there — until she touched Him in faith. It was her faith that released the healing power which was resident in Jesus.

Consider the extent of this great power, which we receive by faith. In Ephesians 1, Paul prayed that we would know
What is the exceeding greatness of His power [dunamis] toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is name, no only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Ephesians 1:19-21)
If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, the same power that was at work in Him is also at work in you. By that power, God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or imagine — and it is released by faith. That is the way it is supposed to be from now on. Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Delighting in Instruction

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
(Psalm 1:2)
Here is a man who finds no pleasure in the counsel of the ungodly, the path of the sinner, or the seat of the mocker (v. 1). No, he takes his pleasure elsewhere, in the law of the Lord.

At first glance, it might look like this guy is a serious rule-keeper and point-scorer, that he is all about the “regs” (regulations). But that is to misunderstand what the law of the Lord is all about. Rule-keeping is about the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That’s the death-dealing fruit Adam and Eve partook of in the Garden. But the law of the Lord is about personal relationship with the living God. It is the Tree of Life that Adam and Eve chose not to eat.

We have been conditioned, largely by the translation of the Hebrew word torah as “law,” to think in terms of rules and regulations instead of relationship. We also have a negative idea of what law is all about, so we tend to think of the law of the Lord as that set of rules God is waiting for us to violate, so He can zap us.

Not so!

The Hebrew word torah, can just as well be translated as “instruction,” “direction,” or “teaching.” The law of the Lord is not about God waiting to drop the bomb on us, but it is His direction, to help us live effective, productive, even joyful lives. It is His instruction manual for planet earth, the manufacturer’s guide for optimum performance.

We think of this law, primarily, as the “Ten Commandments.” But that is not what the Scriptures call them. In Hebrew, they are the “Ten Words.” We also think of them as “thou shalt nots.” But these are ten words of love, ten words of covenant. They begin with, “I am the LORD your God.” When we understand that we are in covenant with the Lord and Creator of the universe, the “thou shalt nots,” become more like “you don’t have to’s.” We don’t need any other gods to take care of us; we can call on the name of the Lord, and He is more than sufficient for every need we could ever have. So we don’t have to kill, steal, lie, or covet to live a rich and satisfying life. In fact, doing those things actually take away from the good life. The Ten Words are actually ten words of promise and blessing.

No wonder the man in Psalm 1 delights in the law of Lord and talks about it to himself all the time; it leads him to success, prosperity and a fruitfulness that will not fade away (v. 3). Those who ignore the instruction of the Lord end up going in the wrong direction, one that leads to their destruction. They do not last, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away (v. 4-5). Not so the righteous, for God has already charted out for them the pathway to blessing (v.6).

In what do you delight, and on what do you meditate (talk about to yourself) all the time? Are they the words of instruction and direction that lead you to success and prosperity? Consider the life-giving Word of God.