Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ascension: Receiving Us Unto Himself

In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2-3)
Some Christians, when they hear the word “mansions,” think of large estate houses, one for each believer. Then they begin to speculate, even fantasize, about what their houses will look like. But that misunderstands what Jesus was saying. The Greek word for “mansions” actually refers to abodes, rooms, dwelling places. Jesus was not talking about a bunch of houses scattered across the countryside; He was speaking of one house only — “My Father’s house.” It is a house of many abodes, enough for everyone who receives the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus told the disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Many Christians think He was talking about the Second Coming, that Jesus is now busily preparing our place in heaven with Him, and that one day He will come and take us there.

But that, I believe, is a misunderstanding also. Jesus is not preparing a place for us — He has already prepared it. We are not still waiting for Him to receive us to Himself — He has already received us. The coming He spoke of is not the second coming, but the resurrection. Don’t get me wrong — I do believe that there is a Second Coming, but that is not what Jesus was talking about here.

When Jesus spoke these words, the crucifixion and the resurrection were still future, although they would very shortly come to pass. It is by these great acts of redemption, salvation and victory that Jesus has prepared a place for each one who comes to faith in Him. He has not only cleared the way for us, but He is Himself the way (John 14:6). He died, was buried, and on the third day God raised Him from the dead. On the evening of that third day, Jesus came to His disciples and received them to Himself:
So Jesus said to them again, Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22)
Jesus so thoroughly identified Himself with the disciples that He gave them His peace and commissioned them with the same commission He had received from the Father. The He gave them His Spirit. They were now dwelling in Him; He was now dwelling them.

This giving of the Spirit is something Jesus had spoken of only days before, in John 14-16, in the context of His going to prepare a place and coming again to receive His disciples. Now it had been fulfilled.
He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)
On the fortieth day of His resurrection, Jesus told the disciples to wait in the Jerusalem for the promise of the Father — the Holy Spirit coming upon them in power. The Spirit of God had been in them, but now He would be on them. After leaving this instruction, Jesus ascended to heaven.

The apostle Paul clearly understood that Jesus has prepared a place for us and received us to Himself, for he wrote that God “has raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). This may seem hard to understand, but if God says that is where He has seated us, then that is where He has seated us. It is not a future expectation, but a present reality. This is the place Jesus has prepared for us, and He has received us to Himself, for we are seated there in Him.

Are you abiding in the abiding place Jesus has prepared for you? If you have received Jesus, Jesus has received you. Contemplate what it means to be presently seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, in the place of ruling and reigning with Him.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ascension: The Name of Jesus

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
The sequence of Jesus’ redeeming work is: incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, exaltation.
  • Though He has always been fully divine, the Son of God became a bondservant (God is love; love gives and serves) and took on human flesh.
  • He humbled Himself, even to the point of death on the cross, where He took on all our sins, sicknesses and bondages.
  • God raised Him from the dead in victory over all the works of the devil, even death ( 1 John 3:8: Hebrews 2:14).
  • Forty days later, as the disciples watched, Jesus ascended to heaven, where God has highly exalted Him above all things, and given Him the name which is above every name.
At the name of Jesus, every knee must bow and every confess that He is Lord. This, too, is part of our salvation, for Jesus has not been glorified in His divinity only, but also in His humanity. He is the God-Man who reigns forever and ever. This does not take anything away from God, but honors and glorifies Him.

It is not only at the coming of Jesus that every knee will bow and every tongue confess; but it is at the name of Jesus. Certainly we look for His return, and the completion of all things in Him, but our job at present is to lift up and glorify His name. For that is what will cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess His eternal lordship.

Do you know the God-Man who reigns forever? His kingdom is breaking into the earth, and His reign is the completion of our salvation. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the death, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). His glory day will become your glory day, too.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ascension: The Gifts of Christ

But to each one of us grace was give according of the measure of Christ’s gift. 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.)

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:7-16)
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor and teachers — these are known as the “ascension gifts” of Christ to His Church. He Himself is the embodiment of all these things, and because He has ascended to heaven, He is able to multiply these things in His body, the Church, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Christ loves the Church. At the ascension, when God exalted the Lord Jesus, “He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23).

The Church is the fullness of Christ — it is all about Him, and He fills it with every good thing. These ascension gifts are given to equip the body to do the work of the ministry, to bring the body of Christ to unity and maturity, operating in love and truth. For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), and the purpose of God is to conform us to the likeness of Christ in these things (Romans 8:29).

All who receive the Lord Jesus Christ are part of His body, and He takes very good care of His body. Every believer is joined to each other. Each one has a part to play and a contribution to make, that the whole body may be built up in love.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ascension: The Revelation of Glory and Power

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know … what is the exceeding greatness of His power 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 named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come. (Ephesians 1:17-22)
The ascension of Jesus Christ to His throne at the right hand of the Father is the revelation of God’s glory and power. It is the same power God exercises toward us and on our behalf. In fact, this great power is actually at work in us.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
The same power by which Jesus has been raised from the dead and exalted to heaven is also at work in us in the same way.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
The ascension of Jesus into heaven, where He rules and reigns forever, is also our ascension into glory, where we are seated in Him in the heavenlies, where we rule and reign with Him. It is the revelation of His power and glory, both to us and in us.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ascension: The Promise of Greater Works

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. If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave your orphans; I will come to you. (John 14: 12-18)
The ascension of Jesus Christ to the right hand of the Father is the promise that those who believe in Him will do even greater works than He did. For His absence in one form means His greater presence in another form — that is, by the Holy Spirit. He did not leave us orphans, without His divine presence. No, He asked the Father to give us another Helper, the Spirit of truth, to dwell in us forever. Notice that He dwells, not just with us, but in us.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, to teach us all we need to know:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-15)
This will always be about the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the truth (John 14:6). “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). The Holy Spirit takes what belongs to the Lord Jesus (and all that Father has belongs to Him) and declares it to us.

The Holy Spirit also brings an endowment of power (Luke 24:29; Acts 1:8). The exercise of this power must always be about truth — about Jesus the Anointed One and the ministry for which He was anointed (see Luke 4:17-21). It must also be about love and obedience to Jesus. For in the same place He gave the promise of greater works, He also said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

Jesus ascended to heaven so He could give the Holy Spirit to all those who believe in Him. The Promise of the Spirit is also the promise of greater works in Jesus’ name. It is conditioned upon faith, but it works according to love (faith works through love; Galatians 5:6) and obedience, so that when we move mountains it will always display the purpose of God and change the world for the better.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ascension: The Promise of the Spirit

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 8:37-39)
This coming Sunday is Ascension Sunday, the seventh in the Easter season and the last before Pentecost. The glorification of Jesus is His ascension into heaven, and it is a very important part of our salvation: Jesus died on the cross for our sins; He was resurrected for our victory; but in His ascension, which happened 40 days after His resurrection, He took His place on the throne of heaven, where He rules and reigns forevermore. His kingdom is now being established on earth, even as He taught His disciples to pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven!”

But what does this have to do with the promise of the Holy Spirit? The answer is that Jesus could not give us His Spirit as long as He was still on this earth in bodily form. For at the Last Supper, He said,
Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7)
Before He ascended, He told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem:
Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now … You shall receive power 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 1:4-5, 8)
The baptism of the Holy Spirit and the endowment of power from heaven are the rivers of living water Jesus talked about. They spring forth from the inner man to manifest the kingdom of God in the earth. They are the sign that King Jesus now reigns on His throne and His kingdom is breaking forth into all the world.

If you believe in Jesus, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit belongs now to you, for the King is on His throne and the Promise of the Father has been fulfilled. If you would like to experience the power of God in your life and see it change the world, pray this prayer:

Father, I receive Your Spirit, and I welcome the rivers of living water into my life. Let them flow from me to manifest Your kingdom, Your power and Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Put Your Angels to Work

For He shall give His angels charge over you.
(Psalm 91:11)

And of the angels He says, “Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.” … Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:7, 14)

Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His Word,
Heeding the voice of His Word.
(Psalm 103:20)
Got angels? If you know Jesus, God has given His angels charge over you. They are ministering spirits sent forth by God to minister on behalf of all those who inherit salvation. They’re in your corner.

Do you keep your angels busy or idle? They minister on behalf of those who inherit salvation. Are you giving them something to work with by claiming the provisions of your inheritance?

God’s angels do His Word. They heed the voice of His Word. Whenever they hear the Word of God being spoken in faith, they get busy. It does not matter whether the Word comes from God’s lips or ours, His angels will always obey the voice of His Word.

Many Christians have angels sitting around and waiting — longing — to hear them speak the Word of God so they can perform their duty. But often, all they hear is their Christians whining and complaining about problems and shortfalls — and they can’t do anything with that. Rather, we need to focus on the promises and provisions of God, and start proclaiming them over our problems. That will release our angels to operate; they will spring into action and apply the covenant provisions on our behalf.

God angels? Are you putting them to work by claiming the benefits of salvation over every area of your life? Let the Word of God fill your heart with faith. Then boldly proclaim it with your mouth — and get your angels off the unemployment line.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Deep Calls Unto Deep

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
The LORD will command His love in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me —
A prayer to the God of my life.
(Psalm 42:7-8)
“Deep calls unto deep.” Christians use this phrase most often to refer to a deep, personal experience of the Lord ministering to them — from the depths of God’s heart to the depths of their own. Indeed, it is a profound thing.

But the psalm writer here was using it in a different way. He was going through very difficult circumstances, sorrow and affliction were pounding him relentlessly, and he was overwhelmed by the weight of it all. All he could hear was the roaring waters of trouble. But at his core, he realized that God had something much better for him. Though disoriented by his situation, he addressed it in faith. His refrain was:

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
(Psalm 42:5, 11; Psalm 43:5)
So how did the “deep calls unto deep” of verse 7 transform into the positive and moving expression it is today. Perhaps it is because of the testimony of verse 8:
The LORD will command His love in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me —
A prayer to the God of my life.
This is the centerpiece of the psalm. Even in the midst of the worst trouble, those who are in covenant with God have a source that will not only comfort them and get them through the time of distress, but will cause them to overcome and rejoice. God’s love, provision and protection will be made manifest to them in the broad daylight, where everybody can see it. In the night, there will be no terror, no worry, no sorrow—only a song hope.

Deep calls unto deep. Outwardly, the depth of misery and pain weighed heavily upon him. But there is a depth that is greater and much more powerful, powerful enough to overwhelm sorrow and affliction and carry them far away. It is the depth of God’s love, the revelation of His heart. This is the will of God being made known on our behalf, and it is always for the working of our good.

There is also the depth of God’s song stirring inside us, the song of His Spirit always encouraging us, renewing our hope and rekindling our faith. This love and this song come from the heart of God and penetrate to the depths of our own hearts, bringing forth prayers of faith, hope and love. So the psalmwriter speaks to his inner man and instructs himself:
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help* of my countenance and my God.
It is as T. S. Elliot said at the end of his Four Quartets, in the poem, “Little Giddings”:
And all shall be well
And all manner of things shall be well.
Do not be overwhelmed by the depths of sorrow and circumstance. Set your expectation on God and He will deliver you completely. Let the depth of His love overwhelm the depths of your heart and fill you with songs of rejoicing and praise. The peace of God that passes all understanding will flood you, and all shall be well.

[* The Hebrew word used for “help” here is yeshuah, the word for salvation. Used as a name, it is Yeshua, rendered in English as Jesus.]

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Abiding in Faith, Hope and Love

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Faith is the substance of things hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

“All things are possible to him who believes, they are less difficult to him who hopes, there are easier to him who loves, and still more easy to him who practices and perseveres in these three virtues.” — Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection
If things seem impossible, where is your faith? If they seem unlikely, where is the expectation of your hope? If they seem hard, where is your love?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What Would Jesus Do?

What would Jesus do?

Christians often toss that around even when it is not apparent what Jesus would do. But it is too malleable: A person on the Left would have Jesus doing things that are ideologically on the Left; a Right-winger would have Him simply following the ideals of the Right.

WWJD can also easily devolve into guilt manipulation. The caricature is “poor Jesus, meek and mild.” But sometimes He turned over the tables of the moneychangers; and sometimes He allowed precious ointment to be “wasted” instead of being sold and having the money given to the poor. “The poor you will have with you always,” He said. Both acts came as a surprise.

What would Jesus do?

We don’t always know. Even if we did, it would not always help us, for then we would simply be operating at the external level. But we also need to understand why Jesus did what He did. It came from His relationship with the Father. Jesus did not come upon new situations, stop and scratch His head and say, “Hmmmm, I wonder what I would do.” No, He always operated out of relationship with the Father. He did only what He saw His Father doing; He said only what He heard His Father saying; He judged only as His Father judged. That has always been His M.O.

The Father always knows what’s going on; nothing sneaks up on Him. He fully understands all the ramifications of each thought, word and deed. And He will share the answer with those who walk with Him and listen to His voice.

What would Jesus do? He would walk with His Father.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Willing the Will

I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)
Jesus was all about doing the will of God. As disciples of Jesus, that is what we should always be about, too.

The Greek word for “will” has a semantic range which includes these meanings: determination, choice, purpose, inclination, decree, pleasure, desire, will.

Willing the will of God is …
  • Determining with His determinations
  • Choosing His choices
  • Purposing His purposes
  • Being inclined with His inclinations
  • Decreeing His decrees
  • Being pleased with His pleasure
  • Desiring what He desires
David said, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). As we delight ourselves in God, His desires become ours, and He is pleased to fulfill those desires, because they come from Him.

Jesus said, “I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29). This was just another way of saying, “I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” So He willed the will, decreed the decrees, and experienced the full pleasure of His Father.

To us is given the privilege, as children of God, to speak and act with His choices and purposes, to decree the things He decrees and know the joy He experiences. His will is our pleasure and delight, the desires of our heart being fulfilled.

(See also The Pleasure of God on Earth)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Giving and Receiving Glory

Honor the LORD with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And you vats will overflow with new wine.
(Proverbs 3:9-10)

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 Hebrew word for “honor” in Proverbs 3 and for “glory” in Psalm 84 is the same. It is the word kabad, which literally means “heavy.” It was used to refer to the weight of wealth, but came to be used also for the value of every good thing within a person.

When Proverbs tells us to honor the Lord with our possessions, it is not speaking of intangibles. It is a call to give substance or weight to honor by giving to God out of our possessions. This literally gives glory to God. Proverbs further explains this as the firstfruits of all our increase. We honor God by giving Him, not the last and the least, but the first and the best.

As we give tangibly to the Lord, we will receive tangible results: “So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats overflow with new wine.” This is abundance from God. As we give the first and the best to Him, He multiplies if back to us in practical ways.

We find this also in the New Testament. Paul said, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Jesus said, “Give and it shall be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

When we are in right relationship with God, He gives us grace and glory. The NIV says, “favor and honor.” God’s grace is God’s favor. Understand that we are not made right with God by what we give, but by the righteousness (or rightness) we receive from the Lord Jesus Christ. For God made Him to be sin for us, that we might be made the rightness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). But within that right relationship with God, when we honor Him and give Him the glory of our substance, we are drawing on His favor. When we honor Him, He honors us; when we give glory to Him, He gives glory to us. As the glory we give to God is substantive, so is the glory that God multiplies back to us.

Give God glory by the substance of your possession, the first and the best of all your increase. It will release the glory of God in our life in ways you never thought possible.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

This I Know, Because God is FOR Me

When I cry out to You,
Then my enemies will turn back;
This is know, because God is for me.
(Psalm 56:9)
What a bold declaration of faith: God is for me! He’s not against me; He’s on my side. How could David speak with such confidence? Because He was in covenant with Yahweh and a great exchange took place. David’s enemies became Yahweh’s and Yahweh’s enemies became David’s. So David’s troubles were no more about David, but about God.

Joshua and Caleb walked in this same confidence. When Moses sent the twelve spies to reconnoiter in the Promised Land, ten came back and gave a lame report: “There we saw the giants … and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:33)

But Joshua and Caleb gave a very good report and called for bold action:
The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into the land and give it to us, a land which flow with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them. (Numbers 14:7-9)
The ten faithless spies saw giants in the land, and reckoned themselves as grasshoppers. In their foolishness, they supposed that this is how the inhabitants of Canaan saw them. Joshua 2:8-11 reveals how wrong they were. The “giants” were ready to melt in fear.

But Joshua and Caleb saw things much differently. They looked at God and saw that He was with them. That was all they needed to know. They realized that the giants of the land were grasshoppers in the eyes of God.

This was the heritage David drew on, and so He placed His trust in God, and God was with him. It was covenant.

Today we have an even better covenant based upon better promises. It is the covenant made in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says that God made Him to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

No matter what your troubles are or who your enemies may be, when you cry out to God, He will turn them back. For He is for you — this is the assurance we have through faith in Jesus Christ.

For more on the dynamics of faith in the history of Joshua and Caleb, see “When It’s All About God,” in God’s Word in Your Mouth.

Friday, May 12, 2006

God’s Way of Multiplication

Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous. (Genesis 26:12-13)

Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God…

Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks…

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…

And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, n the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the Lord swore to your 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. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 4, 8, 11-12)

Honor the LORD with your possessions,
  And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
So your barns will be filled with plenty
  And your vats will overflow with new wine.
(Proverbs 3:9.10)

The blessing of the Lord makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it.
(Proverbs 10:22)

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
  That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,” says the LORD of Hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
  And pour out such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
  And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
  Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the Lord of Hosts;
  “And all nations will call you blessed,
For you will be a delightful land,
  Says the LORD of Hosts.
(Malachi 3:10-12)

But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the Word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:23)

So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife, or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

Give and it shall be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:7-8)

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all thins, may have an abundance for every good work … Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 10).

Let him who is taught in the word share in all good things with him who teachers. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:6-8)

Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account … And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:15-17, 19)

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.(3 John 2)
God has many ways of multiplying us in every good thing. This includes material things as well as spiritual.

  • Obeying Him and receiving His blessing will bring increase and multiplication.
  • Honoring Him with our possessions and increase will bring even more increase and abundance.
  • God honors the tithe with more than enough increase, and He will rebuke the devourer for out sakes.
  • Receiving the Word of God and letting take deep root in us brings increase. It is the increase that comes by faith, for faith pleases God and comes by receiving His Word (Romans 10:17).
  • Giving for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel brings hundredfold increase now in this life. This includes houses and lands as well as spiritual blessing. This promise of multiplication is so embarrassing for some Christians, they feel that must explain it away.
  • What we give will be given back to us in greater measure, according to the measure with which we have given. What we measure out with our little hand, God measures out with His big hand.
  • Abide in Jesus and letting His Word abide in us brings much fruit as we ask in His name. This glorifies God.
  • When we give bountifully, we reap bountifully, and God supplies more than we need so we have abundance for every good work. So the circle of giving keeps increasing and multiplying.
  • When we sow to the Spirit, sharing in the ministry of the Gospel, we reap a harvest of things that pertain to everlasting life. What a mighty multiplication that is.
  • Paul uses the language of accounting — giving and receiving — to talk about the abundance of harvest that comes to those who give into God’s kingdom.
  • The multiplication of prosperity has very much to do with the prosperity of our souls—obedience to God, honoring Him with our possession, abiding in Jesus and receiving His Word, and the willingness of our giving.
Want to experience the joy of God’s multiplication in your life? How is your soul prospering?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Multiplication of God

Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” … And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” (Genesis 1:20, 22)

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind; cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind; and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:24-25)

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 that moves on the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

And God said, “See, I have given your every herb that yields seed which is on the face of the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. (Genesis 1:29)

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease. (Genesis 8:22)
  • God’s plan is for multiplication and abundance, for the earth to be filled with His bounty.
  • God’s plan is to multiply and fill the earth with His dominion. He will do this through His people, who are created in His image.
  • God’s plan for multiplication is through fruitfulness: each fruit bears the seed for more fruit; each harvest bears the seed for an even bigger harvest.
  • The principle of seedtime and harvest will continue for as long as the earth remains.
  • The principle of seedtime and harvest is that each seed shall reproduce according to its kind. That is, the kind of seed you sow is the kind of harvest you will reap.
  • There is a divine order: First comes the seedtime, then comes the harvest. In between is a period of time. It may be short, it may be long. We may not always understand the timing, but each seed knows its own time.
  • The harvest is much greater than the seed that is sown. One seed brings many more seeds.
  • God intends for His people to enjoy the fruits of the harvest.
Are you ready for the multiplication of God in your life?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Prophetic Guidance

Under the New Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ has given His Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This is so, even though we now have the Holy Spirit resident within us.

These were given "for the equipping of the saint for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-13).

That He gave these gifts to the Church "till we come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" is evidence that they have not passed away from the Church, for we have not yet reached that fullness.

The prophetic office and the prophetic gift are very often thought of as primarily predictive in nature, that is, of foretelling the future. But that is a minor part. It is more about revealing the heart of God to His people.

The prophetic role is often also thought of as primarily being individual in nature. Many Christians want a prophet they can run to each week for a personal word. But the prophetic office is more for the Church than for the individual.

As individuals, we already have the Holy Spirit in us. We already have an anointing so that we can know what we need to know (1 John 2:20). If we hear from the prophet something we have not already heard from the Holy Spirit, we should be very careful about it. Rather, the prophetic role is to confirm what we are already hearing from the Holy Spirit in our spirit.

At the congregational level, not everybody is on the same page about what the Spirit is saying, so the prophetic role is more about recognizing and announcing, for the edification of the body, what the Spirit is saying and doing in the body.

Is the prophetic ministry a ministry of guidance? Yes. But let us be careful not to equate "guidance" with "prediction." The prophetic office and gifts are generally not predictive, but descriptive. Paul said that "he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men" (1 Corinthians 14:3). The prophetic word may be a convicting word, but it will never be a condemning word. It will be a word that builds up the individual and the body.

The guidance the prophetic offers us, generally, is in helping us understand the trajectory of what God wants to do in us and through us. It is generally not seeing into the future, but understanding the present moment. When we understand how God is working and what He wants to do in us, that helps us understand, in practical terms, how we should proceed. In that sense, it gives us guidance.

Paul talked about the gifts of the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom. I understand these this way: The word of knowledge is about what has happened or is happening right now; the word of wisdom is about how we should proceed — what we should do about what is happening now.

Running to the prophetic for answers like one runs to their Magic 8 ball smacks of divination and is unbiblical.

Everyone who knows the Lord Jesus Christ has the Holy Spirit within so that we are perfectly capable of hearing God’s yes or no.

Monday, May 8, 2006

As He Is, So Are We in This World

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion … over all the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)

As He is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17)
I was just thinking about how similar these two verses are. In the beginning, God created man in His own image. He formed him out of the dust of the ground, then He puffed the breath life, His own breath, into man’s mouth, and man became a living creature. No other creature in heaven and earth is like man. Nowhere are angels ever said to be created in the image of God. No other creature has received the breath of life from God’s own lips. Only man is created in the image of God.

To be created in the image of God means this: As He is, so are we in this world. God created man to have dominion over the earth and everything in it. In other words, man was made to represent God to the world—created in the divine image, animated by the divine breath, the Holy Spirit of God, and endowed with divine authority to rule and reign on earth. Whenever any creature looked upon man, they would see the image of God.

As we know, Adam and Eve lost that authority when they rebelled against God and submitted themselves to satan. But that is why Jesus came, to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and restore us to God and the plan He has always had for us. Jesus, the Second Person of the Godhead, and fully divine, became fully human and walked among us. He so thoroughly identified with us that He carried our sins to the cross—became sin for us, the Bible says (2 Corinthians 5:21)—where He died in our place. By His body given for us and His blood shed for us, He broke the power of the enemy over us. Three days later, He arose from the dead. Then, before He ascended to His throne in heaven, He gave us His authority and power:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
This authority and power has been given to all those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ and been baptized in His name. To be a disciple of Jesus means to learn how to exercise this authority and power just as He would, though most churches have forgotten how to do this.

Nonetheless, we are fully authorized by the Lord Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak and act in His name, to exercise the kind of dominion He exercised, and be the agents of His kingdom on earth. That is why the apostle John could write:
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
This dominion is about doing the Father’s will and manifesting the Father’s love in the world. That is what Jesus came to do, and what He authorized and empowered us to do. If we want to know what that looks like, all we have to do is look at Jesus, because as He is, so are we in this world.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

The Triumphal Procession

Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. (2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV)
There is a parade going on right now, and has been for almost two thousand years. It is a triumphal procession, a victory march. The battle has been won and the Lord Jesus Christ has cleared the way before us. He has destroyed the works of the devil, just as He came to do:
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)

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 mission has been accomplished. It may not seem like it to many Christians, but that is simply because so many have failed to appropriate it, to take their place in the triumphal procession. Paul said,
Yet in all these things were are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor power, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
Paul didn’t leave out a single thing: there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of God, which has been demonstrated toward us through the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we are overcomers:
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)

So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the devil and satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. (Revelation 12:9-11)
The battle has been won and satan has been cast to the ground, defeated. He has not authority over us. All he has are lies and accusations, and God does not listen to those, so neither should we.

Now, notice how the saints overcome. In 1 John, we see that it is by faith, believing in Jesus, the Son of God. In Revelation, John gives this overcoming faith even more definition:
  • They overcome by the blood of the Lamb. That is how the works of the devil have been destroyed, by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
  • They overcome by the word of their testimony. They speak the truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. They give evidence, producing proof that He is who He said He was is and did what He said He would do.
  • They overcome because they do not love their lives to the death. That is, they love the Lord Jesus Christ more than anything else, even their own lives.
If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible calls you More Than Conqueror and Overcomer! You do not have to listen to the lies of the devil, the fears and accusations he whispers in your ear. Jesus has already taken your past and nailed it to the cross. He has carried your sins and sicknesses and nailed them in His own body to the tree. He has dealt the death blow to the bondages and strongholds of your life. He has destroyed every form of poverty and completely destroyed the works of the devil in your life. You no longer have to submit to them, but you can now overcome them by faith in Jesus Christ.

The great victory march has begun. Have you taken your place in the parade? By faith in Jesus Christ, open your mouth and declare:
I am More Than Conqueror through Him who loved me and gave Himself for Me. I am Overcomer. I now take my place in His triumphal procession and rejoice in His victory. The works of the devil no longer have any right to me, to afflict me, to steal from me, to destroy my life in any way. I no longer listen to his lies and accusations; I drown them all out with joyful shouts of victory and celebration, because Jesus has destroyed those works and won the victory for me. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

The Flow of Blessing, the Overflow of Prosperity

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He shall be like a tree
Planted by rivers of living water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
(Psalm 1:1-3)
Yes, I’ve covered this ground before. But you see, I pray through the book of Psalms every month, so the beginning of each month is a fresh opportunity to meditate once again on this passage.

Today God spoke to me about flow:
  • The flow of blessing
  • The flow of meditation
  • The flow of His river
  • The flow of prosperity
To step into the flow of God, we need to step out of the flow of the way the world does things. That is what verse 1 is about. But that is not enough. More important is what we do next, what we put in place of the world’s flow. That is what verse 2 is about.

To delight in the law of the LORD means to desire it more than anything else, to look forward to it with great anticipation, and enjoy it with enthusiasm and satisfaction. When we are pulled away from it, we hurry to get back to it, because it is so good.

To meditate on the law of the LORD day and night means to dwell on it continually, to think about it constantly, letting it flow through us, informing and directing everything we say and do.

The law of the Lord reveals the will, the desire, the pleasure of God (I have not just said three different things, but one thing three different ways). It shows us His heart, and in it we see that His heart is very good. He is all for us, and everything He has spoken in His Word is always for our good.

Meditating on the Word of God is getting into the flow of His heart, thinking His thoughts and learning His ways. Isaiah 55:11 says that His thoughts and ways are higher than ours. But that does not mean we cannot know them, for He has spoken to us through His Word precisely so we could know them.

When we get into the flow of His Word, the flow of His heart, the flow of His thoughts, how can that lead us to anything else except blessing? God has been very successful and prosperous. When we think His thoughts with Him and walk in His ways with Him, how can we be anything less than successful and prosperous, too?

The promise is that we shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water. That’s quite a good thing, a tree well-watered by the river and nourished by the rich soil of its banks. God has a river for you and me—the river of the Holy Spirit. On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus declared:
If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. (John 7:37-38)
John added, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive” (John 7:39).

There is both an inward work and an outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Here, Jesus was talking about the outward manifestation. Earlier, He spoke to a Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob about the inward work:
Whoever drinks of this [natural] water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)
He was describing the experience of being born again, born from above by the Spirit of God. It is like a fountain that springs up within, or a tree that is planted by the rivers of water. It is an inward work where the water springs up like a fountain through the roots and capillaries of the tree, bringing it to fullness. The tree is blessed.

After the inward work comes the outward manifestation — fruit. It is the overflow of the life that has been going on within. The work that the Holy Spirit and the Word of God do in us gives life and continual refreshing to our inward man, tuning us up to the thoughts and ways of God. Then as we walk in His thoughts and ways with Him, we begin to get His kind of results and bear His kind of fruit. The person who does this shall always have an abundance of fruit in season. His leaf will not wither — how can it when the life of the Spirit is freely flowing through him — and whatever he does shall prosper.

Getting into the flow of meditation on God’s Word, the flow of His thoughts and ways, the flow of His Spirit brings us into the flow of blessing — and the overflow of prosperity.