Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Love and Trust Release Great Joy

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.
For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield.
(Psalm 5:11-12)
True joy is released into your life by loving and trusting God. To trust means to go to God for everything, knowing that it will be taken care of. Love His name means to love Him, because the divine name stands for the divine Person.

The Hebrew word for “rejoice” used here is samach and means to be lighthearted and glad. The word “shout for joy” is ranan and means to creak, to give out a ringing cry of exaltation. The word for “joyful” is alats and means to jump for joy and be triumphant. The joy David talks about in this passage is a joy that fills and overflows the heart, and becomes very expressive. It is like the joy he expressed when he danced before the Lord with great vigor as the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem. “Then David danced before the LORD with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14). The word for “danced” literally means to whirl and twirl — his wife was mad because he “uncovered” himself (v. 20). Such was the greatness of his joy, he neither noticed nor cared.

Why such joy? Because when we trust in God, when we go to Him as our refuge, He defends us. When we love His name, He blesses us and surrounds us with His favor as with a shield. You see, the ones who love and trust Him are the ones who are considered righteous. It is not about us, but about Him. His favor is not something we earn but something we believe and receive. He surrounds us with it; it is His pleasure and desire for us lavished upon us.

God is looking for those who will trust in Him and love His name, to show them His protection and provision, and shower His favor upon them. When you make that connection, get ready for a download of joy in your life that cannot be contained.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Set Your Expectation on God

Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord From this time forth and forever.
(Psalm 131)
Sometimes we don’t know why certain things happen, and we can drive ourselves nuts trying to figure it out. But sometimes we don’t know because we don’t really need to know. And sometimes, even if God told us why, we still wouldn’t understand.

This is the revelation David had. He realized that there were things that were beyond him, and so he learned to be content trusting them to God alone. Had he pursued them, he would have ended up in pride and arrogance, or else been overwhelmed by their depth.

So he calmed and quieted his soul. He became like a weaned child in his relationship with God. A little baby cries and wails until he is comforted and his perceived need is met. A weaned child knows that he will be taken care of at the appropriate time. He is patient.

Some Christians pray like a crying infant, weeping and wailing continually until they get what they want, and wondering why it is taking so long. But as they mature (if they mature), they learn that they can bring the matter before the Lord, and then leave it there with Him, knowing that He cares and that He will bring about their solution at the proper time.

In other words, they have learned how to set their hope in Him. The Biblical words for “hope” they speak of solid and positive expectation. It is joyful anticipation. Hope does not need to know all the answers. It does not need to establish a timetable. It is enough to know that He is God and He is good.

Hope trusts in God. Faith is the substance, the underlying reality of the things we hope for. It is the evidence of the things we do not yet see, but fully expect to manifest (Hebrews 11:1).

Set your expectation on God from now on; He will take care of you in every way.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Talking to My Air Conditioner

  • Adam commanded the animals.
  • Moses commanded the Red Sea.
  • Joshua commanded the Sun.
  • Elijah commanded the rain.
  • Jesus commanded the wind and the waves
  • and the fig tree
  • and taught His disciples to do the same.

And this morning, I commanded the air conditioner in my car. I was taking my car to the dealership to have the oil changed. The air conditioner was not blowing well, and had been like that for many months. It was hot out and I was not getting very cool inside the car. So I decided to have a word with my it. I put my hand on the dashboard, looked at the A.C. vents and said, “I tell you to blow properly.” It continued to blow as it had done for the past few months. I was not surprised by that because I walk by faith, not by sight. I simply trusted that things would somehow change and that A.C. would somehow end up blowing properly before long.

So I got to the dealership and had my car serviced. After about 40 minutes, the supervisor came and told me that my car was ready, and oh, by the way, the air conditioning filter needs to be changed. After I okayed that, I remembered how I had spoken in the car, and then I thanked the Lord for answered prayer.

“Big whoop,” I’m sure someone is thinking. My air conditioner wasn’t blowing well and the dealership simply discovered that it needed a new filter. But here’s the thing: The last time we had the oil changed, about 3,500 miles ago, we asked the dealership to see what the problem was the with A.C. They looked it over but could not figure it out! I guess it had just never occurred to them back then to check the filter. Then today I spoke to that thing — I didn’t even think to ask the service manager to check it out — but within the hour, my A.C. was blowing as good as new.

By faith, I know that the world is framed by words — the Word of God. That is what the author of Hebrews says (Hebrews 11:3). Since the world is framed by words, it also responds to words, as many of the Old Testament saints found out, and as Jesus taught His disciples.
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” (Mark 11:22-23)
I know I did not part the Red Sea, cause the rain to come, or calm the wind and the waves, or move anything like a mountain. But this morning I spoke to the air conditioner in my car, and now it is blowing perfectly. I don’t mean to trivialize any of those other things, but this morning I spoke words, and the world, being composed of words, responded.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Table of Covenant Mindfulness

He has given food to those who fear Him;
He will ever be mindful of His covenant.
(Psalm 111:5)
The Table of the Lord is the table of covenant. When Jesus took the cup, He said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 20:20). If God was mindful of the old covenant He made with Israel, a covenant cut with the blood of animals — how much more mindful will He be of the new covenant which He made in the blood of His holy Son Jesus.
You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
But now we see that Christ “has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).

God will ever be mindful of His covenant. David realized this in Psalm 103, where he wrote:
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:1-5)
These were benefits of the old covenant (see Deuteronomy 28:1-14); the benefits of the new covenant are even greater. God was ever mindful of them in the old, and David instructed his soul to be ever mindful of them, too. How much more is God mindful of the benefits and promises He extends to us in the new!

When we commit ourselves to God, which is what it means to trust in Him, He commits Himself to take care of us in all things. That is the essence of covenant — exchange. We give Him all that we are; He gives us all that He is, and He is ever mindful to do so.

So I come to the Table of the Lord to remember, to be mindful of the covenant God has made with me through the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is ever mindful of it; Jesus is always before Him, as the perfect Lamb that was slain for our sake. In the Table of the Lord, the bread and the cup put us in mind of the same thing. As we partake of this covenant sign, so may we also partake of the covenant benefits, freely and by faith.

The Table of the Lord is the Table of Covenant Mindfulness, both God’s and ours.

(You can listen to the benefits of Deuteronomy 28:1-14 in streaming MP3, in this track called “Choosing Life,” from one of our Healing Scriptures and Prayers CDs.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Table of Union

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
The Table of the Lord is the table of His body, and His body is one. At His table, we all eat of the one bread and drink of the one cup. We do not just partake of Him individually, but together as His body. No matter where we are geographically, we all share in communion with Him, and therefore with each other. We have this communion not only with those of His body who still walk this planet, but also with all the saints who have lived since the beginning of the Church. The Table of the Lord is the sign of this unity.

When I was young, I used to see an old cartoon, which featured a number of vignettes. One of those scenes showed a mailman sorting mail. In this cartoon world, this mailman was actually an octopus, busily sorting the mail into a wall full of slots. It was funny enough watching the him going at it with all eight tentacles, but then we were shown that, on the other side of the wall, all the slots emptied into one mail pouch.

Sometimes I think about that at the Table of the Lord. We all take of the bread and the cup, each of us “sorting” it into our own individual mouths — but then, behind the scenes, it all enters into the same body, the body of Christ.

In the passage above, Paul speaks of the unity we have in Christ, and how we shall walk in view of it. We should be humble, gentle and patient with each other, even putting up with each other for the sake of love.

We are to be diligent to hold on to the unity we have in Christ, who is our peace. For we do not create this unity; we receive it through faith in Jesus Christ, who has given His Spirit to each one of us. Our job is simply to live that out. The Message puts it this way: “pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.”

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul describes this unity, and how to keep it, this way:
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 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. (Philippians 2:1-8)
This is the mind of Christ for the body of Christ.

All those who come to faith in Jesus Christ are made one in Him. We are His body. We see this in the Table of the Lord, the Table of Union with Him.

Years ago, I wrote a little song about the Table of the Lord and the unity we have in Him. It’s called “Celebration” and you can listen to it in streaming MP3. It's from our first CD, Walking Barefoot.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Asking in Jesus’ Name

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 14:13-14)

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)

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. 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)
Many people seem to think that asking in Jesus’ name means tacking “In Jesus’ name” onto the end of our prayers. That is nothing but magical thinking, treating the name of Jesus as nothing more than a charm.

Asking in Jesus’ name really means asking according to His purposes and the things He would ask. Jesus said only what He heard the Father saying, and did only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19, 30). He was all about pleasing the Father and doing His will (John 8:28-29). Asking in Jesus’ name is really about asking in agreement with the Father’s will.

Many Christians think of the will of God as a terrible burden that we must submit to and somehow learn to live with, as if the furthest thing from God’s mind was for us to enjoy life. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s will for us is good. Paul says of those who believe that God has “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5), and God is not a child-abuser.

Jesus came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). When He announced His ministry and what it would be about, He said,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19)
This is the will of God, and it is nothing but good for you and me. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

Praying in Jesus’ name is asking according to the will of God. The apostle John, who preserved for us the promises about asking in Jesus’ name, understood very well how powerful it is to pray according to the will of God:
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 understood equally well how good the will of God is toward us. We see this in his prayer for Gaius: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2).

Jesus authorizes us to ask of the Father in His name, and whatever we ask, the Father will do. The purpose is that the Father may be glorified through His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. The result is that we may bear much fruit, the kind that lasts. The Father is glorified by that also: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8). When we ask in Jesus’ name, we will share in His joy, just as He shares in His Father’s joy: “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

God’s will is to bless the world through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a dark and gloomy imposition that we have to, somehow, come to terms with. No, it is a wonderful promise that we can count on to bless us, and others through us. It is even powerful enough to take those things that might otherwise be a burden, and turn them into a revelation of His joy at work in us, filling us with His pleasure.

Asking in Jesus’ name is asking according to the will of God, which is nothing but good for you and me. When we ask as Jesus would ask, we can be confident that we will receive whatever we ask.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pleasing God: Faith

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Faith pleases God; without faith, it is impossible to please Him. Faith begins with believing that God is, that He exists. Paul addresses this in Romans 1, where he shows what it means to be without this kind of faith:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:18-23)
Faith acknowledges who God is and responds to Him with glory and gratitude. The author of Hebrews takes it a step further: Faith is not only properly acknowledging that God is, it is also believing that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. As Paul noted, we can know that God is, and even understand His attributes and power, by the witness of His creation. But the knowledge that He rewards those who seek Him comes to us by the revelation of His Word.
But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. (Isaiah 55:6)

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
To diligently seek God is to seek Him with all your heart. When you do, He promises that you will find Him, and that is the reward. “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward’” (Genesis 15:1). This resulted in great blessing for Abraham, and for all the world through him.

Faith pleases God because it comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). How could God be pleased with us when we don’t believe what He has said? Faith is receiving the Word of God and believing that everything He has said is true and will come to pass. God has no pleasure in those who doubt Him and His Word.
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” (Mark 11:22-23)

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:6-7)
The Greek word for “doubt,” diakrino, literally means to be of two judgments. Part of you says Yes, part of you says No — it is a mixed signal that adds up to unbelief. Some Christians try to sanctify their doubt as a sort of godly humility. To them, the certainty of faith is an arrogant thing. However, the Scriptures teach that God rewards those who seek Him with the whole heart, believing they will find Him, just as He promised. But there is no guarantee for those who doubt; they should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Fortunately, when we find ourselves in doubt, we can turn to the Lord, just as the father of demonized boy did. Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” The man answered, “I believe; help my unbelief.” We can take our doubts to Jesus and ask Him to do something about them. We can get into the Word and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the mind of Christ. Faith will come, and that pleases God.

Faith — believing God and His Word — pleases God. Seek Him with all your heart, and you will receive the reward: You will find Him.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Table of Joy

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11)
The Table of the Lord is a table of joy because it is the table of His presence, and in His presence is fullness of joy. The Hebrew word for “presence,” panim, refers to the face. God’s presence is His face turned toward us.

Jacob experienced this presence on the night he wrestled with the angel of the Lord and would not let Him go until he received a blessing. That is when his name was changed to Israel He called the name of the place Peniel, “The Face of God.” He said, “For I have seen God face [panim] to face [panim] and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30).

Many people fear the presence of the Lord because they think He is out to destroy them. But the truth is that He wants to show them the path of life. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). He is the path of the life.

David declared that at the right hand of the Lord there are pleasures forevermore — lasting happiness, delight that never ends. Paul tells us that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20), and that we are seated together there in Him (Ephesians 2:6).

Everlasting life and endless joy are found in Jesus Christ. In His presence is fullness of joy, and the Table of the Lord is a sign of His presence, given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself. It is a powerful manifestation of His presence, when we receive it in faith.

When He took the bread, He blessed it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). Likewise, He took the cup and said, “This is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). When we take the bread and the cup, we are receiving the sign of His presence. That is why this table is often called “communion,” because we are together with Him, face to face. And that is pure joy.

The Table of the Lord is the table of joy, the table of His presence. Go to this table often and let Him fill you with His life and joy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How to Give Thanks in Everything

In everything give thanks. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
The Bible tells us to give thanks in everything. It is easy enough to give thanks when times are good and things are going well, although we often neglect to do so. But how are we supposed to give thanks when times are hard and nothing seems to be going right?

First, notice that we are to give thanks in everything, not necessarily for everything. Bad things happen; we do not have to give thanks for them, but we can give thanks in the midst of them, knowing that God is in still on His throne, and that He is much greater than any problem that could ever come our way. Giving thanks to God is a very effective way to begin relating to His solution instead of focusing on the problem. Paul expands on this in his letter to the Philippians:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
Bad things happen, but we do not have to be full of worry and anxiety about them. We can go to God in prayer. To some, that may seem to be nothing more than acquiescing to or retreating from the problem. But it is actually addressing the problem head on by taking it to God, the One who can do something about it.

Supplication is prayer that presents a definite need to be met by a definite provision. Problems require solutions; supplication goes after the solution. Make your requests known to God. Don’t be vague; ask with specificity for whatever is needed. Wrap it all up in thanksgiving, knowing that God hears, that He cares and that He will answer you and take care of the situation.

Paul adds this, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). When you give thanks in everything, you will not be anxious, but filled with the peace of God.

Give thanks to God in everything, even the bad things, for your prayers and thanksgiving will bring the power, provision and peace of God to bear. When the solution appears, you will be thanking Him for the opportunity of seeing His glory displayed on your behalf.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

How to Rejoice Always

Rejoice always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
The Greek word used here for “rejoice” means to be glad, full of cheer, joyful. Paul tells us not only to rejoice, but to rejoice always — to always be full of cheer and gladness.

How is that possible? We find Paul saying that same thing in his letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:6). Notice the prepositional phrase “in the Lord.” The kind of joy Paul is talking about is supernatural — the joy of the Lord. Nehemiah said, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

This joy is an inside job; it does not come from outward circumstances. Real joy is not based on what is happening around you, but on what is happening in you. You can have the greatest joy in the worst of situations, and that joy will be the strength you need to prevail in the hardest of adversities.

We receive this joy, first of all, through faith in Jesus Christ, who came that we might reconciled to God. Through faith in Him we receive the new birth, born of heaven by the Holy Spirit. By that birth, we are born into the kingdom of God, and that has everything to do with joy. For one thing, Jesus said that when we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, everything else will be taken care of (Matthew 6:33). For another, the Bible tells us that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

The kingdom of God is full of joy because the Spirit of God is the source of joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). If you know Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you; if you have the Holy Spirit, then you already have the fruit of the Spirit at work in you. It may not yet be apparent in your life, but it is a work in you, ready to be released.

How do you release this joy of the Lord in your life? You release it by yielding to it, and since it is a fruit of the Spirit, you yield to it by yielding to the Spirit. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul put it this way:
Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:18-21)
Let the Holy Spirit fill you, control you, lead you. Then you will be filled with so much joy, you will not be able to contain it all, but it will overflow to others. Your heart will be filled with gratitude and your mouth with praise, regardless of whatever difficulties you may be facing.

True and lasting joy is all about God. David said, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11). In Jesus Christ, God is present in us by His Spirit, and when we yield to the Spirit, that presence begins to manifest in our lives. Not only that, but Paul tells us that we are seated in the heavenlies in Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 2:6). When we become aware of who we are in Jesus Christ, and where we are seated in Him, it is hard not to rejoice.

Father, I thank You for Jesus Christ, who came to save me and make me Yours. I thank You that I am already seated in the heavenly places in Him, at Your right hand, where there is fullness of joy, and pleasures forevermore. I thank You that the fruit of joy is already at work in me through the Holy Spirit. I yield to Your Holy Spirit of Joy, and I thank You in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

How to Pray Without Ceasing

Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Many Christians wonder how one can pray without ceasing, without interruption, without omission. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? But that is because we often think of prayer as that thing we do in a religious meeting, or when we pull ourselves away from all other activity, assume a certain position, or time, or place and speak religiously appropriate words to God. Who can do that all the time? In fact, most people, including me, find it mind-numbingly hard to keep it up for fifteen minutes. Even after only five minutes, our eyeballs start to glaze over.

Fortunately, that is not what Paul had in mind. He was not speaking of duty, but of relationship—and that changes everything. Prayer as a duty is something you perform, and when you’re done, you’re done, until it is time to do it again. But prayer as a relationship is continuous. It is being constantly aware of and enjoying the presence of God.

It is like my relationship with my wife. There are plenty of times when we sit and discuss things, verbally relating to one another. But there are also many times when we are simply together, knowing each other is near, even though no words may pass between us. We may each be doing different things, but we enjoy being together.

In the same way, praying without ceasing is being together with God. This will come as a shock to some people, but not only does God love us, He actually likes being with us. He has many things He wants to say to us, and if we will listen, He will whisper them to us. He is also ready to listen to us when we speak to Him. We can have constant fellowship with Him, even in the middle of whatever else we may have to do.

David understood about the constancy of this relationship; the Book of Psalms is largely a collection of his prayers and praises to the Lord. He said, “My eyes are ever toward the LORD” (Psalm 25:15).

Another psalm makes this promise: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). Dwelling and abiding speak of the continual awareness of the presence of the Lord.

Clement of Alexandria, who was a teacher of the late second and early third centuries, understood that the life of prayer is 24/7. He said, “For the saints, even their slumber is prayer.” Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows, for so He gives His beloved sleep.” When we spend our days in the secret place with the Most High—whatever else we may have to do—we will find our rest under the shadow of His wings. It is all prayer.

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection stumbled upon this truth. He was a 17th century Carmelite monk who wanted to know God more, but none of the spiritual guidance he received seemed to be of any help. Finally, he decided that he would not do anything at all except out of love of God. In this way, he developed such a continual awareness of God and His love that he found himself just as much at home with the presence of God in the kitchen as he was in the chapel. It was all the same to him, all part of a constant fellowship with God. He discovered the secret to praying without ceasing, and recorded it in his famous little book, The Practice of the Presence of God.

The Lord Jesus was in constant fellowship with the Father in everything He said and did. He said nothing He did not hear His Father saying and did nothing He did not see His Father doing. Everything He did was out of the desire to please God. He did have many times of special communion with the Lord, as we all should, but even in the heat of ministry, He was continually aware of the Father’s presence and purpose.

Praying without ceasing is continuing in fellowship with the Father. When your heart is always toward Him, even your slumber is prayer.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Faith is Declaring the End from the Beginning

Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)
This is how God operates — He declares the end from the beginning and has no doubt that it will manifest at the appropriate time. That is faith.

The author of Hebrews said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). That is, faith is the underlying reality of things which are not yet visible, but which we fully expect to see. It is declaring the end from the beginning.

Jesus demonstrated this in Mark 11 when He spoke to the fig tree which should have brought forth fruit, but did not, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again” (Mark 11:14). Then He continued on His way. He did not wait around to see if it would happen. He had spoken what the end of that tree would be and He had no doubt that it would come to pass just as He had spoken. He fully expected that no one would ever eat from that tree again.

Coming back by the next day, Peter noticed that the tree had withered. “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away” (v. 21). Jesus then talked about faith and how it works.
Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mark 11:22-24)
What was Jesus doing? He was teaching them how to declare the end from the beginning. When you declare something with your mouth, and do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will be done, then whatever you say will be done. When you declare the end from beginning, you do not have to wait until the end to see if what you said came to pass.

Likewise, when you pray, believing that you receive (the NASB says, “have received”) whatever things you ask, you will indeed have them. When you declare the end from the beginning, you do not have to wait until the end to see if you received what you asked. If you prayed in faith, then you have already received it, and it will be revealed at the proper time.

Faith is declaring the end from the beginning. That is how God operates, and how He created you and me to operate, too.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

When We Pray, Things Change

"When we pray, things change."
—my friend Wally at breakfast this morning.
Simple, but profound.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Table of Abundantly Available Help

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46:1)
Concerning “a very present help,” the margin of my study Bible notes that it means “an abundantly available help.” In other words, God is always there for us with more than enough help to take care of any and every situation fully and completely. He is our refuge, our strength, and our help in all things.

Today I took the Table of the Lord using this Scripture, because Jesus is not only my refuge and strength, He is my abundantly available help — my provision — in all things. In Him I have more than enough to meet every challenge.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, 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 8:31-39)
We are more than conquerors in Jesus Christ. Everything about Him means abundance for us, for He came not only that we might have life, but that we might have it “more abundantly” (John 10:10). In Him the love of God is “shed abroad” (literally, “gushing out”) in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:11). In Him we receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17). This grace is more than enough so that we might not only be blessed ourselves but also become a blessing to others.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
All this we have in Jesus Christ, who poured out the love of God for us by His own body and blood on the Cross.

The Table of the Lord speaks to us of the abundantly available help we have in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pleasing God: His Word, His Will, His Way

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19)

I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)

Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:28-29)
Jesus was all about pleasing the Father. Everything He did, He did to please God. He did not do anything or say anything that He did not see or hear the Father doing or saying. He did not seek His own will, but always yielded Himself fully to the Father. He is the perfect expression of the will of God.

When He was baptized by John in the Jordan river, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and the voice of the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Afterward, the Spirit led Him out into the wilderness, where the devil tried to lure Him into an agenda that did not from God — and anything that does not come from God comes ultimately from the devil.
  • Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Matthew 4:3).
  • Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’“ (Matthew 4:5-6)
  • Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9)
First, notice how the devil tries to introduce doubt by the use of “if.” In the first two attempts he says, “If you are the Son of God.” But Jesus was quite secure in His identity; He knew exactly who He was and why He came — to do the Father’s will — and He did not have to prove Himself to anybody.

“Turn these stones into bread,” the tempter says. Jesus answers, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (v. 4). We do not need to heed any word that comes from the devil, but true life comes from hearing, believing and obeying everything that comes from God alone.

The devil tries again. “Throw Yourself down from this pinnacle; God’s angels will rescue You.” It is a perverse appeal to the Word of God; perverse because it is not according to the purpose of God. Jesus answers very simply, “It is written, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God” (v. 7). It does no good to believe God’s promises if we are not following His will.

In the third attempt, the devil uses “if” to introduce doubt about God’s plan. “I will give You all the kingdoms of the world if You will fall down and worship me.”God had already declared His will to give Jesus all the nations for His inheritance (Psalm 2:8), but it would come by God’s plan, not the devil’s. The glory would be to God alone. So Jesus says, “Away with you, for it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (v. 10).

Jesus had no agenda of His own, but was fully committed to that of the Father, and that greatly pleased God.

Pleasing God is about believing His word and following His will in His way.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Understanding Prosperity

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2)
Alongside every country road there are usually two ditches, one on either side. Controversial issues are generally like that; there are extremes and reactions on either side. I find this to be true about how Christians react to the Biblical teaching concerning prosperity. In 3 John 2, we see the will of God, as expressed in the prayer of the apostle John, is for His people to prosper in all things and be in health, according to how they are prospering in their souls.

That seems pretty straightforward, and it is just one of many equally clear Scriptures in the Bible concerning prosperity. But, oh how Christians can get into the ditches concerning this.

On the one hand, there are some Christians who, by their preaching, seem to think that it is all about money, and who appear to live it out as greed and self-aggrandizement. Some of the televangelists fit into this category and very often earn the harsh criticism they receive.

On the other hand, there are some who react so vehemently to this first group that they actually fall into the same error: They think that prosperity is about money and greed. They see the ditch on one side of the road and back so far away from it that they stumble into the ditch on the other side. Since, to their reactionary way of thinking, prosperity is all about money and greed, they wonder God could possibly want prosperity for His people? Or as one fellow asked, “How does that benefit the kingdom of God?”

Show them the Scriptures which reveal God’s desire to prosper His people, such as Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3, Psalm 35:17, Psalm 112 or Proverbs 3:9-10, and the response will likely be, “Oh, but that is Old Testament.” As if God has somehow changed His mind and that the new and better covenant that was instituted in Jesus Christ and which is based upon better promises is in some way inferior to the Old Covenant (see Hebrews 8:6). Not so.

Others will resort to the old standby, “Yes, but that is spiritual prosperity” when the Biblical context reveals that it is about all kinds of prosperity. (Part of the error I see here is the mistake that sees the spiritual realm as good but the natural realm as evil. The Bible, however, teaches that the natural realm derives from the spiritual realm, because God, who is Spirit, created the natural realm. But that is a discussion for another time.)

Many of those who oppose prosperity teaching from the Scriptures and who reject the Old Testament promises of prosperity, when it comes to the same teaching in the New Testament, they are oblivious to it. They have learned how to gloss over, ignore or otherwise explain away. It is not intentional, but reactionary. They do not mean to do it, but their disgust with those who think prosperity is all about money and greed causes their eyes to be blinkered to what the Scriptures actually have to say.

So what does the Bible really have to say about prosperity? Simply put, to prosper means to do well. What is the extent of the prosperity God has for us? I think the apostle John said it pretty well: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” Note, first, that God wants us to prosper in ALL things (even as He already said so many times and in so many ways in the Old Testament). Since John adds, “Just as your soul prospers,” we can see that this is not only about inward, spiritual prosperity but about outward, physical prosperity as well. Truly, it is prosperity in ALL things that God desires to release into your life and mine. It is not limited to finances — that is probably the least of what it is about—but finances are by no means excluded from the promise.

Second, and this is very important, the measure and qualifier of outward, physical prosperity is inward, spiritual prosperity. Again, we see that when John says, “Just as your soul prospers.” It is a comparative statement. If you are not prospering in your soul, in your inward man, you will not truly be able to prosper in anything else. But when you are prospering in your inward being, you are positioning yourself to receive prosperity in all things.

Prosperity of soul, as we learn from the context (3 John 3-5), has everything to do with walking in love. So, greed and self-aggrandizement are out. Jesus taught us that when we make the kingdom of God our priority, everything else will be taken care of (Matthew 6:33). That’s prosperity!

Paul gives us a good description of prosperity in 2 Corinthians 9:8, which happens to be in a financial context. In exhorting the Church about giving, Paul gives this promise:
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
When we put God first in all things, He will cover all the bases — even the financial ones — with plenty more besides in order to support good works. For His desire is not only to bless us, but to bless others through us. Or as it has been so frequently expressed, “We are blessed to be a blessing.”

Prosperity is not something to be feared, not when it comes from God’s hand. And that is exactly what He has promised for you and me. It is not just about you, but about God and what He wants to do in and through you.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Faith and the Sovereignty of God

It has been said that prayer is not about overcoming God's reluctance, but about laying hold of His willingness. It is the same way with faith. Faith is believing the Word of God. Indeed, faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). So faith that is divorced from the Word of God is not the biblical kind of faith. Apart from the Word, it can be very dangerous and is, at best, presumptuous.

But whenever God has spoken, we can believe to the fullest extent whatever He has said. To expect God to honor His Word and keep His promises does no violence whatsoever to God's sovereignty. Rather, it honors God in His sovereignty, for God has exalted His Word even above His name (Psalm 138:2). Whenever He promises something, it is because He fully intends to do it.

Now, notice how Jesus begins His discourse on mountain-moving faith and prayer that gets results:
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mark 11:22-24)
“Have faith in God.” Mountain-moving faith has everything to do with God. It is not contrary to God but in alignment with Him.

Jesus then explains how to engage that faith: “Whoever says to this mountain ... and does not doubt those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” Here is faith at work in the heart, and here is confession made with the mouth. That is how faith works, and it gets results without violating the sovereignty of God.

Next, Jesus relates it to prayer: “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” The NASB has “believe that you have received them.” This must be in line with the sovereignty of God because Jesus said it, and He never did anything that was contrary to the will of God.

Faith is all about believing the Word of God and therefore honors His sovereignty.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Believing the Prosperity of God

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2)
The will of God for His people is that we prosper in all things and be in health, even as our souls prosper. From the context, we see that prosperity of soul is about walking both in truth and in love.
For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. (3 John 3-6)
To prosper means to “do well.” When the Bible says “prosper in all things,” that means His purpose is for us to do well in all things. This echoes His promises from the Old Testament:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)

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 the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
(Psalm 1:2-3)
Prosperity, or doing well, in “all things” is by no means limited to finances, as some seem to suppose, but includes every aspect of life. By the same token, “all things” by no means excludes finances, as others seem to suppose, but are included as much as anything else. God wants to prosper all His people in finances as well as in everything else. Again, this is all related to soul prosperity — doing the truth and walking in love.

To those who love and trust in Him, God promises, among other things, that He will command the blessing on us in our storehouses and in all we set our hands to (Deuteronomy 28:8). He also promises that wealth and riches will be in our houses (Psalm 112:3). He promises that, when we honor Him with our possessions and with the firstfruit of all our increase, our barns will be filled with plenty and our vats overflow with new wine (Proverbs 3:9-10). Psalm 35:27 tells us that God takes pleasure in the prosperity of His people.

So, there is no question that God wants all His people to prosper in all things, including our finances. His Word confirms it repeatedly. This is not some extraneous “prosperity gospel,” but the consistent teaching of the Scriptures. These promises, being the Word of God, who cannot lie, are therefore sure and true, and can be fully relied upon.

Now, along with all that, Jesus promised that there would also be persecutions. We see this in the promise of hundredfold return:
Assuredly, I say to you, there is no 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 29:30)
Because Jesus has said this, it would be foolish for anyone to think that there are not going to be persecutions. But by the same token, it would be foolish to think that there is not also going to be the hundredfold return of all that is given up for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel. Jesus explicitly states that such return is to be received “now in this time” as well as eternal life in the age to come.

You can confidently rely upon the promises and prosperity of God.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Holy Spirit Pulling With You

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26)
No matter what life throws at you, if you know the Lord Jesus, you can make it through. Because all who no Him have the Spirit of God dwelling in them. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses (of which we have many). The Greek verb for “helps” is synantilambanomai and means, “to take hold of together with.” It is like working the oar of a boat. The Holy Spirit takes hold of it with us, and we row together, pulling hard. He does not do it all for us, but He helps us. We do it together. Whatever you are dealing with, you are not dealing with it by yourself. The Holy Spirit is taking hold of it with you.

Paul speaks of this particularly in the context of prayer. “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought.” By ourselves, we really do not know how or what to pray. This is true all the time, but we become painfully aware of it when we encounter situations we have never seen before or are overwhelmed by difficulties. Fortunately, the Spirit lays hold with us. We do not know how to pray, but He always does. This may manifest in a number of ways.
  • There may be no words at all, only groaning or weeping. Sometimes as I have prayed for someone, I have suddenly found myself weeping almost uncontrollably for him or her. That is the Spirit releasing the burden of my heart to the Father. Some people call this “travailing prayer.”
  • There may be Scriptures that suddenly come to mind which pertain to the situation. The Holy Spirit is leading you by the Word of God, not only giving you direction, but stirring up your faith as well, because faith comes by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). As those Scriptures come, and faith arises in your heart, turn them into prayer.
  • There may be words in a language you do not understand. This is called “praying in tongues.” Though you may not know exactly what you are praying, the Holy Spirit does, because it is a gift from Him. He knows exactly what needs to be said, and He will say it through your tongue, if you allow Him. If you have never experienced this gift,, you can even ask Him to release it in you.
  • There may be no special manifestation whatsoever. But that’s okay because the Holy Spirit is laying hold and interceding with you nonetheless. Pray out what you know and trust that the Holy Spirit is pulling on heaven with you.
In whatever way the Spirit works with you in prayer, you can be sure that the Father will hear and honor it, for you will be praying according to the will of God.
Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27)

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)
You and I do not know how to pray, but the Spirit of God does. When you pray, trust that He is there laying hold and pulling with you. Listen for how He may be leading you. Then pray with great expectation.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Confessing My Happiness

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 the rivers of 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)
My Confession: Today I am deliriously happy because I do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. Instead, I take great delight in the Law of the Lord — the Word of God. I think about it all the time, letting it tune my heart, train my thoughts, change my will and fill my mouth — to make me more like Jesus! Therefore, I am like a tree planted by rivers of living water; I bear fruit in season; my leaf does not wither, and whatever I do prospers. I thank the Lord for the deep happiness, great success and rich prosperity I have now because of Him.