Monday, March 31, 2008

Like a Weaned Child

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)
Earlier this week we were warring, by faith and prayer, for my mother’s healing. She had had a long, hard fight against leukemia and beat it about four years ago. When we became aware last month that it had returned, we immediately went back into battle mode. Mom again gave it her all, but she was older this time around, and weaker. She was weary.

Recently, as she lay in her hospital bed, she was counting her blessings, remembering all the wonderful people she had known, the experiences she had, the places she had visited, her beloved lake home, her children and grandchildren, and the thirty years she had enjoyed with her late husband. I believe she came to the conclusion that she was satisfied.

One of the Scriptures I’ve often prayed for myself and others is from Psalm 91, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him … With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation” (vv. 14, 16). My mother was eighty (we celebrated her birthday just a month ago) and she was satisfied. I account that God fulfilled His promise.

So now we shifted into a different mode, a mode no less founded in faith than was our former mode. We began looking toward a much greater victory, an eternal one. It has always been my way, in praying for and with people suffering from life-threatening disease, to fight beside them when they are ready to fight, but also to let them go if they decide they want to go. Mom decided that she wanted to go, and though it broke our hearts, we — my wife, my brothers and I — began letting her go. Our prayer shifted; we began asking for God to fill her with the sweetness of His presence and lead her gently into the eternal manifestation of His glory.

On Thursday, as my wife and I were traveling to Charlotte to be by her side, I was praying in the psalms, which is my daily habit, and I opened to Psalm 131. It was very appropriate to what I had been thinking and feeling as I faced my mother’s death.

“My heart is not proud, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.” I could not understand why I was being separated from my mother in this way. Oh, I could talk about it philosophically and theologically and spiritually. But my heart did not fathom it — it was too profound for me. It was a mystery, the depths of which only God truly knows. I determined that my heart would not be arrogant, nor my eyes seek out things which belong to God alone.

“Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” What was left, then, was to quiet my soul — to leave my mother in God’s hands and trust Him with her. That the psalm writer likens himself to a weaned child was very poignant to the cry of my heart. For nine months I had my existence in the warmth and nurture of my mother’s womb. Then, on the day I was born, the weaning process began. I was separated from her body and placed upon her breast. After a number of months, I was weaned from that and began the long journey of learning how to live apart from her. As I matured, I left home for college, got married, and began to have children of my own. Now I was being weaned from knowing even her physical presence any longer in this life. Though it was difficult, I started letting her go, knowing that I was letting her go to God. My trust is in Him, as was hers.

Mom was also weaning herself away, from this life. She was letting it go. She began by remembering all the lovingkindnesses and tender mercies of God, and giving thanks. Realizing that she was satisfied with this life and ready to enter the next, she expressed her desire to have all her sons around her. Thursday night, my brothers and I were gathered with her in her hospital room. After a while she asked for us all to pray together with her. We joined hands and offered our praise and thanks to God for giving us this wonderful woman. Then she concluded with a prayer of her own, giving thanks to God for her life and all her blessings, and for us. She was letting go — weaning away — and so were we.

The psalm writer, having become like a weaned child by trusting God with everything, ends with a note of joyful expectation: “Hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever.” Whatever mystery may be deep for us is not too great for the eternity of God.

Early Sunday morning, Mom passed over into the arms of Jesus. Tomorrow we shall lay her body in the earth, where it shall await resurrection. Our expectation is in God, now and forever, and we shall see my mother again.

All is well.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Contend, O LORD

Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
Fight against those who fight against me.
Take up shield and buckler;
Arise and come to my aid.
Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me.
Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”

May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame;
May those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay.
May they be like chaff before the wind,
With the angel of the Lord driving them away;
May their path be dark and slippery,
With the angel of the Lord pursuing them.

Since they hid their net for me without cause
And without cause dug a pit for me,
May ruin overtake them by surprise—
May the net they hid entangle them,
May they fall into the pit, to their ruin.

Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD
And delight in his salvation.
My whole being will exclaim,
“Who is like you, O Lord?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
The poor and needy from those who rob them.”
(Psalm 35:1-10)
My mother was healed of leukemia about four years ago. Recently, it has come back. She has been in the hospital for about four weeks now and has received a round of chemotherapy, but a new complication has arisen in the form of an infection that has hindered her breathing.

As we drove up to Charlotte to visit her this past week, I have been meditating on Psalm 35, particularly in view of my mother’s need. She is a woman of a faith; she belongs to the LORD, and His promises belong to her. So I have been praying this psalm on her behalf, calling on God to contend with the leukemia that is contending with her and fight against the infection that is fighting against her.

Meditating on this, I have been reminded about the twelve spies Moses sent to reconnoiter in the land of Canaan, which God had promise to give to the children of Israel. Ten spies came back, reporting that the land was indeed very good, but that it was full of giants. There we saw the giants … and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:33). However, the other two spies, Joshua and Caleb, came back saying,
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 this land and give it to us, “a land which flows 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 two remembered what the ten did not: God was with them — He would be contending with those who contended with them. The two did not see themselves as grasshoppers in the eyes of their enemies, or even in their own eyes. Rather, they saw these giants as grasshoppers in the eyes of God.

Leukemia and other forms of cancer are often seen as giants treading on us little grasshoppers. Fear strikes the heart at the mention of their name. But when we know the Lord as our help, we can look to Him to come against those things which come against us. Neither leukemia nor infection, nor any other sickness or disease, can match the strength of our God.

The NKJV rendering of verse 10 has particular significance for me in this situation.
All my bones shall say,
“Lord, who is like You,
Delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him,
Yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?”
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood, and the blood is produced by the marrow which is in the bone. When God comes against the enemy for our sake, our bones — my mother’s bones — shall praise Him. We are believing God to give her fresh, new marrow to produce rich, healthy blood.

 God contends on our behalf to fight against our enemies. That is why Jesus came. He took on all our foes at the cross — and prevailed. And now, we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). All that is left is for us to take hold of and apply that victory. This we do by faith. Please join your prayer and faith with ours as we say,

LORD, contend with the sickness that is contending with my mother; fight against the infection that is fighting against my mother. Cause all her bones to praise You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How He Loves Us

YouTube clip of Jesus Culture song, "How He Loves Us."

Good Friday

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)

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. (Ephesians 1:7-10)

God has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

We were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from our aimless conduct received by tradition from our fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for us who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that our faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)

When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes we were healed. For we were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. (1 Peter 2:23-25)

We look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

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? 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 8:32-39)

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Our Spiritual Warfare in the Heavenlies

[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. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church. (Ephesians 1:19-22)

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. (Ephesians 2:4-6)

To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:10)
The Lord Jesus Christ has been seated in the heavenlies at the right hand of the Father, far above all principality, power, might and dominion, and all things have been put under His feet. God has also raised us up together with Him and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Him. Notice the tense — God has already done this. It is a present reality, not a future expectation. Since Jesus is now seated far above all principality, power, might and dominion, and since we are seated in the heavenlies in Him, then it follows that we also are seated far above all principality, power might and dominion. Since all things have been put under the feet of Christ, and since we are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:28), then all things have been placed under us as well, for the feet of Christ are part of the body of Christ.

Now, we, as the body of Christ, are in a spiritual warfare, as Paul tells us.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
We have been equipped with weapons of warfare that are mighty in God, that we may pull down and demolish strongholds and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. That would include every principality, power, might and dominion that rebels against the knowledge of God. Though it is largely a matter of mindsets, arguments and imaginations that are contrary to the Word of God, it is nonetheless a warfare that takes place in the heavenlies, in the realm of the spirit. These mindsets are all to be brought into captivity and made obedient to Christ. God has equipped us for this work in order to reveal the many facets of His wisdom.
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:8-10)
God's plan is to make His wisdom known by the Church to the principalities and powers in the heavenlies. How is this to be done? By the preaching of the gospel, making known, as Paul did, the deep riches of Christ, that the world may share in the fellowship of this mystery.

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and through Him we have been made more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). As His disciples, we have been authorized and empowered to do what Jesus Himself did: preach the gospel, heal sicknesses and cast out demons (Mark 3:14-15; Luke 10:9,17). When He sent out the Seventy to perform these works, they returned rejoicing that even the demons were subject to His name. He said to them,
I saw satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:18-19)
Jesus has given us authority to trample underfoot satan and all his demons, principalities and powers. These are all under the feet of Jesus and therefore under the feet of His body, the Church. The works of satan are destroyed, rendered powerless. Just as satan fell when the disciples did the works of Jesus — preaching the Word, healing the sick, freeing the demonized — satanic principalities likewise fall as we do those same works. For the dark principalities are just as powerless and devoid of authority as satan himself.

As the body of Christ, we have been authorized, empowered and equipped to make spiritual warfare in the heavenlies, that the multi-faceted wisdom of God might be made known to every principality, power, might and dominion. As we preach the Word of God, bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ and demonstrating His power to heal the sick and free those who are oppressed by the devil, these principalities will fall.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hindrances to the Kingdom

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. (Matthew 23:13)
The scribes and Pharisees had given up on trying to entangle Jesus in their controversies and discredit Him in the eyes of the people. Jesus, however, was not yet finished with them, and He now gave His assessment of them before the people. He had long been aware of what they were about, what motivated them and how they operated. He even hinted at it when He preached The Sermon of Heaven on Earth. What He had veiled then, He now made explicit in His public denunciation of them.

He recognized that they sat in “Moses’ seat,” that is, they had spiritual authority in the synagogue system. “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do,” He said, but then added, “But do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:3). Then he began to enumerate:
For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, “Rabbi, Rabbi.” (Matthew 23:4-7)
The scribes and Pharisees loved to do their works to be seen and praised of men. They put on a good show, making a theatre of their “devotion” to wow the crowds. They were all about themselves, not the kingdom of heaven. Jesus had no kind words for them, but labeled them for what they were: play-acting, mask-wearing hypocrites. Then He pronounced a series of “woes” on them (Matthew 23:13-32):
  • Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
  • Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
  • Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
  • Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.” Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And, “Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.” Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
  • Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
  • Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
  • Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
  • Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.
Jesus was not condemning all scribes and Pharisees. As we saw in an earlier account, there was at least one to whom Jesus said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And there were probably others like that as well. What Jesus was denouncing, however, was the attitude that was prevalent among them, a self-righteousness and self-aggrandizement that corrupted everything they did. This attitude not only kept them from receiving the kingdom of Heaven on Earth, but also hindered others from entering it. Apart from the kingdom, all that was left for them was judgment.
Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:33-37)
This did indeed come to pass within a generation, when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in AD 70.

Do not let self-righteousness and hypocrisy, neither yours nor that of anybody else, keep you from entering the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

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

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Triumphal Entry

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.(Revelation 19:11-16)
Jesus rode a donkey went he came into Jerusalem on what we now call “Palm Sunday.” Though the crowds did not realize it, he was entering as a humble servant who would be “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). But when he comes again at the end of the age, he will be riding a white horse, and all those who belong to him will go forth to greet him as Conquering King.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)
Even now we share in his victory in whom we have been made more than conquerors:
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)

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)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Joseph’s Storehouses

Now the seven plentiful years the ground brought forth abundantly. So [Joseph] gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities; he laid up in every city the food of the fields which surrounded them. (Genesis 41:47-48)
You might recall that Pharaoh had a dream for which God gave Joseph the interpretation: seven fat years followed by seven lean years. Joseph then advised Pharaoh on a wise course of action:
Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be I the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine. (Genesis 41:33-36)
Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph, he said to him,
Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.... See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.… I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:39-41, 46)
So Joseph put his plan into action. He gathered up the abundance of the seven good years and established storehouses throughout the land as a reserve.

Now, here is an interesting thing about Joseph and his storehouse that many Christians often miss. It was a blessing to Egypt and the surrounding region, but Joseph did not give the food away to whoever needed it, he sold it to them (see Genesis 41:53-57). It was not a charity operation but a business set on doing good. In this way, Joseph managed to gather up all the money that was in the land, bringing it all into Pharaoh's house and administered under Joseph’s hand.

When the people had no money, Joseph bartered with them, trading food in exchange for their livestock. So all the livestock in the land came under the power of his hand. When the people had no more livestock, Joseph still did not give away the food, but traded it to them for their land. So all the properties of Egypt came under his control. When he controlled all their land, he gave them seed, let them work the ground, and received twenty per cent of their produce for Pharaoh. In this way, Joseph both blessed the land of Egypt, but also controlled all the wealth of Egypt and the surrounding countries (Genesis 47:13-26).

I have been thinking about this in relation to Proverbs 13:22, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” Now, we can certainly apply that to spiritual inheritance. I am building a spiritual inheritance for my children and their children (and the rest of my line until Jesus comes). However the context within this verse refers more to material inheritance, for the two halves of the verse go together. It does not stop at “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” It goes on to say, “But the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.”

The “wealth of the wicked” is not a spiritual inheritance. Why would the righteous ever want the spiritual inheritance of the wicked? The wicked do not come to a good spiritual end unless they repent and join the righteous. Rather, “wealth of the wicked” refers to the material wealth that the wicked have accumulated for themselves. But it slips through their fingers because their fingers because they lack prosperity of soul (see 3 John 2). This wealth will not remain with the wicked, nor with their children’s children, but will eventually end up in the hands of the righteous, who first possess prosperity of soul. In the meantime, this wealth is stored up.

I see this illustrated well by the story of Joseph and his storehouse. He was a righteous man who prospered in his soul. By wise and righteous business dealings, he accumulated all the wealth of the Egyptians and the surrounding nations, blessing them with the food they needed, and prospering Pharaoh and himself in the process. The wealth of the wicked came into the hand of the righteous.

Good business, done well, brings prosperity and blessing to others as well as to us. When we learn to develop our storehouse, as Joseph did, we will see the wealth of the wicked come out from under their control and into the hand of the righteous, who know how to use it for good.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Kingdom of the Son of God

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”

They said to Him, “The Son of David.”

He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?’

And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore. (Matthew 22:41-46)
The Pharisees and Sadducees had asked Jesus a number of questions. Now He had a question for them concerning the Messiah: “Whose Son is He?”

They had a ready answer: “The Son of David.” It was the standard answer, safe and acceptable, and quite correct as far as it went. But now Jesus asked the tough question with which they had not wrestled: “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord’?”

Jesus quoted Psalm 110, a messianic psalm written by David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There David stated, “The LORD said to my Lord …” (v. 1). That is, David referred to Messiah as “my Lord,” recognizing Him as his master. But how could Messiah be both David’s son and David’s master? That was one aspect of the puzzle.

Another aspect was that David recognized this as an accomplished fact, not a future event. Notice the tense. He did not say, “My LORD will say to my Lord,” but “My LORD said to my Lord.” That is, David not only recognized that Messiah was his superior, but also that He somehow already existed. How could that be, unless Messiah was divine, a being from eternity? A few verses later, David said, “The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Psalm 110:4).

The Jews were aware of this conundrum but had not been able to work it out. But now here was Jesus standing before them as both the Son of David and the Son of God. That blew their circuits. They had no answer, and they did not ask any more questions, perhaps because they were not willing to go where the answers would lead them.

The kingdom of Heaven on Earth is the kingdom of Messiah, Son of David and Son of God.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

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

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Kingdom Where Love Fulfills All

When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)
The Pharisees and Sadducees had both made a run at trapping Jesus in His words — and failed. Now came an expert in the Law of Moses, not to ensnare him, as the others had done, but to examine his teaching. Mark’s Gospel refers to him as a scribe: “Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12:28). It was common for Jews to discuss which were the weightier matters of the law.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” Jesus answered. “This is the first and great commandment.” This was first, not in order of time, but of importance.

“And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” If the most important commandment is about loving God, then the second must be about loving man, who was created in the image and likeness of God. The second commandment is not separate from the first, but hangs on the first. One cannot keep the first without also keeping the second. John said that whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:20).

Then Jesus concluded with the importance of these two commandments: “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” That is, everything in the Law and the Prophets — all of the Old Testament — is about these two things.

Remember that the Ten Commandments were given on two tables of stone (Exodus 31:18). Most commentators believe that the first tablet spoke of our obligation toward God, the second of our obligation toward others. When we love God we will have no other gods before us, we will not try to fashion Him according to our own ideas, we will not speak His name in vanity, idleness or arrogance, and we will honor that which He has set apart unto Himself. When we love our neighbor as ourselves, we will give proper honor to those who have fathered and mothered us, we will not take their lives into our own hands, we will not violate their marriage covenants, we will not take from them what is rightfully theirs, we will not lie against them, and we will not crave for ourselves that which belongs exclusively to them. All the Law is about loving God, and loving all others as ourselves. As Paul notes, following in the footsteps of Jesus, “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).

It is not just the Law that hangs on these two great commandments but the Prophets also. Both the Law and the Prophets are all about the kingdom of heaven — the rule and reign of God in the affairs of men. These are the two commandments of the kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Everything else depends on and is understood by them.

Think back to the rich young man who came to Jesus seeking eternal life. Jesus asked if he knew the commandments, then named some of them, particularly the ones from the second tablet, the ones about loving one’s neighbor as oneself. “I have kept all of these from my youth,” the young man answered. We already know that he really had not learned to keep the first tablet, to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul and mind; he loved his possessions to much for that. As it turns out, he also did not keep the second tablet either, though he was sure he had. He did not love his neighbor as himself, or else he would have listened to Jesus when He told him to sell what he had and give to the poor. So he missed out on the kingdom.

The lawyer who asked which was the greatest commandment was strongly impressed by Jesus’ answer. “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other tan He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:32-33).

Jesus answered, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). The truth of His answer was backed up by the strength of His love.

In the kingdom of Heaven on Earth, the commandment to love fulfills everything else.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

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

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Friday, March 7, 2008

Faith Focuses on the Answer

“Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6)
People often focus more on the problem than they do the solution. Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda where a man who had been infirmed for thirty-eight years was waiting for the “moving of the water.” It was said that an angel would come down at a certain time and stir up the water, and whoever stepped into it first would be healed of whatever disease he had. So the man waited. When Jesus saw him lying there on his little pallet, and knowing how long he had been infirm, He asked him a very simple question: “Do you want to be made well?”

The man, however, had become so fixated on the problem (his infirmity) that he lost sight of the answer (healing), and he gave a terribly muddled answer: “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” This was not even the primary problem, but a secondary one associated with the particular way he desired to get the primary one solved. He did not have a clear picture of the solution he needed to his real problem, so he was unable to give a straightforward response to a Jesus’ simple question. His faith, like his reply, was confused.

Jesus addressed him again, taking his focus off the problem and onto the answer. He was simple and direct: “Rise. Take up your bed. Walk.” There was healing in those words. Now it was up to the man to believe and obey what Jesus said. Had he remained focused on the complexity of his problems, he might never have heard and believed — and received his healing. But once he focused on the answer, which is always going to be found in Jesus and the Scriptures, his primary problem was solved and the secondary one was no longer relevant. He rose, took up his bed and walked.

But now consider Bartimaeus, a blind beggar who cried out for mercy as Jesus passed by (Mark 10:46-52). Jesus called him over and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus did not whine and complain about his blindness or how hard it was to be a beggar. He did not hesitate, but immediately spoke out the solution he desired, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” He did not deny the problem. He fully recognized it, but his focus was on the answer — the One who could bring his healing to pass and restore his sight. Jesus answered, “Go your way; your faith has made you whole.” Bartimaeus immediately received his sight and followed Jesus. His faith was specific to the need, and by that faith he saw — and received — the solution to his problem.

Or remember the woman with the “issue of blood” (Matthew 9:20-22; also Luke 8:43-48). She had been hemorrhaging for twelve years, rendering her ceremonially unclean, unable to go into the temple or socialize freely with others. When Jesus passed by on His way to heal the daughter of Jairus, she saw her answer. She followed Him, watching for an opportunity to touch the tassels of His prayer shawl, the corners or “wings” of His garment (see Healing in His Corners). As she followed, she kept saying to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” She did not remind herself of what a terrible problem she had or how she had spent all her money on doctors to no avail. No, by her “self-talk” she kept herself focused on the solution: Jesus, the Son of God with “healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2). When she finally touched His tassels, her hemorrhaging immediately stopped. Jesus discovered what she had done and, instead of being angry, commended her, saying, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” By the focus of her faith, expressed by her words and actions, she laid hold of the answer to her problem.

It is helpful to identify the problem and get a good diagnosis of it. But then having done that, we must keep the focus of our faith on the Answer.

Healing Scriptures and Prayers

Healing Scriptures and Prayers
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Thursday, March 6, 2008

South Florida Man Raised from the Dead

WSVN TV7 reported, on February 1, 2008, that Jeff Markin, a South Florida man, was raised from the dead by a Christian doctor, Dr. Chauncey Crandall, who prayed over him in the name of Jesus. Dr. Crandall said
If you come in with a problem into our service, we are definitely going to treat you with conventional medicine, but we are going to believe it too. We are going to attack it with conventional medicine, and we are going to attack it with prayer. The reason I pray for people is because I found, early in my trained practice, that there were miracles, unexplained healings....

As I entered the ER it was like a war zone. Here was this lifeless body on a stretcher. His face, his arms, his legs were pitch black with death. I said, "Let's just call the code, let's end it because there's no life left."

A voice told me to turn around and pray for that man. I looked down at the body, and I said, "Lord, what can I pray for this man? He's gone." All of a sudden these words came out, "Father God, I cry out for this man's soul, Lord. If he does not know You as his Lord and Savior, raise him from the dead now."

So that doctor came over with those paddles and blasted that man and, all of a sudden, instantly a perfect heartbeat came up on the monitor. The stomach started moving, the chest started moving. This man started breathing on his own, and I said, "This man has been prayed for, he has been brought back from the dead by prayer in the name of Jesus."

You are speaking to a scientist, a cardiologist, someone who loves medicine. I've never, ever seen this. There are always people that do not believe these events, and I will just tell them that it did happen. It was a real story, a real life that was restored.
God is still restoring the dead to life in the name of Jesus. Read the full report here (also includes video download near top of page).

Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church
Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit
in the History of the Church

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Process of Prosperity

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. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)
Prosperity requires process. It is not instant, nor it is automatic. Notice how this divine promise begins: “It shall come to pass.” “Come to pass” indicates process. It means that there is period of time between when the promise is implemented and it fully manifests, and that requires patience.

What is the process or prosperity? First and most importantly, it is diligently hearing and obeying the voice of the Lord. The Hebrew employs an idiom here to emphasize the point. The verb literally means to “hear with hearing.” We are to listen to the voice of the Lord, not idly or casually, but with great focus and intent, and a heart to obey. He also tells us to “observe carefully all His commandments.” The Hebrew verb means to attend to, to guard and protect, to have high regard for the commands of the Lord. This speaks of priority. Jesus put it simply, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). This is foundational to every form of prosperity, in the natural realm as well as the spiritual.
  • “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country” (v. 3). This requires establishing a home base of operations, participating in the community and the marketplace, and managing our properties and business affairs.
  • “Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks” (v. 4). Here is the process of faithfully bringing up our children, and diligently overseeing our commodities.
  • “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl” (v. 5). Do you have a “basket” ready for gathering in your harvest? Your “kneading bowl” may be blessed, but it still must be worked.
  • “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out” (v. 6). Going out and coming in speaks of purposefulness, not of idly wandering about.
  • “The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways” (v. 7). Are you prepared to stand and resist the enemy, the thief who comes to kill, steal and destroy? The Bible says that when we submit to God and resist the enemy (the devil), he will flee (James 4:7).
  • “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” (v. 8). The process here is to establish your storehouses and start setting your hand to various enterprises.
The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you. And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the Lord swore to 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. And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them. (Deuteronomy 28:9-14)
All throughout, the process requires faithfully listening to the voice of the Lord and quickly obeying, making Him the priority in everything. Then you will not only be blessed, but you will become a blessing to all around you.

Prosperity is a process that lays hold of God's blessing.

Here is an audio reading (MP3) of this passage, with relaxing background music. It is called “Choosing Life” and is a bonus track on our Healing Scriptures and Prayers CD Volume 2.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How to Make Your Way Prosperous

Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 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 1:6-8)

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)
God delights in the prosperity of His people (Psalm 35:27). He desires for you to prosper in all things and be in good health, even as your soul prospers (3 John 2). Prosperity of soul begins with what you delight in. “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). You delight in the Lord by being attentive to His law — literally, His instruction — marinating in it until it tenderizes you and your life takes on the flavor of who He is. When you do, your desires are changed, directed by the beat of His heart, and He will gladly fulfill them. Then you will prosper in everything you do and have good success.

Soak in the Word of the Lord, with ears to hear and a heart to obey. Then you will make your way prosperous and nothing will be able to hold back your success.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Learning to Tithe

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all. (Genesis 14:18-20)

And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You. (Genesis 28:22)

Tithing is a somewhat controversial subject for many Christians today. Some legalistically promote it, insisting that if we do not pay the tithe, we are robbing God. Others are virulently opposed to it because in Jesus Christ we are no longer under the Law of Moses. My own understanding is that we are no longer under the obligation of law to tithe; but I find there are Old Testament examples of tithing that predate the law, tithes given freely out of devotion to God. Abraham tithed and was blessed by God (Genesis 14:18-20 and 15:1); so did Jacob (Genesis 28:22). In both instances, the tithe flowed from blessing to blessing. That is, they were blessed both before and after they tithed. Although we are not obligated to tithe, I believe God still honors it today.

Tithing is giving, but a precise giving, offering to God the first tenth. It is a priority of giving, the first portion; and it is a proportion of giving, the tenth.

Nobody is cursed for not tithing. Nobody goes without blessing for not tithing, for we have already been given every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3), and that is the basis for every manifestation of blessing in the natural realm.

Relationship is key. Neither God, nor prayer, nor tithing is like a vending machine — put your coin in here, pull the lever, and receive your selection there. Rather, it is all about knowing the Lord, hearing His voice, learning His heart, walking with Him, being led by Him. This is soul prosperity, which John talks about in 3 John 2 ("even as your soul prospers"). Gaius, to whom John wrote, understood the heart of God and walked in truth and love. His soul prospered out of his relationship with God. John’s prayer was that the prosperity of his soul would translate into prosperity in all the areas of his life. If right relationship with God is not at the center, neither tithing nor anything else matters. But, as Jesus taught us, when we seek first the kingdom of God (His rule and reign) and His rightness, everything else will be taken care of (Matthew 6:33).

About a dozen or so years ago, when I first began to seriously consider tithing, I asked, “Lord, how can we tithe and still pay our bills?” Money was very tight and there were always extra expenses that would take us by surprise — and we would go into panic mode. We had already learned something about giving, but it was more about us and how much we could afford to give, and not so much about the faithfulness of God. So we gave out of what was left over. It was considerably less than ten per cent. But here I was, considering doing something that I thought was really going to bite into our finances and our ability to pay our bills.

Now, I knew that the Mosaic law called for the tithe, and I had already heard of Malachi 3, where God reiterated that call to Israel, with the promise that He would open the windows of heaven and pour out such blessing that they would not be able to contain it all, and that He would also rebuke the devourer for them. I remembered that Abraham had tithed, and was blessed by God. I learned that Jacob also tithed, and was likewise blessed by God. So here was a biblical pattern, confirmed by more than three witnesses, that we could give at least ten per cent and not only expect to survive, but also to prosper. As Paul notes, though we are not under the covenant of law, the Old Testament does give us many things as examples for us to learn from. So the example of tithing in the Old Testament emboldened my faith to set that as a goal.

My wife and I talked it over and finally made the commitment that we were going to become tithers. “Lord, You are going to have to get us there.” It did not happen over night. But we established our target. We started at the level where we were already giving and began to increase it, slowly at first, but then we accelerated as we began to see that we could meet our obligations. My wife, who kept the budget and checkbook, began to see bills and debts getting paid off, and she was not quite sure how we were now able to do it. She kept calling it "fishes and loaves," like when Jesus multiplied a meager amount and caused it to meet a need that was considerably bigger. That encouraged us greatly.

Our financial condition kept improving. As it did, we were able to upgrade our cars and various things we needed for our home. One result is that things were not breaking down nearly as much—God was rebuking the devourer for us — and when they did break down, we did not shift into panic mode as we had done before, but had peace, trusting that God had shown Himself faithful to us and would take care of whatever we needed.

After four or five years, we finally reached our goal: We were tithing. It was on the net increase, but we were tithing. We did not stop there but kept on going, and soon we were tithing on the gross increase. Since then we have regularly increased our giving — we don't want to become stagnant and complacent about it — and we have seen that God is faithful to supply us seed to sow and bread to eat, just as He said (2 Corinthians 9:10). And our financial situation continually improves.

I say all this to show the value of the Biblical examples of tithing for building up our faith in God. My wife and I have learned to honor God with our possessions and the firstfruits of all our increase. Not the last and the least, but the first and the best. It is no longer about us and what we can afford to give, but about Him and His faithfulness to provide for us. When we tithe, it speaks and prophesies that we have a mighty God who will always take care of our needs and do it abundantly, just as Paul said: "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). We do not tithe out of any obligation of law — that would taint the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in establishing the new covenant — but as an opportunity for God to be glorified and His grace revealed.

We have never regretted our decision.

Tithing is not an obligation of law but an opportunity of grace.