Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to Have a Blessed Economy

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.
(Psalm 112:1)
“Blessed” speaks of great happiness and bliss. What is the cause of such an exceedingly happy condition? The fear of the Lord, and delighting in His commandments.

The fear of the Lord speaks of living in supreme awe of Him. It is loving what He loves and hating what He hates. It is recognizing that His displeasure is greatly to be avoided but His favor is greatly to be desired. To delight in something is to have a desire for it, to take pleasure in it. Here, it is modified by the word “greatly,” which speaks of exceeding abundance, completeness, and diligence. This delight, desire and pleasure is wholehearted and intense. When we start to understand how awesome God is, how great His love and how marvelous His favor, we begin to take intense pleasure in His ways — and that leads to bliss, as this psalm describes.

What does the fear of the Lord look like in the everyday life of a person who has it?
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man deals graciously and lends;
He will guide his affairs with discretion. (vv. 4-5)
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. (v. 7)
He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor. (v. 9)
  • He has received grace and favor from the Lord, so he shows grace and favor to others.
  • He has experienced compassion and mercy from God, so he knows how to extend compassion and mercy to others.
  • He is not stingy with what is his, but generously lends to others.
  • He shows good judgment in all his dealings. The HCSB has, “conducts his business fairly.” He makes sound business decisions that are equitable and promote what is good.
  • His trust is in the Lord and he lets that settle all the worries and concerns of his heart.
  • He not only lends freely, He gives generously to the poor. The Hebrew for “disperse” literally means to scatter. He understands the paradox of Proverbs 11:24, “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.”
That’s a short sketch of how the fear of the Lord gets lived out. Now, let’s take a brief look at what the blessing — the bliss — of such a person looks like.
  • “His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed’ (v. 2). His descendants will receive a spiritual inheritance that, if they will follow it, will lead them into a life of blessing, abundance and significance.
  • “Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever” (v. 3). Because he is making good decisions and doing what is right, which leads to prosperity, prosperity will fill his house. The results of living well will endure for the next generations. As Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.”
  • “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness” (v. 4). This does not mean that he will never have to go through dark times (or poor economies), but that when he does, there will light to lead him through it to the other side. The surrounding darkness will not cause him to fear because he is focused on the light that comes from the Lord.
  • “Good will come to a man who lends generously” (v. 5, HCSB). Because he does what is good, goodness comes back to him. It is the principle of sowing and reaping. Jesus put it this way, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). This is not just about money, as some think, but about how we deal with each other in general: When we show goodness to others, it will come back around to us.
  • “Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance” (v. 6). Living in awe of God brings him into a place of stability. There may be earthquakes, but when the dust clears, he will still be standing. He will have a testimony and the significance of his life will remain.
  • “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD” (v. 7). Bad news, failing economies, and financial disasters will not strike fear in him because his life and prosperity — his blessing — is founded upon God. His focus and trust are in the Lord.
  • “His heart is established; he will not be afraid until he sees his desire upon his enemies” (v. 8; the HCSB has, “In the end he will look in triumph on his foes”). He does not focus his heart on the adversarial circumstances that surround him, but on the Lord. He does not fear when leaders forecast gloom or threaten catastrophe. The peace of his heart is settled on God and nothing can disturb the calm state of his soul.
  • “His righteousness endures forever; his horn will be exalted with honor” (v. 9). His influence and honor will increase and the effect of living God’s way will continue to make him a blessing to others.
  • “The wicked will see it and be grieved; he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked shall perish” (v. 10). The wicked are those who are at odds with God’s way of doing things. Great blessing will come to those who live in awe of Him and walk in His ways, but for the wicked there is only grief, despair and frustration of purpose. They will fade away, therefore do not let your heart be troubled by them.
The psalm writer gives us just some of what it means to live in awe and delight of God and to know His blessing. Jesus puts it all very succinctly: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

When you live in the fear of the Lord you do not have to fear anything else. Live your life in awe of Him and follow His ways. Let these be the economic indicators of your life, and you will not be troubled by the current panic in the world — you will know the blessing.

Pray for our country, that God will raise up godly leaders who will live in the fear and awe of Him, to love what He loves, hate what He hates, and do what is wise and good. Then the whole nation can enjoy a blessed economy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Ark of Your Testimony

And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you. (Exodus 25:16)
The Ark of the Covenant is also known as the Ark of the Testimony. The Hebrew word for “testimony” is edut, which means “witness” or “record.” It comes from the primitive root ud, which means to duplicate or repeat. Literally, it refers to something that is spoken again and again. Its purpose is to remind, to bring up again in your mind, and bring to prominence in your thinking.

Testimony is a powerful thing. It can not only bring something back to your mind but also back to your heart. It can recreate the emotions, the sense of the experience of that to which it testifies. For example, have you ever heard an old song on the radio that reminded you of the days when you first heard that song. It can make you think of old friends and places and the way you felt back then. It is amazing how a song can bring them again to you in such an emotionally powerful way. When a song triggers a memory like that, people even say, “Oh, that takes me back.” And in a way, it really does take them back to that time and place, and those old friends. That song has become a testimony to them, a witness of things past but which still have great meaning.

That is what the Ark of the Testimony did. It was a witness that spoke of the covenant God made with Israel. Everything about it testified to something in their experience with Him. It represented — re-presented — His presence among them. On top was the mercy-seat, the place of atonement, of divine forgiveness. The Testimony that was placed inside was threefold: The Ten Commandments, a jar of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded (Hebrews 9:4).
  • The tables of the commandments spoke of God’s instruction, wisdom and promises — the covenant He made with Israel.
  • The jar of manna spoke of the miraculous provision God made for them in the wilderness, a provision that sustained them throughout their wilderness wanderings.
  • The rod of Aaron spoke of high priestly authority. For when the people tested God and rebelled against Aaron, God caused his rod to bud as a sign that He had indeed chosen Aaron.
The testimony of these things was always before them to remind them, not only of who God had been to them in the past, but also who He would continue to be to them in the future. For a testimony is not just about what God has done, it also reveals what He is going to do.

David understood this. He kept an ark of testimony in his heart so that He would not forget the benefits of God in his life, to give God glory and continue to trust in Him. He specifically instructed and reminded himself. “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” (Psalm 103:1-2). Look at what he kept in the ark of his testimony:
  • Who forgives all your iniquities (v. 3)
  • Who heals all your diseases (v. 3)
  • Who redeems your life from destruction (v. 4)
  • Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies (v. 4)
  • Who satisfies your mouth with good things (v. 5)
  • So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (v. 5)
  • The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed (v. 6)
  • He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel (v. 7)
  • The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy (v. 8)
This is not just about the way God used to be, but about the way He is now and always will be. He is the same yesterday, today and forever — He does not change. The testimony of what He has done in the past is a seed of faith about what we can also expect Him to do in the future. When someone stands up and gives a testimony that God forgave them, saved them, rescued them, healed them, changed their life, it is a witness that He will do the same for whoever will trust Him. That is why it is important to remember the testimony of what God has done for you and share it with others. It is also why it is important to pay attention to the testimonies of others. They remind you of who God is and what He can do. The most important testimony, of course, is that of God Himself — what He was done for us in Jesus Christ, and the promises we have through faith in Him.

What is in the ark of your testimony? What are the promises of God’s Word that you are claiming? What are the times you have experienced God’s guidance? What are the provisions you have received from Him, the daily providences and the unusual supply that has shown up in your life? What are the ways that He has made His presence known to you? What are the ways He has revealed the life of Jesus to you? What are the ways He has revealed the life of Jesus through you to others? These are seeds of expectation that He will continue to be and do what He has always been and done, and that He will see you through any crisis.

Greetings to our friends in Telemark, Norway; Waterloo, Ontario; Baden-Wurttemburg; Tel Aviv; Glasgow; Yakima, WA; Walterboro, SC; Eugene, OR; Sunnyside, NY and Polway, CA.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Different Priority

Yesterday, I wrote about living in an economy that is different from that of the world. An economy that is one of increase, abundance, prosperity, fulfillment and peace. It is not an end in itself but the byproduct of something else. It comes, not as the result of seeking it, but of seeking something else. Jesus put it this way (don’t let the familiarity of this passage cause you to miss what He is saying  — let it soak in):
Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:30-33)
No doubt, we need food to eat and drink, clothes to wear, a place to live, the means to travel wherever we need to go, and other things. The world worries — even gets into a downright panic—about these things. But God knows we have need of them. It has not escaped His attention. However, the way we get all these needs met is not by worrying about them. Worrying will get you nowhere. Jesus said, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” Worry is just another name for fear, and fear does not change anything. Someone described worry as “meditating on the devil’s lies.” Someone else defined fear by the acronym F.E.A.R., “False Evidence Appearing Real.”

See, the “Gentiles” worry about all these things. The word “Gentiles” refers to all those who do not have a covenant with the Lord God. But God has made a covenant with His people in which He has promised to take care of us if we will trust Him. The essence of covenant is exchange: He gives us all He is and has; we give Him all we are and have.

So the Gentiles, the world outside of covenant with God, is seeking frantically after all the necessities of life. In this current economic crisis, some are suggesting that we need to do something drastic, but that is far too vague. Anything is something, so the advice to do something drastic translates into a plea to do anything drastic. That is not the response of wisdom but the reaction of panic, and doing it quickly does not make the results of foolish action any less foolish.

Jesus gives us different counsel: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” It is a priority very different from that of the world. In fact, it seems counter-intuitive in the world’s way of thinking. But it is the only way to lasting peace and prosperity. It is not the way of fear but the way of faith.

The kingdom of God is His rule and reign in the world. The righteousness of God is His way of doing things, which is always right and always brings the right results. If we make it our priority to seek after His kingdom and rightness, the promise is that “all these things shall be added to you.” Everything else will be well taken care of and all our needs will be met. For “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).

To live in a different economy, one where everything is taken care of, you must have a different priority — the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Different Economy

The economies of the world are not doing too well these days, but God has a different economy for His people. It is an economy of increase, abundance and prosperity.
If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.

I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.

You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you.

For I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you. You shall eat the old harvest, and clear out the old because of the new.
(Leviticus 26:1-10)
When you know the Lord and walk in His ways, you are not bound by the economies of the world. You can partake of the economy of heaven, in which there is no lack, no debt, no late payments, no late fees, no doing without. You will get full measure from your old harvests and full measure in your new.

You will have all your needs met and plenty more besides for every good work: “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).

Your source and supply is not limited by the current economic distresses of the world. Trust in the Lord and follow His ways. Be generous with what you have and give to those in need. God will take care of you. Seek His kingdom and His way of doing and being right in everything you do, and all you need will be added to you.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Table of Wonder

I will remember the LORD’s works;
Yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders.
I will reflect on all You have done
And meditate on Your actions.
(Psalm 77:11-12 HCSB)
At the Table of the Lord we remember His works, His ancient wonders. We reflect on all He has done for us and meditate on His actions. The Table speaks of the giving of Himself, His body and of His blood, which is wondrous indeed. Consider:
  • The Wonder of the Incarnation. The eternal Son of God became human flesh. He did not just take it upon Himself as a costume that He cast aside when He was finished with it. No, He became flesh (John 1:14).
  • The Wonder of the Transfiguration. The wonder of Jesus in His humanity was revealed at Mount Tabor, where Peter, James and John saw the glory of God overshadow Him. “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). This is the glory God originally intended for Adam, and the glory of which we may all now partake.
  • The Wonder of the Cross. It is a wonder that the Son of God not only became flesh, “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). For this reason, God has highly exalted Him and “given Him the name which is above every name” (v. 9). He is exalted, not only in His divinity, but also in His humanity, His flesh.
  • The Wonder of the Resurrection. He was “delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25). “God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power” (1 Corinthians 6:14). “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).
  • The Wonder of the Ascension. God “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:20-21). Jesus, in His humanity—His body—as well as His divinity, sits on the throne of God, where He now rules and reigns forever. And we have been raised up together with Him, and made to sit together with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). This is not future hope but present reality.
The Table of the Lord is where we consider these ancient mysteries and lay hold of these awesome realities. It is a Table of Wonder.

Friday, February 13, 2009

God’s Word in Your Mouth

I have put My words in your mouth,
and covered you in the shadow My hand,
in order to plant the heavens,
to found the earth,
and to say to Zion, “You are My people.”
(Isaiah 51:16 HCSB)
God has put His words in our mouths. Not just in our hearts, so that we may know them, but in our mouths, so that we may speak them. Why? In order to plant the heavens and lay the foundation of earth. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He spoke it all into existence by His words. The author of Hebrews reminds us, “By faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

Just as God originally created heaven and earth by His words, He has put His words in our mouths in order to again establish the heavens and give foundation to the earth. For the whole world fell under a curse when Adam rebelled against God, disconnecting from the life of God. Since man was given dominion over the world, when Adam lost the life and the glory of God, the whole world was plunged into darkness and decay. In Jesus Christ, the “Second Adam,” there is not only redemption for mankind, but restoration for all creation. That is why Paul says,
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:18-22)
God puts His words in our mouths so that we may be revealed as the “sons of God.” That is why Jesus came: “But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). That is also why God gives us His Spirit: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

What are the words that establish heaven and earth? Every promise of God. As we believe them in our hearts and speak them with mouths, we are bringing divine transformation into the world. In this way we exercise dominion and “subdue” the earth, that is, bring it into line with the purpose of God, which is what God created for us to do (Genesis 1:26-28).

Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom, come. Your will, be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Whenever we see things on earth that are out of joint with the will of God in heaven, we have the authority to bring it into alignment by the words of our prayer: “Kingdom of God, come here into this place. Will of God, be done in this place just as it is being done in heaven.”

He also taught us this: “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). The grammatical tense of the Greek text actually means that whatever we bind or loose on earth will have already been bound or loosed in heaven. In other words, by what we bind and loose, we are bringing earth into alignment with heaven.

Jesus continued: “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). When we, as disciples of Jesus, come into agreement on earth about something, it will be done for us from heaven — our Father will see to it. Again, it is bringing earth into alignment with heaven.

Praying in this way and with this authority not only establishes heaven and earth, it establishes heaven on earth. For that is God’s plan, for heaven and earth to joined together as one, forever.
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:1-5)
These are the words God puts in our mouths and this is what they are for.

What are the words you are speaking with your mouth? Are they words that establish heaven on earth?

For more about the dynamics of faith and the power of God’s words, see God’s Word in Your Mouth: Changing Your World Through Faith.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Prayer of Abandonment

Here is that second prayer I was talking about the other day that has helped me to be content that the course of my life is in God’s hands. It is by Charles de Foucauld, also known as Brother Charles of Jesus. He reminds me of Heidi Baker in that he always sought to be “lower still,” to enter the low place of serving others, the ones in front of him.

When I first began praying this prayer years ago, it was with great resignation. Eventually, I found that I began to pray it with great joy and the confidence that my Father is love.
Father, I abandon myself into Your hands.
Do with me what You will.
Whatever You do, I thank You.
I am ready for all,
I accept all.
Let only Your will be done in me, and in all Your creatures,
I ask no more than this, O Lord.

Into Your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,
For I love You, Lord, and so need to give myself,
To surrender myself into Your hands,
Without reserve and with boundless confidence,
For You are my Father.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Course of My Life

The course of my life is in Your power. (Psalm 31:15 HCSB)
The NKJV has the more familiar reading, “My times are in Your hand.” However, “the course of my life,” speaks to me more of the trajectory of my life — not just where I am now, but also where I am heading. It is all in the power of God’s hand.

Recently, I received a note from a friend who had a vision of me. She saw me sitting in my usual place at church (maybe I should get around the room more) with a hardbound book in my hand. Then she saw hands take the book and rip out the last quarter of the pages. As she prayed about this vision, she felt that God was saying I had some preconceived ideas about how things will end but that God had a different ending written. She also sensed that there were still more pages to be written and they would be full of unexpected turns that would never have occurred to me in my version of things. But God has them all written and woven into the plan of my life.

Sounds about right. It was only a week earlier that I myself had ripped out a section of pages. I had made the decision to quit pursuing a course I had been following, on and off, for about fifteen years. I had thought it was God’s path for me, but then I came to the unexpected realization that I did not need to take it to completion — I had already received the benefit I needed from it and this course would no longer serve. So I ripped out those pages about where I thought it would take me. It was a hard thing, but the right thing. There has been a little grieving over it, but mostly a pervading peace.

So now, I have a lot of blank pages. I think I know the chapter I am on, but I do not know exactly where, how or when this one ends and the next one begins. And that’s okay. The course of my life is in God’s hands — and His are very good hands.

I feel a little like Abraham, when God came and said, “Get out of your country … to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Abraham probably thought he knew where his life was going, but then God suddenly appeared and changed everything. Abraham’s life now took on new and unexpected — and wonderful — dimensions. The significance of his life became immeasurable.

There are a couple of prayers that are helpful to me at moments like these. I’ll share one of them with you now:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. ~  Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude.
The course of your life is in God’s hands — and they are very good hands.

Friday, February 6, 2009

How Jesus Did the Impossible

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. (John 14:10)
How did Jesus do the many impossible things He did—healing the sick, loosing people from demonic oppression, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead—the many signs and wonders He performed? Jesus tells us: It was the Father who dwelt in Him who did it.

Jesus was in the Father, and the Father was in Jesus. There was a dwelling, an abiding. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus told the disciples about an abode.
In My Father’s house are many mansions;” if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2-3)
The Greek word for “mansions” is monay and means “abode.” There are many abodes in the Father’s House, many dwelling places. A lot Christians think Jesus was talking about little houses in heaven, some big, some small, according to how well we have lived here. Actually, though, He was speaking of many abodes in the one house, that of the Father.

Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” Again, Christians think He was talking about how He is now busy preparing a place for us, and that when He returns, He will take us there. But I think He had something different in mind; I think He was speaking of what He was about to do on the cross. It was on the cross that He prepared a place for us in the Father, removing the sin that separated us from God. The return He speaks of is not the Second Coming at the end of this present age, but His return from the dead. He went and prepared the place for us, and then He came back and received us to Himself. Paul speaks about the reality of the abiding place we have in the Father’s house:
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)
  • Notice where we are seated: In the heavenlies, in Christ, at the right hand of the Father.
  • Notice when we are seated there: Now! It is not a future hope but a present reality. It is something God has already done, not something we are waiting for Him to do.
Jesus has prepared a place for us in the Father’s house and God has seated us there. It is now our abode.

Jesus said, “Believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.” Jesus was in the Father, but He has now prepared a place for us in the Father, too, and has received us to Himself.

Now consider the second part: “The Father is in Me.” Through faith in Jesus Christ, we now belong in the Father—He is our dwelling place, our abode. But does He also dwell in us? Jesus answers that:
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:23)
The Greek word for “home” here the same word used earlier for “mansion.” In fact, it is the only other time we find this word in the New Testament. When we love Jesus and obey His commands, He and the Father make their abode in us—they are at home in us.

Jesus did the impossible because He abided in the Father and the Father abided in Him. The same is also now true of all who receive the Lord Jesus—we abide in the Father and the Father abides in us.

Now think about what else Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” Jesus did not act out of His own authority, even though He is the eternal Son of God, fully divine as well as fully human. He did not speak His own words, but those of the Father. Therefore the Father was able to do all those impossible works through Him. Jesus says something similar in John 5, where He healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda:
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 … 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. (vv. 19, 30)
By Himself, Jesus could do nothing! Even though He was the fully divine Son of God. It was only as He saw what the Father was doing and said what the Father was saying, and doing and saying those same things, that He could do anything. If that was true of Him, how much more must it be true of us?

And now, Jesus calls us to do impossible things, too. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12). The same works He did, we will do—and even greater works. Why? Because He was going to the Father. A little while later, He explained that He would be sending the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26) Indeed, He had to go so that He could send the Spirit: “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).

Jesus sent us the Helper—the Holy Spirit. This is important because it was by the Spirit, as well as the Father, that Jesus was able to do all those wonderful, impossible works. That is what Peter preached to Cornelius:
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38)
Jesus promised us the same Spirit and the same power: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, an in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Our witness is not only by words but also by works—the evidence of who Jesus is and what He is doing in the world. By this power, the disciples were able to heal the sick, expel demons, perform signs and wonders, and even raise the day, just as Jesus did. We see this in the rest of the book of Acts and throughout Church history (see Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church for a multitude ofexamples).

Jesus did the impossible because He was in the Father and the Father was in Him; because He did what He saw the Father doing and said what He heard the Father saying; because He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. All these belong to us today. Through faith, God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—abides in us and will do the same works through us that were done through Jesus.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Doing the Impossible Things

“Many Christians mistakenly believe that some of Christ’s commands, like the command to love your neighbor as yourself, are possible to observe, while others, like the one to raise the dead, are impossible. The truth is that all of Christ’s commands are impossible to fulfill apart from His grace and supernatural power through the Holy Spirit.” ~ Bill Johnson, Release the Power of Jesus
Lord, help me to do the impossible thing of loving my neighbor as myself so that I may do the impossible thing of raising him from the dead. Amen.