Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Prayer for the Leaders of Nations

All the kings on earth will give You thanks, Lord,
when they hear what You have promised.
They will sing of the Lord’s ways,
for the Lord’s glory is great.
(Psalm 138:4-5 HCSB)
This is the kingdom of God coming, the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven. It is my prayer and my expectation.

O God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, give to the kings of the earth the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. That they may hear what you have promised, rejoice in Your ways and give You thanks. Amen.

(See also When All the Kings of the Earth Shall Hear.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Algebra of Our Inheritance

O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.
(Psalm 16:5-6)
Here is the algebra of our inheritance. Yes, we have a good inheritance.
  • Jesus is heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2)
  • We are joint-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17)
  • We are heirs of all things.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Divine Portrait of Prosperity: Psalm 112

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 prosperity 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 prosperity. 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).

The blessing of a divinely peaceful and prosperous life follows from living in awe of the Lord and walking in His ways.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Divine Portrait of Prosperity: Psalm 144

David sings of the prosperity of His people and asks God to deliver them from the hand of those who speak lying words and act falsely. It is a picture of national prosperity.
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars,
Sculptured in palace style;
That our barns may be full,
Supplying all kinds of produce;
That our sheep may bring forth thousands
And ten thousands in our fields;
That our oxen may be well-laden;
That there be no breaking in or going out;
That there be no outcry in our streets.
Happy are the people who are in such a state;
Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!
(Psalm 144:12-15)
This echoes the blessing of Deuteronomy 28:1-14, the prosperity that follows a people who live in awe of the Divine, listen to His voice and walk in His wisdom. It is a covenant promise initially given to Israel, but God has broadened it to include all nations and peoples — He will not turn away anyone who comes to receive His grace. That is why Jesus came, to rescue, redeem, reconcile and restore what was lost. His reign brings peace, prosperity and protection to those who honor Him.

God desires to bless our country with peace, prosperity and protection, and He will do it if we will turn to Him.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Gospel Jesus Preached

Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
Jesus came preaching the gospel — the good news about the kingdom of God. What was the message? “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” The Greek word for “time” here is not chronos, the word for chronological or sequential time, but kairos, a word that speaks of the rightness or ripeness of a time. It signifies the acute presence of a propitious moment.

The announcement of the gospel Jesus preached is that the time has been fulfilled, the acute moment for the kingdom of God has arrived. That kingdom is now at hand. That is, it is here. It has come upon the scene and is now present among us.

This kingdom is the one God promised long ago to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The one that would reign over all nations and be a blessing to all the families of the earth. The one that would have God’s Anointed — the Messiah, the Christ — as its king. This kingdom had finally arrived — present in the person of King Jesus — and now the world would never be the same again.

John the Baptist came earlier to prepare the way for this King and this kingdom. He brought a baptism of repentance, because this kingdom would be about pardon for and freedom from sins (Mark 1:4). Many in Jerusalem and Judea came to him at the Jordan River and were bathed by him in its waters, confessing their sins (v. 5). John baptized them with water but he declared that the One who would come after him would baptize them with the Holy Spirit (v. 8).

When Jesus came to be baptized of John — not for any sin of His own — the heavens parted as He came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and the voice of the Father declared, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (vv. 9-11). This identified Jesus as the fulfillment of Psalm 2 — the Messiah, Son of God, established as God’s King in Zion.
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
I will declare the decree:
The LORD has said to Me,
“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”
(Psalm 2:6-7)
Immediately, Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness where He was tested for 40 days. When He emerged, He came announcing the presence of the kingdom and called for this response: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The Greek word for “repentance” is metanoia and refers to a change of mind, a change of heart, a change of attitude, a change of will, the way you think and respond. It is a fresh start, departing from an old, dead way in order to embrace a new and living reality.

True repentance must be followed by a fresh faith. There is no point in having a new beginning if you go right back to the same old ways of thinking and acting. Repentance is a change of belief that naturally results in a change of life.

The object of this fresh faith is the gospel, the good news Jesus preached: The kingdom of God is here. The rule and reign of God has come into the world in the person of the King, Jesus the Messiah. And that changes everything!

The kingdom of God has not yet come in all its fullness, though, but it has already begun. Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12 NIV). Luke’s Gospel has it this way: “The Law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it” (Luke 16:16). Ever since those days, the kingdom of God has been forcefully advancing, pressing into the world, and those who are ready to take it by faith are pressing into it.

It has already come; it is not yet in fullness.That sounds like a riddle, and theologians have referred to this as the paradox of already/not yet. What it means is that we are living in the in-between time. Every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. We are in the middle. Our part in this story is to believe in the kingdom that has begun and will one day be completely revealed on earth.

This in-between time requires constant repentance and constant faith. Every day is a new opportunity to turn from the old way of this present age and embrace the new reality of God’s kingdom breaking into the world. An opportunity to yield to the Spirit of God, given to us at Pentecost to dwell in and empower everyone who receives Jesus as King, and see heaven break forth on earth.

The kingdom of God has come into the world and those who turn and believe King Jesus press into it by faith.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Gospel of the Nations

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:5-6)
God’s plan, ever since Adam plunged creation under the curse through rebellion against Him, has always been to redeem the world and its inhabitants. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).

To this end, God chose Abraham and made him a promise: “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Galatians 3:8; see The Gospel of Abraham). He confirmed this to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and to Isaac’s son, Jacob (see The Gospel of the King).

Through Jacob, He created a nation, Israel, that they might be a priestly people. “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). The purpose of a priest is to act as mediator between God and the people, to represent God to the people and the people to God. The purpose of a priestly nation is to represent God to the nations and the nations to God. God’s covenant with Israel was never just for Israel’s sake, but for the sake of the whole world, all the families of the earth — the nations.
For thus says the Lord of Hosts, “Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord of Hosts. “The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,” declares the Lord of Hosts. “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,” says the Lord of Hosts, “and in this place I will give peace,” declares the Lord of Hosts. (Haggai 2:6-9 NASB)
God is bringing in the wealth of the nations to rebuild His temple. The immediate reference in Haggai was to the natural resources of the nations being used to rebuild a physical temple, but there is also a deeper significance. For the Jews of the Second Temple era, it held great eschatological importance, speaking to the final outworking of God’s purpose in the world. The author of Hebrews picks up on this theme:
But now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Hebrews 12:26-28)
This is not about a physical temple but an enduring kingdom, the rule and reign of God on the earth, which cannot be shaken. It is no longer just a future hope but a present reality. Though it has not yet been fully realized, it has already begun, for we are now receiving it (present continuous action).

What the prophet Haggai did not understand is now made plain in Jesus Christ. The enduring temple in the kingdom of God is not a physical entity that can be shaken but a spiritual one that cannot. The wealth of the nations is not their natural resources but their people. Peter tells us, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). This temple is composed of “living stones” from all the nations of the earth—all who receive Jesus the Messiah as King:
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth — to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people — saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6-7)
After His resurrection from the dead and before He ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father, the Lord Jesus appeared to His disciples and said:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
God’s plan to restore the world and set everything right is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah, who now reigns as King over all. He is calling the nations to embrace His divine kingdom, become part of His living temple, enjoy the glory and goodness of His house and experience the fullness of God’s shalom — peace and wholeness.