Monday, January 31, 2011

CUT THEM OFF

Jesus tells his disciples, “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire” (Matthew 18:8).

Jesus begins this sentence with the word Wherefore, meaning, “in the light of this.” He is tying his statement into the whole context of the lesson he’s been teaching about mixing works with the cross. So, when he says here, “If your hand or foot or eye offends you,” he’s talking about the offense that the cross brings to the flesh.

When Jesus says, “Pluck it out—cut it off,” he’s talking to Jewish listeners first about their confidence in their own good works. The hand, foot and eye all represent flesh—instruments of independence, by which man goes his own way, relying on self-will and human effort to rid himself of sinful bondages. Christ is saying to such a person, “Your eye is focused on the wrong thing. You’re looking at your own ability and power. Therefore, pluck out your eye. You have to rid your body, mind and heart of all such evil thinking. Renounce it, surgically remove it. Cut off all hope of offering to God anything of your own merit or goodness. Lust and offences must be cut off—but not by your hands. It is the work of the Spirit.

“Then simply run into my arms. Humble yourself like a child by embracing my victory on the cross. Commit to a life of total devotion and dependence on me. Because of my work at Calvary, you are no longer your own. I have bought you. My Spirit will fulfill my demand for holiness in you.”

Friday, January 28, 2011

I CAN’T TALK TO YOU…UNLESS!

Sadly, great numbers of Christians do not know God’s voice. Some can go for months, even years, without ever receiving an intimate word from the Lord in their inner man. Oh, God did speak to them at one time. But over the years, they’ve learned to silence his voice in their hearts. Others have been turned off by so much foolishness among those who believe that every word that pops into their minds is divine. Such people boast, “God told me”—yet the “word” they hear is only their covetous flesh taking voice!

If you want to know and hear God’s voice in the days ahead, be ready to have him speak of cleansing before he speaks of direction. Many Christians want God to tell them how to hold on to what they’ve earned, how to provide for their family, how to keep their business or career afloat. But the truth is, before God gives us a word of direction in any of these matters, he’ll speak to us about his commandments.

“These things I command you, that ye love one another” (John 15:17). God will first speak to you about your actions at home with your wife and children—about your quick temper, your grudges, your unforgiving spirit. He’ll point out every hidden, secret thing in your life—and he’ll lovingly tell you, “I want to be your adviser, your counselor, your guide, your protector, your provider. I want to walk with you through every trial and hardship. And I want to favor, bless and keep you by my Spirit. But first, you have to get honest with me about the hidden idols in your heart. Right now you’re holding on to them—but you must give them up! We simply can’t walk together unless we agree on these matters of your heart!”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

GET TO KNOW THE VOICE OF GOD

God wants us to know that no matter how difficult things may get for us, he will sustain all who trust in him—by the power of his still, small voice, speaking to our inner man daily.

This is confirmed by the prophet Isaiah: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21). You have to understand, Isaiah delivered this word to Israel in the very worst of times. The nation was under judgment, in absolute ruin, with everything breaking down. And so Isaiah told Israel’s leaders, “Turn to the Lord now! He wants to give you a word of direction—to speak to you, saying, ‘Go this way, go that way, here’s the way…’” But they wouldn’t listen. They decided they would turn to Egypt to deliver them! They thought they could rely on the Egyptians’ chariots, horses and supplies to see them through.

Yet, God did not send all of his judgment on Israel at that point. Rather, he decided to wait patiently until the bottom fell out of every plan. He said, “While they’re running around scheming how to survive, I’ll wait. I want to show them my mercy, in spite of their wickedness!” (v. 18). Sure enough, everything failed, and things only got worse for the nation. Finally, when all their schemes had fallen through, God told the people, “Now, let me take over! Open your ears, and I will speak to you. I know the way out, and I will direct you. I want to guide your every move, to the right and to the left, to deliver you. I’ll lead you by my voice—speaking to you, telling you what to do, down to the last detail!”

What matters—what’s vitally important—is that you get to know the voice of God. He is still speaking. He made it clear, “My sheep know my voice.” There are many voices in the world today—loud, demanding voices. But there is that still, small voice of the Lord that can be known and heard by all who trust what Jesus said.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WHO DREAMED UP THIS PLAN FOR SURVIVAL?

“And the word of the Lord came unto him [Elijah], saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan” (I Kings 17: 2–3).

As Elijah looked ahead to the coming crisis, things must have looked absolutely hopeless to him. But God had a specific survival plan in mind for his faithful servant. He instructed the prophet, “Go east to the Jordan River, and there you will find Cherith, a little tributary that runs off. You can get all the drinking water you need from that brook. In addition, I’ve arranged for food to be delivered to you daily, by my courier ravens!”

How could any person, in a million years, ever dream up this kind of a plan for survival? How could Elijah ever have imagined he’d be sent to a hidden brook to find water to drink, when there was nothing but drought everywhere else in the land? How could he ever have thought a daily supply of bread would be brought to him by ravenous birds that ate everything they sank their beaks into?

Later, times got hard for Elijah, because the brook finally dried up. But God stepped in again, giving the prophet another fresh word of direction. He said, “Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow there to sustain thee” (v. 9). Again, I have to ask—how could anyone ever think a poor widow woman, in the midst of a depression, could feed a man for days, weeks, months on end? But the fact is, God uses the most despised, insignificant things of the world for his glory. And he told Elijah, “If you’ll go to her and do what I tell you, you’ll survive. Listen to me—heed my direction—and you’ll make it through!”

The evidence is overwhelming: God—our adviser, counselor and survival expert—has a detailed plan for every one of his children, to help us face the worst of times!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

PEACE WITH GOD

Jesus died on the cross to purchase peace with God for me—and he’s in heaven now to maintain that peace, for me and in me. The peace we have with God through Christ distinguishes our faith from all other religions.

In every other religion besides Christianity, the sin question is never settled. Sin’s dominion simply hasn’t been broken. Therefore there can be no peace: “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22). But we have a God who provides peace by pardoning sin. This is the very reason Jesus came to earth: to bring peace to troubled, fearful humankind.

How does Jesus maintain God’s peace for me? He does it in three ways:

  • First, Christ’s blood removed the guilt of my sin. In this sense, Paul says, “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Jesus made peace for me through his blood.
  • Second, Christ maintains my peace and joy in believing: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans15:13).
  • Third, Jesus causes me to rejoice at the hope of entering glory: “We…rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

Simply put, peace is the absence of fear. And a life without fear is a life full of peace.

When Jesus ascended to heaven, he didn’t just bask in the glory that God bestowed on him. No, he went to the Father to maintain the hard-won peace he achieved for us at Calvary.

Our Savior is alive in glory right now. And he’s both fully God and fully human, with hands, feet, eyes, hair. He also has the nail scars on his hands and feet, the wound in his side. He has never discarded his humanity; he is still a man in glory. And right now, our man in eternity is working to make sure we’re never robbed of the peace he gave us when he left. He’s ministering as our high priest, actively involved in keeping his body on earth full of his peace. And when he comes again he wants us to “be found of him in peace” (2 Peter 3:14).

When I sin, my peace is interrupted in two areas. First, my conscience troubles and accuses me, and rightly so. But, second, Satan’s accusations put fear in me. I believe these are the two primary areas where Christ’s intercession applies to us.

First, my high priest won’t permit my conscience to hold me captive. Nor will he allow Satan’s accusations against me to go unchallenged. Christ is my advocate with the Father against every accusation from hell. What is an advocate? It is simply “my friend in court.” For Christians, this friend in court is also the son of the judge. In addition, our advocate is our brother. In fact, we are set to inherit the judge’s fortune along with him.

Monday, January 24, 2011

OUR INTERCESSOR

“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

What does Scripture mean when it says Jesus makes intercession for us? I believe this subject is so deep, majestic and beyond human understanding, I tremble even to address it. Bible scholars hold various views on its meaning.

Through prayer and trust in the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I’m beginning to grasp just a little of this incredible subject. Recently, I’ve prayed very simply, “Lord, how does your intercession in heaven affect my life? Your Word says you appear before the Father on my behalf. What does this mean in my daily walk with you?”

The English word intercession means “to plead on another’s behalf.” This speaks of a figure who takes your place before others to plead your cause. When you hear such a definition, do you picture Christ continually pleading to God for you, asking for mercy, forgiveness, grace and blessings? In my opinion, this image makes our heavenly Father appear tight-fisted. I simply refuse to believe that grace has to be pried out of our loving God. If we limit ourselves to such a narrow definition of intercession, we’ll never understand the deeper spiritual meaning of what Christ does for us.

The Bible declares that my heavenly Father knows my needs before I can ask him. And often, he supplies those needs even before I pray. Therefore, I find it difficult to accept that God’s own Son has to plead with him for anything. Besides, Scripture says the Father has already entrusted his Son with all things: “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).

I don’t claim to know everything about Christ’s intercession for us. But I do believe that whatever our high priest is doing in his intercession for us, it is a very simple matter. And I believe that intercession has to do directly with the growth of his body here on earth. He is at work supplying every joint and part with might and strength.

Friday, January 21, 2011

IT WAS IN THE DEPTHS THAT DAVID’S PRAYING BECAME INTENSE

In desperation, David cried out, “Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications” (Psalm 130:2). This sounds to me like the plea of a dying man. David obviously wasn’t just uttering “thought prayers.” He was face down on the ground—broken, contrite, pleading with God from the very depths of his heart, “O holy God Jehovah, you must hear my cry! I can’t go on any longer. My sin is ever before me, and I’m sinking with fear and dread. Please, God, have mercy on me.”

David knew his soul needed a release. And he turned to God alone to find that release. He concluded, “I’m in such a dire condition, only the Lord can help me now. I can’t rely on counselors, friends, even family. My only hope is in prayer. So I’m going to cry out night and day until God hears my plea!”

Have you gotten as desperate as David was? Have you shut yourself in with the Lord, falling on your face and crying out to him? Dull, quiet, lazy praying won’t accomplish anything. If you’re not unburdening your soul to God, you don’t really want healing—you want out! David testified, “I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart…and my groaning is not hid from thee” (Psalm 38:8-9).

You have to cry out loudly, as David did, “Lord, hear my plea! I’m not letting go of you until you answer!”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

CHASTENING—YOU ARE LOVED

If you’re in the depths right now because of sin—if you’re overcome because of the Lord’s rod on your back, be encouraged. He’s chastening you because of his tender love. He chastens because he wants you to fear him—to know his care for you.

What, exactly, does it mean to fear the Lord? It means being able to say, “I know my Father loves me. I’m safely forever his and I know he’ll never abandon me. He feels my pain whenever I struggle. And he’s patient with me as I war against unbelief. He’s always ready to forgive me whenever I call on him. But I also know he’s not going to allow me to keep disobeying his Word. My heavenly Father won’t spare me—because he loves me deeply.” Chastening is for correction.

That is the point of it all. God wants us to accept his forgiveness so we may fear him. “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:4). Once we fear the Lord, we’ll want more than just to obey him. We’ll want to please him, to put a smile on his face. That is the blessed result of the holy fear of God.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

ONLY BY FAITH

God’s forgiveness can be obtained only by faith. We can’t reason it out. Christ’s gift to us of his blood atonement is so deep, so gracious, so mysterious, it’s far beyond any human ability to understand. We may see the law clearly applied to our sin. We may feel condemnation, fear and guilt over our trespasses. But our heavenly Father stands lovingly beside us at all times, ready to forgive.

The blood of Christ, the love of the Father, the Lord’s desire to pardon: all these blessings are known only by faith. “The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11).

You may wonder, “How many times will the Lord forgive me for indulging in the same sin again and again?” Rest assured his incredible forgiveness is unlimited. Every time you sin, you can go to Jesus and find deliverance. Yet the Lord’s forgiveness is not unwise or blind. To be sure, our heavenly Father forgives us—but at a certain point, he chastens us to keep us from continuing to sin. “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

DAVID WAS BROUGHT UP FROM THE DEPTHS BY REMEMBERING THE FORGIVING NATURE OF GOD

After all his weeping and crying out to the Lord, David ended up testifying, “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:4). The Holy Spirit began to flood his soul with memories of God’s mercies, and suddenly David recalled all he’d learned of the Father’s forgiving, pardoning nature. “Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Nehemiah 9:17).

Soon David was rejoicing, reminding himself, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5). “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities…” (103:3). Here is one of the foundational promises of the New Covenant. Jeremiah declares, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). And Paul adds in the New Testament, “…having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). God has promised us his forgiveness, for every sin!

Monday, January 17, 2011

TOO MANY CHRISTIANS STAY DOWN IN THE DEPTHS, IN TOTAL DESPONDENCY

For many believers, sinking to the bottom means the end. They become so overwhelmed by their failures, they develop a sense of unworthiness. And over time they feel trapped beyond any help. Isaiah wrote of such believers, “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted…” (Isaiah 54:11).

Some eventually get mad at God. They grow tired of waiting for him to move, so they cry accusingly, “Lord, where were you when I needed you? I cried out to you for deliverance, but you never answered. I’ve done everything I know to do, yet I’m still not free. I’m tired of repenting and crying, without ever seeing any change!” Many such believers simply give up trying and give themselves over to their flesh.

Others fall into a fog of spiritual apathy. They’re convinced God doesn’t care about them anymore. They tell themselves, “My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God” (Isaiah 40:27). “The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14).

Still others end up focusing all their attention on the failure, trying to keep themselves in a constant state of conviction. Yet this only causes them to be bewildered, crying, “Our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?” (Ezekiel 33:10).

The fact is, feeling conviction is not an end in itself. When we’re humbled by guilt and sorrow over our sin, we’re not supposed to rest in those feelings. They’re meant to drive us to the end of ourselves—and to the victory of the cross!

Friday, January 14, 2011

JEHOVAH SHAMMAH—THE LORD IS THERE

To be a member of God’s true church, you must be known by the name of Jehovah Shammah—“The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). Others must be able to say of you, “It’s clear to me the Lord is with this person. Every time I see him, I sense the presence of Jesus. His life truly reflects the glory of God.”

If we’re honest, we have to admit we don’t sense the Lord’s sweet presence in each other very often. Why? Christians spend their time involved in good religious activities—prayer groups, Bible studies, outreach ministries—and that’s all very commendable. But many of these same Christians spend little if any time at all ministering to the Lord, in the secret closet of prayer.

The Lord’s presence simply can’t be faked. This is true whether it applies to an individual’s life or to a church body. When I speak of God’s presence, I’m not talking about some kind of spiritual aura that mystically surrounds a person or that comes down in a church service. Rather, I am talking about the result of s simple but powerful walk of faith. Whether that’s manifested in a Christian’s life or in an entire congregation, it causes people to take note. They tell themselves, “This person has been with Jesus,” or “This congregation truly believes what they preach.”

It takes much more than a righteous pastor to produce a Jehovah Shammah church. It takes a righteous, shut-in people of God. If a stranger comes out of a church service and says, “I felt the presence of Jesus there,” you can be sure it wasn’t just because of the preaching or worship. It was because a righteous congregation had entered God’s house, and the Lord’s glory was abiding in their midst.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

HIS NAME IS FORGIVENESS

“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19).

How is our Lord distinguished from all the other gods worshipped throughout the world? Of course, we know our God is above all others, set apart in every way. But one clear way we know the Lord to be distinguished from others is by his name: the God who pardons. Scripture reveals our Lord as the God who forgives, the only God who has the power to pardon sin. “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?” (Micah 7:18).

We see this name of God confirmed throughout the Scriptures.

• Nehemiah declared, “Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not” (Nehemiah 9:17). The proper translation of the phrase “a God ready to pardon” is “a God of propitiation” or “a God of forgiveness.”
• Moses asked the Lord for a revelation of his glory. He wasn’t allowed to see God’s face, but the Lord did reveal his glory to Moses through a revelation of his name. What was the name of God that was revealed to Moses? “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6–7).
• David gives us the same Hebrew description of God. He writes, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5). David penned these words out of his own difficult personal experience.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

OUR SHEPHERD STILL LOVES THE STRAYS

Our great shepherd loves every sheep who has gone astray because of testings, trials, hurts and wounds. We never dare to accuse our shepherd of abandoning us. He still walks beside us and watches over us at all times.

Right now you may be waging a losing war against some kind of temptation. Whatever your struggle is, you’ve determined not to run away from the Lord. You refuse to give yourself over to sin’s grasp. Instead, you’ve taken God’s Word to heart.

Yet, like David, you’ve grown weary. And now you’ve come to a point where you feel absolutely helpless. The enemy is flooding you with despair, fear, lies.

Your testing may become even more mystifying and unexplainable. But I want you to know—no matter what you’re going through, the Holy Ghost wants to reveal in you Jehovah Rohi, the Lord your shepherd. You have a shepherd who wants to imprint his love on your heart.

Jesus assures us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And our heavenly Father—Jehovah Rohi, the Lord our shepherd—has revealed himself to us in Psalm 23. He tells us, “I know you by name, and I know what you’re going through. Come, lie down in my grace and love. Don’t try to figure out everything. Just accept my love for you. And rest in loving arms. Yes, I’m the Lord of hosts. I’m the majestic and holy God. I want you to know all of these revelations about me. But the one revelation I want you to have right now is the revelation of Jehovah Rohi. I want you to know me as your loving, caring shepherd. And I want you to rest assured I’ll bring you through all your trials, in my tenderness and love.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

THE LORD MY SHEPHERD

We are all familiar with the 23rd Psalm. Its comforting message is well known even among non-believers. This renowned psalm was written by King David, and its most famous passage is contained in the opening verse: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

The Hebrew word David uses for want in this verse indicates a meaning of lack. David is saying, in other words, “I shall not lack anything.” When we combine this meaning with the first part of the verse, David is saying, “The Lord leads, guides and nourishes me. And because of that, I have no lack.”

In this brief verse, David gives us yet another reflection of the Lord’s character and nature. The literal Hebrew translation of the first part of this verse is Jehovah Rohi (pronounced Je-HO-va-RO’-ee). It means “the Lord, my shepherd.”

Jehovah Rohi is not some benign, passive shepherd. He isn’t a hireling—someone who does little more than provide food and guidance. He doesn’t merely point us toward the grassy pasture and pools of water, and say, “There’s what you need. Go and get it.” Nor does he turn a blind eye to our needs. He doesn’t run the other way when he hears our cries for help and sees us in trouble. No, he knows every pain we endure, every tear we shed, every hurt we feel. He knows when we’re too weary to go another step. He knows just how much we can take. Most of all, he knows how to rescue us and bring us to a place of healing. Time after time, our shepherd comes after us, fetches us and takes us to a place of rest. He continually makes us lie down for a time of healing and restoration.

Jehovah Rohi—the Lord our shepherd—is compelling us to follow him into his rest, so that he might “shekinah” in our midst. The Lord says in Exodus 29:45, “I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.” The Hebrew word for dwell here is shekinah, meaning “to abide by, or to settle down beside.” This word signifies not just a passing presence, but a permanent one—a presence that never leaves. In short, the shekinah glory of God is not a vanishing imprint that disappears from our hearts like invisible ink. No, it’s something God imprints permanently on our soul. It’s his very near and eternal presence.

The picture here is glorious: Our shepherd offers to come to us in the midst of our pain and depressed condition, and to sit by our side. He promises to bind up our wounds and strengthen the parts of us that have become sick and diseased.

That’s the shekinah glory of God: the abiding, everlasting presence of the Lord. And we often experience it when we’re in the midst of trouble. Our great shepherd tells us, “I want to restore you. And I’m going to do it by being present with you, even in the valley and shadow of death. My presence will be with you through everything the devil throws at you. Even if you try to run from me, I’m going to chase after you. And when I catch you, I am going to take you in my arms and carry you back to my rest. Then I’ll bind up your wounds and heal all your sicknesses.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

ALL HE WANTS IS YOUR FAITH

God doesn’t want your home, your car, your furniture, your savings, your possessions. All he wants is your faith—your strong belief in his Word. And that may be the one thing that other, more spiritual-appearing people lack. You may look at another person as being more spiritual than you. But that person may actually be struggling hard to keep up an appearance of righteousness. Yet, as God looks at you, he declares, “There is a righteous man or woman.” Why? You’ve admitted your helplessness to become righteous. And you’ve trusted in the Lord to give you his righteousness.

Paul tells us we are accounted as righteous in God’s eyes for the same reason Abraham was. “Therefore it was imputed to [Abraham] for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Romans 4:22–24).

You may claim, “I believe this. I have faith in the God who resurrected Jesus.” Yet, the question for you is, do you believe the Lord can resurrect your troubled marriage? Do you believe he can bring to life a spiritually dead relative? Do you believe he can raise you up out of the pit of a debilitating habit? Do you believe he can erase your cursed past and restore to you all the years the cankerworm has eaten?

When everything looks hopeless—when you are in an impossible situation, with no resources, and no hope before you—do you believe God will be your Jehovah Jirah, seeing to your need? Do you believe he’s committed to keeping his promises to you—and that if even one of his words fails, the heavens would melt and the universe collapse?

Friday, January 7, 2011

THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:5–6).

God gave the prophet Jeremiah a revelation of Jehovah Tsidkenu (pronounced Je-HO-va Sid-KAY’-noo) in a time of crisis similar to the one we face today. So, what does this mean for us, in practical terms? What is this righteousness he’s the Lord of—and how are we to know and understand Jesus in this role?

Paul gives us some insight into God’s definition of righteousness in several passages.

• “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3).• “Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness” (Romans 4:9).• “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6).

Each of these verses refers to one thing that Abraham did to attain true righteousness: he believed.

Finally, Paul provides the Lord’s definition of righteousness: “[Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:20–22).

The Bible could not make this matter any clearer. Righteousness is believing the promises of God, being fully persuaded he’ll keep his word.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

WE ARE NOT WITHOUT HOPE

We who know Christ’s righteousness are not to live as those who are without hope. We have been blessed with both the love and the fear of God. And his will for us in the darkest, most terrible times is to obtain his joy and gladness. Even as we see judgment falling around us, we’re to sing, shout and rejoice—not because judgment has come but in spite of it.

Isaiah 51:11 begins with the word Therefore, meaning, “In light of what I’ve just said.” What had God just said here? He had reminded his people, “[I] made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over” (Isaiah 51:10), meaning, “I’m still the Lord, the Ancient of Days, the worker of miracles. And my arm is still strong to deliver you.”

So, what is it God wants his people to know in light of this truth? He says it all in one verse, Isaiah 51:11:

• “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion.” In other words: “I’m going to have a people who return to me with trust, faith and confidence. They take their eyes off the conditions surrounding them. And they’ll get back their song of joy.”

• “Everlasting joy shall be upon their head.” The joy that God’s people experience won’t be just for a Sunday morning, or a week or a month. It will last through the years, through hard times, even to the very end.

• “They shall obtain gladness and joy.” God looked down through the ages and said, “I’m going to have a people who will obtain joy, take, possess it. They’ll lay hold of it, and it will be theirs.”

• “Sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” This doesn’t mean all our suffering will end. It means our trust in the Lord will put us above every pain and trial. Such things won’t be able to rob us of our joy and gladness in Christ.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

GETTING TO KNOW THE FATHER

I believe our natural children get to know our nature and character toward them most during their times of crisis. When they’re in the midst of pain, suffering and need, they recognize our deep care and provision for them. When my children were growing up, I didn’t have to lecture them about what I’m like. I never had to say, “I’m your father—I’m patient, kind, full of mercy and lovingkindness toward you. I’m tenderhearted over you, ready to forgive you at all times.” It would have been ludicrous for me to make this kind of proclamation. Why? My kids learned about my love for them during their crisis experiences. And now, as they’re grown and married with children of their own, my sons and daughters are getting to know me through a whole new set of experiences. They’re learning even more about me by my attitudes and actions toward them in this new time of need in their lives.

So it is with us, in getting to know our heavenly Father. From the time of Adam down through the cross of Christ, the Lord gave his people an ever-increasing revelation of his character. Yet he didn’t do this simply by proclaiming who he is. He didn’t try to reveal himself by merely announcing, “The following names describe my nature. Now, go and learn these, and you’ll discover who I am.”

The Hebrew expressions (names) do describe the wondrous glories and provisions that are wrapped up in our Lord’s name. Yet, God revealed these aspects of his nature to his people by actually doing for them what he proclaimed himself to be. He saw his children’s needs, foresaw the enemy’s strategy against them, and intervened supernaturally on their behalf.

I urge you to get to know your heavenly Father slowly, purposefully, on a heart level. Ask the Holy Spirit to recall to you the many facets of heavenly provision God has given you during your times of need. Then ask the Spirit to build into you a true heart knowledge of I AM—the God that is everything you need, at all times.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

THE GREATEST TEST OF ALL

“And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14:21).

Before the Israelites was a path that would lead them to safety. In this crucial moment, God wanted his people to look at those walls and believe he would hold back the water until they arrived safely on the other side. Simply put, God wanted his people to have a faith that declared, “He who began this miracle for us will finish it. He has already proven to us he’s faithful.

“As we look back, we see that all our fears were wasted. We shouldn’t have been afraid when we saw the Egyptians coming. God put up a supernatural wall of darkness to protect us from them, and we shouldn’t have feared their threats through the night. The whole time, God provided us with an illuminating light, while our enemies were blinded by darkness. We also wasted our fears on those fierce winds, when all that time God was using them to make our way of escape.

“We see now that God desires only to do good to us. We’ve seen his power and glory on our behalf. And now we are determined to no longer live in fear. It doesn’t matter to us if those walls of water collapse. Live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

There was a reason God wanted this kind of faith for Israel at this point. They were about to face a journey through the wilderness. They would endure deprivation, danger and suffering. So He said, “I want my people to know I’ll do them only good. I don’t want them to be afraid they’re going to die every time they face danger. I want a people who aren’t afraid of death, because they know I am trustworthy in all things.”

A true worshipper isn’t someone who dances after the victory is won. It isn’t the person who sings God’s praises once the enemy has been vanquished. That’s what the Israelites did. When God parted the Red Sea and they arrived on the other side, they sang and danced, praised God and extolled his greatness. Yet, three days later, these same people murmured bitterly against God, at Marah. These weren’t worshippers—they were shallow shouters!

A true worshipper is one who has learned to trust God in the storm. This person’s worship isn’t just in his words, but in his way of life. His world is at rest at all times, because his trust in God’s faithfulness is unshakable. He isn’t afraid of the future, because he’s no longer afraid to die.

Gwen and I saw this kind of unshakable faith in our twelve-year-old granddaughter Tiffany. Sitting at her bedside in her final days, we beheld in her a peace that surpassed all our understanding. She told me, “Grandpa, I want to go home. I’ve seen Jesus, and he told me he wants me to be there. I just don’t want to be here anymore.” Tiffany had lost all fear of death and deprivation.

That is the rest God wants for his people. It’s a confidence that says like Paul, and like Tiffany, “Live or die, I am the Lord’s.” This is what makes a true worshipper.

I pray that all who read this message can say in the midst of their storm: “Yes, the economy may collapse. Yes, I may still be facing a dark, stormy night. But God has proven himself faithful to me. No matter what comes, I will rest in his love for me.”

Monday, January 3, 2011

DO THREE THINGS

In the midst of their trial God told Israel to do three things: “Fear not. Stand still. See the salvation of the Lord.” His call to Israel was, “I am going to fight for you. You’re simply to hold your peace. Just be quiet, and put everything in my hands. Right now, I’m doing a work in the supernatural realm. Everything is under my control. So, don’t panic. Trust that I’m fighting the devil. This battle is not yours” (see Exodus 14:13-14).

Soon dusk fell over the camp. This was the beginning of Israel’s dark and stormy night. But it was also the beginning of God’s supernatural work. He sent an awesome, protective angel to stand between his people and their enemy. I believe God still sends protective angels to camp around all who love and fear him (see Psalm 34:7).

The Lord also moved the supernatural cloud he’d given to Israel for guidance. The cloud suddenly shifted from the front of Israel’s camp to the rear and it loomed as a pitch-black wall before the Egyptians. On the other side, the cloud provided a supernatural light, giving the Israelites clear visibility all night long (see Exodus 14:20).

Even though Pharaoh’s army was in total darkness, they could still raise their voices. And all night long they spewed forth threats and lies. Israel’s tents shook from this barrage of lies throughout that dark night. But it didn’t matter how loudly the enemy threatened them. An angel was on guard to protect them, and God had promised his people he would bring them through.

Dear saint, if you’re a blood-bought child of God, he has put a warrior angel between you and the devil. And he commands you, just as he told Israel, “Do not fear. Stand still. Believe in my salvation.” Satan may come against you breathing every evil threat. But at no time during your dark, stormy night is the enemy ever able to destroy you.

“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night” (Exodus 14:21).

The windstorm that God brought down was so powerful, it began to part the waves of the sea: “The strong east wind…made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (14:21).

The Hebrew word for wind here means “violent exhaling.” In other words, God exhaled and the water congealed in walls. Israel’s tent-dwellings must have shaken fiercely as those mighty torrents blew through the camp. Why did God allow Israel to go through an entire stormy night, when he could have spoken a mere word and calmed the elements?

What a storm it must have been. And what a fearful time it had to be for Israel. I ask you, what was God up to here? Why would he allow such a terrible windstorm to go on all night? Why didn’t he just tell Moses to touch the water with his mantle, and part the waves supernaturally? What possible reason did God have for permitting this awful night to take place?

There was but one reason: The Lord was making worshippers. God was at work the whole time, using the terrible storm to make a path for his people out of the crisis. Yet the Israelites couldn’t see it at the time. Many were hiding in their tents, but those who came outside witnessed a glorious light show. They also beheld the glorious sight of waves mounting up, mighty walls of water rising to form a dry path through the sea. When the people saw this, they must have shouted, “Look, God has used the wind to make a way for us. Praise the Lord!”