Clinging Tighter Than Our Lives

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“And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many…” Daniel 8:25

 
Did you ever imagine that peace, yes, PEACE, could be destructive? Could these words of Daniel written 2,500 years ago be important to us today? Should they make us stop and think? Should they cause us to be moved and to change our thinking and actions? Daniel saw this vision from God, heard it’s interpretation from the angel Gabriel at God’s command, and became weak to fainting and sick. And even after he got over that, the things he had seen still made him feel numb. And still he couldn’t put it all together. But here’s the point: He didn’t walk away unaffected. He carried those thoughts with him and they affected his whole being.

 
Maybe it would be beneficial to take time out to think about what Daniel was shown. His vision is about kings rising to power and then being overthrown by other kings with other kingdoms. This is actually a vision given right before King Belshazzar was overthrown and it tells of his destruction. So knowing that must have made Daniel uneasy. After all, he had already been through the destruction of his own kingdom, and seen the death and havoc it rained on those he cared for. Now to see that again? But this wasn’t just a vision of now, for David. It was a vision that stretched to the end times. How near were they?

 
Lord, You didn’t just give this vision to Daniel for people of his time to be aware. You gave this vision to Daniel so we could be aware today also. Because Your vision has not yet been completed. It is still coming to be. Even now, we are somewhere in that latter time of the kingdom. Even today we may be in the time of the king with the fierce countenance and understanding of stratagems.

 

What could that mean to have a fierce countenance? It could mean Hebraicly that your face, your personage exhibits strength, vehemency, harshness, power, or greed. It could be that you are hardened and that your self is puffed up in it’s own strength, like what happens with so many leaders. Here’s someone who is coming who will understand stratagems. Understand that stratagems can be conceit, tricks, and being good with lots of wordiness about philosophy and general principals.

 
But this leader, who will have power, well, it won’t be his own. I wonder then from whom this power is imparted to him? Who gives him this power to “destroy wonderfully”? That word for wonderful can mean miraculously. That’s pretty scary. I mean, Jesus came to seek and save and did and does so miraculously and we know that His power is of God. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56) So who comes to destroy them?

 
Jesus discussed this with His disciples and for our benefit. “The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Who is the thief? It’s not God because God gave Jesus as the Good Shepherd. But there is also a thief at work trying to destroy God’s work by destroying His workmanship- the people of God, His beloved.

 
Well, let’s continue to search for who this ruler’s power comes from. Who is the thief of thieves? Peter warned believers, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” (1 Peter 4:15) Obviously, these characteristics are not of God, not a part of being in Christ. Jesus Himself accused some men of these characteristics and let’s see who He equated that with: “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

 
Think about it. What will it be like to be under a ruler who is full of the power of deception given from his father, the devil? Think about him or her prospering, pushing forward, doing his will. And what is his will? What is Satan’s will? He’s a defeated foe. How do they act? I think of Japan in the Philippines when they knew the Americans were coming back and they would be defeated. I have a friend who was there, living in Manila. His dad was working for the Japanese, (actually telling secrets about them to the resistance!) and the Japanese he was working with liked him and his kids. So one day, they told my friend’s father, “Get your family and leave because all the people will be gathered into the fields and slaughtered.” Defeated enemies can be terribly violent. This is the type of enemy that the devil is.

 
His aim will be to use this man to destroy God’s people, the mighty and holy ones of God. Who are these mighty and holy ones of God? That’s you and I if we are His. And how will this leader empowered by Satan do that? By his policy, the way he uses his intelligence and understanding, deceit and fraud and subtlety and treachery will be employed to its fullest. And people will be sucked in to this way of thinking. He’ll be puffed up in his own heart which will lead others to be puffed up in their own hearts. And get this, by peace he shall destroy many! Can you imagine that? We all cry out for peace and he will use peace to destroy. How is that?

 
The Hebrew word here for peace is shalvah. It’s about security. It incorporates abundance, peace, prosperity, and quietness. It’s what the world is looking for in itself but what can only really be found in God. So this leader, under Satan’s influence will give it to everyone the world’s way and deceive them into thinking that security in things and power, and abundance in wealth and possession, and quietness between people and nations is the goal of life. Now here’s the scary part. As a society, actually as societies all over the world, the majority are already buying into this way of thinking. Terrorism is at our door but we choose to believe the lie that all people are good. So we don’t act upon the facts but upon our false feelings. And it’s not just people who don’t know Christ. It’s among people who call themselves believers and yet don’t act like You. Instead, believers are clinging to the security of their government instead of God. We fight Islam with weapons instead of the power of God’s word and God’s love. We choose comfort and abundance and quietness instead of sacrifice. It’s not just the problem of those on the outside. We’ve allowed ourselves to become deceptively corrupted from Your intent. And it’s time that it made us weak inside and sick like it did Daniel. But does it?

 
One day You are going to show us that our beautiful big homes that we feel so secure in, have no security at all. Just let an earthquake or Tsunami or flood or fire come, and then what? Where will our security be? One day, banks will fail, or we will be robbed, or lose our job, or so many financial things will happen at once that we’ll wonder what happened to our abundance we were relying on. And what happens when something happens to my happy family and it’s not so happy and peaceful any more? Where will I be then? What happens when my quietness I have rejoiced in becomes loneliness? What benefit is that kind of peace?

 
Here’s the thing. Our peace must be in something Other than this. Paul shared, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21) Our peace must come through God in Jesus Christ. Our peace and our existence is only found in Him. And in Him we are given the ability to spread that peace to others, that’s that perfection He is bringing about in us to do His will, His way, by His power to make Himself known in those He created to be His vessels.

 
Satan would have us believe that we are our own vessels, dropped here by chance to shape ourselves. But that is total deception and total emptiness. It’s deception of the worst kind because it’s willful maliciousness to turn our hearts to believe that and to disbelieve God’s purpose for us. This is such a tragedy! Jesus wept over it. In Luke 19:42 we hear His voice, “If you had only known today what would bring you peace! But now it is hidden, so you cannot see it.” Today, do I know what will truly bring me peace? Or have I chosen to let it be hidden from me and unattainable?

 
Jesus, You wanted us to understand this so badly. You kept telling Your disciples and by that, You keep telling us. “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you My peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly.”( John 14:27) And right before He would be taken captive toward the cross, “I’ve told you this so that My peace will be with you. In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) There is a different kind of peace, an eternal peace that overcomes the hardships and tragedies and heartaches and deceptions of this world. The question is, which peace will I cling unto? Will I cling to a self-serving peace that will be destroyed, that is a lie? Or will I cling to the Prince of Peace who will reign forever and invites me to the security of His presence throughout eternity?

 
Life’s not easy and peace won’t be found permanently in this world system. But I agree with Paul, that the “momentary” suffering I could ever experience here on earth could never surpass the peace of being with You eternally. And Paul’s not talking about light afflictions here. He knew of afflictions and suffering and persecution that led to death. And he believed it was all worth it to know You and to be with You, Lord, and so do I. So, let me conclude by sharing Paul’s words to us: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-17) So may we become weak and sick over the deception that surrounds us and use that to be appalled by it so that we rise up and cling tighter than our lives to the peace and security that is only found in God through Jesus Christ our risen, living, and intervening Savior and Lord.

Embracing Poverty–Embracing Prosperity

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“The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.”  Proverbs 11:25

Now, I’m just wondering how poverty and prosperity can be swirling around in my head at the same time.  Here I am, still thinking along the lines of Your poverty, Lord, and I’m still thinking about the Macedonians and Paul’s words.  And I went one direction from a current story I heard about in someone’s life and found I had some faulty information.  But then I found that the precept was still true, even though some faulty info led me to the right verses.  So now I discarded the faulty “stuff” and dug deeper into Your word.  And that took me to Moses speaking to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 28:2.  And I know this is not a faulty example.

Moses is telling the nation of Israel, the people who God had rescued from the depths of poverty and slavery in Egypt, that blessings await them.  They have a choice to receive the blessings of God in His promised land or to keep living in the poverty of the Egyptian mindset.  “And all these blessings shall come on you, and you shall grasp them, if you will listen and obey the voice of the Lord your God.”

That word “generous” in Proverbs and that word “blessed” in Deuteronomy are actually the same Hebrew word “berakah.”  And it really is about the blessing of God.   But what is the blessing of God?  What if the blessing of God is His all encompassing presence in our life?  What if the blessing of God is about His provision of Himself to us in every way and time and circumstance that we need?  I love Psalm 34.  “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.  Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!  I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.  This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!  Blessed (how happy!) is the man who takes refuge in Him!  Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack!…”

See, the Lord is telling us, and David understood, and so did Moses, that God is a generous Benefactor.  His giving is designed to keep giving.  When He sheds His goodness on me, that goodness must flow out to others and….back to Him.  God gives abundant berakah- blessing and with what He invests in us, we are to invest back.  That’s the word that David used. “I will bless the Lord at ALL times.  I will ‘barak’ the Lord at all times.  I will not only acknowledge who He is and what He is doing in my life, but I will demonstrate it before the whole world.  And those others out there who have humble hearts to see, will also see and experience God’s blessing through me.  And together we will bless the Lord back!”  How exciting is that!

Read Psalm 34 again and see the blessings that God gives.  Read His word.  I want to know and remember and drill Your goodness into my head and into my heart.  I want to experience Your deliverance.  I want to taste and see Your goodness as I trust in You.  I want to see my true needs met.  I want to look on You like Moses and I want my face to shine.  I want people to see something that resembles You in this poor person.  They don’t have to see me at all.  I’d rather them see beautiful You.

So, if I water, I will be watered.  What does that really mean?  Well, I think it means something more than just doing good things for others or meeting their physical needs.  All that is temporary.  It’s important, but temporary.  There must be something about eternal water.  Is there?  John shares the secret.  Jesus anounced in Jerusalem, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.  He that believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”   Jeremiah warned us not to forsake the Fountain of Living Water.  He warned us not to try to build our own cysterns.  There is only One Water that satisfies thirst forever.

Yes, God does good things.  You, Lord, provide the sun over those who are good and those who are evil.  It keeps us both warm and our planet alive.  You provide the rain and our food, both to those who love you and those who don’t.  You are compassionate to all.  Not all those who were healed by You, Jesus, remained to worship You, yet You healed them anyway.  Your lovingkindness is ever flowing to humankind.  That’s one of Your blessings.  And since You extend Your lovingkindness to me, I am to extend it to others.  How can I not?  You dwell in me if I am Yours.  I have this spectacular cup of water to share.  Only my water source never stops flowing.  I never run out!

So, maybe the liberal soul, isn’t just a generous soul.  Maybe the liberal soul is a soul filled with the blessing of the presence of God, of You.  That kind of person, the one who trusts in You like Moses urged and like David compelled us, well, that kind of person will be “fattened full of God.”  That kind of person will be anointed with the One he filled up with.  That kind of person will be satisfied, fully in You.  And because that kind of person is satisfying and soaking others in Your living water that is flowing from them, which is flowing straight from You, they are continually being watered again by You.

Lord, I may not have much but I am rich because I have You and You are more than enough.  You are everything I need in every moment, in every trial, in every joy.   I am prosperous because the One who causes me to bear fruit and yield lives in me and empowers me in Him.  In You, I am generous because Your generosity flows from me.  And unless I let You water me, I can’t truly water others.  But I love to let You water me.  I am desperately thirsty for Your water.  I can’t get enough.  Lord, continually satisfy me as I soak You up.  But don’t let me just be a soaker.  May I continually take the water You give me and disperse it abroad to those who are thirsty.  Because the greatest blessing comes back when I see that You have used me, who has nothing to give without You, to encourage someone else.  What a blessing to see that You have made me a fit and useful vessel of Your love and power.

So, yesterday I was driving, and I’ve been trying to think of an example of someone who watered someone else in a totally selfless way.  Because I wanted to overcome the flawed example I had come across.  And while I was driving, Rebekah popped into my head.   And there was Rebekah, offering water to Abraham’s servant.  But she didn’t stop there.  She offered to water all his camels until their thirst was quenched!  That’s a lot of water.  Rebekah had made this a prosperous journey for the servant by watering with the generosity of her Creator.

I want to water like that, Lord, beyond what is expected.  I want to give of myself through You like that and even more.  I want to make others feel prosperous by the generosity of myself that I “spend” on them.  But I can’t do it alone.  To truly prosper them, it has to be from You and in You.  So let me be swimming in the water of Your presence so that I have everything I need to meet the needs of those around me, even the needs they are praying about that I don’t happen to know, but You do.  So teach me to embrace Your poverty so that I can embrace others in Your prosperity.

My Prosperity Gospel

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“These things have I spoken unto you, that you should not be offended.”  John 16:1Image

Lord, what things have You spoken so that we won’t be offended?  Well, all the way back in chapter 12, Your discourse began.  You spoke of things to come immediately and in the future, You spoke of the fulness of our joy, and You spoke of the coming and function of Your Holy Spirit.  Why did You share these things?  So that we would not be offended.  And what does that really mean?

When we see the word offended I think we think of being displeased.  I think of someone having done something against me or that I’ve acted against someone else.  But that’s not what You are talking about here.  “Offended” comes from the Greek word “skandalizo”.  According to Strong’s Concordance it means to “scandalize”; from the word for entrap, meaning to trip up.  Think of it as something that causes one to stumble or “to be enticed to sin, apostasy, or displeasure.”  In other words, “I have told you these things so that when they come to pass, you won’t be surprised or trapped by them.  They won’t make you stumble or fall away because you know what to expect.”

Hmmm.  In Matthew 11:6 You say, “blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.”  I have a choice.  I can stumble over You and Your ways, or I can stumble over what the world throws at me.  But I have a third choice.  I can not be surprised, I can not stumble, I can be able to retain my balance, catch it without falling.  

That reminds me of me a lot.  I’m always stumbling.  But most of the time, I’m catching myself or someone else is catching me.  I can walk up to the sink on a clear path, set my dish down, immediately turn around, only to find my feet and their forward momentum are blocked by a dog who has laid in my path.  The forward momentum of my upper torso hasn’t quite gotten the memo that the feet aren’t moving.  But somehow, through some exagerated contortions I keep myself above ground.  Even though it’s a shocker every time, I know what’s happening and my body adjusts.

Will I stumble over Your word, Your desires for me?  Will they cause me to turn from You and avoid You?  Will I get to the point where I don’t want to bear the hard times or the persecution that comes with being associated with You?  Yeah, there’s a part that is displeasure, but it’s displeasure that leads to a response.  Will my response be to fall away from You?  This being offended, tripped up, displeased, is pretty serious stuff because it leads to betrayal and hate.  And it even happens to believers.  It happens to us when we aren’t fully prepared and it creeps up on us unaware.  It happened to the apostles the night You were taken prisoner.  They didn’t really get it and it threw their world and beliefs for a loop and tripped them up.  

But that’s why You told them all these things.  So that at the right time, after You rose, and after Your Spirit came to dwell in them, then it would all make sense.  But until that point, until the Holy Spirit abides inside us, we can’t fully see.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all share Your warnings about the likelihood of us being offended.  It’s a danger to each of us.  But You prepared me ahead of time to be able to stand against being offended.  When something throws me off balance, when something tragic or unexpected drops down in front of me, I don’t have to be like a scared, caged animal.  I can respond in You.  I can not be surprised.  I can respond rightly and in hope and joy.  I don’t have to be offended.  It doesn’t have to take my focus away.  I can still keep my eyes and hope on and in You.

It was so important for us to realize that these things would happen in our lives like this that only three verses later You reiterated the importance of paying attention to the things You told us.  There’s a benefit in remembering, a benefit in recalling them over and over again.  At the right time, we will understand.  That’s the Comforter’s job.

There’s sorrow that comes with the hearing of Your words.  It’s tough stuff.  There’s loss and sacrifice.  There’s pain and hardship.  But for all that, there is greater reward in You.  But, some things must be lost to gain what’s better, what’s more beneficial.  Even You had to suffer and die and leave in order to bring us into an even deeper union through Your Holy Spirit.  Because You understood all that was to pass and why, none of it tripped You up.  And it’s Your desire to give us that same kind of understanding.  It’s why You planned for Your Spirit to indwel us.  He makes it all clear.  He instructs.  He strengthens.  He glorifies You in us.  He takes of You and shows You to us.  

You used to speak in “veiled” messages, in proverbs.  I think that was a test to see who would be offended, who would stumble.  But with the coming of Your Spirit, You boldy, publicly, plainly, frankly tell us and show us the truth about You.  And it’s not just the truth as in facts about You.  You show us about You.  You share Yourself and Your Father with us.  It’s not just a knowledge of Your Word, but it’s a personal knowledge of You.  

When I read Your Word or I spend time in prayer with You, I ask questions.  You answer them.  I boast on You.  You boast on me.  You lavish Your love and gifts on me.  I want to lavish You back.  So, I lavish that love on others.  You speak to me directly.  You don’t have to be the one praying for me any more because You have given me the Holy Spirit to abide in me and to reveal the Father to me and to form a direct relationship between me and Him.  

These things You spoke that in You I might have peace.   No matter what is going on around me, I can be courageous and victorious because You already overcame what I am facing today.  You have already overcome whatever I will face tomorrow.  And You have not only prepared me verbally to be aware of what will fall my way, but You have prepared me in the power of the Holy Spirit to be equipped with every attitude, every piece of knowledge, every scrap of immeasurable power, strength, courage, I need to overcome in You.

Lord, I have not achieved yet.  I am still learning.  There are so many things that want to knock me for a loop and knock me off the path.  There are so many things that want to beat me down.  And if I focussed on them, I would be depressed all the time.  But You already warned me.  And I don’t have to keep my focus on them.  I need to keep my focus on You.  I will have trouble, really big troubles.  I won’t be able to humanly handle them.  But that’s the good news!  I can be of good cheer; You already overcame them.  And because You died and rose again, You live inside of me.  So, the Overcomer is right here inside me making me into an overcomer.  I am supernaturally encouraged!  I am supernaturally equipped in courage.  I am supernaturally strengthened in You.  I am a supernatural overcomer.  Lord, don’t let me miss out on rejoicing not only in this truth, but rejoicing in the middle of these hard situations.  I haven’t been very good at that lately.  Lord, I need to be joined in with You.  I need Your peace.  I need to live in it, in You.  I need to find my quietness and rest in You in the middle of all this junk.  Though I lose everything, Lord, I need to prosper in You, I need to gain You more.  I want You to be my prosperity.  I want my relationship with You, my God, to be what makes me rich and what provides all my need.  To know You intimately and to be known intimately by You, to basque in that relationship, that is my prosperity gospel, that’s my peace and my strength, You.