THE KEY OF DAVID

key of david

Speaking to the apostle John, Jesus said that He “has the key of David” (Rev. 3:7). Other than Isaiah 22:22, this is the only place in the Bible that mentions “the key of David,” and therefore there is much speculation about what that key was and is.

Some readers may consider this article to be speculative, but I think I know what the key of David was. Let me explain.

David served as king in Hebron over the tribe of Judah for seven years. Then all the tribes came together to make him king over the entire land. His coronation as king over all Israel is recorded in 2 Samuel 5:1-5.

At his coronation, the city of Jerusalem finally came under his jurisdiction. His first act as king, therefore, was recorded in the verses immediately following (2 Sam. 5:6-8). David attacked the stronghold of Zion. Why? Because God had revealed to him, probably through Samuel, that he would be king of Israel someday, and that the stronghold of Zion would be his capitol, his “White House.” Zion was appointed by God to be the governmental seat of David’s kingdom.

When Joab ascended the water shaft (2 Sam. 5:6-8), he went over to the gate of the fortress in order to open it from the inside. Once the gate was open, the entire Israelite army would be able to enter the fortress and subdue the stronghold of Zion. (I write about this in my book, OPENED FROM THE INSIDE: The Taking of the Stronghold of Zion.)

Joab’s challenge was to find the key and open Zion’s gate. Back in those days, a fortress like that would have an iron gate, and the gate would be reinforced with bars. The bars would be kept from moving with a bolt, and a lock would prevent the bolt from being removed by an unauthorized person. Anyone with the key could unlock and remove the bolt, move the bars to the disengaged position, and open the gate wide.

The key of David was the key to the gate of the stronghold of Zion. When Joab scaled the water shaft, located the key, unlocked the gate, and then opened the gate of Zion from the inside, he enabled David and his troops to enter and take the stronghold of Zion. David took the key in hand and called Zion, “the city of David.” That fortress became his White House.

The key to Zion represented the key to the governmental authority of the Davidic kingdom. David got the key when Zion was penetrated and conquered.

In the same way that Joab rose up the water shaft and opened the stronghold from the inside, Jesus died, was buried, descended to hell, and then He rose up the shaft of hell and opened the gates of hell from the inside. It was at His resurrection that He got “the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:18). At His temptation, Satan offered to give Jesus the keys if He would worship him; instead, Jesus chose to take the keys from Satan.

Now, Jesus has the key of David—that is, the key to the governmental authority of the Davidic kingdom. He is the King who has inherited the throne of His ancestor, David, and He has the right to administrate and rule over all the affairs of this eternal kingdom. That authority is represented by the key of David which He gained at His resurrection.

David got the key to the stronghold of Zion; Jesus got the key to the stronghold of Hades and of Death.

The Man with the keys has said to us, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19). Whenever Jesus gives you a kingdom key, it means He gives you the authority to unlock a specific element within the kingdom of God. With that key comes the authority to bring His sovereign reign to that area in the kingdom.

Are you facing a stronghold, and don’t know how to open its gate? Ask Jesus to give you the kingdom key to that stronghold.

And always remember:  A small key can open a great door.

 

YOUR MISSION IS NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR PEOPLE

mission

God never calls you to a mission that is more important than the people on your team. Because no such mission exists. A leader might be tempted to think, “Good riddance, they never did have complete buy-in with our vision.” “They just couldn’t keep up.” “We outgrew them.” “They always resisted everything we ever did.” “They got offended over nothing.” You are not viewing rightly this matter.

To qualify my meaning, I am not speaking of people God sends you for a limited period of time, and whom He calls after a season to the next leg in their assignment. When God calls people in your ranks to move on, release them freely and celebrate them. Allow no control or witchcraft to taint anything in your leadership style.

I am speaking here of people God calls to labor with you in the mission but who end up leaving for unnecessary reasons. It’s not possible to have a mission that is more important than the eternal souls God grants you to help with the mission. As Jesus said of the Twelve, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). While Jesus was busy changing the entire world, He did not lose any of the team members God had given Him (except the son of perdition).

Always be mindful that the people on your team are the very embodiment of the mission to which you’ve been called. Love them to the end.

WE HAVE LAWS FOR THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR

IP chp 3 graphic

The following is an excerpt from my newest book, Illegal Prayers.

Look closely at verse 5 of Luke 11.

Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves.”

Our parable is in black and white until you see two words that turn it into technicolor. The first kaleidoscopic word is midnight. To grasp the story, you’ve got to see the entire proceedings shaking down at midnight. Everything in the vignette is unplanned, inconvenient, and ill-timed for everybody.

When Jim first shows up at Dave’s door, knocks, and asks for bread, he’s not doing anything wrong. It’s permissible to knock on someone’s door. Once. But when Dave says, “It’s midnight. Shut up, get off my property and go back to bed,” and Jim continues to knock and call out, we have laws for this kind of behavior. We call it trespassing. Harassment. Disturbing the peace. Once Dave says, “Get off my property,” and Jim continues to stand at midnight and call for assistance, he is now breaking the law.

I am not stretching the parable to suggest Jim is breaking the law. If you don’t think this is illegal behavior, then go ahead and give it a shot. Go down the road, knock at somebody’s door at midnight, refuse to get off their property, and see what happens. You may find yourself in handcuffs.

Jesus could have put the parable at another time of day, such as high noon, but by placing it at midnight He subtly designed an illegal setting. When you see that Jesus positioned Jim to be breaking the law, you realize He was actually advocating illegal prayers.

Jim is now violating city ordinances. In a very real sense, he is serving his friend Dave an ultimatum. “I’m not going anywhere, so you have a choice. Call the cops, or give me your three loaves.”

But Jim is thinking to himself, I don’t think you’re going to call the cops. Our friendship is too strong. Our families are too close. We’ve known each other for too many years. Before you call the cops, I think you’re going to drag your carcass out of bed, go to your pantry, and get your three loaves.

Jim is now putting pressure on the relationship. He’s about to discover if their friendship can sustain this kind of strain or if it will break. Jim is wondering, Are you just a fairweather friend? Are you my friend only when things are great, or are you also my friend when things are hard?

By straining the relationship, Jim is drawing on his relational equity with Dave. He’s about to find out whether he’s accrued enough collateral in their relational bank to cash in on it in a time of need.

Illegal prayers leverage relational equity.

Relational equity is earned through time spent together and favors done for each other. Jim has undoubtedly done many little favors for Dave over the years, and now he has the boldness to expect a favor in return. In terms of our relationship with Christ, this reminds me of 1 Timothy 3:13, “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” When we are faithful in our service for Christ, we gain the boldness to pray audacious prayers in our time of need.

Jim felt secure enough in his friendship with Dave to demand assistance in a way that actually broke the law. In a similar sense, if you’re going to pray illegal prayers, you better have a friendship with God. Don’t wait for a crisis to hit before you start investing in your relationship with God. Build relational equity with God now, so that when the crisis hits you have a friendship to fall back on.

Just because you’re bold in the presence of God does not mean you’re a spoiled brat with a spirit of entitlement; it means you’re someone who has confidence in your beloved Friend.

Confidence will say to God, “If You say no, I’m not leaving. If You say later, I’m not leaving. The only way I’ll quiet down is if You give me Your three loaves.”

Illegal prayers are rooted in the relational confidence of knowing your God and, even better, being known by Him. You can have enough confidence in your friendship to believe that ever before He gets angry and swats you into outer space, He’s going to give you the healing bread He has in His heavenly pantry.

The title of this book—Illegal Prayers—wasn’t chosen because I thought it was a clever title. I chose it because of what’s going on in the parable. Jim is praying illegal prayers at Dave’s door. But Jesus’ parable is not the only instance of illegal prayers in the Bible. There are a few others.

Hannah

Hannah could not have children, and it vexed her soul greatly. Consumed with longing to have a child, she went into the house of the Lord and began to pour out her heart in prayer. Finally, in the anguish and desperation of her soul, she said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life” (1 Sam. 1:11).

She was so desperate for a son that she said, “If You give me a son, I’ll give Him back to You.” And as the story turned out, she gave birth to a son whom she turned over to Eli, the priest. Thus, her son Samuel was raised in the house of the Lord by Eli.

Was Hannah’s prayer legal? Is it permissible to abandon your child like that? How about “abandonment” laws? True, she gave him to the care of another; but Eli wasn’t that great of a caretaker. He had a poor record with his own sons, so what made him fit to be a father to Samuel?

At the least, the story is unconventional. And yet, God used Hannah’s barrenness—and the desperate cry her barrenness generated—to answer her prayer and give her a son. The cry of a desperate mother enabled God to procure, in Samuel, the prophet He needed to transition the nation of Israel from the era of the judges to the era of the kings.

Daniel

In the days when Babylon was the ruling world empire, Babylon invaded Israel and took Daniel, along with many other Jews, back to Babylon. Because of his wisdom, Daniel was promoted to a place of political prominence in the kingdom. Later, when Babylon was conquered by Persia, Daniel continued to serve in a place of eminence in the empire. He had so much favor with the king that the princes of Persia grew envious.

The princes conspired a way to get rid of Daniel. Under false pretenses, they convinced the king to enact a decree that no one be allowed to pray to any god but the king for thirty days (see Daniel 6). If someone prayed to another, they were to be thrown into the lion’s den.

As soon as Daniel learned that this legislation had been signed into law by the king, he went to his home, opened his window toward Jerusalem, and prayed to his God. He would allow nothing to stop his practice of praying three times a day to the God of Israel. If he could no longer pray legal prayers, then he would pray illegal prayers.

And his illegal prayers got him into serious trouble. He was arrested and thrown into the lion’s den. But God stood by His man, sent His angel, and shut the mouths of the lions. What started as illegal prayers ended in a mighty deliverance.

Isaiah

In the book of Isaiah, God invited us to pray in a manner that strikes the reader as illegal or, at the very least, irreverent.

Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons; and concerning the work of My hands, you command Me” (Isa. 45:11).

Some translations have reworded the verse to make it more palatable, but our translation here is altogether accurate. God is actually inviting His servants to command Him to do what they want.

Commanding God? Telling God what to do? Isn’t that presumptuous, arrogant, and disrespectful of His sovereignty? Isn’t that kind of praying illegal?

The Overcrowded House

Here’s another story that somehow seems to be suspiciously unlawful:

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:1-12).

We know that Jesus broke many rules of His day. He ate with unwashed hands; He allowed His disciples to pick and eat grain on the Sabbath; He told a cripple to carry his bed on the Sabbath, etc. But in this story, He broke one of my rules! I have a rule that says you must repent before you can be forgiven. But here, Jesus forgives a man who didn’t even repent of his sins. Can you do that? Is that legal?

Furthermore, the four men who brought him to Jesus broke the law. Folks, you can’t just take apart somebody’s roof, even if your motives are noble. Call it breaking and entering. Call it vandalism. Whatever you want to call it, it’s illegal.

But Jesus called it faith. And healed the man.

Woman with a Hemorrhage

Here’s still another biblical instance where laws were broken. There was a woman in Israel who had a problem in her reproductive organs that precipitated ongoing blood loss. None of the physicians she consulted could staunch the flow of blood; instead, her condition grew worse.

One day she heard that Jesus of Nazareth would be passing through town. Jesus! The Son of God! The Healer! It’s now or never. Faith filled her heart. If I could just touch the hem of His garment, I know that would be enough. I know I would be healed of this infirmity.

But there was a problem. The law of Moses commanded that anyone with this kind of bodily discharge live sequestered and isolated from the community (Num. 5:2). Such a person was ceremonially “unclean,” meaning they were prohibited from coming into the temple to worship while thus defiled. Furthermore, Moses’ law explained that, if a person who was unclean because of a hemorrhage touched someone else, the other person would be defiled by that touch and rendered ceremonially unclean as well—that is, unable to worship in the temple until ceremonially cleansed (Lev. 15:19). God considered it unjust for an unclean person to defile others through physical contact, even though their personal problem was unfortunate. So He passed a law stipulating that an unclean person must be quarantined from others until cured.

The law, therefore, prohibited this woman from mixing in public places. And yet, Jesus was thronged by multitudes. How could she possibly touch the hem of His garment when He was surrounded by such masses? Furthermore, everyone in town knew she lived in seclusion because of uncleanness. If they saw her in the crowd, they would thrust her out immediately. What could she possibly do to get within touching distance of Jesus?

She grabbed a shawl, draped it across her shoulders, and pulled it down over her head. Then bending low so that her face was not visible to anyone, she began to shove her way through the crowd.

As she pushed through the legs of the crowd, she might have whispered, “Excuse me,” under her breath. Each person she wiggled past and brushed against was defiled by her physical contact. “Excuse me, sorry about that.” She wasn’t meaning to defile others; she simply had no other option. “Pardon me, sorry about that.” But she continued to push and shove her way to Jesus.

By the time she got to Jesus, she had broken the law some 235 times (or however many people she had touched on her way to Jesus). That’s why, when Jesus called out, “Who touched My clothes?” she trembled in fear and tried to hide. She didn’t want to be exposed as having violated Moses’ law countless times in order to receive her healing.

When she could hide no longer, she fell before Jesus and told Him everything. How did Jesus respond to her illegal quest? He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34).

What kind of faith is so bold that it is willing to defile even the Son of God Himself in order to get an answer?

This woman knew that to touch His garment, she would have to push past a crowd of opinions. So will you. There are all kinds of rational voices that will try to talk you out of pushing through to Jesus’ hem.

“You deserve hell, so just be thankful for what you’ve got.”

“He’s already done so much for you, if He never does another thing for you, it’s more than enough.”

“You just need to focus on giving glory to God, whether by life or by death.”

“This is not about you.”

I agree with all of you. You have great theology. But get out of my way. I’ve got to touch Jesus!

Jesus Advocates Illegal Prayers

These examples of illegal prayers in the Bible serve to substantiate the scenario Jesus painted in Luke 11 with our fictitious characters, Jim and Dave. By having Jim on Dave’s doorstep at midnight and refusing to remove himself—which is against the law—Jesus was advocating illegal prayers. Jesus was intimating, “You have a relationship with God. Go for broke. Break the law. Forget the rules. Push the envelope. Violate protocol. Brook no denial. Demand attention.”

Jesus’ message here is quite startling. “You’re a beloved friend—a child of God. So ditch propriety. Go for the jugular. Call the question. Press the point. Strain the relationship. Despise political correctness. Contravene convention. Test the limits. Cross the line. Throw caution to the wind. Pray illegal prayers.”

When you go to offering such bold prayers, you might want to keep your voice down—because if someone overhears your prayer, he might step aside, fearing a lightning strike. “You’re not supposed to talk to God like that!”

But that eavesdropper is not the one with whom you have this friendship, and he’s not the one to whom you’re praying. So just move yourself out of his earshot, and talk to your Friend.

If you enjoyed this excerpt and want to learn more about my newest book, Illegal Prayers, you can click here.

JESUS’ MOST COMMON TEACHING

JESUS MOST COMMON TEACHING

Recently, while doing a simple Bible search, I discovered something in the life of Jesus that brought me to a full stop. It stunned me, and I’m still trying to process it. Here’s the background to it:

There is very little from the life of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels. The reason for that is because John wrote his Gospel around 30 years after the others, and knowing what Matthew, Mark, and Luke had recorded, John wasn’t trying to be repetitive. He was writing to be complementary. For that reason, there is very little in John that is present in the other three Gospels.

Here’s what the Gospels have in common: All of them record four stories and three predictions. The four stories they all mention are the baptism of Christ, the feeding of the five thousand, the triumphal entry, and the passion of Christ (crucifixion/resurrection). All four Gospels record three predictions: Jesus predicted His betrayal, Peter’s denial, and His passion.

But there is no teaching of Christ contained in all four Gospels.

With one exception.

Only one verse of teaching is to be found in all four Gospels. As I continue, see if you can guess it.

Let me introduce the verse by asking a question. If you were directing the biblical writings, and wanted to emphasis one teaching of Jesus’ by placing it in all four Gospels, which teaching would you choose?

Clearly, if there’s only one teaching of Jesus’ to be found in all four Gospels, then it must be of paramount importance to Him.

Furthermore, this teaching is present in six places in the Gospels. Matthew records it twice, Mark once, Luke twice, and John once. When you study the context of these six mentions, you realize they are pointing to four distinct events:

•On His third tour of Galilee (Mat. 10:39)

•After his visit to Caesarea Philippi (Mat. 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24)

•On his final journey to Jerusalem (Luke 17:33)

•During his final week in Jerusalem (John 12:25)

 

So there are two unique characteristics about the teaching of Jesus to which we are pointing:

1. It is the only teaching of Christ mentioned in all four Gospels.

2. It is the only teaching of Christ that we know He gave on four different occasions.

 

Now, beyond any doubt, Jesus would have repeated His primary teachings throughout the 3.5 years of His ministry on earth. But in terms of the record we have in our hands, there is only one teaching of Jesus’ that we’re told He gave on four different occasions. It must have been His most common teaching.

Do I have your curiosity up? Want to know what the teaching was?

Find your life, you’ll lose it; lose your life, you’ll find it. John’s wording is slightly different, but it’s the same teaching: Love your life, you’ll lose; hate your life, you’ll keep it. (The references are listed above.)

Hear it! Lose your life. Hate your life. This was the foremost and most-repeated word of our Master.

When this teaching gets on your screen, you’ll start to see relevant applications everywhere. Little wonder that the context in which Jesus delivered this teaching was different in each of the four events listed above. That’s because it’s a message that relates to virtually every area of life.

If this was the most common teaching of Jesus, it leaves me with this question: To what degree is this word likewise upon my tongue?

 

 

EXPLOITS EVEN IN THE WILDERNESS

Wilderness

When God brought the nation of Israel from Egypt to the border of Canaan, they didn’t believe that they could overcome the giants in the land. Because of their unbelief, God sent them into the wilderness to wander for forty years.

God’s purpose in the wilderness was to starve out their unbelief and bring them to the place where they would have faith to enter Canaan and conquer the giants of the land.

Although the wilderness was designed to grow the corporate faith of the nation, it also served to expose their unbelief. We can see this in the following passage:

     How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel (Psa. 78:40-41).

The wilderness brings you face to face with your unbelief.

One reason they struggled with unbelief in the wilderness was because their surroundings were so bleak. Everywhere they turned, the terrain screamed at them, “This place is hopeless! You cannot live here. If you stay in this wilderness, it’ll be your end. It is impossible for you to do anything productive in this barren land. This place is too hard—even for God.”

Your wilderness probably screams similar things at you. “This is impossible! Your life is over.”

When times are good, we feel good about our faith levels. When our faith isn’t being challenged, it’s easy to think that it’s stronger than it actually is. When God leads us into the wilderness, those illusions are stripped away and we are confronted with our unbelief. Will we heed the voices of unbelief that suddenly accost us in this barren wilderness?

Some of the things you see about yourself in the wilderness will shock you. “This wilderness is stronger, in my eyes, than my God!”

When confronted with your unbelief in the wilderness, launch on a pilgrimage—a quest for authentic faith in the Holy Spirit. View your wilderness as a “school of the Spirit,” designed by God to mentor you in mountain-moving faith. If you’ll pursue it, God will lead you into great exploits even while you’re still in this wilderness.

A prayer: “Lord, I purpose in my heart, by Your grace, to refuse to allow this wilderness to limit how You can use me in this season. I choose to believe that even now, in these wilderness years, You can gain great glory through my obedience.”

Your current limitations do not limit God. O desert dweller, refuse to “limit the Holy One of Israel!”

A GIFT WITHOUT GIMMICKS

gift on a bus

Something happened to me on June 30, 2014 that I’ve got to tell you about.

Making my way homeward from a weekend trip, I was on the shuttle bus that transports passengers from the Kansas City airport to the long-term parking lot. I had earned some free parking passes to the lot and had two more free parking passes than I needed for my own parking tab. Since the coupons happened to expire the next day, I decided I would try to give the two free passes to another passenger on my bus. All the passengers on my bus were going to my long-term lot, and all would be paying $7.00 a day for parking their cars. My coupons for two free days of parking represented a $14.00 value.

I wanted to give the free passes to someone who would truly appreciate the savings, so I was trying to figure out how to go about it. For those of you who know me, you know I’m limited in my abilities to communicate because of a vocal injury. Whatever I might say to the other passengers would have to be communicated via my notepad. How could I convey to the other bus passengers that I was wanting to give away two days’ worth of free parking passes?

Here’s what I decided to write on my pad: “Would you like to save $14 in parking fees?”

At a loss to know who to offer the passes to on the bus, I decided to just go with the passenger closest to me. Sitting on my left was a woman, perhaps around age 50. By her comportment she could pass for a university professor or legal professional. I was more interested in giving the passes to someone in a lesser station of life, but hey, she was the closest one to me and so she had first dibs. I held my notepad up to her view. She read my message and shook her head, “No.” She didn’t want to save $14 in parking fees.

Next closest to me was an older couple sitting immediately across from me, facing me. I’m guessing they were around 60 years old. He had the appearance of someone who is well established in life, and once again, they didn’t represent the profile I had in mind but hey, they were the next closest to me so they had second dibs on the passes. I held my notepad up to them; the man read my message and shook his head, “No.” He didn’t want to save $14 in parking fees either.

The next closest passenger was a young man further to my left. He appeared to me to be roughly 30 years old. He was standing in the aisle because the bus was very full and overloaded with passengers. I reached past the woman on my left and held my notepad up for this young man to read. He read my message and shook his head, “No.” He didn’t want to save $14 in parking fees.

Just past him, and sitting on the other side of the couple facing me, was another young man who appeared to be in his upper 20s. I now had to reach my pad past the three parties who had just told me no, in order to get my message within the view of this other passenger. The young man read my message and shook his head, “No.” Neither did he want to save $14 in parking fees.

I thought to myself, “This isn’t working. I am not going to be able to give these free parking passes away.” I had one final option. There was another passenger that I could reach with my notepad, and if she said no, then I would give up. She was sitting on the other side of the woman on my left. So I reached my arm behind the woman on my left, and stretching my arm out so that this other woman could read my note, I held it up to her view. I would guess that she was in her mid 20s. She read my message, her eyes lit up, she gave me a nice smile and nodded, “Yes.” So I reached into my shirt pocket, pulled out my two free parking passes, and immediately handed them to her.

I realized, of course, that all these passengers in my circle of view were watching the entire proceedings. When I turned back, after giving her the two passes, and checked the faces of the other parties who had declined my overtures, you would have thought that I did not exist. Not one of them would give me eye contact. They all stared ahead stoically into space, as though our little drama had not even happened.

I would pay to know what they were thinking. “I just passed up two free parking coupons.” Of course, we can all imagine why they might say no to such an overture. For starters, it’s unusual for someone to be communicating on a notepad. Furthermore, we’ve all been taught that nothing in life is free. There are always strings attached. They didn’t know what strings might be attached to my question, so they summarily declined.

But as it turned out, there were no strings attached. It was simply a gift. A stranger was offering a gift to other strangers.

The young woman who got the two passes happened to get off the bus at my stop. As we parted she called out to me, “Thanks again! Have a great night!”

As I drove away it occurred to me that this is how the Father offers His Gospel to us. He asks, “Would you like eternal life?” It’s a gift to strangers, offered without any gimmicks.

When I thought about those who had declined my offer, I was reminded of this verse: “Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles’” (Acts 13:46).

I hope you are not unworthy of accepting the Father’s offer of eternal life. It’s simply a gift. No gimmicks.

JOB THE PIONEER

pioneer

The following is an excerpt from Pain, Perplexity and Promotion.

As the first book of the Bible written, Job becomes a precedent-setting book.  When the Holy Spirit prepared to inspire Holy Scripture, He calculated very purposefully how He would direct its formation.  It’s not an accident or mere happenstance that the Holy Spirit started the whole thing off with Job.

Cornerstone Of Scripture

Job is an incredibly strategic book.  As the first building block of all Scripture, it serves as the initial cornerstone of all inspired revelation.  If the cornerstone is in place correctly, the rest of the building can rise in perfect alignment and symmetry.  If the cornerstone is awry, the entire building will be planted on a skewed foundation and will eventually crumble.

Under “the law of first mention” (discussed in Chapter Three) the entire book of Job takes on a special significance as the first Bible book written.  Thus, Job is a ground-breaking, foundation-laying, pioneering, apostolic book that becomes the cornerstone of all theology.  It is the beginning basis for our understanding of God and His ways.

If your foundation is wrong, the whole building is weak.  When the Lord visited me personally with calamity, I felt like He took the foundation of all my theological understandings, swept them out from under my feet, tenderly watched me crash, and then He slowly began to remove the rubble and start the rebuilding process.  And He said, “We’re going to rebuild this whole thing on the book of Job.”

A Primer On Spiritual Warfare

As the first Bible book written, the book of Job constitutes a primer on spiritual warfare, charting the perplexing territory between God’s sovereign purposes, Satan’s harassments, and people’s opinions.

Job had the hand of God on him, the hand of Satan on him, and the hand of man on him—and he couldn’t distinguish between them.  He became dizzy with trying to sort through the whole tangled mess, because he couldn’t really identify clearly from which direction things were hitting him.

The Job crucible is a place of great perplexity.  When you’re in the fire, you don’t know where the heat is coming from, or why.  Your head begins to swim as you’re caught in the swirl of trying discern cause and effect.

Job is apostolic in that he pioneered the whole arena of spiritual warfare.  He was the first one to ever document in Scripture his woundings on the perplexing battleground of spiritual warfare.  Job is in the battle of his life, warring with God’s sovereign purposes, Satan’s evil incitements, people’s carnal reproaches, and the imperfect realities of a fallen world—all elements involved in spiritual warfare.  Thus, even though Job is rarely mentioned at spiritual warfare conferences, the book of Job is a primer on spiritual warfare.

Job is sailing in uncharted waters.  He is going where no man has gone before.  He’s drawing the first map we have of spiritual warfare’s battleground.  Map-makers always pay a great personal price for bearing the distinguishing honor of being the first to traverse virgin territory.  The early explorers laid down maps of America literally at the price of human lives (disease, shipwreck, starvation, deprivation, hardship, etc.).  As the Scriptures unfold, the map of spiritual warfare will gain greater clarity, but Job is to be honored for the toll he took in giving us the first primitive map of spiritual warfare’s hazards.  Forerunners always pay a price.

Job is stepping on landmines, and they’re exploding in his face because no one else had ever stepped there before!  To explain, I’ll use the example of what he says in 19:11, “‘He has also kindled His wrath against me, and He counts me as one of His enemies.’”  Job thought God was treating him like an enemy, but in fact God was counting Job as one of His friends!  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6).  Job didn’t realize God had wounded him in His kindness, and so Job accuses God of treating him like an enemy.  This is one reason God later says to Job, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (38:2).  Job will learn this lesson (and many others) by the time the battle is over, but he’ll have triggered many landmines in the process.

So here’s Job, all bloody from the latest bomb that has exploded in his face, and he hoarsely whispers to us, “Don’t step there, that thing will blow your leg off.”  And then contemporary readers will stand back in the safety of their comfortable perch and criticize him.  “Job shouldn’t have spoken like that,” they say.  “He had a lot of bad attitudes!”  In one sense that’s true, but I just want to say this about Job:  Give the guy a break!  He had no Scriptures, no map, no prophetic word, no witness from someone else who had walked this way before.  He was the first one!  So rather than being critical of him, I think we should be extremely grateful for a godly man who was faithful to God through the greatest maze of perplexity that any man had ever encountered up to that point in human history.

The Most Misunderstood Book

The book of Job is one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible.  Until you’ve lived a little bit of it, it’s virtually impossible to understand it properly.  I realize this book is unique from many other commentaries on Job.  I would read commentaries on Job, look at their analysis, and say to myself, “This author has never lived this thing.”  It wasn’t until I began to live through some hard things that the book of Job began to open to me.

I know some people wish Job wasn’t in the Bible.  Because I was once one of them.  I had the experience in my early years of ministry of preparing a sermon, and being very impressed with it.  “This thing slices; it dices; it pops; it sizzles.”  I could see it: this sermon will have Satan’s hordes cowering at the gates of hell, and it will have the saints on their feet, cheering.  The sermon was perfect, a well-fashioned arrow, except for one little “fly in the ointment”:  the book of Job.  Everything else in the Bible seemed to support my beautifully crafted sermon, but the book of Job was the one book that seemed to contradict it.  What about Job?  Can I just preach my sermon and forget about the fact that the book of Job exists?

No I can’t, not any longer.  Now I see it.  If it doesn’t line up with the book of Job, it’s got to go, because the book of Job establishes the theological framework against which all other theological understandings must be measured.  If you get Job wrong, then nothing else can be fully right.

As the endtime storms hit this planet, everything that can be shaken will be shaken (Hebrews 12:27-28).  The only theological framework that will not be totally shaken in the last hour will be one that is firmly fixed in a true knowledge of the God of Job.

So now the question becomes one of paramount importance:  what is the book of Job all about?

The Book’s Theme

I want to express in one broad, general sentence what I believe is happening in the book.  To uncover this understanding was a very long and painful journey personally, and it carries great implications that I will articulate in the rest of this book.  So here it is:  In broad strokes, the life of Job is a pattern for all believers of how God takes a blameless, godly man, with a life of personal purity and a yes in his spirit, and brings him through the fire to a higher inheritance.

Job came out of the crucible with a life message that has spoken to God’s people ever since.  Here are some of the poignant truths Job’s life declares:

•     Sometimes God is totally perplexing.

•     There are things going on in the spirit dimension that you don’t see.

•     If you’ve been walking blamelessly and faithfully before God, and something incredibly mystifying and even traumatic happens to you which seems to have no reasonable cause, then heighten your spiritual alertnessGod might be in the process of bringing you into spiritual promotion.

•     If you will guard your purity, increase your pursuit of God, and commit yourself to unquestioning obedience, He will eventually unfold His purposes to you.

•     Realize that God loves to glorify Himself by salvaging the calamities of his saints, producing the superlative out of the impossible.

A Pattern To Get Your Bearings

Job’s life message serves as a model or a pattern against which others can measure God’s disciplines in their lives.  When you have a grid for measuring what is happening in your life, you’re able to cooperate with God’s purposes.  But without that grid or pattern you’re very likely to partner with the accuser, cop an attitude toward God, and end up aborting the process.  Without any prototype for understanding God’s dealings, it’s very difficult to say, “You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word” (Psalm 119:65).  Instead, it’s easy to echo the accusation of the Israelites, “‘It is useless to serve God’” (Malachi 3:14).  God wants us to steer clear of that pitfall so He has given us the pattern of Job.

Job, then, was a pioneer, a pathfinder, a forerunner whom God baptized into “the School of the Spirit,” in order that he might serve as a living parable to all generations after him.  His life serves as a compass, enabling us to get our bearings when we’re under the disciplines of God.

Sometimes we think we know who God is.  God says, “None of you know who I am!  Unless I show you.”  So God devastated every understanding Job thought he had of God and began to rebuild Job’s theology on the truth of Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways.”  So Paul cried, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).

God operates in a dimension that totally surpasses our human analysis.  And here’s a signature of God’s ways:  He loves to redeem impossible messes.  He loves entangled imbroglios that have no human solution, that are hopeless catastrophes apart from divine intervention.

Sometimes God allows the saint to be reduced to seeming defeat, filled with anguish and reproach, with Satan gleefully savoring his upper hand.  Or sometimes the saint is trapped by crushing circumstances beyond his control.  When it appears that God has abandoned you, Job would cry out:  “Don’t quit!  Trust God!  It’s never too late!  This is the kind of situation God loves!”

In some situations, God steps back and says, “Too easy.  If I step in now, they won’t glorify My name for the answer.”  Thus He waits things out a bit, and lets the situation become even more critical so that there will be no question about the source when He intervenes with His sovereign deliverance.  He loves to do the impossible!

Job Helped Abraham

Earlier, I emphasized the fact that Job pre-dated Abraham.  Here’s why:  It’s very likely that Job served as a forerunner for Abraham, helping Abraham interpret God’s hand in his life.

God had said to Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2).  Basically God said, “Kill your son.”

But Abraham also knew what God had said to Noah, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed” (Genesis 9:6).  So Abraham faced a crossroads:  “Do I follow my theology, or do I follow the voice?”  In that moment of critical decision, it’s very possible that Abraham thought to himself, “Job!  I’m in a Job situation!  God is vaporizing my theology.  If I’m faithful like Job was, God will lead me to a higher place.”  Part of the reason Abraham was able to cooperate with God’s purposes was because he had Job.

Redemption’s Greatest Crossroads

In fact, I want to suggest that Job became a forerunner for the most eminent of saints, helping them navigate the greatest crisis points of redemptive history.  At the crucial crossroads of God’s redemptive plan, when everything  was at stake, Job’s life served as a pattern enabling them to make the right choice.

Joseph didn’t realize that he stood at a vital juncture of God’s purposes.  Everything was in the balance.  Would Joseph respond properly to his enslavement and imprisonment?  If he would blow it, there would be no sovereign provision for Jacob’s family during the seven years of terrible famine.  Thankfully, Joseph had Job!  Job provided Joseph with a grid for understanding the pain of his prison, empowering him to persevere successfully to the completion of God’s purposes.

Moses also stood at a critical crossroads of God’s redemptive plan.  Would Moses respond properly to the shattered dreams, to the unfulfilled promises, to the seeming abandonment by God?  If he would pass the test, God would have a man to lead His people forth from Egypt.  Thankfully, Moses had Job!  Job’s journey became a model that enabled Moses to walk forward into God’s highest and best.

David was another man at a critical crossroads.  He was anointed as king, but was running for his life from Saul.  Every promise of God seemed to be violated.  If David would respond properly in this crucible, he would emerge with the promise of an eternal throne.  If he would give up, how could we call Jesus the Son of David?  Thankfully, David had Job!  Job’s example gave David the courage to persevere unto God’s highest and best.

We are now facing another critical moment in God’s plan:  the return of Christ.  In preparation for Christ’s coming, God is taking many of His servants through the Job crucible.  A fire has been kindled in the earth to awaken the bride with passion for her Bridegroom.  Will she persevere to the end, or will she abort God’s purposes?  Thankfully, she has Job!

Everybody  had Job for an example, except for one man: Job!  This is why Job is so admirable.  He persevered through the crucible with no predecessor, no forerunner, no pattern from which to gain comfort.  Job had nobody.  He was charting virgin territory, going where no man had gone before.  He was making an unprecedented foray onto the swirling battleground of spiritual warfare, where God’s purposes and Satan’s incitements and people’s opinions combine to season the soul.

As a result of Job’s faithfulness, God decided to use his example to comfort every generation, providing them with a compass to help them interpret their pathway.  We enjoy the same benefit today.  Instead of aborting His purposes in our lives, we are now able to cooperate with His grace and enter into our highest inheritance.

This post is an excerpt from the book Pain, Perplexity and Promotion.  You can click here to learn more about the book and order a copy.

NEW FILM – I AM WITH YOU

I am with you blog pic

Two years after my debilitating vocal injury, I found myself in the darkest place of my life, groping for answers and reaching desperately to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. It was there, in my darkest hour, that the Lord gave me a sign of His nearness and favor that I will never forget.

Click here to watch the film.

Film by Joel Sorge
Music by JoJo Riddering

LESSONS FROM JACOB – COMPLETE SERIES

lessons from jacob full

Waiting on God

Jacob was the only person in Genesis to talk about waiting on God. While prophesying over his sons, he stopped to exclaim, “I have waited for your salvation, O LORD!” (Gen. 49:18). The statement appears out of place in its context, but when you realize how waiting was so central to Jacob’s story, it makes sense. Even though it took many years, eventually he saw the day when God sent from heaven and saved him.

After Jacob, the Scriptures are virtually silent on the discipline of waiting on God until the advent of David. The whole thing burst to life in David’s writings. David’s psalmist anointing, which was fueled from a place of long and loving meditation in the word, necessitated an awakening to waiting on God in His presence. Perhaps it is not accidental that as the first scriptural writer to place considerable focus on the grace of waiting, David was also very taken with Jacob. David mentions Jacob in his writings more than any other patriarch.

After David, the next Bible author to pick up the banner of waiting on God was Isaiah. Isaiah is “the king of wait.” Is it accidental that he mentions the name of Jacob forty-two times? Both David and Isaiah placed profound significance upon Jacob as an example for us to follow.

“Waiting” is an excellent word to summarize Jacob’s life. It’s true that over his span of 147 years he had some bell-ringing, catalytic moments. But the vast majority of his story was marked by extended periods of waiting on God. Brief bursts of divine activity were separated by vast expanses of virtual inactivity.

Actually, this is one of God’s signature ways. He separates His most outstanding works by protracted periods of seeming silence. Then, when He finally manifests His glory, it shines all the more brilliantly. Consider the lengthy span between each of God’s most outstanding wonders: from creation to the flood, to the exodus, to the return from exile, to the resurrection of Christ, and then to the future coming of Christ. There’s a long time between each of those six mighty events! It’s those prolonged lapses between His major activities that put the flair into the way God invades and redirects human history. The deafening silence of the thousands of years between each mighty intervention has rumbled throughout history in timpanic drumrolls of suspenseful anticipation.

The waiting seasons actually give God the room He needs to write the story. Those who demand resolution too hastily can forfeit the grandeur of what God was intending to write. By taking things into your own hands prematurely, you can undermine the basis upon which God was planning to write your last, great chapter.

For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him (Isa. 64:4).

Takeaway: Wait on God. Give Him some material to work with.

 

Wrestling to be a Prince

In the wrestling match with Christ, Jacob asked Him to tell His name.

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” (Gen. 32:28-29).

Jesus did not divulge His name to Jacob. But if He had, He might have said to him, “Israel.” Because Israel is one of the names of Christ. This is seen in Isaiah.

And He said to me, “You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isa. 49:3).

This verse appears in the “Servant songs” of Isaiah. The context clearly indicates that the Father is the speaker, and He is talking to His Son, the Servant. The Father, addressing His Son, calls Him Israel.

Israel means “Prince with God.” Truly Jesus is the ultimate Prince with God! He wears the name gloriously. Jesus is the true Israel of God. To be in Israel, you must be in Christ, because Christ is Israel.

At Peniel, Jacob was wrestling with Israel! When Jesus gave Jacob the name Israel, He was giving him His own name.

Jacob did not really understand it at the time, but he was wrestling for his name. “If you are to be a Prince with God, Jacob, you are going to have to wrestle down the name.”

Takeaway: To wear the name Christ has for you, don’t be surprised if you have to wrestle it down.

 

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Several times in Scripture, God identified Himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (e.g. Ex. 3:6). Let me explain one reason why that designation is significant to me personally. It helps me define who I serve.

In today’s world of multiple gods, I consider it wise to identify precisely which God I serve. I serve the God of Abraham. But I need to be more specific because Abraham had several sons (1 Chron. 1:32). I do not serve the God of Ishmael (one of Abraham’s sons), but the God of Isaac.

But even that is not precise enough because Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. I do not serve the God of Esau but of Jacob.

Still, that is not specific enough in today’s world because two major world religions (Judaism and Christianity) trace their roots to Jacob. I serve the God who gave to Jacob the name Israel. In other words, I serve the God and Father of Jesus Christ.

Yes, I can tell you exactly which God I serve. My God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and the God of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 3:13). For me, there is no other.

Takeaway: Serve the only and true God of Jacob: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Hard Way

We learn from Jacob’s life that sometimes God wants things to transpire the hard way. God could have made everything so much easier on Jacob by just saying to him, “Jacob, go down to Egypt.” God led Abraham down to Egypt, and He could have just as easily done the same with Jacob.

But instead, God put the squeeze on Jacob. First, he lost Joseph; then he lost Simeon; and the man in Egypt was wanting Benjamin next. Add to that, the intense distress from the famine. His entire household was hungry! The combination of stress factors put incredible pressure on God’s beloved servant. He went through all kinds of emotional gyrations before he was finally presented with the solution of going to Egypt to meet Joseph.

After Jacob was finally settled in Egypt, I can imagine him wondering, “Lord, why did You make it so hard on me? I would have happily followed Your voice. All You had to do was say to me, ‘Move to Egypt.’ Why did You make it come down the hard way?”

The truth is that often God leads His favorites in the hard way. (The leading example, of course, is the cross of Christ.) Why? Because God accomplishes so many things at multiple levels by letting the thing happen the hard way. He uses the difficulty to excavate hearts and produce greater eternal fruit than if an easier path had been taken.

Takeaway: Do not be thrown off balance if God allows a portion of your journey to come down the hard way.

 

Even Numbers

I have noticed that sometimes God uses even numbers, or numbers with a meaningful association, to draw attention to the significance of a certain person’s story in that moment. Let me give a few examples.

Enoch walked with God for 365 years, and then God took him (Gen. 5:24). Why did God not take him at age 364 or at 366? God waited until Enoch was precisely 365 because of the significance of the number. That number in itself was a message from God: “I want to walk with man 365 days a year in unbroken fellowship.”

God waited to send the flood until Noah was precisely six hundred years old (Gen. 7:6). Why the even number? To indicate that God’s timing was based not on some calendar in heaven but on the calendar of Noah’s life. Through his faith and righteousness, Noah became a timepiece and chronometer to his generation of heaven’s movements in the earth. This underscored the significance of Noah as the man at that time around whom God was writing human history.

How old was Abraham when Isaac was born? One hundred. The even number arrests us. It tells us, “Look at Abraham. He’s My man. What I am doing with him right now is very important.”

Moses’ life divides into three forty-year periods. The timing of the exodus and entrance into the promised land was calibrated to the life of one man, Moses. 40, 80, 120 years. The emphasis of those even numbers highlighted the importance of Moses in God’s redemptive plan.

God waited to lead Israel out of Egypt until their exodus fell precisely on 430 years to the day since God had spoken to Abraham (Ex. 12:41). This was God’s way of saying, “This is purposeful. Pay attention.”

Several men are emphasized in the Bible by making significant moments happen when they were thirty years old. At age thirty, Joseph rose from the prison to the palace; David became king of Judah; God visited Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1); John the Baptist’s ministry was launched; Christ Jesus’ ministry was launched. Quite often God lines up everything on earth to the timeline of His servant, so that he literally becomes God’s calendar.

Now, here’s how this principle applies to Jacob. The Bible makes a point of noting that when God brought His salvation to Jacob’s life and brought him down to Egypt, Jacob was 130 (Gen. 47:9). The even number is intended to alert us. God did not deliver him at 131, but at an even 130.

At this juncture in Jacob’s narrative, Joseph was 39. Some readers might think that Joseph was the key character in the story at this point, but the use of the numbers tells us otherwise. If Joseph were the main player, God would have waited one year until Joseph was 40 and Jacob 131. But no, Joseph was to be 39, and Jacob was to be an even 130. The numbers, just by themselves, tell us who the primary person is at that moment. Jacob is the man. It is his story that we are to behold.

Takeaway: Be watchful for ways in which God uses numbers to bring emphasis to your story.

 

Compounded Generational Blessings

Jacob was desperate to receive the blessing of his father, Isaac. The intensity of Jacob’s desire for the blessing pointed to its significance. The blessing that Isaac had to give was powerful and eternally important. But now here’s a stunning statement from Jacob, as he spoke to his sons.

The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills (Gen. 49:26).

Jacob was telling his sons, “As much as I wanted my father’s blessing, I have more to give than he. What I have to give greatly excels the blessing of my father, as high as the everlasting hills.”[1] The implication of his statement is, “I wanted my father’s blessing desperately and did my utmost to get it. How you have lived your lives has demonstrated how badly each of you, in turn, have wanted the blessing that I have to give.”

Reuben, the firstborn, obviously did not earnestly covet his father’s blessing. You don’t sleep with your father’s wife if you are passionate about receiving his blessing.

Of the twelve sons, Joseph was the one who demonstrated the greatest zeal to receive his father’s blessing, so he was the one who got the greatest share.

Genesis 49:26 (above) shows that Jacob had become a profoundly spiritual man. The deposit of grace that he was able to pass to his sons was richer and deeper than the grace on Abraham or Isaac.

Takeaway: You have more to give your children than your parents gave you. Your pinnacle becomes your children’s platform.

 

A Grandfather Anointing

When Joseph brought his two sons to Jacob for a blessing, Jacob crossed his arms, placing his right hand on the younger grandson.

Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’” And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh (Gen. 48:17-20).

Joseph was thinking analytically. He thought it proper for his father to place his right hand upon the firstborn. Jacob, however, was functioning out of his spirit, not his head. In the Spirit, Jacob perceived a greater inheritance for the younger Ephraim.

The grandfather had greater clarity into the calling and destiny of the sons than the father. Where Joseph was clouded, Jacob could see.

It was not uncommon in Scripture for fathers to lack discernment regarding their sons. For example, Isaac favored Esau, even though Jacob was God’s choice. Jesse favored his oldest sons, although David was God’s choice.  Joseph favored Manasseh when Ephraim was God’s choice.  Preconceived ideas can blind a father from accurately recognizing the grace and anointing that rests upon a certain child. This is where the perceptivity of a godly grandfather can complete the picture.

Takeaway for grandparents: Ask God for an anointing in the Holy Spirit to call forth the destiny of your grandchildren.

 

Intimacy Makes it Personal

At the end of his life, Jacob made a statement that is easy to gloss over and not fully absorb. Jacob uttered these words in the context of his blessing over his son, Joseph.

But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel) (Gen. 49:24).

In this verse, Jacob described God as “the Mighty God of Jacob.” It was quite a bold affirmation. It was a very assertive way to say, “He is my God.”

If I were to use the same language, I would say, “He is the Mighty God of Bob.” Go ahead, insert in your own name there. Do you have the confidence—the ownership—to call Him the God of (insert your name)?

I wonder what kind of intimacy and conviction rested in the bosom of Jacob when he spoke to his children of “the Mighty God of Jacob.” The confidence behind this assertion came as a result of God’s salvation in his life. God showed His salvation by returning Joseph, Simeon, and Benjamin to him, and providing abundantly for his family in Goshen. That’s when Jacob realized how vested God was personally in their relationship.

When God took Jacob’s hip out, Jacob took it personally; then, when God restored Jacob’s losses, Jacob realized that the whole story was profoundly personal to God, too. The affection between them was torrential. It was all about love and loyalty.

I am asking God to finish my story in such a manner that at the end of my race I might be able to talk to my children, like Jacob, about “the God of Bob.”

Takeaway: By the time your last chapter is complete, may it be that personal for you, too.