APOLOGIZING FOR GOD

apologizing

The other day, as I was preparing to speak at a certain Christian event, I began to apologize to the Lord in a manner I had done several times before. I said things like, “I’m sorry, Lord, that I have so little to offer you. I have such a limited message. The bandwidth on what I carry and what I can offer is so narrow, and You really deserve better. I have so many limitations. You deserve to have a servant who provides You with a much broader scope of possibilities. I’m sorry that You have so few options when You’re working with me.”

The Lord’s response seemed to be something like this, “You don’t think of this as I do.”

Then I felt drawn toward these verses:

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness (Rom. 12:6-8).

The Lord seemed to be emphasizing that whatever gift for blessing others I might carry, it came to me as a gift of His grace. Since He gave it, who was I to apologize to Him for His gift?

So I’ve decided to stop apologizing to Him for the grace He has bestowed on me. I need concern myself only with being faithful.

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.

 

THE EYES OF THE LORD

eyes of the lord

In this post I want to show how gloriously God responds to those who maintain their loyalty to Him. Here’s our text:

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars” (2 Chron. 16:9).

The verse’s context is very important. Asa was king in Jerusalem, and early in his reign he was invaded by a million-man army from Ethiopia. Asa was young, inexperienced, and resource-barren. In desperation, he cried out to God for help and deliverance: “LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” (2 Chron. 14:11).

And God responded! The Ethiopians were completely overthrown, and Asa returned to Jerusalem with vast amounts of war bounty. God granted a mighty victory! Asa didn’t have another war until his thirty-sixth year as king. He wisely used the decades of peace to strengthen the nation spiritually, economically, and militarily.

Unfortunately, as the nation grew in strength, Asa’s sense of dependence upon God waned. He had become rich.

His heart was tested when war again came to his doorstep. This time, it was the northern kingdom of Israel that invaded. (At the time, Israel was divided into two kingdoms, and Asa was king of the southern kingdom based in Jerusalem.) Baasha, king of Israel, came against Asa with intimidating strength. What was Asa to do?

He decided to dip into his national treasury (which was substantial by now) and hire Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, to break his treaty with Baasha. Ben-Hadad accepted the money, attacked Israel with a mighty blow, and forced Baasha to abandon his military campaign against Asa.

On the surface, Asa’s strategy seemed amazingly successful. Baasha retreated and Jerusalem was relieved. Asa’s national popularity soared. Many in the land were doubtless applauding the king for his brilliant leadership. But God wasn’t.

Hanani the seer expressed to Asa how God felt about his tactics. Hanani rebuked him for relying on the king of Syria for deliverance. He reminded him of God’s previous deliverance. When the Ethiopians invaded, Asa had relied on God and conquered the enemy. Had he already forgotten? Even though he had a history of experiencing God’s delivering power, Asa had fallen (through prosperity) to self-sufficiency and unbelief.

And then Hanani spoke these arresting words:

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars” (2 Chron. 16:9).

Because his heart was not fully loyal to God, Asa would now face ongoing wars during his reign.

The word “loyal” comes from a vivid Hebrew word that has various renderings by English translations: perfect, true, whole, completely His, fully committed, blameless. The meaning is that those who look to God alone for deliverance, in the hour of enemy invasion, are demonstrating a loyal, perfect, true heart toward Him.

God is actively looking for this kind of loyalty. When it says His eyes “run,” it means they are on an aggressive, high-speed search. God has seven eyes (Zech 3:9; Rev 5:6), and all seven scour the earth, looking for those whose gaze is lifted to Him for help. When God finds this kind of heart loyalty, He shows Himself strong on their behalf. He fights for them.

The context of our Scripture is all about deliverance from enemy invasion. When the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, God wants to answer by demonstrating His military strength and awesome delivering power. But He’s looking for singular focus.

The same assurance is repeated in Psalm 33:18-19:

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.”

It seems that Asa’s son, Jehoshaphat, learned from his father’s mistakes, because when Jehoshaphat was invaded by a formidable army from Edom and Moab during his own reign, he spoke up and said to the people of Jerusalem, “Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron 20:20). You should read 2 Chronicles 20 again to see how mightily God delivered Jehoshaphat from the Edomites. It’s an amazing story!

Have you been invaded by a foreign force that is trying to steal, kill, and destroy in your life? Give your heart in perfect loyalty to God, wait on Him, and He will show Himself strong on your behalf—He will fight for you. His eyes are eagerly searching for this kind of devotion!

 

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.

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!”

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 – INTIMACY MAKES IT PERSONAL

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.

LESSONS FROM JACOB – WRESTLING TO BE A PRINCE

wresting 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.

 

 

LESSONS FROM JACOB – WAITING ON GOD

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.

 

THE SECRET OF TIME

secret of time
A friend recently told me, “The secret place has been the point of greatest frustration and attack in my personal walk.” I know he’s not alone. Since the secret place holds the keys to authentic kingdom overcoming, the enemy will cause his strongest assaults to bear upon this single point of a Christian’s life.

Our enemy will do anything to get us to curtail the amount of time we devote to the secret place with God. He will push, distract, harass, incite, oppress, entice, weary, lie, intimidate—whatever it takes. Make no mistake, when you devote yourself to knowing God, all of hell seems to resurrect against you.

The full potential of the secret place with God requires one great overarching element: time.  Lots of it. The more exclusive time you devote to Him, the more meaningful the relationship becomes. The principle of 2 Corinthians 9:6 really does apply here, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” The more time that you sow into the secret place, the greater the bounty you will enjoy.

There is a threshold to cross in terms of uncovering the full joy of the secret place. Until you find the threshold, you will find that you’re consistently pushing yourself to get into the secret place, as though it’s a burden instead of a joy. But once you cross the threshold, the secret place becomes a place of delight that you will gladly prioritize over other competing demands.

How do we find that threshold? By giving much time to the secret place. I never consider time invested in the secret place to be wasteful; and even if it is, I gladly waste it upon my Lord! Even when we feel like we’re spinning our wheels spiritually, every hour invested is a filling up of the vial. One day the vial will be full, and the Lord will take us through the threshold into another dimension of delight and intimacy. But we’ll never get there without investing time.

Another friend told me she had feelings of guilt over not taking enough time to be with the Lord. This is a very common feeling, but it is seriously misdirected. Feelings of guilt will never motivate anyone to spend more time with God; in actuality, they will discourage you and make you feel like a failure. Guilt has the potential to totally snuff out whatever small flame there presently might be.

Guilt is always founded on satanic lies. Satan wants you to believe that God is ticked with you because you haven’t been meeting your daily quota of time with Him. He militates against the truth of God’s word which states that our acceptance with God has to do with nothing but faith in Christ. God is very unimpressed with your performance, but He is deeply impressed with Christ’s performance. When you put childlike faith in Christ, Christ’s performance record is credited to you. Faith in Christ unlocks the Father’s heart to you. When you believe on His beloved Son, the Father’s heart explodes in affirmation and acceptance and delight—totally independently of your diligence or lack thereof.

God is your greatest fan. As your heavenly Father, He is constantly coaxing you forward into the heights of spiritual victory. When you neglect the secret place, He’s not disappointed in you, He’s disappointed for you. He sees the spiritual riches available to you, and His heart breaks when He watches you getting bypassed. He wants you to share in heaven’s best, and He looks with wistful longing when you short-change yourself spiritually.

Someone said to me recently, “The greatest lie Satan attacks me with is, ‘You deserve a break today!’” Some of Satan’s lies are so stupid they’re literally ridiculous. As though time away from the secret place is a break!  It’s not a break; it’s a loss. You missed drinking deeply of the Spirit’s fountain; you missed being washed and cleansed and renewed in His presence; you missed getting fed by the illumination of God’s word; you missed taking the time to calm your hectic heart and hear His precious voice; you missed the intimate communion of the secret garden. As the saying goes, “You was robbed.”

So instead of feeling guilty, we should feel ripped off!  When circumstances or emotions are successful at robbing your secret place, don’t get guilty—get indignant! Let lovesickness arise in your breast. “Oh Lord, I love You so much; I am really upset at the way I’ve allowed the cares of this life to crowd You out. This has to stop, things have got to change. I can’t live without You. I’m coming back! I’ve got to have more time with You. You are my very life, my breath. Oh, I love You, Lord!” And then exert spiritual violence to get your priorities back in line.

On a practical note, many of those who have uncovered great joy in their secret life with God have found it necessary to devote a specific portion of the day to meeting with Him. Giving themselves in a disciplined way to a consistent time slot has been very important in finding the higher dimensions of joy and delight. When we relegate the secret place to spontaneity, in retrospect we find that we didn’t give it much time. Go with whatever works for you—because the point is to carve out entire chunks of time that we can devote to long and loving meditation on the beauty and splendor of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here’s another practical tip: Work your way up slowly to spending more time with Him. If you’re doing ten minutes a day right now, make it fifteen or twenty. By adding incrementally you are building your spiritual stamina. I was once with a brother who was wanting to devote himself to prayer and study regarding a specific struggle in his life. I was amazed, however, that after giving himself to the study for a few minutes, he had to quit and move on to something else. He had developed virtually no spiritual stamina. Even a mere half-hour of study and prayer was too much. He had a case of spiritual “Attention Deficit Disorder.” It was time, however, for him to mature in God and develop the ability to spend more time in the secret place.

Train for it like an athlete. No athlete expects to run a marathon on his first time out after being sedentary for many months. He knows he’s got to build up his endurance. So every day he adds a little bit more until he’s at the endurance level he desires. Similarly, you can build your endurance to the point where spending large portions of time with Him becomes the great delight of your heart.

When I think of running this race, I think of Psalm 119:32, “I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart.” A runner must develop strength of heart. As he pushes himself to run greater distances, or at a faster pace, the ability of the heart to pump life-sustaining blood to the body is enlarged.  I have asked the Lord to enlarge my heart that I might run a harder pace of pursuing Him.

We’re not finished with this theme yet. So come to the next chapter, I want to talk about a specific way we can plan more time alone with God.

This post in an excerpt of Bob’s bestselling book, Secrets of the Secret Place.  You can order it by clicking here.