Entropy

Loyalty Message (1)
The dictionary defines entropy as a gradual decline into
disorder. The word points to the tendency of everything in the
universe to ultimately die and become inert. In other words,
everything in our world constantly tends to deteriorate and break
down.

Our cars are always breaking down. Our houses will never
maintain their condition unless we repair things as they break, touch
up the paint, and replace worn carpets. Our muscles want to atrophy,
our physique wants to soften, and our minds want to grow lazy.
Everything in life is always deteriorating.

The same tendency happens in our spiritual lives. It’s so easy
to become cool, distant, and disengaged in our relationship with
Jesus. Have you ever felt like everything in life is conspiring to
squeeze out your connection with Jesus? I know how you feel. If we
don’t devote ourselves intentionally to prayer, our prayer lives can
easily fall into disrepair.

No matter how long you’ve known the Lord, your spiritual vitality
can deteriorate. Even the most mature believers among us must fight
to hold onto everything they’ve gained in Christ.

My point is this. If your walk with Jesus has lost any of its
vibrancy and fervency, you’re not alone. This temptation is common
to all believers.

Holding to our first love is something we must sign up for.
Again. And again. Sometimes we need to re-up and step back into a
passionate pursuit of Christ.

I’ve written a book designed to help believers with this. RESET
is written to help believers put behind them everything of the past,
step into a new day, and jump-start their prayers lives.

Is it time to reset your prayer life? If so, I hope this resource is a
strong help: PrayerReset.com

It’s time. Gather a group of friends and do a #PrayerReset
together. God bless you!

5 Ways to Awaken Your Spiritual Vitality

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For a vine to produce succulent grapes year after year requires constant dressing. The vine must be pruned, fertilized, protected, watered, and harvested. If the vinedresser gets negligent or lazy, the health of the vine suffers.

In the same way, for our heart to be healthy and alive in Christ requires constant attention. The neglected heart begins to shrivel and die.

Jesus addressed this issue in a letter to the church at Sardis. At one time they had been spiritually vibrant and were known as a revival center, but through neglect they had shriveled and were dying.

Here’s Jesus’ letter to them:

Rev. 3:1 And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, “These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Rev. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 4 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.’”

If you’ve known Jesus for a long time, you know there are times when we’re tempted to relax in prayer. We might have a name for being spiritually vibrant, but that vitality can easily fall into disrepair. Our reputation can outshine our reality.

When things are dying, what should we do? Jesus’ letter to Sardis contains five injunctions—five ways to renew our spiritual vitality. He told them to watch, strengthen, remember, hold, and repent.

1. Be watchful. Be attentive to your spiritual health. Take your own temperature. Scrutinize and evaluate your heart condition. Evaluate your current ability to see and perceive. Are you able to see your true spiritual condition, or are you self-deceived? How is your faith and love? Do you still weep when praying the word? Take candid stock.
2. Strengthen. Strengthen those things in your heart which still have some life. Expose the cooling embers to the Holy Spirit’s breath. This will take time, energy, and effort. Just as a muscle is strengthened through exercise, our heart is strengthened through spiritual exercises in the word and prayer.
3. Remember. Remember the joy you had in the past in times of special devotion to Jesus. Review your journal. Remind yourself of the things God has spoken to you in years past. Renew your vows.
4. Hold. Hold fast to the things you’ve received from Jesus in the past. If they’ve been slipping from your grasp, rise up and lay hold. Again. Renew yourself in the precious promises you cherish. Refuse to relinquish or lose anything of those good things which you’ve received from Jesus.
5. Repent. The main idea in repentance is changed behavior. Don’t just nod compliantly and affirm your desire for renewed passion. Change. Actually change. Actually do something. You know what you need to do. Now do it.

Recently, I wrote a book entitled, RESET: 20 Ways to a Consistent Prayer Life. I tried to make it relevant and helpful to new believers. To my surprise, however, seasoned believers have also been strengthened by the book’s message. Who isn’t tempted to relax and neglect prayer?

Perhaps this blog is coming at just the right time for you. Is it time to reset your prayer life? Listen to Jesus’ counsel. Watch, strengthen, remember, hold, and repent.

For more information, go to PrayerReset.com.

WE HAVE LAWS FOR THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR

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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.

JOB THE PIONEER

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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

GIVING ALMS TO FOOLISH SPENDERS

GIVING ALMS TO FOOLISH SPENDERS

I am writing this post because of an excellent question I received on my Facebook page today from Jon Wages. I had placed this meditation on my page:

“Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30).  Even if you can’t give them what they request, give them something.

Jon sent this question in response:

“Do you feel the exception of people only trying to ‘pull a fast one’ is included in this? Is it ok to give even when you know they will use it on bad things? Asking because I have wondered about that every time I read that verse. Thanks for the thoughts!”

What a great question! Worded a different way, should a Christian give alms to people that will use those funds to purchase addictive substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, or squander them on things like lottery tickets?

While many people are poor through misfortune or lack of opportunity, the fact is that some people are poor because of foolish steward practices and sinful lifestyles. When giving to poor people in that second category, your gifts to them are often used to support their sinful lifestyles.

And that is one reason Jesus and the Scriptures call upon the righteous to give to the poor. When you give to those who are likely to abuse the funds given to them, you discover whether you are truly giving from the heart to Jesus. As it says in Prov. 19:17, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given.” When in almsgiving you give from the heart to Jesus, He always remembers.

Almsgiving is like a refining fire in the heart of the giver. This is why Jesus said, “But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you” (Luke 11:41). As a refining agent, almsgiving cleanses the soul. One of the first things it cleanses is the constant tendency in our hearts toward greed and materialism. Greed never stops trying to overgrow the heart. Almsgiving must be a constant practice in the life of the believer, continually hacking back the ever-encroaching tentacles of greed.

In terms of practical application, here’s how I practice almsgiving. When I am giving to someone that I expect will use my gift toward purchasing addictive substances, I give smaller amounts. When I believe that my gift will go to nobler purposes, I am more generous. The more confident I am in the channel (e.g. printing Bibles for people in poor or oppressed nations), the more generous I become.

Thank you, Jon, for your question!

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WHY ZION IS SO IMPORTANT

WHY ZION IS SO IMPORTANT

Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King (Psalm 48:2).

When David set his sights on Jerusalem, he was tapping into a spiritual stream of prophetic significance that was centuries old. Jerusalem had been on God’s mind for a long time. It’s a city whose profound spiritual history reached back a thousand years before David to the time of Abraham.

The first mention of Jerusalem in the Bible occurs in Genesis 14, at a time when Lot had been carried captive by invading forces. In a stunning military victory, Abraham delivered Lot from his captors and brought him safely home. Upon his return, Melchizedek went out to meet Abraham and bless him. Melchizedek was the king of Jerusalem (Salem) and also the priest of God Most High (see Genesis 14:14-24). Since Zion was Jerusalem’s safest neighborhood and thus its most ancient neighborhood—the “old city” if you will—it is reasonable to conclude that Melchizedek’s throne was in Zion proper (even though it wasn’t called Zion at the time). We could say, therefore, that Melchizedek came out of Zion in order to bless Abraham.

There was a second time when Abraham quietly brushed with Zion—when Abraham led his son, Isaac, to Mount Moriah, bound him, and placed him on a makeshift altar (see Genesis 22). Abraham intended to obey God’s voice and sacrifice his only son. A voice from heaven stopped him, and instead God provided a ram for the burnt offering. This all happened on Moriah.

Moriah is a hill within the city limits of contemporary Jerusalem. Moriah was the place where Solomon built his temple, and today it is the site of the Mosque of Omar (the Dome of the Rock). So when Abraham was on Moriah, he would have been within eyeshot of Zion and Melchizedek’s governmental seat. There is no biblical hint that he popped in on Melchizedek at that time, but the proximity would have made it very easy to do.

Melchizedek was the first priest of God to appear in Scripture, and it was no coincidence that his throne was in Zion (called Salem at the time). Jesus Christ was later declared to be a Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4). As such, Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne of Zion.

The Bible draws a great line of prophetic purpose between Melchizedek and Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 5-7). David stepped into the matrix of that divine purpose when he chose, under Holy Spirit direction, to conquer Zion.

And like Melchizedek before him, David was called of God to function in both a kingly and priestly capacity. This is why we see David putting on a linen ephod—which was a garment for priests to wear—at the procession of the ark to Zion (1 Chronicles 15:27). As a king, David was claiming also to be a priest. We know, however, that David was not pretending to be a Levitical priest since he was not of the tribe of Levi. Of what priesthood was he, then? There is only one remaining possibility. Clearly, David saw himself serving the Lord as a priest in the order of Melchizedek—a priesthood that is both priestly and kingly. David had no right to serve as a priest in the Aaronic order, but as a priest in the order of Melchizedek he was given divine permission to place the ark in open view, sit before it, and minister to the Lord.

While serving in this priestly capacity, David was shown that Messiah would serve before God in the same priesthood. This is why David wrote, “The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Psalm 110:4). David’s zeal for Zion was rooted in his understanding that one day Messiah would rule in Jerusalem as a Priest/King, just like Melchizedek did centuries before.

Jerusalem is a city like none other! It holds the distinction of being the only place on earth God chose as His eternal home (see Psalm 132:13-14). This is why history revolves around this city and God’s agenda for it. There are said to be 685 cities in the earth with a population larger than Jerusalem, and yet Jerusalem makes international headlines consistently more than most of them. What is the deal with Jerusalem, anyway? Why is it the most important city on earth? What makes it so different from other cities?

The answer is that God’s eyes and interests are riveted upon Jerusalem and, consequently, so are Satan’s. No location on earth matches Jerusalem for intensity of heavenly attention and spiritual warfare.

Zion and Jerusalem

The name Zion was used initially in Scripture for the small citadel inside Jerusalem where David placed his throne. Over time, however, the Holy Spirit began to broaden the concept of Zion in Scripture until it sometimes referred to all of Jerusalem (e.g., Psalm 76:2), or even the entire nation of Israel (e.g., Isaiah 3:16). When Zion is mentioned in the Bible, therefore, the precise meaning of the term can vary a bit depending on the context.

I find the following definition helpful. Zion is Jerusalem, particularly in regard to her Davidic inheritance. By “her Davidic inheritance,” I mean the promise of God to establish the Son of David upon the throne of Zion forever (Psalm 89:3-4, 29, 35-37; 132:11-18).

God had this to say about Zion: “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns” (Isaiah 62:1). No wonder Jerusalem is in the news almost every day! God Himself is resolved to labor without rest until Jerusalem’s righteousness and salvation shines brightly in the earth.

Jerusalem’s salvation is not even remotely seen right now. Men look at her today and see reproach, strife, stubbornness, and religious wars. What will it take to transform Jerusalem from its current condition to a city that shines brightly before the whole earth? Only one thing can effect that kind of transformation—the physical return of Jesus Christ. Only when Jesus establishes His throne in Zion will Jerusalem become a praise in all the earth (see Isaiah 62:7).

Zion: Political and Worship Capital

God chose the most impenetrable fortress in the entire land of Canaan as the geographical seat of Christ’s throne and authority. Zion’s reputation as unconquerable reflected the enduring nature of Christ’s Kingdom. “His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure to the end” (Daniel 6:26).

David established his throne in Zion as a prophetic declaration that eventually his Son, the Messiah, would reign in that exact place. In David’s time, Zion’s primary identity was the governmental seat for David’s throne. Using an American term, Zion was David’s “White House.”

Once he established his political capital in Zion, David then used his authority to establish Zion as a seat for 24/7 worship to the Lord (1 Chronicles 25). David understood the pattern of worship in the heavenlies (Psalm 119:96). He observed that wherever God’s throne is established there is incessant worship arising before Him. To fulfill that divine pattern, David inaugurated 24/7 worship and prayer in the stronghold of Zion. That 24/7 house of prayer represented the worship and praise that will arise incessantly to Jesus when He returns to earth and places His throne in Zion. Davidic-style worship will continue in Zion forever.

Zion, therefore, represents two things. Zion is:

•The seat of governmental authority, and

•The seat of incessant worship.

When David conquered Zion, it was so that he might establish both realities in Zion in their proper order.

We are watching an unprecedented phenomenon taking place in the earth right now. 24/7 houses of prayer are arising throughout the earth. As incessant worship is established before the Lord of God, it provides an atmosphere where the governmental authority of Christ in the earth can be exercised. And the inverse is also true: Whenever the kingdom of God is established with authority in a region, it makes a way for 24/7 houses of prayer to be raised up in that region.

David’s First Order of Business

David was promised by Samuel that he would be king of Israel, but it did not happen all at once. First he went through approximately ten years of refining in the wilderness. The latter part of that season was spent in exile in the land of the Philistines. Once his preparation was complete, he was given the kingdom of Israel in two stages.

In the first stage, David was crowned king only of the tribe of Judah. Being of the tribe of Judah himself, his relatives were first to crown him. He reigned over Judah for seven years from the capital city of Hebron, while Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, reigned over the other eleven tribes. During this time Jerusalem lay within the boundaries of the tribe of Benjamin and was, therefore, outside David’s jurisdiction.

Seven years later Ishbosheth died. Then the eleven tribes of Israel gathered together and asked David to reign over all twelve tribes of Israel. For the next thirty-three years, David was king over the entire nation.

Once David was crowned king of the twelve tribes, Jerusalem came under his jurisdiction. David had been waiting for this moment and immediately sprang to action regarding Zion.

As you read the biblical passages below, notice how one event followed the other. First came David’s coronation as king.

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and spoke, saying, “Indeed we are your bone and your flesh. Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.’” Therefore all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 5:1-5).

I want you to notice, now, the next verse in the Bible. What was David’s very first act as king of Israel?  Look at it.

And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, “You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,” thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David) (2 Samuel 5:6-7).

First came the coronation over the twelve tribes; then came the conquest of Zion.

David’s very first order of business as king of the entire land was to target the stronghold of Zion. Clearly, Zion was in his crosshairs all along, but he could not engage the stronghold as long as it lay outside his political jurisdiction. Once he had the authority to do something about it, he did not pause for the slightest moment but headed straight for Zion.

 

TESTIMONY: A COVENANT WITH MY EYES

A covenant with my eyes

In December 2013 I ministered at my home church, Forerunner Christian Fellowship (at the International House of Prayer, Kansas City). The message was based on my latest book, A Covenant With My Eyes. The fear of the Lord was present among us in a clear way, and we were all thankful for how the Spirit of the Lord bore witness to the message.

A couple days later I received an email from someone who was present that touched my heart in a special way. Tyler gave me permission to share his email here on my blog, which I hope is an encouragement to you if you should consider making a covenant with your eyes.

Dear Bob,

My name is Tyler.  I wanted to let you know how much your book, A Covenant With My Eyes meant to me. As one who struggled with addiction to pornography for many years, your book was the final tool God used to get me to where I am today. It’s a long story, but I’ll summarize it best i can.  I first saw pornography about 18 years ago. On Memorial Day of 2012, God encountered me through a very specific circumstance and supernaturally set me free from my addiction to pornography.  I had been battling this addiction for the 10+ years.

That encounter I had with him was his power setting me free, but then for the next year and a half I had to learn to walk in what He actually did. It was an very intense season of seeing what walking in freedom really meant and then aligning my thoughts with the truth of Jesus.

When I saw your book, I reluctantly bought it. I have read so many books about purity and the like, but I figured one more couldn’t hurt.  As I began reading it, I knew God was leading me to make a covenant with my eyes. The only problem I had was that I was worried I would be doing it in my own strength, and not His. On top of that, I didn’t know what it meant to make a covenant with my eyes. But as I continued to read, the more alive I felt and I knew that this was for me.

As I read the last chapter, I took some of your examples and typed out my covenant. As I sat in the quiet of my room, I prayed to God and made a covenant with my eyes for one month. As the days passed, there were two main understandings I had. One was I knew that God had heard my covenant and was now holding me to it. I truly felt the fear of the Lord. And two, I had the most keen awareness of his grace towards me in maintaining my side of the covenant. This was grace like I had never experienced. There were times when I was literally shocked in what would happen to my eyes when a potential opportunity to look would come across my path. It’s actually kind of hard to explain, but it was almost as if my eyes were out of my control and under God’s control. He was the one darting them away from whatever was before me. No lust, no second looks. Nothing.
And now that it has been about a month and a half, everything is the same; nothing has changed. The grace is still there; the fear of the Lord is still there. I actually just got back from being on a cruise in the Caribbean, where there were women in bikini’s everywhere, and I still did not falter or fall. As one who was heavily addicted to pornography, this is incredible!
Today I know that I am never going back to that sin. I know it with all my heart. I know because this is God’s doing; this is not in my power. I am undone by His faithfulness and mercy towards me. So many times He forgave me; so many times He stuck with me and never let me go. Your book was the final blow to this sin and the conclusion to this past year and a half of fighting and walking in the truth of what God did. I truly thank God for your willingness to take on this subject and write this book.
Blessings to you,
Tyler