Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Receive perfect peace from the Lord

Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV): You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

The word 'perfect' here is 'shalem' in Hebrew, meaning 'full, whole, complete'. This word 'shalem' comes from the word 'shalam', which means 'to be safe, to be complete'.

How about the word 'peace' here in this verse? This word is 'shalom' in Hebrew, meaning 'safety, wellness, wholeness, welfare, health, prosperity, favor'. Notice the broad meaning of this word 'shalom' here. By the way, this word 'shalom' also comes from the same word 'shalam', which means 'to be safe, to be complete'. 

So, here you go! 'Perfect peace' in Hebrew is 'shalem shalom'! As you can see above, both these words 'perfect' and 'peace' come from this same word 'shalam'. Double 'shalam'! Dual peace! As your mind is stayed on Him (instead of on the world, or on the issues/problems of this world), God will keep you in 'shalem shalom'! That's perfect peace - both internally and externally!

Internally:
In John 14:27, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." The Word of God says Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). This word 'prince' here is 'sar' in Hebrew, which can mean 'head, chief, ruler, keeper, lord, master, beginner, source'. Indeed, He is the 'Sar Shalom', the Source of Peace that no one in this world can give! When He gives, it is for you to receive! And when He leaves this peace with you, it is meant to stay in you! This peace stays in your spirit and your soul (i.e. your mind, will, and emotion).

Externally:
And then in Mark 4:39, in the midst of the windstorm and rough seas, Jesus said, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. This peace is also upon your physical body and the circumstances around you.

You see, that's what 'perfect peace' should be! And you have it when your mind is stayed on Him. The word 'stayed' here is pronounced 'saw-mak' in Hebrew, which simply means 'to lean upon'. This 'leaning upon' is an attitude of your mind which trusts God that His thoughts for you are always thoughts of peace ('shalom') that gives you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

People of God, continue to lean upon Him and never give up trusting Him, no matter what. He will help you if you are willing. By God's grace, you can choose to set your mind on Him, instead of the things that trouble you in this world. Colossians 3:2 says to 'set your mind on things above, and not on things on the earth', and Romans 8:5-6 says as you 'set your mind on Him (i.e. being spiritually-minded), you'll have life and peace'.

To trust Him is to put all your confidence in Him, even if there are things that you can never understand or comprehend why these happened.
To trust Him is to know that He is still sovereign and in control, despite some personal tragedies, chaos, or bad news that may have shaken you recently.
To trust Him is to look to Him and be fully dependent on Him, knowing that He is God, and we are not, and that He knows all things, even things ahead of us; 'for in Him we live and move and have our being' (Acts 17:28) and 'that all things will work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose' (Romans 8:28).

The devil will always want to 'steal, kill, and destroy' God's people (John 10:10). The devil will always want to cause doubts among God's people - doubts about God, doubts about God's Word, doubts about God's goodness, and doubts about God's grace. In other words, the devil will always want God's people to question God, God's Word, God's goodness, and God's grace. Because he knows doubts will eventually lead to loss of faith. When there's loss of faith in God, God's people will begin to walk out on Him. That's the devil's ultimate aim. That's what he did to Adam and Eve anyway (see Genesis 3:1-5), and his aim has never changed since then.

The apostle Paul understood this very well, because often times, he could have doubted God. In fact, he had every reason to doubt God or God's calling for his life. But by God's grace, he was able to keep putting his trust on his sovereign God. This is what he wrote: 'in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness' (2 Corinthians 11:23-27), yet his deep concern was only for God's things (2 Corinthians 11:28).

In the next chapter, he then wrote, 'And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities (weaknesses, i.e. dependence on God), that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities (weaknesses, i.e. dependence on God), in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

So, whatever you may be going through at the moment, you are not alone through this. We are all in this together, and the citizens of heaven are also cheering us on, as we continue to run towards the finishing line. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, 'Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin (including fear and unbelief) which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God'.

Ephesians 6:12-13 says, 'For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand'.

In the meantime, I pray 'the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord' (Philippians 4:7). This peace in you will hold you together when everything else in this world seems to be in chaos. Receive this peace from Him. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Let the high praises of God be in your mouth!

Psalm 149:5-6 (NKJV): Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand.

The words 'high praises' here is 'tehillah' in Hebrew, which literally means 'laudation', from the word 'haw-lal', which means 'to shine, to boast, to celebrate, to make clear the way'. I like the expression 'to make clear the way' here.

Look now what happens when you let the 'high praises' of the Lord be in your mouth. Psalm 149:7-9 has these amazing answers, '... to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the written judgement - this honor have all His saints. Praise the Lord!'

See 'this honor have all His saints' here? As a believer, you too are called His saints, brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ, and members together in the household of God! (Ephesians 2:13, Ephesians 2:19)

Indeed, whatever (difficult) situation or circumstance you may be facing at the moment, your 'high praises' of the Lord makes clear the way for you! Hallelujah!

In cross-reference, let's look now at 2 Chronicles 20:22, and in the days of Jehoshaphat. This verse says, 'Now when they (Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah) began to sing and to praise (same word 'tehillah'), the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated'.

What happened next was again, amazing! 2 Chronicles 20:23 says, 'For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another'.

In other words, the Lord 'executed vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples (who came against God's people)'. And the enemies got so confused they 'self-destruct' among themselves!

That, my friend, is the power of praise!

2 Chronicles 20:24-25 then says, 'So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their (enemies') dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped. When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away their spoil, they found among them an abundance of valuables on the dead bodies, and precious jewelry, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away; and they were three days gathering the spoil because there was so much'.

Even though in the New Covenant, we are not fighting flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), know that you too are the 'Jehoshaphats' of today! By the way, the name 'Jehoshaphat' comes from two words in Hebrew, 'Yehow' which is 'Yehovah, the self-existent and eternal God', and 'Shaphat' which means 'to execute judgement, to govern, to rule'. As you keep on praising Him, He is the One who will execute judgement on every work of darkness that comes against you!

And of course you belong to the tribe of the Lion of Judah! Jesus is the Lion of Judah (see Revelation 5:5). The word 'Judah' here is 'Yehuwdah' in Hebrew, from the root word 'yadah', which means 'to praise, or to shoot out (in celebration)'. Indeed, you belong to a people who shall continuously praise Him till the very end, and till eternity!

Recently, I released these words to a congregation I was preaching to:
"A time to praise! A time to praise! This is not a time to give up praising Him! This is a time to rise above and over every situation or circumstance of yours, and keep on praising Him!"

Victory is waiting for those who keep on praising the Lord! Amen!

Let's look at another example of how 'high praises' makes clear the way for God's people, and this time, it's Paul and Silas. Acts 16:22-24 says, 'Then the multitude rose up together against them (Paul and Silas); and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks'.

And look now at Paul and Silas' response. Acts 16:25 says, 'But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them'. These words 'singing hymns to God' are translated in King James Version as 'sang praises unto God'. The word 'praise' here is 'arete' in Greek, which means 'to speak of (His) excellence, (His) greatness, (His) virtue, (His) power'.

When the multitude rose up against them, they did not allow themselves to succumb under the difficult situation or circumstance they were facing. Instead, they rose above and over! They looked away from their own problems, and began speaking of God's excellence and greatness - from being occupied with 'selves' to being occupied with God's excellence and greatness!

When God 'becomes BIG' (i.e. when God is magnified in your life), your problem will 'become small'!

You know what? Acts 16:26 then says, 'Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundation of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed'. And the rest is history. For the record, not only their 'arete' led to the prison doors being opened, history has shown that also marked the beginning of the gospel doors being opened to the whole wide continent of Europe! (see Acts 17:1, Acts 17:10, Acts 17:16, Acts 18:1)

Isaiah 61:1-3 says, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.'

Interestingly, the word 'garment' here comes from the Hebrew word 'ateh', meaning 'to array oneself, to decorate oneself'.

Therefore, people of God, no matter what situation or circumstance you may be facing at the moment, like Jehoshaphat (and the people of Judah), and like Paul (and Silas), may you also continue to put on the garment of praise, 'arraying yourself' with the praises of the Lord, and keep on speaking of His excellence and greatness - till you see your breakthrough, and till you see the 'doors' are being opened for you too. In Jesus' name. Amen!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The final victory is already assured!

Psalm 31:19 (NKJV): Oh, how great is Your goodness which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!

The word 'goodness' here in Hebrew is 'tuwb', which means 'beauty, gladness, welfare (toward us)', from the word 'towb', that is 'to make well, to make good'. In other words, the psalmist David was declaring the greatness of God's welfare toward His beloved! And yes, He does make good His promises for you too! 

The word 'fear' here is 'yawraw' in Hebrew, which simply means 'revere'. 'To revere Him' is to humble ourselves under His mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6) and to continue learning from Him (John 15:1-7). The truth is what we all know on earth (even collectively) is just a mere 'bucket' of water in the midst of His vast ocean. That's how great He is, even in His infinite wisdom. And the Bible says 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom' (Proverbs 9:10).

Psalm 31:20 then says, 'You (the Lord) shall hide them (the goodness of the Lord) in the secret place of Your presence from the plots of man ('pride of man' in KJV). You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion (shelter) from the strife of tongues'.

The word 'plots' here is translated in Hebrew as 'snares, traps, trickeries, plans, or conspiracies', from the word 'rawkas' which means 'to tie up', which is the opposite of 'to be set free'. Indeed, the plots of man 'ties us up', so that we will not be set free 'to be what God wants us to be', or 'to do what God wants us to do'. 

The word 'strife' here is translated in Hebrew as 'contest, adversary, chiding, or contention', from the word 'ruwb' which means 'to strive against, to hold a controversy, or to lay wait'. The Bible says 'the adversary walks about like a roaring lion, (laying wait) seeking whom he may devour' (1 Peter 5:8). 

But God! Psalm 31:20 says the Lord shall keep and preserve all His goodness for you (including His plans, His dreams, and His visions He has put in your heart) from such works of the enemy!

Let's look now at the life and ministry of Nehemiah as a good example of the above verses. The name 'Nehemiah' literally means 'the comfort or consolation of the Lord'. In fact, what God did through Nehemiah was actually prophetic of our 'church age' in the dispensation of God's times.

In Nehemiah's days, the Lord put in his heart to build the wall of Jerusalem. 'Wall' here speaks of 'salvation' (see Isaiah 60:18), whereas 'Jerusalem' speaks of 'God's city, or God's people'. And with the comfort of the Lord, and with much perseverance on Nehemiah's part, the 'job' was eventually completed. 

The Old Testament is the 'shadow', and the New Testament is the 'substance'. Today, in the New Testament (the 'church age'), our main call on earth (whatever your vocation or ministry may be) is likewise to build the 'wall' too, that is to 'proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day, declare His glory among the nations, and His wonders among the people' (see Psalm 96:2-3).

Notice that before the successful completion of the wall, Nehemiah had to go through several rounds of 'persecutions'. Here's the chronology of what happened:
1. Ridicule & despise (see Nehemiah 2:19)
2. Mockery & reproach (see Nehemiah 4:1-3)
3. Conspiracy & confusion (see Nehemiah 4:7-8)
4. Threats & fear tactics (see Nehemiah 6:6-9)

Likewise in the 'church age', since the days of the early apostles in the Book of Acts till now, the 'church' (as a whole) has also gone through the above rounds of 'persecutions'. I believe we are currently in the last 'epoch' of 'persecutions' (i.e. 'threats & fear tactics' of the enemy) before the full completion, and culminating in the celebration of Feast of Tabernacles (see Nehemiah 8:14-17, Zechariah 14:16), the end-time assembling and in-gathering of the 'called ones' (i.e. the believers).

Indeed, we are a generation living in the end-time! Take heart, God's people, and ‘keep running the race’ and let's not give up (or grow weary) while doing good (Galatians 6:9). As you build what God is building, and do what God is doing, He will be with you till the end (Matthew 28:18-20). Whatever spiritual gift (or gifts) He has given you (Ephesians 4:11-13, 1 Corinthians 12:4-10), use it (or use them) for the glory of the Lord! And the comfort of Yahweh is with you, just as in the days of Nehemiah! You will see 'the good work that God has begun in you, He will also bring it to full completion' (Philippians 1:6). Amen!

As you can see above, the book of Nehemiah actually speaks of the leading up (building up) towards Jesus' coming again! If chapters 1 to 6 speaks of 'the church age', then chapters 7 and 8 speaks of 'His coming again'!

Watch now what happened upon the completion of the wall of Jerusalem in Nehemiah's days. Nehemiah 6:15-16 says, 'So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God'. 

Nehemiah 8:1-2 then says, 'Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month'.

See the words 'one man' here? This speaks of the one Body of Christ (Ephesians 2:15-16). If 'Nehemiah' speaks of 'you and I (i.e. the believers)', 'Ezra' (from the word 'Ezer' meaning 'aid, help') the priest speaks of 'our great High Priest, Jesus, who has fulfilled the Law perfectly (Matthew 5:17)'. Notice Ezra took over there on, and in turn declared to the people 'not to weep nor mourn, but to rejoice' (Nehemiah 8:9-12).

I don't know about you, but it's very comforting to know and be assured of what comes in the end, in spite of the present persecutions suffered by some of our brethren in Christ in some parts of the world, and even in the midst of 'threats and fear tactics' being plotted by the 'adversary'.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, the apostle Paul wrote, 'For the Lord (Jesus Christ) Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words'. 

The word ‘comfort’ here is ‘parakaleo’ in Greek, which means ‘to call near’. By the way, this word ‘parakaleo’ comes from two words - ‘para’ (meaning ‘near’) and ‘kaleo’ (meaning ‘calling, or call a name’). Indeed, you have a God who always calls you near to Him, and a God who knows you by name. Interestingly, this word ‘kaleo’ is the root word where the word ‘ekklesia’ (the Greek word for ‘church’, meaning ‘a calling out, or a gathering of the called ones’) comes from.

I heard these words from the Lord the other day as I was praying:
“No matter what happens, and even in the midst of chaos on earth, look to Me, lean on Me, and learn from Me. This is a time to comfort one another, not to condemn one another, put down one another, or put fear in one another.”

To ‘comfort one another’ is therefore to ‘call near to one another’, i.e. accepting one another, considering one another, encouraging one another, and exhorting one another, so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25).

People of God, wherever you are, together as one man, we’ll get the ‘job’ done, and see the ‘wall’ completed! The final victory is already assured. In Jesus’ name. Amen!