Friday, February 27, 2015

God's righteousness leads to peace, quietness and assurance

Isaiah 32:17 (NKJV): The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.

The word 'righteousness' here is 'tsedaqah' in Hebrew, which means 'rightness, rectitude (correctness), or justice', from the word 'tsadaq' meaning 'to be right, to make right, to cleanse, to clear self'. Isaiah 32 here speaks of the reign of God's righteousness, and of course, the work and the effect of God's righteousness for those who believe and walk in it.

The word 'peace' in this verse is 'shalom' in Hebrew, which encompasses 'peace, safety, wellness, wholeness, happiness, health, prosperity'. From the verse above, I can therefore say wherever and whenever God's righteousness reigns, there will be shalom peace.

The word 'quietness' here is 'shaqat' in Hebrew, which carries the meaning 'being settled, being still, or being at rest', while the word 'assurance' here is 'betach' in Hebrew, which means 'security, confidence'.

Today, in the New Covenant, this righteousness of God has been revealed through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus when He died for you on the cross (and His blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins) some 2,000 years ago. Indeed, He is in the Old (Covenant) concealed, and in the New (Covenant) revealed!

Romans 3:21-24 (NKJV) says, 'But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through redemption that is in Christ Jesus'.

In 2 Corinthians 5:21, the apostle Paul wrote, 'For He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him'. The word 'righteousness' here is 'dikaiosune' in Greek, meaning 'justification', from the word 'dikaios', which can mean 'to be innocent, to be holy (set apart), to be justified, to be made right, to be clear'. 

Like one’s name is being clearedthe Lamb of God (i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ) who takes away your sins (John 1:29) has also cleared your name before the throne of God. Thus, you can now come boldly to the throne of grace (into His presence), that you may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16), and it is by grace (not by works, or by trying to earn it) through faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Bible also says this righteousness of God is a gift for you to receive. As a believer in the New Covenant, you receive this gift (of righteousness), and that's how you reign in life through Him. Romans 5:17 (NKJV) says, 'For if by the one man's (i.e. Adam) offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ'.

Let's go back to Isaiah 32 now. The first verse says, 'Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice'. This king mentioned here is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords (Psalm 45:1-7, Revelation 19:16). And because He reigns (Isaiah 32:1), you reign too! The Word of God says, 'As He is, so are you in this world' (1 John 4:17). By the way, the word 'reign' in this context means 'to have the authority, or to rule with authority', even over all the power of the enemy in this world (see Luke 10:19).

A life, a home, a ministry, a business entity, or even a nation that is filled with bickering and strife (i.e. disharmony) is the exact opposite to the promises of God in Isaiah 32:17. The only way is to return to the Lord, and allow His righteousness to reign again. That's how the shalom peace of the Lord will also return and reign again! And as a matter of fact, where there is shalom peace, there will also be prosperity! Isaiah 32:15-16 says it so aptly, 'Until the Spirit (of righteousness) is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is counted as a forest (i.e. rich, lush greenery). Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field'.

Notice that things weren't good (read the verses prior to Isaiah 32:15-16), until the Spirit (of righteousness) is 'poured upon us'!

May any 'wilderness' of yours be also turned into 'a fruitful field', and 'the fruitful field' is counted as a 'forest' (which speaks of 'the richness of heavenly treasures on earth'). This is my prayer for you for the rest of this year. Amen.

Isaiah 32:18-19 (NKJV) then says, 'My people will dwell in peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet ('undisturbed' in KJV) resting places, though hail comes down on the forest, and the city is brought low in humiliation'. 

People of God, be fully assured His will for you is that 'you will dwell in peaceful habitation', and to find security and refuge in Him, no matter what you see (or hear) on this earth, or no matter what happens in these last days. ‘Hail comes down on the forest’ here speaks of 'natural calamities', whereas ‘the city is brought low in humiliation’ here speaks of 'economic downturn, or political turmoil'.

The Bible says, 'If He is for you, who can be against you?' (Romans 8:31) To know that you are the righteousness of God in Him (Jesus Christ) is to know that 'God is for you'.

And because 'God is for you', you also know that you have the shalom peace, security, and quietness in Him as well - in your life, in your home, and in all that you put your hands to do. The Word of God in Isaiah 32:17 says so! Believe, and you'll have it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A time to receive afresh and anew!

Psalm 52:8 (NIV): But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever.

In New King James Version, Psalm 52:8 reads this way, 'But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever'.

In the Hebrew context, every color has a meaning. 'Green' ("ra'anan" in Hebrew) is the color of 'new life, renewal, healing, peace, prosperity, victory', from a root word that means 'to be green, new, fresh, young, flourishing'. In short, this color speaks of ‘something that never gets worn out’.

As a matter of fact, our God is a God who never gets old, because He is the eternal, and the ageless One! Therefore, you can be sure that He can impart freshness, newness, and youthfulness upon you as well, and of course, to flourish you! By the way, 'to flourish', according to the Oxford Dictionary, is 'to grow healthily, to be widespread, to be active, to be well, to prosper, to be successful'. Praise God!

In Revelation 4:3 (NKJV), the apostle John wrote, 'Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald'. 

Rainbow’ here speaks of our Lord God who is a God who keeps His promises, and 'emerald' here is green in color, which speaks of His throne that never gets worn out, but always fresh and new!

How about ‘jasper’ and ‘sardius’ then? What do these gemstones mean? What the apostle John saw here actually confirms that the Lord Jesus Christ is the manifestation of the one true God (see John 1:1-18), the One who sits on the throne forever and ever (see Revelation 7:9-17).

Sardius’ stone is ‘blood-red’ in color, and this speaks of the blood of Jesus Christ shed for you on the cross. It points to His sacrifice at the cross, in the First Coming some 2,000 years ago.

Jasper’ stone is basically ‘clear, crystal-like’, and this speaks of the clear, total victory when He returns in all His glory. It points to His power and His rule in the Second Coming that we are awaiting for.

Why did the apostle John mention ‘jasper’ first, and then ‘sardius’? Because he was brought into the spiritual realm to see from the very end! Hence, he saw the Second Coming first, and then the First Coming.

Let’s look at the significance of an olive tree now, which the Word of God describes as ‘you’ (i.e. God's beloved) in Psalm 52:8. The word 'olive' here is 'zayith' in Hebrew, meaning 'a fruit that yields illuminating oil', from the root word 'ziv' which means 'to be bright, to flower, to flourish'. In Hebrew understanding, olive tree is a symbol of 'fruitfulness', and its branch is a symbol of 'peace'. Therefore, as God’s beloved, you are meant to be fruitful, and wherever He leads you (like the branches), there will be peace. Historically, it is a tree of immense value in biblical times, and can live several hundred years. Its oil symbolizes 'joy' (see Isaiah 61:3, Psalm 45:7), and has many uses - food, cosmetics, medicine, lamplight, and of course, for the consecration of priests/kings.

By the way, have you noticed the message in Psalm 52 (which speaks of ‘God flourishing you’) comes only after Psalm 51?

There's no accident in the arrangement of chapters/verses in the Bible. Because the Word is divinely inspired (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17), therefore the Word is also divinely arranged!

Psalm 51 speaks about one’s heart returning to God:

Psalm 51:6 (NKJV) says, 'Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts (i.e. the heart). And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom (i.e. what to do, and how to go about)'.

Psalm 51:10-11 (NKJV) says, 'Create in me a clean heart, O God. And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me'.

Psalm 51:17 (NKJV) says, 'A broken and a contrite heart - these, O God, You will not despise'.

You see, the Lord looks at the heart, and He honors the heart. When your heart turns (or returns) to God (Psalm 51), that's when God can begin to flourish you!

People of God, the grace to start afresh and anew is very rich for you right now. His arms are wide open to embrace you, even as you turn (or return) to Him. Look not at those past disappointments or failures, but look to Him and Him alone today. There's a breath of fresh air in the spiritual realm at the moment, and I know He will help you start afresh and anew again. His Word (in Psalm 52:8) says so, and He is a God who keeps His promises. 

In this time and season of the Lord, may you also join me to declare: My winter time has ended, and my spring time has come! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Looking to the faithfulness of God

2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NKJV): But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

The word faithful’ here is ‘pistos’ in Greek, which can also mean 'trustworthy, sure, truthful', from the word 'peitho', meaning 'to be sure, to have confidence'. As you can see here, the Lord isn't just your faithful God, but He is also your trustworthy, sure, truthful God. You can therefore put your trust in Him. Amen!

From this word 'pistos' here, notice that ‘to be faithful' is 'to be truthful’. He is a God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). Like in a relationship with a spouse, one cannot say that he/she is faithful unless he/she is truthful. The Bible says the Lord is the 'Bridegroom' (who is the way, the truth, and the life), and you are His 'bride' (i.e. His church, His people). He is also the 'Husband', and you (i.e. His church, His people) are the 'wife' (see Ephesians 5:25).

As I was worshiping and praying the other day, the Lord spoke these words:
"Look to Me. Look to My faithfulness. Even in the midst of your situation, look to Me, for I AM still your faithful God. My faithfulness towards you has never changed."

Today, He wants you to know that He IS still your faithful God, and will still beeven in the midst of your current situation (or persecution), and in this perilous end-time. Trust Him that He will show Himself faithful in every situation of yours.

Let's go back to 2 Thessalonians 3:3 now. The word ‘establish’ here is ‘sterizo’ in Greek, which means 'to steadily set youto turn you resolutely in a certain direction, to strengthen you, to confirm you', and the word 'guard' (or 'keep' in KJV) here carries the meaning 'to watch (over) you, to preserve you, to be on guard for you'.

You may have heard much teaching about one's faithfulness towards God (and there is definitely a place for such), but today, I am writing about His faithfulness towards you, and how He is here to steadily set you and watch (over) you, no matter what happens around you in this world. Indeed, He is still our steadfast (firm, unchanging) God, even if at times we have been unfaithful to Him.

People of God, this is the time and season to read 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians. These two books aren't just about you being faithful to Him, but also He being faithful to you (even in the midst of any situation or persecution you may be facing at the moment). In fact, these two books speak of our time now (the end-time), and therefore include instructions (like a manual) on how to live in this end-time (i.e. how to prepare for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ):

Continue to receive His love and abound in His love 
'And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints' (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).

Continue to receive His sanctification (holiness) and be holy
'For this is the will of God, your sanctification ('hagiasmos' = holiness, purity): that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God' (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
'For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit' (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8). 

Focus on your God-given calling & God’s vision for your life
'That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing' (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
'For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner; not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good' (2 Thessalonians 3:11-13).

Be sober and watchful/vigilant 
'You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep (i.e. slumber spiritually), as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation' (1 Thessalonians 5:5-8). 
Cross-references: 1 Peter 5:8, Mark 14:38.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything 
'Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Holy Spirit (i.e. extinguish/put out the work of the Holy Spirit)' (1 Thessalonians 5:14-19).

One might say, "That's a whole lot of things to do! You know, easier said than done, and it isn't easy living in this world full of temptations, revenge, and hatred nowadays!"

The answer, my friend, is in the Holy Spirit. Thank God for the Holy Spirit! His Spirit is the HOLY Spirit, and His Spirit produces the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). He is still present, and He is here to help you. Therefore, you don't have to struggle any further, if you allow Him to work in you and through you.

Philippians 2:13 says, 'For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure'. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says, 'Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify ('hagiazo' = to make holy, to purify) you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful ('pistos'), who will also do it'.

So, let's take Him at His Word today. His Word is truth (John 8:32), and His Word is sure (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

1 Thessalonians 2:12-13 says '...that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe'. 

You see, the Word of God is effective, and it works! (for those who believe) Heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will by no means pass away (Matthew 24:35). Therefore, hang on not to the things in this world that will pass away, but hang on to the Word that will by no means pass away. Amen.