Saturday, September 26, 2015

A time to receive forgiveness and a time to release forgiveness

Mark 11:23-25 (NKJV): For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, "Be removed and be cast into the sea," and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him...

The word 'forgive' here is 'aphiemi' in Greek, which can mean 'to leave (the matter) and let alone, to leave (the matter) and let go, to lay aside (a hurt or a fault), to pardon and send away, to release and send away'.

I heard and released these words to the congregation recently:
"Forgive! The grace to forgive is here. This is a time to receive forgiveness and this is a time to release forgiveness, so that your prayers will not be hindered!"

And then I heard further:
"This is a time to release and send away those 'prisoners' you have been keeping in the 'prison' of your heart!"

Indeed, to 'bottle up' hurts, faults, anger or resentment (against anyone who may have hurt or offended you) is like keeping that person (or persons) in the 'prison' of your heart. It is burdensome. It is taxing. It is cumbersome. It kills off joy in life! In fact, some of these 'prisoners' might not even know they have hurt or offended you in any way, but you've been keeping them in your 'prison' all these years!

Some might ask, "But what does forgiveness have to do with prayers being answered?" Friends, it has everything to do with your prayers being answered! The Word of God says so. Otherwise, Jesus (for He is the Word of God) wouldn't have mentioned about forgiveness when He spoke to His disciples about prayers being answered!

As our cross-reference, let's look at Matthew 18:18-20 now. Here, Jesus said, "Assuredly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

And watch what comes right after the verses above! Matthew 18:21-22 then says, '...Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Then Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."'

Do you see again how 'forgiveness' is connected to your prayers being answered?

Not only that, forgiveness leads to healing as well! David wrote in Psalm 103:1-3, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases...' Notice forgiveness comes first, and then healing follows? In other words, every healing (whether it's for an individual, a family, a land, or even a nation) begins with forgiveness.

"But what does it mean by 'up to seven times' and 'up to seventy times seven'?"

A lot of people don't understand what Jesus meant here, and different Bible commentaries may interpret it differently. But when you look at the meaning of 'seven' and 'seventy' in Hebrew numeric, you will understand. Let me explain. If the number 'seven' means 'perfect, or perfection', then 'to forgive up to seven times' simply means we are 'to forgive perfectly'!

"But I find it hard, even impossible to forgive perfectly!"

And that's when the number 'seventy' comes in! Interestingly, do you know what the number 'seventy' means in Hebrew? It means 'God's Spirit'! Therefore, 'to forgive up to seventy times seven' actually means 'to forgive perfectly with the help of God's Spirit (i.e. the Holy Spirit)'! In other words, of course you may find it hard, even impossible to forgive perfectly by your own human effort, but with the help of God's Spirit (i.e. the Holy Spirit), it's so much easier!

In short, here's the difference between 'up to seven times' and 'up to seventy times seven':
'To forgive up to seven times' = depending on your own self (own human effort) to forgive perfectly.
'To forgive up to seventy times seven' = depending on the Holy Spirit to work in you to forgive perfectly.

As you can see above, it does take the Holy Spirit to work in us to forgive perfectly! Simply because the Holy Spirit is perfect, whereas you and I (by ourselves) aren't! Also, the Holy Spirit is first and foremost the Spirit of love (see Galatians 5:22-23), and this love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, 'Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy, love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails...' 1 Corinthians 13:10 then says, '...when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away'. See the word 'perfect' here?

Indeed, Jesus is the personification of God's perfect love that never fails (see 1 John 4:16), and it is out of this perfect love that forgiveness flows. Luke 23:32-34 says, 'There were also two others, criminals, led with Jesus to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." And they divided His garments and cast lots'.

And you know what? Philippians 2:8-11 shows us just what happened to Jesus soon after! The Scripture says, 'And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father'.

When you learn to forgive, God's name is glorified!

By the way, do you know on what occasion was the word 'forgive' first mentioned in the Bible? It's in Genesis 50:17, about Joseph forgiving his brothers after their father (Jacob) had died. Here's what Genesis 50:15-21 say, 'When Joseph's brothers saw that their father (Jacob) was dead, they said, "Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may repay us for all the evil we did to him." So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, "Before your father died, he commanded, saying, 'Thus you shall say to Joseph: "I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you."' Now, please forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father." And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, "Behold, we are your servants." Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them'.

As a result, there was a wholesome reconciliation and unity among the sons of Jacob (Israel), and indeed, God's name is glorified! Simply because Joseph had learned to forgive - a far cry from those days when he brought bad reports against his brothers (see Genesis 37:2). He has certainly been changed by the Lord through the years, to the glory of God the Father.

Beloved of God, may the Lord also grant you peace and a heart to forgive. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

This is a key time to praise!

Psalm 22:3 (NKJV): But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.

The word 'praises' here in Hebrew is 'tehillah', which means 'laudation (or giving high praise) to God', from the word 'haw-lal' meaning ‘to clear the way, to shine (in the midst of darkness), to boast, to make a show, to celebrate (with a loud voice)’. 

There are other Hebrew words for ‘praise’, but we shall concentrate on this word ‘haw-lal’ today. This word 'haw-lal' is also where the word Hallelujah (meaning 'Praise the Lord') comes from.

Some might say, "Looking at my situation now, I have no reason to praise God." But the truth is you have all the more reason to praise God! From the Scriptures, you can see the likes of David and Jehoshaphat praising the Lord even when they were in 'difficult' and 'troubled' times! 

In good times, you praise, and of course in breakthrough times, you praise! But how about in troubled times? You praise also! In fact, keep praising till you see your breakthrough comes! Now that's exactly what David did! In Psalm 34:1-4, he wrote, 'I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise ('tehillah') shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears'.

"You mean I should praise God for the problem I am facing now?" No, I'm not saying you are to praise God for the problem. But I'm saying you praise God in spite of the problem you are facing now.

Let's go back to Psalm 22 where we started. I want you to see something here. I want you to see how 'praises' makes all the difference!

In Psalm 22:1-5, David wrote, 
'My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent.
But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.'

Before David mentioned 'praises' here, he wrote 'cry in the daytime, but You do not hear'. But after he had mentioned 'praises', he wrote 'They cried to You, and were delivered'! One was 'unanswered', and the other was 'answered'! And look now what separates between these two? Praises!

Last Sunday, I heard and released these words to the congregation:
"This is a key time to praise! Praise, My people, praise! Do not give up praising! Keep praising in spite of your problems! Keep praising even in the midst of your troubles! Keep praising, and you will begin to see your breakthroughs!"

As you praise ('tehillah'), know that the Lord is enthroned! To put it simply, He is now made king! And as the king (for He is the King of kings, the Lord of lords), He now takes over, takes the lead, and takes full responsibility over that particular situation (or circumstance) of yours! And that's exactly what happened when Jehoshaphat (and the people of Judah) began to praise2 Chronicles 20:22-23 says, 'Now when they began to sing and to praise ('tehillah'), the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. 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'.

Why are 'praises' so important in a time of trouble or uncertainty? 
You can find the answer by studying the Hebrew letters for this same word ‘haw-lal’, i.e. 

'Hey' (the fifth letter in Hebrew alephbet chart) symbolizes 'man with raised arms', which speaks of 'Jesus, and all that He has done for you on the cross', whereas
'Lamed' (the twelfth letter in Hebrew alephbet chart) symbolizes 'the shepherd's rod and staff', which speaks of 'the Shepherd’s authority'.
The interpretation: When you 'praise', Jesus (your Shepherd) takes over your situation with His rod and staff!

Interestingly, Psalm 22 (about ‘the praises of the Lord’ in the midst of trouble and suffering) leads to Psalm 23 (about the Shepherd taking over)!

Your 'praises' activates the Shepherd to take over!
In Psalm 23:1-4, David wrote,
'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (lack). He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me'.

See 'He makes', 'He leads', 'He restores', and then 'He leads' here? All these are verbs, indicating 'actions' of the Shepherd!
By the way, here's the difference between a 'rod' and a 'staff':
A 'rod' is used by the shepherd to drive away the enemy. For example, the shepherd chases a wolf away with a good, hard whack. On the other hand, a 'staff' is used by the shepherd to guide the sheep in the right paths, to direct (or lead) the sheep from straying away, or to rescue the sheep when they fall into cracks (or crevices).

So, people of God, PRAISEPraise the Lord over and above that particular situation of yours now, be it a health problem or a financial challenge, or any other situation you may be facing right now. And you'll be sure that your Shepherd will come and take over with His rod and His staff - the 'rod' to chase away the works of the enemy, and the 'staff' to guide, direct (or lead) and rescue you!

When you praise, your 'dead-end' shall be turned into a 'new road'! 
Just the other day, I saw a vision while praying for somebody. I saw the person in a car that had reached a 'dead-end', and the place was surrounded by thick, dark jungle, with no further road in sight. Then I heard the Lord say, "Switch on the head lights!" The lights of the car then beamed through the 'dead-end', miraculously clearing the 'dead-end' and opening up a 'new road'. A road not made by man, but by the works of the Lord! Now, that’s the power of ‘praise’Remember ‘haw-lal’ means 'to clear the way, to shine (in the midst of darkness)'?

So, go ahead, 'switch on your head lights!' Praise Him, and keep praising Him continually! And you too shall see your 'dead-end' be turned into a 'new road'. Hallelujah!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

How do you 'judge' your current situation and circumstance?

Judges 2:18 (NKJV): And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge...

The word 'judge' here in Hebrew is 'shaphat', which means 'to govern, to rule, to sentence (for or against) like a judge'. See the word 'sentence' here? In the context of our bible-study today, 'to judge' here is 'to pronounce a sentence (or verdict) over your current situation and circumstance by your words'.

Indeed, in Christ, you too are the 'shaphat' of today! Proverbs 18:21 says, 'Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit'. In other words, if you love to speak 'life' (into your current situation and circumstance), you will have the 'fruit' of life! But the opposite is also true! If you love to speak 'death' (into your current situation and circumstance), you will have the 'fruit' of death!

By the way, the word 'life' here is 'khah-ee' in Hebrew, from the root word 'khaw-yaw' which can mean 'to live, to revive, to make alive, to restore to life, to spring up, to recover, to become strong, to become fresh, to become whole'. Wow! That's what your words can bring forth when you speak life into whatever you may be facing at the moment!

Let's go back to the book of Judges now. Here, you can see how the Lord raised up judges to pronounce a sentence (or verdict) over every situation and circumstance the children of Israel were facing those days. We shall look at the first two in the list.


Judges 3:7-10 (NKJV) says, 'So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs. Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the children of Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim eight years. When the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them: Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord delivered Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-Rishathaim'.

This name 'Othniel' is 'Othniy El' in Hebrew, meaning 'the force of God, or the power of God'. The 'Old Testament' is the 'shadow', and the 'New Testament' is the 'substance'. So, let's now go to the New Testament for our cross-reference. Here, the apostle Paul wrote, 'For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation...' (Romans 1:16). See the expression 'the power of God' here? And the word 'salvation' here is 'soteria' in Greek, which can also mean 'deliverance, or rescue'. 

So, what is this 'force' or 'power' that brings 'deliverance'? The gospel (or good news) of Christ, which is the Word of God!

Interestingly, the name 'Cushan-Rishathaim' means 'the curse of double-wickedness', from two words, namely 'Cush', a descendant of Ham who was cursed (see Genesis 9:22-25, Genesis 10:6), and 'Rishathaim', meaning 'double wickedness', which speaks of the enemy's direct reaction to the double portion that God has meant for you this year!


Judges 3:12-23 (NKJV) says, 'And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord… So the children of Israel served Eglon king of Moab eighteen years. But when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for them: Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man. By him the children of Israel sent tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Ehud made himself a dagger (it was double-edged and a cubit in length) and fastened it under his clothes on his right thigh. So he brought the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. (Now Eglon was a very fat man.) And when he had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who had carried the tribute. But he himself turned back... So Ehud came to him (Eglon) and said, "I have a message from God for you". So he (Eglon) arose from his seat. Then Ehud reached with his left, took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly'. 

This name 'Ehud' (Echuwd) is from the word 'achad' in Hebrew, meaning 'to collect (one’s thought) together, to go one way'. Now, that was exactly what Ehud did against Eglon! With a dagger only the length of a cubit (Note: A cubit is a linear unit of measure from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger), he 'collected (his thought) together and went one way' with his double-edged dagger, and right into the 'thick, heavy' belly of Eglon! The 'Old Testament' is the 'shadow', and the 'New Testament' is the substance. So, let's go again to the New Testament for our cross-reference. The key word here is 'double-edged', and the writer of the book of Hebrews wrote, 'For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword...' (Hebrews 4:12). 

Again, it's the Word of God that brings deliverance! And it's the Word of God that judges the work of the enemy!

By the way, the name 'Eglon' in Hebrew means 'a heavy, big, round bull', which speaks of 'the heaviness of the problem you may be facing currently'. So, even if you have been surrounded by a seemingly 'heavy, big, round bull' kind of problem, fear not, because the Lord has already given you a 'weapon' in the form of the Word of God! 2 Corinthians 10:4 says, 'For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (of the flesh) but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds'. Amen! 

People of God, this is a high time to speak and declare the Word of God over every situation and circumstance in your life (and even in your nation)! Never underestimate how important you and your words can be!

I heard these words from the Lord recently: 
“Many of My people shall break new ground! Many of My people shall walk in a fresh new anointing! This is a season for new things! This is a time to declare it open! This is a time to speak the language of the Word, not the language of the world!” 

Note: ‘Language’ is defined in Oxford Dictionary as 'system of sounds, words, patterns, etc used by humans to communicate thoughts and feelings, or manner of expressing oneself'.

And how do you 'declare it open'? You use your mouth! Use your mouth therefore to speak what God speaks, not what the world speaks! The Word works! And mind you, the Word of God is BIG! Really BIG! Bigger than many in this world may have thought! Because by it, the heavens and the earth were created! (see Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3) And even when 'heaven and earth will pass away', the Word of God will still remain, and will by no means pass away! (Luke 21:33) That's how BIG the Word of God is!

So, speak and declare the Word of God into the spiritual realm around you! Speak and declare the Word of God over your current situation and circumstance, no matter how bad or 'heavy' it may look like at the moment! And that's exactly how you are going to pronounce a sentence (verdict) over those current situation and circumstance of yours - by the words that you speak! And that's how new ground (even new grounds) shall be opened for you (and your nation) as well! In Jesus' name. Amen!