Thursday, February 16, 2017

The key to crossing over from 'beating' to 'breakthrough': Sanctification

Joshua 3:1 (NKJV): Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over.

The place 'Acacia Grove' (also called 'Shittim' in Hebrew) simply means 'a group of Acacia trees'. But what is the significance of 'Acacia trees' here? These trees are known to have sharp, scourging thorns. In fact, the word 'Shittim' comes from this word 'shotet' in Hebrew, which means 'to scourge, to flog, to cause suffering, to beat severely'.

So here was Joshua, and on that day, he (and all the children of Israel) set out from Acacia Grove ('Shittim') and came to the Jordan, and lodged there before crossing over to the land promised to them - the land flowing with milk and honey. By the way, the word 'Jordan' is derived from this word 'yarad' in Hebrew, meaning 'to overcome, to subdue'. 

People of God, have you been 'taking a beating' or 'going through a time of scourging (or suffering)' in life recently? It may be in your health, finance, career, or even ministry. But the good news is no matter how 'difficult' it has been for you, linger in it no longer, because this is a time the Lord is giving you a new authority and anointing to overcome and subdue! In fact, the Lord even gave these words during a time of prayer recently: "Tell My people this is a time to cross over from 'beating' to 'breakthrough'!" Believe for it (in any area of your life), and receive by faith!

Let's continue with Joshua chapter 3 now. Joshua 3:3 says, '...When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it'. 'The ark of the covenant' here speaks of 'Jesus Himself, who is the very presence of God'. Notice the command for the people of God at that time was to 'go after it'! Indeed, this is a time to go after Jesus who is your righteousness and sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30), and let Him lead you into a new realm of breakthrough and victory in your life!

The Lord spoke further, and I duly released these words to the congregation last Sunday: 
"This is a time to sanctify yourselves, as I prepare you to cross over into the realm of breakthrough and victory! Just as Joshua was told to do so before he crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land!"

In Joshua 3:5, Joshua said to the people, "Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you." The word 'sanctify' here is 'qadash' in Hebrew, and it means 'to be clean, to be cleansed, to be consecrated, to be set apart (for God's work in your life), to be holy'.

"Holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit!" These words dropped on my mind spontaneously the other day. Many people have a mistaken idea that holiness is the work of human beings, and that what we need is to have a program or method to achieve holiness and perfection on earth. But the truth is this 'task' (of 'sanctification') is beyond our own power or self-effort! What we need is the power of the Holy Spirit!

Here in the Scripture, one can see that 'sanctification' comes before a breakthrough, victory, or even an increase. In Joshua 3:7, the Lord said this to him, "This day I will begin to exalt you (i.e. 'increase you', or 'make you great') in the sight of all Israel, that they may know as I was with Moses, so I will be with you." Let Scripture interpret Scripture now. In 2 Timothy 2:20-21, the apostle Paul wrote, 'But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel of honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work'.

Holy Spirit is all-knowing, and He will also show you the potential pitfalls in your life, the unique weaknesses in your life, and the specific changes that you need to make in your life (or lifestyle). Let Him begin to teach you and prompt you this day. Different people are different. So, let's not compare with one another. What it takes is your yieldedness to the Holy Spirit and His work in your life.

Take youthful lusts as an example. This has been one of the main 'killers' of ministry through the centuries. So, how do you deal with it? The apostle Paul did write about it to tackle this issue. In fact, he taught his spiritual son Timothy to never have confidence in his own flesh, and the way to fight youthful lusts is to flee! (i.e. to run away from it, or to avoid it at all costs). In other words, you trust the Holy Spirit, but never your own flesh! In 2 Timothy 2:22, the apostle Paul wrote, 'Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart'. Notice this verse comes right after 2 Timothy 2:20-21 that I mentioned above, and was written in the context of being 'a vessel of honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work'!

This message of holiness may not be the most popular topic to write, but it's necessary and important if you want to see radical breakthroughs in your life! (just as in Joshua's time) Why? Because sin hurts! Because sin destroys! (not just your life, but your loved ones will suffer too!) Because sin blocks God's blessings from free-flowing in you and through you!

Therefore, people of God, let the fire of the Holy Spirit fall upon you and cleanse you this day! The Holy Spirit is the HOLY Spirit! Receive this impartation of the fire of God's holiness in your life right now! Not by might, nor by power (of men), but by the Spirit of the Lord! And you too will begin to 'cross over' into a new realm of breakthrough and victory in life! In Jesus' name. Amen!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Depend on God's power to breathe life in you!

I heard these words from the Lord recently:
"This is a time I am breathing life in the valley of dry bones! For I am causing the 'dead' to be turned into 'life'! And I am causing the 'hopeless' to be turned into 'hope'! Let Me breathe upon you the breath of life! And let Me blow upon you the wind of My Spirit! Receive and be revived!"

Ezekiel 37:1-3 (NKJV) says, 'The hand of the Lord came upon me (Ezekiel) and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" So I answered, "O Lord God, You know."'

Humanly and scientifically speaking, nothing on earth can restore the bones back to life. You can't just throw a dry bone into water and expect it to come back to life again! These 'dry bones' therefore represent 'people/situation without any hope, whatsoever'. And the fact that they were 'very dry' symbolizes 'people/situation that look completely hopeless and dead'. If there's anyone who can bring these 'dry bones' back to life, it has to be the Lord!

You see, 'bones' are different from 'seeds'. Not long ago, some archaeologists found lily seeds from an ancient civilization in England. These were thousands of years old seeds. They watered it and put fertilizer as they planted the seeds. Guess what? The seeds sprouted and produced a very ancient type of lily plant! Life somehow was preserved in those seeds and the flower could live again! But not so for 'dry bones'!

The word 'valley' here speaks of 'hopeless, driest situation in one's life'. Geographically, this valley mentioned in Ezekiel 37:1-3 was near the Dead Sea, more than 1300 feet below sea level. Being one of the lowest, driest spots on earth, this valley was also called 'Death Valley'. Those days, when an army was defeated in a battle, the victorious soldiers would strip the valuables from the slain army, and leave those dead bodies unburied. Skeletons sometimes remained for years. Bones were scattered everywhere by wild animals and left to be bleached by the scorching sun.

These 'dry bones' mentioned in Ezekiel 37:1-3 were the very state (condition) of the people of God at that time. It was during one of the darkest days of Judah's history, i.e. the seventy-year period of Babylonian captivity. They were dispersed abroad, destitute of life (both spiritual and national), and have lost their identity. Take Ezekiel for example. From the time of his youth, he had been educated and trained to be a priest in the kingdom of Judah. But his hopes and dreams were dashed when King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem and took him (and other young Jews) into captivity in Babylon. He was now far and separated from where he was meant to be, totally hopeless and with no way out.

And it was in this background that the Lord spoke to Ezekiel, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."'" (Ezekiel 37:4-6)

Ezekiel 37:7-8 then says, 'So I (Ezekiel) prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over...'

Notice the words 'prophesied as I was commanded'? The word 'prophesied' here is 'naba' in Hebrew, and it means 'to speak (or sing) by the inspiration of the divine' (in this case, by the Spirit of the Lord). You see, it is the Spirit who revives and brings back life! In John 6:63, Jesus says, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are Spirit, and they are life." 

So, people of God, whatever hopelessness you may be facing at the moment, take heart that the Lord is breathing life in the valley of (your) dry bones. Your part (like Ezekiel's part) is to speak as the Holy Spirit puts in you to speak

Indeed, this is a time to speak life and declare life over your situation, no matter how 'dried up' or 'hopeless' it seems to be! Prophesy to those 'dry bones'! Be it your family matters, your career, your ministry, your business, your finance, even your health! And watch how the Lord do the rest! He can do a miracle for you today. Believe, receive and be revived!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Rejoice in the Lord always!

Philippians 4:4 (NKJV): Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

The word 'rejoice' here is 'chairo' (pronounced 'khah-ee-ro') in Greek, and it means 'be joyful, be glad, be happy'. Notice this word 'rejoice' is mentioned not just once, but twice in this verse itself! And the apostle Paul who wrote this verse certainly understood the power of rejoicing in the Lord!

Do you also see the word 'always' here? It is 'aei' (pronounced 'ah-eye') in Greek, and it can mean 'always, a continued duration, a regular practice'. In other words, rejoicing in the Lord should be a regular practice in our lives!

In fact, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we should be the shiniest, happiest people on earth! Why? Because Jesus has carried all our sins, cross, shame, curse, and even sorrows when He died for us on the cross! (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Nehemiah 8:10 says, '...Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength'. If you study that part of the Bible thoroughly, you'd know that Nehemiah wasn't just giving a mere suggestion to the people of God, but he was saying it as a command from the Lord!

So, why is it so important to 'rejoice in the Lord as a regular practice'? Because if you lose this joy, you would also lose the strength to carry on!

Some people say, 'Practice makes perfect'. Indeed, the more you practice on something, the more you'll be good at it! For example, if you practice your tennis strokes regularly every day (with the right coaching), you'll definitely be good at it! In fact, you'll even have no problem sparring with some of the household names in tennis! Now, that's the power of practice!

By the way, 'to practice' simply means 'to do something again and again'. And that's exactly what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote Philippians 4:4! I can therefore translate this verse to sound like this: 'Rejoice (be joyful, be glad, be happy) in the Lord as a regular practice. Again I will say, rejoice (be joyful, be glad, be happy)!'

So, people of God, what do you practice every day?
If you practice joy, you'll surely be reaping the reward of joy!
If you practice worry, everything in life will worry you!
If you practice anxiety, everything you do will be filled with anxiety!
If you practice anger, everything you see in life will anger you!
And the list goes on (and on)...
In short, you'll be good at whatever you practice every day!

Choose therefore to practice the joy of the Lord moment by moment, day by day!
You might ask, "How do I begin?" 
It's easy. You don't have to struggle for it. In fact, it's effortless.
1. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, know that He is the Giver of joy, the Source of joy, and He lives in you! You see? This joy lives in you! And no one (not even the devil!) can take it away from you, unless you allow it!
2. Receive this joy that comes from heaven, like a waterfall! Let this joy fill your heart and mind now. The Spirit of the Lord is also the Spirit of joy!
3. Take joy in what (and who) you are now.
4. Take joy in whatever you are doing now.

Notice the word 'now'. Some people might say,
"If only I become like so and so, then I'll be happy!", or
"If only I have that much money in the bank, then I'll be happy!", or
"If I move to that new country, then I'll be happy!"
Really? Is that really so? Why not choose to be happy even now, and watch how the Lord can do wonders for your future?

What is the reward of practicing joy in life?
1. You'll have a cheerful countenance! People are generally drawn to a shiny, happy countenance!
Proverbs 15:13 says, 'A merry (i.e. joyful, glad, happy) heart makes a cheerful countenance. But by sorrow of the heart, the spirit is broken'.
2. You'll have good health! Happy people are healthy people!
Proverbs 17:22 says, 'A merry (i.e. joyful, glad, happy) heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones'.
3. You'll have the goodness of God surrounding you! Wherever you are, the goodness of God seems to be attracted to you and follows after you!
Proverbs 15:15 says, 'All the days of the afflicted (i.e. depressed, disputing people) are evil, but he who is of a merry (i.e. joyful, glad, happy) heart has a continual feast'.