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“If”

Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:11-14 NKJV

God promises prosperity and fruitfulness in whatever He leads you to do (see Prov. 10:22; Jos. 1:8; Ps. 1:1-3) and that your blessings will increase without toiling if you fulfill four conditions: humility, prayer, seeking God, and repentance of sin. These also are conditions of forgiveness. But if you refuse to fulfill these four conditions, God will bring judgment rather than blessings (verse 13).

The word “if” is a conjunction that joins together a condition, an event, or a thought together with something that happens. For example, God said, “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land (Isa. 1:19). “If” is a small two letter word that has a big impact in our lives. Why? It is the “little foxes that spoil the vine” (Song.  2:15). “If” is like a “little fox.” When the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, notwithstanding Israel’s then good success and prosperity, He warned him of four conditions that were connected to “if” in order that the Lord would send blessings rather than judgment on the nation. These four conditions were humility, prayer, seeking God, and repentance of sin. Let’s focus on the first condition: humility.

Blessings, success and prosperity are preceded by humility. Pride is the opposite of humility. Pride is the enemy of humility (Prov. 16:18).  Pride is being haughty and high-minded. Humility is lowliness of mind. Humility is a pre-condition to blessings and prosperity. For example, Jesus said, “if” you humble yourself and become like little children, you can be great in the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:1-4); the writer of Hebrews said that “if” you obey and submit (act of humility) to church leadership, your soul would be joyfully watched over (Heb. 13:17); and, the Apostle Peter said that “if” you’re clothed with humility, then God would exalt you in due season (1 Pt. 5:5-6).

“If” God’s people will humble themselves, then God will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Your year 2020 blessing, prosperity and success is depended on “if.” Happy New Year!

 

20/20 Vision: Healthy Eyes

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:1-4 NKJV

In this New Year (2020), it is a new decade and a new season; thus, it is fitting to refer back to the beginning of the very first year, almost 6,020 years ago: “In the beginning God . . . .” This first verse of the Word of God is the most important verse, because it is the foundation on which everything else is built. Please notice, in the text above, that God’s second act in creation was to provide light. Without light, we can have no vision. And, we need a 20/20 spiritual vision (Prov. 29:18). There can be no 20/20 vision without healthy eyes.

Without spiritual 20/20 vision our spiritual eyes are closed. When our eyes are closed, our lives remain “without form, and void” surrounded by darkness. Healthy eyes are opened eyes. For example, when the king of Syria sent horses and chariots, and a great host, to arrest Elisha. His servant could only see doom and destruction. But when Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. After the servant’s eyes were opened, he could clearly see that there were more horses and chariots of fire with them than a natural force with the Syrians (2 Kings 6:17). 20/20 spiritual vision makes for healthy eyes.

Naturally speaking, “normal vision” is 20/20, i.e., you can see the same line of letters at 20 feet away as a person with normal vision. Unhealthy vision is anything less than 20/20. E.g., 20/40 vision means that you can only see at 20 feet what a person with normal vision sees at 40 feet.  Some may be nearsighted (myopia) where they can clearly see things close to them. Others may be farsighted (hyperopic) where they can clearly see things at a distance. Spiritually, a nearsighted eye can only believe what has already been manifested—what it can touch, taste, feel, hear, or smell. And, spiritual farsightedness is when we are so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good; we can have a vision for the future but no reality of faith in the present. Both of these conditions are unhealthy because the eye of the mind doesn’t have the ability to “refract or focus” God’s light sharply enough; thus, the eye is considered unhealthy.

Jesus talked about the importance of healthy spiritual eyes in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:22-23). He reveled that the light of the body is the “eye”—the soul, the mind, emotions, the will and intellect. With our spiritual eyes, we see good things in the realm of the Spirit for the year 2020 and beyond. Because spiritual eyes are healthy, our whole body is full of light and fresh vision for this new season. But if our spiritual eyes are closed or blind, then God’s light cannot shine in our souls and we remain in the darkness of past seasons and past years.

So, for the year 2020, let us believe God that His light (John 1:9; 8:12) will come into our lives through our healthy eyes to give birth to a 20/20 vision. And, let us resolve to submit to God, to serve Him with gladness and joy, and to sow into His kingdom; and, do these things with faith, focus, and fearlessness; and, let us further resolve to believe and obey all things in God’s Word. The year 2020 is a new year, a new season, and a new opportunity to spiritually renew and reset with a 20/20 vision. Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Jesus is the reason for the season—in fact, Jesus the the reason for each day that the Lord God makes. Rejoice and be glad; give God the glory for His perfect and unspeakable gift, Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Clothed With Humility

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith . . . 1 Peter 5:5-9a NKJV

For the third time in the Bible, we are reminded that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Prov. 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). God is a God of grace, but He doesn’t give grace to all—only to the humble. He opposes the proud (Prov. 16:18), and to be proud is to be an enemy of God.

God firmly stands against and opposes the proud for two reasons: (1) Satan, and (2) Adam and Eve. Pride drove Satan to want to exalt his throne above the stars of the Most High God—to be like the Most High God (Isa. 14; Ezek. 28). And, Eve and Adam, out of their pride, disobeyed God to become wise like God (Gen. 3). In both cases Satan, and Eve and Adam’s pride led to them being cast out of heaven and the Garden of Eden, respectfully. Pride was Satan’s chief sin and Adam and Eve’s main sin. Pride is a stronghold of temptation and sin. Therefore, as James admonished the Christians of twelve tribes of Israel scatter abroad: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (Jas. 4:10).

Jesus also taught His disciples that the way to go up in God is down (Matt. 23:12). Peter taught that because God resists the proud, believers need to be “clothed in humility” (Text), i.e., to wear humility as a spiritual girdle. Humility can be a hard virtue to maintain because it is the opposite of pride, and again, pride is a stronghold of sin. But it is better to put yourself down than to have someone else do it. If you humble yourself, God will lift you up.

We are to humble ourselves under the “mighty hand of God.”    The mighty hand of God, universally speaking, is God’s omnipotence—power and authority. If you don’t humble yourself under God’s grace, He will humble you under His judgments.    The mighty hand of God will punish the proud and defend the humble, because He cares for us. And finally, what does the Lord require of His people: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Be clothed with humility; resist the devil and he will flee from you!

 

 

 

 

 

Committed and Submitted

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7 KJV

The devil is always trying to draw us away from God through enticements and worldly pleasures. If we are committed to God, we must resist the devil and the temptations he sends our way, and overcome him by the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. But the key to overcoming the devil and causing him to flee is submission to God.

To submit means reflexively to obey; to be subject to; to subordinate; and, it is a willingness to be helped (Greek). True submission is never based on coercion, force, or suppression. Because of your commitment in a relationship, you willingly submit. In fact, commitment presupposes submission in Biblically mentioned relationships on every level first to God (Ps. 37:5); second to your parents (Ex. 20:12; third to your spouse (Eph. 5:21); fourth to church leadership (Heb. 13:17); fifth to one another (1 Cor. 16:16); six to your employer (Col. 3:22); and, seven to civil government (Rom. 13:1). So, when resisting the devil, you need to be committed and submitted.

How do you resist the devil and overcome him? To resist the devil is to oppose and stand against him. You resist the devil, not in your power, but through the power of Jesus Christ. There two steps:

First, remember whenever you follow the devil’s wishes, you betray the Lord. The devil will try to destroy your faith by producing doubt and fear in your mind. Second, stand in the power of God which is always available. We must put on the power and the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-11, 13). God’s power is like electricity: you have to turn on the switch (Matt. 4:10). If you don’t exercise God’s power over the devil, he will try to destroy you by leading you into sin and disobedience; he’ll try to destroy your fellowship with other believers by creating conflict and confusion, enticing you to slander and backbite. Stay committed and submitted!

 

 

 

 

 

In It to Win It!

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 NKJV

In the race of faith (Heb. 12:1), you have to fight for your rights, and for what is right in Christ. You need to be in it to win! It’s like what the character, Sofia, said in that award winning movie: “All my life I had to fight” (The Color Purple, 1985). For some, this is true in life, but it is also true for every believer in their Christian faith. In the above text, the word “Fight” does not mean combat, but rather, it means to contend (Jude 3). The word is not taken from the battlefield, but from an athletic contest. The fight is the race connected with your faith in God.

We are told by the Apostle Paul to “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life . . .” (Text). What does this mean? Why is it a “good fight”? To fight the “good fight of faith” means to stand firm and to stay anchored in the Word of God, and fight against the enemies of faith: yourself, other people, and the devil. It is a good fight because you always win; it means to be in it to win it!

First, fight the good fight against yourself by reckoning yourself to be dead to your un-regenerated feelings and human reasoning that is not in line with the Word of God. You must resist ungodly thoughts, desires, and affections, and unpack all of the old baggage that you’ve carting around from your sinful past (Rom. 12:1-2). Be in it to win it; therefore, do not run this race of faith like a man running aimlessly; do not fight like a man beating the air. Land your spiritual punches! Keep yourself under subjection to God and His Word so that when you have preached and witnessed the faith to others, you will not be disqualified for the prize, i.e., eternal life (1 Cor. 9:26-27).

Secondly, fight the good fight against others. Run well and do not let anyone hinder you (Gal. 5:7), neither let anyone throw you into confusion by perverting the good news of the Gospel of grace. Stand firm in your faith—stand on God’s Word. Resist all unscriptural ideas, advice, and opinions (See Gal. 1:7-10).

And thirdly, fight the good fight against the devil, just like Jesus did. Jesus fought the good fight with the Word of God (Matt. 4).  Remember, our struggle is not always against “flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). To be in it to win it, requires that you first be submitted unto God, then you can resist the devil and he will flee from you (Jas. 4:7). To resist is to stand against; stand against demonic thoughts, lies, and deceptions; and, fight against the “ifs” of the devil, just like Jesus did (See Matt. 4). Be in it to win it!

 

 

 

The Race of Faith

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 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.  Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV

Your life following Christ is like a race—a race of faith. Like a good athlete, you must refuse anything that will hinder your pace or endurance. The object of this spiritual race is to run as fast as you can in order to win, and to give great witness of your faith.

The race of faith is different from a natural race. In a natural race, only one runner wins the prize. The Apostle Paul reminded us that “that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air” (1 Cor. 9:24-26).

In the race of faith, we need to take off all unnecessary clothing and jewelry. Such things will hinder the runner. We must take off every weight and sin in order to run more quickly because a weight hinders and sin entangles. Even small weights are a hindrance because small weights, unaddressed, can morph into sins. In Christ, many weights are not wrong in and of themselves, but they can still hinder us in our spiritual race—be careful. And remember, hindrances are not the same for everyone (Gal. 5:7).

We must “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14), and never look back.  To press is to “exert effort” (strive and struggle).  But do we really need to exert such effort if we are living under grace? We are saved by grace, justified and sanctified by grace. But unlike “fruit” that naturally ripens on a tree, we will not naturally become just like Christ, because man has free-will and must actively and intentionally submit and obey God. Thus, we must press; we must work out our salvation as we run this race (Phil. 2:12).

Put your eyes on Jesus and do not be distracted (Heb. 12:2). Gazing off to the left or right at the world’s pleasures, and looking back will cause you to wander from side to side (Phil.3:13). Wandering from side to side slows you down and may jeopardize you from finishing your course. Just forget what is behind you (Luke 9:62; 2 Tim. 4:7). The mature in Christ will forget what is behind and press forward to win the race of faith!

 

 

Don’t Quit!

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9 KJV

Never get so discouraged to the point of giving up on God and yourself. Perhaps you’ve have sown seeds of righteousness, finances, faith, etc.; yet seemingly, there is no manifested harvest, no measurable return on your giving, and no answers to your prayers—what ever you do: don’t quit!

When bad things happen in life, or when it seems like nothing is happening, don’t get weary, or weak in faith, discouraged and exhausted. Never lose courage; never lose heart; never give up; never quit. Just know that this season will change and you will bring forth good fruit in your season (Gen. 8:22; Ps. 1:3). “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Heb. 10:35-36).

The Scriptures offer you at least three good reasons to never quit: (1) All Heaven is watching you, and waiting for your completion of the “race of life” (Heb. 11:39-40; 12:1); (2) Your circumstances are subject to change. Bad things don’t last always (2 Cor. 4:16-18); and, (3) The Lord Himself will renew your strength if you wait on Him, i.e., place your hope and trust in Him (Isa. 40:31).

Don’t ever quit. Continue to cast your seeds of faith in the “ground” and leave it there. Your due season will come with a mighty harvest (Mark 4:26-29). Harvest is the manifestation of the seeds that you have sown; it is the fulfillment of everything you need and desire; and, harvest is manifested wholeness that comes to all who overcome weariness. Don’t quit!

God Is Up to Something Good!

Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things!  And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen. Psalm 72:18-19 NKJV

God is a good God, and does only wondrous things—that which is wonderful, marvelous, and awesome. Even when you incur the bad and evil, God is still a good God. He is always up to something good. So, don’t give up on your dreams and visions, because your dreams and visions haven’t given up on you. Could it be that God is getting you ready for the fulfillment of your vision? While the vision is ready for you, you may not be ready for the vision. When it seems like nothing is happening, don’t quit—just feel the joy because God is up to something good!

The life of Joseph reminds us that God is always up to something good. Joseph was hated by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, and falsely imprison; notwithstanding, God was up to something good (See Genesis 37:3-11). The same way God brought Joseph out and fulfilled his dream, God will surely bring you out, too. No matter your circumstance; no matter what evil and evil people come against you, God is working on your behalf, in the background, to manifest your dream and vision. Others may have meant it for evil, but God intends it for your good (Genesis 37:23; 50:20).

Because God is up to something good, all things work together for your good (Rom. 8:28). “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; with the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself” (Ps. 76:10). No matter what evil befalls you, man can only do to you and against you what God allows—no more, no less! Nothing shall circumvent your God-given dream and vision. In due season, it shall come to pass (Gal. 6:9). So, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).

God doesn’t speed up difficult trying season, but joy makes the time seem so much shorter. And remember, the greater the vision, the more thorough the preparation. Preparation is never lost time because God is up to something good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Darkroom

 For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5 NKJV

Before the advent of smart-phones and computerized tablets, people could only use cameras to take pictures. After the picture was taken, the film in the camera had to be developed in a “darkroom.” A darkroom is a room made completely dark to allow the processing of the light-sensitive photographic film.  Once the film is developed, it can be seen in the light as a picture or photograph.

In the Scriptures, night speaks of darkness, and morning and day symbolize light (Gen. 1:3-5). When you’re trusting God for a manifestation of a promise, and you’re standing on His Word and nothing seems to be happening but silence, inactivity, and a loss of vision—don’t panic!—you’re having a darkroom experience.

God-given dreams and visions are developed in the darkroom (Prov. 29:18). After pictures are taken in the light, they are developed in the darkroom—even though you don’t see anything, God is developing you and your dream (2 Cor. 4:18). God is faithful. “His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life” (Text) and He who gave you the vision in the light will encourage you with His promise in the darkroom (Isa. 41:10).

In the darkroom, keep saying what you see by faith. Confess it with confidence while being patient (Heb. 10:35-36). True confidence is continuing to be outspoken, with bluntness and assurance about what you believe. Then combine this confidence with patience (hupomone, Greek), i.e., steadfastness,, constancy, and endurance. Don’t give up! Endure the process because “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Text).

So, in the darkroom what is God doing? God is getting you ready for the fulfillment of the vision. While the vision is ready for you, you’re not ready for it. When nothing seems to be happening, feel the joy! (James 1:2-4). God is up to something good (Jas. 5:11; Job 42”10). Just like He did for Job; He will turn your captivity; He will turn your night into day!