Nine Manifestations of the Holy Spirit to the World

1 Corinthians 12:7 (NKJV) 7  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

We have been looking at the second chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth.  This was one of Paul’s most problematic churches.  Corinth was a large, powerful and Idolatrous city.  The people were caught up in their world as it was and saw no need for an obscure Jewish sect like Christianity.  To me, this sounds very much like our world. 

We found that Paul’s way of breaking through this obstruction was to come to them with two basic things.  He decided that he would not approach them with the vast knowledge and wisdom he had as a result of his education or even his encounters with the Lord.  He chose to speak to them of Jesus and his crucifixion.  This implies he was talking about the message of the gospel which Paul defined as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus in the 15th chapter of this same letter.  He also came in a demonstration, or manifestation of the spirit and of the power of God.  He said that the reason he chose these things was so that their faith would rest in the power of God and not the wisdom of men. 

What do we need to touch our world today?  In the United States we face a world that is obsessed with pleasure, entertainment and technology.  People are also faced with the challenges of earning a living, raising families and maintaining health and wellbeing in and increasingly expensive and frightening world.  That is why distractions, whether technological, chemical or experiential, have become so attractive.  Christianity, on the other hand, does not seem to offer any real solutions to the problems nor distraction as effective as what the world has to offer.

This condition is not new.  It was what the church faced in the 1960’s.  To many, Christianity had become and irrelevant part of the older generation’s world.  Many chose to reject everything from their parent’s generation including their faith.  Many of the 60’s generation looked for something that was real.  They wanted to change the world.   Many others chose to “tune in, turn on and drop out” looking to “sex, drugs and rock and roll” to dull the sense of futility they felt in life.  In the middle of this atmosphere, a move of God was born that changed many in my generation as well as the nature of church in the world.  It was called the “Charismatic renewal.”

At the heart of this move of God was what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 12-14.  These three chapters describe 9 manifestations of the Holy Spirit that God has made available to the church.  I believe it is reasonable to believe that they must have been an aspect of the demonstration of the Spirit and power he used to breakthrough in Corinth when he first came.  As I look at what we face, I am convinced that we will not breakthrough to people who do not know salvation in Christ with words alone.  We need a demonstration of the Spirit and of the power of God.  As in the 1960’s, I think we need a new focus on the manifestations of the Spirit Paul spoke of in this letter.

Paul begins 1 Corinthians 12 telling the church in Corinth that he did not want them to be ignorant about spiritual gifts.  Verse 2 gives us some insight into these manifestations.

1 Corinthians 12:2 (NKJV) 2  You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.

The word “dumb” here is not used in the sense of intelligence.  It is used in the sense of the inability to speak.  He is saying that before they met Jesus they were being led about by false gods and fake manifestations.  To me I see a people who were interested in the supernatural but focused on things that were not real.  Their idols were mute, or unable to really speak.  Paul does want not them ignorant concerning the real manifestation of the Spirit.  Our God is not mute.  He really does speak and do much more.

From what he says in verse 3, it seems to me there might have been some things that were presented as coming from the Lord but really were not.

1 Corinthians 12:3 (NKJV) 3  Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

Paul made it clear that every manifestation of the Spirit of God must be judged on whether or not that manifestation lifts up Jesus.  Anytime we see the power of God manifested, the devil tries to either discredit or counterfeit what God is doing to turn people away from Jesus.  That certainly happened in the 1960’s and through the 1990’s.  It still happens today.  That said, the fact that something is counterfeited at all is proof of the thing’s reality.  You do not counterfeit $3 bills because they do not exist.  If the devil disrupted and counterfeited these manifestations of the spirit, they must be real.

The next thing he does not want the Corinthian church to misunderstand is the purpose of these manifestations.  They are not meant to build one person up over another.  Though some of them are manifestations of power, such as healing, miracles and special faith, all of them are equally important.  No one can point to their own importance because they function in a particular gift.  Verses 4 through 6 make this clear. 

There are different kinds of gifts, there are different ways in which those gifts are ministered and different things those gifts may do depending on who the Holy Spirit is using, but they all come from the same source and he is the one who chooses through whom, when and how they manifest.  The Holy Spirit gives them for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ and exalting Jesus as Lord, not to build the ministry of one member.

Finally, Paul says in verse 7 that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each to profit all.  In teaching this topic, I try to avoid the use of the word gift to describe the nine things listed in this chapter.  That is not because the word is inaccurate.  The word translated gift is the Greek word charisma.  It is from this word that the “Charismatic renewal got its name. 

The Greek word carries the idea of an endowment.  Universities receive endowments of money as gifts enable them to carry out certain activities.  Therefore, and endowment is a gift that enables one to carry out a purpose.  The Holy Spirit gives endowments through individuals to carry out the building up of the Body of Christ including introducing them to Jesus.  The word can also mean a miraculous faculty.  That is an ability that comes by miraculous means.  The emphasis is on what this faculty enables the one who demonstrates it to do.  In the case of the Charisma of the Holy Spirit manifested in the Body of Christ it is to build up the whole body. 

My problem is the way we see the word gift.  It is something given to us.  We get birthday gifts and Christmas gifts.  They are things given to me to bless me.  That is not the idea when we speak of the charisma of the Holy Spirit.  If I am used in one of these gifts, I am not given the gift for my benefit or validation.  I am not the recipient of the gift but the channel for the gift to be given to another. 

What we must understand is that the charisma of the Holy Spirit are manifestations of the Spirit himself given through us.  The result will be that people will be drawn to Jesus and their faith will rest in the demonstration of the Spirit and in the power of God not on our ability.  That is what Paul brought to Corinth and I am convinced that is what we must bring to our world.  It is in that light we should study these manifestations and how we can become a channel for them to show people who our God really is.

Our Faith Must Rest in the Power of God not the Wisdom of Men

1 Corinthians 2:5-9 (NKJV) 5  that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 6  However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7  But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8  which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9  But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

I have been praying about 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.  If you have been reading this blog, you know that I believe 2020 to be a year of restoration.  Restoration means many things, but one of them means to fix what is broken or renew what is old.  Obviously 2020 has been a very difficult year in many ways.  However, we must understand that in order for God to restore, sometimes he needs to make clear the need for restoration.  In the case of this section of scripture, I believe Jesus wants to restore his church to the great commission. 

As someone who has been ministering the Word of God for more than 40 years, I am definitely old school in my belief system and how I like things to work.  As I said in my last post, we started our ministry in a time of a great move of God.  There was a hunger for the Word and the spirit that drove what we did and drew people to our churches.  That move of God has passed and with it the general hunger upon which we built.  What Paul found in Corinth was similar.  It was a powerful secular city that had its own gods, its own culture and saw no need for this obscure Jewish sect called Christianity.  What did he do to breakthrough?

What he tells us in 1 Corinthians 2 is the blueprint he used.  First, he came with two things.  He came with a focus on Jesus Christ and him crucified.  That is the simple message of what Jesus did to bring people back into relationship with himself.  Second, and just as important, he came in a demonstration of the Spirit and of the power of God.  In verse 5 he makes a simple statement that is key to what we need to understand from this.  He says that he came with this demonstration so that their faith would rest on the power of God and not the wisdom of men.

I believe that our system of reaching the world needs a restoration.  Let me be clear.  If something is broken that does not make it bad.  If something old is in need of restoration that does not mean it is bad.  The truth is, I do not believe that there is anything new when it comes to the ministry of the Word of God.  I believe we have let some things slip.  I also believe that in each age there are some things that need to be updated.  The message and method Jesus, and Paul, gave us must always be at the center of what we do.  In what we read in 1 Corinthians 2, as well as in the various statements Jesus gave us concerning what his disciples were to do after he left, the simple Gospel confirmed with signs following must be there. 

Why is it so important that our faith rest in the power of God and not the wisdom of men?  Paul goes on to say that there will be a time to teach wisdom.  He is not speaking of the wisdom of “this age nor of the rulers of this age who are coming to nothing.”  He is speaking of the wisdom of God “in a mystery.”  The point of the mystery Paul wanted to teach them is that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard what God has in store for those who love them.” 

God has so much more for his people than worldly wisdom can understand.  Paul also tells us in this chapter that the wisdom of God is foolishness to those who see only in the natural because the wisdom of God can only be discerned in the spirit.  The problem we face in the church is that everything we deal with is natural.  The people we want to reach are dominated by natural wisdom.  The system in which we must live to reach them is dominated by natural ways of thinking.  Education, media, culture and almost every influence on a person’s life is dominated by the natural world and natural wisdom.  If we try to bring people to relationship with a supernatural God using “enticing words of man’s wisdom” they will be no more likely to understand the wisdom of God than those who do not know him. 

If the church begins to build on things that come from a primarily natural orientation, they lose something.  They become more like the world.  What they offer becomes less powerful than what the Bible teaches and less different from what the natural world has to offer.  In the end, the church becomes a pale imitation of what the world.  Many denominational churches followed this path and became social organizations that tried to give a religious touch to social programs.  When that happens, the church becomes increasingly irrelevant.  We are not here to supplement what the world offers.  We are here to offer something far more powerful and, ultimately, more relevant to people than anything the world can give. 

Why is the world system incapable of understanding the wisdom of God?  Why does the church often turn to that wisdom and reject the hidden wisdom of the spirit?  The answer is simple.  Their faith rests in the enticing words of man’s wisdom and not on the power of God.  They may be Christian words.  They may be words of sound doctrine.  They may be scholarly words that clearly teach the Word of God.  Nevertheless, if the words are all that draw people they will never go beyond the words.  Paul understood that there was something greater God wanted his children to see.  No eye had ever seen it nor had any ear heard it.  There was something God wanted for man that could only be spiritually discerned.  Why are we unable to see it?

The answer is in this simple statement from 1 Corinthians 2:5.   Paul tells them that their faith had to rest on the power of God, not the wisdom of man.  As long as all we have are words, whether they are good words or bad, the foundation will be on natural things.  We need to experience a demonstration of the Spirit and of Power.  If our faith does not flow from that, what we believed will always be influenced by what we understand of natural things. 

Once we experience the real power of God, nothing will dissuade us from believing that God has something for us that natural eye cannot see, and natural ear cannot hear.  We will access a wisdom that is not limited to natural possibilities.  When we are confronted with physical challenges that have no solution, we will look to a deeper wisdom.  We will see the power of God as the solution.  That power may take many forms, but we will know that it is available.  When everything and everyone says impossible, the power of God will say nothing is impossible. 

Faith in this power will enable us to see a world where solutions are available that the natural eye has not seen, and natural ear has not heard.  Sometimes these solutions come via means that seem natural, but in retrospect we know could not have happened given our limitations.  Sometimes the solution is a suspension of the natural laws people are subject to.  When our faith rests in the power of God, we know that there are no limitations to what God can do.  He will do things his way and in his time, but we will be able to see that there is always something more. 

If our faith rests in the wisdom of man, even good men, we will never rise above what the natural eye can see and what the natural ear can hear.  My faith does rest on God’s power.  I want to become a channel that will help others find that faith and that wisdom.  I want to come to my world knowing nothing buy Jesus and him crucified.  I want to come with a demonstration of the Spirit and of his power. 

What Paul did in Corinth We Need to see Today

1 Corinthians 2:2-5 (NKJV) 2  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5  that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Last time we began looking at this scripture in light of what our world really needs right now.  Paul was writing to the church in the city of Corinth.  Corinth was in Greece however, the city Paul was writing to had been destroyed and rebuilt as a Roman city.  It was large, progressive and filled with Idol worship.  I think if we look at the world in which we live, we can see many parallels with Corinth.  It would have been difficult for Paul, a Jew sent to the gentiles, to break through in this city in a way that would lead people to a vibrant relationship with Jesus.  How did he do it?

We find the same challenge today.  I started ministry 42 years ago during the Charismatic renewal.  I built three churches, the last one at the end of that movement.  During that time, there was a hunger for God, the Holy Spirit and the Bible.  Many people came because they were seeking more of all those things.  As we progressed through that time, outreach to those who did not share that hunger lagged.  I believe God led us to teach the word of God because the Bible says, “My people perish for a lack of knowledge.”  We taught and people came for the teaching, the worship and the move of the spirit.

As is often the case, the pendulum of our experience swung past the center.  In the early days of the Charismatic movement there was a great deal of evangelism.  Many organizations grew up with the purpose of meeting the needs of businessmen, women and many other groups outside of the church.  We were more willing and able to go to the community.  We just wanted people to know Jesus.  As they came, we knew they needed more.  The problem that developed as we saw God move wonderfully in our churches, was that we grew increasingly away from those who did not know him.  As the Charismatic move waned, so did the hunger we built upon.  Since we had lost much of our skill in reaching to the unchurched world, we found that we had no new people to teach and lead into those experiences.  I do not think we should stop teaching, but I think the pendulum needs to swing back to the middle.

To me, Paul was the greatest teacher of the Bible to ever live with the exception of Jesus himself.  In Corinth he found a sophisticated and educated city.  We know from the book of Acts that he did preach and teach but we get an insight into how the people he taught were initially won to Jesus.  He did not start with the language of religious wisdom.  He started with a different language.  One that included more than words.  I believe that is what we need as we begin again today. 

There are a number of things in this scripture that can help us.  We have already talked about the fact that Paul determined to know nothing when he first came to Corinth except Jesus Christ and him Crucified.  I imagine that Paul would have been like me in that He loved the Word.  He loved the deep things of God that he had been taught in the wilderness by Jesus himself.  He had been educated by one of the great Old Testament scholars of his day, a man named Gamaliel.  However, he understood by the spirit that no matter how educated he was, he would not be able to reach past their closed hearts.  Even if he shared with them the deep things he had learned from Jesus himself as he spent time with him in the wilderness, they would not have understood.  He made a choice.  He would not speak of these deep and wonderful truths and experiences.  He would simply speak of Jesus himself and what he did in his death, burial and resurrection to save man from sin.

This in itself would not break through the Corinthian mindset.  It would have either been misunderstood or rejected as Jewish myth.  However, there was something else that went with his preaching of the cross.  He speaks of a demonstration of the spirit and power.  There was tangible evidence that there was something behind what he said.  What kind of evidence?  What kind of demonstration?

In the ministry of Jesus, people said, “He teaches as one who has authority not like the other teachers we hear.”  Part of the demonstration in what Paul spoke to the Corinthians would have been the anointing of God in his words.  The anointing is the enabling ability of God that touches what we do with the supernatural.  I have experienced that anointing in my life.  People who I thought would not listen have heard and received things that were far beyond my ability to preach.  However, I think there was more at work in Corinth.

Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians 12-14 about 9 manifestations of the spirit that were available to any believer.  They were meant to build the body of Christ and confirm that the spirit of God was present (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).  I believe those manifestation gifts were part of the demonstration he speaks of in 1 Corinthians 2, especially since he taught on them in the very same letter.  The Bible says that out of the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses a thing is established.  There is another witness that gives us insight into the nature of this demonstration.

Mark 16:17-20 (NKJV) 17  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18  they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19  So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20  And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

Here we have the command of Jesus and a description of how that worked in the early church.  He told them to Heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out devils.  All of these things were to reach beyond the objections of mind, culture or any other thing that would keep people from responding so that there would be no question as to the truth of “Christ and him crucified.”  Then we see that they went out and preached everywhere and the Lord, through the Holy spirit (Acts 1:1-8) worked with them by confirming the Word with signs following.  Does not this sound very much like how Paul tells the Corinthian church he initially came to them?

Given these witnesses, I think it is evident that the demonstration of the spirit and power of God Paul refers to must include everything we have seem.  He preached a simple message with an extraordinary anointing.  The Lord worked with him with the 9 manifestations of the spirit listed in the 12th chapter of this letter.  In Mark 16 we see that Jesus commanded the disciples to heal the sick, cast out demonic powers and even raise the dead.  Any and all of these things would have been involved in the demonstration of the spirit and power Paul speaks of. 

What do we need today?  Will people come to Jesus because of the persuasive wisdom of our arguments.  Will they come because of our skilled presentation or even our social programs?  None of those things are wrong and none of them should be left out but our emphasis to the world must once again come back to the simple message of the cross, Jesus and him crucified.  It may take some effort for some of us to be able to determine we will do that.  Even that will not break through in our world any more than in Corinth.  We need God to demonstrate as only he can, his love to our world.  We need signs confirming our preaching just as the disciples did in the first days of Christianity and as Paul did in Corinth.  The result will be that the faith that comes to those who do not know him will be based in the power and reality of God and not the wisdom of men.  Then teachers, like me, can build upon that knowledge with deeper things just as Paul did with the Corinthians.  Without the former, the latter will never be what it should be.

What Does the World Really Need Right Now

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NKJV) 1  And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5  that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

In my personal time of study and devotion, I have been looking at this scripture.  This is Paul’s first letter to the church at the city of Corinth.  In Paul’s day, Corinth was a large and important city.  Like most cities in the Roman world it was full of temples dedicated to the Greek and Roman gods.  This meant that it was full of the worship of idols.  In its Greek past it was known for the temple of Aphrodite and temple prostitution.  We know from Paul’s letters that sexual sin was still a problem in the Corinth of the Roman era. 

Corinth was a port city and a cosmopolitan place.  It was filled with diverse ideologies and could probably be compared to any of our modern cities in that way.  When Paul came there to preach the Gospel, he first began by speaking to the Jews of the city.  They rejected him, and it was at this point that Paul turned to preaching to the gentiles.  I can imagine that it must have looked impossible for this Jewish man to accomplish anything in such a large and predominately idolatrous city.  Jesus spoke to Paul and revealed to him that he should stay because, “I (Jesus) have many people in the city.”  In the end, Paul was very successful in his ministry and stayed for a year and six months.

As we read the accounts of Paul’s ministry in Corinth from Acts chapter 18, we really get very little detail of what Paul did to get a breakthrough there.  We know he began by reasoning in the synagogue, was rejected by the Jews and began meeting in a house right next door to them.  In the 18 months he was there a church grew up to whom he wrote two letters included in our Bible. 

It is somehow reassuring to me as I read those letters, that the Corinthian churches were not perfect.  It is obvious that Paul had some problems with these people.  There were divisions among them.  There was sin in the house.  They even seemed to have a bit of a problem with Paul himself.  Yet this church has carried its impact to this very day through Paul’s letters.  The question remains, how did he find success in ministry in a city that did not seem particularly interested in, nor in need of the message of the cross.

I cannot help but think that the Corinth of Paul’s day must have been similar to the world we face now.  I know that where I live it seems that there is very little interest in the things of God.  The church is looking for ways to break through to people who are distracted by so many things and who do not seem to think that God is relevant to their lives.  If Paul was able to breakthrough in Corinth, is it possible that we might be able to use the same method to breakthrough to our world today. 

We find very little information in the book of Acts as to how he did it, but thankfully he tells us plainly in his first letter to the church he began there.  It begins with the verses quoted above.  Could it be that we might break through the apathy, sin and idolatry of our world in the same way?  I think, given the similarities between our world and biblical Corinth, it may well be the answer.

Of course the first thing we might encounter as we put forth this hypothesis is that we live in a different day.  There was no TV or internet in Corinth.  People will not respond to the things they would respond to when Paul lived.  We must find different ways to reach people today.  Although it is true that there are tremendous differences between our day and Paul’s, what is not different is the need of the heart of man.  People need Jesus!  That was true then and it is true now.  The question is how can we get their attention in a way that will cause them to want to meet him? 

Paul did not use the “Corinthian method of evangelism.  There was no particular key or method that worked in that city but no where else.  What Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 2 goes beyond the limitations of any age and speaks directly to the needs of people.  What did Paul do to breakthrough in Corinth?

He says that he did not come with “enticing words of man’s wisdom.”  I do not mean to be critical, but I think that could describe far too much of our preaching today.  I am a teacher of Bible truths.  I believe the answer to every question in the human experience can be found in the Word of God if we really understand it.  I do not think I preach “enticing words of man’s wisdom” and yet I must say that people are increasingly uninterested in such teaching.

On the other hand, there are many who feel they can reach people if they use the right kinds of words.  They will speak in ways that relate to one generation, region or ethnicity because they believe that we in the church have developed our own language that people do not understand.  This is not all wrong.  We do need to find a language that will speak to people today.  I submit that Paul found it when he came to Corinth.  The language he used when he first came to the city spoke to all who encountered it.  This language tore down walls of resistance and opened people’s hearts.  Not all receive what was said.  Some even rose up in opposition to this language.  Nevertheless, many people came to know Jesus in a very personal way when Paul spoke in it. 

This is not to say that learning the Word of God is unnecessary.  As we continue in this chapter, we find that Paul did speak wisdom to them.  However, it was not the wisdom of man.  It was not the popular teaching of the day.  It was not a more contemporary interpretation of Christianity that would easily fit into the Corinthian culture.  On the contrary, because he began with something different than enticing words of man’s wisdom, when he did teach the ones who heard the language he first came with, they were able to receive the wisdom that comes from God and it changed their lives.  The wisdom Paul taught in Corinth has changed the lives of billions through his letters, but it would never have been taught or recorded if he had not begun with another language.

What was the language Paul used when he came to Corinth that opened up the gospel to so many?  If Paul, one of the great scholars of his day and the preeminent scholar of the Apostolic church, did not use the words of wisdom he had gained from so much time with the Lord in the spirit and from the years of study before he met Jesus, what words did he use? 

Paul began at Corinth with a language that had two main elements.  He preached the simple message of the cross.  That was the first part of this very powerful and successful language. The second part was a demonstration of the spirit and of the power of God.  That twofold language turned one of the great cities of the Roman World upside down.  In truth, that language, that method, turned the whole world upside down. 

As we search for the method, the presentation, and the language that will bring people to Jesus, is it possible that this same language and method might work today.  I am going to take some time to look at this scripture in depth, but right now I would like to suggest that we all pray about this language and method Paul used in Corinth.  I suspect when people experience the message of the cross accompanied with signs and wonders, we might fine it will work today.  My prayer right now is simple.  Help me to do what Paul did in my city and my world.  Help me to be a channel for a demonstration of the spirit and power of God as I share the simple message of the Gospel.  I think that might just work in the 21st century just as well as it did in the first.

I (God) Will Restore! (Re-posted from March 22, 2020)

I (God) Will Restore!
July 7, 2020

Joel 1:2-4 (NKJV) 2  Hear this, you elders, And give ear, all you inhabitants of the land! Has anything like this happened in your days, Or even in the days of your fathers? 3  Tell your children about it, Let your children tell their children, And their children another generation. 4  What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; What the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; And what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.

Joel 2:25-26 (NKJV) 25  “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. 26  You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.

(The above scriptures are the ones from which the Lord gave me the theme for 2020, at least in my life.  I have been reposting some things from earlier in the year, and most of this post will also be a repeat.  However, we are looking at life after 4 months of the effects of dealing with the coronavirus.  The more I look at the numbers related to the sickness itself, I cannot escape the conclusion that, although it is a dangerous disease, it does not warrant the hysteria we have applied to it.  Many of those in a position to know believe that the measures we have taken to curb the spread have led to even greater problems. 

As I was praying recently about what I thought God told me for 2020, I asked him if I had missed it when I felt he was speaking about restoration for this year.  His answer to me was, “Don’t you think restoration is needed more now than at the end of 2019.”  Of course, the answer is yes.  That being the case I realized that the promise of restoration for 2020 was speaking of the very situation we face now. 

Whatever has happened to this point in the year, I choose to believe that God will begin now to restore in all areas of life.  As we listen to the shrill voices in the media, let us focus more on the never changing Word of God and the promise of restoration he is speaking through it right now.  The rest of this post comes from March 22 of this year.)

Many have lost health.  Thankfully a very few, compared to what many thought might have happened, have even lost their lives.  No matter how few, it is too many.  I have heard questions about the long-term effects of this disease.  No one really knows if there could be any, and it there are, what they might be.

To a great degree we have lost our sense of security and confidence.  For some there may be a loss of faith.  For others this will be a door that will open hearts that were not seeking before.  If we are honest, we must admit that this disease has not really been all that devastating.  The response has been, but not the disease.  There are much worse things in the world that could happen to us at any time.  How would we respond to them?  I hope we never find out. 

There are many more things we could point to that have been lost.  Much of it in the space of 1 week at least here in the United States.  I just wanted to point out a few things because we are all feeling them to one degree or another.  When God speaks to me about what he wants to do during the year, as he does every year, most of the time I have a preconceived idea of what he means.  Most of the  time I do not really understand, and that is certainly been the case this year. 

As I have said, I believe 2020 is to be a year of restoration.  Joel chapter 2, especially verses 23-27, are the verses the Lord led me too as the year began.  I still believe God wants to return many things that have been lost or stolen from us corporately and individually.  I believe God wants to fix what has been broken in us as well as in the church and in the world.  I believe God wants to return to power the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords who, in Matthew 28, declared that all power was given to him in heaven and in earth.  All these things are part of the definition of restoration.  I did not expect the “locusts” from chapter 1 to come first, but they did.

Locusts are a type of disease or pestilence that, when they come, eat up everything they can.  In Joel, the picture is of absolute desolation as they came upon Israel.  Thankfully, I do not believe things are as bad as they seem or as the news media paints them.  Nevertheless, they are bad.  What I want to share with you today is not a teaching but a prophetic word to you, the church and our country.  God Will Restore!

What have you lost in the past week or months due to this disease and the battle fought against it?  Have you lost a loved one?  I am not saying they are going to be raised from the dead, but God can work a restoration in your emotions and fix what may have been broken by the loss.  Have you been affected in your body by this thing?  God will restore!

Have you lost financial security, a job or a business?  God will restore!  Have your financial reserves and savings been diminished or threatened?  Mine have.  God will Restore! 

Have you lost hope for the future?  Has your faith been challenged or are you afraid either for the future or the present?  God will restore faith, hope and confidence.  He is right here with us and he is far greater than any virus or calamity that it can cause. 

My son, Pastor Josh Kiefer of Living Word Church in Greene, NY shared a powerful word about Peter walking on water.  He made a good point.  I believe that Jesus was encouraging Peter not to stop believing.  Peter walked on water as long as his focus was on Jesus.  He sank when he took his focus off Jesus and focused instead on the storm.  My son’s point was this.  How could he doubt that Jesus would be there even in the midst of a storm?  He would not bring him part way and leave him when he faltered. 

We are in a storm.  It is not locusts that have caused this storm.  It is something far smaller but with effects that have been very devastating.  We have walked by faith to this point and Jesus is not going to leave us now.  God will restore!  What will he restore?  Whatever corona virus has taken.  Before it is over, we will see God do great things.  Count on it.  I am!  Let me close with one more scripture.  This thing is a thief.  Proverbs tells us what a thief must do. 

Proverbs 6:30-31 (NKJV) 30  People do not despise a thief If he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. 31  Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; He may have to give up all the substance of his house.

Under our covenant, I do not really believe that it is the thief that will restore to us 7-fold or 7 times.  It is God who will restore!  We need to remember his promises and stand on them by faith.  Whatever you have lost, the Word has a promise for that!  2020 is not over yet.  I am believing with you for a wonderful time of restoration this year and on into the rest of this decade.

God Will Restore our Resources (Re-posted from March 16, 2020)

2 Samuel 9:7 (NKJV) 7  So David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.

I have been using this space to talk about what I believe is the will of God for the year 2020.  In Joel 2:25 God tells Israel that he will restore the years that have been stolen.  I believe that God wants to restore things to both the church and individuals in the church that we may have lost. 

We spent a great deal of time in Psalm 23 where God says he will restore our soul.  Today I want to look at another thing God speaks of in terms of restoration.  In this scripture, David tells Saul’s grandson Mephibosheth that he is going to restore to him all that was Saul’s.  Saul had been the king of Israel.  His wealth was very great.  Saul had lost it all to David because he was a disobedient king from whom God removed his hand of anointing.  The story of restoration found in the life of Mephibosheth is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful in the Bible.  However, it also contains some principles of restoration that can be key to our faith that God will do for us what David did for Mephibosheth.

First, let me say something about wealth.  It would be good if you could read my book, Divine Prosperity in Challenging Economic Times.  It can be found by clicking on this link, searching Amazon for the book title or by searching my name.  (If you do not find it, send me a personal message by commenting.)  This book contains a balanced look at what God calls prosperity and its real purpose in the life of a believer. 

One of the things the devil is always after is our resources.  If the devil can stop the flow of resources to and through the church, there is much that becomes very difficult in preaching the Kingdom of God.  Poverty is not a virtue from God.  Matthew 5:3 says blessed are the poor in spirit not the poor in resources.  That is because he who is poor in spirit understands his overriding need of God.  He can and will walk in the power of the kingdom of Heaven.  Physical poverty has always been a plague on man.  I have seen slums in many parts of the world where people live in conditions that most of us could not imagine.  People in poverty live in squalor, hunger and disease.  Poverty breeds crime, prostitution, substance abuse and so much more.  None of it is good.  It is not God’s will for us to live in poverty.  It is also not God’s will for us to make the pursuit of riches our goal (1 Timothy 6:9-10.) 

Maybe you find yourself in a time of lack due to bad choices.  God can restore that.  Maybe you did some things that were sinful.  Repent!  God can restore that.  Maybe you have lost a job or endured some other set back over which you had no control.  God can restore that!  Put wealth and money in its proper place and believe that the Father loves you, knows your need and is willing to provide for you (Matthew 6:31-34.)

That brings us to the story of David and Mephibosheth.  Saul lost all that he had because he went to war with David, God’s chosen king.  He disobeyed the Lord and the prophet Samuel.  God anointed David king while Saul was still on the throne, but David never tried to take it from him.  Given two separate chances to kill Saul while Saul was pursuing him to take his life, David refused to act.  He knew it was not his place to remove Saul.  If David was going to be King, God was going to have to do it.  Eventually Saul’s fear and hatred of David led to his complete destruction.  David did not rejoice in that.  He mourned the Saul that God had anointed even as he became the rightful King of Israel. 

An important element of this story is the relationship between David and Saul’s son Jonathan.  They so loved one another that they chose to become brothers by blood covenant.  Covenant is one of the most powerful truths of the Bible.  When David and Jonathan shed their blood by cutting covenant together, all that was David’s became Jonathon’s and all that was Jonathan’s became David’s.  At the time this seemed to be very favorable to David, but Jonathan knew that David would be king.  After the death of both Saul and Jonathan, David does indeed become king.  When his rule is stabilized, he goes to his staff and asks an interesting question.  “Isn’t there anyone in Jonathan’s family alive so that I may honor my covenant with him.  The answer is yes.  There is a son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul named Mephibosheth.  David sends emissaries to find this young boy.

Mephibosheth was a child when Saul’s family had to flee.  The person carrying him fell and as a result Mephibosheth was crippled.  So, let me paint a picture of this boy and his condition.  He was living in a place called Lo Debar.  This name means no pasture.  Mephibosheth was living in a place of no resources.  He had nothing and the reason was that he was of a family who had tried to killed David.  Very often all the family of the previous king would be destroyed so that his line could not rise and take back the throne.  David’s actions are completely the opposite. 

Keep in mind that Mephibosheth was crippled.  He was living in hiding.  David owed him nothing by natural standards.  Mephibosheth was told that if David ever found him, he would be killed.  Can you imagine what he thought when he saw Davids men coming?  He assumed his life was over.  However, he did not know about his father’s covenant with David.  Instead of death, he finds that David has given him back all that his grandfather lost.  He is taken to the king’s home and lives his life eating from the kings table.  God restored what bad choices, sin and things out of his control had taken.  With the restoration of his wealth, he also lived in the love of David.

What does this have to do with us.  Our restoration, whether of wealth or anything else, is not based on our worthiness.  It is not based on what we did in the past.  We have a covenant with God.  Our mistakes are none of the devil’s business.  God, our Father, will deal with us in his love.  His restoration is based on the fact that we have a covenant with him in Christ Jesus. 

There is a balance to be understood where wealth is concerned, however, it is God’s will that we walk in blessing and, yes, prosperity.  Godly prosperity must begin with prosperity of our soul (3 John.)  It extends to our resources because of two truths.  God is a loving Father who will give his best to his children and God has instructed us to preach the gospel.  Money and wealth are not the most important things when it comes to extending God’s kingdom, but I can tell you by experience they are often necessary. 

Have you lost wealth due to foolishness?  Have you lost wealth because of sin?  Have you lost wealth because of things you could not control?  Has the devil stolen from you what God intended you to have?  Do you feel like a cripple when it comes to the lack of resources in your life?  None of that matters.  Poverty is not a blessing; it is a curse.  You can find that throughout the Bible beginning in Genesis chapters 1 and 2.  At the very beginning of man’s history, God gave him dominion over the earth and said everything he had created was there to meet the needs of his family. 

You have a covenant far more powerful than Mephibosheth’s.  Your covenant is based in the blood of Jesus.  If you have seen your resources taken away, I believe you can rise up in faith with no shame and declare, “God will restore to me all that has been eaten away by life and the devil.  I receive the restoration of my wealth in the name of Jesus.”  The next thing I would do is give.  That sets something in motion that the devil cannot stop.

What Does a Restored Soul Look Like Part 4 (Re-posted from March 13, 2020)

Psalm 23:5-6 (NKJV) 5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

We have spent a good deal of time looking at Psalm 23.  In this Psalm David tells us that God wants to restore our souls.  We have looked at various aspects of this “soul restoration” and today I want to finish looking at this section of scripture.  In verse 6 we find a powerful promise for those who allow God to restore their soul.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.  This part of verse 6 applies to our lives here on earth.  We will look at the second and eternal part in a moment.

Remember, this is what God wants for us and this is the result of a restored soul.  If you have not yet done so, please read the rest of what I have posted on Psalm 23.  When we walk with our soul restored to what God intended it to be, we can expect both goodness and mercy to follow us for our entire life.  This is in contrast to what most people think will follow them.  Have you ever heard someone say, either in real life or in the media, “Trouble follows me everywhere I go.” 

Even if we do not say those words, we are taught to expect the worst in life.  We prepare for trouble.  We have life insurance, health insurance, car insurance, home insurance, and retirement insurance.  It is wise to be prepared, but I also think it is valid to ask the question how much time, money and energy to we spend on things that never happen?  What is our mindset if so much of our time is spent preparing for bad things?  What does that say about our souls?  Jesus had something to say about this.

Matthew 6:33-34 (NKJV) 33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Again, I do not believe Jesus is saying we should not have insurance or make other preparations.  I am saying that we need to balance that with the knowledge that he reveals here. The Father knows what we need and promises to provide it.  Much of the stress we feel in life is about what might happen.  We often fail to enjoy what is happening as we worry about what might happen.  Balance is the key to life.  I think it would behoove us to allow faith in God’s power and provision to temper our need to try and control the future.  No matter what steps we take, we usually find that we have not covered sufficiently every possible scenario.  God, on the other hand, can.

The restored soul knows this to be true.  He knows God is with him.  He knows God’s power is there to protect him and God’s wisdom is there to guide him.  We live in a world that is influenced by an enemy called the devil.  Until Jesus comes and this age ends, we will always have trouble.  However, the restored soul knows that we have a shepherd who is greater than any trouble we may encounter. 

In this psalm, David tells us that goodness and mercy is what follows us.  It does not follow us sometimes but all the days of our lives.  When trouble seems to be around every corner in life, God’s goodness and mercy are right there to meet it.  Sometimes that means bad things do not happen.  Sometimes it means solutions that are beyond our capabilities will overcome the trouble after it occurs.  Either way, according to David, goodness and mercy are always there.

The word “shall” is interesting.  Shall is the strongest word of assurance in the English language.  The use of this word leaves no doubt.  There is no “maybe” in the word shall.  There is no question of our worthiness.  The only question is whether we will allow the Lord to renew our soul.  We must allow him and his Word to be the controlling influence in our thinking.  If we do, we will see all of the benefits listed in Psalm 23 including this one.

What is God’s goodness?  In Exodus 33 and 34, Moses has an encounter with the Lord.  To save space, I will let you read the context of this encounter, but for our purposes let me point to verses 18 and 19.  Moses asks God to show him his glory.  Glory is God’s power and presence in manifestation.  God’s response to Moses is that he will show him his goodness.  The goodness of God is the essence of his power.

God’s goodness is not what we normally think of when we hear this word.  Good people are often portrayed as weak in literature or movies.  They are nice people.  They are often naive people who do not really understand how things are.  This is not a picture of God’s goodness.  His goodness is a powerful force that consumes evil.  Goodness will swallow darkness.  Goodness obliterates the power of sin.  Goodness brings healing to disease, provision to poverty and joy to depression.  Wherever goodness goes, we see the best of life. 

Jesus was the physical manifestation of God’s goodness.  Acts 10:38 tells what goodness does wherever it goes.

Acts 10:38 (NKJV) 38  how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

The restored soul expects goodness to follow him wherever it goes and for all of life.  When trouble comes goodness is around the corner.  As we grow in our faith in God’s goodness, we begin to see it manifest before the trouble can take hold.  That has been my experience.  No wonder David says in verse 4, “I will fear no evil.”

The other thing that follows us is mercy.  Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.  That is powerful.  However, before we can receive what we do not deserve, we must be delivered from what we do deserve.  All of us make mistakes.  All of us sin.  All of us do things that deserve consequences.  We need to do our best to limit those things, not so much to avoid the consequences as to honor our Father and the one who gave his life for us.  In this case, Father really does know best! 

When we fail, it is comforting to know that mercy follows us.  God is always ready to keep us from things we may deserve.  That does not mean there are never consequences for actions.  It does mean that God’s mercy is always looking for a way to mitigate those consequences and bring us back to the paths of righteousness.  When we fail, God’s mercy is always there.

Finally, David shows us the most important thing the restored soul knows.  We will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  That is what Christianity is all about.  Whatever we face today will end.  When it does, there is a home waiting for us.  It is far more real and more “home” than anything we have here on earth.  Goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives, but that is really not very long.  No matter what we face here, something better awaits us.  We will dwell there forever.

I travel quite a lot.  I love doing so, but there is a time when I just want to be home.  It is hard for us in our humanness to look at the “house of the Lord” as home.  We have never been there but when we get there, we will know it is where we were always meant to be.  As our souls are restored, we begin to see life through these realities and not the negative orientation with which so much of what we see as important leaves us.  Do the “wisdom” things as God leads you.  Just do them knowing that “Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

What a Restored Soul Looks Like Part 3 (Re-Posted from March 5, 2020)

Psalm 23:5-6 (NKJV) 5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

(As we began to enter March, what was going to happen began to reveal itself.  As we look at restoration, we can see how important it is for us to believe in what the Bible teaches us in this Psalm.)

In my last two posts I have been asking the question, “What does a restored soul look like?”  In answer we have seen that a restored soul does not fear even when in the shadow of death itself.  Why?  Because he knows that God is with him.  He knows that God’s rod and staff are always there to guide, protect, empower and help him walk in God’s ways.  We also see that God prepares a table in the presence of our enemies.  The table speaks of abundance.  The location of the table speaks of rest even in the middle of the battle.  God will give us rest as we fellowship with him at the table of his presence.

Today I want to look at the rest of verse 5.  Not only has God prepared a great feast in the presence of my enemies, but he anoints my head with oil.  There are a number of things about this statement that I would like to mention.  The anointing of the head with oil was something that was reserved for honored guests.  The Lord wants us to know that we are not beggars at his table.  We are not there because God has to allow us to be there.  We are honored guests at the table of the Lord.

As I think about the fact that this is happening in the presence of my enemies, I cannot help but think of the message this must send to them.  I can see the Father looking at the enemies gathered around me as he pours the anointing oil over my head.  I can see the enemies’ anger and frustration as he realizes how hopeless his fight against me really is. 

Romans 8:31 (NKJV) 31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

To me, this is the message that God is sending to my enemies as he anoints my head with oil.  “I am for this one.  Do you really think you can prevail against him?”  The question is whether we will believe it or not.  If we do, we have the victory now.  If we do not, the battle will continue until we do.

The anointing of the head also means abundance or extravagance.  Oil was expensive.  When a woman anointed Jesus with oil, the onlookers were critical because they knew how much the oil was worth.  Jesus rebuked them because he knew the woman’s heart.  Nevertheless, you did not anoint a guest with oil if you were withholding from him.  When God says he anoints our head with oil he wants us to know that he will not withhold anything from us.

Romans 8:32 (NKJV) 32  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Here Paul says that when God gave us Jesus, he also gives us all things.  This means spiritual things, of course.  However, there is no limitation placed on what he will give us.  If I had the resources, I would give my children anything they could want.  I am not a perfect father so I guess it is good that I cannot do that because I might give them things that are not good for them.  That does not change the fact that any good father wants the best for his children.

God is not just a good Father; he is a perfect Father.  He will not give us what we cannot handle.  He will not give us anything that will hurt us or hinder the development of our relationship with him.  He will not give us anything that will keep us from the destiny for which he created us.  However, his resources are unlimited, and he delights in giving us all things.  He will provide for our financial needs.  He will heal our bodies.  He will heal our emotions.  He will provide success and victory.  He anoints our heads with oil to let us and our enemies know that he will withhold nothing we need. 

2 Peter 1:2-3 (NKJV) 2  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3  as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

God promises us that we have been provided everything we need for life.  This means the living of life, both physically and spiritually.  Godliness means to be God like and God centered.  We have all we need to be successful, prosperous and victorious in spirit, soul and body. 

The anointing with oil was also done to signify that a priest or a king was taking their position in God’s purpose.  It was also a sign that God was empowering them for what he was calling them to do.  God has anointed our heads with oil so that we can stand up as children of almighty God. 

Romans 8:16-17 (NKJV) 16  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17  and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

We are his children and joint heirs of Jesus.  An heir has access to everything that belongs to the one of whom he is an heir.  We have access to all that belongs to Jesus.  He died; therefore, the will has been executed.  Nevertheless, he also lives as the executor of the will.  The only condition is that we must be willing to suffer with him.  That does not mean suffer the eternal consequences of sin.  He already did that.  It means to be willing to crucify our flesh so that we can fulfill the purpose of God.  That purpose is set forth in Matthew 28.

Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV) 19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

We must be willing to suffer in the flesh to win the lost to Christ and to make them disciples.  That means we put his will above our own.  We put the good of others above our good.  We do what is necessary no matter what the cost to fulfill this condition.  As we do, God promises to take care of all that we may need (Matthew 6:32-34.)

Let me mention the last thing God tells us in verse 5.  He says our cups run over.  Again, this implies plenty.  God is not trying to conserve every drop of wine.  He fills our cup until it runs over.  Wine is a type of joy and pleasure.  God is not withholding either from us.  We may have to choose to forego them for a time to fulfil the call of Matthew 28.  That does not mean God is somehow offended when we enjoy life.  He fills our cup to overflowing.  There is nothing that the world has to offer that can compare with the cup of God (Psalms 16:11) 

The fact that this joy and pleasure is overflowing also tells us that there is more than enough of what God gives for those around us.  Our cup of God’s presence, blessing and victory can and will overflow from our lives to the lives around us.  All this is done in the presence of our enemies.  What a powerful picture of what a restored soul can enjoy!

What a Restored Soul Looks Like Part 2 (Re-posted from February 28, 2020)

Psalm 23:3-6 (NKJV) 3  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4  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. 5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

In my last post I began looking at the picture of the restored soul we see in Psalm 23.  The restored soul is free from fear even in the shadow of death itself.  That does not mean that the restored soul is never afraid, it means that fear is not in control.  How is this possible?  First because the restored soul is keenly aware of the fact that God is with him.  If God is with and for us, there is no need to be afraid.

Second, we see that God’s rod and staff comfort the restored soul.  The rod is the thing God uses to bring correction into our lives.  Correction is not punishment.  It is correction.  Correction implies training.  The rod helps us grow in knowledge, skill and understanding of the things of God.  This word also means a stick with which to write.  God writes his wisdom on our souls to sustain us.  Finally, it is a stick with which to fight.  God drives away our enemy with the rod.  In time, we can learn to use it as well.  James tells us if we submit to God and resist the devil, the devil will flee from us.

This verse also mentions the staff of God.  I found the Hebrew word to be very interesting.  It is feminine in gender.  This implies sustenance.  His staff provides all we need.  It is also a walking stick.  A walking stick does not walk for us but instead provides assistance as we walk.  God’s staff will help us walk in God’s ways.

Let’s look at more of this psalm and see what else a restored soul possesses.  God prepares a table in the middle of our enemies.  This picture implies two things.  First, there is something to eat.  However, a table for eating meant much more than that in David’s day.  To sit and eat is a sign of security.  If you were at threat, you did not sit at a “prepared” table.  You would eat ready to fight.  You would eat food that did not need cooking.  A cooked meal at a prepared table meant fellowship and peace.  The table itself is significant but where the table is set is even more important.  It is in the presence of David’s enemies. 

What an interesting picture.  David has enemies.  They are not far away but right there with him.  They have not surrendered.  They are not at the table with David, so this is not a picture of an armistice or treaty.  They are still at war but because God is the one who set the table, as long as David needs to eat and rest the enemy cannot touch him.  That is the picture of a restored soul.

We will always face trouble in life.  That has always been so and it has not changed.  However, the restored soul understands that God is for him and therefore no one can succeed against him.  The restored soul understands that if God sets a table it is perfectly safe to rest, eat and fellowship.  The enemy must simply wait.  God is the one who will give rest that the enemy cannot take away from us.  He may jump, shout and threaten, but we do not need to worry.  God set our table and we can rest. 

I was talking to someone recently who is fighting a battle.  This person is winning, but it is easy to be overwhelmed in the fight.  There are things that must be done.  Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God.  God is not going to forsake you because you “don’t read the Bible enough.”  Anyone in a faith battle understands that to fill their heart and mind with the Word of God fuels and strengthens our faith.  In the case of the battle this person is fighting there are many physical things they must do as well.  It is easy to come to the place that we think our efforts are so essential that if we let up for a moment, we will lose ground to the enemy. 

We do need to be diligent.  However, faith is also a rest in God, knowing that he is in control.  That is easy when the battle is not raging.  It is easy for others to say when nothing is at stake for them.  It is much more difficult when we are fighting for our lives and even more so when we are fighting for our loved ones.  Nevertheless, the restored soul understands that there must be rest.  I told my friend, “God wants you to know it’s alright to rest.  He is in control.  Keep doing what you need to do but take time to rest as well.”

In the middle of the battle there are times when God will prepare a table in the very presence of our enemies.  He wants us to take some time to rest and refresh.  We may need to sleep.  We may need to get our minds off the battle for a while.  We may need to do something else besides fight.  We may need to spend some time with him in worship, prayer and the Word in a way that has nothing to do with the battle.  If God prepares the table, God takes care of the enemy. 

I like to picture the Father coming to us and saying, “Dinner time child.  The battle can wait.  And as for you, devil, you stay right there, and I will continue to work on you while my child is at the table!” 

There will be time to get back to the battle, but when you do you will be strengthened and refreshed.  The battle will not be so hard.  The worry will not be so pressing.  The fear will leave.  You will be surprised at how easy it is to overcome a defeated foe.  You will never lose by resting in God.  Isaiah 40:31 makes the same promise.

Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV) 31  But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

My word to you today is the same as the word God gave me for my friend.  It is OK to rest.  You cannot win by your own efforts.  We win by faith in God.  There are things you need to do.  I understand that but the Father has called us to the table.  The enemy will just have to wait.  While we eat, God is still at work.  Everything is in his hands and he prepares the table in the presence of your enemies.

Therefore, do not be afraid.  God is with you and nothing can prosper against you.  Greater is the one who prepared the table than the enemy who threatens it.  Don’t be afraid to relax.  Don’t be afraid to stop thinking about the battle.  Just enjoy the meal and see what God will do. 

What Does a Restored Soul Look like (Re-posted from February 25, 2020)

Psalm 23:3-6 (NKJV) 3  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4  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. 5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

We have been looking at the 23rd Psalm in light of restoration.  I believe 2020 is to be a year in which God works restoration both in our individual lives and in the church as a whole.  In Psalm 23, the Lord tells us that he will restore our souls.  We have looked at many aspects of this.  Last time we looked at verse 3.  The restoration of the soul requires that we walk in paths of righteousness.  This word means to walk in what is right in a moral sense, a natural sense or a legal sense.  The peace of God flows from walking in his ways.  When we do not, sin has an open door and our souls will be out of place and out of balance.

1 John 1:9 gives us some insight.

1 John 1:9 (NKJV) 9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Someone told me recently that because of grace there was no need for a Christian to repent.  However, this verse seems to differ.  The only reason we would confess our sins is because we repent of them.  John tells us that if we do repent, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  We are righteous, or right with God, by what Jesus did.  Everyone commits sin at some point in their life.  This sin will not negate what Jesus did.  That is true.  Why then does John seem to say the opposite?

This verse is talking about our side of righteousness, not God’s.  Thankfully, God loves us even when we sin.  He does not throw us out of the kingdom.  However, when we let sin remain, it causes us to lose our sense of righteousness.  We know that something is wrong.  If we ever come to the place sin no longer bothers us, we have a real problem.  The Bible says in 1 Timothy 4:2 that our conscience can become seared or hardened until we no longer recognize sin.  At that point we are at the mercy of the devil.

When we confess our sin, we take responsibility for what we have done that is wrong.  We ask God to forgive us.  He then applies grace to us, taking away from us the sense of separation that sin brings.  He also closes the door that sin has opened.  This is a powerful tool that brings our intellect, emotions and will, into balance again.

I want to add one thing.  It says he leads us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  If we want the peace that passes natural understanding and the joy that overcomes all depression, we must remember that our lives are not our own.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us that we have been bought with a price.  Jesus paid for our salvation with his blood.  We are not our own.  That means we should live to honor God in all our ways.  When we do, our thinking will be permeated with the wisdom of God.  Our emotions will be touched by the joy that comes from knowing him.  Our will comes into submission to his Word and his ways because he is more important to us than we are to ourselves.

Let us move on and see what a restored soul looks like.  In verse 4, we see that we can walk in the very shadow of death and not fear any evil thing.  Why?  The person whose soul is restored is absolutely convinced that God is with him.  Sometimes this begins as a statement and attitude of faith.  We may not feel anything.  However, the more we choose to believe this promise, the more we will feel the reality of it.  Paul puts it this way.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) 6  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

When we know that he is with us, his peace will come to us in such a way that it will guard our hearts and minds.  Even if we do not feel it right away, the more we think on him and his Word, the more it will overrule the things that are working to bring disquiet to our souls.

This is not just a state of mind.  David adds something that is very important.  He says, “Your rod and your staff comfort me.”  What does this mean?  The word translated rod means a stick for punishing, writing, fighting and ruling.  Gods rod is there to bring correction.  This is not something that will hurt us.  It is not something that flows from God’s displeasure.  It is something that he brings to us for our protection.  The sheep who are about to run over a cliff need that rod to turn them back to safety.

It will write for us the wisdom we need to sustain our soul.  It is the power of God that fights against our enemies.  It helps us rule our emotions, so they lead us to God not away from him.  One other interesting meaning of the word is clan.  The rod is the protection of the body of Christ to help us maintain our souls in balance.

The staff is a little different.  It is also a stick, but this word is feminine in gender.  It means sustenance.  The name of God, El Shaddai, is similar in nature.  It literally means the “breasty one” as in the breast of a mother to a nursing child.  That is all that baby needs for food and it looks to nothing else.  His staff is a type of all we need.  We should never look to anything else until we look to his staff.  This word also means a walking stick.  It is there to help us walk when we get weak in our intellect, our emotions or our will. 

When we are settled in the knowledge that these things are real and that our shepherd is applying them in our lives, no situation, not even the valley of the shadow of death will disturb our soul.  Death cannot penetrate his rod nor his staff.  They are there to help us in every circumstance.  They do many things, but in this psalm, we are promise that they will strengthen our soul, restoring it to a rest in God that will always see us through to victory.