Happy New Year

I have been taking the holidays off this year, but I will be back next week.  Until then have a blessed new year.  I believe 2012 is going to be the best year you have ever had.  Our theme at LWCC for 2012 is Possess our Land; Drive out our Enemies; Occupy Until He comes.  I believer that is the will of God for his church this year.

If you don’t have a good local church come and see us at Living Word Christian Center in Greene, NY.  You can find out more about our church at WWW.LivingWordGreene.com.

God bless and Happy 2012

Merry Christmas

As is the case with many of you, this is a busy week for me.  I am going to take a break from blogging.  Spend some time this week thinking about the wonderful gift that God gave the world in Christ Jesus. 

Some will say that Christmas season was established to supplant a pagan holiday and that certainly is true.  However, I believe that taking this celebration away from the devil and giving it to Jesus is a good thing not a bad thing.  Let those of us who know him as Lord and Savior be sure to keep the devil from taking it over once again.  Let merry Christmas be on your lips, not happy holiday’s.  Let people know that we celebrate Christ’s birth not Santa, gifts, babies, peace on earth or anything else but Jesus!

Of course some argue that Jesus was not born on December 25th.  That probably is true, but we are not celebrating when Jesus came.  We are celebrating that Jesus came.  The bible tells us that God took upon himself the form of man.  The Father sent the Son, Jesus, into the world to save the world.  (John 3:16)  It is not important when Jesus was actually born. It is important that he was born.

Let us join with the shepherds as they hear the announcement from the angelic host.  Let us celebrate the Gift of God that resulted in our salvation.  Let us also look for the opportunity to give that gift to someone else this Christmas season.

Luke 2:8-20(NKJV) 8Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And £behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill£ toward men!” 15So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17Now when they had seen Him, they made £widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

You are a Believer by Nature

Ephesians 2:1-3(NKJV) 1And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Today is a bit of a departure from what we have been studying the rest of this week. As I was ministering in our church on Sunday morning, a thought came forth that I believe was very important. It was not really part of the message, but I wanted to share it with you today. That thought is simply this. You are a believer by nature.

When we look at the beginning of Romans chapter 4 we read that Abraham has found something. I have defined that “something” as the ability to believe God beyond experience. However, we must understand that what Abraham found we, as born again believers, have by nature. According to Romans 4, Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. We are the righteousness of God by nature because we are in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21.)

In today’s scripture there are some significant statements made. Paul tells us that at one time we were dead in sin. He uses a term that is very important if we are going to understand what Christianity really is. He says we were “by nature children of wrath.” He also says that we walked according to the prince of the power of the air. That is the devil. We were by nature children of the devil. What does this mean?

Before a person is saved, he is subject to the affects of the fall of Adam. In Genesis 2 God told Adam that he would die if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the Hebrew, it comes out this way. If you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “in dying you shall surely die.” The implication is that Adam’s death would be two-fold. He would eventually die physically. In Genesis that did not happen until he was over nine hundred years old. However, there was another kind of death that occurred instantly. The instant death was the death of his spirit.

When we use the term “spiritual death” or “die spiritually”, we are not talking about ceasing to exist. Spiritual death is the opposite of spiritual life. In John 17 Jesus defined life as knowing the Father. To be alive spiritually is to be joined to God and his life. That is the condition man was designed to live in. To be dead spiritually is to have that connection to God severed and a new connection made. This new connection is with “prince of the power of the air.”

Death is the nature of the devil. All that is evil flows from his nature. Sickness is his nature. Sin is his nature. Fear is his nature. The list could go on and on. Before salvation, we were by nature children of wrath. This simply means that the things that came naturally to us were dead things. They were evil things. We had to learn to control those dead, evil things through society, education and culture. However, they were still there. That is the condition of man after the fall.

If death is the nature of the devil, then it follows that life must be the nature of God. Goodness is God’s nature. Health is God’s nature. Holiness is God’s nature. Faith is God’s nature. What is salvation? What is the new birth? It is not a change of religion or philosophy. It is nothing less than a change of nature. We were by nature children of wrath. After we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, we become, by nature, children of God.

What does it mean to be something “by nature?” We could go into some deep, profound definition, but I think there is an easier way to understand this idea. What we are by nature is what comes naturally to us. A lion is a predator by nature. He does not learn to be a predator. He does not have to go to school or reprogram his instincts to hunt and kill. He just has to be a lion. That is all he has to do. He is by nature a predator.

Although it is not politically correct to say this, man without Christ is by nature a sinner. Man has learned to control it and some men have that nature buried deeper than others do, but it is there. We need only look at the Nazis holocaust, the Armenian genocide of the early 1900’s, the atrocities in Kosovo, Iraq, Iran or Sudan to know this is true. Once a person allows free reign to his inner nature, evil will be the result. He can control it by all the things I have mentioned or he can control it by religion, but control it he must.

The New Birth in Christ does not seek to control this fallen nature. It simply replaces it. We were by nature children of wrath. Once we are born again, that nature is changed. The spiritual connection with wrath, the devil, is broken. The original connection that God created in Adam is restored. We are born again with a new nature. We are by nature children of God.

This is the spiritual reality. It is not something that happens gradually. According to Romans 12 we must renew our minds in order for this inward change to affect our outward life, but the change of nature happens the moment we receive Jesus as Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:17(NKJV) 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

How does all this relate to Romans chapter 4 and the faith we need to possess the promises of God? Most of us are trying to believe. We know we should believe. If we are born again, there is a part of us that does believe, but it is hard to get that part to the surface so we can receive the answers to the prayers we pray. Abraham was an exceptional man who responded to God despite being “by nature a child of wrath.” (This is so because Jesus had not yet come and died for sin.) You are by nature a child of God.

What comes naturally to you is faith. That is part of God’s nature. It is natural for you to believe the promises. Your “born again” spirit responds to the promises of God the way they are described in 2 Corinthians 1:20. When your spirit hears or reads one of God’s promises the automatic response is, “Yes, Amen, I believe that!” Your mind may say, “Wait a minute. How do I know that this will happen?” Your spirit does not. Your spirit believes it by nature.

What am I trying to say? Do not allow the devil to tell you that you cannot have faith. Faith is part of your nature if you are born again. Faith is natural to you. Unbelief seems natural because you were trained to walk in unbelief, but it is not longer natural to you. Faith flows from your connection to God in the spirit. You just need to learn to rest in that truth.

I have had many challenges in my walk with God. Often I have wanted to worry. My mind has tried to convince me that the promises of God would not come to pass in my life. However, I have learned to look past the clamoring voices to another place. That place is my spirit. When I find that place, that still small voice at the center of my being, I know that God will always keep his word. I am by nature a believer. I used to be a doubter by nature, but no longer. It is my natural condition to believe God and his Word. If you are a Christian, it is your natural condition as well. You just have to accept the truth.

The Fruit of our Lips Giving Thanks

Hebrews 13:15(KJV) 15By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

This week we have been discussing giving glory to God. This is what strengthened Abraham’s faith enabling him to see his journey through to a positive end. We have defined giving glory to God as ascribing weight or honor to the Lord. When confronted with a difficult situation, what do we give more weight to, the problem or the power of God? If we consider the Lord to be greater than the problem, we are giving him glory.

We also found from the Greek word doxa, translated “give glory to”, that giving glory to God involves our opinion of God. Is our opinion of the Lord that he is greater than any situation I might face? If it is then there is no reason to worry. The classical Greek usage of this word involves a process. The process has four parts; opinion, conjecture, expectation ad then praise. Our opinion of God must be such that we will believe he can do what he said he would.

This opinion is based on conjecture. Although we tend to see this as a negative word, in the context of the Greek usage of doxa it is not. It means to form an opinion without sufficient evidence or proof. This is what faith does. We cannot prove in the natural that God will do what he says. We stand on his Word as the proof and then we see the result. Our opinion of God must be based on his Word not on evidence.

Finally we form our expectation of what God will do based on the opinion we form through our conjecture. That expectation becomes the cutting edge of our faith that brings us to possessing the promise. The last step in this process is the most important when it comes to releasing the ability of “giving glory to God” to strengthen our faith. We must praise God.

I want to state once more that we will never be successful in faith if we do not praise God. Throughout the Bible, we see the people of God win great victories when they choose to praise the Lord. Praise elevates our vision and our experience. There has been an emphasis in many charismatic circles on the power of worship. Worship is more intimate and, in some ways, could be seen as more spiritual than praise. In worship, we tend to sense the presence of God in a different way than we do in praise. However, we must never minimize the power of praise.

It is praise that produces victories. It is praise that strengthens and encourages our faith. This is because praise concentrates more on the ability of God while worship concentrates on the person of God. Both are important, but in a battle you need to reinforce what God can do, what he has done, and what he says he will do for you.

As we look at the process represented by the Greek word doxa, we find that the first three steps really lead to the last step praise. To give glory to God means to consider him more important and powerful than the problem. It means to have an opinion of his greatness that is beyond the physical evidence we have to prove that opinion. We then expect God to do what this opinion says he will do. However, in the end, if we will not express these things through praise we never really release them into our lives. We fail to reap the wonderful benefits that Abraham did when he gave glory to God.

What is praise? Everyone has an opinion. Does praise have to be loud? Can praise be just an inward expression? Is the essence of praise singing fast songs instead of slow songs? I believe praise works best when we are a little loud and when the music that accompanies our praise is full of energy, but to some degree, that is a preference. What we really need to know is what does the Bible say about praise and what does the New Testament in particular say.

Today’s scripture is a very pointed picture of praise. It defines praise in a number of ways. If we are going to give glory to God, we are going to have to do what Hebrews 13:15 calls praise. There may be a variety of ways to express it, but this is the New Testament definition of praise, which is the release point of giving glory to God.

First, let us consider that this verse says praise is the fruit of our lips. We have pointed out in this study that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov 18:21) There is no greater way to exercise this power than to use our tongue to praise the Lord. I believe that true praise must come out of our mouth. There is a certain power to meditating on God’s greatness, but to give glory to God in the way Romans 4 is talking about, we must let it come out of our mouths.

For some this is difficult. It is easy to let cursing come out of our mouths. It is easy to let complaining come out of our mouths. There are all kinds of things that easily flow from our lips, but often praise to God is not one of them. I find it interesting that there should be such resistance to this. Could it be that the devil knows the power of it? We need to be as bold to declare the greatness of God with our lips as the world is to curse with his name on their lips.

Praise is not just the fruit of our lips. It is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. If we are going to give glory to God and thereby strengthen our faith, we are going to have to put thankfulness on our lips. Praise can never be complaining. Praise always gives thanks. God has done many wonderful things in your life. If you cannot think of any right now, then remember this. If you are born again you will never see a day in hell. If you cannot think of anything else to be thankful for, start there.

We also see that praise needs to be continual. If we want to keep our faith strong, we need to cultivate a lifestyle of praise. Make a decision to practice releasing the good fruit of your lips daily. You do not have to be in church or even have music. Every now and then just open your mouth and declare, “Lord you are good and your mercy endures forever. There is no one like you, Lord. Thank you for all you have done in my life!” When you do that, you well find that strength is released into your life and your faith will be stronger for it.

Finally, we must understand that praise can be, and often is, a sacrifice. If you are feeling depressed or if you just do not feel victorious that is a good time to praise God. If you are not sure you have any faith, that is a good time to praise God. If you do not feel thankful, that is a good time to praise God. When we praise him if we do not want to or we do not feel it, that is the sacrifice of praise. It is the most powerful form of praise there is.

I have talked to many people who ask me, “If I sing and shout and dance when I don’t feel anything, doesn’t that make me a hypocrite?” My answer to them is, “No, it makes you a Christian!” Praise is not a matter of feelings. Praise is a matter of acknowledging the truth of who God is. God is almighty when you feel he is and when you do not. God loves you when you feel he does and when you do not. God is faithful to his promises even when we feel like nothing is happening. Praise is not about responding to a feeling, it is about declaring a truth. Feelings usually come later, but even if they do not, praise is valid and right.

I believe God wants you to possess the promises he died to give you. We are in the Christmas season. If I give a loved one a gift and they do nothing to possess that gift, I am hurt. God wants you to possess all that Jesus died to give you. The only way to do that is by faith. The only way to be successful in faith is to give glory to God. The only way to release the power of giving glory to God is to release praise to God. Read today’s scripture again and begin to put it in practice right now.

What is Your Opinion of the Lord?

Numbers 13:30-33(NKJV) 30Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

In our study of Romans 4 we have discovered that the 4th step to successfully possessing our promise by faith is to give glory to God. This results in the strengthening of our faith so that we can stand through opposition. We become fully persuaded that the Lord can do what he said he would do and we remain strong until we see the results of our faith in manifestation.

Yesterday we looked at what it meant to give glory to God from the perspective of the Old Testament definition. We give glory to God when we place more value or weight on the Lord than on the problem. As we declare his greatness, we magnify him in the situation and minimize the devil’s ability to keep us from receiving what God has for us.

Today I want to look at the New Testament word that is translated “give glory to” and how it relates to what we need to do as believers. In the Greek this phrase is represented by one word, Doxa. We get our word doxology from this Greek word. Anyone who grew up in a denominational church will probably remember singing the Doxology. It starts out with the line, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” It is called the Doxology because it is a musical statement giving glory to God.

Theyer’s Greek Definitions says the word “doxa” means an opinion. In New Testament times, it was always a good opinion. In other words, to give glory to God would be to express a good opinion of God. When we face resistance to our faith, it is very tempting to express the opinion of our flesh. That opinion is usually that it is not going to work out. Our opinion may be that the opposition is too strong or we are too weak. However, when we give glory to God we are focused on our opinion of Him not of the situation or of our ability within it.

In today’s scripture, we look again at the difference between Joshua and Caleb and the other ten spies Moses sent into the promised land. In verse 30 of Numbers 13 Caleb expresses his opinion based on God and his ability. “We are well able to take the land.” He did not come to this conclusion based on the strength of Israel’s army. He was really expressing his opinion of the Lord. Later both he and Joshua point to the promise of God as the reason they could take the land. They gave glory to God in the situation.

The other ten spies expressed their opinion as well. They gave their opinion of the strength of the opposition. They also gave their opinion of how the opposition saw them. “We were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” On closer examination, they were really expressing their opinion of their own abilities. They did not give glory to God. In the King James Version of the Bible, it says they gave an evil report to the people.

What is your opinion of God? Is he really almighty? Is he really all knowing? Is he really the greatest being in the universe? If that were truly your opinion, why would you worry? Put your trust in him and express a good opinion of God. You will be strengthened in your faith.

In classical Greek, the word doxa represents a process that involves four phases; opinion, conjecture, expectation, and then praise. This process shows how giving glory to God works.

We have already pointed out that we have to ask ourselves what our opinion of God really is. When confronted with opposition, is our opinion that God is greater or the problem is greater. How do we come to the right opinion?

The second word in this process was intriguing to me. For the most part, we tend to put a negative connotation on the word “conjecture.” If we hear or read a news story that is said to be conjecture we tend to discount it as not based on facts. This is the basic definition of the word, however, when I looked up the word, I found that there was an interesting aspect that applies particularly in this context.

According to Webster’s dictionary, conjecture means the formation or expression of an opinion or theory without sufficient evidence for proof. Why is this so important? According to Hebrews 11:1, faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things that cannot be seen or proven with the senses. That sounds very much like the definition of conjecture. When we are speaking of giving glory to God, this process involves forming an opinion based upon things for which we have insufficient evidence or proof.

Abraham had no proof that God could give him a child at one hundred years old. Joshua and Caleb had no proof that the Israel could overcome the Canaanites. They formed their opinion based on the character and promises of God not on physical evidence. As we choose to glorify God, we must actively accept that we do not have the physical proof to back our conclusion. We may have some experience seeing other promises of God come to pass, but it is that lack of physical proof that makes our opinion faith in God.

Once we choose to form our opinion on the basis of faith, we allow our expectation to rise based on that opinion and not on the natural facts in evidence. Abraham had facts to look at. They were indisputable in his circumstance. Both he and his wife were too old to have children. His wife had been unable to conceive when she was of the correct age, so it was certainly impossible for her to conceive at ninety. These were the facts.

Abraham chose to form his opinion of God on the basis of the promise instead of the facts. He then expected that God would do what he promised. This is all an part of the process of giving glory to God, but you notice there is one more step. Without that step, we do not give glory to God. Doing all of the rest may help, but only when we do the final step to we release the power that strengthened Abraham so that he could receive the promise. The last step is to praise God.

More tomorrow.

How Abraham Gave Glory to God 2

Acts 16:25-26(NKJV) 25But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.

Yesterday we looked at the definition of the word “glory.” We found that it meant “the defining characteristics of a person.” In the Lord’s case, we are talking about things like power, holiness and love. We also defined glory as God’s power and presence in manifestation. To glorify God is to live in such a way that his defining characteristics are in manifestation in our lifestyle and ministry.

Today we want to look more closely at the idea of giving glory to God. This is what Abraham did that strengthened his faith. The end result of which was that he was successful in receiving the promise. Everyone who chooses to believe God for a specific promise will find times when their faith needs strengthening. If we do what Abraham did, we will have the same results he had.

When we speak of giving glory to God, we must look at some other aspects of the definition of glory. The Old Testament word carries the idea of “heavy in weight.” By extension, the idea of wealth was included. This is the same as our perception that something that has some weight to it is of higher quality than something that is very light.

Holman’s Bible Dictionary points out that this word can also mean to give “weight or value to someone.” So we might say, to give glory to anyone is to ascribe weight and value to them. Therefore, if we are going to give glory to God we are placing weight and value in him. How does this strengthen our faith?

As we look at the problems we face in life, to what do we give greater weight or value? If we are honest in our evaluation, we will have to come to the conclusion that we usually consider the problem of greater weight than the promise. We do not think of it that way, but if we are worrying, that is exactly what we are doing.

Worry puts the focus on every possible negative outcome to the problem. Worry causes us to run possible negative scenarios in our mind until they produce fear. None of these things has happened. They are just possibilities. When we allow the negative possibilities to remain in our mind, we are giving weight or value to them. They become more real the longer we dwell on them. Finally, we see them as true.

The way to counter that is to declare the glory, or weight and value of God. It is a powerful thing when we choose to stand in the face of a difficult situation and declare the greatness of God. I am not talking so much about meditating on or confessing the promise. I am talking about declaring the greatness of God, independent of the promise or the problem. There is something powerful about ignoring the whole situation and taking time to remind ourselves that he is the most powerful, the most important being in the universe.

Sometimes I like to declare that, “The Lord is great and mighty. There is none like him. He is the almighty God. He is the holy one. There is nothing he cannot do!” When I do that, I am giving him glory. I am making him more important in my eyes than the problem.

Today’s scripture is one of the more familiar stories in the Bible. Paul and Silas had been taken prisoner in Philippi for preaching the gospel. They had stirred up the some local people by casting the devil out of a slave girl who told fortunes. Her masters made money off her demonically inspired ability and they were not happy. They demanded Paul and Silas be arrested.

After they had been whipped, they were put in the worst part of the prison. In those days, there was no assurance you would get a speedy trial, so there was no guarantee how long they would be there. (Roman citizens did have such assurance, but they did not know Paul was a Roman citizen.)

I cannot think of a situation that would be much worse than that of Paul and Silas. They were beaten and imprisoned. This had happened to them because they were doing what God had asked them to do. They really had no defense except that the Lord told them to case out devils. This would not have had much influence in the Philippian court. What are they going to do? How are they going to strengthen their faith?

The Bible says that they were singing hymns at midnight. What is a hymn? It is a song that gives glory to God. They chose to give more weight and value to God than to the problem. They had no hope except in the Lord just as Abraham had no hope. Right in the middle of the prison, they began to sing about the greatness and power of God.

I do not know what the other prisoners thought, but I am sure Paul and Silas did not care. It does not seem that anyone tried to stop them, so it seems to me that their singing must have had a positive effect on the other prisoners as well. The more they ascribed value to God instead of to the situation, the stronger their faith became and the less they worried about the future.

Soon, the jail began to shake and every chain on every prisoner fell off. The doors to the jail opened and they were free. Praise God! Giving glory to God will always result in freedom. I find what happened next to be the most interesting part of all.

The prisoners did not try to run away. Their chains were off and the doors were open, but when the jailer came to see what had happened they were still in the prison. Maybe they just had not had the time to escape, but why not push past the jailer. There was no indication he was not alone. I believe that giving glory to God did more than just free them from physical chains.

I believe that giving glory to God made the temporary condition of being in jail less important than the greatness of God himself. They hardly noticed when they were free from the prison because they were freed inwardly first. The prison was no longer so important.

Second, giving glory to God made the will of God more important than Paul and Silas’ physical freedom. They stayed because they knew the jailer would forfeit his life for losing them. They stayed in the physical situation until they were able to preach the Gospel to him. The result was that the jailer and his whole house were saved.

Not only that, Paul was able to exert his Roman citizenship, which forced the magistrates to come and personally apologize to him. What do you suppose Paul would have done when the magistrate came? I think he probably preached the gospel to him.

When you choose to give glory to God in the midst of trials, your faith will gain strength, however, much more will happen as well. The problems you face will become less and less important. You will gain freedom from them, but you will gain freedom in your heart first. That is more important. You will also facilitate the will of God gaining ascendency in your life. When you glorify God, you want to serve him. Glorifying God will release the Power of God in every dimension of your life. Why not begin right now?

How Did Abraham Give Glory to God?

Romans 4:20-21(NKJV) 20He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

We ended last week by looking at the final step of our Romans 4 “quick start guide” to faith in God. That step was to give glory to God. In the years I have taught from this scripture I had never quite seen that as the forth step in the process. I taught that the forth step was to not waver through unbelief and to be fully persuaded. As I looked at Romans 4 this time, I realized that those two things were the result of the process. They are what would lead directly to possessing the promise. The forth step is giving glory to God.

Last week I pointed out that we all need to be strengthened in faith. Anytime we choose to believe God for something specific there will be some time of waiting. During this period, our faith will be challenged and even the strongest believer will have periods where they want to waver. In those times, we need to give glory to God so that our faith will stay strong.

As I was preparing for this week, I assumed that I was done with Romans 4. I began to pray about what to preach next Sunday. The more I prayed the less settled I seemed to be about any topic. I felt the Lord urge me to look again at this thought of giving glory to God as a vehicle to strengthen our faith. I found some interesting things.

Often we assume we know certain things, especially if we have been walking with the Lord for a long time. The reason I did not think to look deeper into giving glory to God is that I thought it was such a basic idea that everyone knew exactly what it meant. As it turns out, I did not have as clear a picture of what Abraham did to strengthen his faith as I thought I had.

What does it really mean to give glory to God? First, let us consider the word, glory. I have done some study on this word because the glory of God is something that Pentecostals and Charismatics are always praying to see. It is one of those words that seem very spiritual and very humble. “Oh Lord that we might see your glory!” we pray. What is it we are really asking God to show us?

The word glory has a number of meanings. It means the defining characteristics of a person. My wife used to very long, thick, red hair. She was known for that hair all over the world. It would be correct to say that her hair was her glory. Any characteristics that a person is know or defined by can be called their glory. What are the defining characteristics of God? What do we think of when we think of him? There a many.

God is known for his power. That is a defining characteristic. He is known for holiness and righteousness. He is known for justice. He is everywhere present, all knowing and all loving. You cannot think of God without those characteristics coming to mind. They are part of his glory.

Another aspect of the word glory is the power and presence of God in manifestation. One example of this is what the Bible calls the Shekinah glory. This cloud manifested in the temple when it was dedicated. The power and presence of God manifested in such a way that it was visible, a supernatural cloud that caused those in the building to fall to the ground as they encountered it.

The manifest presence of God also appeared as a light in the Holy of Holies of the Jewish temple. God himself lit the place where the Ark of the Covenant dwelt. His power and presence was manifested physically. When that happens, it is called the glory of God.

Putting those things together, we understand what we are praying for when we pray for the glory of the Lord. We are asking for a tangible manifestation of the defining characteristics of God. This involves both his power and his character. Jesus exemplified this while he walked the earth.

Hebrews 1 describes Jesus this way;

Hebrews 1:3(NKJV) 3who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Colossians 2:9 says that the fullness of the Godhead dwelled in Jesus bodily. Jesus was the power and presence of God manifested in the midst of humanity. He displayed God’s glory by healing the sick, raising the dead and touching multitudes with the Word of God. He also displayed God’s glory by perfectly manifesting the character of God. He was love, power, and integrity in the flesh.

Too often, when we pray for a manifestation of the glory of God, we think in terms of the cloud in the temple or the light in the Holy of Holies. However, Jesus redefined the glory of God and its purpose. The real glory of God we need to seek is his character in our daily living and his power in our ministry to others. I am not opposed to shining, supernatural clouds or other spectacular manifestations of God’s presence, but I prefer those that directly touch the lives of people.

It could be said that Jesus glorified God better than any other person because he perfectly reflected who God is through his humanity. I have at times equated that with giving glory to God as stated in Romans 4, however I have come to realize that they are not the same thing. To glorify God is to live in a way that brings him glory, but what does it meant to give glory to God. That is what Abraham did which strengthened his faith enabling him to successfully possess his promise.

What does it mean to give glory to God? Join me tomorrow as we begin to find out.

Hope Against Hope

Romans 4:18-19(NKJV) 18who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.

Abraham became our example of how to operate by faith when he believed the promise of God in the midst of impossibility. God promised him that he would be the father of many nations and that through his seed the whole world would one day be blessed. He received this promise at 75 years of age. His wife, who had never been able to have children, was 65. This promise was impossible and yet, in 25 years, it came to pass.

Romans 4 gives us the blueprint for how he received this promise from God. First, he had a promise. We must know what God says he will do if we are going to believe him. In our case, the primary way we receive God’s promise is through the written Word. Second, he ordered his speaking to reflect the promise. God changed his name from Abram, high father, to Abraham, the father of a multitude. Every time he spoke his name, he was speaking the promise. We must learn to use our words to reinforce the reality of God’s promise to us.

Today we will look at the next step. Our verses today say that Abraham “hoped against hope.” What does that mean and how did he do it. First let us look at what hope is. Hope can mean many things but I like to focus on one aspect of hope. Hope represents possibility. If I hear a testimony, it produces hope that God can do something for me. We talked about this on Monday. So what did Abraham do? He chose to see possibility where there could be no possibility.

How could he do that? The Bible tells us clearly how he could have hope in the face of impossibility. First, what was the impossibility? They were too old to have children. Your descendents cannot bless the whole world if you do not have any. Sarah was barren. She could not have children. She could never have children. She was not going to start to have children between 65, when the promise was given, and 90, when the promise finally came to pass.

She tried to address this minor problem by giving Abraham her maid. This was acceptable in their culture. If a child was born under those circumstances, it was considered Sarah’s child. A child was born, but God did not accept that solution. He told Abraham that the child of the promise would come from barren Sarah. This only made the impossible more impossible.

As for Abraham, at one time he was fertile. He fathered Ishmael by Hagar, Sarah’s servant. However, we read in Romans that, at the time of the fulfillment of the promise, Abraham’s body was dead. Now he was still breathing so he was not completely dead. What part was dead? Without being graphic, let us just say he was impotent. He could no longer father children.

In the face of all this impossibility, Abraham still believed in the promise of God. How could he see possibility still believe in his situation? After all the years he had waited for God to fulfill the promise, how could he still think God would do it? The passing years had made it more and more impossible for God to do what he said he would do. What hope did he cling to?

You can have hope in the midst of impossibility. The thing about God is that he delights in doing impossible things. He will extend the situation until it is completely impossible, yet we can still see possibility, hope against hope, if we learn where to look.

In verse 18, Paul tells us that Abraham did not become weak in faith because he did not consider the impossibilities represented by their physical bodies. When it says he did not become weak in faith it must be understood that he did not lose hope. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, so no hope no faith. How did he see possibility where there was none? He chose not to consider the impossibility.

The word, consider is very important to this equation. It has two basic meanings. First, it carries the connotation of giving weight or value to something. Abraham gave no weight or value to the fact that neither his body nor Sarah’s was capable of producing children. To Abraham that fact was not relevant in light of the promise of God. If we want to see possibility in the midst of impossibility, we are going to have to give more weight to the Word of God than any natural circumstance.

This is difficult in the face of natural opposition. Imagine how Abraham felt when he got up every morning and his body had not changed. It would have been an assault on his hope and faith every day. However, it was his choice to look at the circumstance and choose to believe that God could still do what he said he would do. He hoped against hope by placing more value or weight on the relevance of the promise than on the relevance of the circumstance.

When you are going through a difficult time, but you are standing on a promise of God, you must do what Abraham did. Yes, your checkbook is empty. Yes, the bills are due. Decisions have to be made, but it is still possible for God to meet your need. How can I believe that? I can believe it because I have a promise in Phil. 4:19 that tells me God will meet my needs. The circumstances must be considered, but I choose to consider the promise of greater weight or relevance to the situation. The world may call you crazy, but they will stop once the Lord moves to meet your need!

The second part of the meaning of “consider” is to look at intently or to examine something at length. Abraham did not continue to look at or examine his and Sarah’s bodily limitations. That means he did not spend all his time thinking about how old he was or how Sarah had never had children. He did not spend time considering those things. Nonetheless, there is something we need to understand. It is impossible to consider nothing or to not consider at all.

The human mind is a wonderful thing. One thing it cannot do is shut off completely. When you are faced with a situation that must be resolved, you will think about it. That is just the way it is. If you are not going to consider the problem, what are you going to consider. In the case of any faith operation, there is only one choice. You must consider the promise.

I believe Abraham thought about the promise all the time. We saw yesterday that part of the process is to speak in line with the promise. This is part of considering as well. He called himself “Father of a multitude.” He called his wife, “Wife of the father of a multitude.” He went to bed thinking of the promise. When his body would not function he thought, “I still have a promise and God is good for his Word.” Every month when his wife passed through her cycle and when it stopped altogether, he thanked God he still had a promise.

I believe he considered what life would be like when the promise came to pass. He planned how he would raise the son of the promise. He thought about how he would teach him about the Lord and the covenant. He did all of this with the impossibility of his body constantly vying for his attention.

This is the real battleground of faith. However, once we master it nothing is impossible to us. We will be active believers and every challenge of life will be an opportunity to overcome by faith in the God of the promise.

Speak in Line With the Promise

Romans 4:16-17(NKJV) 16Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17(as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”)£ in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;

(I want to take a moment to remind everyone that today is the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl. Many of the veterans of that conflict are passing from us at this time. It would be a good day to thank any WWII veterans you may know and to remember the sacrifice made by so many to keep us free. Thank God for those who are willing to risk life and limb for our national security.)

This week we are studying the faith “quick start guide” in Romans 4. Abraham is the father of our faith because he is the first one in the Bible to operate according to a set of principles that are common to every faith victory. Anyone can apply these principles and see the promises of God fulfilled in his or her life. By applying these principles, Abraham was able to believe beyond his natural experience. I believe we can do the same.

The first step in the process of faith is that we must have a promise. Faith is simply trusting someone to keep their word. In the case of faith in the power of God, we must trust God’s word. How can we do that if we do not know what God has to say? Abraham had a promise from God that he would be the father of many nations and that the whole world would be blessed by his descendents. For that to happen he had to have descendents. Since his wife had never been able to have children and he was now too old, this was physically impossible.

The process in Romans 4 tells us how to take an impossible promise and make it a reality in our experience. Abraham had the promise so he knew that it was the will of God to do this for him. We have a book full of promises that cover every area of the human condition. If we will find those promises, read them and meditate on them, we will know the will of God for whatever situation we face.

Abraham was given this promise 75 years of age. The promise was not fulfilled until he was 100 years old. What did he have to do to see this promise come to pass? We know that God was the one who had to provide the power for a one hundred year old man and ninety-year-old woman have a child. Abraham could not do that. However, Abraham did have to do his part. We need to know what his part was so we can follow his example.

First, let me say that an aspect of his part was obviously patience. We live in a “right now” society. We expect everything to be instant. However, God does not operate on our timetable. The Lord told Moses his name was “I am.” That implies and that God is always in the present tense. Past, present and future are all the same to him. In God’s way of seeing things twenty-five years is nothing. To us, it is a very long time. If we are going to receive by faith, we must adjust our thinking and be willing to wait on God’s timing. His timing is always perfect.

In today’s scripture, we see step two in the “Romans 4” faith process. Once we have the promise, we need to speak in line with the promise. There was a time where there was much teaching on “positive and negative confession.” I believe positive is better, but that term can be misleading. Look at what Jesus said about words and faith.

Mark 11:22-23(NKJV) 22So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

Proverbs 18:21 says death and life are in the power of the tongue. James 3:1-4 tells us that the tongue is very hard to tame, but if you do tame it, you can steer your whole life in the right direction. Here in Romans 4, Paul says that God “calls things that are not as though they were. How does this apply to the faith process?

The promise to Abraham was that he would be the father of many nations. When God cut a blood covenant with him, God changed Abraham’s name. He had been known as Abram, which means “high father.” God says his name shall now be Abraham, which means “father of a multitude.” That was the promise.

Every time Abraham spoke his name, he was speaking the promise. Every business deal he made, he made in the name of the promise. His wife’s name was also changed to Sarah. This meant “wife of the father of a multitude.” Every time he called her name or she called his, they were speaking the promise of God.

Once we have a promise, I believe we need to fill our mouth with that promise. We need to order our speaking to reflect what the promise says. Let us look at healing as an example. The Bible says in Isaiah 53 that healing is part of our covenant. This is quoted in 1 Peter 2:24.

1 Peter 2:24(NKJV) 24who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.

I believe this is a promise we can stand on by faith. By the stripes of Jesus, we are healed. If I have a cold, I can believe God for healing based on this scripture. Once I see the promise and pray for my healing, what should I do?

I meet someone at work who notices I have a cold. I am stuffy and sneezing. They say, “Wow! You’ve got quite a cold there. How are you feeling?” What should I say? If I say, “No I don’t have a cold.” that would be a lie. If I say, “Yes I do. I feel terrible!” I am speaking in line with the cold not with the promise. If I am talking to a believer who I trust to have faith for my healing I might say, “Pray for me, brother. I am believing God for healing.” What we really want to see is that Abraham cultivated a pattern of speaking that reflected his faith in the promise of God.

If you are standing on the promise of God for healing, you want to speak that promise over your life. You need to declare to yourself and to the devil, “By the stripes of Jesus I am healed.” We need to say things in such a way that they reinforce the promise of God and its reality in our lives. “Thank God for healing.” I am the healed.” “God is raising me up.”

That does not mean we should get into bondage thinking that if we say, “I have a cold.” once we would never be able to be healed. It is the pattern that is important. One confession that supports the promise will not negate a pattern of speaking in line with the sickness. Likewise, one confession in support of the sickness will not negate a pattern of speaking in line with the promise.

Sometimes this seems silly to us. However, have you ever considered how much pressure we feel to tell everyone what is wrong in our lives? I believe that pressure comes from the devil because he knows how powerful it is to speak the Word of God.

Listen to what you are saying right now. I believe it will tell you what you really believe. Begin to change your words and you will change the direction of your faith. Step two is to speak in line with the promise.

We Must Have a Promise

Romans 4:13-16(NKJV) 13For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. 16Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all

Romans 4 might be called the “quick start guide” to how to apply faith in God. As we began our look at this chapter yesterday, we discovered that Abraham found something very important. He discovered that it was possible to believe God beyond his experience. He was too old to have children and his wife had been barren her whole life. They had no experience to base their faith upon.

Sarah was 65 and Abraham was 75 when God promised Abraham he would be the father of multitudes. They received this promise by faith and eventually had a child together who became the beginning of the nation of Israel. What we want to learn is how this faith worked in Abraham. If we can do what he did, we can receive the answer to any prayer and God’s solution to any problem. Let us examine Abraham’s actions in this chapter.

In today’s verse, we see the first and most important element of any faith operation. We must have a promise. Abraham did not try to believe God without knowing upon what his faith would rest. God had given him a promise. Let us look at that promise.

Genesis 15:4-5(NKJV) 4And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

The promise continues in chapter 17 with the cutting of the covenant that seals the promise.

Genesis 17:3-5(NKJV) 3Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.

Everything Abrahams does from this point on is based upon this promise. Without a promise to stand on faith cannot work. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing itself comes by the Word of God. Why is this so important?

We must understand the nature of faith. Faith is not a mental exercise or some mystical spiritual state. Faith is a connection between two people. We have a word we use to describe people who have never had sexual relations with anyone but their spouse. We call those people faithful. If they have strayed, we use the term “infidelity.” This word simply means a breach of trust. If we do not stray outside of our marriage vows, we have faith within the relationship.

Faith is relationship by nature. You do not have faith in nothing. You must have faith in something and the kind of faith Abraham possessed was in someone. You cannot have faith in someone if you do not know what they have said they will do for you. That is the purpose of marriage vows.

When we stand next to our future spouse all dressed in the finest clothing we may ever wear, we do not simply say “pretty words” that hold a place in our wedding traditions. We should make vows to one another. Today we do not consider those vows as very important, but they are. A vow is a promise that cannot be broken. The same thing passed between God and Abraham.

God made a vow to Abraham and Abraham made a vow to God. God vowed to make Abraham the father of many nations and to bless the world through his descendants. Abraham vowed to serve God and mark those descendants with circumcision. There was much more to their covenant, but for now, this is the part we will focus on.

The marriage vow is a promise each spouse should be able to stand on when trouble comes. If it seems that the husband may have strayed, the wife should be able to go back to those vows and stand on them to prove he would never do such a thing. I know this is naive in today’s world, but that is the way it is supposed to work. Abraham knew that God took his vow as absolute and would never break it. Therefore, he could stand on the promise of God in the face of any impossibility.

The strength of the vow, or promise, is the character and power of the person who makes it. If a woman marries an unfaithful man, she should expect that the vow would not hold. If she marries a man of proven character, she can be assured of his faithfulness in life. God will never lie. Every promise he makes is absolutely true. He will never break even the smallest promise he makes to man. Furthermore, he has the power to back up even the greatest promise.

Abraham had an encounter with God in which he received a powerful promise. We have probably not had God speak to us in an audible voice or appear to us in a dream to make a covenant with us. However, we have something even better. We have the Word of God!

2 Corinthians 1:20(KJV) 20For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

The “him” in this verse is Jesus. We have a better covenant with God than Abraham did. That covenant is based on better promises. (Heb. 8:6) We have just as sure a promise to stand on as Abraham did. In fact, we have a whole book of them. The only question is whether we will take the time to find the one we need for our circumstance.

What are you facing today? To parody a popular cellular phone’s commercial; there is a promise for that. Do you need healing? There is a promise for that. Do you need direction? There is a promise for that. Are your finances in trouble, or are your relationships in need of help? There are many promises to meet those needs. If you are struggling with sin in your life there are promises that can give you the strength to overcome.

Find a promise. You can search the word via computer, the web or a concordance. You can go to someone who has been a Christian longer than you have and ask them to help you. You can ask for council from the leaders of the church, but when you do, go to them looking for a promise from God’s word.

Once you find a promise or two that applies to your situation, you will be ready to move on to the next step in Romans 4. However, without a promise you will not be able to apply the rest of the principles outlined in this chapter. So find your promise today and we will move on tomorrow.