He Leads me in Paths of Righteousness (Re-posted from February 16, 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.

I believe 2020 is a year of restoration.  Recently we have been looking at what God will restore beginning with Psalm 23:3 in which God promises to restore our souls.  We have restoration of the soul in salvation, but we need the touch of God on our soul to bring experiential restoration.  In this psalm we see some keys to how he wants to do that.  We have seen that there is a place to which God wants to lead us that will help deal with the stress and worry of life.  He wants to lead you to green pastures and still waters.  As I was writing this, I began to see this place in my spirit.  Both of these things describe peace.  The peace of God can overcome any kind of stress.

Today I want to look at another aspect of the restoration of the soul.  The third verse says that God will lead me in paths of righteousness for his name sake.  The word translated righteousness here means the right in a moral sense, a natural sense or a legal sense.  The restoration of the soul requires that we come back to this place.  In fact, the first thing David says after the promise of restoration of the soul is that he will lead us in the paths of what is right in moral things, natural things and legal things.

In speaking of Moses, Hebrews 11 says that he chose to identify with the afflictions of Israel rather than partake of the “passing pleasures of sin.”  Sin often brings pleasure, but that pleasure is passing, and it always carries a price.  Part of the price of sin is the disquiet it brings to the soul.  The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death.  I do not believe this just means physical death.  It opens the door to the influence of death in our lives.  This includes guilt, fear, regret and many other things that will affect the soul of man.

Not only do we see the disquieting effects of sin, but the more it dominates us and the more we accept these effects as normal, the more our soul becomes warped to a mindset that comes from sin and the cultural tendencies that were produced by sin.  In America today it is considered completely natural for people to have sex outside of marriage.  Yet we mourn the proliferation of sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy, children who grow up without the guidance they need and myriad other effects of what the Bible calls fornication.  This results in an intellectual and emotional life that is out of the place God created.  It also results in a weak will when it comes to doing anything that goes against the pleasure gods we serve today. 

It is out of vogue to say this, but the obvious solution to all of the above things is simple.  Walk in the paths of righteousness.  God said do not commit fornication, for instance, because it brings results that are not healthy to any part of the human.  Sin is particularly unhealthy for the life of our soul.  If I walk in paths of righteousness, I do not open the door for the death that came upon man with sin.  If I obey what the Bible teaches, my soul begins to think like God thinks.  My norm becomes something completely different.  My soul finds the peace that David spoke of because I am in balance with what God created.

No one is perfect in this.  We all allow sin to get in at times.  Condemnation because this is true is not the answer.  To accept it is inevitable is also not the answer.  If I follow the Lord my shepherd in paths of righteousness, I will find that my soul becomes more and more healthy.  It begins to do what it was designed to do.  It becomes a clear channel for the direction, peace, wisdom and all the other things that come to us from the spirit of God that dwells within the believer (John 14:17.) 

Paul understood this and gave us a word in Romans 12 that will help us with the restoration of the soul. 

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV) 1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Here Paul tells us what keeps us from presenting our bodies to God as well as what keeps us from walking in his will.  We need a transformation which can only come from the renewing of our minds.  The mind and the soul are synonymous terms.  Our minds are the seat of our intellect, our emotions and our will.  These are the same elements that make up our soul.  If we are going to walk as God wants us to walk, we must do something about our soul.

Our spirit is the part that was born again when we received Jesus.  According to 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 we are new creatures in Christ.  He tells us all things have become new and all things are now of God.  Why, then, do so many Christians live like nothing has changed?  Why are there so many things in their lives that are not of God?  Is it because salvation did not work?  Is it because those people are just too bad?  Is it because it just does not matter because salvation is by grace?  None of those things is true. 

The same Paul who wrote 2 Corinthians 5 wrote Romans 12.  The problem is not with salvation.  It is not even a problem in the spirit of the person who is born again.  That part is settled.  The problem is that our souls, our minds, have been trained by the society and culture born of sin.  They have often been educated by people who do not believe in God or the things of the spirit.  Even at its best, humanity largely does not know what God’s word says and if they do it is clouded by religion.  We need our minds renewed!

The renewal of the mind comes in two ways.  First, it comes by hearing, studying and understanding the word of God.  The Bible is not just a book.  It is a living thing (Hebrews 4:12.)  The life within it is the life of a seed (Mark 4:13-35.)  When we plant it by studying, reading, hearing anointed teaching and meditating on the Word, it has the power to rewrite our soul so that it conforms to the wisdom of God not the wisdom of man (James 3:13-18.)

The second part is what David tells us in Psalm 23.  He leads us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  We will never see the restoration of our soul if we do not develop a personal, active and growing relationship with the Lord.  The Bible is full of power, but it is the interaction of the Word of God and the spirit of God within our souls that produces transformation. 

As we lie down in the green pastures by the still waters, we find relationship which leads to fellowship which produces the renewing of our souls.  In this process God takes our hands and leads us in the paths of righteousness.  We begin to see how he thinks as he opens his Word to us.  We begin to change how we see life.  Our whole view of the world changes.  The result is a peace that the world cannot understand.  It is a joy that is not dependent upon the outward things in life.  It is also a power to change what is not in tune with God and bringing it into a place of balance in all areas of life. 

This is in no way talking about law.  It is talking about relationship and the dynamics that are part of any relationship.  The difference is that our relationship is with the God who knows all, sees all, understands all, is all powerful and is all loving toward us.

He Makes Me Lie Down…..(Re-posted from February 8, 2020)

Psalm 23:1-6 (NKJV) 1  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

(Peace is one of the greatest needs we have during this time. The peace of God will enable us to go through anything we must. God wants to restore his peace as we deal with what we see around us today.)

We have been looking at the fact that God says he will restore our souls.  The fall of man in Eden caused the soul to occupy a place in our being that it was never meant to hold.  We looked at the general results of that in our last two posts.  What about the personal results?  I think as we look at this wonderful psalm, we will begin to understand.  In the verses quoted above we find some of the most beloved words of the Bible.  Let us look a little more closely at them.  We will find just how God restores our soul.

The first thing we see is David’s proclamation that the Lord is his shepherd.  We have already discussed this.  David understood what it meant to be a shepherd.  There is a wonderful book by W. Phillip Keller called A Shepherd’s Look at the 23rd Psalm.  This book examines these words from the perspective of a shepherd.  I encourage you to read this book, but I want to point out a few things starting with the fact that the Lord God Almighty is the one responsible for caring for your life.  The true shepherd was so committed to the wellbeing of the sheep that he would die to care for and protect them.  Our shepherd as he walked the earth as the Son of God did exactly that for you and me.  Paul made a powerful statement to the same effect. 

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?

Our shepherd died for us and he will give us everything we need.  Look at Matthew 6:31-33

Matthew 6:31-33 (NKJV) 31  Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

One of the most powerful negative things we do with our souls is worry.  There are often many things to worry about.  Worry manifests in all parts of our soul life.  Our intellects are overwhelmed by the bad possibilities that could happen in our circumstances.  We dwell on them until we clearly understand how the bad thing could easily happen. 

Our emotions also get involved in the worry process.  We begin to feel the feelings that the bad thing will produce.  There is a knot in our stomach as we contemplate just how bad it will get.  Our will begins to weaken until in the end we have no resistance to the inevitability of the problem happening.  Eventually our will is molded to accept that something bad is coming and there is nothing we can do to change it.  All of this when nothing has happened yet!

This is a picture of a soul out of control, out of balance and out of place.  God wants to restore your soul.  He wants to put back in balance what is out of balance.  The way to deal with the out of balance soul state of worry is to remember this simple truth.  The Lord is my shepherd!  I shall not want for anything.  I may not see the answer yet, but my Father knows what I need, and he is working on it.  The more we remember this, the less the effects of worry will cripple our ability to trust God.

Another out of balance condition of the soul is anxiety.  I know that this is a real thing and I in no way make light of it.  I have experienced it.  I know it can have a physical cause and that must be considered.  Nevertheless, at its root it is an imbalance of the soul.  Whether it is caused by physical things, emotional trauma or the everyday pressure of life, it can be dealt with by putting the soul back in order.  Medication and the like can produce an alleviation of the symptoms but will rarely solve the problem.  What will?

Once again, we see words in this psalm that will help us bring balance to our soul.  The main component of anxiety is emotional.  What is the opposite of anxiety?  Peace.  The Bible has much to say about peace, but in verse 2 we see that our shepherd will lead us to green pastures and still waters.  Green pastures speak of provision, but they also speak of a lack of stress.  We will have enough.  There is nothing to be anxious about.  Still waters are always a type of peace. 

If we turn our attention to the goodness of God in the midst of our anxiety, we will find still waters.  We can find an inner peace that will overtake the sense of anxiety we feel.  The reality of God our shepherd is that we are already in green pastures by still waters.  That is our position in the spirit.  We see another phrase in this verse that is important to balancing the soul.  It says he makes me lie down in the green pastures.

Our wonderful heavenly Father/shepherd has brought us to a place of peace.  Jesus says in John 14:27 that he gives us a peace that the world cannot give.  In Philippians 4:7, Paul speaks of a peace that passes natural understanding.  There is a peace available to you that does not have its source in your soul.  It comes from a deeper place.  It comes from your spirit.  However, if we will not look deeper than our mind, emotions and will, we will not find it.

God wants us to lie down in the green pasture beside the still water.  He wants us to believe that that place exists.  It is always there when we need to visit it.  The question is will we go there.  Will we take a few minutes to quiet our soul?  We need to turn off some of what feeds our intellect, emotions and will with anxiety and lie down in the green pastures by the still waters.  When we do, we will feel a change.

I had a friend once who was filled with anxiety.  He had a business that brought stress to his life.  His homelife at that point was not helping.  I told him to come to the office 20 minutes earlier in the morning and spend some time praying.  That does not always mean crying out to God for answers to our many problems.  Part of prayer is to lie down in green pastures by still waters and allow the Lord to minister to us.  His testimony was that everything had changed when he started to practice this simple thing.

One more point I want to make is that it says he will make us lie down.  That does not mean that he will force us to lie down, but it does mean he will help to.  When we feel we cannot find the place of green pastures and still waters, ask the Holy Spirit within you to help you to lie down.  He will take you step by step through the process until you are at rest in his presence.  Begin by praising him for all he has done.  You might sing a little song of worship.  It may be a song you know, or you may simply begin to sing words to him as the tune comes.  He is not looking for a masterpiece so do not worry about how it sounds.  All Fathers love to hear their children sing.  Read something in His Word and ask him to bring you revelation.  Sometimes you may just focus on Him and His goodness until your mind quiets down and you find yourself lying in the green pastures by still waters.  It may help to ask the Holy Spirit to help you visualize that place.

You may feel nothing, or you may feel something.  This is not a competition.  It is an exercise in accepting a reality and tapping into a deeper place from which to live.  It may take some time to get to the green pastures with still waters, but do not give up.  That place belongs to you.  Believe in it and you will find it.  Do whatever else you need to as far as doctors or medicine but know that God the Father/Shepherd has a place waiting for you.  Once you find it, you will always be able to find your way back.  That is the real solution to anxiety. 

Next time we will look at more from this small but powerful psalm. 

The Lord Wants to Restore our Soul (Re-posted from February 4, 2020)

Psalm 23:1-3 (NKJV) 1  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

(Once again I apologize for repeating these posts so soon, but I believe we need to believe for the restoration God promised this year. In this post we can see some of what is happening today and God’s solution.)

In our last post we looked at David’s wonderful shepherd’s psalm, Psalm 23.  We began by looking at the restoration made necessary by the fall of man.  We were created spirit, soul and body.  Our spirit is the part of us that is in vital connection to God.  Our bodies are the physical house in which we live.  They enable us to be part of and connect with the physical world.  Our soul was designed to be a bridge between the two.  Our soul is the seat of intellect, emotions and will.  In the fall of man, the spirit went dark.  Our soul became the determiner of morality and the distinction between good and evil.

If you remember the two trees in the Garden of Eden, you can understand the problem.  The two trees in the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Genesis 2:16-17 tells us that one of these trees is forbidden to man.

Genesis 2:16-17 (NKJV) 16  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Man could eat as much of the fruit of the tree of life as he wanted.  There is much discussion about this tree.  If man found it today would he live forever.  I believe the answer is no.  In John 17 Jesus tells us what life is.

John 17:3 (NKJV) 3  And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

I am not going to speculate on the physical nature of this tree or its fruit.  Jesus said eternal life is to know God the Father.  That is what this tree represented.  Adam was free to know God.  What about the other tree?  We get a clue from its name.  It is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  What was the problem with this tree?  Did God want Adam and Eve ignorant of what was good and evil? 

I do not believe he did.  However, this second tree represented this knowledge apart from their relationship with God.  The knowledge of good and evil must flow from the life of God.  If it does not, it is by nature arbitrary.  Today we use the term relative.  Good and evil are not relative terms.  They are absolutes.  The problem with the second tree is that it leaves man to make this determination via his soul.  It is God who determines good and evil and when we eat from the tree of inner relationship with God by the spirit, the determination is automatic.

The book of judges speaks of this. 

Judges 21:25 (NKJV) 25  In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

This same statement is made in the 17th chapter, but I wanted to quote it from here because it is the last sentence in the book.  With all that happened in the book of Judges, they ended up in the same place they began.  To some, this statement is the way things should be.  In the context of Israel, the Bible says they had no king.  We find in 1 Samuel that God wanted to be there king.  Nevertheless, there was a problem with this.  Because God could not have connection with man in the spirit, man kept making the wrong choices.  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not up to the job.

When man’s soul is the determiner of good and evil, it becomes relative.  There were people that God raised up to lead in the book of Judges.  Some of them were good and some were bad.  They led on the basis of what their minds, emotions and will determined.  Some tried to walk according to God’s leading, but when you read this book you will see that most made mistakes.  In the end they were in the same place as when they began.  Their condition had not improved, and they were not a force for God and his Kingdom.

A king appointed by God was not much better.  As you read Israel’s history under the kings, you find that few made the right choices in God’s eyes and only one was called a man after God’s heart.  Even this king, David by name, made some terrible mistakes.  He allowed evil to get hold of him and he committed adultery and then murder.  It was his repentance that set him apart.  In the end he acknowledged that he was not the one who must determine good and evil.

Psalm 51:3-4 (NKJV) 3  For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. 4  Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight– That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.

As you read through this psalm, you find David understood that God determined good and evil.  He saw that the fruit of his choice opened the door to death and destruction.  He is among the very best the old testament had to offer, yet we would convict him and send him to prison for the rest of his life or worse. 

So, what does David mean when, as a young boy, he writes the words, “He restores my soul.”  I think part of what God is saying here is that our souls, our intellects, our emotions and our wills must be brought back under the control of the tree of life. 

We were not designed to determine good and evil without our connection to God in the spirit.  It is the spirit that communicates with the God of the universe.  It is our spirit that then conveys through our soul what the wisdom of God reveals.  Our intellect makes sense of it in a way our outward life can use.  Our emotions thrill in the beauty of holiness, righteousness and the God who made everything.  Our wills keep us moving and living according to what we learn from God in the spirit. 

When the spirit, in vital relationship to God is in control, all is in balance.  When the soul is the only inward voice we can follow, things are not in balance.  Our experiences, our cultures, our hurts, our ambitions, our emotions and everything both good and bad deposited there, produce a competitive and unbalanced view of life.  This is what has opened the door to most, if not all, of the misery man experiences on the earth.  That was never what God intended. 

How can God restore our soul?  He does it by restoring our spirit.  He puts us back in touch with the tree of life.  This will not happen if archeological research finds the Garden of Eden and therefore a physical tree of life.  That is not necessary.  The tree of life came to earth.  He destroyed the power of sin, fear and death.  He made it possible to come back to the tree of relationship that was lost in the Garden of Eden.  We can once again choose the life of the spirit by receiving Jesus the Christ as our savior and our Lord.  Let me close by quoting one more scripture.

John 15:4-5 (NKJV) 4  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5  I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

When we let Jesus in, he restores our spirit.  When he restores our spirit, our soul comes back into the place it was meant to have.  Many things are tied to this.  Next time we will begin to look at how this changes the way we live life.

What Will God Restore…..We Begin with the Soul

Psalm 23:1-3 (NKJV) 1  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

(I feel God is compelling me to remind myself, and any who would like to join me, what he said to me about 2020.  When I wrote these posts, I had no idea what was going to happen.  I just knew it would be significant.  As I look back it is evident that we need restoration.  As I look ahead, I stand on what God said to me and for that reason I expect the second half of this year to bring restoration to my life.  I pray it will for you as well.)

We have been looking at restoration from the Word of God.  We have used Joel 2 as our foundation scripture.  I think it is worth pointing out once again that Joel 2:28 is the scripture quoted by Peter in Acts chapter 2.  I believe Christianity and restoration go hand in hand.

Today, I want to begin to look at some of what God promises to restore.  The above scripture is from possibly the most beloved psalm in the Bible.  It was written by David while he was a shepherd caring for his father’s sheep.  Most are familiar with the words, but I wonder if we understand the meaning.  The first phrase is very significant.  The Lord is my shepherd.

The shepherd of a flock was often not the owner of the flock.  In the case of David, he was the son of the owner.  He was given the care of the flock by his father.  A trued shepherd accepted the responsibility of the welfare of the sheep.  Jesus spoke of a type of shepherd called a hireling.  This was a worker hired to care for sheep.  When speaking of this person, Jesus said he did not really care for the sheep.  If he felt he was in danger, he would leave the sheep and protect himself.  This is not so with a true shepherd.  He would lay down his life for the sheep if necessary. 

David was a true shepherd.  He cared about his father’s sheep.  He accepted the responsibility that these sheep were in his care.  He must protect them, provide for them and make sure they were healthy, well fed and content.  As he was fulfilling his responsibility, David has a profound revelation.  He is the shepherd of his father’s sheep, but he realizes that he has a shepherd over his life.  He has someone who takes the responsibility of caring for him.  This shepherd is not a hireling.  David cries out in the joy of revelation.  “The Lord is my shepherd.”  There is a great deal of comfort we can receive if we study this psalm in the light of David’s revelation.  However, for our purposes we want to concentrate on one line.  “He restores my soul.”

There are a number of things that God says he will restore to us.  I believe this is one of the more important ones.  What is our soul?  Man is a triune being like God.  Man is spirit, soul and body.  Our spirit is the innermost part of our being.  I believe it is the part designed to connect directly to God.  When Adam sinned, God said what happened to him was that in dying he began to die.  What could that mean?  When he sinned his vital connection to God was severed.  He died.  Nevertheless, his physical body lived on for more than 900 years. 

When he sinned and his spirit was separated from God that was “spiritual death.”  Spiritual death allowed the corruption that came into the earth to enter man’s physical body.  At the moment he sinned, the process of physical death and decay that we understand as inevitable today began.  For many reasons, this process took far longer in the first human generations than it does today.  Nevertheless, the loss of the spiritual connection between God and man allowed death into the human condition.

Without his spiritual connection to God, man’s body began to die.  What happened to his soul is related but different.  Man’s spirit became silent.  All the activity he had become so used to in his relationship with God at that inner level went dark and quiet.  That is why he finally understood he was naked.  I believe his body just was not that important until then.  It did its job clothing him with flesh so he could live in a flesh world.  When he “died” spiritually, his physical eyes saw things in a different and disturbing light. 

As we know, we are inward beings more than outward.  Our minds are rarely quiet.  We think all the time.  Our minds, our intellect and our will make up that part of us called the soul.  Before the fall they were occupied primarily in fellowship with God.  Our souls were designed to be a bridge between the world of the spirit where God lives and the physical world in which Adam was placed as ruler (Gen. 1:26.)  The majority of the activity in Adam’s soul was from the outside in.  He was focused primarily on the inward, spiritual relationship with God. 

When that channel went dark and silent, man’s only active inward part was the soul.  However, there was nothing left for the soul to be a bridge to.  The soul became the dominant part of man.  It was the source of his ability to learn, gain wisdom and understanding.  The soul was not originally designed for that role.  The spirit was to be in control of man’s life via the connection it shared with God.  It was the spirit that was supposed to be the seat of wisdom.  It was the spirit that was to be the source of moral direction.  It was the spirit that was placed by God in the position of evaluating what was learned from the natural world through the body. 

After the fall, the soul became the dominant part of man.  The soul was now where all of the inward activity happened.  It was the soul that was left to determine right and wrong.  It was the soul that established cultures, society and civilization apart from the information that was supposed to come from God via the spirit.  There were attempts by man to make spiritual sense out of the world, but he could only do so on a soulish level.  Most of the time he got it wrong.  The ultimate expression of that process occurred in Noah’s day. 

Genesis 6:5 (NKJV) 5  Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

I see our world as very troubled.  I do not see it as a place where every person thinks only evil continually.  I do not believe that the intents of the hearts of all people are wicked.  That was the condition that the control of humanity from the soul without the influence of the spirit produced.

From the time of Noah, God has worked to restore the spiritual connection.  First, he made a blood covenant with a man called Abram renamed Abraham.  Finally, he came to earth in the form of flesh as the man Jesus.  In Jesus’ death burial and resurrection, he restored the spiritual relationship with God that had been lost in the Garden of Eden.  This is the first full step to restoring the soul part of the human being to what God intended it to be. 

When we are born again, our spirits that were dead are made alive again.  All of the wisdom, knowledge and everything else that was supposed to be part of Adam’s original relationship with God was potentially given back.  This includes the soul once again becoming the bridge between the spirit world and the natural world.  The problem is that the soul has been in charge for a long time.  As we continue, we will see how to cooperate with God to fully see our soul restored to what God made it to be. 

Join me next time and learn how to walk in a restored soul.

The Process of Restoration Often Involves Pruning (Re-posted from January 18, 2020)

John 15:1-2 (NKJV) 1  “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

We have been looking at the idea of restoration in the Bible.  I believe that this is a year where God wants to work restoration in our lives.  There are many areas of restoration.  We may have been broken and need God to fix us.  We may have lost something, or something may have been stolen from us.  God wants to restore those things.  Finally, Joel says that God wants to restore the years that have been “eaten” by the devil.  I am not sure what that means, but I receive it in Jesus’ name. 

Today I want to look at an aspect of restoration that we may not be so excited about but is necessary none the less.  In Joel 2:18-27 we read about God’s restoration.  God is going to do wonderful things for Israel.  However, in verses 1-12 we find that the devastation came upon them by an army of the Lord.  In verse 11 we read some things that may be a bit disturbing.

Joel 2:11 (NKJV) 11  The LORD gives voice before His army, For His camp is very great; For strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?

This picture is of the judgement that comes to the people of Israel because they have disobeyed God yet again.  The restoration process begins with verses 12-17 which describes a time of repentance among the people with their leaders at the forefront.  It is only after the process of repentance that we see the restoring power of God.

I do not believe our Father actively brings bad things to our lives.  I do believe what Paul taught in Romans 6:23.  The wages of sin is always death.  When we allow sin into our lives, we open the door to the enemy.  God is God.  Even when this happens, we must understand that he is always in control and is working to provide a way out.  His heart is restoration.  He is by nature a rewarder, but we must diligently seek him and his ways (Heb. 11:6.)  Jesus taught something that can give light to how he deals with us today and it correlates with the process outlined in Joel 2.

John 15 is part of Jesus’ last teaching time spent with his disciples.  Beginning with the 13th chapter and continuing through the 17th chapter, Jesus is sharing with his disciples the things that are most important to him before he goes to the cross.  I think you must agree that these things warrant our attention.  In John 15 he gives us insight into how God deals with us.  The point of the teaching is that we bear more fruit and eventually that we bear much fruit.  I believe part of that involves the kind of restoration he wants to bring into our lives. 

I have heard a number of people talk about how bad 2019 was for them.  Believe me, I have had those kinds of years.  2019 could have been better for me, but on balance I have to say it was a good year.  Either way, we must understand that it is the will of God for us to be fruitful.  He does whatever he must, within the confines of his Fatherly love for us, to make sure we become all we can be in him.  In today’s verse Jesus’ reminds his disciples of something that we must remember.  He prunes us so that we may bear increasingly more fruit in our relationship with him.

I love all my children.  I am very proud of them.  Each is different and what they are doing in life is different.  I believe all of them are baring fruit.  That is what is important to me.  When they were growing up it was my job to teach them, train them and correct them so that in adulthood they would be fruitful.  Now they are out of my care, but they still have a Father watching over them and he desires we all continue to grow in baring kingdom fruit. 

In this wonderful teaching we find a number of things that the “vinedresser” will do for us.  First it says that branches which do not bear fruit are taken away.  Nevertheless, if we are doing our best and walking in relationship with him, we will bear fruit.  It is the second thing that I want to focus on in this post.  If we are bearing fruit, he will prune us. 

There is no hope for the unfruitful branch.  It is dead.  It cannot bear any fruit.  However, those who are fruitful in the Kingdom are the ones he will prune.  What does this mean?  He will cut away the things in our lives that are keeping us from baring fruit.  He will trim the deadness out of our tree so that the life in us is free to flow to a greater and greater degree.

How does God prune us?  I believe it is primarily by the Word of God.  In verse 7, Jesus tells us that if we abide in him and his words abide in us, we will bear much fruit.  When we are pruned, we bear even more fruit.  The reason is that the life flow will be consistent.  The pruning process through the Word of God happens when we hear things that we may not want to hear.  God brings words to us that point out things that may be wrong.  James speaks of this in a slightly different way, but it contains the same truth. 

James 1:22-25 (NKJV) 22  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24  for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

He says if we hear the Word but do not do what it says, we are like someone who gets up in the morning, sees that he has “bed head” and does nothing about it.  We would not do that.  When we look into the “perfect law of liberty” and adjust our appearance accordingly, we will bear more fruit.  God does not tell us what we do not want to hear to hurt us.  He tells us because he loves us.  If a parent refuses to tell their children when they are wrong but only praises them when they are right, they grow up with a warped view of both life and themselves.  God does not want that for us.

Sometimes we refuse to heed the Word God gives us for the purpose of pruning.  Often that leads to bad things happening.  I do not think God does the bad things.  We put ourselves in vulnerable positions when we refuse to obey.  I believe God covers us for a time and keeps dealing with us.  If we still refuse, God must allow the enemy to exploit the vulnerability we have allowed.  Repentance closes that vulnerability, Praise God.

Let me bring this around to restoration.  Even when God prunes us and some things have to be removed, he still loves us.  Whatever pruning removes God will restore in a better and greater form.  The army that came upon Israel in Joel caused some extreme pruning.  However, in the end they were much better off.

If you went through some pruning in 2019, that is OK.  God is simply bringing you to a place where you can bear more fruit in 2020.  I believe the pruning we may have needed was just a part of the preparation for the better things 2020 can and will bring.  If you went through some difficulties, do not give in to condemnation.  God loves you.  The pruning is an act of his love. 

Not every bad thing is God’s pruning process.  Whether it was God pruning or the attack of the enemy that brought bad things in 2019, just know that God is not mad at you and restoration is on the way in 2020.

God Will Restore the Years (Re-posted from January 6, 2020)

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.

I believe the Lord has shown me that 2020 is to be a year of restoration.  Let me review what the word “restoration” or to “restore” means.  There are three entries in the dictionary for the ideas these words represent.

The act of returning something to a place or condition (repair).  In salvation, God sent Jesus to restore us to the condition of sonship he originally intended for mankind when he created them in the Garden of Eden.  Salvation itself is an act of restoration and all other restoration stems from there.

The act of returning something lost or stolen to its rightful owner.  1 Timothy 6:17 tells us that God gives us all things “richly to enjoy.”  In 1 Peter 1:3-4 we read that God has given all things that pertain unto life and Godliness and that we partake of them through access to his divine nature by the “great and precious promises” in his Word.  Sometimes our own unbelief, laziness or lack of understanding causes us to lose or never access what God has provided.  Sometimes our adversary, the devil, steals them from us.  God wants to restore what is rightfully yours in Christ.  That can mean finances or things.  More important are your family and relationships.  Most important of all it means your understanding of who you are in Christ and the power of salvation.

The return of a hereditary monarch to a throne, a head of state to government, or a regime to power.  God gave man dominion over the earth.  He lost that dominion to Satan when he sinned in the Garden.  Satan became the God of this world and the ruler of man.  In salvation God gave dominion back to his children through the sacrifice of his Son.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 upon his resurrection, “All authority (power) has been given unto me both in heaven and in earth.”  God restored the rightful rulers to their place.  Now we must walk in harmony with the Lord of the church so that we can exercise that dominion to extend his Kingdom.

All of this is part of what God wants to do for us individually and in his church corporately in 2020.  This can mean something different to each one of us personally, but I believe it means a restoration to power, holiness and spiritual influence for his church.  The scripture above is a prophetic word spoken by Joel.  It has a meaning to the nation of Israel in their day, but as with many prophecies in the Old Testament it also applies to the church.  It is no coincidence that the first scripture quoted in the church age comes from this chapter.  On the day of Pentecost Peter stood and quoted verses 28 through 31.  The New Testament is a story of restoration.

Today I want to take just a moment to point out one thing God wants to restore for you.  In verse 25 God says, “So I will restore to you the years.”  How many of you can relate to this idea?  I was saved very young in life.  I did not waste too many years living in the world.  Over more than 40 years of ministry I have heard this statement many times from those who were saved when they were older.  “I just wish I had known all this sooner.” 

We cannot change when we met the Lord.  Maybe you were in your later years.  Maybe you had a hard life in the time you lived without Jesus.  Maybe you did things you regret.  Maybe your life has become so much better with Jesus that you just wish you had all the time you waisted back.  Whatever may be true in your life, God says I will restore the years!

I am not saying you get to live those years over again, but I am saying that God can cause what you have left to be more than what you lost.  I cannot explain what this may mean to you, but it is right there in the words of the Bible.  God will restore the years.  He may give you more effectiveness in the life you live from now on.  God may give back to you financially what you have lost.  God may fix or replace relationships that were ruined by your life in the flesh.  He may heal your body and give you years of life you would not have had if you never met him.  I do not know what you need but God can and will restore the years that the devil has “eaten.”

If you are a Christian and have been for some time, you can probably look back and say, “I wish I had done more to serve the Lord.  I wish I had prayed more or worked more for his Kingdom.”  The truth is that none of us is perfect.  None of us have done all we could to grow in our relationship with God.  None of us have been completely obedient or been as diligent as we could have been.  I do not say this to stir up condemnation.  Condemnation never produces better living.  Whining will not help.  Faith in the restoration of God will.

I cannot change the mistakes I have made.  Sometimes it seems to me that the message today is that we should not strive to be better and stronger Christians.  I do not agree with that.  I refuse to walk in condemnation, but I also refuse to be mediocre.  These two ideas are not exclusive to one another.  I want to grow from glory to glory.  I want to know him more today than yesterday.  I want more power in my life, more love in my life.  More of Jesus in my life.  Unfortunately, I have not always lived in such a way as to obtain those goals.  What should I do?

I should repent of laziness and commit to faithfulness.  I should repent of anything I know is sin and commit to righteous living.  I should do as Paul did.

Philippians 3:13-14 (NKJV) 13  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I should receive by faith that this is a year in which God wants to work restoration in my life.  I believe that God will restore the years I may have wasted!  I do not really know what that means, but I do know that God can do it.  He can do anything.

The truth is that there is nothing I can do about the past.  I believe in repentance when we know we are wrong.  The Bible teaches that as a key to going forward in God.  However, repentance is not about regret.  Repentance puts an end to regret.  We do not need to live in the light of past failures.  Learn from them, repent from what brought them and be done with them.  Do not let them steal your future and do not let go of anything God has for you.  This is a time to believe that God will restore the years.  I say again that I do not really know what that means.  I do know that God has promised to do it and this year I am going to make it my business to believe it.

The Need for Restoration Began In the Garden of Eden (Reposted from January 2, 2020)

Genesis 1:31 (AMP) 31  And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good (suitable, pleasant) and He approved it completely. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.

(As I read what God said to me, it is more and more evident that God is prepared to turn around what was lost in everything that has happened this year.)

As we enter a new decade, I believe God has an agenda with which we need to be ready to cooperate.  2020 is the first year of this decade and a very important one.  I cannot think of a time when the election season has carried more potential for conflict than in the one that will come in 2020.  I believe God is involved in such things and that we need first to pray and second to vote.  That said, the things that we will see in the natural during the year 2020 are not what is most important.  The real power in the world comes from the spirit.  That is where Christians need to focus.

In my last post I shared what I believe God has said to me about this year.  I believe it is to be a year of restoration in my life and I believe that is at least part of God’s purpose for the church.  In Israel there was something called the year of Jubilee which occurred every 50 years.  During that very special year, every debt was considered cancelled.  All lands that had been lost to a family were returned.  If any Israelite had fallen into slavery for any reason, he was set free.  God put this into the law so that once in every lifetime all that had been lost to any person would be restored.  He or she would get a completely new start in life.  What a powerful thing that must have been. 

That was part of the old covenant.  What do we have in the New Covenant? 

Luke 4:18-21 (NKJV) 18  “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19  To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” 20  Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21  And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

In our covenant, Jesus became the Jubilee.  The scripture above quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 referring to that 50-year process in the life of Israel.  He tells the hearers that the Jubilee was fulfilled in his life and eventually it was made available to everyone in his death burial and resurrection.  This was not a once in 50-year restoration.  It was an eternal restoration.  The first thing we need to understand is that restoration is a part of our salvation.  God’s purpose in sending Jesus was to restore mankind’s ability to be what he originally intended in the Garden of Eden. 

In today’s scripture we see that what God made was very good.  I like what the Amplified Bible says here.  It says God “approved completely” what he had made.  It was not only very good.  God approved of his creation.  He approved of man being in dominion over the earth.  Since chapter 1 is the overview of creation and chapter 2 is the detail of his creation of and dealings with man, we can assume he approved of Adam and Eve and the life they were to have in the Garden.  He told them that the earth would naturally bring forth everything they needed.  There was to be no struggle or labor.

Their responsibility was to “keep” the Garden.  If the Garden brought forth what they needed automatically, they would not have to cultivate it.  What did it mean to “keep” the garden?  The word has a number of meanings but central to most of them is to watch or protect.  Man was not placed in the garden to cultivate it as we would think.  He was placed there as the one who ruled it for God.  His job was to protect it and watch over it. 

From whom or what was he to protect it?  He was to protect if from any enemy.  He was to protect it from corruption of any kind.  He was to make sure it continued to fulfill God’s purpose.  Mostly he was to protect it from God’s enemy, Satan.  When we get to Genesis 3, we see that Adam failed in his responsibility.

Satan came to the woman and deceived her.  1 Timothy 2:14 tells us that Adam was not deceived.  What he did, he did with understanding.  He was in dominion.  He had the responsibility to protect the Garden.  Instead, because of a misguided understanding of his love for his wife, he went along with Eve’s sin and corruption entered God’s perfect creation.

We see in this chapter many things that came to man as a result of the fall.  None of them were good.  I want to focus on one statement.

Genesis 3:17-19 (NKJV) 17  Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19  In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

The Garden was designed to produce what man needed naturally.  When Adam failed in his assignment to protect the Garden, the nature of both man and his environment changed.  He was no longer in dominion over life, life was in dominion over him.  The creation did not serve him, but he now had to serve the creation.  I am not saying that work is bad.  I am saying that the condition of having to live by “the sweat of your face” was not what God had in mind for Adam.

God was not willing to leave man in this condition.  He undertook a plan first stated in the 15th verse of this very chapter that was going to make it possible for man to be restored to what God had created him to be.  He was not going to have to serve creation anymore.  He would return to his rightful place as the one in dominion.  He would not have to be dominated by life; he would once again be capable of walking in dominion over it.  None of this would come to him in his own righteousness.  All of this became possible through relationship with Jesus Christ in salvation (2 Cor. 5:21.)

Because of the new birth we no longer stand in our own righteousness which God calls “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6.)  We stand before God in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  He is the one who now holds “all authority both in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18.)  We reign in him. 

This is a statement of a spiritual reality.  It is our legal position in God.  However, another reality is that God has not yet completely redeemed the earth.  We still live in the midst of the corruption left in the wake of Adam’s fall.  Why?  Because God wants more children.  When he is satisfied that the number is full, he will bring forth a new heaven and a new earth.  In the meantime, life happens to everyone, even Christians.

Restoration in every area of life is legally ours.  Nevertheless, as we live, we often fail to walk in what God has for us.  We make mistakes.  Sin gets the better of us.  Sometimes we lose what God has restored.  Sometimes we grow into new levels of restoration.  That is what I am talking about for this year.  In those times God reminds us of what he did for us in Christ.  He raises our level of faith in the power of his restoration so that we can begin to retake what we may have lost.  We also can learn to walk in areas of salvation that we never did before.  That is what we will look at for the next number of weeks.  I am truly excited for what God has in 2020.

A Time of Restoration (Originally Posted in December 2019)

Joel 2:25 (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.

(As I said in my last post, I feel God is compelling me to remind myself, and any who would like to join me, what he said to me about 2020.  When I wrote these posts, I had no idea what was going to happen.  I just knew it would be significant.  As I look back it is evident that we need restoration.  As I look ahead, I stand on what God said to me and for that reason I expect the second half of this year to bring restoration to my life.  I pray it will for you as well.  )

It is my belief that time was God’s idea.  God lives in the eternal now.  When he created man, he set in motion things that would define time for him.  God put the sun the moon and stars in the heavens for a purpose.  The earth revolves once a day.  The moon became a marker of months and the earth’s orbit around the sun the marker of years.  Genesis 1:14 tells us that this was all according to God’s plan.  God put us in a place where the passing of time matters.

I believe this also means that God has a purpose for each year.  Ephesians 1:10 tells us that God has a plan and its boundaries are measured in time.  There was a beginning of time in Genesis and there will be an end of time when we reach what he calls the “fullness of time.”  Each year that comes before the fullness of time has a purpose in God’s inevitably moving plan.  What is the purpose for 2020?

This is also true in the portion of time that makes up our lives.  I believe God has something for you in 2020.  What he has for us individually usually fits with what he is doing corporately, but for each person, God has something he wants to accomplish in and through us this year.  There will be difficulties we must face because we have an adversary.  However, I choose to believe that God is going to accomplish something wonderful in my life and in my ministry this year.  How about you?

There is something significant about this year.  We are not just changing years we are changing decades.  If you look at the passing of decades from a historical perspective, each decade has a place in God’s plan.  We can look at the last century and see that every decade was defined by something.  The first decade of the twentieth century was very much a transition time.  The car began to replace the horse.  Monarchies began to be replaced by democracies or some form of dictatorship as the dominant form of human government.  Social changes were taking place such as the suffrage movement for women’s right to vote.  It was a decade where things that had been accepted truths for as long as people could remember were challenged.

The teens were dominated by World War 1.  The 20’s by the relief the survival brought.  They were the “roaring 20’s” because it was a decade of celebration.  At least until 1929 and the stock market crash that led to the great depression.  The 30’s were defined by that economic tragedy.  In the latter part of the 30’s some were beginning to see an economic turn around while others were experiencing the rise of some of the most evil regimes of all time.

The 1940’s were dominated by World War 2.  The first half by the destruction of this cataclysmic conflict and the second half by the recovery and the restructuring of the world because of it.  The 1950’s were a decade of relief and prosperity for many but a time of coming under the servitude of totalitarian regimes for others.  The 1960’s were a time of questioning everything that was established.  It was a time where there was a search for reality.

The 70’s and 80’s were dominated by a rise of nationalism and a self-focus in many places.  The “me” generation was born as well as a rise in corporate prosperity and a money focus.  There was also an increase in great suffering in other parts of the world.  The 90’s were a time when people began to look at the state of things and once again question how things should be.  That led us to the year 2000.  In the first decade of the 21st century terrorism exploded.  Economic recession came to many and misery to many more. 

During all of this God was also moving.  In 1906 the Pentecostal revival at Azusa Street in Las Angeles California began.  In the 20’s and 30’s some of the greatest preachers since Paul came to prominence.  In the 40’s and 50’s there were moves of God that involved healings, miracles and the restoration of many things that had fallen away from the church.  In the 60’s and 70’s there was the charismatic renewal and the Jesus Movement.  In the 80’s God restored the idea of a strong aggressive faith in his Word that could change things in our lives.  In the 90’s there was a refreshing that came to the church.  With it came manifestations that some loved, and others hated.  Still God had his way. 

I believe that the 21st century has not been a great time in the church.  Influence has diminished as political correctness and social pressures have caused the truths of God’s Word to be questioned by many in the seats of power.  The church, in my view, has gotten more soulish and less spiritual.  It looks to me more like the process that occurred in the 1950’s when Christianity became more religion than relationship.  It became more social than spiritual and as a result lost most of its power, reality and relevance.  (Some say I am just getting old but that is the way I see it.) 

So, what about the 2020’s?  I was praying and I believe the Lord led me to this scripture and the idea expressed within it.  I believe God is getting ready to restore!  The word restore carries a number of meanings.  It means to put back into the original condition.  We restore houses, furniture and cars.  I love to watch shows that take something that appears old and useless and watch as they are restored to better than new condition.

It also means to return to the rightful owner something that has been lost or stolen.  This may be lands, money, relationships or anything else that can be taken from us.  Finally, it can mean the return of a hereditary monarch to a throne, a head of state to government, or a regime to power.  To me this definition can mean the restoration of governmental things to their proper order. 

I believe the Lord is saying to me that he wants to do all those things for the church.  I also believe he wants to do them for you and for me.  God wants to return to you what you may have lost through sin or what may have been stolen by our adversary the devil.  The Bible is full of “great and precious promises” that the Father purchased with the blood of Jesus.  If you have lost some of what God wants for your life, God wants to get it back to you.  If the devil has stolen from you, God wants to return it to you. 

If you are not yet a Christian, someone who has received Jesus as your personal savior and Lord, you can be restored to relationship with God.  The idea is not like repairing something.  The new birth makes you something that never existed before.  You become completely new in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-21.) 

Finally, I believe that God wants to bring some things back into order in the governing of human affairs.  I am not really talking about natural things.  I am talking about the place where the real power lies, the spirit.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, “All authority has been given to me both in heaven and in earth.”  Then he told us to go and preach to the world.  I believe God is going to begin reestablishing this divine order in the earth.  Will any of this happen in your life?  It will if you believe God for it and choose to walk in it.  God is going to restore in the 2020’s.  I choose that he will restore in my life!

In the weeks to come I want to look at the process of restoration and what God wants to bring back to us.  Join me.  I think it is going to be an exciting journey

God Will Restore What has been Lost in 2020

Joel 2:25 (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.

Normally I would not repost something during the same year.  However, I feel compelled to go back and look at what God gave me as the theme for 2020.  I felt 2019 was a year of preparation for a new decade.  As I came to the end of 2019, I spent much time in Kenya and Uganda teaching on spiritual warfare.  I did not really want to go in that direction, but I simply could not get away from it.  It was when I got home that I shared in this space and preached where I could the idea that 2020 was to be a year of restoration.  I had no idea when God spoke to me in either area what was coming.

As I have been praying about the current situation, it is clear to me that the corona virus and now the rioting is a part of the attack of the devil to begin the decade of the 2020’s.  For the record, more than half of my closest friends are people of color.  Many are black and many are Hispanic.  I know from them the challenges they face, though no one who is not a minority can fully understand.  I support equal treatment absolutely.  I support the right of people to demonstrate to make their voice heard.  Many thousands of every race have laid down their lives to make sure they can.  I will never support violence. 

In these twin attacks by our enemy, the devil (1 Peter 5:6-8) much has been stolen from hard working people.  People are not the thief.  Just as Peter identifies the devil as our adversary in 1 Peter, Jesus describes him in John 10.

John 10:10 (NKJV) 10  The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

The devil is the thief.  He is the one who has stolen from us.  I understand that circumstances, some beyond anyone’s control, have been a part of what has happened.  That does not change the fact that it is the devil who is really behind all this.  In teaching on warfare, one thing I believe we must understand is that people are never ever the enemy.  People can be used unwittingly by him.  That includes Christians like you and me.  Sometimes people become willing participants through deception or simply bad choices.  Still, they are not the enemy.

Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV) 12  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  

It seems that in many churches the thought of an active devil seeking to destroy the Kingdom of God is no longer in vogue.  So be it.  It is left to those of us who know the truth to stand against the real enemy.  We do this in prayer first of all.  We fight with our love walk, with our walk of character and integrity.  We fight with holiness, righteousness, and peace.  We fight by living and believing the Word of God.  (See my last two posts or just read Matthew 5:38-48 for yourself.  This is the weapon that turned the world upside down. 

Enough about the enemy.  I was in a prayer meeting at Blue Ridge Chapel in Rocky Mount Virginia a week ago Sunday.  It was a powerful time of prayer for the nation and for those who are hurting around us.  In this time of prayer, a friend of mine had a word from the Lord.  He said that the first half of 2020 was nearly over, and the second half was about to begin.  I had not thought about that.  June is the 6th month of the year.  July starts the second half.  I am not saying we must wait until July, but I do like symmetry. 

Either way, God reminded me last week of what he told me about 2020.  Like many, I have been deeply troubled to see my country the way it is right now.  I have stopped listening to most of the news.  It just depresses me, and I do not believe most of it is pure.  Everyone in the news industry has an agenda.  I get what I need from the news and no more.  I prefer to listen to God.  What he said burst into my spirit again.  2020 is a year of restoration!

We rarely fully understand what God is saying when he speaks to us.  However, looking back, I never expected how much we would need restoration.  We need restoration in our economy desperately.  For the first time in a long time in America, many face the loss of everything.  Suicides, alcoholism, drug addiction and domestic violence are threatening to take far more lives than Covid-19.  There are groups of Doctors calling the fallout from fighting the virus a mass casualty event. 

We need restoration of our confidence.  People are afraid.  I understand that.  We need restoration of our ability to live in freedom from this fear.  Many need restoration of their health.  Some due to the virus itself but others because of the lack of treatment in other areas.  We need restoration of relationships. 

What will bring restoration to America and the world?  I believe what the prophet Joel said in the verse quoted above.  God will restore.  That is what he told me and that is what I believe.  2020 will be a year of restoration for me and my family.  Anyone who reaches out in faith can see the end of this year be turned from despair to hope.  Sickness to healing.  Lack to plenty.  I cannot guarantee how that will look for any of us.  I do know that throughout my life Philippians 4:19 has been true.  This verse is speaking of finances but much more as well.  My God has supplied all my needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  He has taken care of my financial needs.  He has also taken care of my emotional needs, my health, my relationships and anything else I have needed.  That is my reality and restoration is part of it.

I am going to repost what I wrote earlier this year.  I am doing so because I need to remind myself that God’s power to restore is far greater than our adversaries’ power to steal or destroy.  I hope you will join me.  I hope faith will rise for the rest of this year.  I intend to mix hope with faith in the Word of God and I will see restoration.

How to Walk in God’s Love When we are Under Pressure

Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV) 43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44  But I say to, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45  that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

As I have been praying about many specific situations facing me and those facing my country and the world, I realized that the wisdom that comes from God is necessary if we are going to overcome.  In our last post we looked at the wisdom revealed by Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48.  This is a pure expression of a form of wisdom that most of us would not see as such.  It is the wisdom of God expressed in his love.

this section of scripture, Jesus is taking what he teaches about loving one another and putting it into the context of how to walk in that love when we deal with people in the world.  In particular, he is telling us how to deal with those who hurt us and oppose us.  This is something everyone has experienced.  I am no stranger to it in my life.  Natural wisdom says that we must In look out for number one.  It says that if someone hurts me, I must protect myself.  What Jesus teaches is a wisdom that seems not only to be the opposite of what makes sense, but something that will leave us more vulnerable.  It actually makes us less so.

If the church would begin to act according to Matthew 5:38-48, God would back us up as he did Jesus.  Under his ministry multitudes were healed, demons could not resist him, and hearts were opened and healed of all manner of hurts.  That is what Jesus wants to manifest through his church.  How do we walk in that kind of love?

In verse 44 Jesus gives us three types of injury and three ways we are to respond.  “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”  I do not know about you, but that is not something that would come naturally to me.  Let me take a minute to look at this more closely.

We are to love our enemies by blessing those who curse us.  I would have a problem with that if we were talking about cursing the way we think of it today.  Jesus is not talking about someone who comes up to us and says a bunch of four-letter words describing our family heritage, our nature and our low level of intelligence.  In this verse the word curse means much more.  According to Strong’s concordance it can mean to doom.

Jesus is talking about words that mean to doom us.  These words would put into people’s minds that there was something wrong with us.  They would try to say we had done or were doing something wrong.  The words are not true.  These may be words spoken to us.  They may be words spoken to our colleagues our boss or our friends.  As a pastor for 40 years, I had my share of curses spoken over me.  People who had no idea about the truth said things behind my back that had the potential to cause me great harm.  What should we do about this?

There may be a time to talk to them to help them see the truth, but Jesus has a more immediate solution.  He tells us to bless those who curse us.  He does not say to bless them when they repent.  He says to bless them while they curse us.  The Greek word for bless comes from the word meaning eulogy.  Nobody giving a eulogy speaks bad of the person.  Jesus says, “When somebody curses you, say something nice about them.”  It is even more than that.  It means to invoke a blessing.  That means to call down something good upon them.  It also means to praise.

That sounds foolish to the natural mind, but Jesus commands us to do this.  Why?  The devil cannot understand this behavior.  The world cannot understand it.  More than that, according to verse 45, doing so makes us like our Father in heaven.  What father will not protect his children, especially when they act like him.  It also demonstrates to the one who is cursing what God is really like.  Not everyone will change as we do this.  However, the world was changed by this kind of love because of the number who will respond as we act on this commandment.

There is a progression in this verse.  He starts with someone speaking against us but then moves to those who hate us.  I do not believe in hate.  I try not to hate anyone.  There are those I do not like but I ask God to never let me hate.  The Greek word means to detest and even persecute.  There are people who, for no reason, detest us.  They may think there is a reason, but this verse implies we have done nothing worthy of such feelings.  What should we do?  Should we defend ourselves.  Should we prove that we have done nothing wrong.  Should we hate back.  Jesus has a better idea.

I think it is not a stretch to say that these people have gone beyond words.  They are doing something against us.  How do I respond?  I do something good for them.  What would happen if you showed up at the door of the neighbor who just hates you with a plate of cookies.  Better yet, what if you mowed their lawn, or something along those lines.  What if you bought them a coffee or invited them to dinner?  I know, they would probably suspect your motives and/or refuse the invitation.  That is not your problem.  What if you just kept doing it?  I know something could change because we would be acting in faith on the Word of God. 

Finally, he says we should pray for those who spitefully use us.  The term “spitefully speaks to me of intent.  We might excuse someone as ignorant who cursed us or hated us.  There is no doubt about someone who spitefully uses us.  They are doing what they are doing on purpose to bring harm.  They persecute us on purpose to hurt or destroy us.  Why should I pray for them?  So that you will be like your Father.  He gave Jesus for them.  He was not moved by the evil in the world, he was moved by his love for it.

When I pray for someone, there is an intimate connection that develops.  I may begin with clenched teeth, but as I continue to pray for them something happens in me.  When we pray, we are communing with God.  When I pray for someone who persecutes me or spitefully uses me, I cannot help but begin to feel what God feels for them.  I am not talking about excusing their behavior.  I am talking about seeing beyond the flesh as Paul did in 2 Corinthians 5:14-16.  He was compelled by the love of God because he knew that Jesus died even for the spiteful user and persecutor.  As you pray, you begin to feel what God felt when he sent Jesus.  Love overcomes hate and you can respond to them in that love. 

None of this is easy.  It is hard, but we have it on the word of Jesus that it will change our world.  We just have to do it.  Jesus lived this way and he changed the world.  The first church, for the most part, lived this way.  Many had to die for this kind of love.  Many more suffered persecutions but they did not give up.  They changed the world and unleashed a belief system and a way of life based on this “God given love life.” 

If it worked for the church of the first century, it will work today.  What do you say?  Shall we ask the Holy Spirit to help us live these “red letter” sayings?