Joy to the World

Luke 2:10 (NKJV) 10 Then 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.

The Christmas season is the most important time of the year for many in the world today. It is not important because of the religious significance of the holiday. If anything, the religion of Christmas gets in the way of the real impact of the season for many. Christmas is important because stores and other businesses may lose money all year but if they do well at Christmas, they will prosper. Christmas for many is an economic holiday.

For those of us who understand what the focus of the Christmas celebration is supposed to be, this is something of a tragedy. In my last post, I spoke of the significance of the gift given at Christmas. In my family, it was the one time that I got whatever I wanted. I continued that when I was the parent and did my best to give the best gift possible to my children. My son preached in our church this week and told our church that he did the same with his children.

I was blessed to hear him say that this practice contributed to the fact that even through some difficult times, the one thing he knew was that he was always loved. Giving the best possible gift at Christmas was not the only thing we did to prove this to him. It was one thing we did. I believe the gift given by our Heavenly Father at Christmas is one thing that we can look to as proof of the Father’s love for his children.

I believe it is important to understand what these gifts represent. What is the gift the Father gave to his children in the event celebrated at Christmas? It was first and foremost a gift of himself. He came to the earth on that day. He became what we are. He entered into our reality in a way that is hard to imagine. Look at this verse in Philippians.

Philippians 2:6-7 (NLT) 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,

We focus on the baby in the manger at Christmas. Indeed, he was born as a baby. This is important so that we understand that he made himself human in every way. Every way that is but one. This baby was born without the sin nature that came upon all people because of the fall of man. It was not just a babe that was given at Christmas. The gift was the Father himself in human form who would grow up to be the savior of humanity.

I want to point to three other aspects of this gift that the world has tried to co-opt with little success. In their attempt to keep some of the significance of why we celebrate December 25, the world has emphasized three ideas that are a part of the real celebration. Those things are joy, peace and love. We sing songs of joy. Some even include the joy surrounding the birth of the baby in Bethlehem. Somehow, I believe that they miss the point.

The “holiday” season is a time when people speak of peace on earth. Yet there is no peace. In truth, the holidays are one of the most stress-filled times of the year. Of course, the love of friends and family has become one of the focuses of the season. Yet even in this, we often feel pressed by the obligations of this “love” and unable to enjoy the love itself.

I believe that if we want to partake of these three wonderful holiday gifts we must understand them in the context of the true gift. We have joy, peace and love because of what God gave at Christmas. Natural joy, peace and love are severely limited. The joy, peace and love of Christmas are not natural at all. They are parts of the Father’s nature that he made available to us by the gift of himself. Only in receiving that gift can we understand the other three.

Let us begin with joy. The angels told the shepherds that the news they brought was news of great joy. It is interesting that Christmas has become a time when we focus on pleasure and happiness instead of joy. We get pleasure from both giving and receiving gifts. The gifts and the process have the ability to make us happy. We have parties that have nothing to do with the Father’s gift and everything to do with pleasure. It seems that the “Christmas party” often becomes an excuse for behavior we would not engage in at any other time of year. None of this has anything to do with the joy of which the angels spoke.

Happiness and pleasure are desirable things in a person’s life. Everyone wants to be happy and pleasure is the channel that brings happiness to us. However, pleasure and happiness are fragile things. They are dependent upon outward things. We are happy when we have good things. Pleasure comes when we are doing things we like to do. When we do not have good things in life and when we must do things we do not like, happiness and pleasure flee like birds. The joy spoken of in the bible is different. The joy of Christmas is the joy of the bible.

Bible joy is not an emotion alone. Bible joy is an inward sense of wellbeing based in the knowledge that God loves us. According to Holman’s Bible Dictionary, joy is the fruit of a right relation with God. It is not something people can create by their own efforts.

The joy we can feel at Christmas has nothing to do with what we give or receive. It is not dependent upon the getting together of friends and family. It is not even dependent on our physical circumstances. Christmas joy can only be understood and released in our lives if we understand the true gift of Christmas. I have joy because God reached down and came to me when I needed him most.

When I do not have all that I want in life, I remember that God loved me to the degree that he came to earth to rescue me. When I receive the gift of salvation, I receive a joy that is deeper than anything life can give or take away. My joy is centered in the fact that I have relationship with God the Father. The joy of Christmas comes from remembering that this relationship was made possible by the birth of a baby who would become a man, who would become my savior.

As you go about your holiday business, enjoy the season. Derive pleasure from the giving and receiving of Gifts. Enjoy the time spent with friends and family. However, remember that you have access to something much deeper than these temporary pleasures. Christmas made salvation possible. Salvation makes true bible joy available to us.

As you celebrate Christmas, remember to rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice at the real gift of Christmas. As a Christian, this is one of the greatest gifts you have in your life. The joy of the Lord is your strength. This joy is also the greatest gift you have to give.

There are those around you who do not know joy. They may have momentary happiness, but joy is far from them. You can make it available to them by telling them that the baby born at Christmas became the savior of the world. Find someone you can give that gift to before the season is over.

If you are the one who has never received the salvation joy made available by Christmas, you can receive forgiveness and a new life by accepting Jesus as your personal savior and Lord. Just say, “Jesus, I don’t understand all of this, but I choose to receive you as my savior. Make this Christmas different. I accept that you died for me. I give you my life. Help me live for you.” I pray you find someone who can explain this to you in a more personal way. Have a joyful Christmas!

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Good Tidings of Great Joy

Luke 2:10-11 (NKJV) 10 Then 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. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

(We will get back to the Parable of the sower next week. This week let me share so Christmas thoughts from 2014)

We find ourselves once again in the last month of another year. I confess that the Christmas season tends to be a little difficult for me. I am the youngest of seven children. The brother who was closest to me was 15 years old when I was born. The rest went up from there. When my father heard that my mother was pregnant at 41 his first comment was, “Oh boy! Now we can have Christmas again.”

My parents did not have much money but Christmas was the one time of year where they would do anything in their power to get me whatever I really wanted. Once I had children, I wanted to do for them what my Dad had done for me.

For the first few years, that was really no problem. We went into the ministry when my two oldest were 3 and 4 years old. We did not have a great deal of money but I managed to make sure we got our kids what they wanted for Christmas. As the years went by, they got older and we kept adding to the number. By the time I was 36 years old we had six and some of them were teenagers. The number and cost of the gifts had increased significantly. We were doing better but we still were not rich and the pressure began to mount.

Now I know what some of you are going to say. I should not have given into the commercial aspects of the season. It is not the size of the gift but the thought that counts. We should teach our children responsibility and not that they can have whatever they want. I agree with that sentiment 364 days of the year but not on Christmas! That is my curse.

As the years went by, I began to dread Christmas earlier and earlier. Now I have 6 children 3 spouses (with one to be added in March) and 14 grandchildren. These days I just leave the shopping to my wife.

Please pray that the Lord helps me with my “Scrooge” spirit, but let me also make something of a defense. It is not really commercialism that is at the heart of my problem. You see my father was a very good man but also a disappointed man. He was very talented in many ways. In some ways, I believe he was a genius.

He was a musician who as a young man formed a band that played at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. He was a natural engineer who created a prototype of an automatic transmission just before one was introduced. (Timing is everything.) He was gifted with all things mechanical. He functioned as a carpenter, electrician and machinist. He was a master auto mechanic. The one thing he did not have was an education.

My father and mother married when he was 17 and she was 16. My oldest brother was born in 1929. The last child before me was born in 1939. They raised six children through the heart of the depression and through World War II. They were forced to move to follow jobs because his education did not afford him a career. He did everything he could to provide for them.

My mother did not work. It just was not done in those days at least not in my family. She kept the family fed and together. She made the house a home but it was a very hard life with no time for further education. Through all the difficulties, they provided Christmas.

When I came along they were still not rich, but there was only one of me. As I said, Christmas was the time that my Mom and especially my Dad did all the things they could not do the rest of the year. Sometimes I am sure they did things they could not afford but they gave the best gift they possibly could. I remember many of those precious gifts to this day. It made Christmas magical and special.

I know they should have been concentrating on Jesus. They were Catholics and there was no doubt that the holiday was about the birth of Christ, but giving those special gifts to their last-born son was at the heart of it for them.

And finally, that became Christmas to me. It was not really about quantity, although we always had lots of presents under our tree. It was about getting each one the special gift, the one thing that I knew they wanted. I would go to every store in the area to find that gift at the best price. I would do everything in my power to get the guitar, car or latest electronics. There were GI Joe planes and forts. There were Barbie cars and houses. There were a few “Easy Bake Ovens” over the years and more than one “Lite Brite.”

My youngest, a daughter, always wanted the latest doll. She got the one that did somersaults, the one that burped, and many more. The thing is she hardly ever played with dolls! Still, they were the one gift she wanted so I got them for her. (Logic should have no place in such things!)

I will confess that sometimes I went into debt. I do not endorse that practice. I also confess that I have let the pressure of it get to me. More than the pressure of the expense, I have allowed my inability to continue giving them that one thing they want ruin Christmas for me a bit. Just because the oldest is 40 does not change the fact that, for me Christmas is about giving the best gift, the one gift that your child really wants. I know! That is unrealistic and not necessary. Even my children tell me so.

Although I freely admit to getting out of balance, I am not sure I am all wrong. What is Christmas really about after all? Is it not that our great Father God, in a fit of excess, gave the one gift to his children that they really needed; that they really wanted? Most of them do not know that to be true, but it is.

Christmas is about the babe in the manger of course. Christmas is about the God of the universe becoming man so that he could set us free from sin and death. Christmas is about many things that have nothing to do with malls and Santa Clause and all the cultural things that we enjoy. In essence, Christmas is about the gift!

Today’s scripture reminds me of how excited my Mom and Dad would get because of the gifts they were giving to me. It reminds me of how excited I would get when the kids would open that last gift which was always “the big gift.” Read what the verse says. The Father is excited about this wonderful gift he is giving his family!

I am just going to say it. I hate gift cards. I think that after reading this, maybe you can understand why. As you go through the Christmas season, do not allow yourself to give into the pressure that I did. Do not be caught up in the commercialism and overspending. On the other hand, you might remember that Christmas is about the best gift the Father could possibly give. Maybe you could find something, one thing that takes a little more thought than a gift card.

Do not misunderstand me. I use them too sometimes. (Well my wife does. I refuse!) That seems to be what the grandchildren want. Maybe, just for me, you could take the time to find one special thing. It does not have to be expensive it just has to be from the heart.

With that in mind, be as extravagant as you can be. Let that extravagance remind what Christmas is all about. It is about the most extravagant gift ever given.

The Parable of the Sower and the Seed

Mark 4:13-14 (NKJV) Mk 13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word

In our last post we looked at the nature of the power in the written Word of God. We found that it is the power of a seed. Seeds are amazing bits of supernatural engineering. They contain within them the whole blueprint of the life they were made to produce. When the seed for a plant species enters good ground and is properly cultivated, it will inevitably produce what it was designed to produce. Nothing can stop the process if the conditions necessary for life are met. However, if there is no water and if the ground is not good ground, the life in the seed will not be released. The same is true of the Word of God.

In this parable, Jesus unlocks a mystery that reveals how God’s life is released in us by his Word. He makes it clear what the variables are in the equation. He shows us what will keep the life of God encoded in the seed of his Word from producing. We might be talking about seeds of holiness, which will produce the power to overcome sin. We could be talking about the seeds of healing, prosperity, destiny, love or any other promise or characteristic in the Word. If we make sure the seed has good ground and proper cultivation, we will see what God wants to produce in and through us come to fruition.

In verse 13, Jesus makes a very bold statement. He had spoken a parable about seeds and farmers. The disciples did not understand what this had to do with the Kingdom of God. Jesus says to them, “If you don’t understand this parable, how are you going to understand the rest of them?” Jesus stated this in the negative but what if we look at what he said from the positive point of view. “If you understand this parable, you can understand everything else I am trying to teach you.”

Obviously, this is my paraphrase of what Jesus said, but I think it is faithful to what he is revealing here. No less an authority than Jesus says that this parable is a key to understanding how the kingdom of God works. In our last post we looked at verse 26. Again, I believe this is a simple statement with sweeping significance.

Mark 4:26 (KJV) Mk 26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

I like the way the original King James expresses this thought. So is the Kingdom of God. In other words, this is how the Kingdom of God works. It works in the same way a seed interacts with the ground to produce a plant. There is a growing season. The plant takes time to mature and when the plant begins to produce fruit, the fruit takes time to ripen. If the conditions are met, the fruit will manifest. We do not understand how it works. It just works.

Comparing verses 26-29 with verses 13-15, I think we get a clear picture of how important the principles in this chapter are to our ability to walk in the spirit. If I understand what he is saying in Mark 4, I understand what I must do to cooperate with the Lord and his Word so my spirit can be developed and grow to the kind of maturity that will produce both godly living and faith for the promises without the bondage of the law.

Verse 14 is very short but very important. The sower Jesus is talking about sows the Word. Jesus is not talking about just any word here. He is talking about the Word of God. The only seed that is relevant to what we need to know is the Word of God. He is not sowing good philosophy. He is not sowing our culture. He is not sowing the words of men. He is sowing the Word of God.

God has placed teachers in the Body of Christ. Therefore, we must conclude that the words of men can be filled with the seed of God’s Word. Nevertheless, we must be discerning. I tell those who listen to me preach, “Don’t take what I say as final. You go to the Word and find out for yourself.” Even when we are listening to good bible teaching, it is the Word of God that is the supernatural seed that produces Godly fruit.

There are other seeds in the world. The world has “word seeds” that it is constantly sowing into our minds. We need to realize that the type of seed we put into our “ground” in abundance is the crop we will produce. There is something about us that tends to rebel against what I am about to say. We need to give more attention to the Word of God than to any other kind of seed. This is not easy. There are so many other sources of seed. There are media and entertainment seeds. There are secular educational and political seeds. There are seeds of experiences. None are necessarily bad in themselves. We must understand that they are competing for our planting time.

Most of the things that bring worldly seeds to us are more fun than the things that bring Godly seed. Today more than at any time in history this is true, especially in developed countries. Of course, these are the ones with the resources to finance and expedite the preaching of the Gospel around the world. I do not think this is a coincidence. I believe we can enjoy all that modern life has to offer as long as it is not sin as defined by the bible. If we give most of our time and attention to world seeds, we are going to produce a flesh harvest.

Here is how Jesus says the same thing as part of this parable.

Mark 4:24 (AMP) Mk 24 And He said to them, Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you—and more [besides] will be given to you who hear.

I particularly like how this comes out in the Amplified Bible. In the NKJV it says we should be careful what we hear. In the Amplified it puts it into a continual light. We need to be careful about what we are hearing. It is not just what we hear once. It is what we are continually hearing. Then he says, “The thought and study or the attention and focus you give to the word you hear will determine what you get out of it. If it is the Word of God you will get more life, blessing and virtue. If you give more attention to the seeds that come from the world, the flesh and the devil, you will get the world the flesh and the devil. It is our choice.

Some will say, “You are being too extreme. You don’t have to spend all your time reading the Bible and praying.” That is true. However, farming is a pretty extreme lifestyle. Everything depends on the crop. Whatever it takes to guarantee the health and abundance of the crop must be done. If you ignore your crop in the spring and summer, you will have no harvest. If you have no harvest, you will be destitute in the winter. You can complain about it if you want, but that does not help. If you are a farmer you accept that your life revolves around the seed, the ground and what those two things produce when they work together.

In the natural you can choose not to be a farmer. I am not. I am convinced that meat comes from the meat department, vegetables come from the vegetable department and so on. I can just go and buy what I need. However, someone raised the cow or chicken. Someone planted and grew the wheat in my bread. Someone planted, cared for and harvested the fruits and vegetables I eat. It just was not me.

In spiritual things, we do not have the same choice. There is nowhere to go to buy holiness. We cannot go to the healing aisle and pick up a pound of healing. There is no victory counter or prosperity display we can run to and pick up supplies. The whole Kingdom of God works like planting seed in the ground. Nobody can do my spiritual farming. I must do it for myself.

Just as a farmer’s life revolves around the time and effort that goes into the planting, growing and harvesting of a crop, so does the life of a Christian revolve around the planting, growing and harvesting the seed of God’s Word in my life. It may not always be fun. I may have to put aside other things. In the end, the harvest I reap in the spirit will be more than worth the effort.

The Power in the Word is the Power of the Seed

Mark 4:26-29 (NKJV) 26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

In our last few posts we have been talking about the need for us to renew our minds if we are going to walk in the spirit. The soul, which includes our intellect, emotions and will, is the part of us that links the spirit and the body. The spirit is the deepest part of us. The body is the part that interacts with the world in which we live. Anything which comes from the spirit that is going to affect our outward life, must go through the soul. Romans 12:2 says we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, our soul. This creates a clear path between the spirit and the body.

The way this is accomplished is by changing how we think. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is alive. It is not just a book. It has the power to change our soul. Our job is to get the Word into our minds and yield to it. The actual change is a supernatural process that is produced by the word itself, not by our efforts.

How does the Word work in us? What is the nature of its power? One of the most significant teachings Jesus gave us is in Mark chapter 4. He tells us that the nature of the power of the Word of God is that of a seed. In today’s verse he makes a very important statement. The King James Version says it this way.

Mark 4:26 (KJV) 26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

He is telling how the Kingdom of God works in the earth. We all have heard of miraculous transformations in the lives of people. We know that there have been times when drug addicts were instantly delivered, never to want drugs again. The same can be said for alcohol and many other sinful things. It is also true for physical or emotional healing. God simply touched the person and they were forever free.

I have a friend who has such a testimony. What we find is that after God does such a miracle, there is still the matter of living life. Most often the lasting changes we need do not come by the spectacular miraculous. They may come that way, but they will always come if we allow the miracle of seed life to work in us. In all areas of life, the power of the seed in God’s Word will change us.

Think of what a seed is. Most of the time they seem devoid of any life at all. They are small in comparison to the plant they will produce. Yet when they are planted in the right kind of ground with the right cultivation, they will produce what God encoded them to produce. Every seed contains life. The kind of life it contains is potential life.

Jesus often spoke of mustard seeds. This is one of the smallest seeds in the world. Yet when it is planted and allowed to grow it produces a large tree. How can this be? Every branch, every flower and every bit of fruit that the tree will ever produce is already in the seed. It is the potential for the whole life of the plant.

Seeds cannot produce life alone. That is not the way they were designed. They must interact with soil. In this scripture, Jesus says that the earth yields crops by itself. We do not know how it really works. However, we know that when a good seed interacts with good ground, life is released. The plant will grow if it is cultivated and if it is not negatively interfered with. Nothing can stop the process from working under those conditions.

In the 14th verse of this chapter Jesus says, “The sower sows the Word.” In the scripture we are looking at, the Word is the seed Jesus is referring to. What is the ground? As we read the parable, we understand that the human heart is the ground he is talking about. I believe the heart is the deepest part of the soul. Science might call it the subconscious. When the seed of God’s word works its way into our heart, it has the power to change how we think. As that process works, there is a plant that is produced which affects us both inwardly and outwardly.

Jesus tells us here that the farmer who plants must go to bed by night and get up by day. The picture is that the process cannot be rushed nor helped. We must let the seed and the ground work. This is very similar to Isaiah 55 when the prophet likens the Word of God to rain and snow. There is a process that must work. However, when we let it work, it will produce the results God desires. In the case of the seed, it will produce the plant encoded within.

What is the first think changed by the seed? It germinates under the surface of the ground. We cannot see it. It starts by producing roots. The roots are not visible, but they are working. They are pushing there way through the “dirt” until they find nourishment, especially water. The first thing that is affected is the ground.

When we plant the Word of God, we often see no change for a period of time. We may not feel it working. The last thing we want to do is dig it up and see if it is doing anything. We must trust the process. God put it in motion. It will work.

Once the roots have pushed away the soil and found life they begin to grow upward. They are still working in places we cannot see. Nevertheless, they are doing what needs to be done to bring forth the outward change. What is happening under the surface is so powerful that it can push through almost anything. We have all seen plants that have grown through cracks in a sidewalk. If left alone they will break the concrete.

Eventually we see a small blade. This does not seem like much but once the plant reaches the light it is energized. It will continue to grow. It is important to remember that just because we see a plant does not mean we are ready to produce fruit. We must allow the process to continue. However, a farmer knows that once the plant breaks through the ground, all he has to do is keep it watered and weeded. Fruit is inevitable.

What will a seed produce? It will produce whatever is encoded in the miracle of DNA If it has Apple encoding, you will have apples. If it is encoded with pear life you will have pears. Those seeds look similar, but the life in them is very different. The Bible is a catalog full of seeds. There are healing seeds, holiness seeds, prosperity seeds and much, much more. Whatever we plant we will see produced in our lives. Just remember, trust the process. It takes time, but nothing can stop the seed from producing.

Jesus said that the whole Kingdom of God is like this. When seeds are planted in the hearts of people, they produce the life that is in the seed. This parable is talking about the Word and the heart of man, so that is where we are focused, but the principle extends to all things.

In the natural, it is relatively easy to stop a seed. If it does not get enough water, it will not grow. Storms can cause problems. People can ruin the crop. Many things can happen to keep a harvest from manifesting. That is true of natural seeds but not of the seed of the Word of God. That seed contains the power of God in potential form. Once that power is released, nothing can stop it. The only way the seed of God’s word will not produce God’s results in our lives is if the ground is not good.

I have come to understand that my heart, my soul is the ground. This parable gives us insight into what keeps our ground from being good ground. It also tells us what makes us good ground. That is what we are going to look at for the next few posts.

Spirit Soul and Body

Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The key to walking right before God without succumbing to the bondage of the Law, is to walk in the spirit. That simply means to live with the inner man, our spirit, in control of the choices we make and the directions we go in life. The key to walking in the spirit is to renew our minds. We will never walk in the spirit until we begin to think like God thinks. The key to thinking like God thinks is the written Word of God.

God gave us the Bible to be more than a philosophical guide for our lives. It is more than the Judeo-Christian book of morality or religion. In this verse we see that the Word of God is alive. It has power in itself to bring about changes in our thinking. Isaiah 55:11 points to this same thing

Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV) 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

The Word of God will do what God sent it to do. What did he send it to do? We found out over the last few posts that he sent it so that we could think his thoughts which are higher than our thoughts. This will lead to living in his ways which are higher than our ways. The result will be a life full of blessing and holiness. This kind of life will set the church apart from the world. Not to bring separation so much as to let the world see what God is offering them.

We have looked at Hebrews 4:12 in some detail. (See the post titled What must I do to Walk in the Spirit: The Supernatural Word of God from October 14, 2018.) Today I want to look at another aspect of this verse that will help explain why the renewing of the mind is the key to walking in the spirit.

As I was looking at this verse one day, I saw something interesting. It says that the Word of God is able to divide soul and spirit. I believe man is a three-fold being. I believe man is a spirit. That is the part of him that was created in the image of God. It is the part that fellowshipped with God in the Garden of Eden. God is a Spirit (John 4:24.) If we were created in his image, we are also spirits.

The fall of man separated his spirit from God. I believe there was such activity in man’s spirit that when he sinned, and his spirit went quiet he recognized that his body was naked for the first time (Genesis 3.) Salvation is much more than the forgiveness of sin. The forgiveness purchased by God’s grace in Christ was a means to an end. It gave God the right to restore man’s spirit to life and to restore the vital connection between the Father and his children that he always intended them to have.

That is part of what makes Christians different from people who have never been born again. Christians have a spirit that has a vital connection to God. He can and does speak to us. He can and does lead us, influence us and manifest himself to us in a way that is not possible to those who have never received the gift of God in Christ.

This is a powerful truth. However, we have a major problem when it comes to how it affects us. Depending on how old we were when we were born again, we have had many years where other influences besides God and his Word have trained our minds to think. We see and respond to the world around us according to that training. Our spirit is the most inward part of our being. Our body is the most outward part. Standing between those two is our soul.

Our soul is made up of our intellect, our emotions and our will. We hear God in our spirit but in order for us to comprehend what we hear and convert it into action, it must pass through our soul. We must understand what God is saying at a level that we can comprehend and to which we can respond. Conversely, for the written Word of God to release the power it contains, it must pass through our soul before it reaches our spirit. Our way of thinking will either be a hindrance to the process or it will be a channel to facilitate it. The thing that determines which, is how much we have renewed our minds, so we think in a way that that the knowledge of God makes as much or more sense to us than the knowledge of the world.

When I read in Hebrews 4:12 that the word of God has the power to divide soul and spirit, I realized that God was revealing that the word, when planted in the human being, has within itself the power to supernaturally change the way we think. It does not happen in a moment. It does not happen by reading a passage one time. It does not happen by hearing one sermon. Let me introduce another verse of scripture.

Romans 10:17 (NKJV) 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Faith is the ability to connect the power and presence of the invisible God with the physical world. It takes many forms and does many things. We often see it as a mysterious thing. It is not. Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of God.

This scripture is talking about the faith that brings salvation. It is talking about the Word of God that is spoken to our hearts by the spirit. However, the Bible is just as much the Word of God as any prophecy or even a audible word spoken by God in a voice we can hear.

2 Peter 1:17-20 (KJV) 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

What is this Word of prophecy that is more sure than the audible voice heard by the disciples? He speaks of the prophecies of scripture. The more sure word is the written Word of God. It never changes. Even through certain problems that may arise in translation it remains the Word of God. God can work around the inadequacies of man’s translation. The Bible is still the word of God. And faith will come by this word.

Faith comes to our spirit. The Word of God divides soul and spirit. It has the ability to penetrate to the deepest part of us. Once again, this is not an instantaneous process. It takes time. That is why God exhorted Joshua to meditate on the Word of God day and night. It can and will work its way through our thinking, but we must allow it to work in us. We must hear again and again. We must think about what we hear. We must study the Word so that we come to as full an understanding as possible of what it says. That is our part.

The power in the Word of God is not really in our part. By doing what God tells us to do with the Word, we allow the power of God in the Word to do his part. The Word of God will reprogram our thinking. That is what it does. The more it dwells in our hearts, the more we will think like God thinks.

This process takes a long time, but it begins to produce results quickly if we let it. We must yield to it by accepting that the Word of God is truth. We can and should ask God questions about his Word. We can and should research what the bible is saying. Nevertheless, we must begin the process accepting that God’s Word is right and everything it says, once I am clear that it is His Word, must be accepted and acted upon. The more we work this process, the more we will know God, the more faith we will have and the more we will naturally walk in the spirit.

How The Word of God Works in Us

Isaiah 55:10-11 (NKJV) 10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Walking with our spirit in control is the way a Christian lives a life that is pleasing to God and full of power. Walking in the spirit enables us to access a life that is not limited by the programing we all experience as we grow up and live in the natural world.

Recently we have been looking at a major key to how we walk in the spirit. Romans 12:2 tells us that we will be transformed, completely changed, by the renewing of our minds. We have seen that God provided a powerful tool to accomplish the renewing of our minds in his written word. Hebrews 4:12 reveals that the Word of God is not just another book. It is a living thing infused with God’s own life. This life can “reprogram” our thinking until we begin to think like God thinks. Look at this scripture in 1 Corinthians 2.

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NKJV) 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.;

The wisdom of the world is foolishness compared with the wisdom of God. Conversely, those who believe they are wise in natural wisdom cannot receive God’s wisdom. It will seem like foolishness to them. We have been trained to think like the world however, in salvation we have been given access to a new way of thinking. We can think according to the mind of Christ.

Let me give an example of what I am talking about. In the gospels we see Jesus ministering to lepers. Leprosy was the aids of that day. It was not clearly understood how it was transmitted, but people knew that it was contagious. Leprosy was a death sentence, but it was much more than that. A leper lost his whole life. He was required to be separate from everyone. He lost his family, his wealth, his position and his dignity. Money and rank meant nothing. Everyone feared this disease.

A natural man who encountered a leper would avoid any contact with the person. If they were to give them food or any other comfort it would be from a distance. Their programming said, “Leprosy equals death. DO NOT TOUCH. DANGER, DANGER, DANGER!”

That is their programing. This programing will allow no other conclusion. When Jesus meets lepers, we see a very different reaction. His reaction is based on a different way of thinking. He does not respond to leprosy with thoughts of danger and hopelessness. In his day there was no other way to see leprosy. However, his thinking allowed him to accept and believe that there was hope in the midst of hopelessness. Not only could he see it, his mind accepted the possibility of a different outcome as more normal than the outcome of death.

Matthew 8:2-3 (NKJV) 2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

There was no hesitation. There was no consideration of what might happen to Jesus if he touched this leprous man. He expressed faith in Jesus’ ability to heal him. The only question was whether Jesus would be willing to go against the programing of the day. Jesus expressed his willingness and then reached out and touched the man. This would be foolishness to any natural thinker watching him. You did not touch lepers. If you did you risked everything. That was just the way it was. However, Jesus had a different mind. The bible says we can have the same mind Jesus did if we will allow the Word of God to dwell in us and change our programming.

How does this work? It is not just “mind over matter” or anything like that. It is not just our own effort. It is not a matter of working really hard. Certainly, we are exhorted to study the Bible. To think we will be transformed by doing nothing is also error (2 Timothy 2:15.) However, it is not just a matter of our work or study. Hebrews 4:12 tells us the Word of God is alive. It has the power in itself to produce the change we need. We simply must get it into our mind.

Isaiah 55 is a beautiful picture of how the Bible renews our minds. God thinks in ways that we cannot. John 1:14 tells us that Jesus was the Word made flesh. That is why he could see something other than death when he looked at the leper. God sent his word so that we could begin to think like he thinks. The Word of God can and will become flesh in us.

Isaiah 55:10 gives an analogy. When it rains on the earth, we know it is important. We know that without rain, life cannot exist. There will be no crops, no food, no water to drink. If there is no rain, we will die. We know this and yet when it is raining, we do not know exactly what the rain is doing. I understand that we have a basic understanding of the need for rain. What we do not know is exactly how rain produces life. Rain is water. Water has no nutrition. It has no minerals, no carbohydrates and no protein. How and why is it so important? How does rain falling from the sky to the ground produce life? We do not really know.

It rains one day, and we see some effect. However, there is much more going on than that. The rain goes into the ground. It finds its way to rivers and streams. This produces water to drink. The rain also finds its way to the seeds in the ground. The seeds somehow take the life from the water and germinate. Months later we have food to eat.

Snow is even more of a mystery. I live in the northeastern United States. We have long cold winters. During the winter nothing grows. The rivers are low. They freeze, and it seems nothing is flowing. Sometimes we get a lot of snow and sometimes we get very little. When we do not get much snow, it means we will likely not have enough water in the summer. How can these things be related?

When the snow and ice melt, they add to the water in the ground. When it rains, the rain adds to what is there. If there is no snow in the winter, all of our water must come from the rain. If we have a good deal of snow, it will take less rain to provide the water we need. The time when this is most important is in the hottest part of our summer. That is a long way from the time of snow, yet if we do not get enough snow, we may have drought in the summer. That is how the Word of God works in us.

God sent the word to enable us to think like he thinks. This change occurs in much the same way that rain and snow produce life. It is something that happens over time. It is something that requires consistency and a certain quantity to produce fruit. When I study and meditate in the Word of God it is like the rain and the snow. Something is deposited in me. Over time it finds its way to the deepest parts of my mind. It releasees the life of God that is in it. We do not understand it any more than we really understand why water is so important to life. It just works. That is the promise of Isaiah 55:11. The Word will do what God says it will do.

We Must Think as God Thinks

Isaiah 55:7-10 (NKJV) 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,

One of the problems we encounter in trying to live according to God’s ways is how we think. That is what we have been looking at recently. God’s way of thinking comes from a completely different perspective. Today’s scripture gives a clear picture of this. God exhorts the wicked to forsake his way. He says they should return to the Lord who will abundantly pardon them. What a powerful statement. God will not just pardon them but he will abundantly pardon. There is a catch, or a key depending on how you view it. He must forsake his thoughts.

This is an interesting thing for the Lord to say. Why must the unrighteous forsake his thoughts? The meaning of the Hebrew Word includes contrivance, i.e. intention, plan :- cunning (work), curious work, device, imagination, invented, means, purpose, thought. It also includes the idea of “concrete.” To me this implies being set in our ways. Taken all together I do not think it is a stretch to say what God is talking about here is the way the unrighteous thinks.

There are two levels of thought that we engage in all the time. One is the things we consciously think. We think all the time. Everything we see, hear and experience provokes some kind of thought. All of these thoughts and experiences are stored in our brain. As far as I understand, we do not actually forget anything that happens to us or that is said to us. Forgetting is just the process of that experience or those words being buried in a place we cannot consciously access them.

Computers are poor simulations of how our brains work. On every hard drive are files that are hidden. They are files we do not need access to, so they do not show up. Many of the hidden files on a computer are part of the operating system. This is the software that tells the computer how to relate to its world. It makes it possible for it to “talk” to other programs and hardware devices. One of the major differences between PC computers and Apple computers is their respective operating systems. PC’s think differently from Apple computers.

Our brains are very much like computers only far more sophisticated. All of the “hidden” files, made up of the accumulated experiences of life, that are stored in our sub-conscious mind determine how we think. Just as Apple and PC computers relate differently to a word processing program or a printer, so each individual will react differently to life depending on how they think.

The problem Christians face is that we are neither PC or Apple computers any longer. Before salvation we were the same as everyone else. We could only think according to our programing. However, salvation opened up another possibility. We can now begin to think like God.

The “holy grail” of computing is artificial intelligence. It is both frightening and exciting. We have all seen movies or read stories about what can happen when machines begin to think outside the confines of their programing. They can become far more useful to man. They also could come to the conclusion that they are superior to man. (Think Terminator and The Matrix.)

AI occurs when a machine begins to access information in a way that supersedes its programing. It is no longer subject to the human limitations of thought. I believe this is exactly what God is talking about in Isaiah 55:7. The wicked, or the unrighteous, need to forsake the limitations of their way of thinking. One of the most important things salvation gives us is the ability to think in ways that are not limited by the experiences of the flesh. We can begin to think in ways that go beyond our natural “programing.” This is the renewing of the mind from Romans 12 that will transform our whole life if we let it.

Isaiah 55:7 tells us that this is a key to “abundant pardon.” Abundant pardon is what we have in salvation, but we need the transformation that comes with the renewing of the mind, forsaking our old way of thinking, to access what God provided for us in Jesus. How can we change how we think? How can I, with all my human programing, begin to think like God. He tells us beginning in verse 8.

We must first accept that God’s way of thinking is higher and better than our way of thinking. We must understand that God knows things we do not. He has information we have no way of having. His thoughts take into account the supernatural as well as the natural. Our way of thinking has been programmed by the natural world. It is hard for our thinking to exceed those limitations. Even when a person begins to reach beyond natural thinking, they usually get it wrong. They see and sense bits and pieces, but they usually come to foolish and sometimes dangerous conclusions.

God created man as a spirit being in a physical body. His mind is the bridge between those two worlds. That is why how we think is so crucial. He knows we will sense that there is more. This is especially true once we are born again. Our spirit is made alive and active again just as it was in Adam and Eve. We know there is more than what we can see. However, our programing wants to reject that. It is designed to “default” to the natural order. Anything that is beyond or outside of this programing wants to be rejected. We need better programing!

What is the vehicle for this re-programing? Verse 10 gives us the answer. “So shall my Word be that goes forth from my mouth.” His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours, that they are as far apart as heaven is from earth (verse 9.) We see that God sent his Word for a very specific purpose. It is to bring the thoughts, and therefore the ways, of heaven to our minds here in the earth.

The key to human behavior, human prosperity, human health and every other thing the Bible both requires and makes available, is to begin to think like God thinks. We must begin to program our minds to accept the reality of the supernatural. We can begin to see a different logic than that which we have been taught by the world. The Word of God is how this happens. Let me introduce another scripture as we close for today.

Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The bible is not just a book. It is a living thing that is full of the words that will allow us to see what we cannot see because of our current programing. I want to learn how this works. Don’t you?