Thursday, January 18, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 10

When we identify ourselves as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, hopefully we are also identifying with His plans and purposes, not just His blessings to His kids. And this is a real game-changer as we stand at the beginning of this year 2018 with hopes and dreams for the year. It is part of our human nature, as God created us in His image, to look into our future with hope and desire, for our Father also operates in hope and with desire. Unfortunately, most of humanity tries to muster up a confident expectation for good things to come based in themselves, according to what they feel, think and see from their flesh and natural mind, which is connected to the world. 

But you and I have received through Jesus a new nature by which we can access the heart and mind of Christ, connecting us to the very heartbeat of heaven's plans and purposes. And by the Holy Spirit we are given the ability to love what God loves and desire what He desires. And here is the game-changer as we step into 2018. I am given the opportunity to displace my own fleshly (often fear-based) desires with God's and to hitch my wagon load of needs/dreams to His all-powerful wisdom and ability, as He works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). Every time one of God's people set their heart toward God's desire and purpose, giving Him an avenue to reveal His excellent and superior goodness, His glory can be seen in the earth by others.

In Isaiah 58 God invites His people to consider what they are choosing and why. Did you know that every time God comes to us and presses this issue with us, it is a gift to us. We are prone to blindness when it comes to own heart's desires and motivations. He asked of them, "Is this what I choose, is this acceptable to me?" (v. 5). He calls them to ask themselves if they are seeking/acting/planning according to their own pleasure, their own practices/habits, and their own words/thoughts, rather than His (v. 13). Is our Father a selfish, ego-centered person, wanting to control us? No! Rather, He presses us with such questions in order to open our eyes and help bring us into alignment and focus with the absolute best that heaven has already prepared for us in this year. Wow! What a blessing! But the choice is ours.

How about this as a description of your 2018: "Then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken" (Isaiah 58:14). Ask yourself today, what does delighting in the Lord look like and how might I rearrange the priorities and practices of my life to pursue this with passion?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 9

In Isaiah 58 we can see that God's heart is not so much focused on teaching the people about fasting but to help them arrive in a place of blessing where the heaven's are open over them and they fulfill their destiny as a people. The people had wandered far from knowing what this was like and why they existed as a nation under the covenant of God. The nation that King David had built up with its foundations in worship and keeping God's laws, with the ark of God's Presence in their midst, had become just a shell of the former glory. And the glory which had come down numerous times in the temple that Solomon built was no longer a reality they knew or desired. Instead idols were throughout the land and demonic worship and sorcery had become the source of power.

So when Isaiah had his encounter with the glory of God which we read of in Isaiah 6, it was a wake-up call to Isaiah of what they all had been missing. It also was a plumb line for the nation of Israel calling them back into alignment with what set their nation apart from all others. It was not just their temple or their laws, it was the very glory of God in their midst which caused them to know that their God was utterly holy and above all other Gods. This glory created within their hearts wonder, worship, trust and sanctification.

Isaiah reminds the people again in chapter 58 that if they will align themselves again with what God is seeking, "your light will break out like the dawn... the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard... your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday" (Vs. 8-10). These are all references to the glory of the Lord coming into their midst and effecting the quality and impact of their lives. The darkness of the world that had crept into their nation and opened them up to destruction would be pushed back. They would have light again. They would become light again!

And this is what Isaiah so powerfully brought forth in Isaiah 60. As I wrote before, Isaiah 58 -61 really all flow together. What God was trying to bring these Israelites into, as well as us today, was the fullness of His glory in their midst. This would be the answer to all that they needed and hoped for. 

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples. But the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising!" (Isaiah 60:1-3)

And this is where Holy Spirit is leading His church again today. 2018 is to be a year of increased glory in our midst. I believe that if we will truly focus ourselves into our Father's heart, following the Son, filled with Holy Spirit, our alignment will become such that the glory will be seen again among us. We will bring about the fulfillment of our destiny that causes "the knowledge of the glory of God to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14). Let's shake the darkness and stir the nations!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 8

In yesterday's post I wrote on the passion of God revealed in Isaiah 58 to break all forms of bondage and captivity through the anointing of the Spirit as referenced by Isaiah in chapter 61. Just like Jesus, the Spirit of Lord is upon believers with an anointing to do what He did, destroying the works of the devil around us in other people's lives. It may be to heal the sick around us, cast out their demons, prophesy over them God's favorable plans or something as simple as "dividing our bread" with them, sharing our resources to meet their obvious need with love in the Name of Jesus. 

Jesus told His disciples as He sent them out ahead of Him to various places He would be coming to, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons: Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). This would be the evidence that "the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (v 7). It takes the rule of God as it is in Heaven to truly break bondages and yokes in people's lives. And giving away what you receive is the hallmark of those of us who carry the power of the Kingdom to change someone else's life.

We see in Acts 4 & 5 how this worked in the early church after the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost. "And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them... For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need... At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people... and all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number" (Acts 4:32-35, 5:12-14).

When God's people are walking in the anointing of God that "breaks the yoke" off people, they will see people in their bondages with different eyes. And they will see themselves as powerful against the captivity that Satan has brought people into. This sense of Holy Spirit power and anointing releases a generosity and freedom to give to others with faith/expectation for a flow of heaven to bring even more resource and supply without end. "Give and it will be given unto you, pressed down and shaken together and overflowing into your lap" Jesus said (Luke 6:38). And you enter into a level of joy and freedom yourself as you divide your bread with others and clothe the naked, satisfying their need.

One of the ways Margie and I have found opportunity to do this in a simple and practical way has happened when we go out to eat. I have been a waiter/server in a restaurant myself trying to feed my family off the tips I receive above my minimum wage earnings. We try to see the server through those eyes in our interactions with the server during the meal and when we are deciding how large a tip to leave. We all are more generous naturally with exceptional service and food. But what if the food and/or service was not only lacking but awful? It has been our joy to use our love, compassion and power of generosity to make that server's day by "shocking" them with a tip and written encouraging word that they would never have expected, but really needed. Most of the time we really can not afford to give like this but we know where our supply comes from. We love the thought that whatever Satan may be working in that server's life to bring hopelessness and fear just got hit with an anointed and strategic sledge hammer from heaven! Let's do this!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Focus. 2018 - Post 7

If you have been following this blog you should have a good sense of what is written in Isaiah 58. It is not a long chapter but loaded with revelation about God Himself; not only His priorities but what is behind those priorities. What we see is an intense hatred for anything that brings bondage and captivity in the lives of those He created for freedom. When God speaks through Isaiah to call for a fast that He has chosen, He reveals His true heart of love: Loosen the bonds, undo the bands, break every yoke and let the oppressed go free. We must understand this about our Heavenly Father if we are to walk with Him in this world. It is a passion for Him.

That is why we read scriptures in the New Testament that say, "It is for freedom that Christ set you free, therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1), and, "Now the Lord is a Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17).

One of the primary purposes for Jesus to bring the Kingdom God (His rule and reign) was to set people free from the brutal regime of Satan's oppression. "He came to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). Peter declared to a group of gentiles in Acts 10:38, "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and power and how He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him." One of the great joys of reading the gospels is to see all the stories of how Jesus released heaven's provision for freedom to thousands of the sick, the demonized, the poor, the broken, the estranged, the religious proud, and those who had no hope. And ultimately He breaks the power of death and judgement over all of us who would receive Him, removing the yoke of orphan as He gives the right to become sons and daughters of God.

Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 58. But it was not by starting a social justice group or food bank or any other organized relief program to help people get a leg up in life. He revealed the true means of fulfilling God's heart for the oppressed when he took the scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth that was handed to Him to read. He found Isaiah 61. We see in Luke 4 that He began to read to the people a passage that they all knew and had longed to see fulfilled in their nation, "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 proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." After He read all of Isaiah 61 he sat down in the seat of the teacher and declared, "This prophecy/promise of God for which you have been waiting, is NOW FULFILLED in your hearing!"

The ministry of Jesus is explained by Isaiah 61. And Isaiah 61 was the answer to God's call to the people in Isaiah 58! Isaiah 58-61 were all tied together. The answer to setting people free from yokes that had come through Satan's kingdom of darkness was the anointing of the Spirit of God upon a people who would carry the heart of God within them by His Spirit resting on them. Freedom and liberty, release of captives and those in bondage would be the very nature of those who were in Christ and filled with the Spirit.

And this is why Jesus told His disciples in John 14:12, "Whoever has faith in Me, the works I do, He shall also do, and even greater works than these." They would also receive this same Spirit that was on Jesus as a Son. And wherever they went this anointing would break out through them to set captives free. And we see a description of the early church in Acts 4:34, "For there was not a needy person among them... and the people held them in high esteem...but even carried their sick out into the streets to be healed" by the church. Wow! That is called releasing freedom and hope to a city and nation!

As we look into 2018, can we seek the Lord for more of His Spirit to be upon us? Can we be determined to carry the anointing of God and gain His heart for releasing captives and breaking yokes? Can we expect that we will see resources in our hands multiplied to feed thousands? Let's do this!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 6

In Isaiah 58 we see a picture of contrasts between God and man. You will find this in all of the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament. For all of the scriptures are given by God through the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what we have not understood about our God, His heart, His ways, and His Kingdom realm. Everything about Him is eternal, spirit and beyond the natural world we are preoccupied with. After the fall of man in the garden, a great division came between flesh and spirit, between truth/reality and our worldly perceptions. Man fell from the glory of God and could no longer see what He sees or think the way He thinks. We were given over to what the apostle Paul refers to as "the natural mind" (I Corinthians 2:6-14). We were reduced to the level of human wisdom which is dictated by the rulers of this age (and the kingdom of darkness). And left to ourselves we can only live according to our own foolishness.

But we have an Heavenly Father Who so loves us that He will break in with His own word to reveal to those who have ears to hear the way out of our own confusion and escape the results of our foolishness. And this is what is happening in Isaiah 58. God is speaking to His chosen covenant people to whom He had revealed Himself and given His words and laws. But they are not operating according to the wisdom of God or His ways. They have strayed so far off from really knowing and loving Him. And their connection/fellowship with Him was so broken that they did not know how to receive life and blessing from Him.

They certainly were aware that things were not well with their nation and that there were problems that they were not able to solve. They could tell things were sick and dysfunctional and blessings were missing. Much like today in our nation, we can tell that things are not good. We know how unhealthy our culture has become and we can see the continuing division and anger growing. We see families falling apart and our prisons filling up beyond capacity. We see the perverseness of sexual behaviors and abortion sweeping beyond imagination. But do we know what we need to provide a remedy and be healed? Did these Israelites know how to restore, rebuild and repair their society? No...

But deeper than that, they did not know what they really needed. The were crying out with fastings and religious acts of sacrifice to be noticed of God. But if you don't even understand what is wrong because you are so deep in your own fleshly thinking, disconnected from heaven's wisdom and love, how can you receive the remedy? But fortunately our Father does know what we need to find life and be restored. And He reveals it.

Here is what God spoke through Isaiah. We need His light to become our light so that it will go before us. We need His righteousness, not our own, to lead the way. We need His ways and values to choose the right path. We need to connect ourselves to His voice, His strength and His life-giving water. We need His glory in our midst. And God promises that not only will we recover speedily, our gloom become like the brightness of the midday, and our health in all areas of life be restored, but we will also know how to make our whole nation find healing and be founded again in the Wisdom of God. Wow! This is our God offering us beauty for ashes.

But can we trust Him that only He knows what is wrong with us and what we really need. Will we forsake our own wisdom and give ear to His word? Will we let go of our natural/foolish mindsets and press into His ways with obedience? If we, God's covenant people will press in this year of 2018, how far can we go to be used of God to bring healing to our lives and our nation? Let's find out!

Friday, January 12, 2018

FOCUS 2018 - Post 5

We read in Isaiah 58 that the people were busy coming before the Lord with what they thought would get His attention and release His blessing. As they came with fasting, they saw themselves as righteous and obedient, seeking God's presence. And yet God told Isaiah to confront them about how out of alignment their lives were with His ways and desires. God asked them, "Is what you are doing what I really want?" The intent was to awaken the people to recalibrate and refocus on what was pleasing to God.

And here is the mercy of God to all of us: when we find ourselves out of alignment God comes to renew us to His plan and His promise. "This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope: The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:21-13). So the Lord comes to His people to tell them what He is looking for and the reward that is theirs if they respond and seek His pleasure.

We see in Isaiah 58 how the Lord tenderly renews these people to His plan and destiny over their lives. He sets before them the "if...then" breakthrough. "If you will choose this, then I will release this to you." Understand that our Father is responsible for fulfilling His promises to us but He is not responsible for our potential and the choices we make toward that. He will keep reminding us about who we are in Him and the abundance He wants to release to us as we move within His pleasures.

Here we see the Lord longing to bring them into increased light that impacts those around them. He wants to bring them into recovery of things lost to them. He wants to surround them with His glory that protects them and provides. He wants them to come into such relationship with Him that they know their voice is heard immediately and He will answer. They would walk with Him and He would guide them. They would see the devastated places of their lives become the very places of greatest fruitfulness and power. Not only that, but they would begin to rebuild the previous glory of their culture and restore to prominence of the wisdom of heaven in their nation. God would use them to become the answer to unsolvable problems and lead the way into a glorious future as God had promised when He first brought them into this land flowing with milk and honey.

As we seek the Lord this month for 2018, ask Holy Spirit to reveal the promises He has for us individually and as a church. As we set our hearts to know what is pleasing to the Lord and give ourselves to these things, let us anticipate the mercy of the Lord to come upon us and break open massive restoration, fulfillment, empowerment and glory which positions us to become the answer to our valley, nation and the nations where God will send us. It's a new day!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

FOCUS 2018 - Post 4

One of the precious revelations in Isaiah 58 is how the Lord instructs His people on what is pleasing and acceptable to Him. Even though the people's hearts were out of alignment with heaven and their actions were displeasing to God, He was willing to show them His thoughts and ways so that they might be blessed and fulfill their destiny.

The main issue in Father God's confrontation with them centered in the words "your own desire", "your own pleasure", "your own words". And He asked the questions of them, "what is acceptable to me?", "what do I choose?". All that they were looking for from God was not coming to them because their hearts had not been transformed in a loving relationship with their Creator. The Lord was nothing more than a power source, a blessing machine. Though they entered the temple of God day after day with prayers and fastings, their hearts were far away. So God spoke through Isaiah the prophet to help bring them back into alignment, give them a chance to repent, and know what was pleasing to God.

I have found that one of the greatest turning points in a believer's life is when they recognize that in this love relationship with our Father and His son there is an expression of love that drives us to find out what pleases Him and then operate that way. The apostle Paul wrote it this way to the Ephesian church, "For you were formerly darkness but now your are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.... trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.... so then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:8,10,17). To the Colossian church he wrote, "we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please hIm in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work" (Colossians 1:9-10).

There must come a point in our lives where we transition from our natural inclination to please ourselves and choose our ways to an elevated consciousness of something greater, more satisfying, more fruitful and rewarding that is only found in the desire and plans of God. If He is the way, the truth and the life, what will we find if we seek His pleasure first? How superior will your life become if you give yourself to understand His will and heart and live in alignment with heaven?

Laying down my own desire for His does not come easy. Something in our flesh must die. Our relationship with the world which has supplied so much of our pleasure must be radically altered. In fact, apart from Jesus you can't do it. Jesus is the only one who has perfectly loved the Father enough to do all of the Father's pleasure and will. And this is why we must be born again of the Spirit of God and baptized into Christ. We receive a new nature that is in perfect harmony with heaven's desires, thoughts and ways. It is only a new creation in Christ that has the supernatural ability and potential to walk in a manner pleasing to God.

But the reality is that even though millions have been born again and received the powerful Holy Spirit indwelling them, they take no thought of living so as to please God. They are just like the Israelites in Isaiah 58 seeking to get by with doing certain things that will yield blessings and get them to heaven.

Paul wrote something to the Philippian church that helped me greatly. He told them, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). Do you see what has been happening since the day you gave your life to Jesus? God has been working, moving, stirring and pressing you from your spirit to love and choose His good pleasure! Wow! He is giving us the "want to". But not only that, if we choose it, He gives us the power/ability to follow through. And when we do that, our salvation, our new nature in Christ, takes us somewhere. We are changed into the very likeness of Jesus Himself, and we get His results and blessings!

Take a moment and ask yourself honestly whose pleasure you seek most often. Would you like Holy Spirit to teach you what is pleasing to God? Are you willing to have your heart trained in understanding what God desires so that is your greatest motivation and "go to" choice? If you will make this your focus in 2018 you will be amazed at all that opens up before you from heaven! Why not ask the Holy Spirit right now?