Monday, November 5, 2018

Does God Ignore Our Prayer? No, He Answers Beyond What We Asked!

The last two weeks presented some incredible trials to me.

I had no idea what to think, how to respond.

I had prayed so diligently for a certain outcome in one very dire situation, and it never came to pas. The exact opposite occured, which had really unsettled me. I didn't know what to think!

God, why didn't you answer my prayer? Those were the thoughts circling through my mind, but I didn't cave to unbelief.

I sure didn't understand what was going on, though.

Then I realized ... God's delays are part of God not just answering our prayers, but going above and beyond what we have asked!



"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us," (Ephesians 3:20)

I am sure that Abraham and Sarah prayed, struggled, and wondered if God cared for them.

Their son was not only a champion, but was blessed wherever he went.

"The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous" (Genesis 26:13)

Jacob wanted his son back. Jacob discovered that not only was his son Joseph alive, but he was the ruler over all Egypt, and through his new position, maneuvered into place by Almight God, Joseph saved many lives!

"Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life." (Genesis 45:5)

and

"But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." (Genesis 50:20)

Then let's consider Mary and Martha, and their cry for Jesus to heal their brother Lazarus.

He delayed coming to them, and Jesus did so because He loved them:

"5Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was." (John 11:5-6)

WOW!

The two sisters, sisters whom Jesus loved, got "the hand"?

Not at all.

Jesus over-answered their prayer.

Martha and then Mary saw Jesus as "The Resurrection and the Life" (John 11:25)

Mary and Martha witnessed Jesus bring their brother back from the dead!

"43And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go." (John 11:43-44)

Lazarus was not just healed, Lazarus was not just made whole, Lazarus was brought back to life!

And then!

"45Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him." (John 11:45)

I would not be one bit surprised that Mary and Martha was glad that Jesus did not answer their prayer, which was:

"21Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." (John 11:21)

In the next chapter, we see Martha serving without grumbling, for the Resurrection and the Life, with his brother resurrected back to life sitting at the same table!

"1Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him." (John 12:1-2)

Jesus more than answered their prayer, didn't He?

Don't doubt when God delays, or when God doesn't seem to answer your prayers.

Point of fact, He is preparing to "over-answer" them, beyond what you asked!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Why God Allows Delays: That More Believe On Him, And We Receive Greater Glory

I have written on this subject many times, and I have no qualm revisiting this matter.

We face trials of many kinds: friends move away, loved ones die. We lose a career, or we face other hardships.

In spite of it all, however, we need to understand that God loves us, and He is loving us through the most trying, difficult struggles in our lives.



When Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was sick, Jesus did not go right away to heal him:

"Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was." (John 11:5-6)

Jesus loved Mary and Martha; therefore, He delayed coming to them.

What's going on here?

Jesus explains to His disciples:

"15And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him." (John 11:15)

He wants us to believe on Him, for that is the work of God (John 6:29), and Jesus goes out of His way to help us believe on Him too!

The account of Lazarus coming from the dead is powerful, but then see what happened once Jesus raised him from the dead:

"45Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him." (John 11:45)



Not a few, not some, buy MANY Jews believed in Jesus after Lazarus was raised from the dead.

While Mary and Martha wanted to be spared the separation from their brother, Jesus was invested in the bigger picture:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Jesus wants ALL of us to have life. There's more at stake than our own piecemeal comfort.

There's more!

It's so easy to read through this passage without really meditating on what is taking place here:

"1Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him." (John 12:1-2)



Can you imagine what must have been going through Martha's mind when she was serving Jesus and her brother--raised from the dead!--at the same table?!

Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, was seated in her home, and she not only received her brother back from the dead!

Notice also that Martha was not full of cares or worries this time. Unlike in Luke's account (Luke 10:38-42), in which she complained that Jesus was not ordering her sister Mary to help her, Martha happily serves Jesus and her brother. It's easy to serve others when you know that you have been served in the greatest way possible.

What love!

"19 We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19, NIV)

Notice also the greater glory accorded to Mary:

"3Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 4Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, 5Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. 7Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this." (John 12:3-7)

Mary received great honor in preparing Jesus for His death and burial.



In Mark's account, Jesus announces the great honor that will be accorded to Mary:

"9Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her." (Mark 14:9)

Imagine if Jesus had healed Larazus before dying ... then Mary would have had no occasion to anoint Jesus' feet and receive such greater honor!

And not just glory for Mary:

"Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead." (John 12:9)

Lazarus became a celebrity of sorts, but more importantly a living--yes, living--testimony to God's grace.

What greater glory can one receive? God heals us, blesses us, and then we receive glory and blessing from others because of what Jesus did for us?

Lazarus would have been deprived of all of this if he had not died, and Jesus had not raised him from the dead!

Jesus loved Mary and Martha.

He wanted to honor them, He wanted them to believe on Him, and He wanted many others to believe on Him, too, since that's what He is all about--saving as many as He can.

He wants to bless us, and those blessings can't happen if He answers our immediate requests right away. There's a bigger picture, and He wants us to feature in it.

Don't fret or fear if there are delays. God is doing great things for you, and for many others.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Established in Righteousness: What Does That Mean?

What does it mean to be established in righteousness?

It means that righteousness, our righteous standing, is a fixed truth, something that is part of who we are.

Righteousness defines who we are, and it is not something that can be taken away by any circumstance or feeling. This status of being righteous, being righteousness, before God the Father in Christ Jesus.

One preacher shared:

"Jesus did not just take our sin. He became sin."

Why is that distinction so important? If someone takes something from you, they can give it back to you at some other time. If someone becomes something that belongs to you, that object, that "thing" if you will can never be returned to you.

How about that?

Consider what Paul the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians in his Second Epistle:

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)



Jesus became sin, and He bore our sins in His body (1 Peter 2:24).

We became the righteousness of God in Him!

We become, we are made a new creature in Christ Jesus! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

For a long time, I meditated on righteousness as something that is outside of me, i.e. something that I receive and keep receiving, certainly, but something that as a status comes from outside to within me. (Romans 5:17).

However, Isaiah prophesies "In righteousness you shall be established."

If the only way that righteousness enters us is through receiving and receiving again, then we are not established in it.

But we are established in His righteousness today, because Jesus accomplished the Great Exchange at the Cross.

This righteousness, and all the blessings attached to it, having nothing to do with our circumstances or other outcomes around us.

Our standing before God in Christ Jesus has nothing to do with us at all!

Righteousness is a gift:

"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17)

It's a gift, and we need to be conscious of this incredible gift, that we keep on receiving it, even when we fail, when we fall, when we flip out or fess up to wrongdoing of any kind.

This Gift of Righteousness defines who we are in Christ Jesus!

"[H]e that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous." (1 John 3:7)

To do righteousness, within the context of this passage, is to seek the Blood of Jesus to establish us from all sin and in His righteousness, i.e. to believe on Him!

Then what follows:

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4:17)



Christ Jesus is made our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30)

For a long time, however, I was not fully established in this. I was still worried that I would be punished for my sins in some fashion--In that regard, I was not established in His righteousness.

There were tough times, when it seemed that nothing was going right, and I would yell at God, wondering why He wasn't doing anything -- at least, so it seemed. I was not established in righteousness then because I was still evaluating my position based on my circumstances.

"How could I be in this difficulty now? I thought I was passed this!"

When I realized that all of my sins have been forgiven, put away, and that no matter what is happening at that moment, I am still righteous before God, everything in my life just changed without any trouble.

This status of being the righteousness of God in Christ had been in place with me ever since I believed in Jesus and made him Lord and Savior of my life, because He became my life. Gosh, there is so much about our inheritance through Christ Jesus that we have to learn.

There is so much that I had to unlearn, too.

I was the righteousness of God in Christ when I was working at the grocery store. I was the rightoeusness of God in Christ when I was a teacher in different classrooms all over Los Angeles County.

I was the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus when I was 13 years old and claimed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Even then, as a young boy almost out of Seventh Grade.

I was the rightoeusness of God in Christ Jesus when my mother left me at the Torrance airport.

I was the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, with perfect standing and honor before my Daddy God when I was arrested in Huntington Park, California ... for no good reason.

I was the righteousness of God in Christ when I failed student teaching the first time.

I have not only been the righteousness of God in Christ, but I have been a long-standing heir of so many promises in Christ Jesus, because ...

"And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (Romans 8:17)

And the sufferings?

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)

They are a mere nothing.

No matter what the sufferings may be, I am the righteousness of God in Christ.

And THAT is what it means to be established in righteousness! (Isaiah 54:14)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Receiving His Righteousness, and the Rest is Added to Us

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)

It's all about His righteousness.

Yet let's emphasize: this is God's righteousness that we are talking about.

Not our own.

It's amazing how great His forgiveness has been for us.

It's great to recognize that Jesus has accomplished so much for us.

We need to recognize and rest in what His blood accomplishes, the sins that are cleansed, and that His blood keeps on cleansing us from all our sins (1 John 1:7,9)

Today, I recognize the good that Jesus is ready to accomplish in my life. It's not about figuring out what He is going to do. It's all about recognizing that He is at work behind the scenes, that He is committed to accomplish a great deal of good in my life.

We need to look to Him, to look at Him, to receive His righteousness and to rest in His grace at length.



For the last week, in spite of the greatest challenges facing me, I realize today that it's all about His gift of righteousness.

What Jesus has accomplished at the Cross, where God the Father has placed me in relation to His Son, all of this takes the full pre-eminence. I don't have to figure what is going to happen tomorrow. My "job" is to believe on Him (John 6:29), to revel and rejoice in His gift of righteousness at all levels.

This is a new life, to say the least.

I don't look at what the world has taken away from me, or what circumstances and actors within those circumstances may have done to me.

I just look at Jesus, the Author and Finisher of Faith (Hebrews 12:2), and in Him every need is met, every wrong is righted, and every failure is corrected.

Most of all, every loss is restored!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Do You Prize His Righteousness Above All Else?

This is a challenge for me.

I look at my circumstances, and I look at other people's circumstances.  I want to make the best of every situation, and I want to believe that all things are working for my good.

And yet it is so easy for us to look to one side or the other, to think that things are not going our way.

I had written about last year, how I had faced such hardships at one point. I didn't have a stable income, and I didn't have a car. One night, I just shouted at the sky, and I said "God, what good is it that your Son died on the Cross and I can't even pay the rent?!"

That was an honest moment for me. I didn't make nice or play with God. I told Him exactly how I felt.

Then a new revelation rushed into my heart, and yet a reminder of how important it is to rest in the eternal truths we have heard since we believed on Jesus.

What's the point of having all the wealth and opportunities in the world, yet I cannot wipe away a sense of guilt and shame? I remembered the times in the past when I had the job, when I had the car, and there was such misery in my life.

I felt so guilty about things that I had done, that I had said.

Indeed, I realized how good I have it today because I believe that because of Jesus' death on the Cross, I am forgiven of all my sins forever--past, present, and future! My sins are paid for! Jesus' bore my sins on that Tree, and I will never have to feel the punishment, the pain, the reproach of sin ever again!

WOW!

I still remember when I was sitting in church, at Calvary Chapel South Bay. It was the second Sunday of July, and I remember just crying with such joy. "I will never be punished for the sins that I have committed or that I will commit in the future. Jesus bore ALL my sins on the Cross.

This revelation of the Gospel could not be clearer when you read 1 Peter:

"24Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)

He bore our sins in His body. He did it Himself, so that we did not have to.

That is something to celebrate, and what happened because Jesus did that for us?

"He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities." (Isaiah 53:11)

He bears our sins, and we receive His righteousness!

When I recognized that, I stopped fearing for the future, and I recognized that I have so much going for me just because of Jesus' sacrifice.

The next day--I had the job and the car! I had both needs met in one day!

Thank you Jesus!

Now, I face a new challenge. I see bad people who get away with stuff. I see people breaking the law, and there is no enforcement--or at least, so it seems.

Injustice is prevalent in our world. Should we be surprised? Perhaps it's time for us to stop being outraged because the world does not play fair, even in the criminal justice system.

I don't like it when people get away with wrongdoing against me. Who does like it?

There is an outcome which has occured which I find particularly unfair right now.

This is the second test when it comes to faith.

Do I really believe that God's gift of righteousness makes the difference? Do I really believe that His grace superabounds when sin increases?

Even when I fail, do I have faith that God is love, and loves me. and will bless me.

Then there's this comfort, once again from 1 Peter Chapter 2:

"But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
21For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:" (1 Peter 2:20-23)

Today, I prize His righteousness yet again.

To be unjust accused, arrested, incarcerated, convicted, berated, demeaned, defamed cannot hurt us.

We have His righteousness! We reign in His life!

So, the question returns ... Do you prize His righteousness above all else?

My answer is YES!


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Do We Really Believe that All Things Work for Good?



"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Paul was definite and unwavering about this.

"We know that all things work together for good ..."

Do you really believe that?

The trial of faith is all about taking God at His Word. Do we really believe that He cares for us, in the face of everything

Or don't we?

It all starts with what His Son Jesus did for us.

That is how we know that He is on our side:

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." (Romans 8:31-34)

How do we know that God is on our side? It's all about His Son Jesus and what He did for us at the Cross.

It's not about whether we find that great parking spot or not.

It's not about whether we are justly or unjustly freed from a criminal or civil penalty in court.

It has nothing to do with what may happen tomorrow.

It has everything to do with what Jesus did for us at the Cross.

This was the touchstone for growth for me. I learned that He is taking care of me not because my cirucumstances are going well. We have to appraise, esteem the sacrifice that Jesus became for us:

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

There is no value in everything else getting taken care of in our lives if we are still under condemnation. There is no value to wealth and riches if we live in hatred and bitterness.

It's the gift of righteousness which enables us to receive all other gifts.

With this promise in mind, with this affirmation in place, we can know and believe that all things work together for good.

But wait ...

Isn't there a caveat in place? All things work together for those who love God.

We need to work on loving God more, right?

OK, but the source for loving God more comes from our knowing how much He loved us!

"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10)

Jesus--the same yesterday, today, and forever--is our mercy seat forever. Our sins are put away forever.

When we understand this, how can we NOT love Him?

In fact ...

"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

There.

It all goes back to the Gift of Righteousness and the abundance of grace which comes with it (Romans 5:17)

When we see that, then everything else falls into place, and all things indeed work for our good:

"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD." (Isaiah 54:17)

It's all about His gift of righteousness!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Troubled with Second-Guessing? Let His Peace Rule In Your Heart

Now, when I am faced with difficult decisions, how do I deal with it? Before, it was nothing but inaction and frustration. I just feared the worst all the time. I was so dependent on someone else telling me "good" or "bad" about any decision I made. Would I have to depend on someone else after the fact giving me the OK?

No! We don't have to settle for that. God guides us now by His peace in us!



"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (Colossians 3:15, NIV)

"Rule" speaks of a judge presiding over a case. If there is no peace about something, then don't do it. 

I didn't feel peace for a long time because I was constantly worried about God being unhappy with me doing something that He would or would not approve of.

Now that I know that His never-ending gift of righteousness assures His peace with me, and mine with Him, I can allow His peace to act as a guide, a judge, an umpire in every case, in every decision.

Let's remember that our starting point with God is peace:

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:" (Romans 5:1)

and

"For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;" (Ephesians 2:14)

Let's rest in the truth of God's gift of righteousness. We need never fear that God will be angry with us again. We should never have a sense of fear or foreboding towards God. His peace is our constant now.

We need never play second-guessing ever again! Let His peace rule in your heart!