You Have an Anointing

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. (1 John 2:20)

All too often, when Christians hear the word anointing, they hear it said in an unusual, super-spiritual and kind-of-strange sort of voice that lets everyone know something really holy is being talked about. Sometimes the word is dramatically drawn out and said with a certain tremor in the voice. More than anything, the word is said with an attitude that anointing is something some Christians have and other Christians don’t.

anointing oil

The New Testament doesn’t know anything about such a particular anointing. John simply says, writing to all Christians: You have an anointing. John spoke of a common anointing that belongs to all believers; an anointing that makes discernment possible for those who seek it in the Lord.

When the New Testament speaks of anointing, it speaks of it as the common property of all believers, though some may not appreciate or use the anointing God gives. Among some Christians today, there is a rather magical or superstitious approach to this idea of anointing. In their mind, “the anointing” is like a virus or a germ, which can be spread by casual contact or infect a whole group. Usually these folks think that when one “catches” the anointing, you can tell because they start talking and acting really weird. This isn’t the Bible’s idea of anointing!

Anointing has the idea of being filled with, and blessed by, the Holy Spirit. This is the common property of all Christians, but something we can and should become more submitted and responsive to. God has blessed you with the Holy Spirit: are you submitted and responsive to Him? God has given you resources of spiritual discernment and wisdom – you can know all things.

To know all things certainly does not mean to know everything as God knows everything, and also does not mean that we never need to learn from other Christians. But you can know everything you need to know to live the life God has put before you. If you need to know it, the Spirit who has anointed you will reveal it as you seek Him.

This idea of anointing – literally, to be blessed with oil, an emblem of the Holy Spirit – was behind one of the punishments given to the apostle John in persecution. Old accounts say that the Roman emperor Domitian ordered that John be cast into a boiling vat of oil, as if to say, “Here is your anointing!”

John came out from the vat of oil unharmed, because he truly had an anointing from God and God had more for him to do. Submit and respond to God’s anointing in your life, and the Spirit of God will protect and inform you also.

Click here for David’s commentary on 1 John 2

How to Handle Success

Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you.” (Genesis 41:38-39)

It’s been said that the successful executive is the one who can delegate all the responsibility, shift all the blame, and take all the credit. That’s the plan some people use to achieve success; but that strategy is like a house of cards – it won’t stand very long. Joseph’s example shows us how to achieve and handle success in a way that honors God.

how to handle success

Notice that timing is important to the success that God gives. Here, in Genesis 41, Joseph just then came to the pinnacle of his success; but it took him a long time to get there. Joseph had been “wasting” his time in prison the previous years; but it wasn’t a waste at all. It all had a place in God’s timing for Joseph’s success. From his youth, Joseph had the idea God had destined him for great things. But Joseph didn’t know the fulfillment of those great things would take so long.

Psalm 31:14-15 says, “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.” Can you say this also? Can you say to God, “My times are in Your hand”? So often we feel as though we are all ready for what we know God will do for us or through us; yet we must rest in the Lord, and say to Him “My times are in Your hand.”

Joseph had been promoted by Pharaoh; he had risen from the pit to the pinnacle. But we shouldn’t think Pharaoh was the one responsible for Joseph’s promotion. God was the one responsible. Joseph wasn’t waiting on Pharaoh to get out of jail; he was waiting on God. The Psalmist reminds us: “For exaltation comes neither from the east, nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one and exalts another.” (Psalm 75:6) The credit for Joseph’s amazing rise to power did not belong to Pharaoh, or to Joseph, or much less to blind fate or circumstance. It was the fulfillment of God’s divine plan.

Another thing to notice is that Joseph had two sons, whom he named Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 41:51-52). Joseph lived in Egypt. He married an Egyptian woman. Joseph worked for the Egyptian Pharaoh. Yet he gave his two sons Hebrew names. This shows us that Joseph has not forgotten about God, even in his success. Many people, when they have been promoted the way Joseph was promoted, feel they no longer need God. They think that God is only good for the prison and not for the palace. We should be like Joseph, who was devoted to God no matter what – bad times and good times.

Here’s a good prayer for today: “God, give me a heart that will wait on You, and serve You faithfully, never forgetting You even when I am successful in the eyes of the world.”

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 41

Amos the Farmer

“The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.” (Amos 1:1)

What kind of person does God use? We sometimes think God uses the brightest and the best. He must choose the most holy and talented to deliver His message or to advance His kingdom. The writings of the prophet Amos show us that this isn’t true.

The name Amos means burden or burden bearer. Since most of the prophecies of Amos concern coming judgment on either the nations surrounding Israel or judgment on Israel itself, he was a man with a burden.

Shepherd with sheep

The man God chose to carry this burden was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa. It seems that Amos had no formal theological or prophetic training, though there was a “school of the prophets,” whose members were known as the sons of the prophets at that time (for example, see 1 Kings 20:35 or 2 Kings 2:3-15). Amos was a simple man, a farmer, who had been uniquely called to ministry. He was not a priest, a Levite, or a professional pastor, but just among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa.

Amos spoke of his background and calling in Amos 7:14-15: “I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.'”

Amos used an unusual word to describe his occupation. Instead of calling himself a “shepherd,” the literal ancient Hebrew used here called Amos a “sheep raiser.” Amos probably chose this title to emphasize the fact that he really was a shepherd, and that he did not mean “shepherd” in a symbolic, spiritual sense. The way God used Amos reminds us of the way He used the twelve disciples of Jesus, who were common working men God used to do great things.

God gave this simple man a big job to do. Amos was a prophet to the 10 northern tribes, the kingdom of Israel. In the days of Amos Israel had one wicked king after another. Yet because of the weakness of their larger neighbors, this was a time of peace and prosperity.

Do you see the picture? God called a simple farmer to preach to a prosperous nation who had forgotten Him. We might think that the successful times needed a sophisticated preacher, a smooth talker who graduated from a top theological academy. Yet God had another plan. God knew He could use this unlikely man in a great way.

Perhaps it is time for you start thinking outside the box. Perhaps you have thought that God could only use you in ways that seem logical and reasonable. God can and will use you in ways that makes sense; but you need to also think outside that box, considering that the most important qualification is the call of God. Not only can God use humble people like Amos, He specializes in it. Remember the principle: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).

Click here for David’s commentary on Amos 1

spiritual blindness

The Right Kind of Wisdom

Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” (Isaiah 29:13-14)

Physical blindness is a special burden to bear. Yet the Bible tells us there is a worse kind of blindness – spiritual blindness. Isaiah 29 is all about spiritual blindness – the causes and cures of it. In part, Israel was spiritually blind because they wanted it and chose it. In part, they were blind because God sent blindness upon them. Isaiah 29:13-14 explains why He did this.

spiritual blindness

First there is a dramatic accusation against the people of Jerusalem: “These people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me” In Isaiah’s day Jerusalem knew how to talk the spiritual talk, but their hearts were far from God.

You can’t always tell a person’s heart by what they say. You can’t always tell a person’s heart by what they do, at least in a single deed. Though only God can really know the heart, the closest we can come is by looking at the whole of their life – not only what they say or only what they do, and especially not only at how they act at church or among Christians.

Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). This is a true, but not absolute principle because people can draw near to God with their mouths and honor the Lord with their lips, and their hearts can still be far from God. Of course, their speech will betray them at one time or another – but perhaps it will never happen at church!

This manner of talking the talk, but not having the heart, didn’t end in Isaiah’s day. Jesus quoted this same passage from Isaiah when He rebuked the religious leaders of His day for their hypocrisy (Matthew 15:7-9, Mark 7:6-7).

Because of all this, God gave the sad verdict: “The wisdom of their wise men shall perish.” Because Jerusalem’s pride had led them into spiritual blindness, sleep, drunkenness, illiteracy, and hypocrisy, God promised to destroy the “wisdom of their wise men.” Their supposed wise men promoted the pride that led to all these evils.

Isaiah called this “a marvelous work and a wonder” when God decides to reject the wisdom of man and to display His own superior wisdom. Many years after Isaiah, the Apostle Paul was also amazed at the “wisdom” of man, and how it compared to the “foolishness” of God (1 Corinthians 1:21-25).

Isaiah and Paul were in perfect agreement about the great wisdom of God and how human wisdom – though it has its own glory – must always take a second place to the wisdom of God. You would have to be blind to not see it.

Click here for David’s commentary on Isaiah 29

no other gods before me

Making God in Our Own Image

“Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. He made shrines on the high places, and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi…So he made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in the month which he had devised in his own heart. And he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and offered sacrifices on the altar and burned incense.” (1 Kings 12:30-31, 33)

After the days of King Solomon, the twelve tribes of Israel divided into two kingdoms. The first leader of the northern kingdom was a man named Jeroboam – one of the more interesting and tragic figures of Israel’s history. Jeroboam was anointed and called by God, but very quickly became more interested in holding onto power than in honoring the God who gave it to him.

When Jeroboam led the 10 northern tribes in their rebellion, he wanted to break every tie with the southern kingdom of Judah. However, the city of Jerusalem was in Judah – and it was to that place that all the children of Israel were commanded to bring their sacrifices. Afraid to allow his people to visit Jerusalem and Judah, Jeroboam set up his own altars at the cities of Dan and Bethel.

no other gods before me

The Bible simply tells us, “Now this thing became a sin.” It was a sin when Jeroboam suggested it, but it was more of a sin when the people followed it. The people were so attracted to the religion of Jeroboam that they went as far as Dan (at the far north of Israel) to worship at the shrine of the golden calf there. Today, you can visit Israel and the site of ancient Dan and see exactly where the altar and golden calf stood.

Jeroboam went even further; “he made shrines on the high places.” He made more places of worship than the main centers at Bethel and Dan. These high places were even more convenient for the people.

Then he abolished the priesthood that God commanded, he “made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi.” Jeroboam rejected the commandments of God regarding the priesthood of Israel, and established a priesthood of his own liking.

Jeroboam arranged for a special feast to be held “in the month which he had devised in his own heart.” This is a good summary of Jeroboam’s religion – it was devised in his own heart. Jeroboam is an example of those who create their own religion according to their own taste.

For the most part, the world today believes in the religion of Jeroboam. Not necessarily his particular expression of golden calves and high places, but a religion created according to its own taste. You could say that Jeroboam believed in “Jeroboamism” – it was all devised in his own heart. He was his own priest and created his own theology – basically, he created a god in his own image.

The tendency to do the same is in us all, but fortunately God has revealed to what He is like – He tells us in the Bible. We come to realize that my opinion about God isn’t any better or worse than that of anyone else – but what God says about Himself in the Bible reveals to us the God who is really there; not just the figment of my imagination or the creation of my own heart.

It is up to each of us to carefully examine our own idea of God and ask: “Did I make this myself or does God Himself tell me this in the Bible?” At the end of it all, all the gods we make in our own image are illusions – the God of the Bible is the one who is there, He is not silent, and He is the one who can rescue and help us.

more convenient time

A More Convenient Time?

“Now as he [Paul] reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was a afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now, when I have a convenient time I will call for you.’” (Acts 24:25)

In Acts 24, Paul was on trial before a Roman governor named Felix. Felix heard what Paul said, and the Roman was impressed by the message of the gospel. He knew that he had to get his life right with Jesus Christ. Yet he avoided doing anything, and he excused it by telling Paul that he must wait for “a convenient time.”

more convenient time

The excuse of Felix is repeated over and over again in the lives of thousands upon thousands of people.

First, it has application to those who have never trusted in Jesus to be right with God and men. Perhaps they think it is fine thing to be a Christian, and it really is something they must give attention to – but not now. Later. Yes, it must be later.

They tell themselves they will give attention to spiritual things later, when life isn’t so stressed. Later, after they have had their fun. Later, when surely it will be easier to be a Christian.

Of course, all such thoughts are a delusion. There will never be a more convenient time than today. This is why the Bible says: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). If God calls a person, moving on their heart to get their life right with Jesus, it is essential that they do it now. They should never assume God will deal with their hearts the same way tomorrow, or a year from now. Every man or woman has their warnings; and every soul that ever perished had a last warning. A wise person would regard today’s warning as perhaps the last one.

Second, the passage has application to the life of those who are already Christians. We have found peace with God through the finished work of Jesus, but God hasn’t finished His work with us yet. Are there places where we resist God’s work under the excuse of waiting for a more convenient time? Perhaps one has an outburst of temper, but instead of dealing with it rightly before God, they say, “That’s just the way I am. Perhaps one day God will change me.” So, they push away the drawing, warning work of the Holy Spirit, waiting for a convenient time to get that area right with God.

God’s work in our life will often be challenging – sometimes even inconvenient for us. Can we submit to God, and allow His work to inconvenience us at times? If He is truly our Lord, we can.

Ask God today to show you things you’ve been putting off, making excuses about, and should address before Him. Then in the wisdom and strength of God’s Spirit, do it.

the right foundation

The Right Foundation

Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily. Also I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plummet; the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the hiding place.” (Isaiah 28:16-17)

Isaiah 28 is an amazing chapter. It begins as a rebuke to the drunkards of Israel and continues as a confrontation of the leaders of Israel. These men hid in their “covenant of death” and their “refuge of lies.” In response to such wickedness, God laid out a different plan – His plan. Therefore, He said, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation.” In contrast to the weak, narrow foundation of the wicked (“we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves,” Isaiah 28:15), God has a solid foundation for our life – “a stone for a foundation.”

the right foundation

What is this foundation? 1 Peter 2:6 applied this passage directly to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is the foundation for our lives, and only with a secure, stable foundation can anything lasting be built. Anything “added on” to the house, not built upon the foundation, is sure to end up in wreckage.

Who lays this stone? God said, “Behold, I lay in Zion.” Therefore, it is God’s work. We are unable to provide the right kind of foundation for our lives, but God can lay a foundation for us. We are asked to behold God’s foundation, appreciate it, wonder at it, value it, and build our lives upon it.

The more you look at it, the better it is. You see that it is “a tried stone.” Our Messiah was tried, was tested, and was proven to be the glorious, obedient Son of God in all things. You see that it is “a precious cornerstone.” Our Messiah is precious, and a cornerstone. The cornerstone provides the lines, the pattern for all the rest of the construction. The cornerstone is straight and true, and everything in the entire building lines up in reference to the cornerstone. Finally, you see that it is “a sure foundation.” Our Messiah is a sure foundation, and we can build everything on Him without fear.

Since God used the picture of a building with the image of “a stone for a foundation,” He continued on with that theme. He would make “Justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plummet.” In God’s building, it isn’t just as if He establishes the cornerstone and then walks away and allows the building to be built any way it pleases. Instead, He keeps the building straight with justice and righteousness.

Anyone not build upon this foundation will come to tragedy. As Isaiah said, “The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the hiding place.” The ungodly leaders of Jerusalem “made lies their refuge,” and found a hiding place “under falsehood” (Isaiah 28:15). But the storms of life and God’s judgment would sweep away their refuge of lies and their hiding place. They had built on the wrong foundation, and would therefore see destruction.

It might be that Jesus had this passage in mind when He spoke the words of Matthew 7:24-27. Don’t be like the foolish man; build your life on the sure foundation. If your life is on that sure foundation – then thank Him for it and enjoy it today!

Winners and Losers

“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.” (Genesis 32:24-25)

In sports, there is nothing more frustrating than losing to someone who isn’t as good as you are. Sometimes the victory is won by the player or team who isn’t as talented or as trained, but on that day, the ball bounces their way. It’s different when you lose to someone better than you are. You can walk off the field or the court knowing that you’ve played your best game, you worked hard and did well – you were just overmatched. The better player or team won.

In Genesis 32, Jacob had one of the most fantastic athletic contests of all time – a wrestling match with God. We may speak spiritually of wrestling with God in prayer, or wrestling in spiritual warfare, but Jacob’s wrestling was physical as well as spiritual. He was locked in competition with God in human form – the Man of Genesis 32:24 was God Himself who wrestled with Jacob.

On a physical level, Jacob lost. God touched his hip and took him out of the fight. Having wrestled all night, Jacob limped back to his family that morning a loser. But Jacob won spiritually; he clung to God until blessing was promised (Genesis 32:29).

Jacob was a satisfied loser. A better Man beat Him. Sometimes that’s what it takes for us to receive God’s blessing. We need to square off with God, man to Man, have Him beat us, and then honor Him as our Lord. We then may look at God as our Superior, as the competitor who has fairly and decisively bested us. As the winner of every competition, God deserves our utmost respect. And as a loser in the contest, I can still hold my head high. I have been won over by a better Man.

In what ways do I wrestle with God? There are many opportunities for me to resist what God wants to do with me. I may not physically strain against Him as Jacob did, but my resistance is just as real, and my hopes of resisting God successfully are destined to be disappointed.

Losing when I struggle against God is a good thing. It brings me back to something I need to remember: that God is the Creator and I am His creature. There is a comfort in knowing and walking in my place as His creation. I can look up to God and honor Him as the One who genuinely deserves to be my Lord. He has won me over.

Today, you can pray something like this: “Lord, help me today to see ways that I am resisting you. In those areas, please win me over. And when I find you winning me over, let me look for Your blessing in my losing.”

Not Considering the Spiritual

“Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him.” (1 Kings 16:30-31)

The 12 tribes of Israel had divided into two kingdoms – Israel in the north and Judah in the south. The first ruler of the northern kingdom was Jeroboam, who was succeeded by his son Nadab. King Nadab was assassinated and a new dynasty was established by Baasha who was followed by his son Elah. King Elah was assassinated by Zimri, who replaced him on Israel’s throne. Zimri’s reign only lasted a few days until he was killed and replaced by Omri who began the fourth dynasty to reign over the northern kingdom of Israel.

Omri was bad; his son Ahab was worse. We read, “Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.” Each of the previous kings of Israel walked in the wicked pattern of Jeroboam. Ahab distinguished himself in being worse than Jeroboam.

His father Omri was a political and economic success for Israel but a spiritual failure. Ahab picked up where his father left off. It can be said of some sons, “He has his father’s eyes.” It could be said of Ahab, “He has his father’s lies.”

Jeroboam intended to serve the Lord through idolatrous images (such as the golden calf) and in disobedient ways (altars and high places other than Jerusalem). Ahab introduced the worship of completely new, pagan gods. In his disobedience Jeroboam said, “I will worship the Lord, but do it my way.” Ahab said, “I want to forget about the Lord completely and worship Baal.” In his later years, Solomon tragically went after pagan gods. Yet Omri and Ahab were far worse in that they commanded the worship of idols.

We also read, “He took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him.” Even as the foreign wives of Solomon led to his spiritual downfall, so Ahab’s foreign wife Jezebel led him and the nation into deep idolatry.

To the natural eye, it seemed like the marriage partnership between Tyre and Israel was ideal for Israel. Tyre was near the height of its national strength. If a secular historian observed these events, he probably would have strongly approved of this marriage between Ahab and Jezebel, calling it a brilliant political and economic move. But when we consider in the spiritual dynamic, it was a disaster for Israel.

It is a lasting lesson for us: never fail to consider the spiritual dynamic. If it works politically, economically, or socially but fails spiritually – then it fails. We should learn what Ahab never seemed to learn.

We Packed and Went

“And after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem.” (Acts 21:15)

Paul and his companions were on their way to Jerusalem. They had traveled a long way, mostly across the Mediterranean Sea. Now they were on the last part of their journey, going from Caesarea on the coast and then inland toward Jerusalem.

Luke traveled with Paul, indicated by the use of “we” in this sentence. In writing about this part of the trip Luke said something small, yet in my mind significant. He noted, “we packed.” This is noticeable because this was the end of a long journey, yet Luke never before noted that they packed. They sailed from Miletus to Cos, from Cos to Rhodes, from Rhodes to Patara, from Patara to Tyre, Tyre to Ptolemais, and then finally from Ptolemais to Caesarea. They obviously packed and unpacked at each step along the way, but Luke never mentioned it. He only wrote about it here, as they prepared to leave Caesarea and go to Jerusalem.

This makes me think that perhaps this was the first time Luke visited Jerusalem, and like any follower of Jesus, he was excited. He knew that this was the famous City of David, the location of the great temple, and the place where Jesus taught, did miracles, died, rose again, and ascended to heaven. Luke thought that every detail of this last part of their long journey was exciting, and so like an excited tourist he even mentioned, “we packed.”

Beyond the sweet, personal character of those words, there are a few other things to consider about this mention that “we packed and went.”

It shows us that God loves order, and packing is simply the ordering of what we have in preparation for travel. God is a God of order and planning, and our desire to have things in order is a reflection of His image in us. We should never make order and organization an idol, but it is important to be mindful of them because God is full of order and organization.

It shows us that it is wise to prepare for where we are going. Paul, Luke, and the others traveling with them each knew that packing would help them be ready for both their travel to Jerusalem and their time there. Therefore they took the foresight to get ready by carefully packing. The same principle is true for us. We all have an appointment with the future. This is true for the near future, and it is wise for us to prepare for what lies ahead in this life. So, get an education. Learn a trade. Develop a skill. Prepare for the future.

It is even truer for our eternal future. Each of us has an appointment with eternity, one that no one escapes. You should do your packing for that journey. Give your attention to eternal things right now. That means:

– Give attention to God Word, which is eternal.
– Give attention to people, who are eternal.
– Give attention to giving, to send treasure ahead to heaven.

Before you go up to the New Jerusalem, make sure you have packed and prepared for the trip.