False Doctrine: Favour is Seasonal

I recently had a dream, and having prayed and meditated about the dream, I discovered that the dream’s interpretation, holds a corporate word for the body of Christ. I will for the sake of context give a short description of the dream, followed by its interpretation.

The dream is set on a street corner, and there are two ice-cream vendors across the street. I am standing on the street corner having a conversation with two woman. In their hands they each hold an ice-cream cup filled with ice cream. They proceed to explain to me that one particular shop’s brand of ice cream, (unlike the competitor’s brand) may be consumed in any quantity and it does not make you fat. In the dream I contend that it is not possible to eat as much ice-cream as you want without ever gaining weight. There is more to the dream, but, it is not essential to the word.

The ice-cream represents the goodness and / or favor of God.

The ice-cream shops / or vendors represent different denominational doctrines or teachings on the subject.

The women in the dream represent (false) teachers.

The weight gain or fat in the dream, represents the fatness of soul that results from experiencing the goodness and favor of God, in our lives. In short: Fat in this context, is the visible manifestation of the grace or favor of God in our lives.

The Lord revealed that the dream represents a particular doctrine, as taught by some in the church today. This doctrine contends that the favour of God, as represented by the ice-cream, is seasonal, and that it may come and go. These same teachers in effect contend that you may partake of the favor of God, without it ever visibly manifesting in our lives / souls / bodies. In other words they teach that there are seasons when there is no visible manifestation of the grace or favor of God in our lives. Conversely they hold to the notion that you have designated seasons when it is your turn for favour so to speak. They often proclaim things like: “It is your season of favour!”, or “Favour – it is your turn!” I believe this a false doctrine, because it is my contention that favour is constantly accessible to us in Christ. Let us explore this notion further.

Psalm 30:5 states the following: “For His anger is but for a moment, His favour is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning”. I believe that when the Psalmist states that His favour lasts for a lifetime, it serves as irrefutable evidence in support of my argument, but lest I get accused of building a doctrine on one verse, let me delve a little deeper.

I have intentionally  used the words “grace” and “favour” interchangeably in the interpretation of the dream, because they are by definition the same. A quick study of the word grace reveals the following:

Cognate: 5485 xáris (another feminine noun from xar-, “favour, disposed to, inclined, favorable towards, leaning towards to share benefit”) – properly, grace. 5485 (xáris) is preeminently used of the Lord’s favour – freely extended to give Himself away to people (because He is “always leaning toward them”).

5485 /xáris (“grace”) answers directly to the Hebrew (OT) term 2580 /Kaná (“grace, extension-toward”). Both refer to God freely extending Himself (His favor, grace), reaching (inclining) to people because He is disposed to bless (be near) them.

[5485 (xáris) is sometimes rendered “thanks” but the core-idea is “favour, grace” (“extension towards”).]

What I find remarkable about this definition of grace, is the notion that God freely extends Himself to man, revealing Himself as One who continuously  “leans toward” us, primarily to be with us, but also to share His benefits and goodness with us. What is perhaps more revealing is that the truth contained within the definition reflects His unchanging character  in both Old and New Covenants. By virtue of the definition of grace being almost identical in both the Hebrew and Greek languages, we know that He never changes, and that grace is not a seasonal by product. We know then that God’s favour spans two covenants and is the expression and very substance of His nature! The Old Covenant points TOWARD Jesus, and the New Covenant points BACK to the same Christ, and it all testifies of His reaching out to us, to save us, and be gracious to us. He longs to be gracious to us after all (Isaiah 30:18).

It is true that we presently live under the dispensation of grace, as opposed to the Law of Moses, but there was never a time when God was not gracious to man, and when that grace did not manifest in Him CONSTANTLY seeking after us, and inclining Himself to us. I believe it is important to understand that the concept of grace and favour is therefore inherent to the character of God, and not a dispensational consideration. If His grace is inherent to who He is, and a reflection of His nature; then how can grace be seasonal, since He is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8).

A few points to consider then:

  • By definition of the word, we may argue that to suggest that favor is temporal or seasonal; is to suggest that grace is seasonal or temporal. It is as absurd as suggesting that there are seasons in our lives when grace is absent or not visible. Now, I concur that we all have  seasonal aspects to our lives, and that there does exists a particular grace for a particular season. To conclude however that favour is absent in certain seasons, could not be more wrong. Let me give you an example, to clarify an apparent contradiction: My wife and I recently received our second child into this world. We are now in a season where we have to sleep less and do more. We have come to discover that there is a particular grace for this particular dispensation of our lives. We somehow cope and find favor in the strangest of places. An old friend for example has suddenly offered to baby-sit, and my 18 month old son has suddenly / finally started sleeping through the night. Yes, our daughter has ushered in a new type and level of grace, but grace and favor, were never absent with the birth of our first son. I know this because we travelled all over the world while my wife was pregnant with him. Moreover there was a time when my son grew up in airports, hotels, and bed and breakfasts. I recall one particular trip where we visited four nations in three months, and in one particular nation, we stayed in seven different hotels and bed and breakfasts in ten days! We washed bottles in hotel sinks, we almost never knew what we were going to feed him next, and sometimes we did not even know where we were going to sleep that particular night. If you have done any kind of traveling with children, you will know what manner of favor and grace is required to manage this sort of thing. Grace and favor were never absent from our lives; our lives simply look different now, and therefore so does the type and level of grace that is active in our lives. The truth is that we have received grace upon grace in our lives (John 1:16)

Am I then suggesting different levels of grace and favor exist in our lives and by implication in the lives of others? Yes, I am. 1 Samuel 2:26 states plainly that young Samuel grew in both stature and favor with God and man. Notice, he had favor with God and man. He always had it, he simply grew in it. This favour increased, not that it appeared and disappeared. Yes, as I said, one can hardly build a case on the strength of one verse – so I include Luke 2:40 which states that God’s favor rested (abided) on Jesus – as in permanently –  and Luke 2:52 states that Jesus also increased in favor with both God and man. I may have more favor today – God willing – than yesterday, but that does not mean that favor was absent before.

There may at times exist a discrepancy between the favour received from God, and the favour received from man. In fact, I am pretty sure God is most always more gracious than men. David rightly said that He would rather fall into the hands of God than the hands of man. I make this point, because people often experience a lack of generosity from other people and they equate this experience to an absence of favour from God. Sadly this does not mean God’s grace is absent from our lives. Ironically it often means a yet greater measure of God’d grace is needed in our lives. Saul treated David poorly, and yet, David found grace with God. I can assure you that when Jesus went to the cross, He had little favour with most men of influence, and yet He he probably received a extraordinary measure of grace from His Father for that very hour.

Do some people have more favor than others? Yes. There are many scriptures in the bible that state that someone found favour with God, when it appears others did not. Abel in Genesis 4:4, Noah in Genesis 6:8, Joseph in Genesis 39:21, Moses is Exodus 33:12, are all examples where men found favour with God. Does the manifestation of God’s goodness in the lives of a particular individual negate the existence of favour in the lives of another? I do not believe so, since silence on a particular subject is not evidence of its existence is it? Joseph had more favour than his brothers, but the Bible records those same brothers, later, finding favour with both God and Joseph……. Perhaps on another occasion we can explore how to grow in favour, how to find favour in  particular situations, and once revealed how to follow it. For now, my aim is merely to make the point that favour is not temporal or seasonal.

  •  Was there ever a time when God was not leaning or inclining Himself toward man? Was the Son of man not crucified from the foundation of the earth?(Revelation 13:8). He has therefore made an eternal covenant of grace with us through His Son Jesus, so that our sin may not, and never again separate us from Him. He reaches, extends and brought Himself to us through Jesus, so that we may always be where He is.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 states that God reconciled the world to Himself through a single act of grace. If then, we enter Christ through a covenant of grace, and it is here that we live and are sustained by the Spirit of Grace, how then can we say that we are separated from Grace / favour, or that it is a seasonal concept. To suggest such is to suggest that salvation and our union with Christ is seasonal. The  gift of salvation is the ultimate expression of grace and favour – unmerited as it is. The grace and the favour of God will become seasonal only when we become seasonally saved. It must be said at this point that God causes the sun to rise on the evil and He sends forth His rains on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). Even the unsaved experience His favour, as do the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. How much more not for us who live in Him, breathe in Him, and have all our being in Him? It was always God’s eternal plan to unite us with Him eternally through Christ. This is an eternal expression of grace is it not?

We will do well to remember, that the gifts, blessings and indeed everything that is good is contained in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, Colossians 1:17). How then do we attain to these things apart from the grace of Christ, for the Bible assures that we have nothing that was not given to us. So then,  we who are in Christ, are not only sustained by Him, but through this same grace  we have access to all His goodness and fullness.

There are two things that we therefore cannot lay claim to:

a) That we are ever separated from Jesus, and by extension from His grace and His favor. (We know this, because we are seated in Him in heavenly places – Ephesians 2:4-7 – and this very truth testifies the immeasurable riches of His grace toward us. (Note that the Apostle Paul actually uses the words “the immeasurable riches of His grace”, in this context. Last I checked the word immeasurable is without measure.

b) We may further never say that He will ever leave us, and by implication remove His grace from us. Does Jesus Himself not in Matthew 28:20 assure us that He would never leave us?

I therefore want to go so far as to suggest that to claim to be absent from the grace or favour of God is to claim to be absent from God Himself. Does the Psalmist not say that there is nowhere that he can go to separate himself from God – even in the depths of hell (Psalm 139:7-12).  For those of us who profess to be saved by grace, must always be aware that we are in some respect, a recipient of grace and favour, even and more importantly in a dark hour.

Perhaps it is important to add this thought to the discussion: That if favour is the manifestation of His grace then, it is only when we return to works, that we separate  ourselves from His favour and grace. Our reliance on self separates us from the need for grace. This too is a possible thread for another day – Works the Death of Favour!

I pondered the origin of this peculiar doctrine, that spawned slogans like “Favour, it is your turn!”. To my knowledge it is based, in part at least, on the story of Queen Esther who received favour from the king, when he chose her above other maidens to be his wife. It is said that it was Esther’s turn for favour. I understand that it was her time to become Queen, and that she was born for a time such as this. I further understand that she even required favour from God and man to ascend the throne. Was it however her season to suddenly find favour, where it was previously absent? Was it now her turn? I think not.

Esther survived the plunder of her city, the killing of her people and ultimately being taken into captivity when her city, was conquered by an enemy who hated her people with a sincere hatred. Her survival, has the appearance  of the manifestation of favour in her life. Second, she was a orphan, adopted by her uncle Mordecai who was a wise, righteous, and influential man. Later, he too became a prominent man in the very kingdom of his captors. I can not help to think that she owed much of her wisdom in speech, her discretion in decision making, even her manner and her conduct to his influence and upbringing. To lose your parents , and to be placed in the care of such a man is more than a gracious act, it is Divine providence. Esther was a peasant, and yet, she was selected to be part of the line-up of virgins that went before the king as one of his prospective brides. Does this not  also testify of God’s favour? Then, she found favour with the king’s eunuch, and moreover Esther 2:15 states that she found favour with all who saw her. Later, she was selected by the king to be his wife, and even after that this she found further favour with him, when he extended his scepter to her, when she should have been killed. He later  granted her all her petitions – several times – and saved her people. I am of the opinion that Queen Esther’s entire life is a testimony of unmerited, and unconditional favour. Did she grow in favour – certainly. Did she find a greater measure of favour than her peers? It certainly does appear that way. But, was favour absent and it suddenly became her season to experience favour – I believe not, her life was, in my opinion an epistle of grace.

In closing, we may do well to remember the burning bush of Moses. Only a select few, like Moses turn to observe the Holy manifestation. I can not help but feel that it is so when we look and search for the trail of bread- crumbs and stones that God scattered in our lives to lead us home. They are always present, but they are only seen through the eyes of the humble and received by the hearts of the grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sojourning 101

Abraham had a habit of building an altar to the Lord whenever he entered a new territory, or when he encountered God. I am encouraged to do the same  as a way of staking a claim for God both in the spirit, and in the natural realms. We who are born of God, consider ourselves to be sojourners on earth, with heaven being our true home. Our journey often takes us to unexpected places, often far from home.

Abraham was told to leave his home and go to a place which God would show him. During his travels, a famine in Canaan forced him and his wife Sarah to go to Egypt. Upon leaving Egypt, Abraham travelled South to camp between Bethel and Ai. Genesis 13:4 tells us that it was the very place where he once lived and first erected an altar to the Lord of Hosts. It is further written that he returned to call on the name of the Lord at this very altar, upon his return from Egypt.

Abraham never fails to inspire me through his relationship with God – it is truly a life worthy of imitation. As the story of our life unwinds and we travel this earth, it is essential to our faith that we always return to our foundations in Christ. The altars in our life are reminders of God and who He has been to us.  They are testimonies of his character and nature; and they are so interwoven with our own lives, that we hardly know where His story begins and ours end. We must like Abraham, return to these landmarks, if only to remind ourselves of the land He once gave us. It is in this land that we are secure in the faith, because the altars represent the assurance of who He was, is and will be to us who call on His name.

Perhaps circumstances has forced you take a turn in Egypt. Remind yourself of what the Lord has done for you,  and how in the past when you called upon His name, he answered you and met you in that place.

 

Taking Territory

I have enjoyed reading about Abraham very much. I am drawn to his relationship with God. He was not a man who engaged in pious religious acts, and yet his relationship with God permeated most every part of his daily life. As he sojourned the earth, God was His constant companion. Where Abraham walked, God was sure to be at his side. They were as a pair of explorers breaking ground and taking territory for God.

When Abraham left his home, on the instruction of the Lord, he came to Canaan. Genesis 12:7 provides us with some detail: “ Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him”. In the very next verse we read that Abraham moved to a place between Ai and Bethel, and again he built an altar unto the Lord, and called upon His name. In Genesis 21:33 we read how Abraham wins back the well that people tried to steal from him. In response to winning back the territory, Abraham plants a Tamarisk tree unto the Lord, and there he calls upon the name of God.  It is enormously significant that whenever Abraham entered new territory, or took ground, he would build an altar to the Lord and worship Him.

I believe that taking ground in the spirit and in the natural is inextricably linked to worship. We, like Abraham need to lay down a marker in the spirit and in the natural, declaring that the land is now under the reign of the Kingdom of God. Yes, the land was promised to Abraham, by a God that does not lie. And yet, Abraham habitually built altars unto the Lord God as and when he took new territory. Abraham was not passive in his worship or in His pursuit of the territory that God promised him. He was very much intentional and such a natural and instinctive response can only be borne out of relationship. Let us be equally deliberate and focused in taking land for God.

 

 

The Crown of God’s Creation

I dreamed last night that I had a conversation with someone about investment opportunities within companies on the stock exchange. I pointed out a particular company, and said that it was run by a man of God. I went on to say that we should  invest in people, rather than moisturizer. The Lord revealed some principles of truth through the dream that are worth sharing.

People are the crown of God’s creation. And therefore they should be the single greatest determinate of how and where to invest our time and resources. Hebrews 2:7 declares it so: “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands”. And although there does exists some debate over the exact translation of this verse, it is fair to say that man is God’s glorious creation. We should further realize that man was set over the work of God’s hands. It is therefore clear that God values the hands that make the product of greater value than the product itself. The product may be replicated, but the person can not. In real terms, the man behind the company or ministry is more important than the ministry itself.

People are stock of God’s company  –  that is His Kingdom. They are His creation and His investment. He poured the best of Him into us when we were created in His image. He further gave the best of Him, in His Son, to preserve and bless us with the fullness of life. The precious blood of Jesus was spilled for man, and not for an organisation.

When we invest in people, we partner with God, His designs, plans and purposes on earth. He invested in people and empowered them to establish His purposes. When we do the same, we honour His creation, and recognize lasting value in the “stock” that is the pinnacle of His creation.