A Heavy Heart

Generally in Western culture when we refer to someone having a ‘heavy heart’ we are speaking of someone dealing with grief or deep sadness. The Lord has a different perspective.

2  Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts. Proverbs 21:2 (NKJV)

When He speaks of weighing the heart the Lord is examining our motivations. From His perspective a heavy heart is one that carries His presence.

In the New Testament Paul said his afflictions were working in his life the eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Paul was a Hebrew and a former Pharisee. His comment on the ‘weight of glory’ is a reference to the Hebrew word kabod, which literally means ‘heavy’ but is used it in a figurative sense to mean glory, honour or splendour. The reason Paul spoke of the weight is twofold, one is that the primary meaning of kabod is heavy or weighty. The other is that we can see the tangible result of the weight of His presence in the lives of believers.  

The context for Paul talking about the weight of glory is our transformation into the image of Jesus.

18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

As Christians we carry His presence. When we respond correctly to whatever is happening in our lives the ‘weight of glory,’ His presence, increases in us. I am sure all or most of us have met someone in whom we see Jesus. Those are people that from His perspective have a ‘heavy heart.’ They get that way by how they respond to circumstances. When Paul talked about beholding Jesus I believe He referred to sitting with and before Him, fixing the gaze of our heart upon Him. I also believe, based on what he wrote in chapter four of his afflictions and what they were working in him, that another aspect of beholding Jesus and being changed is seeing Him in whatever we are going through and looking for His presence there.

So what is the Lord looking for when He weighs our hearts? He is looking for Jesus. Are we also looking for Jesus in our circumstances no matter what they are and thus carrying and releasing Jesus splendour, glory and character wherever we go?

Sheep Into Horses

Have you ever wondered how to turn sheep into horses? No I am not talking about evolution: this is more akin to revolution. In general Christians, like the nation of Israel, are often referred to as sheep. We have Psalm 23 with the Lord’s people being the sheep and Him the Shepherd. We have Jesus affirming this in John 10 saying He is the good shepherd. We also have Jesus restoring Peter in John 21 referring to His people as sheep. Suffice to say this is a well established teaching and perspective, nor is it a wrong one. Yet we have this interesting verse.

Zechariah 10:3 (NKJV)
3  “My anger is kindled against the shepherds, And I will punish the goatherds. For the LORD of hosts will visit His flock, The house of Judah, And will make them as His royal horse in the battle.”

In the church believers are frequently referred to as sheep, and treated that way, herded into pens and fed once or twice a week. There are varying degrees of leadership and mindsets that drive that leadership. While some leadership is very effective we are all deceiving ourselves if we think we can lead as effectively and with the same wisdom as Jesus. He alone can make sheep like horses in battle.

The current situation is a bit like Joshua’s encounter (Josh. 5:13-15). The Lord had trained Joshua through Moses, displayed His power through Joshua in the crossing of the Jordan, the people had been circumcised, and now Joshua meets a warrior with a drawn sword. Joshua wants to know whose side the warrior is on. It is the Lord and in essence He says, “I didn’t come to take side, I came to take over.”

While Jesus is always present in our services the environment shifts when our experience moves from His omnipresence to His manifest presence. When He begins to move on our hearts and manifest His glory our responsibility is to bow our hearts and knees and passionately walk in obedience. Presently, like the sons of Issachar, we need to know times and seasons and know what to do (1 Chron. 12:32). I believe it is time for His church to arise and shine (Is. 60:1-2). As darkness has been increasing in our nation I believe a shift is available for hungry hearts. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice (Jn. 10:3, 16). Do we hear Him calling us to be a horse in His battle? Is this our heart cry? If it is let us join in this ancient prayer.

1  Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence – 2  As fire burns brushwood, As fire causes water to boil – To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence! 3  When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, The mountains shook at Your presence. 4  For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. Isaiah 64:1-4 (NKJV)

We Will Ride by Andy Park

To Behold His Beauty

Here are some verses that are designed to draw our hearts in.

1  O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. 2  So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Psalm 63:1-2 (NKJV)

4  One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4 (NKJV)

18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

If we are not, or have not, experienced the reality of 2 Corinthians 3:18 it may be that we need to understand and apply the verses in the Psalms. A literal rendering of Psalm 63:2 from the Hebrew is, So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory. That is in fact how the ESV renders it,

2  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Psalm 63:2 (ESV)

The word ‘see/behold’ in Psalm 63:2 is the same Hebrew translated behold in Psalm 27:4. In both Psalms there is an expression of a longing and desire to encounter our King and our God. We have David giving expression to the key longing in his life, a desire for intimacy with Yahweh.

Paul’s heart mirrors David’s but to get to Paul’s heart in 2 Corinthians 3:18 it is important to read Philippians 3:7-14 where Paul gives voice to his one ‘one thing’ longing and says he has given up everything else for his pursuit of Jesus heart. It may be tempting to assume the transformation spoken of by Paul, this beholding, is automatic, it is not. Beholding Jesus is a choice. After all 2 Corinthians 3:17 tells us that where the Holy Spirit is we have liberty. We must choose to pursue His heart and value His presence enough to be transformed.  

Is this beholding easy to do? Yes. Is it difficult to maintain? Yes. I do not know what works for everyone. I know in my own life I need to set aside distractions and by faith focus the gaze of my heart upon Him. I usually do not see anything, I do experience His presence and hear Him speaking to my heart. When I am faithful in this pursuit it spills over into other parts of my day. Others can assess whether or not I am being transformed into His image, I know I am encountering His heart.

So, find a way and time that works for you and make it a habit to come to Him with a hunger and longing. He will fill it.

This song gives expression to a longing heart. The idea of ‘waiting’ in the Old Testament is to look to Yahweh with expectation.  Waiting Here for You

The Battle for Water

In Genesis we discover a battle for water that is connected to wells. The first instance happens in Genesis 21.

25  Then Abraham rebuked Abimelech because of a well of water which Abimelech’s servants had seized. Genesis 21:25 (NKJV)

In this case Abraham had dug the well and others tried to take it. We see the same issue, a contention over water being played out in the life of Isaac.

17  Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. 18  And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them. 19  Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there. 20  But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they quarreled with him. 21  Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah. 22  And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” 23  Then he went up from there to Beersheba. 24  And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” 25  So he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well. Genesis 26:17-25 (NKJV)

In the passage above Isaac had to again dig the wells of Abraham because the enemy had filled them with dirt and debris. A message here is that we cannot subsist on the water of our parents. They may have provided something for us but we need to clean it off and engage with it, we need to dig down and keep the well unstopped. Another point is that there is a battle for our well. The word Esek means ‘quarrel’ and the word Sitnah means ‘enmity.” Accessing water is a battle and we must value this water enough to contend for it!

The last point in the passage above is that there is a connection between worship (the altar) and digging wells. It is presented so casually it is easy to miss, build an altar, dig a well. There is no contention mentioned. In fact as the chapter continues later on we find his enemies recognizing God’s favour on Isaac and coming and making a covenant with him and committing to not offend against him. Then what happens?

32  It came to pass the same day that Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.” Genesis 26:32 (NKJV)

We see from Jesus that the well represents drawing on the water of the Spirit. Jesus ideal is that living water will flow out from our hearts.

37  On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38 (NKJV)

The order Jesus gives us is that we come to Him and drink and then the water flows out from us. Or as Isaiah put it.

3  Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:3 (NKJV)

In summary, when we were born again a well of living water was established in our spirit. To walk as Jesus desires we need to continually draw on this well. The enemy knows this and contends with us for it and seeks to plug it up through things like anger, bitterness and unforgiveness – the quarreling and enmity Isaac experienced. We keep the water flowing by guarding our hearts and walking in love and forgiveness. We like Isaac need to establish an altar of worship that releases this living water to those around us.

My own experience and that of many others is that we keep the well flowing through sitting with Him, drawing on His word and engaging our heart in worship. So let’s contend for the flow of living water by establishing a lifestyle of being in the word, communion and worship.

Deep Calls Unto Deep

Many of us will be familiar with this verse from Psalm 42 but let’s dig into the first four words a bit.  

7  Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. Psalm 42:7 (NKJV)

Leading up to these four words the first five verses of Psalm 42 are basically an expression of both complaint and deep longing. We have a panting for water brooks, a thirsty soul, flowing tears and the writer, David, being mocked. We then transition to a ‘cast down’ soul. For those of us not familiar with the meaning of the image, David was drawing on his background as a shepherd. A ‘cast’ sheep is one that has rolled over on its back or side and due to pregnancy or heavy wool cannot get up. In this position it cannot right itself, like a turtle stuck on its back. Gas builds up in the stomach and the sheep will die if left in this condition. The sheep needs outside intervention.

It is in this despondent condition that in verse 6 David’s focus shifts.

6  O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, And from the heights of Hermon, From the Hill Mizar. Psalm 42:6 (NKJV)

Rather than wallowing in how he feels David shifts his focus from his feelings to his heavenly Father (he repeats this process again in the rest of the Psalm). This leads to him exclaiming, “Deep calls unto deep.” So let’s explore a bit of what that means.

We know is that deep things are not on the surface of the water. We need to go further down in and the scriptures tells us the Lord wants to search the inner depths in us.

27  The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)

This is what David experienced. In the midst of his complaint, his ‘cast down’ state, the Father touched something deep within David and his perspective began to shift. This required both that the Father was involved and David was involved. Deep touched deep and hope was restored.

So, if we are in this state we can pour out our complaint and in the midst of pouring it out let us look to His heart, receive His touch and let Him shift our perspective.

His Resting Place

Through Isaiah the Lord asks something very interesting.

1  Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?” Isaiah 66:1 (NKJV)

The obvious answer is that nothing we build or create can contain Him or be a place for Him to rest. Yet what He did when Israel journeyed in the wilderness was have them build a place where His presence would dwell and rest. This place was the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle of Moses. His presence dwelt and rested between the wings of the cherubim over the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. Later Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem and God’s glory came and filled the temple when it was dedicated and He was there in the Holy of Holies over the Mercy Seat (2 Chron.7:1-14).

Given the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon predated Isaiah we need to better understand Isaiah’s prophetic point. In seeking to understand Isaiah there is something else to consider.

41  “Now therefore, Arise, O LORD God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, And let Your saints rejoice in goodness.” 2 Chronicles 6:41 (NKJV)

8  Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. 9  Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, And let Your saints shout for joy. 10  For Your servant David’s sake, Do not turn away the face of Your Anointed. Psalm 132:8-10 (NKJV)

The passages above both speak of Yahweh arising, ‘to Your resting place.’ We generally arise FROM rest, not TO rest, yet scripture says the opposite. The idea was Yahweh wanted somewhere not just to be but a place to rest in and upon. As already noted, Isaiah raised His prophetic point after the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon had been erected so clearly Isaiah was looking to something else. That something else began long after Isaiah had stepped from time into eternity.

Whether he knew it or not Isaiah’s question pointed forward to the birth of the church. Stephen (Acts. 7:48-49) and Paul (Acts 17:24) both affirm that God does not dwell in physical structures, temples made with human hands. What we know from the New Testament is that He now dwells in flesh and blood temples.

16  Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV)

19  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV)

So, this answers part of Isaiah’s prophetic question, He dwells in His body birthed through Jesus death and resurrection. He made His own house. Now, we need to answer the other part, are we walking with Him in such a way that in us He can arise TO His rest? Though Jesus is now dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit is He relationally at rest in us?

A Corporate Body

Imagine walking through the forest along a well maintained trail and looking to one side and seeing signs of a faint path in the woods that is covered with dead branches and underbrush. It is an old path but to explore it will require a fresh clearing of the path for it to be usable.

Similarly, a path in the church that is given little focus and is largely overgrown is an understanding of the corporate nature of His body. So to that end let’s clear away some theological underbrush so that we can see this path and explore it.

We may at times reference Paul’s use of the different parts of a body in exploring spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12) but we need to go beyond think of our role/body specifically and see our in His body when we hear the term. In the West we live in a very individualistic culture, however the New Testament (NT) was written in the context of a culture that focused on community over individuals. While every individual is important and of incredible value because of Jesus sacrifice, the focus of the NT, just like the first century culture, is where we as individuals fit into His body, the larger community. We are called to find our place in the body to serve and encourage the other parts of the body (Gal. 5:13, Heb. 10:24-25).

Here is a sampling of verses that highlight this truth.

4  Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5  you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NKJV)

20  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, 21  in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:20-22 (NKJV)

14  For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15  from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– 19  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, Ephesians 3:14-20 (NKJV)   

Peter is saying we are individual stones in a larger building. The ‘you’ in Ephesians 2 and 3 are both plural, not singular. Paul’s prayer is for a corporate rather than individual experience. He wants us to know that the church corporate is what we are being built into and that our growth is to be into Jesus. He is the foundation and the purpose of our growth, as Peter also notes, is that we are shaped to align with the cornerstone. We need to look like and reflect Jesus to properly fit into His body. Paul also prays that we as the church corporately would experience the width, length, depth and height of Jesus love.

So, if we want to grow let’s walk a corporate path, looking for ways to build up and serve His body because when one grows we all grow.

A New Year

We are a week into a new year, 2020, when many are expecting new or improved vision. At the same time it is easy for our resolutions to fade in the light of the reality of the day to day tasks of the post holiday season. Given that the scriptures encourage us to embrace one primary resolution.  

18  But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. Proverbs 4:18 (NKJV)

Our calling is to continually seek to get closer to Him, to draw near to His heart. In the process something I think we need to reflect on is our corporate rather than individual calling. Our culture encourages a great deal of focus on self, and while we need an awareness of our purpose and calling, the context is always as part of a body.

The New Testament places great value on the individual soul but not in isolation. In our calling to walk deeper into Him we are called to the following.

15  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – 16  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 (NKJV)

We are to speak the truth, be motivated by love and seek to see each one of us take our place in the body and see the whole body strengthened and each member effectively doing their part. The context is that we are together being built into His dwelling place.

19  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, 21  in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJV)

It is a joined together body that Jesus is building for His dwelling place. This past week. A friend sent a note asking what I sensed the Spirit was saying for this year. I prayed and what He spoke to my heart was, “We need to find our voice.” My understanding of this is that ‘we’ the church as a corporate body need to understand and embrace our authority and discern His strategy in speaking into our culture.

In conclusion, my prayer is that this year we would resolve to find our place in His body and see it strengthened to accomplish His corporate purposes.

A Time to Act (Guest Post from my friend Wouter)

As we stand on the threshold of a new year, we may all have made resolutions. Some of us have so often made and failed to keep New Year’s resolutions that we have now resolved to make no new resolutions but to do things on our own, in our own way.

There is an old dishwasher in my garage that has been collecting dust for a long time. I was going to say months, but it’s more likely been there for a few years. I am not even sure exactly how it got there but I think that at the time it was replaced I thought the appliance guy wanted way too much money to haul the old dishwasher away. So there it sits.

I know it has been there for a long time because it no longer has that stale water, dead matter stink that an unopened, unused dishwasher can have when it sits for a while. Once the water dries out of the system completely, the smell pretty much evaporates, too.

I tried once or twice to lift that old washer onto the back of my pickup; I even tried to use a 2 by 10 plank as an inclined plane to maneuver the appliance onto the truck bed. That didn’t work so well! So, I pushed it back out of the way.

I did find the top to be a useful work area for some of the repairs and tinkering I had to do; it was sure easier working at waist level than bending over to drill holes and run screws into some small pieces of wood. That top was only occasionally useful, and then the whole appliance was an obstruction. And the only way I could get it out of my way was to push it over to my wife’s side of the garage. After all, she had the smaller vehicle and she didn’t need nearly the room my truck needed. And after all, it was her fault the dishwasher was there in the first place. She was the one that wanted a new one!

When it was first put out into the garage, the young man next door offered to help me put the old washer on the back of my truck so I could take it to the dump. The first time it just wasn’t convenient – I had other important things to do. The young guy was muscular enough that he could probably have lifted the washer onto the truck all by himself, but I never let him.

The next time he saw me out front in the garage, he offered again, suggested really, that it would be a good idea to get rid of that old appliance. My priority that day was to take the truck to the car wash and to come home and have a nice nap in the sun.

He has offered many times since. Sometimes we made a joke of it; sometimes I merely ignore his offer. Over time it has gotten to the point that I avoid going out front when I see my neighbour outside. In fact, I am not sure whether he still lives next door, or whether he ever did. Maybe I only imagined him!

And while it does continue to collect dust, and other junk, that old washer is not really in my way; I can always maneuver around it. I’m not sure whether it bothers my wife or not, but she’ll just have to suck it up. There really isn‘t a lot I can do about it. Some things are just the way they are. And the only real problem I had was that I had to clean out an old mouse’s nest from the inside. I guess it squeezed in through one of the inlet valves or hoses or something.

You know, if people don’t like that old dishwasher in the garage – too bad.

Truly an absurd story. And I have to confess that I have been stringing you along.

But isn’t this the way we treat a loving compassionate God who comes alongside and offers to help us take the garbage out? We thank Him and let Him know that the time is not convenient, we hide from His repeated appearances and appeals until we almost believe that He never existed although there are those crucial times of emotional strain or pain or joy when we love the idea of a god. The rest of the time we push our problems off to the side, and let others know that if they don’t like it they don’t have to get involved. After all, that’s the way we were born, and we can’t help being who we are. In fact, we have to be who we are. When our issues are too much for us we project our problems onto someone else – and it is no longer ours.

We value independence. Common sense has taught us it is the wise way to conduct ourselves. Self sufficiency will get us to our goals; but it turns out this great wisdom is actually foolishness!  When we say we need no one, we err, especially when we need no God. The Bible says, Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”  (Ps. 14:1)

In 2020 may we flee our own foolishness! May we resolve to draw nearer to the one who wants to help us take the garbage out!

The Hope of Christmas

Generally when we anticipate Christmas we anticipate celebrating Jesus birth, which is a good thing. Yet His birth was the seed of something, not the fruit. A number of years ago I read the story of one pastor who set up the Nativity scene each year with a spotlight behind a cross so the shadow of the cross fell upon the Nativity scene because this was why Jesus was born. He came to give us hope at His birth but this hope could only be fully realized through the completion of His purpose, His death and resurrection.  

Over the centuries this hope has been realized in the lives of multiplied millions of people. One of those was John Newton, author of the famous hymn Amazing Grace. Newton was a former slave trader who found freedom in Christ and became a Minister. One day he was preaching in an asylum on the power of the blood of Christ. There was a despondent young man there who shuffled down the hall to hear Newton, listened to the message and after he shuffled back to his room and began to write.

Newton’s message brought hope to him and changed him. He was released from the asylum, became friends with Newton and they published a book of hymns together. He became a well-known poet and Martin Luther King Jr. often quoted from his abolitionist poem, ‘The Negro’s Complaint.’ The young man was William Cowper. What he sat down and wrote that day is recorded below. When listening reflect on this truth of scripture to anchor your soul.

17  Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18  that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, Hebrews 6:17-19 (NKJV)