Do You See What I See?

There is an expression used in relation to positions in conflict resolution, ‘Where you stand depends on where you sit.’ In essence, how we see things depends on the perspective from which we are looking at them. Jesus addressed perspective on many occasions and we will look at one example.

The context for the passage below is Jesus being tired and hungry, resting at Jacob’s well while the disciples headed to town for food and Jesus then ministering to the one who has become known as the ‘Samaritan Woman.’ The disciples return as Jesus is still talking with the woman.

31  In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32  But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33  Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” 34  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35  Do you not say, ‘’There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” John 4:31-35 (NKJV)

The disciples misunderstood a few things here, as I suspect most of us would have.

Since culturally they didn’t associate with Samaritans the disciples were experiencing an internal conflict. From where they sat Jesus should not be talking to the woman, yet He was their leader and they were being discipled by Him so they didn’t challenge what He was doing. They had experienced enough to know He was up to something but they didn’t see it.

Jesus informed them that His encounter with the woman strengthened Him because she responded to truth. There was spiritual food and natural food to draw from. I’m sure Jesus still ate later on. Jesus then used another natural event, harvest time to make a further point. While naturally they were not in harvest time Jesus was telling them to see differently. There was a more important harvest, one that harvested people for His kingdom, and it was ready to be reaped.

It is clear that Jesus intent in this brief encounter was to teach them rather than confuse them. He highlighted their internal conflict to broaden their perspective. So when we see something in His kingdom that doesn’t align with how we think and see perhaps where we stand is connected to where we are sitting and we need to ask Jesus if He wants us to change chairs.  

There Stands One Among You

The source of this phrase is John the Baptist speaking of Jesus.

26  John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know.” John 1:26 (NKJV)

The word translated ‘know’ is the Greek verb oida and means to, “Know fully; understand, recognize (The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary).

The reality here was that Jesus was walking among the people unnoticed. While He was publicly identified when John baptized Him a short time later, even after this only a few recognized who He really was. For example, long before Peter had his experience (Matt. 16) Nathaniel declared His deity.

49  Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” John 1:49 (NKJV)

Like Peter, Nathaniel received this by revelation. In minutes he went from sarcastic doubter (Can anything good come out of Nazareth?) to believer and follower. He now knew the one John had referred to and his heart had shifted.

In a similar manner One is walking among us all the time, walking in our culture, walking in our days, walking in our relationships. As we go about our daily lives He desires to be involved in our daily decisions and actions. Do we understand, recognize and follow Him?

Walk in the Spirit

Scripture encourages us in many ways. One encouragement Paul provides is as follows.

16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (NKJV)

In our Christian walk the Holy Spirit is our leader. His job is to lead, ours is to follow. At times we will be on a well-established trail with clearly marked directions. At other times the trail will be faint or very difficult to follow. As a general principle we need to always be paying attention to His leading to walk with Him. We need to hear when He tells us to pause, to turn, to press on, to stop and rest.

His leading will not always make logical sense. Years ago a fellow shared a story of how the Holy Spirit trained him to listen. He said he was directed to drive around town and given a sense of when to turn and where. This may seem like it was a pointless exercise but he said he learned to be attentive to the Holy Spirit leading him. The benefit came when one day he was driving and had a sudden sense to stop as he came to a green light. He hit the brakes and someone came tearing through the red light and would have broadsided him had he not stopped.

I’m not suggesting this is the way He will train all of us. Just as good coaches develop individualized plans based on the developmental needs of their players, so He knows what we need to learn and seeks to draw us into His specific training program for our lives. I know in my walk it is more about my thought life and speech. At times I have a sense, ‘say this’ or ‘don’t say that.’ I find when I listen I experience His peace resting in and on me.

While peace is one indicator if we want a broader look at how well we are doing He has provided us with a diagnostic tool in Gal. 5:19-23. Here Paul shows the fruit of walking after the flesh in contrast to walking after the Spirit. While we may be in and out of either way of walking at times, the more we submit to His leading the deeper the habit of waling with Him becomes established in our lives and the more of His fruit we manifest.

Recently I was walking with a younger man on an established trail and I was breaking off some overhanging branches that were in the way. I explained why and he joined me. Whenever I hike, even if I don’t think I will ever be on the trail again, I habitually clear branches and remove small rocks and sticks. I believe it is a basic function of leadership to improve the path for others. In a similar manner the Holy Spirit is always leading us in ways to better clear and establish the path of our lives. He wants us to work with Him to remove branches that will entangle us or rocks and sticks that may trip us up. So, let’s focus on staying in step with Him.

The Law of the Spirit of Life

Paul uses an interesting little phrase in Romans, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”

2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2 (NKJV)

It is one thing to know intellectually that we are free from condemnation and sin and death. It is another to know it experientially. When we were born again the seed of God was planted in our lives. This seed contains our spiritual genetics. We now have Jesus nature within us. If we wonder what the seed looks like as it matures Paul describes it in Galatians 5:22-23. We call it the fruit of the Spirit.

The juxtaposition Paul uses is that there are two laws at work and the power in the law of the Spirit of life frees us from power of the law of sin and death. The law of the Spirit of life is able to overcome sin and death at work in us. Great news if that is our experience.

Let me digress a bit. A law as a general principle is there to create boundaries regarding what it is safe to do. To experience the benefit of the law we need to submit to it. In this case the law of the Spirit of life. This means there are two parts, ours and His. He will work in us, in fact He is always at work in us. The degree of effectiveness comes back to our focus. Paul tells us that if we set our minds on the things of the Spirit we will walk in life and peace and if on the things of the flesh, death (Rom. 8:5-6).

Practically this ‘setting of the mind’ often comes down to the little things. When in conversation if we start to head in a certain direction and the Spirit is saying stop (this is an internal sense, a check in our spirit) and we keep going we are heading toward sin and death. If we stop we experience life and peace. We can apply this in a variety of areas of our life – what we think about, what we watch, how we treat others.

When we set our mind on the things of the Spirit we experience the law of the Spirit of life overpowering the law of sin and death. Let’s fix our minds there and show the world Jesus.  

A Heart of Compassion

Most of us are likely familiar with the story of the prodigal son (Lk. 15:11-32). Yet in context the story isn’t about the son. Luke 15 begins with a group of upset people.

1  Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2  And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2 (NKJV)

Here was Jesus hanging out with the wrong crowd again. When the Pharisees and scribes complained Jesus responded by telling three stories, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. The point of each story is about rejoicing over recovering that which seemed beyond recovery. In the third story he uses the rigid older brother to represent the very people who were complaining at the beginning of the chapter.

Years ago I remember hearing John Wimber tell a story of what happened early on in his walk with Jesus. John got saved and he had a strong evangelistic anointing on his life. The fruit was he kept leading lost broken people to Jesus and bringing them to the church he and his family attended. A year or two into this he said he arrived one morning and an angry older lady confronted him and said, “You! You’ve ruined my church.” She was upset about all the broken wounded people coming in and the mess they brought with them. In telling the story John said he reflected on the lady’s comment and thought yes he had ruined her church but he couldn’t leave the lost as lost.

The point? There are two really. One, our Father is much more compassionate than we might think and He calls us to carry His heart. Two, following Jesus can be messy and may lead us to hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd.’ Hopefully we are doing both – carrying His heart and hanging out with some of the wrong people seeking to show them Jesus heart.  

Pursuing His Presence

There is an interesting verse in Luke.

15  However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. 16  So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. Luke 5:15-16 (NKJV)

While many of us are ‘busy’ I doubt we have the demands Jesus had on His time. Look at popular figures in our culture and how they try to avoid being hounded by the media and fans. I know I have had the experience of teaching a course or seminar and on a break I want to gather my thoughts and refresh myself. However, that is generally when those who want to talk take the opportunity to ask you questions. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means we need to get away at another time to be refreshed.

Far beyond what we experience Jesus was constantly in demand. Yet as the text says, “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” While physically He withdrew to the wilderness, I think practically He was in the throne room interacting with His Father.

In recent weeks my heart has been drawn to the reality and significance of the throne room. It isn’t a place of accolades or recognition. It is a place of hiddenness but more importantly, it is a place of life, intimacy, wisdom, direction.

I believe we need to learn to physically withdraw and get away from noise and distractions. At the same time I also believe we need to learn to inwardly withdraw. We need to learn to deeply encounter Jesus. While others around us may be ‘busy’ in this season we need to develop a familiarity with the throne room and let our relationships and any ministry flow from that place. 

Here is a regular part of my prayer life for many of you. In recent weeks I have felt the weight of the Holy Spirit on it.

  • Awaken our hearts, stir up and release the gifts You have placed within us. Awaken within us a passion to fulfill the purposes You have called us to through Your word. Col. 4:17, 1 Tim. 1:18, 4:14-16, 2 Tim. 1:6, 2:1, 4:5

Let’s pursue His presence and purpose.

Kim Walker-Smith Throne Room https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1Ljl32SqRc

Keeping our Heart

Last week I focused on this phrase from Job 31:7 (NKJV), “Or my heart walked after my eyes,” and the importance of guarding our hearts. Let’s look at what happened to a wise man who failed to guard his heart.

Solomon is generally known for his wisdom. When following his life through scripture we see him recognizing his need and asking God for wisdom and discernment. In his request and Yahweh’s response we can see three things:  

  • Solomon’s request

9  Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? 1 Kings 3:9 (NKJV)

  • Yahweh’s response

11  And God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life – but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king – 12  wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.” 2 Chronicles 1:7-12 (NKJV)

  • Yahweh’s warning.

14  So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days. 1 Kings 3:14 (NKJV)

Over time we see what happened with Solomon’s heart.

23  So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. 1 Kings 10:23 (NKJV)

Solomon possessed a heart of great wisdom. Yet when he failed to guard his heart he failed in life.

4  For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. 5  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6  Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David. 1 Kings 11:4-6 (NKJV)

We guard our hearts by doing two things:

  • By heeding the warning of scripture.

12  Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV)

  • By looking to the one who is wiser than Solomon and dwells within us.

42  The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:42 (NKJV) May we always look to Jesus so our hearts can freely walk after our eyes!

The Call to the Heart

We are all called to the wise use of our hearts.

23  Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

Recently while reading through Job something caught my attention. Just a little phrase in a verse as Job spoke, “Or my heart walked after my eyes.” Sometimes lyrics in a song or verse arrest our hearts, this one arrested me.

In context, Job had earlier addressed how he had made a covenant with his eyes. In proclaiming his commitment to walk in righteousness Job made the connection between his heart and where his eyes go. Implicit in Job’s statement is the idea of choice and responsibility, or if you will, our respond ability.

Jesus said many things about our heart and some of what He said reinforces what Job said.

8  Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Matthew 5:8 (NKJV)

21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 (NKJV)

35  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. Matthew 12:35 (NKJV)

Jesus calls us to purity of heart and points out that what comes out of our hearts is dependent on what we treasure in our hearts. While this may be easy to say, yet hard to do, Job’s simple phrase seems to capture the how. Embracing wisdom is seeking to keep our eyes focused on things that our heart can walk after.

7  If my step has turned from the way, Or my heart walked after my eyes, Or if any spot adheres to my hands, Job 31:7 (NKJV)

Stewarding Creation

One friend noted that my last post seemed to conclude, “Don’t worry – be happy.” While that was not the intent it is a fair comment based on what I wrote. Let’s look at how we should respond to the environmental issues. First, we are not to worship creation we are to steward it. This command was given in the garden.

26  Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26 (NKJV)

15  Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. Genesis 2:15 (NKJV)

Our calling is to exercise dominion or authority and to tend and keep creation. This means using things for useful ends without abusing them. In the original creation this would have been a simpler process. Once sin entered we nor the rest of creation were in harmony with our original purpose.

Paul said to Timothy that God, “gives us richly all things to enjoy.” (1 Tim. 6:17 NKJV). Part of the enjoyment is following His instructions on how to steward creation. There are for example OT instructions on how to manage crops and use the land. God enforced a 70 year ‘Sabbath’ rest for the land by exiling the nation because they had not followed His laws regarding the land (2 Chron. 36:21, Jer. 29:10-14).

The principle inherent in the command regarding a rest for the land was use versus abuse. God commanded a rest every 7th year to teach two things. One, we are to use not abuse creation. Two, to look to and trust Him.

In our North American culture it is easy to do things like recycle, it is harder to reduce consumption because we are surrounded by inducements to do just the opposite. Yet, if we are to be good stewards we need to both enjoy creation and appreciate and not abuse it. We must also avoid the worship of creation by deifying nature, both flora and fauna.

Consider the many ‘rights’ issues in our culture. Many who march to save the trees, the whales…(pick your favourite) have no issue with taking life through abortion. These are skewed priorities at odds with God’s plan and purpose. Jesus summarized it very well.

23  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Matthew 23:23 (NKJV)

In conclusion, whether we drive electric cars, fuel efficient vehicles or live consumptive lifestyles, we should prayerfully consider our stewardship of creation as we will eventually give an account to our creator, and Jesus will ask tough questions. As David said,

1  The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Psalm 19:1 (NKJV)

Let’s do our part to align with this perspective.

The Whole Creation Groans

There is much talk of climate change and conflicting positons on the role of fossil fuels, alternative energy and our responsibility to save the planet. The scriptures have something to say on this matter.

 20  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21  because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Romans 8:20-22 (NKJV)

16  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (NKJV)

Creation came into bondage to corruption due to the fall in Eden. Sin affected not just humanity but all of creation. As beautiful as many parts of the world are they are but a shadow of what creation was and will be again. In relation to the fall of creation we have this promise in the Romans passage, “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

We also see that the Father “so loved the world.”

Our Father’s plan through Jesus sacrifice was not just to redeem humanity. All of creation will eventually come into right order. We are right to love, appreciate and seek to wisely steward this present creation – Jesus died for it, but we cannot ‘save’ the planet. Jesus will do that when we see the fullness of His redemption realized.

To be wise stewards of the creation He has entrusted to us, the greatest thing we can do is heed the advice of Peter.

11  Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12  looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:11-13 (NKJV)

While there is debate about whether this will be a qualitatively or quantitatively new heavens and earth, what is not in debate is that this is where righteousness will dwell.

Come Lord Jesus!