Intimacy Opportunities Part 5

In my last post I referenced Paul’s perspective and how it kept him from a relationship with Jesus and intimacy with Him. So what actually was his perspective? As Saul, prior to his conversion he tells us that he was a Pharisee.

5  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; Philippians 3:5 (NKJV)

The basic meaning of the word Pharisee is a ‘separated one.’ The sect of the Pharisees arose after the Jews returned to Babylon under Nehemiah and Ezra. They were people who sought holiness through separating themselves from things that did not accord with Godliness.

After his conversion Paul seems to use a play on words to still describe himself as a Pharisee but a Pharisee of a different sort.

1  Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God Romans 1:1 (NKJV)

A Pharisee in Jesus day identified himself by what he was separated from. After his conversion Paul identified himself by what he was separated to – a very critical distinction.

What does this mean for us? As Christians we are not called to define ourselves by what we are not (Jesus said we would be known by our love). Think of a marriage. Would it make sense if I provided a long list of women and said to my wife I am a good husband because I don’t love all of these other women? No! While some odd people may believe me, I know that what my wife wants to know is that I love her, not that I don’t love others.

If you want to make this spiritual shift with Jesus make the prayer below your own.

25  O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26  And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:25-26 (NKJV)

This comes at the end of what is referred to as Jesus High Priestly Prayer before He goes to Gethsemane and the cross. A way to make it our own is to pray something like, “Jesus You said You would reveal the Father’s name to us, that You would unveil His character. Jesus I ask that by the touch of Your Spirit upon my heart You would enable me to love You the way Your Father, and my Father loves You.”

In my next post I will look at what humility means and how it opens the door for His love to flood and transform our hearts.

Intimacy Opportunities Part 4

The example from the Song of Songs was about convenience being able to distract or block us from intimacy. What about perspective? The greatest example of this in the NT is the apostle Paul. Have you ever wondered what it was like for Paul when he was still known as Saul and persecuting the young church as an angry and passionate Pharisee? Here he was passionately pursuing what he thought was the right thing and praying for help. Who was he praying to for help? Yahweh, the very one he was persecuting. Talk about wrong perspective!

What was available to Paul? He himself tells us what he was missing with his wrong perspective.  

10  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11  if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12  Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Philippians 3:10-12 (NKJV)

We see this same passage unveiling much more in the Amplified version.

10  [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] 11  That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. 12  Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. Philippians 3:10-12 (AMP)

As Saul, Paul had great passion, just wrongly directed. I think in his description of the lost in Israel he was also describing his pre conversion state.

1  Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. Romans 10:1-3 (NKJV)

Why did Saul and the others in Israel hold such a wrong perspective? Was the truth not available? The truth was available but they refused to humble themselves and submit to this truth and so held stubbornly to wrong views. Also, at conversion all of our wrong perspectives don’t immediately vanish. Study Paul’s post conversion life. He still had to transition from arrogance to humility. Why do you think that both directly and indirectly he wrote so much about the need for the renewing of our minds? Simple, he experienced it.

My prayer is that we will ask the Holy Spirit to pull back the veil and reveal to each of us the things we are holding onto that are keeping us from deep intimacy with Him. I regularly pray to Him to show me strongholds in my own life that I may tear them down and see more clearly. Please join me.  

Intimacy Opportunities Part 3

There is a passage I have commented on a number of times as one of the saddest in scripture.

2  THE SHULAMITE I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, “Open for me, my sister, my love, My dove, my perfect one; For my head is covered with dew, My locks with the drops of the night.” 3  I have taken off my robe; How can I put it on again? I have washed my feet; How can I defile them? 4  My beloved put his hand By the latch of the door, And my heart yearned for him. 5  I arose to open for my beloved, And my hands dripped with myrrh, My fingers with liquid myrrh, On the handles of the lock. 6  I opened for my beloved, But my beloved had turned away and was gone. My heart leaped up when he spoke. I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer. Song of Songs 5:2-6 (NKJV)

What is happening here? If we look from a purely natural perspective it is clearly a missed intimacy opportunity between the Shulamite and her beloved. What if we look from a spiritual perspective, viewing the Song of Songs as an interaction between Jesus and His church, between He and us? To that end I will refer to the characters here as the Bride (us/church) and the Bridegroom (Jesus).

The passage above begins with the Bridegroom seeking the Bride. However, the precursor tells us something key.

16  THE SHULAMITE Awake, O north wind, And come, O south! Blow upon my garden, That its spices may flow out. Let my beloved come to his garden And eat its pleasant fruits. Song of Songs 4:16 (NKJV)

The Bride has invited her Beloved to a place of intimacy and in 5:2-6 we see what happened when He responded.

What is the issue for the Bride? The Bridegroom shows up at an inopportune time. She does not want to be inconvenienced? What happens? She hesitates in her response and rationalizes why she can’t respond. Then the yearning of her heart wins out over her rationalization and she finally responds. However He is gone. She is left with only reminders of His presence but doesn’t have Him. The oil and fragrance represent a left over anointing without a living presence. So that leads us to some reflective questions.

  • Have we invited Jesus to draw near then not responded when He came?
  • Do our busy lives/things keep us from intimacy with Jesus?
  • Are we willing to be inconvenienced to be with Him?
  • Do our hearts long for His presence when He draws near?
  • Are we satisfied with some level of anointing without His actual presence?

Intimacy Opportunities Part 2

Here is a NT example of a missed intimacy opportunity, the occasion of Jesus being anointed by Mary, Martha’s sister.

1  Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2  It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. John 11:1-2 (NKJV)

We know Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus yet what can we learn from the incident itself?

1  Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2  There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3  Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4  Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5  “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6  This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7  But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8  For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” John 12:1-8 (NKJV)

 1  After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2  But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.” 3  And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4  But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6  But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7  For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8  She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9  Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Mark 14:1-9 (NKJV)

There are a few key things in these two passages. The event took place in Bethany at the house of Simon. He is called Simon the leper in the Matthew and Mark accounts (Matt. 26:6-16, Mk. 14:1-11). Given the close proximity of the meal together is it likely that he had been healed by Jesus and was a former leper as under Mosaic Law active lepers could not be around uninfected people. John 12:4 also tells us that Judas was Simon’s son. So we have Jesus and His followers having supper with Simon who appears to be the father of Judas. This would heighten Judas sense of offense as Jesus publicly rebuked his attitude in front of his father and friends (Jn. 12:4-7) and immediately after this event he went to the priests to betray Jesus (Matt. 26:14-16, Mk. 14:10-11).

In this scene Jesus friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary are there. Lazarus is a guest at the table, Martha is serving and so is Mary. However Mary’s service is of a different sort and has been spoken of over and over again since it took place. In this event Mary had an intimate encounter with Jesus through her brokenness. Those sitting around the table had the same opportunity but unlike Mary failed to see their need. It is a bit like a verse in Luke 5.

17  Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Luke 5:17 (NKJV)  

In the scene described in this verse it appears based on their judgements that what the Pharisees and teachers of the law needed was to have their hearts healed. The context and their attitude certainly point to that. Yet they missed their appointment with Jesus because they were offended and focused on the wrong things. This was the same issue in the meal at Simon’s house in Bethany.

So how do we apply this? When we sit in a place of judgment we are unable to sit in a place of intimacy and thus miss the opportunity to receive life (see Ps. 1:1-3). If the guests really wanted to minister to the poor they would have had plenty of opportunities. It appears they thought Jesus would be impressed with their alleged concern for the poor but they misjudged both Jesus and Mary. Mary’s actions are not a license for wasteful living. They are an encouragement to pour out our lives on Jesus. As I once heard Jack Deere say in a message, “We are all going to waste our lives on something. Why not Jesus?”

NOTES – Luke 7:36-50 describe a similar event. There has been much debate down through the centuries whether this is a different perspective on the same event or another event earlier in Jesus ministry as it appears to have happened in the region of Galilee not Judea. Also there has been great debate whether Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are the same person or two individuals. My own belief is that they are one and the same. See my rationale below.  

There were two Mary’s at the cross, two who anointed Jesus body with spices and two who went to the tomb at the time of His resurrection.  If there are three Mary’s, Jesus mother, Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene, then who does not go?   Mary Magdalene is clearly identified as being at the cross along with Mary the mother of James and Joses (Matt. 27:55-56).  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are both involved in preparing Jesus for burial (Matt. 27:61) and both go to the tomb Sunday morning (Matt. 28:1).  Matthew notes in both 27:61 and 28:1 that there are only two Mary’s, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.”  Who is the other Mary?  She is identified by Mark as the mother of “James the Less, and of Joses and Salome” (Mk. 15:40, 47, 16:1).  If we identify the mother of these three people we identify the Mary.  We find in the gospels that Jesus had brothers and sisters (Matt. 13:55-56).  In this passage his sisters are not named but four of His brothers are, James, Joses, Simon and Judas.  Two of these four are named as children of “the other Mary.”  We also know that of the twelve original apostles, James, with Peter and John, was part of the inner circle (Matt. 17:1, Mk. 5:37).  However, after the church in Jerusalem was established James the brother of John was the first apostle martyred (Acts 12:2).  Later the key apostle in Jerusalem was another James.  Jesus’ half brother James (Acts 15:13, Gal. 1:19).  In fact early in Paul’s ministry James, Peter and John were perceived by Paul as the key apostles in the early church (Gal. 2:9).  This would explain why the son of the “other Mary” was referred to as “James the Less.”  As Jesus half-brother he took over in Jerusalem the apostleship of the “greater” James, John’s brother.  

Intimacy Opportunities Part 1

I am starting a new series that will look at some of the opportunities the Holy Spirit creates for intimacy. I will look at a few examples from the Old and New Testaments and the opportunities they provide. I will begin with Exodus 33. I have heard many messages on this passage over the years and with one exception they all focused on the need for Yahweh’s presence to go with the Israelites when they went into Canaan and the application is then made that we need the Lord’s presence to go with us when we enter into something. While that application is a truth, in truth it misses the point of this passage.

Understanding this requires both context and a bit of digging into the passage itself. In looking I have a question. Have you ever spent a lot of time with or around someone then realized when they shared something personal that you didn’t know them nearly as well as you thought? Keep that in mind as we look at this passage. I will start with the verses below.

2  And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Exodus 33:2 (NKJV) 11  So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. Exodus 33:11 (NKJV) 14  if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)

14  And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15  Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. Exodus 33:14-15 (NKJV)

Here I have bolded six words, before once, face three times and presence twice. The interesting part is that each time it is the same word in Hebrew.

The noun pānîm, “face,” “countenance,” is derived from the verbal root pānāh (HED #6680), “to turn toward,” and is found in the OT only in its plural form. The noun is well attested throughout the Semitic languages. When combined with le (HED #3937), the term may also function as a preposition, literally meaning “facing,” and often translated “before” or “in front of.”

The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary.

What does this mean? A couple of things. First verse two could be translated as The Angel Presence or Angel of His Face/Presence. The point in this passage isn’t Moses being worried about Yahweh in the form of the Angel of His Presence going with them. He did affirm he didn’t want to go without him but that had already been assured. The key is what Moses requested, he wanted to see Yahweh’s glory. Why is that significant? Moses had his burning bush experience, saw all the miracles in Egypt, their deliverance in the exodus, had spent 40 days and nights on the mountain with Yahweh (Ex. 24:16-18), regularly heard Yahweh’s voice and spent time face to face with Him in the tent of meeting. In fact Exodus 24 says Moses had already seen Yahweh’s glory and spent 40 days and nights in it.

16  Now the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17  The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18  So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. Exodus 24:16-18 (NKJV) 

So, why the request to see His glory? That is the question we need to answer. We tend to read the bible backwards. That is we look at OT passages from what we know. Moses however had to look forward. Up to this point he knew Yahweh was powerful, demanded obedience to His law and had a place He was taking His people to for a purpose. What Moses didn’t know, in spite of all the time already spent in Yahweh’s presence, was anything else about His character. Glory is more than just a tangible presence, it is a visible expression of character and nature (which is why Paul said “Christ in you, the hope of Glory” (Col. 1:27).

Moses needed a revelation of the character of the One he had already spent so much time with. When he had this experience his face glowed when he came down from the mountain the second time and it continued to happen when he spent time in Yahweh’s presence in their continued relationship. That is what Exodus 33 is about, not needing His presence with them, it is about knowing the one we are with.

So, present day application. When His presence becomes manifest in a worship service or prayer time what do we do? Do we simply enjoy it or do we see it as an opportunity to press in for more? In these opportunities if we press in we can experience what Paul experienced and longed for others to experience. See the verses below and the words in bold.

15  But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16  to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, Galatians 1:15-16 (NKJV)

19  My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (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)

Moses needed to get to know the One with Him. We need to get to know the One within! Then we need to follow His continual leading. Barrett Browning captured this in what she wrote.

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries… from Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It reflects Habakkuk’s heart,

14  For the earth will be filled

With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,

As the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14 (NKJV)

So, here is one Intimacy Opportunity, let’s take it and see His glory manifest through His people!

Becoming Established Part 7

I want to close this series looking a little deeper at what Jesus taught about revelation and receiving His word. In my last post I looked at Jesus explanation of what we know as the Parable of the Sower. Now I want to dig a little deeper into the parable itself.

In Mark 4:2-8 Jesus tells us there are four places the seed of His word can fall. The first three produce nothing, the seed is lost or aborted. Only the fourth location produces something and that something differs by degree. Look below at what Jesus told us.

13  And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14  The sower sows the word. 15  And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16  These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17  and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18  Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19  and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20  But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” Mark 4:13-20 (NKJV)

What can happen to the seed, which is His word? Here are the four options.

  • 1) The seed is stolen away.
  • 2) There is no depth in the receiver, it is merely an emotional response with no true heart commitment and no counting of the cost.
  • 3) There is a desire for what is spoken but other things (think of our busy lives) choke the life from the word.
  • 4) The word is accepted and bears fruit.

What does it mean to ‘accept’ the word the Holy Spirit seeks to sow in our hearts? The Greek word is below.

  1. παραδέχομαι paradechomai verb

To accept, to acknowledge (as correct), to receive, to delight in.

The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary

The key to seeing His word bear fruit in our lives is; accepting it, acknowledging that it is correct/true and embracing/delighting in it. This approach creates an incubator in our hearts where His word can bring forth life and fruit. This is the seedbed of revelation in our lives.

I heard John Wimber say more than once, “God often offends our minds to reveal what is in our hearts.” Let us press past offense and become established by embracing His word in fullness and bringing forth thirty, sixty or a hundred fold.

Becoming Established Part 6

So, what is the role of revelation in our lives? In asking the question I want to be clear that I am not suggesting there are new revelations we can receive that will establish new doctrines. The scriptures always need to be our rule for faith and practice. What we need in terms of revelation is an understanding of how to apply the truths of scripture to our lives. This requires dependence on the Holy Spirit. In the gospels, the early apostles and others hearers at times didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about and Jesus pinpointed the problem by taking us back to what He told Isaiah to declare.  

14  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15  For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ 16  “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 17  for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” Matthew 13:14-17 (NKJV)

9  And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10  “Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.” Isaiah 6:9-10 (NKJV)

This word from Isaiah is again quoted in John and Acts. Clearly it is something the Holy Spirit wants to emphasize.  

40  “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” John 12:40 (NKJV)

26  saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; 27  For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” ’ Acts 28:26-27 (NKJV)

Why do we have blind eyes and stopped up ears? There are a couple of reasons. The first is that we have rejected Him and His ways. I have often heard the first phrase of Hosea 4:6 quoted but never the rest of the verse.

6  My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. Hosea 4:6 (NKJV)

We are blind and deaf because we have chosen not to see or hear. At the same time Paul identified the second reason, another player in this pattern.  

3  But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4  whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NKJV)

Satan is complicit in blinding minds and hearts. Paul saw that and saw his apostolic calling in the ‘light’ of this problem. He said Jesus sent him,

18  to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ Acts 26:18 (NKJV)

To have our eyes and ears opened for conversion requires responding in repentance to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Having them remain open or be reopened after conversion requires an ongoing seeking of revelation regarding His heart and mind.

17  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, Ephesians 1:17 (NKJV)

9  And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10  that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11  being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11 (NKJV)

9  For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10  that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11  strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; Colossians 1:9-11 (NKJV)

Jesus is always calling us closer to His heart to receive His strategic direction and purpose. We are called to live under a revelatory anointing to impact our culture with the gospel. We need His anointing on the proclamation of His word through His people that darkness would be pushed back and the light of the glory of Jesus would shine through.

6  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NKJV)

Our culture needs this light shining brightly through us piercing the darkness.

Becoming Established Part 5

In my last post I looked the idea of ‘being’ rather than doing and the first verse I quoted referred to one of Moses experiences with Yahweh.

12  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” Exodus 24:12 (NKJV)

When Moses went up he sat in Yahweh’s presence and heard nothing for six days, then on the seventh day Yahweh spoke to him. I doubt we will have that experience with Him on a mountaintop, however we can apply the principle. We draw near to Him, look to His heart and wait for Him to reveal things as we simply rest in being with Him. If we look to scripture what are some things that came out of this ‘being?’

Moses received the instructions for the tabernacle, and more specifically the most important item in it, the Ark of the Covenant. David’s experience was similar.

11  Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the vestibule, its houses, its treasuries, its upper chambers, its inner chambers, and the place of the mercy seat; 12  and the plans for all that he had by the Spirit, of the courts of the house of the LORD, of all the chambers all around, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries for the dedicated things; 13  also for the division of the priests and the Levites, for all the work of the service of the house of the LORD, and for all the articles of service in the house of the LORD. 1 Chronicles 28:11-13 (NKJV)

We know from the Psalms and other writings that David spent much time in Yahweh’s presence and much of it in worship. This passage tells us that in one or more of these encounters the Holy Spirit unveiled to David the plans for the tabernacle. What about Paul. I think we tend to view Paul as a man of action, which he was. Yet what drove his actions?

If we study Paul’s life (see Acts, 9, 13-14 and Galatians 1 for example) we see that following his confrontation by Jesus on the road to Damascus as soon as he was able he began to preach. He then he withdrew and spent years being with Jesus and receiving the gospel by revelation. From there he began to minister again and later he and Barnabas were sent out as apostles in Acts 13. This direction and release also came in the context of worshipping Jesus and fasting. Paul is another example of receiving direction by focusing on being with Jesus rather than doing for Him. 

What of others? Have you ever heard of George Washington Carver? Carver was born a slave during the Civil War in the US and rose to international prominence as a scientist. Among other achievements he created hundreds of products from just the peanut. What is often not known is that he credited his discoveries to his faith and the Lord revealing things to him. If you look him up on the internet and don’t include something about his faith you will likely see a list of his accomplishments. Yet he credited his relationship with the Lord as his source of inspiration. He learned the importance of spending time with his Father, the true source of wisdom and knowledge and that produced his scientific expertise.  

I believe that when we learn as a habit to simply sit in His presence and cultivate an interactive relationship that wisdom and revelation are then activated. That is why Paul prayed what he did for the Ephesian believers and by extension us (Eph. 1:16-21). He knew we needed a spirit of wisdom and revelation, not a single encounter. I wonder what He wants to give us as we sit with Him?

NOTE – in my next post I will look at the pattern of a lack of revelation from Isaiah to the NT and the implications for our lives today.

Becoming Established Part 4

How do our hearts become established in loving Him and being loved? What is the greatest thing we can do to bring pleasure to His heart? Are the answers to work harder or evangelize more? While we need to evangelize in a variety of manners and need to invest time and energy in His kingdom, what if His primary focus is something simpler? What if evangelism and work are an outflow of this simpler thing?

Looking at the scripture below we can see something of what brings Yahweh pleasure.

12  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” Exodus 24:12 (NKJV)

Why didn’t Yahweh simply tell Moses to come up on the mountain to receive the tablets and commandments? Why this emphasis on ‘be there?” The NASB translates this as ‘remain there’ but has a footnote that says it literally means ‘be.’

In addressing our question the emphasis in scripture seems to be on ‘being’ prior to doing. I don’t think the text is suggesting this was about location. It is about being in Yahweh’s presence. Look at how Jesus selection of the first twelve apostles is described.

14  Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, Mark 3:14 (NKJV)

The phrase in Mark is ‘be with Him’ and in Exodus the focus was also on ‘be.’ In both cases the being proceeded doing. Luke also identifies this pattern.  

13  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13 (NKJV)

The reality is some things are better caught than taught but we can only ‘catch’ them through spending time with the one who imparts them, just as Peter and John did. We are changed by being in His presence and He enjoys having us in His presence. Look at the verse below.

17  I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me. Proverbs 8:17 (NKJV)

There is a general sense in which Yahweh loves everyone – John 3:16 “for God so loved…” The love of intimacy and friendship however is not a general love or caring but a shared relationship. Make time to be with Him and experience His love settling upon you and washing over you. Then see what happens.

Becoming Established Part 3

Another aspect of becoming established is knowing where we fit in His body. This is perhaps a greater challenge than blessing our city. Why? Think about how most congregations function when compared with what I am sharing below. Is how much of our church life has developed a good thing?

The key new testament verse on the functioning of congregational life is below.

26  How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV)

Paul further says,

27  If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28  But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30  But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31  For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 1 Corinthians 14:27-32 (NKJV)

Granted, the house churches in the first century were smaller than many of our congregations (until the 4th century under Constantine the common expression of the church was house churches). That aside, there are a number of principles above. First, when we gather as the body we are expected to bring something. Secondly, a plurality of gifts should be expressed – we need one another has to offer.

The practice of creating space for people to exercise their gifts helps people grow in them. Making space for gifts was the fruit of Paul’s teaching. Lest we think this was abnormal and a plurality of gifts need to be curtailed, read 1 Corinthians carefully. Many view the Corinthian church through the lens of excess, which is simply poor exegesis. While there was excess and aberration in how gifts were expressed, Paul’s response to the many and varied uses of spiritual gifts was not to try and curtail them. Paul focused on trying to get the Corinthians to use their gifts properly while at the same time encouraging an even greater use of them (see 1 Cor. 14:1, 40).

What Paul encouraged was the exercise of gifts by many in the body in the context of corporate discernment; a practice that helps shape and refine one another. Functioning this way requires knowing one another’s gifts, creating space for their use, dialogue when the body gathers, and the exercise of spiritual leadership.

I strongly believe that we as the church need to once again be established in this type of functioning on a broad scale to see the body grow up into Christ (Eph. 4:9-16). We once again need to see His rule in His church on a broad scale. I recognize that for this to happen significant change will be required in our familiar cultural constructs. So be it. He is the head and He wants His body back and has every right to take it!

In closing, I believing we need to function in our gifts and calling to feel whole and complete. I recently watched the classic film Chariots of Fire after having not seen it since it was released decades ago. The key character is Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner who later died on the mission field in China. Eric’s story was made famous not so much for his speed as for his stand. He was one of the favorites to win the gold medal in the 100 meters in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. However he refused to run in the heats because they were held on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. He ended up being entered in the 400 meters and won the gold medal.

Leading up to the Olympics Jenny, the love of his life outside of the Lord, tried to dissuade him from running and to focus on mission work. His response is a famous quote and is featured in the movie. “Jenny, God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” (It works best if you hear it with a Scottish accent). Do you want to feel His pleasure? Love Him and learn to function in what He has called you to. It will bring pleasure to both!