Prepared Hearts

What do we need to do to have our plans work out? I remember decades ago talking to someone at church who said when his father prayed about a business decision that answer he heard always seemed to fit with what he already wanted to do. Now while the father seemed to do okay in business his son doubted he was always being led by the Lord. So is that how we should spiritually approach practical matters? What about looking at a small slice of Proverbs for some wisdom?

1  The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. 2  All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits. 3  Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established. Proverbs 16:1-3 (NKJV)

What can we apply from these three verses? First, rather than preparing our plans we need to prepare our hearts. The word ‘preparations’ is presented as ‘plans’ in some translations. We need to make preparations but then need to offer them up before Yahweh. I think a good commentary on this verse is in Habakkuk.

1  I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected. Habakkuk 2:1 (NKJV)

Are we open to hearing an answer we weren’t looking for? I think it is wisdom to hold this heart attitude and be open to Jesus redirecting our agenda. After all the next verse is in essence saying, ‘We may think we know how we are doing but Yahweh looks inside and actually knows.’ This means we need to apply verse three. We are to commit what to we doing to Jesus for His direction and in so doing He will settle and establish what is in our hearts.

Simple and practical – not always easy to apply but worth practicing. If you wonder how this works prepare your heart and bring your plans before Him. When You have peace established in your heart regarding a certain direction you are being led by the Holy Spirit. This may happen in minutes, days, weeks or months. The important piece is to commit and hold it before Him until we know and if we don’t know to hold a decision until we do.

The Goodness of God

There is much spoken of the goodness of God in the North American church these days. I suspect some see it as a new revelation. Yet in fact within my lifetime I know it goes back at least decades in the Charismatic movement. It used to be sung almost as a little ditty. “God is good all the time. All the Time God is good.” I have no dispute with the concept, however let us look at the scriptural context and then look at the concept in light of the whole counsel of God, which is always a good practice. Below are the main verses that speak of His goodness.

1  Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually. Psalm 52:1 (NKJV)

5  Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days. Hosea 3:5 (NKJV)

4  Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4 (NKJV)

22  Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. Romans 11:22 (NKJV)

11  Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, 2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NKJV)

In addition to God being good we also know He is love (1 Jn. 4:7-8). They are similar concepts and from this perspective we could insert ‘love’ instead of ‘goodness’ in Romans 2:4. However, I will focus on goodness and what His goodness actually means. From what I hear around the body of Christ I think that many of us equate God is good with ‘God is nice.’ That is, He will never do anything to hurt or offend us. If that were the case what do we do with this passage?

1  Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5  And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6  For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Hebrews 12:1-8 (NKJV)

Does this line up the scriptures on His goodness? It does if we better understand Romans 2:4. The primary meaning of the Greek word translated as ‘goodness’ is moral excellence in the first instance and useful morals in the second. They are slight variations of the same Greek word. We don’t talk about morals or moral standards much in our culture but I think we would be better off if we did. As Christians we are called to a high moral standard. This should be a key desire of our hearts. So look at the verse again with these meanings inserted.

4  Or do you despise the riches of His moral excellence, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the useful morals of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4 (NKJV)

Look at a more recent translation that I think gets it right.

4  Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4 (NLT)

If we put this together and remember Hebrews 12:1-8 we can see that because He is good God seeks to bring us to a place of repentance. When Jesus took a whip and cleansed the temple in Jerusalem (Jn. 2:15-17) was He reflecting the goodness of God? Absolutely. When Peter gave the first sermon in the newly birthed church and accused the crowd of murdering Jesus (Acts. 2:23) and they came under conviction (were cut to the heart) and repented (Acts 2:37-38) was this His goodness on display? Absolutely.

God is good and He loves to bless and honour His children. Yet as Hebrews tells us He also disciplines us when we go astray. If He doesn’t discipline us it is evidence that we aren’t really His children. The danger in equating His goodness with niceness is what I observed in a conference I just attended. The conference was being live streamed around the world and one of the speakers commented on how their spouse was out running and came back saying they were praying and reflecting on how God searches and tries us. The speaker referenced this as being in Psalm 51 and said their spouse thought this meant God was looking for the good/gold in us and the speaker affirmed that interpretation. The problems here are more than one. The first is that the verse isn’t in Psalm 51, though that is not a major issue (see below). The second is that in context it means the opposite of what the speaker said and lastly, none the leaders said anything about it.

23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24  And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)

I don’t know if the leaders didn’t recognize what happened or didn’t want to address it but the end result was leaving all those watching with the impression that God just wants to be nice to us. In truth, He wants to be good to us. He wants to bring forth the gold in us. I deeply believe and practice that but if the gold has mud on it then the mud needs to be scrubbed off (not ignored or tolerated) so the gold can be seen. The scrubbing is a manifestation of His goodness as much as His healing us or blessing us in some other way.

So, as we move forward in our walk with Him I pray we encounter His goodness over and over and more deeply reflect His character to those around us. In doing this let us also pray that our understanding of our experience is rooted in His word!

Living from the Inside

David wrote something interesting over two millennia ago.

6  Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Psalm 51:6 (NKJV)

Jesus desires that we live from a place of truth on the inside, the hidden place of the heart. There are two key things in this verse. One, we know what Yahweh desires we live from a place of truth on the inside. The second is that as we turn to Him we find He has committed to making us know wisdom in our spirits, the hidden part. We see this in the verse below.

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

We have a popular expression in our culture, ‘That was my inside voice.’ Meaning we have shared what we were actually thinking, often inappropriately. Jesus desires that we live from such a place of truth on the inside that we can freely share our innermost thoughts. Go back to Psalm 51. This was David’s Psalm of repentance after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed in an attempt to hide his sin. Clearly for a season David had a great struggle with lies in his inward parts and demonstrated a lack of wisdom, yet Yahweh knew everything all along. What both Yahweh and David expressed is a desire for congruence between our inward and outward lives.

Paul expressed this desire and the solution. We need to seek His face with a focus on our inner man being strengthened (3:16) and a recognition that the truth is found in Jesus (4:21).

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. Ephesians 3:14-19 (NKJV)

17  This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18  having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19  who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20  But you have not so learned Christ, 21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24  and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24 (NKJV)

We need our minds renewed so that we come to the place that Peter described. While the reference Peter makes is to wives in a husband and wife relationship, as a man I also desire a gentle and quiet spirit. Walking in quiet confidence before Him (Is. 30:15) is a noble pursuit. This is the hidden person of the heart I desire to reflect to those around me.

4  rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:4 (NKJV)

Something to Consider

What enabled Daniel to face his circumstances in Babylon? Have you ever considered his circumstances and what enabled him to walk through them? Daniel exuded confidence in Yahweh and wisdom beyond his years when he faced some very difficult decisions. One of the things we know is Daniel read Jeremiah and based on his response, viewed Jeremiah as a legitimate prophet whose words were to be heeded. Based on what Jeremiah had written he knew Israel was to be in Babylon for 70 years.

1  In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans – 2  in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. Daniel 9:1-2 (NKJV)

So what did Daniel do with this information? Daniel turned this knowledge into intercession. He took this scripture as a word from Yahweh and presented it before Him in repentance and intercession to see the nation returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. Have you ever wondered whether Daniel used any other scriptures for intercession? Look at the passage below.

10  For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:10-11 (NKJV)

This reference to the 70 year return period that we know Daniel read is nestled right alongside the verse that every good charismatic knows. In context the verse is an encouragement to settle and be at home in Babylon because Yahweh has a larger purpose so will look after them there before bringing them back to Jerusalem, their land and true home.

To know one verse meant to know the other and I suspect Daniel used this verse to remind Yahweh of His commitment to look after the Israelites, one of whom was Daniel. So what is the application for us? I don’t believe we can simply take verses out of context and seek to apply them to our lives. However, while the scriptures were not written to us, we weren’t around then, they were written for us and we are responsible to discern how to apply them to our lives.

The Holy Spirit will give or quicken passages to us. I know I have a number, one of which is Isaiah 30:15. He brought this verse to life for me decades ago.

15  For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not, Isaiah 30:15 (NKJV)

The phrase the Holy Spirit has used over and over again to encourage me is this, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” It is an assurance that when I calm my heart before Him I will function out of rest and make wise choices. One that is paired with it is in Proverbs.

33  Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, But what is in the heart of fools is made known. Proverbs 14:33 (NKJV)

The phrase He gave me here is this, “Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding.” When I abide in the place of quiet confidence wisdom rests in me and 1 Corinthians 1:30 tells me that Jesus has been made wisdom unto me so I know in this state Jesus is resting in my heart and my confidence is deepened. So what has He given you from the scriptures to establish your heart in Him? Are you regularly applying it? Do you need to ask Him?




Exercising Discernment Part 4 – His Body

In my last post in this series I will briefly address the role of the body in exercising discernment. This of course requires being rooted in and drawing on the scriptures.

So how does the body work? The first requirement is that we need to be part of one! When we are born again we are made part of His body universal by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). What happens after that depends on how we engage with His body here on earth, our fellow believers. Whether we are meeting regularly with a handful of believers or are part of a large congregation we need to embrace accountability to one another for our walk. The answer to Cain’s question in Genesis, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ is yes. We are responsible for one another. That is a key point of the verse below.

25  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 (NKJV)

A primary purpose of the body being gathered is not simply to listen to sermons, though they are important, it is to get to know one another and exhort and encourage one another in our walks. This requires a minimal level of vulnerability and openness to correction. The scriptures also say,

17  As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV)

If you use a file to sharpen a saw it takes off the rough edges. We all start our walk with Jesus with rough edges. A major function of His body is the removal of those rough edges. Sometimes there is a bit of screeching and squealing as metal pieces rub together! Yet the goal is clear.

15  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – Ephesians 4:15 (NKJV)

He has called us to maturity and this requires a mutual submission to one another and a corporate discernment.

29  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 1 Corinthians 14:29 (NKJV)

21  submitting to one another in the fear of God. Ephesians 5:21 (NKJV)

So, let us get to know and encourage and challenge one another to grow in Jesus. Jesus is the head and we are the body. If we aren’t properly connected to His body we can never be rightly connected to Jesus as head.  Our Father’s goal is to use everything in our life to shape us to look like Jesus (Rom. 8:28-29). Shouldn’t that be ours as well?



Exercising Discernment Part 3 – Ancient History?

How much do we value and honour our past? What can we learn from it? There is the expression, ‘Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ Do we believe it? How many of us know that October 31 is the 500th anniversary of Luther posting his 95 theses on the door of the little church in Wittenberg? A spark that started the fire that became the great conflagration known as The Reformation.

One reason history is important is simply because it led to the present. Here is my brief plug for at least a rudimentary grasp of church history. A look at a couple of historic creeds as aids to discernment. The reason for the creeds is that many of the beliefs we hold to be true as evangelicals as more implicit than explicit in the scriptures. An example is the Trinity. There is no verse that clearly states the Father, Son and Spirit are eternally three beings in one God. The Athanasian Creed highlights this truth, among many others. So reflect on the two ancient creeds below that have shaped and informed our present.

The Apostles Creed (4th century, this was not written by the early apostles, it is a summary of what they taught)

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell.

The third day he rose again from the dead.

He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.


Athanasian Creed (6th Century)

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.

Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith: That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence.

For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another.

But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.

What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.

The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated.

The Father is immeasurable, the Son is immeasurable, the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.

The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal.

And yet there are not three eternal beings; there is but one eternal being.

So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings; there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.

Similarly, the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Spirit is almighty.

Yet there are not three almighty beings; there is but one almighty being.

Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God.

Yet there are not three gods; there is but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord.

Yet there are not three lords; there is but one Lord.

Just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually as both God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.

The Son was neither made nor created; he was begotten from the Father alone.

The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten; he proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers; there is one Son, not three sons; there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.

Nothing in this trinity is before or after, nothing is greater or smaller; in their entirety the three persons are coeternal and coequal with each other.

So in everything, as was said earlier, we must worship their trinity in their unity and their unity in their trinity.

Anyone then who desires to be saved should think thus about the trinity.

But it is necessary for eternal salvation that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.

Now this is the true faith: That we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and human, equally.

He is God from the essence of the Father, begotten before time; and he is human from the essence of his mother, born in time; completely God, completely human, with a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as regards divinity, less than the Father as regards humanity.

Although he is God and human, yet Christ is not two, but one.

He is one, however, not by his divinity being turned into flesh, but by God’s taking humanity to himself.

He is one, certainly not by the blending of his essence, but by the unity of his person.

For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh, so too the one Christ is both God and human.

He suffered for our salvation; he descended to hell; he arose from the dead; he ascended to heaven; he is seated at the Father’s right hand; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

At his coming all people will arise bodily and give an accounting of their own deeds.

Those who have done good will enter eternal life,  and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith: one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.

In applying the creeds as discernment tools think of church history from the Reformation forward. While there have been disputes over the form of baptism, the role of spiritual gifts or the sacraments, all of these positons can be subsumed under these creeds. As someone who believes in and practices spiritual gifts such as prophetic words/words of knowledge, I can disagree with the cessationist understanding of scripture (and I strongly do. ‘A man with an experience has no mercy for a man with an argument.’), yet still find common ground with cessationist believers in these creeds.

So while there are many things we can divide over, we can find a major source of unity in understanding our shared history and perhaps come to a shared future in focusing on the truths in these creeds and honour those who struggled to define and articulate these truths while defending the historic church against a variety of heresies.

As a side note, the term catholic means ‘universal’ or ‘all embracing’ and in the context of this creeds refers to the universal church rooted in the doctrine of the early apostles not the Roman Catholic church. My own experience is that while I have found true believers in the Roman Catholic church, in researching Roman Catholic doctrine there are many teachings that are not only not supported by scripture, they are often taught in direct opposition to scripture. Another reason to know something of church history.

So, leave that aside and meditate on the creeds above and the implications in our walk with Jesus.

Exercising Discernment Part 2 – Deeper Waters

I said I would look further at the role of the scriptures, knowing how to interpret them, church history and the importance of being rooted in His family as aids to discernment. I will start by looking at two other river passages that I think connect to the river of Psalm 46. This passage can address the first two points above. The best commentary on scripture, is in fact the scriptures. As someone has said, ‘The scriptures can shed a lot of light on our commentaries.’ We need to look at context, history and parallel or related passages to help us in discerning focus and purpose.

So look at the connection in the scriptures regarding the river of life in the two passages below.

1  Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. 2  He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side. 3  And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. 4  Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. 5  Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. Ezekiel 47:1-5 (NKJV)

1  And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2  In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4  They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5  There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5 (NKJV)

The encounters of Ezekiel and John, both vivid visions, describe His river, one flowing from the temple (OT) and one flowing from the throne (NT). It would be a bit of stretch to say these were different heavenly rivers. Rather it is scripturally safer to say they are the same river viewed from different vantage points in both history and geography. We can see that His river brings life and healing and increases in depth as it moves out from His throne. This increase is similar to Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision referring to an increasing everlasting kingdom (Daniel 2:44-45) and Isaiah’s of the Messiah’s government and authority that shall continue to increase in the earth (Is. 9:6-7).

These references to His river can connect back to the river of Psalm 46, which is also not a natural river. However, where else do we find an explicit reference to His river that speaks clearly to our calling.

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.” 39  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39 (NKJV)

Our invitation is to drink deeply of Jesus so His river of life flows through us in increasing measure and changes the environment around us.

Drink deeply.

In my next post I will look at one of the key creeds in church history as a discernment tool.

Exercising Discernment Part 1 – The Right River

4  There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. Psalm 46:4 (NKJV)

Have you ever been on a mountain and observed how different little streams and tributaries flow together to become a river, or stood looking up a mountain seeing water coming from various places merging into one larger stream? As the volume of water increases so too does the depth and breadth of the river. At the same time some small streams diverge off and simply disappear into the mountainside as they end. Ultimately what provides water to all of the communities downstream from mountainous and glacial areas is the rivers that form from the merging streams in these areas.

Let me illustrate further. My wife and I have spent a lot of time in Invermere BC. Twenty minutes south the Columbia River begins and flows north through Invermere, then Radium, up north past Golden, then turns and heads south and eventually west out into the Pacific Ocean through Oregon. It is referred to as the Mighty Columbia. Now if you were to canoe or kayak between Invermere and Radium and someone told you that you were on the ‘Mighty Columbia’ you might say, ‘really?’ After all in places it is about 15 metres wide and you can often touch the bottom with your paddle. So what makes it mighty? All the tributaries that feed it before it reaches the Pacific Ocean and provides water and life to so many communities as it journeys. For example Lake Okanogan, which is 135 kilometres long and 4-5 kilometres wide in places, flows into it.

What does this have to do with His river as expressed in Psalm 46? When we see or understand something or some teacher brings along a new ‘revelation’ we need to test it. The first place of course is the scriptures. Another test is looking at church history. Does this teaching align with the practice or teaching of our historic faith? Let me provide a couple of examples. Some modern teachers have said that God judged Jesus on the cross so He won’t bring any further judgement on sinners. That teaching is clearly at odds with scripture. The Old and New Testaments are replete with warnings of coming end time judgment from His hand. This is part of the process He will use in creating a qualitatively new heaven and earth.

Another aberrant teaching that has been promoted for decades in the ‘faith’ movement is that Jesus was tormented in hell after He died on the cross. The clear error here is that Jesus said on the cross His sacrifice had accomplished what was intended, this battle was finished, as the scriptures attest.

30  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. John 19:30 (NKJV)

46  And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last. Luke 23:46 (NKJV)

When we look at the two passages above what Jesus cried out in a loud voice was, “It is finished!” Then He committed His Spirit into His Father’s hand, not to the devil.

So what do we do with wrong teachings like these? We look to the river. Movements that hold to teachings like these are off in these areas, they have streams diverging from His river that will not produce life. We need to avoid those streams. At the same time when I have heard teachings like these I have often also recognized a great deal of the river of life in these movements. I need to follow those streams of life into His river. Knowing how to follow the right river requires; knowing the scriptures, knowing how to interpret them, knowing something of church history, being rooted in a family of believers that are committed to His word, and paying attention to His leading in our spirits.

In coming posts I will further explore these areas.

Nurturing Life Part 5 – Found in Him

What happens when we are squeezed? If we put apples in a juicer we can expect apple juice, if oranges then orange juice. So what should come out when Christians are squeezed? We should expect Christ.

20  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

Yes, when we are squeezed Jesus should come out. I remember many years ago my friend telling the story of wrestling around with someone on a construction site and when he put them in a headlock they started cursing. He said, “I was just squeezing you to see what would come out.” This aligns with the old adage that ‘character isn’t formed in crisis, it is revealed.’ Who and what we are comes out under pressure.

We know that Jesus doesn’t always come out when believers are squeezed. Before addressing how to reconcile this I want to look at who is doing the squeezing. Would it surprise you to know that our squeezing often comes from our Father?

2  And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. Deuteronomy 8:2 (NKJV)

Our Father squeezes us so that we can see what comes out when we are squeezed. He already knows, He wants us to know. When we see what it is in us we know what needs to be dealt with.

Let me provide an example from my life. Too often for my liking I become frustrated with the behaviour of other drivers (I am sure none of them ever have reason to be frustrated with me!). What comes out at these times is a feeling of frustration/anger rather than grace and Jesus presence. I don’t mean that I am sitting in my car cursing other drivers or that it happens every time I drive to and from work in rush hour. However, when it does happen I recognize that my heart attitude is wrong and what I often say under my breath at these times reflects a wrong heart attitude. Where this lessens or is absent in difficult circumstances is when I am more aware of Jesus presence with me and when I catch myself in the moment, quickly repent and look to the Holy Spirit. This is practical faith 101.

What I want to manifest in all difficult driving experiences or similar situations is His presence. My goal and what I desire, and believe I am growing toward, is what Paul expressed.

9  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; Philippians 3:9 (NKJV)

I want to be found in Jesus when I am squeezed so that what Jesus is the one who is revealed.

So what is coming out of us when squeezed? What is the Holy Spirit seeking to transform in our lives?

Nurturing Life Part 4 – Be Still and Know Psalm 46:10

What does this verse mean and what is the context?

10  Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

10  “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NASB)

The Psalm is directed to the nation of Israel, assuring them that though they may be surrounded by conflict, Yahweh is their strength and deliverance. In other words what Israel cannot accomplish, their own deliverance, Yahweh will.

Verse 10 in this Psalm is often used to encourage us to just get quiet before Him and sit in His presence. I have suggested and practiced this many times myself and find it an effective application of the verse. Yet what of the deeper simplicity inherent in it? ‘Be still,’ ‘cease striving,’ in other words, ‘Quit trying to make things happen on your own. Recognize that you are not in control.’ If we are consistent and purposeful in our walk with Him, then all things will work together for our good (Rom. 8:28) and we can let go of our worries and anxieties. What this can mean in our lives is that we can walk in His peace (shalom) each and every day.

How do we get there? It requires getting our eyes off of our circumstances (the message of Psalm 46) and setting the gaze of our heart upon Jesus throughout the day. This requires practice, the disciplining of our heart and mind. We begin by focusing our heart and mind on Him to set the course for our day then asking for and drawing on His grace to reorient our heart and mind throughout the day. This requires awareness and choices. It also requires a belief in the truth of scripture. Look at verse one in this Psalm.

1  God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 (NKJV)

When we need help Yahweh is near at hand. His help is available in trouble and I think it is easier to turn to Him in trouble if we have formed the habit of simply turning to Him throughout the day as an outflow of the affections of our heart. Where are you turning?