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!

Becoming Established Part 2

A few times I have referenced a prayer that I have developed over the years. Some use a prayer list of people, I focus on areas I believe are important in our lives and pray for myself and others. When I looked at it recently I realized that in 8 pages I had used establish, establishing or established 16 times! Clearly at some level I believe this to be important. The first area I focus on in my prayer list is Passion and Purpose and below are the prayer sections I have along with the supporting scriptures.   

Father, I thank You that You are drawing out and establishing Your purpose in our lives. Help us to walk uprightly that our prayers may delight You! Fill us with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Prov. 20:5, Prov. 15:8, Col. 1:9-11

Continually unveil to us Your glory (nature and character, love) and establish within our hearts a compelling vision of walking with You in Your passion for Jesus and His church, filled with Your grace and glory, flowing in You and Your anointing. Ex. 33:13, John 17:22-26, Eph. 1:17, 2:10, 5:18, Gal. 5:16, 25

Establish within us wise and understanding hearts to build Your house, a dwelling for You in the Spirit/spirit. Place Your hand upon us, impart Your plans and details. Ex. 25:8-9, 1 Chron. 22:13, 19, 28:9, 12, 19-20, 1 Kings 3:9, Zech. 8:9, Eph. 2:22

Jesus, establish our hearts in Your counsel and purpose, in the walk of the watchman. Is. 62:6, Jer. 23:18, Ezek. 3:17, Eph. 2:10, Ps. 25:12-14

As we settle more deeply into our relationship with Jesus and are further established in our prayer life, a key aspect is focus. In the many things we can pray about – ranging from personal needs to corporate and societal issues, are there key areas of focus. Given that what affects one affects all, a key corporate responsibility we have is lying in wait in a little verse in Proverbs 11.

11  By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. Proverbs 11:11 (NKJV)

This has great power if applied properly because when we break it down we are all applying it, the question is in what manner? As believers we all carry some degree of spiritual authority, so in the way we speak about it are we blessing or cursing our city? For a clear application of this verse see what was commanded by Yahweh in Jeremiah, a principle that I think it still applies to us.

7  And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace. 8  For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9  For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the LORD. 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 29:7-11 (NKJV)

The key verses are 7 and 11. The context is the captivity of Israel in Babylon and false prophets saying they would return quickly. Through Jeremiah, Yahweh said they would be there for 70 years so they needed to pray for the peace of the city. The key phrase is “in its peace you will have peace.” The principle being the need to bless the community we live in because when the community does well we as believers do well.

We tend to apply verse 11 individually but in context it refers corporately to the nation of Israel. I believe that if we as believers want to see Jesus move in our city and area then we need to take seriously the call to bless it by our words and prayers and seek the good of the city. In fact in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us to take this further than He did in Jeremiah.

13  “You are the salt of the earth… 14  You are the light of the world…” Matthew 5:13-14 (NKJV)

43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV)

So, with whatever spiritual authority we carry, are we blessing our city and seeing Jesus established in it?

Becoming Established Part 1

For many years a very important scripture to me has been, and continues to be, Exodus 25:8.

8  And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. Exodus 25:8 (NKJV)  

The context is the building of the Tabernacle of Moses and that Yahweh could only dwell in the midst of the people once the tabernacle had been erected, the proper sacrifices made and the Ark of the Covenant placed in the Holy of Holies. Once the proper preparations were complete Yahweh’s presence rested between the cherubim hovering over the Ark. In the NT context the proper sacrifice (Jesus) has been made and God’s justice satisfied. Once we repent of our sin and surrender to Jesus there is then a Holy of Holies created within us, a place for the Spirit to dwell in our reborn spirits.

Yet, do we experience this reality? It is not automatic as evidenced by Paul’s prayers in Ephesian’s 1:16-21 and 3:14-19. Paul prayed for believers to have a revelation of why and what the Father called us to and that we would experience the full breadth, length, height and depth of Jesus love. This of course requires the exercise of faith as Paul outlined in part of his Ephesians 3 prayer.   

17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, Ephesians 3:17 (NKJV)

In context the word ‘dwell’ above refers to the act of dwelling. It is a verb that means to “Settle down, dwell in, reside, inhabit.” (The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary). Again, Jesus settling down in our hearts requires us to exercise faith that He will actually do this out of His love for us.

 Now look at a portion of Ephesians 2 below.

21  in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:21-22 (NKJV)

Here the word ‘dwelling’ refers to a place and is the dwelling foreshadowed by the Tabernacle of Moses, Exodus 25:8 language. He stills wants to dwell in a sanctuary among His people in a way that is both corporate and individual. I have been in corporate gatherings where His presence came in a tangible way that was obvious to anyone with even a hint of discernment, I have also many times experienced His active dwelling just by sitting alone with Him.

My more common experience is encountering Jesus by sitting with Him and opening my spirit. In fact this being the first day of 2017 I have purposed in my heart two things for the year. One, to spend more time just sitting with Jesus and to read through the entire bible. It has been a long time since I have gone through the entire OT.    

I don’t know if it is the same for you but I know these two activities further establish me in my relationship with Jesus, which to my mind is what Christianity is about. His word renews my mind and His presence renews my heart. In the process I express and reflect more of His heart to those I interact with and have something to minister to them. I also live out of and from a deeper place of rest.

I invite you to join me in this journey or pursue Him as to how He would have you deepen your relationship with Him this year. Our culture needs more of Jesus and He is manifested to our culture as He dwells in and is revealed through us, His people.

Carrying His Yoke Part 3

As we enter into this new year let us seek His yoke in terms of our own individual purpose and calling. If we have asked Jesus to bind us to His purpose and to loose us from the snares and plans of the enemy then what is that doing in our lives? I started this short series with the verses below.

28  Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV)

When I look at these verses it seems that in verse 29 Jesus is reinforcing what He said in verse 28. We come to Him, He provides rest. Coming to Him means voluntarily placing His yoke upon ourselves. In essence this is an expansion of His brief call, “Follow Me.” I recently shared a joke I saw a few years ago. Jesus was sitting on a park bench with a young man and the caption was Jesus saying, “No I don’t mean Twitter. I actually want you to follow Me.”

Have we heard that call? Once we respond we find that His yoke begins to shape our lives. We find ourselves laying down some things and picking up others. All in the course of following ‘The Lamb who was slain.”

This shaping process begins to unveil our calling and purpose. Very few of us will have a blinding light like Paul on the road to Damascus, or Mary having Gabriel appear and speak to her. Many of us may not even have prophetic dreams. Yet as we positon our hearts before Him in the place of humility we will hear His voice in our hearts. It may be a sense of direction or purpose, it may be a scripture verse or passage that comes alive to us, yet whatever it is faith will be required. Generally what we are called to will look different than what we expect.

I am now quite comfortable speaking before large or small groups. Yet even though I had a sense of a desire to teach while in high school I don’t recall connecting the dots that it meant speaking in front of groups of people! Strange but true. I had a desire to teach but no desire to be in front of groups of people. My point being that something in me was responding to my calling but later in life it meant taking risks and stepping out in faith to actually do it. I remember my first sermon, with no practice ones, in front of a small group and my next one in front of three to four hundred people. I remember how I felt, anxiety being the key descriptor.

Yet following Jesus meant doing something in spite of how I felt, not because of it. When I started writing teaching in the 90’s I don’t think I was that good. My writing has improved a great deal over the years. Not through some magical download, but through hard work, getting feedback on my writing, some of it painful to receive, and making changes. Much of this has taken place in the context of my work. Jesus using my job to deepen my gifts for ministry.

In the end, whatever our gifts and calling are, Jesus wants to reveal some aspect of Himself through us. Seeing it happen means cooperating with Him to develop our gifts.

Carrying His Yoke Part 2

The next area I want to talk about in relation to yokes is the role in our prayer lives. To do that I want to look at a scripture and share an experience I had in September of 1990. I was at the Vineyard Holiness conference at the Agricom in Edmonton. There were about 4,000 people there and while waiting for the evening session I was in the lobby area speaking with someone I knew and waiting for my wife. A lady approached us and said to me, “Excuse me, I don’t know if you noticed but I have been staring at you all day. Every time I look at you I see you with a Jewish skullcap, a long white beard and a big empty book in front of you. The Lord said to tell you he is going to fill the book and to give you Leviticus chapter 8.” The cap she referred to was a yarmulke, the small round Jewish cap.

Being deeply aware and spiritually astute I obviously asked the lady a bit about herself and immediately read Leviticus chapter 8. Actually no, I never knew her name and would not have recognized her if I saw her on the street the next day. The important piece was the message rather than the messenger. Something we would do well to remember as His servants. I did not read Leviticus 8 until I went home later that night and even then didn’t get much out of it. I have no question the word was from the Holy Spirit and my understanding of the application has continued to grow over the past 26 years. I deeply appreciate that this lady listened to the Holy Spirit and took a risk and shared with me and I would now appreciate the opportunity to speak with her about what she shared. I still don’t have a long white beard and suspect I never will. However that part of the message was about an image representing age, maturity and wisdom. 

So what is important about Leviticus 8? Many things, but for our purposes 8:8.

8  Then he put the breastplate on him, and he put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastplate. Leviticus 8:8 (NKJV)   

This doesn’t tell us much, it requires having scripture interpret scripture. Exodus 28:15-21 does that for us. I will share the first and last verse of the passage.

15  “You shall make the breastplate of judgment. Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, you shall make it. Exodus 28:15 (NKJV)

21  And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes. Exodus 28:21 (NKJV)

Putting these verse together we know from Leviticus 8:8 that the Urim and the Thummim were in the breastplate, that it is a breastplate of judgment. This was judgment in the sense of governing or deciding. We also know the breastplate had twelve stones on it, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

I have long believed that the Urim and the Thummim correspond to the wisdom and revelation of Ephesians 1:17. We need spiritual wisdom and revelation to judge wisely. When the high priest entered Yahweh’s presence he carried the nation over his heart in an act of intercession, as represented by the 12 different stones. In a similar manner we are called to carry certain individuals, groups or other things over our hearts into His presence when we intercede. We are likely all familiar with the concept of the Lord ‘laying something on our heart.’ This is how we apply it. Standing in the place of intercession for others is a yoke He offers to all. Not many accept this yoke. Taking it doesn’t mean we need to become a fulltime intercessor. It does mean we commit to respond when He touches one of the stones upon our heart.

Do you know what stones He has asked you to carry? Are you responding when He touches one? Ask Him to reveal what He desires you to carry and to be sensitive to His touch upon them.