A Body Prepared Part 1

I recently spoke very briefly about how the body of Christ is designed to function and someone requested I expand on my thoughts so here they are. Paul told us that the events of the OT were written as examples for us (see below). So let me share some of what the OT teaches about the oneness Yahweh desires in His body so we can learn from this example.

11  Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV)

In Exodus 26 Yahweh instructed Moses on how to build the tabernacle.

6  And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains together with the clasps, so that it may be one tabernacle. Exodus 26:6 (NKJV)

11  And you shall make fifty bronze clasps, put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one. Exodus 26:11 (NKJV)

The piece I want to highlight is Yahweh’s focus on the tabernacle being one. This was one of the aspects that Yahweh emphasized. There is no mysterious meaning in Hebrew, the word simply means to be united or one. So, if as Paul noted this was written to teach us something what is it teaching us? While the tabernacle was the place of worship and communion with Yahweh. I have noted in previous teaching how the different aspects can represent our spirit, soul, and body. However, it also represents a corporate body. Peter tells us this.

4  Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5  you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6  Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:4-6 (NKJV)

Peter tells us that as believers in Jesus we as living stones are being shaped into a spiritual house. Paul framed the same concept a bit differently in Ephesians 4:11-6 and said the following things would result from the proper functioning of the five-fold ministry in the church. Paul said the proper functioning of the five-fold ministry would flow from understanding that these gifts are given;

  • for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of serving,
  • for the building up of the body of Christ,
  • to bring the church into the unity of the faith (not doctrine) and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
  • to bring the church to maturity, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ

So that the church, in maturity:

  • would be stable,
  • would speak the truth in love to further mature the body,
  • would be nourished by what the joints supply (a joint is a relationship between two parts),
  • would be knit together in right relationships, and
  • would grow effectively in love.

This brings us back to Exodus 26 and the tabernacle being one. He is looking to see His church move in unity, as one. If you have ever played on a sports team or watched one you can tell when there is team unity. There is a flow in the team actions, the team seemingly takes on a life of its own and moves with a harmony that supports, protects and leads. If you have ever been part of such an experience you will treasure it, this is how we as the church are called to function.

So how do we get there? Have you ever studied a construction site at the beginning of a building project? A hole is dug and a foundation poured. Then all the materials are brought in so the floor, walls, roof and other parts can be assembled. When the supplies are brought in all the basic parts are there but it certainly does not look like a house! In the same way if we purchase a boxed piece of furniture at one of many large stores we realize, once we take all the parts out of the box, if it was not already obvious, we can see there is some assembly required! In a similar manner, having all the different members of a church congregation in one place does not mean you have a spiritual house – some assembly is required.

We need properly functioning church leadership and a body all operating in their gifts to see His house properly built. Yahweh said the tabernacle was to be one, all the seemingly disparate parts expressing a unity of purpose and function. Let us pray for this leadership to be further raised up and released and for all of us to operate in our gifts and callings.

More to come…

Who is Spiritual?

How do we recognize spiritual authority? Is it through titles or attire? Is it by physical bearing? Scripture has some interesting comments. I will start with Isaiah.

1  Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2  For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3  He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Isaiah 53:1-3 (NKJV)

Isaiah here described Jesus and prophesied that when He came we would not recognize or be drawn to Him by His physical appearance. Jesus would not fit in well with the elite of His day. Very few with cultural status would be able to recognize Him. Has this changed?

If we look back in scripture the Israelites at first did not embrace Moses as their leader and often challenged his spiritual authority in the wilderness. We see the same pattern with the kings. Saul looked good and failed and then when the great prophet Samuel was sent to anoint the new king he needed to learn something about discernment.

6  So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is before Him.” 7  But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:6-7 (NKJV)

Samuel got caught up in physical appearance. Jesus challenged the religious elite of His day because they asked for a sign from Him to validate His message. Never mind that numerous ones had already been given. They refused to recognize Him because to even consider Him as the Messiah offended their religious minds.

42  The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:42 (NKJV)

Jesus point was that someone who was a stranger to the community of Israel would go through great hardship to hear Solomon’s wisdom but they could not recognize the embodiment of reality and true spiritual authority standing right in front of them! Are we any different? The pattern has repeated through church and secular history. If we as the church in this day are to fulfill our calling and purpose we need to learn how to function differently. We need to embrace the spiritual truth that Paul provided for us because the issue was still prevalent in his day. Immature believers failed to recognize his spiritual authority and the truth is we receive from others based on our ability to discern what they carry. Paul said.

12  For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. 13  For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14  For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15  and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 16  Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:12-17 (NKJV)

Paul was telling us that if we learn to relate to our fellow believers based on who they are in Christ and what they carry of His presence we will go a lot further as the church. I know pastors who carry great spiritual authority and wisdom but I know more people who are not official church leaders who carry great spiritual authority and wisdom. My friend the carpenter who loves the scriptures like no one else I know, my friend the janitor who constantly changes lives through his intercession, young men and others who have given themselves to prayer and are carrying increasing spiritual authority. I see them and many other who carry His presence but are not greatly esteemed by the world. I pray we learn this lesson and retain it. As Jesus said.

15  And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16:15 (NKJV)

The converse is true, that which is generally lightly esteemed by men is highly esteemed by God!

The Lord is at Hand

Where is our awareness most of the time? I recently visited with a friend who is 89, and while her mind and spirit are sharp, she has been in ongoing terrible pain and is on scheduled doses of morphine to manage the pain. She refuses to take enough to truly deal with the pain because it dulls and muddles her mind and alertness – her awareness is very important to her. I asked her how conscious she was of Jesus in all of this (she has had terrible pain for many long months). My question elicited a smile and joy as she told me how aware she constantly was of His presence in her and with her. I will come back to this.

What I wonder about is how well we apply scriptural truth to this aspect of our lives? What is our ongoing perspective on reality?

18  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) 

5  Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Philippians 4:5 (NKJV) 1  After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” 2  Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. Revelation 4:1-2 (NKJV) 

1  Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2  a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. Hebrews 8:1-2 (NKJV) 

1  God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2  has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3  who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:1-3 (NKJV)

The verses above all tell us something about Jesus nearness, presence, ministry and finished work. One underlying message is that He is very involved in our lives. Yet, I believe to walk in what He desires for us we need to learn to tune our hearts to His presence. He is very near, at hand, and desiring to engage our hearts. Yet if we never slow down to focus on Him we can miss what He is doing in our lives.

We live in a culture driven by distraction and activity yet if you can engage someone in a meaningful way in all of our cultural ‘busyness’ many feel disconnected. We live in the most ‘connected’ time in history yet seem to not have time to connect with the one this is all about. Paul told us it was and is all about Jesus.

10  that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him. Ephesians 1:10 (NKJV)

This means that since Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith and of time then history is really His-story. Given that does it not make sense to make time for Him? Given we know He is near, at hand (Phil. 4:5) how can we know His presence like my friend above? The answer is simple and challenging, we give Him our time.

Giving Jesus our time may sound daunting but it is consistent with how He has designed us. For many years in our busy culture I have commented that most people say they have no time yet I believe that if you put the average ‘busy’ person in our culture in a quiet room with no distractions  for 10 minutes they would find it very difficult to be still. We were created to need quiet times to recharge and be restored. Even the word recreation is a compound word, re-creation. Times of rest are meant to recharge us.

For myself I love hiking in the mountains. It is amazing when you spend even half an hour hiking up and then look back and see how much distance you have covered. The other important piece is that the view is very different than down in the valley.

So, while I believe it is critical to make time each day to sit with Jesus with no distractions, I believe we can also practice creating these moments throughout any given day. We can climb our cultural mountain of distraction by refocusing on Him in a checkout line, while riding an elevator, in the shower, etc. Jesus is at hand and if we will learn to tune our hearts to Him we will become more aware of this important reality and will find all of the busyness around less of a distraction and find ourselves able to see from His perspective rather than ours – the views really are quite different!

A Woman, a Well, and…?

The story of the woman at the well, as it is known, is very common in Christian circles. It is not a parable, it is a record of an actual event that took place. While we can read the story in a few minutes understanding something of the cultural context will help us better understand what took place. The basic facts,

  • The woman was a Samaritan,
  • Samaritans do not interact with Jews
  • Jesus was a Jew
  • The woman had five different husbands
  • She was now living with a man who was not her husband
  • The whole community knew who she was and were familiar with her history

An important factor is that in the culture of the day woman had no right to divorce men. Men initiated the divorce. This tells us two things about this woman. The first is that all five of her husbands must have found something desirable in her to marry her, particularly as one went further down the husband list! The second is that they all found some reason to divorce her. We don’t need to speculate on what that was, we just need to know that she experienced ongoing rejection from everyone who married her. It would strain credibility to believe they all just dropped dead and that is why she kept remarrying.

So what can we learn from this scene. Let’s start with the key verses.

1  Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2  (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3  He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4  But He needed to go through Samaria. John 4:1-4 (NKJV)

Jesus needed to go through Samaria. Why? The religious people of the day went out of their way to go around Samaria (see verse 9). Jesus needed to go because He was not religious, He was free, and because He had an appointment at a well.

6  Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7  A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8  For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9  Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10  Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11  The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12  Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 13  Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” 15  The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” 16  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18  for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” 19  The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25  The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” John 4:6-26 (NKJV)

39  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40  So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41  And many more believed because of His own word. 42  Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” John 4:39-42 (NKJV)

We know that as a result of this encounter with Jesus this unnamed woman moved from religion to life, she found living water, and she found the freedom Jesus modeled as she became a passionate evangelist sharing openly the good news of her heart issues being revealed, which means her heart must have also been healed. Something about Jesus drew her into the conversation. We know it was not His appearance as Isaiah said there was nothing in His physical appearance to draw us to Him (2  For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. Isaiah 53:2 NKJV). It must have been her heart that was drawn.

So, how many of us are like this woman? We have had to deal with issues of religion, rejection or conflict, sometimes all interrelated, and need our hearts healed. Are we ready like her to come and drink of this living water and let it flow through our hearts bringing cleansing and healing? We may have been a Christian for years but still need our hearts healed, or we may have at one time had a free heart that now needs to be healed. Whatever the case there are two things I know for sure.

  1. He is able
  2. He is willing

Come drink – not once but continually.