Positioned to Receive

Right now much of Canada is paying attention to the Toronto Blue Jays, by default Canada’s favourite Major League Baseball team, particularly as they are our only MLB team! There is a lot in the press about the pitching staff, the guys who deliver the ball, and the hitters. Little attention is paid to the back catchers, yet they really do ‘back’ up the team. What I suspect most people don’t think a lot about is the role of the catcher in helping the pitcher. They need to develop a subtle communication so that generally the catcher knows what pitch is coming and positions his glove to receive the catch. The positioning of the catcher’s glove helps the pitcher’s delivery.

I don’t want to press this analogy too much, and I am not a baseball expert. The only time I remember ever watching a full baseball game on TV was when the Blue Jays were in the World Series in the early 1990’s. I did however play some ball and helped coach so allow me to make a spiritual connection. The way we position our heart to receive an impartation affects the delivery of the anointing. These concepts may seem odd at first but Jesus addressed this in a couple of ways, without ever using the words ‘impart’ or ‘impartation,’ yet expressing the reality of how we receive what is being imparted.

The joy of discovering these things hiding in ‘plain sight’ in the bible is an example of our Father hiding things not from us but for us.

2  It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2 (NKJV)

For me a great illustration of this came in listening to a message by John Paul Jackson a few years ago. He said after his teaching someone came up and asked him what bible he was using. He responded the NKJV. The man then said he wasn’t interested in the version, he just never saw the things John Paul saw in the bible until John Paul shared them. Is that our experience? They are there, we just need to seek the Holy Spirit for clues and then follow them.

So what did Jesus say about receiving? One area He addressed was our need to prepare our hearts. This aspect is presented in the parable of the sower.

11  “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12  Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13  But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14  Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15  But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. 16  No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. 17  For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. 18  Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” Luke 8:11-18 (NKJV)

We know from verse 12 that what we hear with, and where the seed is sown, is in our hearts. In this passage Jesus said those who received and bore fruit were those with a ‘noble and good heart” and then nurture what they received. So a very important aspect in being ‘positioned to receive’ is the posture of our heart, ideally a receptive and faith filled heart. Do we have one?

Jesus also addressed another aspect of receiving.

48  and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.” Luke 9:48 (NKJV) 40  “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41  He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42  And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” Matthew 10:40-42 (NKJV)

In these two passages Jesus refers to receiving children, prophets, and the righteous. The key point is that what is imparted to us is conditioned by how we receive. For example, if we receive a prophet as something other than a prophet than we do not receive a prophet’s reward, the benefit of their prophetic ministry. We may receive other things from them but likely not the thing we need to move us forward in further connecting us to His purpose in our lives. My goal in stating this is not to elevate ministries and offices in the church, rather to get us to seek and discern in our interactions with others. We may receive a greater download from the person next to us at a meeting than from the famous speaker if we discern the anointing they carry. As the church we need to lay down worldly standards and embrace godly ones if we are to truly grow. We need to learn to discern and discern to learn!

The Power of Impartation

Paul made a very interesting statement connected to the concept of impartation.

11  For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established – 12  that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Romans 1:11-12 (NKJV)

Prior to defining impartation I want to look at the fruit of it in Romans 1:12, the phrase translated as “may be encouraged together” is a single compound word in Greek and this is the only occurrence of it in the scriptures.

συμπαρακαλέω sumparakaleō verb Comfort together.

In the New Testament it occurs only in Romans 1:12. Here Paul used it to express this common meaning, “That I may be comforted together with you . . . . ” Since this example is in the passive voice, it could be translated “that I may receive comfort (or strength) together with you.”

The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Sigma-Omega.

The idea Paul is expressing is that through impartation there would be mutual comfort received, that is, Christ’s body would be strengthened. A key factor in receiving from the Holy Spirit through others is hunger. However, Paul first ties impartation to being ‘established,’ that is to be strengthened or confirmed. So there is a connection between impartation and establishment or strengthening, and the fruit it His body being built up.

Paul’s statements below are connected to the concept of impartation. Even though he does not use the word here he is describing the reality of impartation.

19  My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV) 27  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28  Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29  To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. 1  For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2  that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 1:27-2:3 (NKJV)

How was Paul laboring for the Galatians? Two ways really, he was standing in the gap in intercession. Seeking through prayer to bridge the gap between where they were and where they needed to be and he was sharing spiritual truth with them through his letter. These were both means of impartation to bring them to maturity.

In the Colossians passage above Paul speaks if his readers maturing through his preaching and teaching and then describes his travail for them, he is referencing intercession. So with different language he is laying out the same process he did for the Galatians. My point? The life of Jesus can be imparted to us for spiritual growth in a variety of ways.

In my own experience impartation works most effectively face to face through sharing and through the laying on of hands and praying. Paul described this as well.

14  Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15  Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 1 Timothy 4:14-15 (NKJV) 

Something was imparted to Timothy through prayer and prophecy and he was now responsible to steward this gift. Paul was well aware of this through both knowledge and experience.

1  Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2  As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3  Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. Acts 13:1-3 (NKJV)

14  But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out Acts 14:14 (NKJV)

In Antioch, prior to being sent out (the word apostle means ‘sent one’) Paul and Barnabas were both called to be apostles but functioned as prophets and/or teachers as the text above says. When they were sent out they were now commissioned as apostles and a chapter later referred to that way. Some authority was imparted through the laying on of hands.

So part of spiritual growth in our lives is connected to impartation. A key qualifier for receiving impartation is recognizing the need. A pattern in Paul’s ministry from beginning to end was that he sought prayer and ministry from others. If we read his letters chronologically, the first one being Galatians, Paul comes across as a bit arrogant, yes an apostle but not yet fully mature in Jesus. At the same time he had a depth of relationship where Jesus was being revealed through him to others and his behaviour sprang not from pride but from his passion for the gospel. Still by the time we arrive at his last letter, 2 Timothy, we find a much more humble apostle. My point, the early church leaders where still fallible people growing in maturity, a key being continued growth in Christlikeness over their lifespan. Growth rooted in impartation.

For us to grow we need a heart to receive. Many years ago I read a story that illustrates this well, there are various versions of it. A professor heard of an old man who, though not well educated, was well known for his wisdom. The professor arranged an appointment with him because he said he wanted to learn some of his wisdom. When they sat down together the professor talked a lot about what he knew and the wise man listened. After a while the old man offered the professor tea. He began to pour and when the cup began overflowing the professor said, “Stop, the cup is too full.” Yes said the wise man, just as you are too full of your own opinions. If you want to learn you must first empty your cup.”

I had an experience like this a couple of years ago. A fellow from another province was here to learn about some of the things we do at the office where I work. He met with some of us individually and he and I had an appointment so he could learn about my work area. At the end of our 30-40 minute meeting I knew a lot about him, his background, and his work, he knew very little about mine! I never offered him tea as he already had coffee!

I’m not claiming to be the wise old man but I do know some things and have some expertise. However, my general approach is to open doors for people and invite them in, they choose whether or not to enter. I have had a few people over the years ask for perspective on something then talk endlessly, their behaviour clearly contradicting their stated desire. On the other hand I have had the opportunity to mentor and invest in many lives and deeply appreciate it. I enjoy teaching not because I like being at the centre of attention, I often find it uncomfortable, however I put up with it because I enjoy seeing people learn.

My qualifier is that the reason I now have something to give is that I have received a lot from others! I have studied the scriptures, listened to and learned from others, and I been prayed for by many others. I sought out mentors both in my career and in my spiritual walk and I always seek to remain teachable and to learn. Even where I work my supervisor is a couple of years younger than me but I greatly respect his leadership and have learned a lot from him the past few years, some of it painfully! He is by no means perfect but my focus is not on where I may think he needs to change but on what I can learn from him to improve my own leadership.

So, is our cup sufficiently empty to receive from those whom He sends to teach us? Do we need impartation?

Intercessory Worship Part 4

In this final piece in this series I am going to look at the place of Living Water and how it connects to worship, intercession, and silence. Jesus introduces the idea of Living Water in John’s gospel.

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.” John 4:10-14 (NKJV)

38  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. John 7:38 (NKJV)

First, why did Jesus refer to living water rather than just water? To understand that we need to dig a bit into the Judaism of Jesus day. Our modern baptismal tanks, whether or not we are aware of it, are modeled on the Hebrew Mikveh. A Mikveh was a bath that was regularly used for purification, the Hebrew forerunner of the baptismal tank. There was an important component in the design and an important component in use. In design the Mikveh was built to accommodate living water. It had to have both an inflow and an outflow. In use it was used for purification not cleansing. Users often bathed before getting in the Mikveh. This helps make sense of Jesus cry at the feast. The Holy Spirit flowing in and through us purifies our heart and mind.

The woman at the well would have understood Jesus reference to cleansing and purification in connection to living water. A well was not flowing so was not considered living water. As well Jesus hears on the feast day would have understood His reference to the purifying and cleansing role of living water. The idea of the Mikveh and living water was so important that the requirement in Orthodox Judaism is that a Mikveh must be constructed before the synagogue is built.

The first use of the word Mikveh is in Genesis 1.

10  And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:10 (NKJV)

In the verse above it is the word ‘gathering’ that is the source of Mikveh (this is the phonetic pronunciation and English spelling, hence the slightly different Hebrew spelling below). The word refers not to water but to the gathering or assembling of it.

‏            מִקְוֶה‎ miqweh, noun, collection

Miqweh means “a congregation,” “gathering together.” Water is “gathered” into large bodies such as seas (Gen. 1:10), streams, rivers and pools (Exo. 7:19), or in a fountain or pit (Lev. 11:36). The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Kaph-Mem.

Something of great significance tied to the use of the Mikveh was the connection to being ‘born again’ and the role of witnesses (for further study http://www.haydid.org/ronimmer.htm).When someone converted to Judaism in Jesus day they had to be circumcised and baptized in the Mikveh. When they came up out of the water it was said they had been ‘born again.’ The same process took place when one became a Rabbi, which Nicodemus was. Hence his confusion in John 3. Jesus was essentially telling him he needed to be converted rather than converting others, and Jesus was by inference telling him he needed to become a true Rabbi. This dialogue turned Nicodemus world upside down!

The Mikveh baptism was for the removal of defilement, the results of sin, while the blood sacrifice paid the price for sins. Hence the importance of Christian baptism, it is connected to cleansing rather than salvation. In Jewish practice they also named the key witnesses to the act and said they were immersed in the Mikveh in the name of the key witnesses present and spoke their names. Hence Jesus said we were to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because they were the key witnesses!

It is also very interesting that the core meaning of Mikveh is ‘gathering together.’ When we truly embrace Jesus and fully surrender to His ways there is a ‘gathering together,’ a unifying that takes place in our spirit, soul, and body, as is pictured in baptism. This is further reflected in Paul’s prayer to the Thessalonians that their spirit, soul, and body would be preserved blameless (1 Thess. 5:23).

Now back to what Jesus said about living water. Jesus was referring to those who came to Him and were His followers. Is it our experience that we are aware of a fountain of water within us that is ‘springing up into everlasting life’ or conscious that from our heart there is a flow of ‘rivers of living water?’ If not does that mean we are not truly believers, are simply not aware of what is happening, or have we stopped up this well within us?

In addition to sin being able to plug the well I know from my own experience that busyness and lack of focus also seem to stop the flow. I know that when I begin to sit before Him in the morning I first ‘gather’ myself. I focus on His presence. Have you ever been outside on a cloudy day and aware of the change on your body when a cloud passes and the sun is again revealed? For me that is what it is like when I ‘gather’ myself and sit before the Father, Son, and Spirit. This begins in silence and I physically experience being baptized in His presence. When I do this prior to worship or intercession my heart is more engaged and I am able to quickly enter in. A failure to do this often leads to a struggle. My experience is that worship and intercession are enlivened and supported by focused silence in His presence. It is this focused attention on Him that lets the river flow.

At the end of the day Jesus desire is that the river we see pictured in Revelation is an image of the river flowing in and through us.

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. Revelation 22:1-2 (NKJV)

Notice that the river proceeds both from the throne and from ‘the Lamb.’ The water flows from Jesus. As His body upon the earth we are called to drink deeply of this living water and release it to the nations in the pattern Jesus taught.

8  “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

Through drinking deeply of the Holy Spirit we are to take His life to our Judea (local community), our Samaria (those different from us in the surrounding culture) and to the end of the earth (anyone in need).

Are we immersing ourselves in the living water of His presence each day and during the day when we need it?

Intercessory Worship Part 3

My general experience, particularly in our overly busy culture, is that we tend to associate worship with activity. Is that scripturally accurate? Years ago I heard of an old Hebrew saying, “The beginning of wisdom is silence.” The source is actually Solomon ibn Gabirol, an 11th century Jewish philosopher. While this saying is not from scripture is it scriptural in expression? If it is do we have a connection between silence and worship? If we have a connection does the definition I created and posted still apply? “I see Intercessory Worship as a dynamic blend of worship and intercession that engages the heart in His strategic purposes and is led by the Holy Spirit. It may be either individual or corporate.” After all, how active can silence be? Does Psalm 46:10 mean anything in our busy work, social, and church culture?

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)

To answer my questions I will look to scripture. See how Habakkuk connects silence with worship and how a right response is wisdom.

20  “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20 (NKJV) 

What else do the scriptures have to say?

1  Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation. 2  He only is my rock and my salvation; *He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved. Psalm 62:1-2 (NKJV)

13  Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts That the peoples labor to feed the fire, And nations weary themselves in vain? 14  For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:13-14 (NKJV)

1  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2  Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3  And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” Isaiah 6:1-3 (NKJV)

1  When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Revelation 8:1 (NKJV)

We also have Yahweh’s command to Moses.

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)

What has long struck me about this passage is the first part of the command, “Come up to me on the mountain and be there;” It isn’t about activity, it is about being available in His presence. We need His perspective. That is what clarifies and connects Habakkuk and Isaiah. Habakkuk says, “For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,” while Isaiah says, or at least the seraphim say, “The whole earth is full of His glory!” How do we reconcile the two?

What we see depends on the vantage point we look from. Habakkuk referred to a coming time, which I believe is at the door, where across the earth people would become aware of the glory of Yahweh. The seraphim dwelt in Yahweh’s presence and so saw everything in the earth through the lens of His glory. Paul said we are seated with Him so we have the opportunity to see from the same perspective as the seraphim!

So back to my silence quote. The fuller version is, “In seeking wisdom, the first step is silence; the second, listening; the third, remembering; the fourth, practicing; the fifth, teaching others.

We can come into Yahweh’s presence in silence to listen to His heart. I believe that is a key component in intercessory worship. As David wrote,

2  Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2 (NKJV)

Our thoughts tend to wander and clamour for attention and it takes persistence and discipline to learn to sit in silence before Him. The process of weaning a child is gradually withdrawing from them something they desire, generally it is connected to nursing and the withdrawal of their mother’s milk. While they tend to resist and fight against the loss, a transition to adult food is necessary for growth and maturity. The same is true in the spiritual realm, we need to discipline our souls, our wandering minds and emotions. If David could do it without the indwelling Spirit surely we with Christ living within can learn to come and be at rest before Him to tune our hearts to His presence.

So let me apply my definition and see if silence fits. “I see Intercessory Worship as a dynamic blend of worship and intercession that engages the heart in His strategic purposes and is led by the Holy Spirit. It may be either individual or corporate.” To embrace silence before Yahweh requires a deep engagement of our hearts so let us again hear Habakkuk and embrace his exhortation.

20  “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20 (NKJV)