Life in the Law?

How do we understand laws? Have you ever considered the different types of laws? Think about the speed limit. It is a law made by man through legislation and different jurisdictions set different laws based on their authority. For example, in Canada we have laws that are federal in nature. They are established by the House of Commons and apply to everyone in the country. Provinces have some degree of autonomy and set laws like provincial building codes and taxes because they fall under their authority. Towns and cities set bylaws around parking and municipal speed limits because they fall under their authority.

If we think more broadly we have laws that we refer to as ‘laws of nature.’ They are laws like gravity, the effect of the sound barrier, the speed of light and others. We often refer to things done by ‘mother nature’ and mention things like the ‘laws of nature.’ As a side note I find it both sad and amusing that many people who claim to not believe in God turn around and deify nature without even thinking about it.

For example, one time I ended up in a discussion with a fellow at the fitness centre who it turned out was a biology professor. When I pointed out in our dialogue that when he referred to the things that ‘nature’ was doing he and others were just replacing God with ‘nature’ the way he used the term and the powers he ascribed to nature. He was a bit taken back, however he saw what I was talking about and it did open the door to some sharing about the gospel.

So, why am I going on about the law? Primarily because we tend to view laws as restrictive. However legislation is generally written in two ways, as either restrictive or enabling and the overarching purpose is generally intended for the good of the populous. If we think broadly of the Mosaic Law in terms of the Ten Commandments “(see Ex. 20:1-17) we find most of the commandments are restrictive.

In the New Testament we find something new introduced in relation to law. While we are told that the whole of the law is to love the Lord and our neighbour we are not given the strength to do so, that is until after Jesus resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 1:8, 2:1-4). As we move further into the New Testament Paul explains what happened on the day of Pentecost when the church was birthed; a new law was introduced and he tells us what it is.

2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2 (NKJV emphasis mine) 

The new law we are called to live under and by is the ‘law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.’ I invite you to meditate on the significance of this law. More to come…

Gyroscopic Faith

Gyroscopic faith may sound like a strange title but I want to tie it into the concept of heavenly help from the real realm, the unseen realm. If you are unfamiliar with gyroscopes please see the links below.

In essence when a gyroscope is spinning it seeks to remain upright no matter how you tip it. So what does this have to do with faith you may wonder? I had a dream recently where I was explaining to a large group at a church how a gyroscope was connected to our faith and it inspired me to write this post. Some familiar objects where we see a gyroscopic effect are motorcycle or bicycle tires. The spinning effect of the wheels seeks to pull the bikes upright. However, like an actual gyroscope, the effect is dependent on movement. Hence it is easier to keep a fast moving bike upright than a slow one as the gyroscopic effect is more pronounced at higher speeds.

Now to faith. Paul made a statement that is a theme in the New Testament. He is below speaking of the aim of salvation.

21  And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22  in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight– 23  if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:21-23 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

Neatly slipped into this statement is the qualifier I highlighted above, “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast…not moved away from the hope of the gospel.” Importantly, Jesus said the same thing.

31  Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” John 8:31 (NKJV)

The word ‘abide’ is translated as ‘continue’ in other versions and the concept of continuing is in many places in the NT. What is my point? Just as movement is what keeps a bicycle upright, so moving forward in our faith enables heaven to be engaged on our behalf. The Holy Spirit leads us rather than pushing us and it is easier to redirect a moving object that to overcome inertia. I don’t believe these statements are about being saved, they are what Peter referred to.

11  for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:11 (NKJV)

Peter laid out how to grow in our faith. Intentionally moving further into our faith is what will ensure a great welcome when we step from time into eternity. We can limp in or run in. Are we embracing the gyroscopic effect of our faith here on earth?

The song below is about moving with Jesus.

Understanding the Real Realm

Have you ever thought about the impact angels have or can have in our lives? I raise the question not because I am, or think we should be, enamoured with angels. Rather I think that we may find it helpful to understand the source of grace, peace, healing and other thing in our lives and the reality of the unseen realm that surrounds us. While there are forces of darkness all around us, we are also surrounded with a great cloud of believers who have gone on before (Heb. 12:1) and a large array of other beings. Daniel refers to the ‘watchers’ more than once. Jeremiah refers to the Lords council (Jer. 23:18). In chapter 6 Isaiah referred to 6 winged creatures called Seraphim. Ezekiel describes winged living creatures with different faces, eyes in wheels, fire and other attributes. The Ark of the Covenant had winged cherubim modeled on the real cherubim in heaven.

If at any time we feel overwhelmed and oppressed we can ask our Father to release help on our behalf! We may be surrounded by the enemy but our Father has His host surrounding them. Look at the experience of Elisha described in the scriptures.

15  And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16  So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17  And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18  So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.”

And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-18 (NKJV)

The context suggests that while Elisha prayed to Yahweh, the angels rendered the opposing army blind. This is similar to what it says in Revelation.

4  John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, Revelation 1:4 (NKJV)

John describes this grace and peace as coming from Jesus and from the seven Spirits before the throne. This is also supported elsewhere in Hebrews where it says of angels,

14  Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14 (NKJV).

We generally understand that grace and peace come from Jesus, which they do, but sometimes it helps to understand the other means and the unseen realm. We may wonder; why is all of heaven arrayed and aligned for our help? Why are these numerous creatures seeking to draw our hearts more deeply into Him? I suggest we meditate on this simple answer.

Because He loves us!

Deepening New Perspectives

In my first two posts for this year I talked about what we were carrying in our spirits and what we might be chewing or meditating on. So now that have some language for seeing things we are waiting for already accomplished in the eternal realm, and having looked at scriptural meditation, how do we build on this foundation? I believe meditating on scriptural truth is what shifts our view to see from an eternal perspective. After all we each have the ability to engage eternity built into us (Eccl. 3:11, ‘He has put eternity in their hearts’). So how do we engage?

We live in a very busy world where we are easily distracted. 150 – 200 years ago most people went to bed and got up with the sun. They engaged in the natural rhythm of life. Given we cannot do that I believe we need to intentionally build silence and quiet into our lives. I have a friend who very regularly tramps around the mountains and talks with our Father. He hears a lot because it is a dialogue. Given that is not an option for most of us how do we build it into our ‘busyness?’

The answer is simple, the practice often difficult. We need to create a spot and time to just sit with Jesus. Practically find a spot and sit and relax and focus on His presence (He is there whether or not we feel Him). Then hold a scripture or scriptural thought before Him (His throne of grace is also there).

We are to then hold this in our mind and deeply reflect until it becomes a reality in our spirit and then becomes externally visible. I’m not suggesting this happens immediately, the practice is the antithesis of rushing. Rather as we sit with His word in His presence we are changed (see 2 Cor. 3:18). As our inward reality changes our outward reality and experience change and others experience us differently.

I know when I began to function in spiritual gifts like a word of knowledge (8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:8 (NKJV) it was the fruit of praying, pondering and thinking about at times during the day. This meant I was regularly holding it before the throne of grace. An internal idea expressed in prayer became an external reality. I still needed to exercise faith to operate in the gifts but they were stirred up in me through holding them before Him.

I was basically doing what Jesus said, I was asking, seeking and knocking, expressing the desires of my heart. If you want to enter further into this how about bringing these two verses and your desires before Him, then meditating deeply on them while believing that, outside of time they are already accomplished?

4  Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. 5  Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:4-5 (NKJV)

The Goodness of God?

I planned to continue on my perspectives journey with shorter posts, which I will do, but a friend emailed me a question that I thought deserved a broad response and is in fact about perspective. There is a false view that is circulating fairly broadly and seems quite popular in the body of Christ in the Western church. It seems to be primarily based on the misapplication of the two scriptures below.

3  But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 1 Corinthians 14:3 (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)

Tied to these scriptures is the oft repeated expression, “God is good all the time.” The scriptures and the statement in and of themselves are both true. However, we also need to interpret and apply them, which is where things often go wrong. In this case, because our Western church is so conformed to the surrounding culture we tend to interpret ‘goodness’ and ‘edification and exhortation and comfort’ as things that make us feel good. This gets further translated into any talk of ‘judgement’ being viewed as negative and false.

The problem with this view is that it is easily demonstrated to be wrong from even a cursory examination of scripture. I am not suggesting that prophetic words won’t make us feel good at times, I have had a few, in fact some very encouraging ones in a prayer ministry time just this past week that focused things in my life in a very good way. However part of the prayer time included a message of difficult trials that would strengthen me. So given that is not an enjoyable prospect do I throw that part out because it didn’t make me feel good? It did encourage me.

Let me go back to the scriptures above. In 1 Corinthians 14:3 the NKJV uses the term ‘exhortation,’ while the NIV says ‘encouragement.’ They simply translate a Greek word into English differently. The meaning of the word is just as it says. Below is another usage of it in the NT.

18  And with many other exhortations he preached to the people. Luke 3:18 (NKJV)

If you read Luke 3:1-17 you will find the exhortations referred to in verse 18. Not a lot of them were heart-warming and comforting but a proper response to John’s preaching would bring comfort, it just may have been painful to get there. John as a prophet was practicing what 1 Corinthians 14:3 encourages us to do.

What of Romans 2:4, does the ‘goodness of God’ lead to repentance? Absolutely! However, read the context. The verses before and after are warnings of judgment and wrath. The point is that God in His goodness convicts us of our sin (read, makes us feel guilty, not happy) so that we will repent and not experience judgement and wrath. That is the context.

If we apply our feel good theology to the NT we need to remove some of the writers. That John guy in Revelation sure predicted a lot of judgement, we better not listen to him. The other John, you know, the first Baptist, he wasn’t warm and fuzzy. In fact he was downright negative and abrasive, we better not listen to him. O yes, what about that Jesus guy? Well Matthew 24 certainly isn’t all that encouraging and uplifting, and in Matthew 23 He had the gall to call people fools, hypocrites and blinds guides! Far too negative, better not listen to Him.

Obviously I am being sarcastic but that is the end this false theology leads us to, we just don’t seem to see or realize it. I just read something this week from the editor of a large charismatic magazine who seemed to echoing the views I have just lampooned – do we not see?

How about some real life examples in our day?

I had an aunt who died a number of years ago. She had stomach pains and went to her Dr. who reassured her everything was fine, so she felt better, in fact even encouraged I think. However the pains persisted and got worse so she went back. The Dr. again reassured her everything was fine. However, this time she didn’t fell reassured and since she worked in a hospital she pulled aside a Dr. that she knew. He examined her and told her that he thought she had stomach cancer, which she did, and died of a few months later. Was the first Dr. being good when he reassured and encouraged her? Might she have lived if she had been given a proper diagnosis, painful news and the issue addressed when she first raised it?

I had a similar experience. At 23 I went to the Dr. with a strange lump. The Dr. reassured me it was an infection and put me on antibiotics. In fact the Dr. was nice and reassuring enough to say to me, “Don’t worry, it’s not cancer.” Now, to this point that idea had not occurred to me and I gave it little thought after. Someone messed up. I don’t know whether the Dr. or the pharmacist but I ended up on half the recommended dosage of antibiotics for twice the length of time. When I finally returned to the Dr. because the antibiotics had no effect I was referred to a specialist and had my first surgery shortly thereafter, because I did in fact have cancer.

My point in both stories is the issue could have been dealt with sooner with an accurate diagnosis. For our eternal condition the best diagnostic tool is the scriptures. However if we are fixated on only reading the parts that make us feel good, or reinterpreting the ‘negative’ parts so that we feel good, we will not arrive at an accurate diagnosis and thus apply the wrong remedy.

Current reality is that we as the Western church need to mature, and quickly. The moral compass of our culture is broken and sadly in many places it seems to be broken in the church as well. Our culture is desperately in need of effective salt and light. For too long we have abandoned our responsibility to be just that for our culture. There are many encouraging and comforting things in the scriptures, as we generally define encouragement and comfort, things that make us feel better. However, that is not all that is in the scriptures. We are in a season where we need to move beyond milk and partake of some solid food (see Heb. 5:12-14).

Are we in the time of which Paul wrote? Would we recognize it if we were?

2  Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (NKJV)

My final exhortation in this post. Read the scriptures! However, first try to set aside preconceived notions and read them in the context in which they were written. In fact, pray first and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth in them so that we can bypass our biases!

Nurturing New Perspectives

What role does meditation on the Word play in new spiritual perspectives and our spiritual growth? I suppose the first step in answering the question is looking at scriptural meditation by examining some Old Testament verses.

8  This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8 (NKJV)

2  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2 (NKJV)

14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

We are clearly called to meditate on the word but how do we do that? The meaning of the Hebrew word meditate, or meditation, refers to pondering, imagining, muttering and speaking. In essence, biblical meditation includes thinking deeply on something, particularly scripture, and speaking it to ourselves. We essentially chew on the scripture until it becomes part of us. The best image is that of a cow chewing its cud. Since most in our modern culture may not be familiar with farm imagery let me explain. A cow has four stomachs so it thoroughly digests its food to get every bit of nutrition out of it. Initially it chews and chews a wad of food (a cud) over and over again to break down the plant material and release the nutrition. This is what we are called to do with the scriptures so that they move from our heads to our hearts. We are to ponder them and chew on them until they come alive in us.

Lest we think this is only an Old Testament practice, Jesus was clear about our need to live by the word

4  But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 (NKJV) 

If we see the source of our life as the scriptures, as we move further into this new year, this new season, we need to consider something. What are we chewing on before Him?

A New Perspective

Recently a friend shared something with me that I thought would be a great way to start the year. She shared that while doing some heavy weight training a few years ago she thought about time from God’s perspective. She concluded that if she was going to be able to lift a heavier weight, then from the Lord’s perspective, outside of our linear time (think of Jesus as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world) she had already accomplished it! She then went on to make such significant gains that her coach asked if she was using steroids or something. In fact she was in a very practical way simply applying her faith.

This story may sound simple but the underlying perspective has profound implications. Think about praying for healing for someone. If they are going to be healed, from His perspective they already have been. In Matthew 6:10 Jesus told us to pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Paul said in Ephesians 2:5-6 that we have been raised with and in Jesus and are seated with Him in heavenly places. Should we not then see and pray from this perspective?

This idea of viewing events in time from the perspective of non-linear experiences outside of time may be what Jesus was speaking of in Mark 11:22-24.

22  So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23  For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24  Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Mark 11:22-24 (NKJV)

I believe to embrace this perspective we need to meditate on the significance of it. What does it mean to believe we have already received so that we can receive? I believe one application is that just as a baby grows in the womb and then is revealed in birth we need to learn to carry things in our spirits and nurture them until they are manifest in the earth.

What are you carrying this year?