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.