Great and Mighty Things

I suppose at some point in our lives we would all like to see “Great and mighty things.” This is something that Yahweh promised to Jeremiah.

3  ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:3 (NKJV)

At first glance this can seem like a promise we can just reach out and claim. However, context is always important. In this case Jeremiah would never see the ‘great and mighty things’ referenced in this verse. It was about the return of a remnant of the nation of Israel to rebuild Jerusalem, after 70 years of captivity in Babylon.

This brings us to something we rarely reference in the Western church. Jeremiah, like most OT prophets, was living for something beyond himself. The tagline I have on my blog and in my home email signature is, “An Eternal Perspective: Living in Time, Preparing for Eternity.” Easy to say, not always so easy to do. Living this way requires regularly stepping back and gaining perspective. Am I willing to invest my life in people and things when I may never see the fruit of them this side of the grave? Yahweh was inviting Jeremiah to stand in the gap and intercede for things he would never see. Doing this requires faith.

This past spring I was in Europe. I remembered hiking up a hillside by the Danube to an old cathedral. Interestingly I think the cathedral could have held the entire population of the town. The main doors were about 10 metres high and the huge pillars about 30 metres high. As impressive as it was the most impressive building I saw was the ornately carved parliament building in Budapest. What is notable about these buildings is that the stone masons who began the work would never see the culmination of their efforts, perhaps their grandchildren would. In the same manner, Jeremiah would never see what he was to intercede for and I think the Holy Spirit regularly invites us to pray into or invest our lives in things that have significance far beyond ourselves. Are we responding and investing in our own ‘great and mighty things?’


Prepared Hearts

What do we need to do to have our plans work out? I remember decades ago talking to someone at church who said when his father prayed about a business decision that answer he heard always seemed to fit with what he already wanted to do. Now while the father seemed to do okay in business his son doubted he was always being led by the Lord. So is that how we should spiritually approach practical matters? What about looking at a small slice of Proverbs for some wisdom?

1  The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. 2  All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits. 3  Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established. Proverbs 16:1-3 (NKJV)

What can we apply from these three verses? First, rather than preparing our plans we need to prepare our hearts. The word ‘preparations’ is presented as ‘plans’ in some translations. We need to make preparations but then need to offer them up before Yahweh. I think a good commentary on this verse is in Habakkuk.

1  I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected. Habakkuk 2:1 (NKJV)

Are we open to hearing an answer we weren’t looking for? I think it is wisdom to hold this heart attitude and be open to Jesus redirecting our agenda. After all the next verse is in essence saying, ‘We may think we know how we are doing but Yahweh looks inside and actually knows.’ This means we need to apply verse three. We are to commit what to we doing to Jesus for His direction and in so doing He will settle and establish what is in our hearts.

Simple and practical – not always easy to apply but worth practicing. If you wonder how this works prepare your heart and bring your plans before Him. When You have peace established in your heart regarding a certain direction you are being led by the Holy Spirit. This may happen in minutes, days, weeks or months. The important piece is to commit and hold it before Him until we know and if we don’t know to hold a decision until we do.

The Goodness of God

There is much spoken of the goodness of God in the North American church these days. I suspect some see it as a new revelation. Yet in fact within my lifetime I know it goes back at least decades in the Charismatic movement. It used to be sung almost as a little ditty. “God is good all the time. All the Time God is good.” I have no dispute with the concept, however let us look at the scriptural context and then look at the concept in light of the whole counsel of God, which is always a good practice. Below are the main verses that speak of His goodness.

1  Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually. Psalm 52:1 (NKJV)

5  Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days. Hosea 3:5 (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)

22  Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. Romans 11:22 (NKJV)

11  Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, 2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NKJV)

In addition to God being good we also know He is love (1 Jn. 4:7-8). They are similar concepts and from this perspective we could insert ‘love’ instead of ‘goodness’ in Romans 2:4. However, I will focus on goodness and what His goodness actually means. From what I hear around the body of Christ I think that many of us equate God is good with ‘God is nice.’ That is, He will never do anything to hurt or offend us. If that were the case what do we do with this passage?

1  Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5  And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6  For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Hebrews 12:1-8 (NKJV)

Does this line up the scriptures on His goodness? It does if we better understand Romans 2:4. The primary meaning of the Greek word translated as ‘goodness’ is moral excellence in the first instance and useful morals in the second. They are slight variations of the same Greek word. We don’t talk about morals or moral standards much in our culture but I think we would be better off if we did. As Christians we are called to a high moral standard. This should be a key desire of our hearts. So look at the verse again with these meanings inserted.

4  Or do you despise the riches of His moral excellence, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the useful morals of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4 (NKJV)

Look at a more recent translation that I think gets it right.

4  Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4 (NLT)

If we put this together and remember Hebrews 12:1-8 we can see that because He is good God seeks to bring us to a place of repentance. When Jesus took a whip and cleansed the temple in Jerusalem (Jn. 2:15-17) was He reflecting the goodness of God? Absolutely. When Peter gave the first sermon in the newly birthed church and accused the crowd of murdering Jesus (Acts. 2:23) and they came under conviction (were cut to the heart) and repented (Acts 2:37-38) was this His goodness on display? Absolutely.

God is good and He loves to bless and honour His children. Yet as Hebrews tells us He also disciplines us when we go astray. If He doesn’t discipline us it is evidence that we aren’t really His children. The danger in equating His goodness with niceness is what I observed in a conference I just attended. The conference was being live streamed around the world and one of the speakers commented on how their spouse was out running and came back saying they were praying and reflecting on how God searches and tries us. The speaker referenced this as being in Psalm 51 and said their spouse thought this meant God was looking for the good/gold in us and the speaker affirmed that interpretation. The problems here are more than one. The first is that the verse isn’t in Psalm 51, though that is not a major issue (see below). The second is that in context it means the opposite of what the speaker said and lastly, none the leaders said anything about it.

23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24  And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)

I don’t know if the leaders didn’t recognize what happened or didn’t want to address it but the end result was leaving all those watching with the impression that God just wants to be nice to us. In truth, He wants to be good to us. He wants to bring forth the gold in us. I deeply believe and practice that but if the gold has mud on it then the mud needs to be scrubbed off (not ignored or tolerated) so the gold can be seen. The scrubbing is a manifestation of His goodness as much as His healing us or blessing us in some other way.

So, as we move forward in our walk with Him I pray we encounter His goodness over and over and more deeply reflect His character to those around us. In doing this let us also pray that our understanding of our experience is rooted in His word!

Living from the Inside

David wrote something interesting over two millennia ago.

6  Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Psalm 51:6 (NKJV)

Jesus desires that we live from a place of truth on the inside, the hidden place of the heart. There are two key things in this verse. One, we know what Yahweh desires we live from a place of truth on the inside. The second is that as we turn to Him we find He has committed to making us know wisdom in our spirits, the hidden part. We see this in the verse below.

27  The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)

We have a popular expression in our culture, ‘That was my inside voice.’ Meaning we have shared what we were actually thinking, often inappropriately. Jesus desires that we live from such a place of truth on the inside that we can freely share our innermost thoughts. Go back to Psalm 51. This was David’s Psalm of repentance after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed in an attempt to hide his sin. Clearly for a season David had a great struggle with lies in his inward parts and demonstrated a lack of wisdom, yet Yahweh knew everything all along. What both Yahweh and David expressed is a desire for congruence between our inward and outward lives.

Paul expressed this desire and the solution. We need to seek His face with a focus on our inner man being strengthened (3:16) and a recognition that the truth is found in Jesus (4:21).

14  For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15  from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – 19  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (NKJV)

17  This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18  having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19  who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20  But you have not so learned Christ, 21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24  and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24 (NKJV)

We need our minds renewed so that we come to the place that Peter described. While the reference Peter makes is to wives in a husband and wife relationship, as a man I also desire a gentle and quiet spirit. Walking in quiet confidence before Him (Is. 30:15) is a noble pursuit. This is the hidden person of the heart I desire to reflect to those around me.

4  rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:4 (NKJV)