The Place of Perspective

In this season we have need of perspective. In 1 Samuel 17 we have laid out for us a key to victory in the battles we face. In this encounter the Philistines gathered to battle Israel and Goliath was coming out every day and challenging someone to come out and fight him as the representative of Israel.

As a nation, from King Saul on down everyone was hoping someone would take on Goliath, and win. They, like Goliath, seemed to view themselves as the armies of Israel. Part of Goliath’s ongoing taunt was as follows.

10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” 1 Samuel 17:10 (NKJV)

In essence Goliath said we have our army and you have yours. Goliath saw the armies as representing two different nations or people groups.

David had a different perspective.

26  Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:26 (NKJV)

David referred to Goliath as ‘this uncircumcised Philistine (circumcision was the sign of the covenant) and he referred to the army of Israel as, ‘the armies of the living God.’ Israel had a covenant and God was their defender. This perspective gave David great confidence.

So in view of what is happening in our culture there is clearly a need to shift our perspective. The result of David coming and bringing a different perspective was that a nation was shifted into action and they routed their enemies. This type of experience is not unique to David, it is a pattern in scripture. We can also look to John the Baptist. He came to a nation that was awaiting their Messiah but it was all future based. John came with a different perspective.

1  In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2  and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Matthew 3:1-2 (NKJV)

While everyone else was waiting for the kingdom to come John showed up and said, ‘It is here!’ It was right at hand, people just needed eyes to see. John did no miracles but there was such an anointing on his message that the nation came out to the wilderness to hear him.

4  And John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5  Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6  and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:4-6 (NKJV)

Again, one man with a different perspective impacted a nation. A commonality with David and John was that they had a different perspective and an anointing to shift a nation. However, more importantly they had a hidden life in God that was the source of their different perspective. They modeled what Jesus taught.

6  But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:6 (NKJV)

We need a perspective that will shift our cities and our nation but we need to get this perspective not from a renewed vision but from a hidden life encountering God in the secret place.

Waiting with Wisdom

In our frenetic high pressure culture let us take a look at verse in Isaiah that provides a much needed perspective.

16  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.” Isaiah 28:16 (NKJV)

This verse, in particular the phrase, “Whoever believes will not act hastily.” impacted me about 30 years ago when I was listening to a teaching series on discernment. The speaker’s point was that when we are paying attention to His voice we don’t rush into things – we make wise decisions. As someone who has many times placed unnecessary pressure on myself from taking on too many things I speak from the place of experience. Yet while knowing this in my head frequently a gap appeared between my knowing and doing. Over time I have come to a deeper appreciation of what Isaiah wrote and have learned to walk more fully in what the verse is about. Following His leading rather than my own wisdom.  

The idea of not acting hastily doesn’t’ mean we never need to make quick decisions or react quickly in a crisis. It instead focuses on the bigger picture. In context Isaiah is pointing to the eternal reality of Christ as the cornerstone in contrast to the false gods the leaders in Jerusalem had made a covenant with. We need to look to Him for wisdom rather than relying on our own wisdom.

A great example in scripture of someone ignoring godly wisdom, acting hastily and it leading to disaster is King Saul. He knew the proper protocol from his first encounter with Samuel. Here is what was told to Saul before he first met Samuel.

13  “As soon as you come into the city, you will surely find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now therefore, go up, for about this time you will find him.” 1 Samuel 9:13 (NKJV).

Saul was told of the need to wait for Samuel’s blessing. That reality is reinforced here in what Samuel later said directly to Saul.

8  “You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do.” 1 Samuel 10:8 (NKJV)

Later he lost everything because he ignored this protocol and failed to wait.

9  So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10  Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. 11  And Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, 12  then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the LORD.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.” 13  And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14  But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13:9-14 (NKJV)

There are some critical points here. Saul acted in haste and not wisdom because he ‘felt compelled.’ In verses 13-14 we find that the covenant God later made with David was available to Saul and lost because he refused to wait. Now clearly not every hasty decision carries this degree of consequence. However the principle is there.

In our era we are called not to wait for Samuel but to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We need His leadership in our lives. This means learning what it is to wait upon Him and putting it into practice. Scripturally waiting is not a passive acquiescence to circumstances, it is a heart looking expectantly to Him and waiting for His inner prompting and guidance. We pray, lay things before Him and go about our lives. However we don’t make major spiritual decisions without a sense of His inner leading.  

In my own practice of seeking His wisdom I often turn to and pray two particular verses from Psalm 25.

4  Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. 5  Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. Psalm 25:4-5 (NKJV)

I want to walk in His paths and truth, so I wait for Him and trust Him to lead me in His paths and to reveal His perspective on truth.  

New Wineskins Part 6

Let us close this off by looking at the wineskin of leadership as demonstrated by Jesus. Jesus walked in authority and confidence but an attribute that stands out for me is an important statement Jesus made.

27  For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. Luke 22:27 (NKJV)

‘I am among you as one who serves.’ The context was the disciples arguing about who was greatest and jockeying for positon. Think of where the image of ‘jockeying for position’ comes from. It is drawn from horse racing. Envision a group of horses tight together and each jockey trying to get his horse to the front to win the race. In the wineskin of an upside down kingdom Jesus said the way to win the real race is to help others in the race the world is in. Be a servant. Help the other jockeys.

Look at who Jesus served. If asked most of us would likely note that Jesus served people, which is clear from the verse above. However, Jesus primarily served His Father and He served people as an extension of that mission. It is evident in the gospels that Jesus came as a servant of His Father’s purpose.

38  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 6:38 (NKJV).

Jesus larger purpose was going to the cross to redeem us to His Father. In walking that out Jesus demonstrated the new wineskin of servant leadership in all that He did. His authority was used in the service of the greater good. Leadership in the kingdom is about serving others and releasing them into their gifts and callings.

Paul caught what Jesus taught and modeled. Paul taught on and modeled servant leadership. He was willing to use the leadership authority he had been given for discipline but when we read his letters his heart was to use his leadership role to release people into their gifts and calling and build up the body.

 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)

This verse is a good example of how to function in a gathering of believers. The wineskin of servant leadership is also inherent in it. Paul says the purpose of functioning in this way to is to edify, to build up others. We build up one another by making room for and encouraging the exercise of their gifts. A key role of leadership embracing a new wineskin is being flexible enough to make room for the gifts of other to see all that Jesus desires released in any given gathering. Let’s follow Jesus.

New Wineskins Part 5

In the last post we looked at the parable of the sower in Mark 4 where Jesus explained that the seed is God’s word and the soil is our hearts. Part of forming a new wineskin, a new way of thinking, is paying attention to our hearts. While there are varied ideas around what the heart may be, in scripture we can see that Jesus viewed it as a treasure chest. That may not be the first idea that springs to mind but let the scriptures speak.

21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 (NKJV)

It appears from Matthew 6:21 that our heart is our capacity to value or treasure things. Later in Matthews’s gospel Jesus is more explicit that our heart produces good or evil depending on what we treasure or value.

35  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. Matthew 12:35 (NKJV)

So part of developing a new wineskin means developing a right heart, valuing the right things. In connecting the idea of valuing right things consider how we structure our meetings as the body of Christ. Recently in reading an article I was reminded of the old architectural idea that ‘form follows function.’ That is, the design of a building should be to facilitate the purpose of the building. Considering that one of the metaphors for the body of Christ is that of a building or temple I want to consider what wineskin facilitates the effective use of the building.

We can think of natural or spiritual buildings but come back to the same idea – understanding the purpose. The purpose of the church is to display and release the life of Christ. I contend that doing that requires a flexible wineskin that remains new and fresh. A wineskin that can stretch to accommodate different expressions of His life at different times. Paul described what he saw as a typical church meeting in 1 Corinthians.

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. 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 14:26-32 (NKJV)  

The wineskin Paul was promoting was a flexible one. Different members of the body had different gifts and Paul thought that they should be expressed. Part of this wineskin inherent in these verses was the idea of mutual submission and respect. Elsewhere in his writings Paul is very clear about the place of leadership in the body and he is not denying that here.

My view, for decades now, has been that the role of leadership is to facilitate the development and release of His gifts in and to His body. In a future post I will develop more of the how. At present it is more of question of what we value. So here are some reflective questions to get us thinking about what wineskin we embrace.

Do our hearts value a wineskin that is flexible, looking for the gifts in our brothers and sisters and seeking to see others released in their gifts and callings? Is this how our building, our expression of His body functions? If not can we do things to see this expression realized?