Wisdom and Revelation Part 3

We now focus on the application of love motivated wisdom and revelation in our lives. I know in my life I see patterns and connections in scripture, as in the previous two posts. He works this way in my life because one of the things He has called me to do is to teach. He is working in your life based on your gifts and calling. Romans 11:29, referring to the nation of Israel, says God’s gifts and callings are irrevocable. I see this as both a corporate and individual truth. I believe if we are sensitive to His presence there is an internal restlessness and sense of discomfort if we are not fulfilling our calling and purpose. Regarding his own life Paul articulated it this way.

16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 1 Corinthians 9:16 (NKJV)

Paul could do nothing other than fulfill his calling. The Greek word translated as ‘necessity’ means to press, compress or constrain. Paul is referring to an internal driver that he felt he could not turn away from. Thus we have his recognition of the need for Jesus love to motivate him.

14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 2 Corinthians 5:14–15 (NKJV)

In Greek the word compel means to ‘hold fast’ or ‘hold together.’ Putting the two passages together Paul is saying he couldn’t do anything other than preach the gospel. Doing so was a necessity on his life and he was held fast and compelled, not by fear of judgment, but of love for the lost. From this place Paul recognized the need to walk in wisdom and revelation to fulfill his debt of love.

Out of the awareness that he carried Paul recognized the need for wisdom and revelation to operate in his life to fulfill his calling. Hence his prayers for the Ephesian believers, and by extension us, all believers of all time, needing these things operating in our lives to fulfill our calling and purpose. I teach because I am internally driven and because I care about people and what happens to them. I want people to know and understand the scriptures. However, these things are needed not just in church settings. When my children were younger I needed His love, wisdom and revelation as a parent. I needed to function in it at my place of work. I still do some mediating part time for small claims court. I pray for His wisdom and revelation in mediating the conflicts of others and I regularly look for opportunities to speak into the lives of others. 

Let’s make a broader application to other gifts and callings. Evangelists need the wisdom to know what to say when and may need words of knowledge to touch lives and open hearts. They also need to share with love. Pastor needs to love the flock and call out for revelation on what to teach when and the wisdom to know how to deliver it. As parents we are called to train up our children. That is not just about giving them a Christian foundation, though that is important, it requires revelation as to their calling and wisdom to know how to train them to walk in their gifts and callings.   

Think of worship leaders and intercessors. Worship leaders impart more to others when they draw their hearts into intimate worship out of their own love for Jesus. Paired with love they need the revelation of what songs to sing, or to write their own. They need the wisdom as to when to release exuberant praise and when to lead us into quiet intimacy. Intercessors are called to lay down their lives in prayer out of love for Jesus and for His people and the lost. They need the wisdom to ground their prayers in the scriptures and the revelation regarding what to focus on when in their intercession. They need to know when to press in and refuse to give up and they need to know when they burden of prayer has lifted and they are released from an assignment. 

These are selected examples to illustrate the importance of wisdom, revelation and love. So some closing thoughts. Know your calling and purpose. If you don’t know it seek His face and the wisdom of godly people you trust. Pray for revelation regarding the scope of your calling. Is it your family, your community your city or beyond? Size is not the indicator of importance or obedience. Susanna Wesley raised 19 children and imparted to them a solid foundation in the truth of scripture. That was her focus. Two of them, John and Charles had a major impact on the Western world. Yet if she had not been found faithful with her gifts and calling we would not have had them. We are all called to seek His heart and faithfully walk out our calling wherever He leads. Let’s seek wisdom and revelation and desire to walk in love.

Wisdom and Revelation Part 2

In my last post I referenced Paul’s two great apostolic prayers in Ephesians and focused on the place of wisdom and revelation in his prayer from Ephesians 1. We now shift our focus to his great prayer from Ephesians 3.  

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)

We will come to the importance of love and the significant connection to discernment but first we examine how Paul began this prayer, “For this reason.” Prior to launching into his prayer Paul was laying out God’s purpose for the church, of which we are part. Here is how Paul presented our purpose and the reason for his prayer.

10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, Ephesians 3:10–11 (NKJV)

Our Father has an eternal purpose to accomplish through the church! That means we can wake up each morning looking forward to our part in accomplishing His eternal purpose in the earth! After all Paul said that is what Jesus wants to do through us and he was explicit in Ephesians 6:12 that our battle is with the dark forces in heavenly places.

This is where love comes in. You are likely familiar with Paul’s discussion of the role of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 and how he inserts chapter 13, the love chapter, in between 12 and 14 to show that love needs to be the motivating factor in the exercise of spiritual gifts. Not our weak human love, His love. Hence Paul’s prayer for us to corporately encounter His love in an overwhelming way.

In Philippians’ Paul makes a further point. He explicitly connects His love in us to the depth of our discernment and reinforces what Jesus told us about being like our Father and loving our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9–11 (NKJV)

The more we are filled with His love, the deeper our discernment and the more able we are to function effectively in our calling to demonstrate His wisdom in the heavenly realms to the forces of darkness we battle. We can do this every day by living with a kingdom perspective knowing that the King desires to reveal His love to us and through us.

Let’s join in and ask for the wisdom and revelation to live out of this great prayer in Ephesians 3!

Wisdom and Revelation Part 1

About thirty years ago, yes I am getting old, I wrote an article about the importance of Ephesians as a template for the end time church. I still believe that. While I won’t cover all the areas here, I will focus in on Paul’s two great apostolic prayers in chapters 1 and 3. In chapter 1 Paul focuses on the need for ongoing wisdom and revelation to know the Father’s heart and in chapter 3 he focuses on the need for a strengthened inner being to be able to know Jesus love in an experiential way.

We start with Paul’s two prayers.

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, Ephesians 1:17 (NKJV)

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)

To begin delving into these verses a couple of points need to be made. Paul was praying that the Ephesian believers would have experiences he had already had. He wasn’t presenting a theory. Secondly, his message and prayers were for a corporate body. He wanted the congregation to have these encounters.

To understand Paul’s prayer for wisdom and revelation it is helpful to see the importance of each. They can be compared to the gifts of a word of knowledge and a word of wisdom in 1 Corinthians 12:7-8. Most people that I know who embrace the spiritual gifts for today place a high value on words of knowledge. A revelation of something about an individual. Note however that Paul places wisdom first. The significance is that revelation is a ‘what’ while wisdom is a ‘how.’ Think of it as going to the doctor and receiving an accurate diagnosis but no treatment. If I have an undiagnosed affliction it is helpful to know what it is, it is even more helpful to know how to treat it.

I will share an example. A few years ago in a small group I was helping to lead I had a sense that a young lady had a prophetic gift that needed to be released (revelation). I took my friend Ivan and explained what I sensed and asked if we could pray for this gift to be released in her. She had no grid for what I was sharing but was open. We prayed for a prophetic release then I asked her to join us in praying for someone else, which we did. I then asked if she had received anything. She said no. I sensed she had so asked her to simply share what was on her heart. She did and gave very accurate details about the other person’s life.

In breaking this encounter down further there was revelation, a what, about something inherent in her but not yet released or activated. The wisdom came in both praying for the release of the gift followed by an opportunity to exercise it and see it released. Paul knew that on an ongoing basis we as the church needed to know both what and how to fulfill Jesus calling and purpose, in every age. Hence his prayer.

In our present hour there is much that is happening politically and culturally. We need wisdom and revelation to navigate what is taking place within the church and our culture. However, to do this effectively we also need to walk in the love that Paul prayed for in Ephesians 3. I will cover that in my next post.

Living out of Scripture

In Proverbs we are told that hope deferred leads to faintness of heart. In Hebrews we are told that faith brings substance to our hope.

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 (NKJV)

1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

We can look at this pithy proverb and conclude that Solomon is merely letting us know that we can get excited when we receive what we want after initial disappointment. Alternatively we could go a little deeper, which I will do here. If we have been alive any length of time we have experienced disappointment, the sense of loss when we failed to realize something we desired. Whether tied to relationships, material things, a job opportunity or a myriad of other examples, the end result is we are negatively affected by how we feel as a result.

Hope deferred needs to be acknowledged and dealt with if we are to get to the substance of things hoped for. That means facing pain or loss so that we can move past it. While this is important on an individual level, it is deeply significant on a cultural scale. Let’s look at the situation when Israel was living in a state of ‘hope deferred.’ When Jesus appeared on the scene they had no actual control over their own nation and were functionally a province of Rome. Look at the verses below.

20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?”  And he answered, “No.”

22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. John 1:20–26 (NKJV)

There are a few things here. The religious leaders, in fact the nation, was expecting the Messiah, a deliverer as promised in scripture. The Old Testament had closed with a promise of Elijah coming (Malachi 4:5-6). This Elijah figure was to prepare the way for the Lord (Isaiah 40:3). The delegation from the Pharisees asked John why he was baptizing if he was not the Christ (Messiah in Hebrew), Elijah or the Prophet. They expected a Messiah King (see Psalm 110 for example) and a Prophet like Moses to lead them (Deuteronomy 18:15-19, Acts 3:22-24). They did this while not recognizing that the Messiah and Prophet were one person.  

They were living in hope deferred when Jesus arrived on the scene. What is significant for us is John’s statement, ‘there stands One among you whom you do not know.’ The answer to their hopes and dreams was there. He had been living among them for three decades and now was about to be revealed in power.

Perhaps some of you are like me. I have been living in an expectation of a significant move of the Spirit for decades. I am too young to have experienced the Jesus movement and too old to wait decades longer! I have been to many conferences. I remember over a decade ago going to one promoted with great promise. I was deeply disappointed in what actually took place but when I read the subsequent write up describing the conference I said to a friend, “I wish I had been there.” I remember going to a conference in another country in 2008 with my wife. What took place at one point was described as ‘revival.’ There were some very good things that happened at the conference but after experiencing some of what was described as revival I said to some friends that if that was where the church was going I didn’t want to be part of the church!

I won’t belabour my point. I have also over the years had deep and profound encounters with Jesus among His people, yet nothing that I would describe as revival, and I have studied a number of them. I have like many lived in hope deferred concerning a significant move of the Spirit. Now I have far fewer years ahead of me than behind me so I look more closely. This leads me to ask some questions. Is revival now standing among us? Is what many of us have interceded for among us and we do not yet see it? Are there indicators and signs? I don’t want more reports of something happening elsewhere, I want to be one giving reports of what is happening among us. I want vision like Elijah to see a great outpouring in a cloud the size of a man’s hand.

My present response? I continue to pray and look for revival and cultural transformation. At the same time I need to live out of what He has spoken to me. In the fall of 1995 while praying with some friends He spoke to my heart and said, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). So I seek to do that. I want revival but I can’t make it happen and He has His timing. Jesus came in the fullness of time and I believe the coming move of the Spirit that so many have prophesied for decades will come. What can I do while I wait? What can you do? Be found faithful. I know His relationship with me isn’t dependent on revival. It depends on my willingness to draw near to His heart on a daily basis. So while I wait for a hope deferred I can also live in the substance of continued intimacy with Jesus and knowing His heart. I can live out of something else He spoke to me decades ago, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (from Isaiah 30:15). Reflecting on what He has done and spoken while waiting for more brings my heart to a place of peace and rest with the one who stands among us. Please join me in that state.  

Shifting the Burden

Back in 1990/91 I read a book by Peter Senge called the Fifth Discipline. I have reread parts many times and focused on it in my major paper on leadership when I did my Master’s degree as I found it to be a very significant book. His focus is on the broad application of Systems Theory, more particularly in a business context. In my career I also studied Family Systems theory and decades ago in a theology course discovered that Systems Theory goes back to the early Greeks and predates Christianity. Systems theory looks at patterns that play out over time and the interrelationships between the different parts of a system that lead to these interactions.

One of the tenets of Family Systems theory is that all behaviour is positively intended, similar to the idea that people are doing the best they can with what they have. I believe neither of those tenets as life experience, history, and most importantly scripture, demonstrate them to be false. However it is clear to me that all behaviour is goal directed. Knowingly or unknowingly we are trying to accomplish something through our efforts.

Given our behaviour is goal directed I want to look at a behaviour that Senge describes as “Shifting the Burden.” The idea in shifting the burden is that we put our efforts into managing symptoms rather than addressing the real problem. Shifting the burden is a behaviour that tends to exacerbate the original problem and it shows up all through scripture. We see it in Genesis 3 when Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent and the serpent has no one to blame. In fact Adam blames both Eve and God when in Genesis 3:12 he refers to ‘the woman You gave me.’

Another example of the pattern is with Ahab and Jezebel in 1 Kings 16 and on. Ahab worships Baal and marries Jezebel, who also worships false gods. How does Ahab respond when he sees the prophet Elijah who has confronted his idolatry?

17 Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals.” 1 Kings 18:17–18 (NKJV)

Ahab shifts the burden and blames Elijah rather than acknowledging his own culpability. Later in 1 Kings 21 Ahab pouts because Naboth refuses to sell him his ancestral land containing a vineyard that Ahab wants. So Jezebel schemes to have Naboth killed so Ahab can take possession of the vineyard. Elijah confronts their evil and pronounces judgment on both of them. Nowhere in the story do Ahab or Jezebel ever take responsibility for their behaviour. It is always someone else who is the problem.  

Every time we shift the burden we exacerbate the problem and drive the roots deeper. Our goal in shifting the burden is to avoid responsibility or avoid dealing with the consequences of our behaviour. We have two types of issues, sins of omission and sins of commission. One is not doing the right thing and the other is doing the wrong thing. In either case the burden of responsibility rests in the wrong place. Those of us engaging in commission or omission need to step up. When we fail to do so we allow sin to infect or affect our lives and the lives of others. Hence it is systemic.  

The key to change in this area if it is an issue in our lives, home or work culture is to turn to and address roots not fruits. A good example of addressing the roots is Jesus messages to the seven churches in the first chapters of Revelation. Jesus speaks to some symptoms but then addresses the roots. Here is one example.

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. Revelation 2:20–23 (NKJV)

The fruit here is sexual immorality and false worship. Jesus addresses the issue and His main concern is not the behaviour of Jezebel. It is the behaviour of the rest of the church. He says, ‘you allow that woman.’ The NASB says ‘tolerate’ rather than allow. The word can also be translated as ‘permit.’ In essence Jesus was telling the church in Thyatira that the root of their problem was allowing this behaviour in their midst as they gave blatant sin permission to operate. He was also clear that if they didn’t deal with the problem He would. Note, the issue of ‘Jezebel’ operating in the church isn’t about gender. It is about people allowing themselves to be led astray to false worship through seduction and manipulation.

A final example that addresses the same behaviour as the problem in Thyatira takes place in Corinth. Paul writes the following.

1 Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly – and indeed you do bear with me. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! 2 Corinthians 11:1–4 (NKJV)

Paul’s concern is the Corinthians being deceived. What opens the door to deception? Putting up with something they should not be tolerating. If we read all of 2 Corinthians we discover that some in the church were challenging Paul’s authority and apostleship, instead of testing and rejecting false teachers they shift the burden to Paul. He responds by speaking to the root. Their tolerance and acceptance of falsehood.

Given the current state of the church in North America this is a major issue. Much of the church tolerates false teaching because it is comfortable. The most outrageous example I recently encountered was something posted in an Apologetics Facebook I follow. A story was posted of a recent church plant in San Diego with a couple who co-pastor. They claim to preach the gospel but the husband is in business and seems to be promoting hype rather than truth. His wife is in an ‘actress’ in the ‘adult entertainment’ industry. A fancy euphemism for the pornography industry. I thought it was a joke, sadly it isn’t. Yet they claim to be “Christians.” Just like in Thyatira however, I think the issue is the congregation. They have shifted the responsibility for discernment elsewhere and have abandoned any commitment to the scriptures.

In this current season in the church let’s embrace the burden of following truth and reality by taking to heart Jude’s exhortation.

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 3 (NKJV)