Swift to Hear, Slow to Speak

            The verse below is well known and here our focus is on ‘swift to hear, slow to speak.’

19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; James 1:19 (NKJV)

This is of particular importance in our social media culture. I suspect all of us have said things in reaction to what others have said (yes, my hand is up). When I think of this in relation to social media what comes to mind is a cartoon I saw. The wife is telling her husband, ‘It’s time to come to bed.’ He responds, ‘I can’t yet, someone said something wrong on the internet!’ Whether or not we can see ourselves in that, in our current cultural ethos it hits too close to home. We have issues with bullying, new terms that have arisen, ‘ghosting,’ and the resurgence of the idea of ‘gaslighting.’

In response to these issues, we need to hear James afresh. Inherent in the idea of being swift to hear and then slow to speak is that we each have a ‘respond ability.’ Rather than reacting to something that happens we are called to process and then provide a measured response, even under pressure.

            It is easy to say this but we need an approach or strategy to actually do it. I have a friend who often seems to be listening internally in conversation. He is trying to process what has been said and how the Holy Spirit would have him respond. I have another friend where I can send an email or text and the response arrives a day or two later. He is a processor. For some people the pause comes naturally, for most of us the reaction is a more natural response.

            For those of us where reacting is the natural response, James is encouraging us to push pause. If we have cultivated the habit of turning our hearts to Jesus at regular intervals throughout the day this is not difficult. If we have not, we can. Over a century ago Henry Drummond wrote a booklet called The Changed Life where he focused on the practice of trying to turn and tune our hearts to Jesus each morning. His primary point, based on 2 Corinthians 3:18, was that as we posture ourselves before Jesus that the Spirit changes us into His image.

            In my own experience, one of the things I found most helpful was reading a little book called God’s Psychiatry. The author recommended meditating on four keys passages of scripture. I focused on the first. I took the 23 Psalm and spend a few minutes reflecting on it when I got up, after each meal, and then just before bed. His peace reigned in my heart.

            If you need to develop the habit of being reflective, slow to speak and quick to hear and discern then pick a method that suits you and step further into the flow of His Spirit. PS if you are interested in Drummond’s book it used to be available online to download as the copyright had expired. I also have a copy I downloaded into a Word version and tidied up. Contact me if you would like a copy.

I Know the Thoughts

The title is based on the first four words from the verse below. The word ‘thoughts’ is translated as ‘plans’ in the ESV and the word in Hebrew means thoughts, plans or intentions.  

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 29:11 (NKJV)

Here I am focusing on the first four words, because as I have pointed out in the past, the full promise in the verse was not going to be fulfilled for 70 years and most of the hearers of Jeremiah’s proclamation would not live to see it come to pass. Hence my focus is on how we apply the first idea in the sentence to our lives.

            What we see here in the general sense is that the Lord thinks about us, He has plans for us. While they aren’t the same for each of us, they are for each of us. The Lord doesn’t devise evil for us. His desire is that we would encounter and experience His goodness and grace.  

            The word translated as thoughts/plans is also found in this verse in reference to the thoughts of the heart.

5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5 (ESV)

While this verse from Genesis is accurate it is reflective of what our thoughts or plans can produce, not the Lord’s thoughts and plans for us. We find His original thoughts and plans in Genesis and repeated in Psalms.

28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28 (NKJV)

6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, Psalm 8:6 (NKJV)

Our Father’s plan is that we each take responsibility and exercise dominion. This starts with our own lives. It includes understanding the sphere of authority commensurate with our calling and gifting. For example, if we are called to intercession, we can exercise authority in the place of prayer for others. If we are called to teach or lead, we can exercise authority there, dominion really in each case. In doing so we need to be aware of our limits. Paul said he had been given a sphere of authority (2 Corinthians 10:12-16).

In keeping with our sphere of authority we need to be aware of how it operates. One of the primary gifts in my life is teaching. Yet I still need permission to teach others, whether that is being invited to speak to a group or one on one. For example, I play Pickleball and am fairly good at it. Yet when playing with someone who is just learning or less skilled if I see areas for improvement I try to remember to say, “Would you like some feedback on how you are playing?” If I try to offer tips without permission, whether they are accepted or rebuffed, I have gone beyond my sphere of authority.  

In each of our lives the Father has thoughts and plans for us. To see them realized we need to determine how to exercise the dominion He has given us within our sphere of authority.  

Where Wisdom Rests

Each month I read through Proverbs and yesterday being the 14th, I read one of my favourite verses.

33 Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, But what is in the heart of fools is made known. Proverbs 14:33 (NKJV)

I have in the past made the connection to Jesus being our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30) and Him resting in my heart if I possess understanding. However, while I take comfort in that application, that was not the original meaning given Solomon had not heard of Jesus when he wrote this verse. So let us explore it a bit further.

            Wisdom is practical skill or ability and understanding is discerning and considering something. Proverbs is a book of practical wisdom. The verse has a contrast between the wise and the foolish, with the fool in Proverbs being one who rejects the knowledge of God, not one who lacks information or education.

            This verse, like many others in Proverbs, stands alone as a piece of pithy wisdom and the contrast is between those who retain wisdom and those whose inner life is always on display for others to see. This versus is not an exhortation to be secretive, it is an encouragement to retain wisdom. We see it reflected in what James wrote when he said we are to be swift to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19).

            In essence, wisdom is at rest, it finds a home, in those with understanding. What needs to be addressed of course is what needs to be understood. Taking the broader context and purpose of Proverbs one thing 14:33 is telling us is that we need to understand, to discern situations before we address them. In the present state of our culture this verse is of particular importance. We live in an era of keyboard warriors very willing to share their opinions with others and few who are willing to step back, pray and discern.

            I had a situation this week where I made a difficult decision to provide direction to someone and I knew it was direction they would not want to hear and would create some issues for them. Prior to providing it I spent some months praying and weighing it and sought wisdom from others whose discernment I trust. I wanted to be certain I was making the right decision. As He is so good at doing the Lord confirmed the rightness of my decision after I made it.  

            While this is one example of applying Proverbs 14:33 most of our opportunities will not have a timeline of months, nor do they need to have this timeframe. In keeping with Proverbs overarching theme of practical wisdom, the next time we choose to respond to something on social media or offer an opinion at home or at work we can pause and do a little inner check. In doing that check we can determine whether what we are offering is coming from wisdom resting in our heart.

Jesus Baptism: The Significance for Us.

In my last post I referenced the connections between Jesus’ baptism by John, along with His simultaneous baptism by the Spirit, and the result of the Spirit on Jesus being seen in the prophetic message of Isaiah 11:1-2, the gifts Jesus walked in. I made a further connection that these gifts, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers were also Jesus gifts to His church (after His ascension – Ephesians 4:7-11).

Now we can look at what this means for us. My goal is not to focus on these five gifts. Rather, I want to look more broadly at how just as Jesus’ ministry flowed from the Spirit resting on Him, so He desires to reveal Himself through us as the Spirit rest on us. Jesus revealed the Father following His baptism, we are called to reveal Jesus. My experience in decades of walking with Jesus is that for myself and others it is both a calling and a challenge to keep our eyes fixed on Him. Yet that is our calling and the source of our effectiveness.

That is what Paul exemplified, thus many of us would like to be like Paul. I know I would and that isn’t a bad aspiration. That requires heeding what Paul actually wrote.

1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)

17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:17 (NKJV)

17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. Philippians 3:17 (NKJV)

In the verses above the key point isn’t the need to be like Paul, it is to be like Jesus! Paul encouraged us to imitate him to the degree that he reflected Jesus. Paul is pointing us to Jesus.

We can go a little further. If we view the gospel through the lens of the letters to the churches, we are looking through the wrong end of the telescope and our view will be distorted. The four gospels were not written just so we could have some background on how the church was started. They are foundational to all that we do and we are to build our lives on that foundation. They reveal Jesus and His demonstration of ministering out of communion with the Father. Look at what Paul wrote in Colossians.

1 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:1–3 (NKJV) In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Whatever we need to fulfill our calling and purpose is found in Jesus. The significance of Jesus baptism for us is that when we are converted Jesus comes to live in us by the Spirit. Our calling is to imitate Paul; learn to commune with Jesus and interact with those around us out of that relationship. Gifts, callings and fruit all flow from that relationship, just as everything Jesus did flowed from His relationship with the Father (John 5:19-20, 30). Whatever we need to interact well with others is found in Jesus.

Jesus Baptism

            I have in the past written about Jesus’ baptism by John and the significance of Jesus doing what He did on earth not as God but as a man under the anointing of the Spirit. In some way He set aside His divine attributes http://wisdomfromtheword.ca/walking-in-authority-part-2/. Here I want to look at what I believe took place at Jesus baptism. This requires bringing together Isaiah 11:1-2, 61:1-2, which Luke 4:18-19 quotes, and Ephesians 4:11. Years ago I made some notes in my bible regarding the connection between Ephesians 4:11and Isaiah 11:1-2 and they sat there until recently when a friend asked for my thoughts and on Isaiah 11:1-2 and it reminded me of my notes.

            At John’s baptism of Jesus, the Spirit came and rested on Him and the Father spoke from heaven and endorsed Him (Matthew 3:16-17). When He publicly proclaimed Himself as the Messiah in Nazareth Jesus read Isaiah 61 in the synagogue and told them the scripture was fulfilled.  

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18–21 (NKJV)

This is where Isaiah 11 and Ephesians 4 come in. Ephesians 4 describes Jesus ascension gifts to the church as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. In His earthly ministry Jesus expressed the fullness of each of these five gifts. We see that in Isaiah 11. I here present it twice; the second time just verse 2 with some added words in brackets to illustrate what I am saying.

1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:1-2 (NKJV)

2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom (apostle) and understanding (prophet), The Spirit of counsel (shepherd/pastor) and might (evangelist), The Spirit of knowledge (teacher) and of the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:2 (NKJV)

            This passage in Isaiah is well known as referring to the coming Messiah, Jesus. The other aspect is that it is generally referred to as the seven-fold Spirit resting on Jesus. I have never been able to see the seven-fold aspect here. The passage speaks of the Holy Spirit coming to rest on Jesus at His baptism and imparting the fullness of the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching gifts. The passage then continues with the first line of Isaiah 11:3, “3 His delight is in the fear of the Lord.” The fear of Yahweh is not a gift resulting from Jesus’ baptism or obedience. It is the heart attitude He carried to His baptism!

  In Hebrew the word delight is very interesting. Spirit in each reference in Isaiah 11:2 is Ruach (7307 in Strong’s) spirit, breath, wind. Delight is Ruach with a slightly different accent (7306 in Strong’s) and is the root of 7307. It carries the sense of anticipation, as if we begin to smell something and anticipate more, hence the translation as delight.  

The fear of Yahweh in relation to Jesus’ humanity brings me to what my friend Evelyn said years ago when I asked her how she defined the fear of the Lord. She said, “Loving Him so much I would never do anything to offend Him.” Jesus certainly lived that way before His Father.

In conclusion, Jesus was baptized in water and the Spirit at the same time and the fruit of that experiences was a full release into His ministry. We all have gifts and callings. To fully walk in them I think we need to learn how to ‘love Him so much that we will never do anything to offend Him.’ Making that our delight will allow Him to move through us in His fullness.