Here we will look at intimacy, more specifically intimacy with Jesus using a practical approach. I have heard intimacy described as ‘into me see.’ It may seem cute or trite but I think it is an apt description. Those in an intimate relationship can see into one another. At times my wife teases me and tells me to ‘quit reading her mind’ as on occasion we find ourselves thinking about or planning the same thing. However, that is the fruit of spending decades getting to know one another.

            Now to Jesus, intimacy implies a two-way seeing, us seeing His heart and Jesus seeing ours. Obviously, He knows what we are thinking and feeling, He can see into us. What we need to consider is how well we can see into Him. William Wilberforce is famous for being an abolitionist and overturning slavery in England. He was also a social reformer. He saw into Jesus’ heart regarding these issues. The same is true of William Booth. Years ago I heard a story of him taking his son Bramwell Booth into a pub in an impoverished area and showing Bramwell the terrible conditions then saying, “Bramwell get used to this. These are our people. This is who the Lord has called us to.” Booth also saw into Jesus’ heart and stories are told of him wrapping his arms around the globe and weeping over the lost and praying for the gospel to be sent to them.

            These are dramatic stories yet also practical examples of the fruit of intimacy with Jesus. Now back to us. Though some of us may do things this dramatic, most of us are unlikely to lead something like an abolitionist movement or change the social landscape of a nation. We can however change the landscape of hearts, ours and those around us. All that is required is willing hearts. Here are two verses that speak to the how.  

2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NKJV)

18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

            When we choose to faithfully come and sit with Jesus, opening our hearts to Him and seeking to hear and see His heart He will stir things in us. It may be a reminder to reach out and encourage someone. It may be a call to help a stranger or it may be an encouragement to do something with or for our spouse or another family member. When we respond with obedience with are responding out of an encounter with His heart – living from a place of intimacy. From here He may continue to speak to us about small things or He may enlarge what we are doing. As we remain faithful stewards, we are walking in what Jesus said, being faithful with the little, which positions us to be faithful with more if He leads us that way (Luke 16:10 NKJV). If He simply calls us to be faithful in little then we remain in that place content with our interactions with His heart.

            There is another aspect of intimacy that isn’t about doing something in response to encountering His heart. It is the intimacy of just being together. Whether your spouse or a close friend if you have experienced just being with or around someone without the need to do anything in particular then you know the intimacy of friendship. Jesus seeks this with us.

            For myself, a couple of days before writing this I went and wandered around the woods with my son’s dog, had lunch by an outdoor fire sitting on a chair in the snow and worshipped. When I walked Jesus walked with me. I have learned over the years to at times simply allow my heart be drawn toward Him and rest in the awareness of His presence. I am not doing anything in particular at these times, simply being sensitive to His presence. I believe we can all walk in this if we desire intimacy with Jesus. Let’s pursue it.  

NOTE for more on the subject in 2019 I did a brief five-part series called Intimate One, you can find it on my blog here:

Revival, Awakening and Reformation Part 2

Following my last post that referenced Revival, Awakening and Reformation I am here focusing on reformation. The reason being that wisdom points to the need to pursue reformation as both a means and an end for revival or awakening. Now, I confess this post has been a struggle to write. Partly because it is a broad subject that requires focus and partly because I need things to settle in my heart to write about them. So here we go.

            To reform something implies that we have the constituent parts but need to make them into a new shape. Obviously Jesus is the most important part. If we remake church structures that He doesn’t fill we have merely wasted our energy. That being said, a thought has persisted in my mind for some time. I have been thinking about Choice Architecture. I came across the term and included it in my Dissertation. The basic idea of Choice Architecture is that we can structure environments to influence behaviour.

            I have been thinking about this in terms of how the average Sunday church service is structured. There are two aspects, the physical space and the relational space. I will go a bit deeper, but first some scripture followed by some thoughts on leadership.

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)

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; Ephesians 4:11–13 (NKJV)

These passages focus on having the body engaged in ministry. The first one referencing the need to make space for body sharing and ministry. The second looking at the role of leadership.

            Leadership isn’t about power and control. It is about drawing out the gifts and callings in people and releasing them into their gifts. When I lead teams at work in my various roles I believed that my responsibility as a leader was to create an environment that freed my staff to function most effectively in their gifts and calling. I have long believed the same thing about church leadership. Whether in small or large groups I believe leaders need to create space to release the gifs in others (there are some great example of this in the article by Craig Keener at the link below).

            When we think of creating physical space, we may have limitations but consider the focus of the average church building. The focus tends to be on the sanctuary and the pulpit. Just as the frame and matting are designed to draw our eyes to certain aspects of a painting, so too, our physical spaces are designed (or default to) drawing our focus to certain places. In considering this I invite you to think of ways to make the physical space about Jesus and about creating opportunities for the body to minister to one another as Paul encourages in 1 Corinthians 14:26.   

            Relationally, how is the church body structured. Is the default mode power and control or relationships. For decades I have been personally opposed to using the term pastor as a title. I have no issue with the term, I simply recognize that the terms apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher in Ephesians 4 are job descriptions not titles. Thus, I think we need to relate to people as people to build relationships and titles, in the church or elsewhere confer something but also create barriers (Choice Architecture). I could say, ‘that is pastor Fred’ or I could say, ‘that is Fred, he is a pastor. His focus is on nurturing and feeding the body.’ The latter creates a different expectation.

            As this is getting long, allow me to draw a conclusion. I think if we reform our churches to be more relational and to release the many gifts among us, we will see more revival and awakening. Conversely, if we persist in intercession for prayer and revival and awakening, we have an opportunity to reform our churches. Either way, we have before us the opportunity to build something that looks like the church Jesus said He would build and see it spread into the broader culture. As we become a place where those who become part of us are released fully into who they are called to be they will affect those around us in the culture with truth and life.

Revival, Awakening and Reformation Part 1

Revival, Awakening and Reformation. I could have added renewal but three is enough words. Presently in Canada we are in a period of heightened expectation with what began at Asbury and has spread so it seems prudent to understand what these things look like in practice as these words are frequently used but generally without clarity. To aid in understanding and praying let’s take a look. To revive a person after they have passed out or been knocked out for example, our hope is to see them return to a previous state. To awaken is similar in that we return to a prior state such as waking from sleep or coming to a realization of something. For example, awakening to the possibility of some endeavour. The meaning of reformation is found in breaking down the word, re formation. Taking the constituent parts and reforming them into something else.

From a church history perspective, we have the Protestant Reformation, a fire that Luther set ablaze but initially kindled by men like Wycliffe, Hus and Tyndale and Savonarola. Savonarola was a Dominican Friar whose fiery preaching against the sins and excesses of the Roman Catholic Church paved the way for Luther but led to his being burned at the stake. The Roman Catholic church responded to the Protestant Reformation with a counter reformation to shore up their doctrinal positions.

This is a very scant overview of some church history. In this season we had revival, awakening and reformation. The revival and awakening were an awareness of the need to recover the truth of scripture and the reformation aspect was the reforming of the church into new structures.  

Today I believe we again need revival, awakening and reformation. In scripture we have examples of revival and a return to godly practices under king Josiah, and later Ezra and Nehemiah. There was an awakening to danger and purpose in Esther. When we read through Acts (it covers a period of over three decades) we see the almost immediate need for revival and awakening with the attempt by some to bring the new church into formulas and rituals contrary to the original freedom of the gospel. This fight for freedom is presented in Galatians and highlighted in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.

In history we always see rules and control seeking to come in and ‘manage’ things whenever the Spirit begins to move. Given that life and relationships are dynamic, we never ‘arrive’ at a place where we don’t need to continue to be aware of the ongoing tension between freedom and control. We always need to invest in relationships and be aware of what is happening around us. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus both individually and corporately. This leads to Paul’s prayers in scripture. Prayers for believers to walk in freedom in Christ and be formed in His image. The following prayers speak to revival, awakening and reformation.

15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my 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 1:15–17 (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)

9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; Colossians 1:9–11 (NKJV)

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)

19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV)

My purpose thus far in broaching the subject of revival, awakening and reformation is to stir up our thinking and prepare our hearts. More to come.

Worship Poured Out

Our individual and corporate worship and prayer times are an opportunity for pouring something out upon Jesus. An opportunity to minister to His heart and bring Him pleasure. I don’t think about this often but I do think about it. Our worship is twofold, for Jesus because He is worthy (worthy is the Lamb Revelation 5:12) and for us because it changes us and enables us to encounter His presence (Revelation 4:9-11).

We received Jesus’ nature in our spirit when we experienced the new birth, our spirit encountered the fullness of life. At the same time, by giving something of Himself to us, Jesus was and is in no way diminished. We now have something of Him that we can offer back to Him. We can worship in spirit and truth and live out of the reality of this verse.

26 “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26 (NKJV)

This love the Father has for Jesus was planted in us at conversion and we can now return it to Jesus. In pouring out worship not only is His presence in us not decreased, it increases! We experience more of His presence and He is blessed and pleased by what we pour out.  

You may wonder how we can affect any change in Jesus or the Father given scripture says “For I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6) or as it says in Hebrews,

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)

The answer lies in His consistency and faithfulness. When we read through scripture we see Yahweh’s jealousy, anger and sorrow. A full range of emotions. Yet at the same time they are all governed and motivated by love. We know from 1 John 4:7 that God is love, that is His essence. We see it in the most famous verse in scripture.

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (NKJV)

            There are numerous verses in the Old Testament that refer to Yahweh’s pleasure at the sacrifices offered. The pattern continues in the New Testament.

15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:15 (NKJV)

18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. Philippians 4:18 (NKJV)

16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16 (NKJV)

Thus, we can see that while pouring out our worship on Him will not change His essence, it will bring Him pleasure. Let’s do that!

 Misty Edwards Pour My Love on You with lyrics