Waking Up

In a number of places in scripture there is an exhortation to wake up!

1  Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean Shall no longer come to you. Isaiah 52:1 (NKJV)

11  And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. Romans 13:11 (NKJV)

14  Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” Ephesians 5:14 (NKJV)

One reason for the call to wake up is that the Lord wants us to see the bigger picture, to understand that our actions have consequences. Psalm 51 is David’s famous psalm of repentance, probably almost as well known as the 23 Psalm. While most of us could likely quote a portion of Psalm 51 the last two verses are likely not the portion we would quote.

18  Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. 19  Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, With burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar. Psalm 51:18-19 (NKJV)

In the Psalm David acknowledges his sin, asks for purging, cleansing and forgiveness then seems to shift gears in closing off this famous psalm. David’s focus shifts from addressing his individual sin to asking the Lord to do good to Zion and build the walls of Jerusalem because  David recognized that his sin not only affected him personally, it exposed Jerusalem to danger. In the same way, all actions have consequences. Whether public or private, if what we are doing is good we are extending His kingdom, if we are engaging in sin we are strengthening the domain of darkness. Hence the closing focus of Psalm 51 and why Paul addressed the issues in the Corinthian church in the following manner.

34  Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. 1 Corinthians 15:34 (NKJV)

So, if we are asleep let’s wake up. If we are awake, let’s remain alert and continue to see His kingdom extended in our sphere of influence.

Find Me Faithful by Jenn Johnson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPOGEjKuLT4

Joined to the Head Part 3

In my first few years of walking with Jesus I read a lot of A. W. Tozer, a prophetic voice to a generation and a friend of Jesus. In an article where he talked about drawing nearer to the Father in intimacy he said one consequence is, “Others may, you cannot.” The idea being that the closer we draw to the Father the more the ways of the world fall away and our path becomes narrower.

He has built into our relationship with Him a structure that carries weight in the spirit realm. The closer we come the less we care about other things.

In the New Testament the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle points to the throne of grace in the New Testament and the main theme of the book of Hebrews is explaining Jesus role as priest of the heavenly tabernacle compared to the earthly one of the old covenant. The invitation of our new High Priest is to come boldly.  

16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

We are called to come boldly because we come in Jesus righteousness, not our own. At the same time while the writer of Hebrews again talks about our freedom to boldly enter in because of Jesus sacrifice (Heb. 10:19-22), he also warns us of the danger of presumption (Heb. 10:26-27) and says further.

31  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31 (NKJV)  

In the encouragement to enter in, something we can do at any time, there is an encouragement to be more sensitive to His presence in the call to serve Him (Heb. 12:28-29).

One way we serve, as we are joined to the head, is pursuing a growing and deepening sensitivity to His presence. This is something we can regularly pray for and pursue. For example, a fruit of pursuing this sensitivity it that while writing this there was a sense of a call to simply sit with Him and experience His presence so I stopped writing and did that. No flashing lights, no great emotional experience, just a deep awareness of His refreshing presence.  

This past Sunday at church there was a sense in the spirit of a prophetic mantle hovering over the congregation. I came into agreement with His purpose and prayed for it to be released. Perhaps others did as well. At the end of the service the pastor had an altar call for people to lay things down that were getting in the way in their relationship with Jesus. An unusual event there and it did not happen in the second service. This is shared simply to illustrate what can happen when we recognize we are joined to the head and seek to walk in that reality.

A key to this is pursuing His face and asking Him to deepen our sensitivity to His presence and calling and believing that He will. This is how He has structured our relationship with Him. He has much to share but wants us to value and pursue it. Let us come boldly with a sensitive heart!

Jason Upton captures something of this call in the first 3-4 minutes in this clip.

Joined to the Head Part 2

When we are rightly joined to the Head we learn to live from His perspective rather than ours. We are sensitive to hear what the Spirit is saying and live from heaven toward earth. One way to assess our adherence to living from His perspective is whether we are following the guidelines of His word. Yet, there is more than the letter of the law.

When we go beyond the letter of the law we learn to assess both what we are doing and why we are doing it. A simple example. Recently I saw a post on Facebook and the poster was referring to poor customer service at a well-known store. While the complaint was real and appeared justified when I went to comment on the post I felt a check in my spirit. My comment would have been true yet and it would likely have been appreciated. My comment would have also helped entrenched the poster and other commenters in a negative mindset. Which is not what we are called to do as an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). We are called to represent Jesus not our opinions.

One way to embrace Jesus perspective and represent Him is to embrace the twofold injunction in Philippians 4. 8  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. 9  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV)

Paul says think this way and act this way. If we are thinking about things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely and the like then we won’t participate in some types of talk even though they may be true. This isn’t about degrees of harm, it is about obedience to the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides.

Joined to the Head Part 1

We are likely familiar with the idea of Jesus being the head of the body.

15  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18  And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. Colossians 1:15-18 (NKJV)

In the above passage it is clear that all things point to Jesus. Everything was created both by Him and for Him. This includes the visible and invisible. While we may recognize that the creatures in the spirit realm are part of the invisible, another aspect to consider is that the structure of relationships is part of the invisible realm Jesus created.

While not obvious or visible Jesus in fact created the ways we can relate to Him. Look at what He says. 15  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:15 (NKJV)

Here Jesus is speaking to the 11 (Judas has left to betray Him) and He identifies a change in His relationship to them. What is clear in the text is the relationship changed over time. I believe this is Jesus desire for all of us and it is not automatic, particularly given His warning in Matthew 7 that people could appear to follow Him but not really know Him (Matt. 7:21-23).

Jesus has built into the structure of relationships that when we seek Him and choose to spend time with Him we have the privilege of becoming His friend. I think if we could see in the spirit realm we would be able to see a change in us, we would know when we moved from servant to friend.

What would others see if they could look at us?

Walking in the Word

We are likely familiar with the exhortation to walk in the Spirit yet there is a need to see the link between walking in the Spirit and our walk in the word, the scriptures.

1  I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You. 2  I will worship toward Your holy temple, And praise Your name For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. Psalm 138:1-2 (NKJV)

Here we are told that the Father has exalted His word above His name. Many want to be led by the Spirit, as do I, yet our walk in the Spirit needs to be anchored in His word. To use an analogy think of our walk in the Spirit like a kite flying high in the sky. The kite can soar, dip, flutter, swing, all because it is anchored by the person flying it, in this case, the scriptures. Release the kite and it will soon crash.

In a similar manner many have crashed over the years because they exalted their experience over the scriptures. The scriptures do not tell us whom to marry nor what house or car to buy. They do however give us principles by which to weigh what we are hearing or sensing in our decision making.

There is an expression, ‘you can’t give what you don’t have.’ I have learned some things over the years and can share them with others. In terms of our individual walk it is harder to be led by the Spirit if we have not taken the time to sow the scriptures into our lives. The Spirit says to us;

17  Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, And apply your heart to my knowledge; 18  For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you; Let them all be fixed upon your lips, Proverbs 22:17-18 (NKJV)

15  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:15-16 (NKJV)

So, as we seek to soar in the Spirit may we deeply value first being anchored in His word.

Do You See What I See?

There is an expression used in relation to positions in conflict resolution, ‘Where you stand depends on where you sit.’ In essence, how we see things depends on the perspective from which we are looking at them. Jesus addressed perspective on many occasions and we will look at one example.

The context for the passage below is Jesus being tired and hungry, resting at Jacob’s well while the disciples headed to town for food and Jesus then ministering to the one who has become known as the ‘Samaritan Woman.’ The disciples return as Jesus is still talking with the woman.

31  In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32  But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33  Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” 34  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35  Do you not say, ‘’There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” John 4:31-35 (NKJV)

The disciples misunderstood a few things here, as I suspect most of us would have.

Since culturally they didn’t associate with Samaritans the disciples were experiencing an internal conflict. From where they sat Jesus should not be talking to the woman, yet He was their leader and they were being discipled by Him so they didn’t challenge what He was doing. They had experienced enough to know He was up to something but they didn’t see it.

Jesus informed them that His encounter with the woman strengthened Him because she responded to truth. There was spiritual food and natural food to draw from. I’m sure Jesus still ate later on. Jesus then used another natural event, harvest time to make a further point. While naturally they were not in harvest time Jesus was telling them to see differently. There was a more important harvest, one that harvested people for His kingdom, and it was ready to be reaped.

It is clear that Jesus intent in this brief encounter was to teach them rather than confuse them. He highlighted their internal conflict to broaden their perspective. So when we see something in His kingdom that doesn’t align with how we think and see perhaps where we stand is connected to where we are sitting and we need to ask Jesus if He wants us to change chairs.  

There Stands One Among You

The source of this phrase is John the Baptist speaking of Jesus.

26  John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know.” John 1:26 (NKJV)

The word translated ‘know’ is the Greek verb oida and means to, “Know fully; understand, recognize (The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary).

The reality here was that Jesus was walking among the people unnoticed. While He was publicly identified when John baptized Him a short time later, even after this only a few recognized who He really was. For example, long before Peter had his experience (Matt. 16) Nathaniel declared His deity.

49  Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” John 1:49 (NKJV)

Like Peter, Nathaniel received this by revelation. In minutes he went from sarcastic doubter (Can anything good come out of Nazareth?) to believer and follower. He now knew the one John had referred to and his heart had shifted.

In a similar manner One is walking among us all the time, walking in our culture, walking in our days, walking in our relationships. As we go about our daily lives He desires to be involved in our daily decisions and actions. Do we understand, recognize and follow Him?

Walk in the Spirit

Scripture encourages us in many ways. One encouragement Paul provides is as follows.

16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (NKJV)

In our Christian walk the Holy Spirit is our leader. His job is to lead, ours is to follow. At times we will be on a well-established trail with clearly marked directions. At other times the trail will be faint or very difficult to follow. As a general principle we need to always be paying attention to His leading to walk with Him. We need to hear when He tells us to pause, to turn, to press on, to stop and rest.

His leading will not always make logical sense. Years ago a fellow shared a story of how the Holy Spirit trained him to listen. He said he was directed to drive around town and given a sense of when to turn and where. This may seem like it was a pointless exercise but he said he learned to be attentive to the Holy Spirit leading him. The benefit came when one day he was driving and had a sudden sense to stop as he came to a green light. He hit the brakes and someone came tearing through the red light and would have broadsided him had he not stopped.

I’m not suggesting this is the way He will train all of us. Just as good coaches develop individualized plans based on the developmental needs of their players, so He knows what we need to learn and seeks to draw us into His specific training program for our lives. I know in my walk it is more about my thought life and speech. At times I have a sense, ‘say this’ or ‘don’t say that.’ I find when I listen I experience His peace resting in and on me.

While peace is one indicator if we want a broader look at how well we are doing He has provided us with a diagnostic tool in Gal. 5:19-23. Here Paul shows the fruit of walking after the flesh in contrast to walking after the Spirit. While we may be in and out of either way of walking at times, the more we submit to His leading the deeper the habit of waling with Him becomes established in our lives and the more of His fruit we manifest.

Recently I was walking with a younger man on an established trail and I was breaking off some overhanging branches that were in the way. I explained why and he joined me. Whenever I hike, even if I don’t think I will ever be on the trail again, I habitually clear branches and remove small rocks and sticks. I believe it is a basic function of leadership to improve the path for others. In a similar manner the Holy Spirit is always leading us in ways to better clear and establish the path of our lives. He wants us to work with Him to remove branches that will entangle us or rocks and sticks that may trip us up. So, let’s focus on staying in step with Him.

The Law of the Spirit of Life

Paul uses an interesting little phrase in Romans, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”

2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2 (NKJV)

It is one thing to know intellectually that we are free from condemnation and sin and death. It is another to know it experientially. When we were born again the seed of God was planted in our lives. This seed contains our spiritual genetics. We now have Jesus nature within us. If we wonder what the seed looks like as it matures Paul describes it in Galatians 5:22-23. We call it the fruit of the Spirit.

The juxtaposition Paul uses is that there are two laws at work and the power in the law of the Spirit of life frees us from power of the law of sin and death. The law of the Spirit of life is able to overcome sin and death at work in us. Great news if that is our experience.

Let me digress a bit. A law as a general principle is there to create boundaries regarding what it is safe to do. To experience the benefit of the law we need to submit to it. In this case the law of the Spirit of life. This means there are two parts, ours and His. He will work in us, in fact He is always at work in us. The degree of effectiveness comes back to our focus. Paul tells us that if we set our minds on the things of the Spirit we will walk in life and peace and if on the things of the flesh, death (Rom. 8:5-6).

Practically this ‘setting of the mind’ often comes down to the little things. When in conversation if we start to head in a certain direction and the Spirit is saying stop (this is an internal sense, a check in our spirit) and we keep going we are heading toward sin and death. If we stop we experience life and peace. We can apply this in a variety of areas of our life – what we think about, what we watch, how we treat others.

When we set our mind on the things of the Spirit we experience the law of the Spirit of life overpowering the law of sin and death. Let’s fix our minds there and show the world Jesus.  

A Heart of Compassion

Most of us are likely familiar with the story of the prodigal son (Lk. 15:11-32). Yet in context the story isn’t about the son. Luke 15 begins with a group of upset people.

1  Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2  And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2 (NKJV)

Here was Jesus hanging out with the wrong crowd again. When the Pharisees and scribes complained Jesus responded by telling three stories, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. The point of each story is about rejoicing over recovering that which seemed beyond recovery. In the third story he uses the rigid older brother to represent the very people who were complaining at the beginning of the chapter.

Years ago I remember hearing John Wimber tell a story of what happened early on in his walk with Jesus. John got saved and he had a strong evangelistic anointing on his life. The fruit was he kept leading lost broken people to Jesus and bringing them to the church he and his family attended. A year or two into this he said he arrived one morning and an angry older lady confronted him and said, “You! You’ve ruined my church.” She was upset about all the broken wounded people coming in and the mess they brought with them. In telling the story John said he reflected on the lady’s comment and thought yes he had ruined her church but he couldn’t leave the lost as lost.

The point? There are two really. One, our Father is much more compassionate than we might think and He calls us to carry His heart. Two, following Jesus can be messy and may lead us to hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd.’ Hopefully we are doing both – carrying His heart and hanging out with some of the wrong people seeking to show them Jesus heart.