The Eternality of Nations and His Kingdom

To start off, yes, eternality is an actual word. Now to address the idea. I read something recently in a book by Dennis Peacocke about how God has a future plan for nations. This got me thinking, so I will share where my thinking led me. There is a pattern in scripture of unity in diversity. That was the original point of universities, a mini ‘universe.’ Here people from different backgrounds came to learn a core diverse curriculum so they ended up with a shared body of knowledge, a unity in diversity. The early European universities focused on the liberal arts and theology.  

Now before I go further with this idea of unity in diversity in the body of Christ let me quote what some of you may be thinking.

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26–29 (NKJV)

On the surface Galatians seems to teach that our differences disappear in Jesus. Yet here, through the Spirit, Paul is highlighting Jesus as the source of our unity in the context of our diversity. He wrote Galatians to address the issue of the Jewish believers trying to make the Gentile believers into Jews.

Each of us will step from time into eternity and our focus and identify will be on our relationship with Jesus not our ethnic or culture background. I am quite confident that He won’t be handing me a Canadian flag! That said, we need to consider what things will look like as we know from scripture that the boundaries and identities of nations are set by God.

26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, Acts 17:26 (NKJV)

Nations and national identities were God’s idea and not only did He create them, they will continue from time into eternity. The context below is the New Jerusalem having descended from heaven to the new renewed earth at the culmination of this age.

22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. Revelation 21:22-26 (NKJV)

While I cannot tell you what we will do as nations in the future it is clear that the nations that are saved will walk in the light of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem (verse 24). It is also clear that these nations will carry glory and honour (verse 26).

How does this affect you and me? We will still be part of a nation in eternity. When we step from time into eternity, we will receive a glorified body like the one Jesus lives in. Yet we are not going to all be homogenous. We will retain our diversity, including our nationality. The testimony of scripture and creation is the Father’s love for diversity. Paul also informs us in 1 Corinthians 15:40-43 that just as the stars differ in glory so also will our resurrections bodies. Based on this and what we can see from Revelation I believe that whatever we are now we will be in eternity. Asian people will still look Asian, Black people Black, Indigenous people Indigenous and so on. I believe that whatever is flawed in our physical makeup will be removed and whatever will glorify Him will be accentuated. Sort of like a you 2.0. Every aspect of our bodies will glorify Him!

This means that in the context of preaching and living in His kingdom we need to honour and pray for the nation we are currently part of and seek to glorify Jesus in our nation. Let’s appreciate and celebrate our uniqueness and diversity while finding out how we fit into His corporate body to fulfill His eternal purpose.

Catch a Wave

I am in San Diego as I write this. Earlier this week I was walking on some cool windy beaches and spent some time watching surfers in their wetsuits. Not swimming weather in my opinion! However, allow me to use surfing as an analogy to capture the spirit of revival, beginning with a little more context. That morning I had been thinking about revival. As I was walking along the very windy beach in the blowing sand a song kept rising up in my spirit as I walked and I was quietly singing some lines from it. The song was Shine Jesus Shine by Graham Kendrick, the lyrics are well worth reading and the song one that draws us into worship. The part I was singing over and over was, “Shine, Jesus, shine. Fill this land with the Father’s glory.” It is a song about outpouring, filling and transformation. In a word, revival! The same day that I was walking and worshipping the winds were so strong that one of the major parks was closed due to trees being blown over. The weather report said they had last experienced winds like this in the 90’s. So back to surfing, starting with my observations.

The first observation is that surfers spend the vast majority of their time waiting and preparing. They are paddling while looking for the big wave. They are not casually resting on their boards; they are looking out at the waves in expectation and preparing for them. As the waves come rolling in, they need to time their paddling with the wave. If they start to paddle too soon, they miss they wave, if they start to paddle too late, they miss the wave. Once they catch the wave they need to quickly get on their board and balance. They then need to pay attention to the wave and ride it back and forth to maintain their place on it.

 Now to the revival application. Whether we think of revival as a move of the Spirit, wind from the Spirit or a variety of other perspectives, a wave is simply one example of something that moves powerfully that we can join with and be caught up in. Having studied revival over the years I see the wave application. I believe we need to both pray and prepare. Revivals in history were always preceded by prayer, preparation and expectation. At times people missed the moment (wave) because they didn’t like the package it came in. For example, it was said that the bloodline washed away the colour barrier at Asuza Street. Here the different ethnicities came together and worshipped, yet at that time in history some were offended at this integration and missed the wave. For others the wave was too wild and they missed it because they were offended by excesses.

The Toronto Blessing from the 1990’s is another example. I am confident there were spirits present leading people to do things that were not from the Holy Spirit. I am also confident that some people simply did things out of emotional immaturity or a desire for attention. I am however very confident that the Holy Spirit initiated and led the outpouring and people came from all over the world and were touched and transformed by the Spirit.  

If errors are our focus in a revival season, we will miss the big wave being offended by the little ones. Fleshly excesses have always accompanied moves of the Spirit. We navigate a move of the Spirit by focusing on the genuine and remaining humble. Scripture exhorts us to test all things and hold fast to the good.

21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.  1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NKJV)  

In conclusion, let us pray for revival, let us prepare our hearts and when we see the wave let us paddle out to meet it, join it and ride it while paying close attention to the Spirit to navigate what He is doing.

A further Application Addendum regarding Wind and the Spirit

Jesus said the following in likening the wind and the Spirit

8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 (NKJV)

We then have Acts 2.

1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Acts 2:1–2 (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit at times reveals Himself through wind. I referenced the strong winds the day I was walking on the beach worshipping and praying. I had sand blown into both of my ears due to the wind. I mentioned the trees being blown over. When the wind is blowing over trees, things are being uprooted! If this represents a wind of the Spirit, is He wanting to uproot and remove things from our lives?

I had another experience with wind when we were in Scotland in June 2018. On June 12th we toured Edinburgh Castle and I saw the small room where King James VI of King James Bible fame, was born. On the 13th took the train out to Stirling Castle. We toured the castle, the Wallace Monument and looked into the Church of the Rude just outside the gates of Stirling Castle. That day Edinburgh Castle was closed and parts of Stirling and the Wallace Monument due to the strong winds. A guide informed us this was only the second time since the 1990’s that the castle had been closed.   

The significance of the city of Stirling is that it is where William Wallace first fought Edward I of England and liberated Scotland, where King James VI was raised, though he was born in Edinburgh Castle. It was also here that John Knox preached, shook a nation and also presided over King James VI’s baptism and coronation at the church of Rude.

I believe these winds I have referenced prophetically speak of a move of the Spirit that is coming that will blow back in old things that were spiritually significant, uproot and remove things that offend His heart and sweep the church into His purpose. In closing here is what Knox uttered on his deathbed. May we live likewise. “Whatever influenced me to utter whatever the Lord put into my mouth so boldly, and without respect of persons, was a reverential fear of my God, who called and of his grace appointed me to be a steward of divine mysteries, and a belief that he will demand an account of the manner in which I have discharged the trust committed to me, when I shall stand at last before his tribunal.”

Gifts and Calling

In my last post I wrote about being faithful with our gifts and callings and the need to discern what they are and exercise them. Here I will look at the relationship between gifts and callings. A verse that highlights this is in Romans.

29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29 (NKJV)

Contextually this is about the calling of Israel as a nation and people group and the gift Yahweh gave of them being His representative nation in the earth. While the verse is about a national calling Paul’s point illustrates the fact that there is a link between gifts and callings. Let’s explore it.

Gifts in scriptural language are something given that enable us to do something. The word used in the Romans 11 verse above is charisma. Charisma is also used in Romans 12:6-8 to refer to different gifts or abilities and it is used in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 in referring to spiritual gifts. Charisma is also used in Hebrews 5 to refer to gifts offered on the altar by the priest in the Old Testament.

While a gift is something given not earned, it is also an ability to do something. It is related to charis, which is translated as grace in the New Testament. John Wimber used to describe spiritual gifts as ‘gracelets.’ Grace, beyond being unmerited favour, is God’s enablement to carry out His calling. In essence He gives us gifts to do something, an ability to function in His kingdom and respond to His calling.

While a gift is the ability to do something a calling is a summons. In our calling the Lord is summoning us to a task that He has gifted us for. Israel was summoned to be a light to the nations and had the ability to do so if they walked in obedience to Yahweh’s commands. The prophetic voices in the Old Testament are littered with examples of their rebellion and refusal to walk in their calling. Though as a nation they failed, because the gifts and calling are irrevocable the light did come through them. The light was Jesus.

2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined. Isaiah 9:2 (NKJV)

16The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16 (NKJV)

Seeing this we can be confident that He will accomplish His purpose in the future as He has in the past.

Now to apply this to our lives. Each of us have both a gift or gifts and a calling. A good example is my friend Lynn. She teaches school and is also a worship leader. It doesn’t require much discernment to see that Lynn is both gifted and called to teach. Not all who attempt to teach have a teaching gift, some have a job. True teachers have a gift and are responding to a calling. Lynn is one, yet her greatest gift and calling is to lead others into His presence through worship. It is important to note there is a distinction between musical ability and worship. Many gifted musicians who are Christians are not anointed to lead worship.  

I had the privilege of helping Lynn to lead a small group for a number of years where we focused on worship and prayer ministry. What makes Lynn so effective is that in the realm of worship she has developed and deepened her gift in response to her calling. Her heart is drawn to worship and through her responsiveness to Jesus has been trained by Him to draw others into His presence as she worships. Her gift has been cultivated.

While we may be familiar with the term cultivated, we need to look at the origin. There is the idea of cultivation in terms of refinement and culture. However, when a farmer is cultivating his field, he is not becoming a refined gentleman, he is preparing and working the land. Hard and gritty activities. The soil needs to be prepared, sown, tended and harvested. Out gifts need to be developed through preparing our hearts, sowing into them through prayer and practice and harvesting a functioning calling.  

            We are each called to follow Jesus and we are each gifted to demonstrate our following Him through a responsive heart. Here is how Paul put it in a representative list.

6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6–8 (NKJV)

Paul’s primary exhortation here is to develop our gifts by using them, having a responsive heart. We all have inner tugs and urgings from the Spirit. When we follow them, we walk in our gifts and calling. Let’s cultivate the habit of following them to further His kingdom purposes.  

Talents?

            We are likely familiar with the parable of the talents. There are two different versions. The first is found in Matthew 25:14-30 and the second in Luke 19:11-27. The versions are different because Jesus would have taught the same stories in different ways as He travelled about teaching. I am looking at Matthew’s version. When I have heard teaching on the subject the focus has always been on the outcome. Instead of that let’s start at the beginning. At points in my career, particularly in my management roles, there were sometimes ridiculous expectations rather than realistic goals. I once told my staff that what we were being expected to do was ‘change the tire while driving down the highway!’ Goals that stretch us are useful but they still need to be realistic. My response to the ridiculous was, “If you goal for me this year is to be able to jump over the building at the end of the year, we need a new goal as that isn’t going to happen.” In the parable of the talents Jesus presents the goal or task as realistic.

14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Matthew 25:14–15 (NKJV)

            Here we have a man who had servants and gave them responsibility according to their ‘ability.’ That is, the owner gave each servant an area of responsibility based on what he could realistically be expected to achieve. Jesus embedded a principle here. Our Father has given to each of us talents, gifts or abilities. When our lives are weighed at the end of this age, He will not compare what we have done with what someone else has accomplished. His assessment will be based on what we have done with what we have been given. The two talents servant wasn’t expected to achieve what the five talents servant accomplished. He was expected to achieve what he was able to accomplish with two talents.

            I think one of the problems we have in the church is a tendency to focus on or desire the talents of others without really seeing our own. For example, I may want to be a great preacher and look at great preachers I admire and wish I could be like them. However, that would be wasting my time, and my talent. I have often said over the years that I like neither giving or receiving lectures. I am a teacher not a preacher. I want to engage and interact with people not talk at them. If I look at and seek to learn from great interactive teachers that is a good use of my time. Trying to be a great preacher wouldn’t be.   

            Part of my teaching gift is writing, this being an example. Over the years my friend Wouter has spoken into my life a good deal about my writing and in heeding his advice my writing has improved. Wouter is a gifted teacher and taught high school English for decades. I would be foolish to not receive his advice and corrections. At the same time, though we both teach our styles are not the same and my goal is not to teach or write like Wouter, it is to teach and write well as Randy. I heard Josh McDowell say something nearly forty years ago. He said, “If you spend all of your time being someone else who is going to spend all of their time being you.” That has always stuck with me.

            Each of us have gifts and talents, each of us has a calling from Jesus. There are cases where people have developed gifts that weren’t obvious early on. I know of more than one person who felt called by Jesus to play a musical instrument and be a worshipper. They then just ‘did it’ with no formal training. Jesus calling them activated something He had put in them. A qualifier here, musical training and ability does not in and of itself make one a worship leader. I have heard skilled musicians in church who frankly do not understand worship nor can they lead others into His presence. (My next post will address the pairing of gifts and calling).

            Aside from worship and teaching there are many gifts and callings. We each need to discern ours through prayer, input from others and our inner sense of calling. When we do that and consistently live it out we can look forward to these words at the end of the age, ‘well done good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21).

Walking Well

            Given the time of year there are a plethora of prophetic declarations regarding what the Lord is going to do in 2023. Most are promises of wonderful things that don’t come to pass but they are still put forth each year. Some are balanced and talk about the blessing of His presence in the midst of difficulties. Some are vague and general and some are very specific. A recurring one is the recognition of the need for revival and awakening in the church and prayer to that end. I hold to that promise and continue to intercede for it.

Now to my word for the year. I have had specific ones in the past. I don’t have one this year except something He spoke to me nearly three decades ago from 1 Corinthians.

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

To understand this, we need to look at the context, what we are to steward, and what it means to steward something. The context is Paul speaking of being a steward of the mysteries of God.

1 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 1 Corinthians 4:1 (NKJV)

Paul saw his responsibility to be faithful with what God had entrusted to him and recognized his calling as a servant, an underling to the Lord. While none of us are Paul the Lord has given each of us callings and gifts and our calling is to be wise stewards of what He has given. I don’t know each of your specific callings and gifts. However, I do know for example that each of us have been called to live out Matthew 28:18-20, The Great Commission. Given that let’s take a closer look at stewardship.

There is a good example of failed stewardship in popular culture that has often come to mind for me. It is from The Lord of the Rings series. In the one movie the Steward of Gondor had been entrusted with responsibility for the city and surrounding country. His responsibility is to maintain and look after the city and surrounding area until the rightful king shows up. In the movie he is aware that the rightful heir to the throne is coming and that he is to yield the throne to him and serve him. Rather than functioning as a steward he begins to act like an owner and refuses to welcome or yield to the coming king. He instead focuses on his own food and comfort while the city he is responsible for was under attack and falling to the enemy. He has in effect attempted to keep his position while abandoning his responsibility! This is similar to the expression, ‘Nero fiddled while Rome burned.’ Nero had also been given a stewardship (Romans 13:1-3) which he miserably failed to carry out.

We do not want to function like the Steward of Gondor or Nero, we want to be found faithful. If our calling is to prayer let us pray. If our calling is to evangelism let us evangelize. If it is to encouragement let us encourage. Paul provides examples for us.

6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6–8 (NKJV)

If we do respond to this with a right heart, we are faithful stewards. I know in my life that whether I see revival or need to remain in the place of intercession awaiting it, I plan to be faithful to do what I can with what I have where I am.

            In considering our own stewardship it may look different for each of us. What is consistent is the need to consider is our present degree of faithfulness with what He has already tasked us with doing. I spent my career in the social services field and there was an expression, ‘The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.’ If we have not been faithful in the past, we are not positioned to be faithful in the future. If that is our present state, we can shift our future through repentance (a change of heart and mind) that leads to engaging in different behaviour. Once we make this shift the best predictor of our future behaviour will be the new behaviour that we are engaging in. Let us be found faithful and this year will lay a foundation for continued faithfulness next year and beyond.

Mirror Resolutions

            We begin a new year tomorrow. Given that in our culture we tend to focus on New Years Day as a time of reflection and resolutions let’s apply that idea to this coming year. At present little discernment is required to see that we live in a very self absorbed and self focused culture, including in the church. A lot of time is spent looking in the mirror. There is a good biblical word for what led to this condition, sin. In reflecting back on Genesis 3 we see the immediate effects of sin entering the lives of Adam and Eve.

9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” 12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” 13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:9–13 (NKJV)

Two things happened in the Fall, a focus on self and ‘our’ condition and the shifting of blame to someone else when challenged. In essence Adam was now focused on himself rather than Yahweh and blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent and so it continues in every culture.

Yet, as believers our calling is different. Our calling is to be mirrors that reflect Jesus and His kingdom, not our culture. This is clearly portrayed in scripture.    

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)

Think about the significance. In our mirrors we are to look into and at the glory of the Lord. We are to fix our gaze upon Jesus, seeing His glory in our mirrors, His face replacing ours. The result of that is that we then reflect His glory and others encounter Him in us.

            There is a practical way to do this. Back when I was much younger, I moved to Edmonton from Northern Alberta to attend college. I stayed with my sister and brother in-law that summer and my sister had a plaque on the bathroom wall, it was an old Sanskrit saying and I have always remembered it, “Yesterday is already a dream and tomorrow is only a vision, but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.”

So here is my proposal for the New Year. We can still make resolutions like losing weight or getting fit, yet we can also do something I think is much more important. We can resolve to live better among others. We can choose to look into scripture and to gaze upon Jesus, we can be changed into His image, walking in grace and truth, living in forgiveness and compassion. We can resolve to let Him shine through us, reflecting the fruit of the Spirit.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)

In this way we can make, “every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.”

His Building

            Tomorrow, Christmas day, we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Leaving aside the accuracy of the date, it is an important day around the world. As the ultimate strategic planner, the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit had a plan and purpose in mind. A plan that would be established through Jesus’ birth and subsequent death and resurrection. This plan began to come to fruition with Jesus earthly birth, a plan to begin building something, and we are part of that something.

            The plan was to build a family, a family made in His image, representing, or re presenting, Him. This is seen clearly in scripture.

8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 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, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Ephesians 3:8–12 (NKJV)

I will highlight a section of this passage, “the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 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.” There was a mystery unveiled to Paul, the building of a spiritual house through those born again through Jesus. After the Fall it began with the calling of a man, Abraham, the building of a nation through his descendants, the raising up of the Messiah through this lineage and culminating in the full unveiling of the mystery. This mystery involved a revealing of God’s wisdom to the opposing powers in the heavenly places, the ongoing revealing of Jesus to and through the church to the world. An eternal purpose that will be finalized at Jesus return.

            If we have been born again, we are part of what is being built. We have been called into fellowship, participation in a divine plan that was once a mystery and has now been unveiled. We see it expressed earlier in Ephesians.

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19–22 (NKJV)

            We are all part of the same building; the church Jesus is building. We display His wisdom before opposing spiritual forces in heavenly places when we focus on building up His body and bringing in new members. Most of us are called not to foreign lands but to our friends and neighbours. This Christmas let’s honour what Jesus did by being expressions of the living Christ to all we encounter. Let us be living stones offering spiritual sacrifices as a spiritual building.

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4–5 (NKJV)

Nobility and Generosity

Given the season, as we near the celebration of Jesus birth, Christmas, and gift giving, it is a good time to consider the overlap between nobility and generosity. I briefly touched on this concept in blog post in recent years (see the link below). Here I want to dig a little deeper. I will start by saying there is no deep mystery in the Hebrew, the word simply means generous or noble. The verse below in two different translations highlights the translation options.  

8 But a generous man devises generous things, And by generosity he shall stand. Isaiah 32:8 (NKJV)

8 But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands. Isaiah 32:8 (ESV)

Our context is found in verse 1.

1 Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, And princes will rule with justice. Isaiah 32:1 (NKJV)

Here Isaiah is prophesying a future time when righteousness and justice will rule in Israel. A theme in scripture is the blessing on nations and individual lives when righteousness and justice are the foundation and practice of leadership. One of the by-products of righteous leadership is people who demonstrate nobility and generosity. Thus, Isaiah highlights this as a characteristic of this future national state.

There are however a couple of givens for us as the church. Our calling is to reflect an already not yet kingdom, one where righteousness reigns. The kingdom of God. It was inaugurated on earth through Jesus’ ministry and subsequent sacrifice and resurrection. It will be fully consummated at His return. In the meantime, we have His command to go and make disciples of all nations in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). There is debate over whether this means making disciples of nations or making disciples of people within nations. For our purposes the point is moot.

We as the church are called to walk in Jesus’ righteousness and under His leadership so it should translate into behaviour that is both noble and generous. Behaviour that seeks to honour and build others up. Behaviour that seeks to identify and draw out the gifts and callings of those around us.  

Lest you think we are going to go down the financial road, that is not my intent. Being generous with our finances and blessing others is a noble thing. Yet, giving money is often easy in our culture. What is harder to give, and likely of more value in the kingdom, is our time. I am blessed to have friends that have been generous with their time, whether helping with home projects or church activities. There is something noble about their willingness to help out. I remember many years ago working on an extensive plumbing project in our home. Two of my friends came to help. The project took longer than planned, what home reno doesn’t? I gauge the length of projects by the number of trips to the hardware store. This one took quite a few!

We had worked all day and the project was not yet complete. My wife and I had tickets for an event that evening. When my friends found out they told us to leave, said they would finish the project, and lock the door. They did just that! This was a noble and generous thing to do. In projects like these there is the opportunity to deepen fellowship and connect with our fellow believers in a deeper a way that dollars would never achieve.

Our calling is to build people and we do that through engaging with them, giving of ourselves and loving one another as Jesus has called us to demonstrate. So, in this season, and throughout the year, let’s look for opportunities to build His kingdom by demonstrating nobility and generosity, engaging with Jesus in building His kingdom through investing in the lives of others in His body. 

NOTE – I briefly touched on Nobility and Generosity a few years ago in my series on Reflective Leadership (http://wisdomfromtheword.ca/reflective-leadership-part-12/)

Faith and Action Part 3

In my last posted I noted that here I would address individual and corporate discernment in relation to Faith and Action. To do that we need to look at the authority structure in the church. In scripture Christ is the head, the ultimate authority (Ephesians 1:22, 5:23). That is without question. What we need to consider is how Jesus uses His authority as the head. It is clear in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and His instructions to wait for the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5) that He expects us to obey Him. The important point is that He doesn’t use force or control. He will apply both to unbelievers when He returns and all of us believers will appear before His judgment seat under His authority (2 Corinthians 5:10). However, at present He exhorts and convicts, He does not force. The same is true regarding the role and calling of human leaders in the church, as represented in the passages below.

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24–26 (NKJV)

17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17 (NKJV)

1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:1–7 (NKJV)

            Leaders who actually follow Jesus seek to lead others by example and teaching, not coercion. Once we recognize the scriptural importance of submission to authority we can make the connection to discernment, both individual and corporate. If we want to hear clearly and discern His leading, we need to submit to the leaders Jesus has appointed as we need come under Jesus’ authority through them. We see this in action in corporate discernment 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. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV)

29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 1 Corinthians 14:29 (NKJV)

We see here the sharing by many of what they are receiving from Jesus and the submission of what they are hearing or receiving to others in the body. In essence our discernment is tied to our submission because Jesus designed us to need one another. If we are unwilling to come under spiritual authority we cannot expect to hear clearly in our walk with Jesus.

The context for 1 Corinthians 14:29 is corporate discernment. Through sharing what we are hearing from the Lord and letting others weigh the accuracy we demonstrate a willingness to submit to the spiritual maturity and authority of others. We see the same principle in Proverbs.

14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV)

22 Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established. Proverbs 15:22 (NKJV)

            It is easy to see how corporate discernment is tied to our recognition of, and submission to, the spiritual authority Jesus has established in the church. The same principles apply to individual discernment. None of us are called to walk alone, we are called to walk with others in the body. Whatever we think we are hearing or think we should do, we discern best in the context of community. At times the Lord speaks to me about something, yet on important matters my habit is to submit what I hear to others. For example, I recently made a significant decision and had a sense of what I was to do. Yet I didn’t move ahead with my decision until I had a couple of friends pray about it for a number of months as the decision affected others. The Lord confirmed the accuracy of the decision so in theory I could have simply gone ahead with my original sense of His direction. Yet in having others weigh it there was confirmation from the Lord that was significant. This is important.

Some final thoughts. Over my years of walking with Jesus I have heard many people come up with novel ‘teachings’ that are not in line with scripture. Invariably it comes out that they are not anchored and submitted in His body, and by extension Jesus. Instead of doing that, let’s simply follow Jesus. When we do, we will find ourselves in fellowship with His people and find a place to weigh and test our spiritual discernment.

Faith and Action Part 2

            In my last post I did a brief overview of the importance of the idea of scriptural inerrancy. Here we will look at some challenging passages and the importance of context and the type of expression or literature. While the bible is presented as a single book made up of 39 Old and 27 New Testament (NT) letters or books we have a whole range of literature in these 66 books. We have history, prophecy, poetry, and pithy teachings such as Proverbs and the parables of Jesus in the NT.  

            In examining the broad view, we start with a key distinction, the scriptures were written for us, not to us. While many are very applicable to our lives, they were all written to a specific audience in a specific time and place. A great example is the book of scripture that is arguably the most confusing, Revelation. It is actually referred to in the first four words as “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is both revelation from Jesus and in the end revelation about Jesus. Yet it was addressed to seven specific churches in then Asia Minor, modern Turkey.         

            Now, we will take a look at some of the difficult statements in scripture.

27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. Matthew 5:27–30 (NKJV)

8 “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire. Matthew 18:8–9 (NKJV)

 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:20–29 (NKJV)

In the passages above, the context is first lust in Matthew 5, then causing the immature to stumble in Matthew 18. In both cases Jesus refers to cutting off our hand or plucking out our eye. These are great examples of hyperbole, using exaggeration to make a point. Jesus is in essence saying that we need to aggressively deal with sin when it rises up in our lives. If looking is leading to lust, don’t look, in essence, ‘pluck out your eye.’ If your behaviour is leading to sin, ‘cut off your hand or foot.’ Don’t allow your actions to lead to sin. Jesus primary point – deal with the issue!  

In the Matthew 19 passage we have what is referred to as the story of the ‘rich young ruler.’ The man comes to Jesus already seeking to live by the standards of the law but sensing a lack in his life. Jesus puts his finger on the man’s issue, his trust and confidence in his money, things, rather than Jesus. Jesus cuts to the heart of the issue and tells him to sell the things he trusts in and to instead trust and follow Jesus. The disciples are astonished about Jesus subsequent comments regarding the difficulty of trusting riches and how doing that is in conflict with trusting Jesus.  

In the eye and hand comments we have statements that are applicable to all of us in how we deal with temptation. In the issue of trusting riches, we have a principle that applies to all of us, trust Jesus not other things, but a command that was directed to an individual. Jesus was not telling all people for all time that the only way to salvation was to sell all they owned and give it to the poor. After all, if we look at who has funded mission work over the years it is generally people who have money.  

Now let us turn to the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus’ command to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)

This command was spoken to a specific group, the remaining eleven apostles after the defection of Judas. Yet, clearly the eleven of them were not going to be able to go into the entire world with the gospel. Thus, it was spoken to them but written for us, and given the broad nature of Jesus command, applies to us as while. Matthew wrote it so we would know the task appointed to all followers of Jesus.  

In looking at scripture, as a general practice we should look at who it was written to and whether it is straightforward prose, a parable, poetry or history. We then need to look at how it applies to our lives in our time and culture. The prohibitions against sin apply to all of us always, some commands however, like dietary laws apply to Israel not everyone. Specific commands have a context but the Holy Spirit may quicken to our hearts a passage like the story of the rich young ruler and direct us to sell our earthly possessions. Here we need to know how to discern His voice. In the next post we will look at individual and corporate discernment in relation to Faith and Action.