A Prophetic Perspective Part 3

In looking at prophetic words, the words that we speak into the lives of individuals or groups, we need to align with the truth of scripture.

6  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. Galatians 5:6 (NKJV)

Paul told that Galatians that faith works through love, that is, faith is made effective or functional through love. This is consistent with what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians. He concluded the love chapter with the verse below.

13  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV)

So my question is what is the role of love and faith in releasing prophetic words? Also, we are often told of the need to ‘stand in the gap.’ What does it mean to ‘stand in the gap?’ It is an oft quoted phrase but is it a well understood phrase? The context is below.

27  Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. 28  Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD had not spoken. 29  The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. 30  So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31  Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord GOD. Ezekiel 22:27-31 (NKJV)

The context is impending judgement due to the behaviour of the governmental leaders, the prophets and the people and no one standing in the gap between the way things were and the way they should be. While this particular gap was one created by ungodly leadership, false prophets and immoral behaviour, all gaps are places of possibility, opportunities for a change of direction or purpose, the space between what is and what will be if nothing changes. There is an old expression, ‘If you don’t change direction you will end up where you are headed.’

While the ‘gap’ referenced in Ezekiel was a national one, these gaps can be individual and very importantly can be positive or negative. I have seen many lives take a change of direction when someone has stepped into the gap to release hope and purpose, which is the primary function of New Testament prophetic ministry. If we see the gaps between where people are and where Jesus wants them to be we can speak to the possibility we see in them and encourage a change of direction or a reaffirmation of lost hope or purpose.

So, how do we stand in the gap for others? As noted above, faith works through love? First we need to have love for others. Second we need to discern what the Holy Spirit wants to speak into their lives as He generally speaks through people, people just like us! We also need to sort out our own desires and tendencies as they act as filters for what the Holy Spirit is speaking to and through us. Remember the process, Revelation, Interpretation, Application. Most importantly, when we share with someone else a wise approach is to present what we receive as a question or option. This is very practical. Say something like, ‘I think the Holy Spirit wants you to know…” or “Does this make sense to you?’

A good example for me was a friend sharing a dream with me in recent years. They had the revelation but were looking to me for the interpretation and they could then make the application. When they shared the dream with me my response needed to be weighed in the context of our relationship. This is someone I respect and admire so I had a desire and motivation to be helpful and encouraging, which is a natural tendency I have and need to pay attention to. However, in this instance I had to set that aside. Why was that? Quite simply, while I wanted to help and bless her I had no one idea what the dream meant! Based on my knowledge of scripture and knowing her as an individual I could have come up with an interpretation. However I responded by saying something like, “I could make something up but I have no idea what the dream means.”

How encouraging is a response like that and doesn’t it make me look wise! Yet that was the truth. I didn’t know and needed to supress my natural desire to be helpful. My friend had the wisdom to accept this and leave things there. The next morning when I got up to pray I reflected on the dream and suddenly the meaning was very clear to me. It was as if I were trying to look through a window with the curtains closed and someone suddenly opened the curtains. I emailed my friend with my interpretation and understanding and she affirmed it made great sense to her and she was able to apply it.

So, in the spirit of application, how does this apply to gaps? There was a gap, place of possibility for my friend, and the Holy Spirit gave her an encouraging revelation to take advantage of this place of possibility. Yet because we as Christians are corporately a body she needed another part of the body to take advantage of the revelation. The Holy Spirit used something He shared with both of us to bridge the gap and release encouragement into her life.

All of us are called to look for ways to encourage others and help them move in the direction the Holy Spirit is pointing but we also need to practice filtering our own desires out of the interpretation and application.  A main point of the Ezekiel passage above is that there was no lack of encouraging prophetic words. In this case, and many others in the Old Testament, leaders and the nation were receiving encouraging prophetic words that were not from Yahweh and were making them comfortable in their sin. That was what brought destruction to the land. We need to learn to do as Paul said, ‘speak the truth in love.’ Generally New Testament prophetic words are encouraging and supportive but sometimes they encourage us use to bridge the gap between our direction and His purpose by addressing the sin in our lives, a wise decision as we pursue His presence and purpose.

A Prophetic Perspective Part 2

One way we can receive prophetically is through dreams and their interpretation. In saying that I am not going to do an apologetic on whether or not God still speaks through dreams. A basic reading of the Gospels and book of Acts will clearly answer that question. I will however briefly touch on a passage that is often used to deny the ongoing exercise of spiritual gifts beyond the completion of the New Testament.

8  Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NKJV)

What is often taught by overly conservative believers is that there is no need to hear His voice as we have the scriptures and the idea promoted is that when the canon of scripture was complete (that which is perfect in verse 10) then spiritual gifts ceased. Some key problems with this position are that one; it ignores the ongoing use of spiritual gifts through 2,000 years of church history and the millions of Christians around the world who function in spiritual gifts today. Secondly, if one is going to consistently interpret the passage it also says that when the ‘perfect’ has come knowledge will vanish away. My simple question is this, if the ‘perfect’ is the completion of the scriptures then when the canon of scripture was complete did all believers suddenly become stupid or have nothing further to learn? It may sound a bit crude but is a very legitimate question with a very obvious answer that shows both the foolishness and arrogance of a cessationist position no matter how well intentioned it may be. Holding to this position requires a denial of scripture, experience, and reality.

Having said this, I think it is critically important to note that while we need to hear His voice today, whatever we hear can never contradict the written word. We need to hear His voice to walk closely with Him but because we never hear or apply what we hear with 100% accuracy we must always weigh what we hear in light of scripture. The scriptures establish doctrine and are the one infallible guide for faith and practice. What we hear now helps to guide moment to moment decisions, release gifts and faith, but must always align with what has already been established in the written word.

So, operating on what I believe is a proper use and application of scripture I want to talk a bit further about how prophetic gifts function. There is a need for revelation (this may be a dream, vision, phrase, impression etc.) then the interpretation of the revelation (what does it mean?), and finally the application of the revelation (what does it mean in the moment?). These three components may come through different people and often the person who receives the revelation does not have the interpretation or application. For example, the Holy Spirit has used me numerous times to interpret other people’s dreams. It is a gift that requires exercise and sometimes I have had a dream shared with me and in the moment I have no sense of the prophetic application of the dream and later it comes very clearly and readily. Sometimes the interpretation comes over time in different pieces. Below I am going to share a dream I had where I had all three components and the dream was about me. I am sharing the dream to illustrate the process of revelation, interpretation and application.

In my dream (from about a decade ago) I needed to make a decision about something and when I was talking to someone I knew and trusted they referred me to a psychologist. In the dream I went to a large building that was a tall office tower. When I arrived at the psychologist’s office there was some crisis and the building had to be emptied. In the process I left but forgot my coat in the waiting area in the psychologist’s office along with the keys to my van (they were in my coat pocket). Then the dream shifted and I was in a small pickup truck with one of my staff from work (she was driving) and we were delivering bread to needy people. The dream then shifted and I was able to get back to the waiting area in the psychologist’s office and retrieve my coat and the keys to the van. I never saw the psychologist and this was the end of my dream.

So let’s look at revelation, interpretation and application in relation to my dream.

Revelation – the dream itself is the revelation, there is a message revealed in the dream. In my own experience I have received a few prophetic dreams over the years and they have a different quality than other dreams.

Interpretation – what does and does not mean something in the dream? Some key pieces are that a vehicle often represents ministry. There are two vehicles in this dream my van and the small pickup. Bread represents food, spiritual food or teaching, a ministry. Coats often represent a covering or anointing and keys the ability to use or exercise authority. So now that we have some awareness of the different elements what do they mean in this dream? In the dream I was sent to see a psychologist for advice. The psychologist represents counsel from the non-Christian world. I have a spiritual calling on my life, much of it associated with ministering through teaching (the provision of bread). In the dream I never knew what specifically I was going to talk to the psychologist about as it was not relevant to the message in the dream. That I for a period of time lost my coat and keys represented the danger of losing my covering/anointing and my ministry. I would not be able to use my vehicle (ministry). That I then ended up delivering bread with someone from work and they were in charge meant that instead of providing spiritual food I was in danger of providing natural food. That in the end I recovered my coat and keys meant I was still able to walk in my calling.

Application – dreams can be of various types, encouraging, warning, revealing, etc. This was a warning dream with the warning being that if I sought advice for the direction of my life from the world I would end up losing my spiritual calling and ministry and simply functioning in the natural realm walking out a poor imitation of my calling.

In this particular case I received the dream and knew how to interpret and apply it but as I noted earlier, it is often the case that someone has a revelation and others have the interpretation and application. That process in and of itself is a message, we need one another and are called to be part of a body.

So, sweet dreams in the pursuit of His presence! In my next post I will talk about the role of revelation and prophetic ministry in standing in the gap.

A Prophetic Perspective Part 1

One might expect a post entitled “Prophetic Perspectives” to talk about what is coming or how to understand current headlines in light of biblical prophecy. However, I want to talk about something more important, the posture of our hearts. In a recent post I wrote about the opportunity to have a ‘new bible’ by having a different perspective. I want to explore that concept further by highlighting practical ways of engaging in and going beyond ‘seeing’ the kingdom (Jn. 3:3) to ‘entering’ the kingdom (Jn. 3:5).

Most of us love a good mystery show? Police and detective shows are popular and in various iterations have been for a long time. What makes shows like ‘Monk’ of recent years or ‘The Mentalist’ or ‘Elementary’ popular? Much of the popularity arises from the amazing skill or abilities of the main characters. The key characters in each show looks at the same scene or set of circumstances as the rest of the characters, yet they see different things and come to different conclusions. Does their skill lie in having a different set of eyes or looking through similar eyes with a different perspective?

If we anchor this concept back to scripture we can see that Ezekiel was given an opportunity to see differently.

1  The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2  Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. 3  And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” 4  Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5  Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.” Ezekiel 37:1-5 (NKJV)

Ezekiel was given the opportunity to look at the scene and circumstances and see what everyone else would see, dry bones, no life. However, Yahweh wanted to give Ezekiel a new perspective. So when asked a question with an apparently obvious answer Ezekiel went through a perspective shift and wisely said, “O Lord GOD, You know.”

Most of us know that it is easy to identify dry bones; or in many cases prophesy death instead of life. As Francis Frangipane has well said, “All it takes to find problems in the church is one good eye and a carnal mind.” Francis is here talking about our propensity to think from a natural perspective with an unrenewed mind.

Yet how many of us enjoy having someone come alongside us and discourage us? Do we find it uplifting and life giving? What about the Ezekiel option? If we know Jesus and have the Holy Spirit living inside of us then in most problem situations we enter into us He is asking us a question, ‘Son/daughter of God, can these bones live?’ In the place of discouragement we have the opportunity to release life? After all we are told,

1  Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2  For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 3  But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4  He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 1 Corinthians 14:1-4 (NKJV)

31  For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 1 Corinthians 14:31 (NKJV)

We learn from these passages that we are to pursue prophecy and that all believers can prophesy. There is a distinction between the New Testament office of the prophet and the simple gift of prophecy, a bit like ducks and birds. All ducks are birds (we can all prophesy) but not all birds are ducks (not all who prophesy are prophets). Prophesying at the most basic level is dialing down into our spirit, hearing His heart, and speaking His heart into the situation or circumstance in someone’s life, normally used as Paul says for edification, exhortation/encouragement and comfort. The qualifier is I think it is easy to just be nice, I think it is far more helpful and effective to hear His heart and speak that because sometimes edification or encouragement is challenging people to change rather than comforting them in a wrong place or heart attitude. Not all personal prophecy feels ‘good’ in the moment but if the heart of the giver is right and the recipient takes and weighs it before the Lord the fruit can be very good.

In future posts I will dig a little deeper into this from a scriptural perspective and share some examples, whether dreams or words in the moment.

So, more to come in the weeks to come…

If you have stories to share that you think would help other readers please post them or email to me and I can do the post.

 

Understanding the Kingdom Part 6

One aspect to understanding the Kingdom of God is understanding the already/not yet nature of His kingdom. This principle is sown throughout our walk with Him. There is a sense in which the kingdom has already come through what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection. As Paul wrote of Jesus, 25 “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4:25 NKJV). That is, Jesus death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins but His resurrection assured our ultimate salvation and transformation. As Paul more fully expressed it.

28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 (NKJV)

His ultimate purpose in our salvation is revealed in this passage, being conformed to His image and being glorified. The conformity to His image begins to take place as we cooperate with His grace here (see also 2 Cor. 3:18) yet we do not see it fully realized and our glorification does not fully happen until we see Him. As John put it.

1  Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (NKJV)

Something further happens when we see Him!

The theme in these two passages quoted above is the already/not yet nature of His kingdom. The reason for that takes us back to Mark 4:13. Jesus said there that this parable of the sower was the key that unlocked other parables. Part of what we need to understand is the process of sowing and reaping. Just as the planting of a crop requires seed, so in our conversion a seed is planted. In fact John tells us that at conversion we receive the very seed of God.

7  Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8  He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9  Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:7-9 (NKJV)

John tells us that at conversion we receive the ‘seed’ of God (literally sperma in Greek). We receive His nature in seed form that needs to grow in us, just as seed is sown in Mark 4. Part of understanding this passage is seeing verse 9 in the Amplified version because it captures the tense in Greek.

9  No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God. 1 John 3:7-9 (AMP)

As Christians we have new life and salvation already, yet not yet in fullness. He as a good farmer has sown a seed and He also expects a harvest. Everything is potentially there in the seed yet we will not fully see what was in the seed until it comes to maturity. As we walk with our fellow believers may we see hidden within them the seed of divine destiny and do everything we can to see this seed come fully to glorious maturity!  After all here is what has taken place within us.

17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Understanding the Kingdom Part 5

So, as we seek revelation from the Holy Spirit what can potentially happen in our lives? What is within us that can grow or be awakened? What can we learn from lives of others? I remember one time listening to a message from John Paul Jackson and he said after his teaching someone came up and asked what bible he was reading. He responded by saying he used the New King James. The response was something like this, “I don’t mean that, I read the bible and never see the things you see.” It really isn’t about the version we use, though I personally believe that to be quite important, it is about the open heart with which we read. Things that are obvious to some are hidden to others, yet there they are in plain view.

Let me illustrate with a couple of examples. First look at the passages below.

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 corner stone, Ephesians 2:19-20 (NKJV)

3  how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4  by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5  which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: Ephesians 3:3-5 (NKJV)

In these verses Paul gives us some things that identify the timeframe he is referencing. He tells us that the church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets and those in other ages or eras did not understand what has now been revealed to Jesus apostles and prophets. The ‘now’ in this context is written in the middle of the first century AD but what Paul is referring to is the time since the birth of the church, the current age. The common teaching in most evangelical circles is that when Paul wrote this he was saying that the church is built upon Old Testament prophets and New Testament Apostles. The problem with that teaching is that while one can choose to believe it, they cannot choose to believe it based upon the plain teaching of scripture. Contextually the only thing Paul can be referring to is New Testament apostles and prophets.

While what I have just written has no significant implications for our salvation, it does have significant implications for how we apply scripture to our lives. Another example is a well known radio personality who is a Christian apologist (one who speaks in defense of their faith). He says some good things but not only has a blind spot regarding God’s end time purposes for ethnic Israel, he is actively opposed to God’s end time purposes for Israel. I wonder how he cannot see and recognize that the only way he can hold to what he believes is to not ‘see’ numerous significant and plain scriptures. This is not a matter of the application of a single scripture. It means the removal of Romans chapters 9-11, Zechariah chapters 12-14, Jeremiah 31 and numerous other scripture references along with a denial of church and secular history. I have contacted this ministry to seek clarification on their position but the only response I received was an offer to sell me products that outline their position and a request for a donation.

What is my point in all of this? Most of us can have a new bible and the only thing it will cost us is some time and perseverance in seeking His heart. We need to ask the Holy Spirit for fresh eyes to see from His perspective and know with His heart. Remember, He hides things not from us but for us! His delight is to teach us, as Jesus said.

 13  However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. John 16:13 (NKJV)

There are many things He is waiting and will delight to reveal to a seeking heart. However, if we think we already know our heart is not in a position to receive. I determined many years ago, a couple of decades actually, to hold most of my theology loosely. That may seem like a strange statement but beyond core things like the need for salvation and to be born again, most statements of faith are more statements of convictions, often passed down convictions. Many of my own positions have not changed significantly over the years but I have taken the time to consider whether many of them are wrong and have researched teachings with opposite or different positions because I want to know the truth. When I do this my searching is not to find fault and look for holes in their position, rather it is to find out if I am missing something or misapplying some scripture. Are their holes in my position? I want the answer to that question and He wants to tell me. I just need to come without veils over my heart and mind.

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)

Understanding the Kingdom Part 4

In this post I want to further explore the role of revelation in understanding the kingdom of God. An interesting factor in spiritual dynamics is that often we cannot see what seems to be obvious. How many of you have one day read a scripture that you read many times before but suddenly you see a new aspect or something suddenly makes sense? This is revelation in operation. In my last post I quoted the following two passages.

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, 18  the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19  and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power Ephesians 1:17-19 (NKJV)

9  But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-12 (NKJV)

Clearly, one thing Paul is seeking to communicate to believers is the need for ongoing revelation from the Holy Spirit to be able to understand the things of the kingdom of God. Some say that we receive everything at salvation, I don’t know if we do or not, but if we do it either comes in the form of seeds that need to be germinated, or based on what is laid out in the New Testament, most of us who claim to be Christians must not be as we are not walking in what we are called to walk in. My goal is not to be judgemental, rather it is to get us to reflect on what we believe and align our lives with scripture rather than our culture. When the Corinthians, who moved in spiritual gifts but were not bearing the fruit of godly character challenged Paul he challenged them in return with this exhortation.

5  Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV)

For most of us it is easy to ‘see’ how unbelievers are unable to ‘see.’ As Paul wrote to the Corinthians about why unbelievers do not believe.

14  But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15  But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16  Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 2 Corinthians 3:14-16 (NKJV)

3  But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4  whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5  For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (NKJV)

Paul was clear that spiritual blindness needs to be removed for the lost to see, be found, and be born again. However, both of the passages below he also wrote to the church. The context of his writing to Timothy was how to deal with fellow believers who wrongly opposed him and his writing to the Ephesian believers was a warning of how far we could fall from living out the life of Christ within us. In his writing to Timothy Paul says these believers have been taken captive by the devil to carry out his will instead of Jesus will. Some may argue that this could not be true of Christians yet that is what the context points to and most importantly Paul says these believers have been taken ‘captive’ by the devil. Those already in his kingdom do not need to be taken captive. That is the point of what I quoted above from Paul. Unless they encounter Jesus they are born and remain captive.

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  This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18  having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19  who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Ephesians 4:17-19 (NKJV)

My point in all of this is that if we are to see fruit from the seed Jesus sows in our lives from His word and through fellow believers we need to seek the Holy Spirit for spiritual understanding. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:12 that we have been given the Holy Spirit ‘that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.’ They don’t just drop out of the sky but if we learn to lean into His heart they do come alive in our hearts as wisdom from above!

Understanding the Kingdom Part 3

In looking at the condition of our hearts we can see that repentance and awareness play a role in preparing our hearts to receive the seed of the kingdom, His word. Another factor to consider is the role of revelation. Jesus had this to say.

11  And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12  so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’” Mark 4:11-12 (NKJV)

In spite of Jesus message that they had the opportunity to understand the mystery of the kingdom, later in His interaction with His disciples it says they could not understand what Jesus was talking about because their hearts were still hardened.

52  For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened. Mark 6:52 (NKJV)

This fits with the history of Israel as a nation where Moses summed up their wilderness experience.

2  Now Moses called all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land– 3  the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders. 4  Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day. Deuteronomy 29:2-4 (NKJV)

There is a pattern of an inability to see the realities of the kingdom of God. Have you ever tried to share something important with someone and they could just not seem to see or understand it? At the same time it was crystal clear to you and you struggled to understand how they could not see it? This dynamic has spiritual implications as well and the struggle to see is often put off on God’s ‘sovereignty.’ Yet if His is the King of kings and Lord of lords, which He is, then everything He does is sovereign, not just specific things we can’t seem to grasp. In short, ‘the sovereignty of God’ is no answer. So what do the scriptures teach us? What did Jesus say?

41  Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42  saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43  For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44  and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44 (NKJV)

Jesus wept over what He prophetically knew would happened to His beloved city. It appears from this scripture that Israel as a nation simply could not see and so was destined for destruction, God’s sovereignty in action. Yet did this need to happen in this way? Jesus also had something else to say.

37  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38  See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39  for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’” Matthew 23:37-39 (NKJV)

There are two very significant phrases here, ‘I wanted to gather’ and ‘you were not willing.’ Jesus desire or ‘will’ was not that Jerusalem be destroyed, yet because of their choice as a nation events were inexorably set in motion. So how does this relate back to Mark chapter 4 and the parable of the sower? Ultimately we need to pursue wisdom and revelation regarding His purposes. We live in a very comfortable and satisfied culture. Someone at church was just sharing that in their efforts to evangelize they often hear. “Why do I need Jesus? I have everything I need.” We would do well to consider the well known expression, ‘The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running.’ If we adapt this to spiritual reality we could say, ‘Revelation comes not always to the wise but to those who keep on seeking.’ After all Jesus said,

7  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (NKJV)

The problem in translating information across languages is that things can sometimes be lost. Read this again in the Amplified translation which captures the different tense in the Greek.

7  Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. 8  For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (AMP)

The Amplified bible brings out the need for persistence in the process. One thing we need to keep pursuing is ‘a Spirit of wisdom and revelation.’ The interesting thing is that we do not automatically understand or receive everything at conversion. It may be there in seed form but something is needed for it to germinate and produce fruit. Paul wrote the following messages to those who were born again and had encountered Jesus.

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, 18  the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19  and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power Ephesians 1:17-19 (NKJV)

9  But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-12 (NKJV)

The truth is that even after we are born again and begin to see the kingdom we can only deeply understand and operate in the kingdom of God through deep dependence on the Holy Spirit. Do we recognize our need for Him and pursue Him?

Understanding the Kingdom Part 2

Seed and soil; the two key parts. It is gardening time as I write this, farmers are planting, the greenhouses are busy, colour is appearing in pots and planters at homes all over the city. All other things being equal, given the same amount of sun, water and fertilizer, what determines the ultimate harvest? It is the condition of the soil. While in the natural realm the gardener generally sows the seed and prepares the soil, in the kingdom of God it is different. Scripture informs us of some key things.

15  But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:15 (NKJV)

1  The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:1 (NKJV)

We can see from the scriptures above that in the parable of the sower the soil is in fact our hearts and the condition of our heart is what determines our harvest. We can also see that we are responsible to prepare our hearts to receive the seed of His word. Ancient Israel was an agricultural society and not only did Solomon say we are responsible to prepare our hearts, Hosea laid it our very well.

12  Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 (NKJV)

Hosea exhorts his hearers to break up their ‘fallow ground.’ If we are not familiar with agriculture this may not mean much. Fallow ground is ground that has not been planted in for a while and needs to be tilled and turned over so it is ready to receive seed again. Fallow ground has generally become somewhat hardened. The soil needs to be disturbed! Hosea in effect says that sowing righteousness, living a righteous and holy life and pursuing His presence will prepare our lives for harvest. Yahweh in mercy will rain righteousness upon us if we repent of our wrong behaviour and turn to Him. Hosea was a prophet to an unrepentant nation trying to get them to turn their hearts back to Yahweh. The significant thing here is that Hosea is describing repentance without using the actual term. Repentance is so little spoken of in the modern Western church that we may have lost sight of what it is about, or if we think of it we may only connect it to our conversion. However there is more.

I have generally heard repentance described as turning and going the other way. That is in fact not accurate. We all have the capacity to modify our behaviour without a corresponding change in heart attitude. Repentance is a change of mind and heart that produces a change in behaviour. The resulting behaviour change is the fruit or indicator of repentance, not repentance itself. Repentance is a precursor to conversion but it is not supposed to stop there. If in any way our thoughts and actions are not aligned with Jesus thoughts and actions then we need to repent when we see the discrepancy. However we usually do not see it without looking for it. When we genuinely pursue intimacy with Jesus we tend to initially become frustrated in our pursuit. This frustration comes from seeing how far short of this ideal life we fall. At this point we can choose to rationalize our present position or seek to draw deeper and be changed in the presence of a holy God! This pursuit and change is an ongoing process of repentance for anyone serious about deeply knowing Him.

So, we have addressed the importance of good soil and our role in preparing it. What about the seed?

14  The sower sows the word. Mark 4:14 (NKJV) 11  “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Luke 8:11 (NKJV)

19  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. Matthew 13:19 (NKJV)

We see from these three different scriptures talking about the same thing that the seed is the word of God and the word of the kingdom. It is obviously good seed! In the future I will talk about the role of revelation in understanding the kingdom of God and how it functions in our lives.

 

Understanding the Kingdom Part 1

In a recent post I wrote about the difference between ‘seeing’ the kingdom (Jn. 3:3) and ‘entering’ the kingdom (Jn. 3:5). I want to explore a bit more of what the ‘kingdom’ is and the way it operates in our lives and we operate in it. Foundational to all of this is the parable of the sower (see Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8). I want to primarily look at it from Mark 4 because of a couple of key phrases Mark shared regarding what Jesus taught.

10  But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. 11  And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12  so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’ “ 13  And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? Mark 4:10-13 (NKJV)

Jesus told some of His close followers that they had been given the opportunity to ‘know the mystery of the kingdom of God’ because they were on the inside (verse 11) and also shared that if they did not understand this parable they would not be able to understand the rest of the parables (verse 13). While Jesus did not teach exclusively in parables it was a very common way that He taught and shared the way the kingdom of God functions. So what is so important to understand about the parable of the sower as a key to understanding the rest of the parables of the kingdom?

Before I answer that I think it is important to define the term ‘kingdom and note that the terms ‘kingdom of God’ and ‘kingdom of heaven’ are both used in the gospels and are two different ways of referring to the same thing. A basic understanding comes from looking at the definition of the word. Kingdom is a compound word coming from two words, ‘king’ and ‘domain.’ So at the most basic level, a kingdom is anywhere that falls under the king’s domain or rule or the exercise of the king’s dominion. Scripturally the kingdom of God can be seen anywhere that the Kings dominion can be seen in operation, whether in our individual lives or in a small group or congregation.

We see in scripture that ‘The Kingdom of God’ and the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ are two ways of referring to the same thing.

17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (NKJV) emphasis mine

14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 (NKJV) emphasis mine

Having established that, what is the message in the parable of the sower? The main message is that everything we receive from Jesus comes in seed form and there is a responsibility that Jesus has and a responsibility that we have. Furthermore, we cannot do His part and He will not do our part. His responsibility is to provide seed and our responsibility is to prepare and provide the right soil to receive the seed. Another key point is that because He sows the seed of His word in our lives we need to understand the process of growth and harvest and cooperate with His grace to see His harvest realized in our lives. Make no mistake; it is His harvest as He is the one sowing the seed. In my next post I will expand on this and describe what is contained in the seed.

Journeying into Jesus Part 7

May 6, 2014

Have you ever prayed a prayer like, “Jesus give me passion for you.” Most of us have prayed something like this if we are serious about knowing Him and walking with Him. However, what about praying something like, “Jesus, let me find passion with and in You.” A subtle shift but more relational in nature – is this not what we really desire and need? Do we not really need to find our purpose and passion in Him?

If we answer in the affirmative these questions lead to another one. Do we have any hope of achieving this? If so what do we need to do to see it realized? We first need to believe it is possible and we then need to understand hope from a scriptural perspective. Jesus Culture does a version of the Song ‘Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here’ that begins, “There’s nothing worth more that will ever come close, nothing can compare You’re our living hope.” Finding passion with and in Jesus is possible because He is our living hope. The writer of Hebrews addresses this when exhorting us to press in and know Jesus. He says we require faith and patience and we need to anchor our hope somewhere.

12  that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:12 (NKJV) 19

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, Hebrews 6:19 (NKJV)

If we want to find passion and purpose in Jesus then we not only need to anchor our hope in His presence, we need to mix faith and patience with it. I think the latter is the most difficult for those of us living in an ‘instant everything’ society. Not only are most of us not taught the value of delaying gratification, we are encouraged to continually indulge ourselves. Yet when we patiently wait for something there is a change that takes place within us. The scriptures not only connect faith and patience, they connect faith and hope.

24  For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Romans 8:24-25 (NKJV)

1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2  For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. Hebrews 11:1-2 (NKJV)

Paul tells us that if we are applying hope to what we have not yet received ‘we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.’ The Greek word here for ‘perseverance also has the meaning of patience or endurance, while the Greek word used in Hebrews 6:12 that is translated as patience also means to endure or persevere, they are in essence synonyms, words with very similar meanings to convey similar ideas, just given by two different human authors. If we want to have a more passionate relationship with Jesus we need to very intentionally and expectantly pursue it. In his recent book The Path, Rick Joyner identified some things that should characterize our walk with Jesus. I pulled points out while reading so cannot refer you to a page or chapter and I also captured them in a way that made sense to me so there may be some minor differences from what he actually wrote but the essence is there. He said that,

The overriding purpose for every day – Walk in love

Three main purposes for each day

  • Knowing the voice of the Holy Spirit/Jesus
  • Obeying Him
  • Mindfully dwelling in His presence

Walking out these ideas in an intentional way requires faith and patience but if we believe He is worthy and eagerly pursue His presence each day we will find that it is worth it. Why not try, what possible loss could there be in spending time trying to mindfully dwell in Jesus presence?