His Resting Place

Through Isaiah the Lord asks something very interesting.

1  Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?” Isaiah 66:1 (NKJV)

The obvious answer is that nothing we build or create can contain Him or be a place for Him to rest. Yet what He did when Israel journeyed in the wilderness was have them build a place where His presence would dwell and rest. This place was the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle of Moses. His presence dwelt and rested between the wings of the cherubim over the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. Later Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem and God’s glory came and filled the temple when it was dedicated and He was there in the Holy of Holies over the Mercy Seat (2 Chron.7:1-14).

Given the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon predated Isaiah we need to better understand Isaiah’s prophetic point. In seeking to understand Isaiah there is something else to consider.

41  “Now therefore, Arise, O LORD God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, And let Your saints rejoice in goodness.” 2 Chronicles 6:41 (NKJV)

8  Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. 9  Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, And let Your saints shout for joy. 10  For Your servant David’s sake, Do not turn away the face of Your Anointed. Psalm 132:8-10 (NKJV)

The passages above both speak of Yahweh arising, ‘to Your resting place.’ We generally arise FROM rest, not TO rest, yet scripture says the opposite. The idea was Yahweh wanted somewhere not just to be but a place to rest in and upon. As already noted, Isaiah raised His prophetic point after the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon had been erected so clearly Isaiah was looking to something else. That something else began long after Isaiah had stepped from time into eternity.

Whether he knew it or not Isaiah’s question pointed forward to the birth of the church. Stephen (Acts. 7:48-49) and Paul (Acts 17:24) both affirm that God does not dwell in physical structures, temples made with human hands. What we know from the New Testament is that He now dwells in flesh and blood temples.

16  Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV)

19  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV)

So, this answers part of Isaiah’s prophetic question, He dwells in His body birthed through Jesus death and resurrection. He made His own house. Now, we need to answer the other part, are we walking with Him in such a way that in us He can arise TO His rest? Though Jesus is now dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit is He relationally at rest in us?

A Corporate Body

Imagine walking through the forest along a well maintained trail and looking to one side and seeing signs of a faint path in the woods that is covered with dead branches and underbrush. It is an old path but to explore it will require a fresh clearing of the path for it to be usable.

Similarly, a path in the church that is given little focus and is largely overgrown is an understanding of the corporate nature of His body. So to that end let’s clear away some theological underbrush so that we can see this path and explore it.

We may at times reference Paul’s use of the different parts of a body in exploring spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12) but we need to go beyond think of our role/body specifically and see our in His body when we hear the term. In the West we live in a very individualistic culture, however the New Testament (NT) was written in the context of a culture that focused on community over individuals. While every individual is important and of incredible value because of Jesus sacrifice, the focus of the NT, just like the first century culture, is where we as individuals fit into His body, the larger community. We are called to find our place in the body to serve and encourage the other parts of the body (Gal. 5:13, Heb. 10:24-25).

Here is a sampling of verses that highlight this truth.

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)

20  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, 21  in whom the whole building, being joined 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 2:20-22 (NKJV)

14  For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15  from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– 19  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, Ephesians 3:14-20 (NKJV)   

Peter is saying we are individual stones in a larger building. The ‘you’ in Ephesians 2 and 3 are both plural, not singular. Paul’s prayer is for a corporate rather than individual experience. He wants us to know that the church corporate is what we are being built into and that our growth is to be into Jesus. He is the foundation and the purpose of our growth, as Peter also notes, is that we are shaped to align with the cornerstone. We need to look like and reflect Jesus to properly fit into His body. Paul also prays that we as the church corporately would experience the width, length, depth and height of Jesus love.

So, if we want to grow let’s walk a corporate path, looking for ways to build up and serve His body because when one grows we all grow.

A New Year

We are a week into a new year, 2020, when many are expecting new or improved vision. At the same time it is easy for our resolutions to fade in the light of the reality of the day to day tasks of the post holiday season. Given that the scriptures encourage us to embrace one primary resolution.  

18  But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. Proverbs 4:18 (NKJV)

Our calling is to continually seek to get closer to Him, to draw near to His heart. In the process something I think we need to reflect on is our corporate rather than individual calling. Our culture encourages a great deal of focus on self, and while we need an awareness of our purpose and calling, the context is always as part of a body.

The New Testament places great value on the individual soul but not in isolation. In our calling to walk deeper into Him we are called to the following.

15  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – 16  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 (NKJV)

We are to speak the truth, be motivated by love and seek to see each one of us take our place in the body and see the whole body strengthened and each member effectively doing their part. The context is that we are together being built into His dwelling place.

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, 21  in whom the whole building, being joined 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)

It is a joined together body that Jesus is building for His dwelling place. This past week. A friend sent a note asking what I sensed the Spirit was saying for this year. I prayed and what He spoke to my heart was, “We need to find our voice.” My understanding of this is that ‘we’ the church as a corporate body need to understand and embrace our authority and discern His strategy in speaking into our culture.

In conclusion, my prayer is that this year we would resolve to find our place in His body and see it strengthened to accomplish His corporate purposes.

A Time to Act (Guest Post from my friend Wouter)

As we stand on the threshold of a new year, we may all have made resolutions. Some of us have so often made and failed to keep New Year’s resolutions that we have now resolved to make no new resolutions but to do things on our own, in our own way.

There is an old dishwasher in my garage that has been collecting dust for a long time. I was going to say months, but it’s more likely been there for a few years. I am not even sure exactly how it got there but I think that at the time it was replaced I thought the appliance guy wanted way too much money to haul the old dishwasher away. So there it sits.

I know it has been there for a long time because it no longer has that stale water, dead matter stink that an unopened, unused dishwasher can have when it sits for a while. Once the water dries out of the system completely, the smell pretty much evaporates, too.

I tried once or twice to lift that old washer onto the back of my pickup; I even tried to use a 2 by 10 plank as an inclined plane to maneuver the appliance onto the truck bed. That didn’t work so well! So, I pushed it back out of the way.

I did find the top to be a useful work area for some of the repairs and tinkering I had to do; it was sure easier working at waist level than bending over to drill holes and run screws into some small pieces of wood. That top was only occasionally useful, and then the whole appliance was an obstruction. And the only way I could get it out of my way was to push it over to my wife’s side of the garage. After all, she had the smaller vehicle and she didn’t need nearly the room my truck needed. And after all, it was her fault the dishwasher was there in the first place. She was the one that wanted a new one!

When it was first put out into the garage, the young man next door offered to help me put the old washer on the back of my truck so I could take it to the dump. The first time it just wasn’t convenient – I had other important things to do. The young guy was muscular enough that he could probably have lifted the washer onto the truck all by himself, but I never let him.

The next time he saw me out front in the garage, he offered again, suggested really, that it would be a good idea to get rid of that old appliance. My priority that day was to take the truck to the car wash and to come home and have a nice nap in the sun.

He has offered many times since. Sometimes we made a joke of it; sometimes I merely ignore his offer. Over time it has gotten to the point that I avoid going out front when I see my neighbour outside. In fact, I am not sure whether he still lives next door, or whether he ever did. Maybe I only imagined him!

And while it does continue to collect dust, and other junk, that old washer is not really in my way; I can always maneuver around it. I’m not sure whether it bothers my wife or not, but she’ll just have to suck it up. There really isn‘t a lot I can do about it. Some things are just the way they are. And the only real problem I had was that I had to clean out an old mouse’s nest from the inside. I guess it squeezed in through one of the inlet valves or hoses or something.

You know, if people don’t like that old dishwasher in the garage – too bad.

Truly an absurd story. And I have to confess that I have been stringing you along.

But isn’t this the way we treat a loving compassionate God who comes alongside and offers to help us take the garbage out? We thank Him and let Him know that the time is not convenient, we hide from His repeated appearances and appeals until we almost believe that He never existed although there are those crucial times of emotional strain or pain or joy when we love the idea of a god. The rest of the time we push our problems off to the side, and let others know that if they don’t like it they don’t have to get involved. After all, that’s the way we were born, and we can’t help being who we are. In fact, we have to be who we are. When our issues are too much for us we project our problems onto someone else – and it is no longer ours.

We value independence. Common sense has taught us it is the wise way to conduct ourselves. Self sufficiency will get us to our goals; but it turns out this great wisdom is actually foolishness!  When we say we need no one, we err, especially when we need no God. The Bible says, Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”  (Ps. 14:1)

In 2020 may we flee our own foolishness! May we resolve to draw nearer to the one who wants to help us take the garbage out!

The Hope of Christmas

Generally when we anticipate Christmas we anticipate celebrating Jesus birth, which is a good thing. Yet His birth was the seed of something, not the fruit. A number of years ago I read the story of one pastor who set up the Nativity scene each year with a spotlight behind a cross so the shadow of the cross fell upon the Nativity scene because this was why Jesus was born. He came to give us hope at His birth but this hope could only be fully realized through the completion of His purpose, His death and resurrection.  

Over the centuries this hope has been realized in the lives of multiplied millions of people. One of those was John Newton, author of the famous hymn Amazing Grace. Newton was a former slave trader who found freedom in Christ and became a Minister. One day he was preaching in an asylum on the power of the blood of Christ. There was a despondent young man there who shuffled down the hall to hear Newton, listened to the message and after he shuffled back to his room and began to write.

Newton’s message brought hope to him and changed him. He was released from the asylum, became friends with Newton and they published a book of hymns together. He became a well-known poet and Martin Luther King Jr. often quoted from his abolitionist poem, ‘The Negro’s Complaint.’ The young man was William Cowper. What he sat down and wrote that day is recorded below. When listening reflect on this truth of scripture to anchor your soul.

17  Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18  that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, Hebrews 6:17-19 (NKJV)

The Man at the Well

The story in John 4 is generally referred to as ‘The Woman at the Well.’ There is however another perspective to consider. What made the real difference was the Man at the well. When we consider the culture of the day and the woman’s circumstances it sheds some light on the experience.

Jesus encounter with the woman and the outcome is described in John 4:5-30. The Samaritans were a people despised by the Jews so the woman was surprised that Jesus would speak with her and ask for a drink.

9  Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. John 4:9 (NKJV)

This begins a theological discussion which quickly shifts to a heart discussion when Jesus asks her to bring her husband.

17  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18  for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” John 4:17-18 (NKJV)

This was a major traumatic moment as Jesus exposed her heart. Divorce was a fairly easy process for men in Jesus day, not so for women. If a man was displeased with his wife, he could simply write up a certificate of divorce, give her the reasons and send her away (Deut. 24:1). Women didn’t have the same option. While the Samaritans didn’t follow the Mosaic Law as closely as the Jews, they had a similar culture so we can assume that either this woman had some husbands who died and some who rejected her or that she had been sent away by five different men. Yet the social security of the day was family relationships and she needed someone to be with, hence man number six to whom she was not married. She had been through rejection and loss over and over, likely deeply broken by it.

When the woman’s heart is exposed (we never know her name) she goes back to the safe ground of theology, however she no longer responds as feeling threatened or challenged by Jesus. I am confident more things happened in this event than John shares with us, after all she told her fellow villagers.

29  “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” John 4:29 (NKJV)

In reflecting on this encounter, we see that somehow the woman felt safe enough to not only go back and bring the people of her village to meet Jesus, she freely shared that he had exposed her heart. What made the difference for this woman wasn’t that she met yet another man, it was the man she met, Jesus – There are plenty of broken and hurting people around us. Let us resolve that when they encounter us they will meet Jesus and have their hearts healed!

Authority in Intercession

Most of us are likely aware that every moment of every day we have radio and TV signals constantly passing by and moving around us. While we cannot see them we do have scientific ways to measure them and know that they are part of the material world. There are also varying degrees of concern around how they affect our bodies.

In a similar manner we have all kinds of things happening around us in the immaterial realm, the spirit realm. For the most part we likely have less concern about this activity even though it has a greater effect on us.

We begin to understand the activity of the invisible realm by highlighting two different prophetic perspectives, looking at what Isaiah and Habakkuk saw as they gazed into the spirit realm. Isaiah preceded Habakkuk in terms of when they wrote (Isaiah roughly 760-695 BC, Habakkuk about 625 BC).

3  And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” Isaiah 6:3 (NKJV)

14  For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14 (NKJV)

The creatures around the throne see the whole earth as filled with His glory because they see from heaven’s perspective. Habakkuk saw that a time was coming when God’s glory would be revealed to all. This is the prophetic context revealing the nature of God’s kingdom. Jesus purchased our freedom and will return to set up His kingdom, a final removal of evil is assured but in the meantime we need to accept and know how to function in the already/not yet kingdom where evil is still present affecting our daily lives.

The effect of this conflict of kingdoms is evident in scripture. Paul knew the importance of this and let us see that we wrestle with spiritual forces in heavenly places that seek to convince us of our impotence and ineffectiveness in this battle (Eph. 6:12-13, Col. 1:13). Ephesians 6 informs us that we have protection in the battle when we put on His armour. Our primary weapon is the truth of scripture, the sword of the Spirit and our ability to wield it in the places of prayer and proclamation (Eph. 6:17-19).

Paul shows us the reality of the spiritual battle in his own life when he acknowledged being hindered by Satan.

18  Therefore we wanted to come to you – even I, Paul, time and again – but Satan hindered us. 1 Thessalonians 2:18 (NKJV)   

Acts 17:1-9 lays out what happened at Thessalonica. We see opposition to the gospel arising in the form of people’s behaviour but Paul was conscious that their actions were initiated by Satan. He didn’t say he was hindered by people. There is angelic and demonic activity happening around us all the time and we see it manifest in the behaviour of people. Our primary tool to counter this is prayer and the proclamation of truth to people and to the heavenly realm surrounding us.

Let us do our part to see the earth filled with the knowledge of His glory as the waters cover the sea.

Your Will be Done

Your will be done. This is a simple statement from Matthew 6:10. Living by it is not as simple. There are many examples in scripture of people who struggled to walk in God’s will. Among them Abraham, David and Jeremiah. We are in good company if we struggle to always submit our wills to His, yet that is our assignment.

Embracing His will means that in difficult situation we need to look to Him for direction. We look to Him because He not only wants us to see with His eyes, He wants us to see with His heart. A great example of this is the well-known Ezekiel 37 passage.

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!’ Ezekiel 37:1-4 (NKJV)

The context is Ezekiel being given another prophetic assignment. He had just been directed to prophesy to the mountains and now he gets dry bones! When we read further in the passage we know that the bones represent that nation of Israel and that when Ezekiel prophesies as directed that the bones come to life and take on flesh. An impossible situation is changed when Ezekiel accepts his assignment to release life, a nation is restored.

It is easy to read this, be amazed and keep going. Yet there is a message for each of us. He has given us authority (Matt. 28:18-20). He has told us that life and death are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21). We carry His presence (Col. 1:27). Finally, He regularly brings us to dry bones to see how we will respond. Our dry bones may not be a dead nation or even a broken city. Our assignment may be the one we run into while shopping, our spouse, our neighbour, the person beside us on the bus. The size of the assignment isn’t as important as our response.  

The principle of speaking life is not a suggestion to sugar-coat everything and ignore reality, it is a call to walk like Jesus. Jesus confronted sin and evil many times in His earthly walk, but He always kept His focus on the bigger assignment, laying down His life that others may live. He did this daily and finally. In the same way as we pray ‘Your will be done’ each day we are being given the opportunity to release life into situations around us, are we taking them?

Speak Life by Toby Mac https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeBv9r92VQ0

Heaven’s Perspective

The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 is one of the most well known in the world. Recited over and over by millions of people. A better description is The Disciples Prayer since it is something Jesus gave us to pray. He wasn’t praying for His sins to be forgiven since He never committed any. Be that as it may the prayer begins as follows.

9  In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10  Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 (NKJV)

In teaching us to pray Jesus tells us to begin with worship and acknowledgement. He then tells us to pray, Your kingdom come, Your will be done. Jesus is here urging from us a heart cry, a longing to see His kingdom come and His will be done on earth, an agreement with heaven’s purpose!

Some implications flow from these two short statements. One obvious one is that if this is something we are praying then it is a desire we hold. We want to see His rule and reign operating on earth as in heaven. A second one is that we need to understand something of the perspective of heaven. That we have this opportunity is clear in scripture. We have been made to sit with Jesus in the heavenly realm (Eph. 2:6) even while we live our life here on earth. In Colossians Paul is more explicit than in Ephesians 2.

1  If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NKJV)

The language in Colossians is Paul’s challenge to us. He challenges us to recognize what happened at our conversion, being seated with Jesus at the Father’s right hand and from there seeking the perspective of heaven, setting our mind on things above. We are not being encouraged to become as the saying suggests, ‘so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good’ but the exact opposite. We are called to be heavenly minded so that we can be of greater earthly good. That we can look at situations on earth, seek heaven’s perspective then bring it to bear in prayer. Seeking to see His kingdom and will established in whatever we are facing.

So whatever situation we are facing, whether relational, physical, moral let’s seek His heart in the matter and in prayer agree with His desire to manifest His kingdom and will in these situations.

Waking Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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