Pursuing His Presence

There is an interesting verse in Luke.

15  However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. 16  So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. Luke 5:15-16 (NKJV)

While many of us are ‘busy’ I doubt we have the demands Jesus had on His time. Look at popular figures in our culture and how they try to avoid being hounded by the media and fans. I know I have had the experience of teaching a course or seminar and on a break I want to gather my thoughts and refresh myself. However, that is generally when those who want to talk take the opportunity to ask you questions. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means we need to get away at another time to be refreshed.

Far beyond what we experience Jesus was constantly in demand. Yet as the text says, “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” While physically He withdrew to the wilderness, I think practically He was in the throne room interacting with His Father.

In recent weeks my heart has been drawn to the reality and significance of the throne room. It isn’t a place of accolades or recognition. It is a place of hiddenness but more importantly, it is a place of life, intimacy, wisdom, direction.

I believe we need to learn to physically withdraw and get away from noise and distractions. At the same time I also believe we need to learn to inwardly withdraw. We need to learn to deeply encounter Jesus. While others around us may be ‘busy’ in this season we need to develop a familiarity with the throne room and let our relationships and any ministry flow from that place. 

Here is a regular part of my prayer life for many of you. In recent weeks I have felt the weight of the Holy Spirit on it.

  • Awaken our hearts, stir up and release the gifts You have placed within us. Awaken within us a passion to fulfill the purposes You have called us to through Your word. Col. 4:17, 1 Tim. 1:18, 4:14-16, 2 Tim. 1:6, 2:1, 4:5

Let’s pursue His presence and purpose.

Kim Walker-Smith Throne Room https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1Ljl32SqRc

Keeping our Heart

Last week I focused on this phrase from Job 31:7 (NKJV), “Or my heart walked after my eyes,” and the importance of guarding our hearts. Let’s look at what happened to a wise man who failed to guard his heart.

Solomon is generally known for his wisdom. When following his life through scripture we see him recognizing his need and asking God for wisdom and discernment. In his request and Yahweh’s response we can see three things:  

  • Solomon’s request

9  Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? 1 Kings 3:9 (NKJV)

  • Yahweh’s response

11  And God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life – but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king – 12  wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.” 2 Chronicles 1:7-12 (NKJV)

  • Yahweh’s warning.

14  So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days. 1 Kings 3:14 (NKJV)

Over time we see what happened with Solomon’s heart.

23  So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. 1 Kings 10:23 (NKJV)

Solomon possessed a heart of great wisdom. Yet when he failed to guard his heart he failed in life.

4  For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. 5  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6  Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David. 1 Kings 11:4-6 (NKJV)

We guard our hearts by doing two things:

  • By heeding the warning of scripture.

12  Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV)

  • By looking to the one who is wiser than Solomon and dwells within us.

42  The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:42 (NKJV) May we always look to Jesus so our hearts can freely walk after our eyes!

The Call to the Heart

We are all called to the wise use of our hearts.

23  Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

Recently while reading through Job something caught my attention. Just a little phrase in a verse as Job spoke, “Or my heart walked after my eyes.” Sometimes lyrics in a song or verse arrest our hearts, this one arrested me.

In context, Job had earlier addressed how he had made a covenant with his eyes. In proclaiming his commitment to walk in righteousness Job made the connection between his heart and where his eyes go. Implicit in Job’s statement is the idea of choice and responsibility, or if you will, our respond ability.

Jesus said many things about our heart and some of what He said reinforces what Job said.

8  Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Matthew 5:8 (NKJV)

21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 (NKJV)

35  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. Matthew 12:35 (NKJV)

Jesus calls us to purity of heart and points out that what comes out of our hearts is dependent on what we treasure in our hearts. While this may be easy to say, yet hard to do, Job’s simple phrase seems to capture the how. Embracing wisdom is seeking to keep our eyes focused on things that our heart can walk after.

7  If my step has turned from the way, Or my heart walked after my eyes, Or if any spot adheres to my hands, Job 31:7 (NKJV)

Stewarding Creation

One friend noted that my last post seemed to conclude, “Don’t worry – be happy.” While that was not the intent it is a fair comment based on what I wrote. Let’s look at how we should respond to the environmental issues. First, we are not to worship creation we are to steward it. This command was given in the garden.

26  Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26 (NKJV)

15  Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. Genesis 2:15 (NKJV)

Our calling is to exercise dominion or authority and to tend and keep creation. This means using things for useful ends without abusing them. In the original creation this would have been a simpler process. Once sin entered we nor the rest of creation were in harmony with our original purpose.

Paul said to Timothy that God, “gives us richly all things to enjoy.” (1 Tim. 6:17 NKJV). Part of the enjoyment is following His instructions on how to steward creation. There are for example OT instructions on how to manage crops and use the land. God enforced a 70 year ‘Sabbath’ rest for the land by exiling the nation because they had not followed His laws regarding the land (2 Chron. 36:21, Jer. 29:10-14).

The principle inherent in the command regarding a rest for the land was use versus abuse. God commanded a rest every 7th year to teach two things. One, we are to use not abuse creation. Two, to look to and trust Him.

In our North American culture it is easy to do things like recycle, it is harder to reduce consumption because we are surrounded by inducements to do just the opposite. Yet, if we are to be good stewards we need to both enjoy creation and appreciate and not abuse it. We must also avoid the worship of creation by deifying nature, both flora and fauna.

Consider the many ‘rights’ issues in our culture. Many who march to save the trees, the whales…(pick your favourite) have no issue with taking life through abortion. These are skewed priorities at odds with God’s plan and purpose. Jesus summarized it very well.

23  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Matthew 23:23 (NKJV)

In conclusion, whether we drive electric cars, fuel efficient vehicles or live consumptive lifestyles, we should prayerfully consider our stewardship of creation as we will eventually give an account to our creator, and Jesus will ask tough questions. As David said,

1  The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Psalm 19:1 (NKJV)

Let’s do our part to align with this perspective.

The Whole Creation Groans

There is much talk of climate change and conflicting positons on the role of fossil fuels, alternative energy and our responsibility to save the planet. The scriptures have something to say on this matter.

 20  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21  because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Romans 8:20-22 (NKJV)

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

Creation came into bondage to corruption due to the fall in Eden. Sin affected not just humanity but all of creation. As beautiful as many parts of the world are they are but a shadow of what creation was and will be again. In relation to the fall of creation we have this promise in the Romans passage, “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

We also see that the Father “so loved the world.”

Our Father’s plan through Jesus sacrifice was not just to redeem humanity. All of creation will eventually come into right order. We are right to love, appreciate and seek to wisely steward this present creation – Jesus died for it, but we cannot ‘save’ the planet. Jesus will do that when we see the fullness of His redemption realized.

To be wise stewards of the creation He has entrusted to us, the greatest thing we can do is heed the advice of Peter.

11  Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12  looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:11-13 (NKJV)

While there is debate about whether this will be a qualitatively or quantitatively new heavens and earth, what is not in debate is that this is where righteousness will dwell.

Come Lord Jesus!  

Groanings Which Cannot be Uttered

Most of us are familiar with the passage below. To understand how it applies to our lives two key words need to be examined: helps and groanings.

26  Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27  Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (NKJV)

The key to understanding the passage is whether the Holy Spirit is interceding for us to the Father or His intercession is through us. The answer is found in the word helps. The word means, “Help, assist, take hold of together, help in obtaining.” (The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary). One interlinear translate it as “jointly helps.” What this communicates is that when we are overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn or how to pray, He does. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and is stirred by our needs as He works to conform us to the image of Jesus. Thus He responds by stirring up intercession deep within us. When we look to Him He doesn’t take over, He helps.

The passage says this intercessory help is expressed through, “groanings which cannot be uttered.” For those of us who have seen someone in the grip of intercessory travail it is evident what this passage means. While some interpret it as tongues that does not do justice to the passage. The Greek word is used twice in the NT. Here and in Acts 7:34 when Stephen said the Lord heard the groaning of the Israelites in bondage in Egypt. It carries the idea of deep painful sorrow. 

 So, when we are in a deep struggle we can look to Him and let Him move through our spirit and express our heart in ways we can’t normally release!

Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here

Let’s look briefly at the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is part of the Trinity but scripture tends to focus more on Jesus and the Father. While many books have been written about the Holy Spirit I don’t know how often we think about His role and activity in our lives. For example, there are articles and prayers asking the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives. Yet when we look at the scriptural role He takes on, we are told that part of the fruit of His work in our lives is self-control.

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)

The primary role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers appears to be that of helping.

15  “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16  And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – 17  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:15-18 (NKJV)

So we see here three things.

  • The Holy Spirit is described as a helper, like Jesus
  • He is the Spirit of truth
  • He is in believers

It has been accurately said that He is the Helper, not the doer. He enables us and when we seek to know Him we encounter truth, support and meet Jesus in Him. Consider the import of, “He dwells with you and will be in you.”

Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_LpmqwWhR8

Works Befitting Repentance

While we cannot earn salvation, clearly Paul, and the rest of the letter writers of the NT, expected a change in behaviour as evidence of conversion. Below are two translations of Acts 26:20. The Amplified highlights the expectation of a lifestyle change.

20  but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. Acts 26:20 (NKJV)

20  But made known openly first of all to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout the whole land of Judea, and also among the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works and live lives consistent with and worthy of their repentance. Acts 26:20 (AMP)

I write this because we rarely hear repentance spoken of in the church anymore. I cannot remember a single sermon in recent years that has highlighted it. Granted I may have forgotten some, but my experience now is that evangelicals not only rarely talk about it, many will even argue about the need for it, that is, that we just need to trust in grace. My wife and I were recently talking with a couple and the fellow shared about a co-worker who claimed to be born again but was living in a common-law relationship (In modern vernacular, an ‘adult interdependent relationship’). He said he knew it was sin but it was ‘covered by grace.’

I think we need a return to understanding that turning to Jesus means living lives consistent with the gospel. After all, when Paul confronted the Corinthians over their claims to be following Jesus, when their lifestyle choices suggested otherwise, he said the following. 

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)

How are we doing?

Entering into His Presence

The symbol below is a representation of the Trinity.

Here I am looking at how the Trinity functions and how we are invited in to experience this relationship. I was first exposed to this idea many years ago through the writings of Gene Edwards. He put forth the idea that the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit had eternally beheld one another with affection and love. I don’t know that we normally think of the Godhead as gazing upon one another but here is a scripture passage.

24  Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25  O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26  And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:24-26 (NKJV)

The reason Edwards raised this was to encourage us to accept the invitation into this same fellowship, as Jesus prayed above, that we would behold His glory. Jesus desires that we would be drawn into this eternal beholding of the Godhead.

John the apostle understood this reality and also invited us to participate.

1  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life – 2  the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us – 3  that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1-3 (NKJV)

Furthermore as His children we are always in His presence.

7  Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8  If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. Psalm 139:7-8 (NKJV)

And He thinks about us.

17  How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! 18  If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You. Psalm 139:17-18 (NKJV)

And desires that we behold His glory.

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)

Through seeing Jesus.

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 4:6 (NKJV)

How about accepting the invitation and sitting with the Godhead and participating in this eternal beholding? 

Honouring His Presence Part 4 – Accepting His Invitation

Think about Jesus resurrection and the stone being rolled away from the tomb. At Easter we often see images such as the one below. Jesus standing in front of the open tomb with light shining around Him.

These images can be quite moving and it seems that generally the idea is that the stone was rolled away and Jesus burst forth from the tomb. To determine the accuracy let’s look at the scriptures. In the four gospels the most thorough account is in Matthew.

1  Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2  And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3  His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4  And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5  But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6  He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Matthew 28:1-6 (NKJV)

When the stone was removed Jesus was already gone. Jesus did not need the stone removed to get out, He had the stone removed so that we could see in and encounter truth! This is similar to the idea inherent in Proverbs that God hides things not from us but for us.

2  It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2 (NKJV)

So, as we seek to see Jesus move in our lives, as we bring Him dreams to resurrect, shackles to break off, let’s begin by accepting His invitation to encounter truth. Let’s honour and embrace the truth of His presence, honour that He is alive and wants to move in our lives. Let’s hear what the angel said, “Come, see…”