Understanding the Times Part 1

Many of us can reference or quote 1 Chronicles 12:32.

32  of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command; 1 Chronicles 12:32 (NKJV)

There are two parts to this verse. Understanding the times and knowing what to do. Understanding the times means looking at the circumstances and discerning what the Spirit is saying and doing in this hour. Knowing what to do is responding with His wisdom. In this current season with a worldwide pandemic declared the strategy of the enemy is easy to see. He seeks to sow fear, division and the like. As the church we are called to battle fear by releasing peace and healing.

Now is the time dig deeper foundations in God, going deeper in His word and pursuing a deeper relationship with Him. It is time to strengthen the relationships around us. If this has not been our pattern, we need to start. We need to use times of relative calm to prepare for times of battle. For example, I was part of a Zoom online conference call yesterday with over 2,000 people across our nation, praying, repenting and having communion together. A major goal was to increase unity in the church across our nation and lift Jesus up.

The Lord has seasons and things are not always what they appear to be. An example of this is a post I saw from an exercise specialist. He posted a comment that he was building muscle and the accompanying photo was of him sitting on a dock with a drink looking out at the ocean. He understood. He had exercised hard the previous day and broke down his muscle tissue. Now at rest he was recovering and building new muscle. He knew the benefits from the workout come after the workout, in the recovery period.

Currently lives have been and are being disrupted on a massive scale. If our goal is to wait this out and get back to normal we need to abandon it! This is a workout for our spiritual muscles that will lead to some recovery and growth time before we need a greater workout. The Father has given us an opportunity to examine our priorities and make needed shifts in our lives. If we choose to take it we will be prepared for the next thing. If not…

An Important Season

We are in a key time, I am deliberately not using the word critical because it implies we are in a crisis and I do not believe we are. This virus has been labelled a pandemic not because of lethality but due to how rapidly it is spreading. We need to behave in a responsible manner to see it stop. In that context there is the expression, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” While not entirely true it is a good pithy statement that captures an important point. Fear has a debilitating effect. Cognitively and physiologically fear and anxiety lead to the release of stress hormones, a heightened state of arousal and an increased heart rate. All things which decrease the ability of our immune system to fight disease.  

This aroused state is exactly the opposite of what Jesus says.

27  Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27 (NKJV)

My wife and I were recently at a gathering and someone shared that we had all been afraid this past week. I leaned over to my wife and whispered, “Not true. I have no fear at all.” In stating that I am not trying to boastful, arrogant or denying reality. The reality is that the lives of many around us are imploding. Yet I have a deep seated confidence that Jesus is in charge of my life. I believe what Isaiah wrote millennia ago about the effectiveness and power of God’s word.

11  So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

I also believe what Paul wrote.

8  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 9  Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:8-9 (NKJV)

21  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22  But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23  For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25  And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, Philippians 1:21-25 (NKJV)

For the church, this is our opportunity to arise and shine, to be seen helping those around us and pointing them to the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Interesting that inherent in this title for Jesus is the idea that He had authority over peace. An example of this can be seen in Jesus sleeping in a terrible storm while the disciples are terrified (Mark 4:35-41). When they wake Him up He releases what He carries and the storm stops. He calls us to carry this same peace and release it to stop the storms of fear sweeping our society and bring about a great calm.

39  Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39 (NKJV)

Kari Jobe – I Am not Alone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfveawSAHJA

NOTE I will be doing another post this week on Understanding the Times

Praying the Scriptures

I have a copy of The Voice bible at home. It is an enhanced approach to scripture like the Amplified version. My personal trust is in the more literal approach, hence my ongoing use of the New King James (other solid translations are the NASB or ESV). I want to know what the writer said not someone’s opinion. At the same time, as long as we are grounded in the more literal translations bibles like the Voice or Amplified can be useful in drawing out different aspects of a passage and aid in turning scripture into prayer. Some benefits of using scripture to create a prayer language is that we know when we pray scripture we are praying His will. Another aspect is that there are a number of apostolic prayers in the New Testament that help us to focus on His heart as we engage in prayer.

Here is one simple apostolic prayer from three translations followed by an example of how to turn it into prayer.  

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)

17 God of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, Father of Glory: I call out to You on behalf of Your people. Give them minds ready to receive wisdom and revelation so they will truly know You. 18 Open the eyes of their hearts, and let the light of Your truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling them to embrace. Reveal to them the glorious riches You are preparing as their inheritance. 19 Let them see the full extent of Your power that is at work in those of us who believe, and may it be done according to Your might and power. Ephesians 1:17-19 The Voice (VOICE)

17  [For I always pray to] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, 18  By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones), 19  And [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength, Ephesians 1:17-19 (AMP)

As noted, praying the scriptures can be much more dynamic than simply repeating the verse and drawing on various translations can provide a richer language. Here are examples of turning these three verses into prayer either for ourselves or others.

Father, this is part of Your word, a revelation of Your will. Because I know that You desire to give me wisdom and revelation, insight into Your purposes, I call on You. Draw me into a deep encounter with Your heart. Flood my heart and mind with the light of Your presence so that I can see from Your perspective. You have prepared a glorious rich inheritance for me. Help me to see that and to encounter Your power and see it released more fully in my life. Thank You Father, I agree with Your heart and say Amen, So be it!      

Father, this is part of Your word, a revelation of Your will. Because I know that You desire to give XX wisdom and revelation, insight into Your purposes, I call on You. Draw XX into a deep encounter with Your heart. Flood XX’s heart and mind with the light of Your presence so that XX can see from Your perspective. You have prepared a glorious rich inheritance for XX. Help XX to see that and to encounter Your power and see it released more fully in their life. Thank You Father, I agree with Your heart and say Amen, So be it!      

After praying in this way reflect on the reality and implications. Tune your heart to hear to hear His response. After all, He said, I am with you always.

Wisdom Calling

Wisdom is presented in different ways in scripture.  

20  Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. 21  She cries out in the chief concourses, At the openings of the gates in the city She speaks her words: Proverbs 1:20-21 (NKJV)

Much of the book of Proverbs is about practical wisdom. It is about discerning what to do in a variety of situations from parenting to financial planning to managing and maintaining a household. All well and good. I deeply appreciate the book of Proverbs and have read through it a multitude of times. As much as I appreciate practical wisdom there is another type of wisdom.   

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, Ephesians 1:17 (NKJV)

30  But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – 1 Corinthians 1:30 (NKJV)

These two verses let us know that we can walk in a spirit of wisdom and that Jesus has been made unto us wisdom. This goes beyond understanding Proverbs, it goes to drawing upon Jesus in us. This wisdom is at times contrary to natural wisdom. Many of you have likely at some point felt the leading of the Holy Spirit to do something that did not make sense at the time but you see His hand after the fact. That is spiritual wisdom and is in essence a revealing of heaven’s perspective on the situation.

I have had this experience a number of times. A significant one many years ago was a turning point in my career. What I sensed the Holy Spirit leading me to do made no natural sense, in fact it was contrary to what made sense to me and commitments I had made. In spite of my natural reasoning I followed the leading of the Spirit. It was through this experience, which was very stressful over a period of weeks, that I learned that I could have anxiety in my mind and peace in my heart and that it was spiritual wisdom to follow His peace (Col. 3:15). It all made sense in the end and had I trusted His leading from the beginning I could have save myself a lot of stress and anxiety.

So, let us determine to respond to the call of wisdom, to develop natural, practical Godly wisdom. Even more, let us recognize that it is wisdom to seek His spiritual wisdom that our lives and the lives of those around us may be different and that Jesus may be glorified.  

A Heavy Heart

Generally in Western culture when we refer to someone having a ‘heavy heart’ we are speaking of someone dealing with grief or deep sadness. The Lord has a different perspective.

2  Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts. Proverbs 21:2 (NKJV)

When He speaks of weighing the heart the Lord is examining our motivations. From His perspective a heavy heart is one that carries His presence.

In the New Testament Paul said his afflictions were working in his life the eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Paul was a Hebrew and a former Pharisee. His comment on the ‘weight of glory’ is a reference to the Hebrew word kabod, which literally means ‘heavy’ but is used it in a figurative sense to mean glory, honour or splendour. The reason Paul spoke of the weight is twofold, one is that the primary meaning of kabod is heavy or weighty. The other is that we can see the tangible result of the weight of His presence in the lives of believers.  

The context for Paul talking about the weight of glory is our transformation into the image of Jesus.

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)

As Christians we carry His presence. When we respond correctly to whatever is happening in our lives the ‘weight of glory,’ His presence, increases in us. I am sure all or most of us have met someone in whom we see Jesus. Those are people that from His perspective have a ‘heavy heart.’ They get that way by how they respond to circumstances. When Paul talked about beholding Jesus I believe He referred to sitting with and before Him, fixing the gaze of our heart upon Him. I also believe, based on what he wrote in chapter four of his afflictions and what they were working in him, that another aspect of beholding Jesus and being changed is seeing Him in whatever we are going through and looking for His presence there.

So what is the Lord looking for when He weighs our hearts? He is looking for Jesus. Are we also looking for Jesus in our circumstances no matter what they are and thus carrying and releasing Jesus splendour, glory and character wherever we go?

Sheep Into Horses

Have you ever wondered how to turn sheep into horses? No I am not talking about evolution: this is more akin to revolution. In general Christians, like the nation of Israel, are often referred to as sheep. We have Psalm 23 with the Lord’s people being the sheep and Him the Shepherd. We have Jesus affirming this in John 10 saying He is the good shepherd. We also have Jesus restoring Peter in John 21 referring to His people as sheep. Suffice to say this is a well established teaching and perspective, nor is it a wrong one. Yet we have this interesting verse.

Zechariah 10:3 (NKJV)
3  “My anger is kindled against the shepherds, And I will punish the goatherds. For the LORD of hosts will visit His flock, The house of Judah, And will make them as His royal horse in the battle.”

In the church believers are frequently referred to as sheep, and treated that way, herded into pens and fed once or twice a week. There are varying degrees of leadership and mindsets that drive that leadership. While some leadership is very effective we are all deceiving ourselves if we think we can lead as effectively and with the same wisdom as Jesus. He alone can make sheep like horses in battle.

The current situation is a bit like Joshua’s encounter (Josh. 5:13-15). The Lord had trained Joshua through Moses, displayed His power through Joshua in the crossing of the Jordan, the people had been circumcised, and now Joshua meets a warrior with a drawn sword. Joshua wants to know whose side the warrior is on. It is the Lord and in essence He says, “I didn’t come to take side, I came to take over.”

While Jesus is always present in our services the environment shifts when our experience moves from His omnipresence to His manifest presence. When He begins to move on our hearts and manifest His glory our responsibility is to bow our hearts and knees and passionately walk in obedience. Presently, like the sons of Issachar, we need to know times and seasons and know what to do (1 Chron. 12:32). I believe it is time for His church to arise and shine (Is. 60:1-2). As darkness has been increasing in our nation I believe a shift is available for hungry hearts. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice (Jn. 10:3, 16). Do we hear Him calling us to be a horse in His battle? Is this our heart cry? If it is let us join in this ancient prayer.

1  Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence – 2  As fire burns brushwood, As fire causes water to boil – To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence! 3  When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, The mountains shook at Your presence. 4  For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. Isaiah 64:1-4 (NKJV)

We Will Ride by Andy Park

To Behold His Beauty

Here are some verses that are designed to draw our hearts in.

1  O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. 2  So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Psalm 63:1-2 (NKJV)

4  One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4 (NKJV)

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)

If we are not, or have not, experienced the reality of 2 Corinthians 3:18 it may be that we need to understand and apply the verses in the Psalms. A literal rendering of Psalm 63:2 from the Hebrew is, So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory. That is in fact how the ESV renders it,

2  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Psalm 63:2 (ESV)

The word ‘see/behold’ in Psalm 63:2 is the same Hebrew translated behold in Psalm 27:4. In both Psalms there is an expression of a longing and desire to encounter our King and our God. We have David giving expression to the key longing in his life, a desire for intimacy with Yahweh.

Paul’s heart mirrors David’s but to get to Paul’s heart in 2 Corinthians 3:18 it is important to read Philippians 3:7-14 where Paul gives voice to his one ‘one thing’ longing and says he has given up everything else for his pursuit of Jesus heart. It may be tempting to assume the transformation spoken of by Paul, this beholding, is automatic, it is not. Beholding Jesus is a choice. After all 2 Corinthians 3:17 tells us that where the Holy Spirit is we have liberty. We must choose to pursue His heart and value His presence enough to be transformed.  

Is this beholding easy to do? Yes. Is it difficult to maintain? Yes. I do not know what works for everyone. I know in my own life I need to set aside distractions and by faith focus the gaze of my heart upon Him. I usually do not see anything, I do experience His presence and hear Him speaking to my heart. When I am faithful in this pursuit it spills over into other parts of my day. Others can assess whether or not I am being transformed into His image, I know I am encountering His heart.

So, find a way and time that works for you and make it a habit to come to Him with a hunger and longing. He will fill it.

This song gives expression to a longing heart. The idea of ‘waiting’ in the Old Testament is to look to Yahweh with expectation.  Waiting Here for You

The Battle for Water

In Genesis we discover a battle for water that is connected to wells. The first instance happens in Genesis 21.

25  Then Abraham rebuked Abimelech because of a well of water which Abimelech’s servants had seized. Genesis 21:25 (NKJV)

In this case Abraham had dug the well and others tried to take it. We see the same issue, a contention over water being played out in the life of Isaac.

17  Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. 18  And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them. 19  Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there. 20  But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they quarreled with him. 21  Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah. 22  And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” 23  Then he went up from there to Beersheba. 24  And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” 25  So he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well. Genesis 26:17-25 (NKJV)

In the passage above Isaac had to again dig the wells of Abraham because the enemy had filled them with dirt and debris. A message here is that we cannot subsist on the water of our parents. They may have provided something for us but we need to clean it off and engage with it, we need to dig down and keep the well unstopped. Another point is that there is a battle for our well. The word Esek means ‘quarrel’ and the word Sitnah means ‘enmity.” Accessing water is a battle and we must value this water enough to contend for it!

The last point in the passage above is that there is a connection between worship (the altar) and digging wells. It is presented so casually it is easy to miss, build an altar, dig a well. There is no contention mentioned. In fact as the chapter continues later on we find his enemies recognizing God’s favour on Isaac and coming and making a covenant with him and committing to not offend against him. Then what happens?

32  It came to pass the same day that Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.” Genesis 26:32 (NKJV)

We see from Jesus that the well represents drawing on the water of the Spirit. Jesus ideal is that living water will flow out from our hearts.

37  On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38 (NKJV)

The order Jesus gives us is that we come to Him and drink and then the water flows out from us. Or as Isaiah put it.

3  Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:3 (NKJV)

In summary, when we were born again a well of living water was established in our spirit. To walk as Jesus desires we need to continually draw on this well. The enemy knows this and contends with us for it and seeks to plug it up through things like anger, bitterness and unforgiveness – the quarreling and enmity Isaac experienced. We keep the water flowing by guarding our hearts and walking in love and forgiveness. We like Isaac need to establish an altar of worship that releases this living water to those around us.

My own experience and that of many others is that we keep the well flowing through sitting with Him, drawing on His word and engaging our heart in worship. So let’s contend for the flow of living water by establishing a lifestyle of being in the word, communion and worship.

Deep Calls Unto Deep

Many of us will be familiar with this verse from Psalm 42 but let’s dig into the first four words a bit.  

7  Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. Psalm 42:7 (NKJV)

Leading up to these four words the first five verses of Psalm 42 are basically an expression of both complaint and deep longing. We have a panting for water brooks, a thirsty soul, flowing tears and the writer, David, being mocked. We then transition to a ‘cast down’ soul. For those of us not familiar with the meaning of the image, David was drawing on his background as a shepherd. A ‘cast’ sheep is one that has rolled over on its back or side and due to pregnancy or heavy wool cannot get up. In this position it cannot right itself, like a turtle stuck on its back. Gas builds up in the stomach and the sheep will die if left in this condition. The sheep needs outside intervention.

It is in this despondent condition that in verse 6 David’s focus shifts.

6  O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, And from the heights of Hermon, From the Hill Mizar. Psalm 42:6 (NKJV)

Rather than wallowing in how he feels David shifts his focus from his feelings to his heavenly Father (he repeats this process again in the rest of the Psalm). This leads to him exclaiming, “Deep calls unto deep.” So let’s explore a bit of what that means.

We know is that deep things are not on the surface of the water. We need to go further down in and the scriptures tells us the Lord wants to search the inner depths in us.

27  The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)

This is what David experienced. In the midst of his complaint, his ‘cast down’ state, the Father touched something deep within David and his perspective began to shift. This required both that the Father was involved and David was involved. Deep touched deep and hope was restored.

So, if we are in this state we can pour out our complaint and in the midst of pouring it out let us look to His heart, receive His touch and let Him shift our perspective.

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?