Carrying the Ark Part 3

The description Yahweh gave to Moses of how to build the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant covers Exodus 25-30. I won’t go into all the details, they are in the scriptures, however it is important to note that is was divided into three parts, an outer court, Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, which I believe correspond to our triune nature. If you go from the inside out the Holy of Holies represents our spirit, designed to hold His presence. The Holy Place corresponds to our soul and the outer court, the most visible part, corresponds to our bodies. All were ultimately created for His purpose.

23  Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV)

The inner court contained three objects, the lampstand which represents our mind (light and illumination), the table of showbread which represents our will, supposed to be broken (the ground grain) and submitted to His will, and the altar of incense, which represents our emotions and desires. The altar of incense was positioned right outside the Holy of Holies so the fragrant incense entered into the Holy of Holies, into His presence. Our desires are to be directed toward Him.

However, just at our lives truly only have eternal value and purpose when He dwells within us, even so the Tabernacle of Moses, and later Solomon’s temple, found their true value in the One who dwelt within it!

One of the great tragic scenes in scripture is in Ezekiel. In Ezekiel the priest and prophet Ezekiel is taken into a prophetic experience where he sees the Glory of Yahweh depart from the Temple in Jerusalem. Ezekiel is in Babylon at the time as part of the captivity so he is shown this in the spirit realm.

Imagine being Ezekiel, passionately committed to Yahweh, your nation, and His temple and seeing Him depart and no one noticing and going on with their lives as if He were still there! The Hebrew word for His glory is kabod and connotes a brightness and heaviness. The word Ichabod means, there is no glory, that is, the glory is gone. The key verses in Ezekiel chapter 10 are below, and below that the source of the expression of Ichabod.

4  Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’S glory. Ezekiel 10:4 (NKJV) 18  Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. 19  And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD’S house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. Ezekiel 10:18-19 (NKJV)

21  Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22  And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:21-22 (NKJV)

In this description, before and after this event Yahweh showed Ezekiel the wickedness of the leaders in Israel. The great tragedy is that after He lifted off from between the Cherubim on the Ark of The Covenant He paused and waited to see if anyone would notice and repent. When no one did He continued and left the temple.

So, how does this relate back to us? See the picture below.

Ark of the Covenant

Yahweh’s glory dwelt over the mercy seat (the lid of the Ark) between the outstretched wings of the Cherubim. While the Ark of the Covenant was beautiful, it only had real value when Yahweh’s glory dwelt between the Cherubim. Without His glory it was just an elaborate and expensive storage chest! Paul described us as being His temple.

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)

The key part in the temple, the Holy of Holies is what Paul referred to in the verse above. Solomon informed us that our spirit was His lamp.

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

We need the light of His presence dwelling within and then we need to learn how to cooperate with His grace to spiritually mature. I believe we grow through intentional encounters with Him and through spending time in His word and presence. While the Ark was beautiful it was rarely seen. In the same way, Paul not only said we have this treasure, His glory, in earthen vessels, he also pointed us to something else.

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)

We are called to an ongoing internal encounter with His glory within our spirits that is generally not observed by others, just as the ministry of the high priest before the Ark was not observed. Our mind, will and emotions are called to cooperate in this endeavour. Encountering Him deep within is carrying the Ark and I will delve deeper into the how of this in future posts.

 

Carrying the Ark Part 2

To better understand the Ark of the Covenant and how it is a journey into Yahweh’s heart and presence it is helpful to see how it contextually fit into the Tabernacle of Moses. Below is a depiction of the Tabernacle which grew out of Yahweh’s command to Moses.  

8  And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. Exodus 25:8 (NKJV)
Tabernacle of Moses

In the depiction above the outer court is the area where the sacrifices took place on the altar. The large bronze bowl was the laver for washing and behind that, the tent like or curtained off area contained first the Holy Place and behind it the Holy of Holies, the home of the Ark of the Covenant when the tabernacle was set up as the nation camped.

While it was the whole sanctuary that was described as Yahweh’s dwelling place, He in fact only dwelt in one place in the tabernacle, over the mercy seat which was the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. What was different after the tabernacle was built was that previously Yahweh had dwelt outside the camp as a pillar of fire (at night) and as a cloud (by day). If we carefully read Numbers chapter 2 we discover that once it was built the tabernacle was set up in the midst of the nation, and when viewed from above the nation, the camp would have looked like a cross the way the 12 tribes were directed to arrange themselves, with the tabernacle and ark at the intersection of the crossbars. Obviously when we step from time into eternity we will discover many things the Holy Spirit was pointing to but we can discover some now. This is an example of what Solomon wrote in Proverbs

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)

The principle inherent in this proverb is that Yahweh hides things not from us, but for us. What is hidden in Numbers 2 is a prophetic message pointing to the cross, the glory of God is hidden in the cross. It is hidden because though the Ark was in the Tabernacle of Moses, and later the Temple of Solomon, it could not be seen and unless it was carried into battle or before the nation as it moved, it was only observed once per year by one man, the High Priest on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. We will later discover a glorious exception in the life of David but this was in general how it worked. His glory was present but usually concealed. Paul, well aware of this described us as containing this treasure in earthen vessels. He first informed us that as believers we are His temple.

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? 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NKJV)

The phrase temple that is used here refers not to the whole edifice but to the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of the Ark of the Covenant. Building on this he made his declaration in 2 Corinthians.

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. 7  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

Paul’s message is that God is not ‘out there somewhere.’ When we are born again He is ‘in there somewhere’ and we need to get to know this One who dwells within that we may reveal Him without.

 

 

Carrying the Ark Part 1

I want to spend some time looking at the Ark of the Covenant and how it relates to our spiritual lives. I will begin with the concept it expresses then explain where and why it was created and look at the history of the Ark in Israel, including its loss and restoration and what connection it had to the Tabernacle of Moses once it was restored to Israel. I will include what it prophetically points to for us as New Testament believers.

The first mention of the ark is in Exodus 25:10 in the context of Yahweh’s instruction to Moses to make a sanctuary that He might dwell among His people Israel.

8  And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. Exodus 25:8 (NKJV) 10  “And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. Exodus 25:10 (NKJV)

Yahweh’s focus was to dwell among His people. To this point He had only visited them and manifested His presence. The word dwell is significant because it refers to His abiding presence among His people.

  1. ‏שָׁכַן‎ shākhan

verb

to settle, to abide, to stay

Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary.

Many people are familiar with the concept of the Shekinah Glory of God. What most may be unaware of is that the word is not found in the Old or New Testaments. It came from the Hebrew above, shakhan. During the 400 year period between the two testaments the Rabbi’s coined the term Shekinah from this word to refer to Yahweh’s dwelling presence among His people. No, ‘dwelling presence’ is not words out of order, it is very important to understand His ‘dwelling presence’ rather than His presence for a time dwelling. Some examples of where this concept is expressed in the New Testament are Ephesians and John.

22  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:22 (NKJV)

17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, Ephesians 3:17 (NKJV)

14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NKJV)

2  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2 (NKJV)

2  “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2 (NASB)

What John and Paul were telling us, from their first century Hebrew mindset, was that the Shekinah glory came and dwelt among us in Jesus and He still desires to do that through His church today. The Ephesian verses refer to an act and location and are the equivalent of the Hebrew word shakhan. The words in John are two different Greek words that carry the same meaning. The word ‘mansions’ in John 14:2 is a very poor translation. As demonstrated above the NASB translates it as ‘dwelling places,’ as does the new MEV bible, and in fact in the original release of the NKJV it was translated as dwelling places.

Suffice to say this is an important scriptural concept. I know I have thus far only introduced it but I will go back to the OT to look at how Yahweh’s dwelling, His Shekinah Glory is connected to Moses face to face encounters with Yahweh, and the importance of His command to build the tabernacle, the heart of which was the Ark of the Covenant.

What is Your Gift? Part 3

In my previous two posts I have written about understanding and exercising our gifts, motivational and spiritual. In this post I want to focus in further on what Paul has written below to understand how to function in and respond to spiritual gifts in a group or congregational context.

26  How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27  If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28  But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30  But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31  For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33  For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 (NKJV)

 

I have written and spoken often of the need for revelation, interpretation and application. I believe Paul had that in mind when he laid out a framework for the use of spiritual gifts. In essence, he says that when the church comes together they all have something they can offer, however not everything can be given. Paul thus says only 2-3 people should give a message in tongues or a prophetic word and that these words should be judged. He also says “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” His points are that we can choose whether or not to share what to have and that the body is responsible to discern and apply what has been shared – Revelation, Interpretation, Application. Another important piece is that if we view what is given as spiritual food, then just like natural food, we need to take in and digest what we have eaten before eating more.

In laying out the guideline of 2-3 people speaking Paul was not creating an absolute that meant that someone had somehow deeply grieved the Holy Spirit if four people shared. Paul’s point was order and being clear and understandable. We as a body are to do those things which build up and support one another and help to mature the body of Christ. This was Paul’s motivation as is clear in the tone and tenor of 1 Corinthians.

A piece I want to address in a bit more detail is the use of tongues as it has often been divisive, both in how people use and respond to the gift. I think it is important to consider context. When someone asks that worship in tongues be followed by an interpretation what are they really asking for? Are they seeking to defend a particular perspective or view of scripture or seeking to hold fast to the scriptures? These questions are important because as John Wimber used to say, “God often offends our minds to reveal our hearts.” A corollary being something the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart when I knew something was going to be taught at a group that was new and unfamiliar to many of the members. He prompted me to ask/share with the group the thought, “Just because something is unfamiliar does that mean it is unscriptural?”

While I believe that if a message is shared in tongues with a group of believers or a congregation, there should be an interpretation given, I do not equate someone worshipping or praying in tongues as doing the same thing. Their communication is not directed at the group but at the Lord.

While 1 Corinthians is the only clear teaching we have in scripture on the congregational use of tongues, there are other passages that reference tongues. Acts 2:1-8 is often used as a corrective for those who want to worship in tongues because it tells us that the languages were understood. See the passage below.

1  When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3  Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5  And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6  And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7  Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8  And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Acts 2:1-8 (NKJV)

Yet this passage (2:6) specifically informs us that the multitude was confused by what was happening, and while different ones understood different dialects, because this first use of tongues was known languages, those who spoke different dialects understood their language, they did not understand the rest. They did not all understand all that was being said, does this mean Peter should have silenced them and called for interpretation so everyone understood everything? That is the inference if every instance of someone speaking in tongues requires an interpretation. Yet in fact what we often confuse is interpretation and translation.

The next clear instance we have is Acts 10:44-46, we again have a group spontaneously speaking in tongues as the Holy Spirit falls on them but no suggestion at all that all that was said was interpreted for the rest of the group. The next instance is Acts 19:6-7, again we have the whole group speaking in tongues and no hint of any interpretation. What do we make of this? The answer is in 1 Corinthians 14:1-4, Paul is correcting a problem in the church at Corinth and the context of these first verses makes it clear that when Paul uses the term “speaks” he is referring to someone addressing the congregation, everyone assembled. It is in this context that he says a message in tongues must be interpreted.

If we look carefully in 1 Corinthians 14:13-15 Paul refers to three different uses of tongues, speaking, praying and singing in tongues and only requires an interpretation for the speaking that is addressing the congregation. This is the plain meaning of verses 27-28. Another thing to reflect on, if we want every instance of someone praying or singing in tongues to be interpreted then why are we not insisting that the contents of every sermon be publically assessed as per the directions in 1 Corinthians 14:29-31 and why do we not encourage everyone in every meeting to prophesy as this passage says we should do? If we are going to apply a standard to one gift, then to be consistent we must apply what we perceive to be the scriptural standard to the other gifts, particularly since these instructions are provided in the same context as the teaching on the use of tongues.

We need order in the church; we just need to make sure it is His order and not ours! We need to exercise the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us, seek a greater release of gifts, and seek to build up the rest of His body through their exercise.

What is Your Gift? Part 2

In my last post I referenced the motivational gifts in Romans 12:3-8. In this post I want to look at the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, bearing in mind that 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, is very intentionally between chapters 12 and 14 to remind us that expressing love always needs to be our goal in exercising spiritual gifts.

So how do 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 fit in with spiritual gifts? For those who believe they exist what I have generally heard taught is that we may have one or more gifts sovereignly given and we can function in that gift or gifts as the Holy Spirit leads. This conclusion is drawn from the passage below.

4  There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (NKJV)

So to reiterate, what is generally taught regarding the verses above is that the Holy Spirit distributes a specific gift or gifts to us and that is what we are able to operate in at various times under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I think there is some truth here but not a complete truth. This is where I have another paradigm. I do agree with and believe the interpretation that the Holy Spirit gives different gives as He wills (vs. 11) yet we are also told to desire these gifts (14:1). However, the context of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is about how the gifts of the Spirit operate in a congregational meeting not an individual life.

It is very important to understand the congregational context and what Paul was addressing. The city of Corinth had a population of about 700,000 people but only one church made up of many small congregations. Remember, though we tend to refer to building as churches, it is actually scripturally inaccurate. The buildings are where the church meets. If we have no true Christians in any given location we have no church, no matter how many buildings we have.

In the early centuries the church met in small groups in homes. In this environment everyone could participate in a meeting so Paul provided guidelines around how they were to conduct themselves. Unlike most of our modern church meetings and church culture that focus on being ministered to, the early church functioned ministering to one another. That is why Paul wrote what he did below.

7  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NKJV)

1  Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (NKJV)

26  How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27  If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28  But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30  But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31  For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33  For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 (NKJV)

Paul viewed everyone as contributing to a congregational meeting and everyone coming with an expectation of giving. Paul expected that the Holy Spirit could and would move through each believer to bless those around them. He particularly highlighted the blessing of prophecy. I have often heard it taught that prophesying is preaching. However, while there may be a prophetic element in any given sermon that is certainly not what Paul was referring to here. If there were twenty adults and their children in a meeting do we think Paul was suggesting 20 different sermons be given? The meaning of the Greek word translated as prophecy is below.

4253. προφητεύω prophēteuō verb

Prophesy, speak by divine inspiration, foretell the future, be a prophet.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The

Paul said in verse 31 that all of the Corinthians could prophesy, that is they could all speak by divine inspiration. I believe Paul highlighted this gift because prophetic words given to congregations or individuals tend to release and reveal God’s mind for the moment about their lives. However, I also believe that anyone in the congregational meeting could function in any of the gifts at any time. Paul was clear in 1 Corinthians 14:1 that we are to pursue love and desire gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. This verse alone should suggest the idea that we do not receive a specific gift or gift and that is it. Paul told all the Corinthians they should desire the gift of prophecy. Why would he tell them that if the gift were reserved for a few? Did Paul want all of them to pursue it in hopes the special few called to function in prophecy would receive the gift? It seems far more plausible to conclude that the Holy Spirit would give the gifts required for the specific needs or a particular congregation when they met.

Something to bear in mind is how to function in gifts that are given. In his teaching Paul reminded the Corinthians “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” (14:33). The problem in Corinth was not a lack of willingness to participate in a home church meetings, it was managing everything that people wanted to give, hence Paul’s exhortation above. It reminds me of a story I heard.

A new young country preacher had a circuit of congregations. At one he showed up and there was only one person there, an old farmer. So he said, “Since you are the only one here do you think I should still give the sermon?” The farmer replied, “If I go out into the field and only one cow shows up, I still feed her.” So the young preacher gave his message and at the end said to the farmer, “So what did you think?” The farmer replied, “If I go out to the field and only one cow shows up I don’t give her the whole load!”

The illustration above speaks to Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. We need to learn to receive but also how to give. When someone is receptive, as the farmer above, then we need to give. At the same time, we need to know how much to give and when. I have received words for people that I gave at a later time and I have received words for people that I never gave and simply prayed about. We need His wisdom to know what to feed when and the right amount.

Lastly, we need to come to the Holy Spirit desiring to see His gifts freely functioning in our lives to be a blessing to others. He is in us and He wants out!

What is Your Gift? Part 1

Over the years I have walked with Jesus I have heard a variety of teachings regarding the use of spiritual gifts, different teachings on how they function, and various opinions on whether or not they even exist today. Let me outline a few thoughts and the option of a different paradigm regarding parts of 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14 (this will come in a future post). Prior to looking at 1 Corinthians there is a key passages I would like to address, Romans 12:3-8. Here I believe Paul is referring to motivational gifts, manifestations of who we are.

3  For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4  For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5  so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7  or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8  he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:3-8 (NKJV)

What do I mean by ‘manifestations of who we are?’ I believe the types of gifts in this list are illustrative not exhaustive. They are given by grace and are specific to us as individuals. The grace is that the Holy Spirit builds motivational gifts into who we are, our personality. The development of them is an art. We have a part and He has a part, and as has been said, “God won’t do our part and we can’t do His part.” The gift or ability is given but it must be developed. We need to work to develop it and pray for His help in the process. For years an ongoing part of my prayer life has been asking for wisdom as to what to give and when and where to minister.

To illustrate how a motivational gift can work itself out in our lives let me us my own life as an example and also address the blessing and challenges that can come with a gift. A dominant gift in my life is teaching. Even though it is a double negative, I would say I cannot not teach. For example, recently my wife asked me what I thought of the sermon. My response was to lay out my view of the passage the pastor had preached from and my view of it. This later led to a further conversation and a further explanation on my part which she said clarified the passage for her. What led to this is I was thinking as a teacher while listening to the message.

Where my gift is both a blessing and curse is that I find it difficult to listen to a sermon or teaching session and simply receive. I automatically start weighing things against what I know and understand about scripture, the historical context etc. It is something like what I heard John Wimber once describe. John had been a professional musician prior to his conversion and, among other things, a gifted worship leader and song writer after. He said that while he loved worship he found it hard to listen to it at home because he heard everything in the music; how the instruments functioned, the focus etc. He found himself analyzing the worship rather than engaging in it.

So, let me use my own life further. When I was younger one way my teaching gift manifested is that I would see other or different ways of doing things. I remember trying karate at age 19 and as I learned suggesting to the teacher another way of doing a technique. He actually took my suggestion and applied it and jokingly named the new technique after me. Over time I have continued to see other ways of doing things and a negative manifestation, that it took me awhile to become aware of, was that I thought there was the way I did things and a number of wrong ways! That is, I thought my way was best. I am, for the most part, over this and I see and accept that there are many ways to do many things. Getting to this place has strengthened my teaching gift as it helps me to help others see options in how to get from point A to B. This obviously does not apply to everything; there are some core truths such as what Jesus said in John 14 that make it clear there is only one way to do something.

6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6 (NKJV)

My tendency to teach comes out whether at work, home or in other areas of my life. I usually use it to support and help others but when I work out at the local recreation centre I frequently have to resist offering ‘help’ to others. I have learned that when someone is not ready to receive it is not a good time to offer a different way of doing things! It has also ‘occurred’ to me that what they are doing may be working well for them.

A good way my gift manifests is that when I see someone doing something different I often ask why and learn new ways of doing things. For example, I have a well-trained dog and have had a number of them over the years. The way I got here was that when I got my first dog about 30 years ago I talked to a friend with an extremely well trained dog and sought his advice. He recommended a book and shared some aspects of how he trained his dog. I read the book, applied the theory in it along my friends teaching, and it has worked very well over the years.

Bring strongly motivated by teaching I am always internally driven to see, analyze and teach and needed to develop understanding and maturity in my gift and wisdom around how and when to apply it and I still need to develop much greater understanding and maturity. In our lives wisdom and understanding are not automatic; they are acquired, or may be acquired. As the expression goes, “Age is inevitable, maturity is optional.”

There is an expression, ‘Teachers make complicated things simple. Theologians make simple things complicated.’ (A host of professions could be inserted here). The real gift lies in the simplicity. I recently read in a marketing book that referenced research that while university students think they will appear more intelligent using large words the professors actually believe the people who can communicate clearly in simple language are more intelligent.

I am aware that at times I complicate things for people and I am also aware that I also have a tendency to try and take people to far too fast and need to be pay attention to this and know when to pull back. In my life this manifests as trying to do too many things at once. I know the concept of doing a few things well compared to many poorly, and have shared it with others. Yet I still have to fight the urge to do many things poorly!

The reason this post is later than usual is a good friend told me to take more time and sit on what I had written before sending it out. Given he is a gifted English teacher (he would say correctly, ‘A teacher of English’) I have tried to heed his advice.

Another thing I see operating in my life is that I regularly see gifts, callings and abilities in the lives of others and it took me some time to realize that I need to relate more to who they are than who they are called to be, while at the same time encouraging and supporting them to get there. I still have a lot to learn regarding how to do this.

So, how do we apply this to our lives? We look at Paul’s list in Romans 12 and reflect on what drives us. We then need to look around to find others who can help us develop and walk out our gifts so we can be a blessing to others. It is also important to recognize that properly walking in a gift will cost us something. The gift is free; the development of it tends to be costly. I recently heard Bobby Connor say something very crucial in an online teaching. He talked about our tendency to want to be able to do what the saints of old did but then asked, “Are we willing to do what they did to get what they got?” Are we?

A Heart That Hears Part 4

A couple of posts ago I referenced the idea of our spirit being a ‘womb,’ a place of birthing, noting that the word translated as ‘heart’ in John 7:38 is the Greek word koila.

38  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38 (NKJV)

2809. κοιλία koilia noun, Cavity, belly, stomach, womb, uterus, innermost being.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The .

So if one function of our spirts is to serve as a spiritual womb, how does it work in practice? In speaking of our natural bodies and our future resurrection bodies Paul told us,

46  However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 1 Corinthians 15:46 (NKJV)

How does this tie back to spiritual births? If we think of the natural conception and birth of children, thought this it is not always true, it is the Lord’s design that children are conceived in a place of intimacy. In a similar manner Jesus desires that we come into a place of intimacy with Him so that he can birth things in our spirits and they can be released to bless others. The natural parallels the spiritual.

Let me illustrate ate with an Old Testament example.  In Psalm 46:10 we have an admonition to be still and experience intimacy with Yahweh.

10  Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

The Hebrew word translated as ‘know’ is below.

  1. ‏ָידַע‎ yādhaʿ verb

to know, to understand

Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – The.

The word ‘know’ is used numerous times to refer to the physical intimacy between a couple that produces a child. Part of a natural intimate conception process is the involvement of both parties. The same is true spiritually. When Yahweh tells us to be still and be intimate with Him we are being invited into a shared experience, not a shared concept. We need to focus on Him, open our spirits and seek to listen to what He is speaking. This is the place where dreams and destinies are often released.

In seeking to respond to Yahweh’s invitation the context of Psalm 46 is important. As Psalm 46 begins it describes chaos and trouble and in the midst of it there is an invitation to intimacy; a message that we can experience His peace and presence no matter our circumstances. Through the Holy Spirit He wants to release new ideas, plans and purposes to and through us but needs us to first get quiet with and before Him.

For those of us who think this is not possible in difficult of stressful times let me share a story. A number of years ago there was a movie called “We Were Soldiers” that was based on actual events in Viet Nam. In the movie Mel Gibson played a Colonel who led his troops in the first major US engagement with the North Vietnamese. The scene was chaos and I believe the battle lasted continuously for well over 24 hours.

Given this was their first engagement the military wanted to learn as much as they could so conducted extensive interviews with the survivors (these parts were not in the movie). As a result they were considering court martialling the Colonel because some of his troops said he was sleeping during the worst parts of the battle. When they met with the Colonel and laid out the accusations. He was shocked. He explained that when the battle was the worst he tried to get very quiet and focused inside (hence the appearance of sleeping). He said he did this and then asked himself three questions;

  • What’s happening?
  • What’s not happening?
  • Where do we go from here?

I won’t go into detail regarding the purpose of the questions other than to say that they became part of a military training manual. My point is that with men dying around him and being shot at the Colonel not only found time to become quite and focused, he believed that was what he needed to do to lead his men and help them survive. Given this, in our difficult times, how important is it to respond to Yahweh’s invitation, “Be still and know that I am Yahweh?”

A few years ago while a small group of us were engaged in worship He gave me a song, it begins, “I am here to worship, Intimate One.” In Psalm 46 that is how He wants us to see and know Him, as the Intimate One. In reflecting on responding to His invitation, ‘be still and know’ we can think of our invitation to know this ‘Intimate One’ as;

  • Be still and open your heart to me
  • Be still and receive my heart
  • Be still and hear My thoughts
  • Be still and open your spirit to me
  • Be still and rest in my presence
  • Be still and receive My love
  • Be still and give Me your heart
  • Be still and love Me

These approaches and others are aspects of entering into intimacy with Him. Which one is He speaking to your heart today?

A Heart That Hears Part 3

I said I would look more deeply at how we experience the Holy Spirit in our ‘belly’ and how He desires to birth things in our lives out of a place of intimacy with Him. I think the key thing is first understanding that we have a spirit, where we experience it, and then learning how to do so. I believe we can train ourselves to pay attention to our spirits. I have the privilege of having some friends who know what it is to sit in Jesus presence and experience Him. They consciously cultivate an intimate hearing heart. Something I believe we can all do to varying degrees. After all He said if we would draw near to Him then He would draw near to us.

8  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8 (NKJV)

Think of a hearing heart like a muscle, it only gets stronger through exercise. If you have ever broken a bone or spent a period of time lying in a hospital bed you know that your muscles atrophy. They are still there but they need to be rebuilt and strengthened. Similarly many people resolve to ‘get in shape.’ What they are referring to is exercising muscles to make them more functional, usually stronger or with more endurance. It is no different learning to exercise our spirits. The first step is having a desire to exercise our spirit; the next step is actually doing it. A neat thing I can tell you from experience is that sometimes you can do a new exercise and start to become aware of muscles you never knew you had. You may have been vaguely aware that they were in your body but you now develop a refined ability to use them. When we start to exercise our spirits it is also a process of awareness leading to refinement.

In my last post I referenced 1 Corinthians 2:9 and the meaning of the word entered. The word ‘entered’ in verse 9 has a specific meaning in Greek.

303. ἀναβαίνω anabainō verb

Ascend, go up, bring up, to spring up.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Alpha-Gamma.

Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 2:6-9 is that if the rulers in the natural realm had been able to pay attention to what was arising to their hearts and minds from their spirits they would not have crucified Jesus. He then makes his point (verses 9-12) that being born again we have the capacity to receive in our spirits from the Holy Spirit and not only is the Holy Spirit willing to reveal things to us, in fact He desires to! He points out in verse 11 that we can naturally know what is real via our spirits and in verse 12 highlights that if the Holy Spirit is in us we can know what we have been freely given and what has been purchased for us by Jesus.

In understanding more about how to experience our spirits it is instructive to look at what Paul taught. In Ephesians 1:17-21 we have Paul’s famous prayer for spiritual revelatory insight. In less depth he in essence prays for the same things in Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-11. For Paul, going deeper and moving to maturity in spiritual matters hinged on the eyes of our hearts or understanding, our spiritual eyes being opened. A primary message of Ephesians is Paul praying that our spiritual eyes, which we have, would be opened. The problem is not what is available to be seen and known, it is that we need to see and know! It is like someone going for counselling. It doesn’t matter how clearly the counsellor can see the issue, unless the client can ‘see’ it they will not make any changes. Just so we need to learn to ‘see’ spiritual things. If we are born again we have the spiritual eyes we need, but if they were automatically opened much of what Paul wrote would have been unnecessary.

Let me illustrate a little further. I have a good friend who is now 88 and has walked with Jesus for about 80 years. She has more spiritual discernment than anyone I know and she knows how to live out of His presence. When I first began having regular contact with her in 1991 I would sometimes call her and rather than asking how I was she would tell me how I was doing. She had made an agreement with the Lord to pray for me every day so the Holy Spirit would let her know how I was doing so she would know how to pray.

At times this dear friend would attend a home group I led and afterward would tell me at a spiritual level what had happened in the group. When she first started doing this it was like we had been at different groups as she would describe numerous spiritual things I had missed. When she did this I could reflect back and see what I had missed. I still think I miss a lot of things in meetings but now having walked through this process a number of times I learned and now discern a lot more than I used to. However, none of this would have happened without;

  • a hunger on my part to know more,
  • a willingness to learn from her and others,
  • a desire to know His presence, and
  • learning to pay attention to my spirit.

I think there are some important elements in learning to discern in the spirit and learning to sit with Jesus. My own belief is that if we don’t learn to do this on an individual basis it is difficult and less effective on a corporate basis. I know when Mike Bickle and others began Kansas City Fellowship in the 1980’s (The International House of Prayer, now famously known as IHOP, grew out of Kansas City Fellowship) they had numerous corporate prayer meetings. At the same time the leaders were quite clear that if those attending did not have an individual devotional life with Jesus they did not want them at the corporate prayer meetings.

My experience is that we need to learn to sit in His presence, learn to experience Him with our spirits and let our head observe and learn from the process. I know that when I do this it affects and stabilizes my spirit, soul and physical body (see 1 Thess. 5:23). I feel at rest, His shalom is present. Then in a corporate setting I pay attention to what I feel/sense/experience deep within and become aware of what is going on in the lives of others in the room. I sense needs and have an awareness of how to direct my prayers for others. I don’t see this as some mysterious mystical thing; I think it is normal Christianity as defined by the New Testament, not normal Christianity as defined by the experiences of the bulk of Western Evangelicals. My experience and that of others is that as we learn to honour the Holy Spirit and what He desires to do in our lives and the lives of others He shares His heart with us regarding the needs of others.

I am not suggesting this is easy in our busy, hectic and driven culture. However, if Susanna Wesley (the mother of the famous John and Charles) could find time each day to focus on his heart, in the midst of raising 19 children with no modern conveniences, perhaps we can find a few minutes for Him. However, easy or no, I am saying unequivocally that it is worth it, both for ourselves and others.

A Heart That Hears Part 2

In my last posted I noted that this time I would talk/write about how to perceive or experience our spirits. There are a couple of key verses that lay a foundation.

27  The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV) 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.” 39  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39 (NKJV)

In the Proverbs reference the footnote in the NKJV says that the phrase “inner depths of his heart” in Hebrew is literally “rooms of his belly.” This tells us something about where we locate or experience our spirit. Scripture being consistent with scripture, this is also what the Greek literally means in John 7:38. The old King James has belly instead of heart. The NASB translates it as “innermost being” but has a footnotes that says it means “out of his belly.” The Greek word is not the one normally translated as heart kardia, from which we get cardiac. It is a different word, koilia.

2809. κοιλία koilia noun, Cavity, belly, stomach, womb, uterus, innermost being.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Zeta-Kappa.

What is significant is that while koilia refers to the belly or stomach area, it is also the Greek word for the womb, and is translated that way 12 times in the NT in the NKJV. The womb is the place of birthing. I believe the significance in this is that the Holy Spirit is telling us He wants to birth things in our lives through our spirits.

While I do not believe our spirits are simply in our abdomen, I believe that is generally where we experience them. I won’t go into all the scripture but the other point is that whether or not people have been born again they still have a functional spirit, it just lacks the Holy Spirit rebirthing it with a new nature, Jesus nature, and residing in it. However the idea of the centre of our body as the place where we encounter our spirit goes across cultures and belief systems. The Japanese in some traditions refer to the centre of the body, the belly, as the hara, the source of spirit and energy. The Chinese use the term dantien to refer to the same thing. So there is understanding across cultures and beliefs that our spirit is located in the centre of our belly.

However, whether or not other cultures possessed that understanding the key thing is the testimony of scripture. Look at what Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 2.

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)

Paul was clear that we ‘know’ things via our spirit and the Holy Spirit in us reveals the things of God to us. When we seek to bless others in ministry He will reveals things about them so we may help them and they know it is from Him because they are things we could not naturally know. Very importantly in this passage Paul tells us how receive from our spirits and the Holy Spirit. The word ‘entered’ in verse 9 has a specific meaning in Greek.

303. ἀναβαίνω anabainō verb

Ascend, go up, bring up, to spring up.

The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Alpha-Gamma.

Paul is telling us that things rise or spring up into our hearts from our spirits. So why are not more of us aware of this and why do we not pursue more? A little evangelical history will help in understanding why so many miss out on operating in spiritual gifts. A. W. Tozer was a key leader in the Alliance church in the mid twentieth century and I think one of the very important writers and prophetic voices in the church in his era and still today. I highly recommend his books and have had the privilege of reading most of them and even listening to recordings of some of his sermons.

That being said there is a however coming. The Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination (generally known as Alliance churches today) preceded the Pentecostal movement. As movements they were both seeking the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit as a post conversion experience. The early focus of both movements was a baptism for holiness. When the Pentecostal movement began it split into different streams but a dominant emphasis for most was a second experience of the Holy Spirit marked by speaking in tongues and other gifts of the Holy Spirit. This became a divisive issue in both movements.

One of the outcomes was the Alliance church formulated a position, as I understand it led by Tozer, of ‘seek not forbid not.’ The intent was noble, to maintain unity and avoid division. However, I believe it led to the quenching of the work of the Holy Spirit in many places and spread across other evangelical movements as a positon of being ‘open’ to the gifts and work of the Holy Spirit. It is one thing to be ‘open’ to whatever the Holy Spirit has for you in the context of pursuing intimacy with Jesus and an expectation that something will happen, not being sure of the ‘what’ but being open as long as it aligns with scripture.

The problem with the ‘open’ position that I see is that it often manifests as passivity. We are ‘open’ but not genuinely seeking or pursuing anything. That type of ‘open’ position, noble as it may seem, stands in opposition to scripture. Scripture says we are to pursue love and desire the gifts of the Spirit, not one or the other. In fact the word translated as ‘desire’ in 1 Corinthians 14:1 in the NKJV version is below.

2189. ζηλόω zēloō verb

Strive, fervently desire, be zealous; be jealous or envious.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Zeta-Kappa.

While I understand the intent of the positon of Tozer and others the scriptures exhort us to fervently desire and be zealous for spiritual gifts while pursuing growth and maturity in loving others. As much as I admire and appreciate Tozer and others, I want to follow the scriptures in this area and the scriptures calls us to learn how to live out of our spirits. In fact the way Paul framed it elsewhere it is the key to victory over desires we struggle with that are contrary to His desires for our lives.

16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (NKJV)

In my next post I will look deeper at how we experience the Holy Spirit in our ‘belly’ and how He desires to birth things in our lives out of a place of intimacy with Him. I will also share more of my own experiences and those of others as a means of both example and encouragement. It seems fitting here to give Paul the last word.

1  Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (NKJV)

A Heart that Hears Part 1

There is an interesting phrase in the Minor Prophets (so named because they are a collection of short prophetic writings, not because they are unimportant) that comes out of the verses below.

15  But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. 16  “For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.” Malachi 2:15-16 (NKJV)

The context is Malachi rebuking the men of Israel, primarily Jews (from Judah) who had returned to Israel after the Babylonian exile. The people of Judah were complaining that things were not turning out as they anticipated and Malachi was pointing out how they should not expect Yahweh’s blessing when they kept violating His covenant. In this particular section he was rebuking them for divorcing their wives. The phrase I want to hone in on is “Take heed to your spirit” (the interlinear bible renders it as “so you must be careful with your spirit”).

Malachi’s point was that if they were paying attention to and heeding their spirits they would not be doing what they were doing. They would focus on preserving their families because that is His heart. I am sadly aware of how common divorce is in the Christian community and the question I have is, “If He is in us, how can Christ not live with Christ? In Christian divorce either one or both parties must be violating what He is speaking to them. That being said, it is an aside, not the focus of what I want to say.

How do we ‘take heed’ or pay attention to our spirits? I want to answer that question by first looking at examples in the life of Jesus and Paul and based on what Paul wrote in Romans 8, how this should extend to us. This may help us to see some scriptures in a new light. As a foundation I think it is important to be aware that even though Jesus was fully God and fully man, He laid aside His divine abilities (See Phil. 2:5-8) which is why He needed to be anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism. Furthermore Luke tells us He was both filled with the Spirit then subsequently moved in the power of the Holy Spirit. All Jesus did, even though He was God in the flesh, He did as a man empowered by and dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

1  Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Luke 4:1 (NKJV) 14  Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. Luke 4:14 (NKJV)

We see in Jesus ministry that He was led by the Spirit.

1  Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1 (NKJV)

We see Him under the anointing of the Holy Spirit perceive the thoughts of others, what many would call a ‘word of knowledge” (see 1 Cor. 12:8).

4  But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? Matthew 9:4 (NKJV)

22  But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Luke 5:22 (NKJV)

15  Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. John 6:15 (NKJV) 61  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? John 6:61 (NKJV)

We see Jesus describe what Nathaniel was doing and then reveal Nathaniel’s heart even though He was just meeting him.

47  Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” 48  Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” John 1:47-48 (NKJV)

Jesus did all of these things by paying attention to His spirit and part of what He told us was to use our spirits to worship Him and His Father.

24  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24 (NKJV)

Paul described for us some of how experienced taking heed to his spirit. His expression of having no rest meant there was no peace in his spirit about a situation and it led to him taking action.

13  I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 2:13 (NKJV)

In describing his apostolic ministry Paul spoke of serving not with his intellect but with or by his spirit. Note, I am not ruling out Paul’s use of his intellect, his was a brilliant thinker and writer, I just believe based on the scriptures that he submitted his intellect to his spirit.

9  For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, Romans 1:9 (NKJV)

Paul exhorted us to live by our spirits, that is, to make decisions based on what was in our spirits

13  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:13-14 (NKJV)

Paul twice described being spiritually present in a situation when he was not physically there. In the Corinthians incident perhaps we could put it off to a figure of speech, not that I think it was, but in what Paul described to the Colossians the context clearly does not allow that because Paul described what he experienced.

4  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 5:4 (NKJV) 5  For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. Colossians 2:5 (NKJV)

While not all of these experiences are normative for all believers the basic idea of paying attention to or taking heed to our spirits should be. I have had many experiences of this and know many others who share the same testimony. For us it may be a sense we need to call or email someone. It may be a need to ask a certain question of someone. I have had an experience similar to what Paul described with the Colossians and know of many other similar modern testimonies. Yet my normal experience of paying attention to my spirit happens most often in a ministry context. I help lead a prayer and worship group every week. At the beginning of the group I focus on listening to and looking at people because in doing this I frequently have a sense of who needs prayer and often what for, without them sharing any specifics. I have had the accuracy of these ‘impressions’ confirmed over and over again. They are not things I reason out with my intellect and I fact I consciously try to avoid over thinking things and pay attention to what I experience deep within. I believe all believers can learn to function in this way and when they do it builds up His body. I have also had many experiences like this with people who were not Christians and have had them in both work and social situations.

As I have noted before, the issue is not that the Holy Spirit is not speaking, we are often not listening. If you have never viewed some of the scriptures I referenced in the light in which I presented them then ask Him to show you more. There are a lot of things we can each discover in the scriptures if we look. In fact as we can learn from Proverbs, Yahweh hides things not from us but for us and He delights in our journey of discovery. Why not join Him on this journey and see how lives are changed around you?

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)

In my next post I will talk more about how to perceive or experience our spirits.