Who are You? Part 3

Have you ever decided to diet, exercise, or both to ‘get in shape?’ A great many of us have done this. Generally our resolutions don’t really bear fruit until we shift from hope, or longing, to a committed practice. Once we transitioned to practice we develop a growing ability to help others through the same process. So let’s explore the same concept in relation to getting in shape, spiritually, so that we can disciple others.

To apply getting in spiritual shape let’s examine this familiar passage written by Paul.

 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV) 

Do we generally notice that implicit in this passage is the idea that conformity is not an option? The option is only in relation to what we are being conformed to. The warning is to not be conformed to the world, because Paul recognized that our calling is to be conformed to Jesus. We are always being shaped by something. Our culture sends us messages all the time, messages about what to believe, how to act, or who to listen to and in the age of social media can be particularly cruel.

The way to “not be conformed to this world” is to train our hearts and minds to filter these many cultural messages through the truth of scripture. This is the how: it requires knowing the key principles and concepts in His word so that we choose truth and reject lies (think of the belt of truth girding our walk as seen in Ephesians 6). Examples in our culture abound. Some big ones are the sanctity of life and marriage between a man and a woman. Scripture is clear on both.

Simpler examples of using the belt of truth are honesty and integrity. I remember from many years ago working with a lady who let everyone know she was a Christian but had no qualms about lying to get what she wanted. They were mainly very public ‘white lies.’ Our colleagues all knew we were both Christians so I felt I needed to address this with her given her poor public witness. When I did she simply accused me of being a legalist. For her scripture was an option to apply when convenient, not a standard. For believers being conformed to the image of Jesus it is the standard. This is who we are.

When we train our minds and hearts to habitually embrace the truth of scripture and filter cultural messages through truth we move into a position to help others do the same thing because we can pass on both what we know and what we are becoming. Our experience establishes a solid foundation to stand on (think of the shoes of the gospel of peace in Ephesians 6) so we can be victorious and help others how to be the same.

So, are you in shape and being conformed to His image?

NOTE: On a personal note, I am taking a short hiatus from my posts, likely 2-3 weeks. I have received many words in recent years about the need to slow down/rest, which I did not heed. With my recent retirement (which I think of as a transition more into Kingdom work) I recently received four independent prophetic words about being in a season of preparation and the Lord calling me to a deeper place of rest and intimacy with Him as the key to that process. In fact when I looked back at my prayer notes I realized these prophetic words were a clear answer to a prayer I prayed and recorded on May 18. The prayer came out of an encounter with the Father that morning. So, while I trust I won’t be gone long, I currently need to be obedient (finally) and focus on going deeper in my relationship with my heavenly Father or miss what He has prepared for me to walk in. 10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

Who are You? Part 2

In my last post I introduced the idea of a spiritual GPS (God’s Positioning System). I think there are some two key functions of this GPS: one function about identity, the other about location.

What about identity? Who are we? We need to know from His word that we are His children by virtue of receiving Jesus in the new birth.

12  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: John 1:12 (NKJV)

In our language rife, with cultural baggage, we tend to say we ‘accepted’ Christ. In reality He accepted us and enacted our salvation when we submitted to His Lordship. At the moment of our conversion we became a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) and were moved from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.

12  giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14  in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:12-14 (NKJV)

However, most of us still struggle with identity after conversion. Our battle is in our mind and heart. When we use God’s Positioning System we can embrace and believe the reality of what happened, no matter how we feel, and declare this truth to ourselves – ‘I am a new creation. I have been bought with a price and live in Jesus kingdom under His love.’ When this declaration moves from our minds to our hearts it becomes reality in our lives. If/when this reality begins to fade in our lives we simply return to declaring this truth to ourselves.

Speaking God’s truth into our lives is well established in scripture. Moses commanded the children of Israel to do it, Yahweh commanded Joshua to do it, David practiced it and Paul called us to practice it (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16).

What about location? Where has He placed us? Just like identity, we use His word to locate ourselves in Him. Look at the words of Paul and his desire to ‘be found in Him.’

9  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; Philippians 3:9 (NKJV)

We need to be found in Jesus (for example there are many ‘in Him’ references in Ephesians). Where we are physically is far less significant than Who we are in spiritually! While physical location and many other things are important we are called to discern these areas of our lives from the place of being in Jesus. When we get Identity and Location right we have a solid foundation for the rest of our walk. How is your GPS working?

Who are You? Part 1

Recently I was in the locker room at the fitness centre and another patron was getting help from a staff member to open his locker. He commented that he always used the same locker so he would know where he was. Some interesting phraseology. However, it started me thinking. We have a lot of GPS (Global Positioning System) devices that tell us where we are and that help us to locate things or locate ourselves in relation to other things. I wondered about a scriptural GPS, God’s Positioning System, a system that would help us locate who we are!

I think there are a couple of factors at play in the area of identity. Someone once said, “Both the Lord and Satan are asking you the same question. Who do you think you are?” I think that is a crucial question. I think there is another aspect as well. If we know the truth do we believe it?

As I was thinking about writing this some lines from an old Paul Simon song came back to me, “When I was a little boy, and the Devil would call my name. I’d say, ‘Now who do, who do you think you’re fooling?’” The song is “Loves me like a Rock” from the early 1970’s. In the song Paul’s stability was found in his mother’s love for him. While that is admirable we have something much greater as an anchor. Yet I ask again, do we believe it?

Here is some basic scriptural truth.

13  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, Colossians 1:13 (NKJV)

27  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)

6  As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7  rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7 (NKJV)

So, if we are discouraged, downcast, or wondering about our meaning and purpose how do we use these verses? I suggest turning them into prayers of thankfulness and speaking the truth of them out loud to ourselves. When we do the power in His word is activated in our lives. Practically I could take the first verse and say as a declaration in the spirit realm, “I have been delivered from the power of darkness and placed in His kingdom under His love!” As a prayer I could say, “Father, thank You that You have delivered me from the power of darkness and placed me in Your kingdom under Jesus love!” In fact, to change how we ‘feel’ we only need to apply this first verse of the three. As we exercise the faith to declare it the grace inherent in His word empowers our lives and brings the needed change in our disposition. If we are not in this condition we can apply this truth to our lives so we do not end up in this condition. There is life in His word!

If I have sounded repetitive here it is only because I deliberately am. So, the question to each of our hearts, “Who do you think you are?”

Hidden Things Part 3

Over 25 years ago I read something by A. W. Tozer that has stuck with me. He said, “Religious externals may have meaning for a God inhabited soul, but to all others they are a snare and a trap.” What was he talking about? Our tendency to value various practices over the reality of His presence. We need His presence and purpose. I started this series on Hidden Things with this verse.

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)

Do we understand the concealment inherent in this verse? How do we search it out? A principle Jesus laid out on the way to Gethsemane was the need to understand Him in us and us in Him.

20  At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. John 14:20 (NKJV)

In reading this verse it seems important to understand the ‘day’ Jesus was referencing. For this group of apostles that day was the day of Pentecost that we read about in Acts 2. We can get caught up in the vision of tongues of fire, prophetic expression and eternal manifestations. Yet they were stirred by something greater. John 14:20 came alive in them! Think about this, on the ‘day’ we were born again the Creator of the universe infused His life and nature into our spirit. He made a Holy of Holies inside of us and took up residence.

So, if we want to search something out why not search out this hidden thing. Christ in us the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). We can gaze into the spirit realm and by faith look upon the Father seated upon His eternal throne (which I practice and advocate), yet do we understand Him in us? How many of us realize this reality drove the early apostles, it drove Paul, as it has driven many down through the last 2,000 years of church history. Why not let it drive us? Why not seek out how to look deep within to encounter the King of glory?

We can develop a sensitivity to His presence within us. Many years ago I wrote a song and one of the lines was, “I’m moved by Your moving within.” We can seek and find the reality of Jesus by His Spirit moving within and upon us. Isn’t this a worthy discovery?

Hidden Things Part 2

Where is the place of hidden things? Has Jesus hidden them in plain sight? Have you ever considered that Matthew 6:1-18 is a passage about the secret place? In fact Jesus references it very specifically.

4  that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. Matthew 6:4 (NKJV)

6  But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:6 (NKJV)

The idea Jesus is expressing here is that if we have a consistent hidden inner life the fruit will be evident in the rest of our life. Finding hidden things begins, in of all places, worship.

9  In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Matthew 6:9 (NKJV)

 Jesus instructed us to begin our prayer time with worship. With his gift for words Francis Frangipane has expressed this very well, “before we even lift our voice in prayer, He instructs us to bow our hearts in worship.” If we want to understand hidden things and know the counsel of His heart we must first learn to be worshippers.

If we want a meaningful outer life we must first develop a powerful inner life. Practically, a way to begin is to get alone with the Father somewhere and begin to give expression to our thoughts about Him. For example, Father, I thank You for your gift of salvation. I thank You that You have imparted to me Jesus righteousness. Jesus, You are the great and glorious one, the author and finisher of our faith. We can also lift our hearts and voices in song.

Another way to begin a prayer time in worship is to simply sit in silence before Him. He knows our hearts and values us just sitting with them open before Him. This as well is an act of worship. If we want to know His heart we need to regularly surrender our heart. Jeremiah asked a very important question.

18  For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, And has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it? Jeremiah 23:18 (NKJV)

This whole chapter is worth reading. The context is false prophets speaking in Yahweh’s name and Jeremiah rebuking them as false. They were prophesying peace while Jeremiah, hearing from Yahweh, was prophesying calamity and judgement that could only be changed by repentance.

Weighing prophetic words is another message. Yet the principle behind Jeremiah 23 is that these false prophets were seeking Yahweh but unwilling to lay down their own agendas first so they prophesied their hearts instead of His. So, as Francis has said, let us come and bow our hearts in worship then lift our voices in intercession speaking out of surrendered time with our Father.

Below is a prophetic song from scripture that is based on a submitted heart, Mary’s. The Magnificat from Luke 1.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdxA-cC9j7w

Hidden Things Part 1

An expression that has become fairly well known in some church circles is, “He hides things for us, not from us.” It is spoken with some variations but the concept is the same. The source is 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)

Why would Yahweh hide things from us? Is not salvation a free gift? Yes it is. Yet there is also the truth, ‘Age is inevitable, maturity is optional.’ While we will inevitably grow chronologically in our time as a believer, spiritual growth is optional. The Holy Spirit will arrange opportunity after opportunity for our growth but will not force maturity upon us. I think He does it because He is wise! In the same way He knows that many things of value that are connected to our maturity need to be sought. He are some things we are called to in the realm of seeking.

9  “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. 1 Chronicles 28:9 (NKJV)

13  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 (NKJV)

6  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)

33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)

So we know we are called to seek, yet Proverbs 25:2 would seem to be reserved for kings, those who carry authority and leadership. Yet who are you? What do the scriptures say? Do you carry authority and leadership? Apparently all believers do.

6  and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:6 (NKJV)

10  And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth. Revelation 5:10 (NKJV)

If we think this is a calling or designation available only to a special few, look at what Yahweh has always desired for His people.

5  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Exodus 19:5-6 (NKJV)

9  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)

His plan has always been that His people would be a set apart people who know the secrets of His heart. So, let us spend time in His presence seeking to find the things He has hidden for us.

Seeing You in the Sanctuary Part 5

When we sit and gaze upon Him we are looking for and to something. Which is a good thing. However, what is He looking for in us?

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? 2  For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the LORD. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.” Isaiah 66:1-2 (NKJV)

49  ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the LORD, Or what is the place of My rest?’ Acts 7:49 (NKJV)

15  For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15 (NKJV)

Although Yahweh needs nothing, do we ever think that He desires something from us? He doesn’t just want us to learn to rest in Him, He wants our hearts to be at place where He can rest in us! Sitting with and before Him is a synergistic transformative process that affects our spirit, soul and body. He wants us to know the reality of what Jesus spoke about.

20  At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. John 14:20 (NKJV)

Meditate on this. Jesus is in the Father and we are called to be found in Jesus and at the same time Jesus is in us! There is a dynamic eternal interchange happening as the Father gazes on the Son and the Spirit, the Son on the Spirit and the Father, and the Spirit on the Father and Son. We are invited to enter in and partake and be part of this divine exchange. Us resting in Jesus and as our heart is changed by resting in Him Jesus is then able to rest in us.

I think Brain Doerksen captured this well in song.

Resting Place by Brian Doerkson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4ZY88AMa4Q

Seeing You in the Sanctuary Part 4

A scripture I imagine most of us are familiar with is in Hebrews where we are exhorted to come boldly to the throne of grace.

16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

However, as we come do we recognize that this is the same throne described in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation? When we think of the throne of grace do we think of encountering this fiery divine being? His throne is His throne. We know from the Psalms that the foundation of His throne is righteousness and justice.

14  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face. Psalm 89:14 (NKJV)

We also know that God is a consuming fire.

28  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29  For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29 (NKJV)

It is all one throne. The throne where we come to seek grace, find mercy and know righteousness and justice is to be approached with reverence and godly fear. The fiery burning One is seated upon it. Fire, thunder and lightning issue forth from His throne but are wrapped up in incredible mercy, truth, righteousness and justice. Yahweh contains all within Himself and desires that we truly know and encounter Him, the One to whom we will all give account (Heb. 4:13).

So, let us sit before Him and consider all these aspects as we behold Him and come away from these encounters reflecting His glory.

18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

 

Seeing You in the Sanctuary Part 3

I began this series talking about what a sanctuary meant and referenced Exodus 25:8

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

I also referenced the two verses below.

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)

We know from scripture that we can behold Him and in fact are called to do so (2 Cor. 3:18, 4:6). I am not suggesting we will all be taken up to heaven and have an experience like Paul or John. What I am suggesting is that we can choose to gaze upon Him in His sanctuary. There is a reason Revelation 4 is in the scriptures. He wants us to know what we are gazing into when we sit before Him and that it is not just on Old Testament (OT) prophetic experience.

While descriptions of the throne are not confined to the OT, what can we learn from some of them? For example Psalm 63. David wrote this in the wilderness when the temple of Solomon did not yet exist and David was not near the tabernacle of Moses. David had to be speaking of gazing into the real sanctuary in the eternal realm. Another example is what Ezekiel saw.

26  And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. 27  Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. 28  Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking. Ezekiel 1:26-28 (NKJV)

2  Then I looked, and there was a likeness, like the appearance of fire–from the appearance of His waist and downward, fire; and from His waist and upward, like the appearance of brightness, like the color of amber. 3  He stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my hair; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the image of jealousy was, which provokes to jealousy. 4  And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the plain. Ezekiel 8:2-4 (NKJV)

In the Ezekiel 1 passage above Ezekiel says what he saw was the glory of Yahweh. In the chapter 8 passage we have an almost identical description but Ezekiel says it is the Spirit. This is the only description I can find in scripture that describes the Holy Spirit in any detail.

What is my point in all of this? I don’t believe we should try to manufacture anything as we sit with Him. Yet whether or not we see or are aware of anything as we sit and by faith gaze upon Him we are entering into an encounter with this glorious One who is a consuming fire. If we faithfully chose to do so how can we not be changed?

Seeing You in the Sanctuary Part 2

Recently as I sat with Him seeking to gaze upon His glory (2 Cor. 3:18) Jesus spoke to my heart, “Stay under My gaze.” A rather interesting phrase. It was a phrase I had not heard before yet I recognized His voice and also realized a few days later it was the answer to a question I hadn’t asked. This approach is something Jesus did regularly in the gospels. The important part however is understanding what staying under His gaze means and the implications for our heart and life if we respond in obedience. At the same time I seek to test everything by His written word and the scriptures seem to teach that we are to gaze upon Him.

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)

However, implicitly, rather than explicitly, if we are gazing at Him then He is also looking at us. When I become aware of His focus upon me many times I quite literally start to feel like I am coming undone at some physical level and have to choose to not turn my face away, which I can only manage for a short time. However when we choose to stay under His gaze how does it affect our heart and life? The first effect is that if we stay under His gaze it means regularly turning our heart to Him throughout the day and being conscious of His gaze upon us. Secondly, we learn to lean more into His guidance in all that we do. The scriptural support for this injunction is found in the Psalms.

8  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)

Something to consider is that if Jesus is guiding us with His gaze we need to learn to discern His various gazes. If His eyes are like a flame of fire we are in trouble! Jesus heart is that we would learn whether He is with us encouraging, abiding, rebuking or a number of other responses. He calls all of us to pursue and understand His gaze and ways in our relationship with Him. In the midst of understanding this we in the modern North American church also need to understand that He is Lord and King, not a divine cheerleader. After all, the scriptures provide some sober New Testament warnings.

13  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13 (NKJV)

28  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29  For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29 (NKJV)

So let us embrace ‘reverence and godly fear’ as we stay under His gaze.

A closing thought. Something else I realized as I meditated upon this is that Jesus lived this way, staying under His Father’s gaze. I encourage you to search the gospels and see if this is so. A useful reflection on this as we near Good Friday is the lyrics in the song below, particularly the line I have highlighted.

How deep the Father’s Love for Us

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Stuart Townend 1995 Thankyou Music

How deep the Father’s Love for Us

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVpyYwtX_VY