Calling and Purpose Part 2 The Master Weaver

This past June we were in Scotland on vacation. When we toured Stirling Castle they had a number of beautiful tapestries on the walls. As part of the tour you could go behind the castle to a building where they made the tapestries. An interesting thing, these beautiful tapestries are like us, they don’t look that good from the backside! Yet that is where the work is being done. To create a beautiful tapestry the weaver needs to know the pattern on the front and what thread to weave in where but they are tied off at the back, out of sight when viewing the finished product.

In terms of our calling and purpose the desire of the Master Weaver is to produce a masterpiece by working in hidden places. Look at what the scriptures tell us.

21  And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22  in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight– 23  if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:21-23 (NKJV)

Paul is clear. The Master Weaver has a desire, to present us to His Father, “holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” He wants to present a beautiful tapestry. Yet Paul also builds in a qualifier, “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast.”

Will we all become all that we are called to be? No, I am confident the only one who fully walked out His calling was Jesus. At the same time I believe that when we learn to cooperate with His grace we can accomplish far more than we would have imagined and I think for most of us it is more about being faithful in little things than it is about seeking to accomplish what we view as big or great things. He simply calls us to follow Him and be faithful

I heard a story once about a man who lived a simple quiet life and attended church regularly. Not much was known about him but it was revealed after he died that he had sowed over a million dollars into the mission field. This was decades ago when that amount of money was very significant. Whether the story is accurate I do not know but the principle is clear, quiet and devout faithfulness. What about a scriptural example?

25  And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Luke 2:25 (NKJV)

If you read the whole story in Luke 2 we know the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and drew him to the temple to prophesy over the baby Messiah. There is no indication that the temple leaders or others knew Simeon nor do we read anything about him after this, though scripture implies his death was imminent. So why was he given this privilege? He was “just and devout.” What about Ananias? Do you remember him? His story is in Acts 9 where Jesus sent him to pray for Paul (Saul at that point). How is he referred to in scripture? As ‘a certain disciple (Acts 9:10).’ He was there and available and Jesus wove something into his life. We never hear of him again in scripture.

As we walk with the Master Weaver and He works on us I think the only thing that truly mars the tapestry is deliberate rebellion or refusing to follow His leading. We will stumble and make errors at times but at the end of the day I think the pieces we often see as areas of brokenness and weakness, when we overcome them, will show up as glistening gold in our tapestry.

So, as we walk with Him let’s pray that we will walk wisely and cooperate in becoming the kind of tapestry the Master Weaver wants to create out of our life.

Calling and Purpose Part 1

I am beginning this series with one verse.

2  Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NKJV)

Imagine you sense a call from the Holy Spirit into ministry but you lack clarity on how it is to be worked out. You do however have a sense that it involves multitudes being saved. You expectantly prepare for opportunities and look forward to speaking to large crowds and seeing multitudes saved. Then, a prophetically gifted individual comes and says, “An angel appeared to me last night and said you are called to the hidden place of intercession. You are to pray for evangelist X and there will be a great harvest of souls but no one here on earth will know the part you played.”

How would you respond and why? Prior to answering that consider the idea (I do not know the exact origin though Rick Joyner mentions it in The Final Quest) that most of those who are well known on earth are little known in heaven and most who are well known in heaven are little known on earth. So as you reflect on your answer think of this question first. Where do you want to be known?

While we all have a calling and purpose I started with the call to the hidden place because I think it is the most difficult. I referenced intercession first but it is one hidden calling among many. What if we are called to obscurely labour as a mother raising godly children? Billy Graham’s mother did not know she was raising who Billy Graham became. Susanna Wesley did not know what John and Charles were called to become. What if from the world’s perspective and standards we never do anything significant? Have you ever considered that in the scriptures we know nothing or next to nothing about the first 12 apostles beyond Pentecost? Matthew, Peter and John wrote portions of the NT and John’s brother James was an early martyr. Regarding the other 8, nothing is really written about them beyond the beginning of the book of Acts. They were little known on earth. Do you think they were well known in heaven?

At the end of the day our significance will be measured by one thing, how we lived out the verse I started with.

2  Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit spoke it to my heart in the mid 1990’s and I have never forgotten it. While what we do may be expressed in many different callings and purposes the true measure of how heaven views us is how faithful we were with our calling and purpose. When I retired in April I began playing Pickle Ball with Carol. I enjoy the game. It is a healthy recreational outlet. Recently she said one lady told her she improved a lot when she played every day. In our conversation we both agreed Pickle Ball was something we enjoyed but was not what our life was about. I said I couldn’t imagine standing at the Judgement Seat and Jesus asking me what I did with this life He gave me and responding, “I was really good at Pickle Ball.” That kind of puts it in perspective!

The tagline I use on my blog and email signature is, “An Eternal Perspective: Living in time, preparing for eternity” It was something that came to me a few years ago and is the way I want to live my life. I always want to maintain an eternal perspective. For example, recently in Invermere the neighbour invited me to go boating with him on the lake. The problem was we would get back really late. I responded it wouldn’t work because I needed to be up at 5:30. I didn’t tell him why I had to be up that early but I have a regular early morning appointment. Now if  I had some sense from the Holy Spirit that I needed to go because of something deeper that would happen I would have gone. Without that leading my focus is on keeping my appointment.

In conclusion, as we ponder the place of hiddeness consider what Jesus said.

10  He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Luke 16:10 (NKJV)

Prophetic Possibilities Part 3

In my last two posts I have provided some examples of ‘prophetic possibilities.’ Here I want to dig a little deeper into the scriptural foundation. As part of that I think a quote from Mike Bickle helps us maintain our focus. He said, “The Holy Spirit gives us prophetic impressions not so we can be known as a prophet, but in order to help other people.” (Mike Bickle, Growing in the Prophetic page 54, 2008 version). This fits with 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul lays out that love should be the motivating force in our exercise of spiritual gifts.

So, what of the scriptural foundation? The bedrock is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Scripture tells us that one outcome of the birthing of the church in the First Century is all believers, men and women, would be able to prophesy (Acts 2:18). If we still doubt, Paul was very explicit.

31  For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 1 Corinthians 14:31 (NKJV)

More importantly, Jesus told us we should be able to hear His voice and follow it.

4  And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. John 10:4 (NKJV)

27  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. John 10:27 (NKJV)

Jesus here is describing how natural shepherds functioned in Israel and applying it to Himself. The sheep grew up around the shepherd and became familiar with the shepherd’s voice. When the shepherd wanted to lead them somewhere the sheep were called and followed the shepherd because they knew the shepherd’s voice. His expectation was, and is, that through spending time with Him we will learn to hear His voice and when He calls we will respond and follow.

What else do we have for scriptural support? How about a passage that says nothing about spiritual gifts but rather about knowing the mind of Christ? After all, if we are to speak on Jesus behalf we want to share His heart not ours.

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. 13  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:9-13 (NKJV)

In this passage Paul references the OT teaching of not knowing the things Yahweh knows. He then says the way we know the mind of God is by paying attention to the Spirit of God within us because He wants to reveal the things of God to willing hearts. Let me be very practical here. I had written this post and was going to send it out but I had no peace in my heart (Col. 3:15 says His peace is to be our guide and decision maker). After I went to bed and reflected on it the Holy Spirit gave me some insight on what to write and I rewrote it.

This is an example of hearing the voice of my Shepherd. Over the years I have learned that one way to know His voice is peace, or lack thereof. In fact I think this is one of the most common ways He speaks to His children. Many times there has been some ‘good’ thing I wanted to do but there was a small nagging sense of unease within. The times I paid attention His peace came and I changed direction. More than once I ignored this and pressed ahead only to not have things work out.

So yes, I am still learning to pay attention to the voice of my Shepherd and have had enough experience being obedient to know that He never has, and never will, lead me astray. So, let’s be sheep who want to just be around our Shepherd so we can hear His heart and speak life into the hearts of others.

A fellow sheep:-)

Prophetic Possibilities Part 2

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)

How do we view these good works? Are they grand and powerful encounters with other people where they stand in awe of the power of God? At times I believe they are and I have had some experience in that regard. Yet, most of the time for most of us; whether we are a school teacher, homemaker, plumber, accountant, or fall anywhere else in a long list of callings and responsibilities, the opportunities arise in the context of our daily lives.

In essence, God in His sovereignty has woven these opportunities into our day to day lives and they may take a variety of forms. I exercised an opportunity this past Sunday afternoon. A couple of young Mormon missionaries had been around so I arranged to meet with them the Sunday afternoon. They asked if they could bring a fellow named Keith and said he was a recent convert. Turned out he was the head of their missions program for the area and has been a Mormon for almost four decades, not sure how they define ‘recent.’

This experience stirred in me questions around the need for revelation in our interactions. In spite of their allegations of ‘changes’ to the scriptures and related things I used evidence to get them to agree the scriptures we have today are accurate. What was interesting in this was that at the end of our hour together the following things; history, logic and facts, had no discernable impact on them. They still wanted me to read the book of Mormon and pray to know it was true.

As I reflected on the encounter I wondered if words of knowledge would have moved them. Yet as I sought to listen I didn’t have anything specific from the Holy Spirit to share with them, I simply spoke truth to them and was saddened by the level of deception they operated from.

So, was this a ‘good work’ my Father had prepared beforehand for me to walk in? I believe it was. I sought to walk in obedience and shared truth with them in a gentle and respectful way. The fruit of it was not their salvation at the time (my hope) but it doesn’t mean it won’t be for one or all three of them down the road.

Where the ‘prophetic possibilities’ part comes in is that I had a spiritual burden for one of the young men. When they first came to my door and a couple of week later when we met I could discern a calling on his life so I spent some time praying for him before and after we met because I believe that is why the Holy Spirit showed me. The rest I leave in His hands.

Prophetic Possibilities Part 1

Lately the Holy Spirit has again been drawing my attention to my words in my interactions with others. For example, I recently had a conversation with a neighbour after I returned from walking the dogs early in the morning. A short time later the Holy Spirit took me back through parts of this brief conversation and showed me how I could have spoken more life and encouragement into this mother’s life (Later in the day I was able to do this but felt I had missed an opportunity earlier that would have had more impact.) He then encouraged me to look more to Him throughout the day as I encounter people so He can release more life in my interactions.

So what do I mean by ‘life and encouragement?’ To answer that question I will look at Barnabas in scripture and the meaning of his name, and other scriptures that relate to this concept. The first reference to Barnabas is in Acts 4:36.

36  And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, Acts 4:36 (NKJV)

Here we discover that his actual name is Joses but due to the impact he had in the lives of others the apostles named him Barnabas, Son of Encouragement and that is how he is addressed in the rest of the NT. Later, Barnbas, along with Paul, became an apostle (Acts 14:4, 14).

Barnabas was known as an encourager and if you are familiar with the NT you see this played out in Barnabas seeking out Paul (still Saul at that point) the former persecutor, and advocating for his acceptance by the first apostles. We also see Barnabas supporting John Mark after a significant failure. The same Mark who later wrote one of the four gospels. Barnabas had a significant impact in the formation of the early church, in fact from the scriptures we know more about Barnabas than most of the original 12 apostles.

So what does Barnabas mean? Acts 4:36 tells us it means Son of Encouragement. The biblical dictionary meaning is below.

Barnabas, of Chaldee origin [<H1247> (bar) and <H5029> (nebiy’)]; son of Nabas (i.e. prophecy); Barnabas, an Israelite :- Barnabas.

Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.

Given Barnabas could be translated Son of Prophecy just as easily as Son of Encouragement. What else does the NT tell us about this? Paul said the simple gift of prophecy is available to all of us (1 Cor. 14:31) and when we use it correctly (motivated by love, 1 Cor. 13) it does the following.

3  But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 1 Corinthians 14:3 (NKJV)

This connection to Barnabas is twofold. The Son of Encouragement is the same as the Son of Prophecy and the Greek word translated ‘exhortation’ in 1 Corinthians 14:3 is the word translated ‘encouragement’ in Acts 4:36 (some English bibles translate it as encouragement in 1 Corinthians 14:3. So if NT prophecy is primarily for edification (building people up), exhortation (encouragement) and comfort, when we are speaking life into people we are functioning in a prophetic way.

The mother I spoke of in my introduction is not a believer but we aren’t called to be insular and encourage only one another, we are called to reach the world and many people around us need encouragement. Encouragement is one tool to move them closer to the cross and seeing the need for Jesus.

This raises another point, to speak prophetically we don’t need to quote scripture. Spend some time studying how Jesus spoke into people’s lives in the gospels. The bulk of His interactions were not quotations of the OT, they were words that spoke to hearts. In the same way the Holy Spirit wants to anoint our words so that we speak to hearts in our interactions with others, believers and non-believers alike. I think Toby Mac addresses it well is his song Speak Life.

In future posts in this series I will build more of a scriptural foundation for interacting in this way and talk about various ways to hear His voice. In the meantime, ask Him to make you like Barnabas and release life wherever you are.

Speak Life by Toby Mac

The Fruit of Pursuit Part 4

As I close this series I want to do what I said I would do in Part 1. There I spoke of a 25 year journey. This journey began in the summer of 1993 when I stepped out of a leadership role in a church. My friend Bernie had a prophetic dream about me and I knew that it meant I was heading into a season of testing. I thought it would last a few weeks! However, 25 years later I believe I am coming out of that season.

This is not to say that I have had 25 years of barrenness. I have led small groups, taught, preached, and written. Yet I have had 25 years of a sense of something more. Over a decade ago I, along with a few friends, organized a conference on the connection between Israel and the Church. We called it ‘Prepared for His Purpose.’ For me it feels like in spite of what I have accomplished the last 25 years have been a season of preparation for His purpose.

Why do I believe change is coming, and to some extent has arrived? A couple of reasons. The first is my transition out of work. I have had an inner sense for years that retirement from my secular job was actually about a transition more into ministry. The second is something that happened to me recently connected to this transition. A few times while teaching in a church context I have had the experience of sharing something and as it was coming out of my mouth thinking, ‘that is interesting, I never knew that.’ At those moments there is a download from the Holy Spirit where He is clearly the one teaching. In mid-June I was in Edinburgh and praying early in the morning and this happened. I prayed something I had not planned and as the words came out of my mouth I had a further encounter with the Holy Spirit.

At present I have not experienced the full release of what happened. To me this prophetic experience and promise need to be believed and will manifest over time. It is like what I saw the evening before writing this. I was kayaking in some wetlands in the mountains and watching two families of ducks with half grown ducklings. They were both swimming ahead of me when one suddenly and quietly disappeared into the reeds. While I could not see them, they were still there, and had I stayed and waited they would have reappeared in time. The same is true of His promises in our lives. While we may not see the immediate manifestation if we are faithful we will see the fruit of what He promised.

Why am I sharing this? I think we all go through seasons, some are short and some are long. Yet, in them I believe we need to truly embrace Romans 8:28 to walk through whatever season we are in. In fact I have had a great struggle in writing this because a voice has whispered in my ear things like, “You are just being presumptuous.” “What happens if nothing happens? What will you say then?” What is taking place is the testing of His word. Many times in scripture what we see is a prophetic word then the exact opposite in the experience. Think of Abraham, Joseph and David. In fact it happened to Jesus.

10  And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. 11  Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 12  Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13  And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him. Mark 1:10-13 (NKJV)

Jesus was baptized and the audible voice of His Father spoke so the crowd could hear the affirmation. What was the immediate outcome? Wilderness and testing. If we want to see the fruit of His promise we need to continue to believe it. In fact scripture says there are two conditions to seeing His promises revealed.

12  that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:12 (NKJV)

He requires that we exercise both faith and patience. Yet while we wait there is another promise.

1  He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” 3  Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. 4  He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. Psalm 91:1-4 (NKJV)

If we learn to abide in Him while we wait we can be in a place of safety and rest. I remember many years ago when we lived on an acreage. We had a few different critters over time. One summer I had a couple of Bantam hens and a rooster. One of the hens had 9 or 10 little chicks. One evening they didn’t return to the chicken coop so I went looking for them. I found the hen perched about 4 feet off the ground in a dogwood bush. There was no sign of the chicks. When I reached out to pick her up I found all the chicks were on her, hidden in her feathers. Just so, as we wait in faith and patience we can be found in Him.

In this post I have shared a lot about myself. My purpose is illustrative rather than prescriptive. Whatever season you are in I encourage you to find that place of rest in Him to go through it. Lastly, I encourage you to listen to this encouraging song by Third Day and believe this line – “I will lift my voice to worship you my King and I will find my strength in the shadow of Your wings.”

Your Love Oh Lord by Third Day

The Fruit of Pursuit Part 3

I am sure most of us are familiar with the oft quoted Romans 8:28, but we tend to focus on the ‘all things working together for good’ part. We believe this is a blessing externally poured out upon us and we seldom consider that there is a pursuit inherent in the verse.

28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

28  We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. Romans 8:28 (AMP)

Over 20 years ago, I preached a sermon on Romans 8:28 and talked about how radically different our lives and communities would be if we actually embraced and lived out this verse. Think about it. We would exude peace because we would actually be living out of faith that He is shepherding our lives for our ultimate good, and more importantly, the furtherance of His kingdom. The two qualifiers are loving Him and pursuing His call upon our lives. If we lived this way we would not worry about anything because our hearts would be at rest in His presence and purpose.

Given the importance of our trusting in Him and manifesting His peace as a result, I want to look at an OT counterpart and then more of Paul’s writing. Paul was a theological expert in the OT thus the OT conception of peace would have influenced Paul’s thinking and writing on the subject.

Let’s compare two translations of the same scripture.

3  You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

3  You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. Isaiah 26:3 (AMP)

While the Amplified expands our understanding, what neither translation brings out is that the words ‘perfect’ and ‘peace’ are both the Hebrew word shalom. Isaiah 26:3 literally says, “You will keep him in shalom, shalom….” This transliteration of ‘perfect shalom’ is accurate. It carries the idea of a fullness of shalom, peace. Importantly, shalom is not the absence of conflict, it is His presence active upon our lives. After all, Isaiah said the Messiah would be the Prince of Peace and that is who Jesus is.

In Numbers Moses told the Israelite’s how Yahweh would rest upon their lives.

22  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23  “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24  “The LORD bless you and keep you; 25  The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26  The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’ 27  “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:22-27 (NKJV)

The result of what Moses described was peace, shalom. This concept carries forward into the NT because when we submit to Jesus we take His name upon us. Thus, when we receive Jesus the peace inherent in His name rests upon us. This is a theme in Paul’s writing. As an Israelite, even if Paul wrote in common Greek to accommodate his audience, when he used the word for peace, based on his Hebraic training and thinking he would be reflecting on shalom as he wrote.

19  Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Romans 14:19 (NKJV).

6  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

In essence, whether or not we believe it, we have His peace because the Prince of Peace is within us. If we want to experience this peace, as the Amplified notes, let us incline our hearts and minds to trusting in Yahweh’s plan and purpose so His peace may rest upon our lives, no matter our circumstances.



The Fruit of Pursuit Part 2

I believe He calls all of us to pursue His heart. I also believe that a key to this is recognizing that engaging with His presence is the doorway to intimacy, not the outcome. On the surface that may not make a lot of sense but I will explain.

I wrote about this last year (Intimacy Opportunities Part 1 ). In that post I talked about how the Angel going before the Israelites into the Promised Land (Ex. 33) could be translated as the Angel of His face or the Angel of His presence. The key point was that Moses, in spite of all the time he had spent in Yahweh’s presence, didn’t really know Him and prayed for a revelation of His glory (Ex. 34), which he received. This is what resulted in Moses’ understanding of Yahweh’s character and his face glowing with Yahweh’s glory.

There is another aspect I saw recently. We partake of communion on a regular basis in most churches. I don’t know how many of us think about the fact that it is a small part of the Passover meal, a time of fellowship, intimacy and celebration of deliverance. In addition to Passover/Communion, there is another aspect of eating with Him. Jesus issued the invitation below to believers because in addition to being in us He wanted to deepen intimacy and share His heart with us. Consider Jesus invitation.

20  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20 (NKJV)

To help us respond to Jesus invitation, a call to spend time with Him and get to know Him in a deeper way, I have included a long excerpt from a Hebrew dictionary about pānîm the Hebrew word used in Exodus 33, and many other places, which refers to Yahweh’s face or presence.

The noun pānîm, “face,” “countenance,” is derived from the verbal root pānāh (HED #6680), “to turn toward,” and is found in the OT only in its plural form. The noun is well attested throughout the Semitic languages. When combined with le (HED #3937), the term may also function as a preposition, literally meaning “facing,” and often translated “before” or “in front of.”

Pānîm frequently refers to the literal face or head of a living creature. It can denote the face of an animal (Gen. 30:40; Job 41:10; Ezek. 1:10; 41:19), a heavenly being (Exo. 25:20; Isa. 6:2; Ezek. 1:8, 11) or a human being (Gen. 9:23; 43:31; 2 Sam. 19:4; 1 Ki. 19:13; Dan. 8:18; 10:9, 15).

The face of a person provides a window into his or her emotions and inner feelings. For example, Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude, or literally, “the face of Laban,” had changed toward him (Gen. 31:2), and Cain’s face became downcast because God rejected his offering (4:5). Further, a face may become flushed with terror (Isa. 13:8), turn deathly pale due to intense fear (29:22; Jer. 30:6), display tears of sorrow (Job 16:16; Isa. 25:8), show sadness (Gen. 40:7; Neh. 2:2f) or happiness (Prov. 15:13). A fallen face indicates anger or sadness, while the opposite, the raising or lifting of the face, shows joy or happiness.

To “fall upon one’s face” displayed reverence and submission (1 Sam. 5:4). God’s lifting or turning his face upon someone was a sign of blessing and favor (Num. 6:25f). But the withdrawal of such favor was expressed by the Lord’s hiding his face (Deut. 31:17) and turning his face away (Ezek. 7:22).

Pānîm also can depict more than just a face—more broadly, the “presence” of a king or God. “To see the face of a king” meant having an audience in his direct presence, but not seeing his face meant the absence of such a privilege. Seeing the “face of God” had similar connotations of entering his direct presence. To actually see God “face to face” and live (Exo. 33:20) was rare (Gen. 32:30; Deut. 34:10; Judg. 6:22). God told Moses that his “face,” or his “presence” (Exo. 33:14, NIV), would go with him, meaning that God himself would be with Moses and Israel (cf. Deut. 4:37; Isa. 63:9; Lam. 4:16). The face of God is also associated with his power as the instrument by which He did his awesome deeds.

During the wilderness wanderings, the presence of God was made specific through Israelite worship with the “bread of presence [pānîm].” A loaf of bread was always to be left upon the table of the Presence symbolizing the Lord’s continual presence within the community (Num. 4:7).

The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary

A key thing mentioned in this long explanation of the meaning of the word ‘presence’ is that the showbread from the tabernacle or temple, is literally the ‘bread of presence.’ The bread was made fresh daily. If we tie this back to Jesus invitation in Revelation 3:20 we see that Jesus is calling us to partake of His face/presence every day. While the phrase ‘give us this day our daily bread’ (Matt. 6:11) is primarily focused on material provision, what happens if we also see it at a deeper level as an invitation to daily partake of knowing Jesus? What if we sit with Him, encounter His presence, and then invite Him to share what is on His heart? Do you think we will be changed?

The Fruit of Pursuit Part 1

In this series I am beginning with what I shared in closing my last post then I am going to comment on what happened as I did what I said I would do.

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)

As I write this I am physically worn out from jet lag yet I am very conscious of refreshing and life in my spirit. My trip to Scotland and Paris was not physically restful but it was deeply spiritually refreshing. My awake time was primarily walking, biking, walking, did I mention walking – we did a lot of that! There was also time standing in lines and time on trains and there and back quite a bit of time on planes. My point being that I wasn’t locked away somewhere deep in prayer. What happened spiritually came from a shift in focus. I will explain.

The spiritual refreshing came mainly in Scotland. Part of that was praying much of the time throughout the day as we toured historic sites. My friend Evelyn stepped from time into eternity just over 18 months ago. In her almost 91 years on earth she had learned to spend much of her time there and brought much back. Though she is no longer here the Holy Spirit is still reminding me of things she shared and applying some of them was key to the spiritual refreshing I experienced.

Evelyn had spoken to me more than once of the importance of breathing His thoughts across the land. As we walked and toured I sought to connect to His heart and come into agreement for His purposes for the land and people. Another key factor in experiencing refreshing was reading some prophetic books on deeper encounters with Jesus and in prayer, sometimes gently, sometimes vigorously, asking Him to draw me into His heart and purpose. Doing this wasn’t about seeking to ‘minister.’ In fact a primary decision in not doing my blog in recent weeks, or other ministry, was to ‘not’ do something and replace it with the pursuit of Him. My focus was seeking to commune with my Father and agree with His heart.

Part of the refreshing was my Father revealing things to me in the night seasons and inviting me into intercession in these times. It left me physically tired but spiritually strengthened. In future posts I will share more about this pursuit and fruit and will talk about a 25 year season I believe is now drawing to a close as transition takes place in my life. My goal and hope in sharing this is that it will point us to Jesus. Hence my attention to the importance of my shift in focus and using my own experience as an example.

Lastly, I do not see and encounter things as some do who have sweeping visions, ecstatic encounters or similar visitations. However, I have committed myself to dig into His word, connect to my spirit, and gaze upon Jesus. This leads to regular times of gentle encounter and at times a sense of being overwhelmed by His presence on and within me. Over the years I have simply done what I believe all of us as Christians are called to do.

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)