Paying Attention

There is an old saying, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Emerson was an American thinker and philosopher of the 19th century. He lived in a time still more in tune with natural rhythms and reflection. In our current internet and social media environment I think we need to add a precursor to ‘sow a thought.’ We could say, ‘respond to a stimulus/impulse.’ If we think back to Pavlov and his experiments, we recognize that most of us are conditioned by our environment, more influenced than influence. We can reverse that.

Prior to exploring this further I want to look at what another ancient philosopher and thinker had to say.

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:7–9 (NKJV)

Like Emerson, Paul also addressed the importance of sowing but his focus here was more on behaviour. In his letter to the Philippians (4:8-9) Paul presented the connection to right thoughts producing right behaviour.

Putting together the ideas of thought and action, we need to be intentional about how we live in our current era of culture wars and hyperstimulation. A couple of decades ago I used to say that if you gave your average ‘busy’ person 5 minutes alone in a room with no stimulation it would drive them crazy. I think the issue has simply been exacerbated in the intervening years. We know how to be ‘busy’ but I don’t know that we know how to prioritize our time and how to filter out the unimportant and filter in that which is truly of value.

Here is my attempt at some of the how. Start by setting aside time and minimizing distractions. Turn off and tune out the unnecessary and unhelpful. We can train ourselves to focus our hearts on Him. Read and reflect on varying opinions. The social media algorithms send us down the same path and simply reinforce what we already think. Great if we are on the right path, not so much if we are on the wrong one.  

Lastly, my title. Paying attention carries with it the idea of cost and exchange. We are giving something (our attention) as a payment in exchange for something else. The question is really whether we are doing that by design or default. For any of you that follow my Facebook posts you know how much I enjoy and appreciate the outdoors, particularly being in the mountains. To truly appreciate those environments, I need to give them my attention – an exchange. When I was a child and we went on family vacation my parents would get frustrated with myself and my siblings when we wanted to read comics in the car rather than look out the window at the view. At that stage comics had my attention, now the mountains and other aspects of nature do. The latter is of greater value for how it imparts to me the grandeur of creation and turns my thoughts to Him. Let’s find ways to ‘pay attention’ to the things that truly matter. If we embrace Paul’s injunction that I referenced earlier we will do just that, he tells us how to pay attention.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8–9 (NKJV)

How is the Soil?

I briefly wrote about the parable of the sower in part of 4 of my New Wineskins series in September 2020 ( and there I focused on the importance of purpose. Here I am focusing on Mark 4 and a different aspect, the power of the seed. Here is how Mark presents what Jesus taught.

3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 5 Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. 7 And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” Mark 4:3–8 (NKJV)

We know from Mark 4:14 that the seed is Jesus’ teaching, the word of God. From Luke we know that that the type of soil is representative of our heart condition and the seed produces a harvest in good soil.

15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:15 (NKJV)

In Hebrews, more light is shed on the power of the seed.

12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

What is significant is that if the seed, the word, encounters good soil it increases thirty, sixty or one hundredfold. The application is obvious. If we are not seeing a harvest from the seed, then Jesus is telling us we need to examine the soil where the seed is being sown.

In the parable there are four condition which includes three types of soil. We have soil that is rocky and shallow, soil infested with thorns and good soil. The first seed never germinates as the birds make off with it. Even though the seed germinates in the rocky shallow soil the seed won’t continue to grow due to the poor quality of the soil. The second type of soil is that in which the seed can grow but due to the thorns the life is choked out of the seed. The fourth type of soil without the rocks and thorns produces a harvest.  

In explaining the parable (Mark 4:13-20) Jesus says the birds of the air represent Satan stealing the seed that has been sown. The shallow rocky soil represents a lack of depth in us. The thorns in the soil represent all of the things around us that distract us and take our attention away from the word that has been sown in our hearts. If we want His word to produce fruit in our lives, we need to keep the soil in our hearts tilled and free of rocks and thorns so that it is receptive to the seed. I know in my life that I regularly need to address distractions to keep my heart focused on Him so that when I interact with His word it produces change in me. As for you, how is your heart? Do you need to remove some rocks or thorns?

In His Presence

I have shared some of this previously. In addition to a regular prayer and scripture time in the morning I like to pray and worship when I am hiking, walking or biking. I obviously also need to be aware of my surroundings so the prayer and worship in these times is part of what I am doing. I am simultaneously paying attention at a couple of levels. While doing this I can have a greater or lesser focus on each aspect depending on where my attention is being drawn in that moment.

While it doesn’t happen it nearly as often as I would like, due to my wandering thoughts, I want my heart to be drawn to His presence throughout the day. Earlier this summer I was cycling through the woods and praying when I verbalized a prayer that arose from my heart, “Help me to live in and out of your presence.” That is my desire and I hope it is yours as well. Yet to do to do this effectively we need His ongoing presence and leading. As Paul put it long ago.  

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NKJV)

We need grace from Jesus to walk in the Father’s love for us and need to live in and out of communion/fellowship with the Spirit. This doesn’t simply happen to us; it is the result of the pursuit of His presence.

As I noted, I desire to do this more effectively. Presently I have struggled in my prayer life for a number of months and it has at times felt both routine and disconnected. Yet, in spite of how I ‘feel’ I encounter His presence resting upon me at various times, whether praying or doing something else. This past Sunday in a small congregation I felt His presence on me leading me to share something with the congregation near the end of the service. It was one of those times where I knew that I would be disobedient if I didn’t share so I waited for an opportunity but there wasn’t one. So, after the service was dismissed, I asked if I could share something. Permission was granted and I did. As we filed out of the service one person came up and thanked and encouraged me and someone else came up and said they thought the word I shared was for them.  

I share this as in my experience I am generally more conscious of His presence during worship. Yet, as I shared earlier, I spontaneously released a prayer while biking because His presence rose up within me. That happened because I have cultivated the pursuit of His presence and I was thinking about Him and worshipping when this prayer arose from my heart. I believe and experience that the more we seek Him the more He opens up encounters to us.

This leads to a closing thought. Though I know theologically that at conversion each of us was transferred into Jesus’ kingdom (Colossians 1:13) I believe the fuller gospel message isn’t about getting us into the kingdom of God, that is the first step in a process. The aim of the gospel is getting the kingdom of God into us so that we can carry it in our daily activities and change the culture and environment around us. After all, He saved us to be a blessing to others, not to live for ourselves. To accomplish this let’s pursue His presence and purpose so that He spills over into more of our days.

A Godly Vision

In the business world and in organizational culture the idea of vision is presented as something important to follow. I believe there is truth in that idea but I think it only has lasting merit if it is a godly vison. To that end I am focusing on Proverbs 29:18 in relation to vision for our lives.

18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18 (NKJV)

18 Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18 (ESV)

I have included Proverbs 29:18 from two translations as they capture the full range of meaning. Solomon is referring to prophetic vision/revelation. This is an insight Solomon had and penned for others to learn from. Here in this stand alone verse he contrasts those who lack revelation/prophetic vision with those who keep the law. At the time of his writing the Mosaic Law was the law Solomon was familiar with.

Given the existence of the law we need to consider the role of the prophets in relation to the law. Their primary job description wasn’t declaring things to come and prophesying the future, their main prophetic role was calling a wayward nation back to obedience to the law.

Knowing this let’s consider what Solomon is getting at and how it applies to our lives. Solomon is saying we need a revelation or vision of the importance of adherence to the law to live our lives rightly. That made sense in Solomon’s context. Those in Israel who had a revelation of the importance of the law and followed it lived their lives well. Look at what happened in Israel when Josiah called the nation back to adherence to the law (2 Kings 21:24–23:30; 2 Chronicles 33:25–35:27).

Obviously, we live in a different context so we need to consider how to theologically and practically apply this verse to our lives. Theologically we need a revelation of the importance of Jesus words.

37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37–40 (NKJV)

For us this means pursuing His call on our lives to love the Father, Son and Spirit and out of that to love our neighbours as ourselves. That is the theological perspective. Practically speaking loving God brings pleasure to His heart. Loving others means doing what is in their best interest. Not following our culture and seeking to make others feel good, though that may be the result. Loving others means speaking truth to them and living rightly before and toward them. Paul provides many practical examples of this type of life from Ephesians 4:17 – 6:9.  

Paul also provides similar instructions in his other letters for our day to day lives. One very practical example is Philippians where Paul tells us where and how to focus our thinking and the outcome we can anticipate.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8–9 (NKJV)

Living practically, we need a revelation of the importance of living rightly before the Lord and others and an awareness of the impact we will have on their lives and our community.

Our Father’s Business

I begin with a bit of background. What I see in scripture is that when Adam and Eve fell in Genesis 3 the earth’s dominion was moved to Satan, the Adversary. Yahweh still owned the earth but the general rule and dominion He had delegated to Adam and Eve and they gave it away. In scripture we see how it was restored in The Great Commission in Matthew 28.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)

Jesus was clear when He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Authority in heaven had never been lost (Psalm 115:16), on the earth it had, and Jesus restored it through His sacrifice as He was fully God and fully man. As Paul put it.

5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5 (NKJV)

At the same time, it doesn’t look like Jesus is ruling and reigning on earth, in fact He isn’t. In Matthew 28 He told us to go and bring about change. He wants to rule through His church. Look at these scriptures together, a portion of Matthew 28:18-19 and then Genesis.  

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:26–28 (NKJV)

In effect, what we refer to as The Great Commission is a recommissioning of the original command in Genesis to be fruitful and fill and subdue the earth. Yahweh created a garden, heaven on earth, that He wanted Adam and Eve to extend to the rest of the earth. The way it works for us is that we each have a sphere of authority. When we were born again we were commissioned to use that authority to represent the King and extend His dominion in the earth. Though Jesus has all authority He chose to exercise it through a praying and proclaiming church, His body on the earth.

This doesn’t mean we are to exercise control over our society or culture. We are however to be an influence, a change agent, so that wherever we are others encounter His presence. There is the ‘already not yet’ idea of His kingdom in that Jesus already secured the victory but it will not be fully realized until His visible return at the end of the age. In the meantime, we are to reflect and demonstrate His kingdom within our sphere of influence so that wherever we are is a reflection of another kingdom. We are to have the attitude of Jesus that we are to be ‘about our Father’s business’ (Luke 2:49).

Let’s do that.

An Eternal Perspective

I began this online teaching blog in January 2014. Prior to starting the blog, I came up with a tagline, “An Eternal Perspective: Living in Time, Preparing for Eternity.” Here I am going to explore the idea of an Eternal Perspective and the relationship it has to prayer.  

We all know as believers that we are to have a prayer life. We have numerous examples of prayer in the Old Testament. Many of the Psalms are prayers. We have Daniel modelling prayer three times a day.

10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. Daniel 6:10 (NKJV)

In the New Testament we have Jesus’ teaching us, through the model prayer He provided in Matthew 6, that we should at least have daily prayers (verse 11).

9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9–13 (NKJV)

Given the numerous examples of prayer in scripture and the scriptural calls to engage in prayer, it seems important to look at what relationship prayer has to holding an Eternal Perspective. The inspiration for “An Eternal Perspective: Living in Time, Preparing for Eternity” was my awareness that everything we do in time has ripples in eternity. Prayer is one of those things. We see in Revelation that our prayers go into bowls and are presented before the throne.

8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8 (NKJV)

Knowing that are prayers are incense before His throne it is important to anchor our prayers in an Eternal Perspective. We are called to pray because it matters.  

Prayer doesn’t require a certain posture or location. More important than our physical posture and location is the posture of our heart and where are affections are located. We see the importance of this in scripture. Here are Old and New Testament examples.

1 Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my meditation. 2 Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, For to You I will pray. 3 My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up. Psalm 5:1–3 (NKJV)

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:1–2 (NKJV)

In Psalm 5 we see David expressing his habit of daily morning prayer and he includes in this Psalm the expectation that there will be a response to his prayer, hence his phrase, “And I will look up.”

Understanding Psalm 5 is easy and obvious. Colossians 3 takes us a little deeper. Whether or not it was the unconscious source of my expression, An Eternal Perspective: Living in Time, Preparing for Eternity, I cannot tell you. I can tell you that it encapsulates the expression with the call to set our minds on things above rather than things on the earth. I don’t see these two verses as a call to ignore what is happening on earth, just the opposite. Fixing our minds on eternal things will affect how we live on earth and how we pray. We will pray with an awareness that what happens on earth echoes in eternity, we will know that our prayers, no matter how seemingly weak and futile, matter. We can then pray like David, offering our heart to Him and looking up in expectation that heaven will invade earth.

Therefore, while we have the opportunity here let us pray with expectation and a heart of affection for Jesus and heaven.

Fixed on You

            Written by 40 authors over a period of about 1,500 years the scriptures are remarkably consistent in their message, as they are inspired by the Spirit. One area of consistency is what the scriptures have to say about where and how our mind and heart are to be fixed, where they are to come to rest. That is what we will examine.

First, allow me to illustrate my point. I coached basketball for a decade and I grew up with the expression, ‘practice makes perfect.’ Partway through my coaching tenure it was wisely changed to ‘practice makes permanent.’ I used to tell the players, “You can get really good at doing the wrong thing.” It is similar to the old idea, ‘experience is the best teacher.’ That one is also well intentioned but insufficient. The best teacher is guided experience. That is why we have teachers and coaches.

            Now we will look at the scriptures.

 7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you. Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)

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

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 (NKJV)

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV)

The message in each of the passages is essentially the same. We are called to set our minds on things that are good and right and the result will be experiencing His peace and rest. This takes us back to the ideas of ‘practice making permanent’ and ‘guided experience.’ To get there we need to dig into the first verse I posted, Proverbs 23:7.

            Proverbs 23:7 is a fascinating verse when viewed in context. This means going a bit broader followed by digging into the meaning of some Hebrew words.

6 Do not eat the bread of a miser, Nor desire his delicacies; 7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you. 8 The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up, And waste your pleasant words. Proverbs 23:6–8 (NKJV)

The context is a warning to not eat with a miser or selfish person. The key phrase is, “as he thinks in his heart’ with the key words ‘thinks’ and ‘heart.’ Thinks is the Hebrew shaar, which means to calculate or think. Heart is literally nephesh or soul. The New American Standard translates the phrase ‘as he thinks within himself.’ While the focus is on a miser or stingy person the message of this passage is that our behaviour flows from how we think about or measure things in our thought life.

            Now back to our other verses. What determines our peace and rest is how we think. Isaiah noted that we will experience peace, shalom, by setting our minds on the Lord and trusting Him. We see the same message in Matthew. When we take Jesus’ yoke, culturally, when we become His disciple, we find rest for our souls. Inwardly we have peace. Paul provided the same message. When our thoughts are deeply set on what He defines as good, true and right and those things govern our behaviour, we have peace.

            Now to the practical issue, guided experience and practice making permanent. My experience is that when I take these verses at face value and intentionally focus my heart on Jesus, the Father or the Spirit, I experience His presence and His peace resting upon and in me. That may include praying out loud, thanking Him for His presence or simply sitting listening for His voice. We live in a noisy busy culture and distractions abound. Yet whenever I choose to set my mind and focus my heart on Jesus His presence and peace come. This can be in a worship service or sitting on my own, the latter being the more frequent experience. I can then carry His presence into whatever activities I am engaged in. Whenever I become aware of His peace not being there, I need only turn my heart back to Him and He is present. The more I do this the more it becomes simply a habit of the heart.  

            I share this as an encouragement. If you need His peace, look to His presence and let your heart and mind rest there.

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

Following Part 2

            In the verses below I want to focus on a single phrase that I will address below.

14 So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them. Deuteronomy 28:14 (NKJV)

1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 2 Chronicles 34:1–2 (NKJV)

27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:27 (NKJV)

Not turning aside ‘to the right or the left’ is the phrase. Let me give you my paraphrase, ‘Ignore distractions and remained focused on the task at hand.’ When it comes to following Jesus, this is sound advice.  

When we choose to follow Him this is what He desires to do in our lives, lead us in the way of wisdom and follow the path He is leading us on. An interesting analogy I see comes from my hiking. I have hiked up a lot of mountains and sometimes there is a clear view of the trail ahead and other times you can hardly see around the next bend. When the trail narrows in the trees you can see the person in front of you, often not beyond them or very little. You stay on the path by focusing on the person ahead of you and trusting their leading. If we take that back to following Jesus there is an important truth. As we walk through life when we will encounter difficult times and it becomes difficult to see the road ahead. This is when we need to be more aware of and dependent on His leading.

As you walk with and seek to follow Him here are some things you may find helpful. I regularly focus on them in prayer and they are rooted in my awareness of Ephesians 2:10. He has works and a plan for me so I want to discern and walk it out with Him each day. My goal is to be sensitive to His leading and respond with obedience. To that end I reflect on or pray about these areas.

  • Jesus, I begin my day connecting to Your presence and focusing on You aligning me for today.
  • Holy Spirit, as I sit and walk with Jesus, I ask You to draw me into the subtleties of the interaction that I might deepen my awareness of Your presence and leading.
  • Father/Jesus, I thank You that You are here. I give myself to You afresh today. What do You have for me to do today? (Over saturating our soul with activity dulls our spirit.)

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)

            If we approach our walk with Him with this type of perspective, I think we will find ourselves not ‘turning to the right of the left.’ I don’t anticipate any of us will do this perfectly but I believe doing it will lead to us staying focused on and attentive to His agenda and avoiding distractions.

Worship Poured Out

Our individual and corporate worship and prayer times are an opportunity for pouring something out upon Jesus. An opportunity to minister to His heart and bring Him pleasure. I don’t think about this often but I do think about it. Our worship is twofold, for Jesus because He is worthy (worthy is the Lamb Revelation 5:12) and for us because it changes us and enables us to encounter His presence (Revelation 4:9-11).

We received Jesus’ nature in our spirit when we experienced the new birth, our spirit encountered the fullness of life. At the same time, by giving something of Himself to us, Jesus was and is in no way diminished. We now have something of Him that we can offer back to Him. We can worship in spirit and truth and live out of the reality of this verse.

26 “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26 (NKJV)

This love the Father has for Jesus was planted in us at conversion and we can now return it to Jesus. In pouring out worship not only is His presence in us not decreased, it increases! We experience more of His presence and He is blessed and pleased by what we pour out.  

You may wonder how we can affect any change in Jesus or the Father given scripture says “For I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6) or as it says in Hebrews,

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)

The answer lies in His consistency and faithfulness. When we read through scripture we see Yahweh’s jealousy, anger and sorrow. A full range of emotions. Yet at the same time they are all governed and motivated by love. We know from 1 John 4:7 that God is love, that is His essence. We see it in the most famous verse in scripture.

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

            There are numerous verses in the Old Testament that refer to Yahweh’s pleasure at the sacrifices offered. The pattern continues in the New Testament.

15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:15 (NKJV)

18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. Philippians 4:18 (NKJV)

16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16 (NKJV)

Thus, we can see that while pouring out our worship on Him will not change His essence, it will bring Him pleasure. Let’s do that!

 Misty Edwards Pour My Love on You with lyrics

A Right Focus

            I recently had an online debate with a fellow who was concerned that people in the church didn’t see themselves as sinners. He viewed it as heresy and dangerous if we didn’t focus on being sinners. That was how he saw scripture. I was unable to dissuade him of his views so left the matter alone after sharing my thoughts and scripture with him. I have learned over the years that continuing to beat my head against the wall only gives me a sore head, it doesn’t enlighten the other person. I do however recognize the importance of the issue so want to share what scripture presents to us.       

            My first point is that I see in scripture that as believers we will have a battle with sin as long as we are in this body. Paul said it this way.

15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. Romans 7:15–20 (NKJV)

Paul acknowledged his ongoing battle with sin, something within him that wanted to lead him to wrong thoughts and actions. However, Paul didn’t stop there, he pointed us to the solution to the problem.

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Romans 8:5–6 (NKJV)

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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 8:12–14 (NKJV)

Paul’s teaching in Romans is parallel to his earlier teaching in Galatians 5:18-25 about walking with or by the Spirit rather than the flesh.

            I do think we are in a dangerous position if we deny that we have a capacity or propensity to sin. However, I also see in scripture that if we focus on sin and view ourselves as sinners, holding that as our identity, we are far more prone to sin. I have often used the analogy regarding repentance. Repentance is a change of mind and heart that produces a change in behaviour. We are often told that to repent means ‘to turn and go the other way.’ That is in fact the result or fruit of true repentance, not the repentance itself. Now, imagine you were a lost sinner, had a change of mind and heart (repented) and started following Jesus. You have done a 180 degree turn. Now imagine you keep looking back to where you were while trying to walk forward. It would occasion a lot of falling.

That is how I see our walk with Jesus. If I am focused on sin and hold onto an identity as a sinner, I am looking back. Scripture doesn’t teach that. Scripture says that if I am to walk in victory over sin I need to look to Jesus, the ‘author and finisher’ of my faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). Scripture makes provision for when we fail and do sin, it doesn’t tell us to hold onto an identity as sinners.   

7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:7–9 (NKJV)

Paul provides a further key to living rightly in our walk with Jesus.

4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. Philemon 4–6 (NKJV)

I want the good things in me in Jesus, to set my mind on things above, on Christ in me the hope of glory and recognize His ongoing transformative work in my life. What is your focus?