The Eternality of Nations and His Kingdom

To start off, yes, eternality is an actual word. Now to address the idea. I read something recently in a book by Dennis Peacocke about how God has a future plan for nations. This got me thinking, so I will share where my thinking led me. There is a pattern in scripture of unity in diversity. That was the original point of universities, a mini ‘universe.’ Here people from different backgrounds came to learn a core diverse curriculum so they ended up with a shared body of knowledge, a unity in diversity. The early European universities focused on the liberal arts and theology.  

Now before I go further with this idea of unity in diversity in the body of Christ let me quote what some of you may be thinking.

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26–29 (NKJV)

On the surface Galatians seems to teach that our differences disappear in Jesus. Yet here, through the Spirit, Paul is highlighting Jesus as the source of our unity in the context of our diversity. He wrote Galatians to address the issue of the Jewish believers trying to make the Gentile believers into Jews.

Each of us will step from time into eternity and our focus and identify will be on our relationship with Jesus not our ethnic or culture background. I am quite confident that He won’t be handing me a Canadian flag! That said, we need to consider what things will look like as we know from scripture that the boundaries and identities of nations are set by God.

26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, Acts 17:26 (NKJV)

Nations and national identities were God’s idea and not only did He create them, they will continue from time into eternity. The context below is the New Jerusalem having descended from heaven to the new renewed earth at the culmination of this age.

22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. Revelation 21:22-26 (NKJV)

While I cannot tell you what we will do as nations in the future it is clear that the nations that are saved will walk in the light of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem (verse 24). It is also clear that these nations will carry glory and honour (verse 26).

How does this affect you and me? We will still be part of a nation in eternity. When we step from time into eternity, we will receive a glorified body like the one Jesus lives in. Yet we are not going to all be homogenous. We will retain our diversity, including our nationality. The testimony of scripture and creation is the Father’s love for diversity. Paul also informs us in 1 Corinthians 15:40-43 that just as the stars differ in glory so also will our resurrections bodies. Based on this and what we can see from Revelation I believe that whatever we are now we will be in eternity. Asian people will still look Asian, Black people Black, Indigenous people Indigenous and so on. I believe that whatever is flawed in our physical makeup will be removed and whatever will glorify Him will be accentuated. Sort of like a you 2.0. Every aspect of our bodies will glorify Him!

This means that in the context of preaching and living in His kingdom we need to honour and pray for the nation we are currently part of and seek to glorify Jesus in our nation. Let’s appreciate and celebrate our uniqueness and diversity while finding out how we fit into His corporate body to fulfill His eternal purpose.

Nobility and Generosity

Given the season, as we near the celebration of Jesus birth, Christmas, and gift giving, it is a good time to consider the overlap between nobility and generosity. I briefly touched on this concept in blog post in recent years (see the link below). Here I want to dig a little deeper. I will start by saying there is no deep mystery in the Hebrew, the word simply means generous or noble. The verse below in two different translations highlights the translation options.  

8 But a generous man devises generous things, And by generosity he shall stand. Isaiah 32:8 (NKJV)

8 But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands. Isaiah 32:8 (ESV)

Our context is found in verse 1.

1 Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, And princes will rule with justice. Isaiah 32:1 (NKJV)

Here Isaiah is prophesying a future time when righteousness and justice will rule in Israel. A theme in scripture is the blessing on nations and individual lives when righteousness and justice are the foundation and practice of leadership. One of the by-products of righteous leadership is people who demonstrate nobility and generosity. Thus, Isaiah highlights this as a characteristic of this future national state.

There are however a couple of givens for us as the church. Our calling is to reflect an already not yet kingdom, one where righteousness reigns. The kingdom of God. It was inaugurated on earth through Jesus’ ministry and subsequent sacrifice and resurrection. It will be fully consummated at His return. In the meantime, we have His command to go and make disciples of all nations in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). There is debate over whether this means making disciples of nations or making disciples of people within nations. For our purposes the point is moot.

We as the church are called to walk in Jesus’ righteousness and under His leadership so it should translate into behaviour that is both noble and generous. Behaviour that seeks to honour and build others up. Behaviour that seeks to identify and draw out the gifts and callings of those around us.  

Lest you think we are going to go down the financial road, that is not my intent. Being generous with our finances and blessing others is a noble thing. Yet, giving money is often easy in our culture. What is harder to give, and likely of more value in the kingdom, is our time. I am blessed to have friends that have been generous with their time, whether helping with home projects or church activities. There is something noble about their willingness to help out. I remember many years ago working on an extensive plumbing project in our home. Two of my friends came to help. The project took longer than planned, what home reno doesn’t? I gauge the length of projects by the number of trips to the hardware store. This one took quite a few!

We had worked all day and the project was not yet complete. My wife and I had tickets for an event that evening. When my friends found out they told us to leave, said they would finish the project, and lock the door. They did just that! This was a noble and generous thing to do. In projects like these there is the opportunity to deepen fellowship and connect with our fellow believers in a deeper a way that dollars would never achieve.

Our calling is to build people and we do that through engaging with them, giving of ourselves and loving one another as Jesus has called us to demonstrate. So, in this season, and throughout the year, let’s look for opportunities to build His kingdom by demonstrating nobility and generosity, engaging with Jesus in building His kingdom through investing in the lives of others in His body. 

NOTE – I briefly touched on Nobility and Generosity a few years ago in my series on Reflective Leadership (http://wisdomfromtheword.ca/reflective-leadership-part-12/)

I Know the Thoughts

The title is based on the first four words from the verse below. The word ‘thoughts’ is translated as ‘plans’ in the ESV and the word in Hebrew means thoughts, plans or intentions.  

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

Here I am focusing on the first four words, because as I have pointed out in the past, the full promise in the verse was not going to be fulfilled for 70 years and most of the hearers of Jeremiah’s proclamation would not live to see it come to pass. Hence my focus is on how we apply the first idea in the sentence to our lives.

            What we see here in the general sense is that the Lord thinks about us, He has plans for us. While they aren’t the same for each of us, they are for each of us. The Lord doesn’t devise evil for us. His desire is that we would encounter and experience His goodness and grace.  

            The word translated as thoughts/plans is also found in this verse in reference to the thoughts of the heart.

5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5 (ESV)

While this verse from Genesis is accurate it is reflective of what our thoughts or plans can produce, not the Lord’s thoughts and plans for us. We find His original thoughts and plans in Genesis and repeated in Psalms.

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 1:28 (NKJV)

6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, Psalm 8:6 (NKJV)

Our Father’s plan is that we each take responsibility and exercise dominion. This starts with our own lives. It includes understanding the sphere of authority commensurate with our calling and gifting. For example, if we are called to intercession, we can exercise authority in the place of prayer for others. If we are called to teach or lead, we can exercise authority there, dominion really in each case. In doing so we need to be aware of our limits. Paul said he had been given a sphere of authority (2 Corinthians 10:12-16).

In keeping with our sphere of authority we need to be aware of how it operates. One of the primary gifts in my life is teaching. Yet I still need permission to teach others, whether that is being invited to speak to a group or one on one. For example, I play Pickleball and am fairly good at it. Yet when playing with someone who is just learning or less skilled if I see areas for improvement I try to remember to say, “Would you like some feedback on how you are playing?” If I try to offer tips without permission, whether they are accepted or rebuffed, I have gone beyond my sphere of authority.  

In each of our lives the Father has thoughts and plans for us. To see them realized we need to determine how to exercise the dominion He has given us within our sphere of authority.  

Jesus Baptism: The Significance for Us.

In my last post I referenced the connections between Jesus’ baptism by John, along with His simultaneous baptism by the Spirit, and the result of the Spirit on Jesus being seen in the prophetic message of Isaiah 11:1-2, the gifts Jesus walked in. I made a further connection that these gifts, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers were also Jesus gifts to His church (after His ascension – Ephesians 4:7-11).

Now we can look at what this means for us. My goal is not to focus on these five gifts. Rather, I want to look more broadly at how just as Jesus’ ministry flowed from the Spirit resting on Him, so He desires to reveal Himself through us as the Spirit rest on us. Jesus revealed the Father following His baptism, we are called to reveal Jesus. My experience in decades of walking with Jesus is that for myself and others it is both a calling and a challenge to keep our eyes fixed on Him. Yet that is our calling and the source of our effectiveness.

That is what Paul exemplified, thus many of us would like to be like Paul. I know I would and that isn’t a bad aspiration. That requires heeding what Paul actually wrote.

1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)

17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:17 (NKJV)

17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. Philippians 3:17 (NKJV)

In the verses above the key point isn’t the need to be like Paul, it is to be like Jesus! Paul encouraged us to imitate him to the degree that he reflected Jesus. Paul is pointing us to Jesus.

We can go a little further. If we view the gospel through the lens of the letters to the churches, we are looking through the wrong end of the telescope and our view will be distorted. The four gospels were not written just so we could have some background on how the church was started. They are foundational to all that we do and we are to build our lives on that foundation. They reveal Jesus and His demonstration of ministering out of communion with the Father. Look at what Paul wrote in Colossians.

1 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:1–3 (NKJV) In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Whatever we need to fulfill our calling and purpose is found in Jesus. The significance of Jesus baptism for us is that when we are converted Jesus comes to live in us by the Spirit. Our calling is to imitate Paul; learn to commune with Jesus and interact with those around us out of that relationship. Gifts, callings and fruit all flow from that relationship, just as everything Jesus did flowed from His relationship with the Father (John 5:19-20, 30). Whatever we need to interact well with others is found in Jesus.

Jesus Baptism

            I have in the past written about Jesus’ baptism by John and the significance of Jesus doing what He did on earth not as God but as a man under the anointing of the Spirit. In some way He set aside His divine attributes http://wisdomfromtheword.ca/walking-in-authority-part-2/. Here I want to look at what I believe took place at Jesus baptism. This requires bringing together Isaiah 11:1-2, 61:1-2, which Luke 4:18-19 quotes, and Ephesians 4:11. Years ago I made some notes in my bible regarding the connection between Ephesians 4:11and Isaiah 11:1-2 and they sat there until recently when a friend asked for my thoughts and on Isaiah 11:1-2 and it reminded me of my notes.

            At John’s baptism of Jesus, the Spirit came and rested on Him and the Father spoke from heaven and endorsed Him (Matthew 3:16-17). When He publicly proclaimed Himself as the Messiah in Nazareth Jesus read Isaiah 61 in the synagogue and told them the scripture was fulfilled.  

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18–21 (NKJV)

This is where Isaiah 11 and Ephesians 4 come in. Ephesians 4 describes Jesus ascension gifts to the church as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. In His earthly ministry Jesus expressed the fullness of each of these five gifts. We see that in Isaiah 11. I here present it twice; the second time just verse 2 with some added words in brackets to illustrate what I am saying.

1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:1-2 (NKJV)

2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom (apostle) and understanding (prophet), The Spirit of counsel (shepherd/pastor) and might (evangelist), The Spirit of knowledge (teacher) and of the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:2 (NKJV)

            This passage in Isaiah is well known as referring to the coming Messiah, Jesus. The other aspect is that it is generally referred to as the seven-fold Spirit resting on Jesus. I have never been able to see the seven-fold aspect here. The passage speaks of the Holy Spirit coming to rest on Jesus at His baptism and imparting the fullness of the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching gifts. The passage then continues with the first line of Isaiah 11:3, “3 His delight is in the fear of the Lord.” The fear of Yahweh is not a gift resulting from Jesus’ baptism or obedience. It is the heart attitude He carried to His baptism!

  In Hebrew the word delight is very interesting. Spirit in each reference in Isaiah 11:2 is Ruach (7307 in Strong’s) spirit, breath, wind. Delight is Ruach with a slightly different accent (7306 in Strong’s) and is the root of 7307. It carries the sense of anticipation, as if we begin to smell something and anticipate more, hence the translation as delight.  

The fear of Yahweh in relation to Jesus’ humanity brings me to what my friend Evelyn said years ago when I asked her how she defined the fear of the Lord. She said, “Loving Him so much I would never do anything to offend Him.” Jesus certainly lived that way before His Father.

In conclusion, Jesus was baptized in water and the Spirit at the same time and the fruit of that experiences was a full release into His ministry. We all have gifts and callings. To fully walk in them I think we need to learn how to ‘love Him so much that we will never do anything to offend Him.’ Making that our delight will allow Him to move through us in His fullness.

Freedom?

I think what is often missed in discussing freedom is the distinction between ‘freedom to’ and ‘freedom from.’ I may be free to engage in illegal activities, I am not free from the physical consequences if caught and in God’s economy I am never free from the moral consequences. A further example, I am free to jump off a very high cliff, I am not free from the sudden stop at the bottom, unless of course I have a parachute, glider or squirrel suit! Any of these additions enhance my freedom to overcome my freedom from.

Romans 8 encapsulates how Jesus provides freedom from when we exercise our freedom to embrace the gospel.

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1–4 (NKJV)

The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus provides freedom from the penalty of the law, I overcome the law of sin and death when I walk according to the Spirit. Given the freedom to that is found in following the Spirit let us turn to prayer and apply the concept.  

I don’t know about you, I do know about me, I don’t always find prayer a delight, in fact often it can be difficult. I know that I always have freedom to pray. I also know that I am not free from the things that hinder prayer, things that include distractions, time pressures or just a feeling of trying to slog through spiritual mud. The reality is that prayer works, which is why it is so opposed in the spiritual realm. This leads to a question of how we incorporate freedom from into our prayer lives, something that would provide the ability to overcome the hinderances in our freedom to. 

            To go back to my analogy of needing a parachute or something similar as freedom from the restrictions of gravity, in prayer my freedom from is anchored in a verse He spoke to me over 30 years ago. I have never forgotten it.

13 A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out. (Leviticus 6:13 NKJV)

The original version of the NKJV said, “There shall be a perpetual fire on the altar; It shall never go out.” What stood out for me all those years ago was the phrase “perpetual fire.”

            A fire needs fuel, without fire the sacrifice would simply lay on the altar and without fuel a fire cannot be sustained. In my experience I find that worship is the fuel that feeds the fire of intercession. Whether worshipping in a corporate setting or hiking in the mountains and quietly worshipping as I walk, I find prayer rising up from my spirit. There are other occasions in any given day that I am drawn to pray for someone or something but the regular fuel is worship. When I choose to worship intercession is released. The next time you find prayer a challenge try adding some fuel to your fire. Engage in worship, become from restrictions and let the incense ascend.  

            Here is a good song to kickstart the process. Jason Upton, Freedom Reigns