Discernment or Judgment

In June of 1992 I wrote an article on discernment where I defined discernment as “Seeing the reality which lies behind appearances.” I still use this definition. My article was prompted by reading on an article on the ‘gift of discernment,’ which I will address below. Here I have reproduced and revised a portion of what I wrote as it is as relevant or more than when I first wrote it. This is particularly true as I cannot recall a time in my six decades that we have ever been more divided and polarized in our culture with different views and attitudes toward truth and the false idea that perceptions matter more than reality.

We begin our study with 1 Corinthians 2:14-15

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 1 Corinthians 2:14–15 (NKJV)

In 1 Corinthians 2:14 the Greek word anakrino is translated discerned and in verse 15 it is translated judges and judged. Discernment and judgment are closely linked and require the exercise of wisdom. Scriptural discernment is basically making right judgments by seeing the reality that lies behind appearances in order to agree with what the Holy Spirit is doing. After all, with what we are facing in the church and our culture we need to exercise discernment, as it is through discernment that we can see the roots of issues and then choose how to respond as He leads.

In seeking to understand and exercise discernment it is helpful to first understand what it is not. I often hear talk in the church about the “gift” of discernment. The scriptures speak of no such gift. 1 Corinthians 12:10 speaks of the gift of discerning of spirits (a revelation gift that any Christian may function in at times). This however is not discernment as the scriptures teach it, even though it is useful in the process of discerning. True discernment is the outflow of wisdom and revelation working together and demonstrates spiritual maturity. Here are the Corinthians verses with more context and three verses from Hebrews.

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. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? 1 Corinthians 2:13–3:4 (NKJV)

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:12–14 (NKJV)

In both passages we see a link between discernment and spiritual maturity. Discernment needs to be exercises and is the fruit of a humble heart that chooses to be led of the Spirit and recognizes its dependence upon Him. Discernment flows primarily in the lives of those who choose to walk in truth and refuse to compromise because of their love for the truth (2 Thess. 2:16, Eph. 4:21).

Paul’s discernment was rooted in his refusal to compromise truth Jesus had revealed to him. This led to him having to rebuke both Barnabas and Peter (Gal. 2:11-20).  Paul understood something that we in the church have largely neglected. We are frequently told by both the world and much of the church that we are not to judge, and this is true in terms of a critical fault-finding spirit (Jas. 4:11, Rom. 14:4, Matt. 7:1-5). We do however have a responsibility to judge all things in terms of fruit and discern the truth that lies behind appearances (Matt. 7:15-20, 1 Cor. 2:14-15, Heb. 5:12-14, Phil. 1:9-11, Jn. 7:24). At times this means confronting sin and heart motives which can lead to being labeled as “judgmental” or “critical” (Acts 5:1-11, 8:18-24, Gal. 2:11-21).

My idea of discernment as ‘seeing the reality which lies behind appearances’ comes from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:15-20 where He refers to wolves showing up looking like sheep and the importance of inspecting fruit. Jesus teaches that at times we cannot discern wolves from surface appearances because they look like sheep. The same is true of tares looking like wheat until they mature (Matt. 13:24-30). To discern the truth that lies behind appearances we need to love truth more than the package it comes in. We must seek truth and seek to discern it in the lives of our supporters and opponents. A love of the truth is manifest in love for the church, the body of Him who is truth (Eph. 4:21). This is illustrated for us in the Old Testament illustration of the role of discerning.

I began this study by noting the overlap between judging and discerning. In Exodus 28:30 Aaron is commanded to wear the breastplate of judgement when he comes before the Lord. In the breastplate are the Urim and Thummim. Also on the breastplate are the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. This passage specifically says Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart continually.

What I see in this is that discerning and making right judgments requires carrying the issue we are seeking to discern over our heart. If we want to truly discern what is happening in the lives of others, from the Lord’s perspective, we need to bear people over our heart in intercession (as Aaron did with the breastplate representing the nation). Intercession born of love for Jesus and His church leads to the spirit of wisdom and revelation being released in our lives and manifest as discernment.

Paul knew clearly the relationship between love and discernment. He began Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians with a prayer for discernment only after he was confident of peoples love for the church and one another (Eph. 1-15-21, Phil. 1:9-11, Col. 1:4, 8-11).  This love is, among other things, a deeply rooted commitment to speak truth to others out of a desire to see them come to maturity (Eph. 4:15, Prov. 27:6). 

            The purpose of discernment is protection and growth. We seek to see the reality that lies behind appearances so we can protect His flock, and agree with Him about what He desires in the lives of individuals, local assemblies and the church at large. When we sincerely walk with Him in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:24) His Spirit in us is faithful to guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13). Walking in this manner positions us to see the church built up and established.

Worship in Unexpected Places

I trust you found the title interesting. I was going to write on a different topic but felt that my recent writing on worship was not complete. While we probably expect to worship and encounter Jesus in a church service, worship event or prayer meeting, we can meet Him in other places as well.

A few days before beginning to write this I was sitting waiting at a pharmacy. While waiting I began to do what many of us do, I pulled put my phone, multipurpose device really, and began looking at things. I then felt a gentle prompting in my spirit to begin worshipping, so that is what I did. I put my phone away and I began quietly singing a worship song, and His presence came. I was having an intimate encounter with Jesus while others around me were busy shopping.

In the past I have referenced how the outdoors, particularly the mountains, draw my heart to worship. A busy store or mall is not where I would go to be inspired to worship. Yet worship is more connected to the one we worship than it is to any particular location. While a pharmacy waiting area is not all that inspiring, He is. I can encounter Jesus because of my circumstances or I can encounter Jesus in spite of my circumstances (think of Paul and Silas in prison in Acts 16). The important factor is that I can encounter Jesus.  

I have had the experience of being drawn to quietly worship in tongues while grocery shopping, an encounter with Jesus. I am retired now, but when I was working fulltime, on occasions in a meeting, sometimes one I was chairing, I would be aware of my spirit encountering Him, no words, just worship while engaged in the meeting. At times while driving, alone or with others, my heart is simply drawn to worship. I believe this is reflective of something Paul wrote.

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)

Paul added no qualifiers. He used this sentence as a blessing in closing off a disciplinary letter. He was highlighting that we can commune with Jesus anywhere, anytime. It is not a relationship that depends on circumstances. It is a relationship that is tied to heart posture. Through His grace we can know love and communion.

I see these times as little invitations, interruptions of a ‘normal’ routine if you will. Jesus issues a gentle invitation. If we respond to His prompting then we have a time of intimacy, an encounter of heaven touching earth once again. It isn’t a call to neglect or avoid whatever responsibilities we have. It is call to know Him in the midst of them and be strengthened in our spirit. 

I confess, I don’t experience this at all times in all places, nor do I expect this to be the case. I do however experience worship in unexpected places on a regular basis. I believe it is one of His many gifts to us and is available to all who desire to know and walk with Him. If this is not a familiar experience, I encourage you to cultivate a heart habit of regularly looking to Him at various times of the day. In my life I see this as the fruit of daily time in His word and developing a habit of setting my hearts gaze upon Him.  

Attaining Full Assurance

            In our current culture it is important to look at where we find meaning and assurance as followers of Jesus. There are obvious pressures in any culture, peer group or family to push us toward conformity. For better or worse that is the nature of life. Yet, while it is common it varies in intensity. In the time of the early church many risked their lives by being counter cultural. Those from the Jewish community who embraced Yeshua as the Messiah would be removed from the synagogue and ostracized from their family and friends. They could only pray that others from their previous community would join them, or seek to build an alternate community. Those in the Gentile community had their gods, in particular Caesar, that they were supposed to worship. They underwent similar hardships upon conversion. The church became that alternate community.

            As an aside, if you want to understand how these same pressures affect some of our fellow believers around the world look at Voice of the Martyrs website.


            In our modern western culture, we don’t face the same pressures around danger to our physical lives for following Jesus, though there are at times serious family issues, particularly if converting from another faith. However, in general persecution is not an issue for western believers. What is an issue is drift and the accompanying pressure to conform to the surrounding culture. The writer of Hebrews and Paul put it this way.

1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. Hebrews 2:1 (NKJV)

 1 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. 2 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)

            We are likely familiar with these warnings in scripture. It is easy to drift if we are not paying attention. For example, I love hiking. In the mountains it is easy to focus on navigating a difficult trail, eyes down to avoid obstacles. After 15-20 minutes you look up and are amazed at how much elevation you have gained. You have gone further than anticipated. While this is not an example of drift it does illustrate the point. When we become caught up and focused on our immediate surroundings we are not attending to the larger picture. The same is true in our spiritual walk.

            The calling for each of us is not to ‘live our best life’ or to ‘become all that we can be.’ Embracing those ideals merely demonstrates that we have already been conformed to the surrounding culture. We are called to high ideals and a life of excellence. The qualifier is the context, we are to be our best at building up the body, our fellow believers, and the best at being salt and light to those around us. Let us look at an example of Paul’s apostolic heart cry. I see the following verses as a fuller expression of Galatians 4:19, Paul’s desire to see Christ formed in us.

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)

            Paul’s teaching, challenging and praying were all focused on one goal, attaining a full assurance. In breaking these verses down, we see the importance of the body to which we have been joined. Paul says it is through being ‘knit together in love,’ that everything else is attained. There is a positive side to conformity, the pressure to being conformed to the image of Jesus. Loving and caring for one another.  The pressure to follow the godly example of others.  

            With this in mind let us seek to respond to and be the pressure to others to conform to the image of Jesus that we might corporately attain ‘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.” The more we grow together the deeper encounter with, and understanding of, we have of the Father and Jesus. This helps us all to ‘live our best corporate life’ reflecting Jesus to others.   

Accommodation and Space Part 2

Accommodation and Space. In our relationship with Jesus, He accommodates our individual gifts and callings as He made us that way. We accommodate Him by submitting to His leading and lordship, by making Him the priority in our lives. Now we need to look at how we can accommodate and make space for our fellow travelers on our journey to Christ likeness. To that end…

            Scripture exhorts us to ‘keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3). To understand how to walk this is out it is necessary to recognize that unity and uniformity are not the same thing. Consider a husband and wife – children are the result of a unity that is focused on appreciating the differences!

            Ephesians has something further to say on the issue.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, Ephesians 1:7-8 NKJV

In what is currently taking place in our culture and in the church culture we need to embrace wisdom and prudence. Prudence is not a word we often hear and it refers to wisdom in how we manage relationships. Paul seems to be emphasizing the importance of practical wisdom. Being prudent in our decision making is demonstrated in exercising wisdom and foresight in the context of respectful words and actions. Jesus demonstrates that in His relationship to us, and we are called to do the same in our relationships with others, both within and outside of the church.

This is where Accommodation and Space come in. We are not called to try and shape others into clones of ourselves or anyone else. We are called to discern their gifts and callings and help them grow in those gifts and callings to build up His body. He loves diversity and makes every snowflake different to demonstrate it.

Creating a respectful psychological, physical and emotional atmosphere creates the opportunity for change and growth. It isn’t a matter of setting aside a scriptural standard of righteousness, it is respecting different gifts and callings in the context of righteousness. True unity is established in the context of diversity. After all, the original meaning of the word university for our institutions of higher learning referred to seeing the unity across diverse subject areas. A liberal arts education, which had nothing to do with a political party.

In our current culture, including the church, we need to learn to appreciate the differences. We need to learn to lean on discernment from the Spirit not media, social or otherwise. Now to a very current cultural example that we in the church can learn from.

I have been a part time mediator for almost three decades and have trained literally hundreds of people in the process. When the process was becoming popular in the US and Canada the dominant model was the Interest Based approach and the first stage in the process was referred to as Story Telling. The reason for this was the recognition that even more than in normal discourse, people in conflict or in trauma have a need to be heard. One of the most respectful things we can do for others, a demonstration of Accommodation and Space, is to give them our attention and listen to their story. Listening, actually focusing on someone else and listening, defuses a great deal of anger and frustration. Understanding does not equal agreement; it does demonstrate respect. Seeking understanding is a tool to build bridges and a demonstration of respect for those we disagree with.

Currently in Canada as I write this, we have had the Freedom Convoy in our nation’s capital, Ottawa, for a week. Whether or not we are in agreement with their demand for change, surely, we can agree that mostly they are simply expressing their frustration out of a desire to be heard, to be listened to, to be given Accommodation and Space. Sadly, not only has our Prime Minister refused to meet with them, in his own words, their views are “unacceptable.” Why are they unacceptable? Because he doesn’t agree with them! Many of the protesters have raised cries of tyranny. Our Prime Minister and the governing Liberal party have responded by seeking to marginalize and demonize those they disagree with. While I do not understand or know his heart, and seek to respect his office, I do know that based on the fruit of his behaviour and the governing party this approach is bringing further division in our nation.

We as the church are called to be salt and light. Salt is a preservative; light helps us to see. There are people from inside and outside the church that are part of the protest and on both sides of the issue. While not everything been done correctly, focusing on the misdeeds of the few to marginalize the all merely exacerbates the process and deepens the divide. Conflicts in life are inevitable, how we respond to them is a choice. So, as we seek to navigate the current issues let us join together in praying for wisdom and prudence to prevail. That voices on both sides of the issue would be heard and respected and understanding sought. May it be a marker for how we navigate the future as well. As Paul wrote so long ago.

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NKJV)

A friend forwarded a song this week that can be turned into intercession. Apply it to your nation wherever you are.

Lianna Klassen, Song for Canada  

The Danger of Offense – the Blessing of Grace

Let’s look at a story that involves Jesus, Judas, Mary and an audience who had to make a choice regarding how they would respond. I think Judas began following Jesus out of a genuine desire for change. I suspect that he, like the rest, was expecting a warrior king messiah, another David, who would free the nation from the oppressive yoke of Roman rule. Whether or not my thoughts are accurate, we know from scripture how the story of his life ended. Mary began following Jesus because Jesus set her free and she loved Him deeply. Judas began following Jesus and came into bondage because he sought a freedom other than what Jesus was offering in His earthly ministry. Jesus was clear about His mission in Luke 4:18-19, preaching the gospel, healing hearts and setting captives free. All of which Judas would have known. Here I look at a key moment that I see as leading to the terrible ending for Judas and an enduring tribute for Mary. The story centres around one of the many meals Jesus had with others.

Our story takes place in John 12:1-8, Mark 14:1-11 and Matthew 26:6-16. I have included the passages at the end for your reference but will highlight key verses as we look at the event. We start with the scene, a supper. The meal takes place at the home of Simon the Leper (Mark 14:3), obviously Jesus had healed him as Simon was hosting a meal. Mary, Martha and Lazarus were guests and Martha was helping with the serving. It was also someone else’s home, which we will come to shortly. During the meal Mary comes and pours out costly perfumed oil on Jesus (John 12:3). We know that a number of the disciples complained but for John the focus is on Judas, for the meal is in his family home. Here is Judas’s response to Mary’s sacrifice.

4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” John 12:4-5 NKJV

Now look at Jesus response. He says two things. He rebukes Judas and honours Mary.

7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” John 12:7-8 NKJV

6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Mark 14:6-9 NKJV

How does Judas respond?

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him. Mark 14:10-11 NKJV

Consider the setting again, Judas’s father, Simon is hosting a meal. Judas and the other apostles are there along with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. We don’t know if there were others. We know Judas took offense at being rebuked in front of others the family home and that settled his decision to betray Jesus. We know that Mary, without any agenda, anointed Jesus with fragrant oil. The outcome of Judas offense was to be damned. The outcome of Mary’s sacrifice, a response to grace, was to be honoured everywhere the gospel was to be preached.

Judas was unaware he was sealing his fate because he valued his reputation. Mary didn’t know she was anointing Jesus for His burial – she was pouring out what she valued because she valued Jesus more!

In this tumultuous time, as in years past, we will have plenty of opportunities to take up offense and do the wrong thing. This year we will also have plenty of opportunities to value Jesus more, move in grace and pour out upon Jesus by blessing others. I pray we choose wisely each day.

John 12:1–8 (NKJV) — 1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

Mark 14:1–11 (NKJV) — 1 After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.” 3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.

Matthew 26:6–16 (NKJV) — 6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. 8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” 10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. 11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. 12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. 13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.

Walking in Authority Part 3

There are different sources of authority. In my last post I showed how even Jesus had authority by coming under authority through submitting to John’s baptism. To conclude this series I will look at authority derived from ‘love for’ and authority derived through ‘commission by.’ These are terms I have come up with to describe what I am writing about. Though they are not theological or scriptural terms the principles are found in scripture.

Here are verses about love leading to authority.

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)

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)

17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:17–18 (NKJV) NOTE the word power here is the Greek exousia, authority, and is translated as authority in the ESV and NASB.

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9–11 (NKJV)

In the verses above we see that Jesus laid His life down as an act of love for humanity (Jn. 3:16) and we see that the Father’s love for Jesus action gave Jesus the authority to take His life up again. In my first post in this series I referenced Matthew 28:18-20 to show how we have authority as believers. What I did not focus on was Jesus comment, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus was granted this authority because He laid His life down in an act of love and obedience.

We too are granted authority when we lay our lives down in love and obedience. One of Paul’s points in Philippians 1 is that as our love grows our discernment deepens. As we see we can say – if we are seeing out of love. I see the pattern in scripture that as our ‘love for’ grows so also does our authority. Paul was sent to the Gentiles as His primary mission but he didn’t just have authority in people’s lives because they were Gentiles. He had it in the lives of those who came to Jesus through his ministry because he constantly laid down his life out of love for them. This can be seen in many of his letters but particularly in 2 Corinthians. Twice in this letter (10:8, 13:10) Paul references the authority he had been given for their edification and not their destruction. The whole letter, but especially chapters 11-13 is filled with Paul pouring out his heart of love for this wayward group of believers. So, we can grow in our authority to speak into lives if we are laying down our own lives for them, whether in practical ministry or intercession.

The last area is authority being given through ‘commission by.’ We can see it in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). We can see the breadth of this ‘all nations,’ or as Luke puts it in Acts 1:8, ‘end of the earth.’ The scope of authority to make disciples is as broad as it gets. We also have examples throughout scripture of authority being given through commission by the laying on of hands and prayer. A notable example is Acts 13. As this juncture Paul (still referred to as Saul at this point) and Barnabas were among the leadership of the church at Antioch and were both teachers and/or prophets. However, they both had an apostolic call on their lives but had not yet been commissioned to this ministry. We know much more about the calling on Paul’s life than that of Barnabas but we immediately see the fruit when they are both commissioned as apostles.  

As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. Acts 13:2–3 (NKJV)

Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. Acts 14:3 (NKJV)

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out Acts 14:14 (NKJV)

Commissioning comes about when there is a recognition by others in the church of the gift we carry, an endorsement by the Spirit, and the blessing and release to walk in it by leadership. An interesting side note, the general pattern in Acts was the establishment of churches by the apostles. Antioch was different in that we don’t know who started it, merely that some of those scattered by persecution in Jerusalem brought the gospel to Antioch and included the Gentiles in their evangelism. The church in Jerusalem then sent Barnabas to ground them in their faith and he went and sought out Paul (Saul) to help him. At the Spirit’s direction the Antioch church then commissioned Barnabas and Paul through the laying on of hands and prayer.    

To wrap all of this up, we all have a measure and sphere of authority. Whether or not we have a more specific commission, we all have a general one and our authority to walk in it grows as we lay down our lives in love for those we seek to minister to by His grace. So, let us seek His face and grace to the end that our spiritual authority will build His kingdom.  

Walking in Authority Part 1

In my last two posts I wrote about praying for Israel. Now, whether we are praying for Israel, a family member or our neighbour our effectiveness is governed by our authority. If we have been born again we have been given spiritual authority and have a responsibility to use it wisely. 

4 Where the word of a king is, there is power; And who may say to him, “What are you doing?” Ecclesiastes 8:4 (NKJV)

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)

While we have been given authority, our authority is only found within the sphere of our responsibility. Paul said it this way.

13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you. 2 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)

Paul recognized that he had authority and used it. Yet he also recognized that it was limited. A reading through the book of Acts shows that while Paul went to Jerusalem or more than one occasion he never tried to exercise authority there as it went beyond his sphere.

As a practical example, prior to retirement my last jobs in the public service, in a Ministry, then in a Legislative Office, were Provincial in scope. That meant I had authority to make decisions on that level. However, I had no authority to make decisions related to neighbouring provinces or territories. When I led a team coordinating a national conference and people from across the country came I had authority in relation to other jurisdictions because it had been delegated to me by the national steering committee. However my authority extended only to decisions related to the conference. Now, I obviously have no authority in any of these matters given I am retired.

Spiritually the same principle holds. Jesus delegated all of us to make disciples so we can speak into the lives of others to accomplish that task. That is an authority to pray for, encourage and build up. It is not an authority over. Though I don’t know everyone who reads what I write, I am using the authority Jesus has given me to point others to a deeper relationship with Him. I do it through teaching because that is a calling on my life. There are people that I uphold in intercession at their request. Their request gives me specific authority to stand in the gap for them and to speak into their lives. If someone asks me to pray for person named Fred I can pray for them but I have no authority to speak into their lives in any authoritative way without their permission.

So, we have a general authority from Jesus for specific tasks and at times we have specific authority for specific tasks. A few days prior to writing this I did some teaching at our local House of Prayer. I am on the board and was asked by the Director to deliver some teaching on a specific subject. Yet I taught under the authority of the Director and had he placed limitations on the subject area I would have had no authority to teach beyond those limits.

In our individualistic western culture I don’t think that we have a good grasp of the relationship between having authority and embracing submission to authority. I will explore that further in my next post.  

Praying for Israel Part 2

In my last post I established that Jesus is not returning until the leadership of Israel welcomes Him as their Messiah. Here I use prophetic scriptures to highlight some of what Paul had to say about Israel in terms of salvation and the Lord’s purposes. First, think about this, we refer to the scriptures and speak of the Old Testament and New Testament. Another way of referring to them is as old and new covenants, which they are. This begs the question, for those of us not ethnically Hebrew or Jewish, did we have an old covenant? No, we did not. The Lord’s plan was to bring salvation to us through the covenant He made with Israel. Some expressions of that covenant are below.

1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1–3 (NKJV)

5 “And now the Lord says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength), 6      Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” Isaiah 49:5–6 (NKJV)

1 Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1–3 (NKJV)

Salvation came to those outside of ethnic Israel through the Servant above, Jesus. He broke down all the walls and barriers and opened wide the door of salvation to all (Ephesians 2:14-20). The final process is outlined in Romans 9-11. Here Paul lays out that the rejection of the gospel by Israel led to it going to the Gentiles, bringing the light of salvation to the Gentiles. At the same time Paul sees a future where Israel is brought to salvation. He is clearest about this in Romans 11:26-36. This is summarized in 11:26-27 where Paul quotes from Psalms and Isaiah.

26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” Romans 11:26–27 (NKJV)

I believe this will be fully fulfilled in the future as prophesied.  

11  It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Assyria and Egypt, from Pathros and Cush, from Elam and Shinar, from Hamath and the islands of the sea. 12           He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Isaiah 11:11–12 (NKJV)

8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together; a great throng shall return there. 9   They shall come with weeping, and with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.

10 “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’

God is going to return the people to the land and again open up the fountain of salvation in a national way prior to His return.

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10

In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. Zechariah 13:1

I pray regularly for these things to fully come to pass and hold to what Jesus said.  

28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28 (NKJV)

Praying for Israel Part 1

I am providing some teaching on praying for Israel as it is an important but often neglected responsibility the church needs to embrace. I begin with a focus on the why, next I will focus on the how. I recently read a long post someone did on Facebook regarding all the signs of the end times and how we should be prepared for Jesus any moment return. There was not a single word of encouragement there, no faith for the harvest, and nothing regarding Israel. Yet when I look at scripture Isaiah 19:19-25 tells me that before the end there will be a great harvest of souls in Egypt and they will turn to Yahweh and worship Him. That is just one thing that needs to happen prior to Jesus return. While it is a significant pending event, even more significant is the end time role that Israel plays.

We begin with the timing of Jesus return. Psalm 118 was one of the Hallel Psalms sung at Passover. Here is verse 26.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. Psalm 118:26 (NKJV)

This was viewed as a Messianic Psalm, looking forward to the coming Messiah. The Israelites knew the significance and we see the recognition by the crowd when they proclaim it over Jesus as He enters Jerusalem prior to Passover.

Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9 NKJV)

Thus we have the promise in the Old Testament and the fulfillment in the New Testament. The psalm was about the coming Messiah and the crowd welcomes Jesus as the promised Messiah. This happened as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He was welcomed as the messianic deliverer and His next act was to cleanse the temple and declare that it was to be called a ‘house of prayer.’

Jesus then tells a parable about the wicked vineyard keepers which He summarizes by quoting an earlier verse from Psalm 118.  

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. (Matthew 21:42-43 NKJV)

Thus far we have the people worshipping and welcoming Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus receiving their praise, then cleansing the temple. Right after that He confronts the religious leaders of the nation over their rejection of Him and says what they thought they had was going to be taken away. We now come to Matthew 23.

33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” Matthew 23:33–39 (NKJV)

This is a huge accountability passage. There were always some righteous in the history of national Israel. Yet over and over again the leadership rejected the prophetic voices the Lord sent to them. In referencing Abel to Zechariah Jesus is covering the entire Old Testament period. So we have Jesus pronouncing judgement over their rejection of Him, which in the next chapter leads to His declaration of the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in 70 AD. What is significant is we have an end time timing event woven in here. Jesus publicly declares that even though the people had welcomed Him as the Messiah the leadership of the nation had rejected Him, as they had all the previous prophets. Now judgment was imminent and the nation would not see Him again until the leadership welcomed Him as the Messiah.  

I think the significance of this is generally missed. Many are expecting Jesus to return at any moment and looking for a rapture prior to tribulation. I for one am not. I welcome and look forward to His return. I also recognize that it isn’t going to happen until some other events take place. One is multitudes from Egypt worshipping Him, as I noted at the beginning, but of much more significance is Israel recognizing Him as their long awaited Messiah. So, not matter how much I may long for Jesus to return now, if I want Him to return I would do well to intercede for the salvation of Israel.  

I will take this further in my next post but for now I encourage you to join me in being a watchmen on the wall for Israel and praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
They shall never hold their peace day or night.
You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent,
And give Him no rest till He establishes
And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7 NKJV)

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.” (Psalm 122:6-7)

 (Isaiah 62:6-7Psalm 122:6-7).

Wisdom and Revelation Part 1

About thirty years ago, yes I am getting old, I wrote an article about the importance of Ephesians as a template for the end time church. I still believe that. While I won’t cover all the areas here, I will focus in on Paul’s two great apostolic prayers in chapters 1 and 3. In chapter 1 Paul focuses on the need for ongoing wisdom and revelation to know the Father’s heart and in chapter 3 he focuses on the need for a strengthened inner being to be able to know Jesus love in an experiential way.

We start with Paul’s two prayers.

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, Ephesians 1:17 (NKJV)

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14–19 (NKJV)

To begin delving into these verses a couple of points need to be made. Paul was praying that the Ephesian believers would have experiences he had already had. He wasn’t presenting a theory. Secondly, his message and prayers were for a corporate body. He wanted the congregation to have these encounters.

To understand Paul’s prayer for wisdom and revelation it is helpful to see the importance of each. They can be compared to the gifts of a word of knowledge and a word of wisdom in 1 Corinthians 12:7-8. Most people that I know who embrace the spiritual gifts for today place a high value on words of knowledge. A revelation of something about an individual. Note however that Paul places wisdom first. The significance is that revelation is a ‘what’ while wisdom is a ‘how.’ Think of it as going to the doctor and receiving an accurate diagnosis but no treatment. If I have an undiagnosed affliction it is helpful to know what it is, it is even more helpful to know how to treat it.

I will share an example. A few years ago in a small group I was helping to lead I had a sense that a young lady had a prophetic gift that needed to be released (revelation). I took my friend Ivan and explained what I sensed and asked if we could pray for this gift to be released in her. She had no grid for what I was sharing but was open. We prayed for a prophetic release then I asked her to join us in praying for someone else, which we did. I then asked if she had received anything. She said no. I sensed she had so asked her to simply share what was on her heart. She did and gave very accurate details about the other person’s life.

In breaking this encounter down further there was revelation, a what, about something inherent in her but not yet released or activated. The wisdom came in both praying for the release of the gift followed by an opportunity to exercise it and see it released. Paul knew that on an ongoing basis we as the church needed to know both what and how to fulfill Jesus calling and purpose, in every age. Hence his prayer.

In our present hour there is much that is happening politically and culturally. We need wisdom and revelation to navigate what is taking place within the church and our culture. However, to do this effectively we also need to walk in the love that Paul prayed for in Ephesians 3. I will cover that in my next post.