In His Image Part 2

In my last post I referenced being made in His image as Yahweh’s image bearers and I referenced capacity. That is what I want to focus on here – capacity. We are told the following in scripture.

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)

Here Jesus is quoting from a combination of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and telling us what we are called to do with the capacity we have been given.

5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 (NKJV)

18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18 (NKJV)

            Jesus’ instruction here is wholistic and not a new command for His hearers. They were familiar with the exhortation, as I am sure we are as well. We too have a responsibility and calling to love Yahweh with all of our being. Sadly, one of the neglected aspects in the broader evangelical church is the mind. We can be passionate about worship, that is enjoyable. We can express love with our body in activities like worship and service. We exercise our will in these activities. Yet we are also called to love Him with our mind.   

Loving Yahweh with our mind is something that Paul stressed and said that as believers it is key in our spiritual growth and development.

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)

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)

A note here for those of you who may be inclined to do some research, the Greek words for mind in Matthew 22 and Romans 12 are not the same word, (dianoia and nous respectively), as Matthew and Paul were different writers, dianoia and nous are however synonyms and both refer to our mind, understanding or disposition. Now back to what Paul is teaching us. We are to present our bodies, our physical faculties and attributes to God. I provided two translations for the following reason. While ‘reasonable service’ in the NKJV is the more literal rendering, many translators believe the intended meaning is what we have in the ESV, ‘spiritual worship.’ Putting the two ideas together, Paul is saying here that presenting our bodies simply makes sense as an act of worship. He then informs us that the use of our body will undergo a transformation when our mind is renewed.

            Paul’s idea of the importance of our minds is not new. In the Old Testament we have Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes referred to as ‘wisdom literature.’ There are many exhortations to thinking throughout scripture and if we never had people who valued the use of their minds in the service of God, we would not have a bible or the scholarly work on the original languages and the resulting translations we have today.  

            We can thus conclude that not only are our mental capacities a gift from Yahweh, He wants us to use them in His service. This means understanding His word, understanding what the gospel message is and how to present it. It means being willing to think deeply about important spiritual and cultural matters. This is particularly relevant when our present culture tends to elevate feeling over thinking in engaging in many types of ‘unreasonable service’ in the things they worship. Which is not what we as the church should be either modeling or following.

            To take the place God has designed for us in our culture we need to use our minds to glorify Him in our words and actions. He wants us to represent, or re-present, Him well and that includes accepting our responsibility as image bearers to use our intellectual capacity well in the furtherance of His kingdom and for His glory, whatever our vocation and calling in life.

            A final note. My purpose here is encouragement not guilt. As I pointed out at the beginning, He wants each of us to use our minds based on the capacity He has given us. For me that means constantly reading and researching and seeking to understand theological and spiritual truth. For others it may mean meditating on a particular verse or passage of scripture for an extended period of time. We are not all called to teach, we are all called to learn.

How Worldviews Shift – Part 3

            In my last post I noted that I would look at the process in personally shifting our worldviews. While Peter’s worldview shift required a dramatic intervention, as did Paul’s initial change, his ‘Road to Damascus’ experience, they needn’t be that dramatic or intense. Paul and Peter’s were thrust upon them. I suggest we embrace the option of choosing ours and here I lay out how.

            As I highlighted in my worldview book, our tendency is to ‘think with rather than about our worldview.’ Essentially, ‘we don’t know what we don’t know.’ While that is obvious, moving beyond it requires intention and effort on our part. I am going to go a bit deeper than we usually do in normal discourse to highlight this issue. Presently in our Western culture there is a tendency to highlight feelings over facts. The absurdity of this can be seen in the sadly popular idea of ‘speaking our truth.’ Truth is something that coheres with reality but we have undergone a cultural shift where many have relabelled their experiences and perspectives as ‘truth.’ The precursor to this was the idea ‘that may be true for you but it’s not true for me.’ Perspectives have been labeled truth, which is a falsehood. We may believe a falsehood to be true but that won’t magically make it so.

            In the cultural quagmire that we find ourselves in it can be difficult to discern the right road and recognize the impact our culture has on shaping our worldview. To engage in thinking about our worldview we begin looking at the ideas of presuppositions and plausibility structures. Presuppositions are part of our worldview, ideas that we hold to be true. Plausibility structures are ideas we hold about what is possible or probable. Here are scriptural examples of both presuppositions and plausibility structures. We begin with Paul and then move to a distraught father.

3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:3–6 (NKJV)

23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:23–24 (NKJV)

Paul believed that in persecuting the Christians he was doing God a favour when in fact his presupposition, what he held to be true, was the opposite of reality. He was even daily praying to the one he was persecuting! This is an example of someone believing something to be true that was in fact false. The belief system Paul was persecuting was in fact the solution, not the problem he believed it to be. The distraught father held that it was plausible for healing to take place, he just needed to see it happen for his son to shift from the plausible to the actual.

            In both cases a worldview shift took place. Personally, I have gone through many over the years. I believe that is because of two factors. One, I have pursued truth and understanding in and of the scriptures. Two, I am open to being wrong. I used to tell my staff at work to feel free to challenge my thinking because I had no illusion that I was right all the time. Many did and collectively it led to better decisions. Yet, this wasn’t always the case, when I was younger, I used to believe that there was the way I did things then a number of wrong ways!

            The shift for me was a combination of life experience and reflection. Which brings us to how we shift our worldviews. Paul didn’t recognize that his worldview was wrong until confronted by a reality he was denying. Yet had he reflected and studied the scriptures with an open rather than an angry heart (Acts 9:1-2) he may not have needed to be confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus, he could have had the same experience as the Bereans he later shared the gospel with.

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. Acts 17:10–12 (NKJV)

            If we want to align our worldview with the view of scripture, which should be what we all desire, then we need to take the time and reflect on what the scriptures teach. For my worldview book I developed a Worldview Assessment Tool with a rating scale so we could do just that. I won’t reproduce all of it here, however the questions below are a useful tool for our own reflection and assessment. I introduced the idea with a couple of reflective questions followed by a statement of faith and some further questions to assess how we practice and live out our worldview. I encourage you to set aside a bit of time and go through this process. If you find that you need to better align your worldview with scripture, I encourage you to put forth the effort to do so. Keep in mind that part of your worldview is the presuppositions you hold (for example, do you believe the scriptures are your guide for faith and practice?) and your plausibility structures (do you believe it is possible to live by scriptural values?) that affect your choices. We begin here with two reflective questions.

  • Have we chosen our worldview and values or absorbed them?
  • Are we drinking from the cup of the Lord or the cup of our culture? 

Below is a generic Evangelical Statement of Faith from the National Association of Evangelicals.  

National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) Statement of Faith

  • We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
  • We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  • We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.[i]

Reflective Questions regarding the NAE statement that can be used by an individual or discussed in a group.

1) Do you believe these statements to be true?

2) If you answered yes, is there a gap between your beliefs and behaviour compared to one or more of the statements in the Statement of Faith?

3) If there is a gap, do you want to close this gap?

4) If you answered yes to 3

A) What do you need to let go of and leave behind?

B) What steps do you need to take?

C) What will it look like when you have succeeded?

Take some time and reflect, imagine the gap has been closed, now list the steps you took to close it.

[i] Accessed February 29, 2020

Hope Resurrected

            As we celebrate Resurrection Sunday let’s us turn to the scriptures in hope. In doing so I first want to reflect on the crucifixion. Obviously, there would have been no resurrection without Jesus sacrificial death. His body died that day on the cross. He was the sacrificial lamb on our behalf (1 Peter 1:17-21, Revelation 13:8). However, a number of other things died as well. The hopes and dreams of His followers died. Whether that was ruling and reigning with Jesus over Rome, or as in the case of Mary, simply being with Him, those hopes perished. We will come back to this.

Now, while we generally turn to the gospels for the resurrection, I am looking at Romans. It is in the letters of the New Testament that we see the impact of the resurrection. Paul made some interesting statements that highlight this fact.

22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. Romans 4:22–25 (NKJV)

Here is the Greek word that we translate as justification – δικαίωσις dikaiōsis; the act of pronouncing righteous, acquittal: – justification (2).[1]

The context here is Paul explaining how Abraham was treated as righteous by Yahweh due to his faith. Righteousness was accounted, or put to his account. Paul then says righteousness is charged to our account as well when we embrace Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. He then makes an interesting statement. Jesus was ‘delivered up because of our offenses.’ Here he is referring to the crucifixion. Jesus’ sacrifice was to pay the penalty for our sins. The next statement is even more interesting. Paul says Jesus was ‘raised because of our justification.’ Justification is a legal term and linked to righteousness. We are declared righteous because the Father is legally justified in doing so due to Jesus’ sacrifice. The efficacy of Jesus sacrifice was validated by the resurrection.

           This is why earlier in Romans Paul presented the gospel as a revelation of the righteousness of God.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16–17 (NKJV)

Here is the Greek word that we translate as righteousness – δικαιοσύνη dikaiosunē; from 1342; righteousness, justice: – right (1), righteousness (90).[2]

The gospel, the good news is that God is in fact just and right in extending salvation to us because of what Jesus accomplished.

            Now we come back to other things that have died. In Romans 4 Paul uses Abraham’s faith to point to the crucifixion and resurrection so we need to look at what Abraham believed and then experienced. The context was Abraham and Sarah not having a child. Paul tells us that at this point in their lives the ability to conceive a child had died in both of them. Yet, by faith it was restored, resurrected if you will! As we reflect on that and the impact of Jesus resurrection, I think we need to go beyond the legal aspects of righteousness and justification. I believe we need to be like Abraham and look full in the face of hopes and dreams that have died and then look to the lamb to believe for their resurrection! Paul encourages us to do with these words.

32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:32 (NKJV)

Let’s look to the Lamb.

Look to the Lamb song

Jesus Culture, Lindy Cofer, Bryan & Katie Torwalt – Look To The Lamb (Official Visualizer) – Bing video

[1] Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

[2] Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

A Functioning Body Part 5

            In this concluding post I come back to some key verses in Ephesians and Colossians. Paul says in Ephesians that everything will ultimately be summed up in Christ. He lays out the goal of the Father.

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him. Ephesians 1:7–10 (NKJV)

Everything in heaven and earth will reach a conclusion in Jesus. Later in the same chapter (verses 16-23) Paul prays for a spirit of wisdom and revelation for believers, praying that our spiritual eyes would be opened to see what our calling is all about and that Jesus is seated in heavenly places far above the spiritual forces we are battling. Paul then informs us that we are seated there with Him.

6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,         Ephesians 2:6 (NKJV)

We are to battle from victory, nor for victory.

            That we are still in a battle is very evident, as Paul notes in Colossians.

27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. 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 1:27–2:3 (NKJV)

The ‘them’ in 1:27 is us, the saints. Thematically Paul focuses on both us in Christ and Christ in us, which is what Jesus taught in John 14:20, that He was in the Father and we in Him and He in us. Paul’s battle, his ‘great conflict’ in his prayer, teaching and preaching was to get us to realize these truths and come to maturity, to a full assurance of the reality of that Jesus is both in us and that He is the source of all wisdom and knowledge.    

            If we as the body of Christ are to function as He designed, we need those called as leaders to draw out the gifts and callings in the rest of the body. We need them to create an environment where these gifts can be expressed and we need to realize the Father’s ultimate intention, to sum up everything in Christ. To accomplish these goals, we need an experiential awareness of two things. First, of Christ in us leading and guiding, second that we are in fact seated with Him in heavenly places, operating from a place of assured victory. If we do these things and do them well, we will be a functioning body.

A Functioning Body Part 3

In my last post I referenced the role of leaders and the responsibility they carry. Here I want to look at what can and should happen when leaders draw out the gifts in others and create an environment that makes space to accommodate their use when the body gathers. Warning, our responsibility is not to take up space in a seat on a Sunday or Wednesday! I have a friend who was converted during the Jesus Movement and he naturally started reading the bible. He then went to a church service with a friend and at one point got his friend’s attention, pointed at the platform, and said, “I don’t know what this is but this isn’t that.” He was referring to the difference between what he read in scripture and what he saw on the platform.

            To be clear, I am not suggesting that we all need to wear first century garb and the men grow long beards. I am saying that there is generally a significant difference between what we read in scripture and what we encounter in the vast majority of our services. We do what we have been taught and what has been modeled for us and from there we get what we have. The problem, from my perspective, is that though we have many things, we don’t have what we should have, the body released and empowered. Here is a quote from a book I recently reread that describes what happens when people are empowered to walk in their gifts and calling.

Calvary Chapel grew so quickly because all the little workers were out working because they were empowered. And that’s what God used Lonnie for. Chuck Smith Jr. said in the first year Calvary Chapel went from a little over two hundred people to two thousand people. At what became the Vineyard in Yorba Linda, when the Holy Spirit fell on Mother’s Day, our church went from three hundred to twenty-seven hundred in nine months. It was crazy! That didn’t happen because of great sermons. That happened because the body of Christ was empowered, activated, and commissioned to go out and do the work of the ministry. I’m a product of that. I’m part of the legacy of what Lonnie’s life produced. I’m a businessman and a family man, but I also have a burning desire to do all that I can for God, to make known what I’ve experienced in God, everywhere that I go. I want to go to the ends of the world and preach the gospel.

Frisbee, Lonnie; Sachs, Roger. Not By Might Nor By Power: Set Free (p. 273). Kindle Edition.

You may tell me that this was a unique season in the body of Christ. Perhaps it was. Yet it is what my heart longs to see. I also think it was what was happening in the New Testament. To be clear, I am not advocating experiences over truth. I think true godly experiences often establish or reinforce truth. What isn’t included in the quote is the emphasis that Calvary Chapel and the early Vineyard had on preaching through the scriptures. The truth of the word was paired with the reality of encountering His presence. Jesus addressed it this way.

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. Matthew 22:29 (NKJV)

The Greek word translated as ‘mistaken’ means to wander or be led astray, to be deceived. Here Jesus was responding to the Sadducees who denied the resurrection and afterlife. His point was that they missed the point because they were neither grounded in the scriptures nor familiar with the power of His presence. Their beliefs had led them astray from the truth in both their theology and experience.    

            I have long believed that at the end of the age we will see a church focused not on power or the word but a church focused on power and the word. A body that is deeply grounded in His word and walks in and demonstrates His power and presence. That is the cry of my heart.  

            Now we need to address how we get there. I have previously referred to 1 Corinthians 12-14. Chapter 12 outlines various gifts of the Spirit available to us as His children. Chapter 13 highlights love as the motivation we should have for the use of spiritual gifts. A side note here. Paul was writing to the church at Corinth and addressed their misuse of spiritual gifts. His solution to the misuse of them wasn’t to ask them to take a break. Just the opposite, he instead encouraged them to further pursue the gifts (14:1) while explaining how they were to function when the body gathered. That is the focus of chapter 14. Paul focused primarily on the use of tongues and prophecy because they were the primary issue. I am not going to going over every aspect of what Paul wrote but I will focus in on a few verses that capture the core of what we need to know and understand in order to see the body empowered.

26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:26–33 (NKJV)

            In this passage the responsibility of leadership is not to do everything. It is to provide oversight to the ministry of the body to one another. Paul’s expectation was that when the body met each person would bring something; a song, teaching, revelation or interpretation to strengthen the others. Leadership was to facilitate not dominate this process. Inherent in the passage is an expectation that people knew one another and the spiritual gifts they carried. These gifts were to be shared with others. We needn’t fear that scripture was violated if four individuals had a message in tongues or a prophetic word. Paul’s point was there needed to be a mutual submission to one another’s gifts and a discerning of when to speak and when to be silent. His expression, ‘let the first keep silent’ addressed the need for a respect for others and a submission to leadership.    

            While this is likely quite different from what most of us experience when the church gathers, I believe it was more normative for the early church and should be for us as well. Will getting there require change and adjustments in how we function and relate to one another? Certainly. Is it worth attempting to experience more of His presence and see the church empowered and touching the culture around us? Yes!

            Join me in sharing these ideas and praying for their realization as we pursue His heart!

            To be continued.

A Dwelling Place

We have stepped into a new year. Yet I believe we need an old focus as we move through it. The writer of Psalm 132 expresses the passion David carried for a dwelling place for Yahweh.

A Song of Ascents. 1 Remember, O Yahweh, on David’s behalf, All his affliction; 2 How he swore to Yahweh And vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, 3 “Surely I will not come into my house, Nor lie in the comfort of my bed; 4 I will not give sleep to my eyes Or slumber to my eyelids, 5 Until I find a place for Yahweh, A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” 6 Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah, We found it in the fields of Jaar. 7 Let us come into His dwelling place; Let us worship at the footstool of His feet. 8 Arise, O Yahweh, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. 9 Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, And let Your holy ones sing for joy. Psalm 132:1-9 LSB

Just as a house needs a foundation for the rest to be built upon, and to stay in place a ship needs an anchor, so too, we need to look at what we anchor and build our worship on. Not only our faith, but a major aspect of it, our worship. Here the Psalmist sought to anchor the future in the heart that David carried and his passion to see a dwelling place established for Yahweh.

One thing this Psalm tells us is that we need to seek His face and heart. This is always true yet as His body we seem to engage in it only intermittently. Here David’s passion was to see a place for Yahweh to dwell and interact with His people, a place of encounter where heaven met earth.

In our time we don’t need to build a dwelling place, we need to understand how to individually and corporately be a dwelling place! After all we know from the New Testament that we are in fact His dwelling place on earth in this season of time.

16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 (NKJV)

19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (NKJV)

In these two passages Paul gives both a warning and an exhortation. The context in chapter 3 is the Corinthians demonstrating immaturity by exhibiting selfishness and division in their gatherings. The context is chapter 6 is their defiling Yahweh’s temple through sexual immorality. It is clear from both of these passages that as a group of believers the Corinthians were in danger and seemed not to have recognized that, hence Paul’s warnings.

I believe and pray that we will have a greater awareness of the importance of being His dwelling place on earth and that it will affect how we live our lives before Jesus and before others. It should be very obvious that we cannot walk in sexual immorality and the Father’s favour at the same time, they are mutually exclusive. Most of the church seems to easily get this reality. Yet if we allow division and competition we are in just as much danger. In fact, Paul’s warning is stronger in 3:17 where he warns, “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.” Here Paul is addressing envy, strife and division (3:3).   

            This tells us that we need to walk in love and unity to know the benefit of being His dwelling place. This is a key aspect of our worship. It does no good to stand beside a fellow believer on Sunday morning and sing if at other times I am engaged in strife with them. My singing will not bring His favour, my honouring my fellow believer will. Let’s have David’s passion for Yahweh’s dwelling place and see it demonstrated by walking in love and unity. Then we will see His manifest presence resting on us and expressed through us as His dwelling place on earth! We might call that what many of us regularly pray for, revival.

Rivers of Living Water

The idea of life-giving water is found in a number of places in scripture with key passages about it found at the beginning and end, Genesis and Revelation (see also Ezekiel 47:1-12).

10 Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. Genesis 2:10 (NKJV)

1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Revelation 22:1 (NKJV)

Now I don’t know if you have considered this, but Eden was not all of the garden. The rivers flowed from Eden and watered the garden. To get a better understanding of Eden we need to move ahead a bit in scripture.

13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. 14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. Ezekiel 28:13–14 (NKJV)

Here we see that Eden was a holy mountain in the garden and that the ‘anointed cherub’ was there and ‘covered.’ The mountain was Yahweh’s dwelling place on earth, the site of His throne, the place where heaven met earth. In the culture of the day when Genesis was written throne guardians covered/guarded thrones. This anointed cherub was Lucifer, the light bearer who became Satan, the adversary. His role was to protect the throne but he rebelled and attacked the throne.

If we take this a little further, water flows down from mountains and becomes streams and rivers that eventually flow into oceans. Water is a source of life and growth. From Eden, the throne, flowed the source of life for the garden. This was the beginning, and as we see from the quote from Revelation, Yahweh’s throne is again depicted as the source of the water of life at the end when heaven is fully joined to earth.

1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Revelation 22:1 (NKJV)

Yet in scripture Jesus pointed us to another place that living water is to flow from. The place that is to be His present dwelling place on earth – us!

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37–39 (NKJV)

Jesus taught that as a result of the new birth and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that He would flow as living water out from the thirsty. A key point in this passage is that if we want living water to flow forth from us, we must first be thirsty! Jesus said that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be filled (Matthew 5:6). Isaiah invited all who thirst to come to the water (Isaiah 55:1). As we thirst, we drink and what we drink flows out from us.

One of the ways we express our thirst is through worship. In my experience and that of others, worship stirs something up in me and as a result of my thirst living water flows out from me to touch others. It may touch them through intercession, practical help or prayer ministry to them. The important point is that our thirst releases something to bless others, His life flows out from us! When we have enough thirsty people releasing enough water, we change the spiritual environment in our homes and communities. If we want to see change this coming year then recognize that the more we thirst and come to Him to drink, the more living water flows through us to those around us. In the kingdom economy what we thirst for we release! Pray for a deep thirst!


Of the many interesting and important things Jesus said, the following two are relevant to introduce our subject, Presence.

8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. Luke 16:8 (NKJV)

16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16 (NKJV)

Here Jesus encourages us to be as wise as the world around us. He doesn’t tell us to function as them, hence His exhortation to be ‘wise as serpents and harmless as doves.’ We are to exercise godly wisdom in the world, not behave like the world in our daily interactions.

As we look at Presence, first some background that relates to the scripture references above. While Christmas shopping, I saw an ad prominently displayed on a large screen in a store, “Here for the Presence.” Now, as a public service announcement, I don’t recommend going to a mall in the afternoon in mid December! However, as I had done that, I had plenty of time to reflect on the ad while waiting in line. That aside, the ad caught my attention and stirred my heart. Some clever marketer hit on promoting the idea that people came to this store not merely to shop but to experience a certain atmosphere, a presence in that place. Which meant there had to be something beyond the merchandise drawing them. That could have been being part of a certain subculture, a sense of identity and belonging.

In my brief interactions with the staff, I also sensed that they also were attempting to create a presence. The ad and behaviour were aligned and it was reflected in the long line up at the sales counter. There was congruence between the stated goal of the ad, ‘presence,’ and the behaviour of the staff. Thus, while still in line I put a note in my phone as I wanted to write about what I had encountered.

In my reflections I began to think about our gatherings as His body and wondered what drew us and whether we intentionally sought to create an atmosphere that would draw His Presence. My qualifier here is that there is a difference between the Lord’s omnipresence and the degrees of His manifest presence. I am focused on the latter. In my experience, with some notable exceptions, most events I have attended over the decades have focused more on gathering people than drawing presence. While we need people, we need them to encounter Jesus when we draw them. I deeply believe we should focus more on aligning all we do to draw His presence. I think we need to spend more time in corporate worship and prayer, seeking to bless the Father’s heart. I believe we need to create space for more to share their hearts and learn how to minster to one another as a body.

I believe that if we think and practice along these lines, we will draw His Presence and His Presence will draw us. Why not build our gatherings around Jesus’ agenda and engage in a wholehearted pursuit of His Presence the way it is reflected in scripture.

4 One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4 (NKJV)

8 When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Psalm 27:8 (NKJV)

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

11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)

Here is a song reflecting a heart desire for His Presence.

 Lord Let Your Glory Fall

The Church Part 5

I noted in my last post that here I would address what a gathering might look like based on what Paul taught to the Corinthians, the focus of Paul’s prayers in some of his letters and the role and importance of church discipline in fulfilling our mandate to represent (re-present) Jesus to one another and the world around us.

I begin with a verse in 1 Corinthians that I am often drawn to reflect on. A perspective from Paul that reflects the Lord’s heart and that I believe we need to find a way to operationalize when we gather.  

26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV)

First the context. Paul is referencing the gathering of the ekklesia. ‘Come together’ is a single word in Greek and it means to gather or assemble. What is important is what Paul says should happen. Different ones are to bring different gifts to share with the rest of the body. Paul qualifies the purpose of these various gifts – the building up of the body. Yet his view is not that one person would dominate a gathering, rather that leaders would create an environment where many would share and everyone would be blessed. In most church services does that happen? Does everyone feel they have an opportunity to hear from the Lord and share or have we primarily scheduled the Spirit out of our services?

I acknowledge that many good things happen in most church services on a Sunday morning or whenever people gather. Yet I believe that they can be much better. I believe that we can shift our focus so that more are involved and exercising their gifts and the body as a whole is being blessed in the process. I will return to this but first a shift to Paul’s heart for the ekklesia.

Galatians was Paul’s first letter. In it he expressed what I believe was, and remained throughout his life, his apostolic heart cry. The prayers in his later letters are anchored in this verse. Here is what I have long seen as Paul’s apostolic heart cry.  

19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV)

The ‘you’ is plural and his entire focus was on seeing Jesus formed in the ekklesia. He expressed it this way in Colossians.

27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. Colossians 1:27–29 (NKJV)

This is what Paul laboured for and we see it reflected in his prayers. Please read and prayerfully consider how these prayers apply to the ekklesia, a corporate body meant to reflect Jesus to a dying world.

16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my 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, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power Ephesians 1:16–19 (NKJV)

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19–22 (NKJV)

3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. Philippians 1:3–7 (NKJV)

9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; Colossians 1:9–11 (NKJV)

Paul’s heart cry was for wisdom and revelation, spiritual understanding and an awareness that we were being built into a spiritual house. In Ephesians 4:16 Paul said the body of Christ, believers, are “joined and knit together by what every joint supplies” and went on to say that the for the body the grow the work of the various parts must be effective. An important reality is that a joint is a relationship between two parts. As we are effectively joined to others in the body, we build one another up. This ties back to 1 Corinthians 14:26.

To be effective, we need not only relationships, we need healthy ones built on koinonia, genuine fellowship. When this is in place, we create a family environment where relationships are open and respectful. An environment where humour and laughter are honoured. I remember when my son was a teenager and his friends would come over to our house. I used to say I knew his friends were comfortable in our home when they started making fun of me too – which a number of them did. They did it because they felt comfortable and safe to do so and many of them also knew me as their coach in sports. What they never knew me as was authoritarian. While I exercised authority, I also respected them and treated them with dignity.

We now come to our final area. In my first offering in this series, I referenced the following passage and said I would come back to it, so I close addressing these verses.

18 Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. Matthew 18:18–20 (NKJV)

This passage is frequently referenced regarding praying together or agreeing in prayer, fine things in and of themselves. Yet the context is church discipline. The preceding verses deal with how we are to address someone sinning against us by first going to them, then going with witnesses then bringing the matter before the assembly. The reference to ‘two or three’ in the culture is that the creation of a synagogue required ten men. Only two or three were required to constitute the ekklesia because Jesus was also present. Paul knew this and referenced the idea in dealing with disciplinary matters in the church at Corinth.

3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 5:3–5 (NKJV)

Paul went on in chapter 6 (6:1-11) to upbraid the Corinthians for not acting as judges in issues of sin among the ekklesia. I recognize this is difficult in general and in our present culture in particular. I am an administrator in a Christian and Atheist debate group on Facebook. At one point a young fellow joined the group. When I responded to one of his comments with disagreement, he informed me that he was going to report me to Facebook for bullying. I pointed out that he had joined a debate group and people were going to disagree with him. He left the group. While the example may sound extreme, culturally that type of thinking is becoming more the norm with the emerging generation (a good book on the issue is The Coddling of the American Mind).

While addressing issues, in particular sin, is difficult, in a healthy family environment, issues are in fact addressed and dealt with. In our walk with Jesus if we are seeking to create and be part of a kingdom ekklesia, a family, rather than furthering our present church culture, we will find a way. Leaders will foster an environment where we receive support, flow in our gifts and are free to challenge one another.

Following Your Heart

Recently I was again exposed to a short list of ‘Thing Jesus never said’ contrasted with ‘Things Jesus said.’ One point in particular was that Jesus never said to ‘follow your heart.’ While I get the intent behind the phrase, I also find it simplistic and scripturally inaccurate On the occasions that I have challenged the simplistic idea that it may not be entirely wrong to ‘follow your heart’ (I have no issue with the other points) I have received the obvious follow, a reference to Jeremiah 17:9 saying I am wrong because our hearts are ‘deceitfully wicked.’ I don’t want to go too far down a road here but frankly I find a lot of my fellow believers come across as far better at quoting standard scriptures than engaging in some scriptural research and critical thinking.

Now, lest I simply come across as a cranky old man, I have a deep concern, backed up by numerous research studies and polls others have done, that a great many who claim Jesus’ name do not seem to know His word. Granted He has called me to teach so I am more invested in scripture, but I think we all need a level of investment that goes beyond cliché scriptures. Thus, let’s explore the issue of heart from both the Old and New Testaments by looking at some sample scriptures. Here are some scriptures followed by my comments.

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

This seems to support Jeremiah quoting Yahweh as saying our hearts are deceitfully wicked. Yet in context if we read a few verses further we find that Noah was a just man and the ‘intent of the thoughts of his heart’ were not continually evil. Well both Genesis 6 and Jeremiah 17 seem be blanket statements I think they are generalities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 (NKJV)

If our hearts could not be cleansed then David’s prayer of contrition and repentance was not inspired by the Spirit.

1 My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; 2 For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you. 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; Proverbs 3:1–5 (NKJV)

23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

We are enjoined in Proverbs 3 to keep His commands with our heart, to write His law on the tablet of our hearts and trust Him with all our heart. Seemingly summed up in Proverbs 4:23. All things contrary to what can be done with a completely wicked and deceitful heart.

9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)

Here we come to the core verse everyone seems to know without seeming to not know the context. Jeremiah is delivering a message and contrasting those who follow Yahweh with those who do not. The very next verse is always left out.

10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:10

This takes us back to the context. If every heart is deceitfully wicked then the only proper response is judgment for everyone but that is not what we see in Jeremiah’s message. Yahweh is judging good and evil according to their ways.

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 (NKJV)

This is the promise of the new covenant and minimally should teach believers that when we have been born again our heart has been renewed.

7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Acts 15:7–9 (NKJV)

Here Peter teaches that our hearts can be purified through faith in Jesus.

43 “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:43–45 (NKJV)

Here, prior to the inauguration of the new covenant Jesus taught that our hearts could bring forth good our evil depending on the values we had embraced.   

6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NKJV)

Here Paul taught us that it is with our hearts that we encounter Jesus. The heart is where He shines into our lives.

10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:10 (NKJV)

Lastly and most importantly, if all of us have desperately wicked hearts how could any of us ever be saved? After all, Paul is telling us here that our heart is the organ of faith!

In conclusion. If we ignore the whole counsel of God, we can wholeheartedly embrace what is regularly taught from Jeremiah 17:9, that all of us have deceitfully wicked hearts. However, if we embrace scripture, we see that the issue is much more nuanced and that our hearts can follow Jesus and we can follow our hearts. What led to my conversion was that I followed mine right into His presence. If you have not yet done so I invite you to do the same.