Understanding the Times Part 1

Many of us can reference or quote 1 Chronicles 12:32.

32  of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command; 1 Chronicles 12:32 (NKJV)

There are two parts to this verse. Understanding the times and knowing what to do. Understanding the times means looking at the circumstances and discerning what the Spirit is saying and doing in this hour. Knowing what to do is responding with His wisdom. In this current season with a worldwide pandemic declared the strategy of the enemy is easy to see. He seeks to sow fear, division and the like. As the church we are called to battle fear by releasing peace and healing.

Now is the time dig deeper foundations in God, going deeper in His word and pursuing a deeper relationship with Him. It is time to strengthen the relationships around us. If this has not been our pattern, we need to start. We need to use times of relative calm to prepare for times of battle. For example, I was part of a Zoom online conference call yesterday with over 2,000 people across our nation, praying, repenting and having communion together. A major goal was to increase unity in the church across our nation and lift Jesus up.

The Lord has seasons and things are not always what they appear to be. An example of this is a post I saw from an exercise specialist. He posted a comment that he was building muscle and the accompanying photo was of him sitting on a dock with a drink looking out at the ocean. He understood. He had exercised hard the previous day and broke down his muscle tissue. Now at rest he was recovering and building new muscle. He knew the benefits from the workout come after the workout, in the recovery period.

Currently lives have been and are being disrupted on a massive scale. If our goal is to wait this out and get back to normal we need to abandon it! This is a workout for our spiritual muscles that will lead to some recovery and growth time before we need a greater workout. The Father has given us an opportunity to examine our priorities and make needed shifts in our lives. If we choose to take it we will be prepared for the next thing. If not…

Sheep Into Horses

Have you ever wondered how to turn sheep into horses? No I am not talking about evolution: this is more akin to revolution. In general Christians, like the nation of Israel, are often referred to as sheep. We have Psalm 23 with the Lord’s people being the sheep and Him the Shepherd. We have Jesus affirming this in John 10 saying He is the good shepherd. We also have Jesus restoring Peter in John 21 referring to His people as sheep. Suffice to say this is a well established teaching and perspective, nor is it a wrong one. Yet we have this interesting verse.

Zechariah 10:3 (NKJV)
3  “My anger is kindled against the shepherds, And I will punish the goatherds. For the LORD of hosts will visit His flock, The house of Judah, And will make them as His royal horse in the battle.”

In the church believers are frequently referred to as sheep, and treated that way, herded into pens and fed once or twice a week. There are varying degrees of leadership and mindsets that drive that leadership. While some leadership is very effective we are all deceiving ourselves if we think we can lead as effectively and with the same wisdom as Jesus. He alone can make sheep like horses in battle.

The current situation is a bit like Joshua’s encounter (Josh. 5:13-15). The Lord had trained Joshua through Moses, displayed His power through Joshua in the crossing of the Jordan, the people had been circumcised, and now Joshua meets a warrior with a drawn sword. Joshua wants to know whose side the warrior is on. It is the Lord and in essence He says, “I didn’t come to take side, I came to take over.”

While Jesus is always present in our services the environment shifts when our experience moves from His omnipresence to His manifest presence. When He begins to move on our hearts and manifest His glory our responsibility is to bow our hearts and knees and passionately walk in obedience. Presently, like the sons of Issachar, we need to know times and seasons and know what to do (1 Chron. 12:32). I believe it is time for His church to arise and shine (Is. 60:1-2). As darkness has been increasing in our nation I believe a shift is available for hungry hearts. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice (Jn. 10:3, 16). Do we hear Him calling us to be a horse in His battle? Is this our heart cry? If it is let us join in this ancient prayer.

1  Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence – 2  As fire burns brushwood, As fire causes water to boil – To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence! 3  When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, The mountains shook at Your presence. 4  For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. Isaiah 64:1-4 (NKJV)

We Will Ride by Andy Park

Authority in Intercession

Most of us are likely aware that every moment of every day we have radio and TV signals constantly passing by and moving around us. While we cannot see them we do have scientific ways to measure them and know that they are part of the material world. There are also varying degrees of concern around how they affect our bodies.

In a similar manner we have all kinds of things happening around us in the immaterial realm, the spirit realm. For the most part we likely have less concern about this activity even though it has a greater effect on us.

We begin to understand the activity of the invisible realm by highlighting two different prophetic perspectives, looking at what Isaiah and Habakkuk saw as they gazed into the spirit realm. Isaiah preceded Habakkuk in terms of when they wrote (Isaiah roughly 760-695 BC, Habakkuk about 625 BC).

3  And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” Isaiah 6:3 (NKJV)

14  For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14 (NKJV)

The creatures around the throne see the whole earth as filled with His glory because they see from heaven’s perspective. Habakkuk saw that a time was coming when God’s glory would be revealed to all. This is the prophetic context revealing the nature of God’s kingdom. Jesus purchased our freedom and will return to set up His kingdom, a final removal of evil is assured but in the meantime we need to accept and know how to function in the already/not yet kingdom where evil is still present affecting our daily lives.

The effect of this conflict of kingdoms is evident in scripture. Paul knew the importance of this and let us see that we wrestle with spiritual forces in heavenly places that seek to convince us of our impotence and ineffectiveness in this battle (Eph. 6:12-13, Col. 1:13). Ephesians 6 informs us that we have protection in the battle when we put on His armour. Our primary weapon is the truth of scripture, the sword of the Spirit and our ability to wield it in the places of prayer and proclamation (Eph. 6:17-19).

Paul shows us the reality of the spiritual battle in his own life when he acknowledged being hindered by Satan.

18  Therefore we wanted to come to you – even I, Paul, time and again – but Satan hindered us. 1 Thessalonians 2:18 (NKJV)   

Acts 17:1-9 lays out what happened at Thessalonica. We see opposition to the gospel arising in the form of people’s behaviour but Paul was conscious that their actions were initiated by Satan. He didn’t say he was hindered by people. There is angelic and demonic activity happening around us all the time and we see it manifest in the behaviour of people. Our primary tool to counter this is prayer and the proclamation of truth to people and to the heavenly realm surrounding us.

Let us do our part to see the earth filled with the knowledge of His glory as the waters cover the sea.

The Law of the Spirit of Life

Paul uses an interesting little phrase in Romans, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”

2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2 (NKJV)

It is one thing to know intellectually that we are free from condemnation and sin and death. It is another to know it experientially. When we were born again the seed of God was planted in our lives. This seed contains our spiritual genetics. We now have Jesus nature within us. If we wonder what the seed looks like as it matures Paul describes it in Galatians 5:22-23. We call it the fruit of the Spirit.

The juxtaposition Paul uses is that there are two laws at work and the power in the law of the Spirit of life frees us from power of the law of sin and death. The law of the Spirit of life is able to overcome sin and death at work in us. Great news if that is our experience.

Let me digress a bit. A law as a general principle is there to create boundaries regarding what it is safe to do. To experience the benefit of the law we need to submit to it. In this case the law of the Spirit of life. This means there are two parts, ours and His. He will work in us, in fact He is always at work in us. The degree of effectiveness comes back to our focus. Paul tells us that if we set our minds on the things of the Spirit we will walk in life and peace and if on the things of the flesh, death (Rom. 8:5-6).

Practically this ‘setting of the mind’ often comes down to the little things. When in conversation if we start to head in a certain direction and the Spirit is saying stop (this is an internal sense, a check in our spirit) and we keep going we are heading toward sin and death. If we stop we experience life and peace. We can apply this in a variety of areas of our life – what we think about, what we watch, how we treat others.

When we set our mind on the things of the Spirit we experience the law of the Spirit of life overpowering the law of sin and death. Let’s fix our minds there and show the world Jesus.  

Thinking Within

In my last post I referenced the importance of thinking and our imagination. In response a friend posted a comment that included the following, “The importance of a sanctified imagination.” I read this comment and it has been with me for days. In our walk with Jesus our thinking is critical, and is highlighted in Proverbs.

In examining this proverb it is important to compare two versions as when most quote it they refer to how we think in our heart. 

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

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

The NASB is the more accurate translation. The reference is about our inner thoughts. The word translated as heart in the NKJV is actually the Hebrew nephesh, soul.

Proverbs 23:7 is an important verse that presents an important principle in the context of verses 1-2. The context provides both wisdom and warning, for who of us doesn’t entertain the fantasy of knowing the ‘important’ people? Who would not have his ego ‘stroked’ by their attention? Solomon recognized this.

1  When you sit down to eat with a ruler, Consider carefully what is before you; 2  And put a knife to your throat If you are a man given to appetite. Proverbs 23:1-2 (NKJV)

The phrase ‘given to appetite’ translated more accurately would be ‘ruled/mastered by your soul.’ The word ‘appetite’ is also the Hebrew nephesh, soul. Solomon is saying the degree of control our appetites have over us is connected to how we think. This connection leads us to verse 7 which contains a key idea about the impact of our thought life.

If we focus on a soulish desire to be seen as ‘important’ in the eyes of others we will concentrate on their assessments and this is what we will think about. IF we root our thought life in the renewed and renewing mind of Christ, we will embrace His assessment of us.

The importance of this is found in the word translated ‘thinks’ in verse 7. It is the Hebrew word shāʿar and in addition to referring to our thinking also means to act as a gatekeeper. What Solomon is saying is that the way we think, what we open or close the gate to, determines who we are. Years ago I read something by A. W. Tozer talking about taking responsibility for our thought life. He said, “You may not be able to keep a bird from landing on your head but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.”  

Tozer’s idea echoes Solomon. The enemy or our flesh may initiate things in our thought life. Our responsibility is to shoo them away and close the gate.

Abiding

Jesus said,

4  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. John 15:4 (NKJV)

If we want to bear fruit we need to learn to abide. If we approach the metaphor from the perspective of agriculture it is clear that branches that are not connected to life giving vines cannot produce fruit, even though for a season we may be able to produce a semblance of life.

For example, one spring I cut down a large willow tree. I left a four foot portion of the trunk lying on the patio. In a couple of weeks small leaves appeared on the side of the prone trunk. There was the remnant of life in the trunk, but in a few days the leaves withered. The trunk was no longer connected to life giving roots.

Beyond the obvious practical need to abide to produce life, we need to know how to abide. With that in mind I will look at one tool to aid in abiding, our imagination. Isaiah said something very interesting and I have included a couple of translations to bring out the shades of meaning in this verse.

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

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

3  An imagination supported Thou fortifiest peace -peace! For in Thee it is confident. Isaiah 26:3 (YLT)

The Amplified translation brings out the idea of inclination and character while Young’s Literal Translation correctly informs us that the Hebrew word here for ‘mind’ actually refers to our imagination, or more specifically how our thoughts are formed. Our thought life is a powerful tool to deepen our walk with Jesus or draw us away. So, allow me to take the presentation in the different translations above further and offer my own.

3  You will keep him in deep peace, Whose imagination is fixed upon You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

The idea here is the need to take control of our thought life. Doing this requires that we be intentional regarding the use of our mind. My friend Evelyn used to warn me, and others, of the need to avoid passivity in our thought life. We are in a spiritual battle and when we let down our guard and let our thoughts wander we cease to abide. If we recognize what is happening we have an opportunity to pull our thoughts back. When we fix our thoughts on Him He responds by imparting peace to our hearts.