Building the Wall Part 1

Whenever we hear teaching regarding the book of Nehemiah the subject of the wall around Jerusalem is generally raised (okay, pun intended). In reading Nehemiah, we discover that his major focus as a leader was the rebuilding of the wall to protect the city. He had a God-given mission birthed in intercession, that was rooted in his concern for Jerusalem. If you are not familiar with the book of Nehemiah, once he started rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, he monitored progress, encouraged others, dealt with opposition and remained focused until the task was complete.

We see Nehemiah’s mission come about in chapter one (1:1-8) when he identified the problem and responded with intercession. In chapter two he acted when given the opportunity to do something about the problem he saw (2:1-8). We see Nehemiah’s motivation here.

3 And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” 4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:3-4 (NKJV)

Let’s connect rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem to rebuilding a scriptural worldview. If you are not familiar with the concept of worldview, think of it like wearing glasses. Our prescription determines how we see. In my book, and daily life, I define worldview simply as, “The lens through which we view and interpret reality.” For us as the church to change our worldview to align with scripture, we, like Nehemiah, first need to do an assessment of the present state of the worldview of the church. This requires an honest look at what Christians believe to understand how badly the “walls” of our worldview have been neglected. Warning, the numbers are sobering and the walls are badly in need of repair!

Here is some of what Christians believe about their world. The following statistics are excerpts from my book, Worldview: The Adventure of Seeing Through Scripture (available on Amazon). The statistics highlight the problem in the church regarding what Christians believe.

In the 2018 State of Theology Study sponsored by Ligonier Ministries, LifeWay Research polled 3,000 Americans and asked them a number of questions about God, Christian ethics and religion in general. They found:

  • 32 percent of those with evangelical beliefs say their religious beliefs are not objectively true.
  • 51 percent of those with evangelical beliefs also believe God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
  • 78 percent of those with evangelical beliefs also believe Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.

Many Americans who hold evangelical beliefs about the Bible, salvation, and Jesus Christ, also hold beliefs that are not (in) keeping with Scripture.[1]

More recent research on worldview continues to paint a bleak picture. Here are some highlights from the 2021 worldview survey completed by George Barna and the Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Arizona and released August 31, 2021. The CRC uses the following categories in their research.

“The segments explored include those who call themselves Christian; self-identified born-again Christians; self-described evangelical Christians; people who theological beliefs establish them as born-again Christians; and people who possess a biblical worldview (referred to as Integrated Disciples).”[2]

The percentages who hold to biblical worldview is very telling. The study found that only 6% of those who claim to be Christian hold to a biblical worldview, that is those who live their beliefs. I won’t go through the data on every category. Samples will suffice. Here is what those who profess to be Christians believe that is at odds with scripture. Among the errant perspectives most widely embraced are:

• 72% argue that people are basically good

• 71% consider feelings, experience, or the input of friends and family as their most trusted sources of moral guidance

• 66% say that having faith matters more than which faith you pursue

• 64% say that all religious faiths are of equal value

• 58% believe that if a person is good enough, or does enough good things, they can earn their way into Heaven

• 58% contend that the Holy Spirit is not a real, living being but is merely a symbol of God’s power, presence, or purity

• 57% believe in karma

• 52% claim that determining moral truth is up to each individual; there are no moral absolutes that apply to everyone, all the time.[3]

By contrast, those who embrace a biblical worldview, the Integrated Disciples, hold to the following. There are a number of issues for which a shockingly large minority of Integrated Disciples challenges biblical principles include the following beliefs:

• 25% say there is no absolute moral truth

• 33% believe in karma

• 39% contend that the Holy Spirit is not a real, living being but is merely a symbol of God’s power, presence, or purity

• 42% believe that having faith matters more than which faith you pursue

• 52% argue that people are basically good[4]

These stats highlight the errant beliefs that the best of the best in the church hold. While the above stats are from the US, there is reason to see a major difference in Canada given how much our two countries are affected by similar cultural and social media influences. This is sadly the present state of the church.

However, if we follow Nehemiah’s process, we in the church can rebuild the wall of our worldview. We can assess our own worldview to identify whether we hold a worldview at odds with scripture (most of us do), seek the Lord in intercession and then respond with a plan of action. To that end in my next post (Part 2) I will look more specifically at a plan of action regarding how we shift our worldview to align with scripture based around Paul’s great apostolic heart cry ‘Until Christ be formed in you’ (Galatians 4:19).


[1] Aaron Earls https://factsandtrends.net/2018/10/26/what-do-evangelicals-believe-about-god/ Accessed March 5, 2019.

[2] CRC_AWVI2021_Release06_Digital_01_20210831.pdf (arizonachristian.edu) Accessed September 24, 2021

[3]  CRC_AWVI2021_Release06_Digital_01_20210831.pdf (arizonachristian.edu) Accessed September 24, 2021

[4] CRC_AWVI2021_Release06_Digital_01_20210831.pdf (arizonachristian.edu) Accessed September 24, 2021

The Transfiguration

In my last post I looked at what was actually taking place in reference to Jesus’ announcement in Matthew 16 regarding the gates of hell. Here we will look at the significance of Jesus transfiguration from two perspectives. The significance of the geographic location and the significance of the timeline in Jesus earthly ministry. 

Like the famous Schwarzenegger movie line, “I’ll be back!” or Nicholson’s “You want the truth, you can’t handle the truth!” another famous movie line came from Clint Eastwood, “Go ahead, make my day.” A line that provoked a response. This is what took place on Mount Hermon, provocation by Jesus, and a response. Understanding this requires a bit of background information. In my recent posts I referenced the descent of some of these fallen supernatural beings, principalities and powers, at Mount Hermon. This was their entry point or gateway to physicality and the further corruption of humanity.  

They had taken on flesh and interacted with humanity at Bashan/Hermon. This was their territory. In Matthew 16 Jesus had announced that He would build His church right at the gate of hell, taking back territory from them. Now Jesus goes further. Matthew 17 presents us with the transfiguration and describes it as follows.

1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Matthew 17:1–3 (NKJV)

Jesus unveiled His glory so that there was no doubt about who He was and He had a meeting with Moses and Elijah, who represent the Law and the Prophets, the Old Testament. Though Bashan/Hermon is not named in the text, it is the only high peak in the area (There is presently a ski hill there that operates in the winter months).

In unveiling His glory on what the spiritual opposition considered their territory Jesus was in effect saying, “Go ahead, make my day” and stirring up spiritual opposition. Knowing the fate awaiting Him at Jerusalem, in being transfigured on Mount Hermon Jesus poked the hornets’ nest and stirred up the spiritual opposition that brought about His crucifixion, leading to His glorious resurrection.

We see the opposition intensify immediately with a counter attack. As soon as Jesus, Peter, James and John descended from the mountain they encounter spiritual opposition in the form of a failure on the part of the other apostles to deliver and heal an epileptic boy. While Jesus immediately brough healing and freedom (Matthew 17:14-18), the previously successful apostles (Mark 6:7-13, Luke 9:1-6) were puzzled by their lack of success (Matthew 17:19). The battle had intensified. In Jesus bringing healing and deliverance to the boy He demonstrated His authority and power over the increased opposition, another provocation. 

We know from Luke 9:31 that in addition to being transfigured Jesus discussed His pending death in Jerusalem with Moses and Elijah, He knew what He was doing. These events were a turning point in the gospel narrative. Jesus from here headed to Jerusalem, had His triumphal entry (Palm Sunday) followed by the rising spiritual and political opposition leading to His arrest and crucifixion. Though Jesus provoked these events to fulfill scripture and His purpose, our redemption, the principalities and powers did not understand what was happening until it was too late. Paul references this in 1 Corinthians.

6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:6–8 (NKJV)

When Paul speaks of the “rulers of this age” he is referencing the evil principalities and powers that opposed Jesus. He uses the same language in Ephesians 6:12 describing the principalities and powers as, “the rulers of the darkness of this age”

In conclusion, Jesus provoked the conflict that led to His crucifixion because He was serving a higher purpose and seeing what needed to transpire from the perspective of His Father. In our walk we may at times need to stir things up, not for the sake of controversy but to walk in obedience. Let’s be found faithful and use our authority to demonstrate and extend His kingdom on the earth.

If you would like more information on these ideas, some of what I have written about recently is covered in the videos series below where Michael Heiser teaches on the origin and significance of what is referred to by many as the Divine Council Worldview (DCW). Dr. Heiser readily acknowledges that while these views are not well known, they are not original to him but are rooted in the extensive writings we now have from the writings of the intertestamental period and are the culture in which our faith was birthed.

Video series with Dr. Heiser teaching – https://www.live-in-context.com/

Seeking Wisdom

Scripture often highlights the importance of wisdom and Proverbs often links wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding He established the heavens; 20 By His knowledge the depths were broken up, And clouds drop down the dew. Proverbs 3:19–20 (NKJV)

3 Through wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; 4 By knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches. Proverbs 24:3–4 (NKJV)

As I have written before I connect these two passages to 1 Corinthians 12:28 where Paul speaks of the importance of apostles, prophets and teachers in building the church. As a practical application I regularly pray for apostolic wisdom, prophetic wisdom and teaching understanding. I see a distinction between practical wisdom, which we all should be seeking, and wisdom from above.

Over the years in conversation, I have many times made the distinction between wisdom and knowledge using the example of being on the road in the path of a moving vehicle. If I simply possess knowledge, I have the awareness that I need to move out of the way. Wisdom is moving. In our current cultural context, we know all of the things coming against the church. We need to apply wisdom to rightly respond. Yet we need more than practical wisdom. We don’t want to set aside or lose practical wisdom, we want to add to it wisdom from above.

James does two things in relation to wisdom, he exhorts us to ask God for it and he also contrasts earthly and godly wisdom, wisdom from above.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 (NKJV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13–18 (NKJV)

In contrasting these two types of wisdom James provides an easy way to discern the source of the wisdom. Earthly wisdom produces confusion, is sensual (literally soulish, in Greek) and doesn’t produce peace. Wisdom from above is marked by meekness (not weakness), purity, gentleness and a willingness to not fight over the wrong things. Wisdom from above is marked by peace rather than contention.

            Now, we need to be careful to not confuse wisdom from above with passivity. Paul demonstrated wisdom from above in Galatians 2 when he publicly confronted Peter over his hypocrisy in relation to the gospel. Most of the New Testament letters are addressing issues in the church, applying wisdom from above. We are called to stand for truth. What James is getting at is not being contentious for the sake of furthering our own agenda.

Now, practical application. As I walk with Jesus, I cannot walk down the road of my culture where it is at odds with Him. This includes the current gender agenda, abortion and numerous other things. If I simply apply practical wisdom, I may speak out against them or simply refuse to endorse them. My actions may be different if I am seeking wisdom from above.

I will share a practical story I heard Steve Thompson share a few years ago. A friend of his was praying about what to do regarding an abortion clinic in his area. The Lord told him to become friends with the owner of the clinic (wisdom from above?). He reached out and began to develop a relationship. Over time he was to meet with the fellow one day and the Lord gave him a vision where he saw the man sitting at his kitchen table contemplating a plate of blue pills. When they met, he shared his vision with the man who ran the abortion clinic. The man who ran the clinic shared that he was suicidal over his lifestyle, repented, gave his heart to Jesus and closed the clinic. Wisdom from above. We may not be engaged in something this dramatic. We do however need to know how to respond to the many things we encounter in our daily walk in our culture. Let’s seek wisdom from above.

Stars?

We are going to look at some reference to stars in the New Testament in terms of what they represent. I think it is easy to miss the point being made if we don’t understand the cultural context.  

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:29–31 (NKJV)

13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Revelation 6:13 (NKJV)

7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:7–8 (NKJV)

It is easy to see the connection between the Matthew and Revelation references but not so easy to see the connection to 1 Corinthians. We will get there and in doing so we will see an already not yet aspect of the kingdom of God. Below is some information regarding how stars were viewed in the scriptural culture.

Star Worship

In the ancient Near East, stars were often worshiped as divine. Although the book of Deuteronomy condemns star worship as idolatry (Deut 4:19; 17:2–5), other passages seem to indicate that the Israelites practiced star worship at times. For instance, in the eighth century bc, the prophet Amos condemned star worship in the northern kingdom (Amos 5:26). Additionally, King Josiah’s reforms of 621 bc (2 Kgs 23:4–14) addressed star worship in the southern kingdom, which had been promoted by Manasseh (2 Kgs 21:3–5; 2 Chr 33:3). – {Edward W. Watson, “Star,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016}.

            The stars in the Matthew and Revelation quotes represent not physical objects but heavenly beings. In this case heavenly beings in opposition to His purposes. When we move to 1 Corinthians 2 and Paul’s theological perspective, we recognize that Paul is also speaking of heavenly beings when he references the ‘rulers of this age.’ The word translated ‘rulers’ is archon in Greek and refers to someone or something as first in rank or power. While it can be used of human rulers that is not how Paul applies the term. In addition to using it in 1 Corinthians 2 Paul uses it in Ephesians 2:2 when he refers to the ‘prince (archon) of the power of the air.’ It is also clear he is not referring to human rulers in 1 Corinthians as he deals with rulers over the ages, extremely long periods of time.

            Thus far what we have is seeing the stars in Matthew and Revelation refer to heavenly beings as does the term rulers in reference to those who crucified Jesus. Humans carried out the crucifixion but it was initiated by the powers of darkens.

We now turn to the already not yet aspect of this idea of falling stars. These heavenly beings orchestrated Jesus’ crucifixion and to their shock the cross was their downfall. We see this in what Paul says in Colossians.

15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Colossians 2:15 (NKJV)

The ‘it’ here refers to the cross. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection broke the power of darkness. However, Jesus then delegated to His church the responsibility to enforce His rule and make disciples from all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). We are called to represent and extend His kingdom until His return.

            The falling stars in Matthew and Revelation, these heavenly beings, were defeated through the cross but still roam the cosmos seeking to destroy the church that Jesus is building. Seeking to prevent their inevitable final destruction. Yet, through these passages we are assured that we will again see them fall, their final fall, at some point in the future. We can be confident of our victory because it is His victory. Jesus has won the battle and will at the end of the age fully enforce His victory.

Whatever we may be facing we know the true source behind troubles in our world and we know that Jesus assures us of the ultimate victory! In the meantime, we are to carry and extend His kingdom wherever we go. Like Jesus let us be ‘about our Father’s business.’

Unscriptural or Unfamiliar

Continuing on the theme of discernment here is a discernment tool the Lord gave to me years ago. I was helping to lead a small group and two friends were going to share with the group that evening on journaling as a way to hear the Lord’s voice. Personally, I have used a journal off and on over the years to record my thoughts. However, I had not used it in the way it was presented that evening nor after the presentation. I did however see it as a useful tool many had used to great effective in their relationship with Jesus.

Having a measure of responsibility for the group I was reflecting on what would be taught as I was driving there with a friend. On the way the Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit and gave me a question to ask the group as an introduction to the teaching. He prompted me to ask the group to reflect on whether what they were about to hear was ‘unscriptural or unfamiliar.’

In the subsequent years I have applied this test regularly and it highlights for me where many run into difficulties. People resist change and new ideas because they like the familiarity of routine, structure and shared worldviews. Routine and structure are good things that help us to organize our lives and move through our days in a somewhat predictable manner. The problem crops up in how we think. In my book, Worldview: The Adventure of Seeing Through Scripture, an idea I highlighted is that we tend to think with instead of about our worldview. Thinking with is fine for our daily activities. Not for more significant issues. Here thinking about needs to be brought into play.

To illustrate the issue, I am part of more than one theological debate group on Facebook. More than once the topic of cessationism (the idea that the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 ceased with the completion of scripture) has come up in opposition to continuationism (the idea that the spiritual gifts are still active in the church today). I have always been a continuationist and in decades of debating the subject, in person or online, I have never heard a sound scriptural argument for cessationism. Yet in my experience few people change their position. There have been prominent examples like Jack Deere or Sam Storms, both well known theologians and both graduates of the famed Dallas Theological Seminary, which is thoroughly cessationist. Over time they re-examined their views and became continuationists, promoting the use of spiritual gifts.

This leads to the need to look at why others do not make the shift, even in the face of strong evidence that undermines their viewpoint. It comes back to thinking with instead of about our worldview. We all hold what are termed plausibility structures, ideas about what is or is not plausible. For example, treating anything that is unfamiliar in relation to our view of scripture as unscriptural is a plausibility structure. Paul referred to them as strongholds, ways of thinking in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6. If we believe that what we have been taught is correct, whether it is from a trusted teacher or elsewhere, we need to make a conscious decision to examine it to shift it.

In this process questions are useful and I am prone to asking people questions around why they believe what they do or whether they are open to change or seeing things differently. A few are able to explore new perspectives while others are so entrenched in their view that even though they may acknowledge they are unable to defend their position from scripture, they continue to hold to it because it is what they ‘believe.’   

 To make a shift in our thinking, to examine whether something is unscriptural or unfamiliar, we need to be reflective. This requires making a conscious choice to step back from our regular practices and thinking and reflect on what has led us to our present beliefs in order to determine whether they align with scripture.

Though we may find the idea daunting, consider those who followed Jesus in the gospels. They had to stand against the familiar beliefs of their culture and embrace beliefs at odds with how the majority of their culture understood scripture. Personally, I am thankful that they didn’t treat the unfamiliar as unscriptural because they followed Jesus and laid the foundation for the faith that I follow. Let’s seek to emulate them.   

Prophetic Words

In my recent book I defined a worldview as “The lens through which we view and interpret reality.” Here I am going to apply that to a verse of scripture. I have provided the verse in two different translations.

3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 1 Corinthians 14:3 (NKJV)

3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 1 Corinthians 14:3 (NIV)

Personal prophecies or personal prophetic words are very prevalent in some segments of the church. Personally, I highly value them and have a running record of many I have received over the years so I can reflect on them and pray regarding them. I find them encouraging and some very challenging.

When we are speaking prophetic words to others we are seeking to hear from and be led by the Holy Spirit. Our words and actions should be a reflection and extension of His words and actions as He speaks to us to build, encourage and comfort. To that end I will address their application.

The lens through which we view personal prophetic words determines how we respond to 1 Corinthians 14:3. One lens I have actually heard applied on more than one occasion is the teaching that prophecy is always given to encourage and comfort (make us feel good) so we can assess the veracity of prophetic words by how they make us feel. I see that as a well intended but at times misguided application of the verse so I will demonstrate the application of 1 Corinthians 14:3 through an example.

The church is often compared to a building so I will use a construction analogy to demonstrate how to understand and apply this verse. Imagine we are building a house and you are my foreman. At one point my job is to install and wire the plugins in a bedroom. You come along and notice two things. First, I have placed the plugins at the correct height, second, I have attached them to the studs beautifully. There is only one issue, I have installed them where the closet is going to go, making them inaccessible and of no use.

Consider your response. Our larger purpose is building the house. I clearly have useful skills that will make the final product a thing of beauty. You can encourage me by pointing out the skills I have demonstrated, tell me I have done it all wrong and that I need to move the plugins, or embrace a third option. You can point out the skills you see that I have demonstrated but also point out my error in placement so that I can better apply my skills in the future.

I see the third option as how prophecy is to be applied. We can encourage others by highlighting what they do well, be it demonstrating passion, perseverance or some other attribute but then directing or redirecting the application of that attribute so that it builds His body.

Sticking with this example, suppose you come along and find that I have not only installed the plug ins with excellence but they are exactly where they are supposed to be. You could observe and leave or you may be led by the Spirit to not only point out the quality of my work but also prophetically speak into a higher calling you see in my life to be a better builder. This is another example of 1 Corinthians 14:3 in action.

Lastly, for further reflection, imagine the same scene but when you come to observe my work you notice that not only have I installed the plug ins in the wrong location, I have also installed them incorrectly and clearly need to improve my work overall. How would He lead you to respond?

Living Worship

I suspect that if I asked 100 people how to define worship, I would encounter a wide variety of views. As we worship and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection this Sunday, I think it is important to look at how the scriptures present worship. To that end, below are two different translations of the same verses. I will drill down into the meanings to get to worship.

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)

            Romans 12:2 is very similar in both translations. What on the surface appears to be very different is the last two words in verse 1. The NKJV says ‘reasonable service’ while the ESV says ‘spiritual worship.’ Reasonable service and spiritual worship seem to be very different things so we will look at how the translators arrived at their conclusions then apply it to our lives.

            The word reasonable or spiritual is logikos in Greek, worship or service is latreia in Greek. The root of logikos is logos, which we have in John 1.

1 In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God. John 1:1 NKJV (clarification added)

Logos is connected to logic, which is why we have the old Greek concept of persuasion rooted in ethos, pathos and logos, or character, emotion and reason. Logikos carries the idea of that which is reasonable or sensible in light of something else based on reflection or forethought. The context allows it to be translated as spiritual because presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice is a spiritual act. Latreia is easier to understand as the root word latreuo means religious worship with latreia meaning to worship or to serve. In this context the service is an act of worship. Putting all of this together, when we present our bodies to be at His service we are engaging in an act of worship.

While I generally think of worship as worshipping through song, I am aware that every aspect of my life is an act of worship if done unto Jesus. Paul certainly understood this, as not only did he exhort us to live this way in Romans 12:1-2 he expressed the same idea in other places.

31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV

17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:17

Thus, if we apply Paul’s exhortation to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, we are then only doing what makes sense in light of what Jesus has done for us. As we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection let us recommit ourselves to doing that which is reasonable and spiritual, living our lives as an act of service and worship unto Him that Jesus may be glorified.

Serving our Generation

I am going to spend some time on a verse, more specifically a particular phrase.

36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; Acts 13:36 (NKJV)

The phrase I want to focus on is, ‘served his own generation.’ Each of us live in a time period where we can offer service. There is an old expression, ‘The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity.’ David did just that. In looking at his life and history we know he came from obscurity to become king and he ruled the nation with wisdom. While he had his failings, as all of us do, he has this testimony in scripture, that he was a man after God’s own heart.

14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13:14 (NKJV)

22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will. Acts 13:22 (NKJV)

The interesting part is that Samuel told Saul that the Lord was replacing him with a man after His own heart while not knowing who he was to anoint as the new king. If we read the account in 1 Samuel 16 we discover that Samuel was not at that point looking the way the Lord was looking as he thought some of the other brothers would be the right one. The Lord had to tell him specifically to anoint David (1 Samuel 16:12). What we know from this is that David was described as a man after God’s own heart while still a shepherd and a youth.

Scripture does not include an explanation or commentary on what the phrase means. However, it is something we can deduce from his life. I believe a primary aspect was his heart for worship and the Lord’s presence and that it was from his heart of worship that he received the wisdom to be the warrior and administrator that built and extended the kingdom of Israel. This is because his first major act once he became king of the whole nation and captured Jerusalem was to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem and set up continual worship before Yahweh’s presence (2 Samuel 6, 1 Chronicles 16). Whether by revelation, intuition or lifelong practice, David recognized the importance of worship.            

If we want to walk out our calling and serve our generation, I think the wisest investment we can make is to emulate David by becoming a passionate worshipper and in that pursuit listening for His wisdom as to our next steps.

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.  

Freedom?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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