What are we Establishing? Part 4

Having looked at what David established we can now turn our gaze to what we can or are establishing. I frame it this way because there is no neutral ground. Decades ago, the Holy Spirit highlighted something to me in Galatians that is critical to how we live our lives.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. Galatians 6:7-8 NKJV

Now, you may have read these verses many times and in doing so may have noticed that there is no third field. In all that we do we are either sowing to the flesh or the Spirit. Our actions are not neutral, we are always establishing something. In terms of what to establish Jesus gave us The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and He gave us The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). So, we know what we are to establish. We are to live, share and teach the gospel and pray for His kingdom and will to be manifest in our lives and world as they are manifest in heaven. These things are the primary calling of all believers. Which brings us to the how.

I focused in my previous posts on what took place with the worship David established before the Ark of the Covenant and how the prophetic psalms released there established the future. The current prayer movement around the world frequently combines worship and intercession. I believe that done with wisdom this further establishes His kingdom on the earth. We may think that everything is set regarding times and seasons but this is not what scripture teaches. Look at what Peter wrote.

11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:11-13 (NKJV)

Catch the key phrase, ‘hastening the coming of the day of God’ preceded by ‘what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.’ Our behaviour influences the timing of the manifesting of His kingdom in His return (see also Titus 2:11-14). Given that what we do influences the timing of His return we need to exercise wisdom in all that we do.

Now back to worship and intercession. My ongoing experience is that focused meaningful worship stirs something up inside of me. As I give my heart in worshipping Jesus, I find myself more sensitive to His voice and more attuned to the spirit realm. I find scripture passages rising up inside of me. I find myself more aware of what He wants to speak into the lives of those around me. This happens because I am merely continuing what David established. I am before His throne of grace, the real Ark of the Covenant in heaven, I am being internally stirred and drawn by His Spirit and I have the opportunity to release life into the lives of those around me and into my culture.

I am convinced that if we engaged in worship with focused hearts and an expectation of doing what David did, establishing the future, we would have a far greater impact on the culture we live in. This is the history of the Welsh Revival, which was marked far more by worship than preaching. Evan Roberts, the human leader, would sit in His presence in worship then share what he was sensing, seeing or hearing. It changed a nation and sparks from the fire fell at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles and spread around the world, and that flame is still burning in many places. Every revival movement I have studied has been marked by fresh worship, transformed lives and cultural engagement.

I think key to seeing the scriptures below fulfilled is connected to intentional worship married to prophetic intercession.

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (NKJV)

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. Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)

10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10 (NKJV)

Look at the last phrase, ‘Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ Let us embrace this and reflect on the question I started this series with. Individually and corporately, what are we establishing?

What are we Establishing? Part 3

As is clear from the scriptures previously presented in this series, David established two things that are relevant to what we are looking at. The Ark of the Covenant at Zion (Zion is the high point in Jerusalem) and open ongoing worship before the ark. Now we will look at what flowed from these two things.

I previously referenced David being given and giving a psalm when the ark first arrived in Jerusalem. Now I want to look at what some of the prophetic worship released. Our scriptures showed that David set people before the ark to worship and prophesy (1 Chronicles 16:4-7, 25:1-6). In the book of Psalms there are numerous prophecies regarding Jesus that have their fulfillment recorded in the New Testament. We will look at some representative prophetic psalms. An important note is who wrote these psalms. We have them mainly by David, then Asaph (Psalm 50, 73-83) and the sons of Korah.

We start with David. He wrote numerous prophetic psalms, one of which was Psalm 110. Here are the first two verses.

1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” 2 The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Psalm 110:1-2 (NKJV)

This is a Messianic Psalm referring to Jesus and is not only the most quoted Psalm it is the most quoted Old Testament passage in the entire New Testament. It is referenced in Matthew 22:44, Mark 12:36, 16:19 and Luke 20:42-43. It is also referenced in Acts, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians and Hebrews. These references relate to just the first verse! The example below is Jesus using Psalm 110 to silence and confound His challengers.

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”

They said to Him, “The Son of David.”

43 He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:

44   ‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at My right hand,

Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ’?

45 If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” 46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore. Matthew 22:41–46 (NKJV)

Next we have Jesus’ resurrection foretold by David in Psalm 16.

8 I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. 10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. Psalm 16:8-10 (NKJV)

This is the first post resurrection psalm quoted in the New Testament. The source is Peter on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:29-31.

29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.” Acts 2:29-31 (NKJV)

Asaph prophesied the exaltation of Jesus.

17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself. Psalm 80:17 (NKJV)

We find the fulfillment referenced in Acts 5.

30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:30-31 (NKJV)

A last example, Psalm 45. It is a Messianic Psalm by the sons of Korah and is repeated in Hebrews as referring to Jesus.

6     Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;

A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

7     You love righteousness and hate wickedness;

Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You

With the oil of gladness more than Your companions. Psalm 45:6–7 (NKJV)

But to the Son He says:

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;

A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

9     You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;

Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You

With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” Hebrews 1:8–9 (NKJV)

Many more Messianic Psalms could be referenced but I close with a non Messianic one, an honourable mention. Heman wrote Psalm 88, a lamentation and cry for help that has comforted many over the years. I reference Heman because was the grandson of the great prophet Samuel who anointed David as king.

So to our conclusion. David actually established three things. The Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem, open prophetic worship before it, and most importantly, David established the future! He and the other prophetic worshippers declared and wrote what was on the Father’s heart and declared and recorded things to come. 

In my next and final post in this series I will look at how we can each answer this question for ourselves – What are we establishing?

What are we Establishing? Part 2

To understand the significance of what David did in establishing the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem we need to do a bit of theological excavation. Our journey takes us back to Exodus. The verses below are the result of the tabernacle first being set up and close out the book of Exodus.

34 Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. Exodus 40:34–38 (NKJV)

Here we see the fire and cloud and Yahweh’s glory filling the tabernacle. The Ark of the Covenant within the tabernacle was His resting place on earth. Prior to the tabernacle being built according to exacting specifications, the cloud or pillar of fire went before or behind the people of Israel but not in their midst. There was a significant shift when the tabernacle was established.

In fact, in Exodus 33:3, 5 Yahweh is clear that if He were to come into their midst they would be consumed because they were sinful. We also see that Moses met with Yahweh outside the camp in Exodus 33:7-9 and that the cloud of His glory descended when Moses went to meet with Him.

9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. Exodus 33:9 (NKJV)

His glory descended and lifted but once the tabernacle was set up His presence was there between the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. In fact in giving the instructions for making the Ark of the Covenant Yahweh told Moses that He would hover over the ark and meet with him there.

21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. 22 And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel. Exodus 25:21-22 (NKJV)

Having done some theological excavation we need to look at what happened When David set up the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem. I referenced the verse below in my last post.

On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the Lord: 1 Chronicles 16:4–7 (NKJV)

The psalm David gave is repeated in the Psalms as Psalm 105. We can look at this a couple of ways. One way is to see this as David writing out a song to honour the occasion. Another way is to see this psalm being prophetically released through David as the result of the Ark of the Covenant coming to a resting place in Jerusalem and David receiving a prophetic release, the Psalm. I obviously favour this latter view and think it is the correct one.

David received a prophetic release as a result of being in the presence of the ark, hence his instructions in 1 Chronicles 25 pairing worship with prophecy before the Ark of the Covenant. David knew from his own experience and that of others what happened in worship before the ark. Consider the first few verses of Psalm 105 and compare it to what happened with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.

1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! 2 Sing to Him, sing Psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! 3 Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! 4 Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore! 5 Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth, Psalm 105:1-5 (NKJV)

11 Cretans and Arabs – we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God. Acts 2:11 (NKJV)

There was a prophetic release and a glorifying of God at Pentecost and then a prophetic understanding by Peter of fulfilled prophecy. We will look at some further examples in my next post. For now it is important to see the connection between a prophetic release and worshipping before Him.

What are we Establishing? Part 1

In this series I am going to look at what can be established through our prayer and worship so that we can be more intentional in what we do. I will start with what David established in Jerusalem after he brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city and set up worship before it. I will then connect this to the New Testament pattern that we can engage in.  

The passage below contains a number of important spiritual principles related to worship and prophetic intercession which I will address over a series of posts. However, opening up the implications of this passage requires some history and context.

1Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. And the number of the skilled men performing their service was: Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah; the sons of Asaph were under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied according to the order of the king. Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp to give thanks and to praise the Lord. Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, Romamti-Ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth. All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer in the words of God, to exalt his horn. For God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.

All these were under the direction of their father for the music in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, stringed instruments, and harps, for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the authority of the king. 1 Chronicles 25:1–6 (NKJV)

Frankly, it isn’t clear in this passage whether they were to prophesy before the Ark of the Covenant, as David had set it up by itself, or were being set apart for the temple Solomon was yet to build. Yet if we look further in scripture there is an answer to our question.

And he appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel: Asaph the chief, and next to him Zechariah, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, and Obed-Edom: Jeiel with stringed instruments and harps, but Asaph made music with cymbals; Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests regularly blew the trumpets before the ark of the covenant of God.

On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the Lord: 1 Chronicles 16:4–7 (NKJV)

What David was instituting was a continuation of what he began when he brought the ark to Jerusalem. There was open ongoing worship before the ark without the daily sacrifices and other aspects. We know this because the rest of the Tabernacle of Moses was still set up at Gibeon. We see this in the passage below.

37 So he left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the Lord to minister before the ark regularly, as every day’s work required; 38 and Obed-Edom with his sixty-eight brethren, including Obed-Edom the son of Jeduthun, and Hosah, to be gatekeepers; 39 and Zadok the priest and his brethren the priests, before the tabernacle of the Lord at the high place that was at Gibeon, 40 to offer burnt offerings to the Lord on the altar of burnt offering regularly morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the Law of the Lord which He commanded Israel; 1 Chronicles 16:37–40 (NKJV)

So, we have worship before the ark in Jerusalem and sacrifices being offered on the altar at the tabernacle of Moses about 10 kilometers away at Gibeon.

This background sets the stage to see the significance of the Ark of the Covenant as Yahweh’s dwelling place. I will delve into this in my next post so we can begin connecting it to prophetic intercession and worship.

Standing with Peter

Recently I was listening to a podcast and the speakers referred to Peter giving up his calling and going back to fishing after Jesus death and resurrection. I have heard sermons say the same thing. However, I think that rather than leaning on human opinions we need to look at what the scriptures actually say. The fishing story takes place in John 21 at the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. The Sea of Tiberias is the Roman name for the Sea of Galilee. This is where Peter, Andrew, James and John were from (Matt. 4:18-22).

1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. John 21:1-3 NKJV

Was Peter in Galilee because he had abandoned Jesus and his calling? Was there some other reason he may have been there? Actually the scriptures are clear. We know from verse 1 above that this was not Jesus first resurrection appearance to the disciples. In fact 21:14 tells us it was Jesus third appearance to them. We also know that they were told to go to Galilee, Jesus had an appointment with them there.

10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Matthew 28:10 (NKJV)

So, a quick review. Peter and the others are in Galilee because Jesus directed them to go there. They didn’t know where or when Jesus would meet them in the area but I think it is fair to assume there was some anticipation on their part. After all they had gone through the devastating loss of their mission and their own abandonment of Jesus. This was followed by His resurrection and appearance to them in Jerusalem. These were not normal times. Now he and the others had just walked 125 kilometres from Jerusalem to Galilee to see Jesus. I hike in the mountains a lot and they hiked through mountains and desert to get to see Jesus. No trivial task and one with plenty of time to think and discuss.

It is evident from the text that to accuse Peter of abandoning his calling is to both impugn his motives and ignore scripture. It is also evident from later in the chapter that while Peter needed his heart healed (21:15-19) he wasn’t trying to avoid Jesus or his calling. When he knew it was Jesus on shore he jumped out of the boat and into the sea in his eagerness to get to Jesus (21:7). This suggests that out of obedience he had been waiting for Jesus in Galilee, not giving up on his calling.  

Now back to the waiting. None of them knew what to do as they had received no instructions in that regard. We know from numerous examples in scripture that Peter was a man of action not contemplation. So instead of waiting he announced he was going fishing and the other six there joined him.

This all took place prior to the upper room prayer meeting in Acts 1. It is easy to embrace ideas that aren’t in scripture and the idea that Peter abandoned his calling and went back to his old way of life is one of those. It may make for some good sermons but they are sermons based on human opinions not on scripture. I happen to believe that what scripture has to say is important just as Paul wrote in the following verse.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 (NKJV)

Scripture trains and profits us when we properly interpret and apply it. There are a number of things we could focus on in the rest of John 21 but I think the main lesson we can learn from our fishing story is that obedience to Jesus releases us into our calling. Instead of passing judgment, as has often been done with Peter, let’s stand with him and embrace his example of obedience to Jesus and see His purpose in our lives come to pass.  

Partakers of a Heavenly Calling

Hebrews 3:1 refers to us believers as partakers of a heavenly calling.

1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, Hebrews 3:1 (NKJV)

To partake of something is to have a share in it, to take part. It is worth considering the implications of the phrase, ‘partakers of a heavenly calling.’ Our heavenly calling could refer to our final destiny, our purpose here on earth or the perspective we live with and from. I think it refers to all three but I think the first two can be subsumed under the third. We are to ‘take part’ in a perspective that reflects our heavenly calling in all that we say and do. In my blog I use the tagline, “An Eternal Perspective: Living in Time, Preparing for Eternity.” It was a thought I had a number of years ago that I simply put down in words so I would both remember it and seek to live by it.

To embrace a heavenly calling is to embrace an eternal perspective and holding this perspective should affect how we live here and what we look forward to when we step from time into eternity. How we should live from a focus on a heavenly calling was captured by Paul and Peter.

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)

11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11 (NKJV)

Having a heavenly calling, having a part in something much larger than ourselves and that affects the rest of the body of Christ should inform everything that we do. It means that our thoughts and actions should be focused on bringing glory to God. Others should see Jesus reflected in how we live.   

This isn’t an exhortation to legalism or examining every behaviour in light of our calling. That degenerates into navel gazing. It is a call to lovingly walk in the freedom Jesus purchased for us and living lives of holiness through Him living in and through us. To partake of our heavenly calling means also partaking of an intimate relationship with Jesus in the context of His body here on earth, the church. It is embracing Christ in us and cooperating with His abundant grace to see Him live through us. It means embracing the truth in the two verses below. Living from that perspective.

20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

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. Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)

Where do Prayers and Proclamations go?

For over a year I have been part of a Sunday evening online prayer meeting that began in response to Covid and has mainly focused on praying for our city. One of my friends has commented more than once, “Prayers have no shelf life.” I think the same is true of prophetic proclamations. So let’s look at where they go.

Years ago in a message I listened to from Larry Randolph. He related how the Lord had him move from the East coast of the US to California. He is a prophetic guy who didn’t want to move. He said in a vision an angel appeared to him with a drawn sword and said, “Move or die.” He and his family moved. While this may not fit with how we see ‘gentle’ Jesus it was how Jesus dealt with Larry. He already had an established ministry so when he arrived he expected to be welcomed somewhere in a church and given a position. Nothing happened.

It is at this point that we would likely concluded we had been deluded and ‘missed’ God. Larry sought His face and the Lord told Larry he was to go out into his backyard and prophesy to principalities and powers. I am sure he could have done that back East. Larry spent about a year doing that before the Lord opened up other things for him.

My story does have a point and comes from reading in Ezekiel. In chapter 25 Ezekiel is directed to release a prophetic declaration against the Ammonites, then the Moabites, then Edom and then the Philistines. This continues. In chapter 29 Ezekiel releases a prophetic declaration against Egypt that continues for chapters. My point has to do with where Ezekiel is doing this from.

1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. Ezekiel 1:1 NKJV

Ezekiel, along with his fellow Israelites, was a captive in Babylon the entire time he prophesised. His prophetic declarations were never actually spoken to the people groups to whom they were addressed. They were however released in the heavens and heard by both the heavenly host and demonic principalities and powers.   

Given they were going to be carried out over time they were directed and retained by Yahweh. I believe the same things happens to our prayers. When our prayers are led by the Spirit as Ezekiel’s prophetic declarations were, they have no shelf life. They are retained and there is a response. We see clearly where they are kept in Revelation 5.

8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8

So, whether we are called like Larry Randolph to release prophetic declarations in the heavens or simply sit in a quiet place offering heartfelt prayers, let us remain confident that He sees, hears and retains what we offer and responds rightly in due season.

Lessons from History

Most generations believe they are living in a unique time in history, and they are, for them. We are currently in a disruptive time in our culture. Yet as someone pointed out recently in a podcast, the unrest in the late 1960’s was more tumultuous than what happened in the US in 2020. That aside, it is important that we have a proper view of history and scripture provides an exhortation for us regarding how we are to view history. In recounting some of Israel’s history Paul draws the following conclusion.

11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV)

Paul’s exhortation is neither that we long for or seek to erase history. His focus is on us learning from what happened. History is an anchor point, not as something to long to go back to but as a foundation to move forward. Good or bad, if we learn the lessons of history they become stepping stones to make our move forward easier.

At the bottom are two pictures of paths on a trail I recently hiked in the mountains. People who went before me did a lot of work that made my hike easier. In one case trees and shrubs were removed. In the other heavy rocks were hauled. I have bushwhacked in the mountains and it is not easy hiking while trying to make a trail in heavy bush. I could have ignored these trails and tried to make my own but that would have made for a far more difficult hike.

What these trails represent is a history in the area. In our culture we have a history. I have often said over the years that we can’t change the past but we can change how we view it so that it the impact of our past, our history, has a different effect on our present and future. Whether our failures or accomplishments to walk in what He has called us to our call is to embrace the lessons and leave the past in the past as we press on following Jesus. Paul put it this way.

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12–14 (NKJV)

So, in our current culture wars we can look to history and how the church has continued to move forward in spite of the shifting attitudes of culture. We can look at how the church has continued when it has focused on Jesus calling to be the church and live lives of faith and integrity no matter what happens around us. We can continue to use the freedom we have to promote truth and righteousness while much of our culture rushes headlong into madness. We can stay on established paths and call others to join us as we walk. We can be confident that the One who has begun a good work in us will continue it if we continue to follow Him (Phil. 1:6, Col. 1:27-29).  

This World is not my Home

This is a line from an old hymn and it was a popular idea in the church for a long time. A related popular expression is that we are to be ‘in the world but not of it.’ Regardless of what we think it is important to see what the scriptures have to say regarding the issue so we can respond with a right heart.

Jesus did say clearly that His kingdom was not of this world

36  Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” John 18:36 (NKJV)

Note that Jesus spoke this prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. After His resurrection in The Great Commission, He spoke differently.

18  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

Here Jesus directs us to go under His authority to extend His kingdom in the earth. He wants us to contend for what He achieved through His sacrifice for us. I raise this issue because for much of the 20th Century the dominant theology in much of the evangelical community was the idea that things would get worse and worse for the church. Jesus would then come and rescue a weakened persecuted church from the ravages of the world |(the pretribulation rapture) and punish the evildoers while the church watched from heaven.

Aside from the above seeming to be a rather ‘unkind’ theology, I personally have never been able to find it in scripture and it seems to be at odds with The Great Commission. In fact, Jesus told us something else as well, a sign of His return.

14  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (NKJV)

Whatever our ideas are, Jesus seems to have the idea that the gospel is to spread to all nations all over the earth. While His kingdom is not ‘of’ this world it is designed to spread in the world and influence culture prior to His return. I do not have all of my end time theology settled. What I do have settled is that I need to heed Jesus over popular theology and do my part to live in and out of His kingdom while I am here and able. After all, when the end does come He is not taking us out of the world, He is bringing the fullness of His kingdom to this world, a renewed earth. The world will be our home.

1  Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:1-2 (NKJV)

Dealing with Dichotomy

In recent months I was listening to an interview on the radio. The host was interviewing a professor and researcher about mindfulness. The professor was lamenting how the practice of mindfulness had been commercialized. An example he gave was Google programming staff being trained in mindfulness so they could be more focused in their jobs. OF course the obvious irony here is that much of what they were doing was creating ads and programs to distract others! Quite the dichotomy.

In Hebrews we have an apparent dichotomy. From the end of chapter 3 to the end of 4 the focus is on entering the rest of the Lord. Here is a brief excerpt.

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:8-11 (NKJV)

Verse 11 is where our dichotomy shows up, being diligent to enter rest. The English Standard Version says, “strive to enter that rest.” No matter how the Greek word is translated into English, the point being made is that entering rest takes effort. Our task is understanding the effort required to enter rest.

Prior to the above verses the writer of Hebrews referenced what happened to the children of Israel in the wilderness with his primary point being that they failed to enter into rest due to disobedience and rebellion. His point being that they failed to trust God. We become His house and enter His rest not by accomplishing some work but by trusting in what Jesus has accomplished. Here is how the writer of Hebrews put it.

4 For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. 5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, 6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. Hebrews 3:4-6 (NKJV)

The diligence or effort required of us to enter His rest is retaining our confidence in Jesus and His finished work. In many ways the book of Hebrews carries the same message Paul presented in Galatians. A need to trust Jesus and not turn back to the works of the law for salvation. We cannot earn our salvation. We can trust in what Jesus has accomplished, maintain our focus there, and then have what it says in Hebrews. Free unfettered access to the throne of grace. 

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV)

So let’s focus or efforts on trusting what Jesus has already accomplished and live in and from that place of rest before the throne of grace.