Following His Leading

Recently I had to take my car in for some work and the dealership loaned me a new vehicle. It has the modern features, one of them being lane departure. I have driven vehicles in the past that warned me when I was drifting out of my lane. The difference with this vehicle (Subaru Ascent) is that it actively tries to pull the vehicle back into the correct lane. Turning on the signal light to turn or change lanes deactivates the system.

As I was sharing this with a friend it got me thinking about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we start to drift out of our lane He warns us and seeks to pull us back and keep us on the right spiritual track. He doesn’t force us. He doesn’t control. Just like I can override the lane departure system in the vehicle I can override the warnings of the Holy Spirit.

Since the Garden of Eden He has given us the choice to obey or disobey. If my heart, is as it should be, to be obedient, then I will heed His warnings. While the warning system in the car is very obvious, He is usually more subtle.

The verse below provides a good example.   

13  I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 2:13 (NKJV)

Paul said he had no rest in his spirit. While this was not a ‘lane departure’ warning it does teach us something about one way He leads us. Paul had a sense of unease, an awareness that all was not as it should be with Titus and it motivated him to action. In our walk the Holy Spirit generally leads us through His word and in our spirit. In seeking to follow His leading we may have sense that something is not right, as Paul did, or a sense that what we are trying to accomplish may not work.

Even if we are endeavouring to do something that is good but lack His peace in our spirit (Col. 3:15) it may not be the best or it may be out of God’s timing. We are called to stay in our lane, seek to know His voice and leading (Rom. 8:14) and act accordingly. So, let us pay attention to our spirits (Mal. 2:15), heed His lane departure warnings, do as He leads seek to arrive safely at our eternal destination!   

Revealing Jesus

I am currently re-reading Rick Joyner’s Final Quest Trilogy. A quote that stood out to me was, “I did not call you to preach about Me; I called you to be a voice I could speak through.” The context is Wisdom (Jesus) speaking to Joyner in a prophetic encounter. While some may struggle with that idea, the concept is found in what Paul wrote.

15  But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16  to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, Galatians 1:15-16 (NKJV)

Jesus wants us to know Him and wants to reveal Himself to us and then through us. I believe that to get there we need to develop a deep sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who forms Jesus in us (Galatians 4:19) and reveals Him through us. The testimony of scripture however is that this requires our cooperation.

Prior to my friend Evelyn stepping from time into eternity in recent years, she walked with Jesus for over 80 years and regularly revealed Him to others. One of the things she often warned about was the danger of passivity. She was concerned that passivity led to deception and a move away from Jesus. Hebrews presents it this way.

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

Growing in Jesus requires that we ‘give heed’ and pursue His presence and purpose. I approach this by daily times of sitting with Him, spending time in scripture and seeking to discern His leading during the day in my interactions. I regularly pray the following, “Holy Spirit, as I sit and walk with Jesus, I ask You to draw me into the subtleties of the interaction that I might deepen my awareness of Your presence and leading.” I recognize my dependence on Him to reveal His life through me.

As I know many of you do, I also want to be a voice and life that Jesus speaks through and uses to change lives. This is a major driver in my life, seeking to represent Him at all times and in all things that ultimately He may receive the reward of His sacrifice.

Embracing His Purpose

I was hiking in the mountains recently. At higher altitudes, where the snow was melting, there were differences in what was happening with the water. At places it was simply mist coming over a cliff, in other places there were small waterfalls and streams. At the trailhead at the bottom of the mountain there was a wide rapidly moving stream. This stream then flowed into a river fed by many other streams. Observing this some spiritual truths came to mind.

The first, which I have written about before, is in the verse below.

4  There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. Psalm 46:4 (NKJV)

In this we can see the idea that within the body of Christ there are many different streams or movements that ultimately all flow into the same river. However on this occasion I was drawn to another aspect. Streams are made up of many droplets of water. Each drop, though unable to be seen in a stream, is important. We may think that our drop doesn’t matter and we can be left out. Yet if every drop in any of the many streams of the church thought that we would have no streams and no river.

When we became believers something happened inside of us. As His new creation workmanship we were assigned a calling and purpose.

10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

God set us up for success in His kingdom, not success in terms of finances or other things as defined by the world. He set us up for success in walking out what He called us to, the fulfilling of our purpose in His kingdom. An important word in what Paul wrote is ‘should.’ We should be walking in His calling and purpose. If we are not we can ask Him for wisdom to be found faithful in what and where we have been called.

While the works He has prepared for us may each be a drop in the larger stream of His purpose His desire is that all of the drops are achieving their purpose. All of our drops are needed to flow into the river of His purpose.

Living with Wisdom

Paul is eminently practical. We have one of many examples of his practical theology in what he shares with the church at Thessalonica, on how to deal with adversity. Paul recognized that the believers in Thessalonica were enduring suffering (2 Thess. 1:5) so provided the wisdom below.

13  But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14  to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15  Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. 16  Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 17  comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 (NKJV)

He informed them that they, and by extension we, were: 

  • Chosen for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and a belief in the truth,
  • Chosen to obtain the glory (character) of Jesus,
  • Were to walk in obedience,
  • His comfort and consolation are available to establish us in good words and actions.

In essence, Paul informed them that the difficulties they were going through were an opportunity for the glory (character) of Jesus to be worked into and revealed in their lives. This would come about if they were cooperating with the Spirit’s sanctifying work in their lives and if they continued to hold fast to the truth of the gospel. His summation and comfort was that good things awaited them, an everlasting rather than temporal consolation.

Practically in our current environment this means embracing a deep rooted commitment to speak the truth in love. It means not getting caught up in the swirling emotions of our times but to live out our faith. It means not asking what Jesus would do but seeing what Jesus is doing and coming into agreement with His purposes. I have found the need to check myself and saw someone else on social media acknowledging the same thing. We are in a highly emotionally charged time and need to lean into Jesus to respond with a right heart.

I have challenged some comments and supported others in my goal of demonstrating Jesus heart. I saw a post saying, “Christians worship and follow an innocent man of color who was killed by police officers.” While I can see the intent I see this as the type of characterization that needs to be challenged. The problems I see in it are that in trying to use it to combat racism it fails to acknowledge that Jesus was in fact the only truly innocent man who was ever killed. Further, he was of the same culture and race of those who wanted Him to put to death. We need to acknowledge the problem but address it with wisdom.   

We are called to provide leadership to those around us and reveal Jesus no matter the circumstances. I know I need to thoughtfully weigh my comments and reactions in this hour and be very aware of how I am representing Jesus.

Wisdom in this Hour

In this post I will briefly address what is happening in North America with the protests and ‘Black Lives Matter’ focus. I have not followed all of it, the news is overwhelming as the two things currently dominating the news cycle are Covid-19 and the protests over racial injustice. To know how to respond we need both wisdom and discernment. For that we are called to look to the Spirit and scriptures not the media, as there are two types of wisdom we can draw on.

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)

James is clear that as believers there are two sources we can draw on for wisdom and they are both spiritual. One is the demonic realm and the other is the heavenly realm. We can determine the source by examining the fruit. The fruit of drawing on demonic wisdom is envy, self-seeking, confusion and other manifestations of evil. Heavenly wisdom is pure, peaceable, and gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and similar manifestations of the nature of heaven.

In examining the current situation with the riots and protests I have seen many posts quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr regarding riots. “Riots are the language of the unheard” as a justification for the current riots. Yet the statement came out of an interview with Mike Wallace on CBS and in context Dr. King said this in response to the riots that were happening and those suggesting a movement away from Dr. King’s approach, “I contend that the cry of ‘black power’ is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.” Yet this was an acknowledgement, not an endorsement. While many in the black community were demanding more action Dr. King said, “Now what I’m saying is this: I would like for all of us to believe in non-violence, but I’m here to say tonight that if every Negro in the United States turns against non-violence, I’m going to stand up as a lone voice and say, ‘This is the wrong way!’ He further said, “I will never change in my basic idea that non-violence is the most potent weapon available to the Negro in his struggle for freedom and justice. I think for the Negro to turn to violence would be both impractical and immoral.”

If we want to know the source of the events happening in our time we merely need to look at the fruit. Is what is happening being sown in peace? Is the result peace, gentleness and mercy or anger and bitterness?

Source for Dr. King interview

He Sees Part 1

Many of us likely grew up with the Sunday School song, O Be Careful Little Eyes.

The first verse says,

Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see,
Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see.
There’s a Father up above looking down in tender love,
Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see.

The subsequent verses go on to talk about our ears, tongue, hands and feet. For those of you familiar with it I don’t know what your experience was, but mine was one of thinking God was watching and I was in trouble if I stepped out of line. Thankfully my perspective has changed.

In my work career I spent some time working at the human resources office that set policy for all Government ministries. I led a project across all ministries and something I advocated for with a number of human resource directors in different ministries was changing the focus from a Performance Management Framework to Performance Support. My rationale was that management implies control and oversight while support is just that, support. Interestingly that is now the provincial focus.

I advocate this way because I deeply believe in the need to support people to operate in their gifts and callings and in creating an environment that best enables them to grow in their gifts and callings. This leads back to the song. Jesus, our Father, Holy Spirit all see. What are they looking for? Is there a difference between what they seek in the Old and New Testaments?

7  But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV)

8  Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. 9  For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” 2 Chronicles 16:8-9 (NKJV)

In these verses we see two things. He looks upon our hearts and He wants to support and strengthen right hearts. What is the focus in the New Testament?

18  “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19  To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Luke 4:18-19 (NKJV)

38  how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Acts 10:38 (NKJV)

We also have the reality that in the things Jesus did He said He was expressing the Father’s heart, doing what He was doing.

19  Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19 (NKJV)

So take courage! Jesus wants to strengthen and support us to carry out His purposes. He may also want to give us a new song.

Oh, be looking, little eyes, for what He sees,
Oh, be looking, little eyes, for what He sees.
There’s a Father up above looking down in tender love,
Oh, be looking, little eyes, for what He sees.

A Steadfast Heart

In my last post I wrote about preparing our hearts for a move of the Spirit. Preparing our heart is one thing. Maintaining it is another. An analogy that comes to mind for me is going backpacking. I prepare by getting all of my food and gear ready. If I have prepared well I am able to respond to the things that happen on the trail. However, during the hike there is the need to constantly assess what is happening and adjust plans as necessary.

Two years ago my son and I did an overnight backpacking trip. It had rained a lot and rained somewhat on our hike in. It cleared up by noon and after we arrived at our destination we did a further day hike. We were hiking out the next morning under a beautiful blue sky with the sun shining. Just what one would like in the mountains. Then a brief sprinkle started and we debated about putting on our raingear, decided it might pass and so kept going as we were. A few minutes later the sky opened up and we had heavy downpour that turned into a steady rain pretty much the rest of the hike out. Not putting on our raingear while it was sprinkling meant putting it on under much wetter conditions.

What does any of this have to do with revival or refreshing seasons? While we can prepare, once things begin to happen we need to continually reassess and adjust. When His manifest presence is there we may start to abandon regular schedules. It is sunny after all so who needs raingear? Yet times of spiritual outpouring also become times of spiritual testing. We are tested in how we respond to His presence, our ability to discern and exercise wisdom. We are tested in our willingness to pay attention to His promoting when He calls us to come aside and rest awhile.

While much is happening around us in revival seasons we need to lean into that ‘still small voice.’ That is how Evan Roberts guided the Welsh Revival and how William Seymour maintained Azusa Street. Roberts would sit quietly, sometimes for an hour or more, waiting to sense the leading of the Spirit. Seymour would sit at the front with his head inside a wooden apple crate, praying and seeking to discern.

Remember, when the Lord sows good seed the enemy sows tares and they look alike while immature. Many things manifest under His presence. There will be pride, immaturity, false humility and a host of other things to test. I believe the most important attribute we can possess is a steady heart. A steady heart is one focused on leaning into and listening to His heart no matter what is happening around us. It is also a heart constantly seeking the wisdom to discern rather than quickly judge. We need both the heart of David and Paul.

7  My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Psalm 57:7 (NKJV)

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

Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here

The Preparations of the Heart

Proverbs 16:1 is a scripture that has long held great significance for me.

1  The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:1 (NKJV)

I believe an incredible move of the Spirit is imminent. At the same time I recognize that how, or even if, we will experience it depends on our heart condition. I recall reading a story from the deeper life movement in 19th Century. One of the speakers and leaders in the movement held a series of meetings where many experienced deep times of refreshing from the Lord. After the meetings he realized something – he was the teacher and his spiritual life was dry! He responded by setting aside everything else and seeking Jesus until He too experienced refreshing.

Pentecost Sunday is near and this year, as in every other year, we have an opportunity to reflect on the first outpouring of the Spirit in the Upper Room in Jerusalem to prepare our hearts. At the first Pentecost hearts in the upper room were prepared and thousands were blessed by the outpouring of the Spirit. Sadly many more in the city went on with business as usual. The history of revival, is similar. People came from all over to experience Azusa Street in the early part of the 20th Century. Most of Los Angeles continued on with business as usual, or likely a more aptly description is busyness as usual. Our heart condition is critical.  

I long for two things. One, a deep move of the Spirit that touches the church and our surrounding culture. Two, wisdom to steward and sustain this move. The first requires that we, like the history of every revival I know of, prepare our hearts and the second is that we maintain steadfast hearts (more on that next week). While I am not an expert, I have read a good deal about revival and I know from scripture that hearts are first dealt with before His Spirit is poured out. As A. W. Tozer has said, ‘He first disturbs us before He fills us.’

So, I don’t know what is in your heart nor you what is in mine but Jesus knows what is in all of our hearts. If we desire to see Him move in our lives and our culture let us embrace the heart of David.

23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24  And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)

Rooted and Grounded

In Ephesians 3 Paul uses some important imagery in communicating spiritual reality.

17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – 19  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NKJV)

Contained in these verses we have the idea of being rooted and grounded followed by a shift to width, length, depth and height. Paul is covering all of the dimensions but telling us that knowing the reality of the dimensions is dependent on being rooted and grounded, not just in anything, but in love, the love of Christ.

Even a well rooted tree can come down if planted in the wrong place, what is around it is important. If you look at the pictures below there are two significant trees. One is already in the creek and over time will be swept away, the other is still rooted but on a crumbling bank that will give way over time and it is only a matter of time before that tree will also end up in the creek and be swept away. There are numerous trees in both pictures that are safely away from the eroding power of the creek.

It is a question of where are we planted and whether we are we rooted and grounded in a safe place. Jesus love is the only secure place to be rooted and grounded yet we cannot plant ourselves there. We can pursue Jesus love but we need to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in our inner being to be securely planted.

16  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, Ephesians 3:16 (NKJV)

If we want to know the width, length, depth and height of Jesus love then let us ask Him to strengthen our inner being so that we can both be rooted in, and bear the reality of, the width, length, depth and height of His love – knowing His love in every dimension of our life!

His Perspective

I want to draw us into heaven’s perspective. Our culture enjoins the worship of celebrities, a worship of the rich, famous and popular. Yet in the midst of all of this there is an important reframing of the issue by Jesus. He is great at giving us perspective!

15  And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16:15 (NKJV)

This is a verse that cuts deeply across the grain of our culture – Jesus plainly declaring to the religious leaders of His day that in seeking popular acclaim they embraced the wrong value system. They were drinking dirty water from polluted cisterns. They didn’t understand that Jesus perspective wasn’t about religious power and control, it was about people. Even those He grew up with in Nazareth were offended by what Jesus said when He declared both who He was and what His priorities were.

18  “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19  To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Luke 4:18-19 (NKJV)

Jesus was publicly declaring He was the Messiah but like any good leader He also laid out His vision for His followers to see. His focus was on the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind and the oppressed. Did He accomplish His vision? Luke tells us in a one verse summary of His ministry.

 38  how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Acts 10:38 (NKJV)  

Getting back to the value system of Luke 16:15, there is an expression, ‘Most of those who are well known on earth are little known in heaven and most of those who are well known in heaven are little known on earth. God’s valuation system is different than our culture. He wants our focus to be on being known in heaven.

In sharing some of these ideas with a friend he said, “The Lord once asked me, ‘Is it good enough that you are famous in heaven.’  He was exposing the fact that it really wasn’t.” What about the rest of us? Is it good enough to be famous in heaven?