“C/E Spiritual Theory” – Interlude (Q & A)

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Dear friends,

We’ve been covering some rather significant material in the past seven posts…and we have some of the most relevant applications just ahead.  Before we launch into a look at Protestantism as seen through the lens of C/E Spiritual Theory, though, I thought it would be good to take a brief interlude to review this teaching to this point.

Of all of the posts and series on this blog, this collection is surely one of the most central and essential of them all!  I also understand that these teachings are exploring some rather unfamiliar territory for many and so before proceeding further, I want to make sure that the basic understanding of this “spiritual theory” has been communicated well and any major questions have been answered.

Which leads me to consider, “For someone encountering these teachings for the first time, what kind of questions might they ask?”  The following is my response to that musing along with a concise answer to each of the questions that I feel are most pertinent to raise.  I trust that this simple Q & A format will be both helpful in summarizing the ground that has been covered thus far, as well as to fill in some of the gaps in our understandings of this “spiritual theory” to this point.

And so, without further ado…

Q & A

» What is a “spiritual theory?” – The dictionary definition for the word “theory” that was shared in the second post of this collection is: a coherent group of tested general propositions…that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena:” (excerpted from the Dictionary.com definition of “theory”.)

A spiritual theory”, therefore, is a coherent group of spiritual propositions…that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of spiritual phenomena.  This is in fact what “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” is and offers.

» What does “Christocentricity” mean? – The root word “Christocentric” means: “making Christ the center, about whom all things are grouped, as in religion or history; tending toward Christ, as the central object of thought or emotion.”  (Webster Dictionary)

In regard to this spiritual theory, “Christocentricity” means that spiritual state in which Jesus Christ holds the place of unsurpassed supremacy in all things (Colossians 1:18) and in which all things are rightly related and oriented to Christ as to the unrivaled Center, according to the eternal purpose and pleasure of the Father. (Ephesians 1:9-10) 

» What does “eccentricity” mean? – The root word “eccentric” means: “Deviating or departing from the center.  Not having the same center.” (Webster Dictionary)

In regard to this theory, then, spiritual “eccentricity” means that spiritual state where there is a deviating and departing from the centrality of Christ in all things through the inordinate ascribing of supremacy and centrality to something or someone other than Jesus Christ.

» How would one concisely summarize “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory”? – “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” proposes and predicts that wherever Christ Himself is ultimately and universally esteemed as central and supreme in all things related to the life and assembly of God’s people, that the Christocentric spiritual fruit of unity, fullness, balance, and purity will become increasingly embodied and expressed.  Conversely, wherever something or someone other than Christ (no matter how godly, holy, or spiritual) is inordinately esteemed as central and supreme in the life and assembly of God’s people, that the eccentric spiritual fruit of disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement will become increasingly embodied and expressed.

» Is C/E Spiritual Theory Scripturally sound? – This spiritual theory is based on the fundamental nature and precepts of God’s eternal purpose as revealed in Scripture.  Especially pertinent portions of Scripture are Ephesians 1:3, 9-10, 3:10-11, Colossians 1:13-19, 2:9-10; and Hebrews 1:1-3, as well as innumerable other Scriptural references related to the four Christocentric spiritual fruit of unity, fullness, balance, and purity and the four eccentric spiritual fruit of disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement.

As examples of this, in the first and second posts of this collection, the four spiritual fruit of Christocentricity are shown how they are all represented in Ephesians 4:11-15.  This is the Christocentric spiritual state that God is ultimately seeking to bring His Ekklesia into:

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to [1. unity] the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, [2. fullness] to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; [3. balance] that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, [4. purity] but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ–.”

The third through the sixth post of this collection is a four-part “Scriptural Case Study” focused on 1 Corinthians 1-3.  This rather intensive study showed how this spiritual theory can be used in interpreting and understanding this significant portion of Scripture.  In those posts, all four of the spiritual fruit of eccentricity: 1. disunity, 2. diminishment, 3. distortion, and 4. defilement are shown to be represented within those three chapters of 1 Corinthians and are addressed by the apostle Paul in order to transition the ekklesia in Corinth back from a spiritually eccentric state to a Christocentric state.

These examples help to show how sound and useful this theory is in relation to the Scriptures.

» How is C/E Spiritual Theory useful in explaining Church history? – This theory is especially helpful in discerning, understanding, and explaining Church history.

One way to apply this theory in this context is to look at a particular movement to discern at its “root” where the primary emphasis, identity, foundation, and authority lie.  If in any or all of these areas Jesus Christ is not the unsurpassed, uncontested Answer, then surely spiritual eccentricity is at work.  Once detected and discerned, one can then trace the subsequent developments of that particular eccentricity up the “trunk and branches” to the “fruit” of the tree.  The evidence of the four-fold “fruit” of spiritual eccentricity out on the “branches” gives further confirmation of the reality of the “tree’s” spiritually eccentric “root” and of the long-term effects and dangers of it.

A second way to apply this theory is to reverse that order, beginning with the detection and discernment of any or all of the “fruit” of spiritual eccentricity, and then re-tracing their development back down the “branches and trunk” to the “root” to discern where the fundamental eccentricity or eccentricities lie.  These will undoubtedly be found in relation to the spiritual matters of supreme emphasis, identity, foundation, and/or authority.

As an example of showing how this theory can be useful when applied to Church history, in the seventh post of this series we took a look at some very critical developments that took place early on in the first few centuries of the Church.  With the help of the writing of a renowned theologian, we examined these developments looking through the “lens” of C/E Spiritual Theory to see how those changes indeed had at their root spiritual eccentricity.

[In upcoming posts, we will continue to examine further developments in Church history in this way to see how this spiritual theory helps to bring greater clarity and discernment when applied in one, or a combination, of the above two methods.]

» How is C/E Spiritual Theory useful for predicting future developments?  I would contend that the principles of this spiritual theory are universal and unchanging and, therefore, are helpful predictors of future developments within the Ekklesia.

With any present movement or collective, the above two methods of applying this theory may be used to discern the “root” as well as the predicted future “fruit” of that particular “tree.”

This can be helpful especially for movements in their early stages when everything may seem to be positive and without cause for concern or correction.  The end condition may be quite different, however.  The sooner spiritual eccentricity can be detected and uprooted, the better!

» What is the most valuable use of this spiritual theory? – First let me state clearly what the intended use of this theory is most definitely not.  It is not intended to foster a haughty, judgemental, Pharisaical, “holier-than-thou” attitude or spirit toward any other person, group, or movement.  That is an abuse of it!

That being said, the proper and most valuable use of this theory, in my opinion, is three-fold: first, revelational, then, remedial, and, lastly, preventative.  Three Scripture-based analogies may be helpful to further lay hold of these uses:

1. “The body”: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” (Isaiah 1:5b) This spiritual theory is best used to first properly diagnose the systemic malady of “spiritual eccentricity” that permeates the body of Christ making it sickly and weak.  Once properly diagnosed, the universal remedy that God has eternally prescribed, “Christocentricity”, may be radically applied.   Lastly, a continued state of Christocentric wholeness may be maintained so as to prevent a future returning of the “disease.”

2. “A tree”: “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33)  This spiritual theory is most useful for first discerning the “root” of a “bad tree” in order to deal with its deficiencies at the source, thus making the whole “tree good.”   This will ensure that it will perpetually bear the “good fruit” of spiritual unity, fullness, balance, and purity while very naturally and effortlessly preventing the “bad fruit” of spiritual disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement from growing.

3. “The remnant”:  “The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. (Isaiah 37:31)  This spiritual theory is an invaluable guide for those who, like the returning remnant of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, are ultimately captivated by a vision of God’s house being rebuilt in the place where God has chosen to place His Name and for the pure worship of Jehovah to be restored.  It reveals the true Foundation (Christ) of the Lord’s temple so that all of the eccentric rubble may be cleared away and that God’s house may be built once more “according to Pattern” (Christ.)  It further exposes the idolatrous root (spiritual eccentricity) that was the cause of the Babylonish captivity to begin with so that in the future, idolatry (spiritual eccentricity) may never again captivate the hearts of God’s people.

These three analogies, then, can help us to firmly grasp the proper and most valuable use of this spiritual theory.

And lastly,

» What is the best way to share this spiritual theory with another? – I cannot recount the number of times I have shared this theory with others by using a simple drawing sketched out on a piece of paper.  As I have drawn each phase and explained what each represented, it has been amazing to see people’s eyes pop open and clarity of vision enter their heart and mind.

That simple drawing is what I introduced in the first post and then elaborated on in the second with an animated short and with step-by-step “stills” to accentuate brief explanations of each phase.  What is depicted are the dynamics that are at work when a transition happens from a Christocentric spiritual state to an eccentric spiritual state.

In the development of the illustration, the initial phases, 1-4, depict “the fullness of God” existing in its purely Christocentric spiritual state along with its four corresponding fruit of unity, fullness, balance, and purity.  The subsequent phases, 5-8, depict the transition to a spiritually eccentric state along with its four corresponding fruit of disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement.

I encourage you to make your way over to that second post for the full explanation and illustration of it, but for a teaser, here is the animated short to whet your appetite:

(Please click to play and then click the bottom right icon to enlarge if you wish):

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I pray that this Q & A has been helpful to bring further clarification and understanding regarding this “spiritual theory!”  For deeper explanation on all of these points, please follow the embedded links above to the corresponding posts for each question/answer.

To access the main page where all of these posts are linked and the associated media (audio/video/pics) are posted, please see the permanent tab on the header bar/dropdown menu: C/EST

We will pick up in the next post by beginning to look at the spiritual movement of Protestantism as seen through this spiritual lens!  Please stay tuned!




Posted in Audio Posts, Christ-Centered Christianity - Foundations, Christ-Centered Spirituality, Church History/Development, Spiritual Dynamics, Spiritual Eccentricity | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“C/E Spiritual Theory” – Historical Application: Early Eccentricities

[Listen to post here.]

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“That point – and this is what makes it so truly sinister – lies very near to the centre of the New Testament Ecclesia, and the change that takes place here consists in a very slight shift of emphasis which can be characterized by saying that what was very near to the centre becomes itself the centre:”  Emil Brunner, The Misunderstanding of the Church, pg. 75.

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This post is part of a larger collection focusing on “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” (“C/E Spiritual Theory”, or simply “C/EST” for short.)   Please see the permanent page, C/EST, for the full collection.  For an initial “primer” on this spiritual theory, please read (and watch),  “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)

We will now follow our 4-part “Scriptural Case Study” with an ” Historical Application” to show the usefulness of this spiritual theory when applied to early post-apostolic Church history.

“As the Twig is Bent…”

One of my great quests over the past four decades has been to understand how the Church/Christendom came to be shaped the way that it has over its long and complex history.  If we look at the Ekklesia of the New Testament and compare it to the Christendom of today, it is hard to understand exactly how that simple, tender “sprout” gave rise to this massive, gnarly “tree.”   What the apostles and first-century believers considered to be normal “ekklesia” and what people today consider to be normal “church” are, quite frankly, worlds apart.  So, how did we get here?  What were the underlying principles at work?  How did the major movements develop?  Where is it all heading?  These are the questions that I have long sought deeper answers to.

The old adage, “As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined,” certainly applies in the case of Church history.  A primary focus of my quest, then, has been to go back to the earliest stages of the Ekklesia and see how “the twig [was] bent” early on, from apostolic Christianity though the first few centuries.  That early shaping of “the twig”, for better or for worse, was a, if not the, primary influence that shaped the growth of “the tree” from that time forward.

It has been my understanding for many years that the most consequential development that took place early on within the Ekklesia following the death of the original apostles, and that which most dramatically shaped the Church from that time forward, was the rise of the office of the monarchical bishop (i,e. the “monepiscopate”.)  This elevated, authoritarian office became broadly accepted and embraced by the Church during the second century.

It is also my conviction and contention that the shift from a plural episcopacy/presbytery overseeing the local ekklesia as servants under the immediate headship of Jesus Christ to the monepiscopacy governing the local ekklesia as the sole mediated head in the place of Jesus Christ represented a monumental slide into spiritual eccentricity that became the bedrock and spring of future ecclesiastical disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement.  Ironically, these were the very things that the monepiscopacy was intended to protect and save the Church from.

“The Real Point of Departure…”

If that is indeed the case, then the question needs to be asked, “What were the prior and/or concurrent factors at work that gave rise to the office of the monarchical bishop?”

I had been aware of a number of these elements from past study but recently they have come into greater focus and clarity as the result of my stumbling across a very remarkable book by a renowned Swiss theologian, Emil Brunner (1889-1966.)  His book, The Misunderstanding of the Church, is, quite frankly, one of the most groundbreaking, root-exposing treatises on the development of the Church from its earliest days to the present that I’ve ever read!

Although the entire treatise is one eye-opening, jaw-dropping chapter after another, I took a special interest in Chapter 8, “The Starting Point of Ecclesiastical Development.”  Here Brunner digs into the earliest developments of the transition from the purely organic Ekklesia of apostolic times to the institutionalized Church of later centuries.  I was especially interested to see what he had to say about the rise of the monarchical bishop.  What he expressed there was not only wonderfully confirming and further enlightening, but the way in which he expressed the dynamics at work in those early post-apostolic days made me literally jump out of my chair and shout for joy!  (That may seem a little extreme, but I think you will understand in a moment!)

Brunner begins this chapter by talking about the difficulty of pinpointing one event or factor that began the transition from the early organic Ekklesia to the later institutional Church, for as he put it, “…it is a question of a number of such elements, not of any single one, and that these are simultaneously developed and commingled in such a way that the net result represents the new phenomenon: the Church.” (pg. 74)

He then continues: “Nevertheless it is possible to locate a point that may be regarded as the real point of departure for the emergence and crystallization of the new tendencies.” (pg. 74, 75)

And then for me came “the Brunner bombshell”: “That point – and this is what makes it so truly sinister – lies very near to the centre of the New Testament Ecclesia, and the change that takes place here consists in a very slight shift of emphasis which can be characterized by saying that what was very near to the centre becomes itself the centre:”(pg. 75)

So, let’s just consider that for a moment…this extraordinarily well-educated, renowned theologian is right here identifying the most primal “real point of departure” that initiated the transition from organic, apostolic Ekklesia to post-apostolic, institutional Church.  And he is identifying it asa very slight shift of emphasis which can be characterized by saying that what was very near to the centre becomes itself the centre:”  Now, if that isn’t “the language” of “C/E Spiritual Theory”, then I don’t know what is!

Is it possible, then, that right here at this most critical transition point in Church history, this “spiritual theory” is in fact a most fitting “lens” through which to look in order to rightly discern the spiritual dynamics at work?  (I believe it is, and we will continue to explore that consideration in the remainder of this post!)

Brunner finishes his statement with a disclosure of precisely what that point of departure” was, and to my surprise, it wasn’t the rise of the monarchical bishop.  Instead it was a prior and concurrent spiritual eccentricity that had developed within the Ekklesia that became a primary impetus for the rise of the office of the monarchical bishop.  That initial impelling factor, according to Brunner, was: “the sacred meal, the Eucharist.” (pg. 75)

Eucharistic Eccentricity

Brunner continues to explain, “From being an act, perpetually repeated according to the Word of the Lord, by which the community seeks to realize itself as a fellowship with and in Christ, the festal meal becomes the essence of salvation itself and the thing which constitutes the community’s life.” (pg. 75) 

Shortly hereafter he wrote, “…in the Ecclesia itself a fundamental though as yet hardly perceptible change had taken place through the over-valuation of the sacred meal.” (pg. 76)

Let’s pause again right there and view that statement through the lens of C/E Spiritual Theory.  This sacred meal which has now become the center (i.e. the centerpoint of the original circle having shifted over) is effecting “fundamental…change” (i.e. a new circle is forming around it and the vectors are all re-orienting to the new centerpoint), and though subtle, this “change” is the result of the “over-valuation of the sacred meal.” (i.e the “hyper-inflation” of the new centerpoint.)  These are C/E Spiritual Theory realities all expressed in a sentence.

Brunner continues on to describe some of the fundamental changes that this “over-valuation” fostered: (As you read, please think in terms of the C/E Spiritual Theory aspects of “diminishment” and “distortion.”)

“Previously it had been the work of the Holy Spirit which had imparted to the congregation its organic life: it was a spiritual unity and precisely as such the Body of Christ. But now it had become a sacramental unity. That personal fellowship which had characterized the earlier period was no longer necessary in order to receive and enjoy in common the benefits of the sacramental food of salvation…

The Body of Christ is now no longer the communion itself but is becoming increasingly identified with the elements of the holy meal. Now Christians belong to each other no longer through the creative Word springing from the revelation in Christ and through the action of the Holy Spirit stirring the depths of the heart and dissolving the selfish isolation of the individual.

“Since the sacramental food becomes the essential thing, the Ecclesia is transformed from a spiritual koinonia, a unity of persons, into a unity flowing from common relationship to a thing, that is, into a collective.  It is no longer the fruit of the Agape, the self-imparting love of God, which binds individuals to each other through a real gift of the Holy Ghost, but it has become that miraculous thing, the sacrament, which the members share with each other; they now receive the Body of Christ, instead of being the Body of Christ.” (pg. 77)

These descriptions speak clearly of the spiritually eccentric fruit of “diminishment” and “distortion” as well as a fundamental change to the Christocentric fruit of “unity” within the Ekklesia.  If C/E Spiritual Theory is to prove fully accurate in this situation, then, there is one more aspect that ought to become evident: “defilement.”

That defilement that was ushered in through “sacramentalism” (i.e. “the over-valuation of the sacred meal”) was “institutionalism”, especially in relation to the rise of the office of the monarchical bishop (monepiscopate.)

Institutional Eccentricity

Brunner continues further, “Institutionalism is produced by sacramentalism. Episcopacy is exalted through the emphasis laid on sacraments, and only from the sacramental point of view can we understand why precisely the office of bishop was valued and why it was valued to such an extent.  The two movements — the institutional and the sacramental — stimulate each other and unite to produce their final effect. The priest-bishop becomes an apostolic authority. The presbyters and overseers, from being proved servants, become simply personages occupying the place of honour, but from among them there emerges the bishop as ‘the’ leader and embodiment of the unity of the Church.” (pg. 78-79)

The whole premise of The Misunderstanding of the Church that Brunner methodically and meticulously establishes and defends is reiterated in the beginning of this chapter 8:  “So far our thesis has proved sound: the Ecclesia of the New Testament is a communion of persons and nothing else. It is the Body of Christ, but not an institution. Therefore it is not yet what it later became as the result of a slow, steady, hence unnoticed process of transformation: it is not yet a Church. The Church— firstly the early catholic, then the neo-catholic Roman church— is distinguished from the Ecclesia above all in this— that it is no longer primarily a communion of persons, but rather an institution…” (pg. 74)

Brunner sees this “institutionalism” as foreign to the Ekklesia as established by Christ and His apostles (i.e. a “defilement” from outside of “the original circle”.)  And this institutionalism found its focus and locus in the authoritative office of the monarchical bishop of the second century and onward.

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So much more could be said concerning this fundamental transformation that took place so early on in the history of the Ekklesia/Church. But may this suffice to show that what accounted for this history-shaping shift, at its most primal inception and on through its full development, was the principle of “spiritual eccentricity.”  In addition, in keeping with the predictive nature of C/E Spiritual Theory, the transformation that ensued did indeed bear the predicted fruit of disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement. 

As with the situation in Corinth, that we explored in the “Scriptural Case Study”, what similarly underlay and characterized this early portion of Ecclesiastical history, also underlays and characterizes most of Ecclesiastical history, in one iteration or another.  This is what makes this C/E Spiritual Theory so valuable.  It is a very powerful “tool” and “lens” for the purpose of analysis, discernment, and prediction.  The beauty of it is that, in its essence, it is profoundly simple, and yet, in its outworking, it is simply profound!

We will continue in the next post to consider another watershed in Church history, the Protestant Reformation, and do so looking through the lens of C/E Spiritual theory.  I think you will find it quite revealing!  Please stay tuned!

The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)
“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 1)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 2)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 3)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 4)

Main page: C/EST

The Misunderstanding of the Church  (Archive.org link)
By Emil Brunner
Translated by Harold Knight
Westminster Press – Philadelphia

Posted in Audio Posts, Church History/Development, Spiritual Dynamics, Spiritual Eccentricity, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 4)

[For the explanation and illustration (animated short) of C/E Spiritual Theory, please see here.  For previous posts in this “Scriptural Case Study”, please see Part 1Part 2, and Part 3]

[Listen to Part 4 here.]

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We come now to the last section of 1 Corinthians 3 (verses 8-23) and also to the last aspect of “C/E Spiritual Theory”: the contrasting attributes of purity and defilement.  In this installment our exploration will be based primarily on verses 16-17, for there both of the principles of purity and defilement are contained and expressed.

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

Holiness and Purity

Here the principle of purity is found inherently contained within the word “holy.”  All through the Scriptures, holiness and purity are irrevocably joined together.  When it comes to “the temple of God”, the most commonly used word in Scripture in connection with it is the word “holy.”  Because holiness demands purity, various forms of the word “purity” (“pure”, “purify”, “purification”, etc…) are intensively found in connection with the temple and its service.  (Even a quick scan through Leviticus will amply confirm this point.)

With that in mind, when we look at the dual matters of holiness and purity through the lens of “C/E Spiritual Theory”, a wonderful perspective of their meaning and connection comes into view.

If we consider the first diagram shown above, we see a single, white circle (representing “unity”), filled with a multitude of blue vectors (representing “fullness”), and with all of the vectors oriented and in right relationship to the centerpoint (representing “balance”.)  We also see the white circle not encroached upon nor defiled by the surrounding darkness/black vectors (representing “purity”.)  The entire diagram as such represents “the fullness of God” in perfect unity, fullness, balance, and purity.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “holy” comes “from PIE *kailo- “whole, uninjured.”  It goes on to say, “The primary (pre-Christian) meaning is not possible to determine, but probably it was “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated,”

If we consider this definition for the word “holy” in relation to the above diagram of “the fullness of God”, we could say that this depiction also represents “the holiness of God.”  The white circle is “whole” and “preserved whole” (no “disunity”), “intact” (no “diminishment”), “uninjured” (no “distortion”), and not “transgressed or violated” (no “defilement”.)  The holiness of God, therefore, is the wholeness (“fullness”) of God without any disunity, diminishment, distortion, or defilement!  (Dare I say, that is about as good a definition of “the holiness of God” as you may ever find!)

Thus we see depicted before our eyes the absolute connection between holiness and purity.  When Paul tells the Corinthian believers that, “…the temple of God is holy, which temple you are”, he is declaring the utter necessity for purity within the ekklesia of God.

Defilement and Destruction

There is another word connection that must be explored as well in verse 17: “defile” and “destroy.”  Paul said, “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.”  The Greek word translated “defile” (KJV, NKJV) is the same Greek word translated “destroy” in this sentence.

That Greek word is φθείρω, “ptheiro”, which means to “corrupt, defile, destroy;… properly, to shrivel or wither, i.e. To spoil (by any process) or (generally) to ruin (especially figuratively, by moral influences, to deprave) — ” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance)

And so we see a clear connection between defilement and destruction in the context of the temple of God.

The questions that need to be asked, then, are, 1) “What is it that ‘defiles’ the temple of God?”, and, 2) “Why did Paul bring this aspect into his reproof to the Corinthians at this point of his epistle?”

To answer the first question, we can begin with an insight from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon under the entry for “ptheiro” which says, “…in the opinion of the Jews the temple was corrupted, or ‘destroyed’, when anyone defiled or in the slightest degree damaged anything in it, or if its guardians neglected their duties;” 

Further, if we turn to the Scriptures, we see that there are a number of things that are said to defile or desecrate the temple of God.  I would like to highlight three of the primary ones.

  1. Unpurified flesh – Numbers 19:20 says, “But if those who are unclean do not purify themselves, they must be cut off from the community, because they have defiled the sanctuary of the LORD.”  The books of Leviticus and Numbers alone are filled with innumerable instructions about purification rites and cleansing protocols to make sure the people of God were fit to enter/serve in the tabernacle of the Lord.
  2. Idolatry – Jeremiah 32:34 says, “But they set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to defile it.”  Ezekiel 5:9,11 further says, “Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again…”Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will shave you; I will not look on you with pity or spare you.”  Idolatry within the temple of God defiles it.
  3. Improper building – Exodus 20:24b-25 says, Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.  If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.”  This is a very primitive instruction but it is an example of how very specific God is about every detail of the building of His house and of the worship of His Name.  Any deviation from His revealed “pattern” (Exodus 25:40) or “due order” (1 Chronicles 15:13) constituted the defilement of His dwelling place and would even at times eventuate in destruction and/or death.

With these things in mind, let us now consider the second question, “Why did Paul bring this aspect into his reproof to the Corinthians at this point of his epistle?”

We need to keep in mind that this exhortation and warning concerning the defiling of God’s temple was written in the context of 1 Corinthians 1-3.  It was included in Paul’s apostolic reproof and correction there because it was relevant to the situation at hand.  It was an integral part of his magnificent treatise to re-center them back on Jesus Christ so that the disunity (and the other attributes of “spiritual eccentricity”) that existed there would be rectified.

So what specific defilements did his exhortation apply to?  I believe from what Paul wrote in these first three chapters, and especially in chapter 3, that they are three-fold.

1. Defilement of “the flesh” – In the first 4 verses of chapter 3, Paul uses the word “carnal” four times, and in connection with this word he mentions “envy”, “strife”, and “divisions” (vs.3)  The original Greek words used for these three words, “zelos”, “eris”, and “dichostasia” respectively, are the exact Greek words used in Galatians 5:20 when Paul described “the works of the flesh” (vs. 19) to include: “contentions” (“eris”), “jealousies”(“zelos”), and “dissentions” (“dichostasia”.) (NKJV)  Furthermore, after completing his list of “the works of the flesh”, Paul sternly warns, “…of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (vs 21)

In other words, the “envy”, “strife” and “divisions” that some of the Corinthians were engaging in through their sectarian dividing of the body of Christ was a “carnal”, “fleshly” defilement (“ptheiro”) of the holy temple of God and was inviting the destruction (“ptheiro”) of God upon them, including the loss of all inheritance in the kingdom of God.

2. Defilement of spiritual idolatry – Idolatry can take many forms but, in essence, it is the ascribing to something other than God the worship, sacrifice, trust, and/or loyalty that belongs solely to God.  When believers in Corinth exalted certain servants of the Lord to a place of esteem that belonged solely to the Lord Jesus Christ, it was, in essence, a subtle but significant act of spiritual idolatry.  Such an act brings defilement and corruption (“ptheiro”) to the holy temple of God and is thus worthy of God’s “ptheiro” judgement.

(In this regard, it is interesting to note that the word “corrupt” has at its root “rup-“ which has the meaning “to break, tear.” (Online Etymology Dictionary)  The idolatry of exalting various servants of the Lord in Corinth was in effect breaking and tearing, i.e. corrupting, the unity of the ekklesia, the temple of God, in that city.)

3. Defilement of inferior building – Above all things, God’s temple is “holy.”  We understand from the Old Testament that holiness is very detailed, precise, and exacting.  When God seeks for His holy habitation to be established on earth, He gives instructions from heaven concerning its construction and service that are indeed very detailed, precise, and exacting.  (See Exodus 25-30, 1 Chronicles 28; Ezekiel 40-46, etc.)  Any deviation from the heavenly “pattern” or “due order” by man is considered a defilement and corruption (“ptheiro”) of His house and, therefore, subjects those who perpetrate it to God’s “ptheiro” judgement.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15,

“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it.  But let each one take heed how he builds on it.  For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.

If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

These verses immediately precede verses 16-17 where Paul talks about God’s people in Corinth being His holy “temple.”  This indicates that all improper building upon the foundation of Christ, signified by the use of destructible building material (“wood, hay, straw”), is a defilement and corruption (“ptheiro”) of God’s temple, and, therefore, will be subject to God’s fiery judgment (“ptheiro”) and testing of it so that only that which is of and according to His holy nature and work (“gold, silver, and precious stones”) will remain.

~ ~ ~

The context of Paul’s exhortation concerning the holiness of God’s house and of the consequent judgment of those who defile it is the very situation that prevailed in Corinth. The “ptheiro” defiling of the one ekklesia there through the works of the flesh (“envy”, “strife”, “divisions”), spiritual idolatry (“I am of Paul”, “I am of Apollos”, “I am of Cephas”), and improper building (“wood, hay, straw”) all invited the “ptheiro” judgment of God because of the holiness (purity) of God’s temple.  That temple was comprised of all of the believers in Corinth as a single, unified “building” (vs. 3:9.)

Furthermore, what we can discern from viewing this situation through “C/E Spiritual Theory” is that fundamental to all of the defilement of the ekklesia in Corinth was spiritual eccentricity, in one form or another.


Throughout these first three chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul could not have been clearer nor more compelling in His apostolic revelation of the deep-rooted spiritual eccentricity that existed in Corinth and of its dire repercussions.  He also could not have been clearer nor more compelling as to the spiritual remedy for all of the eccentric maladies that existed there: the exalting of the Lord Jesus Christ alone as the all-encompassing, all-sufficient, and all-excelling Center of ALL things!  This alone was necessary in order to restore the Christocentric fruit of unity, fullness, balance, and purity and to root out the eccentric fruit of disunity, diminishment, distortion and defilement!  1 Corinthians 1-3 is the apostle Paul’s masterpiece as to how that is to be accomplished…then and now! May we have ears to hear…and eyes to see!

“C/E Spiritual Theory” – Historical Application: Early Eccentricities

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 1)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 2)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 3)

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” main page: C/EST

The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)

Posted in Audio Posts, Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality, Christ-Centered Unity, Spiritual Eccentricity, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 3)

[For the explanation and illustration (animated short) of C/E Spiritual Theory, please see here.  For previous posts in this “Scriptural Case Study”, please see Part 1 and Part 2.]

[Listen to Part 3 here.]

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As we look further at Paul’s apostolic reproof and re-centering of the ekklesia in Corinth through the lens of C/E Spiritual Theory, we come next to the contrasting attributes of balance and distortion.  We will pick up where we left off in 1 Corinthians and take a look at a few passages of Paul’s discourse as it continues in chapter 3.

After taking a chapter and a half to focus on wisdom and power, Paul then returned in chapter 3 to address more fully the inordinate exalting of the Lord’s servants as the visible rallying points of the various schisms within the ekklesia of Corinth.  He continued:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.  I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal.

For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?  For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
(1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

What is all but impossible to ignore in these first four verses of chapter 3 is how Paul unashamedly declared these believers and their schismatic propensities as “carnal.”   [He uses the word “carnal” (Gk. = “sarkikos”) four times in a mere three verses (vs. 1, 3, & 4.)]  That degree of concentration on one word in such a short space ought to arrest our attention.

To begin to give it the attention it deserves, then, let us take out the “magnifying glass” of C/E Spiritual Theory and see how these matters of carnality, schism, balance, and distortion come into focus when looked at through it.

As a result of the fall, the natural man is essentially SELF-centered and, therefore, is essentially “eccentric” in nature.   As a result, fallen humanity, both individually and collectively, is corrupted in its constitution and therefore readily embodies and expresses the fruit of eccentricity: disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement.  When it comes to “spiritual” matters, then, the “carnal” man tends toward divisiveness, party spirit, religious biases, and sectarian pride.

On the other hand, through the redemptive work of Christ, the “spiritual” man is essentially God-centered in nature.  As a result, redeemed humanity, both individually and collectively, is constituted so as to (super-)naturally embody and express the fruit of Christocentricity: unity, fullness, balance, and purity.  When it comes to spiritual matters, then, the “spiritual” man, tends toward reconciliation, magnanimity, spiritual impartiality, and collective humility.

When the ekklesia of God, therefore, fails to embody and express the unifying fruits of Christocentricity and manifests instead the divisive fruits of eccentricity, it proves itself to be “carnal” rather than “spiritual.”  As such, it’s fallen, SELF-centered orientation  represents a clear distortion of its redeemed, CHRIST-centered constitution, character, and calling.  This is what we see had developed in Corinth and so Paul did not hold back in his declaration and denunciation of their divisive practices as “carnal.”

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Paul continued on in chapter 3:

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” (vs. 5-7)

Here we see a specific example of the kind of distortion that springs from spiritual eccentricity.  Looking again through the lens of C/E Spiritual Theory, we understand that whenever some secondary aspect takes on super-significance so as to rival Christ in His unrivaled centrality and preeminence, distortion takes place beginning with that newly elevated “vector-point.”

Subsequently, as a new “circle” forms and shifts over around this new “centerpoint”, distortion works its way outwardly to the circumference as all “vector-points” twist and orient to the new center.  These vector-points also shift in their degree of “weightedness” according to their newly adjusted proximity to the new “centerpoint” so that systemic spiritual imbalance likewise becomes integral to the distortion of the new “circle.”

Those surrounding vector-points that are now closest to the new “centerpoint” increase in their “weightedness” more than the others and thus take on a highly-elevated significance of their own.  These hyper-inflated points often represent tangible outward things which are esteemed simply for their being the means through which the unseen, deeper eccentricities are manifested.  Because “…man looks on the outward appearance…” (1 Samuel 16:7), these outward things can become collectively esteemed and embraced as the tangible rallying points and unifying identities of those who are inwardly attracted to the deeper eccentricities that they embody and express.

I suggest this is what had taken place in Corinth with the servants of the Lord, Paul, Apollos, and Cephas.   Paul’s purpose in this section, then, was to re-center and reorient the Corinthians believers back onto their true Center and to reestablish the actual significance of these men according to God’s true “weighting” of them, thus restoring proper spiritual balance.

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When it comes to spiritual balance, one last aspect of the situation in Corinth should be noted.  If we look for a moment at the concluding verses of chapter 3, we are given a hint of the spiritual balance that God had intended and indeed provided for the ekklesia there:

“Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come–all are yours.  And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”  (1 Corinthian 3:21-23)

In this statement, we notice that “Paul”, “Apollos”, and “Cephas” are each equally commended as belonging to all of the saints in Corinth.  If we take into consideration what has been shared earlier in this “case study” concerning these three men, as well as an additional consideration regarding Paul, we will see how God had truly provided to the saints in Corinth a full and balanced supply of Christ in and through these men.

As was shared in Part 2, Paul was well-balanced in his person and ministry whereas Apollos and Cephas were more accentuated in their strengths and weaknesses.  Apollos weighed in more heavily on the wisdom side of things while Cephas (Peter) on the power side.

In addition to what Paul himself contributed of his own measure of wisdom and power to the saints in Corinth, he also weighed in heavily on another facet of the nature and work of God, love.  We see this highlighted in particular in chapter 13 of this epistle (sometimes called “the love chapter.”)  Love is an essential virtue that if it is not found in unity and balance with the others, renders all else as “nothing” (see 1 Corinthians 13:2.)

Wisdom, power, and love are, as it were, the “primary colors” of the nature and work of God.  2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  When the Ekklesia is fashioned according to Christ in all things, it too possesses these “primary color virtues” in unity, fullness, balance, and purity.

This is what God intended for the ekklesia of Corinth.  In the servants that He had caused to have the greatest impact upon her, we see a balanced heavenly provision of love, wisdom, and power embodied and expressed primarily through Paul, Apollos, and Cephas respectively.  If the saints had remained truly Christ-centered, they would have received each one of these servants for who they were and what they had to supply.  The ekklesia there would have thus been marked by unity rather than division, fullness rather than limitation, balance rather than incongruity, and purity rather than carnality.

What God had intended for the unified embodiment of the blessed fruit of Christocentricity, the believers turned into splintered expressions of the cursed fruit of spiritual eccentricity.

This is what Paul labored so intensively in order to eradicate within these believers in these opening chapters of 1 Corinthians.

And still, he was not done…

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We have one section of 1 Corinthians 3 left to consider, verses 8 through 20, and, according to “C/E Spiritual Theory”, one contrasting-fruit-couplet to explore as well: purity/defilement.  I do believe Paul saved His most convincing and convicting counsels for last!  Please stay tuned for his “grand finale”…

“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 4)

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 1)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 2)

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” main page: C/EST

The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)
Centrality and Balance

Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality, Christ-Centered Unity, Spiritual Eccentricity, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog update (please read)

Hi friends,

I’m sending out a brief interim post with a needed clarification, an update, and a few personal requests before my next regular post comes out in a day or two.  If you are an email follower in particular, please take time to read!  Thanks!

Latest post notification/link issues – The most recent post (published March 23rd @ 11:23PM, EDT), had an issue with email notifications apparently not going out to everyone (including myself.)  As a result, I copied and republished the post about two hours later (March 24th @ 1:24AM, EDT) hoping that I might have better success.  I know of at least one person, however, who did not receive this second notification, and neither did I.  I’m assuming there may be others as well. 😦

Most of you, however, should have received two email notifications with only the second email having an active link.  If you didn’t receive the one with the active link, you may follow this one to view the post:  https://wp.me/p1tyXU-3nD

I wanted to clear up any confusion concerning that posting and send out the link before continuing with Part 3 of our current series.

[REQUEST: If you were one of those who did not receive both email notifications, would you please email me at david[at]christcenteredchrristianity[dot]com and let me know.  If this proves to be an ongoing problem, I will need to take further steps to get it resolved.  Any information I could provide in that process I’m sure would be helpful. THANKS!]

New permanent page added – The last four posts on this blog, which focus on “spiritual eccentricity” and “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory”, are, in my opinion, some of the most important to date.  The truths and insights expressed in these posts underlie everything related to this blog, from the initial motivation to begin blogging (some 11 years ago now), to its name, focus, primary theme, and the majority of its content.

Because of the significance of this revelation and its centrality to this blog, I have created a permanent page in order to gather in one place the most significant posts related to it to date (with more to be added shortly.)  This page contains links to the original posts, audio playlists, and related video (animated shorts.)  If anyone is interested in a “crash course” on the central vision and burden of this blog, I recommend this page.

This new page is called simply, “C/EST“, which is short for “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory.”  It can always be accessed by the “C/EST” tab from the header bar or drop down menu (depending on your device and formatting.)  If you would like to check it out now, the link is here: https://christcenteredchristianity.com/c-est/

Lastly, I want to thank and also encourage each one of you in regard to your participation in this blog.  By the grace of God, it has reached into over 190 different nations and territories over the years and has consistent daily traffic.  Every follower subscribed, post read, post liked, comment made, link clicked, resource downloaded, and post/page shared has also contributed to that reach and influence!

That being said, I have an urgency in my spirit as to the hour in which we are living, the desperate need for the Ekklesia to radically return to Christ as her unrivaled Center and uncontested Head, and the final preparation of the Bride for the imminent return of her Bridegroom.  I have sought to steward these burdens and truths with every page and post on this blog.

At this time, I feel to be (uncharacteristically) bold and make an appeal to those who have been blessed by this blog to please consider how you may partner together with this endeavor in prayer and also in sharing the content of this blog with others, be it with family, friends, those you are in fellowship with, co-workers, or on social media.  No one else can help spread the word in just the way that you can!  We truly need each other!

Please keep in mind, too, that in addition to the original writings and contributions on this blog, there are also some wonderful free resources by others that can be passed on as well to help edify and equip the body of Christ for this critical end-time that we are living in.  You never know the ripple effect that even one share might have! 😉

For the sake of Christ and His now and coming Kingdom, thank you and may God bless you!

Latest post: “C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 2)

New page added: C/EST

Free Resources

Posted in Blog Updates | 2 Comments

“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 2)

[For the explanation and illustration (animated short) of “C/E Spiritual Theory”, please see here.  For the previous post in this “Scriptural Case Study”, please see Part 1.  Since this post builds on these two prior ones, I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with them first before continuing here.  Thanks.]

[Listen to Part 2 here.]

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Fullness/Diminishment (Cont.)

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After Paul dealt a decisive blow to the inflated significance that some had ascribed to him in making him the “unifying identity” of their “I am of Paul” clique in Corinth, he now turns his attention to two spiritual matters, wisdom and power.  From the middle of 1 Corinthians 1 through the end of chapter 2, he circles around these two matters in order to ultimately center them fully in “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)  He further seeks to emphasize that both wisdom and power are revealed and imparted to God’s people through the Holy Spirit, not by the abilities of “the natural man” nor the collective endowments of “the world.”

Although at first glance it may not seem that this 1 1/2-chapter-long focus was purposely concentrated to deal head on with the divisions that existed in Corinth, upon closer examination, it seems that Paul was actually moving below the surface of the problem and going deeper to the very root of it.

So, we may ask, why wisdom and power?  May I suggest that these two spiritual matters were the deeper “eccentricities” that those who were professing “I am of Apollos” and “I am of Cephas” were being drawn to.  Apollos and Cephas appear to merely be the human vessels in and through which these two attributes were separately being embodied and expressed.

While Paul was very well-rounded and balanced in his person and ministry, Apollos and Cephas were more accentuated in their strengths and weaknesses.  If you were to picture a balance scale with the left side representing wisdom and the right side power, Paul would probably be perched somewhere in the middle, embodying both, while Apollos would clearly be on the left side and Cephas on the right.

What we know about Apollos was that he was a Jew from one of the leading academic centers of the ancient world (for both Jewish and Hellenistic learning), Alexandria, Egypt.  According to Luke’s account of him in the book of Acts, his strength in ministry was in the Word of God (“Scriptures”) and its eloquent exposition.  Luke says he was, “an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures,” and that, “he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”  (Acts 18:24, 28)   This heavily puts him on the “wisdom” side of the scale.

Simultaneously, his weakness seems to be on the “power” side of things.  When he had come to Ephesus, Luke says that “he knew only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25), and thus, by implication, did not know either water baptism into Christ, nor the subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit, through which the power of God is imparted (Acts 1:4-5,8).  It is further noteworthy that there are no recorded miracles associated with his ministry.

In contrast, however, Cephas (Peter) was considered an “uneducated and untrained” man (Acts 4:13).   He was not known for his superior intellect, education, nor eloquence.  From the day of Pentecost onward, however, mighty miracles, signs, and wonders continually flowed from this broken fisherman!  This characteristic of the miraculous preeminently marked his ministry and, therefore, places him firmly on the “power” side of the scale.

So, whereas Apollos embodied and primarily ministered the wisdom of God through the Word of God, Peter embodied and primarily ministered the power of God through the Spirit of God.

The wisdom of the Word and the power of the Spirit are both essential and ought never to be separated, yet men tend to gravitate and orient toward one or the other.  This was even a religious/cultural tendency in the first century.  Within this section of 1 Corinthians that we are considering, Paul says : “Jews demand signs, and Greeks look for wisdom,” (1 Corinthians 1:22.)

It is reasonable to conclude, then, that some of the Greeks in Corinth were being drawn to the wisdom of God flowing through Apollos, while some of the Jews were being drawn to the power of God flowing thorough Peter, the “apostle to the circumcised.” (Galatians 2:8)

If the isolated and inordinate elevation of wisdom and power by differing groups in Corinth was indeed the underlying taproot of the “I am of Apollos” and “I am of Cephas” sects, then Paul’s radical approach of focusing intensively on these two aspects (in order to center and sum them both up in Christ and the cross) was pure apostolic brilliance!

With that perspective in mind, let us now look at how the apostle Paul tackles these two aspects, especially in relation to spiritual fullness and diminishment.

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In the remainder of chapter 1 (verses 17-31), Paul, on the one hand, exalts Jesus Christ (and Him “crucified”) as the fullness of “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (vs. 24) , and, on the other hand, shows the utter foolishness and weakness of the wisdom and power that this world has to offer (vs.19-23,25-29.)  Those who center in Jesus Christ, therefore, center in the place of all spiritual fullness, whereas those who make either wisdom or power their “main point” settle for spiritual diminishment.

Paul then continued in chapter 2 with an emphasis on how and by whom wisdom and power are manifested among and administered to God’s people.  His intent was to show, on the one hand, the utter incapacity of humanity to naturally embody and administer these divine virtues [beginning with himself (vs. 1-4a) and then the “natural man” in general (vs. 6, 8-9,14)], and, on the other hand, the all-sufficiency of the Holy Spirit in both possessing and supplying these heavenly attributes to the people of God (vs. 4, 10-13.)

In these two sections, then, Paul exalts Jesus Christ, the cross, and the Holy Spirit to their rightful, elevated places and sets “wisdom”, “power”, “the natural man”, and “the world” in their appropriate lesser, limited places.  He further accurately frames the dependent servants of the Lord as His “foolish” and frail vessels called and equipped for displaying forth His Spirit-imparted virtues.  His ultimate intention is that of re-gathering the ekklesia of Corinth back to the Christocentric nature of the Kingdom of God that it would be re-centered in the place of all spiritual fullness and away from all spiritual diminishment.

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By way of illustration of what has been said thus far in this case study, the situation that existed in Corinth may be loosely likened to that described in the poem, “The Blind Men and the Elephant”, by John Godfrey Saxe  (click to read if you wish.)  The poem winsomely depicts the disputings of six blind men as they each vigorously insist on what an elephant is like.  Depending on the one part of the elephant they were each touching/holding onto, their descriptions varied widely as: “a wall” (side), “a spear” (tusk), “a snake” (trunk), “a tree” (leg), “a fan” (ear), and “a rope” (tail.)  After describing each man’s settled conclusion, the poem then continues:

“And so these men of Indostan, disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion, exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!”

Each of these blind men had a very diminished perception of the elephant and so they “disputed loud and long” holding fast to their partial perspectives.  And so it is when we, in our lack of spiritual vision, lay hold of a part of Christ and think we have the whole of Him, or at least the most significant part.  Such diminished perceptions lead to disputations, schisms, sectarian identities, and spiritual limitation.  Only when we all come to clearly see Jesus Christ in the consummate fullness of ALL that He is, will all such “di-visions” cease to exist.  Such a unified full perception of Christ will invariably lead to agreement, harmony, a unified identity, and spiritual abundance.  To minister Christ unto this end was Paul’s unceasing burden and heavenly mandate!

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We are now approximately two-thirds of the way through Paul’s apostolic reproof and correction regarding the divisions that existed in the ekklesia of Corinth.  In my opinion, he saved his best and most compelling exhortations for last.  We will pick up in the next post with 1 Corinthians chapter 3 and the C/E Spiritual Theory aspects of Balance/Distortion.

“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 3)

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)
“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 1)

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” main page: C/EST

The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)
Christ the Power and Wisdom of God
“Christ – The Center of All Things” by Nathan Odell
“The Blind Men and the Elephant” – by John Godfrey Saxe

Posted in Audio Posts, Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality, Christ-Centered Unity, Spiritual Eccentricity, The Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 1)

[Listen to post here.]

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In the prior two posts, the main features and functions of  “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” were introduced, explained, and illustrated.  Since all theories need to be tested, this “spiritual theory” needs to be tested as well, and that, first and foremost, with Scripture.

In this series of posts, I want to present a “scriptural case study” that employs this theory as a “lens” through which to look to examine more closely a specific portion of Scripture, 1 Corinthians chapters 1-3.  In doing so, I believe that the biblical clarity that will result will not only demonstrate 1) the legitimacy of this “theory” but also 2) its inherent explanatory and predictive usefulness and value.

In this series, I will be aiming to balance simplicity with sufficiency concerning each aspect.  To clearly make the connections between the verses being considered and the spiritual theory, my intention is to interweave Scriptural explanation with the various principles and phraseology unique to this theory without belaboring or exhausting each point.  (Graphics taken from the animated short of the previous post are also interspersed at appropriate points for additional clarity.)

Before proceeding, then, it is important that every reader have a basic familiarity with this spiritual theory in order to grasp the application of it here in these posts.  Therefore, if you have not read the previous post, “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short), I strongly urge you to do so before proceeding with this one.

Additionally for this series, we will be regularly referencing the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians.  A fresh familiarity with those chapters and/or having them accessible alongside of these posts, would also be highly advisable. 🙂

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1 Corinthians 1-3 – A Case Study

We will now take a closer look at 1 Corinthians 1-3 and the primary spiritual problem that they address, as seen through the lens of “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” (…for simplicity’s sake, hereafter referred to simply as “C/E Spiritual Theory”.)

Apostolic Christocentricity

When the apostle Paul initially went to Corinth, he was resolutely focused and relentlessly purposed in his ministry and mission.  He declared to the Corinthian believers, “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)  He further stated, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11) 

Paul initially labored in Corinth for a year and a half and during that time he passionately preached nothing but that which was centered around and consummated in “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  He relentlessly laid the foundation of the ekklesia there as none other than “Jesus Christ” Himself.  Paul, as an expert master-builder, was radically Christ-centered and sought to establish the ekklesia in Corinth as a radically Christ-centered, corporate expression of the Messiah according to the eternal wisdom, passion, and purpose of God.

Some time later after leaving Corinth and prior to his writing of the epistle of 1 Corinthians, Paul had gotten word that a different condition had arisen which did not correspond with the apostolic Christocentricity (and its resultant fruit) that He had labored for a year and a half to establish.  The first three chapters of his epistle to them, therefore, addressed this situation, and every aspect of his authoritative reproof and correction was an expression of apostolic re-centering around, in, on, and under Christ!

Spiritual Eccentricity

The troubling condition that had developed in Corinth was that various sects had begun forming around those servants of the Lord who had had a significant impact on the believers there, namely Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (Peter.)  (There were also those who identified as being “…of Christ.”  Whether they were sectarian in spirit in their confession or simply holding fast to their true identity in Him, we do not actually know.)  In the other groups, however, instead of Christ alone having “the preeminence in all things.” (Colossians 1:18), and thus holding the place of unrivaled centrality, these other servants of the Lord had been lifted up as “spiritually eccentric” gathering points, unifying identities, and false foundations of these quarreling schisms.  As a result of these apostatizing shifts, the four-fold fruit of “spiritual eccentricity” had begun to creep in: disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement. 

In these initial chapters of this epistle, then, the apostle Paul exposed and addressed these spiritual eccentricities and deficiencies in order to restore apostolic Christocentricity and its resultant fruit of unity, fullness, balance, and purity. 

In the remainder of this and the subsequent posts of this “case study”, we will consider more closely Paul’s root-level, Christocentric approach to rectifying this condition, and do so while looking through the lens of “C/E Spiritual Theory.”

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Christocentric Introduction

In the first nine verses of 1 Corinthians, Paul the apostle wades into his address to the Corinthian believers with a classic Pauline introduction.  Most interesting to note in this is how his radical apostolic Christocentricity is brought to the fore as he repeatedly highlighted the root and remedy of all that will need to be addressed in this epistle.  In these first nine verses, he mentioned the Lord Jesus Christ, in various ways and contexts, eleven times!  (That averages more than once per verse, and not a single verse goes without mentioning Him in some way!)  That is not without apostolic intentionality, priority, passion, and purpose!  Paul was a wise master-builder!

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He then moved to address the first specific issue that he dealt with in this epistle: sectarian division (i.e. disunity) within the ekklesia of Corinth.

Paul’s initial impetus in addressing this matter was to bring an exhortation as to God’s positive desire for unity in Christ: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”  (1 Corinthians 1:10) 

In contrast to God’s desire for unity, Paul then proceeds to identify the disunity that had arisen among them:  “For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.  Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.'”  (1 Corinthians 1:11-12) 

With this situation identified, we can now see the existence of at least one aspect of the fruit of “spiritual eccentricity” being manifested, disunity.  We also see the apparent root of “spiritual eccentricity” among these various groupings of believers in the inordinate exalting of three servants of Christ above Jesus Christ Himself so as to make these men central to the forming of special allegiances and alliances within the one ekklesia of Corinth.

These divisions having been identified, Paul then proceeded to hold up a plumb line, as it were, by pointing them directly to the crux of the whole matter: “Is Christ divided?”  (1 Corinthians 1:13a)  The inescapable conclusion and implication of this rhetorical bombshell is clearly, “NO!”  These three words alone ought to have settled and concluded the whole matter…but Paul was just getting started!

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Before moving on to the next aspect of Paul’s discourse, it is important to note that in the development of “spiritual eccentricity”, the eccentric fruit of diminishment begins with the centerpoint whenever a lesser “vector point” within the circle becomes overly-esteemed and accepted as a new centerpoint.  Subsequent further diminishment occurs as the circle shifts over to its new orientation and certain aspects of spiritual fullness that exist within the original circle cease to be contained within the circumference of the new circle.  In the ekklesia, then, when the focus and emphasis moves off of God’s ordained Center, Jesus Christ, (in Whom “all the fullness of Deity dwells” – Colossians 2:9), to some lesser point, diminishment invariably ensues, center to circumference!

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Continuing on with Paul’s masterful treatise, then, he next sought to expose the diminished nature of their new (“eccentric”) centers, beginning especially with those who were professing “I am of Paul.”  He continued to press them rhetorically: “Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13)  His intention was to point out the folly and fallacy of their hyper-inflation of himself (a grossly lesser center compared to Christ) as that which they were deeming worthy of being the unique “attractional center” of their fellowship and adopting as their “unifying identity.”

Although Paul’s rhetorical questioning was directed specifically toward himself, the implications of his queries undoubtedly would also apply to Apollos and Cephas as well.  Thus with a few short scintillating questions, Paul laid some solid blows to the root of the tree of “spiritual eccentricity!”  And still he was not done!

Having dealt directly with those who were professing, “I am of Paul“, he then proceeded to address the diminished (“eccentric”) centers more specifically of those who were professing, “I am of Apollos” , and “I am of Cephas.”  Instead of continuing along the same line of rhetorical questioning, however, he choose another route, a more radical one, for the eccentricities of these groups appear to lie yet deeper still!

We will pick up with this new approach in the next post.  Please stay tuned, for this is where Paul’s apostolic brilliance begins to shine even more brightly…if that’s even possible! 😉

Next: “C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 2)

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” main page: C/EST

The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)
“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)
Centrality and Eccentricity


Posted in Audio Posts, Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Unity, Spiritual Eccentricity, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)

[Listen to post here.]

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Well, if you made it past the title of this post, I commend you!  Bravo!  I trust you will be glad that you did as this is, dare I say in all sincerity, one of the most important posts on this blog!  In short…it explains everything!  😮

I feel strongly that the principles and simple diagram that were introduced in the previous post, “The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)”, should be elaborated on and illustrated further.  (I also strongly encourage you to read or listen to that post in conjunction with this one!)  What we are focusing on in these posts is truly one of the most significant and consequential revelations/insights that the Lord has given to me over the past three decades (since it first began to come into my understanding), and I have waited on the Lord for over ten years for the right time to communicate it here on this blog!  It is nothing short of a “Rosetta Stone” in my estimation, for it fits perfectly with the implication associated with the use of that name.  Dictionary.com defines this as: a clue, breakthrough, or discovery that provides crucial knowledge for the solving of a puzzle or problem.”  

When looked at as a whole, Christendom indeed presents a troubling “puzzle” and “problem!”  After all that God has given to His Ekklesia in and through His Beloved Son, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the New Covenant, and His inspired Scriptures in order to bring forth “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27), it is with utter amazement and profound confusion that we observe everywhere the level of division, deficiency, imbalance, and impurity that exists within the Church!  What could possibly explain such a subpar, unbiblical state of affairs after all that God has done and given to His Church in and through the Lord Jesus Christ? 

Although the reality of and solution to this troubling matter is something that could never be fully explained by a simple “drawing on a napkin”, I believe with all of my heart that the illustration that is presented in these posts goes a very long way to provide “a clue, breakthrough, [and] discovery” for the solving of that profound “puzzle” and “problem!” 

For mostly self-evident reasons, I call this understanding “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory.”  I consider it a “spiritual theory” because it provides a coherent group of tested general propositions…that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena:” (excerpted from the Dictionary.com definition of “theory”.)  Although, admittedly, it has not been “tested” broadly at this point, I have personally tested it extensively in regard to my own in-depth study of Scripture, Church history, and the present-day state of Christendom.  I have found it to be the most accurate and useful tool I know of for the purpose of “explanation and prediction” of the “phenomena” we sometimes call “Christendom!”  That being said, I also invite you to do your own testing of it and see if it is not a powerful lens through which to look to discern the Ekklesia how God has eternally desired it, and the “enigma” of the Church as it has historically developed!  My hope is that it will give you a brand new set of eyes!

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For this post, I have once again tapped my youngest son’s talents to produce an animated short as a visual aid to illustrate this “spiritual theory.”  What follows is an explanation of the diagram as it develops, along with the truth behind each aspect.  Also included are interspersed snapshots from the animated short to provide additional visual clarity at each point.  The 35-second animation wraps it up with a presentation of the complete diagram near the end!

And so, without further ado…

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The following diagram symbolizes that which we shall identify as “the fullness of God.”  It has four initial phases, each representing one of four spiritual attributes related to God’s fullness:

  1. Unity – The diagram begins with a black background overlaid with one white circle possessing one indisputable and unrivaled centerpoint.  From center to circumference, this circle represents spiritual unity.

  2. Fullness – The circle next fills in with numerous other points, each representing some aspect of “the fullness of God.”  The diagram now symbolizes spiritual fullness.

  3. Balance – All the points turn into vectors as they orient properly to the centerpoint.  Their distance from the centerpoint, also indicates their proper “weightedness” within “the fullness of God.”  The diagram now portrays spiritual balance.

  4. Purity – Numerous black vectors appear within the darkened background surrounding the circle but none encroach within the circle.  This development displays spiritual purity.

These initial four phases together, therefore, represent “the fullness of God” in its four essential spiritual attributes: unity, fullness, balance, and purity.   If we further identify the centerpoint as Christ Jesus Himself (Ephesians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:18), this diagram takes on the attribute of “Christocentricity”, and as such further serves as a depiction of a “Christocentric spiritual system”…i.e. the Kingdom of God, the Ekklesia.

In regard to the Ekklesia, these four spiritual attributes of unity, fullness, balance, and purity can be seen as characteristics of the fully-matured Body of Christ toward which God is building it up and perfecting it.  According to Ephesians 4:11-15, the “five-fold ministry gifts” are given “till we all come to…” a particular end:

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to…

1. unity

“…the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

2. fullness

“…to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;

3. balance

“…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

4. purity

“…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ–“

As we consider these verses alongside the diagram, we can see exactly how these four attributes come to increasingly characterize the spiritual condition of God’s people when Christ Himself occupies the indisputable, unrivaled place of centrality and supremacy in all things related to the fullness of God!

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Our diagram continues to develop further now in order to depict that which becomes the rival to spiritual “Christocentricity”: “spiritual eccentricity.”  In these final phases, four new spiritual attributes are introduced as the fruit of a spiritually “eccentric” development:

  1. Disunity – One of the secondary points within the circle ceases to orient to the centerpoint, loses its vector, and enlarges until it rivals the original centerpoint in size, significance, and preeminence.  As a result, a new circle forms around it that shifts over from the original circle.  Now there is no longer one centerpoint and circle but two competing centerpoints and circles.  The diagram now depicts spiritual disunity.

  2. Diminishment –  With the new circle having shifted over, certain points within the original circle are no longer included in the second circle.  This rival circle is now marked by spiritual diminishment.

  3. Distortion – All of the points/vectors of the first circle that are still within the second circle, now twist to orient to the new center.  Their proximity to the centerpoint also changes, either increasing or decreasing their spiritual “weightedness.”  Everything is now torqued and out of balance from the original state, thus exhibiting spiritual distortion.

  4. Defilement – Lastly, the second circle, having shifted over, now incorporates into it aspects of the darkness.  The black vectors now included within the shifted circle turn red and twist to orient to the new rival center.  Our diagram is now complete with this final development representing spiritual defilement.

These final four phases together, therefore, represent a condition we can rightly call “spiritual eccentricity”, along with its four spiritual attributes of: disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement.   “Spiritual eccentricity” [“eccentricity” meaning “ec-“(“out of”) +”centricity”(“center”), i.e. “out-of-center”] comes into existence whenever something or someone takes on greater significance, centrality, and preeminence than God’s ordained “centerpoint”, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:18).  When some aspect, even of that which belongs to “the fullness of God”, becomes more primary than Christ Himself, a new “center” forms and a new “circle” comes into existence, shifting over from the original and ushering in the four attributes of “spiritual eccentricity.”

This is tantamount to a spiritual law and its effects can be observed everywhere throughout Christendom to this day.  This very process has replicated over and over again (around divergent new centers by various collectives of God’s people), and this simple illustration portrays and identifies clearly the root cause of the vast prevalence of division, deficiency, imbalance, and impurity in the Church world-wide.  Thankfully, it also illuminates the radical spiritual solution and resolution to it in the restoration of the Lord Jesus Christ back to the place of indisputable and unrivaled centrality and supremacy in all things!

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If there are any bare minimum “takeaways” from this illustrated “spiritual theory”, then, let them at least be these: if Jesus Christ were truly in His rightful place within the Ekklesia, central and supreme in ALL things, according to the eternal purpose and wisdom of God, ALL disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement within the Church would be eradicated and cease to exist!  (Tell me what would not be thus affected!)  Secondly, any and every appearance of these four eccentric spiritual attributes of spiritual disunity, diminishment, distortion and defilement identifies, simply and clearly, that Jesus Christ is, in fact, NOT in His rightful place within the Ekklesia in one or more respects and something else lesser IS!  Identifying the root of these eccentric maladies, and seeing its Christocentric remedy, is the greatest value and usefulness of this profoundly simple, simply profound “spiritual theory” and its associated diagram!

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Now that we have considered each phase of this diagram as it develops, along with its corresponding spiritual attributes and principles, let us take an animated look at it, all brought together in one… (expanded view recommended!)

And…d-r-r-r-rums please!!!!

PLEASE take some TIME with this diagram and the spiritual realities it portrays!  Please consider and seek out what specific aspects of “the fullness of God” have historically taken center stage and around which movements and institutions have divergently coalesced.  How exactly do these principles explain the spiritual diminishment that exists within the various sects of Christianity?  What particular eccentric emphases have gotten God’s people out of focus and out of balance?  What identifiable impurities have crept in that can be traced back to some lesser thing than Christ being enthroned as preeminent?  These things are very real among God’s people, and maybe, just maybe, this simple “drawing on a napkin” can give us a a clue, a breakthrough and a discovery as to WHY!


Next: “C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 1)

The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” main page: C/EST

Additional related:
Centrality and Eccentricity
Centrality and Balance
“Christ – The Center of All Things” by Nathan Odell
Affirmations (2) – Christ the Unrivaled Center of the Church

Posted in Christ-Centered Spirituality, Christ-Centered Unity, Spiritual Dynamics, Spiritual Eccentricity, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)

[Listen to post here.]

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“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Revelation 19:10

Behind, in, and through all that God is saying, revealing, and doing is the comprehensive, incomprehensible, “testimony of Jesus.”  The Father’s heart is radically centered in His Son, and He has ordained “… that in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18)  Consequently, the “spiritual DNA” that penetrates, permeates, prescribes, powers, and propagates all of creation, both seen and unseen, throughout time and eternity, is the centrality and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ!  All the fullnesses of both the old and new creations are inherently Christocentric in nature and expression.  Governing all, the mystery of the Father’s will is relentlessly working to “…bring back to and gather ’round the main point all things.” (Marvin Vincent’s literal translation of Ephesians 1:10b)  That “main point” is “Christ.” (vs. 10)

In light of this, the calling of the Ekklesia is to be God’s instrument to declare and display forth to all of creation the unrivaled centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things through its own embodiment of His preeminence and sovereignty in every aspect of its being, vocation, and testimony.  Such is our high calling according to God’s eternal desire and design concerning His Beloved Son.  (See Ephesians 3:10-11.)

Prophetic Christocentricity

In keeping with the eternal purpose and passion of God, the Holy Spirit and prophetic Scriptures are, likewise, radically Christ-centered.  All prophetic ministry that flows out of and is in accordance with these, therefore, is inherently and essentially Christocentric in nature.  The divine purpose of such ministry is not only to reveal the Father’s wisdom, will, ways, and works, but also to call all that has departed and deviated from God’s ultimate intention concerning His Son back to the universal centrality and supremacy of Christ in all things.  In its purest essence, the vision, burden, and focus of prophetic ministry is the restoration of all things back into and unto Christ, the Main Point, that He may become “all, and in all” (Col. 3:11) throughout all of eternity!  This is the end toward which genuine prophetic ministry is pointing and pressing.

Spiritual Eccentricity

That being said, the greatest obstacle and opposition to prophetic ministry is that which can rightly be called, “spiritual eccentricity”, i.e. that which is spiritually out-of-center ( “ec-” = “out of” and “centricity” = root: “center”.)  With the entrance of sin into God’s creation through the self-exalting spirit of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-14), the unrivaled centrality and supremacy of the Son of God was challenged and partially disrupted.  Rival centrality and supremacy was introduced, spread to one third of the angels, and, through the seduction of Adam and Eve, was passed on and permeated all of humanity.  All that now stands in rebellion and resistance to God, therefore, has at its root the principle of “spiritual eccentricity.”  This principle underlies and, therefore, defines the ultimate clash between the Kingdom of Light and the kingdom of darkness, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.  This, subsequently, underlies and defines the primary mission and battle line of prophetic ministry!

Prophetic Christocentricity vs. Spiritual Eccentricity

To more fully perceive this entire battlefield and its essential, underlying principle, the battle for centrality and supremacy, I’d like to offer an illustration that should help to bring these things into very clear focus.

(Note: What I am about to describe is one of the most important revelations/insights from the Lord that I have to share on this blog, so please stay with me in this slightly extended post! Thanks! 😉 )

Please picture for a moment, a large white circle surrounded by a dark gray background.  This white circle has one central, preeminent point, which is its centerpoint.  Now picture this circle being filled with numerous other points.  These points all orient to the center and so they can be further illustrated by their being turned into small vectors all pointing toward the centerpoint.

This picture is now a symbolic representation of what we shall identify as “the fullness of God.”  As such, it represents four spiritual attributes:

  1. Unity – There is only one, unified circle with one indisputable, unrivaled centerpoint.
  2. Fullness – The circle is filled with numerous other points representing all of the particulars that fill its contents.
  3. Balance – All of the points are oriented toward the centerpoint, represented by the points becoming vectors, and are “weighted” properly according to their distance from the center, representing in totality a properly oriented and balanced system.
  4. Purity – There is nothing of the surrounding darkness that exists within the circle.  It exists in a state of purity.

If we further identify the centerpoint of this circle as Christ Himself, this diagram serves as a depiction of a “Christocentric spiritual system”…i.e. the Kingdom of Light/the Kingdom of God.  As we have said, the essential attributes of such a system are spiritual unity, fullness, balance, and purity. 

Before moving on to the next development of this diagram, we need to highlight the unique significance of these four attributes.  According to Ephesians 4:11-15, these four attributes can be seen as characteristics of the end goal toward which the “five-fold ministry gifts” (including prophetic ministry) are pointing and pressing:

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to…

1. unity

“…the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

2. fullness

“…to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;

3. balance

“…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

4. purity

“…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ–“

As we consider these verses alongside the diagram, we can see exactly how these four attributes come to increasingly characterize the spiritual condition of God’s people when Christ Himself occupies the undisputed, unrivaled place of centrality and supremacy in all things related to the fullness of God!

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Continuing on with the further development of our diagram, let us now picture just one of those dots/vectors within the circle taking on a greater significance than it ought to, and instead of pointing to the centerpoint, it points to itself, loses its vector, and begins to rival the centerpoint as to its significance, centrality, and preeminence.  If this point becomes adopted by some of God’s people as a new spiritual centerpoint, taking on greater significance and focus than Christ Himself, the natural result is that a new circle will form around it that is shifted over from the original circle and becomes something of a rival to it, center to circumference.

With this new development, we have the introduction of a new condition we can rightly call “spiritual eccentricity.”  The center of this new circle is “out-of-center” from the original and its circumference is no longer concentric with the former one.

When this happens, four new attributes are introduced into the diagram as a matter of course:

  1. Disunity – There is no longer one circle with one undisputed, unrivaled centerpoint, but two circles with two rival centers.
  2. Diminishment – The second circle has moved over and part of the original circle (i.e. the fullness of God) is now left out, indicating spiritual diminishment.
  3. Distortion – All of the vectors within the second circle twist to orient to a new center and so become distorted from their original orientation.  Their proximity to the original center (indicating “weightedness”) also changes bringing in further distortion from their original state. Everything is now torqued and out of balance from the original.
  4. Defilement – The second circle, having shifted over, now also incorporates into it aspects of the darkness that exists outside of the original circle, thus defiling it.

“Spiritual eccentricity” comes into existence, therefore, whenever something or someone takes on greater significance, centrality, and preeminence, than God’s ordained center, Jesus Christ.  When some aspect, even of the holy things of God, becomes more primary than Christ Himself, a new “center” is formed and a new “circle” comes into existence, shifting over from the original and ushering in the four attributes of “spiritual eccentricity”: disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement.  (This is tantamount to a spiritual law and is what explains, at the most fundamental and formative level, the vast prevalence of division, deadness, deception, worldliness, and carnality in the Church throughout Christendom to this day.)

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Lastly, whenever such spiritual eccentricity comes into existence within God’s people, it begins to take on personal and corporate shape and form.  The more developed, advanced, and established these become, the more impervious and incorrigible they become to prophetic correction and re-centering.  Any attempts to re-align any one aspect of a “spiritually eccentric system” with the values and orientations of a “Christocentric system” are met with unexpected resistance and resilience.  This is because each aspect is so enmeshed in the entire eccentric system that it requires either a re-centering of the entire system itself or an irreparable rending of it, both of which are much more costly and consequential than most are willing to consider or pay the price for.  The “conformative matrix” of the eccentric spiritual system is simply too intertwined and unyielding to allow for radical re-centering and its resultant re-formation.

Thus, whenever prophetic Christocentricity clashes with spiritual eccentricity, whatever prophetic influence may be exerted to initiate change is often resisted and rejected.  The Christ-centered prophetic instrument is further deemed to be the “eccentric” one, and the seeker of true unity in Christ alone is deemed to be the “heretic.”  Such is the nature of the prophetic battle for the fullness of God and for the deliverance of Christ’s bride from all that divides, diminishes, distorts, and defiles her.

May we discern the true nature of this battle and pay whatever price it takes to fully align ourselves, individually and collectively, with God’s Christocentric spiritual system, the Kingdom of Light/the Kingdom of God!  There is no more costly nor consequential war that is being waged!

For the follow-up post to this one, please see: “Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)

Previous posts in this collection:
Prophetic Ministry and…(#propheticresistance)
Prophetic Imbalance and… (#propheticresistance)
The Stronghold of Pragmatism (#propheticresistance)
The Stronghold of Traditionalism (#propheticresistance)
The Stronghold of “Toxic Positivity” (#propheticresistance)

Centrality and Eccentricity
When God Does a New Thing – Pt. 5: Orientation

Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality, Christ-Centered Unity, prophetic ministry, Spiritual Dynamics, Spiritual Eccentricity, Spiritual Warfare, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Stronghold of “Toxic Positivity” (#propheticresistance)

[Listen to post here.]

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It has been said, “The difference between medicine and poison is in the dose.”  Solomon similarly wrote ages ago, Do you like honey? Don’t eat too much, or it will make you sick!” (Proverbs 25:16 NLT)  When it comes to spiritual matters, these proverbs have application as well.

Prophetic ministry is neither pure optimism nor pure pessimism, but pure realism.  It doesn’t see the cup half full, nor half empty, but both half full and half empty at the same time (…and also where the bottle is to fill the glass up the rest of the way!)  If we are to have a holistic, complete, and balanced view of God, we must have an equally weighted view of both His “positive” as well as what we might deem His “negative” aspects.  Paul said, “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God.” (Romans 11:22 NIV)  Prophetic ministry considers and communicates both, in their proper time and place.

An example of this can be seen in the book of Revelation which opens up with the apostle John on the Isle of Patmos receiving an open vision of the resurrected, glorified Christ.  When John turns to see the voice behind him speaking as a trumpet, he sees an epiphany of the glorified Son of God that is so terrifying in holy appearance that he falls as a dead man at his feet.  In his vision, the resurrected Christ is seen standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands which represent the seven churches of Asia Minor.

Jesus then tells John to write down specific prophetic messages for each of the seven churches.  Of these seven “letters”, two (Smyrna and Philadelphia) are filled solely with positive praise and encouragement, one (Laodicea) is filled solely with negative reproof and correction (except for the promise given at the end to the overcomer), and the remaining four (Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis) are filled with a mixture of both positive praise/encouragement and negative reproof/correction.

Only two out of the seven, therefore, had a purely positive word from the Lord.  The one church that only had positive words to say about itself (i.e. “I…have need of nothing.”), Jesus had nothing but purely negative words to say to it.  The remaining four had a balanced mixture of “cup-half-full”/”cup-half-empty”, positive and negative words from the Lord.  All of this should inform us concerning the “realistic” nature and spiritual balance of prophetic ministry.

“Toxic Positivity”

There is a phrase that is found in our culture today, especially in relation to how people  deal with personal emotions.  That phrase is “toxic positivity.”  Its popular usage relates to the unhealthy focus on strict mental and emotional positivity in the midst of tragic or difficult situations, to the denial of all negative thinking and/or emotions.  It can also be used to describe the refusal to acknowledge negative aspects of oneself or one’s situation by remaining solely positive in regard to them.  In this respect, one clinical psychologist wrote, “Taken to an extreme, positivity becomes toxic and deprives us of the motivation to make healthy changes that the awareness of a negative, uncomfortable reality would otherwise stimulate us to make.” (Psychology Today)  It is this second aspect that can especially become “spiritually toxic”, both for individual believers and assemblies of God’s people if engaged in.

“Religious Toxic Positivity”

Toxic positivity sometimes takes on a religious form and often this is rooted in an imbalanced view of God Himself.  When the more attractive and “positive” attributes of God, such as His kindness, mercy, patience, and love are alone what defines one’s perception of God, and the more stern and seemingly “negative” attributes of God, such as His anger, wrath, severity, and judgment, are excluded, it is possible to develop a God-focused form of toxic positivity.

Such a view of God tends to make one unconcerned about the treacherous nature of their indwelling sin and corruption.  Such a person is apt to then “think of [themselves] more highly than [they] ought” (Romans 12:3) before God and become impervious to the reality of their own moral and spiritual failings.  They can become like those whom David described in Psalm 36:2, “In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.”  Such personal positivity, however, is spiritually toxic, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5)

True self-perception is found when one faces the negativity of one’s own fallen nature, acknowledges it and turns to God in confession, repentance, and humble trust in the mercy and grace of God.  Then, and only then, does one find the forgiveness, cleansing, acceptance, and righteousness that come from God alone.  Then, and only then, can one find their true worth, purpose, and God-given self as one created in the image of God, redeemed and infinitely loved.  A deep realization of the positive only comes after a deep realization of the negative.  This is the basis of balanced, healthy spirituality.

This “religious toxic positivity” can take on a collective dimension as well.  We have an example of this in the church of Laodicea.  Their unified confession was, “‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ (Revelation 3:17 NLT)  Theirs was a purely positive self-concept and yet they had no awareness of their true spiritual condition: Jesus said, “But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (vs. 17)  Here is collective toxic positivity on display!

This condition is prevalent in the Church today as well.  When religious institutions embody deep concern for their corporate and ministerial success, image, respectability, reputation, growth, and prosperity, hyper-focus upon the positive aspects of the organization and ministry is of highest importance.  A spirit of corporate self-aggrandizement and sectarian pride/allegiance is fostered in order to increase attraction, adherence, and cohesion.

This spirit often spills over into the content and focus of the spiritual ministry offered as well.  Because the positive elements of God and His Word are more attractive and less offensive than the so-called “negative” ones, an imbalanced, positive-only, somewhat “saccharine” view of God and His Word may consistently be presented.  Often the driving force behind this is a “man-pleasing”, “entrepreneurial” spirit that seeks to attract more attendees and/or “not offend the visitors” merely for the sake of corporate promotion and propagation.

This condition can be further exacerbated when an imbalanced and excessive “culture of honor” is nurtured that sets leadership on a high pedestal as those esteemed as nearly infallible, untouchable, and unquestionable.  Such a spirit can have a facade of spirituality, but, in fact, it is a fertile breeding ground for collective toxic positivity.

The Spiritual Antitoxin

Seeing how prevalent and pervasive this stronghold can be, what, then, is its remedy?  If excessive religious positivity can indeed be toxic, what is its spiritual antitoxin?  In a phrase, the remedy is found in what could rightly be called “prophetic realism.”  Only when an individual or body of believers has prophetic revelation of their true condition, from God’s perspective, can they be delivered out of the false bubble of toxic positivity.  Only when they see what the “eyes of blazing fire” see, and perceive what the “sharp double-edged sword” is discerning; only when they feel the weight of the “feet like bronze, glowing in a furnace” falling, and are washed by the “voice like the sound of rushing waters”, will they know their true condition and find not only the grace and mercy of God, but also the balancing holiness and justice of the Lord as well.  Only “prophetic realism” will impart to God’s people a holistic, complete, and balanced view of both God and of themselves.  Such balanced realism comes through God’s prophetic Spirit, Word, and anointed vessels and where these are received, and not resisted, healthy spirituality will surely ensue.

May God deliver us from “religious toxic positivity” and all of its unexpected side-effects in our lives and within His Body.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
(Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22)

Previous posts in this collection (#propheticresistance):
Prophetic Ministry and…(#propheticresistance)
Prophetic Imbalance and…(#propheticresistance)
The Stronghold of Pragmatism (#propheticresistance)
The Stronghold of Traditionalism (#propheticresistance)

Next post in this collection:
The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)

Our Deepest Convictions
The Anointed Body of the Anointed One: Prophetic Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)

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The Stronghold of Traditionalism (#propheticresistance)

[Listen to post here.]

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Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
Isaiah 48:18-19

 The “fraternal twin” of pragmatism is traditionalism.  These goliath sibs are, arguably, the most firmly entrenched strongholds within the Church that present resistance to the prophetic ministry of God’s Holy Spirit, Word, and anointed vessels.

Whereas pragmatism is ultimately concerned with outcomes and, therefore, bows the knee to the god of the future, “I WILL BE”, traditionalism is ultimately concerned with what has been and, therefore, bows the knee to the god of the past, “I HAVE BEEN.”  God’s people who are in tune and in step with His Spirit and Word, however, are ultimately concerned with what God is doing now, and, therefore, bow the knee to the God of the present, the eternal “I AM.”

Traditionalism is defined as, “adherence to tradition as authority, especially in matters of religion.” (Dictionary.com)  It is the degree of authority that is ascribed to tradition, both individually and collectively, consciously and subconsciously, that presents the greatest “prophetic resistance” when the workings of God’s Spirit intersect and collide with the tradition of men.  The ultimate question in the end is, which one is LORD?

Jesus declared the nature of this collision in His dealings with the Pharisees concerning their adherence to “the tradition of men” over against “the word of God.”  In one encounter, He made the following statements:

“For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men–” (Mk. 7:8)

“He said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.'”  (Mk. 7:9)

“…making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”   (Mk. 7:13)

Clearly “the tradition of men” have the power to “…[make] the word of God of no effect…” And anything that has that degree of power, is, without question, a force to be reckoned with!  Truly, there are very few psychological or sociological strongholds that have such a strong hold on the Church as this one!

Now, before we go further, we do need to interject one clarifying point: not all traditions are anti-biblical in nature; in fact, some are actually biblical (see 1 Cor. 11:1-2; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6).  These do not nullify the word of God, but are in accord with it and affirm its authority.  [For more on this, please see here and here.]  These are not the traditions that we are speaking of at this time, however.  Rather, we are focusing on those traditions that originate with man and by their very nature become “high thing[s] that [exalt] themselves above the knowledge of God.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)  These constitute some of the most invasive and indomitable strongholds that exist in Christianity and the Church to this day. 

They are also some of the most well-disguised and unassuming fortresses of spiritual resistance, wearing a deceptive cloak of decency and Christian piety.  By mingled association and stolen appropriation, these human traditions assimilate the love and reverence that belong to God alone into and unto themselves as well.  In addition, because God often works and blesses His people in spite of rather than because of their intertwined presence with the true ways and works of God, people uncritically associate these traditions with God’s favor and endorsement.  Those who subsequently question and/or challenge any of these man-made conventions are, therefore, falsely deemed to be questioning and/or challenging that which is “God-given”, “God-blessed”, and “God-approved.”  This is one reason why human religious traditions, in particular, are so imbued with adoration and devotion that they are nearly impossible to rightly discern and to radically uproot.

It takes great discernment and courage, therefore, not to bow the knee to the seductively “pious” god “I HAVE BEEN” when the eternal “I AM” is speaking and doing that which is other and/or “new” in the present moment.  His “new thing” is His now” thing, and so He bids His people:Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up;…”  (Isaiah 48:18-19) 

Since, “No one can serve two masters.” (Matt.6:24), when allegiance to human tradition and obedience to God’s word collide, a choice is demanded.  We either choose to “hold the tradition of men” and thus “[lay] aside the [word] of God”, or we choose to “hold” the word of God, and thus “[lay] aside” “the tradition of men.”  Or, said another way, we either choose to “[make] the word of God of no effect through [our] tradition”, or we choose to make “our tradition” “of no effect through” “the word of God.”  There is no middle ground, and there are no other choices than these!  Whenever individually or collectively, consciously or subconsciously, we choose one or the other, the choice we make is not innocuous, but of immense spiritual consequence!

Everything that wins our love, reverence, and obedience in greater measure than our adoration and devotion to God is idolatrous in nature.  The stronghold of traditionalism, when focused on the Scripture-nullifying “tradition of men”, is one of the most insidious and intractable forces within the Church that leads to religious idolatry.  Such idolatry especially resists and rejects the prophetic ministry of the Lord as it comes through His Holy Spirit, Word, and anointed vessels.  Those who represent the “now” workings and eternal ways of “I AM”, however, will not bow the knee to the vying god of traditionalism,”I HAVE BEEN”, no matter how intimidating or alluring it may be.

This idolatrous stronghold must surely be dealt with with the same holy tenacity and divine sagacity that Jesus embodied when He was here in the days of His flesh.  Jesus Christ, who abides within us, is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) and His indwelling Spirit assumes the same posture and position toward “Christian traditionalism” today as it did toward Jewish traditionalism during His earthly days.  The question is, will we, as God’s New Covenant, new creation people, both individually and collectively, align ourselves with that same posture and position as we hold fast to the prophetic word and ways of the eternal “I AM”?  The choice remains to be seen just as to “WHOM” or to “WHAT” we will ultimately bow the knee!

For a more comprehensive look at the psychological and sociological power of tradition, as well as its place in the Church, past, present, and future, please see the series, “Tradition, Scripture, and the Church.” (PDF – 5-part series, complete)

Previous posts in this collection:
Prophetic Ministry and…(#propheticresistance)
Prophetic Imbalance and… (#propheticresistance)
The Stronghold of Pragmatism (#propheticresistance)

Next post in this collection:
The Stronghold of “Toxic Positivity” (#propheticresistance)

“The Calf Path” – by Sam Walter Foss

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The Stronghold of Pragmatism (#propheticresistance)

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“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:4-5

One of the most powerful and pervasive strongholds within the soul of man, and that which often stands in resistance and opposition to God’s truth, is a very practical mindset called pragmatism.  Pragmatism is a philosophy that is supremely concerned with consequences and outcomes. In it, the ultimate criteria for determining truth and/or moral value is the practical usefulness or favorability of a matter’s effects or results.  In this mindset, the ends either justify or vilify the means and not their own inherent verities or virtues.  In other words, pragmatism begins at the end of the process of the outworking of truth and morality and works its way backwards to arrive at subjectively-ascribed, value-based perceptions and conclusions.

Divine truth and morality, however, begin with God as the Source and according to the eternal, inherent reality and moral value of a given proposition or action, its effects progress forward to its divinely-determined ends and outcomes.  Divine reality and pragmatic reasoning, therefore, are moving in opposite directions and when they collide, it’s a veritable “train wreck!”

Prophetic ministry can be viewed in light of this as God’s “train whistle” to blast a warning of such a pending collision if spiritual, philosphical, and/or moral course correction is not made.  Because such course correction is usually deemed as inconvenient and undesirable by the pragmatist, however, such warnings and exhortations are esteemed as void of truth and/or moral value and, therefore, resisted and rejected.

Prophetic ministry can also work along positive lines as if the prophet were the conductor blowing the whistle and declaring, “A-L-L-L-L ABOARD!!!” from the train of God’s wisdom and righteousness.  If the pragmatist doesn’t find interest or value in going where that train is perceived to be heading, however, he will deem such obtrusive noise as meaningless and something to be passively dismissed or actively denounced.

In either case, God’s truth and righteousness are resisted and rejected based on their subjectively-perceived effects and results rather than on their Source, inherent values, and divinely-ordained consequences and outcomes.

Pragmatism Goes to Church

Pragmatism is not only a stronghold in the world, but also among God’s people. Whenever believers, individually or collectively, have more concern for the consequences and outcomes of God’s Word and ways being fully embraced and expressed than their Divine Source and inherent spiritual/moral values, pragmatism is surely at work.

Indeed, much if not most of the compromise, lukewarmness, worldliness, and hypocrisy found in the Church at large is simply a result of God’s people not being willing to utterly embrace God’s truth and righteousness due to the resultant cost of their practical embodiment and expression.  The consequences and outcomes of doing so are deemed to be too personally or socially offending, challenging, or undesirable.  Conversely, the attractiveness of compromising with God’s truth and righteousness because of certain perceived temporal advantages and benefits is too tempting to resist.  Thus the calculating double-mindedness of pragmatism sets in and rules the day.

This tendency seems especially strong within institutionally-based religious systems that have vested interest in their own financial stability/prosperity, social respectability, numerical growth, religious traditions, organizational structures, and/or ministerial influence and affluence.  These are the mainstays of religious institutionalism, and pragmatism is what feeds their roots!

As we see in the Gospels, the Lord Jesus’s greatest conflicts were with the ruling class of the established religious system of His day, and that for most of these very same reasons.  The holy, heavenly words and ways of God, fully embodied and expressed in and through Jesus of Nazareth, came in direct conflict with and opposition to these same entrenched, pragmatic forces.  In the Scriptures and subsequent Jewish historical accounts, we see the “train wreck” that eventuated that not only (temporarily) left the Lord Jesus crucified upon a cross, but, within the century, ended the existing Jewish temple and religious system that had prevailed for centuries.

Even so today, when God sends His prophetic Spirit and Word, often through human agency, to challenge the pragmatic ways of those prevailing religious systems that have departed from the heavenly wisdom and ways of the Lord, it is often met with the most incorrigible reaction, resistance, and rejection.  Be it known that in this conflict, it is the age-old stronghold of pragmatism that is ultimately at its root.

If God’s people are ever to overcome this ubiquitous stronghold, they must see it clearly for what it is, expose it, renounce it, and bow the knee fully and finally to the sovereignty of God’s Spirit and Holy Word.  God is raising up prophetic vessels in this hour as well who will hold up God’s measuring rod and plumb line of Christ to the Church’s corrupted foundations and crooked walls, and once again declare the truth and righteousness of the Lord concerning His House.  Conflict is inevitable, but in the end, the Lord’s will and ways shall surely prevail!

May we all have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying in this hour!


For a deeper dive into the stronghold of “pragmatism”, please see the article:
“Pragmatism and the Truth.”

Previous posts in this collection (#propheticresistance):
Prophetic Ministry and…(#propheticresistance)
Prophetic Imbalance and… (#propheticresistance)

Next post in this collection:
The Stronghold of Traditionalism (#propheticresistance)

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Prophetic Imbalance and… (#propheticresistance)

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Picture for a moment coming home from running errands some morning and as you approach your house you see an unfamiliar van parked in your driveway.  As you get out of your car, you hear terrifyingly loud bangs coming from inside your home.  You quickly rush to the opened front door, and as you go in you see two men with large sledge hammers, one bashing apart a wall in your dining room and the other smashing the cabinets off the wall in your kitchen.  Instantly you shout out above the horrific noise, “Hey!!!……Good to see you boys here this morning!  I brought you some coffee!  So excited to finally see this project getting underway!”

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“See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah 1:10

Prophetic ministry can often be gravely misunderstood.  Just as in the above scenario, two men with sledge hammers demolishing the inside of your home can either be perceived as a horrible or a hopeful thing. It all depends on the motivation and purpose of the perpetrators whether they are friends or foes, positive agents of change or negative workers of destruction.

Similarly, prophetic ministry can either be received or resisted among God’s people depending on how it is perceived as to its underlying motivations and intentions.  If these are seen to be serving God’s highest ends and means then such prophetic ministry will be more readily received as “friends.”  If they are perceived to be merely serving some non-constructive, negative, imbalanced, and/or spiritually self-serving ends, they will be rightly dismissed as “foes.”

True prophets do not generally fit the mold of the popular charismatic leader, donning spiritual polish and panache.  More often than not they are somewhat odd characters who bear the marks of hardship and the severe dealings of the Lord.  They march to the beat of a different drum and don’t often attract a crowd with their natural persona and social magnetism.  They can even give the impression of being a bit eccentric, aloof, or imbalanced in their demeanor and are generally not esteemed and honored among those with whom they commonly dwell.

Because of this and the sometimes pointed, radical messages that they are unashamed to bear, they are often pushed aside and dismissed as to their God-ordained gifting and place within the Body of Christ.  Judging by outward appearances, especially in contrast to the accepted norms of the religious status quo, they are resisted more as “foes” than received as “friends.”

Balanced Imbalance

Prophets tend to be marked by extremes, and depending on the mode that they happen to be in at a given moment or season, will often be judged as severely imbalanced.   The truth is, however, it is in their contrasting extremes that their balance is actually found. (Read through the Old Testament prophets with this in view and you will see that this is indeed the case!)

Jeremiah, for example, was considered “the weeping prophet” as he grieved and mourned over the sins of God’s people and the pending disasters that would befall them if they failed to repent and turn from their evil ways.  His prophecies are filled with woes and warnings.  And yet, he also spoke some of the greatest words of hope and promise of future restoration and glory for God’s chosen.  (Who has not been encouraged by and personally taken to heart the words of Jeremiah 29:11 for instance?)

We see even in his initial calling that God highlights the contrasting extremes of his ministry and function: “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:10

Jeremiah can be likened to those contractors described in the opening scenario of this post.  His ultimate intention and motivation was the positive transformation of God’s people, God’s house, into something radically more glorious for God’s holy habitation than what prevailed.  In order to get there, however, spiritually speaking, walls needed to get opened up, foundations exposed, moldy materials ripped out, infested beams torn down, and code-violating structures demoed.  Of necessity, the old adage came to apply, “It gets worse before it gets better.”  This in fact was hopeful work, however, but, because of a lack of understanding and perspective, it was viewed as horrible work.  The inherent negativity of deconstruction, without a deep comprehension of the inherent positivity of reconstruction, made this prophet a hated, hunted man.

T. Austin-Sparks in his insightful book, Prophetic Ministry, describes such prophetic function in this way:

“What is the function of prophetic ministry? It is to hold things to the full thought of God, and therefore it is usually a reactionary thing. We usually find that the prophets arose as a reaction from God to the course and drift of things amongst His people; a call back, a re-declaration, a re-pronouncement of God’s mind, a bringing into clear view again of the thoughts of God. The prophets stood in the midst of the stream – usually a fast-rushing stream – like a rock; the course of things broke over them. They challenged and resisted that course, and their presence in the midst of the stream represented God’s mind as against the prevailing course of things.” (page 10)

God still has need of prophets of this order in this day.  In fact, they are needed more than ever.  We are coming to the culmination of the age and God is preparing a glorious Bride for His Son.  At the end of nearly two thousand years of Church history, there has never been a greater need for prophetic “renovators” to do the dirty, dusty, despised work of deconstruction, relating to that which is condemned by God, that the glorious work of reconstruction, “according to pattern”, might ultimately progress and be realized in God’s holy, end-time remnant.  May we not resist and reject such workers because of their apparent imbalances at times toward that which is “negative”, but receive and respect them as God’s answer to His culminating purpose and work of restoration at the end of the age.

Let’s get some coffee for these boys, and let the work begin!

First post in this collection (#propheticresistance):
Prophetic Ministry and…(#propheticresistance)

Next post in this collection:
The Stronghold of Pragmatism (#propheticresistance)

Posted in Audio Posts, Christ-Centered Restoration, End-time remnant, prophetic ministry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Prophetic Ministry and…(#propheticresistance)

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What is the essence of prophetic ministry and why is it often resisted?  In this collection of posts, we will circle around these questions and look at them from multiple angles.  In this initial post, we will especially focus on the first aspect: the essence of prophetic ministry.

So, what is prophetic ministry?  Well, to begin with, we should take a closer look at the original Greek word used in Scripture for prophet, which is prophétés.”  This word is derived from two Greek words, “pro”, meaning “before”, and phēmí“, “to make known one’s thoughts, to declare.” (Strongs) If we look even deeper, we see that the word phēmísprings from an obsolete Greek word “phao” which means, “to shine, or make manifest.” Prophetic ministry in its essence, then, is that which shines before and makes manifest the heart, mind, will, and/or works of God.

A further insight into the essence of prophetic ministry can be gained from T. Austin-Sparks excellent book, Prophetic Ministry.  In Chapter One, “What Prophetic Ministry Is”, he describes it this way,

“Prophecy is spiritual interpretation.”  “It is the interpretation of everything from a spiritual standpoint; the bringing of the spiritual implications of things, past, present and future, before the people of God, and giving them to understand the significance of things in their spiritual value and meaning. That was and is the essence of prophetic ministry.” (page 10)

In addition, we have the highest expression of the essence of prophecy given in Scripture itself.  Revelation 19:10 declares, “…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”   Behind, in, and through all that God is saying and making manifest is the shining light of the testimony of Jesus.  Whatever specifics prophetic ministry may be concerned with at any given time, it will always bear within it that which testifies of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word and Light proceeding from the Father.

In considering these insights into the essence of prophecy and prophetic ministry, then, we can understand more clearly the function of prophetic ministry.  Its objective and operation is to shine the light of God into the darkness in order to make manifest, interpret, and testify regarding God’s heart, mind, will, and/or works in and through Jesus Christ.

Prophetic ministry is God’s answer to the darkness and as such it is inherently, implicitly, and often explicitly confrontational.  The most primal, pervasive, and persistent conflict that exists in God’s universe is that between light and darkness.  Prophetic ministry stands at the very forefront of that battle and triumphantly presses the radiant testimony of the Lord forward against its dark enemy.

As a result of this light/darkness conflict, prophetic ministry is often resisted and rejected by those who walk in and love the darkness.  The apostle John said: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)   This darkness takes on many forms and some of these even deceptively masquerade as elements or principles of “light.”  These are often the most persistent and pernicious obstacles to and opponents of prophetic ministry.

In this collection of posts, “(#propheticresistance)”, we are going to consider a number of psychological and sociological strongholds that present some of the greatest resistances to prophetic ministry, even among God’s people.  By focusing in on these, it is the hope that we may be able to more readily identify and overcome them and thus be better prepared to receive and respond to God’s light as it shines in and through His prophetic Spirit, Scriptures, and anointed vessels.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5

The Face of the Eagle – Prophetic Calling (#thecorporatechrist)

Next post in this collection (#propheticresistance):
Prophetic Imbalance and… (#propheticresistance)

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The Anointed Body of the Anointed One: Sonship Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)

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The final aspect of the anointing we will consider in its practical manifestation is that of sonship, symbolized by the face of the man.  This aspect is slightly different from the other three (priestly, prophetic, and kingly) in that is the culmination of all three in one.  Sonship is integral to all three and all three are integral to sonship.  To make an analogy, it could be said that sonship is the “rope” while the priestly, prophetic, and kingly aspects are the three major “strands” that comprise the “rope.”  If we would get a strong grasp on what the sonship anointing is and looks like in practical expression, then, we must first get a firm grasp on what each of the three other aspects of the anointing are and look like in practical expression. (Please see the links above for my meditations on these three facets.) 

That being said, however, there are some additional characteristics worthy of note that owe themselves distinctly to the sonship anointing when it is fleshed out in a local expression of the ekklesia:

Sonship Anointing/The Face of the Man

  • Christ-likeness – Whereas the three constituent aspects of the sonship anointing focus primarily on function (i.e. doing), this culminating aspect lays a primary emphasis on character (i.e being).  The calling of God for His sons and daughters is to be conformed to the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.  The Spirit of sonship is ever working to forge and form the character of Christ within His people, therefore, so that, similar to Jesus of Nazareth, “the Word” becomes “flesh” in them.  In so doing, they themselves, in their very personhood and nature, become a witness and testimony in both the seen and unseen realms.

    Not only is this true individually but also collectively.  The various expressions of the body of Christ are to mature in the sonship anointing unto corporate Christ-likeness, being filled with all humility, holiness, sacrifice, unity, and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  This, combined with the functional aspects of the priestly, prophetic, and kingly anointings, bring these corporate entities into the highest expression of the anointed body of the Anointed One.
  • Spiritual family – The sonship anointing also seeks to create the spiritual environment in which God’s sons and daughters most readily grow up in all things into the image and likeness of the Son.  This environment is one of spiritual family in its truest and fullest sense.  Spiritual family transcends religious meetings and organization-based relationships/associations.  In such families, believers are knit together organically by the Spirit and learn to “do life” and “be ekklesia” together in the context of life (which also includes spiritual gatherings.)  Even as in natural families, spiritual families naturally develop a diversification of relationships and roles.  Although all ever maintain a brother/sister standing with one another, God raises up some who become like mothers and fathers, elder brothers and elder sisters, and even extended-family-like role models and relationships.  Spiritually younger members contribute the vitality, creativity, and zeal of youth, all creating a multi-generational, multi-dimensional family dynamic that is optimal for the fostering of spiritual growth.  Such cannot be replicated in or by any man-made religious organization or construct.  This is the rich spiritual/relational environment in which the Spirit of sonship flourishes and works to brings forth matured, well-balanced sons and daughters in the image and likeness of Christ.
  •  Organic reproduction – Just as with natural families, spiritual families are designed and ordained by God to “be fruitful and multiply…” (Genesis 1:28)  The sonship anointing raises up matured sons and daughters in such environments who in turn are empowered and equipped to multiply and start new spiritual families.  Organic reproduction, therefore, is a characteristic of expressions of the ekklesia who are maturing deeply in the sonship anointing.
  • Corporate conflict and conquest – Those companies of believers who are pressing into the full dynamics of the sonship anointing will undoubtedly come into varying forms and degrees of conflict.  This is inevitable as the spiritual warfare against such expressions is persistent and often intense.  The flesh of those both within and without of the collective will also invariably find reasons for offense and be resistant to the costly, deep workings of God’s Spirit integral to the fostering and forming of such expressions.

    The sonship anointing is not a cowering, quitting spirit, however.  Rather it is an overcoming, conquering spirit that battles for spiritual conquest in the midst of all trials and tribulations.  As an assembly of believers remains under this indomitable anointing, they will begin to manifest the conquering nature of the resurrected Son of God as the overcoming sons of God. 
  • Missio Dei – Even as the Father sent His Son into the world with the mission of seeking and saving that which was lost and of ushering in the kingdom of God, so the Son has sent the sons and daughters of God into the world to further the Father’s mission.  Expressions of the ekklesia that are governed by the sonship anointing continually bear this burden and mantle.  All aspects of the sonship anointing, priestly, prophetic, and kingly, integrate together to forcibly advance the kingdom of God through the power of the Holy Spirit and the declaring of the gospel of the kingdom in this lost and dying world.  The mission of the Father is an overshadowing and all-pervasive force that harnesses and motivates all that is done in and through those collectives of the body of Christ who have matured in the sonship anointing.


As those who have been baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit’s working, we have an extraordinarily high calling to be the bodily expression of our anointed Head!  This calling is both individual and corporate and in both of these realms it expresses itself in these four facets/”faces” of the anointing: priestly, prophetic, kingly, and sonship.  Unless we have a clear revelation of and a deep consecration to pursue these four aspects, we will not be able to wholly and holistically fulfill our personal and collective callings as members of the body of Christ!  May we earnestly seek such a revelation and corresponding consecration, then, so that we may faithfully apprehend and increasingly attain unto our high calling as “the anointed body of the Anointed One!”

Audio Reboot (#thecorporatechrist)  [First seven posts in collection in mp3 playlist and with original post links.]
Four Faces in the Mirror (#thecorporatechrist)
Progressing in the Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)
The Anointed Body of the Anointed One: Priestly Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)
The Anointed Body of the Anointed One: Prophetic Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)

The Anointed Body of the Anointed One: Kingly Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)

Posted in Audio Posts, Mission, Spiritual Dynamics, spiritual growth, Spiritual Warfare, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Anointed Body of the Anointed One: Kingly Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)

[Listen to post here.]

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Having considered what the practical expression of the priestly and prophetic aspects of the anointing of the Holy Spirit may look like when embodied in a local expression of the Body of Christ, we will now consider the kingly aspect of the anointing in similar manner.

Kingly anointing/The face of the lion

  • Divine habitation – The first work of the kingly anointing is to establish a place of habitation for the King of kings and Lord of lords in the midst of His people.  Built upon the priestly and prophetic workings of the Holy Spirit, the kingly anointing brings God’s people into a deeper place of reverence, consecration, brokenness, and surrender to the One who sits on the throne.  Worship of Him becomes marked by extravagant, high praises and holy, contrite reverence.  God’s unrivaled worthiness and absolute authority are exalted as man’s religious pride and presumptuousness are humbled and broken before Him.  Subsequently, the Lord Jesus Christ increasingly becomes known in His manifest presence as sovereign Head and reigning Lord in the midst of His people by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Personal holiness – The kingly anointing works to establish the rule and reign of Christ in the midst of His people from the inside out and from the individual to the collective.  The primary beachhead of the kingdom of God, therefore, is within the individual hearts of believers.  This is accomplished through the persistent dethroning of self through the inward working of the cross and the consistent enthroning of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit within the heart.  This leads to lives marked by personal holiness in surrender to God’s Spirit and obedience to His Word in all areas of life, spiritual and natural.
  • Family godliness, orderliness, and peace – As the Holy Spirit expands the kingdom of God outward from individual hearts, He seeks to establish the orderliness and righteousness of His kingdom within the homes and families of the ekklesia.  The kingly anointing equips and empowers husbands to sacrificially lay down their lives for their wives and children as Christ-like, servant leaders.  It enables wives to honor and respect their husbands as they serve their families in sacrificial love and devotion.  It effectually works within the hearts of children to cause them to obey their parents as they are raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord. (See Ephesians 5:22-6:4; Colossians 3:18-21)  The households of such an expression of the ekklesia increasingly exhibit godliness, orderliness, and peace as the heavenly fruit of the kingly anointing.
  • Godly leadership – Leadership under the kingly anointing tends toward a plurality of mutually-submitted, non-lording-over, servant leaders, who inspire by example and lay down their lives for the flock.  They are the most zealous to see the headship of Christ spiritually established and submitted to in the ekklesia and most ardently endeavor to never usurp His rightful place as Chief Shepherd, sole Mediator, and uncontested Head.  They have a holy disdain for honorific titles, distinctive garb, exclusive privileges, the love of money, and the love of having the preeminence.  (See Matthew 23:5-12; Luke 22:24-27; John 10:11; 1 Peter 5:4; 3 John 1:9)  They abhor sectarianism and party spirit, and ever seek to promote the unity of the one body of Christ locally and beyond.  They live lives of humility, holiness, and patient, sacrificial zeal for Christ and His heavenly kingdom.
  • Social/cultural influence – An expression of the ekklesia that is substantially embodying the kingly anointing becomes a “city on a hill [that] cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).  Its members become “salt” and “light”  (Matthew 5:14-16) in their homes, jobs, and spheres of influence so that the society and culture around them become challenged and changed through their godly witness and righteous lives.  Works of justice and mercy extend to the community among which they live and the Father is glorified in the eyes of unbelievers by their multitude of good works done in humility and compassion. (Matthew 5:16)
  • Spiritual warfare – Lastly, the kingly anointing, symbolized by the face of the lion, is a warring Spirit.  Beyond the ever-present need for defensive warfare, the kingly anointing is fully intent on offensive warfare against Satan and his demonic strongholds.  In this regard, the priestly and prophetic aspects of the anointing synchronize together with the kingly authority of the Spirit to wage battle against the forces and fortresses of darkness.  Spirit-anointed, priestly/prophetic high praises, intercession, and “sword wielding” (of the Word) become the primary weapons of the spiritual offensive that is waged.  An expression of the ekklesia that is substantially endued and imbued with the kingly anointing will have an established culture of spiritual warfare as an inherent part of its spiritual DNA.

These, then, are some of the primary aspects of the kingly anointing that God desires His Ekklesia to have incorporated into its collective expressions.  Until we have substantially pressed into these aspects of the Spirit’s working, we are in need of continued growth and development until we more fully apprehend our high calling as “the anointed Body of the Anointed One.”

“Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity…”  Hebrews 6:1 HCB

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Having sketched a picture of what an expression of the Body of Christ may look like that is substantially embodying and expressing the priestly/face of the ox, prophetic/face of the eagle and kingly/face of the lion aspects of the anointing, we will next take a look at the culminating aspect of the anointing: sonship/face of the man.

Audio Reboot (#thecorporatechrist)  [First seven posts in collection in mp3 playlist and with original post links.]
Four Faces in the Mirror (#thecorporatechrist)
Progressing in the Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)
The Anointed Body of the Anointed One: Priestly Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)
The Anointed Body of the Anointed One: Prophetic Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)

Posted in Audio Posts, Spiritual Dynamics, The Ekklesia, The Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Anointed Body of the Anointed One: Prophetic Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)

[Listen to post here.]

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Having looked at the priestly anointing/the face of the ox as the foundational facet/”face” of the anointing of the Holy Spirit within the Body of Christ, we will now consider the next aspect of the anointing As with the previous post, I will seek to sketch a picture of what an expression of the Body of Christ might look like that is faithfully embodying and expressing the prophetic anointing/the face of the eagle.

Prophetic anointing/The face of the eagle

  • Wisdom and Revelation – The prophetic anointing, symbolized by the face of the eagle, is, first and foremost “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” (See Ephesians 1:17)   An expression of the Body of Christ that is growing in the prophetic anointing will be preeminently marked by an ever-increasing revelation of God Himself and of spiritual wisdom concerning His purpose and will.  It will not settle for mere head knowledge of God or His Word, but will continually be pressing in to know the Lord experientially “in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23)  It will also not settle for human wisdom, traditions, or assumptions as to God’s will and ways for the assembly, but will ever be seeking to discern these through prayer and the wisdom/revelation that comes from above.  In this process, the prophetic anointing will/may work through the following means:
    • The Word of God – The prophetic anointing is ever resting upon the prophetic Scriptures and in an assembly where this aspect of the anointing is submitted to, the Word of God will be paramount in the discerning of God’s will and ways.
    • Direct impartation – The prophetic anointing will also work through direct impartation of wisdom and revelation as the Holy Spirit leads God’s people into all truth. (John 14:26, 16:13, Ephesians 1:17, 1 John 2:27)
    • Spiritual gifts – As the Holy Spirit is given His rightful place, the revelatory gifts of the Spirit, such as prophecy, the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, the discerning of spirits, and tongues/interpretation of tongues will, likewise, be given their rightful place for the edification of the saints.  These will be exercised according to biblical guidelines so that all things are done “decently and in order.” (See 1 Corinthians 12:7-10; 14:26-40)
    • Prophetic song – Not only will the priestly anointing be manifestly resting upon the regular songs that are sung, but His prophetic anointing may also birth spontaneous/new songs that express what He is presently speaking, revealing, and seeking to do in the midst of His people.
    • Prophetic counsel – Wisdom and revelation may also come by the prophetic anointing working through the mutual counsel and collective input of the members as the mind of the Lord is sought together in the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Corinthians 2:16)  God may also raise up within or bring in from the outside Ephesians 4-type prophets to provide prophetic counsel, guidance, and equipping/training to further supply prophetic impartation and discernment to the assembly.
  • Christ-centeredness – “…the testimony  of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)  The prophetic anointing will ever be “Jesus-centered” (i.e. “Christ-centered”) in its operation.  An expression of the ekklesia that is embodying and expressing the prophetic anointing will, likewise, ever be “Christ-centered” in all of its life, ministry, and witness.  Jesus Christ Himself will be given the place of preeminence in all things within the assembly, even as He is in God’s eternal purpose (Colossians 1:18).   There will, subsequently, be an ever-increasing unveiling of His Divine Person, His all-encompassing, all-sufficient work, His sovereign headship, and His on-going priestly, prophetic, and kingly ministries as the Spirit of God takes the things of Christ and makes them known to the ekklesia. (John 16:14)
  • Holiness – The prophetic anointing is eminently concerned with holiness and conformity to God’s character, heart, mind, will, and emotions.  It is precise and exacting while at the same time mixed with enabling grace and power.  An expression of the ekklesia that is operating under the prophetic anointing will, likewise, be eminently concerned with both personal and collective holiness.  This pursuit of holiness will be from the inside out and will carry with it a willingness for deep personal and corporate humility, self-examination, and repentance.
  • Prophetic wrestling and refinement – The prophetic anointing is ever contrary to the will and ways of the world and the sinful flesh.  Within the church, it is especially in opposition to the fallen ways of man-centered, man-pleasing, man-dominated religion.  Therefore, it is ever striving and wrestling with that which is according to the world and the flesh to bring the ekklesia into alignment with and conformity to God’s heavenly and holy will and ways.  This constitutes an ongoing refining process that is immanently costly and inherently unpopular but, ultimately, secures the fullest favor and blessing of the Lord within a local expression of the Body of Christ. (e.g. Revelation 2-3)
  • The burden of the Lord – The prophetic anointing further carries with it the burden of the Lord. It imparts to God’s people the weightiness of His heart for some aspect of His purpose in relation to His people and/or the world.  This is often specific within each expression of the ekklesia and constitutes a mandate from the Lord that needs to be faithfully stewarded in Spirit-led prayer, ministry, and action.  Properly understood, however, this burden is always in keeping with “the spirit of prophecy” (“i.e. the testimony of Jesus”), and so is ever Christ-centered in its essence and fullness and where properly stewarded, will never become an “eccentric”, imbalanced burden or focus that detracts or distracts from the centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency of Christ in all things.
  • Prophetic embodiment and witness – The highest expression of the prophetic anointing is found when the wisdom and revelation of God become so inwrought within a specific vessel that the vessel itself becomes a prophetic sign and witness of God’s heart and mind to both the seen and unseen realms.  When the prophetic anointing is fully submitted to and substantively embodied within an assembly of God’s people, the corporate vessel itself becomes a prophetic sign and witness of God’s heavenly will and ways to that which is around it.  This will carry with it reproach and rejection (in both the secular and religious world) on the one hand, but also great grace and divine favor on the other.

This, then, is a brief sketch of the characteristics of an expression of the Body of Christ where the prophetic anointing, the “face of the eagle”, is embodied and manifested.  These are the dynamics and distinctives of the Holy Spirit’s work that we ought to be collectively pursuing and pressing into as those called to be a prophetic expression of “the anointed Body of the Anointed One.”

As essential and significant as the prophetic anointing is, however, it should also be understood as not being an end in and of itself, but transitional to the next facet/”face” of the anointing: the kingly anointing/the face of the lion.  We will consider the practical expression of that aspect in the next post of this collection.

Audio Reboot (#thecorporatechrist)  [First seven posts in collection in mp3 playlist and with original post links.]
Four Faces in the Mirror (#thecorporatechrist)
Progressing in the Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)
The Anointed Body of the Anointed One: Priestly Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)

Posted in Audio Posts, Christ-Centered Gatherings, The Ekklesia, The Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Anointed Body of the Anointed One: Priestly Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)

[Listen to post here.]

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“Now you together constitute the body of the Messiah,
and individually you are parts of it.”
1 Corinthians 12:27 CJB

We have been focusing in this collection of posts on “the corporate Christ” with a special emphasis on the anointing of the Holy Spirit in relation to it.  The connection between the Body of Christ and the anointing is inherent in the title, “Christ”, of which Jesus, the Son of God/Son of Man, has been endowed and has subsequently imputed to His Body.  The title “Christ” literally means, “Anointed One” and so the phrase “the Body of Christ” literally means, “the Body of (the) Anointed One.”  Referring to the Body of Christ in this way brings to the fore some of the most significant realities of who we are and what we are called to embody and express as members of the corporate Christ, the Body of the Anointed One.

In reality, “the corporate Christ” is a single spiritual entity consisting of both the Head and Body together as one.  It has never been God’s intention that the Head be fully anointed and the Body not be.  The Body is “the fullness of Him” (Ephesians 1:23) and, therefore, is to bear the same full expression of the anointing that is upon the Head.  In a fully integrated and comprehensive way, we are called to be “the anointed Body of the Anointed One.”

As the anointing of the Holy Spirit has four primary operations/expressions, so the Body of Christ is to embody and express these same four facets/”faces.”  We have identified these in this series as:

  1. Priestly anointing/The face of the ox;
  2. Prophetic anointing/The face of the eagle;
  3. Kingly anointing/The face of the lion;
  4. Sonship anointing/The face of the man.

These four facets/”faces” define the full scope and sphere of our collective calling as the Body of Christ!

The searching question that needs to be asked, then, is: “As the various corporate expressions of the Body of Christ, are we collectively pursuing and consistently increasing in these four operations/expressions of the anointing of the Holy Spirit?”  If we are, then let us continue to press on to greater maturity and manifestation in regard to them.  If we are not, however, then I would dare say that we are tragically missing the purpose of our corporate calling and need to do some deep heart searching and collective repentance in relation to it.

In order to more clearly consider this question, then, I’d like to paint a picture of what an assembly of believers might look like and be characterized by where the anointing of the Holy Spirit is diligently sought and faithfully yielded to in its four-fold operation/expression.  (In this post we will consider the first of these four facets/”faces”, the priestly anointing, and in following posts we will consider the remaining three.)

Priestly Anointing/The Face of the Ox

  • Priesthood of believers – In the new covenant, all who are indwelt by Christ, the anointed High Priest, are incorporated into God’s anointed, royal priesthood.  (See 1 Peter 2:9.)  The priestly anointing that is upon the Head, therefore, is ever working to equip and find expression through ALL of God’s people as His new covenant priests.  Although this anointing will raise up and work through servant leaders among the people, it will never work to establish a clergy/laity divide or establish any form or format that will foster over-functioning on the part of a few and passivity and/or exclusion on the part of the many.  Instead, each member will be encouraged and equipped to contribute something of spiritual and/or practical priestly value to the gathering according to their individual giftings as the Spirit orchestrates and leads the assembly.  (See 1 Corinthians 14:26)  Full-body, priestly functioning is a hallmark of an expression of the ekklesia that is maturing in and manifesting the priestly anointing.
  • Praise and worship – As a primary emphasis, the priestly anointing will seek to lead a local expression of the Body of Christ into ever deeper experiences and expressions of corporate praise and worship.  Ministering unto the Lord in this way is a primary priestly calling and thus will be given the highest priority as well as ample time and space for its unhurried expression, exploration, and cultivation.  Whatever external form this may take, corporate times of praise and worship will be filled with spiritual vitality and reality, open to Spirit-led creativity and spontaneity, and, most of all, endued with the manifest presence and sovereign operation of God’s Spirit.  A cultivated culture of anointed praise and worship will spill over into all aspects and areas of life, producing consecrated, priestly disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • Prayer and intercession – Closely connected to and integrated with this, the priestly anointing will further lead the Body of Christ into increasing depths and degrees of corporate prayer and intercession.  Prayer will not merely be a formality or be relegated to the fringes of the corporate life, but will become the very heartbeat of the assembly.  Prayer will be esteemed as the indispensable foundation of the ekklesia as a priestly company and intercession as its most lofty and weighty vocation.
  • The Word and teaching – The priestly anointing will further work within the various members so that the “word of Christ” will dwell richly within and among them.  This will be for the fostering of a lifestyle and culture of mutual teaching, exhortation, counseling, and encouragement in the Scriptures (Colossians 3:16.)  In addition, this priestly anointing will equip and empower a plurality of servant leaders among the people who labor in the Word and teaching for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry (1 Peter 5:1-4; Ephesians 4:11-12.)
  • Service and sacrifice – The priestly anointing, typified by the face of the ox, is in its essence one of service and sacrifice.  Thus, as it is collectively pursued, there will be a permeating spirit of service and sacrifice that touches significantly upon each member’s time, energy, and resources.  One characteristic of this will be that the saints will be more concerned about what they are investing into the collective expression than in what they are receiving back from it for themselves.  All things will be done unselfishly for the glory and pleasure of God and for the blessing and benefit of others.
  • Evangelism and outreach – Lastly, the priestly anointing will ever be working through the various members to reach out to those outside of their number in order to regularly bring God to people and people to God.  Paul spoke of “…the priestly duty of preaching the gospel” in Romans 15:16 (NIV.)  Where the priestly anointing is embodied and expressed, a spirit of evangelism and outreach will naturally be a distinctive mark.

This, then, is a brief picture of the primary facets and features of an expression of “the anointed Body of the Anointed One” when the priestly anointing is being collectively pursued and consistently manifested within it.

The priestly anointing is foundational to all that follows in regard to the other three facets/”faces” of the anointing, and so we must all begin our pursuit of and engagement with the Holy Spirit along these priestly lines if we desire to collectively progress into the full embodiment and expression of the anointing.

We will consider a similar picture of the prophetic anointing as it is incorporated into the Body of Christ in the next post of this collection.

Audio Reboot (#thecorporatechrist)
Four Faces in the Mirror (#thecorporatechrist)
Progressing in the Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)

Posted in Spiritual Dynamics, The Ekklesia, The Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Progressing in the Anointing (#thecorporatechrist)

[Listen to post here.]

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As members of the body of Christ (literally the body of the “Anointed One”), we are each called to grow and progress in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  We have seen in this series that this anointing operates along four lines: priestly, prophetic, kingly, and, consummately, sonship.  Only as there is genuine development along these lines among the individual members of the body of Christ can there develop a true collective expression of the anointed Head in and through His body, the corporate Christ.

So the question remains, “How do we individually grow and progress in the anointing of the Holy Spirit?”

A key to this question can be found by considering the course of the lives of two Old Testament saints who each demonstrated significant growth and development in the three specific anointings of priestly, prophetic, and kingly (i.e. governmental.)  These two anointed servants were Samuel and David, and I believe the dual witness of their lives testifies of God’s ways and means of fostering growth and progression in the anointing within His people.

Foundational Anointing

In the case of both Samuel and David, the foundation of their spiritual lives was related primarily to the priestly anointing.

Samuel was dedicated to the Lord as a weaned child and was given by his mother, Hannah, into the care of Eli, the High Priest.  At Shiloh, he served Eli in the service of the tabernacle.  He was raised in this priestly environment to be one who regularly “worshiped” and “ministered unto the Lord” (see 1 Samuel 1:28; 2:11.)  This spiritual aspect of priestly engagement with the Lord Himself was foundational to the whole of his spiritual life.

David, likewise, began his life as a worshiper.  As he was tending flocks on the Bethlehem hillsides, he spent many days and nights playing his harp, singing the songs of Yahweh, and cultivating a heart after God through worship and prayer.  His sanctuary was the canopy of the heavens and his spiritual (priestly-like) anointing was poured on his head by the Lord Himself, his Good Shepherd. (See Psalms 23:1,5)  It was here that he ministered unto the Lord in simplicity and solitude, and, in due time, the Lord rewarded Him openly.

Later on in David’s life, we see that he further participated in certain official priestly activities that were reserved by God’s Law solely for the descendants of Levi (though David was of the tribe of Judah) and for which he was neither judged nor reproved.  (See 2 Samuel 6:12-18; 1 Chronicles 15:25-27; 16:1-7)  Though we could explore further as to why that may have been so, the important point here is that the priestly aspect of the anointing and function were interwoven into the fabric of David’s life from his earliest days onward.

In the lives of both Samuel and David, then, the priestly-related function and anointing, especially in the realm of worship and ministry to the Lord, formed the foundation of all that would follow.  This becomes instructional to us as well who seek to grow and progress in the anointing of the Holy Spirit as members of the corporate body of Christ.

Transitional Anointing

We further see in the lives of both Samuel and David that as they gave themselves to spiritual ministry/priestly anointing, they increased and progressed into a new dimension and dynamic: the prophetic anointing.

It says of Samuel, “The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD.  The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.”  (1 Samuel 33:19-21)

Similarly, as we read through the psalms of David, we see in numerous places that in the midst of him pouring out his heart in prayers and praises, that “the spirit of prophecy” began to bring forth “the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 19:10) with inspired declarations of the coming Messiah.  The book of Psalms is the most oft quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament and David is called a “prophet” by Peter on the day of Pentecost as he quoted two of the Psalms’ Messianic portions.  (See Acts 2:25-35.)  Thus we see that the prophetic anointing flowed out of the “priestly” exercising of his spirit in anointed worship and prayer.

This principle carries over into our day, as well, and is essential for us to lay hold of as we seek to similarly progress in the anointing.

Crowning Anointing

In both the lives of Samuel and David, the priestly anointing led to the prophetic anointing which progressed to the kingly (governmental) anointing.  Although Samuel was not a king, yet he became entrusted with the governmental aspect of the anointing as the last of Israel’s judges.

Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life.  From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places.  But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the LORD.” (1 Samuel 7:15-17)

Later in Samuel’s life he anointed Saul as the first king of Israel and shortly thereafter, David as his successor.

The Lord said, “I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him…I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.”  (Psalms 89:20,27)

David’s progression into the kingly anointing was the crowning anointing in his life.  It did not, however, arise independently or in a vacuum of the other aspects of the anointing but was built upon and sustained by them.

God has, likewise, called all of His people to be “kings” (“and priests”) (Revelation 1:6KJV).  Therefore, we must all learn from the examples of Samuel and David how that kingly/governmental anointing is attained if we are to progress into the fullest expression of our high calling as members of the body of the Anointed One, Christ Jesus, our High Priest, Prophet, and King.


Samuel and David were very unique “sons” who each embodied all three of these primary aspects of the anointing: priestly, prophetic, and kingly (governmental.)  Furthermore, they each progressed from one to the other along the same lines and divine order.

You and I, as members of the body of Christ, are similarly called to grow and progress in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  The foundation of our spiritual life and growth will be the priestly ministry and anointing.  As we learn to personally minister unto the Lord and become genuine worshipers and intercessors, we will draw near to God, encounter His heart, and progressively develop our spiritual senses to be sensitive and receptive to His prophetic Spirit and Word.

As we cultivate the prophetic anointing through priestly intimacy with the Lord, we will increasingly become stewards of His imparted wisdom, righteousness, truth, judgment, and authority.  These will be vital for us as we move into the governmental aspects of the anointing.  The governmental/kingly realm involves the promotion and furtherance of the Kingdom of God in all areas and arenas of life in righteousness, truth, and justice by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It also involves engagement in spiritual warfare and the pushing back of sin and darkness in this world through holiness, boldness, and imparted spiritual authority.

As the “sons of God” (irrespective of gender), all three of these aspects (“faces”) of the anointing will become increasingly matured and manifested in and through us as we continue to foster their growth and development from the “bottom up”, as we have seen.  This, I believe, is the key to growing and progressing in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  May we press in and press on in this high calling as members of the corporate Christ, the body of the Anointed One!

Audio Reboot (#thecorporatechrist)
Four Faces in the Mirror (#thecorporatechrist)

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Four Faces in the Mirror (#thecorporatechrist)

[Listen to post here.]

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In this current collection of posts (#thecorporatechrist), we are focusing on the corporate Christ in relation to the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the four-fold manifestation (“faces”) of the anointing: priestly, prophetic, kingly, and sonship.   The corporate Christ, though a single entity in God’s sight, is made up of a multitude of individuals.  If there is ever to be a collective expression of these “four faces” of the anointing, then, there must first be a multitude of individual expressions of them throughout His many-membered body.  So it really comes down to you and I…the man/the woman in the mirror.

Reflecting God’s Image

As the children of God, you and I have been created in His Divine image and likeness.  Because He is trinitarian in nature, He has created us with three distinct yet unified parts.  Every individual is comprised of spirit, soul, and body (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23.)  Our spirit is that part of us that is of a nature most similar to God’s, for “God is spirit.” (John 4:24)  Our spirit gives us consciousness of the spiritual realm.  Our soul is primarily comprised of our mind, will, and emotions and gives us consciousness and comprehension of the psychological/volitional/emotional aspects of ourself and of our world.  Our body is the physical part of our being, which houses and interfaces with the other two.  It connects us by nature and through the physical senses with the natural world.  These three aspects are inherent to who we are as those made in the image and likeness of God.

As we look into the lens of the “four faces” concerning the corporate Christ, we see that this lens also becomes a mirror reflecting back our own personal image with a unified, yet multifaceted, picture of who we are in our tripartite nature and four-fold spiritual calling.   Let’s consider the specific aspects of the unique reflection that this lens/mirror yields…

The Body – The Face of the Ox

Spiritually speaking, the ox represents strength, service, and sacrifice.  Our physical body is created with strength for labor and is what we employ to carry out the work and service of the Lord in this natural world.  It is also the part of us that God specifically calls us to offer up to Him as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:2.)

The ox also biblically represents priestly ministry.  Inherent in this ministry is the necessity of the priest to possess human bodily presence on the earth over which he/she has been given delegated authority as a child of God. (Genesis 1:26, Psalm 115:16)  Priestly ministry is the “boots on the ground” (or shall we say, “hooves on the ground”) aspect of God’s image-bearers, and therefore, is rightly represented by the face of the ox, especially in relation to the physical body.

The Soul – The Face of the Eagle

The eagle represents heavenly perspective, freedom of movement, and swiftness of judgment.  Our soul, comprised of mind, will, and emotion, when renewed by the Holy Spirit, begins to reflect these same characteristics.  When under the control of the anointing, our mind begins to perceive reality from God’s heavenly perspective, lifted above all earthly mindsets.  Similarly, our will is free to respond and move according to the “wind” of the Holy Spirit unencumbered by the constraints of the flesh and of the world.  Lastly, our emotions are quickened to swiftly align with God’s feelings, passions, and judgments concerning all things.

The eagle further represents the prophetic dimension of the anointing.  Simply put, the prophetic dimension involves the perception of, alignment with, and expression of the mind, will, and emotions of God.  Thus God’s desire for the earthly soul of man is that it would mount up to fully, and prophetically, express the heavenly soul of God.  In these fundamental ways, we can see how the eagle is a fitting “face” to represent the soul of man.

The Spirit – The Face of the Lion

The lion represents power and royalty.  The part of our being that God has ordained to rule over the rest of our nature, soul and body, is our spirit.  It is our spirit that has become one with the Spirit of the Lord in resurrection power (see 1 Cor. 6:17) and it is our spirit that is united with Christ in His ascension authority and kingship at the Father’s right hand (see Ephesians 2:6.)

The lion further represents the kingly calling/manifestation of the anointing.  It is through our spirit that our whole being comes into subjection to and alignment with God’s will, authority, and power.  It is through the indwelling of the King of kings within our spirit that the kingdom of God becomes established within us and ultimately finds expression out through us. Hence, our spirit is the lion/kingly part of our being according to the Divine order.

“Sonship” – The Face of the Man

Mankind, being created spirit, soul, and body in the image and likeness of God, is the consummate representation of the triune Being.  “The face of the man”, representing “sonship”, therefore, is the consummate “face”, embodying and expressing the other three callings/manifestations in one integrated and Divinely ordered whole:

spirit (lion/kingly)

soul (eagle/prophetic)

body (ox/priestly)

As we individually bring each part of our being into alignment with God’s divine order and ordained function through the power of the Holy Spirit, these “four faces” begin to grow and develop in balanced unity and harmony unto full maturity.  This is the process of spiritual growth unto full “sonship.”

We will explore this progressive development within our individual lives in the next post.

Audio Reboot (#thecorporatechrist)

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Audio Reboot (#thecorporatechrist)

It’s been a few months since I’ve added to the collection of my latest series of posts, The Corporate Christ [i.e. (#thecorporatechrist.)]  There are yet a few posts to be added in the weeks ahead, so as a means to review and to reboot the series, I’ve recorded a serialized playlist of the posts that are published to date.  (These average just under 6 minutes apiece with the entire collection lasting approximately 40 minutes, about the average length of a podcast.)

For those who are unfamiliar with this series or who need a quick refresher, we are considering the matter of “the corporate Christ” with a special emphasis on the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  The title “Christ” means “the Anointed One” and so we see how central and essential the anointing of the Holy Spirit is to the calling and ministry of Jesus, the Son of God.

Likewise, if we are to fulfill our calling and ministry as “the Body of Christ” (i.e. the Body of the Anointed One), we must, likewise, see how central and essential the anointing of the Holy Spirit is to our lives, both individually and collectively.

As we look into Scripture, we further understand that in the Old Testament there was a three-fold purpose of the anointing oil, with a fourth purpose intricately intertwined with this three-fold cord.  The anointing oil, symbolic of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, was used to consecrate three groups of people: priests, prophets, and kings.  The matter of sonship was intricately bound up with each of these callings and is where all three find their consummation and highest expression in the wisdom and purpose of God.

In conjunction with these four callings we considered four specific “faces” that are found clustered together in the Scriptures in various places.  By looking closely at Ezekiel’s vision of the “four living creatures” (Ezekiel 1) and also how these symbols were incorporated into the banners of the tribes of Israel as they encamped around the tabernacle, I made a case for these four “faces” representing the four primary callings of God’s people that are specifically related to the anointing of the Holy Spirit: ox = priestly, eagle = prophetic, lion = kingly, and man = sonship.

The seven posts that have been published thus far lay the foundation of what I would consider to be a biblically-well-rounded understanding of the calling of “the corporate Christ.”  In the posts that will follow, we will explore some of the practical applications of these four “faces”/callings to our lives, both individually and corporately.

As preparation for those posts, then, I would ask and encourage you to (re)visit this foundation by either listening or reading through these initial posts together as a unified whole.  (Considering them together in close succession I believe will be very helpful in grasping their collective truth and significance.)  I truly believe there is very little that is more significant for us to lay hold of and press into together as His people than that which these posts are touching on!  May you be edified and encouraged in our high calling in Christ, the Anointed One!

If you prefer to read these posts rather than listen to them, links to the original posts are here:

The Anointed One
Four Faces of the Anointed One
Four Faces in the Wilderness
The Face of the Ox – Priestly Calling
The Face of the Eagle – Prophetic Calling
The Face of the Lion – Kingly Calling
The Face of the Man – Sonship Calling

May God bless and enrich you spiritually as you meditate on these foundational truths!

More to come soon! 🙂

Posted in "Shorts", Audio Posts, Spiritual Dynamics, The Ekklesia, The Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tenth Anniversary Post

Ten years ago this month I began blogging here at Christ-Centered Christianity.  It’s hard to believe an entire decade has gone by, but it certainly seems a good time to pause, to reflect back a bit, and to also look forward to what may lie ahead!

In the Beginning…

For me, blogging all but snuck in the back door.  In August of 2011, I took a fall off of a ladder and ended up with a compression fracture in my spine that left me laid up for approximately eight months.  During that time, I felt a burden to begin working on a manuscript for a book.  As I explored the writing/publishing process, I kept running into authors who touted the benefits of simultaneously blogging as a way of honing writing skills, getting original material out on the web, and beginning to build exposure and an audience.  It sounded like a worthwhile “secondary” venture to begin to pursue and thus the blog was born.  It was officially launched on January 1, 2012.  Eventually, as my back began to heal and I returned to work, all of my available writing time ended up being directed towards the blog.  (And, yes, I’m still sitting on an unfinished manuscript! 😦 )

When I initially began the blog, I thought it might be seen by just a handful of family and friends and possibly a few random people who might stumble across it.  As things developed, however, it began to take on a much wider and more substantial reach.  As of the writing of this post, it has found its way into some 190 different countries/territories, including some of the most restricted nations on earth.  It has also had consistent, daily traffic ever since its first few months. I never could have anticipated early on just how far and wide its exposure and influence might ultimately reach.

Philosophy and Approach

From the beginning, my philosophy and approach has been to focus on quality rather than quantity.  All of us are bombarded with way too many frivolous, time-wasting distractions and divergences online, so I haven’t wanted to add to anybody’s virtual clutter with more fluff, foolishness, or over-hashed subjects.  Instead, I’ve sought to steward those teachings, revelations, and burdens that have been given to me by the Holy Spirit as I’ve been taught and led by Him.  My goal has been to post quality content throughout all areas of the blog so that no matter where anyone may land, they will find something that will be spiritually enriching and potentially transformative in their walk with the Lord.  In my opinion, to aim for anything less would simply be a waste of time!  After ten years of blogging and having received considerable feedback from numerous people around the world, I feel satisfied that by God’s grace I’ve been able to hold to these principles and objectives.

Created and Curated Content

My initial intention was to post every other week so as to focus on quality of content and not to overwhelm anybody’s inbox with notifications.  Although at times I had to scale back on blogging due to family responsibilities, I am grateful that during these ten years there has also been a significant quantity of content, both created and curated, that has accrued.  This is now the 170th post that I’ve published, and I’ve also added 140 permanent pages to the blog.

I’ve also sought to populate this space with a varied fare of content including longer and shorter posts, collaborative posts, series teachings, collections of short sayings, original and non-original poems and songs, parable-based teachings, interactive exchanges, free written resources, free classic audio books, author excerpts, previously written original pieces, audio blog posts, PDFs, and re-blogged content from other bloggers.  All of this has centered in and complimented the primary theme of the blog: the centrality and preeminence of Christ in all things!

“Fun Facts”

No review of the ten-year content of a blog would be complete without at least a few “fun facts” thrown in.  So here we go:

Most popular single post

“The Word Became Flesh” – A Collaboration of Poetic Reflection

Most popular permanent page

PRINCIPLES Book (Complete – PDF, mp3 and more)

Most popular series (posts/pages)

“Christ the Center” series revisited

Most popular original writing

Pragmatism and the Truth*

Most commented-on post

Important Blog Update – Please read!

Most commented-on page
(beside About )

The Headship of Christ In the Gathering of the Church

*Pragmatism and the Truth is not only the most viewed piece of original writing but also the oldest writing on the blog.  It was originally written in 2003, nine years before the blog was launched.  I edited it slightly and posted it as a permanent page under the Other Writings tab in 2012, and it has seen very significant traffic ever since.

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Between the Lines

I’m thankful for the rich and varied content that has filled these pages.  Beyond the specific postings, however, I hope that I’ve also been able to impart a number of “intangibles” that may be just as valuable, if not more so, than the specific content of any published piece.  My hope is that these have included the following:

• Christ-centeredness (surprise, surprise! 😉 ) – It’s been said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!”  Jesus Christ is eternally the Father’s Main Thing (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:18) and, so, He must also be ours!  If the followers and readers of this blog have taken away anything from their engagement with these pages, my hope is that it will have been this truth above all others!

• Positive heavenly vision – There is much in the Church and Christianity that we could be judgmental of and reactive to in this day, but if the negative becomes our primary emphasis, we will only become pendulum-swinging malcontents, creating more error and imbalance in the process.  To be “plumb line prophets” we must draw our deepest convictions and greatest burdens from a positive response to Truth, not a negative reaction to error.  Only when our vision is clear in this way can we navigate forward with the wisdom, grace, and truth that comes from above.  I’ve sought throughout this blog to always keep the focus on God’s positive, heavenly vision and seek for light to define darkness and not the other way around.

• Creativity and Originality – God is infinitely creative and original in all that He does, and so we should, likewise, reflect these same characteristics as those made in His image and likeness.  In the development of this blog, I have sought to be true to the prophetic originality of His voice in the expression of the various teachings and to cultivate Spirit-led creativity as to the various means of its expression.  My hope is that this has brought a certain freshness to what has been published and has cultivated an ongoing expectation of what may be next!

• Collaboration – There is a principle of “two or three” found in Scripture when it comes to the communication and confirmation of God’s truth. (Matt. 18:16, 20; 1 Cor. 14:27, 29; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1Tim. 5:19)  I’ve sought to integrate this principle into this blog in a number of ways, including establishing a collaborative blogging initiative called The WORD in 3D.  For this I invited/enlisted two other like-minded bloggers to join me in each writing a short (approximately 500-word) meditation on a selected portion of Scripture, which were combined together in one post to give a three-point perspective on God’s Word.  (See here for the complete list of “3D” projects.)  I also participated in two “chain blogs” (here and here), re-blogged other confirming voices (here and here), posted an in-depth, “iron-sharpening-iron” email exchange that I had with another brother as a series of posts (first in series here), posted confirming voices from the past (main page here), and hosted supporting free resources (main page here.)  I am also deeply grateful for the collaboration that Sándor Abonyi of Hungary initiated and engaged in with me, namely his translation of 30+ of my posts/pages into the Hungarian language and posting of them on his Hungarian/English blog keskeny út – narrow way.  Thank you Sándor for your friendship and collaboration over the years!

• Profoundly simple; simply profound – God’s deepest truths are characterized by two seemingly contrary, yet complimentary characteristics: profoundly simple and simply profound.  I’ve sought in my writings to embrace both of these characteristics so that the truths being explored may be easily grasped in their simple essence on one hand, while their profound outworkings might substantially challenge our present concepts and capacities on the other.  I believe this is the best way for us to grow in the grace and knowledge of God.

•Breaking new ground (over age-old foundations) – God’s truths are established from of old, and yet He is ever a God of freshness and progressive revelation in relationship with His people.  We must never build on anything other than the age-old foundations laid down in Scripture, and yet, God wants to bring forth fresh revelation of His ancient truth so that our relationship with Him remains vital and relevant.  Through this blog, I’ve sought to steward those “ground breaking” revelations that He has birthed in my heart by His Spirit in order to enrich the Body of Christ with “living bread” through this blog.  Some posts/series that especially come to mind as those that have broken fresh ground are: The Cross – The Eternal Passion of God, The Cross – The Unlevel Playing Field of Satan’s Defeat, Tradition, Scripture, and the Church (full series) , Centrality and Eccentricity, Rebels, Refugees, and a Returning Remnant (full series), The Headship of Christ In the Gathering of the Church, The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship (full series), and Affirmations (full series) to name a few.  I hope that you will take advantage of these posts/pages most of which are also available now in the PDF,s section of the blog.  These are some of the greatest treasures I’ve sought to steward for the enrichment and edification of the body of Christ.

If these “intangibles” have seeped through the cracks and oozed through the pores of this blog, I will be satisfied that I have somehow done my “job” well!  That is my hope at least!

Looking Forward

So as this mile marker is passed, the question naturally arises, “What do I see for the road ahead?”  We are certainly living in rapidly changing, unpredictable times, and so it is, admittedly, difficult to see much beyond the next bend.  My intention, however, is to keep pressing on and be a faithful steward of the revelation and burden that has undergirded this blog for the past ten years, namely, the centrality, supremacy, and all-sufficiency of our Lord Jesus Christ in all things!  My hope is to be able to revisit some of the wellsprings and headwaters of that revelation as well as to continue to trace it out to some of its more diverse reaches and ramifications.  There is also a strong sense of the urgency of the hour and the shortness of time that we have left to fulfill our purpose and calling in this world.  The words of Paul seem more fitting than ever:  Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil” Ephesians 5:15-16 HNV

In a practical sense, my hope going forward is that I will not only be able to continue publishing additional written posts, but also to diversify and amplify some of the forms of content to (possibly) include: downloadable ebooks, print books/booklets, online course(s), group study materials, additional recorded original songs, audio posts, and video teachings.  All of these I have been seriously considering and holding before the Lord as to His leading and timing.  The future of the blog is ultimately in His hands and I will seek to simply walk step by step with Him in its further growth and development!

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In closing, I want to thank all of you who have participated in this blog in some way or another over these past ten years.  Your time invested reading, liking, commenting, following, and sharing has contributed to the overall value, visibility, reach, and fruitfulness of this venture.  For those who have contributed to the writing of blog posts, translating/reposting, re-blogging, and external linking I am especially grateful!  Only God knows the eternal fruit that will come from the multiplication of these simple offerings given into His hands!

I’m also very thankful for the connections and friendships that I’ve made with brothers and sisters in Christ around the world as a result of this venture.  I’m humbled by the godliness of the saints I’ve been privileged to connect with and, at times, co-labor with.  It has been a great source of fellowship, encouragement, and edification.  Although, due to life’s natural demands, I haven’t always been as able or faithful to maintain some of those connections as I would have liked, please know that my life has been enriched by connecting with each and every one of you!

In addition to and above all this, I am grateful to our Lord for leading me into and carrying me on in this endeavor for these past ten years.  It has been by His grace and goodness that I have been able to keep my hand on the plow through these many, varied seasons, and by His grace and goodness I will continue to do so!

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9 KJV

And so, my dear brothers and sisters, it’s onto the next ten years! 😉

With love and blessings,

Posted in Blog Updates, Christ-Centered Resources | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

The Face of the Man – Sonship Calling (#thecorporatechrist)

The fourth primary banner that flew in the encampment of the Israelites around the tabernacle was that of a man.  This banner belonged to the tribe of Reuben, which was the primary tribe of the southern encampment.  The tribes of Simeon and Gad completed this division.  We will now consider the aspect of sonship as it is represented by the symbol of a man and further illuminated by the meaning of the names of the tribes of this southern division.

The image of a man represents sonship for God made mankind in His own image and likeness as His sons and daughters.  Sonship, which transcends gender, is God’s highest purpose and calling for mankind and represents the highest vocation of all created beings in both the seen and unseen realms.  It is also the consummate calling which incorporates the three other primary callings of priestly, prophetic, and kingly into one.  In the vision of the four living creatures that Ezekiel saw (Ezekiel 1), the primary face and form was that of a man and additionally, each had the face of an ox, an eagle, and a lion.

Reuben – The tribe of Reuben was the primary tribe of the southern encampment and was known by its banner of a man.  The name Reuben means “behold a son.”  Reuben was the firstborn son of Jacob.  The image on Reuben’s standard along with the meaning of his name clearly establishes the connection between the face of the man and sonship.

Simeon – The second tribe of the southern division was Simeon whose name means “hearing.”  This name is derived from the Hebrew primitive root, “shama` which means “to hear, heed, obey. “  When it comes to sonship, the single most important means by which young, immature children grow up unto maturity is through hearing, heeding, and obeying.

In Deuteronomy 6:4, the Lord spoke to the nation of Israel, His “firstborn son” (Deuteronomy. 4:22) and said,Hear (Hebrew=”shama`”), O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.”  He then goes on to command His people to make sure that their children, likewise, daily hear His commandments:  “Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)  The parental imperative is to daily instruct their children in the words, wisdom, and ways of God and the child’s responsibility is to hear, heed, and obey what they are taught.  This is the key to growth unto full maturity.

Solomon further emphasizes these generational imperatives in the book of Proverbs:

“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.  I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.  For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother.  Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live.  Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them.” Proverbs 4:1-5

The Messiah, the Son of God, similarly had an instruction/hearing relationship with His Father.  Isaiah records concerning the “servant of the Lord”:  He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.” (Isaiah 50:4b-5 NIV) 

So we see the primary significance of hearing in the raising up of son’s and daughters unto full maturity.  The name Simeon (“hearing”), therefore, is a most fitting name to be associated with this calling of sonship.

Gad – The third tribe of the southern encampment was Gad.  The name Gad is an interesting one meaning “fortune” and is also sometimes translated as “troop.”  It comes from the Hebrew verb transliterated, gadad, meaning “to penetrate, cut, attack, invade.”   The name points to the fortunes procured by an invading band/troop.

The mission of the Son of God was very much akin to this (though initially only as “an army of one.”)  It was an heavenly invasion that procured for Himself and His people unspeakable, spiritual fortunes.  As a reaping of these spoils of battle, we are now blessed “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:3) and have become “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 8:17)  Is it possible to be more richly blessed with greater spiritual fortunes than that?!?

Furthermore, as the Father sent His Son into the world, so now Christ is sending us (see John 20:21.)   The “sons of God” are now being raised up as a world-wide army (“troop”) to join in the ongoing mission of the Son of God until He has fully reaped the reward of His sufferings.  All of this culminates in the bringing of “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10) unto an “inheritance that can never perish, spoil of fade.” (1 Peter 1:4)  These are the unspeakable fortunes of “the Son of God” and of “the sons of God.”  The name of Gad (“fortune”, “troop”), therefore, is a most fitting name to consummate this matter of sonship.

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As we’ve considered these four faces of the ox, the eagle, the lion, and the man in relation to the tribes of Israel as they encamped around the tabernacle in the wilderness, we’ve seen how all of God’s people were connected in some way to one of these four primary “faces”/callings.  This gives a rudimentary picture of the significance of the four aspects of the priestly, prophetic, kingly, and sonship callings in regards to God’s people in general.  In the full thought of God, however, all four faces/callings are integral to the constitution and calling of all of God’s people, both individually and corporately.  We will explore the individual aspect of that reality in the next post.  See you then! 🙂

Previous #thecorporatechrist posts:
The Anointed One
Four Faces of the Anointed One
Four Faces in the Wilderness
The Face of the Ox – Priestly Calling
The Face of the Eagle – Prophetic Calling
The Face of the Lion – Kingly Calling

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The Face of the Lion – Kingly Calling (#the corporatechrist)

On the eastern side of the tabernacle, toward the rising sun, three tribes camped: Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.  The primary banner that flew on this side of God’s sanctuary was that of a lion.   We will now consider the kingly calling in relation to the lion and to the three tribes that encamped on this side.

Throughout all of human history, the lion has been a symbol of power and royalty.  It is known for its strength, fearlessness, and territorial supremacy.  It has no predators and it has no rivals.  Direct connection between the lion and kingship is made in Scripture when Jacob prophesied over his son Judah: You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?  The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” (Genesis 49:9-10 NIV)  Thus we understand that the lion represents the kingly calling.

Judah – The primary tribe of this east-side encampment was Judah whose banner was the lion.  Judah’s name means “praise.”  Jacob’s blessing over Judah began: “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you.” (Genesis 49:8 NIV)  If it were up to you or me to choose one name that would represent the kingly calling, would we choose a name that means “praise?”  I’m not sure I would.  God, however, puts His emphasis right there.  The reality is that the single most essential element needed for God to secure unwavering honor and obedience from His subjects is for Him to be of such an excellent character and to be such a beneficial ruler that His subjects have nothing but ceaseless praise for Him and, therefore, willingly choose to submit to His Kingship.  Take praise out of the equation, and all that is left is coercive tyranny. (Imagine for a moment what heaven would be like if there was no praise of the King!)  Thus the name Judah (“praise”) is a most fitting name as the primary representation of the kingly calling.

Issachar – The next tribe in this eastern division is Issachar, whose name means: “there is recompense.”  The name of Issachar is derived from the Hebrew word “sakar” which means, “wages, reward, pay, hire.”  This name points to the essential nature of God’s kingly rule as being one of justice.  The psalmist says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;Psalm 89:14a NIV, and,  Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. (Psalm 45:6 NIV)   A “recompense” is a just reward/payment/wage for what one has done, whether good or evil.  An essential aspect of God’s righteous rule is that He will recompense each person according to what they are justly due.  One of the last verses of the Bible is an utterance of Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.” (Revelation 22:12 ESV)   This essential aspect of justice, therefore, is what the name of Issachar is emphasizing in relation to the kingly calling.

Zebulun – the third tribe of this division is Zebulun whose name means “to dwell.”  Unlike the potentates of this world who treasure their lofty palaces and elite, separated lifestyles, the King of kings and Lord of lords desires nothing more than to dwell with His people.  From His walking with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, to His manifest dwelling in the tabernacle and temple, to His incarnation among men in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, to His indwelling of His Church by the Holy Spirit, through the millennial reign of Christ on earth, and on into the eternal ages, God has ever expressed His desire to dwell among His people as their God and their King.  In the second to last chapter of the book of Revelation we see His eternal desire consummated with a loud voice from heaven declaring, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.”  (Revelation 21:3 NKJV)  The kingly calling is ever pushing toward the establishing of the habitation of God on earth among His people and so the name of Zebulun is a fitting third name to associate with this aspect of the “lion” calling.

The three tribes of Judah (“praise”), Issachar (“there is recompense”), and Zebulun (“to dwell”), therefore, emphasize three of the most essential aspects of the kingdom of God and of the nature and purpose of the kingly calling.

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Having looked at the ox/priestly, eagle/prophetic, and lion/kingly callings in relation to the tribal divisions encamped around the tabernacle, we will, last of all, look at the consummate, man/sonship calling in this regard in the next post.

Next: The Face of the Man – Sonship Calling (#thecorporatechrist)

Previous #thecorporatechrist posts:
The Anointed One
Four Faces of the Anointed One
Four Faces in the Wilderness
The Face of the Ox – Priestly Calling
The Face of the Eagle – Prophetic Calling

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The Face of the Eagle – Prophetic Calling (#thecorporatechrist)

We will now consider the prophetic calling as it is represented by the face of the eagle and further illuminated by the names of the tribes of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali.  According to God’s directives, these three tribes camped on the north side of the tabernacle with Dan as the primary tribe.  On the banner of the tribe of Dan was an eagle.

The eagle is the majestic ruler of the skies.  It is known for its remarkably keen vision from its “heavenly” vantage point, its effortless freedom of flight, and its swiftness of attack.  Similarly, the prophetic ministry is a seeing/visionary calling from a heavenly perspective.  The prophet is not spiritually governed or constrained by the rigid ways of earthly religion but freely soars above them being governed by the ways and winds of God’s sovereign Spirit.  The prophetic ministry also bears with it consequence, and where rejected, divine judgement has been known to ensue, and that sometimes swiftly.  Thus, the eagle is a fitting symbol of the prophetic ministry and calling.

Dan – The primary tribe of the northern encampment was Dan whose standard was the eagle and whose name means “judge.”  A judge must be able to clearly see the big picture of a situation and also needs to have keen insight into the minutia of all related details.  Similar to an eagle, a judge must be able to see both “the forest” and “the trees.”  Whatever judgement is made springs from this lofty, all-encompassing, insightful, discerning, wise perspective.  A prophet, who is often called a seer in the Old Testament, is one who wisely perceives a situation according to God’s heavenly perspective, rightly discerns the specific details “on the ground”, and speaks God’s righteous truth and judgement into it.  A prophet not only has clear, heavenly vision, but also imparts that vision and accurately renders God’s assessment/verdict in relation to whatever situation he/she is engaging with.  Thus the name “Dan”, meaning “judge”, gives clarity and confirmation to the essence of the prophetic ministry and calling.

Asher – The next tribe in this division is Asher whose name means “happy, blessed.”  Although prophetic ministry can have a negative edge to it at times in the calling out of sin, and even the declaring of judgement, the end goal of prophecy is always to bring God’s people into the full blessing of the Lord, which is the root of all true happiness and blessedness.  Interestingly, the name Asher comes from a primitive root, ‘ashar, which has the following shades of meaning: “to go straight on, make progress, advance, to lead on, to set right, righten” as well as to “pronounce or be made happy, call blessed, and be blessed” (see Strongs’ entry 0833)  The prophetic ministry is fundamentally concerned with helping God’s people make straight-line progress and to set things aright among them so that they may be happy and blessed as they are lead onward in the way of righteousness.  This is the underlying motive of prophetic ministry, and so the name of Asher is a very fitting name to associate with this “eagle” calling.

Naphtali – The third tribe of this division is Naphtali whose name means “wrestling.”  This Hebrew name is derived from a primitive root word, pathal, which means “to twist.”  The prophets’ lives were ever marked by deep wrestlings both with God and also with the people they were sent to “straighten out.”  Their calling was and is to shine light on and confront that which is crooked and awry in God’s sight.  They are His instruments to make straight that which is twisted and in so doing they, of necessity, engage in a wrestling with those people and things which are morally bent and spiritually askew.  In order to be fit vessels for this calling, God has to deeply wrestle with them until all that is twisted and bent within their own lives is straightened out according to His righteousness and truth.  The prophet’s life is ever marked by wrestling, both internally and externally, and thus the name “Naphtali” (“wrestling”) is a fitting third name to describe the nature of the prophetic ministry and calling.

Next we will consider the face of the lion, the kingly calling, as illuminated by the three tribal names of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon, which camped on the east side of the tabernacle in the wilderness.

Next: The Face of the Lion – Kingly Calling (#the corporatechrist)

Previous #thecorporatechrist posts:
The Anointed One (#thecorporatechrist)
Four Faces of the Anointed One (#thecorporatechrist)
Four Faces in the Wilderness (#thecorporatechrist)
The Face of the Ox – Priestly Calling (#thecorporatechrist)

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The Face of the Ox – Priestly Calling (#thecorporatechrist)

On the west side of the tabernacle in the wilderness three tribes camped: Ephraim (primary tribe), Manasseh, and Benjamin.  Ephraim’s banner was that of an ox.  In considering the banners of the four primary tribes, we see represented an ox (Ephraim), an eagle (Dan), a lion (Judah), and a man (Reuben.)  It is my contention that these four “faces” represent the four primary callings of God’s people: ox = priestly, eagle = prophetic, lion = kingly, and man = sonship.

I’m going to take this one step further by suggesting that the names of the three tribes included in each of the four tribal divisions add supplemental revelation and confirmation of these four callings.  We will consider these one at a time, beginning with the ox/priestly calling.

The ox represents strength, service, and sacrifice and, therefore, is an apt symbol for the priestly ministry and calling.  Priestly ministry flows in two directions, Godward and manward, and it is the divinely-ordained conduit between the two.  Under the Old Covenant, this ministry was relegated to a select few, the sons of Aaron, but under the New Covenant, it is the calling of all who are in Christ Jesus, the Anointed One, and in whom the eternal High Priest now dwells.

Ephraim – The primary tribe of the west side encampment of the tabernacle was Ephraim, whose standard was the ox.  Ephraim’s name means “doubly fruitful.”  It is through the “hoofs on the ground” strength and labor of the ox that abundant fruitfulness is produced, and so it is with priestly ministry.  Priestly ministry is the “bull-work” of the kingdom of God and it is “doubly fruitful” in relation first to God and secondly to man.  This abundant fruitfulness also comes through the two related aspects of priestly sacrifice and priestly service.

Manasseh – The next tribe included in this division was Manasseh, whose name means “causing to forget.”  The greatest work of a priest in the Old Testament was that of offering sacrifices.  Those sacrifices foreshadowed the all-inclusive, once-for-all sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It was the perfection of His sacrifice of Himself on the cross that atoned for all sin, for all time, and was the ground of God’s forgiving and “forgetting” our sins.  The foundational promise of the new covenant, upon which all the others are contingent, is: For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:12)  God also says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”  This tribe’s name, Manasseh, meaning “causing to forget”, points to the greatest effect of the greatest sacrifice of the greatest Priest of all time!

Benjamin – The third tribe in this division was Benjamin whose name means, “son of my right hand.”  The high priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ not only involved His offering of the all-sufficient sacrifice of Himself on the cross while in his earthly body, but also continues on in resurrection and ascension at the Father’s right hand in ongoing priestly service within the heavenly sanctuary.  Hebrews 1:3b says, After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Similarly, in verse 10:12 it says, But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,”  In this same epistle, the writer says, Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.” (Hebrews 8:11-12 NIV)

Whereas the name of Manasseh (“causing to forget”) points to Christ’s sacrifice which “cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19) so that God remembers them no more, the name of Benjamin (“son of my right hand”) points to the ongoing priestly service of Christ at the Father’s right hand within the heavenly sanctuary.  All of this has been accomplished and established by the mighty, ox-like strength of the Lord. 

The “doubly-fruitful” priestly work of Christ, therefore, is well represented by the “face of the ox” as well as by the three tribal names of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin.

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We will look next at the face of the eagle and the prophetic calling in relation to the tribes encamped on the northern side of the tabernacle.

Next: The Face of the Eagle – Prophetic Calling (#thecorporatechrist)

Previous #thecorporatechrist posts:
The Anointed One
Four Faces of the Anointed One
Four Faces in the Wilderness

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Four Faces in the Wilderness (#thecorporatechrist)

When Ezekiel saw his vision of four living creatures (Ezekiel 1), each with the face of a man, the face of a lion, the face of an ox, and the face of an eagle, it was not the first time those four faces had been seen together in Israel’s history.  To find their first appearance, we have to travel back to the time when the nation of Israel was journeying through the wilderness.  There the twelve tribes of Israel encamped around the tabernacle, each with their divinely assigned positions of encampment and with their unique, tribal banners flying.

The tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon were positioned on the eastern side of the tabernacle.  Collectively they were associated with the primary tribe of Judah which was the closest encampment of the three to the tabernacle and whose banner depicted a lion.

The tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad were positioned on the southern side of the tabernacle.  Collectively they were associated with the primary tribe of Reuben which was the closest encampment of the three to the tabernacle and whose standard depicted a man.

The tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin were positioned on the western side of the tabernacle.  Collectively they were associated with the primary tribe of Ephraim which was the closest encampment of the three to the tabernacle and whose banner depicted an ox.

The tribes of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali were positioned on the northern side of the tabernacle.  Collectively they were associated with the primary tribe of Dan which was the closest encampment of the three to the tabernacle and whose standard depicted an eagle.

Furthermore, as the Israelites journeyed from place to place, each tribe would march out according to these four major divisions.  Each three-tribe division would follow the standard of the primary tribe of their division.

Thus when the twelve tribes of Israel either camped or journeyed, they each were associated with one of the banners of the four primary tribes depicting either a lion, a man, an ox, or an eagle.

The fact that these four “faces” were not merely representative of four random tribes in Israel, but of the four primary tribes, and that all of the remaining tribes were associated by divine arrangement with one of them, speaks strongly of the primary significance of these four “faces” in relation to God’s people as a whole.

In the previous post, I suggested that these faces relate to the four primary callings of God’s people: priestly, prophetic, kingly, and, consummately, that of sonship.  If we were to look through this lens at the entire encampment of the twelve tribes of Israel in their divisions around the tabernacle, a beautiful and hiddenly instructive picture begins to emerge.

In this and the following posts I will seek to unpack some aspects of that revelation as I’ve come to see it.  In doing so, I will address the four faces and four callings in what I consider to be an ascending order of spiritual development and significance.  Interestingly, this also corresponds to the ascending birth order of the four descendants of Jacob(Israel) related to those four faces, from youngest to oldest: Jacob’s second grandson, Ephraim (ox/priestly calling), Jacob’s seventh son, Dan (eagle/prophetic calling), Jacob’s fourth son, Judah (lion/kingly calling), and, finally, Jacob’s firstborn son, Reuben (man/sonship calling.)

All four of these callings find their highest expression and fulfillment in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Anointed One.  They are also descriptive of the four primary callings of “His body, the fullness of Him” (Ephesians 1:23), the corporate Christ, “the body” of the Anointed One.

In the next post, then, we will consider the priestly calling as represented by the face of the ox and further illuminated by the three tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin.  I look forward to exploring that aspect of Christ’s and our collective calling with you next time. 🙂

Next: The Face of the Ox – Priestly Calling (#thecorporatechrist)

The Anointed One
Four Faces of the Anointed One

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Four Faces of the Anointed One (#thecorporatechrist)

In appearance their form was human, but each of them had four faces…”
Ezekiel 1:5 NIV

The prophet Ezekiel saw in a vision four living creatures which had very unique, symbolic features. (Ezekiel 1)  The most prominent of these was that they had human form.  They also had four faces with the primary, central face being that of a man.  The other, less central and prominent faces were those of a lion, an ox, and an eagle.

As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle.” vs. 1:10 NKJV

Additionally, they each had four wings (representing freedom of heavenly movement), and under their wings they had another human feature: hands. “Hands” in Scripture represent strength for work and power for fulfilling purpose.

“Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands.” vs. 1:8

These four living creatures were also seen as being in close proximity and connection to the throne of God and to the “man” upon the throne:

Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man.” vs. 1:26 NIV

There are further details concerning these living creatures that Ezekiel describes, but given the abundance of human representation and association embodied in these heavenly beings, it appears that symbolically and prophetically they are shown in this vision to represent humanity in its highest and most heavenly calling.

Four Faces of the Anointed One

If that is indeed so, then there is something about the four faces of these creatures that represent four facets of our highest and most heavenly calling as redeemed humanity in relation to the Man on the throne.

Redeemed humanity, from God’s perspective, is not only a multitude of individuals, of which no man can number, but also a single Man, the “one new man” Paul describes in Ephesians 2:15.  As the title “Christ” means “Anointed One”, so this “one new man”, “the body of Christ”, is “the body of the Anointed One.”  Whatever calling, therefore, belongs to Christ, the Anointed Head, the body of Christ, likewise, participates in through the same anointing.

The four faces symbolically represented in the living creatures relate then, first and foremost, to the Head of this new humanity and secondarily to the Body of this “one new man.”  As the anointing was most specifically related in Scripture to the calling of the priestly, prophetic, and kingly ministry/service, and, is consummately bound up with the matter of sonship (please see previous post), so these four faces appear to represent these four facets of the calling of the corporate Christ, both Head and Body together.

  1. The face of the ox = priestly calling.
  2. The face of the eagle = prophetic calling.
  3. The face of the lion = kingly calling.
  4. The face of the man = sonship calling.

Further evidence that these four faces relate prophetically to God’s people and are depictive of their four-fold heavenly calling can be seen in the arrangement and “marching orders” of the tribes of Israel as they encamped around the tabernacle and journeyed in the wilderness.  We will explore that aspect and elaborate more fully on these four faces/callings in the next post.

Next: Four Faces in the Wilderness (#thecorporatechrist)

Previous: The Anointed One (#thecorporatechrist)

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The Anointed One (#thecorporatechrist)

“And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all”
Ephesians 1:21-22 NKJV

Those who have been joined to Christ have been incorporated into what Paul calls the “one new man.” (Ephesians 2:15)  This new humanity is the corporate Christ of which He is the “Head” and we are “His body, the fullness of Him…”  We will be focusing in these next few posts on this corporate Christ with a specific focus on the anointing of the Holy Spirit in relation to it.

The matter of “the anointing” is brought in, front and center, by the fact that God has revealed its significance in the very title ascribed to Jesus of Nazareth: “Christ.”  The title “Christ” is the Greek translation (“Christos”) of the word for Messiah (Hebrew: “Mashiach) which means “anointed one.”  “Jesus Christ”, therefore, means “Jesus the Messiah” or “Jesus the Anointed One.”  The fact that the title most closely associated with Jesus means “anointed one” informs us just how significant “the anointing” is!  This is not only true concerning Christ, the Head, but also regarding His Body, the fullness of Him.

In the Old Testament, the anointing oil was used to consecrate three groups of people: priests, prophets, and kings.  This oil was generously poured on the head (see Psalm 133:2) for the consecrating of certain individuals to their particular calling and service.  The anointing oil is symbolic of the sanctifying, enabling work of the Holy Spirit for spiritual service.

Jesus the Anointed One, in His earthly life, was given “the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34, see also Acts 10:30) as the one ordained and anointed of the Father to be His supreme High Priest, Prophet, and King.  Now Christ Jesus, the resurrected Head, has poured out on His Body the same anointing for the full functioning of the corporate Christ under His headship (see Acts 2:33)  Much of Christ’s high priestly, prophetic, and kingly service/ministry is now being inwrought and outworked through His Body, the fullness of Him, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Running as a golden thread through these three aspects of Christ’s heavenly ministry as Priest, Prophet, and King, and of the Body’s earthly calling as His fullness, is the matter of sonship.  In the Old Testament, natural lineage, i.e. sonship, was integrally connected to the priestly and kingly offices.  It was also loosely connected with the prophetic calling as evidenced by the oft repeated phrase in the Old Testament, “the sons of the prophets.”  (Whether referring to natural or “spiritual” sons, the principle of “sonship” is similarly present.)  Ultimately, the highest calling of God is in the bringing of “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10), conformed to the image and likeness of His only-begotten Son, Who is High Priest, Prophet, and King.  Sonship, therefore, is the consummate calling that integrates all other callings in one.  The Holy Spirit, the Anointing, is “the Spirit of sonship” (Romans 8:15, also Galatians 4:6) Who brings forth the fullness of Christ and of Christ’s heavenly ministry within His people.

We will explore the priestly, prophetic, and kingly aspects of the anointing, and their consummation in “the Spirit of sonship”, as they relate to the corporate Christ in the following posts.  Please stay tuned! 🙂

Next: Four Faces of the Anointed One (#thecorporatechrist)

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A Part of or a Parting of? (#worship)

[Listen to post here.]

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There is an ancient Christian classic in the mystic tradition called The Cloud of Unknowing.  The understanding behind its title is that there exists between our soul and God a dense, all-but-impenetrable barrier to the true knowing of God as He actually is.  The author calls this a “cloud of unknowing” and instructs his readers that it cannot be pierced by the faculties of the mind but only by the volition and affections of the heart.

I was in a corporate worship setting several months ago when the Lord began to speak to my heart about this “cloud of unknowing” as it relates to our personal and collective worship.  What became evident to me was that so much of what we consider to be worshiping in “truth” is merely a suggesting or a seeing of “shapes” in “the cloud of unknowing” while thinking we are encountering the true reality of God in them.

Think for a moment about the childhood pastime of looking up at the clouds and envisioning from their shapes what objects they suggest.  None of us would ever believe that what we saw in the clouds was the actual object, but rather it was only a fleeting imagination and representation.

When it comes to spiritual realities, our natural mind does not have the ability to perceive that which is spiritual in nature.  1 Corinthians 2:14 states clearly, But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (NKJV)  Or as the Message paraphrase puts it: The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit.  There’s no capacity for them.  They seem like so much silliness.  Spirit can be known only by spirit – God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion.” 

Even when the mind is focused on Scriptural/spiritual truths, at best it can only apprehend the outward appearance and mental representation of spiritual realities.  In other words, it can only form and see “spiritual shapes” in “the cloud of unknowing” and not pierce through to the actual realities that lie beyond what those “shapes” suggest and represent.

That is not to say that the mind has no place in spiritual matters; it certainly does, but it must know its place.  The mind is like a hiking guide that is only authorized and able to lead a mountain climber up to a base camp that lies below the clouds.  From there, the climber must rely on the more experienced and constitutionally fit “sherpas” to take him up through the dense clouds to the heights above where the light is gloriously shining.  Those “sherpas” that guide our heart and spirit up into the light of God’s presence are Faith, Hope, and Love.

In our spiritual ascent, as the “cloud” grows dense and the “shapes” that first drew us onward begin to disappear in the mists, Faith keeps whispering in our heart of the glorious vistas that will be seen from above and continually assures us that we will make it to those higher realms if we press on in implicit trust.

As the way grows steeper, the air grows thinner, and the darkness presses in, Hope encourages our flagging spirit not to give up, but to patiently persevere until the clouds begin to part, the light from above breaks through, and the lofty wonders begin to appear in radiant splendor.

All the while Love is leading the way, undaunted and undeterred, ever pressing onward and upward in singleness of purpose, intention, and desire.  This, the greatest of all “sherpas”, never falters and never fails.

It is the singleness of Love’s desire, strengthened by Faith and Hope, that enables us to do our part in pressing into and piercing through “the cloud” unto a true knowing of God “in spirit and truth.”  As He sees us seeking Him with all of our heart, He in turn does His part by imparting a “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him” (Eph.1:17 DBY), thus parting the “cloud of unknowing” with rays of revelation from above.

God is earnestly searching for those who will not settle for mere “shapes in the clouds” in their knowledge of Him but are desperate to press in and know Him experientially and intimately through an ever-increasing revelation and impartation of His Spirit.  Let us search our hearts to see if our knowledge of Him is merely a part of “the cloud of unknowing” or does it come from a parting of “the cloud of unknowing!” 

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Oh, that we might know the LORD !
Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of rains in early spring.”
Hosea 6:3 NLT

Previous in collection (#worship):
What Is the Father Seeking? (#worship)
Neither Here Nor There (#worship)
…In Spirit (#worship)
…In Truth (#worship)
Get Real (#worship)

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Get Real (#worship)

[Listen to post here.]

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Worshiping in “truth” has two sides to it, one Godward and the other manward.  The Godward side has to do with the truth of Who God is, including all of His attributes, works, wonders, and ways.  It is an engagement with the One Who alone is worthy to be revered, loved, honored, and obeyed.  The manward side, however, has to do with the inward truthfulness of the worshiper.  It is the presence of sincerity, genuineness, integrity, authenticity, and realness within the heart of the one engaging in worship to God.  An exhortation to worship in “truth”, on the manward side, then, could be expressed in one small phrase: “Get real!”

When we explore the book of Psalms, we get a full, well-rounded, and yet raw picture of just what it means for a worshiper to “get real.”  These expressions of praise and worship are not painstakingly-crafted, finely-polished, always-overcoming, Dove-award-ready, shining trophies in a worshiper’s display case.  No, they are right-out-of-the-box, gut-level, lay-it-all-on the table, raw wrestlings and triumphant praises of a genuine man of God who has scaled the lofty mountains and trodden the deep valleys of authentic, “in spirit and truth” relationship with God!  The book of Psalms is a front-line-soldier’s, battle-scarred, prayer hymnal showing just what deeply spiritual, “get-real worship” looks like.

Worship in “truth” that God honors, whether individual or collective, is marked above all else by “real” and yet so very often, that is not what we experience and/or express.  I’m reminded of a rather scintillating A. W. Tozer quote where he stated: “Christians don’t tell lies – they just go to church and sing them.”  As pointed as this is, I think we may just have to agree that this is so often the case.

Have you ever been in a corporate worship setting, for instance, where people are singing lyrics about giving God their all but then begin to get restless if the singing goes a few minutes longer than expected?  Or maybe they’re singing about lifting up a shout to the Lord, but their lips are barely moving?  Or even when they do lift up outwardly expressive praise during a song, but their engagement with the Lord immediately ceases as soon as the song ends?

In offering these scenarios (and there are many more that could be suggested), it’s not to imply that the internals and externals of the worshiper have to always match what is being sung collectively.  What I am suggesting is that if we embody vast inconsistencies in this regard and make a practice of being insincere and un-real in our “worship”, we fail to worship God in “truth” and engage instead in a form of religious delusion.  Where this takes on a corporate dimension, a group can run the risk of becoming what I would call “a cult of fake.”  (Quite frankly, I’ve been in places where that’s exactly what it felt like I was in the midst of!)

The eternal I AM is the utter and complete antithesis of fake, however.  He is ultimate REALITY, and all that is not REAL His soul abhors.  He despises falsehood, pretense, hypocrisy, outward show, insincerity, lip-service, half-heartedness, lukewarmness, going-through-the-motions, religious virtue-signaling, and the like.  In times past He has declared and decried:

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”  (Isaiah 29:13 NIV)

I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me…Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” (Amos 5:21,23 NIV)

“‘Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will accept no offering from your hands.'” (Malachi 1 :10 NIV)

“When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?  Stop bringing meaningless offerings!  Your incense is detestable to me.  New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.  Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being.” (Isaiah 1:12-14 NIV)

If this is how the Lord felt about hypocritical, disingenuous worship under the old covenant, before the death of Christ and the giving of the indwelling Spirit, how much more does He have contempt under the new covenant for inauthentic, pretentious “worship” from His people who have been given SO much more?!

The Father is seeking those who will worship Him “in spirit and truth.”  In the depths of our being, it’s time we GET REAL!

Next in collection (#worship):
A Part of or a Parting of? (#worship)

Previous in collection:
What Is the Father Seeking? (#worship)
Neither Here Nor There (#worship)
…In Spirit (#worship)
…In Truth (#worship)

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…In Truth (#worship)

[Listen to post here.]

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God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:24 NKJV

The first sphere our worship is to take place in is “spirit” and the second is “truth.”  We will consider the second of these in this meditation.

There are two basic forms of “truth” as it is both communicated and perceived by us as humans.  One way to define these is as “linear” and “non-linear.”

Linear truth is the form expressed in written and verbal language.  It is linear because the details being communicated follow in succession one after the other in a “train of thought” or “line of reasoning.”  This is the form of truth you are engaging with right now as you read this post.  At this point you know part of what I am seeking to express and shortly you will know more as you continue on in this linear form of communication.

Non-linear truth, however, is a form where the particulars contained in or concerning a certain matter exist simultaneously and may be comprehended all at once.  This form of communication is generally sensory in nature and doesn’t involve the use of linear language.  If you were to look at the header picture at the top of this post, for instance, a multitude of particulars would be communicated to you all at once without any language involved.  This is why it is said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Both linear and non-linear forms of communication have their unique advantages and also certain limitations, and so the best way of expressing truth often employs them both.  For instance, this is why we put captions under pictures and look at maps to augment driving directions.  In either case, the perception of truth is enhanced by linear and non-linear forms of communication synergizing together to give a more complete understanding of what is knowable and true.

These dynamics have a spiritual application as well.

God is the embodiment of all Truth.  In His Person, all of the particulars of wisdom and knowledge exist simultaneously in perfect unity, fullness, and living reality.

If all the truths contained in and concerning God were to be expressed in linear, written form, the entire universe would most likely not be able to contain the volumes that would be written.  Concerning the earthly life of Jesus alone, John said, “Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25 NIV)  We can extrapolate from there what it would take to contain a linear expression of all of the wisdom, wonders, works, and ways of God from eternity to eternity!

The God of Truth, however, is not merely a vast conglomeration of linear expressions of Truth.  Rather, in Him all Truth exists simultaneously in one, integrated, all-at-once, non-linear Reality.  Within the shoreless Ocean of Truth, whom God is, an infinitude of particulars of wisdom and knowledge “swim”, interrelate, and may be expressed both linearly and non-linearly, but all Truth is essentially and inherently one in His Person.

For us to worship God “in truth”, then, we must not only encounter and engage with the linear truths of God, but also be led through them to behold and bow down before the non-linear God of Truth.  This process begins with the meditation (“grazing”) of our heart upon the truths of God as they are revealed through the written/spoken Word of God.  It consummates in the contemplation (“gazing”) of our heart upon the God of Truth as He is revealed by the indwelling/overshadowing Spirit of God.

As we enter into worship in this way, we will become like Job who not only knew God linearly (“My ears had heard of you…”), but also came to know Him non-linearly (“but now my eyes have seen you.”) which resulted in Job’s ultimate transformation (“Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  Job 42:4-5)

The highest, purest, and most transformative form of worship “in truth” involves these dual dynamics and this progressive development.  As we enter into worship, then, may we allow the linear rays of light that radiate out of the Scriptures to lead us to gaze upon the non-linear Source of Light in Whom all Truth abides in resplendent glory!  Then we will truly become the kind of worshipers the Father seeks, who worship not only in “spirit”, but also in “TRUTH!”

Next in collection (#worship):
Get Real (#worship)

Previous in collection:
What Is the Father Seeking? (#worship)
Neither Here Nor There (#worship)
…In Spirit (#worship)

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…In Spirit (#worship)

[Listen to post here.]

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God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:24 NKJV

Our spirit is the innermost part of who we are.  It is the part of us that is of similar “substance” to God for “God is Spirit.”  It is the part of us that is made for intimate union and communion with Him.  Our spirit alone can truly know God as He is, for it takes spirit to experientially know Spirit.  It is in our spirit that God dwells and becomes one with us.  “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17 NKJV)  This is the “Holy of Holies” within us, and this is the place we are to worship God “in” and out from.

There were four essential, spiritual characteristics associated with the Holy of Holies within the tabernacle and temple in the Old Testament.  When the High Priest entered into the innermost sanctuary of those structures once a year, on the Day of Atonement, he encountered these four elements in reality and also in symbolic representation: the Light of God, the Life of God, the Love of God, and the Lordship of God.

The Light of God was directly encountered and seen in the shekinah glory that filled the Holy of Holies.  The Life of God was directly encountered in God’s presence and also represented by two of the items that were inside the Ark of the Covenant: Aaron’s rod that had budded (representing resurrection life) and the pot of manna (representing the “bread of life” John 6:31-35, 48-51.)  The Love of God was directly encountered in God’s presence and also represented by the Mercy Seat and the Ark of the Covenant.  The Lordship of God was directly encountered in the manifest glory of God as it dwelt upon the Mercy Seat, God’s throne on earth, and also represented by the stone tablets of the Law within the Ark which are His sovereign commandments that issue from His throne.

When it comes to the Holy of Holies within us, within our spirit, these four essential, divine attributes are, likewise, directly encountered when we spiritually enter in beyond the rent veil to worship God there.  These four attributes constitute the essential elements of our encounter with God and our worship of Him.  The Light of God gives us a true revelation and seeing of God as He actually is.  The Life of God quickens us so that we can respond to Him in a living, vital way.  The Love of God draws us ever deeper into union and communion with Himself.  The Lordship of God humbles us and brings our entire being under His sovereign governance.  Our engagement with these divine virtues forms the true essence of worship “in spirit.”

As we enter into God’s presence within our spirit to worship Him, may these four elements of Light, Life, Love, and Lordship mark our encounter and engagement with Him there.  The Father is seeking those who will dwell with Him in the “secret place of the Most High” in loving adoration and intimate communion.

To close out this meditation, I’d like to share the lyrics of an original song, which was given to me in two parts.  The first part was inspired about three years ago and the second while singing the first part a short while after writing this post!  🙂

In the Secret Place/Abide

In the secret place
Of the Most High
In the hidden place
Far from human eye
In the most holy place
Just beyond the veil
Of my fallenness
Where Your glory dwells

That’s where I long to meet with You
To seek Your face in spirit and truth
That’s where I long with You to abide
In the secret place of the Most High
In the secret place deep inside

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In Your light
In Your life
In Your love
I will abide
Under Your shadow
Beneath Your wings
Before Your Mercy Seat I sing
In Your light
In Your life
In Your love
I will abide
Under Your shadow
Beneath Your wings
Before Your Holy Throne I sing

You are Light
You are my light
You are Life
You are my life
You are Love
You are my love
You are Lord
You are my Lord

©2021 Music and lyrics by David Bolton. All rights reserved.

Next in collection (#worship):
…In Truth (#worship)

Previous in collection:
What Is the Father Seeking? (#worship)
Neither Here Nor There (#worship)

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Neither Here Nor There (#worship)

[Listen to post here.]

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There is a great deception in the Church today that embraces the mindset that if an assembly of believers merely does the externals of “worship” well, they’re doing worship well.

Across the landscape of Christianity there are vastly different ideas as to what it means to do the externals of “worship” well.  To some it means black-painted walls, house lights down, stage light/fog machine effects up, reclaimed-wood backdrops, and a ripped-kneed worship band belting out the latest pop worship songs.  To others it’s rigid pews, stained glass windows, house lights always up, and a non-emotional three songs and out song list (with no song newer than thirty years old included.)  Still to others, it’s a packed living room, carpet littered with half-filled coffee cups, a couple guitars, participatory singing/song leading, “glory-cloud effects” coming from the kitchen from a pot-luck “burnt offering”, and kids snuggling on laps or coloring on the floor.   Although these settings are very diverse, the groups that participate in them might each believe that their way of doing worship is indeed the most “well done.”

Similarly, in the time of Jesus, there were three main worship environments that various groups of Jews were involved in: the temple in Jerusalem, the temple on Mt. Gerizim in Samaria, and the synagogue system scattered throughout Judea and all the lands of the Diaspora.

When Jesus spoke with a woman at “Jacob’s well” in Samaria (John 4:4-26), she sought His perspective as to where God’s people ought to worship:

“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.'” (vs. 19-20 NKJV))

Instead of replying in favor of one or the other, He pointed beyond them both to a coming, more glorious temple where all true worshipers would one day worship.  That God-filled place would be internal, within the spirits of those He would redeem, not in an external here or there:

Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the FatherBut the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.'” (John 4:21,23-24 NKJV)

Today, in the Church, we have our own worship “mountains” that we gather unto.  These are most often distinguished by the diverse external environments and expressions that have been created and/or adopted.  I believe Jesus would say to His people, however, “It’s neither here nor there; neither on this ‘mountain’ nor that!  What Father is interested in is what’s going on inside of you, between you and Him.  He is greatly seeking those who will enter into His Presence within their own spirit and worship Him there in sincerity and truth.  It’s not the outward things that He’s concerned with anymore.  He is seeking your heart.”

The reality is, we can have all the externals of “worship” done very well, and yet true worship before God be very poor.  Although externals in worship have a place, true worship is not primarily a matter of, nor reliant on, externals done well…but on internals done well.  As extravagant, impressive, and respectable as the externals of Jewish worship were in the time of Christ, and even as the externals of Christian worship are in our day, the Lord is looking for something much more glorious.  It is “neither here nor there” but in spirit and in truthMay we meet with our Lord there and worship Him with all of our being, from the inside out!

Next in collection (#worship):
…In Spirit (#worship)

Previous in collection:
What Is the Father Seeking? (#worship)

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What Is the Father Seeking? (#worship)

[Listen to post here.]

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The all-pervasive atmosphere of heaven is, and always will be, one of unrelenting, passionate worship.  The only reason this all-consuming environment of adoration exists is because of the Triune God who sits enthroned at the center of it all.  The question that needs to be asked, then, is what is it that God is supremely seeking in the midst of this everlasting environment of worship that He has created?

It seems to me that there are two possible answers: either He is ultimately seeking worship, or, He is ultimately seeking worshipers.  Although these two possibilities may seem to be all but synonymous and inseparable, they are actually quite distinct and divergent.  We will trace out these two lines of possible Divine intent.

If God is ultimately seeking worship, then, as the supreme object and sole recipient of that worship, He is ultimately seeking something for Himself.  Furthermore, if worship is what He is ultimately seeking, then worshipers simply become the necessary means to that end.  Lastly, if the supreme reason for God bringing into existence His created beings is to receive worship from them, it would be hard not to conclude that at the core of who God is is something akin to a Divine narcissism or egotism that has an eternal need or desire to feed on the adoration of His subservient creatures.  This paints a rather unsettling picture of the Almighty and one that is quite strained to square with the God revealed in Scripture.

If, however, God is ultimately seeking worshipers, then He is ultimately seeking a relationship with His adoring creatures, not only for His own benefit and enjoyment, but also for theirs.  In this scenario, worship becomes an essential means to His end and also a natural by-product of it.  If this is indeed the case, then at the core of who God is is a Divine love that seeks oneness and fellowship with those whom He has created who choose to lovingly esteem and honor Him.  This paints a picture that is quite different from the first scenario and one which readily squares with the God revealed in Scripture.

I believe that Scripture confirms that this second scenario is indeed the true one.  If we look closely at what Jesus said in John 4:23, for instance, we see that what the Father is actually seeking is worshipers, and that the worship He describes is simply a means to making the kind of worshipers that He desires:

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (NIV)

This revelation of the Father’s heart ought to revolutionize our worship of Him.  When we come before Him, in public or private, let us reckon on the revelation that what our Heavenly Father ultimately desires in our worship is US and not merely our external, or even internal, expressions of praise and worship.  These expressions may be vehicles through which we can engage with Him in spirit and express ourselves in truth, but let us never settle and stop short of the Father obtaining His ultimate desire in our worship, which is us, all of us!

We cannot end this meditation without also mentioning one last thing.  The beautiful reality of this worshipful relationship with God is that as we give Him what He ultimately desires, ourselves, all of ourselves, He, in turn, also gives us what we ultimately desire, HIMSELF, all of HIMSELF!

Such a mutually-giving relationship of love is God’s glorious end in creating and ordaining worship as the never-ending, all-consuming, environment and atmosphere of His dwelling place, surrounded by all of His adoring creatures…including you and me!  Amen!

Next in collection (#worship): Neither Here Nor There (#worship)

The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Part 6a: “Loving God With All of Our Heart” (esteeming affection)
The Cross – The Unlevel Playing Field of Satan’s Defeat (updated repost)

Posted in "Shorts" | 6 Comments

Blog Update: Introducing “Shorts” (plus two new free resources added)

Hi friends,

I’m sending out an update today to share with you about a “course change” I feel to make here on Christ-Centered Christianity.  For the past decade that I’ve been blogging, I’ve felt a burden to write out and publish some of the larger revelations, burdens, and teachings that the Lord has given to me over the years and led me to share on this platform.  To do so, it has necessitated some rather long-form posts, pages, and multi-post series.  My focus has always been on sharing substantive content rather than try to appeal to the “quick snack” mindset of much online content creation and consumption.  I’ve never wanted to publish anything that did not have the potential to spiritually impact those who read it in a substantial and, hopefully, lasting way.

With that as my intent over the years, and by God’s grace, I feel that I’ve been able to build up a substantial storehouse of Christ-centered teachings and resources for others to enjoy and be edified by.  The latest series, “The ‘Love’-‘Hate’ Relationship”, was the largest and longest of the multi-post series on the blog and upon completing it I felt the Lord speak to my heart to shift my emphasis now to a new approach for the next season of blogging.  The word that came to me was: “shorts.”

Beginning next week, then, I plan to publish posts with a target length of between 500 and 750 words.  (Yes, that’s short for me! 😉 )  The longest of these should be able to be read in approximately 3-4 minutes rather than the more common 15-20 minutes as has often been in the past.  I also plan to publish more frequently with a target of at least one “short” per week.

These posts will also be clustered around certain themes so that each one will not only stand on its own, but will also be part of a larger collection of “shorts” around a particular theme.  (Eventually, I hope to have a permanent section on the blog that will list these themes with their related posts all in one place.  That in due time!)

To start things off, then, I feel stirred of the Lord to focus on the theme of “worship.”  After three or four “shorts” have been posted in keeping with that theme, I will add in the next one while still continuing to build on the first theme as the Lord leads.  The same pattern will follow for additional themes and posts.

I also want you to know that my hope in writing these is that they will be more than mere “quick snacks” for those who read them (i.e. quickly read and, possibly, just as quickly forgotten), but that they will be concentrated, rich portions that when meditated on will supply substantial nourishment to those who are spiritually hungry.  I also hope that they may possibly spark additional collective sharing, insights, and conversation in the comments section!  That would be great!

Before closing out this portion of this post, however, I do need to make a simple caveat that there may still be times when I feel led to write some more substantial pieces, or other forms of posts, but these would be more the exception than the rule for the foreseeable future.

I hope that this new direction will be a blessing to you and that combined with the content already on the blog, will make for a full, well-rounded fair of spiritual food for all who are hungry!

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[FYI…this post down to this point right here is “weighing in” at 574 words, and so if you consider what you’ve read thus far, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the length of a “short” will actually be like.  😉 ]

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I’d just like to wrap up this update with the sharing of two additional free resources I’ve added to this site under the FREE AUDIOBOOKS section.  Both of these are significant to me because they each, in their own way, stirred up fresh HOPE in me as I listened to them.  If there is one thing that we need at this time I believe it is a reset and restoration of our HOPE!

The first audiobook is, The Life of Charles G. Finney  by Aaron Merritt Hills.  The ministry of Charles Finney gives us a powerful glimpse into what is possible through the life of a radically consecrated, Spirit-filled, Word-filled, prayer-filled, man or woman of God who is given wholly to the service of Christ and the preaching of the Gospel.  There may be those who disagreed with some of his unique measures, and others with some of his doctrinal stances, but the evidences of the manifest power and working of God through his life and ministry cannot be denied!  In this hour in which we live, we need to be renewed in the hope of the mighty manifest working of the God of glory in this world through His consecrated servants and overcoming church!  I believe you will be greatly encouraged and stirred by his testimony!

The second audiobook is The Morning of Joy by Horatius Bonar.  He wrote this extraordinary piece as a requested sequel to His classic work, The Night of Weeping, (which I have hosted on this blog as well.)  Horatius Bonar is becoming one of my favorite spiritual authors because of the depth and richness of his communication of biblical truths.  I highly commend both of these works by Horatius Bonar to you as they touch on some of the most important aspects of our walk with Christ: God’s ordained purpose in suffering and His glorious promise of hope!  May you be blessed by these timeless works!

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Well, that’s all for now!  I look forward to kicking off the new direction next week!  Until then…

All blessings in Christ,

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The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Conclusion: Loving God With All Our Heart (drawing/unifying effect)

We’ve seen in this series that love is a costly, sacrificial matter, but if all that we are left with is that which is costly and sacrificial, not many of us would be drawn to or endure long at loving God and others.  Love, however, is not only “an esteeming affection” and “a beneficial/sacrificial action”, it is also “a drawing/unifying effect.”  It is the attractive nature and unifying power of love that is its sweetest fruit, its greatest treasure, and its richest reward.  When it comes to loving God according to the costly dictates of the “first commandment” (Mark 12:30), then, the glorious outcome is that it leads us ever deeper into a more perfect union with God in the totality of our being: spirit, heart, soul, mind, and strength!  That is our glorious hope and our highest joy!

As we conclude this series on the “love”-“hate” relationship,  I’d like to focus on this final crowning aspect of the drawing/unifying effect of love by exploring it, along some of the other major aspects of this teaching, as they ultimately ground out and are epitomized in “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

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There is no greater place that the dynamics of the “love”-“hate” relationship can be seen than in the cross of Jesus Christ.

On the one hand, the cross is the supreme expression of costly, sacrificial “love.”  It is there that God manifested the immeasurable height, depth, width, and breadth of His esteeming affection toward us and where He “fleshed out” the most magnanimous beneficial/sacrificial action He could conceive of in the death of His Son for our salvation.  It is, likewise, the place where the strongest drawing/unifying effect of His love is most intensely concentrated and effectually encountered.  Furthermore, the cross is the wellspring of our love for Him as it is the place where He first loved us with all of His heart, with all of His soul, with all of His mind, with all of His strength, and first loved us (His “neighbor”) as Himself!  It is through the cross that God demonstrated to all of creation that He is the supreme “Friend of (our) friend” and “Enemy of (our) enemy”, thereby showing Himself to be our consummate “FRIEND”!

On the other hand, the cross is the supreme expression of “hate.”  On the cross God manifested His holy and righteous “hatred” of all that which opposes, threatens, and violates that which He “loves” as He poured out His wrath upon the undeserving Lamb of God, the sinless sacrifice for the sins of the world.  On the cross, Jesus Christ bore all of the separation and rejection (“hate”) due to the enemies of God as sin, Satan, and the fallen world system were righteously judged.  In contrast, it is also the place where the unholy, unrighteous “hatred” of Satan and sinful man towards God was fully manifested as the most heinous and maniacal forms of torture and suffering were perpetrated on the One whose incarnational Light posed the perfect existential and actual threat to those who “loved” the darkness.

As we consider the immensity and the intensity of the cost and sacrifice incurred by the Son of God on the cross, as perfect “love” and perfect “hate” collided in that awful, glorious place, we should consider that Jesus did not embrace and endure the cross without a joyful hope awaiting Him on the other side.  The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 KJV)

As staggering as the unspeakable sufferings of Christ were upon the cross, we ought to be even more staggered by the unspeakable “joy” that was set before Him.  That “joy” was sufficient enough, in measure and magnitude, to enable Jesus at the time of His greatest anguish, pain and, weakness, to victoriously overcome the sufferings of the cross and despise its shame.  In order for it to have such an overcoming effect, it had to have been to Him an even greater positive reality in that moment than the combined negative realities of the suffering, shame, and death of the cross that He endured.  Such an excelling “joy” is staggering to contemplate in the light of such a magnitude of unspeakable opposites to overcome.  We are compelled to ask, then, what exactly was it that comprised Christ’s joyous hope as He faced, fought through, and overcame the excruciating terrors, torments, and traumas of the cross?!

Although it was multi-faceted, the highest and most essential aspect of that “joy” was surely the fruit, the treasure, and the reward of love: perfect unity and oneness with that which is loved.  On the other side of that cross for Christ lay not only eternal union and glory with the Father at His sovereign right hand, but also the day of his wedding, The day of the gladness of his heart.” (Song of Songs 3:11 NKJV)   The anticipation of unity and oneness with His Beloved Bride enabled the Son of Man to endure the suffering and shame of the cross knowing that as His Father put Him into the “deep sleep” (Genesis 2:21) of death, from His own flesh, bone, and blood, His eternal Companion, the Church, would be fashioned and brought forth.  In and by this exceedingly joyous hope He triumphed!!

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The cross lies at the very center of God’s love for us, but it also lies at the very center of our love for God.  Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23 ESV)  Years ago in Bible School, one of my teachers shared his perspective on what it means to take up our cross daily.  He said in essence, “Our cross represents whatever it costs us to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.”  He went on to say that that is what it meant for Jesus, and that is what it means for us as well.  Although I’ve never heard it expressed quite that way before or since, I’d say he was profoundly touching on the wisdom and truth of God concerning the cross.

The reality is that our daily cross is irrevocably bound up with the same three aspects that the cross of Christ is bound up with: costly, sacrificial “love”, holy and righteous “hate”, and exceedingly joyful hope.

Costly/sacrificial “love” – Although we’ve spent a considerable a amount of time talking about this aspect of loving God in the last two posts (please see here and here), there is one truth that needs to be strongly emphasized at this point.  And that truth is simply this:  the cross and our “cross bearing” should always and only be understood as those which have “love” as their primary motivation, supreme essence, and ultimate objective.  Any concept of the cross that does not, first and foremost, comprehend it as an expression of costly, sacrificial love is a false concept of the cross.  Likewise, any concept of cross bearing that does not, first and foremost, comprehend it as an expression of costly, sacrificial love is a false concept of cross bearing!  We often think of the first aspect in this regard, but do we often think of the second in this way as well?

It seems that usually our first thoughts of cross bearing are that it represents personal sacrifice, suffering, and/or death to self.  Those are certainly important, inherent aspects, but before we ever get to the sacrifice/suffering/death aspects of cross bearing, we have to understand that what undergirds, embodies, and prevails through the cross is all a matter of love.  Divine love does indeed manifest itself as a sacrificial, suffering, death-dealing “cross” but that is because it ends up causing rival loves within the human heart (to the love of God and the love of one’s neighbor) to be sacrificed, suffer, and, ultimately, be put to “death”.  Those rival loves invariably find their root in the love of self, and so God’s love, when it takes ascendancy within the heart, becomes a radical instrument of sacrifice, suffering, and death to the rival love of self.  Undergirding all of this, however, is Divine Love.

In its deepest and truest sense, then, taking up our cross daily means our taking up of love daily…costly, sacrificial love!  We must lay aside all concepts of cross bearing, then, that are not deeply grounded in radical love for God and others!   This is its first and foremost meaning!

Holy and righteous “hate” – We’ve learned in this series that “hate” is actually generated by the protective nature of “love”, for we “hate” that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates what we “love.”  We’ve also seen that the Biblical concept of “hate” (Hebrew = “sane”, prononced “saw-nay”) is primarily one of rejection and separation. (See Part 2 for more on these aspects.)

Since both the cross and cross bearing are fully grounded in love, we can rightly assume that they each generate a rejection/separation response (“hate”) to all that opposes, threatens, and/or violates what is loved.  In other words, both the cross and cross bearing carry with them a secondary aspect of “hate” that is as inherent as the primary aspect of “love.”  (This is why the cross of Christ is as inherently a place of the love of God as it is a place of the wrath of God.)

This intrinsic, yet opposite, relationship between “love” and “hate” can also be seen in a “directional” sense.  Love has a direction of moving toward that which is loved, i.e a drawing/unifying effect, while “hate” has a direction of moving away from that which is hated, i.e. a rejection/separation response. 

In the natural, if an object stands between two others, as soon as it begins to move closer to one, it automatically and proportionally moves further away from the other.  This is true morally and spiritually as well as “love” draws in one direction, but “hate” separates in the opposite direction in relation to its moral and/or spiritual counterpart.

We cannot move closer to God in “love”, then, without also moving further away in “hate” from that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates what is loved by God and what He commands us to love.  This is the essence of repentance, which is not only a radical turning towards God but also a radical turning away from sin and evil.  For this reason Scripture makes statements such as, You who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10 NKJV), and also, Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.(Romans 12:9 NIV)

If we are to daily take up our cross, then, we must not only daily take up costly, sacrificial “love” for God and our neighbor, but also daily take up holy and righteous “hate” toward that which opposes, threatens, and violates what God loves and commands us to love.  In other words, we are not only to radically “love” God and others, but also radically “hate” sin and evil.  In fact, the degree to which we have the secondary “hate” dynamic at work in our heart is a good barometer of just how much we actually have of the primary “love” dynamic at work in our heart from which it proportionally derives!

This secondary aspect of “hate”, in addition to the primary one of “love”, then, represent the costly, sacrificial aspects of “love” as embodied in the daily taking up of our cross.  But just as Jesus did not endure the costly, sacrificial aspects of His cross without an exceedingly joyful hope set before Him, so we are not called to endure the costly, sacrificial aspects of “our cross” without an exceedingly joyful hope set before us!

Exceedingly joyful hope – The sweetest fruit, the greatest treasure, and the richest reward of love is its attractive nature and unifying power, or as we’ve called it throughout this series, its drawing/unifying effect.  There is an end toward which love is constantly pressing, pushing, pulling, and progressing.  That end is perfect unity and oneness between those who are drawn together and bound by love.  The love of God toward us and within us will not relent until it has fully and finally obtained its glorious end.

Because of Love, you and I have a hope and a joy laid up for us that is incomprehensible to us now.  “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT )  Of all that our future glory and eternal gladness may include, the highest, deepest, widest, and most sustaining realities of that joy will spring simply from the perfect unity and oneness we will have with the Triune God Himself.  In that endless Day, we will forever intimately know the unspeakable pleasures of perfect union with the One who is the fullness and perfection of all love, joy, peace, wisdom, power, authority, holiness, beauty, riches, pleasure, patience, kindness, grace, and glory.  This, above all else, is our exceedingly joyful hope!

Since this is the end toward which Divine Love is unrelentingly moving, we might ask what means, if any, does God use in conjunction with or as instruments of His Love to bring about that end.  Generally speaking, there are two necessary dynamics required to bring about perfect unity and oneness.  The first is to supply the necessary unifying forces and factors that draw and hold the elements of a whole together as one.  The second is to remove all disintegrating forces and factors that divide and separate elements of a whole until all that remains are unifying forces and factors.  Thus, the first is additive and the second is subtractive.  The primary means that God employs to engage and empower both of these dynamics in relationship with man is “the cross.”  He employs it perfectly on His side of the relationship, and seeks to employ it increasingly unto perfection on our side as well.

The cross is sufficient to enable and to enact both of these dynamics simultaneously because of its “love”-“hate” nature.  When we personally take up our “cross”, we, first and foremost, embrace the radical “love” of God, which supplies “the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14 NAS) in our relationship with God and others.  Second and subsequently, we, further embrace the radical “hate” of God that causes us to reject and separate out all that opposes, threatens, and violates the perfect unity and oneness that God loves (i.e. all “sin.”)  Thus in the cross, “love” is additive and “hate” is subtractive.  The cross, therefore, supplies the perfect unifying force and factor, (“love”), and removes all disintegrative forces and factors (“sin”) working “double duty” to create perfect unity and oneness in our relationship with God and others.

In conclusion, then, I’d like to bring this back full circle to my teacher’s definition of what it means for us to “take up (our) cross daily.”  To reiterate, he said, “Our cross represents whatever it costs us to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.”  So we see that by embracing the costly, sacrificial aspects of love for God and others we are, in effect, taking up our cross which is the very means that God uses to bring us into perfect unity and oneness with Himself and others.  As we take up our cross daily, then, we can do so with an exceedingly joyous hope comparable to that which the Lord Jesus had as He took up His cross, overcame, and sat down at the Father’s right hand where He longingly awaits eternal union with His glorious Bride!

May such a “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8) be that which draws and compels us to become the kind of radical lovers that our Heavenly Bridegroom is and that He has called us, His Beloved Bride, to be as He draws us unrelentingly into perfect union and communion with Himself!

“Draw me after you and let us run together!  The king has brought me into his chambers.”  “We will rejoice in you and be glad; We will extol your love more than wine.”
(Song of Songs 1:4 NAS)


This now concludes this series.  If you haven’t had a chance to read the earlier posts, I strongly encourage you to do so.  This has been, dare I say, one of the most important and ground-breaking series on this blog.  I believe it unveils some very fundamental and essential keys that literally unlock most of life, be it personal, interpersonal, or spiritual. (As lengthy as this series has been too, I still feel as if it has only begun to scratch the surface of these profoundly simple/simply profound truths!)  I pray that you are blessed as you read these posts and that the Holy Spirit gives you insight into all of these matters!  All blessings in Christ!  -David

Series posts: Part 1: “Love”, Part 2: “Hate”, Part 3: “Generational Dynamics”, Mid-series Review/Redux, Part 4: “Building Across the Briar Patch”, Part 5: “Speaking the ‘Love’ in Truth”, Part 6a: “Loving God With All of Our Heart” (Esteeming Affection), Part 6b: Loving God With All of Our Heart (beneficial/sacrificial action), Part 6c: Loving God With All Of Our Heart (beneficial/sacrificial action cont.)

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The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Part 6c: Loving God With All Our Heart (beneficial/sacrificial action – cont.)

We will now continue in our consideration of the “greatest commandment” and how it is to be fulfilled in our lives according to the principle and power of the new covenant.  In the previous post we compared the way that the love of God grows and develops within us to that of a tree, even the “tree of life.”  The life and love of God begin in our spirit which is comparable to the “root” of the tree.  From there they flow upwards to our heart which is functionally similar to the “trunk.”  (We expanded considerably on those two aspects, so if you haven’t yet read the previous post, I strongly encourage you to do so as it is the first half of this one! Thanks!)

We will now continue and conclude this aspect of loving God through beneficial/sacrificial action as it relates to our “soul”, our “mind”, and our “strength.”

Our Soul – The Branches

That which is mentioned next in the “greatest commandment”, after the “heart”, is the “soul.” (See Mark 12:30.)  Even as we have considered how the heart is comparable to the “trunk” of the “tree of life” within us, we shall now consider how the soul is comparable to its “branches.”  In a natural tree, the branches are the extension and diversification of the trunk and so in our inner man, the soul is the extension and diversification of our heart.  As the heart is the seat of the mind, will, and emotions, so the soul comprises the full development and specialization of those three aspects.

The “soul” (Greek: “psuché”) encompasses the fullness of our sub-conscious and conscious “psyche” that is located within our brain.  This would include the fullness of our mental capacity of both the subconscious and conscious mind.  Interestingly, in Mark’s expression of the “first commandment” a distinction is made between the “soul” and the “mind”, and so we will make a distinction as well.

I believe that in its most often used and fullest sense, the “soul” includes the conscious “mind”, yet the majority of what comprises the “soul” is subconscious in nature.  The conscious/rational part of our brain is what we most naturally think of when we speak of the “mind”, but that only comprises about 5% of our brain’s capacity and function.  The majority of who we are in our psychological make-up is actually sub-conscious in nature.  It is this greater part that I believe is primarily referred to in the Greatest Commandment as the “soul” and the conscious mind, because it is distinct and we have more conscious and volitional control over it, is mentioned separately in Mark’s Gospel as the “mind.”  Therefore, we will look first at the subconscious aspect of the “soul” and consider the conscious aspect of the “mind” separately in the next section.

The sub-conscious parts of our brain process many things including sensory input, emotions, learning, memory, bodily functions, hormone production, behavior, beliefs, and the like, which account for and determine a substantial part of who we are as individuals. (Freud likened the subconscious mind to the immense mass of an iceberg that lies below the surface of the water out of view while the conscious mind is the small part above the water.)

The soul is a great complexity, and yet the Lord desires that it be fully given over to Him and brought under the Holy Spirit’s control.  With our soul being primarily subconscious, however, we might wonder how we can consciously and volitionally bring it under the influence of the Holy Spirit, so that we will love God with all of our soul?

I believe the answer to that question is primarily two-fold.  To put it simply, first and foremost, “from below” and secondly, “from above.”  We will deal with the first of these in this section and follow up with the second in the next.

So what do I mean by “from below?”  As was stated, in the previous post we described the way of spiritual, new covenant growth within us as comparable to that of a tree, even the “tree of life.”  In it we suggested that our spirit, located, according to Scripture, within our “belly”, is comparable to the “root” of the tree.  Just above that is our heart which is comparable to the “trunk.”  The life-giving nourishment and nutrients that come from God’s Spirit (soil) flow from the regenerated spirit of man (root) upwards through his heart (trunk), and into the soul (branches), feeding it and causing it to flourish.  No soul will flourish spiritually without receiving its life-giving flow from the Holy Spirit through the regenerated spirit up through the channel of the heart, just as no branches will flourish naturally without receiving the life-giving sap from the root of the tree up through the vascular system of the trunk.  This is the way of organic life and growth and is also the way that the new covenant operates within us.

This explains why wherever “heart” and “soul” are mentioned together in Scripture, the order is consistent: “heart” first and “soul” second.  In the wisdom of God, the heart has preeminence over the soul and is its primary influencer.  Deuteronomy 30:6 highlights this for us: “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” (NIV)  Notice that by God circumcising the hearts of His people, this will not only eventuate in their loving Him with all of their heart, but also with all of their soul.  This is because the soul is influenced “from below” by the heart.

Even in the natural dynamics of the body, the heart exerts a powerful influence over the soul.  According to researchers at the Institute of Heart Math, the heart affects the full functioning of our mind (subconscious and conscious) in four ways¹:

  • Neurological communication (nervous system)
  • Biochemical communication (hormones)
  • Biophysical communication (pulse wave)
  • Energetic communication (electromagnetic fields)

Their research has shown that when the heart is filled with the positive emotions of love, joy, peace, gratitude, compassion, and the like, it positively affects our subconscious and conscious mind in regards to “attention level, motivation, perceptual sensitivity, and emotional processing.” ¹    God has made our heart to powerfully affect our soul in the natural dimension, and that is just a shadow of its fuller influence over the soul in the spiritual dimension.

We can, therefore, cooperate and participate with the Lord in this process of loving God with all of our (subconscious) soul “from below” first and foremost through the exercising of our spirit in loving worship to God, and then, through that worship, bringing our heart into alignment with the Lord’s mind, will, and emotions as the Holy Spirit reveals and imparts them within our heart.  This will in turn flow into our soul, illuminating, sanctifying, and transforming its diverse aspects (“branches”) from “the bottom up.”  This is the primary way that our subconscious soul is brought under the Holy Spirit’s influence and grows in its love for God.

That being said, there is also a secondary way that the subconscious soul is influenced, and that is “from above.”

Our Mind – The Leaves

According to the “first commandment” (as expressed in the Gospel of Mark), we are also to love the Lord our God with all of our “mind.”  As has been expressed, I understand this to refer specifically to the conscious/rational part of our brain that we have more direct control over than the subconscious parts.  Following our analogy of the “tree”, our conscious/rational “mind” correlates to the leaves of the tree.

From God’s perspective, our “old man”, our Adamic nature, is a dead tree with shriveled, lifeless leaves.  Through our union with Christ, however, our “new man” is growing inside of us as a “tree of life” and the old, dead tree is being transformed through the power of His resurrection within us.  This new life is working its way up through our spirit, our heart, our soul, and into our mind.  As our mind is renewed by the nourishment of the Spirit, we are being manifestly transformed from the inside out (see Romans 12:3.)  Consequently, we are now a living tree that is bursting with new, verdant foliage, but we also have remnants of the old, dead leafage that remain.

An essential aspect of this transformation, then, is to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” (Ephesians 4:23 emphasis added.)  As with the renewing of the subconscious mind (“soul”), so the conscious mind must also be renewed primarily “from below” (originating in the spirit, then up through the heart and soul), even as the life-giving nourishment in a tree flows upwards

In the natural, leaves that have been nourished “from below” are full of life and are then able to fulfill their unique function as part of the tree.  That primary function is to turn sunlight into food (photosynthesis) which, in turn, feeds back nourishment and energy to the rest of the tree. 

The primary purpose of our conscious mind, therefore, is threefold: 1. to draw its life and vitality from God’s Spirit as it flows up from the human spirit, through the heart, and on through the subconscious soul, 2, to be daily exposed to and thoroughly saturated in the light of God through spiritual contemplation of His Person and daily meditation on His Word, and 3. to convert that spiritual light into spiritual food  through the indwelling “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Ephesians 1:17 NIV), which will in turn feed and energize the entire being: spirit, heart, soul, mind, and strength.

~ ~ ~

This brings us then to consider specifically how the conscious mind affects the subconscious mind, or as was suggested in the previous section, how the “soul” gets influenced “from above” as well as “from below.”

Even though our subconscious mind comprises approximately 95% of our mental functioning, a majority of the content of our subconscious mind was at one time the content of our conscious mind.  All of our conscious experiences, feelings, thoughts, reasonings, judgements, beliefs, perceptions, and the like create neural links and pathways which before long pass from our conscious mind down into our subconscious.  These continue to inform and influence our conscious and subconscious thoughts, feelings, and actions, even though we are mostly unaware of their ongoing influence.

It is of utmost importance and consequence, then, what we entertain in our conscious mind for all that it processes and contains during any given period of time eventually submerges below the surface and becomes incorporated into our subconscious soul.  For this reason, Scripture exhorts us:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.(Philippians 4:8 NKJV) 

It further compels us to,

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)

In this way, our subconscious mind (“soul”) will be positively influenced “from above” as well as “from below.”

~ ~ ~

If we are to love God with all of our “mind”, then, we must give our conscious mind to the Lord the same way that the leaves of a tree give themselves to the sun to be saturated with its light.  As our conscious thoughts stretch up toward the heavens to bask in the pure light of God’s revelation and truth, spiritual food is generated within us that flows from our “leaves” to nourish the rest of the “tree of life” within.

Our Strength – The Fruit

The “tree of life” is a fruit-bearing tree (Genesis 3:22, Revelation 22:2), and so our inner man, formed by the organic working of the new covenant, is to be a “fruit-bearing tree” as well.  Our spirit, heart, soul, and mind all express themselves outwardly through our physical body.  As our love for God flows from the inside out and grows from the bottom up, the “tree of life” within us bears “fruit” and expresses it through our body in beneficial/sacrificial action toward both God and man.  This loving action most often requires physical exertion of some kind, and so we are called to love God outwardly with all of our “strength” as the culmination of our love for Him.

In order for us to love Him in this way, the first thing we must do is to consecrate our body and all of its members to God as a holy, living sacrifice.  The apostle Paul exhorts, 

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.” Romans 12:1-2 ESV

He similarly exhorted earlier in this same epistle:

Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.  Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.  So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.” Romans 6:13 NLT

As we consecrate our bodies to the Lord in a definitive act of worship and love, we open the way for the life and love of God within us to flow out and manifest itself through our outward actions.  Such actions will consist of valuable and even costly acts of service to God and to our fellow man as we live out a life of obedience to God’s commandment to “love.”  This, then, represents the full expression of the “tree of life” as it grows within us and bears the fruit of love outwardly to God and to all those around us.

In Summary

We’ve seen in this series that love is not merely an esteeming affection, but also includes, and is completed by, beneficial/sacrificial action.  The primary action that love engages in is that of giving. We’ve also seen in these last two posts that what we have to give to God as an act of our love is ourselves…all of ourselves: spirit, heart, soul, mind, and strength.

This love for God begins in our spirit with the giving of genuine worship (“worth-ship”) to Him for all He is and all that He does.  This is where “esteeming affection” for God originates in the depths of our being, at the very “root” of the “tree of life” within us that is growing by the power of the new covenant.

Our love for God flows from the inside out and grows from the bottom up.  Our spirit, the “root” of the “tree”, feeds directly into our heart, the “trunk.”  Up through the “trunk” flow “the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23 KJV) to the rest of the tree above.  Our subconscious soul represents the “branches” and our conscious mind the “leaves”, which are nourished primarily “from below” and also, additionally, “from above.”  Our love for God culminates in our “strength”, the “fruit”, in outward, bodily actions of love and service to God and to others.

As we contemplate these various aspects, may we realize how essential it is to follow the way of the new covenant in all matters of life and love.  When we find that the “fruit” on our “tree” is somehow deficient (and who can say that theirs is not in some regard), let us not strive under external compulsion of the Law or the letter of the Word to try to live up to some lofty prescribed standard.  Let us, instead, realize that there is a deficiency somewhere farther down our “tree.”  Jesus said, “Make a tree good and the fruit will be good…” Matt.12:33a NIV  Therefore, let us go all the way down to the “root” and see if there is not, first and foremost, a deficiency in our spirit’s worship (“worth-ship”) of God.  Let us consider from there if our heart is not falling short of being fully given over to the Lord in esteeming affection and sacrificial devotion.   Let us nourish and transform our tree from the bottom up, and in season, we will, without striving, bear the fruit outwardly that we desire.  This is the way of the new covenant and the way of abundant fruitfulness!

~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~

In the concluding post of this series (yes, I promise 🙂 ), we will look at the final aspect of loving God with all of our heart as “a drawing/unifying effect.”  I look forward to exploring that final facet with you!


Series posts: Part 1: “Love”, Part 2: “Hate”, Part 3: “Generational Dynamics”, Mid-series Review/Redux, Part 4: “Building Across the Briar Patch”, Part 5: “Speaking the ‘Love’ in Truth”, Part 6a: “Loving God With All of Our Heart” (Esteeming Affection), Part 6b: Loving God With All of Our Heart (beneficial/sacrificial action)

The Essential Character of the New Covenant – Its Spiritual Nature – Pt. 2a:  and Pt. 2b
The Essential Character of the New Covenant – Part 3: Its Organic Nature

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The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Part 6b: Loving God With All of Our Heart (beneficial/sacrificial action)

Our love for God begins with and is carried along by esteeming affection toward Him, but it is not complete until it is expressed through loving action.  As was shared in Part 1, love is not only a passive noun but an active verb, and the primary action that love engages in is that of giving.  When love expresses itself, it does so by giving that which is of value and benefit to the recipient and also that which is of cost and sacrifice to the giver.  Both of these aspects together make up the full measure of love expressed.  This is true in our human relationships, and it is also true in our relationship with God.

So the questions beg to be asked, “What can I give to God that is genuinely beneficial to Him?”, and also, “What is it that God desires that is costly and sacrificial on my part to give Him?”  It seems that there is very little that God needs or is deprived of that I have the power to supply Him with, no matter how much it might cost me, and so the answers to these questions are indeed quite limited.  There is one thing, however, that God does truly desire, that He esteems of great value and benefit to Himself, and that I do have the power to give Him.  In my giving of that one thing, great cost and sacrifice is also incurred by me because that one thing IS ME…all of me!

When God commands us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30) He not only is calling us to affectionately esteem Him with the totality of our being, but also to sacrificially give the totality of our being to Him as a costly gift of love.  This beneficial/sacrificial act of love is the only appropriate response we can give to the unspeakable, esteeming affection and costly love He has given us in giving us the totality of HIMSELF!  “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19  He has first loved us with all of His heart, all of His soul, all of His mind, and all of His strength, and now we are drawn and compelled to love Him in return with a similar complete and utter giving of ourselves, heart, soul, mind, and strength to Him in loving response.

Furthermore, God’s great, magnanimous acts of love towards us encompass all of His vast workings in the realms of creation, redemption, the Church, and the Kingdom.  It is through these immeasurably beneficial acts that He ultimately intends to win our hearts so as to possess all of who we are for Himself.  We are His “treasure buried in a field” and “pearl of great price” that He has sold all in order to fully possess.  He, in turn, has become our “treasure buried in a field” and “pearl of great price” that we are now compelled to sell all in order to fully possess.  Our very life, then, is that most precious thing that is within our power to give to Him that is both of great value and benefit to Him and of great cost and sacrifice to us to give in order to express our love to Him.

The Secret to Loving God

The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant.” (Psalm 25:14 NKJV)

Admittedly, the Greatest Commandment is quite intimidating by its absolute nature, and we probably consider it to be spiritually and practically beyond our reach.  God, however, does not command without also giving the ability to obey what He has commanded.  In order to fulfill His commandment, though, we must understand not only His desired end, but also His source and means to bring us to that end.  Ultimately, His source and means are bound up with His “covenant” which is “the secret of the Lord” that is made known to “those who fear Him.”

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are under the new covenant which operates much differently than the old covenant.  In the old covenant, God gave His law written on stony tablets that the people had to take in with their physical senses and comprehend with their minds.  As they sought to obey it, their hope was that somehow the righteousness of God’s law might get down into and be written on their stony hearts that they might not sin against God.  If they were successful in this, they would presumably become righteous enough to live under God’s favor and blessing.  In the old covenant, everything was from the outside in and from the top down.

In the new covenant, however, God begins by bringing us into His grace and favor at the very beginning by having mercy on us, forgiving our sins, and making us righteous before Him on the basis of faith alone in the Person and work of Christ.  He then begins to work by His Spirit from the inside out, beginning with our spirit and moving from there to our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

In this way, the new covenant produces spiritual fruit in our life through the process of organic life and growth.  Another way to view this process, then, is as the natural growth of a tree.  As a tree grows upwards from a seed by first producing roots, then a stem/trunk, branches, leaves, and fruit, so the work of the Spirit grows upwards from our spirit (“root”) through our heart (“trunk”), our soul (“branches), our mind (“leaves”), and our strength (“fruit”) thus producing in us a “tree of life” that bears its fruit in season.

In the new covenant, therefore, everything is from the inside out and from the bottom up.  Only as we cooperate with God in this new covenant way will we find the secret to loving God!  If this order is ever significantly reversed (i.e., by embracing an old covenant principle and direction), our lives will not produce the fruit of love that He has rightly commanded, desires, and deserves.

Our Spirit – The Root

When we are “born again”, our human spirit comes into living union with the Holy Spirit.  Our spirit is the deepest part of who we are and is that part of us which is made for union and communion with God who is “Spirit.” (John 4:24)  It is in our spirit that genuine love for God is rooted and draws its life.

We said in the last post that the foundation and essence of love is esteeming affection.  This esteeming affection for God comes from our worship (lit. “worth-ship”) of Him for Who He is and all He does.  Jesus taught that the kind of worship the Father seeks is that which is “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  It is in our “spirit” that we commune with God in worship and receive from Him revelation knowledge (“truth”) of all that He is and does.  Our spirit is the innermost part of who we are, and so this is where God begins.  As we regularly give ourselves to worshiping God “in spirit and in truth”, we cultivate esteeming affection for God within our heart.  From there this love for God flows outward to affect our soul, mind, and strength.

This new covenant way of loving God not only flows from the inside out, but it also grows from the bottom up.  Interestingly, God has made our bodies in such a way as to physically “incarnate” this reality.

Scripture indicates that our spirit is located within our “belly.”  For instance, we read in the book of Job that Elihu, the youngest of Job’s counselors, explained to Job where he got his inspiration from.  He said, “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding” Job 32:8 KJV.  Shortly thereafter, he went on to say, “…I will answer also my part, I also will shew mine opinion.  For I am full of matter, the spirit within me constraineth me. Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst like new bottles” Job 32:17-19 KJV  (emphasis added.)  We see in this the connection between the “spirit” and the “belly.”

Solomon said in Proverbs 20:27 KJV, “The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.”  Again we see here the spirit/belly connection.

We also have recorded in the gospel of John: “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)  John 7:37-39 KJV

Although this understanding may be new to us, there are a number of reasons why the human spirit may in fact be located by God’s design within the belly.

First of all, our belly is physically in the center (mid-point) of our entire body, even as our spirit is central to our whole life and being.

Secondly, it is the area where the womb is located in the female body.  (Both the Hebrew and the Greek words translated “belly” in the King James Version are also translated “womb” in other passages. )  This is where life begins and is initially nurtured.  When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, the life of Jesus was conceived and developed within her womb.  Similarly, it is within our spirit that the life of Christ is “conceived” and where He is formed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the “new birth” and subsequent spiritual growth.

Thirdly, it is the area where the body receives its nourishment.  Initially, in the womb, this is through the umbilical cord which attaches to the unborn child’s belly, and after birth, within the person’s stomach and digestive track.  Likewise, our regenerated spirit is where we receive spiritual nourishment as we feed on the Bread of life and drink of the living waters of the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, it is the area where the “enteric nervous system” is located, which is sometimes called our “gut brain.”  Our intestines contain some 100 million neurons that function as an independent nervous system that not only control some of the functions of the digestive track, but also process, in communication with the “head brain”, emotions, mood, and intuition.  (I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “Trust your gut.” or, “What’s your gut telling you?”  It’s not just a manner of speaking!)  Our spirit, located in this same area, intuitively receives and perceives the emotions, “mood”, and thoughts of God and communicates them to the other sentient parts of our being, namely our gut, heart, soul, and mind.

Taking all of these considerations together, then, it is quite reasonable that our spirit is indeed located within our “belly.”  This being so, it is also physically located below the heart and the head, so that the life that flows and grows from the spirit does so in an upward direction.

In relation to the “tree of life” analogy, the spirit represents the “root” of the tree.  It is that lowest part which supplies nourishment and nutrients to the rest of the “tree.”  It also firmly anchors it in the “soil” (God’s Spirit), giving the tree stability and strength.  The rest of the “tree of life” within us grows upwards and outwards from here.

Our Heart – The Trunk

If our spirit is comparable to the root of the tree, our heart is like unto the trunk.  The trunk is the main part of the tree that stands between the roots and the branches and supplies the life-giving nourishment to the fullness of the tree.  The trunk is also the strength of the tree, and as it is constituted and contoured, so grows the tree.

In his book, The Better Covenant, Watchman Nee said:

“The heart stands between the spirit and the soul. All that enters the spirit must pass through the heart.  So also is it true with all that issues from the spirit.  “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  This means that the heart is the passage of life.  In other words, all fruits which man bears outwardly come from the heart.  Such is its significance.” (pg. 95)

The heart is the first part of our being mentioned in the Greatest Commandment that we are to love God with.  The foundation and essence of the heart’s love for God is the esteeming affection that originates in the spirit’s worship (worth-ship) of God.  The completeness of its love for God is in its giving of itself entirely to Him.

The heart is considered to be the seat of the mind, the will, and the emotions.  To love God with all of our heart, then, each of these aspects must be given to God in love at the most fundamental heart level.

The mind of the heartIt may seem strange that the heart has a mind, but, indeed it does.  Similar to the way that the gut has an independent, yet interconnected, “brain”, so the physical heart does as well.  Scientific research has uncovered that the heart has some 40,000 neurons that form the “intrinsic cardiac nervous system”.  One of the leading experts in the field of neurocardiology has said, “The heart-brain’s neural circuitry enables it to act independently of the cranial brain to learn, remember, make decisions and even feel and sense.”¹   This merely affirms what the Bible says.  Scripture tells us that in our heart we think (Prov. 23:7), meditate (Ps. 19:14), muse (Ps. 39:3) hide God’s word (Ps. 119:11), receive wisdom (Prov.2:10), devise wicked imaginations (Prov. 6:18), plan (Prov. 16:9), get knowledge (Prov. 18:15), entertain evil thoughts (Matt. 9:4), understand (Matt. 13:15), etc…  These are all cognitive functions that transpire within the heart as well as the head.

Although the “heart-brain” functions independently of the “head-brain”, yet it communicates powerfully with it and is one of its primary influencers.  Science has shown that the communications ascending from the heart to the head (afferent communication) exceed communications descending from the head to the heart (efferent communication) many times over.  Furthermore, whenever the heart and the mind are mentioned together in Scripture, the heart is mentioned first, indicating its priority and superiority over the mind.  This influence can be clearly seen in Scriptures such as James 4:8 which says, “Purify your hearts you double-minded.”  We must, therefore, consecrate our heart’s thought-life to the Lord that our entire thought-life, heart and head, may be acceptable and pleasing to Him.

The will of the heart – “The word of God is…a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)   Not only does the heart have “thoughts”, but also “intents” (desires, purposes, passions, pursuits, etc.)  The will of man, though connected with the soul, is rooted within the heart.  The will is the most consequential part of our being for it is the control center that directs the entire course of our life.  Although the mind may give rational input and the soul emotional influence, the will of the heart is the initial motivator and final arbiter/decision-maker concerning all the vast number of inclinations and choices that are made.  More than any other aspect of our heart, God desires our will to be fully given over to Him at this most fundamental level as an act of sacrificial love.

The emotions of the heart –  Lastly, our heart is the seat of our emotions.  The heart experiences deep positive feelings of joy, hope, love, peace, gratitude, compassion, confidence, etc,… as well as negative emotions of sorrow, disappointment, hate, anxiety, ingratitude, indifference, fear, and the like.  These powerful emotions, both positive and negative, greatly influence our entire being, spirit, soul, and body.  When our heart is fully given over to the Lord, our deeply felt emotions, and consequentially our entire being, begin to come into alignment with the purity of His Heart.

It cannot be overemphasized how significant the heart is in the spiritual life.  It is the “trunk” of the tree through which everything passes from the spirit (“root”) to the soul (“branches”), up to the mind (“leaves”), and out to the strength (“fruit”).  It is that part of the “tree” that is the support and strength of all of the upper tree, and as it grows, so grows the tree.  This is the first aspect that God requires in the Greatest Commandment to be given fully to Him in order that we may love Him as He has commanded and as He so rightly deserves.

As can be seen thus far, the beneficial/sacrificial action that is the completeness of love toward God is initially and primarily an internal and unseen action.  Before God is looking for anything outward, He is seeking and desiring the internal giving of ourselves completely to Him beginning with our spirit in esteeming worship and our heart in loving surrender.  This is the way of organic life and how “the tree of life” grows, develops, and bears fruit within us!

We will look in the next post how this new covenant, organic growth in the love of God develops further within our soul, our mind, and our strength.

Series posts: Part 1: “Love”, Part 2: “Hate”, Part 3: “Generational Dynamics”, Mid-series Review/Redux, Part 4: “Building Across the Briar Patch”, Part 5: “Speaking the ‘Love’ in Truth”, Part 6a: “Loving God With All of Our Heart” (Esteeming Affection)

The Essential Character of the New Covenant – Its Spiritual Nature – Pt. 2a:  and Pt. 2b
The Headship of Christ and the “Heartship of Christ” (part 1) and (part2)

For a fascinating scientific look at the heart-mind connection, you may find this TED talk interesting:

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The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Part 6a: “Loving God With All of Our Heart” (esteeming affection)

So far in this series we’ve explored the basic nature of the “love”-“hate” relationship as well as how it comes to bear on a number of personal and interpersonal issues.  There is one more sphere that must be touched on: the spiritual life.  This is the most important of all, and nowhere are these dynamics more clearly evident and personally beneficial to lay hold of than in this realm.  When we put on the “glasses” of the “love”-“hate” relationship, the whole of the spiritual life comes into clearer focus.  In this next section, we will focus on the most essential aspect of the spiritual life: loving God with all of our heart.

In Part 1, I defined “love” as “an esteeming affection, a beneficial/sacrificial action, and a drawing/unifying effect all in one.”  In this post, we will consider this aspect of loving God along the first of these three lines, esteeming affection.

Esteeming Affection Toward God

When we esteem something, we ascribe value and worth to it.  When this esteeming attitude comes from or affects the heart, it can be rightly described as “esteeming affection”, which is the foundation and essence of love.

According to Jesus, the greatest commandment is, “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30 NKJV)  If we were to “reverse engineer” this commandment according to the above understanding of “love”, we would conclude that wholehearted love for God has as its foundation and essence wholehearted esteeming affection toward God.  Further, such affection derives from the wholehearted ascribing of value and worth to God.  We could take this one step further if we understand that the wholehearted ascribing of value and worth to God constitutes the wholehearted worship of God.  (The word “worship” literally means “worth-ship” i.e. the ascribing of worth to something or someone.)  Therefore, if we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, it must begin by us embracing the wholehearted “worth-ship” (worship) of God.  Everything else flows from that!

The “Worth-ship” of God

By looking through the “love”-“hate” relationship “lens”, we can see the fundamental ways our hearts estimate the “worth-ship” of God.

Inherent worth (the foundation of “first-generation love”) – The most foundational aspect of the worth of any object is that which is intrinsic to its nature.  This is drawn primarily from the uniqueness and excellence of its inherent characteristics and attributes.

When it comes to God, all of His inherent virtues are infinite in perfection, beauty, and glory.  All of His attributes are eternal, immutable, and transcendent.  There is nothing that could ever detract in the slightest degree from the immeasurable excellency of His Divine nature and character.

The question stands, then, who could ever measure the inherent worth of God simply according to His eternal Personhood and essential attributes?  What is the worth of His eternality, His immutability, His omnipotence, His omniscience, His holiness, His righteousness, His grace, His kindness, His humility, His wisdom, His beauty, His glory, His sovereignty, His justice, His love, His peace…?  Each attribute in and of itself is infinitely precious.  What then is the sum total of all of their collective worth?

Another way to assess the inherent worth of something is to evaluate the measure of existential loss incurred if it ceases to be.  How much devaluation would occur if God and all of His attributes suddenly ceased to exist?  What would be the new state of things if in a moment all of His power, wisdom, light, life, love, holiness, sovereignty, and glory simply disappeared?  What if all of His inherent worth was instantly reduced to zero!  How great would the total existential loss be?  The measure of this negative loss gives us a good assessment of His positive inherent worth as the eternal, immutable I AM.

These estimations of God’s inherent worth, therefore, constitute the most fundamental aspect of the “worth-ship” of God.

Effectual worth (the foundation of “secondary/subsequent-generation loves”) – God is not merely a static display of unparalleled excellence, however.  He is a God of supreme intentionality, universal activity, and ubiquitous effect.  Every act of His will and working of His power, in the seen and unseen realms, from the third heavens to the quantum level of the natural universe, from eternity past to eternity future, contributes to the overall effectual worth of God.  To break this down into more “manageable” pieces, please consider the immense value of God’s workings in the following four realms:

Creation – All of creation, seen and unseen, is the manifest effect of God.  From the macro to the micro, all was brought into existence by the effectual fiat of the Word.  Not only so, but all of creation is upheld, sustained, and governed throughout all time and eternity by the exercise of God’s sovereign will, word, and power.  The sum total benefit and value of all of God’s creative, sustaining, and governing actions in the realm of creation comprises the total effectual worth rightfully ascribed to Him in this realm.  Of such worth, who can begin to calculate?

Redemption – All of God’s redemptive works are, likewise, the manifest effect of God.  The measure of the worth of these includes both the total cost incurred by God to perform them as well as the total value of benefit secured by God for Himself and His creation through such acts.  Of the first, we have the incomprehensible cost to the Godhead of the condescension, incarnation, obedience, suffering, and crucifixion of Christ. (For a deeper contemplation of this aspect, please see the post, The Cross – The Eternal Passion of God) Of the second, we have the unfathomable measure of blessing secured for God Himself along with that measure procured for all people and things redeemed from the temporal and eternal judgements of the curse and brought into the temporal and eternal blessings of God through the redemptive work of Christ.  It would be impossible to calculate the combined value of those two aspects for just one life, let alone for every life, every created thing, and for God Himself in this vastly effectual realm of redemption.

The Church – In addition to this, consider the effectual workings of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in relation to the Church throughout all the ages.  For one to begin to wrap their heart and mind around such value, they would have to consider the effectual value of the Father’s foreordaining and electing of Her in His eternal purpose, the Son’s redeeming, constituting, equipping, governing, perfecting, and glorifying work, and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, empowering, enlightening, gifting, leading, and fruit-bearing activity.  Here again, such value strains all human grasp and estimation.

The Kingdom – Transcending and encompassing all of these realms, exists the effectual worth of God in relation to the realm of His Kingdom.  All of God’s sovereign works that flow from His throne, from eternity to eternity, are effectual in nature.  All works within His dominion are of Him, through Him, and to Him for His glory, pleasure, and satisfaction.  Nothing that He does is meaningless, empty, void, or worthless.  All is brimming with intention, purpose, meaning, and value.  The collective worth of all of His sovereign works aggregates together and amasses into the immense, eternal, effectual worth of God Himself.

Each of these realms are staggering in regards to the degree of the worthiness of God to be esteemed, revered, and adored.  Taken together, they reveal Him to be the unparalleled, Omni-worthy One.

As we consider all of the inherent and effectual worth of God, especially in regards to the benefit and blessings it represents to all of creation, we are led to the final aspect of the “worth-ship” of God.

Affectional worth – The affectional worth of God is the worthiness of God to be loved.  This worthiness is the summation of all of His inherent worth combined with all of His effectual worth, specifically as they come to bear positively/negatively upon that which is righteously “loved”/”hated” by all created beings, both seen and unseen.  The affectional worth of God is the foundation of all esteeming affection toward Him, and, therefore, the foundation of all love for God.

As we look through the “lens” of the “love”-“hate” relationship once again, we see that this love for God is a combination of “first-generation love” based on Who He is (inherent worth), and “secondary/subsequent-generation loves” based on what He does (effectual worth.)  We’ve already considered these two aspects in and of themselves, but how do they come to bear, both positively and negatively upon that which God’s creatures both (righteously) “love” and (righteously) “hate?”  In other words, in what ways and to what degree is God the supreme “Friend of my friend” (i.e. Ally of what my heart righteously “loves”) as well as the supreme “Enemy of my enemies” (i.e. Adversary of that which my heart righteously “hates”), and, therefore, my supreme FRIEND (i.e. the One whom my heart supremely LOVES)?

“The Friend of my friend…” – Our hearts have been made for God and to perfectly love all that He is in and of Himself.  Our innermost being was fashioned to righteously esteem and adore every attribute and aspect of His Divine Person.  He is the infinitely Lovely One!  Therefore, all that we inherently esteem and “love” is positively and without measure found in Him.  Do we love truth?  All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.  Do we love goodness?  He is the supreme Source of all kindness, beauty, grace, and blessing.  Do we esteem uncorrupted power?  He is the infinitely Holy One even as He is the omnipotent Sovereign of heaven and earth.  So it is with all of His immutable attributes and moral perfections.  Even apart from any of His sovereign acts, in His pure, eternal Essence, He is the existential “Friend” of all that we righteously “love.”

As this is true in regards to His inherent nature, it is additionally true according to His effectual nature.  Everything that God has done, is doing, and will do in the vast realms of creation, redemption, the Church, and the Kingdom are unto the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  Throughout all of eternity, His redeemed ones will be the objects through which He displays forth “the incomparable riches of His grace expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7 )  Is there any way to measure the affectional worth of God simply according to these four realms in relation to what we righteously “love?”  And yet there is more…

“The Enemy of my enemy…” – God, in His essential Being, is not only the consummate “Friend” of all that we righteously “love”, He is also the consummate “Enemy” of all that we righteously “hate.”  (According to the “love”-“hate” relationship, we “hate” that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates that which we “love.”)  God, in His eternal Being is the complete opposite of all that stands in opposition to all that which we righteously “love.”  His very Presence is an existential threat to all that is not of and according to His glorious nature, which our hearts were created to esteem and adore.  Existentially, His perfect love casts out all fear; His radiant glory dispels all darkness; His indomitable life vanquishes all death.  As the consummate “Enemy” of His own “enemies”, and therefore, of our true “enemies”, He is our consummate “Friend”, simply in Who He inherently IS.

Additionally, many if not most of the effectual works of God in the four realms of creation, redemption, the Church, and the Kingdom establish Himself as the supreme “Enemy of our enemy(ies.)”  With every positive blessing that He creates, secures, and/or bestows, all antithetical negative curses and foes are effectually conquered.  Consider alone the realm of redemption where He procured eternal salvation and glory for fallen humanity and corrupted creation.  In doing so He conquered the ancient, arch enemies of Satan, sin, death, Hell, the grave, the “world”, and all creational corruption.  Although time doesn’t permit to explore, similar affectional worth exponentially multiplies in the other three realms as well. When all of God’s enemy-destroying works are completed, there will be nothing left that touches our lives that we righteously “hate!”  In these double-negative, effectual workings of God, what greater “Friend” could we possibly have?

And so we see that both God’s inherent worth and His effectual worth come to bear positively upon all that we righteously “love” and negatively upon all that we righteously “hate” accruing to Himself an affectional worth that is beyond measure.  Such worth is perfectly suited and all-sufficient to move the hearts of all of His creation to worship and love Him with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength…for all of eternity!

~ ~ ~

To summarize and illustrate these truths, then, I would simply offer an example of these three aspects of the “worth-ship” of God that are found clustered together in two of the most spiritually rich chapters in all of Scripture, Revelation 4 and 5.

The most foundational and highest form of worship and love for God is that which is based on His inherent worth.  This is the wellspring of the expression of worship the angels around the throne ascribe to Him day and night as they cry,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; Who was, and is, and is to come.”
Revelation 4:8

God’s holiness, sovereignty, divinity, omnipotence, and eternality are all inherent attributes of His Divine Person that are the foundation of this highest expression of worship.

In addition to this “first-generation” level of worship, there are also “secondary/subsequent-generation” levels of worship and love toward God in relation to His effectual worth because of what He does.  This is the kind of worship further expressed by the twenty-four elders in heaven as they cast their crowns before the throne saying,

“Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things; by Your will they exist and came to be.”
Revelation 4:11

And additionally as they sang a new song to the Lamb in the center of the throne:

“Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals, because You were slain, and by Your blood You purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign upon the earth.”
Revelation 5:9-10

In these instances, we see the effectual worth of God expressed first as it comes to bear upon the realm of creation (Rev. 4:11) , and secondly upon the realms of redemption, the Church, and the Kingdom (Rev. 5:9-10.)

All of this culminates with all of creation, seen and unseen, declaring the worthiness of “Him who sits on the throne” and of “the Lamb.”  This worship is springing from the combined inherent and effectual worthiness of the Father and the Son that all of creation is beholding.  These expressions of affectional worship are the crescendo of this heavenly revelation of the Omni-worthy One.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

Revelation 5:11-14 NKJV

~ ~ ~

This consummate, affectional worship is the very atmosphere of heaven, and it will one day permeate all of creation.  It is also that which God desires to now permeate our own hearts as those who are the first-fruits of His redeemed creation.  As we daily meditate on these things in His Word and in His Presence, and give ourselves to the wholehearted “worth-ship” of God in these various realms, the love of God will increase within our hearts until we are transformed from the inside out to become the Divine “lovers” that we’ve been created, redeemed, and called to be!

Series posts: Part 1: “Love”, Part 2: “Hate”, Part 3: “Generational Dynamics”, Mid-series Review/Redux, Part 4: “Building Across the Briar Patch”, Part 5: “Speaking the ‘Love’ in Truth”

On Loving God – by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (free audiobook)

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The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Part 5: Speaking the “Love” in Truth

Why is it that when we have interactions with those who differ significantly from us we find it so hard to have healthy dialogues that result in greater understanding, a more unified perspective, and an increased love and respect for one another?  I believe the answer lies, to a great degree, in the mysterious dynamics of the “love”-“hate” relationship that are embedded deep within our relationships and interactions.

I’m also convinced that having a fundamental understanding of those dynamics will help to increase our chances of having success in engaging with others toward those positive ends.  In this post, I hope to offer some insights concerning the communicating of truth in the midst of polarized, “thorny” engagements, be they cultural, political, religious, or other.

In the previous post, we talked about the prerequisite to communicating truth in such relationships.  The first work is to build a platform of love that serves as the unifying base upon which truth can be shared.  The measure of the weight of truth that will be able to be shared will be contingent on the strength and stability of that platform.  Once this “boardwalk” of love has been substantially built, opportunity may arise to exchange differing viewpoints and values with those we have relationship with upon it.  If we do so in the wisdom that comes from an understanding of the “love”-“hate” relationship, I believe we have an improved chance of engaging in such a way as to increase in mutual understanding, unity of perspective, and love/respect for one another.

Our Love-Hate Relationship With Truth

“All lies and jest. Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
Paul Simon, “The Boxer”

Truth is a discerning, dividing force.  It separates reality from unreality, fact from fiction, genuine from fake, honesty from lies, and light from darkness.  As such, it is consequential in revealing opposing sides, forcing choices, and determining outcomes.  When those effects are deemed to work in one’s favor, a “love” relationship with a particular truth tends to develop. When they are deemed to work in opposition to one’s desired ends, a “hate” relationship tends to ensue.  Because truth has the potential for both of these outcomes, whenever and however it happens to impact our lives, all of us have a conscious/unconscious “love-hate relationship” with truth.

To dig a little deeper into how that operates within our heart, we should consider what Paul the apostle said in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “Now abide faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.”  Faith, hope, and love are the three primary functions of the human “heart.”  When they come into contact with and consideration of a certain “truth”, they each pose a different question.

  • Faith asks, “To what degree is this proposition/fact inherently true and, therefore, worthy to be believed and trusted?”
  • Hope asks, “How will this proposition/fact create positive or negative effects in my world?”
  • Love, the greatest of these, assesses the conclusions of Faith and Hope and further asks, “In relation to other existing “loves” and “hates”, is this worthy of being esteemed, embraced, invested into, and possibly sacrificed for?”

Therefore, whenever any proposition or fact is presented to the human heart, it is assessed by these three operations of faith, hope, and love to determine the following values:

  • Inherent value – in relation to its veracity on its own terms. 
  • Effectual value – in relation to its consequences and outcomes. 
  • Affectional value – in relation to its combined inherent/effectual values and their positive/negative effects upon existing “loves” and “hates.” 

All of this transpires at both the conscious and subconscious, deliberate and involuntary, levels of the human heart.  This complex, algorithmic-like processing is ultimately what determines the truths we believe, embrace, and invest ourselves into and those we reject and distance ourselves from.

Two Views of Truth

“What is truth?”
Pontius Pilot

When interacting with others, we should be aware that “truth” does not mean the same thing to all people and, subsequently, is often evaluated quite differently by others than what we might assume or expect. 

For simplicity’s sake, we can boil down people’s views into two main categories: those who primarily view truth as source and those who primarily view truth as means to an end.

  1. Source – Those who primarily view truth as source see it as existing objectively outside of themselves and informing all of life.  It is highly esteemed for its inherent value as it is believed to represent reality as it actually is.  It is, likewise, highly esteemed for its effectual value for it is believed that all of life operates according to the wisdom, principles, and laws that are embedded in reality (truth) as it actually is.  Its combined affectional value, therefore, tends to be exceedingly high.  Furthermore, for those who believe the Source of Truth to be the infinite God, these values become transcendent even to the point of absolute.

  2. Means to an end – Those who primarily view truth as means to an end see it ultimately as a tool to create or secure a desired outcome.  Those who hold this view generally disregard its objective veracity on its own terms (unless, of course, appealing to that aspect is somehow favorable to obtaining their end.)  Therefore, it is viewed as having little to no inherent value, but is esteemed almost entirely for its effectual value.  Its ultimate, affectional value is further widely determined by its positive or negative effects on a desired outcome in relation to existing “loves” and “hates.”

    Those who ascribe to the philosophy of “pragmatism” preeminently hold this view.  The Wikipedia entry for “pragmatism” begins: Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that considers words and thought as tools and instruments for prediction, problem solving, and action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality.”  Furthermore, the entry gives what one of its originators proposed as the “pragmatic maxim”: “Consider the practical effects of the objects of your conception. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object.”  In this, we see how the effectual value of a truth accounts for everything to the pragmatist.

    Another category of people who primarily view truth as means to an end see it as having a subjective value in the present, especially as it affects their emotions and feeds their pre-existing confirmation bias.”  If a proposition or fact makes them feel good and/or gives them an affirming boost to what they already believe, they accept it on those merits.  On the other hand, when their perception of “truth” is rationally challenged by an alternate perspective, the uncomfortable feeling of being intellectually or morally challenged causes them to resist and reject the differing opinion because of its negative emotional impact on them in the moment.

    Those who view truth in this way place little to no inherent value on truth but see it almost entirely according to its subjective, immediate, effectual and affectional value.  What is loved is emotion and the positive feeling of the affirming of one’s own personal belief (“my truth”.)  Its ultimate value, therefore, is determined by how a proposition or fact makes the person feel and aligns with their existing biases.

    It’s said by some that we now live in a “post-truth” age or era.  “Post-truth” was named by the Oxford Dictionary as the International Word of the Year in 2016 and defined it as: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”  In this digital, post-modern, instant-gratification, echo-chamber, politically-correct, virtue-signalling, shame-labeling, cancel-culture-age we live in, we see how prevalent this shallow, emotional view of truth is becoming in our world.

When interacting with others, then, we will find we have more effective communication if we understand both our own and the other person’s general paradigm of truth and tailor our expressions, emphases, and explanations to what matters most in their “truth world.” (When talking with a pragmatist, for instance, we may want to focus on outcomes and use thought-provoking questions to lead to logical conclusions.  With a “post-truther”, however, we may want to incorporate illustrative stories and real-life examples to connect with their emotions in order to get across particular points.)  It seems, many times, people are exchanging “truths” but, in reality, they’re on entirely different pages as to what truth itself is and means, and so they interact in disconnected and even counter-productive ways.

Loving What is True, or “Truing” What is Loved?

“People say they love truth, but in reality they want to believe that which they love is true.”
 Robert Ringer

Those who view truth as source tend to ascribe an exceedingly high inherent value to it so that even when the effectual value of a particular truth may plunge into the negative range, their cumulative, affectional value of that truth still remains positive.  For this reason they tend to love what is true (and hate what is false) even when it is not convenient or seemingly advantageous to do so. 

Furthermore, when the truth in view is directly or indirectly related to some aspect of morality, they, likewise, tend to adhere to the moral principle associated with that truth, even when it is costly to do so.

Those who primarily view truth as means to an end, however, hold much higher “effectual and affectional values” than “inherent value” concerning it, and are, therefore, more vulnerable to “true” what they love, rather than to love what is true. (They are, likewise, more vulnerable to “false” what they hate, rather than to hate what is false.) 

When the truth in view is directly or indirectly related to morality, they have a tendency to flip-flop morally on a particular matter, depending on its outcome, even when it is hypocritical and double-minded to do so.  They more readily rationalize that the ends justify the means, and so may have little problem swapping evil for good, wrong for right, and lies for truth. 

The prophet Isaiah cried out concerning such people, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  (Isaiah 5:20 NIV)  This is also why the prophet Jeremiah declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)

Speaking the “Love” in Truth

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”
Proverbs 20:5

Given these complexities of the human heart, how then can we proceed in engaging with others in love and truth so that we may come into increased understanding, a more unified perspective, and a greater love and respect for one another?

I believe the answer can be summed up in a respectful variation of a well known biblical phrase, “speaking the truth in love…” (Ephesians 4:15), by re-wording it slightly to be:

“Speaking the ‘love’ in truth.”

This re-arrangement is made to highlight what I would consider the most important key to keep in mind when engaging with others, especially when it involves polarizing, “thorny” issues: “Lead with love!” 

As was shared in Part 4, “In this pursuit of love and truth, love must lead the way.”  This is not only true in the overall sense of the relationship, but also in the actual conversations that we have.  Love not only is the boardwalk upon which the relationship seeks to be established, it is also the bond that keeps those traveling on it walking together in open-hearted, engaging, and enlightening dialogue.

When speaking the ‘love’ in truth, we are purposefully leading with and emphasizing love, and what is loved, and then bringing these into the light of truth that they may be seen as they truly are and should be understood. We do not seek to lead with mere truth, for that has the potential of being an immediately dividing force and can set the tone of the conversation as contentious from the beginning.  

By leading with love, and what is loved, our conversation will be motivated and marked by esteeming affection, the giving of respect and interest in the other person’s values and perspectives, and an overall drawing/unifying effect.   This will increase our chances that the engagement will tend towards unity rather than division, friendliness rather than enmity, and, in the end, the acceptance of shared wisdom and truth rather than the rejection of it.

Applying the Four “Keys

“To convince someone of the truth, it is not enough to state it,
but rather one must find the path from error to truth.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

If we are to grow in our ability and facility to “speak the ‘love’ in truth”, I believe we will be greatly helped by keeping in mind the four “keys” mentioned in Part 3 of this series (and reiterated in the bulleted review post.) These will help us to discern the different types and layers of “loves” and “hates” that exist so that we can begin to peel them back to get to the most fundamental, “first-generation loves” from which all else springs. This level is where relational unity and personal transformation have the greatest possibility of taking place.

To conclude this post, then, I’d like to give a few practical considerations and suggestions as to how to use these “keys” in order to more effectively “speak the ‘love’ in truth.”

  • The objective is to stay focused on what is “loved” by the other person to foster friendly, open relationship and to maximize the possibility of truth being able to be shared and received that relates to what is “loved.”
  • Seek to get to the deepest level of what they “love” that comes to bear on the subject, for this is what they ultimately care about.  If we can share “friend of my friend” kind of wisdom with them at that level, they will be most likely to believe and receive the truth that we have to share.  [See Keys #1 and #4]
  • These “first-generation loves” do not always appear on the surface, and so it often takes some wise and considerate discussion, inquiry, and discernment in order to peel back the surface layers to get to the deepest levels of “first-generation loves.” [See Key #3]
  • To get to these deepest levels, recognize that some “loves” are simply utilitarian, “friend of my friend” or “enemy of my enemy” kind of “loves” about which they may not ascribe much inherent value to on their own terms (though it may seem that they do.)  By asking engaging, conversation-eliciting questions you may be able to uncover the deeper “friends” and “enemies” that lie even closer to their heart. [See Key #2]
  • Further recognize that “hates” are the result of what is “hated” having either a “friend of my enemy” or an “enemy of my friend” kind of influence.  Seek to discern the difference in the particular case and see if you can uncover the underlying “loves” by asking yourself, “What does this person “love” that they perceive as being threatened by what they ‘hate’?” [See Key #2]
  • If you hope to possibly change their mind concerning a particular matter, consider the following:
    • By introducing a larger framework that includes additional things that they “love” and “hate” that they may not have considered, you may be able to turn some of their “loves” to “hates” and “hates” to “loves.” This will most readily happen if you can show that what they believe and embrace is actually either an “enemy” of what they more deeply “love”, or a “friend” of what they more deeply “hate” and so possibly trigger a rejection/separation response concerning what they presently value and adhere to. [See Key #2]
    • By introducing more credible sources, pointing them to unforeseen outcomes or, showing them the path to unanticipated emotional consequences, whether positive or negative, you may be able to provide additional, “friend”/”enemy” considerations that will cause them to re-calculate their overall “love-hate algorithm” and, as a result, possibly change their mind on a particular point. [See Key #2]

These are just a few ways that the four “Keys” can be employed to engage with others so that by “speaking the ‘love’ in truth” with them we may promote greater understanding, a more unified perspective, and increased love and respect for one another.  If in our interactions we can do more than just “state” the truth, but “find the path from error to truth” in this way, while staying focused primarily on what is loved, we will have the greatest possibility of being successful in promoting those positive ends.  Having an understanding of the “love”-“hate” dynamics that are embedded deep within our relationships and interactions is the ultimate key to navigating in, through, and across the “briar patch” of “thorny” issues when interacting with those whose perspectives and values differ widely, and, perhaps, even wildly from our own!

~ ~ ~

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more
in knowledge and depth of insight,”
Philippians 2:9 NIV


Series posts: Part 1: “Love”, Part 2: “Hate”, Part 3: “Generational Dynamics”, Mid-series Review/Redux, Part 4: “Building Across the Briar Patch

Other: Pragmatism and the Truth

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The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Pt. 4: Building Across the Briar Patch

In this and the following part of this series, we will delve into the sensitive issue of how we can lovingly and wisely engage with others when it comes to the more divisive and “thorny” issues of culture, politics, and religion, especially when other people’s perspectives and passions differ widely, and perhaps even wildly, from our own.

The underlying reality of these matters is that the more consequential an issue is, the more value that people place upon it and, therefore, the more “love” that is ascribed to and invested into the matter.  Furthermore, the stronger the “love”, the stronger the protective, “hate” response that is generated against anything that might oppose, threaten, and/or violate it.  This is why issues regarding culture, politics, and religion, have some of the strongest positive and negative emotions, attitudes, and actions bound up with them and are often the most polarizing and “thorny” to engage in.

We need wisdom to know when we ought to interact with others in these matters and also how we ought to interact with them when it is timely and appropriate to do so.  I will be focusing here mainly on this second aspect of how.

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The goal in any and all engagements with others, especially when they concern “thorny”, divisive issues, is to get ourselves, and, to whatever degree possible, the other person walking on the path of love and truth in relation to them.  Only as these two aspects are pursued together can any interaction hold the prospect of bearing positive, long-lasting fruit.

In this pursuit of love and truth, love must lead the way!  Love is “the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:14 NASB) and as such, has a “drawing, unifying effect.”  Truth on the other hand, though being that which is necessary to bring liberation from all untruth and its subsequent bondages (see John 8:32), also has the nature of being a sharp, two-edged sword that divides (see Hebrews 4:12.)  Thus a path that leads to unity and freedom must have love as its firm foundation with truth doing its discerning, liberating work supported by and carried along on the stronger, unifying platform of love already laid down.

In this post, we will focus on building this platform of love and tackle the dicier matter of engaging with truth in the next.  In both, we will do so peering through the “lens” and applying the principles/phraseology of what has been shared in this series thus far.  For a refresher and for future reference, then, please see the previous post: The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship (mid-series review/redux) for a bulleted review with related links.

~ ~ ~

Now, before we consider the most fruitful way of engaging with others on the opposite side of a particular cultural, political, and/or religious divide (no matter which side we may be on), let’s briefly see the unfruitful, even harmful, way of engaging in such situations.

The Bloody Way Into and Out of the Briar Patch

When we encounter those who believe and behave differently than ourselves, our initial conscious or unconscious response may be to view them as in another “camp” and, therefore, as somewhat of an “enemy.”  That is primarily because we view their beliefs and behaviors as those which, by their contrary nature to ours, pose some level of existential or actual threat to what we value and love.  This tends to evoke within us the protective, rejection/separation, “hate” response of the “love”-“hate” relationship.

If we react and relate to them out of this rejection/separation, “enemy”/”hate” position, even if it is mild in nature, we will undoubtedly set the tenor and tone of our engagement as a “thorny” one and invite a similar rejection/separation response in return.  If we try to interject our perception of truth into the interaction, our perspectives will most likely be viewed as a threat to what they value and love, be rejected, and, in the end, serve to harden them in their position and increase the distance between us.  The focus in such interactions generally accentuates the differing “loves” and “hates” that exist between the two sides and thus tends to fuel the “friend of my enemy”/”enemy of my friend” “hate-generating” response.  This approach lands both parties smack dab in the middle of the briar patch with no “un-bloody” way out.  No matter what side of an issue we find ourselves on, we must resist this temptation and choose the more excellent way.

The High-Way of Love


There is a “friendlier” and more fruitful way in, through, and out of the briar patch of divisive, contentious issues, however.  This way is one that is elevated up just above the muck and mire that the briars grow in, but not so high as to be removed entirely from their prickly reality.  It is like a long, winding boardwalk that spans the entire distance across the thorny landscape. This high-way is constructed of love, and it is up to you and I, by the grace of God, to set its footings, lay its planks, and secure its railings as a matter of first priority in our relationships with others.

Depending on the strength of this “high-way”, varying weights of truth can then be supported by its travelers as they traverse and converse from side to side.  If the planks of love are weak or rotted, however, they will break when the weight of truth gets too heavy for them, and both travelers will end up down in the muck and mire, thrashing about in the briars of hate and untruth.

Although in the end it will take both parties choosing to walk on this friendly, fruitful way in order to make it to the other side in greater unity and mutually-increased understanding, first and foremost, we are responsible for ourselves in choosing, building, and navigating this more excellent way.

Loving our “Enemies”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:43-45 NIV

According to the teaching and commandment of Christ, we are not only to love our “neighbor”, we are to love our “enemies” as well.  If we look at God’s commandment to love our “neighbor”, we will find the key as to how we are to love them, and by applying that same principle, how we are to love our “enemies” as well.  God says, “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself?” (Leviticus 19:18)  The key to understanding how to love our neighbors, and our enemies, is found in understanding just how we love ourselves.

If we look closely at this aspect through the “love”/”hate” relationship “lens”, we will see that we love ourselves primarily according to a “first-generation love” based on the inherent value we consciously and unconsciously ascribe to ourselves and/or recognize as having been given to us.  Because of the intrinsic worth we place on all that comprises our self-concept as a unique person made in the image and likeness of God, at our foundation and core is a “first generation love” for ourselves based on our God-given and self-internalized inherent value.

If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, then, we must, likewise, at our foundation and core, love them with a “first-generation love” based on their own God-given and self-internalized inherent value as a unique person made in the image and likeness of God, regardless of what they believe or how they behave!

This then, is how we are to love not only our “neighbors”, but also our “enemies.”  Any secondary and subsequent effects of the “friend of my enemy”/”enemy of my friend” dynamics that makes them in some degree our “enemy” are to be transcended by the “first-generation love” that we have towards them on the basis of their inherent value as those uniquely created and loved by God.  On this basis, we can learn to love even the ones we find most difficult to like.

This is where the “new commandment” Jesus gave His disciples likewise factors in: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34 ESV) He eternally and unconditionally loves us with a “first-generation love” based on the inherent value He ascribes to us as His beloved Bride.  Furthermore, He demonstrated His love for us while we were His enemies; as those who posed an existential/actual threat to all that He values and loves.  On the cross He bore in Himself all of the rejection and separation that we generated by our choosing to embrace “rival loves” (sin) that He might remove all “hate” effects and dynamics from the relationship.  He is now free and fully justified to love us entirely on a “first-generation love” basis and He invites us into this “enmity-free” relationship with Himself as well.  It is this kind of sacrificial, “first-generation”, “hate-transcending” love that He now commands us to have for “one another”, for our “neighbors” and also for our “enemies.”

As we walk in this “first-generation love” towards those we differ from and disagree with, our feet stay firmly on the “high-way” of love as we traverse the briar patch of “thorny” issues.  This sets the tenor and tone of our relationships and interactions with others as one of genuine esteem and respect, which in turn has the effect of drawing them upwards to, likewise, come out of the muck and mire of enmity and division onto “the more excellent way” of love!

Building the Platform of Love

As was shared in Part 1, love is comprised of three aspects: 1) esteeming affections, 2) beneficial/sacrificial actions, and 3) a drawing/unifying effect.  As we build this platform of love in relationship with those who differ from us, we should keep these three aspects in mind.

Esteeming affections – These are the foundations and footings of love.  These deep attitudes of the heart constitute the “pylons” of the boardwalk that bridges the “briar patch of hate.” Because our attitudes towards others are so often based on “secondary and subsequent” layers of the “love”-“hate” dynamic, it is difficult to esteem them deep down in our affections.  When we have a negative view of what they believe and/or how they behave, attitudes of rejection and separation quite naturally generate within our heart.  It takes a determined act of our will to separate the person from their passions, the “sinner from the sin“, in our hearts so that we can love them the way that God loves. The ultimate key to this is in recognizing and reckoning on their inherent value as those created and inestimably loved (valued) by God, regardless of their inward or outward condition. 

No matter who the person is, we can build this type of “first generation love” towards them in our hearts and minds because it doesn’t ultimately originate with and depend on us.  God is in us to give us His esteeming affections towards them.  If we do not have this as a foundation in our attitude towards another, the problem actually lies with us, not with them!  Jesus said,

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the pagans do so?

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48 NKJV

Digging down and laying pylons is not easy or glorious work, but the stability of the platform built upon them lays in their hidden, immovable strength.  We must begin right at this point by cultivating “first-generation love” in our heart towards others we might normally deem as our “enemies!”

Beneficial/sacrificial actions – With the  “pylons” of esteeming affections firmly grounded and built up in our hearts, we need to then begin to lay the “planks” and build the “railings” of this platform with loving words and deeds.  It is through these that our unconditional, unshakeable, “first-generation love” is communicated and made known in our relationships.

These words and actions should, first and foremost, be that which benefits and blesses the other person.  These expressions may also be that which is costly to us in some way (even if it is just the sacrificing of our underlying prejudices, pride, and personal comfort.)  As was shared in Part 1, the measure of benefit to the other person combined with the degree of cost to us is what equals the amount of love that is expressed.

Every relationship and situation is different, and each one requires its own unique combination of wisdom, sensitivity, creativity, and, often, time.   Here, then, are some practical suggestions that we may be able to incorporate into our relationship with another in order to begin building a platform of love:

  • Pray for them specifically and regularly.
  • Offer a friendly greeting, using their name with a smile.
  • Ask a conversation-eliciting question about something that’s of interest to them.
  • Use some good-hearted humor to lighten the moment and make them smile.
  • Offer to help them with a task.
  • Include them in something that you are doing and express your appreciation.
  • Give them a sincere, affirming compliment regarding something they are responsible for.
  • Do a small, unexpected act of kindness.

Little by little, we need to think of and implement practical ways of showing and affirming our esteem for them as a person.  This is how we begin to show our “first-generation love” towards them and begin to lay the “planks” and build the “railings” of the platform of love.

Drawing/unifying effect – As we build esteeming affections in our hearts towards the other person and continue to practically show esteem for them in loving words and deeds, we will begin to feel our heart being drawn to them and, very likely, their heart will begin to be drawn towards us as well.  This is the powerful effect that love has and it is the first thing we should pursue in relationship with others…especially with those who are different from us in regard to their views and values.

~ ~ ~

In the next post we will explore how we may, after building this platform of love, engage with the other person in the sharing of truth so that there can be a greater understanding of one another’s viewpoints and also possibly come into a greater unity of perspective as well.  [Note: the four “keys” discussed in Part 3 will vitally come into play in the next post.  I encourage you, if possible, to familiarize yourself with those four points before we move into that discussion.]  I look forward to sharing some unique insights that an understanding of this “love”-“hate” relationship reveals when it comes to communicating with others in truth!

Series posts: Part 1: “Love”Part 2: “Hate”,  Part 3: “Generational Dynamics”, and “mid-series review/redux”


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The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship (mid-series review/redux)

This past summer I began a series exploring the relationship between “love” and “hate.”  Given the intensifying, world-shaping focus on “hate” in our cultural and political environment today, I felt an urging in my spirit to begin exploring this matter from God’s perspective.  As I followed the “bread crumbs” of understanding that the Holy Spirit began to lay out, they led me to a set of “keys” that unlocked a myriad of doors with expansive hallways.

I began to realize that this “love”-“hate” relationship, in its dynamic simplicity and yet pervasive complexity, is fundamental to all things human: psychology, sociology, and even spirituality.  As I’ve searched to see if this understanding has been explored and expressed similarly elsewhere, in both the Christian and secular world, I found a surprising lack of incisive inquiry into and clear analysis of this most fundamental issue.  So I feel grateful and also responsible to share this perspective with those who will take time to consider it.

In the first three parts of this series, I sought to, as simply as possible, lay out the initial bread crumbs that led me to the set of keys and to show in some practical applications how these can help to unlock some of our personal and psychological conditions.

I was in the midst of preparing Part 4 in the series when I was interrupted in my spirit by what I can only describe as a prolonged “trumpet blast.”  (I spoke about that experience in the post The Final Call to Repentance and The Return.)  Along with that very distinct spiritual impression came a prophetic burden to focus a number of timely blog posts on the subjects of repentance, prayer, and intercession for our nation.

Although that spiritual burden still remains,  I now feel it is timely to return to this unfinished series and see it through to its completion.  (Indeed, I believe the best is yet to come! 😉 )  Because the three-fold foundation of this teaching was shared so long ago, however, and there are also those who might not have read the initial posts, it seems prudent to give a mid-series explanation and review at this point before launching into its final parts.

I do want to emphasize in giving this review how important it is to “follow the bread crumbs” from the beginning and truly grasp the “keys.”  Some of the concepts may seem unfamiliar, surprising, or even a bit challenging to grasp at first.  Although the principles themselves are profoundly simple, in their application they are simply profound, and so it may take some time and consideration in order to process and truly make them your own.

I would encourage you then, not to move on until you truly “get it!”  If you do, I think you’ll find that your eyes are opened in an unexpected way and you will begin to see the world, and even your relationship with God, with a whole new level of clarity.  That has been my experience at least, and I hope and trust it will be yours as well!

If you haven’t read the initial posts or you’d like a full refresher, then, you may navigate to them using the following links:
Part 1: “Love”
Part 2: “Hate”
Part 3: “Generational Dynamics”

For those who’ve read and “tracked” with the initial posts and merely need a quick refresher, I’ve “bulleted” the main points of each part below for your review and consideration.  (If at any point you’d like a more thorough explanation, you may also click the heading for each part and refer back to the original posts.)

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The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship
Overview: Parts 1-3

Part 1 – “Love”

    • Love comes from God.
    • Love has as its very essence the ascribing and giving of value.
    • Love ascribes value and sacrificially gives that which is of value to its recipients.
    • Love is both a virtue of the heart and a corresponding outward action; a passive noun and an active verb.
    • Love is also “the perfect bond of unity” (Col. 3:14 NAS) and as such creates a drawing, unifying effect.
    • Love, therefore, is an esteeming affection, a beneficial/sacrificial action, and a drawing/unifying effect, all in one.

Part 2  – “Hate”

    • Hate is the “unexpected child of a virtuous mother”: LOVE.
    • The biblical concept of “hate” is derived from the protective nature of love (see 1 Corinthians 13:7.)
    • We hate that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates what we love!
    • Whatever we hate, therefore, can be traced back to something that we love being opposed, threatened and/or violated.
    • These “two sides of the same coin”, love and hate, are proportional.  The greater the love, the greater the hate that is generated towards that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates what is loved!  If we did not love, neither would we hate.
    • Hate, in and of itself, is morally indeterminate.  Its moral character, whether good, neutral, or evil, is established by the moral nature of the love it is derived from, as well as its motivation, focus, and manifestation.
    • The primary Hebrew word for “hate” is “sane” (pronounced “saw-nay”)  which carries the primary meaning of rejection and separation.
    • The original Hebrew language is pictographic in nature with the individual letters depicting a certain meaning.  “Sane” is comprised of letters that depict a thorn and seed.
    • The function of a thorn is to create rejection and separation.  The function of seed is to facilitate generation and reproduction.  Hate has the effect of fulfilling all of these functions.

Part 3 – “Generational Dynamics”

    • Working together, the love-hate dynamic is the primary force that creates, contours, and characterizes most of the psychological, sociological, and spiritual conditions generating in and from the human heart.
    • In the complexity of the heart, both “loves” and “hates” each have the power to generate additional “loves” and “hates” as they intersect and interact with each other and with those things which either ally or are at enmity with them.
    • These “generational dynamics” follow certain principles which are essential to understand to rightly discern and wisely engage with most human conditions, whether psychological, sociological, or spiritual.
    • These generational dynamics yield a four-fold set of keys that help to unlock the complexities of the human heart:
      • Key #1 – “First generation loves” are unique from all else that follows.
        • A “first generation love” is derived simply and purely from the inherent value ascribed to an object on its own terms.
        • All that is generated thereafter, from the “first generation hate” to the “secondary and subsequent generations” of both love and hate, are mixtures of whatever inherent value may be ascribed to the object on its own terms, plus or minus whatever effectual value, the object has in relation to the loves or hates that it interacts with, whether positively or negatively(The “peanut butter pizza” example given in Part 3 helps to illustrate this point. 😉 )
        •  “First generation loves” are the initiating, primary forces in the “love”-“hate” relationship and through their protective nature are alone responsible for generating “first generation hates.”
      • Key #2 – In “secondary and subsequent generations” of the “love”-“hate” relationship, both loves and hates each have the power to generate additional loves and additional hates according to set principles.
        • These generational dynamics may most easily be understood by employing the well-known phrase: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and then by further re-wording it to show three additional possible variations. (Employed in this way, we should understand that “enemy” relates to hate, and “friend” to love.  Similarly, hate connotes a negative value, while love a positive one.)
        • In the original phrase, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” a double-negative of hate (“The enemy of my enemy”) surprisingly generates a new, single positive of love (“is my friend.”)  This illustrates how existing hates can create new loves in the secondary and subsequent generations of the “love”-“hate” relationship.
        • Re-wording the phrase to be, “The friend of my friend is my friend,”  illustrates how a double positive of love (“The friend of my friend…”) generates a new positive of love (“is my friend.”)
        • Thus, both double negatives of hate and double positives of love each generate new positives of love in the secondary and subsequent generations of the “love”-“hate” relationship.
        • Further, by re-wording the phrase to be either, “The enemy of my friend is my enemy,” or “The friend of my enemy is my enemy,” it illustrates, in both cases, how a single positive of love (“friend”) interacting with a single negative of hate (“enemy”), generates a new single negative of hate (“is my enemy.”)
        • All loves are not the same, therefore, with some being “first generation loves” based on inherent value alone (as in Key #1), some being the product of a double negative of hates, some being the product of a double positive of loves (as in Key #2), and some being a combination of two or more of these generational dynamics.
        • Further, not all hates are the same, with some being “first generation hates” (as in Key #1 – springing from their enmity towards a “first generation love”) and others being “secondary or subsequent hates” as either the product of a single positive of love interacting with a single negative of hate, vice versa (as in Key #2), or a combination of two or more of these generational dynamics..
      • Key #3 – Most conditions and situations are a mixture of “first”, “secondary” and “subsequent” generations of differing loves and hates.
        • These all integrate together in a complex, counter-balancing, competing, complementing, flipping, fortifying, and re-generating way to form some sort of  internal “algorithm” that produces a uniquely expressed outcome!
        • As such, most conditions and situations cannot simply be taken at face value but must be discerned and engaged with at deeper levels.
      • Key #4 – In order to rightly discern and wisely engage with any condition or situation, the secondary and subsequent layers of loves and hates must be peeled back until the primary “first generation love(s) that generate all else thereafter are uncovered.
        • Only as we rightly discern a situation or condition at this primary, root level can we rightly perceive the most generative and formative matters of the heart that are ultimately at work.
        • Only as we wisely engage with a matter at this primary, root level, in love and in truth, can true transformation and change potentially take place while maintaining the unity that comes from love.
        • This is the ultimate key in the key set!

~ ~ ~

In Part 3 of this series, I introduced these “keys” and gave some examples that related primarily in the realm of personal and psychological conditions.  The next two posts (which will follow shortly) will apply these “keys” primarily in the realm of interpersonal and sociological situations, especially focusing on how we may lovingly and wisely engage with others who may differ from us culturally, politically, and/or religiously.  I will close out this series by applying these principles to the spiritual life in relationship with God and His people.

I look forward to exploring with you these most elemental dynamics of the human heart which form and fashion the full expression of our lives as those made in the image and likeness of HIM who is LOVE!

Posted in Spiritual Dynamics | 3 Comments

Important Blog Update – Please read!

I am sending this post out very early on the morning of January 20, 2021, the presidential Inauguration Day in the USA.  We are living in extremely unprecedented, unpredictable, and, frankly, unfathomable times!  It is hard to project what the state of our nation will be even by the end of this day, let alone in the days, weeks, and months ahead!  Things are changing rapidly and dramatically (to say the least!)

One thing that has become abundantly clear over the past number of months is that there is a deeply disturbing war on free speech in this country.  Those holding and expressing views that conflict with the “official narrative” and what is “politically correct” are increasingly being demonized, shame-labeled, censored, banned, de-platformed, and persecuted.  The foundations of freedom that have been the hallmark of this country for so long are quickly eroding and being replaced with a ubiquitous spirit of cultural, media, technological, and governmental control.  In the name of “diversity” and “tolerance”, uniformity and intolerance are being foisted upon our nation and have become the atmosphere we’re being forced to live and move and have our being in.  Because there is little to no accountability and consequence for those propagating this intimidating and forceful conformity, the push towards complete thought-speech-action-controlling tyranny is accelerating.  If unchecked, what follows after that is not a mystery (to those who know and understand history!)

As of New Years Day, I began my tenth year blogging at Christ-Centered Christianity. Although it’s my desire and intention to continue blogging through this coming year, I’m aware that there are major developments that may greatly curtail or even crush that prospect.  My purpose in this post is to bring attention to that reality and to offer some appropriate suggestions and even passionate urgings in light of it.

First of all, no matter where you may live as you read this post, I ask that you would earnestly pray and intercede for the United States of America at this critical crossroads!  I believe that the future of this nation will greatly determine the future course of the entire world geo-politically, economically, technologically, and culturally.  The Church is also greatly divided in our nation by the political and cultural polarization that has been stoked by “the powers that be”, especially over the past four years.  This is deeply grievous to the Lord and needs to be the focus of concerted intercession.  It also seems that a time of intense persecution and even purging of Christians is being planned, coordinated, and may be shortly unleashed on the Church in America if the godless, globalist, Marxist forces that have infiltrated nearly every aspect of our society have their way.  I’m afraid that Christians in America are gravely ill-prepared for this level of persecution should it come.

Secondly, no matter where you may live (yet especially to my brothers and sisters in the USA), I urge you to take advantage today of the following free resource hosted on this site while it is still available: Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ by Gospel Fellowships.  Of all the content and resources on this blog/website, I feel this is the most important and essential at this time to prepare the Body of Christ for what may be coming shortly!  To make this as simple and accessible as possible, I’ve made a PDF of the Resource page on this blog of this work for you to easily download to your computer, tablet, or phone.  This will give you quick access on your own device to all of the links for the print and audiobook formats to then download individually while they remain available.  That PDF link is here:

PRINCIPLES Book (Complete PDF, mp3, and more)

You may also access the Resource page for this book right here on the blog by clicking here or from the Resources tab on the header/menu at any time.

I urge you to take advantage of this resource today, and then share it around with those in your circle of fellowship and influence.  I cannot guarantee how long it will be available for.

Thirdly, I’m working on converting what I feel are some of the more important posts and pages that I’ve written over the past nine years into PDF format and am listing the links to those on a new permanent page, “PDFs“, found on the header bar/menu.   I’ve begun that process and will continue it over the next few days, weeks, and months as the Lord leads and circumstances allow.  Given the present atmosphere and what may be imminently coming, however, it’s possible that all of this content may eventually be de-platformed and disappear from the web, so I want to be faithful to steward these teachings/resources in the most efficient and expedited manner I can at this time.  If you think you may have any interest in these resources going forward, I encourage you to transfer them into your possession now, “while the getting’s good”, and then you will at least have options going forward as to how you may use them.  Please feel free also to share these with those you are connected with if you feel they serve the purpose of the Lord in your circles of influence.

Finally, since I last posted, I’ve added four new resources to the FREE AUDIOBOOKS section of this site.  These are all extremely well written/read and carry a very timely message for this present hour.  They are as follows:

A First Century Message to Twentieth Century Christians– by G. Campbell Morgan  This is an in-depth exposition of the first three chapters of the book of Revelation focusing on the seven letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor.  It is as relevant today as it was in the first (and “twentieth”) century.  I highly recommend it!

Prevailing Prayer: What Hinders It? – by Dwight L. Moody  This title speaks clearly for itself.  Interestingly, this production was published by LibriVox shortly after I published my latest post, Stoking the Fires of Prayer and Intercession (especially for those who struggle) and its chapters tie in very closely to the different aspects I focused on in that post.  If there is one burden I feel at this time, it is for the Body of Christ to increase in the degree and depth of prayer and intercession for the Church and the nations.

The Night of Weeping– by Horatius Bonar  This is a classic treatise on the purpose and promise bound up with suffering and hardship in the Christian life.  I truly feel this is a book richly written under the Holy Spirit’s anointing and is very timely for the Body of Christ at this time!  It is also wonderfully read by a LibriVox volunteer.

Paul the Dauntless– by Basil Joseph Matthews  This extraordinary piece of literature on the life of the apostle Paul really took me by surprise as to how well it was researched, written, and read.  I would call this one a “hidden classic” that, while being in the genre of “historical fiction”, gives great care to the details of Scripture, geography, culture, and the like.  It really “brings to life” the full sweep of the life of Saul of Tarsus/Paul the apostle.  I believe that the spirit of this dauntless man is what will mark the remnant saints at the end of the age, and so we will do well to immerse ourselves in his life.  As he said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

All of the free audiobooks hosted on this site have serialized players added for ease of listening as well as links to download the entire book.  Please take advantage of these wonderful blessings while they are available!

Dear saints, we are living in unprecedented, Biblical days!  God is on the Throne, and He is our High Tower!  We do not fear, but we must be prepared in spirit, soul, and body for what is coming and is even upon us!  I give you my best as a fellow follower and servant of Christ.  I am far from perfect and greatly covet your prayers in this hour for my family and me!  We are all in this together for the glory of God and the expansion of His unshakeable Kingdom!  May He find us faithful!!

In His love,

Update:  Some very significant, insightful, and helpful comments have been contributed to this post after it was published.  Please be sure to scroll down and take the time to read through what has been shared!  It is as important, and even more so, than what I have written!  All blessings!!

PRINCIPLES Book (Complete PDF, mp3, and more) – PDF link
PDFs page
FREE AUDIOBOOKS main menu page

Posted in Audiobooks, Blog Updates, Christ-Centered Resources | 28 Comments

Stoking the Fires of Prayer and Intercession (especially for those who struggle)

Does the call to a life of prayer and intercession seem daunting to you?  Do you feel that an effective, consistent prayer life is beyond your reach?  Have you tried to pray and intercede for others regularly but have failed miserably?  I can relate to all of those sentiments and conditions at one time and another in my walk with the Lord.  There have also been regular seasons in my life that have been marked by a deep, fervent, and abiding spirit of prayer and intercession.  I’ve known both ends of the spectrum, and a wide range in-between.

In the drier times, I’ve felt like I have this little “match” of faith and desire and I place it up against these giant logs of prayer and intercession and all I get is a little puff of smoke.  The match goes out and I’m done.

The fact of the matter, however, is that it only takes a tiny match to get a fire going that has the potential to not only set big logs on fire, but an entire forest.  If all you and I have is a tiny match of faith and desire, we have all we need to start a fervent, consuming, prayer life.  It’s simply a matter of what we do with that match that makes all the difference.

Natural Fire Building

When I build a natural fire, I gather the logs I want to burn, but I also include smaller logs, branches, kindling wood, and paper.  I build it from the bottom up, from the most easily ignitable material to the least.  I further make sure it is constructed with the right balance of proximity of materials to each other as well as needed space for airflow.  I then take my match and only concern myself with lighting the most readily combustible material, the paper.  If the paper catches, I might have to blow on it a little to get the kindling wood burning, but, eventually, the flames take over and the fire burns hotter and hotter until even the biggest logs are crackling and popping in the blaze.

Now, if I tend the fire regularly and keep feeding it when it begins to burn down, it’s not hard to keep the fire burning for hours and even days without having to start all over again from the beginning.  However small or large a fire I may eventually obtain, however, it all is set on fire with just a single, tiny match.

Spiritual Fire Building

If we find that the fires of prayer and intercession in our life have burned down to mere ashes, or maybe were never kindled in the first place, we need to start at the beginning and build these fires on the hearth of our heart employing the wisdom gained through natural fire building.

To start with, we will need to make sure we have the right “materials.”  These will include some “big logs” of our primary objectives in prayer and intercession, but we will also need to incorporate into our pyre of prayer some smaller logs, branches, kindling wood, and paper.  Unless our prayer life is regularly fed and tended, we shouldn’t assume that the “big logs” will easily or automatically catch.  We will most likely need to first build a “starter fire” under them consisting of the other, more readily combustible “materials.”


The first thing we will need, then, is the “paper.”  In this analogy, may I suggest that the “paper” is representative of the Scriptures.  As we begin our time of prayer, it is a wise and helpful practice to begin by meditating on and “praying into” a selected portion of Scripture.  This can take various forms and can be focused on anything from simply one spiritually rich word from Scripture (“love”, “peace”, “holy”, etc.), a Scriptural phrase, verse, portion of a chapter, or an overview of an entire chapter.  We should choose a portion that our heart is drawn to and focuses our thoughts and desires on God Himself, revealing something of His character, promises, purposes, wisdom, works, and/or ways. (The Psalms are an excellent place to draw from.)

As we meditate on and begin “praying into” God’s Word, we must engage not merely our mind, but also our heart, allowing our “match of faith and desire” to “burn up into” and “envelope” the portion of Scripture we are focusing on within our spirit.  Through the quickening of the Holy Spirit, this uniting of faith and desire with the truth of Scripture will begin to ignite and generate increasing measures of both “light” (revelation) and “heat” (spiritual desire.)  Thus our faith and desire will be further kindled and enflamed. 

“For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you…”
(2 Timothy 1:6 NAS)

“While I meditated, the fire burned; ” (Psalm 39:3 NIV)

“Kindling Wood”

As these initial burnings of faith and desire begin to increase within our spirit through meditation, our first responses in prayer ought to be those of thanksgiving and praise.  These expressions are the flames that are most readily kindled by the Spirit as we muse on God’s Word.  The “kindling wood” which our thanksgiving and praise are fueled by are the character, wisdom, will, works, and ways of God revealed in the Scripture portion before us.

In order for this “kindling wood” to fully “catch” then, we should begin to express focused prayers of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord drawing from the portion of Scripture we are meditating on.  Such expressions begin with words such as, “I thank You, Lord, that You are…”, “I praise You, God, for…”, etc…  This is how we begin to “pray into” God’s Word.  As these expressions of gratitude and exaltation begin to flow from our hearts and lips to the Lord, they further feed and fan the flames of faith and desire within our hearts drawing us deeper into prayer and praise.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15 NKJV)

“Large Sticks and Small Logs”

As the fire begins to grow, the “large sticks” of confession and repentance ought to most readily catch next.  As we lift God up with thanksgiving and praise, we, in turn will find ourselves coming into a greater position of humility before Him.  As the light of revelation through His Word begins to shine brighter, we will find the areas of our hearts that yet harbor shadows and darkness will begin to be exposed.  This will lead us very naturally to confession and repentance in prayer.

In the “light” and “heat” of our Scripture meditation/praying, we should ask the Lord if there is some aspect of our faith that needs to be increased in relation to His Word and some corresponding aspect of unbelief that needs to be confessed and repented of?  A prayer such as is recorded in the Gospels is always in order, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

We should further ask if there is some aspect of obedience that is lacking in relation to His Word, and if there is some corresponding act or practice of disobedience that needs to be confessed and repented of?  Confession humbles the heart before God and opens the way for a greater “wind” of God’s grace to blow in and fan the fires of prayer in our heart. 

“For God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.” (Zechariah 12:10 NIV)

“Take words with you, And return to the Lord. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously, For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.” (Hosea 14:2 NKJV)


In close proximity to the large sticks of confession and repentance are the small logs of supplication. Supplication by definition is a humble entreaty for oneself.  As we humble ourselves before God in confession and repentance, we also humbly entreat Him for His mercy and grace that we may be forgiven, cleansed, and enabled to walk in a greater measure of faith and obedience.  The deeper the humility, the greater the grace that is given and is able to be received.  We should seek to sink very low before the exalted Lord if we desire the fire of prayer to burn brightly and intensely.

Through meditation on Scripture, exalting God through thanksgiving and praise, and humbling ourselves through confession and supplication, we are in the most fitting and “flammable” place for the spirit of prayer to then begin to ignite and consume the “large logs” of petition and intercession.

“Large Logs”

There are two related types of prayer that comprise the “large logs” of our prayer life: petition and intercession.

The word “petition” comes from a Latin word, “petere” which means “to make for, go to; attack, assail; seek, strive after; ask for, beg, beseech, request; fetch; derive; demand, require,” (Online Etymology Dictionary)  In these descriptives, we see the intensity of the word “petition” as a focused and fervent beseeching of the Lord in prayer.  In Scripture we are entreated: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 KJV.)  We are further encouraged by the words of James, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.(James 5:16 NKJV.)  Petitioning prayer is one of the greatest privileges and highest responsibilities we have as the children of God and when the fires of prayer burn hot, these large logs begin to burn brightly and feed the flames with substantial fuel and fervent heat.

Closely related to prayers of petition are prayers of intercession.  While prayers of petition can be for ourselves as well as for others, prayers of intercession are strictly on the behalf of others.  The word “intercede” comes from the Latin prefix, “inter” meaning “between” and “cedere” meaning “to go”. To intercede is to “go between” the Lord and another on their behalf in prayer.  This is the essence of priestly ministry which is the high calling of every believer.  It is, likewise, through intercession that we can most powerfully encounter and be conformed to the heart of Christ in His heavenly ministry as He who “always lives to make intercession for [us].” (Hebrews 7:25)  There is very little in the spiritual life that is more effectual in decreasing the self-life and increasing Christ’s life within us than importunate intercession for others.  This is the second type of large log that God desires our prayer lives to consume.

Burning Embers

As with natural fire, our spiritual fire of prayer goes through stages.  There is that which involves our intentional kindling of a “starter fire” through meditation, thanksgiving, and praise, followed by our willing cooperation to fan the flames through confession, repentance, and supplication, followed by our active participation to feed the fires the substantial and sustaining fuel of petition and intercession.  As the fire of prayer transitions through these stages, the flames burn hotter and brighter, but they also build up within us a lively bed of red hot embers that continue to burn and throw heat long after the active flames have died down.  Those glowing embers are the coals of intimacy with the Lord that are built up in the process, and as a consequence, of the active aspects of our prayer lives.  Not only do these coals continue to burn in our hearts long after we have moved on from active times of prayer, they also become the hot bed upon which our next time of active prayer will be built and easily kindled afresh.  As long as these burning embers are tended regularly with the fuel of meditation and active prayer, the fire will never go out!

This, indeed, is the key to building and sustaining an active, intimate prayer life with the Lord. It does not happen automatically, nor without intentionality and consistency, but neither is it beyond our reach.  All it takes is the wisdom of natural fire building applied to our prayer life and a small match of faith and desire to get it all started.  Before long, we will have a fervent, abiding spirit of prayer within us that not only consumes and radiates within our own hearts, but also warms and enlightens those around us.

I pray that you are encouraged “to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you…” even unto a consuming fire of prayer and intercession through the wisdom and grace He has given!

A Continuing Urgent Call to Prayer and Intercession
1857 Prayer Revival – Can it Happen Again?
A Short and Easy Method of Prayer – by Madam Guyon (free audiobook)
Prevailing Prayer: What Hinders It? – by Dwight L. Moody (free audiobook)

As an example of one way of “praying into the Scriptures”, I commend the following relatively short podcast episode by John Piper.  As you listen, please notice the different aspects of thanksgiving, praise, confession, and supplication that are interwoven into his prayers related to the Scripture portion he is meditating on!

Posted in Prayer and Intercession, Spiritual Dynamics, The Inner Life, Video | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

A Continuing Urgent Call to Prayer and Intercession

The urgency in my spirit for the Church to arise from its slumber and get up to the front lines of the battle in prayer, repentance, and intercession is persisting…and increasing!  I’m afraid that our culture of instant gratification and incessant distraction has so spiritually weakened us that we are ill-prepared for the depth and duration of persevering, prevailing prayer that is needed in this hour.  (I include myself in that assessment.)  It is a most critical hour, however, and the future course of our nation and of the world ultimately lies in the hands of God’s people, His royal priesthood. 

We are also the people who are living in the days of the full and final fulfillment of what was prophesied in Joel 2:

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days

I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.  And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved;”  Joel 2:28-32 NIV

This is what the apostle Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was initially poured out on the Church.  (See Acts 2)  If we look at the prophecy closely, however, we see that the ultimate fulfillment will take place “…before the great and dreadful day of the LORD.”, i.e, at the very end of the age.  Pentecost was an initial fulfillment, but the full and final outpouring of the Spirit is still yet to come.  I believe we are living in the very days leading up to this great, last work of God that will serve to perfect the Bride and bring in the final harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God before the end comes.

As with all great moves of God, including the initial outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, there is always a birthing process that culminates in travailing, prevailing prayer. (For the ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost, it says of the approximately 120 believers in the Upper Room: They all joined together constantly in prayer…” Acts 1:14)

If we go back to the original prophecy in Joel, we see that there is a prerequisite to the promise, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people…

That prerequisite is found in Joel 2:12-17:

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”  Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.  Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.  Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast.  Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.  Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the portico and the altar.  Let them say, “Spare your people, LORD.  Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations.  Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ”

This spirit of heart-rending repentance and importunate intercession is the travail that births the merciful, bountiful, restorative work of the Spirit that follows by the grace of God. (See Joel 2:18-32) 

It is this level of travailing, prevailing prayer that is needed in this hour not only because of what is happening geo-politically, economically, and concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, but also in regards to the Lord’s desire to culminate the age in one last global outpouring of His Spirit to purify His Bride and bring in the final harvest.

~ ~ ~

It’s important as we consider this matter of travailing, prevailing prayer, that even this is a work of the grace of God by His Spirit.  Charles Spurgeon said, “Whenever God determines to do a great work, He first sets His people to pray.”  One of my teachers in Bible School further said, “Travail doesn’t bring on the baby; the baby brings on travail.”  And so, when God seeks to birth a new work in the earth, He begins the process with conception within His people, leading to the inward formation of what becomes an increasing burden to bear, eventuating in the birthing process of increased spiritual birth pains, travailing intercession, and intensified labor unto childbirth.  Paul spoke of this as even an ongoing process when he said to the churches of Galatia, “My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you–” (Galatians 4:19 ASV) 

Our part, then, is to give ourselves to the Lord, seeking intimacy with Him that He may conceive within us the seeds of His new work, nurture what is conceived through continued prayer until it is fully formed within, and then cooperate with the Lord in the laborious birthing process of travailing intercession and prevailing prayer.  This is the way that God has worked to bring forth every great move of His Spirit throughout Church history, beginning at Pentecost.

It should also be noted that the reason God employs this process is that He wants His Bride fully engaged and fully participating with Him in the work that He desires to birth in the earth.  In His sovereignty, He has chosen to work in co-operation with His people in relation to the earth over which He has given them dominion.  He has chosen prayer as a primary means of engaging our participation as His royal priesthood and reigning Bride.

He also has chosen this arduous and prolonged process of “childbirth” because it is only by this depth and duration of prayer that our hearts are possibly prepared to become the “new wineskins” that will be able to contain the “new wine” of the outpouring of His Spirit when it comes.  Frank Bartleman, one of the main intercessors and instruments used to birth the Azusa Street revival, said,

“There is always much need of heart preparation, in humility and separation, before God can consistently come. ” (Another Wave of Revival, pg. 10) 

If God were to pour out the new wine of His Spirit without this deep heart preparation, the old wineskins of our inflexible hearts would not be able to contain it, possibly be damaged by it, and the wine would pour out and be wasted.  God knows the deep preparation that is needed within His people before He can do such a new work of His Spirit.

~ ~ ~

On a personal note, I can say that I’ve been feeling the “seed” of God’s “new thing” growing inside of me now for months and it is developing now to the stage of increasing birth pains.  I don’t believe I am alone in this for it seems there is this same process going on in many in the area where I live, across this nation, and around the world. 

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”  Isaiah 43:19 NIV

~ ~ ~

As a final piece to this post, I want to share a few links for you to consider that will help to confirm and further express the things that I’ve shared thus far.  We need to learn from our forefathers and allow the echoes of their lives to reverberate down through the ages into our hearts today.  They have much to teach us of the ways and works of God.  I commend the following pieces to you, the Bride of Christ, in whom and through whom God seeks to birth His new great work!

E. M. Bounds, the great man of prayer, was a Civil War chaplain and in his biography it shares that there were two books he always had with him, his Bible and the diary of David Brainerd.  The following is his brief recounting of the life and ministry of David Brainerd.

The following video also touches on the prayer ministry of David Brainerd as well as other leaders of the First Great Awakening.

May these videos further inspire you in this last days calling to concerted prayer and intercession for the nations!

All blessings,

The Final Call to Repentance and The Return
The Return Is Over…but is it?
The Essentials of Prayer – by E. M. Bounds (free audiobook)
The Ministry of Intercession – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)


Posted in Church History/Development, Prayer and Intercession, The Inner Life | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Return Is Over…but is it?

The Return was truly a powerful and, I believe, history-shaping event.  I was deeply moved by it and believe it deeply moved the heart of God!  For those who partook of and engaged in it, I’m sure you would concur!  It had all the marks of Divine providence upon it and the anointing of the Holy Spirit throughout was abundantly manifest!  All glory to God for His mercy and grace!

As well as there being a great blessing that comes with initiatives and events such as this, however, there is also a great danger that can accompany them.  After they have passed, we can easily hail them as “powerful” “history-shaping”, “deeply moving”, and the like, and then put ribbons on them, set them up on the trophy shelf, and move on with life pretty much the same as before.  Such an attitude can not only undo much of the good that was done in people’s hearts, but also has the ability to provoke the Lord to remove His hand of mercy and grace that would have otherwise been extended as a result of the event.

God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel about such an attitude in the hearts of the people of Israel whom he was warning of impending judgement if they did not turn from their sins. The Lord said,

“As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.’  My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice.  Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.  Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.  When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” Ezekiel 30:30-33 NIV

Jonathan Cahn delivered an anointed “watchman’s” word to the nation of America on Saturday morning as the primary address of The Return event.  It was powerful and prophetic.  I want to encourage everyone to watch and listen to his word (again.)   Moreover, I want to encourage you to ponder it deeply in your heart, pray into it, and then put into practice whatever the Lord speaks to you concerning it.  (I extend this encouragement to those of you who do not live in the USA as well, for there are universal principles shared that likewise apply to your nation, and the future of America will also impact, for good or bad, the future of the entire world.  We are all in this together!)

There were many moments of deep and sincere prayers of repentance and intercession during this solemn assembly which I believe were deeply effectual both in the heavens and in the earth.  In fact, it surpassed my expectations, which I admit were hopeful and yet slightly reserved.  (I’ve been involved with a handful of other similar national gatherings and I’ve been disappointed that many seemed more about the speakers and singers than about actual, deep, collective repentance and extended periods of effectual fervent prayer from God’s people in the assembly.)

The fact of the matter, however, is that no individual heart, and certainly no nation, is ever turned around and brought back to an ongoing dedication to God through any single event, no matter how deep and moving it may be.  It is primarily what gets set in motion and then carried on through an ongoing and perpetual returning, repentance, life of prayer, and obedience that is the lasting value of such events.  In other words, it’s not about going to a concert of beautiful “loves songs”, its about actually becoming better “lovers!”

John the Baptist said to the Pharisees, Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance…” Luke 3:8 NKJV  Or as the Complete Jewish Bible words it, “If you have really turned from your sins, produce fruit that will prove it!”  So, now is the time that we need to put into practice what was declared, prayed, repented unto, and committed to.  It is the fruits of repentance that God is now looking for, not a trophy event on the shelf!

Our nation, and the nations of the world are in a titanic spiritual and natural battle, and will be unto the end.  The forces of darkness know that their time is short and the Kingdom of God is advancing against them with spiritual “violence.” (Matthew 11:12)  We do not wage war with the weapons of this world, but with the weapons of prayer, fasting, intercession, humility, obedience, worship, the Word of God, and the word of our testimony.  What has begun with this solemn assembly, then, must now be pressed forward unrelentingly!  The RETURN isn’t over, it has only just begun!

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Unto that end, then, below are links to the entire live-stream “replay” of The Return, to the main address by Jonathan Cahn, and to some additional 40-day fasts that are underway leading up to the most consequential election of our lifetime!  Please partake of these!

In addition, as long as I hear the reverberations of the “trumpet” in my spirit for this critical hour, I will also continue to put out some additional smaller posts with encouraging and edifying material for equipping the saints in this epic, end-times battle.  I pray that you will be blessed and strengthened by them!  The Lord of Hosts is with us!  The trumpet is still sounding!!

The Return – Replay  Three live-stream videos encompassing the entire two-day event.

Jonathan Cahn’s prophetic word to America:

40-Day Prayer Fasts to be joined:

“Pray in Unity” – with Dr. Cindy Jacobs and others


Yours in the battle…and in the victory of Christ,

The Final Call to Repentance and The Return
1857 Prayer Revival – Can it Happen Again?
Call to a (Virtual) Solemn Assembly – [UPDATED with follow-up report]
The Ministry of Intercession – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)

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The Return – Live Stream (and more)

UPDATE: (9/27/2020) The Return was a very powerful event that I believe will prove to be historic in our nation’s unfolding destiny.  I have updated the link below to the live-stream replay of the gatherings Friday night and all day Saturday.  It is essential that the solemn call to national and global repentance and prayer continue in our lives, our nation, and our world.  The turning of our hearts and of a nation is never a “one and done” affair.  Never!  I pray this live-stream replay continues to inspire, challenge, convict, and radically change our hearts towards God in the days, weeks and months ahead!

The Return 2020 begins its live-stream today, Friday, September 25, from 6pm -9pm EDT.  The main event streams from 9am – 9pm on Saturday, September 26.

The link for the live-stream is here:


I also wanted to pass on two calls to 40-days of fasting and prayer for our nation that began today, September 25th, forty days out from the election.  The links to those are here:

“Pray in Unity” – with Dr. Cindy Jacobs and others


Very clearly the trumpet is sounding!


The Final Call to Repentance and The Return
1857 Prayer Revival – Can it Happen Again?
The Ministry of Intercession – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)

“The Sacrifices of God” – by David Bolton (original song)

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1857 Prayer Revival – Can it Happen Again?

Today, September 23rd, marks the anniversary of the beginning of this extraordinary prayer movement and the global revival that ensued.  I will let it speak for itself.

For a deeper dive into the events leading up to this revival, how it began, spread, its unique characteristics, and it’s national and global impact, please watch this excellent exposé!

The parallel of the times leading up to this revival and the present time is uncanny!  Now the trumpet and the torch are in our hands!


The Final Call to Repentance and The Return
The Ministry of Intercession – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)
Sowing and Reaping – by Dwight L. Moody (free audiobook)

Posted in Church History/Development, Spiritual Dynamics | 4 Comments

The Final Call to Repentance and The Return

About a month ago I had a very distinct and sustained impression in my spirit of a long, drawn-out trumpet blast.  The spiritual understanding that accompanied it was that the Lord was sounding an alarm and strong rallying call to His people to rouse them from their slumber and get them up to the front lines of the battle.  The specific assignment for His people was for them to engage in the battle for our nation through deep repentance and persistent, prevailing intercession.  These are the most powerful and needed weapons of warfare for the battle that is presently raging.  There was a sense of urgency, ultimatum, and finality that came with this strong and clear impression.

Following this experience, the Lord sovereignly led me to a book written by a dear sister in Christ, Eva Zarley, called, The Final Call to Repentance.  I listened to the audiobook version all the way through and felt that it truly hit the mark and resonated perfectly with what I had been sensing in my spirit.  It is the most thorough, articulate, and accurate call to repentance for the Church collectively, as individual believers, and to unbelievers that I know of.  Every point that is made is grounded in and backed up with Scriptures as well.  I also believe that it was written (and, in the audiobook, read) by the author in a very broken, humble, and obedient spirit.  (Many times in the reading of the book you can hear the author’s heart breaking as she delivers the message the Lord gave her to write.)  There is not much in this book that I disagree with and much that I heartily “Amen!”  I believe it is a significant, prophetic word from the Lord, “for such a time as this!”

I will come back to this book momentarily, but I also want to highlight a very timely and practical expression of what I heard and felt in my spirit that is planned to begin the day following the publishing of this post.  This is a movement and event called “The Return.”  I’m sure many of you are aware of this already, but I feel it is important to share the link and related video here to help further spread the word and to encourage the Body of Christ to solemnly participate in this national and world-wide call to fasting, repentance, and intercession.  The trumpet is sounding!!

Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there.  Our God will fight for us!”
Nehemiah 4:20 NIV

This call spans a ten-day period beginning with the Feast of Trumpets (September 18) and ending with the Day of Atonement (September 28).  Near the end of this period, on September 26, there will be a solemn assembly on the National Mall in Washington, DC that will also be simulcast to the Body of Christ across the nation and around the world. (There are links on the website for how you can participate right where you are.)

I believe this is a divinely-appointed call to prayer and repentance for God’s people and that the future not only of our nation, but of the nations of the world is literally hanging in the balance.  For those of you who are outside of the USA, I encourage you to join in this time of intercession as well for your own nation and also for America and the world.  We are all connected in one Body and are called to labor together for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven!

As part of preparation leading up to this specific event on the 26th, then, I want to, encourage you also to read or listen to the book, The Final Call to Repentance by Eva Zarley.  The free audiobook is published by Scribl and can be found in serialized podcast format here (login required.)  The print and Kindle versions are also available through Amazon, and the print book is, likewise, available through Barnes and Noble (all reasonably priced at $5.95)  Other options may also be found online.

This book truly captures the gravity of the need for repentance in this hour and also cuts to the heart of the specific sins we need to repent of.  I am personally committing to re-listening to the nine episodes of the audiobook podcast that relate to the Church corporately and the Christian individually for the nine days of September 18th through to the 26th, the day of the solemn assembly.  I will take one episode each day as a template for contemplation, repentance, and prayer for that day.  I invite you to consider joining with me in doing the same!

I know in my spirit that the trumpet is sounding long and loud!  I have heard it!  This is the time and this is the hour, even as God declares in Joel 2:

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”  Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.  Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.  
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.  Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast.  Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.  Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the portico and the altar.  Let them say, “Spare your people, LORD.  Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations.  Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ”  Joel 2:12-17 NIV
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Here, then, is the link to “The Return” website and also the announcement video with Jonathan Cahn:

Website: https://thereturn.org/

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Finally, this call to repentance and prayer is not merely for a certain time and place and then we move on or go back to something else.  It is to be the Church’s constant vocation and calling until our Lord Jesus returns.  This post will undoubtedly be posted for months and years after this specific time frame and event has come and gone, but the relevancy of the call must never fade.  May the words and resources offered here be an ongoing source of inspiration and encouragement for those who read to continue on in this heavenly calling!  May we in this way fulfill the Lord’s words to “occupy until I come!” Luke 19:13 KJV

The Ministry of Intercession – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)
A First Century Message to Twentieth Century Christians – by G. Campbell Morgan (free audiobook)  (exposition of Revelation 1-3: The Letters to the Seven Churches)
Call to a (Virtual) Solemn Assembly  (updated with follow-up report.)
“The Sacrifices of God” – by David Bolton  (original song)

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