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.

~ ~ ~

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.


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

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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 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.


#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.

~ ~ ~

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.


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. 🙂


#thecorporatechrist posts:
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 post: 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! 🙂

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A Part of or a Parting of? (#worshipshort)

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!” 

~ ~ ~

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 #worshipshorts:
What Is the Father Seeking?
Neither Here Nor There
…In Spirit
…In Truth 
Get Real

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Get Real (#worshipshort)

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!


Previous #worshipshorts:
What Is the Father Seeking?
Neither Here Nor There
…In Spirit
…In Truth 

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…In Truth (#worshipshort)

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!”


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…In Spirit (#worshipshort)

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

Previous #worshipshorts:
What Is the Father Seeking?
Neither Here Nor There

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Neither Here Nor There (#worshipshort)

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!


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What Is the Father Seeking? (#worshipshort)

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 #worshipshort

Related:
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)

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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!

~ ~ ~

[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.  😉 ]

~ ~ ~

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!

~ ~ ~

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

All blessings in Christ,
David

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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)

~ ~ ~

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!!

~ ~ ~

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)

Amen!


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!

Love!


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)

Related:
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)

Related:
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”

Related:
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

Amen!


Related:
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.

~ ~ ~

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

Boardwalk1

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.)

~ ~ ~

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,
David

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.”

“Paper”

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!


Related:
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,
David


Related: 
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!

* * *

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

and,

Yours in the battle…and in the victory of Christ,
David


Related:
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)

Posted in Prayer and Intercession, Spiritual Warfare | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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!
-David

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:

THE RETURN live-stream REPLAY

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

and,

Very clearly the trumpet is sounding!

-David


Related:
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!

-David


Related:
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
~ ~ ~

Here, then, is the link to “The Return” website and also the announcement video with Jonathan Cahn:

Website: https://thereturn.org/

~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~

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


Related:
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)

Posted in Christ-Centered Resources, Limited-time Offers/Events, Spiritual Warfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

PRINCIPLES Book Revisited – (Restored PDFs and serialized audiobook page added)

The most popular of all pages and posts on this blog for the past six years has been the PRINCIPLES Book (Complete – PDF, mp3 and more) page.  This is the complete resource page for the book whose full title is: Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ by Gospel Fellowships.

In my description of the book I explain,

“This book is the collaborative work of over 100 brothers and sisters, from many different nations and backgrounds, and is a clarion call to the Church to return to her Christ-centered, New Testament roots and expression in these last days.  It is, likewise, a sobering call to prepare the Church for the coming global persecution which is prophesied at the end of the age.  (Matthew 24:9)”

I further expressed,

“I highly recommend this book as one of the most Christ-centered, comprehensive and spiritually practical books on the Church that I have read in a long time.  It not only communicates the truth concerning the life and practice of the New Testament Church, but also the spirit of the New Testament Church comes across powerfully through its pages.  In addition, it’s testimonies and insights from the underground churches in China, North Korea, and Iran are powerful, convicting and compelling.

I believe this is a strategic manual for the Church in this last day, given by the Spirit, to help prepare the Body of Christ for its end-time mission, as well as for the persecution that will undoubtedly accompany it.

The Church in the West desperately needs to hear this message…NOW!”

I fully affirm these words again today and feel even more strongly that “NOW” is even more “NOW” than ever!!

~ ~ ~

In 2016, the PRINCIPLES book was revised slightly and the PDF links to some of the Introductory sections and the three Appendices became inactive (though the mp3 files did not.)  Through the help of one of the readers of this blog, I have recently been able to recover and restore the Appendices PDF files (except for one.)  I wanted to make the readers of this blog aware that they are now accessible again.  (This is also in keeping with the expressed desire/permission of Gospel Fellowships.)  These additional sections have some very substantial content in them and so I encourage you to look them over.  I’ve listed and linked the restored files below for you to easily access.

In addition to this, I’ve set up a page dedicated simply to the mp3 audio files of this book and have collected them according to the book’s major sections in a serialized playlist for consecutive listening.  This makes it much easier to listen through this powerful (professionally recorded) audiobook rather than downloading the individual files.  Below is a sample chapter and the link to the full audiobook page:

Principle 1 – Solely Looking to the Person of Jesus Christ

Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ
(free mp3 audiobook)

I encourage you to take advantage of this excellent, free resource and also to intentionally share it around.  The hour is coming when this may no longer be possible or to do so will have serious consequences!  As Jesus said, We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4 ESV.  I believe that such a time may be fast approaching for many if not all of us if the course of this world does not drastically change!  Now is the time, my brothers and sisters, to do His work!!

The full resource page with all reading, listening, and downloading options is here:

PRINCIPLES Book (Complete – PDF, mp3 and more)

The restored Appendices (PDFs) are as follows:

APPENDIX I – PREPARING THE BODY OF CHRIST FOR PERSECUTION
Preparing for Persecution; To be a Christian by brother Edgar
The Coming Tsunami of Persecution by brother Greg
A Plain Vision for Coming Persecution by brother Brian

APPENDIX II – SELECT TEACHINGS FOR GOSPEL FELLOWSHIPS
Chinese House Churches Interview by brother Denny
God’s New Thing by brother David
Submission and Leadership by brother Zac
Baptism of the Holy Spirit by brother Denny
Without the Holy Spirit of God by brother Chadwick
Loving Your Brothers and Sisters by brother Edgar

APPENDIX III – GOSPEL FELLOWSHIPS ADDITIONAL HELPS AND RESOURCES
Statement of Faith for Gospel Fellowships
Rereading the Book of Acts
Chronological Bible Reading of Scriptures
Gospel Fellowships Hymnal
Gospel Fellowships Readings

~ ~ ~

Finally, I encourage you to visit the Resources section on this site to take advantage of other excellent free resources that are linked there.  The FREE AUDIOBOOKS sub-section, for instance, has dedicated pages for audiobooks by A.W. Tozer, Andrew Murray, E.M. Bounds, R.A. Torrey, Catherine Booth, D.L. Moody, and more for your spiritual nourishment and edification!

“Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.”
Isaiah 55:2 NIV

May you be richly blessed by these anointed, print and audio offerings!

All blessings in Christ Jesus,
David


For more content related to the gathering of believers under the headship of Jesus Christ,  please see the following category link:
https://christcenteredchristianity.com/category/the-headship-of-christ/


“mystery post”  (Different with each click 🙂 )
Posted in Audiobooks, Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Resources, Christ-centered worship, The Ekklesia, The Headship of Christ | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Pt. 3: “Generational Dynamics”

What do moral integrity, moral relativism, pragmatic reasoning, blame-shifting, selective outrage, deceit, conceit, self-rejection, fight-or-flight response, confirmation bias, jealousy, competitiveness, greed, and bigotry all have in common?

The answer: all of these psychological conditions have at their core the “love”-“hate” relationship.

Three Core Questions

To explore this further, I encourage you to take one or more of the examples above and ask the following three questions of each:

  1. At the core of this condition, what is it that is positively valued and “loved” by those who possess it?
  2. At the core of this condition, what is it that is negatively valued andhated” by those who possess it (because those things oppose, threaten, and/or violate what is positively valued and loved?)
  3. How do these fundamental “love”-“hate” dynamics work to influence, shape, and define that specific condition?

If you take a few minutes with this, I think you’ll discover that with each example, there are fundamental values that are esteemed and embraced by those involved and that the love that is held for these values seeks to protect them from that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates them.  This is the “love” dynamic.  (For more on this, please see Part 1)

Furthermore, this protection comes in some “thorny” form of rejection of and/or separation from that which opposes, threatens, or violates what is valued and loved.  This is the resultant “hate” dynamic.  (For more on this, please see Part 2)

Working together, this “love”-“hate” dynamic is the primary force that creates, contours, and characterizes each of the examples given.  It should be noted, additionally, that these are just a small sample of the many psychological conditions that this dynamic applies to for most psychological (as well as sociological and spiritual) conditions known to man have buried deep within their core this “love”-“hate” dynamic duo!  (For more on this, please read on!)

“Generational Dynamics”

“Love” and “hate” are opposites and yet in a world where rival loves exist, rival hates also exist in proportional measure.  This may seem counter-intuitive but it is actually so because “love” and “hate” are, in reality, two sides of the same coin.  (And when this coin is tossed, it renders an outcome akin to, “Heads I win, tails you lose.” 😉 )

In the “love”-“hate” relationship, love is the primary, initiating force.  Secondarily, since “Love…always protects” (1 Corinthians 13:7), it generates the “thorny” response of “hate” towards that which opposes, threatens, and or violates what is loved.  This describes what I will call the “first generation” of the “love”-“hate” relationship.  This “first generation” helps to explain a good number of psychological (and sociological) dynamics that are not overly complex and layered.

As an example, take the matter of “jealousy” mentioned in the opening question above.  If Sam is head-over-heals in love with Sally, his love for her seeks to protect her from all that would harm her and also guards their relationship from anything that might encroach upon it to possibly threaten it.  Whatever might be perceived as possibly injurious to Sally or to their relationship becomes something that Sam generates a jealous, protective form of “hate” towards.  This “hate” erects, as it were, a “hedge of thorns” (see Hosea 2:6) around their relationship to create rejection of and separation from anything or anyone who might oppose, threaten, and/or seek to violate it.  This is a straight forward and simple example of the “love”-“hate” relationship in its “first generation” level.

The human condition, both individually and collectively, however, is rarely simple and straight forward, and so we need to see how the “love”-“hate” dynamic develops further with second and subsequent generations as well.  This will help explain a vastly broader dimension of more complex personal, social, and even spiritual dynamics.

In the “first generation” level, “love” alone initiates and has the power to generate “hate.”  In the second and subsequent generations, both “love” and “hate” each have the power to create additional “loves” and additional “hates.”

Four Subsequent Possibilities

To explain more fully how this works, we will utilize a well known phrase and it’s four possible variations to fit all the possibilities.  That phrase is,

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

To understand this in the context of the “love”-“hate” relationship, an “enemy” is related to “hate” and a “friend” related to “love.”  As such, this phrase could be interpreted as saying, in essence, “Those who hate what I hate, I love!”  We should also consider that the “love”/”friend” dynamic is positive in nature, while the “hate”/”enemy” dynamic is negative.

We will now see the four possibilities that exist in the second and subsequent generations of the “love”-“hate” relationship and how this phrase can be worded to express those possibilities:

  1. “Love” generates subsequent “love” The wording of the phrase to reflect this would be: “The friend of my friend is my friend.”  Here, a double positive creates a subsequent positive.
  2. “Love” generates subsequent “hate” – As such, our phrase would be rendered: “The enemy of my friend is my enemy.”  Here, a negative in opposition to a positive, creates a negative.  (This is similar to what happens in the “first generation.”)
  3. “Hate” generates subsequent “hate”This would be phrased: “The friend of my enemy is my enemy.”  In this scenario, a positive interacting with a negative, creates a negative.
  4. “Hate” generates subsequent “love” – Lastly, we have the original wording of the phrase: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  In this scenario, a double negative creates a positive.

Having an understanding of these secondary and subsequent effects is more than a mere curiosity but rather it provides us with a significant set of keys for unlocking a whole host of psychological, sociological, and even spiritual conditions that we might not be able to discern so clearly otherwise.

Four Keys


The first key is to understanding that the “first generation love” is unique from all else that follows.  This “first generation love” is derived simply and purely from the inherent value ascribed to the object that is loved.  All that is generated thereafter, from the “first generation hate” to the “second 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 whatever effectual value, the object has in relation to the “love” or “hate” that it interacts with, whether positive or negativeFor instance an object may have a minor, positive, “first generation”, inherent value, but a major negative, “second generation”, effectual value.  In such a case, the object would ultimately be viewed as a “hate” instead of a “love”, as it normally would on its own, “first generation” terms .

To illustrate this, let’s go back to the “pizza” analogy used earlier in these posts.  This time, instead of talking about pizza being served with anchovies on it, let’s talk about pizza being served with peanut butter on it.  Now, when you consider that strange suggestion, do you have an immediate positive or a negative reaction?  My guess is that you have a negative one.  I, personally, “love” the taste of pizza, and, unlike anchovies, I also “love” the taste of peanut butter.  But, something effectually happens when my pizza and my peanut butter come into close relationship with each other!  In such an unsavory encounter, I would not consider peanut butter to be a friend of my friend, Pizza, but rather an enemy of my friend, Pizza.  As their two distinct flavors clash, the negative effectual value of peanut butter being added to my pizza, outweighs the positive inherent value I normally ascribe to peanut butter all by itself.  In this situation, then, peanut butter switches from a “friend” to an “enemy” and from a “love” to a “hate.”

Now, this “second generation” flip-flopping can happen with things as ordinary as peanut butter, but it can also happen with much more significant and consequential psychological, sociological, and spiritual conditions as well!  If wisely employed, this second key can help greatly in unlocking some of these more complex and layered matters.

The second key it provides is the simple understanding that in the second and subsequent generations of the “love”/”hate” relationship, both “love” and “hate” each have the power to generate subsequent “loves” and subsequent “hates”.  Therefore, when discerning a particular condition or situation, we need to ask ourselves where the evident “loves” and “hates” are derived from and of what nature they actually are?   For instance, we should ask if a particular “love” is 1) a “first generation” love based on the inherent value ascribed to it, 2) the product of a double-positive, “friend of my friend” effect, 3) a double-negative, “enemy of my enemy” dynamic, or 4) a combination of two or more of these.  All of those possibilities exist and it can make a significant difference in discerning the true nature of a condition or situation depending on what the answers to those questions are.

The third key is understanding that most conditions and situations are a mixture of first, second and subsequent generations of “loves” and “hates” all combined together into some sort of psychological, sociological, and/or spiritual “algorithm.”  As such, most conditions and situations cannot simply be taken at face value.  Only as we consider the inherent and effectual values of each “love” and “hate”, where they generate from, and how they interact with each other, can we rightly discern and wisely engage with any complex personal or collective situation.

The fourth and final key is to understand that in order to rightly discern and wisely engage with any condition or situation, whether psychological, sociological, or spiritual in nature, we must peal back the layers until we get to the primary “first generation love(s)” that generated all else thereafter.  If we can engage with a matter at that primary, root level, in love and in truth, true transformation and change can potentially be obtained while maintaining the unity that comes from love.  This is the ultimate key in the key set!

In summary

Many examples could be traced out employing these three questions, multiple possibilities, and four keys, but time and space does not allow in a simple blog post.  My hope is that even this brief introduction will help some to begin to grasp how essential and consequential to all of the human condition this “odd-couple”, “dynamic-duo” really is.  If we understand it from its most simple, “first generational” form to its “multi-generational”, overlapping, inter-twining, flip-flopping complexity, we will be able to have much keener insight into how it manifests on all levels and how many problems and conflicts it can help to reveal, unravel, and resolve.

[For those who would like to explore this further, you might find great benefit in seeing how these principles apply and inter-play in different scenarios presented in Scripture.  May I suggest as examples, the serpent’s tempting of Eve (Genesis 3:1-6), Jehovah’s testing of Abraham (Genesis 22:1-18), Solomon’s ruling concerning two mothers and a baby (1 Kings 3:16-28), and the hypocrisy of Peter in the Galatian church (Galatians 2:11-14) as some possible starters. Extra credit! 😉 ]

In this post we took a deeper look into the multi-layered dynamics of the “love”-“hate” relationship and primarily applied it on the personal, psychological level.  In the next post, we will take a further look at how an understanding of these dynamics can help us both to discern and deal with more complex, “thorny”, cultural and even political issues.  Oh, my!!!

Please stay tuned!


Posts in series:
The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Pt. 1
The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Pt. 2


“mystery post”  (Different with each click 🙂 )
Posted in Spiritual Dynamics | 2 Comments

Sowing and Reaping – by Dwight L. Moody (free resource added)

Hi friends,

Just a quick post to share a special blessing with you today.  I recently listened to an audio recording of Sowing and Reaping by D. L. Moody and, quite frankly, it was one of the most compelling, impactful books I’ve “read” in awhile.  It is a rich exposition of Galatians 6:7-8 which summarizes one of the most significant principles in all of Scripture: the principle of sowing and reaping.  (And it’s not talking about money! 😉 )  It is superbly read by a LibriVox volunteer, Jeremy Sherwood, and is offered free of charge and in the public domain through librivox.org.

Although I wasn’t thinking of the connection at the time I began listening, the focus on “sowing and reaping” tied in so well with the second half of the previous post where we looked at “hate” being the “Thorn/Seed” (according to how it is depicted in the ancient Hebrew language.) and also how we considered that, “The battle of the ages is, in reality, a ‘seed’ battle.”   So, in light of those realities/meditations, I felt this would be a fitting interim post in the midst of this present series on the “love”-“hate” relationship.”

As I’ve done with other classic Christian books offered by Librivox, I’ve added a “Resource” page for Sowing and Reaping to the FREE AUDIOBOOKS section here on the blog.  This includes all the information and play/download links found on the LibriVox website for this book as well as a “Continuous Play” option that I’ve added for your convenience.   Please click here to access:

Sowing and Reaping – by Dwight L. Moody (free audiobook)

I’ve also included below the first chapter for you to have a “first taste” of this book right on this post.  (This chapter includes a section concerning the “sowing and reaping” principle as it relates to nations, that seems especially poignant at this time!  I encourage you to listen!)

For those who wish to read or reference the text online, you may find that here: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/30768

May you be blessed, challenged, and enriched by this powerfully written and quality-produced resource!

Chapter 1 – Sowing and Reaping

All blessings in Christ,
David

P.S. – I will be continuing shortly with Part 3 of The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship series.  If you haven’t had a chance yet to read the prior parts that lay the foundation for Part 3, you may do so by clicking here: Part 1 and Part 2.


Resources page
FREE AUDIOBOOKS page
Sowing and Reaping – by Dwight L. Moody (free audiobook)


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The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Pt. 2: “Hate”

In Part 1 of this post, we looked at the matter of love, and explored where it comes from and what it is in its most essential elements.  We will now take a similar look at its opposite, hate.

The Origins of Hate

The first question we will ask, then, is, “Where does hate come from?”  Now, hold onto your seat, because I think I may just shock you with my answer!  I believe that “hate” is actually an “unexpected child” of a “virtuous mother”.  I believe that “hate” is, unwittingly, yet as a matter of course, actually generated by “LOVE”!  Yes, I did just say that!  I further believe that “hate” increases and decreases proportionally with the measure of “love” that exists.

We generally think of “hate” as an inherently bad and evil attitude or emotion, but if that were universally so, then God, Who is infinitely holy, would not hate anything.  But Scripture says things such as, “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.” (Isaiah 61:8), and of the Messiah, “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (Psalm 45:7).  It also exhorts, Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” (Psalm 97:10), and, “Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).

Here we see that there are things that God hates and that He also exhorts those who love Him and sincerely love others to hate as well, namely wickedness and evil.  In all of these Scriptures, “hate” follows immediately after “love” as a natural negative attitude to the opposite of what is loved.  As such, this form of “hate” constitutes a double negative which is in keeping with God’s positive attributes of goodness and righteousness.  It is the love of what is good and righteous that, as a matter of course, generates hate for wickedness and evil, which are the opposite of that which is loved.  I would sum it up this way:

We “hate” that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates what we “love”!

So, why does God “hate wrongdoing and robbery”?  Because “wrongdoing and robbery” oppose, threaten, and violate “justice” which He loves.  Why are we to “hate evil”?  Because “evil” opposes, threatens, and violates sincere love for God and others and our ability to “cling to what is good”.

That being said, however, “hate” is not usually holy, pure, and righteous, as in God, but is more often evil, impure, and unrighteous when found in and among men.  The reason for this is that mankind is fallen and, first and foremost, the focus of what people love has become twisted and misdirected as a result of that fall.  Instead of loving God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves, they love themselves primarily, and they love the things of this world that provide them with selfish, self-centered value, pleasure, and benefit.

As a secondary result, what people “hate” has also become twisted and misdirected.  We all tend to hate that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates our self-love and its carnal and worldly pursuits and satisfactions.  Because the sinful, fallen nature of both man and the world system are at enmity with God, humanity ends up hating and opposing God and that which is in keeping with His holiness and righteousness.  Thus, much of our hate becomes fallen, misdirected, evil, impure, and unrighteous.

Hate, in and of itself, therefore, is not inherently good or bad, righteous or unrighteous, pure or impure, but it can fall within the entire range of the moral spectrum depending upon its source, motivation, focus, and manifestation.

“Hate” can also be morally neutral.  In Part 1 I gave an example of how someone might say, “I love pizza.”  But if that person were served pizza with anchovies on it, they might say, “Eww, I hate anchovies on pizza.”  Now, those anchovies elicit a mild expression of “hate” because they in fact threaten something the person loves, i.e. the taste of the pizza without anchovies on itThis manner of “hate” is merely a matter of personal preference and doesn’t carry any moral weight with it, either positive or negative.  Even with something as innocuous as this, though, a sense of “hate” still arises from something opposing, threatening, and/or violating that which is “loved”.

To more thoroughly grasp this primary aspect of the “love”-“hate” relationship, I encourage you to try a simple thought experiment:  Think of at least five things that you would say you “hate”, and then see if you can trace each one back to something that you “love” being opposed, threatened, or violated.  (Here are some things that are on my list off the top of my head: alarm clocks, privacy policies, the separated liquid in the mustard bottle, getting old, and…come to think of it, anchovies on my pizza! 😉 )

The fundamental truth to be grasped is that the root of that which we hate, whether morally positive, negative, or neutral, is something that we love being opposed, threatened, and/or violated.  According to Scripture, “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), but it doesn’t automatically cast out hate.  In fact, it first generates it.

So we see that love comes from God and, subsequently, hate is birthed from love when love is rivaled and challenged.  “Hate”, therefore, is the “unexpected child” of the “virtuous mother” called “Love”!

Now that we’ve explored the origins of hate, the next question we need to ask is, what actually is hate?

The Thorn/Seed

The primary Hebrew word translated “hate” in the Old Testament is “sane” (pronounced, “saw-nay”).  Interestingly, the Hebrew language began as a pictographic language with the Hebrew letters symbolizing certain objects that, when combined, gave meanings to Hebrew root words.  The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible explains the following concerning the Hebrew word, “sane”: “The pictograph is a picture of a thorn, then is a picture of seed.”  This symbolism is rich in meaning and worth exploring further.

  • The “thorn”

The first symbol is that of the “thorn”.  We understand from Scripture that thorns were a result of the curse because of the entrance of sin through Adam and Eve’s transgression.  God said to Adam, Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you…” (Genesis 3:17-18).  If we consider what sin is, in its essence it represents a rival “love” to the love of/for God.  Prior to the entrance of sin (rivallove) into creation, all that God had made and loved was harmonious, unopposed, unthreatened, and unviolated in its pristine perfection.  Since hate only finds its origin when what is loved is rivaled and challenged, hate did not exist in this original state.  Once the rivallove of pride (self-love) entered into Lucifer’s heart and was then passed onto mankind through the temptation of Adam and Eve to independent self-interest (self-love), the conditions for hate were ushered into creation.  Once multiple, rival-loves existed, multiple rival-hates spontaneously generated as well.

According to Old Testament scholarship, the Hebrew concept of “hate” (“sane”) holds as its primary meanings the ideas of rejection and separation.   This helps us better understand what God meant, for instance, when He said, “Jacob I have loved; But Esau I have hated (sane)” (Malachi 1:2-3), He was expressing that He accepted Jacob and brought him into the blessings of His love, but He rejected Esau and separated him from those blessings.  Whereas love is a “drawing/unifying effect” (as was expressed in Part 1), hate is a “rejecting/separating effect”.

The consequences and effects of sin (rival-love) entering into creation were, likewise, rejection and separation.  Lucifer was rejected and cast out of heaven; Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, and separated from God’s presence and the “tree of life”.  As a result of Adam’s choosing of sin and disobedience, the ground was cursed by God and part of that curse was that the ground would produce “thorns” (Genesis 3:17-18).

If we consider this aspect of the curse closely, we see just how fitting a symbol for both rejection and separation the thorn is.  In fact, these two effects are a thorn’s primary functions.  By its threatening nature, a thorn minimizes the positive desirableness of the plant, creating rejection, and it also increases the negative consequence of invasive contact, creating separation.  Like hate, a thorn is a defensive mechanism that protects against that which opposes, threatens, and violates what it “loves”, i.e. the plantLike the curse, a thorn is a negative dynamic that threatens and inflicts severe consequences for trespasses and transgressions against it. Thus, a thorn is a fitting symbol for both rejection and separation as well as hate and the curse.

In the ancient Hebrew language, “hate” (“sane”) is represented in the first instance by a thorn because inherent to the nature of hate is rejection and separation.

Before we move on to the next symbol, we should note that as Jesus, in triumphant love, took upon Himself the sin of mankind and the curse of that sin, He bore all of the hatred of God for all that opposes, threatens, and violates what God loves.  In addition, He took on Himself all of the sinful hatred of mankind towards God and his fellow man.  It is, therefore, by Divine providence and purpose that as He hung on the cross, rejected by man and separated from God, bearing the full consequence of Divine and human hate upon His own head, that He bore on His brow a crown of thorns!

  • The “seed”

The second symbol in the pictograph of “hate” (“sane”) is “seed”.  “Hate” not only embodies characteristics of the “thorn”, it also embodies characteristics of “seed.”  We’ve probably all heard it said of some person or group that “they sow the seeds of hate.”  Hate is compared to seed because when it is sown in the hearts and minds of men, it takes root, sprouts, grows, bears fruit (after its kind), multiplies, and spreads.

When evil seeds of “hate” germinate in the hearts and minds of fallen men and women, they send out a root called “bitterness”.  This in turn feeds the sprout called “unforgiveness”, which grows into the thorny plant called “malice”.  This further produces seed-bearing fruit which sows anew the seeds of “hate”, starting the cycle all over again and spreading this malicious, thorny plant far and wide.  Given time, the briar patch of “hate” grows exponentially beyond what was originally sown.  

This is why God says, See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)  Or as the Message translation paraphrases the end of this verse, A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.  As we’ve seen, bitter roots grow from the seeds of hate.

As these seeds of hate grow and spread, both within the individual they were sown in and beyond them into relationships and larger social groups, their thorny growth further has the power to choke out any good seed that is planted.  Jesus expressed this in the Parable of the Sower concerning the seed that was sown among thorns.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” (Matthew 13:7)  The “seeds of hate” not only multiply hate, but choke the good “plants” of love and truth.  This shows the power of hate as both a seed and a thorn.

In conclusion, as with the symbol of the thorn, the symbol and reality of the “seed” is also bound up with and consummated in Christ.  The battle of the ages is, in reality, a “seed” battle.  After the serpent deceived Eve, and Adam partook with her of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the Lord God cursed the serpent and declared,  “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  (Genesis 3:15).

Jesus, the “Seed” of the woman, the “Seed” of Abraham (Galatians 3:16), was born in “the likeness of sinful flesh(Romans 8:3).  On the cross, “God made Him who had no sin, to be sin for us,” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and so He embodied the fallen “DNA” of the cursed “seed”.  This He brought into death and buried in the ground, never to rise again.  In resurrection, the “DNA” of the Seed of Promise came forth out of the earth, in the “garden”, ascended and “reseeded” the earth through His indwelling Spirit.  In the fullness of times, He will fully purify His “Garden” of all “rival-loves”, and their attendant curses of rejection and separation, and hate and hatred will forever be banished.  Thus, the Divine “Seed of Love” will ultimately triumph over the Luciferic/serpentine “seed(s) of hate” that were sown so long ago.

In Summary

We have seen how “hate”, the opposite of “love”, is generated when “love” is opposed, threatened, and/or violated.  We’ve further seen that “hate”, in and of itself, is not morally polarized, but only takes on a moral dynamic when its source, means, and ends are taken into account. Lastly, we’ve also seen that “hate” embodies the twin characteristics of a thorn and a seed.

In the next post, we will look more deeply into the “love”-“hate” relationship itself and make some practical applications of its dueling dynamics in relation to various psychological conditions common to man.


Picture credit: Eli Bolton

Posts in this series:
The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Pt. 1
The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Pt. 3

Related:
The Cross – The Unlevel Playing Field of Satan’s Defeat


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The “Love”-“Hate” Relationship – Pt. 1: “Love”

The “love-hate relationship” is a well-known and studied psychological dynamic that is sometimes found among people in close relationship, and it can also exist in the hearts of people towards certain things (e.g., work, technology, money, etc…) rather than another person.

In this multiple-part post, my intent is to look beneath the surface of this emotional dichotomy, to examine the specific dynamics of love and hate themselves, and to explore their relationship to each other.  If we can understand this fundamental “love”-“hate” relationship, it will not only make the interpersonal “love-hate relationship” more understandable but also shed light on other psychological, cultural, and even spiritual dynamics as well.

It also seems there is a pressing need to focus on this matter at this specific time because the emotion of “hate”, in particular, is front and center in the culture wars and political battles that are raging in our world right now.  It seems there is a common misconception, however, that underlies much of people’s perceptions of “hate” that leads to very polarizing and even dangerous assumptions, judgments, actions, and reactions.  This highly-inflammatory, culture-shaping focus on “hate” will most likely increase in the days ahead, and so it is all the more necessary that we have a deep understanding of its roots, nature, and how it can possibly be diffused, tempered, and even channeled in positive directions.

To begin with, then, I’d like to pose a few questions and then seek to answer them.  First, where does “love” come from and what is it?  Next, where does “hate” come from and what is it?  Then, how are these two opposing dynamics related to each other?  And, lastly, how can we bring the strong emotions of love and hate in line with God’s heart, mind, and will?

Love

First of all, then, let’s consider “love” and where it comes from.  John 1:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God.”  The next verse says simply and profoundly, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (vs. 8)  Love, therefore, is an eternal and essential attribute of God’s nature and of the Divine “community” of His Triune Being, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  All love finds its source in God Himself and would not exist apart from Him.

Furthermore, because mankind is made in God’s image and likeness, love is, likewise, an essential attribute of the human constitution and the human community.

The two greatest commandments given by God to mankind are commandments to “love”.

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: Hear, 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 mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.’ ” Mark 12:28-31 NIV

We also see in Scripture that all of God’s law is summed up in love. “Love does no harm to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10), and, For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14.)  The testimony of Scripture shows the absolute primacy of love as to the Divine intention, design, and calling of mankind who is created to bear His image and likeness and is called into the Divine community of His Triune Being.

This gives us the most fundamental understanding of where love comes from, but what actually is love?

The Greek language has four words that are translated in English as “love”: “agape”, “phileo”, “storge”, and “eros” which express differing aspects and forms of this Divine/human virtue.  (C. S. Lewis explores these in his book, The Four Loves. For a summary, please see here.)  The English language has merely the one word “love”, which is used in a wide range of expressions and applications of this same virtue.  It should also be noted that the word “love” is both a noun and a verb.  It is a virtue of the heart and it is corresponding action that flows out from that virtue.

As I’ve looked to discover the most essential aspect(s) common to all of these words, their meanings, and forms, it seems one element stands out as central and essential to them all.  That element is summed up in the word, “value”.

I once expressed it this way in a tweet:

We “like” what we RECEIVE something of value from.
We “love” what we GIVE something of value to.

Liking often precedes loving for we generally give value to (i.e. “love”) that which we first receive value from (“like”).  For instance, we may say, “I love pizza!” and that is because we have received (or anticipate receiving) something of value from that pizza.

“Love” is not entirely dependent on “liking”, however, for God calls and commands us to: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Such love is unconditional as to whether we receive something of value from our neighbors or not; whether we may “like” them or not.  God’s love, “agape”, is not based on receiving something of value from its subjects, but, instead, of investing something of value into its subjects.

Since “love” is both a noun and a verb, we should look at how this matter of value applies to love along these two lines.  “Love” as a noun is a virtue, attitude, affection, and/or emotion of the heart.  Essential to its nature is that it inherently values its objects.  Words such as “esteem”, “respect”, “honor”, “appreciate”, “prize”, and “treasure”, as well as others like “precious”, “worthy”, and “dear” all have fundamental to their meaning the aspect of value and are the kind of attitudes and emotions that love holds towards its subjects.

This connection between value and love can also be seen in what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  We could paraphrase that in the context of what we are saying as, “For where what you value is, there your love and affection will be.”

Love is not solely a passive virtue of the heart, though, but is made complete when it acts in accordance with its inherent nature.  It is not merely a passive noun, but an active verb.  The primary action that “love” engages in is that of giving.  (Reba McEntire and Michael W. Smith both agree that “Love isn’t love until you give it away.” 🙂 )

Since love inherently values its object, what it gives away to that object is that which is, likewise, of value.  The greater the love, the greater the value it desires and is willing to give.  This giving is, first and foremost, of value to the recipient.  It can also be of negative value in the form of cost/sacrifice to the giver.  The greater the value to the recipient and the greater the cost/sacrifice to the giver, the greater the love that is expressed.

We can see the supreme example of this in the most well-known passage of Scripture, John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  (NKJV)

Here we have God’s love that so greatly values the world that He desires and is willing to give the most costly, sacrificial thing He has to offer, His only begotten Son, so that the world may receive the most valuable gift He could possibly give to them in rescuing them from eternal perishing and giving them everlasting life!  In every respect, Love doesn’t get any greater than that!

The apostle John further said in his first epistle,

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  1 John 3:16-18 NIV

Here, again we see that love is made complete by the giving of that which is valuable/beneficial on the part of the receiver and costly/sacrificial on the part of the giver.  This is the essence of love!

Finally, there is one more characteristic of love that is important to note.  Love has a directional tendency/relational effect as well.  That tendency/effect is one of drawing the parties involved towards each other unto unity.  Love is both outreaching and attracting.  It breaks down barriers, bridges chasms, draws its object, gathers what is scattered, and binds up what is broken and separated.  Scripture calls love “the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:14 NAS)

This is, once again, supremely seen in the greatest expression of Love of the Father giving His Only Begotten as a sacrifice to reconcile the world unto Himself.  He moved toward us in Love, removed all barriers to unity, and is now drawing us towards Himself in Love until we come into perfect unity and union with Him.  This is the directional tendency and relational effect of love.

So, in summary, love is an esteeming affection, a beneficial/sacrificial action, and a drawing/unifying effect, all in one.  This is the essence of God and of His high purpose for you and I, His sons and daughters, made in His image and created for union and communion with Himself.

~ ~ ~

In Part 2 of this post, we will look at the opposing dynamic of “hate” and explore further the “love”-“hate” relationship that exists between these two very powerful forces.


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

Possibly the most crucial aspect of rightly discerning and faithfully engaging in any work of God is to properly and deeply understand its “orientation.”  If this one aspect is missed or misunderstood, it can become the primary reason why a Sovereign move of God quickly wanes and becomes crystallized into a lukewarm, man-controlled, apostate movement.

“Orientation”

The word “orientation” is a very suggestive word when its origins and meaning are understood and seen in light of the things of God.  The root word “orient” means “east” and its linguistic origins are described as such: “‘from Latin orientem (nominative oriens) ‘the rising sun, the east, part of the sky where the sun rises,’ originally ‘rising’ (adj.), present participle of oriri ‘to rise'” (Online Etymology Dictionary* –  emphasis added.)

The noun, “orientation”, therefore,  has the meaning: “arrangement (of a building, etc.) to face east or any other specified direction,” (Online Etymology Dictionary*).

The primary meaning of the word, then, has to do with the direction of the rising Sun and of the positioning of something in relation to it, namely, facing East.

When it comes to the Biblical concept of “orientation”, we see, for starters, that one of the primary Hebrew words translated “east”, “mizrach”, is also translated “sunrise” and comes from a root word, “zarach” which means, ” to rise, come forth, break forth, break out, arise, rise up, shine” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance*) showing the inseparable connection in the Hebrew understanding between the word “east” and the rising Sun.

The other primary Hebrew word translated “east”, “qedem” has both a directional aspect, being translated: “east”, “in front of”, and “before”, and also a time element, being additionally translated: “aforetime”, “ancient”, “from of old”, and “beginning”*, indicating source or origin.

[Note: there is a similar connection between the English words “orient” (east) and “origin” (beginning) with both coming from the Latin root, “oriri”, meaning to, “arise, rise, get up; appear above the horizon, become visible; be born, be descended, receive life;”.*]

To the ancient Hebrew mind, “East” was the primary ordinance/direction and the other directions were derived from it.  Their maps, for instance, would have the East at the top of the map, West on the bottom and North/South to the left and right respectively. (Interestingly, their word for “north” also translates, “left”, and “south” also translates “right”.)  They further viewed the direction “east” as representing beginnings, origins, the past, antiquity, and even eternity.* 

In the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament, we find that the direction East, the direction of the rising Sun, figures prominently as to the physical orientation of many of the most significant things God created, instituted, and/or ordained for His purpose.  Consider the following that had an eastward orientation:

  • The Garden of Eden – Gen. 2:8
  • The way to the tree of life – Gen. 3:24
  • Abram’s altar in relation to Bethel – Gen. 12:8 – (first mention of “Bethel” =“The house of God” and in keeping with later tabernacle/temple arrangement and pattern.)
  • The Tabernacle of Moses – Including the entrance to the outer court, the entrance to the Holy Place, the Veil, and the Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies. – Ex. 25-27, 38,40  (See Ex. 27:13-16 & 38:13-15 for description of entrance on east end.)
  • The encampment outside of the Tabernacle of the preeminent tribe of Judah – Num. 2:3 (from which Jesus of Nazareth descended – Matt.1:2), as well as the assigned encampment for Moses, Aaron and his sons (the priestly family.) – Num. 3:38, and two other tribes.
  • The Jordan River in relation to Canaan, through which the Israelites crossed to enter the land of their inheritance.  (Josh. 3-4, See 4:19 for eastern orientation of where they camped after crossing.)
  • The Temple of Solomon – Bible Scholars and archaeologists confirm that the Temple of Solomon was oriented eastward, toward the rising Sun.* *
  • Ezekiel’s Temple – Faced east (Ezek.8:16, 41:14, 47:1); the glory departed to the east (Ezek. 10:19, 11:23); the glory returns from the east through the east gate (Ezek.43:1-4); the steps to the altar faced east (Ezek.43:17); the east gate was shut and was to “remain shut because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it.” (Ezek.44:1-3); special regulations related to “the Prince” were given for entrance into the inner sanctuary through the east gate (Ezek.44:1-3, 46:1-8,12) water flowed out of the temple on the east side and flowed eastward to the Jordan river (Ezek. 47:1-8).
  • The Eastern Gate (“Golden Gate”, “Beautiful Gate”, “Mercy Gate”) of the city of Jerusalem, which led directly to the temple.  This is the gate through which Jesus entered the Sunday before His crucifixion (Matt. 21:1-11, i.e. His “triumphal entry”).  According to Jewish and Christian tradition, this is the gate through which the Messiah shall enter when He comes/returns.
  • The Garden of Gethsemane in relation to the temple mount and the city of Jerusalem [significant as to the Second Adam being in a “garden” making the choice that would undue the choice of the First Adam who was also in a “garden in the east.” (Gen. 2:8)]
  • The Mount of Olives in relation to the Temple and City of Jerusalem from which Jesus ascended (Lk. 24:50-51, Acts 1:12) and upon which His feet shall touch when He returns. (Zech. 14:4)
  • On Passover, halfway between the vernal and autumnal equinox, the sun rises due East of the temple mount over the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.*
  • The Magi came from the east at the birth of Christ. Matt. 2:1-12
  • Christian tradition has it that while was on the cross, Jesus Christ was facing West and, therefore, those who were beholding Him, were facing East.*
  • The believed direction from which the Son of Man will come when He returns. Matt.24:27

From these (in sum or in part), the following examples of Jewish and Christian practices were derived:

  • Synagogues were built with an eastward orientation
  • Certain sects of the Jews face eastward when praying.
  • Christians cathedrals were built with an eastward orientation.
  • Early Christians customarily worshiped and prayed facing eastward.
  • Early and Orthodox Christians baptized with initiants facing east.
  • In traditional Christian burial, grave stones customarily face east and the body is buried with the feet to the east so as to be oriented for the return of Christ.

[For an expression of early Christian beliefs and practices in this regard by John of Damascus (645-749 AD), please see here.]

In summary, then, God Himself attached great significance to the direction of the rising Sun, East, and has incorporated that significance into many of the most weighty aspects of His works, ways, and worship.  Orthodox Jews and Christians have, likewise, given special reverence and attention to this orientation in the ordering of diverse elements of their worship of God.

First the Natural, Then the Spiritual

The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual”
(1 Cor. 15:46)

You may be wondering why focusing on this matter in such detail is relevant, especially to this series on “when God does a new thing”.  Well, if we look closely at the above list of things God has created, instituted, and/or ordained for His purpose that have an eastward orientation, we see that all of them point, in some way, to the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The reason for this is clear when we see from Scripture that the natural Sun is merely a physical type and shadow of the spiritual Son.

But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings;” (Malachi 4:2 NKJV)

[For a more thorough exploration of this typology, please see the post,
A Copernican-Style Revelation and Revolution.]

The orientation of the most significant aspects of the works, ways, and worship of God toward the rising Sun in the physical realm, therefore, is merely a natural, God-ordained signpost pointing to the spiritual realm where all of the works, ways, and worship of God are ordained of the Father to be oriented to the risen Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The natural, physical “shadow” fades and even disappears in the brilliance of the supernatural, spiritual Light of its fulfillment.  Facing the rising Sun in all things religious is no longer the main point; facing the Risen Son in all things spiritual is!

The Orientation of God’s “New Thing”

It is this reality of the spiritual orientation of all things in God’s eternal purpose to the risen Son of God that critically comes to bear on the “new thing” God desires to do in the midst of His people today.  No matter what that “new thing” is or will be, it is forever and inviolably ordained of the Father to point to, be centered in, and further reveal Jesus Christ, His Beloved Son.  [To test the validity of this statement, I encourage you to go back through the Scriptures and find all the instances in which God did a “new thing” among His people and see if the “testimony of Jesus” is not somehow clearly evident and/or cryptically (prophetically) embedded within it.]  From the Father’s perspective, all of His works and ways are Christ-oriented!

This reality is not a matter of mere intellectual intrigue or ascent.  It is deeply practical and consequential in its spiritual applications and ramifications.  Only when this spiritual orientation is obtained and maintained will any and all works of God be able to go forward with His approval, endorsement, and favor without diverting from their ordained purpose, full development, and intended consequences.

If any other facet or feature of God’s work ever becomes preeminent and/or central in the hearts and minds of God’s people, or is looked to and trusted in as either the primary source, means, or end of God’s working, spiritual disorientation sets in.  The resultant consequences of such disorientation will eventually lead to increasing levels of spiritual distortion, deception, diminishment, and, ultimately, division within the Body of Christ, without exception.

Such disorienting factors connected to the work of God that often seduce away from and supplant Christ’s unrivaled preeminence in all things may include the following:

1. a distinctive emphasis
2. a preeminent truth
3. a prominent personality
4. a centralized location
5. an employed method
6. a desired manifestation
7. a distinguishing identity
8. a resultant effect

ALL of these are secondary matters and must forever be kept in their proper place and perspective as such.  If any one, or combination of these, ever begin to outshine the Risen Son as to His centrality, significance, and all-sufficiency in all things and become the distinguishing feature and/or focus of any work of God, they stand in the place of idolatry, and spiritual distortion and disintegration will shortly ensue.  Tragically, because man tends to look on the outward things and is also uncomfortable yielding control, not taking credit, and not crystallizing mindsets and methods, such distraction, defilement, and diminishment is all but inevitable.

In order to stay spiritually oriented then, according to the heart, mind, and will of the Father, any work of God must perpetually hold and guard as central, supreme, and all-sufficient the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as:

1. The Distinctive Emphasis
2. The Preeminent Truth
3. The Prominent Personality
4. The Centralized Location
5. The Employed Method
6. The Desired Manifestation
7. The Distinguishing Identity
8. The Resultant Effect

He is the Alpha and Omega of all of God’s ways.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life of all of God’s works.  ALL facets, features, and factors find their ORIGINS IN HIM and are eternally and immutably ORIENTED TO HIM

Let it be forever settled in the hearts and minds of God’s people, then, that whatever “new thing” God does in the earth, it is and will be, at its foundation and core, a fresh revelation and manifestation of CHRIST HIMSELF!   If it ever becomes anything essentially other than HIM, it has become spiritually disoriented and is surely missing the mark of God’s sovereign desire and intention!

Only when God’s people ORIENT themselves to the RISEN SON in all things will they be able to properly apprehend, align with, and engage in whatever “new thing” God is doing in the earth in a way that is pleasing, faithful, and fruitful to HIM!

~ ~ ~

JESUS CHRIST,
THE RISEN SON,
is our
SPIRITUAL “EAST”;

the
ORIGIN
and
“ORIENT”
of
ALL THINGS!

AMEN!!!

~ ~ ~

 To be continued…


“When God Does a New Thing” series posts: Pt.1: “Preparation”Pt.2: “Expectation”,  Pt. 3: “Misapprehension”,  Pt. 4: “Misapprehension (continued)”

Other related:
A Copernican-Style Revelation and Revolution (“Christ the Center”; series revisited – Part 1)


“mystery post”  (Different with each click 🙂 )
Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity - Foundations, Christ-Centered Spirituality, Christ-centered worship, Spiritual Dynamics, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Our Deepest Convictions (timely repost)

We are living in very intense, tumultuous times!  In America, the “melting pot” has become a “boiling pot”!  In the midst of the turmoil, deep convictions are creating intense emotions and intense emotions are, in turn, creating deep convictions…some good, some bad, and some downright ugly!

In the midst of the wild pendulum swings of intense emotions, it is very difficult to arrive at complete, balanced, plumbline truth.  In fact, it is almost impossible!  But it is only the Truth that sets us free…the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth!  Although partial truth, strongly felt, feels like whole Truth, it is not, and in the end it only brings greater bondage, not freedom!  Over-compensation for error only creates more imbalanced error that in time will be attempted to be over-compensated for in the opposite direction, creating more imbalanced error.  And so the pendulum swings and swings and swings!  Whole Truth, God’s Truth, however, hangs still and undisturbed like a Plumbline!

Christians are not immune to these imbalances, and are possibly even more prone to them than others, for we often latch onto a portion of God’s truth on a matter and cling to it as if it is the totality of His Truth.  Because we assume it has the authority of God behind it, having its foundation in the Word of God, we cling to it with a “holy” passion, tenacity, and conviction.  Partial, imbalanced convictions, however, even when drawn from Scripture, can actually be dangerous and even play right into the Enemy’s hand, causing distortion, deception, and division.  I see this happening on a broad scale right now among God’s people, and it breaks my heart.

In talking with my wife about this the other day, I thought of a “tweet” I put out some 7 years ago and then later expanded on in a relatively short post.  I pulled that post up for her to read and in re-reading it myself, felt it might also be very timely to share again on this blog.

I pray that it is helpful as you process the complex, deeply-layered, no-simple-solution challenges that are facing our nation and our world right now.  As those who are called to have the mind and heart of Christ, and to be “salt” and “light” in this world, may we be the most insightful, well-balanced, thoroughly-informed, holistic, reconciling voices in the midst of this volatile, polarized, broken world of ours.  I personally believe that becoming that voice begins with what is summed up in the following words. I hope you are blessed by them!  -David

~ ~ ~

Our Deepest Convictions

Our deepest convictions should come from a positive response to Truth, not from a negative reaction to error, or we will fall into new error.”

God Himself, and His eternal purpose, are infinitely positive.  He is Light.  He is Life.  He is Love.  All that He is, all that He does, and all that He will do flow out of His incomprehensible goodness, righteousness and truth.  His thoughts and His ways embody the fullness of glory and perfection.  Nothing in all of His infinite attributes are the slightest bit diminished or tainted by that which is negative.

All that is around us, however, is tarnished by the negative.  All falls short.  Everything here eventually fails.  We are immersed in the atmosphere of short-coming, disappointment, twistedness, opposition, destruction, decay and death.  These are the powerful forces at work in our fallen universe.  This is our daily reality.

As we are battered and bruised by these forces, our human nature reacts and responds with shun and disgust.  We become negative to the negative. Instead of this bringing us to a true positive, however, it merely keeps us whirling in an imbalanced cycle of partial and overcompensating negatives.  We latch onto jaded perceptions, reactionary conclusions and imbalanced convictions, and own them as Truth.  These in turn lead to subsequent excesses and imbalances which begin the cycle all over again.  Instead of being a settled plumbline, we become an ever swinging pendulum.

Nothing is more powerful for forming deep convictions within us than that which deeply touches our emotions.  When pain, heartache, injury, abuse, suffering, offense and the like creep or crash into our lives, we process it emotionally and draw conscious conclusions that fundamentally shape our lives and perspectives.  It is all but inevitable in the process that we over-compensate for our negative experiences by hyper-inflating certain aspects of truth that counter the error or evil that we have experienced.  Powered by our strong emotions, these partial and imbalanced conclusions form deep convictions within us that are rarely, in the fullest sense, objective, holistic, complete and balanced.

If we are to break this reactionary cycle, then, we must begin at a new starting point.  We must begin where all is positive and Truth is found in fullness and balance.  We must begin where all is proactive and nothing is reactive.  Our starting point must be God Himself.  “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)  As we look unto Him, we behold the One who is the TRUTH.  Nothing can be added or taken away from Him.  Nothing is jaded, askew, tarnished or tainted in all of His perfections.  All is full, balanced, unsullied, and at rest.  This must be our beginning point; our Alpha in the search for Truth.  All of our highest conceptions, deepest convictions and most far-reaching conclusions must spring out of this pure, non-reactionary revelation of God and His eternal purpose.

As this becomes our starting point and we come into a clear revelation of the One who is the Light, we begin to see that which is also of and according to the Light. “…in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)  “…for the fruit of the light consists in all righteousness, goodness and truth.”(Ephesians 5:9)  Here our understanding of that which is of and according to the Light is purely positive.  This is the Truth that God Himself is, knows and lives by.  This is where we discover Truth that is protected from the strong and subtle winds of human negativity and reactionism.  This is where our highest revelations and deepest convictions are purely fashioned.

Not only do we see “light” in God’s Light, we are also able to see and discern that which is not light in His Light.  “…for it is light that makes everything visible.” (Ephesians 5:14)  “The light shines in the darkness.” (John 1:5a)  Only through His Light are we able to clearly and properly discern all forms of darkness.  This darkness appears as varying shades of grey, all the way to black.  It also appears as shining forms of counterfeit light. When our starting place is the pure positive of God’s Light, all forms of darkness are seen proactively and purely as God sees them, not as reactionary “double negatives” to darkness.  Only then do our convictions become “plumb line” rather than “pendulum” in nature.  Only then do they purely represent Truth and not reactively embody a new form of “enlightened” darkness.

If we are to be the true “children of Light”, then, we must lift up our eyes far above all the darkness and negativity that surrounds us.  We must lay aside all the weights and hindrances that keep us earthbound and with sustained gaze, behold the One who inhabits eternity, enthroned in resplendent glory.  We must let the darkness-destroying purity of His Light permeate into the deep roots of our humanity, heal us and convert us to His pure positive.

This is where our deepest convictions must be formed if we are to fully and purely know and live in the TRUTH.

~ ~ ~

May we rise up above all the turmoil and turbulence of this hour and immerse ourselves in the pure Light of God’s Truth.  May we embody and be the voice of the wisdom that is from above” which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” James 3:17KJV 

That is what Truth looks like when it is Plumbline!  Amen!!


Related:

Pragmatism and the Truth

Truth

RTs

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Original Songs (Playlist Added)

Hi friends,

In this post, I’m stepping out on a limb a bit to share a certain aspect of my life and walk with Christ that, for the most part, only those who are close to me are significantly aware of.  When I was first saved in 1978, at age 18, I had the desire to learn to play guitar and use it for worshiping God, privately and in the home fellowship I was a part of.  After I learned about three chords, I asked the Lord if He would help me write a song for Him.  I didn’t know anything about songwriting, could barely play the guitar, and my lack of ability to carry a tune and sing on key was painfully evident.  But I had the faith to believe He could help me.  The next day as I was going about my business, I began to sing a little song in my heart.  I went and got my guitar and figured out the three chords I needed to play it.  Within a very short time, three more verses were added and, voila!, my first song, “Revival”, was written by the grace and inspiration of the Lord!

Over the years, that list of songs has grown to over one hundred, and by His grace, I’ve learned to play a few more chords, and even somewhat be able to carry a tune! 😉  Most of these songs have been expressions of and for my personal devotion to the Lord and for sharing with those I’ve been close to in fellowship.  I’ve never done much more with them than that.

Within the past year, I’ve felt the Lord stirring me to be a better steward of this gift and to begin to record a number of them so that they could be shared more broadly with others for their edification.  Many of the songs He has inspired me to write are portions of Scripture put to music, which is a wonderful way to enter into the Spirit of God’s Word and for His Word to enter into our spirit.

Recently, I’ve been able to record a number of these and have chosen ones, especially, that have related to blog posts that I’ve published the past few months.  I’ve begun attaching them to the bottom of the posts as a further expression and affirmation of their content.  I’ve also added them to the permanent section on this blog, Original Poems/Songs, under the Creative Expressions section.  (I will be adding additional songs to this section as I am able to, so please check back every so often!)

I wanted to introduce these new additions to the blog by giving a little background and also share the links to the recent posts I felt that they complemented.  Each of these songs also have their own separate pages with their lyrics and an mp3 player attached, which are linked below as well.

At the bottom of this post is a playlist/player comprising all eight songs for continuous play.  (I was originally planning on only seven, but in writing this post, I thought it might be fun to also include the first song, “Revival”, as well. So, I recorded it and teed it up as the first song on the playlist. 🙂 )

Please know that these are simple, acoustic recordings (just me and my guitar), are not professionally or studio recorded (just a microphone, laptop, and some Audacity software) and are meant for quiet meditation on Scriptural truths.  I would ask that you consider listening to them when you have time to quietly soak in the truths of these Scripture-based songs (and, if possible, with headphones or earbuds as that is the best way to enjoy them. 😉 )

Finally, just to cover the legal aspect, although these songs are copyrighted, please feel free to use them for personal and in small group settings if you so desire.  I ask that they not be shared over the internet except by linking directly to this post or other page(s) on this blog where they are posted (see below.)  Thank you for respecting that!  (If anyone would like chord sheets or possibly further permissions, you may contact me at david[at]christcenteredchristianity[dot]com to request such and/or discuss further.  Thanks.)

~ ~ ~

And so, without further ado, here are the links to the individual pages for each song, along with the posts they have been attached to (for context.)

Below these is the playlist/player of all eight songs!

Enjoy!

“Revival” – by David Bolton

Divine Healing – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)
“I Would Have Despaired” – by David Bolton
“They That Wait” – by David Bolton

“Life Together” – by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (limited-time free audiobook offer)
“Behold How Good and How Pleasant” (Psalm 133) – by David Bolton

Five Dynamics of the Spiritual Life
“He Must Increase” – by David Bolton

Call to a (Virtual) Solemn Assembly – [UPDATED with follow-up report]
“The Sacrifices of God” – by David Bolton

When God Does a New Thing – Part 1: Preparation
“We’re Going Up” – by David Bolton

When God Does a New Thing – Pt. 3: Misapprehension
“Pressing On” – by David Bolton

 

 


Original Poems/Songs

Creative Expressions

Posted in Christ-Centered Resources, Christ-centered worship, Music | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

When God Does a New Thing – Pt. 4: Misapprehension (continued)

Ironically, my meditation on God’s “new thing” is not actually a “new thing”.  It’s been a part of my understanding of God and how He works from my earliest days of walking with Him.  Once we understand the nature of God as being sovereign, of limitless power and creativity, and as “The GOD of the “new thing'” as revealed in creation and Scripture  (Part 2), that understanding becomes a part of one’s base-line perception and expectation of who God is and how He works.  This has had very practical ramifications for my wife and I as we have walked with God for over forty years and how we’ve sought to serve Him in the building up of His Ekklesia.

As an example of this, some 25 years ago now, my wife and I were led of the Lord to gather a scattered remnant of believers in a certain nearby town.  We held foundation-laying “ministry meetings” in a rented hall on Sunday nights for a number of years and eventually included Sunday morning home gatherings as a means of seeking to see birthed an organic expression of His Church in that area.  People would ask, “Are you starting a church?” and we would answer, “No, the church is already there.  We’re just trying to gather it!”

For many, if not most, our “vision” was something of a “new thing”.  It didn’t fit the normal model or mold of what “church” is.  It wasn’t institutional/organizational/denominational, Sunday morning/sacred building/service and program oriented.  There was no prescripted “order of worship” nor pre-determined “worship sets”.  Neither were there weekly bulletins, Sunday school, children’s church, offeratories, ushers, worship team, etc…  I didn’t like or want to be called “Pastor”, “Rev.” or any other honorific title (since Jesus said these should not be used among His followers – Matthew 23:8-12), neither was I salaried nor drew a stipend. How could this possibly be “real church???”

What did the vision consist of though?  Well, we sought to gather the “living stones” of God’s building together on the foundation of Jesus Christ alone to be a manifest habitation of God in the Spirit!  We sought to gather the family of God together in the Name of the Lord, the Name above every name, and not in some sectarian, man-made, lesser name.   We sought to gather the Bride together around Her one Husband, Christ, as Her central passion, pursuit, and pleasure…period!  We sought to see the Body of Christ assemble under the Headship of Christ as a functioning, many-membered, spiritual organism.  Our “vision statement” said: “We seek to see an organic expression of the Church established, according to the heavenly pattern, where God can put His Name, establish His throne, and inhabit with His glory.”  And He did!

As an essential part of laying foundations concerning the works and ways of God, I taught a message back then (1995) called, surprise, surprise“When God Does a New Thing.”   Yes, this has been in my “slow cooker” for quite awhile!

Recently I went rummaging through the attic and came across a box with all of the recorded messages from those years on cassette tapes.  I’ve been listening through some of them again, this time with a twenty-five-year-distanced perspective.  Although I’ve seen some areas where my understandings of things have changed slightly, for the most part, I feel like most of those messages could have been preached yesterday.  I attribute that mostly to the fact that I was no less centered in Christ back then than I am now.  I was ruined for God’s eternal purpose in Him then, and since that Purpose never changes, neither has my vision nor burden.

So, as something of a “throw-back Thursday” dynamic to this post, I’m including that message in an audio player here (and at the bottom of the post) for your consideration.  It ties in perfectly as a continuation to the previous post in this series concerning, “Misapprehension” and goes into greater detail and example as to exactly how we tend to misperceive, misinterpret, and mis-react to God’s “new thing.”  In fact, we are given a “template”, as it were, from God Himself on this matter in the oldest book ever written in the Scriptures, the Book of Job.

~ ~ ~
“When God Does a New Thing” – by David Bolton  5/14/1995

~ ~ ~

For those who prefer to read a synopsis of this “template”, or as a supplement to the spoken message,  I will share briefly concerning the basis of this teaching and of the further examples highlighted in it where those principles and perspectives can be seen playing out throughout Scripture.

A Psychological Template for Missing God

The book of Job gives us a very insightful example of men misapprehending God’s “new thing”.  In fact, on close inspection, it presents a rather comprehensive pattern for how human beings in general are most likely to misperceive, misinterpret, and mis-react to God’s unconventional workings.  Not only so, it also indicates the God-ordained path to properly apprehending God’s mind in relation to His unprecedented works and ways.

In this ancient narrative, we see God doing a “new thing” in the earth.  Here we have a man of whom God Himself says: There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8)  The existing theology, life experience, and common understanding among men at the time was that the righteous are blessed with prosperity, health, and a godly household in this life while the wicked are cursed and suffer want in these areas.  When suddenly in a day, without warning or explanation,  all of those good things are taken from Job, he is slammed into an utterly unprecedented “new thing”! 

Three of his friends gather around him and sit with him in silence for seven days and seven nights because of the severity of Job’s sufferings.  Then Job begins to pour out his heart to them and they begin to counsel Job, each from their own perspective.  As well-intentioned as they are, all three of them miss the mark, however.  They all misapprehend the mysterious “new thing” that is transpiring in Job’s life! 

If we look closely at each of these men’s “counseling sessions” with Job, we see that they were each coming from a slightly different perspective.  As such, they personify a specific psychological framework through which human beings generally perceive, comprehend and project their thoughts and judgements concerning a situation.  These frameworks, if separated from and unfiltered by the Lord’s wisdom, can each become a psychological hindrance that will keep one from apprehending rightly what the Lord is doing.  Without going into all the details, we see the following three psychological paradigms represented by their individual perspectives:¹

  1. Eliphaz = the voice of personal experience (natural and spiritual.)
  2. Bildad = the voice of tradition (practical and theological/philosophical.)
  3. Zophar = the voice of dogmatism (rash assessment, assumption and assertion.)

If we look at these more closely, we see that the first two depend entirely on what has been learned and received from “the former things”/“the past.”  The first, the voice of personal experience, is what one learns from the past through first-hand experiential knowledge and inward, personal reasoning.  The second, the voice of tradition, is what one learns from the past primarily through what is passed down from others, i.e. second-hand and third-hand knowledge and practices.

The third, the voice of dogmatism, does not make a conscious appeal to the past, though it is certainly sub-consciously formed and affected by it.  It is what one deduces and asserts without much forethought, analysis, and/or reasoning.  Very often such rash assessments, assumptions and assertions are made on the basis of pragmatism, i.e. if it works it is true and/or of value.  Therefore, this “voice” can often be more forward looking as to outcomes rather than backwards looking as to sources of wisdom and knowledge, as the other two.

Both backwards-looking perspectives, which rely on first-, second- and/or third-hand knowledge, and forwards-looking ones, which rely on dogmatic assessment, assumption, and assertion, can cause one to misapprehend God’s “new thing.”  All three can become psychological strongholds that hold our thoughts captive, preventing us from being able to perceive, receive, and respond to the thoughts and ways of God which are higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Paul the apostle said,

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 10:5

If we are ever to be liberated to rightly apprehend God’s “new thing”, we have to deal radically with the emotional arguments and psychological pretensions that come from adherence to “the former things” and from “dwell(ing) on the past”. 

As a first concern, we need to bring our past, first-hand experiences in relation to God, His Church and His work to the cross and lay them down.  As Paul said, “Forgetting those things which are behind…” (Philippians 3:13)  God will resurrect that which is truly of Him and needful for His present and future work, but this is the only way for us to not be blinded and bound by our past experiences as we seek to be led by and walk in-step with God’s Spirit in His present working.  As  Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Do not be wise in your own eyes;” (Proverbs 3:5-7a, emphasis added.)

Secondly, we must consider all of those second- and third-hand religious practices, protocols, and perspectives that have been handed down to us and take those to the foot of the cross as well.  Jesus said to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!”  “…Thus you nullify the word of God by your traditions that you have handed down.  And you do many things like that.”  Mark 7:9,13   That propensity lies in the heart of every man and “tradition” has a terribly blinding and binding power that is able to hold us captive from true obedience to the Word and ways of God.  (For a fairly exhaustive treatment of this, please see here.)

There are godly traditions that we are exhorted to hold onto and put into practice (see 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15, & 3:6 for instance), but Christendom at large has incorporated such a plethora of man-made traditions and practices that it is hard to sort out the “good” from “the bad and the ugly”.  Like the Pharisees, we “do many things like that!”  Sometimes we need a total purge of all handed down, preconceived ideas, assumptions, and practices and then let the Lord sort out, rescue, and resurrect those things that He esteems, pressntly endorses, and will empower going forward.  If we fail to allow the cross deal with these matters deeply, we run a great risk of making false assessments, assumptions and assertions based on our adherence to past traditional perspectives and practices.

By dealing with our past in this way, we will be in a much better posture and place for being in-tune with God’s Spirit and walking forward with Him in His present and future workings.

We, likewise, have to deal with our present and forward-looking perspectives that, similarly, have the power to deceive and make us vulnerable to missing God.  At the root of these, I believe, lie two main roots, pride and pragmatism.

Pride causes us to think too highly of ourselves in regard to our own perceptions, understandings, and conclusions.  We can make snap decisions and judgements without sufficient knowledge, analysis and/or insight simply because we trust in our own “wisdom”.  Proverbs says, “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes, there is more hope for a fool than for them.” (Proverbs 26:12)  Pride causes us to miss the mark every time!

Pragmatism filters everything through the supreme arbiter of “outcomes”.  It begins at the end of the process of truth and works backwards in a strictly utilitarian manner to arrive at what is ultimately to be accepted as “true”, “virtuous”, and/or of “value”.  God, however, begins with the Source of Truth, Virtue, and Value, Himself, and then works forwards from there to outcomes.  Those who make dogmatic assessments, assumptions, and assertions based primarily on perceived outcomes, even “spiritual” ones, are bound to misapprehend God and His present/future workings.  (For more on this, please see the page, Pragmatism and the Truth.)

Here again, the only safeguard is to bring our prideful thoughts and pragmatic reasonings to the foot of the cross in order to break the power of them over our hearts and minds.  Only then can we be positioned rightly to properly apprehend the high thoughts, ways, and works of God.

Knowing the Mind of the Spirit

The Book of Job does not simply leave us with a psychological template of how man is typically vulnerable to missing God, it also gives us the way that the mind and ways of God may be apprehended properly.  This is personified in the emergence of a fourth counselor/friend in the story of Job, Elihu. (See Job 32-37)

4. Elihu = the voice of revelation (prophetic utterance.)

Elihu didn’t rely on the wisdom gathered with age from past experiences and handed-down traditions, neither did he speak rashly out of his own self-assured judgements and pragmatic reasonings.  Instead, he waited on the Lord in humility and only spoke what the Spirit of God revealed within his spirit.

He said to the other three counselors,

“I am young in years, and you are very old; Therefore I was afraid, And dared not declare my opinion to you.  I said, ‘Age should speak, And multitude of years should teach wisdom.  But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.  Great men are not always wise, Nor do the aged always understand justice.  “Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me, I also will declare my opinion.  ‘Indeed I waited for your words, I listened to your reasonings, while you searched out what to say.  I paid close attention to you; And surely not one of you convinced Job, Or answered his words–” (Job 32:6-12, emphasis added.)

Further on he added,

I also will answer my part, I too will declare my opinion.  For I am full of words; The spirit within me compels me.  Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; It is ready to burst like new wineskins.  I will speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. (Job 32:17-20, emphasis added.)

Finally, near the end of his dissertation, he declared:

“Bear with me a little, and I will show you that there are yet words to speak on God’s behalf.  I will fetch my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.  For truly my words are not false; One who is perfect in knowledge is with you”  (Job 36:1-4, emphasis added.)

In this, Elihu shows that he was not speaking his own words but the very words of God on His behalf.  This is the essence of prophetic ministry.  The proof of this is further found in that once Elihu stops speaking to Job and the Lord Himself begins to take up the discourse directly with him, God takes over right where Elihu left off and keeps on speaking along the very same lines concerning the greatness of His wisdom and power as revealed in the created order.

What we can learn from Elihu, therefore, concerning how we may rightly discern and declare the mind of the Lord, especially when He is doing a “new thing”, can be summarized as follows:

  1. Do not rely on your past and the wisdom that comes from age alone.
  2. Remain humble in heart and mind, even allowing others to have their say first.
  3. Listen carefully and be discerningly observant of what is transpiring in God’s providence around you.
  4. Wait on the Lord and seek the wisdom that comes from His Spirit alone.
  5. Allow the Holy Spirit to give you the very words to express the wisdom and burden of God into the situation, even as the apostle Paul said,  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (1 Corinthians 2:13NIV)
  6. Release God’s wisdom into the present situation with humility, respect, boldness, and clarity.
  7. Trust God to confirm His word by His Spirit, personally and directly, to the hearts of others once you are done speaking.

In this day and hour, it is essential that we have the mind of the Lord to understand our present situation and what God is currently doing and will be doing going forward.  May we learn from these four counselors the difference between man’s ways and God’s way of discerning, interpreting, and responding to the present workings of God.  May we have “an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (see Rev. 2-3) and then be a mouth-piece for Him to His people that GOD may have HIS way among us!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”
Romans 12:2


As a final, “throw-back Thursday”, element to this post, I’m including below the message I taught some 25 years ago to a small gathering of believers that elaborates on these truths and gives further examples throughout Scripture of where these dynamics can be seen at work.  Please enjoy the original: “When God Does a New Thing!”

 

~ ~ ~

Continued here.


¹Ref. Baxter, J. Sidlow, Explore the Book, Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan Publishing House, 1960, Vol. 3, pgs. 45-52


Series posts:
Part 1: Preparation;   Part 2: Expectation;   Part 3: Misapprehension

Further related:
Pragmatism and the Truth
Tradition, Scripture, and the Church (PDF complete)


“mystery post”  (Different with each click 🙂 )
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When God Does a New Thing – Pt. 3: Misapprehension

“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 43:18-19a

When God spoke to His people concerning the “new thing” He was doing among them, He didn’t jump right in and announce, “Hey, I’m doing a new thing!”  He prefaced it first with an exhortation: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”  There was something concerning their past that needed to be addressed first before He spoke to them concerning their present and future.  It is clear from this that in order for them to respond properly to His “new thing”, they had to first deal radically with that which would hinder them from doing so and would keep them bound to the “former things.”

The question arises, then, “What is it about the “former things” and “the past” that tend to hinder us from responding properly to God’s ‘new thing’?”  That is a very searching and consequential question when it comes to walking with a God as creative and “unconventional” in His ways as our God is!  (For more on this, please see the previous post.)

I believe the answer to that question lies along two lines, one personal and the other collective.  Both of these are intricately related and equally significant and so I will touch on them both in this post.

The Personal Dynamic

There are multiple ways in which the past tends to shape, form, and guide our mental processes and, therefore, how we perceive, comprehend, and project our thoughts/judgements concerning a present or future matter.  These three aspects of perception, comprehension, and projection, which relate to the beginning, middle, and end of our thought processes, can be summed up in a single word “apprehension.”

The Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definition touches on all three of these aspects regarding the verbal form of the word: “apprehend”:

  • “:to become aware of: perceive”  (i.e. perception)
  • “:to grasp with the understanding: recognize the meaning of”  (i.e. comprehension)
  • “:to anticipate especially with anxiety, dread, or fear” (i.e. projection)

These definitions lie, in a positive way, at the root of the word “apprehension”, which is what we all should be seeking for when it comes to our ability to perceive, comprehend and project our thoughts and judgements properly in relation to the works and ways of God.

“Misapprehension”

The opposite, negative form of this word, “misapprehension”, also needs to be considered in relation to how the past affects our personal (and collective) response to God’s “new thing”.  “Misapprehension” signifies a failure to perceive, comprehend, and/or project our thoughts and judgements properly concerning a matter. (More on this shortly.)

When it comes to our mental facility to either apprehend or misapprehend God’s “new thing”, however, we need to understand just how significantly our psychological relationship with the past becomes a primary determining factor.

If “the former things” and “the past” were a positive aid to our ability to rightly apprehend God’s “new thing”, then He might have said something like, “REMEMBER the former things, DWELL on the past.  These will help you to ‘get’ what I’m about to do.  See, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?”  He did not say that, however, but rather the opposite: FORGET…Do NOT dwell…”

This is because our past has the power to impose psychological hindrances and mental stumbling blocks to our ability to properly recognize and grasp God’s works and ways.  Our failure to deal properly with the past is a, if not the, primary factor in our tendency to misapprehend what God is doing and/or about to do.

If we dig a little deeper into this word, “misapprehension” we see that it very accurately describes the failures of the human psyche to rightly apprehend that which confronts it which is new and unknown.  By looking to the Miriam Webster Thesaurus this time, we find two brief, yet significant definitions of the word “misapprehension”:

  1.  a failure to understand correctly
  2.  a wrong judgement

It then offers a list of synonyms which include: incomprehension, misconstruing, misimpression, misinterpretation, misreading, misunderstanding.  All of these are very closely related to and augment the meaning of the word, “misapprehension.”

When God does a “new thing” and we fail to deal properly with the past, we set ourselves up to misapprehend what God is presently doing.  What tends to ensue is an incomprehension, a misconstruing, a misimpression, a misinterpretation, a misreading, and/or a misunderstanding of the present activity of God.  Every one of those words has and will mark the way “the natural man” tends to miss (“mis-“) the spiritual wisdom, ways, and works of God!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”
Isaiah 55:8-9

“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.”
1 Corinthians 2:14

This is brought out very poignantly in the following excerpt, from T. Austin Sparks, on God’s “new thing” and man’s psychological reaction to it based on the past:

“God is always going to take us out of our depth with His new thing…Now when God moves from heaven in relation to His Son and all those fulnesses which yet lie ahead concerning Him, what do we find?  We find that His movements are not according to convention.  Let that be settled.  God does not move forward according to convention. God’s great movements are always very unconventional movements. God refuses to be put in a box.  He demands liberty to take us beyond any limitations that we may impose upon Him.  So often convention is God’s main obstruction.  The spiritual, the heavenly nature of God’s developing movements is altogether beyond the understanding of men; and because man cannot understand it, he does not believe in it.  He doubts it, he questions it, he throws suspicions upon it, he raises issues as to its soundness, if he cannot understand it, and therefore it is not acceptable to man, it is put aside.”  (Words of Wisdom and Revelation, page 67)

Notice it is “convention”, i.e. the way something is usually done (i.e as in the past), that becomes the main obstruction to God’s “unconventional movements.”

To give a Biblical example of this, consider how this dynamic was powerfully at work in the Jewish leaders during the time of Christ as they misapprehended the coming of the Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth.  God was doing a “new thing” among them by coming as a suffering servant and sacrifical Lamb, rather than a conquering, warrior king.  Consider how those two definitions of “misapprehension”, (1. “a failure to understand correctly” and 2. “a wrong judgement”), along with the associated list of synonyms, apply in relation to the psychological processes going on within their minds, and then consider how much of their perceptions, comprehensions, and projections arose out of their reliance on their past traditions and experiences. 

This example further shows just how vulnerable those are to misapprehending God’s “new thing” who are especially devout and have a long history of walking with God.  One might think that those who are most committed to God, His Word, and His work, and for the longest time, would be the least likely to miss the present workings of His Spirit, but this is very often not the case.

In reality, the longer one has been in “the things of God”, the more “former things” there are to “FORGET” and the longer the “past” to “NOT dwell on!”  It usually doesn’t get easier with time and experience to be or remain responsive to the fresh movings of God’s Spirit, but more difficult as an increasing religious rigidity and theological inflexibility naturally sets in.  As this increases, the life of God within the person becomes progressively restricted and constricted by “a hardening of the arteries”, as it were, caused by the repetitive nature of past routines, habits, conventions, traditions, experiences, low expectations, and the like.  Ultimately, a condition I call “religi-mortis” can develop leaving one virtually incapacitated and incapable of perceiving and/or responding to the present movings of God’s Spirit.

The Collective Dynamic

As this is true in the individual, so it is the case in an even greater sense regarding the corporate “wineskins”of the Church.  In the collective dynamic, not only do the psychological factors of each individual member aggregate together creating a multiplied, strengthened form of resistance to change, but also the sociological factors of the collective itself begin to increase and multiply.  These add to the corporate “wineskin” an even greater dynamic of resilience in the face of change.  Over time it becomes nearly impossible for the “conformative matrix” that develops to maintain responsiveness and flexibility to the “unconventional” ways and workings of God.

Here also, the life of God begins to be quenched and choked out through the “cholesterol” of past routines, habits, conventions, traditions, experiences, low expectations, and the like, and a collective form of “religi-mortis” begins to develop.  Such a collective will, all but inevitably, misapprehend God’s “new thing” when it comes.

The longer a corporate expression has been in existence and the more established it is, the more this becomes inevitible.  Apart from a very deep work of “corporate kenosis” (please see here for further explanation) and the kind of collective preparations described in Part 1 of this series, there is little hope of God obtaining a “new wineskin” to pour His “new wine” into.  “Old wineskins” rarely convert back to “new wineskins”, especially when those who comprise and control them collectively say, “the old is better.” (see Luke 5:39)

A. W. Tozer hits the nail on the head in his book, Rut, Rot, or Revival.  Consider the folllowing quotes from one section:

The treacherous enemy facing the church of Jesus Christ today is the dictatorship of the routine, when the routine becomes “lord” in the life of the church…

This seems to be the most deadly threat in the church today. When we come to the place where everything can be predicted and nobody expects anything unusual from God, we are in a rut…

Then we have reached the place where what has been determines what is, and what is determines what will be.

…the greatest enemy is not outside of us. It is within – it is an attitude of accepting things as they are. We believe that what was must always determine what will be, and as a result we are not growing in expectation.

“As long as there is growth, there is an air of unpredictability.”

May God show us just how dangerous and treacherous our past history, experiences, and traditions can be, both personally and collectively, when it comes to walking with “the GOD of the ‘new thing'”.  May we allow the cross to deal radically with our past so that we can heed God’s strong exhortation and move forward into God’s present purpose and working, for He has said,

“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 43:18-19a


Continued…here


“When God Does a New Thing” – previous posts in series:
Part 1: Preparation
Part 2: Expectation

Related:
Tradition, Scripture, and the Church by David Bolton (PDF – complete)
Of Wine and Wineskins – (3-D post)
Co-Laboring With God
“Pressing On” – by David Bolton  (Original song adapted from Philippians 3:13-14 and Hebrews 12:1-2)


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When God Does a New Thing – Pt. 2: Expectation

“My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him.”
Psalm 62:5 KJV

In this post I hope to raise our collective expectation of God’s “new thing” by taking a deeper look at God Himself and His (predictably) unpredictable ways.  In Part 1, I began by discussing how we are in the beginning stages of an historic, global, “new thing” and how this world-wide crisis is forcing and even facilitating a radical “new thing” within the Church.  I focused, specifically on what is needed in order for us to be inwardly prepared for the titanic global shifts and spiritual transformations that are now being precipitated.

Unless we have a deep understanding of “the GOD of the ‘new thing'”, however, we will not be expectant of nor seriously prepare for “the ‘NEW THING’ of God” that is coming.  We must raise the level of our collective understanding and expectation, therefore, if we are to take preparation in this hour seriously.  To help facilitate this, we can look to both the Divinely-created natural order and the Divinely-inspired Scriptures to lay a firm foundation on which our understanding and expectation of God’s “new thing” may be greatly raised and fully established.

“Expectation”

Before we dive into looking at these two sources of revelation (“general” and “special”), however, let’s begin by taking a look at the word “expectation”.  The Oxford American Dictionary defines it as:

“A strong belief that something will happen or be the case.”

To dig a little deeper, the root word of “expectation” comes from a Latin verb, “exspectare” which means “to look out”.  The root word,“expect”, therefore, means to,  “…look out for; desire, hope, long for, anticipate, look for with anticipation,”  (Online Etymology Dictionary)

So if God is doing a “new thing”, do we have
a strong belief that [it] will happen and be the case???
Are we…
looking out for it…
desiring it…
hoping for it…
longing for it…
anticipating it…
looking for it with anticipation
???

In other words, do we have an
EXPECTATION
of God’s “new
thing”??

“The GOD of the NEW THING”

If we understand the very nature of God, we will understand why we ought to have a strong expectation that out from Him will continually come forth a “new thing.”  God is essentially a God of eternal newness.  “Newness” is an immutable attribute of His nature for He is transcendent of all that comprises or causes the attribute of “oldness”, even time itself.  The I AM forever exists in the undiminished freshness of the eternal NOW.  In fact, His “eternal NEWness”,  is simply an inherent characteristic of His eternal NOWness”.

Furthermore, if we look at the correlation between the words “new” and “now” as to their origins (“etymology”), we see that they are closely related at the root level and are believed to possibly have originally derived from the same root word.*   It seems reasonable to conclude, then, that when God is doing a “NEW thing”, He is, likewise, doing a “NOW thing”, and when He is doing a “NOW thing”, He is, likewise, doing a “NEW thing”.  In similar manner, when He calls for a “NEW song”, He is, in fact, calling for a “NOW song”; when He pours out His “NEW wine”, He is literally pouring out His “NOW wine.”; etc…  ALL of God’s workings take place in that space of time we call, “NOW”, and, therefore, are not essentially “OLD THINGS”, or “FORMER THINGS” when they appear, but “NEW THINGS” and “NOW THINGS”! 

Because God is “the GOD of the NOW THING”, He is, likewise, “the GOD of the NEW THING.”!

God is also a God of infinite creativity.  He is unconstrained by the tyranny of the familiar, the dictatorship of the routine, and the confines of convention.  His creativity is only “bounded” by His infinite genius, His limitless power, and His ineffable glory.  His creative works express His glory and so His glory expresses His creative works.

In addition, He is a God who seeks deep relationship.  He has created us in His image and likeness that we may ultimately be one with Him even as He, the Triune God, is one.  He created us in His image as creatives, and has re-created us in His likeness as “new creations”.  He is raising us as His sons and daughters to be led by His heavenly, free Spirit and is breaking us free as His adopted children from being led by our earthly, bound souls.  He is training us to walk by faith, not sight, that we might become one with Him in His will, His works, and His ways which spring from His eternal newness and infinite creativity.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14)

“The NEW THINGS of God”

-The Natural Realm-

This eternal newness and infinite creativity of His Person naturally spill over into His works and ways.  These are seen first in the natural, created realm.  We could camp right here for a very long time and trace the unfathomable multiplicity of His creative, “new things” found in nature.  May a simple “thought experiment” suffice, however, to help us begin to lay hold of the magnitude of God’s “new things” in this realm:

To begin with, let’s just take the city, town, or village in which you live and consider, simply within that geographical boundary, how many natural, unique, “new things” exist that God has created.  First consider all of the vast diversity of living things currently habitating there: all humans, mammals, birds, fish, insects, microorganisms, vegetation, flora, and fungi.  Consider how even within common genus/species of these categories, there is vast individualization, uniqueness, and diversity. [I.e. there are over 150 species alone of roses (genus=Rosa.*), let alone further uniqueness/diversity within each species.]

Now consider all the diversity and uniqueness of all Divinely-created non-living things within that same geographical boundary: rocks, soil, minerals, metals, liquids, and gasses.  As you combine all of these together in your mind with all of the living “new things” within your city, town, or village, you are at the beginning of the beginning of grasping the multiplicity of God’s “new things” within the natural realm.

Now let’s expand that geographical boundary out a bit further, considering the same types of categories, to the entire state or region in which you live.  Pause and think about that for a moment until it begins to really sink in!

Moving on from there, let’s push that boundary out further to encompass your entire country!  How much biological, geological, hydrological, and atmospheric diversification, differentiation, and specialization exist within your country alone?!?

But we’re not done yet!  Let’s go even further now and expand out from there to encompass the entire globe.  To help with that, consider some of the following estimations concerning the biological diversity alone that exists within our world:

  • Humans:  7.8 billion individuals (each genetically, physiologically, and psychologically unique.)
  • Genera: 240,000 genus classifications within the animal kingdom. *
  • Mammals:  6,500 species. *
  • Birds:  18,000+ species. *
  • Fish: 34,000 species. *
  • Plants: 350,000 – 1,000,000 species. *
  • Fungi: 2,000,000 – 3,800,000 species.*
  • Insects: 1,000,000 – 10,000,000 species. (Approximately, 1.4 billion insects per person on planet earth, and weighing more than 70 times the weight of all human beings put together. *)
  • Microorganisms: 1,000,000,000,000 species. *   (I’m glad they are “micro-“!)

That represents merely the diversity of living “new things”, not taking into consideration the preponderance of non-living “new things” created by God that exist in our world as well!

Now if you don’t have a throbbing headache yet, consider further what creative “new things” we might find if we expanded our boundary out to encompass our solar system? (check out these incredible images of Jupiter, for instance.) … the Milky Way Galaxy? …the observable universe (with its estimated 1,000,000,000 – 2,000,000,000, galaxies? *)???  All of this is the product of the infinitely creative genius, limitless power, and ineffable glory of our Creator God!

Oh, but, wait….we’re still not done?  So take two more Advil, and consider with me what Job said, “…these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!  Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14NIV)   Even after all that we’ve considered, this statement leads us to contemplate even further for we have one remaining boundary expansion to explore: the entire UNSEEN REALM of God’s creation!  (Picture exploding head emoji here!)

~ ~ ~

Well, I’ve got good news for your cranium…
this thought-experiment is now over!
Please exit to the left!
(………or to the right, if you want to be like GOD and do a “new thing.” 🙂 )

~ ~ ~

-The Spiritual Realm-

The natural realm is only the first sphere of revelation concerning the “new things” of God, however.  The Scriptures are the second.  So we must briefly move on from the realm of “general revelation” to look at the realm of “special revelation” by considering the Scriptures in relation to the spiritual “new things” of God.

Here, then, is list of a number of  “new things” that He has created, called for, and/or consecrated in the Scriptures:

  • “the new moon” – 1 Chron. 23:31; Ezra 3:5; Neh. 10:33; etc.
  • “a new grain offering” – Lev. 23:16; Num. 28:26; etc.
  • “a new song” – Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1 Is. 42:10; Rev. 5:9; 14:3
  • “a new name” – Is. 62:2; Rev. 2:17, 3:12;
  • “mercies…new every morning” – Lam.3:23
  • “a new covenant” – Jer. 31:31; Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:6,8; 9:1
  • “a new and living way” – Heb.10:20
  • “a new spirit” – Ezek. 11:19; 36:26;
  • “a new heart” – Ezek. 11:19; 36:26;
  • “a new creation” – 2 Cor. 5:17
  • “the new self” – Eph. 4:24; Col.3:10
  • “one new man” – Eph. 2:15
  • new tongues” – Mark 16:17
  • new fruit” – Ezek. 47:12
  • new wine” – Neh. 10:39; Joel 3:18; Matt.9:17
  • new wineskins” – Matt. 9:17; Mk. 2:22
  • “a new batch” (of dough) – 1 Cor. 5:7
  • “a new commandment” – Jn. 13:34
  • “the new Jerusalem” – Rev. 13:12; 21:2
  • new heaven and a new earth” – Is. 65:2; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1
  • “the renewal of all things” – Matt. 19:28

Beyond these sightings of the word “new” in Scripture, the entirety of the Bible is a perpetual testimony of God calling His people out of the old and familiar into the new and unknown.  Consider just a few of these unprecedented, “new things” that God did in relation to His people:

  • Adam and EveThe first ever created beings made in God’s own image and likeness. (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7)
  • Enoch – a man who “…walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Gen. 5:24)  The first ever human to not see physical death.
  • Noah and the flood – God sent a world-wide deluge to judge the existing world. (Gen. 6-8)  The first and last time for planet earth.
  • Tower of Babel – God confused the languages of all peoples. (Gen. 11)  Unprecedented!
  • Job – God allowed a righteous man to experience extreme tragedy, suffering, and loss for his ultimate good, God’s supreme glory, and Satan’s shameful demise. Utterly unexpected and unexplained!
  • Abraham and Sarah – God called them out of a familiar land to go to an unfamiliar one that would later become their inheritance (Gen. 12); they gave birth to a son by the power of the Spirit when both of them were beyond their physical ability to procreate (Gen. 21); Abraham was tested by God to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering on an altar, then God provided a ram in his place at the last minute. (Gen. 22)  All firsts!
  • Moses and the Israelites – Were delivered out of Egypt by Divinely-sent plagues (Ex. 7-12); were brought through the Red Sea by a mighty miracle (Ex. 14); were led by a cloud/pillar of fire through the wilderness (Ex. 13:21-22); received the Law, the pattern for the tabernacle, and the institution of the priesthood directly from God on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 20); were provided for with manna from heaven and water out of a rock (Ex. 16-17), were healed from poisonous snake bites by looking to a bronze serpent lifted up on a pole, to name a few. (Num. 21)  Utterly unprecedented!
  • Aaron – Had his staff bud, blossom, and produce almonds when placed before the Lord in the Tent of Meeting at God’s command. (Num. 17)  A “new thing” for sure.
  • Balaam’s donkey –  Spoke. (Num. 22)  Like…!
  • Joshua and the Israelites -Saw the Jordan River stop flowing at flood stage when the ark of the covenant was carried into it and they crossed over into the land of Canaan on dry ground (Josh. 3); saw the walls of Jericho fall with a shout (Josh. 6); Joshua prayed and “the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day” so he could win in battle (Josh. 10). Utterly unpredicted and unpredictable!
  • ETC, ETC, ETC,… (the rest of the Bible!)  The Book of God’s “new things!”

We’re only to the sixth book of the Old Testament and already we can see beyond a shadow of a doubt that God works over and over again in absolutely unprecedented, unpredictable, unexpected ways, perpetually doing a “new thing” in regards to His people.  Time does not allow us to elaborate on Gideon, Samson, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah, Esther, Nehemiah, Job, the prophets, and a host of others, to show further, innumerable examples.

Neither do God’s “new things” cease to be manifest when we come to the New Testament with John the Baptist, Jesus, the disciples/apostles, the Jews, the Gentiles, the Church, the entire world.  In fact, to pretty much everyone recorded in Scripture, when God was working in their lives, to them His works were unpredicted, unpredicated, and unprecedented in relation to their prior experience.  To them, He was continually doing a “new thing!”

Finally, the consummate expression of God’s “new thing” will be the universally-transformative creation of a “new heaven and a new earth” with a “new Jerusalem” coming down out of heaven to dwell upon the earth forever. (Rev. 21-22)

And so God’s final word in Scripture on this matter is simply and conclusively,

“BEHOLD, I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.”
Revelation 21:5

~ ~ ~

Conclusion

It is abundantly clear that in both the natural and the spiritual realm that God is revealed as “the GOD of the ‘new thing’.” And this is the very same GOD that you and I are in relationship with through Jesus Christ!  We would be utterly blind and foolish, therefore, not to have the highest level of expectation that this same GOD is going to regularly do a “new thing” in our lives and within His Church!  We ought, therefore to be…

looking out for it…
desiring it…
hoping for it…
longing for it…
anticipating it…
looking for it with anticipation
!!!

Our level of expectation will directly determine our level of diligence to be spiritually prepared for God’s “new thing” (as described in Part 1) and greatly affect our degree of watchfulness for and perception of the appearances of God’s “new things” as they begin to spring up, even as God says,

“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 43:18-19a

~ ~ ~

Continued…here.


Related:
When God Does a New Thing – Part 1: Preparation  (Previous post)
Centrality and Expectation  (On our collective expectation when we gather in His Name)
“Wind Dies in a Box”  (On our religious propensity to “box in” the Holy Spirit)


Or check out a “mystery post”  (randomly-generated selection 🙂 )

Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, Spiritual Dynamics, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When God Does a New Thing – Part 1: Preparation

“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 43:18-19a

We are certainly living in unprecedented times!  What the world is experiencing right now seemed to come out of nowhere and within months/weeks our whole world turned upside down.  There have certainly been plagues and pandemics before, but nothing that has brought about this level of global social disruption, world-wide contagion/death, and personal/national economic disaster.  Globally, it could be said that we are in the midst of an historic “new thing”!

This historic “new thing” for the world is also forcing and facilitating an historic “new thing” within the Church.  The Church, worldwide, has been forced to shut down virtually all public gatherings and to find new ways of staying connected with, ministering to, and serving the people of God and the communities they are in.  There are very few types of calamities or judgements that could have the global effect of stopping the established Church ” dead in its tracks” from carrying on in its traditional forms and practices, while still allowing a significant means of virtual connection and ministry, thus forcing the Church to enter into and conform to a radically “new thing”.

We know that, ultimately, behind everything is a sovereign God who has not been caught off-guard by this pandemic.  In His perfect foreknowledge of all things, He has had this world-wide crisis incorporated into His eternal plan “for such a time as this” to ultimately serve His Divine purpose and the supreme good of His people.

“…according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will”  (Ephesians 1:11b)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

The big question is, then, “What ‘new thing’ does God desire to do in the Church not only in the midst of this crisis, but, more importantly, through it and beyond it?

I do not believe that God’s purpose for the present “new thing”, is merely to serve as a “temporary fix” to patch us through until we can hurriedly return back to the “old thing” as soon the crises subsides.  That is not God’s way.  He says:

“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 43:18-19a

When God does a “new thing”, He commands and counsels us to, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”  His purpose for His people is ever pushing forward, and so Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:62)  Likewise, Paul says, Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)  This certainly has an individual application, but it also, just as certainly, has a corporate, collective application. 

If the Church comes out the other side of a calamity and crisis of this magnitude virtually the same as it went in, I believe She will have much to answer to Her Lord for.  I would not be surprised if even greater judgments or persecutions would shortly ensue.  Scripture says, For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God;” (1 Peter 4:17). Yet, it also says, If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment.” (1 Corinthians 11:31 GNT.)  Or as the Message translation puts it, “If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on.”  There are deep issues that God wants to address and radically reform within His people, and this world-wide calamity is a severe instrument in His hand to get down to the very root of them.  If we don’t perceive and allow Him to do His incisive, radical work within us now, I shudder to think what it will take for Him to get our attention going forward! 

Every believer and every collective body of believers, therefore, need to be first looking inwards and then forwards in this hour, praying earnestly to be in-tune and in-step with God’s “NEW thing”.  Our Lord is decisively moving onward and upward into His full purpose for His people, not longingly looking backwards to bygone days of circular, “same old, same old”, wilderness wanderings!

“And the LORD spoke to me, saying, You have circled this mountain long enough.
Now turn north,'” (Deuteronomy 2:2-3 NAS)

Preparing to Enter the Land of God’s “New Thing”

The Scriptures are overflowing with examples of God leading His people into His “new thing” for them, and Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 10:11, I believe, aptly applies to these situations: Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”  One of these examples, in particular, offers us valuable insight and wise instruction as to how to prepare ourselves to enter into God’s “new thing”.

As Israel came through the wilderness to the Jordan River and was getting ready to enter into God’s “new thing” for them, life in the land of Canaan, Joshua instructed the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” (Joshua 3:5)  When God is doing a “new thing”, what is needed first and foremost is a new and deeper consecration of His people.  A new level of consecration is needed because in God’s “new thing”, a new level of  faith is demanded and a new level of obedience is required.  It is no small thing to break with old thought-patterns, assumptions, ways, means, practices, traditions, experiences, and expectations.  These are far more ingrained, intertwined, and inextricable from the fabric of our lives, both on a personal (psychological) level and collective (sociological) level than we would ever imagine.  It usually takes something terribly drastic to rend the conformative matrix of our established patterns sufficiently for personal and collective change to even be possible.  That is why it is so important to understand the purpose of the Lord in this terribly drastic time we are living in right now.

Outward rendings of the “conformative matrix” of our lives, individually and corporately, however, are not enough to render permanent change.  If these are not matched by a corresponding inward rending of the “conformative matrix” of our inner man through prayer, repentance, and a deeper consecration, little to no lasting outward change will ensue and remain once the crisis has passed.  Everything will simply snap back to its original form as soon as the outward pressure is lessened or removed, and most likely become even more resilient, inflexible, and solidified than before.  It is, therefore, more important what God is doing inside His people during this time, than any outward, temporary changes. The primary focus of the Lord in this hour is to do a deep work of preparation within the hearts of His people to get us equipped and ready to enter into His “new thing” outwardly.

The children of Israel were also instructed before crossing Jordan to keep their eyes fixed on the ark of the covenant and to move out and follow it only when it moved, being carried on the shoulders of the priests. (see Joshua 3:3)  They were told, “Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.” (vs.4)  In this “new thing” that God is doing, there is only one way to navigate our way forward, by fixing our eyes on “the ark of the covenant”, i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ, to only move when we see Him move, and to only follow where He leads us to go, for we have never been this way before!  We are not called to blindly follow the “former things”, but to “forget” them.  We are not to “dwell on the past”, but to be “straining toward what is ahead”, being led by the Holy Spirit in all things as we follow Christ alone!

When the ark of the covenant did move forward, it was carried into the middle of the Jordan River and the waters were cut off and piled up a long ways off at a town called Adam.  (see Joshua 3:14-17)  The Israelites crossed through the dry riverbed and came through into the promised land of their inheritance, Canaan.  This act of Israel’s crossing Jordan is a deep and rich symbolic type of the inward, experiential work of the cross in the life of the followers of Jesus Christ.

The Israelites were then led to Gilgal, and there the entire second generation of Israelite men and boys, who were born in the wilderness, were circumcised before the Lord.  Circumcision was the outward sign of the covenant that God made with His people through Abraham.  It was an outward sign of the Abrahamic covenant, but it pointed to an inward work of the Spirit in the new covenant, of a cutting away of “the flesh”, the sinful nature, by the Spirit of God. (See Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 6:15; Phil. 3:3 Col. 2:11-12)

The nation of Israel was not prepared to move into God’s “new thing” until they had first consecrated themselves afresh to the Lord, descended to the lowest place to cross Jordan, and been circumcised at Gilgal.  So, today, the Church will not be prepared to move into God’s “new thing”, until She, collectively consecrates herself afresh to the Lord, follows Christ into a deep experiential working of the cross leading to an inward circumcision of Her heart.

These are not the kind of deep spiritual workings that God’s people generally gravitate towards and embrace on a collective basis.  Apart from them, however, there just is no preparation for crossing into and possessing the land of our inheritance.  Like the two and a half tribes of Israel who decided to settle on the east side of Jordan, we will remain where things are more comfortable, familiar, and predictable, but we will miss God’s ultimate intention for us.

Wherever you may be at this time, and whatever your circumstances, know that God wants to do a “new thing” in your life.  He also wants to do a “new thing” in the expression of the Church that you are a part of.  This fresh working of the Lord must begin within our own hearts with a fresh consecration to Him and His “new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20).  This must be followed by a deep working of His Spirit, applying the cross to our inner man and cutting away (“circumcising”) the “flesh” of our “old man” with its old and dead ways.  This will only come about through spending extended time in His Presence in humility, repentance, and deep consecration.  But this is the time, and this is the pressing need among God’s people, that He may bring us through this deep, dark crisis, transformed from the inside out, prepared to enter into the land of our inheritance…the land of God’s “new thing”!

~ ~ ~

“But as it is written:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man
the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'”
1 Corinthians 2:9

~ ~ ~

Continued…here


Related:
Five Dynamics of the Spiritual Life (Three-post series complete – PDF)
Parables of the Cross – by Isabella Lilias Trotter (free audiobook)
“We’re Going Up” – by David Bolton  (shadow and fulfillment of “possessing the land” – original ballad – listen below)


“mystery post”  (Different with every click. 🙂 )
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Five Dynamics of the Corporate Spiritual Life – Part 2: Participation, Conformation, Transformation

We continue, now, looking through the lens of Philippians 3:10-11 to see how it further applies to the spiritual life of the Church. This series began with a look at the individual’s spiritual life in relation to this passage.  This was followed by the previous post in this series where we explored the first two dynamics drawn out of Philippians 3:10-11, “revelation” and “impartation”, as they apply to the corporate life of the Church.  [I ask that you please read those posts prior to this one, if you have not already, as this is the continuation and conclusion of them.  (Complete 3-post-series PDF available here, if you prefer.)  Thanks!]

~ ~ ~

Participation
“and, TOGETHER, WE may know the fellowship of His sufferings”

“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)  The Church is called into a fellowship, a joint-participation, with Christ in His earthly mission.  As in the individual Christian life, so in the Church, this mission is diametrically opposed to the nature and ways of the sinful flesh, the fallen world, and the powers of darkness.  And as in the individual Christian, these enemies of the Kingdom of God not only have their strongholds and forces arrayed outside of the Church, but have their roots and tentacles within it as well.

This means that the Church is called into a titanic, carnal, and cosmic conflict filled with struggle, opposition, persecution, suffering, and the like, both within and without.  Those assemblies who are established by and according to the heavenly revelation of Christ, and are continually receiving the impartation of “the power of His resurrection”, are sent into this battle, even as Christ was sent into it by the Father.  As the Church engages in this joint-participation with Christ in His mission, She inevitably enters into a joint-participation with Him in the sufferings that are associated with it.

In this conflict, a three-pronged offensive is needed to defeat the three-fold enemy forces of sin, the world, and Satan.  When Christ launched His three-pronged offensive into the earthly theater of this conflict, His mission, and, therefore, His sufferings began with what is known by the Greek word, κένωσις (kénōsis), which means, “the act of self-emptying.”  This word is the nounal form of the Greek verb used in Philippians 2:7, κενόω (kenóō) “to empty”, and is variously translated: “emptied Himself” (NAS), “made Himself nothing” (NIV), and “made Himself of no reputation.”(KJV)  The context is the classic passage, Philippians 2:5-11:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (NKJV)

Not only was this degree of humility and obedience in keeping with the absolute holiness of Christ’s nature, it was also the highest-level tactical move against His three-fold enemy.  At the very heart and core of sin, the world, and Satan, is the Luciferic spirit of “I will ascend.” (Is. 14:12-14)  Therefore, the ultimate counter to that is, “I will descend”, the spirit of “kenosis.”

The sufferings of Christ that ensued as He personally engaged with and ultimately conquered His three-fold enemy would be too numerous to detail here, but the ground of His victory over all three was His willingness to self-empty in obedience to and unreserved trust in His heavenly Father. This is how sin, the world, and Satan are ultimately conquered and overthrown.

As we contemplate, therefore, the Church’s participation in the mission and subsequent sufferings of Christ, we must realize that the first arena that the Church is called to press the mission of Christ forward in, and, therefore, the first theater of this conflict, is within Her.  Before She is able to successfully engage with and push back the enemies without, She must engage with and defeat the enemies within.

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God;” (1 Peter 4:17)

The calling of the Church, then, is to begin Her participation with Christ by aligning Herself with His supreme strategy and ultimate ground of victory.  If sin, the world, and Satan are to be defeated first within the Church, and then pushed back and defeated outside of Her, She must begin Her entry into this battle the same way Her Lord did with what may rightly be called, “corporate kenosis.”

“Corporate kenosis” deals radically with the “collective self” that develops within all groups of people as the individual member’s self-lives merge into a single entity and develop a collective identity, persona, and self-interest.  Because of the indwelling sin, worldliness, and even demonic inroads within its members, this “collective self” invariably, manifests some form of a collective “I will ascend” spirit, the antithesis of the Kingdom of God.  When this spirit invades the Church, the enemy has his ground with which to subvert the mission of Christ within and through His people.

The Divine strategy of kenosis is fully known and feared by the enemy, especially now following Christ’s supreme victory in and through the cross.  It is, therefore, Satan’s supreme strategy to, in every way and by every means possible, tempt and deceive the Church into casting off a spirit of “corporate kenosis” and to develop a strong “collective self” instead, energized by a corporate version of “I will ascend.”  This is Satan’s greatest hope for minimizing his defeats and mounting his Enemy’s casualties in this carnal, cosmic conflict.

It should also be recognized that two of the greatest weapons in Satan’s arsenal to accomplish these ends are 1. pragmatism (the ends justify the means; i.e. the future dictates the present) which is what he employed in the Garden of Eden, and 2. traditionalism (the means justify the ends; i.e. the past dictates the present) which is what he primarily employed during the time of Christ and the early church.  These are still his most powerful and successful weapons against the Church today to keep her from embracing “corporate kenosis”, his ultimate nemesis.

Much more could be said about the Church’s participation in the mission and subsequent sufferings of Christ as She engages with sin, the world, and Satan, not to mention those sufferings that God sovereignly orchestrates by His own hand for Her perfecting and ultimate good.  Let it suffice, however, for us to begin where Christ began, with a radical denial of self, which for the Church is on both an individual and a corporate level.  If we, as His Body, don’t get on the “highway” of God’s mission by taking the same downward “on ramp” that Christ took and paved for us, there’s a good chance we’ve taken the upward one that Lucifer pioneered and paved for all he would deceive, and we are, therefore, heading in the wrong direction down the pike.

Paul’s exhortation to the entire Philippian church was, Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5)  And to the church in Ephesus he implored: I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation by which ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering…” (Ephesians 4:1-2 WEB)  This is the call to participation with Christ in His mission, and in its inherent sufferings, which is the third dynamic of the corporate spiritual life of the Church.

Conformation
“being made conformable unto His death,”

Participation naturally and inevitably leads to conformation. Likewise, kenosis (the emptying of self) naturally and inevitably leads to the cross (the death of self).

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)

When an individual takes up their cross, they are, in essence, “being made conformable unto His death”.  In this inward work of the cross, there is an operation of the Spirit that applies a killing power to the roots of the self-life.  Selfish ambition, self-interest, self-sufficiency, self-conceit, self-determination, self-preservation, self-promotion, and the like are all dealt a death-blow leaving one humbled and wholly dependent on God in all respects.

When an assembly, likewise, takes up their cross in a collective way, being made “conformable unto His death”, there is an inward work of the Spirit that applies a killing power to the roots of their collective “self-life.”  Their collective selfish ambition, self-interest, self-sufficiency, self-conceit, self-determination, self-preservation, self-promotion, and the like are all dealt a death-blow leaving the assembly humbled and wholly dependent on God in all respects.

This may seem completely counter-intuitive and corporately counter-productive, but, as with the individual, that which is put to death through this collective, inward work of the cross is only that which is death-producing within it.  The cross is the death of death, leaving behind only the life of Life, i.e the indwelling impartation of “the power of His resurrection.”  Unless a corporate body of believers is willing to deny itself, (“corporate kenosis”), take up its cross daily (die to its collective self-life), it will never be able to follow Jesus into the attaining of its collective resurrection out from the dead.  This is God’s ultimate desire and objective for the Church and is the only path to the ultimate ground of victory in Christ over sin, the world, and Satan, both within and without Her.

The self-life of a person is the greatest obstacle God has to His kingdom being established within them, and the corporate “self-life” of a collective is the greatest obstacle God has to His kingdom being established within them.  God’s remedy for both is this process laid out in Philippians 3:10-11 of revelation, impartation, participation, and conformation.  Any short-cutting of this process only short-circuits the work of God.  When these are progressively embraced and embodied, however, the next dynamic immediately becomes operative in the spiritual life of the Ekklesia.

Transformation
“That if by any means WE, TOGETHER, may attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

God’s intention and desire is to get everything concerning His people onto resurrection ground.  That alone is the exalted, unassailable ground of Christ’s victory and of the enemy’s sure defeat.  Only that which passes through death, however, can be resurrected, whether on the individual or collective level.

This is pictured for us in the history of Israel as they came through the wilderness, passed through the Jordan river, and entered the promised land of Canaan to possess it.  The wilderness brought them a form of suffering that stripped down their individual and collective self-life (self-reliance, self-determination, self-satisfaction, etc.) and worked to get “Egypt” (the “world”) out of them.

The Jordan river, however, was symbolic of a deeper death, the inward, experiential death of the cross.  The Jordan river (lit.,“the Descender”), which flowed through a town called “Adam”, forms a valley leading into the Dead Sea that is the lowest physical depression on earth.  (Stop for a minute and consider the richness of that sovereign symbolism.)  It was at “harvest” time, with the river at “flood stage”, when the Israelites arrived to cross over it.  As the priests carrying the ark of the covenant (symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ) stepped into the river, however, the powerful flood waters stopped flowing and piled up in heap a great distance away in “Adam.”   This was, in essence, a cutting off of the death (i.e. “the death of death”) that flowed from “Adam”, i.e the work of the cross.

Apart from all of Israel coming through the wilderness, descending to Jordan, the lowest place on earth (think, “the fellowship of His sufferings”/”kenosis”) and stepping into the place where death flowed, yet was cut off by the presence and power of the ark (think, “being made conformable unto His death”), they never would have been able to make it into and possess the land of their inheritance and drive out the inhabitants thereof (think, “That if by any means WE, TOGETHER, may attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”)

God laid out His infallible, immutable ways for His Church, in order for Her to possess Her collective inheritance, in living example and colorful “shadow” through His people Israel.  We are now called to walk in the spiritual reality of these types and shadows in order for us, His Church, to come onto the high, holy, victorious ground of “the resurrection.”   This is the present, inward, corporate reality that is the end objective of all of God’s workings collectively within His people through the five dynamics laid out in Philippians 3:10-11.

As was shared in the initial post in this series, these dynamics are progressive and cyclical in nature, leading us ever higher and further on in our spiritual growth and development as we continually and repeatedly follow and yield to them.  As such,

Revelation leads to Impartation
Impartation leads to Participation
Participation leads to Conformation
Conformation leads to Transformation
Transformation leads to….
[REPEAT]

What this will look like in each individual expression of His Church will vary and be creatively unique by the hand of the Lord, yet the spiritual principles and corporate dynamics are universal, inviolable, and effectual.  Wherever, and to whatever degree they are embraced collectively, healthy spiritual growth and development ensues. Wherever, and to whatever degree they are resisted and/or rejected collectively, spiritual growth and development is thwarted, distorted, and/or ceases to progress.  May we humbly learn and unreservedly give ourselves to God’s high, holy, and triumphant ways for His people that we may fully possess our inheritance in Him, and He may fully possess His inheritance in us!

~ ~ ~

Philippians 3:10-11
(paraphrased)

“That TOGETHER WE may know Him, and the power of His resurrection,
and, TOGETHER, WE may know
the fellowship of His sufferings,
being made conformable unto His death;
If by any means, TOGETHER, WE might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

~ ~ ~

I pray that these truths may be especially poignant as we contemplate and celebrate our Lord’s sufferings, death, and resurrection during these next few days.  May all of you have a blessed Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday,
however you may be celebrating them this year! 
Shalom!


Related:
Five Dynamics of the Spiritual Life (Three-post series complete – PDF)
Five Dynamics of the Spiritual Life (initial post)
Five Dynamics of the Corporate Spiritual Life – Part 1: Revelation and Impartation (second post)
The Cross – The Unlevel Playing Field of Satan’s Defeat (Christ’s conquering His enemies through “kenosis”)
“Corporate UN-Anothering”: It’s Root and Remedy (Part 2 of chain blog post) (“corporate kenosis” explored more fully)
“We’re Going Up” – lyrics by David Bolton  (shadow and fulfillment of “possessing the land” – original ballad – listen below)


Posted in Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Spirituality, Spiritual Dynamics, Spiritual Warfare, The Cross, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Call to a (Virtual) Solemn Assembly – [UPDATED with follow-up report and original song “The Sacrifices of God” (mp3) included]


[Please see the bottom of this post for a follow-up report concerning the blessings of this solemn assembly as well as a recording of an original song, “The Sacrifices of God” that I shared with the group during the “Solemn Assembly Pre-Meeting”.  -David ]


We are living in perilous, prophetic times!  This is a rather urgent, time-sensitive, post to share a call that is going out for a “solemn assembly”, virtual prayer gathering, in the order of Joel 1:14 and 2 Chronicles 7:14:

“Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God,
and cry out to the LORD.”

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves,
and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

In order to facilitate gathering believers from across the Body of Christ for a time of prayer, fasting, repentance, and intercession, while many of us are under “shelter in place”, “isolation”, “lock down” and “social distancing” restrictions, this solemn assembly will contain a virtual aspect to it, utilizing video conferencing (Zoom).  People are also encouraged, as they are led, are comfortable doing so, and in keeping with public guidelines for gatherings during this time, to host small groups for intercession and prayer in their homes as well.  Fasting is also encouraged during this time.

The call is being organized by a dear brother in the Lord, Travis Kolder, whom I connected with through this blog a number of years ago (and was one who participated in this “3-D” post.)  Below are three links to pages on his blog, Pursuing Glory, that share his spiritual burden and the practical details concerning this assembly.  Please take time to look these over if you are interested in participating in this time of prayer.

~ ~ ~

The solemn assembly will span three days/nights:
Tuesday, April 7th – Thursday, April 9th 

Conference calls will begin each of these three nights at:
7:00PM CDT (UTC-05:00)
on Zoom

~ ~ ~

The following links offer more explanation and details concerning this
solemn assembly from Travis himself on his blog, Pursuing Glory:

Responding in Crisis

Responding in Crisis: Solemn Assemblies

Solemn Assembly Pre-Meeting

~ ~ ~

In connection with and in heart preparation for this assembly, I also wanted to share an email that I received this morning from my friend in Christ, Richard Hanes.  He felt the Lord’s urging to write out the burden of his heart this morning and send it out to his circle of friends.  With his permission, I am sharing it with you here as well.  I believe Richard poses the right questions that we all should be asking at this critical time.  The answers that we receive from the Lord concerning these will greatly inform and inspire our times of prayer and intercession in the midst of this crisis.  He wrote:

My beloved brethren –

Christian leaders are saying many things in this time of our national and world crisis, but it strikes me that there are two gaping holes in all that is being said.  If they are being said, perhaps I just have not heard them.   I feel I must state both of them as they are strongly on my heart.  In actuality, they are not things to be said, but QUESTIONS THAT NEED TO BE ASKED.

The first one is this:  IN THIS CRISIS, WHAT IS GOD SAYING TO HIS CHURCH?
I personally believe that above all things our national and world situation is a CALL for we who know Him to get on our faces and seek His face, and inquire of Him, “Lord!  What are you saying to us?”  I truly believe that if we do not cry out to Him to hear what He is saying to us, we may miss His very purpose for allowing this crisis to come upon not only the world, but upon His church.
When in history has it occurred that the church was forced to cease to gather EVERYWHERE?  Even in small gatherings of “two or three”, in homes?  This itself could be an even greater crisis for the church of God than the actual disease is to the world.
A great error of our day is to think that the essence of the church is large assemblies, large gatherings – but the reality of the true core and essence of the church for all of history has been small gatherings. But now even those are, for a season, impossible.
Every letter to every church in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Revelation closes with this command:  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Who is crying for us to HAVE AN EAR to hear?  That we must, more than ever in this hour press close to God and to ask Him, “LORD!  WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?”  What are you saying to us, your people?  What are you saying to ME, personally?
I truly believe that for us to miss what God is wanting to say to us – corporately and personally – in this hour, may be to miss the very thing God wants to accomplish in this hour.
MAY THE HOLY SPIRIT GIVE US GRACE TO PRESS INTO HIM, TO INQUIRE OF HIM, AND TO HAVE AN EAR TO HEAR FROM HIM!
The second one is similar, and related:  IN THIS CRISIS, HOW SHOULD WE, GOD’S PEOPLE, BE PRAYING?
 
I am assuming that we all agree that more than ever, we should be praying!  Where is such a call to pray?  Are we to be passive, accepting this disease as just something to get through?  No!  We must be praying more than ever, but that leads to more questions that must be asked……
HOW SHOULD WE BE PRAYING FOR THE WORLD?
HOW SHOULD WE BE PRAYING FOR CHRIST’S CHURCH?
HOW SHOULD WE BE PRAYING FOR THE SICK, THOSE DYING by the thousands?
And how should we be praying for ourselves?   Surely God wants His Son, Jesus Christ, to have increase in His people, in us, and in the world as a result of this disease.  I believe in fact, He wants to redeem the crisis and use it for His glory, for His kingdom, and that it be taken from the intents and purposes of His enemy, which is always “to steal, to kill, to destroy”.
Where is the call for us to be so praying?
May He, by His grace, give us hearts to cry out to Him like never before,
your brother in Christ,
Richard Hanes

~ ~ ~

And all I can add is,
AMEN!!!”

~ ~ ~

[Call details removed.]

~ ~ ~

I wanted to pass this information on to those who follow this blog.  There is much that our institutions of government, medicine, healthcare, science, manufacturing, commerce, and the like are doing to deal with and help mitigate the effects and ramifications of this world-wide pandemic.  The true solution to the healing of our land, however, is found in you and I, God’s people, humbling ourselves, praying, fasting, repenting of our sins, and interceding before Him.  We stand in the most critical position of all people for the turning of the tide of this pandemic and for God’s will to be fully accomplished in the midst of this crisis, both in the Church and in the world.  So this is an opportunity for those who may feel drawn to join together, in a very grassroots, organic way, to call on the name of the Lord as His people, His royal priesthood.  I hope you will consider and pray about whether God would have you to be a part of this solemn assembly.  Also, please feel free to pass this on to others who may possibly be interested as well.  Thank you!


UPDATE:  It’s been a week now since I participated in this solemn assembly and I wanted to give a brief follow-up report.  I was able to join in all three nights for the video conference calls and was truly blessed by the depth of the spirit of prayer and repentance, the unity of heart, and the orderliness of the calls. 

Each night we focused on a different area in prayer and repentance.  The first night was focused on our own hearts and lives, which was the right place to begin.  The second night was on repentance and intercession for the Church.  Finally, the third night, we expanded out to pray and intercede for our communities, the nation, and the world.  There was “effectual fervent prayer” each night, often with tears, and sometimes mixed with Scripture readings as various participants were led by the Spirit to pray, confess, and/or share.

Although I don’t have the exact numbers, I estimate there were between 35 – 50 people each night and the calls lasted approximately 2 1/2 hours each, which seemed to fly by.  All who participated were free to “unmute” themselves as they felt led to lead out in prayer, while the rest joined in in “muted” agreement. 

One of the highlights I think for many of us was on the last night when the Spirit focused in on praying for the children, both in the Church and in the world, and there was much intercession from numerous participants in heart-rending prayers and passionate intercession for them.

It was also a great blessing that there were whole families who joined in, including children, who also participated in offering prayers to the Lord.

All in all, I felt that the Lord was very well pleased with the unity, sincerity, humility, fervency, and contrition of those who participated.  It was truly a solemn assembly in the Spirit of the Lord, and I’m sure that there is and will be lasting fruit that comes from it.

Beyond giving a report of this event, I also wanted to follow up because it seemed to me that this virtual solemn assembly was also a pattern-type of gathering that could and ought to be an inspiration for others to follow and creatively replicate as the Lord may lead.  With the technology we have today, and the monumental global crisis that we are now facing, there is no reason why groups of believers, large and small, cannot join together for solemn intercession, prayer, humility, and repentance before the Lord.  It doesn’t require established churches, ministries, or recognized leaders to pull something like this together. All it takes are the willing hearts of at least two or three believers and heaven-moving, “land-healing”, 2 Chronicles 7:14, effectual, fervent prayers can be lifted up to the Lord on high!  The Lord is looking for those who will “make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before [Him] for the land,” (Ezek. 22:30) in the midst of this crisis, and all He needs are the likes of you and me.  Thanks to Travis for having the vision for, organizing, and moderating this one!

Finally, during the “Solemn Assembly Pre-Meeting” call, I felt led to share an original song, “The Sacrifices of God”, (lyrics from Psalm 51:6,17KJV and 2 Chronicles 7:14KJV), for I felt that it captured the solemn spirit of the assembly.  I recently made a simple acoustic recording of it and am including it here as a reminder of the importance of us all embracing a spirit of brokenness, contrition, humility, prayer, and the seeking of God’s face during this time.  I pray it is a blessing to you.

My hope is that the contents of this post will continue to inspire those who read it well beyond this particular event.  May our prayers, as incense, continually rise before Him! 

All blessings, David


Additional helps:
The Ministry of Intercession – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)
Divine Healing – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)


“mystery post”  (randomly generated)

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Five Dynamics of the Corporate Spiritual Life – Part 1: Revelation and Impartation

In my last post, I discussed five dynamics of the spiritual life from Philippians 3:10-11 as they relate to the individual believer.  In this post (and the next), I’d like to look through this same lens and see how this passage similarly applies to the spiritual life of the Church corporately.

There is a relatively undiscovered, under-explored principle for the practical application of Scripture that when Biblical precepts, promises, and the like are directed to individuals, more often than not, they have an equal application to the Church as a whole.  In Christ, God views the collective Body as a single entity, as “one new man.” (Eph. 2:15)  In reality, then, the individual Christian and the corporate “Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12) both have the same spiritual DNA, are being conformed unto the same image, have the same spiritual resources, and the same high, heavenly calling.  It is not surprising, then, that the same spiritual principles and dynamics are inherent in and apply to both.

Although I’ve employed this principle of application for some time (see my series on “Corporate One-Anothering” for instance), the inspiration to specifically consider this passage in Philippians 3 in this way was sparked a little over a year ago by a dear friend and brother in Christ, Richard Hanes, whom I connected with through this blog.  I’ve been thinking on that corporate application ever since, so I want to give him a “nod” and a “thanks” for the inspiration.  After reading my last post, he left a comment concerning his musings along this line, which I encourage you to read (see here, posting as godelshaddai.)

The five spiritual dynamics found in Philippians 3:10-11, as identified in my last post relating to the individual, then, are as follows:

Revelation…Impartation…Participation…Conformation…Transformation…

Much can be said concerning these same dynamics as they apply to the corporate, even as Richard said in his comment: “I think a whole book could be written on this new application of this powerful passage.”  I will take this and the next post to offer some concise musings of my own, and hopefully it will help to spark further consideration and conversation along these lines.  (Maybe someone will even write a book someday! 😉 )

~ ~ ~

To begin with, then, let’s start with a slightly paraphrased version of our passage to bring the corporate clearly in view…

Philippians 3:10-11
(paraphrased)

“That TOGETHER WE may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and, TOGETHER, WE may know the fellowship of His sufferings,
being made conformable unto His death;
If by any means, TOGETHER, WE might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

~ ~ ~

Revelation
“That TOGETHER WE may know Him…”

The central passion of every local assembly ought to be, “That TOGETHER WE may know HIM”!   The “rock” of revelation, that comes down from the Father concerning His Son, is what the Church is built upon. (See Matthew 16:18.)  A continuous, progressive, ever-deepening revelation of CHRIST is foundational to every aspect of the building and establishing of the House of God.  In fact, He is not only the Foundation, but the heavenly Pattern for the Church, from Cornerstone to Capstone, in all of its vast and varying dimensions, dynamics, and details.  Nothing can nor will be built “according to pattern” if it doesn’t first spring from a heaven-sent revelation of Christ to the inner man of those who constitute the local assemblies of the Church.

This is why Paul, the wise master-builder, said, “it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the nations…” (Galatians 1:15b-16a).  All of his preaching, teaching, and writings came out of and imparted this Spirit-wrought revelation of CHRIST that the churches would be established, “according to pattern”, on unshakable, heavenly foundations, and not on the mere wisdom and ways of man. (See Acts 26:15-19, 1 Cor.2:12-13, Gal.1:11-12, Eph.1:9, 3:2-5, Col.1:26-27, 2Cor.4:5-6, 2Cor.12:1-7.)

This is also why he prayed that the saints might be given “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. The eyes of [their] heart being enlightened…” (Eph. 1:18-19a; See also Col.1:9)  He also exhorted them to minister to one another with the revelatory gifts of the Spirit of  “a word of wisdom”, “a word of knowledge”, “prophecy”, “discerning of spirits”, “interpretation of tongues”, “a revelation”, along with “the word of Christ dwell[ing] in [them] richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom”.  (See 1 Cor. 12:8,10; 14:26, Col. 3:16)

The establishing of local churches through the living light of spiritual revelation was Paul’s first and foremost apostolic concern and calling. Through the transforming power of this spiritual dynamic, he equipped the body of Christ to also minister to one another in like manner, that the churches would build themselves up to “together…know Him”, firmly established upon the unshakable “rock” of the REVELATION of CHRIST.

As it was with the old creation, so it is with the new creation; as it is with the individual, so it is with the corporate. Everything begins with and is begotten of the light of revelation shining in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, bringing us into a true knowing of Christ.  This is the first progressive dynamic of the corporate spiritual life.

Impartation
“and the power of His resurrection”

The Church, however, not only needs light, it also needs heat!  The Church was born on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out from on high on the waiting disciples following the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This outpouring was to fulfill what John the Baptist said about the One who would come after him, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Matt. 3:11b)  It was not sufficient for the disciples to have a mere revelation of Christ, which they received in measure prior to the crucifixion.  They needed the impartation of “the power of His resurrection” to fulfill their mission and purpose.

The book of Acts is the record of the early Church going forth in “the power of His resurrection”, declaring, with signs and wonders following, the crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning Lord!  The apostles preaching was “with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4) and everywhere they went, the same Spirit “who raised Christ from the dead” (Rom. 8:11) was poured out on the churches as at the beginning.

Paul’s epistles, furthermore, are filled with exhortations and prayers for the Church to experientially know “the power of His resurrection” through the manifest workings and giftings of the Holy Spirit.  After praying for the Ephesian church to receive “the spirit of wisdom and revelation”, he prayed that they would know the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” (Eph.1:19-20)  The imparted, experiential knowledge of Christ’s resurrection power is what enables the Church to walk in and rightly proclaim the revelation of Christ they have received.  The two cannot be separated.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.” (1 Cor. 4:20)

Many “churches” today have “a form of godliness, but [are] denying the power thereof.” (2 Tim. 3:5)  These rely on external forms, rituals, traditions of men, intellectualism, soulish manipulation, legalism, authoritarianism, consumerism, charismatic leadership, humanly-crafted programs, and the like, but do not have “the exceeding greatness of His power (Eph. 1:19) at work within them.  Like the church of Sardis, they “have a name that [they] are alive, but [they] are “dead”. (Rev. 3:1)  Or as the church of Laodicea, they consider themselves rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that [they] are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Rev.3:17)   The resurrected Christ is standing outside their door knocking, waiting to be invited in…in the glory of His Person and the fullness of His power. (see vs. 20.)

For those who would seek to experientially know “the power of His resurrection” through the impartation of the Holy Spirit, much room must be made for His manifest workings.  Control must be yielded fully to the headship of Christ.  An openness for Him to work in and through His many-membered body through the manifold giftings, ministrations, and manifestations of the Spirit must be diligently sought and jealously guarded.  Rigid, old wineskins must be exchanged for flexible, new ones in order for God to pour out the new wine of Christ’s resurrection power and not ruin the container.  This comes with a great cost that many, if not most, are unwilling to pay.  And this is where many assemblies stop going forward in the purpose and process of the Lord, continuing on, instead, in their safe, predictable, religious, lukewarm ways (…only to await Christ spewing them out of His mouth. Rev. 3:16.)  For those who do embrace this cost together and receive an ongoing impartation of “the power of His resurrection”, the next spiritual dynamic will soon follow on.

~ ~ ~

To be continued…


Series posts:
Five Dynamics of the Spiritual Life (previous post)
Five Dynamics of the Corporate Spiritual Life – Part 2: Participation, Conformation, Transformation (next post)

Further related:
Christ the Power and Wisdom of God
Holding Fast to the Head
Of Wine and Wineskins
“Wind Dies in a Box”

Posted in Christ-Centered Gatherings, Spiritual Dynamics, The Ekklesia, The Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Five Dynamics of the Spiritual Life

One of the most concise and yet comprehensive statements in Scripture describing the dynamics of the spiritual life is Philippians 3:10-11. It is arguably the apostle Paul’s most transparent expression of His inward spiritual passion and pursuit. It is also a portion of Scripture that has spoken to my heart more than just about any other.

If we examine this Pauline expression closely, we see the whole of the spiritual life laid out according to five progressive dynamics.  In practical experience, these are cyclical in nature, following one after another and then beginning their progressive sequence all over again.  Each time, however, they work the nature of Christ slightly deeper within us and take us a little higher and further in our spiritual growth. If we, like Paul, press into and yield to this repeating spiritual progression, we will find ourselves on the most fruitful path of spiritual growth.

These five dynamics can be summed up with the following five words:
Revelation…Impartation…Participation…Conformation…Transformation

Let’s explore that a little further from Paul’s words in Philippians 3:10-11:

“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection,
and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

Revelation
“That I may know Him,”

Everything in the spiritual life begins with revelation.  Day one of the old creation begins with God saying, “‘Let there be light’, and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)  In the new creation, Scripture says: For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)  Because God is Spirit, He can only be known by revelation within our spirit. The Holy Spirit within our spirit then illuminates our heart and mind with a true knowledge, or better, a true knowing of God. Every step of progression in the spiritual life springs from and facilitates a deeper revelation in this true knowing of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Impartation
“…and the power of His resurrection,”

Revelation is the first step, but apart from an experiential knowing of “the power of His resurrection”, we are unable to rightly respond to and walk in the light we have been given.  This power is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead…” (Romans 8:11)  It is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [that] has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)  God’s ultimate desire is that I would be united with Christ in the fullness of His resurrection life, be set free from the power of sin and death, and be transformed to be like Him in every way.  Revelation must be followed by an experiential impartation of “the power of His resurrection” in order for us to go forward in our spiritual progress.

Participation
“…and the fellowship of His sufferings,”

The word “fellowship” used here indicates “a joint-participation.”  God has joined us with His Son not only in His heavenly, spiritual life in and through our redeemed spirit, but also in His earthly, human life and mission in and through our redeemed humanity.  Christ’s heavenly life and earthly mission, however, stand in direct opposition to the life and ways of the sinful flesh, the fallen world, and the powers of darkness.  These three enemies of the kingdom of God are not only external to us, but also have their roots and tentacles within us.  Consequently, there is a great disruption, turmoil, struggle, and battle both within and without as the kingdom of God advances forcibly within our lives and thorough us into the world.  As we participate with Christ and the Holy Spirit in this heavenly, yet earthly calling, we share in the inward and outward sufferings that are inherent in this carnal, cosmic conflict.

Conformation
“…being made conformable unto His death;”

When revelation combines with impartation and leads to participation, the natural result is that of conformation.

Conformity to Christ’s death has two sides, the negative and the (double-negative) positive.  Because He became conformable unto our death, we are now called to be made conformable unto His death.  This death is essentially an inward dying to self, which is the root of our fallen, sinful nature.  Jesus said to his disciples, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)  This death to self is the negative side of the cross.

The positive side may be understood as arising from a double-negative.  The death of the cross is, in essence, the death of death.  Consider how powerful that double negative is!  The death of death leaves behind only the life of Life.  As we daily take up our cross, being made conformable unto His death, all that is non-living, non-life-giving within us is annihilated and eradicated. This leaves behind the emancipated, indwelling Light and Life of Christ.  The more radical the death of death within, the more radiant the life of Life within.  This emancipation of the Life of Christ within us is the positive side of the cross.

Both the negative and the positive sides of the cross are summed up in Galatians 2:20a:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;”

This then leads us to the final phase of this spiritual progression.

Transformation
“If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

In the revelation and impartation phases, we come to experientially “know Christ and the power of HIS resurrection.” (emphasis added.)  In this final phase, we come to experientially know what it is for “I” to attain unto “the resurrection”, as of one who was once “the dead.”

Even as our being “made conformable unto His death” is, in essence, a present, inward working, so our “attain(ing) unto the resurrection of the dead” is, in essence, a present, inward attainment.  Through this progressive process we are becoming something altogether new, being transformed by the Life of Christ within resurrecting us out of the deadness of our former nature which lies smitten under the power of the cross.  What we initially knew and were partaking of as an attainment belonging to HIM, we now know and are partaking of as an attainment belonging to US.  The outcome of this entire process is that of present, inward transformation.

~ ~ ~

Revelation leads to Impartation
Impartation leads to Participation
Participation leads to Conformation
Conformation leads to Transformation
Transformation leads to….
[REPEAT]

These five spiritual dynamics are what constitute our spiritual life and spiritual growth. They are progressive, and they are cyclical in nature. In experience, there may even be more than one of these cycles at work in various aspects of our life simultaneously, overlapping and intertwining, as the Lord works to transform us into His likeness.  If we recognize the workings of the Lord in these spiritual dynamics and submit to His processings, we will find ourselves in the way of fruitful spiritual growth and maturity.  As with Paul, this ought to be our most central spiritual passion and pursuit.


Next in series:
Five Dynamics of the Corporate Spiritual Life – Part 1: Revelation and Impartation
Five Dynamics of the Corporate Spiritual Life – Part 2: Participation, Conformation, Transformation

Further Related:
Parables of the Cross – by Isabella Lilias Trotter (free audiobook)
The Spiritual Life – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)

“He Must Increase” – by David Bolton  (Original song)

Posted in Christ-Centered Spirituality, Spiritual Dynamics, The Cross, The Holy Spirit, The Inner Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Divine Healing – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)

book-cover-large

Divine Healing

Andrew MURRAY (1828 – 1917)

Andrew Murray’s practical and devotional writings on the Bible have been a help and blessing to Christian believers for more than a century. In this powerfully written book, Murray takes up the subject of healing as revealed in Scripture, showing how the work of Jesus Christ embraces not only pardon for sin but also healing from sickness. (Summary by Christopher Smith)

SECTION CHAPTER READER TIME
Play00 00 – Preface Christopher Smith 00:01:07
Play01 01 – Pardon and Healing Christopher Smith 00:06:51
Play02 02 – Because of Your Unbelief Christopher Smith 00:07:09
Play03 03 – Jesus and the Doctors Christopher Smith 00:05:59
Play04 04 – Health and Salvation in the Name of Jesus Christopher Smith 00:05:53
Play05 05 – Not by Our Own Power Christopher Smith 00:06:13
Play06 06 – According to the Measure of Faith Christopher Smith 00:06:23
Play07 07 – The Way of Faith Christopher Smith 00:06:11
Play08 08 – Your Body is the Temple of the Holy Ghost Christopher Smith 00:06:25
Play09 09 – The Body for the Lord Christopher Smith 00:06:04
Play10 10 – The Lord for the Body Christopher Smith 00:05:57
Play11 11 – Do Not Consider Your Body Christopher Smith 00:05:21
Play12 12 – Discipline and Sanctification Christopher Smith 00:06:43
Play13 13 – Sickness and Death Christopher Smith 00:05:29
Play14 14 – The Holy Spirit the Spirit of Healing Christopher Smith 00:05:06
Play15 15 – Persevering Prayer Christopher Smith 00:06:08
Play16 16 – Let Him that is Healed Glorify God Christopher Smith 00:05:28
Play17 17 – The Need of a Manifestation of God’s Power Christopher Smith 00:05:11
Play18 18 – Sin and Sickness Christopher Smith 00:05:11
Play19 19 – Jesus Bore Our Sicknesses Christopher Smith 00:06:10
Play20 20 – Is Sickness a Chatisement? Christopher Smith 00:06:01
Play21 21 – God’s Prescription for the Sick Christopher Smith 00:05:12
Play22 22 – The Lord that Healeth Thee Christopher Smith 00:05:55
Play23 23 – Jesus Heals the Sick Christopher Smith 00:05:40
Play24 24 – Fervent and Effectual Prayer Christopher Smith 00:06:31
Play25 25 – Intercessory Prayer Christopher Smith 00:05:16
Play26 26 – The Will of God Christopher Smith 00:06:24
Play27 27 – The Lord’s Healing Christopher Smith 00:06:45
Play28 28 – Obedience and Health Christopher Smith 00:06:51
Play29 29 – Job’s Sickness and Healing Christopher Smith 00:06:42
Play30 30 – The Prayer of Faith Christopher Smith 00:06:03
Play31 31 – Anointing in the Name of the Lord Christopher Smith 00:05:08
Play32 32 – Full Salvation Our Privilege Christopher Smith 00:14:29
Play33 33 – Ye are the Branches Christopher Smith 00:20:35

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Acoustical liberation of books in the public domain

LibriVox recordings are Public Domain in the USA. If you are not in the USA, please verify the copyright status of these works in your own country before downloading, otherwise you may be violating copyright laws.

Listen/Download  (help?)
Whole book (zip file)  Download
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Production details
Genre(s): Christianity – Other
Language: English
Running Time: 3:42:31
Zip file size: 106.9MB
Catalog date: 2012-12-06
Read by: Christopher Smith
Book Coordinator: Christopher Smith
Meta Coordinator:Barry Eads
Proof Listener: AllenJohns

Links
Internet Archive Page
Online text
Wikipedia – Andrew Murray
Download M4B (102MB)
Download cover art
Download CD case insert

Thank a reader

~ ~ ~

As a further source of comfort, encouragement and peace, I offer the following original songs taken from Psalm 27:13-14 and John 14:27:  I Would Have Despaired, and Isaiah 40:31, They That Wait.


Works of Andrew Murray (free audiobooks) page

Main FREE AUDIOBOOKS page on Christ-Centered Christianity


“mystery post”  (randomly generated)

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“Out of the Depths” – A miraculous testimony of a friend

A close family friend and dear sister in Christ, Landon Potts, has a powerful testimony of God’s miraculous intervention in her life in the midst of a near-fatal accident.

She and her mother share her amazing story in the following video, which was filmed and produced by my youngest son, Eli.  This is the first major project of his newest venture, Parallax Pictures.

Enjoy!

~ ~ ~

“Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD:”
Psalm 130:1

~ ~ ~

Additional links:

Landon’s written testimony (w/pictures)

Wheelchair Recovery Video (short version)


“mystery post”  (randomly generated)

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The Holy Spirit in “3D”

Today, Christians around the world celebrate the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church on the day of Pentecost. (See Acts 2) In honor of this celebration, and as an ongoing tribute to the Holy Spirit, I would like to offer some spiritual resources for your consideration and edification.

It has been my long-standing conviction and burden that in large portions of the church, the Holy Spirit has become what I would call “the marginalized member of the Godhead.” The Father we revere, the Son we exalt, but the Holy Spirit is quite often treated with sanctimonious suspicion and religious reservation. If we do honor and seek Him, we generally do so in a measured way within the confines of our religious, traditional, and institutional boxes. Rarely do we give Him the full honor and submission that He is worthy of as an equal member of the Godhead with the Father and the Son. In failing to do so, we, in reality, diminish, limit, and thwart the effectual working of the Father and the Son among us, who carry out their work only through the manifest operation of the Holy Spirit.

In this post, I am offering two substantial resources and an original post that together, I believe, will provide a “3D” perspective on the Holy Spirit that will work to increase our revelation of and reverence for the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church. Only then will we be able to truly know the Father and the Son and experience their manifest working both within us and among us!

May we earnestly seek to restore the Holy Spirit back from the margins to His rightful place as GOD in our midst!

All blessings!
-David

[For the full pages for these resources, please click the links of the titles below.]

The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit – by R. A. Torrey (free audiobook)

The Full Blessing of Pentecost – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)

“Wind Dies in a Box”

“Wind dies in a box.”

In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is likened unto the wind.

Jesus said, The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) We also know that on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on the disciples in the Upper Room that: Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:2,4). This was a primary manifestation of the Holy Spirit as He was given to the Church after the ascension of Christ.

So why is the Holy Spirit likened unto the wind?

Here are a few similarities that I can see:

The Hebrew word for “spirit”, “ruach”, literally means “wind”, “breath”.

Wind is an unseen force, the effects of which can be seen, but not the force itself. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind is from above, a “heavenly” force. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind is “sovereign.” It “blows wherever it pleases.” The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind is unpredictable. “You cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind is uncontrollable. It can be harnessed and utilized to a degree, but it cannot ultimately be controlled by man. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind is unstoppable. When something obstructs it, it either blows the obstacle out of the way, or it finds another way around it. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind can be gentle and refreshing. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind can be powerful and forceful. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind derives its movement and force from the Sun. The same is true of the Holy Spirit (and the Son.)

Wind drives atmospheric changes which affect all life on earth one way or another. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

… and one last thing,

Wind needs a lot of space to do what wind does. It doesn’t do well in a box. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Boxes

Boxes are man-made containers meant to hold, store, organize, sort, transport and protect all sorts of things. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are used for all manner of tasks and purposes. Pretty much everything that we manufacture, use or consume at one time or another spends time inside of a box. Boxes are a staple of our consumeristic society and lifestyle. It is hard to imagine life without them! We love and need our boxes.

The crazy thing about “boxes”, too, is that they are not only physical. They can also be mental. We have “boxes” in our minds made of our personal and collective beliefs, understandings, concepts, philosophies, preferences, biases, habits and traditions. We live out our lives inside these mental “boxes”, feel safe inside them, and defend them when they are challenged. On the other hand, we also tend to admire those who have the creative ability to “think outside the box.”

Of all of the incalculably vast array of items, objects and even ideas that we have put into “boxes”, I think it is fair to say that NO ONE has ever seriously tried to put WIND in a BOX! Most of us know instinctively that is foolish.

So why is it that when it comes to the WIND OF GOD, the Holy Spirit, we lose all of our human instincts and common sensibilities, and seek to confine the Unconfineable? We build our “boxes” out of our experiences and expectations, our capacities and comfort zones, our preferences and prejudices, our agendas and aspirations and then we expect the Holy Spirit to come and nestle down inside of them. We treat Him as a product for our consumption and reckon that in order for “it” to be contained, controlled, preserved and portioned out, we need “it” in a “box.” The Holy Spirit, however, is not a consumable “it”, but a Sovereign “Him”, and He needs a lot of space to do what He does. When we “box Him in”, we, more often than not, end up “boxing Him out.”

God in a Box???

Many religious leaders and Christian congregations have the appearance of great reverence and respect for God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ, but have little esteem, in reality, for the Holy Spirit. They may speak of Him reverently with their lips, but their true esteem is shown by their actions towards Him, not their words. The Holy Spirit, if acknowledged or sought at all in the assembly, is often treated as a something of an accessory, an accent, a nicety, a condiment, a garnish. He is welcomed and allowed just enough room to bring a hint of grace and life, and possibly even a few gifts or manifestations, but these are usually only allowed to the degree that they fit nicely into the particular “box” the assembly regularly lives in. Rarely is He treated as Who He truly is….GOD!

He is as much GOD, however, as the God the Father and God the Son are, and is inextricably One with them in Divine essence, purpose and presence. The Triune God cannot be separated. The degree to which we show the least esteem to any one Person of the Godhead, therefore, is the degree to which we actually esteem all of them. Likewise, when we “box in”, and in the process “box out”, the Holy Spirit, we “”box in” and “box out” the Father and the Son as well. It cannot be otherwise.

The Holy Spirit is that member of the Godhead Who has been given to the Church as the Operative Power to carry out the will of the Father through the Headship of the Son. He is, therefore, indispensable to the existence, life, purpose, functionality, ministry and mission of the Church. The will of the Father cannot be fulfilled and carried out in and through the Church without the manifest Headship of the Son, and the manifest Headship of the Son cannot be inwrought and outworked in and through the Church without the full and unhindered work of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is “boxed up”, so is the Headship of the Son, and, consequently, so is the will of the Father. It is just that simple.

Ultimately, the will of the Father in creation, redemption, the Church, and the Kingdom, is, “that in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18) The Holy Spirit is ever working with that end in view. Wherever the Holy Spirit is “unboxed”, Christ will be brought to center stage in all of His fullness, centrality and supremacy, that the Father may be ultimately glorified and satisfied. Wherever the Holy Spirit is given full rein in the life and assembly of the ekklesia, the governance of the church will shift from the overlording control of men and from the lifeless, rigid, forms of religious practices and protocols and placed back in the hands of Him to Whom it belongs. Wherever the Holy Spirit is fully honored and submitted to as GOD in the midst of the church, He will administer the will of the Father, through the Headship of the Son, to and through a many-membered body yielded to His leadings, giftings, ministries and workings. Wherever the Holy Spirit is free to be Himself, He will not seek to glorify Himself, but will direct all attention and glory to the Father and to the Son. These will be the marks of the “unboxed” work of the Holy Spirit.

~ ~ ~

We love the wind for what it does, but the wind can also be scary. The wind is beyond human control, and sometimes it is mighty and even violent. We cannot direct it, we cannot contain it, and we cannot predict it. When it comes to the Wind of God, the same is true as well. The question is, will we trust that the Wind of God, if given full and free rein, will always act in perfect submission to the Father and the Son as their appointed Agent to carry out Their perfect will in and through the Church? If we cannot fully trust and surrender to Him, we, in reality, cannot fully trust and surrender to the Father and the Son, as well. If we, collectively, cannot yield the reins of our corporate life and gatherings to the Holy Spirit, then we, in actuality, are wresting the reins from both the Father and the Son. Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be! It is time that we “unbox” the Wind that the Father and the Son may once again have Their way in Their Church.

For all the good that we think we may be doing by keeping everything in a nice, neat BOX, we must never, ever, forget that…

“Wind DIES in a box.”


Related:
The Cross in “3D”


“mystery post”  (randomly generated)

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“We’re Going Up”

Many years ago I taught an Old Testament Survey course in the local church fellowship we were a part of.  As I was preparing for my class on the book of Joshua, I was musing on the spiritual typology of the Israelites as they cross the Jordan River and go up and possess the land of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership.  As significant as this time in Israel’s history was, it was merely a type and shadow of something much greater that would one day be ushered in by a greater “Joshua”.

The spiritual reality that the book of Joshua points to for the church in Christ, the spiritual Israel, is best captured for us in the epistle to the Ephesians.  The land of Canaan can be rightly described in New Testament spiritual terms as “the heavenly realms”, in which we have been “blessed…with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3)  Furthermore, as the land of Canaan had inhabitants who were under God’s judgement and had to be dispossessed through natural warfare, so also, these “heavenly realms” are entrenched with spiritual enemies who need to be dispossessed through spiritual warfare: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)  Christ Jesus Himself, then, in all of His heavenly fullness, including His heavenly Kingdom realm, is our Promised Land as new covenant believers.  The natural land of Canaan was just a meager, earthly shadow of this glorious, heavenly inheritance that is ours to fully possess in Christ Jesus.

As I was musing on these thoughts back then, I felt led to pick up my guitar.  As I began to play, a song was birthed in me.  I grabbed pen and paper and began to write as the melody and lyrics flowed almost effortlessly.  Within a short while, I had a complete song that captured what was in my heart concerning these spiritual realities.  The song, We’re Going Up, is the first and only ballad-type of song that the Lord has given me.  I believe it was a prophetic gift from the Lord at the time, and all these years later, believe it still speaks poignantly and prophetically to the Church.  These are timeless truths for the Church of Christ at all times and in all places!

I have had the lyrics of this song posted on the blog for a number of years now, but, recently, at the request of a reader, I decided to make a simple recording of it (using a smart phone and minimal editing techniques.)  I then included an audio player with the recording on the existing page.  I have now, also, recreated that page below for this post, for your enjoyment and encouragement!

So, find a quiet place for meditation, put on some headphones and give a listen.

* * *

* * *

We’re Going Up

All the way in this barren wilderness

We muttered, we grumbled, and we wept

And though God had sworn His good promise to us

We doubted His word would be kept

Now all across the desert sands

There lie the bodies of unbelieving men

Consumed by the wasting wilderness

The final reward for the faithless

***

But now God has brought us to Jordan’s shore

To bring us to the land of our dreams

And He calls us to rise up in faith once more

For we face an uncrossable stream

But He has promised to make a way

If we will simply trust and obey

The Ark of the Covenant shall go before

And Jordan’s waters shall flow no more.

***

We’re going up

To possess the land

We’re going in

At Joshua’s command

We’re going up

On God’s Word we stand

The good Lord has given it into our hands

***

And though there be giants and walls in the land

We shall not fear, nor dread

For wherever the feet of Joshua shall stand

The land shall be given to us instead

It’s a land of bounty

A land that is blessed

A land where God’s children shall dwell and find rest

A land where the God of Israel

Shall set up His Kingdom and forever dwell

***

We’re going up

To possess the land

We’re going in

At Joshua’s command

We’re going up

On God’s Word we stand

The good Lord has given it into our hands

We’re going up…

***

Now ages have passed since that glorious time of old

When Joshua took the Promised Land

But the Church now stands at this same threshold

With yet a greater Canaan at hand

For we have been promised the high, holy ground

Where all spiritual blessings in Christ are found

An heavenly Kingdom for all who believe

And will lay down their lives that they might receive

***

So let us not waver, nor shrink back in fear

And own the wilderness as our grave

But let us arise and in faith draw near

To our God, for He is mighty to save

For our Heavenly Joshua has gone on before

He’s reigning now in glory, a mighty Man of war

O, now is the time to arise and possess

The fullness of His Kingdom as our inheritance

***

We’re going up

To possess the Land

We’re going in

At JESUS’ command

We’re going up

On God’s Word we stand

The good Lord has given it into our hands

The good Lord has given it into our hands

The good Lord has given it into our hands

We’re going up!

~ ~ ~

* * *


©1992 Words and music by David Bolton. All rights reserved.

Original Poems/Songs

Creative Expressions


“mystery post”  (randomly generated)

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Blog update and two new free resources

Hi friends,

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted. In fact, yesterday was the one year “anniversary” of my last post. Ugh!!  I’ve had to put blogging on hold this past year to focus on the ever pressing and sometimes overwhelming responsibilities of life, family, homeschooling, work, and local spiritual pursuits/commitments.  All of these have been overshadowed and crowded in on by the laborious and time-consuming work of estate settlement that I’ve been deeply involved in for nearly three years now. I have also had two unrelated worker’s comp. issues that have involved rather prolonged and intensive physical therapy/medical/chiropractic treatments throughout the year! It’s been quite a time! 🙂

I wanted to let you know that I am still here, though, and I’ve not resigned from blogging altogether.  In fact, I hope to begin posting again occasionally, and am looking to resume regular blogging again sometime in the new year!  That is my hope and desire going forward!

With that being said, I’d like to share with you more than just a blog update in this post and also give you something of spiritual substance and benefit.  Since I posted last, I’ve added a few new resources to the blog that I’d like to share with you.

If there is a singular burden that I feel is most urgent at this unique period of time we are living in, it is the need to press into prayer and intercession as the Body of Christ for our ourselves, our families, the Church, and the nations.  We are living in truly epic, Biblical times, and prayer and intercession lie at the heart of our ability to rise up to our ordained place and purpose in Christ in the midst of all that is transpiring.  There is also more vying for our time and attention than ever before that is continually distracting and hindering us from these most vital spiritual pursuits.  Our only hope is that we meet this onslaught of diversion and disruption with renewed conviction and intentionality that we might gain new ground in this area of our lives.

To help in this regard, then, I have added two audiobook resources by an author that I hold in the highest esteem, Andrew Murray. These are truly classics! Please see the links below to access the resource pages for these books which include a continuous audio player as well as links to online print versions.  (I have also included the link to the Free Audiobooks main resource page for the entire list of audiobooks that are hosted on this site.)  I pray that you are strengthened and blessed by these excellent resources! -David

With Christ in the School of Prayer – by Andrew Murray

The Ministry of Intercession – by Andrew Murray

Free Audiobooks” page

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T. Austin-Sparks on the Headship of Christ

The following is a chapter excerpt from the book, A Way of Growth by T. Austin-Sparks.  The focus of this selection is on the headship of Christ and the church’s submission to it as the way of growth into the fullness of all that is in Christ.

There are few who compare with Bro. Sparks as to his revelation of the eternal purpose of God and of its practical outworking in and through the Church.  As a follow-up to my last three posts on the headship of Christ, I offer this clear and compelling teaching on this subject for your consideration and edification.

PDF available here

 ~ ~ ~

A Way of Growth
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 – Subjection to Christ as Head

“In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full” (Col. 2:9-10).

“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18).

“Who is the head of all principality and power” (Col. 2:10).

“…not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:19).

“…where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).

Christ’s Absolute Headship

Colossians 1 is the greatest and most magnificent statement in the Bible concerning the Lord Jesus, and, in a word, it sums up all things in Christ.  It is a very wonderful unveiling of the place which Christ occupies in relation to all things, and of course that is the standpoint from which everything has to be viewed as to the Lord Jesus – His relationship to all things; and what the Apostle is seeking to make very clear, because of that which had arisen to call forth this letter, is that Christ is at no point, in no way, second in God’s universe.  He does not come in the slightest degree below the place of absolute pre-eminence, however great might be the position accorded Him by those against whom the Apostle was writing.  They were quite prepared to say very good and great and wonderful things about Him, and to accord Him a very high place; and yet that place was less than absolute pre-eminence.  So the Apostle wrote this letter in the first place to reveal and declare that the Lord Jesus is in every realm supreme.

You notice the above passages touching upon His headship, and that headship is seen in the several connections as complete.  There are no two heads or three heads in God’s universe; only one head is possible, and Christ occupies that in every realm.  So it is stated here – “that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.”  You cannot get outside of that. When you say ‘all,’ that is final.  He is head over all things.

Our Position in that Headship

Chapter 2 brings us firstly to our position in that headship.  Verses 9 and 10 are a statement of our position.  “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full.”  Now, that is a positional fulness. That simply means that, by our being in Christ, we come into the place of fulness, and we are made to stand in the fulness of Christ; we are positioned there.

Our Progress in the Position

But when you pass to verse 19 of Chapter 2, it is a matter of progress, progress in the position and by reason of that relatedness.  “Holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God.”  “In him ye are made full,” but in Him you have got to increase.  That is not a contradiction.  Made full by reason of your position, but increasing in that fulness by reason of your spiritual progress.  Progress is a matter of making good all that is in your position.  We see in Ephesians the correspondence between that letter and the book of Joshua.  When the people came into the land, they were in the land flowing with milk and honey, they were in the place where all the fulness dwelt, but they had to do something about it; and so we find that it was a matter of making good all that was theirs, progressing in the fulness into which they had been placed positionally; and that is exactly what is here.  “Increaseth with the increase of God” is a matter of going on in that position to appropriate, apply and make ours the fulness which we have inherited in Christ; or, to put it more closely to the figure of the Body and the Head here in this letter, it is taking everything from the Head.

Now the temptation which was being presented to these Colossian believers was to let go of Christ as supreme, and the Apostle made it perfectly clear that to let Christ’s supreme position go was to let the fulness go, and that only as they held fast, not simply to Christ personally – all these people were prepared to hold fast to Christ and not to let Him go – but also to Him as Head, and so recognized that everything came from the headship of Christ, only so would they come experimentally to His fulness.

The Practical Application of Christ’s Headship

That is a statement, but what it means is shown in Chapter 3 –

“If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth.  For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.”

That is the practical application of headship.  “Ye died” – that is necessary to put Christ in His place.  “Ye were raised together with Christ” – not apart from Him; not leaving any place for self-government, self-direction, self-sufficiency, self-assertiveness, or any other expression of self at all.  “Ye died”; your own headship of your life died with you.  All other governments of your life died when you died.  You died to all other authorities, to all other rule; to every other kind of direction, government, headship in principle; you died to all except to the headship of Christ; and, being raised, you were raised with Christ.  It is “together with Christ”; and now in resurrection it is Christ Who is Head of the Body, the Church.

While this has a personal and individual application, it is the Church which is in view again.  This elect body of people called the Church died to all other governments, just as Israel were set aside and buried in Babylon.  It was the crucifixion – the death and the burial – of Israel when the captivity took place.  They were sent away, out of the place of covenant blessing, the place where the Lord was, the place of the inheritance, the place where everything had been provided for their very existence.  They were sent right out of it and were for that time dead and buried, simply because they had let in other headships.  Idolatry was the cause; that meant that another headship, that of Satan mediately through the gods of the nations round about, had taken God’s place, and God would not tolerate any other headship of any kind at all.  So He slew them and buried them in Babylon, and when there was a raising from that grave of a company that came back, it was under the absolute headship of the Lord, and that alone.  That is the principle of it.  It was a corporate thing, a corporate resurrection, and under one head.  From that time, whatever Israel became, however they failed, never again was idolatry found among them.  There is that about it; it cured them of idolatry – that is, of another headship.  You see the principle.

Now here it is the Church, an elect people, having died and been buried to all other headships; and to be in the Church in resurrection carries with it that which is not optional at all.  It is not an option – whether we like it or not, whether we will have it or not – it is an established thing, that you cannot be truly in the meaning of the Body of Christ and have any other government than the government of Christ, any other headship than the headship of Christ.  It is implicit in resurrection.  So then, “If… ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.”  Here Christ as Head is seated at the right hand of God.  That means He has taken the seat of absolute authority.  There is nothing more to be done about this, nothing to be added to it.   It is finished, it is final.  He sits down in the complete authority which is His.  He is on the Throne.  And that is the position of the Church, and the Church in every part has to be brought to that place where all direction, all government, all decisions, are taken from the Head, everything is referred to the Head, the whole life has to come right under the Head.  There is to be no self-will, no self-choice, no self-direction, nothing at all that comes out from any other quarter.  There is no division in the mind of God between our natural will and the will of Satan – they are the same.  Satan has put his very will into the fallen creation.  It is a self-willed creation working against God, and it comes from the devil.  So everything now has to be transferred to the Head and taken from the Head if there is going to be any spiritual enlargement.

It is practical. “Ye died”; “ye were raised”; “Christ who is our life.”  Those are statements of fact, utter and absolute.  Therefore “seek the things that are above”; therefore “put to death your members which are upon the earth… seeing that ye have put off the old man and have put on the new man” (Col. 3:5-10).  You see the things that are to be put away because you put on the new man.  It is a new position with a government altogether in all matters, and a complete subjection to Him at every point.  That is the way to progress in the fulness to which we have been brought positionally.

~ ~ ~

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks’ wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely – free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.

~ ~ ~

For the complete text of  A Way of Growth, by T. Austin-Sparks, please see here.

For the complete Online Library of T. Austin-Sparks, please see here.

_______________________________________

Related:
Holding Fast to the Head

The Headship of Christ and the “Heartship of Christ” (part 1) and (part 2)

The Headship of Christ In the Gathering of the Church

T. Austin-Sparks (“Author Excerpts” page)

Posted in Author Excerpts, Christ-Centered Gatherings, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God, The Headship of Christ | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Revival and Recovery – by Arthur Wallis (…and how God used it to change my life over thirty years ago.)

One of the earliest books I ever read as a new believer, back in the late Seventies, was a first-hand account of the Azusa Street Revival by Frank Bartleman called, Another Wave Rolls In.  It was later slightly edited and republished in 1982 under the name, Another Wave of Revival.  As a special Introduction to the first, and an Epilogue to the second, an article by Arthur Wallis, “Revival and Recovery” was included.  In it, he gave a sweep of church history highlighting the various moves of God through the centuries and showing how God was, little by little, restoring back to the Church that which had been lost during her long decline into the Dark Ages.

It was this book, and the historic overview by Bro. Wallis in particular, that God used to stir in my heart some deep questions about the Lord’s end-time purpose and how it would all culminate.  One question I asked Him was, What will be the distinctive mark of the final move of God that will wrap up the entire Church age?   I shared about how God spoke to my heart in response to that question in the About page on this blog.  There I said,

“I can vividly remember the day when I poured out my heart to the Lord with deep questions about the focus of the Church and the culmination of His end-time purpose.  The Father spoke to my heart as clearly as if He had spoken audibly.  He silently thundered one simple phrase concerning His Son: “…that in all things HE might have the preeminence.” (Col. 1:18)  That word resonated with such prophetic power in my spirit that it marked a watershed in my life.  I vowed at that moment that the rest of my life, by the grace of God, would be marked with having the same heart that I saw in the Father concerning the centrality and supremacy of His Son in all things.  I pleaded with God to so burn that passion into my heart that nothing could surpass it and nothing could supplant it, ever.  I saw that this was the highest thing I could commit myself to and desired to be a man after God’s own heart in this regard for the rest of my days.  Now, some thirty years later, I am ever so grateful that the Father has been faithful to keep that which I  committed to Him on that day.”

I recently came across this epilogue again and read it through, recalling how it had stirred my heart so many years ago.  Because of its significance in my life, and also its relevance to the present series of posts on “Tradition, Scripture and the Church”, I decided to contact Whitaker House to see if I could get permission to offer it here on the blog.  This they have graciously granted, and so I have added the full piece to the Resources section for you to access and enjoy!

It has been a rather busy season of life this past month in our family, including re-roofing our house, so Part 5 of the “Tradition…” series has taken a little longer to write than I had expected.  I will be posting it next week though.  In the mean time if you would like to visit the previous parts of the series to get caught up, I encourage you to follow the links below to their pages.  This series has been more substantial in length, and even in content than most, but I don’t know that there has been a more important matter that I’ve written on.  Next week’s post should help to pull it all together and it includes some truths that I’ve been waiting to write on since I started blogging almost three years ago.  I’m looking forward to sharing them with you!

Well, that’s all for now!

Please check out the new Resource page: Revival and Recovery – by Arthur Wallis

(The poem that wraps up “Revival and Recovery” I’ve had posted on the blog for a couple of years now. It includes an additional verse than what was included in “Revival and Recovery”.  You can see it here if you’d like: “The Tide is sure to Win” – by Priscilla Leonard )

The “Tradition…” series may also be accessed here Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

Love and blessings,
David

Posted in Christ-Centered Resources, Christ-Centered Restoration, Church History/Development, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments