Category Archives: Our Walk

Can You Humble Yourself?

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The highest mountain in the world has been in the news again the last couple of weeks.  During this year’s spring climbing season, six people, one of them a Canadian woman, died attempting to climb Mount Everest, which is 8,848 metres (5.5 miles) high.  It’s been the worst year since 1996 when 16 climbers paid with their lives for a taste of Everest’s glory.  Climbers are vulnerable to exhaustion and altitude sickness, many fatalities occurring on the way down.  This prompted one expedition leader to warn his clients rejoicing at the peak, “You’re only half-way there.”

All told, 240 people reached the summit this year, one of them a 73-year-old woman who set a record for being the oldest woman to scale the world’s highest peak.  A week later a British teenager became the youngest woman to climb it.

Everest was first conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on May 29,1953.  Since then about 10,000 people have attempted to climb what has been called the ultimate peak.  About 4,000 have been successful.

However, about 230 have made Mount Everest not only the highest mountain in the world, but also the highest graveyard.  The bodies of climbers who died on Everest are irretrievable because of the altitude and the terrain—and the expense.  They lie amid the snow and rocks on the windswept heights where they drew their last breath, their brightly-coloured mountain gear drawing the eyes of new climbers who year after year trudge somberly past the frozen corpses.

Yet year after year the number of climbers increases, undeterred by the very real prospect of adding to the growing graveyard there.  There’s just something about altitude that’s very attractive to us earthlings, isn’t there.  In fact climbing Everest has become a lucrative tourist attraction; you may not know a crampon from a crouton but if you’ve got the money (about $65,000) there are outfitters who will take you to the top.

People are continually trying to make new records climbing Everest.  The first to climb it.  The first to climb it without oxygen.  The oldest to climb it.  The youngest.  The fastest.  The one who’s climbed it most often.  The first to climb it in winter.  The first to climb it alone.

That would be Reinhold Messner, who climbed Everest without oxygen in 1978 with Peter Habeler.  The world was astonished at their impossible feat.  But it wasn’t enough for Messner.  Two years later he climbed Everest without oxygen alone, and on one of the more difficult routes.

Now considered the greatest mountaineer in the world, Messner was also the first man to climb all fourteen of the earth’s peaks over 8,000 metres.

All these firsts even at the risk of death… for a glory that is as fleeting as the flower of the grass.

But let me tell you of another Man of renown, one who attained eternal glory.  This one climbed a Mountain that causes world-renowned mountaineers like Reinhold Messner to lose their interest—and, when they hear of the route, their stomachs.  They climb earth’s highest mountains mocking at fear, looking down with disdain on places where eagles fly.  Yet their knees quake and their stomachs grow queasy at the prospect of this Mountain.

Because the way up this Mountain is down.

It’s the way our Lord Jesus Christ inaugurated for us when He climbed this Mountain— the first to do so.

He humbled Himself and took upon Him the form of a man—but not a man of pre-eminence and high society—a bondslave.  And as a bondslave He became obedient unto death.

Obedience unto death?  That’s not too bad, you say, there’s glory in a hero’s death.

But this Man’s death was not a hero’s death.  It was not an honourable death.  It was the death of a cross—the death of a criminal.  An ignoble death.  In his case it was an unjust death.  He had been wronged.  He did not deserve this treatment.  He had been falsely accused and maligned.

Yet He bore it all patiently without resentment.  He didn’t cry out for what was due Him. He didn’t plead with His persecutors for the honour that was being denied Him.

He was sheared of His honour and led as a Lamb to the slaughter, opening not His mouth.  He could have spared Himself the suffering by taking a little step of disobedience.  But no, He was “obedient unto death, even the death of a cross.”  For, He committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a Name which is above every name
That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and in earth, and under the earth:
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Now He sits enthroned in glory on the summit of the highest Mountain in the universe—Mount Zion.

He that ascended first descended.

What about you and me?  We love those Everest heights of glory in the eyes of men; somehow we know we were meant for the heights, for we were created in the image of the high God.  But, oh… can we humble ourselves?  It seems it’s the most difficult thing for us to do—to humble ourselves…

…To esteem others better than ourselves; to serve others rather than be served.

…To bear patiently wrong treatment when we are right, and pray for those who ill treat us.

…To acknowledge it when we are wrong.

…To ask forgiveness.

…To forgive.

It’s a tough route… and cannot be accomplished without grace… and the Oxygen of the Spirit of God.

But only those who go this route arrive at the height of Mount Zion.

The Birthings Of Faith

One of the difficulties we must overcome in reading the Bible is that over time we become too familiar with it.  We know the outcomes of the stories… and sometimes we assume the Bible characters had the advantage of that same knowledge.  But no, they didn’t.  We need to read our Bible remembering that.  How profitable it would be if we could read it as a book we’ve picked up for the first time, and don’t know the plot or the way things are going to turn out any more than the characters themselves.

In fact, just think what it would be like if you and I were right there right then—but not knowing anything about the outcome of things the way we do now.   Where would that put us?  What an adventure we would be in.  For it would put us in the place of having to discover very definitely what God was saying… and having to walk it out by faith.

How was it that Abraham ended up in the land of Canaan?  It was by responding in faith to a word from God.  He didn’t have it all mapped out for him.  “By faith Abraham when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance obeyed: and he went out not knowing whither he went” (Heb. 11.9).  Think of that.  There’s no suspense for us; we turned the page and found out long ago; we know how things unfolded.  Abraham didn’t.  He didn’t know “the rest of the story” the way we do.

Yes, he had a measure of understanding as to what God was leading him into.  But day by new day, step by new step, he had to search out this will of God.  He had to seek to hear afresh what God was saying to him—and the times and seasons of His will.  Sometimes he missed it.  But his heart was right with God.  And God was faithful to bring him back on track.

All those of old… Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Moses, Gideon, David… they were involved in something that… let’s call it the birthings of faith.  The true Christian walk is a walk in the Spirit that causes the will of God in Heaven to be unfolded, or birthed, here in the earth.  This takes faith.  This is what faith involves.  Faith involves hearing from God, and responding in accordance with what we have heard.

This is what the faith chapter in Hebrews is all about.  We are given many examples of people who didn’t have a Bible to read the way we do; it wasn’t all laid out before them; they had to birth by faith the word they were hearing, bring it out into open reality in their lives.

What they brought out into the open we have recorded for us now on the pages of our Bible.  Because of this we can become distanced from the… the immanence, the “present-ness” of their walk of faith, the creative element, the beautiful existential quality of the walk these ones were involved in… who brought into being the hidden will of God.

The very point of all that is recorded, though, is to inspire you and me with regard to what is before us in our own lives.  We have their testimony because we too are involved in the birthings of faith.  There is very much yet of the will of God to unfold—very great and awesome things, as great if not greater than any recorded in the Bible.

It is just as important for us to hear His Voice and respond in faith as it was for them back then.

I think of Jesus in His day.  He Himself did not have a heavenly instruction manual laying all things out before Him.  He needed to pray and earnestly seek to hear what His Father was saying and doing.  He lived by faith.  He walked by faith.  All that took place in His life was the result of the birthings of faith.  The familiar story of Jesus walking on the water comes to mind.  We read the story and it’s no big deal to us.  We’re so familiar with it.  We think He walked on water because, well… because He was Jesus.  But it was by faith that the Son of man lived and walked.  He couldn’t walk on water any more than you or I can.  But He saw the disciples He loved out there in the storm… afraid.  He was making intercession for them, and the Father put something in His heart.  He responded in faith.  It was by faith that He walked on the water to go to them.

What a wonder.  But it doesn’t end there.  Peter walked on the water as well!  Let’s put ourselves out there in the boat that day.  Could you or I have done that… like Peter?  Peter walked on the water, too.  How?  He heard a single word.  “Come.”

Peter birthed something by faith that night.  He walked on the water by faith.

As we follow Jesus’ footsteps through the Gospels we discover over and over again that He was always looking for a certain “something” that would enable Him to release wondrous things.  We read words such as, “And seeing their faith…” or, “thy faith hath made thee whole,” or, “only believe…”  It was the operation of faith in different ones that birthed into the open the wondrous things He did, things we now read of and think happened just because He had the power to do miracles.  No.  Where there was unbelief He was greatly hampered (Mt. 13.58).  Where there was faith He wrought wondrous things.

We need to know that this same Jesus continues to do great things, and wants to do even greater things now that He is exalted.  But He continues to look for that divine catalyst that releases His power—faith.

Here’s an example from The Acts.  Jesus has already ascended and has sent forth the Holy Spirit.  Paul in Lystra sees a man crippled from birth.  What a pitiful condition.  But the man has something many healthy people entirely lack.  Paul, “perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet” (Acts 14.10).  I know where that Voice originated.  “And he leaped and walked.”  Thus the will of God in Heaven was made manifest in the earth.  How did it happen?  By the “mystery of faith.”  Somehow the man had heard from God.  Perhaps it happened the very instant he looked on Paul—a man in whom the Holy Spirit of Jesus dwelt—and connected with Jesus Himself.  Or perhaps it was something God had spoken to him some time ago and he kept alive in his heart… waiting.  However it happened, the man and the time and the place and the faith—and the Lord Jesus Christ—came together, and a wondrous chemical reaction took place.

I think of Abraham again.  As he looked up at the night sky and saw the countless stars God told him, “So shall thy seed be.”  Then we read, “And Abraham believed in the LORD…”  This was no easy matter-of-fact reaction.  I think it took Abraham’s breath away.  I think it took all he had in him to believe so impossible a thing.

But he believed.  And he was right in believing.

It is a wondrous thing, and a great privilege, to be involved in the birthings of faith.  It was by faith that Sarah conceived, the writer of Hebrews tells us, when she was past the age of childbearing.  “By faith Sarah received (or, laid hold of) strength to conceive seed.”  How could she do this?  The point is that no capability within herself could have conceived Isaac.  Sarah had heard from God (Gen. 18.10).  At first she laughed at the impossibility of the prospect.  But it appears that eventually… maybe as she was making supper one evening, something was quickened to her… and she said more or less, “Well, Lord… if that’s what You are saying… I am saying Amen to it.”

And so let us seek to read the inspired word of God as though we ourselves were involved in the unfolding of things back then.  We will get a more realistic idea of how things took place.  But more than that, we will learn how we ourselves are to walk with God, and move in a realm that is not our own works.  It will help us understand the process of faith, and will inspire us to anticipate the same vital birthings in our own lives.

It will inspire us to be more attentive to hear from God.  For, we can’t pull faith out of thin air.  “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  That is the key, then—the secret of faith.  Hearing from God.  The word of God has a creative element in it that creates faith… if we for our part will receive the word… and then act upon it.

Let us, then—and this more than anything else—covet that hearing of the word and will of God that initiates the response of faith in our lives… and enables us to bring into being things that others someday will read about after the fact.

The Divine Tension

One of the things we know as a result of the primal fault (we wrote of this in one of our earlier blog entries) is that our world requires substantial ordering.  A house requires regular maintenance.  A garden must be tended. It must be watered and weeded.  Left to itself it quickly goes to grass.

Now, certain Scriptures are very beautiful with the idea that the Christian life is simply a matter of leaving it all to God.  We rest in God.  Our salvation is secure.  We are appointed, not to wrath, but to obtain salvation (1 Thes. 5.9).  We are chosen to salvation (2 Thes. 2.13).  We are predestined (Rom. 8.29).  God will work all things according to the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1.11).  We are born again.  We are free spirits.  Our lives are like the wind that “bloweth where it listeth,” that is, wherever it wants to blow in the great sky of God.

This is beautiful truth.  On the one hand the Christian life is to be nature to us—the beautiful nature of the new creation Man born of the Spirit and borne along in the Wind of God.  But there are other scriptures that show the Christian life requires diligent and continued discipline, which if we are not careful to maintain, leads to our ruin.  Like the garden, we must be continually cultivating, watering, and rooting out weeds.  Or we too go to grass.

We find these two opposites all over Scripture, and people are chronically arguing over which is the right view—God’s sovereignty or man’s responsibility.  In fact I believe that both are held in play by what I like to call the divine tension.  The string on a musical instrument is held between two fixed points; if it is slack, if it is not held in perfect tension, it is useless.  You can’t make music on strings that are not held in tension.

Great arguments rage over whether Calvinism is the right doctrine, or Ariminianism.  Are we unconditionally elect, and there’s nothing we can do about it one way or the other?  Or do we ourselves have a part to play in our salvation?  It’s wonderful truth that God “hath chosen us in Him (in Christ) before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him” (Eph.  1.4).  Or in another place: “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit…” (Jn. 15.16).  There are times when we need to lean heavily on this truth—in times of great trial and difficulty, or perhaps failure.  In a time of failure the Devil will be quick to assure us God is through with us now.  But we arm ourselves with this truth—that God in His own wisdom and grace has chosen us from before the foundation of the world—and we know that He that hath begun a good work in us will perfect it unto the day of Christ.

But then the divine tension comes into play.  When we get slack and presume in spite of our slackness that we are predestined and all is well with us, we are in deep trouble.  We must pay heed to what Peter says.  I may be called and chosen, but Peter says, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure…” (1 Pt. 1.10).  There are times when not doing this could result in total shipwreck.

Paul says in one place, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2.16).  How wonderful—a mind filled with the very thoughts of God.  But then Peter calls us to “gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Pt. 1.13).  This is speaking of spiritual discipline in the thought life.  If we are not girding up the loins of our mind we will find our thoughts flowing all over the place and we will be in trouble.

In another place Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”  Why would this be necessary if it is all up to God?  Obviously we have a critical part to play in our own salvation.  But Paul goes on, “…for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2.12,13).  Ah, you say, if it is God who is working in me both the willing and the doing, why do I have to work out my own salvation?  It’s because of this divine tension.  The Christian life is not a passive walk.  We have a vital part to play in the working out of our salvation.

But don’t forget that our working must be God’s own working.  Otherwise we quickly degenerate into striving.  Really, it’s no use trying to separate these two facets of truth.  It’s the divine tension.  Yes, we are to work out our own salvation.  But our work must be God’s own working.  Jesus says:

Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn of (from) Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Mt. 11.28-30).

Notice here the two kinds of burdens—those which are our own initiative, our own labour: “all ye that labour,” and those that are put upon us by outward circumstance or others: “and are heavy laden.”  (The first is active, the second passive.)  We are not to get our shoulder under either of these types of burdens.

But yes, we are to labour—but only in that which is the Lord’s own labour, only in the yoke of the Lord… in which Jesus says we will find rest.  We are not debtors to any other labour, and we must discipline ourselves not to get involved in any of it.  We must abide in the yoke of the Lord—working together with Him, and at the same time resting in the Lord.

It’s the divine tension.  Let us learn to accept it.  We’ll find ourselves playing beautiful music to the Lord on our instrument of ten strings.

Professional Sports–Idolatry

I’ll probably be in trouble for this one, but I commend it to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Tim Tebow is the U.S. football star who recently made quite a stir for having John 3:16 in the—what do you call it—the blacking below his eyes.  It was his way of openly declaring to all the world that he is a Christian.  Tebow also bows on the field and openly prays to Jesus for help throughout the game.  He thanks Him when he makes a great play.

Tebow is not the first in a major professional sport with a reputation for being a Christian, but the media have sensationalized him now, drawing worldwide attention to the man who bows on one knee and prays right there on the field.  Tebowing, as it has been dubbed, is the latest fad for thousands, many of whom are not even into sports.

Tebow’s fame recently went viral when he made a “miraculous” pass that won a game that landed his team in some kind of playoffs.  Suddenly the sports world exploded.  Did this man really have Jesus on his side?  Detractors howled against him; for others, expectations were high that his team was destined for victory.

But according to the news they were soundly trounced in the first game.  I didn’t hear if Tebow bowed and thanked the Lord for this as well.

Now, I don’t doubt that Tim Tebow is an upstanding Christian who is walking in the light he has.  He has the reputation for being a clean young Christian man in a day when clean is a dirty word.  That’s very commendable.

But I want to ask a question.  What is the difference between the kind of Christianity in which you can be involved in one of the world’s greatest forms of idolatry and still be a Christian—and the kind of Christianity that totally parts ways with all that?

Here is an account of what happened during the powerful revival that swept Wales in 1905.  It’s from a book called, “The Invasion of Wales by the Spirit” by James A. Stewart.

A sense of the Lord’s Presence was everywhere.  His Presence was felt in the homes, on the streets, in the mines, factories and schools and even in the drinking saloons.  So great was His Presence felt that even the places of amusement and carousal became places of holy awe.  Many were the instances of men entering taverns, ordering drinks and then turning on their heels and leaving them untouched.

Wales up to this time was in the grip of football fever when tens of thousands of working-class men thought and talked only of one thing.  They gambled also on the result of the games.  Now the famous football players themselves got converted and joined the open-air meetings to testify what glorious things the Lord had done for them.  Many of the teams were disbanded as the players got converted and the stadiums were empty….

The gambling and alcohol businesses lost their trade and the theatres closed down from lack of patronage.  Football during this time was forgotten by both players and fans, though nothing was mentioned from the pulpits about the evils of football.  In this country which had a general reputation of being ‘football mad’ the train for taking the crowds to the international trial match was found to be almost empty!  The people had a new life and new interests.

One of football’s sisters in entertainment—the theatre—was also abandoned at that time.

Theatrical companies made sure that they did not come to Wales as they knew that there they would go bankrupt.

What kind of Christianity is this?  Teams shutting down because the players turned to Jesus?  My.  The stadiums empty?  How awesome.  And how strange!  Hence my question.  What is the difference between that kind of Christianity, and our brand?  This.  The revival in Wales brought people so face to face with spiritual reality that these other things simply could not compete.  Professional sports and entertainment became exposed for what they actually are—the idolatrous and empty vanities of this world.  It wasn’t a matter of people being told they shouldn’t be involved in such evils.  Suddenly they were caught up in a current of “love, vast as an ocean, lovingkindness as a flood…”  That’s the first line of the hymn that became what was called the love song of the revival.  People were broken by an awareness of the love of God as revealed in Calvary’s Cross.  They abandoned their former pursuits.  Why go to the games?  Or the theatre?  What is entertainment when you have the love of God now, and the joy of the Lord?

Yet in our kind of Christianity you can apparently take Jesus to the games or the theatre with you.  Apparently He is glad to go along.  Our Jesus apparently hasn’t got what it takes to beat them.  So, you know how it is.  If you can’t beat them you join them.  If you are a movie star who becomes a Christian, now you become a Christian movie star.  If you are a terrific professional football player, now you become a terrific Christian professional football player.  The love of God that compelled Jesus to lay down His life on the altar of Calvary’s Cross is an embarrassment to this kind of Christianity, and entirely out of place.

I don’t think anyone who loves Jesus could knowingly get involved in idolatry.  And I have no doubt in my mind that professional sports is abominable idolatry.  Yet countless Christians are involved in it either as spectators or players.  So it’s a matter of light—seeing that the entertainment industry—I include professional sports in the entertainment industry—has become horrible idolatry.  It is enmity against the holy God, who created man to love and worship and glorify Him alone.

There’s nothing at all wrong with a friendly game of hockey or basketball, or teaching children skills in sports.  But look what has happened to professional sports of every kind.  Surely we see this.  The money involved makes you nauseous.  It’s what God did when he gave Israel the quail in the desert.  They cried for flesh and he gave it to them till it came out their nostrils.  It was a judgment on them.  The same now.  The salaries they get now are decadent, to say nothing of the multiplied billions spent advertising a lifestyle that is brazen enmity against God.  My advice?  Run from it!  It is the judgment of a grieved and angry God.  And I believe we will yet see very severe judgments in the areas of professional sports and entertainment—these idols of Egypt.

Yes, it is idolatry.  When young men and women sacrifice their lives on the idol altars of money and fame, it is idolatry.  Lives that Jesus bled and died for on the altar of Calvary’s Cross go up in smoke on the idol altars—sacrificed to the enjoyment of millions still in darkness.  There they are by the millions—out in the stands watching the games, or in front of the TV.

The incredulous thing is, even the Christians have sold out to this.  It doesn’t seem to enter our minds to consider why it is that these millions in darkness are sitting together in the idol’s temple—the stadium or the arena or the living room in front of the TV—and to ask why it is that we Christians are sitting there beside them—or playing for them.

“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?  For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My People.
Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you…” (2 Cor.6.16,17).

You mean, like the Lord Jesus Christ, I too am a temple of the living God?  But can you envision Jesus Christ Himself sitting in the stadium cheering for His team… or playing for those in the stands?

What’s In Your Scope? (Pt. 2)

Paul’s exhortation is that we “scope in” on the things that are unseen—eternal things—not on the things that are seen, which are temporal.

The same Greek verb skopeo is used a few other times in Scripture, though not often.  Here is one more instance that really speaks to me from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2.4).

There’s our word again.  Look—consider, heed carefully… scope.  This is what is to be in our scope, fellow Christian—not always our own things, but the things of others also.  The problems, the concerns, the needs, the hopes—of others.  I mentioned last time that when you are looking into a scope you are pretty much oblivious to all else.  That’s all you see.  That’s certainly the way it is when it’s our own problems and concerns that fill our scope.  We are more or less oblivious to all else.  In fact it becomes a kind of captivity, as I recall David Wilkerson once saying, when our Enemy has succeeded in causing us to be always preoccupied with our own problems, and the needs of our brother and our sister are scarcely on our radar.  That is great defeat to the body of Christ, Wilkerson said.

How wonderful and liberating, and victorious, then—when we are scoped in on the concerns of others.  Oh, to see this in operation in the body of Christ—the love that makes us as focused on the things of our brother and sister as we were on our own things—and they showing the same care for you and me.  It’s the liberty of love—release from the shackles of self, being freed up to serve others and their interests.

I also recall reading wheelchair-bound quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada saying that the thing she found most difficult about her affliction was the temptation to be always turned inward on herself.  She said she had to discipline herself strictly to keep from doing so.

Let us do the same.  We need to be earnestly seeking the Lord for the grace to “look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

It appears Paul’s friend Timothy was such a man.  Paul spoke highly of Timothy, telling the Philippians a little further on in his letter to them, “I have no man likeminded, who will naturally (that is, genuinely) care for your state.  For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Phil. 2.21).

What is the evidence that Timothy is seeking the things of Jesus Christ?  He genuinely cares for the state of the saints.

So—these two, which really are one and the same, I think.

1) Keeping in our scope that which is unseen, the Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom that ruleth over all; and,

2) Being preoccupied with His interests—the things of others.

Let’s get these two in our sights with binocular vision—and keep them there!

What’s In Your Scope? (Part 1)

We have hunter types in the family, and come hunting season be sure of it.   They are out there scoping for game.  They get out the spotting scope and the binoculars and are off to the hills looking for their prey.

They did pretty well this year.  They got game in their binoculars, and then in the scopes of their rifles… and we have moose and elk in the deep freeze now.

I used to scope for game myself in earlier days, and one thing I know about looking through a scope.  When you are looking through a scope you are pretty much oblivious to all else around you.

Now, I realize it’s usually not good practice to pin modern English definitions to Greek words in the Bible merely because the Greek is the word from which the English is derived.  For example, our English word despot—a cruel dictator—is derived from the Greek despotees.  But this does not mean the people who used Greek in Bible days had a despot in mind when they used the word.  They meant one who has absolute power, and in fact the word is used of our Lord in a number of places.

However, here is a case where I think it works to export the English meaning back into the Greek.

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction (or, tribulation), which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not on the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen: for the things that are seen are temporal: but the things that are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4.16-16).

The Greek word for look here is skopeo, from which we get our English scope.  The Greek word meant to consider, to heed carefully, to mark.  We see the noun form in, “I press toward the mark.”  There was something Paul kept his eye on, you might say kept in his scope.

And Paul says we are to keep in our “scope” things that otherwise cannot be seen—eternal things.  We must be living our lives more or less oblivious to what is seen—trials and troubles, temporal things, our light affliction which is but for a moment—and keep scoped in on what cannot be seen apart from the eye of faith.

You mean when the troubles of life are right in our face we are to have our eyes fixed on things that cannot be seen?  That is a very amazing thing when you think about it.  You mean, here is a person who lives their life on the basis of something that cannot be seen—something in an entirely different realm, a different dimension?  Their life is governed by something unseen, something eternal?   They go by that?

Yes, it is truly amazing.  And so, Christian, let us consider this.  There is all kinds of Game roaming the everlasting hills of God—some of it very Big Game indeed.  But mere knowledge that the Game is out there will not do us much good.  We must keep that in our scope!  We must keep our spiritual faculties fixed on spiritual reality, on unseen things—on Jesus Christ who is Lord, not sin, not circumstance.  We must look not on the things that are seen, temporal things—but on unseen things, eternal things, eternal realities.

We must keep these in our scope. There is a kind of seeing that means what you see is on your table—you know what I mean.  You are able to live and walk by this heavenly reality.  It is effective in your life in everything you face.

I say this as a challenge to us all.  Let us be so scoped in on what cannot be seen that we walk in the reality of what cannot be seen.  There is a call in this very difficult hour for strong perception as to heavenly realities—the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ and His heavenly kingdom—a perception that enables us to live according to THAT, and not according to what is seen.  It is a perception that enables us to live by what is unseen.  It is the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus our Lord—His triumph over sin, and death, His victory over all evil.  It is to walk in the Light in the midst of darkness, such that the Light and reality of what Christ accomplished at Calvary—His victory over the world, the flesh, and the Devil—is as real in us as at Calvary.

In Due Season We Shall Reap

I was thinking about that verse in Galatians again earlier today.  “And let us not be weary (or, lose heart) in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6.9).  I looked it up, and apparently the Greek here is something like, “in its own season.”  In other words, there is a specific season for the harvest.  Let us remember this—those of us who have sown to the Spirit and wonder where the harvest is.

We are seeing all around us in our world that things are pretty ripe as far as evil is concerned.  There’s been a lot of sowing “to the flesh.”  So there is going to be a harvest of corruption.  The season of that harvest is obviously nigh.

Now, the doers of evil never seem to need encouragement to persist in doing evil and not grow weary.  It just comes naturally.  At the same time, it’s kind of dull of them to not grasp that their evil doing will bring them a bountiful harvest of evil.

But aren’t our own senses just as dull if we have grown weary of sowing to the Spirit?  We rejoiced when the seed was sown.  But then come the difficult times—like the one we are in right now—and we faint.  The promise of the Word of God is that we shall reap… if we faint not.  I know it can be very trying when we embrace the seed of the Word in our heart and faithfully seek to keep out the weeds—and yet still do not see the fruit we long to see.  Our Lord knows this, and inspired Paul to write those words.  He urges us to not be weary in well doing—in sowing to the Spirit.  We are going to see the harvest—in the season God has ordained for the harvest!  God is not mocked.  We shall reap what we have sown… in the season God has ordained for the harvest.

As I was thinking of this earlier today, and about God’s provision for us in the Day of Evil, Psalm 27 came to mind, and I turned to it.  And as I read the familiar words once again, the light bulb suddenly went on.  (The Bible is such an awesome book!)  David knew an Evil Day was coming—something many Christians today are aware of, and talk much about.  When Christians get together this will often be the topic of conversation.  Trouble is nigh.  Great shakings are ahead.  It seems we understand this quite well.

But how was David preparing for this evil day he understood was coming?  Well, in a sense he wasn’t preparing for the evil day at all.  He was preoccupied with One Thing today.

“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in His temple.  For in the day of evil He shall hide me in His pavilion…” (Ps. 27.4,5).

See how beautifully the one follows the other?  David had a certain preoccupation day after day… all the days of his life.  Seeking to dwell in the house of the LORD today.  And so where will that put him when the evil day dawns?

“For in the Day of Evil…” (That’s how we must translate the original Hebrew for the phrase the King James translates as “the time of trouble.”) “For in the Day of Evil He shall hide me in His pavilion (His covert, His booth): in the secret (place) of His tabernacle He shall hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock” (Ps. 27.5).

Day after ordinary day, David was sowing to something.  He was seeking to dwell in the house of the LORD.  Where, then, will this find him when the Day of Evil arrives?  In the same Place he was in yesterday—in the house of the LORD—and discovering that this House is a Secret Place of refuge from all evil.  It is the “secret Place of His tabernacle.”  How simple, yet how wonderful, the ways of God!

“He shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret (place) of His tabernacle He shall hide me…”  This is God’s provision for the Day of Evil?  A tabernacle, a flimsy tent?  But I am sure David has in mind the tabernacle he set up on Mount Zion for the ark of God, for the Presence of God Himself.  The secret (place) of His tabernacle is the secret of the Presence of God.  Once we see this it suddenly becomes very understandable why a flimsy little tent becomes the place of perfect security.  God is there!  In a day when it seems that evil has been let off the leash there is a Place evil cannot penetrate.  “In the secret (place) of His tabernacle He shall hide me…”

And who is this Tabernacle, but our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the House of God, He Himself is this Tabernacle of God—this Place of the Presence of God—the one and only refuge in the universe when all evil is unleashed around us, the immoveable Rock we can confidently stand on when all else around us is sinking sand.

Psalm 27 is no doubt prophetic of the Evil Day that is before us.  God says that this is our provision for what is ahead of us tomorrow—what we are doing today.  Let us believe Him, then.  Let us sow to the same thing David was sowing to.  Let us not be weary in doing this, even though it’s a very difficult hour, and finding this Place of His Presence is often very difficult.   There is a weariness.  But let us persevere.  Let us continue sowing to this.  Let us seek to dwell in the House of the Lord—in this Place of His Presence—all the days of our life.  We will not be caught off guard tomorrow if we are sowing to this abiding relationship with Jesus Christ today.  In the Day of Evil when our need is desperate we will find ourselves hidden away in a certain Tabernacle.  In fact it’s just as necessary today, isn’t it—this Secret Hiding Place.  I sow to this even now in the evil days that often come my way, and every day.  As difficult as it is I am not giving up.  I have tasted the preciousness of this Presence many times… in measure.  I have seen the beauty of the Lord… a little.  And I am hooked.  I am going to continue sowing to this.  I shall yet see the fullness of His beauty in His House, and go no more out from His Presence.

How can I be so sure?  Simply because… I sow to this!  And God is not mocked.  I fully anticipate a harvest.  God has designated a season for this harvest.  I am going to reap what I have sown.

That is the Word of God.


How’s Your Sowing Coming Along?

As we head into 2012 we are hearing once again the beat of war drums.  Iran is threatening that if the United States embargos Iran’s oil, Iran will blockade the Strait of Hormuz so that the commerce of other nations cannot get through the Persian Gulf either.  In return, the United States is threatening that any such action by Iran will be swiftly met with military reprisal.

I don’t know where all this will go, but it would not surprise me to see the situation grow into full-scale war that many nations get drawn into.  We live in an extremely unstable world—a world that is headed into what Scripture calls the Evil Day.

Of course there has been evil in the world from the day the Serpent beguiled Eve, and following suit, Adam deliberately disobeyed God.  But there comes a time when evil comes to fruition, and there is a harvest of evil.  Surely we are already very close to that time.  Things are moving so quickly.  It’s frightening the way we have seen evil increase in just one generation.

I know this makes us fearful, anxious.  But in a sense this is very encouraging.  For, when the crop is ripe, what happens next?

“When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever” (Ps. 92.7).

What happens when the harvest is ripe?  It gets cut down.  Is evil flourishing in our day?  We know what is next, then.  God is going to get his sickle out and cut it all down.  He is going to totally eradicate wickedness from His world.

His way of doing this is to first let evil come to fruition.  And we are there.  Everywhere you look there is a sense of ripeness about things.  We certainly see this in the churches.  Deception abounds in many churches.  How can it be otherwise?  The red carpet has been long since rolled out for the ways and works of man.  Why the surprise, then, when it all comes to a head, and the man of iniquity walks down the aisle and sets himself up as god in the temple of God, and is worshipped by multitudes?  For, when God’s people do not receive the love of the truth, He gives them over to believe the lie.

And out there in the world?  What is growing out there in the field of the world?  Simply put, it is everything men are doing to build a world that leaves God out.  And this also comes to a head.  When the God of order and the Prince of peace is left out, what will be the harvest?  War… worldwide upheaval… anarchy… chaos.

But never mind what’s growing out there in the field of the nations.  Remember the riots this year in the streets of orderly societies?  Not only in the Arab countries, but right in our orderly societies—Canada, England.  People are appalled, but think this through.  How can there be order in any society when the people who live in that society want nothing to do with the God of order?  God lifts His restraint then, and… what a shock!  Where did that come from?

One thing we must have absolute confidence in is this.  What a man sows he shall reap.  Man has been sowing evil with both hands—and he is going to see the harvest of evil.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.”  You can’t mock God—you can’t have a secret love affair with evil and expect good in return.  “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption…” Frightening thought, isn’t it.

But let’s continue reading.   “…But he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6.7,8).  Now, that’s encouraging!

And so, fellow Christian, how is your sowing coming along?  Do you feel at times that it hasn’t amounted to much so far?  Not much fruit yet?  You are beginning to think that it’s no use, what God has promised is not going to materialize?  You mean you believe God will be mocked after all?  He will not be mocked.  What you sow you shall reap.  Keep sowing, then!  Keep watering!  Don’t give up!

“And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6.9).

We shall reap!  Let us not be afraid of what we see happening in our world.  In the same Evil Day that yields to man his harvest of evil, another harvest is about to be reaped—the harvest of the word of God you and I have planted and watered in our lives and the lives of others.

A Burden of Light

I have been feeling very heavy hearted and pained the last couple of days as a result of the multiple murder that took place over our way.  I’m sure many of you have heard about this—it’s been headline news all across Canada—the two young baseball players from Prince Edward Island playing for a team in Lethbridge, Alberta.  I don’t want to go into the details, but apparently they were celebrating a birthday out in a bar with their friends… having a wonderful time, enjoying life to the max the way young people just love to do.  A jealous ex-boyfriend of one of the girls comes along.  There is an ugly incident in the bar… and then later on the horror story on the highway at three in the morning as these young people leave their fun and rush to Calgary to catch a plane to Prince Edward Island for the Christmas break.  The ex-boyfriend has tailed them.  And he has a gun.

And now four young people are dead, this young man included.  He turned his gun on himself after he wreaked his vengeance.  The whole country is horrified.  How could this happen?

…Four young people in their early twenties, in the flower of life, and living life to the max.  Their whole lives were before them.  So much to live for.  Now they are dead.  Their friends are in tears:  they were such fun-loving people…  why could this happen to such wonderful people?

And so… my burden.  How long, Lord, how long?  How long till there shines a Light in the darkness that reveals to a whole generation of lost young people that this is not what life is for!  Sitting down to eat and to drink, and rising up to play… this is not what life is for!  This is not why God gave us a life—to consume upon ourselves!

The darkness “out there” is very thick in this hour.  The only reason people don’t flee from it as from atomic radiation is that… they don’t see how dark it is!  It’s only when you have a measure of light that you become aware of the darkness around you.

And so… the darkness that envelops this whole generation of young people like a burial shroud… who is responsible for that?

Fellow Christian, it is you and I who are to be the Light of the world.  And so, if the world is in darkness, where is the Light?

At times I feel a resentment toward the churches of our day.  I wonder if it isn’t a divine resentment.  For, in spite of the fact that there is so very little light in the churches of our day, we carry on, carry on, carry on… with our many programs and our nice activities… when, out of love for a lost generation we should be calling a halt to it all and crying out to God for mercy!

…But, never mind the churches.  What about me, Lord?  One of the things being carried by the priests through the wilderness was the lampstand.  It was veiled in blue with a covering of badger skins over top.  Lord, I cannot rest till you bring me to the place where this lampstand under the badger skin is set up in Your Tabernacle, and the Light shines in the darkness again… the Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ!

Christian, is Jesus the light of your life, and mine?  Is Jesus the light we have in our heart?  Is Jesus Christ our righteousness in our hearts, and our salvation?  Then let this be our cry:

“For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the Righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the Salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth” (Isaiah 62.1).

A Burden Under Badger Skins

The apostle Paul exhorts us, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.2).  The Greek word used here is baros, meaning, heavy burden, from which we get our English wheel barrow.  This is an exhortation to us all to put into practice the beautiful law of the love of Christ—everyone carrying the burdens of others instead of their own, and thus fulfilling what Christ did when, as He carried His own Cross, it was our burdens He was bearing.  If only we could see more of that.  When the law of Christ – the love of God – is working in the body of Christ, we do not to have to carry the heavy burdens of life in this world – at least not our own heavy burdens.

But there is a burden that God intends each of us to carry, and which we shrug off only to our great loss.  This burden is in fact a gift to us.

Let’s read that whole passage in Galatians.

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.  But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal. 6.2-5).

The Greek word for burden in this last sentence is phortion, or load.  We get our English portion from it.  In other words, each of us has a God-given burden to carry.  Each of us has been given a portion to carry in our Christian walk, and it is our responsibility, and privilege, to carry it.

This reminds me of the priests of old as they travelled from place to place through the wilderness.  It was the responsibility of the Levites, the priestly tribe, to carry the tabernacle—all of which was relative, of course, to the ark.

“At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD…” (Deut. 10.8)

The various pieces with which the tabernacle was furnished—the ark itself; the table of showbread with all its dishes and utensils; the lampstand, its tongs and snuffers, and its vessels of oil; the golden altar and its incense—“all the instruments of ministry wherewith they minister in the sanctuary” (Num. 4.12)—these were all covered with a veil of blue, and then over that veil of blue was placed a covering of “badger’s skins,” as the King James has it.  Other translations call it goatskins or sealskins or some other kind of hide—a rough exterior that would protect these things from the elements en route.  The brazen altar was covered with a veil of purple in which the vessels of the altar had first been placed, and then it also was covered with a veil of badger’s skins.

Then all these things were carried along by their staves upon the shoulders of the priests.  They were not to touch these things with their hands.

They were all veiled.  No outside observer would be able to tell what was hidden underneath that ordinary leather hide. The badger skin or goat skin veiled what was beneath.

There was one difference.  All these things were covered with a covering of blue or purple, then over top the badger skins were placed.  But the ark itself was covered first with the veil of the tabernacle behind which it was always hidden, then came the covering of badger skins, and finally over top of the badger skins was “a cloth wholly of blue” (Num. 4.6).  With the ark, the veil of blue was on the exterior.

When in transit from place to place through the wilderness, the ark could always be distinguished by this veil “wholly of blue.”

Many of the Levites were permitted to use carts to carry the burdens they had been designated to carry—posts, frames, bases, hangings, tent pegs, and so on.  But the articles of ministry, and the ark itself, were to be carried upon the shoulders of the priests. (See Numbers Ch. 7.6-9.)

And so, here is Israel walking along through the wilderness, the cloud of glory protecting them from the blazing desert sun (Num. 10.34).  They are a people on the move.  Where are they going?  They are not quite sure what the next stop will be.  But ultimately they have been promised “a land.”  They are not there yet.  That’s all right.  They trust their God to be faithful to His promise.  And the ark goes before them “to search out a resting place for them” (Num. 10.33).

And each of the priests is carrying a burden, each is carrying his own portion.  How long will he have to carry that burden?  As long as the cloud is on the move.  Till the next resting place.  He will have to carry it till the tabernacle is set up again in the “resting place” God has in mind.  Then every man’s portion will be called for, and the priests will lay their burden down.  What each one has carried will be set in its proper place, will be fitted together with all that the others have been carrying in the journey.

What each one has been carrying is all relative to the ark of the glory of the Lord.  That glory cannot rest till it finds its rest in the tabernacle in the midst of His people, and all is in place and fitted together according to His design.

Now… as we travel through the wilderness, others around us may not know what is hidden beneath that goatskin they know as you or me.  And as a result, we may often be misunderstood.  That’s all right.  The Lord knoweth them that are His, and we are content with that.  Let us be faithful to carry our burden, our portion, as we walk along through the wilderness of life—some burden that is forming in us, some beautiful facet of Truth God is causing us to rejoice in, and which we long to see fulfilled in His people.   Perhaps, while it is forming, we do not recognize that it is God Himself who has seeded our burden, and we wish He would relieve us of it.  But light dawns, and we recognize our burden for what it is—the glory of the Lord… veiled.  And we embrace it, and carry it faithfully.  Is our portion heavy at times?  Yes.  At times it is very heavy.  But we recognize it as God’s gift to us, and we will not part with it for worlds.  For, the time comes when the wraps are removed, the coverings are taken away, the tabernacle is set up, and the glory of the Lord is unveiled.  The glory of the Lord finds its home in His tabernacle and is revealed there—in you and me and others He has fitted us together with.

One thing more. What about that cloth “wholly of blue” over the ark itself?  We long to see the glory of the Lord. But… that precious burden He has granted us to carry.  Do we recognize that burden for what it is—the glory of the Lord… veiled? The inevitable time will come when the glory of the Lord is unveiled. But all along our wilderness way, difficult at times though it is… the blue of heaven is always over the badger skin, the goatskin, that others know as you and me.

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