Category Archives: spiritual sight

Understanding the term ‘spirit’ in context – part 2

‘My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.’ (Isaiah 26v9)

‘They are now dead, they live no more; their spirits do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them.’ (Isaiah 26v14).

In the last post, we considered how the term ‘spirit’ is often used interchangeably by humans to mean a variety of things. In v9, I find it interesting that the ‘soul yearns…in the night’  and yet ‘in the morning, the ‘spirit longs for (God).’ I’m not quite certain what the difference is here though given this is written hundreds of years before Pentecost, we must presume that the term ‘spirit’ is used in a way that is some way akin to the ‘heart’ with all its emotional resonance of yearning and longing.

Likewise, the reference to how the spirits of the dead do not rise seems more akin with the idea of the essence’ or ‘life’ in the person. Yes, the dead are no longer able to participate in the way  they once were but is it fair to consider God as the author of a punishment that brought them ruin – a travesty which also threatens to wipe away all memory of them? Might it possibly be that this is the prophet’s interpretation of what he believes will happen to those who are disobedient? That said, the prophet would also know the truth that sooner or later, we all die. But God’s love, compassion and forgiveness, extends to everyone. To grasp this is to begin to understand God’s spirit in context and what this really means to long for and yearn after Him.

 


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The Hope of Glory?

“This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” (Daniel 4v18)

Aside from King Nebuchadnezzar’s presumption that his dream is important enough to require interpretation, there is the little matter of how none of the wise men in his kingdom have the ability to interpret it. It’s as if the king realises that wisdom alone will not result in the meaning of the message being made clear to him as that can only be realised through Divine intervention. In short, through Daniel and the god that resides in him.

Now, while Christians today may not all be gifted with making sense of dreams and offering a godly interpretation, the reality is that for those who believe and are open to God’s Holy Spirit living within them, they each have the potential of understanding and explaining what is presently unfathomable to those with questions. Hence, why Paul announces to the believers, ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory!’ If you’re a Christian then we believe that a valuable deposit rests within each of us. A deposit of God’s Holy Spirit  that has the potential to transform and reveal within us, the Holy God to whom we have chosen to believe and follow – it’s as simple as that – Christian Basics 101.


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‘Interpret it for me!’

‘I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me.’ (Daniel 4v9)

In the last post we considered how Nebuchadnezzar – the king of Babylon – observed early on that the spirit of a holy god was operating within Daniel. Whether this was from the young man’s tenacity in standing up to his captors in refusing to eat food sacrificed to idols or the answers he gave Nebuchadnezzar, we can’t be sure. But what  do know and see is the start of a burgeoning relationship between the men.
That said,  Daniel is under pressure to perform. We see this as Nebuchadnezzar states his belief that the spirit of the holy gods live within him and that no mystery is beyond his insight and explanation of Daniel. Interestingly, despite these insights, Nebuchadnezzar is surprisingly slow in regard to understanding that Daniel is monotheistic in his belief- that is worshipping the one true God over the ‘many gods’ that Nebuchadnezzar believes in. Yes, the king knows a holy interpreter even if he does not understand that God is one and not many. Still, he is not deterred andDaniel is there to do a job as he prepares him with the words: ‘Here is my dream, interpret it for me!’ (to be continued…)

 

 


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Human experience and imagining heaven?

‘Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.’ (Ezekiel 43v5) However you understand this scripture – whether figuratively in that Ezekiel was imaging or dreaming this experience – or literally as these were the  actually events  that happened to the prophet, know this: there is some sort of future telling or imagining  of God and the glory that  accompanies Him and radiates out to others.

 

Of course, whenever we attempt to think of what heaven is like…be that the temple or its inner courts, we are compromised by the imagination of others who have  drawn, painted or designed a set for a film as to how they saw it to be like. For myself, when attempting to imagine what heaven is like, I can’t help but default to the images I watched in a film ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ fifty years ago.  It starred a very young David Niven and I yet the images (filmed in black and white) seem to me to be be timeless. Given that we are told that however humans  imagine ‘heaven’ it will be both a disappointment and a sad reflection of what it truly is like. The enormity of God’s presence remaining – infilling the courts with people who bow and kneel and sing praise to Him in tongues. So for now, the lesser image will have to suffice, but one day…

 


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The Holy Spirit and speaking face to face with God?

‘I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord’.(Ezekiel 39v29) I love the fact that this verse is loaded with far more than the scripture suggests at first glance. Reading ‘on the line’ it seems to be saying that change is in the air and that God will pour out His Spirit into the people. Remarkable in itself but…

 

…journey back to Israel’s exodus in the desert when they came out of Egypt and the ark travelled with them. Each time they set up camp in a new location, the ark was placed in the centre of the community with various priestly family groups gathered around it in close proximity. Why? Because there was a fear that ‘ordinary’ Israelites might get lost and in the camp and inadvertently come too close to God and be consumed by holy fire. Another  possible reason why God mentions hiding his face from the community is that many people  believed that should they catch sight of God they would die. In short, God’s holiness would be seen as a holy and awesome thing. And yet, here is  God declaring that in the future He will engage with people in the same way humans do – face to face. This is the ‘between the lines message’ made possible by the fact that God’s Holy Spirit would be within people.

And lastly, ‘beyond the lines.’ In the future, people will no longer need to carry an ark around or go to a certain place to find God with someone interceding on their behalf – why? Because God will live in each person through His Holy Spirit. No longer with they fear accidentally happening across God and catching a glimpse of his holiness and dying (more likely from a heart attack at the shock of it). God lives in us and can be reached at any time we lack without fear of death visiting us for being unclean before him. This is what God is doing and has done!


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Choosing God even when crushed?

‘A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.’ Proverbs 15v13

In understanding this verse in context, it’s necessary to consider the verses that have gone before it which present us with the binary choice of God’s rule versus human choice.

Right from the start of Proverbs 2 we see it in that the reader is presented with two options: either to ‘turn away from wrath’ or ‘stir up anger’ (v1). Likewise, in the verse that follows, it is about choosing the Divine knowledge or making poor choices in regard to God’s kingdom and sovereignty (v2). Similarly, the observation that the person who seeks to make amends will prevail over those whose speech is negative and destructive (v4). All of which will eventually lead us to v13 and the observation that:

‘A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.’

But what does this mean? Well,  in the previous post –  click here to read it – we considered how the term ‘spirit’ was understood in three different ways during Old Testament times.  In one, ‘spirit’ refere to God’s Holy Spirit temporarily resting ‘on’ the person. In another, its  the person’s spirit? And lastly, ‘spirit’ might be best understood as a case of semantics because  3000+ years ago, people were quite happy to liken the distress of their heart as an event that crushed as much spiritually as it did physically and emotionally.

So what’s the takeaway? Well, both good and bad events will visit us in this life. Some will be pleasant while others will crush us for a time but may end up bringing us closer to God. Both are valid and God -who knows the number of hairs on our head – cares about our wellbeing – something worth remembering and reflecting on when next we go through difficult times.


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Feeling crushed and weighed down by life?

‘The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.’ Proverbs 15v4

When I began writing this series of posts looking at how the term ‘Spirit’ is understood in the Old Testament, I identified three ways it can be understood – click  for that post.The first relates to the Old Testament where the Holy Spirit comes upon an individual to temporarily equip/compel them to fulfil a God-given task (or tasks).

The second occurs New Testament onwards where the Holy Spirit  permanently fills the person with God’s Presence that remains with them for the rest of their their life unless curtailed by decisions that thwart Divine activity within them – this is the experience of believers from Pentecost onwards.

And lastly, there is the believer’s use of the term ‘spirit’ to describe what is happening to them and which may not relate to God’s Spirit at all. For example, a comment such as ‘my spirit is crushed’ is really an observation that the person’s ability to function and commune with God is at an all time low. Not that God has done this to them but circumstances have conspired to bring the person down such that they can’t think and their emotions are all over their place.

Why do I tell you this? Well, I don’t believe a perverse tongue can physically crush a person’s spirit but I do believe that when criticism of others is left unchecked, it can lead us down a path by which we might struggle to follow and hear God. Let’s be clear on this: God is love. He seeks good things for his children and is always with us, especially in the darkest times when we have strayed from him. Remember, however it is that we end up with a crushed spirit, it does not rest with God as He is always seeking to forgive, redeem and restore.

 


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Following God’s Spirit or your shadow mission?

‘When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.’ (Psalm 146v4)

My first question when reading any passage of scripture is:

Who is saying what to whom? I do this because its important to understand the psalm in the context in which it is written as often a verse in isolation will not do it  – read Psalm 146 by clicking here 

Reading the whole passage, what we see is that the psalmist’s ire is not towards everyone but rather those who govern and make decisions in their own strength. Leaders who end up unable to fulfil that which they have promised and even the hidden things of their shadow mission – two things that are common in our politically turbulent times. So what should we to take away from this?

Well…

  1. Each of us- whether we believe in God or not – possess a spirit recepticle through which we can commune and access God’s Holy Spirit within us.
  2. Physical death will result in our spirit leaving the physical body as it returns to God.
  3. Each of us – whether we realise it or not – will at times have what John Ortberg describes as a ‘shadow mission’ – something that appears godly but is really about our own elevation so we will be noticed/respected by others.
  4. As each of us has a finite number of years, we each will do well to live with that reality in mind, seeking to do the things of God Kingdom while here on earth.

 

 


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Keeping to the straight and level?

‘Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.’ (Psalm 143 v10)
Wow! So much theology in one verse –

First, the request that God train or teach us so that we react in a situation as He would do – something that is really hard  when we consider how wilful the human heart can be:

‘The heart is deceitful and beyond cure – who can understand it?’ Jeremiah 17v 9.

Second, the reference to God’s good Spirit which of course not be anything other than ‘good.’ This is reminiscent of Jesus’ question to those clamouring for his attention: ‘Why do you call me good?’  Luke 18v 19 The answer they should realise is that ‘only God is good.’

And lastly, the psalmist’s request that God’s ‘spirit lead them to level ground.’

Interestingly, most people do not associate danger with level ground. If anything, our requests for God’s help usually happen when we called upon to traverse high ground. All that said, it is on the plain – where they is no obvious danger – that we do well to remain aware of God’s presence. For as King David discovered to his chagrin, it was during a time of rest and peace that he became vulnerable and transgressed  – 2 Samuel 11v1-2


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Physical death and spiritual resurrection?

‘Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?’ (Psalm88v10)
For me, this scripture speaks prophetically into the ultimate purposes of God – namely, that when our human flesh is unable to support us any more and death comes upon us, that will be the time that the sessence of our being – our spirit – will rise up to be with God.
What’s more, the spirit rises not do this to mourn the loss of human life but to praise God to whom the believer’s continued existence becomes manifest in the heavenlt realms.
Truth is, God does not show wonders to the dead but to those who are spiritually alive!

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