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Apprenticeship III

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Now, learning to think well of God begins aligning your thoughts to the thoughts of God, and allows you to set your thoughts, as Paul wrote:  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Setting your mind, that is, your thoughts including the thoughts of your heart, on things above is to literally lift your thoughts and thinking both of your heart (emotion) and mind (logical) to the level of God’s thinking. That is, to bring it up so that as the Heavens are above the Earth, so your thinking concerning God, your thoughts towards God, is that much higher than the rest of mankind, for all men come from the Earth but Christ alone came from Heaven.  Thus, the often quoted famous ‘mind of Christ requires that we think more highly of God than we tend to.  Thinking well and thinking highly of God are how we set our hearts and minds on things above, and it is this pattern of thinking that is required to cause the mind of Christ, which we have, to begin to function for us.

Going back again to Moses and the rocks from which water came, see again that the Israelites never really thought highly of God at all— from the edge of the Red Sea all the way to the edge of the Promised Land all they ever thought of God’s intention for them was for harm and for evil.  Even at Canaan after all the miracles of provision in the desert, this is what they thought of God:  “If only we had died in Egypt!  Or in this desert!  Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?  Our wives and children will be taken as plunder.  Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”  This is the way Israel thought of the God they knew, the God whom they saw deliver them from slavery, parted the Red Sea for them to walk on dry ground, drowned the Egyptians and brought them with miracle after miracle to Canaan.  What was their real problem then?

Firstly, it wasn’t because of lack of faith, as faith does not enter the equation really when you have seen.  If it was a question of faith, then we are not speaking of believing faith, but of obedience and reliability.  That is, they lacked the faith to obey, not the faith to believe, for a person who has seen God as they had has little recourse to believing faith.  For them, there is no blessing for believing without having seen, no, they had seen, tasted, eaten, drank and even touched the evidence of God who delivered them, just like the eleven.  The real problem is that they did not think well, they did not think highly of God, they never really thought that God had their best intentions in His mind, but rather, He was playing some sort of sadistic game to set them free of slavery so that they could all die in the desert.  Yes, they all did die in the desert, not because it was God’s original plan, but because they kept insisting it was God’s plan all along.  They said, “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”  Of course it was, if that is what God had in mind, but hey, how stupid can you be?  If God wanted them dead, any of the hail stones and the plague on the firstborn would have been sufficient.  Right up to the Promised Land, they did not change their mind about God, saying, “If only we had died in Egypt!  Or in this desert!  Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?”  It was their unwavering faith, their unwavering belief and opinion about God’s nasty scheme that got them all killed in the desert, not God. 

God’s plan for them was for good and not for evil, to give them a hope and a future.  God’s plan was to set them free, by bringing them out with mighty signs and wonders, to speak to them in the privacy of Sinai so that they would know Him and then bring them to Canaan, a land full of milk and honey to live in houses they did not build, to drink from wells they did not dig and to eat from fruit trees they did not plant, so that they would become the only nation in the world who worshipped the God they knew, and be the source of salvation for all mankind.  That first generation wouldn’t have a bar of it because they thought evil of God.  They thought lowly of God, and as such, their minds could never understand and their eyes could never perceive what they had been told and saw.

Even Moses was so influenced and affected by them that at the second time they needed water, instead of speaking to the rock as instructed, he struck the rock twice.  Yes, water gushed out, but listen to what God said, “Because you did not trust Me enough to honour Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites…”  To trust someone enough to honour him is to think well of him.  To give a person a good reference based on what you know of him, that is, from what you know of that person, is to introduce him to those who do not know him in a good light.  Moses was told to do something he had never done in front of Israel, and to speak to the rock so that water would come in response to the word and not the deed was to introduce God to them in a new way.  What went through Moses’ mind not to trust God enough to honour Him as holy?  No one knows, but yet, by the same paradox, everyone knows. 

Everyone of us who has been told by God to do something new, yet reverts to the same old tried and true ways, knows exactly what Moses was thinking, for there is no sin that is not common to men.  We all think of God as untrustworthy, and when He asks us to do what is impossible, we think lowly of Him.  That He has brought us out to humiliate us, to show us up for our weaknesses and bless us with failure, even to kill us.  Every single person who has no difficulty believing in John 11:25, “He who believes in Me will live, even though He dies,” but then explains John 11:26 as being a figure of speech only, not to be taken literally, is committing the same sin as Moses, every time.  You see, like Moses, we know everyone dies and therefore everyone must share in the hope of the resurrection later.  After all, even the eleven died, Paul died, Mary the mother died and so on.  After all, there are no reports of saints outliving Methuselah in years …that we know of.  Just like Moses who knew that anytime he did something with his staff, throw it on the ground, strike the water of the Nile, stretch out his hand with his staff, or if he stretched out his hand, or if the Lord said He would do something, miracles happened.  However, the Lord had never told him to speak and things would happen.  Now at Numbers 20:8, “Speak to that rock before their eyes…” it was new, never done before, new, and Moses, like us, went back to what had always been done and happened before with a double measure.

When we heard, “…and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die” for the first time, if we can remember, did any of us dare think, “Yes!  Cancel my funeral plans.  Cancel my retirement plans.  I have a new problem— what to do with myself for the next 1000 years and more!”?  Or did we think and believe Jesus meant that figuratively; that our spirit and soul would never die?  Listen, it doesn’t matter what He meant; it is what you think He meant that counts.  For it is what you think He meant that shows you whether you thought well or ill of Him. 

If someone says I have a surprise for you, do you think, “Uh oh, bad news!” or, “Yes, good news!”?  Truth be known, most of us have been so conditioned by this world that we can only think ill of all situations and promises, and rightly so, for all men will be proved liars, but God alone be true.  Now, that is honouring God and showing Him to be holy in a way that cannot ever be wrong.  And that is when you will think well of God alone and continue to be circumspective of all others.  That is, to think well of Them all the time.  After all, did Moses have a reason not to trust God?  Look at God’s interaction with Moses… forget Moses’ interaction with anyone else; look at God’s interaction with Moses… had God ever let Moses down once?  Each and every time when Moses did just what God said, what was promised happened.  Look, see, listen, learn and understand.  Even when Moses didn’t trust God and do what he was told, still the water came out of the rock!  That is God at His personal best, gracious and forgiving, keeping His word so that those in need are helped, and in His justice, the one responsible is held accountable, Moses.

That is why regardless of the motives of preachers, the lost are still saved, the sick are still healed and miracles still happen because God meets the needs of all, but holds those who are responsible accountable.  As the Lord said, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

So likewise with us, has not the word of the Lord manifested just as He said it would, enough for us to now know that He is good?  Have we not seen miracles, have not our lives changed and even our hearts and minds?  Have we not received hardships and persecutions, lost friends and families for His Name’s sake, just as He said?  You see, we may not have liked or enjoyed the experience, but we can never deny that each and every one of His promises is true, so that we may come to know firstly He is the Man of His word, and secondly, that all things work out for our good and not for our evil, even though it didn’t seem that way when we were going through them. 

You see, Jesus never said that those who hear and put His words to practice are like the lucky man who never experienced wind blowing, rain falling, the river rising and a torrent striking his house.  No, He said he “is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house [the torrent struck]; yet it did not fall [could not shake it], because it had its foundation on the rock.”  The lucky man never found out how well built his house was, only the wise man found out.

So likewise, those who do not put Jesus’ words into practice, who never practise miracles to prepare for the day they may need one, may live a lucky life and actually spend a lifetime free from major catastrophes, threats or complications, but they have never really lived a life that helped them get to know the Lord at all.  And at the end of it all, what can they testify to the truth of Jesus’ words?  Can they say that yes, because they believed and laid hands on their sick son he was healed when their son was lucky enough never to get sick?  And you can think of many more examples.  Indeed, there are those who have laid hands on their sick son and nothing happened you might say, and you can cite your examples.  But at the end of it all, had they been practising the word diligently, or did they remember the word they heard and applied it when they needed it?  If the son was healed, God kept His word, and if their son was not healed, God also kept His word, for He said, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion…  But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”  Just because the house on sand is not swept away by a storm, it is because of God’s mercy, yet the ignorant call it luck.  It has nothing to do with a person’s forethoughts.

In your apprenticeship, you must learn to acquire the skill and art of not only thinking well of God with your thoughts, but also with your forethoughts.  That is, not only do you think well of God now, but you plan to continue to think well of God in the future.  One man who is the champion of thinking well of God is Habakkuk; see his prayer.  And the champion of forethought for God is none other than Job when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”  But for now, enough that you begin to learn to think well, think highly and think the best of God.

So then, how do we begin to think well of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit?  Begin with not speaking against Them.  Look at Peter’s error.  He spoke against Jesus when Jesus said that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.  For Peter said, Never, Lord!  This shall never happen to You!  Peter can be eternally thankful that though he was immediately rebuked and called Satan by Jesus, at least he was speaking against Jesus only and not against the Holy Spirit.

Look what happened when James the Younger said, “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.  Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols (when Jesus declared all foods clean), from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood (when Jesus commanded us to drink His blood and eat His flesh).  James spoke against three things Jesus taught in order to avoid making it difficult for the Gentiles.  James did not think well of Jesus’ teachings.  If he did, he would not have said let’s make it easy for the Gentiles.  In this instance you might be correct if you thought James was referring in particular to Jesus’ teach on His flesh and blood, which the Jewish disciples had complained earlier about, “This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?” and caused many disciples to leave Jesus then.  Perhaps James was more concerned about the size of the congregations than the pure devotion of those congregations to Jesus, even if it meant they were only small and unpopular.  In fact, James’ need to defend the size of his congregations is made crystal clear when his excuse and advice to Paul was:  “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law….” to persuade Paul to take part in the purification rites of the temple. 

I pray you will come to the place, if you are not yet there, that when someone who loves to defend the traditions of the church against the words of Jesus says to you, “You see, brother…” your skin crawls and an anger flares up in you that you will have to overcome so that you may correct in all gentleness and patience.  Don’t speak against the Lord’s word… and don’t explain it down to a worldly level.  If you don’t understand what He means when He said, “…and whoever lives and believes will never die,” ask the Holy Spirit and wait for His personal answer.  And if you can’t hear Him, if you can’t recognise His voice, then confess the truth, and you will find the Holy Spirit will speak loud enough and in a clear enough voice that you will know, you will not believe, you will know, it is He.  If John 11:26 is too hard for you, say so, just like the disciples of John 6:60.  You will not be the first or the last disciple to say, “This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?”  But better still, say, “This is a hard teaching.  Help me to accept it.”  The Holy Spirit is not sent as our Counsellor for nothing.  But don’t be dismissive of it, for whenever you are dismissive of the words of Jesus, you are walking too close to the place where you are ashamed of His words, or you have heard but have not practised them.  Either place does not have in them many pleasant praiseworthy experiences.

Seven times the Lord commanded the churches, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” and only twice in the rest of the book is it clearly written that the Spirit said something.  “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them,” and The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”  But only with Revelation 22:17 is given the command:  And let him who hears say, “Come!”

So then, you can quickly test to see which church has heard what the Spirit is saying to the churches, for those who have heard will also always say, “Come,” together with the Spirit and the bride.  And if your church has said, “Come,” to the Lord Jesus, then you have no business dying or waiting to be raptured to go to Heaven.  That would be like inviting someone to come to your house for dinner and then you yourself go out for dinner so that your guest arrives to find an empty house.  I think that even the world calls that rude!  And Paul has written:  Love is… not rude.  Any church that is looking forward to fulfil Revelation 14:13 to receive that blessing has no right to say, “Come.”  Indeed, any church that looks forward to the blessing of Revelation 14:13 has not heard what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  That is how you will know who and which church has heard what the Spirit is saying to the churches, and you will know who has not heard, who is rude and who has heard and means what they say.  For if you can say to Jesus, “Come!” then like a good host who has invited a guest for dinner, you must make ready for His arrival.  And the most important part of that preparation is that you will be there to greet Him.  Having a guest arrive at your house with a table set for dinner without you being there is as bad as not being there, unless your guest has a better idea and calls you to join him at a restaurant.

So, begin your practice of thinking well of God, so that you may learn to think highly of God until you are always thinking the best of Him and for Him.

So, what do you think of what Jesus said when He said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own”?  Use this verse to practise thinking well, thinking highly and thinking the best of God.

 

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