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Enter In – Matthew 2.1-12; John20.1-10

#1: In these two stories, the first about some mysterious magi, the second about two distraught disciples, people have made a journey – a long and arduous one in the first case, and a short hasty one in the second. And in both cases they have reached a threshold.  You too have made a journey, through the year 2015, and are reaching a threshold, a new year, 2016. Let’s examine them, compare them and apply them.  Scripture is written not to entertain us but to train us (2 Timothy 3.16).

The magi, wise men, astrologers – whatever they were!  They believed a great king was to be born in the west, heralded by an extraordinary star, a sign, in the sky.  When that star first appeared, a decision had to be made, which would involve sacrifice, cost and change.  Most people dislike all three of those! But these men decided to investigate, take the risk, pay the price of appearing foolish, eccentric, and of losing their influence and authority, security and power, especially if they were proved wrong.  But they set off regardless on that long, tiring, difficult and dangerous journey which led them eventually to the city of Jerusalem, and an audience with the king. But he was not the king the star was heralding, and they knew it. They were close, but knew they had not reached their true destination or destiny.  And then the star stopped – they had reached the climax of the journey, and they were overjoyed.  But … it was over just a house in Bethlehem, not a palace in Jerusalem.  It defied their expectation, yet it was the place where the child was, and that was all that mattered.  They had reached their destination, they were on the threshold – what did they do?  It was not what they expected, or anticipated, it was not a great city for a great king or a great palace for a great prince.  Hmmm … what do they do?  Answer: they boldly and bravely crossed the threshold and ENTERED IN.

The two bewildered disciples, Peter and John, made a much shorter journey, but it was still difficult and dangerous.  It was dark, they were being hunted, and it was based on a rumour, a report, from some women.  But like those magi, they made the decision, risked the ridicule of friends and relatives, and the interrogation of the guards and wrath of the authorities if caught, and reached their threshold – the tomb where their crucified Master had been buried. What would they do?  One just looked in, peered in, took a little peep.  But the other, Peter, boldly and bravely crossed the threshold and ENTERED IN. Why make the journey?  Why cross the threshold?  Why enter in?  We shall see … next week!

God bless you – as you draw near to your threshold!

Enter in – Matthew 2.1-12; John20.1-10

#2:  Three or maybe more magi and two disciples of Jesus set off on dangerous journeys.  One trip was was long, the other was short.  In both cases they stayed the course and reached their destination. They stood on the threshold, they stopped at the door, and then … they entered in.  Why?

Because they wanted to see Jesus.  The travellers from the east wanted to see the great King heralded by the extraordinary star in the sky.  The disciples wanted to see Jesus, alive from the dead, as the rumour was trending.  They wanted to go beyond current thinking, and opinion and practices.  They wanted more than rumours and reports.  They wanted to see Jesus.

Because they wanted to worship Jesus. They were unfulfilled in their current circumstances and situations, creed and culture, doctrine and denomination. God the Father seeks such people (John 4.23-24)

Because they wanted to give their best to Jesus. Gold, myrrh and frankincense – they had jealously guarded and protected it from thieves and bandits over many miles and for many months.  And they wanted to complete the mission and give it to the One for whom it was intended.  It was the best they had, and it was only for the best they knew.

Because they wanted to prove that their belief in the star was correct, and their belief in the women’s story was justified.  They had hoped beyond hope that their theories and calculations were accurate.

Because they were determined to discover first-hand for themselves – they were hands-on people.

How about you?  Are you happy with theories?  Rumours?  Other people’s opinions?  Or will you cross the threshold into the New Year determined to see Jesus for yourself, to worship Him, to give Him your best and discover Him first-hand?  What was the result when these men of old boldly and bravely completed their journeys, crossed their thresholds and entered in?  See you next week – if you’re not too preoccupied with last minute Christmas activities!

God bless you – as you prepare to enter in!

Enter in – Matthew 2.1-12; John20.1-10

#3:  They didn’t dawdle, debate, delay or dilly-dally at the threshold.  They hadn’t come this far just to carry on wondering who or what they might find inside the house or the tomb.  After a long, tiring journey via different countries, climates, cultures, people and places, after running as fast as possible until they were breathless, fighting distractions and doubts, they were determined to see Jesus.  So they entered in, and …

Their faith was rewarded! Jesus was born!  The King was there!  And for the others, He was not there – He had risen! For those wise men, the astrologers, their theories were proved right.  For the desperate disciples the rumours proved true!  They now had first-hand experience and a personal story to tell.  Why?  How?

Because they boldly and bravely crossed the threshold, they entered in, they defied doubt and distraction.  “So what?” you may say. “What’s this got to do with me?  What am I meant to learn from these two journeys and entrances across thresholds?”  Good questions!  I’ll tell you what next week when you’re through your Christmas celebrations and stand at the threshold of the New Year!

God bless you – Merry Christmas! 

Enter in – Matthew 2.1-12; John20.1-10

#4:  My friend, you’ve got a theory about something, you sense something great is going to happen in your life.  You’ve heard a rumour that something great has already happened.  You’ve travelled a long way, and paid a great price.  You’re expectant.  You’ve made a decision, and taken a risk.  You’ve ignored criticism, and overcome difficulties, doubts and dangers.  You’ve left your comfort zone, your culture, your climate, your creed.  You’ve paid a price because you dared to dream a dream, to believe a rumour, to follow a sign.

Others around you haven’t even noticed or realised a new day is dawning, they’re not interested, they’re too busy and pre-occupied, in fact they’re not even looking for anything special, anything truly supernatural. Others you know, however, have noticed, but won’t follow that star, won’t check out that sign, because they’re too busy, or too proud, or it’s too risky and costly.  Like the Swiss watchmakers, once renowned for leading the world in that field, failed to discern that digital would supersede clockwork and the electronic quartz watch would soon dominate the market.  And so Japan took the world lead in that field.

But never mind the others.  You have travelled, you have come, you have arrived via different routes.  You are wanting to see for yourself, to prove it’s true.  You’re standing on the threshold.  Now….ENTER IN to where God has led you.  He hasn’t brought you this far for you to stop now and gaze and gawp and wonder, “What next?”  ENTER IN to your destiny, your salvation, your worship, your giving, your service, your ministry, your outreach, your dream.  You’ve carried those treasures all thjs way – now give them to Jesus!  Lay them at His feet.  You may have to stoop to enter, you may have to bend down to humble yourself.  You may be surprised things haven’t turned out as you expected.  You don’t know what you’ll find inside – the star didn’t tell them that; the women didn’t tell them that!  But believe me, you’ll find Him there.  You’ll find that what you were following WAS God’s sign.  You’ll find Him alive from the dead, risen, ascended, glorified, victorious!

Don’t stop! Don’t hesitate! Don’t wait to be invited, provoked or paid!  Don’t wait till you’re ready, qualified, good enough or there’s someone else going with you to hold your hand.  You’ve prayed that prayer, you’ve dreamed that dream, you’ve seen that star, you’ve heard that story…now go for it!  Go all the way!  Cross the threshold and ENTER IN to the place where God has led you, be it a house with a child inside or an empty tomb but for folded grave clothes, and you will see that God DOES have a Son and He HAS conquered death and He IS alive. 

Here’s a short, simple prayer for you to pray as you enter in to 2016 – “Lord God, please give me a bold and brave pioneering spirit of obedience to complete the journey You have led me on.  I want to see Jesus, I want to worship Him, I want to give Him my gifts.  I’m ENTERING IN.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.” 

God bless you – throughout the coming year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Learned from Barnabas  –  Acts 4.36; 1 Thessalonians 5.11  (14/10/15)

#5:  Barnabas and Saul/Paul often travelled with a team, to assist them and to develop younger ministries.  One such person was John Mark.  He later wrote one of the four accounts of the gospel, and in it he refers to a young man in the garden of Gethsemane who was wearing just a linen sheet over his naked body, and who ran away (Mark 14.51-52) having had his garment torn off him.  No other accounts of the gospel make such a reference, and it is commonly believed that this was the same John Mark.  Coward?  Scared? Terrified? Who knows?

Much later on he runs away again!  He had been accompanying Barnabas and Paul on their first ministry trip, beginning in Cyprus.  There he witnessed the power of God operating in an unusual way.  Rather than making a blind person see, on this occasion a seeing person was blinded by “the hand of the Lord.”  Don’t believe me?  Read it yourself! (Acts 13.11)  The price of opposing the gospel and distorting the truth!  Anyway, for whatever reason, John Mark had had enough of this ministry trip stuff, and returned home to Jerusalem.  Now fast-forward a little and we find our dynamic duo about to team up again – Paul says to Barnabas, “Let’s do another ministry trip and strengthen the churches.  Our Son of Encouragement suggests John Mark comes along too.  That suggestion, however, did not go down well with Paul because of John Mark’s former desertion, and the two had a furious disagreement and parted company. Sound familiar?! (Acts 15.36-39)

So what do we learn from Barnabas on this occasion?  Interestingly, he had given Paul the benefit of the doubt in Jerusalem, but now Paul would not give John Mark the benefit of the doubt.  But Barnabas does!  He splits from Paul and takes on John Mark.  Why?  Because he saw the potential in him, and trusted God in him and him in God.  Despite the fears and failures he saw the seed of God, the potential, and he trusted it.  He developed it, he nurtured it.  He saw what Paul only saw years later, who when writing probably his last ever letter, writes to his friend and disciple Timothy, who incidentally was known to be frequently in poor health, to come and see him and to bring John Mark with him, “for he is useful to me for service.” (2 Timothy 4.11; 1 Timothy 5.23)  Now there’s a U-turn!  And Barnabas was proved absolutely right because that young run-away subsequently wrote the first gospel account, probably largely based on Peter’s memories and experiences, and Matthew and Luke based their accounts around it.  Significant also because Luke was a historian as well as a doctor, who also accompanied Paul on his trips, so was very aware of and concerned about factual accuracy, and was the one who wrote about the desertion in Cyprus, and verified John Mark’s gospel account.

What if Barnabas had given up on John Mark, as Paul did?  What if he had given up on the fiery Saul of Tarsus?  No wonder they wanted to change his name from Joseph to Barnabas, Son of Encouragement!  Encouragement is all over the New Testament.  We are told to encourage one another day after day, and to build one another up (Hebrews 3.13; 10.25; 1 Thessalonians 5.11) .  So when you’re next tempted to despair of someone who has disappointed you or let you down, or even deserted you, remember Barnabas – and give them and God the benefit of the doubt.  Have you ever given up?  Don’t worry – there’s a Barnabas coming your way!

God bless you, as you give and receive the benefit of the doubt!

What I Learned from Barnabas  –  Acts 4.36; 1 Thessalonians 5.11  (07/10/15)

#4:  The illusive Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement, disappears again…until another critical moment in the life of the earliest followers of Jesus Christ.  There came a turning point in human history and in world history.  I doubt you would be reading this now if this moment had turned out differently.  Follow me through…it’s worth it!

Until this moment, the stories about Jesus had spread essentially amongst Jewish people (He was a Jew Himself).  But some daring souls, incidentally from Cyprus where Barnabas originated, went somewhere and told non-Jews about Jesus.  Many of the hearers believed what they heard, that He and He alone could forgive their sins once and for all and guarantee them eternity in heaven (Acts 11.19-21). Hmmmm….big problem! The Jesus community had now got non-Jews in it, and these freshers didn’t know, let alone obey, the Jewish Law.  They weren’t even circumcised, as all true Jews were. Panic stations all round!  Do we allow it?  What do we do?  Answer – send in Barnabas! (verses 22-24).  Now, religious communities are not good at change!  So much is at stake, and who they send is crucial.

So sure enough, our Son of Encouragement accepts the Mission Impossible!  And he does it so well and so successfully, that it brings about another potential problem!  Help is desperately needed because of the massive, mind-blowing potential of these stories about Jesus breaking into the non-Jewish world in ever-increasing measure, and being believed!  Now the whole world becomes the harvest field!  Barnabas realises he needs help – he needs a person who can handle this, who really knows his Jewish Scripture, but who could also speak the language and understand the mind-set of non-Jews.  Someone who had great courage, exuded energy, with a sharp mind and a quick tongue.  Who on earth could that be?  Was there such a person?  Yes, you got it …..

… Saul of Tarsus (verses 25-26)!  Isn’t it ironic?  Because there was no-one more Jewish than Saul!  But our amazing Son of Encouragement knew that he, Saul, could and would adapt.  So Saul becomes known as Paul, because Saul is the Jewish version of the name, and Paul is the Greek or non-Jewish version.  And he becomes the great missionary to the rest of the world.  Paul would change the world – and he did.  But it only happened because Barnabas could see something in him, realised the potential, and went and fetched him.  Such people can see things in others that others can’t see, and even which people can’t see in themselves.  And so they work together, and if you read the story closely you’ll see that even their names get swapped around from Barnabas and Paul to Paul and Barnabas because Paul emerged as the leader of the two.

Was Barnabas jealous? Probably!  Did he make sure he got the credit?  No!  In stead his way was to recognise and develop the greatness in another, which resulted in a ministry far greater than his own, far more widely recognised and honoured than his own, far more visible and better known.  But Jesus said it would be this way in His Kingdom – the first would be last, and the last would be first, the greatest are really servants, the way up is the way down, to lead is to serve, to get rich is to give away, and to live is to die.

So that’s what I’ve learned from Barnabas this week.  How about you?

God bless you – at the bottom of the pile!

What I Learned from Barnabas  –  Acts 4.36; 1 Thessalonians 5.11  (30/09/15)

#3:  Well, our friend disappears for a while in the book with the paragraphs written about him, The Acts of the Apostles. The community of which he was a part, followers of Jesus Christ, started to suffer horrendous persecution.  And one particular man by the name of Saul emerges as a young headstrong hero – deeply religious, profoundly devout.  He was going to be leading the crushing and defeating of this new found faith by his harsh, cruel, emotionless brutality. But…this Jesus, whose followers he was endeavouring to eradicate, was somewhat smarter than he was!  And although officially ‘dead’ He appeared to the young fire-brand, spoke to him, blinded him, and said, “Hey, that’s enough – you’re mine. Oh, and by the way, that’s not going to be an easy call for you.” (Acts 9.1-16). So now he had a big problem!

Nobody believed or trusted him.  Not surprising really, with his reputation. He had terrorised their community, consented to the blatant public murder of their friend Stephen, and was now saying, “Oh, I’m one of you now.”  (Acts 9.26-28)  Who steps up to the mark again?  Our Son of Encouragement, Barnabas.

What have I learned from him today?   Such people believe that with God’s help a person can change.  Such people do not let who you were yesterday determine or limit who you can be today or could be tomorrow.  Such people take risks. Such people have faith.  Such people have love.  Such people bear, believe, hope and endure all things (1 Corinthian 13.7).  Barnabas took a massive risk with Saul.  He persuaded the other Christian leaders to believe, receive and accept him.  And because Barnabas said he could be trusted, others trusted him, and so he stayed with them (Acts 9.28).  What would have happened to Saul if he had not had Barnabas?  We don’t know.  But I suggest that his acceptance into the Christian community in Jerusalem at that crucial time was solely because of Barnabas.

Do you know a Barnabas?  Are you a Barnabas?  I have known a few.  I was a tear-away when I first came to Christ – a rebel!  I didn’t get sorted out and sanctified entirely over night!!! I remember one pastor who prayed for God to send him help.  The next Sunday I appeared in his church for the first time.  “Not very promising!” he thought.  But he took me in, trusted me, believed the best of me and for the next three years we saw God move wonderfully amongst young people there.  I still had my problems, but he saw beyond those – he was a Barnabas. I got well grounded in the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures and the faith there.  Thank God for such people – and if you know one, thank him or her.  Can you be a Barnabas?  I think so!  And if you read to the end of the story you’ll see that that community of believers following Jesus Christ moved from fear and persecution to faith and peace and numerical growth – because of one person, who knew how to take a risk and trust God! (Acts 9.31)

God bless you – and thanks, Rod Scott!

What I Learned from Barnabas  –  Acts 4.36; 1 Thessalonians 5.11 (23/09/15)

#2:  How’s your tank today?  What’s it reading?  How’s your spring? Shoulders square or slumped?  Whatever your state right now, take a look at our Son of Encouragement – Barnabas.  He was a Levite.  They were one of the tribes of Israel, and they served as assistants to the priests, such as door keepers, or musicians. In passing, if you’re a greeter on the door of your church, or even in the praise and worship team, don’t get above yourself, my friend – you’re a modern day Levite!  Oh…and they didn’t get paid either!  But our friend Barnabas couldn’t do any of that! Why?  Because he was “born in Cyprus”.  Cor… surely that’s racism, isn’t it?!  (Acts 4.36) In other words, he was not born in Israel, so he was called a Hellenist, which means literally a Greek, but metaphorically an Israelite born abroad.  They were regarded as foreigners, and did not speak the local language, Aramaic, as their first language.  They were considered to be more Gentile (non-Jew) than Jew. And those who had learned the local language spoke with an accent.  And there was great tension between non-Jewish and Jewish converts to Christ in those early, heady days. Not a lot has changed in over 2000 years!  In my country today, there are what are referred to as the “black majority churches”, whose members are predominantly of African or Afro-Caribbean ethnic origin, even though they may well have been born and raised in the UK.  And there is a divide between them and the Caucasian white, predominantly middle-class British churches.

Anyway, our friend Barnabas was not fazed by all that.  He was not bitter or sour because he couldn’t serve as a normal Levite. On the contrary, he saw a need and realised he could meet it.  He had some land, a field, which he realised he could sell and help people in need.  And he did so.  That should put him in the Guinness Book of Records because he is the first recorded donor in the earliest Christian community (but they don’t have that category!).   And what is more he “laid it at the apostles’ feet” or “handed it over to the apostles” (Acts 4.37). He didn’t want a receipt, or a “With Compliments” slip with the church stamp on it, or a Certificate presented to him one Sunday morning.  He didn’t ask to be brought out to the front and especially blessed and prayed for.  He didn’t want a chair or a stone or anything else engraved in his memory in the church building. He just said, in effect, “You guys know what best to do with it. And you’ll give account to God for what you have done with it. No strings attached, no receipt required.  You don’t have to build something with my name on it.  You don’t have to mention me on Sunday. Just use it where it is most needed, to bless others.  You know best.”

How about you when you give?  I’ve been a pastor for 29 years now and I generally sit at the front as I am up and down a lot leading the Services.  In our churches people leave their seats to place their offerings in the receptacle at the front.  And my, oh my, have I seen some performances!  Hey, forget what the pastor sees or thinks – give to God.  When you give that way it puts you in touch with a deeper spiritual source, with deeper realities in the Kingdom of God than money .  It puts you in the flow of a reality which is far larger than you and what you can comprehend.  Barnabas did this. It was not just what he gave that was important – it was the spirit in which he gave it that mattered. That’s why people said, “Joseph’s not an adequate name for this guy – give him anew name: Barnabas – Son of Encouragement.” And they did! Why?  Because he filled their tank!  Are you filling someone’s tank?

Would they say that about you?  Would folks want to change your name? Next week – what else have I learned from Barnabas?

God bless you – and your piece of land!

What I Learned from Barnabas – Acts 4.36; 1 Thessalonians 5.11 (16/09/15)

#1: Most motor vehicles have a fuel gauge which gives the driver a warning when the tank is getting low.  Gas powered items flicker when the gas bottle is low.  People too have their fuel tanks in their inner being, in their spirit. And others can read the gauge, if they chose to. The eye reflects the heart – look into a person’s eyes and you can read how full or empty their tank is. Some are alive, vibrant; their eyes have a fire in them.  Others are glazed over, and weary.  Look at a person’s shoulders – are they square and upright, or hunched and slumped over? Look at the way they walk – is there a spring in their heel, are they spritely and energetic? Or slouching and trudging along?  We all have a fuel tank.

Some people can fill our fuel tank!  To be with them they energise you, they breathe life into you.  They remind you God is good and life’s ok.  They fill you up and draw the best out of you.  They raise your hope, your faith, and your expectation. They fill your tank!  Others, however, stick their pipe in your already low tank behind your back when you’re not looking and suck and siphon the little remaining fuel out of you.  They drain you of joy, and energy and of life itself.  Let’s look for a few weeks at one of the former characters – one who put the spring back in people’s heels, one who made people feel, “Hey, I can climb to the top of this seemingly insurmountable mountain.”  He’s a real encourager, and I want to share what I have learned from him.

To encourage means to re-strengthen, and it is used over 400 times in the New Testament alone.  What can we learn from him about how to fill other people’s tanks?  His name was changed by his friends from Joseph to Barnabas, because it meant “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4.36).  What have I learned from Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement?

We’ll see next week!  And if you wanted a longer post written by me this week, please just go to Virtual Voice Facebook page.  Ask to become a member and I will happily accept you, as I write every week on that page as well as this.

God bless you – what’s your gauge reading?

The Role and Function of the Church – Matthew 16.18  (09/09/15)

#8:  The final thrust!  There are those who pray, there are those who preach, there are signs and wonders, there is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  All demonstrate the presence and power of the Kingdom of God in a place.  But there is one other essential indication of the effectiveness of the resistance Movement of God, one final element in the Role and Function of the Church.  Vindication of the weak, fatherless, destitute, the afflicted, addicted, and marginalised, the downcast, outcast, degraded, depressed, oppressed and poor. Never mind whose fault.  Never mind the reasons why.  That’s God’s business.  Our business is to pick up the pieces. “Go and do the same,” said Jesus, having commended the man who helped another whom he came across on life’s highway who was in serious trouble (Luke 10.37 – and note he was of a different ethnic background and different religion/faith group, and ones despised by the man whom Jesus commended).  What is “pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God?”  Read James 1.27 and you’ll find His (God’s) answer.

The prophets of the Old Testament did not mince their words.  Political correctness was not in their vocabulary.  They loved not their lives even unto death (Revelation 12.11).  And God gave them words to speak which most of us today would cringe at saying.  I wonder how long I would be allowed to speak as a visiting preacher in a church today if I started by saying, “I just feel that God has put this message on my heart for you (nice smiley faces, nod nod).  He says He “hates your Services, your special half nights of prayer and fasting, your Christmas and Easter and Harvest Festivals.  In fact He’s bored with them, and He says He’s not going to listen any longer. Even though you tithe on your gross income, He’s not even going to open your Gift Aid envelopes.  And He says He’s deaf to your electronic pianos and keyboards, and guitars and drums, however smart you think you are.””  I would be removed from the front and asked to leave very quickly!  But that is what Isaiah and Amos were told to say – Isaiah 1.10-15; Amos 5.21-23).  Why?  Why would God not like all our labours and efforts to do our very best for Him?  Read on …

“Learn to do good; seek justice; reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan (child with no father), plead for the widow (single mother). Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;” (Isaiah 1.16-17; Amos 5.24).  Psalm 82:3-4 says, “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.”  If I asked you what the sin of Sodom was you would most likely say sexual immorality.  Yes, that is true.  But it was also being arrogant, having abundant food and careless ease, but not helping the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16.49).  On God’s heart are always the poor for whatever reason.  Jesus said we will always have the poor with us, and whenever we wish we can do good to them (Mark 14.7).  The final indication of success in the establishing of the Kingdom of God here on earth, of regaining what is rightfully God’s, of destroying the works of the evil one, is the vindication of the weak and helpless.  How are you and your church doing in this?

 

So in conclusion, what was on Jesus’ heart and mind when He referred to the church which He would build?  What is the real Role and Function of the Church? What is the real plot?  It is to continue the work of Jesus, to resist the devil and destroy his works, to challenge the kingdom of darkness, to declare the Kingdom of God and to establish it here on earth.  Hence, Jesus tells us to pray daily for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6.10). The solidarity of any Resistance Movement lies in the unity of its people (Ephesians 4.3; Philippians 2.1-5; 1 Chronicles 12.38). 

God bless you, as you destroy the works of the evil one.

The Role and Function of the Church – Matthew 16.18 (02/09/15)

#7:  We used to sing an old chorus that went, “Signs and wonders when God moveth, Move O God in me.”  I loved that song – still do, actually, but as it wasn’t written in the past year it’s not sung now!  But are tangible, visible signs and wonders the only evidence that we are gaining ground in the Resistance Movement of God?  No, not at all.  They will be evident, but also …

Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit will be evident (Romans 14.17).  I remember being at a smallish prayer meeting on a weeknight with the church which I was attending at the time, and we did more laughing than praying.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, left uplifted, and feeling just a little bit guilty that we had laughed more than we had prayed.  I am older and wiser now, and realise that it was evidence of the Kingdom of God in our midst.  In much more recent years, even as I led prayer with the praise and worship team before a Sunday morning worship Service in the church that I had pioneered, we would laugh and laugh, and sometimes I would get a telling-off look for not being serious enough!  Hahahaha! – God and I love righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit! In the presence of the Lord there is fullness of joy (1 Chronicles 9.22; Psalm16.11). The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8.10).  Woohoo!

I get to visit many, many different congregations in my own country, and other countries.  To be honest, I can tell at once whether they are in the Resistance Movement or not by the atmosphere.  If there are divisions and factions, or one family has fallen out with another, or the minister has upset someone or several by a decision or an uncomfortable message preached, or there is ungodliness maybe even concealed amongst members, there is no peace, righteousness and joy.  Yes, the programme continues as usual, but one senses the Holy Spirit is upset (Ephesians 4.30). In other places, one can’t tick all the correct theological boxes, but hey, there’s peace, righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit.  What about where you worship?  Atmospheres, problems, “difficult times, brother!”?  Find where God is happy and be happy with Him!

But that’s not all, folks!  There are further ways in which we can detect whether we are gaining ground in our efforts to destroy the works of the evil one.  Join me next week!

God bless you, as you hold your stomach laughing!

The Role and Function of the Church – Matthew 16.18 (26/08/15)

#6:  Are you still following the plot?  So easy to get distracted.  Why does Jesus build His church?  What is its purpose on earth?  What is the Role and Function of the church?  Why are you or anyone a member of it?  If the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, it must mean that the church is attacking the gates of hell!  (Matthew 16.8) Are you?  You should be through prayer, bold proclamation of the truth of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, and righteous, Godly conduct.  Is the congregation to which you belong involved in these?  If not, get out and find one that is! No place for sentimentality and nostalgia in this battle.  Are you swimming in the fast flowing river of God?  Or treading water in a stagnating pond, lake or swamp?  The Son of God was revealed from heaven to destroy the works of the evil one, and He empowers His followers to continue His work whilst He intercedes for us and prepares a place for us in heaven for eternity (John 14.1-3; Romans 8.34).  When the time comes, what stories will you have to tell?  What battles scars will you be able to show?  What fruit from your labours?  Well, I’m not too sure, you say.  How can I know if I’m succeeding and victorious in this Resistance Movement of God, in the role of regaining what rightly belongs to God?  Here we go …

Firstly, there will be visible and tangible evidence!  There will be a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2.4). There will be what the Bible refers to as signs and wonders.  People will be changed in unusual, extraordinary, abnormal and supernatural ways as a result of your prayers, witness and life-style.  Some will be instantaneous, some over a period of time, some will be physical, others emotional, psychological…any area where a person becomes whole as opposed to in pieces.  Remember, these are signs – they point to the Kingdom of God.  Too many today worship the signs rather than the One they are pointing to.  I live in a town called Gillingham.  If I stop at a sign ten miles away that says Gillingham 10 miles, I have not arrived in Gillingham!  But I am being told which direction to take in order to get there!  And there will be wonders – you will be amazingly surprised at the changes that take place. Just check out Matthew 10.8, 12.28-29; Romans 15.19; 1 Corinthians 2.4; 1 Thessalonians 1.5 and you’ll be convinced!  But please, seek the Giver not the gift. Worship the Author, not the book. A woodpecker bird landed on a tree just as the tree was struck by lightning.  “My,” he said, “I never knew I had such power!”  Careful! And incidentally, I wouldn’t pay money to find out how to move in the power of God – “freely you have received, freely give,” Jesus said (Matthew 10.8).

Yeah, but I’m not in that kind of spiritual atmosphere, you say.  My church thinks that’s all a bit showy, man-centred, and frankly whacky.  We think everything should be done reverently, decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14.40). Does that mean we are not fulfilling the Role and Function of the church?  Are there any other indications that we are succeeding?  Yes, there are.  See you next week (but in the meantime pray for a visible, tangible sign!)

God bless you, as you land on the tree!

The Role and Function of the Church – Matthew 16.18 (21/08/15)

#5:  A man worked as a salesman for a pen company.  He had negotiated an amazing deal with a large and highly significant firm for a huge sale of the pens.  As he was about to sign the final contract the Managing Director of the firm suddenly said, “Stop!  I’m not going to go ahead with this deal.”  Astonished, and astounded by the loss of such an impressive sale, the rep asked why, at this stage, the deal should not go ahead.  “Because, “replied the Director, “you are about to sign the contract, but you are not using one of your own pens.  If you don’t use it, why should my staff?”

The point of my story is this: you may pray earnestly and fervently, you may be bold in your proclamation of your faith, but what people will look at is your lifestyle and conduct. Do you practise what you preach?  Do you walk the walk or just talk the talk?  Do you use the pen you’re asking others to use? To make your place authentic in the Resistance Movement of God, the Role and Function of a member of that true Church of Jesus Christ on earth must be to live Godly in Christ Jesus.  It has been said, “The only Bible some people may read is your life.”  What will they read?  What version are you living?  Church leaders and members world-wide negate their authority and authenticity by ungodly conduct, immorality, corruption, greed, arrogance and pride, bad language, gossip, criticism, slander, over-indulgence in food and drink…I don’t want to continue because you know what I am talking about.  You may say, “Yes, but you don’t cease to use currency because there are some forged bank notes, do you?”  No, you don’t, of course not – yet millions will harden their hearts to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ because they have observed ungodly conduct in those naming the name of Christ.  Surely this is causing others to stumble?  And Jesus said it would be better for such a one to have a millstone hung around his/her neck and be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18.6).  Yes, the God of love spoke those words, because He is also the God of holiness and justice!  If you tapped your foot for every hypocrite you found in the church, you would be doing a tap dance!

So third on our list of essential requirements for destroying the works of the evil one, and thus playing a proper part in the Role and Function of the Church, is to live a Godly life, which I may warn you in case you are not aware or have chosen to forget, will bring persecution (2 Timothy 3.12).  You’re not going to be Mr and Mrs Popular with everyone.  If you want to be a friend of the world, so be it, but that makes you an enemy of God (James 4.4).  It seems that great swathes of those naming the name of Christ want to identify with the spirit of the age in order, they say, to be relevant and relate.  No wonder the works of the evil one are not destroyed in their village, town, neighbourhood, school, company, business, nation.  You can’t mess with God.  You can’t buy His power (Acts 8.18-21).  Sure, you can have lively meetings, large gatherings and a following of maybe thousands or more, but when the fire tests it will it prove to just be wood, hay, and straw, or gold, silver and precious stones?  Remember, God, not fellow man, is the judge.  Check out Matthew 5.13-16, 20, Luke 10.37, Philippians 2.14-16, Titus 3.8, 1 Peter 3.13-16 and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

So, how then do we know if we are succeeding in our Resistance Movement?  What evidence is there that the Kingdom of God is being established through our lives, our prayer, our witness and our Godly conduct?  Got to wait for next week, my friend!!!

God bless you, as you sign the deal with the right pen!

The Role and Function of the Church – Matthew 16.18 (12/08/15)

#4:  One would assume that prayer would be at the top of every individual Christian’s and congregation’s agenda.  If we are following in His steps we would be praying (Luke 9.23; 1 Peter 2.21).  Jesus was constantly praying – at His water baptism, before dawn, in the wilderness and deserted places, up a mountain, alone with His disciples, when He was transfigured, as He received the seventy back from their first ministry trip, in such a manner that His followers asked to be taught how to do it, right through until His dying breath (Luke 3.21; 4.42; 5.16; 6.12; 9.18, 28; 10.21; 11.1; 23.46).  After His resurrection and return home He was still praying, asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit.  When that prayer was answered and His Spirit had been poured out upon His earliest followers, they devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 2.42), and as their numbers rapidly grew they continued to pray (Acts 4.24).  And He hasn’t changed!  He’s still praying (Hebrews 7.25).  And His followers today must be praying, at all times, without ceasing if they are to fulfil the genuine and authentic  Role and Function of the Church.  If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy – even if it is “the Lord’s work”.  Without prayer, it will exhaust and frustrate you, and bear no lasting fruit.

But secondly, to stick to the plot, to be about destroying the works of the evil one, to resist the devil and be a true part of God’s Resistance Movement, taking back what rightly belongs to Him (see previous posts), the gospel must be told – the good news that there is an alternative Kingdom to which anyone can transfer at any time, where God rules and reigns and gives power to be freed from all we do, think and say which we regret, and from the consequences of that, and where He looks after and leads us.  This gospel must be preached, or proclaimed – i.e. spoken out loud.  It may be on the telephone, it may be in a large auditorium or crusade ground, it may be from a pulpit, it may be over a drink, it doesn’t matter where or when, but the story must be told.  If am not a fan of the statement widely attributed to St Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”  The Bible says, “How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10.14) Anyone of any faith or of no faith at all can be kind and helpful and self-sacrificing towards others.  But only those who have experienced forgiveness of sin and the freedom that faith in Christ gives can talk about it.  “Aha – but you are an evangelist, I am not called to that.” No, we are not all called to be apostles or evangelists, but we are all called to be His witnesses.  A witness is someone who openly says what they have seen and heard.  “Ah, but I can’t answer all the criticisms and arguments my friends have against God.” No, maybe not, you don’t have to.  Jesus didn’t empower you to win arguments with atheist or agnostics, or to be His defence lawyer – He empowered you to tell your story about Him.  No-one can argue with that!  They may not like it, they may not understand it – but at least they will have heard and the choice is then theirs.  Simple!

Just look again at the One you believe in and are following.  He was preaching the good news that the kingdom of God was at hand constantly, from the outset of His ministry to the very end (Matthew 4.17; Luke 20.1).  He instructed the first ones He called to be with Him to go out and preach (Matthew 10.7).  His final words on earth were to go out and preach the gospel (Mark 16.15).  So why does the church back off and shy away from preaching the gospel?  We invest our time and talents in community programmes and projects, and buildings, and fancy worship with state of the art musical instruments and sound and light equipment, and cosy conferences and conventions with like-mindeds  – all very fine, no problem – but they can all deafen the voice of the Lord, that simply says “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11.28)

So, are you in the real church?  Are you fulfilling the authentic and genuine Role and Function of the Church?  Are you destroying the works of the evil one through prayer and preaching?  If not, and you want to join the real Resistance Movement, I suggest you get alongside someone who is.

God bless you, comrade!

The Role and Function of the Church – Matthew 16.18 (06/08/15)

#3:  The earth, and everything and everyone in it, belongs to God. Authority to rule it is given to man.  The devil usurps/seizes it and takes control (Psalm 24.1; Genesis 1.26, 28; 9.2; 1 John 5.19; 2 Corinthians 4.4; Luke 4.5).  What is God going to do?  Answer: He sends His Son, Jesus, to destroy the devil’s works.  Jesus then empowers His followers to continue His work of destroying the works of the evil one, and reclaiming what belongs rightfully to God (1 John 3.8; John 20.21; Matthew 28.19).  In other words, the Role and Function of the Church is to be a Resistance Movement!

Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4.7).  Prefacing that James says, “Submit therefore to God.” Only too often Christians reverse it – they resist God and submit to the devil! What does God require of us?  To love mercy – yet we love criticising each other, and just about anyone we don’t like or agree with.  Do justly – no, I’ll look after No. 1, me, myself and I, first – never mind the poor, wretched, naked, blind, imprisoned, addicted, abused, starved, crushed, downcast, depressed, oppressed….not my problem.  And walk humbly – How big is your church, brother?  Do you have a TV station?  Don’t you drive a Mercedes Benz? How large are your weekly offerings?  How many staff do you employ?  How many have you saved? How many books have you written? Oh, I have been asked all of these questions, more than once – in all corners of the earth! Is that walking humbly?  But I digress…

How do we resist the devil?  In any one or more of these ways…

First and foremost, by prayer.  Is it any wonder that the prayer meeting is generally the worst attended church meeting of all?  And in numerous churches of all shapes, sizes and descriptions, there isn’t even a prayer meeting! I chair what is known as Churches Together in Medway, the city where I live.  I call the ministers and leaders of churches and Christian organisations together to pray.  Of 120+ such groups maybe 20 leaders will come!  Where are the others?  Too busy to pray!  I call the people together to pray for the city, as per Jeremiah 29.7 – of 120 congregations averaging say 60 members, i.e. over 7000 regular church goers, maybe 60 will come to pray for the city – less than 1%!  But what was Jesus’ response when He knew satan was going to sift Peter like wheat?  Prayer. “I have PRAYED for you …”!  (Luke 23.31)  The apostle Paul had to urge Timothy and others to pray for those in authority – obviously they were somewhat reluctant too!  “Brother,” said Hudson Taylor, “if you would enter that Province, you must go forward on your knees”. So, if you are not praying, you will never destroy the works of the evil one.  And I don’t mean praying for God to meet your needs – I mean praying for leaders, those in authority in whatever walk of life, for your friends, colleagues, course or class mates, family, relatives, your village, town, city … Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5.17).  I am alive to write this post because all over the world people have been praying for me through a life-threatening crisis.  Short or long, loud or whispered, written or spontaneous, in your own language or your heavenly language, or even just a grunt, my friend, PRAY!  And then you’ll begin to find your proper place in the church and begin to destroy the works of the evil one (Romans 8.26).  You will be back on the plot!

After that, what?  You’ll find out next week …

God bless you, as you rediscover your knees!

The Role and Function of the Church – Matthew 16.18 (29/07/15)

#2:  So if we are not to run or beat the air aimlessly, if we are to follow the plot, what then is the plot?  What is the role and function of the church?  Why are we here at all?  If the church does not exist primarily to look after me, myself and I (“the alternative trinity”!) and my needs, what is it here for?  It is very simple – so that even the simplest can understand and grasp it and be a fruitful and effective part of it. Follow me through …

  • “Theearth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,the world, and those who dwell in it.” Psalm 24.1
  • “We know that… that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” 1 John 3.19
  • “The Son of Godappeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil/evil one.” 1 John 3.8
  • “So Jesus said to them again,“… as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”” John 20.21
  • “Go therefore andmake disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” Matthew 28.19

So, it’s crystal clear!  The earth and all of us actually belong to God – we are all created in His image/likeness/to be like Him. He has set eternity in our hearts (Genesis 1.26; Ecclesiastes 3.11).  But, because we sin, we fall under “the power of the evil one”, “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4.4).  So God the Father sends His Son, Jesus, to destroy the works of the devil/evil one.  Jesus subsequently empowers His followers to carry on doing what He has been doing, namely destroying the works of the devil.  Somewhat different story to pray for me, help me, heal me, care for me, bless my business, make me rich…me…me…me, etc!  No, the role and function of the church is to destroy the works of the evil one, in the name of (i.e. on behalf of) Jesus, and in the power of Jesus.  No wonder we get tempted and so easily distracted to lose the plot, lose the power, lose sight of the lost world (the works of the evil one) and focus our attention on ourselves.  It’s the devil’s Plan A, and he tricks a vast amount of the followers of Jesus. If he can’t prevent our witness, he will pervert it, and get us thinking and talking merely about ourselves, our church, our good works, our ministry, our business or whatever…anything but destroying his works.

Illustration: I own a motor car.  I lend it to my son for a day.  He invites some friends to join him.  Whose car? Mine.  Who has responsibility for it for the day?  My son.  A bad ‘friend’ tries to persuade my son to let him drive.  He refuses.  But when they stop briefly the ‘friend’ takes the keys of the car.  Whose car?  My car.  Who’s now in control?  Bad friend.  He races it, scratches and damages it.  What must my son do?  Get those keys back, regain control of the car, and explain to me at the end of the day what has happened.   Likewise God entrusts the earth to human beings to “rule over it” – “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”” (Genesis 1.26, 28).  We lose control and responsibility by sinning, and the devil gains control of all that belongs to God.  What must we do?  Destroy his works and regain it!  It is so, so simple!

Ah yes, but how do we do that?  Is that simple?  Hmmm…See you next week!

God bless you, as you wonder how to get those keys back!

The Role and Function of the Church – Matthew 16.18 (22/07/15)

#1:  Some people, like my wife, love detective stories.  They are gripped by the plot, and want to be one step ahead of the story line.  Others, like me, get distracted very early on, forget who’s who, and lose the plot!  As I travel and meet pastors and leaders and God’s people from all different backgrounds, countries and cultures, I fear that in too many cases they have become distracted and lost the plot!  “You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes;” (Deuteronomy 12.8).  Sadly that’s what I encounter only too often – people doing what is right in their own eyes.  It amounts to spiritual anarchy.  It also reflects an institutionalised arrogance.

Football without goals may be recreational fun, and good for exercise, but it is not the point of the game.  The point of football is to score goals, more than the other side.  The apostle Paul tells us to have an aim if we are running, and not to beat the air aimlessly if we are boxing (1 Corinthians 9.26).  I have seen so many churches, some of them numerically large and apparently very successful, doing just that – and they’ve lost the plot!  The plot seems to be in some cases to survive, or in other cases to make a name for themselves  – i.e. to do what is right in their own eyes. “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained” – Proverbs 29.18. You may have a vision, but is it a God-given vision?  Is it the Author’s plot? So many can’t see why they are where they are, nor question why they are doing what they are doing, or why they are going where they are going.  They just carry on regardless because that’s the way we do it!  It can be a small church fighting for survival, or a large church saying we are the best!  But is the way you do it they way Jesus intended you to do it?  Have you lost the plot too?  If the Holy Spirit left your church tomorrow, how much of the programme would continue?  Probably most of it! (Read that question again!)

Tough stuff!  These posts are not for the faint-hearted!  So what is the plot?  What is the Role and Function of the Church?  What did Jesus really mean when he used the word church, and it was only three times!  Well, most church-goers would say the role and function of the church is to minister to me and my family’s needs.  The pastors and leaders are there to pray for me, care for me, listen to me, look after me, teach me, help me, guide me, advise and counsel me…me…me…me!  Sorry friends – wrong! Jesus, the head of the church said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must DENY HIMSELF…” (Matthew 16.24; Mark 8.34; Luke 9.23).  Deny simply means to say No!  So the current obsession amongst the church today on self-aggrandisement and self-improvement  is way off the plot!  The apostle Paul again – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;” (Galatians 2.20).

So, what then is the plot? See you next week…!

God bless you, as you put a line through your “I” and make it a cross.

Another Unnecessary Death – Ahitophel (2 Samuel 16-17) (15/07/15)

#5:  So what’s the alternative route?  There is another way for you and for me and for any of us who have been hurt and wronged, abused and misused.  If that’s you, as it was Ahitophel, there is another route you can take.

Someone else had his counsel rejected.  Someone else rode on a donkey into Jerusalem.  Someone else set his house in order. Someone else hung on a tree.  And someone else was buried in a tomb.  You’ve got it – it was Jesus Christ.  If you’re hurt, angry, upset and bitter you’re at a crossroads – you can take Ahitophel’s route, or Jesus’ route. Ahitophel’s route will leave you hung up on your own bitterness.  Jesus’ route takes you to a place of release from that hatred because he was hung up for you.  It’s not rocket science, folks – it’s simple faith!  You trust your car brakes daily, constantly, with your life in their or your mechanic’s hands.  So why not trust God’s brakes?!  Jesus took the bitterness, hostility, hatred, broken promises, broken contracts, abuse, adultery, divorce, disappointment and deception in your life – all stuff that you and I can justifiably feel bitter about.  But Jesus says, “I’ll pay the price for it, so that you don’t have to.”  Somebody’s got to pay – you can’t go about wronging people without horrible consequences, much as we’d like to get away with it. Somebody’s got to pay, and Jesus already has.  You say, “But that’s not fair!”  Jesus says, “No, I know.  It killed me, so that it need not kill you.”

So there’s the happy ending for you!  You need not be resentful, angry, bitter and disappointed at or with anyone again.  ““Vengeance is Mine,” says the Lord, “I will repay.” (Romans 12.19) And He has and He will.  Jesus paid for all the wrongs ever committed against you, unjustifiably, that make you, justifiably, feel that way.  All the wrongs not only committed BY you but also AGAINST you have been dealt with, completely.  “Happy is the man/woman whose sins are forgiven.”  (Psalm 32.1) Happy is the person who says, “It’s covered, it’s over, it’s finished, paid for, written off, not my problem now. I don’t have to be stressed and depressed, bitter and angry at anyone ever again because Jesus has paid the full price for those wrongs done to me by those people.

Ahitphel’s was Another Unnecessary Death.  Don’t take his route – take Jesus’ route.  Ahitophel’s leads to bondage and death, Jesus’ leads to freedom and life.  Your choice, my friend.

God bless you, as you make you decision at the crossroads.

Another Unnecessary Death – Ahitophel (2 Samuel 16-17) (08/07/15)

#4:  Next point: bitterness doesn’t pay, even if justified.  As I have little, if any, on-going contact with most of you who read these weekly posts, not knowing your circumstances, backgrounds or situations I can write fundamental truths without appearing to be being personal.  Let God do that! What I can write, however, is from personal experience.  If you’re sitting there reading this and thinking, “She wronged me, he hurt me, they abused me, deceived me, cheated me, betrayed me, lied to me,” or whatever, you may very well have justifiable reason for feeling that way.  Ahitophel did.  But you can’t afford the price you must pay if you allow that bitterness to grow in the soil of your soul.  I have been wronged over and over again – betrayed, falsely accused, misquoted, misrepresented, let down and so on, so many times down through the years, so I know what I am talking about.  Jesus was accused of being divisive, demonised etc.

Bitterness is when you allow a hurt to become a hate.   You poke it, stoke it, feed it and fan it.  You stir up the flames and nurse the hurt.  But what is eating at you inside will eventually eat you up entirely if you hang on to it. Your mental state and physical health can be affected.  Medical research suggests that emotions can and do affect you.  When someone is bitter, or angry, caustic or cynical it produces chemicals in their glands that flow through their body, affecting the heart, stomach, whole body.  Cancers can grow, joints can swell and seize, and problems can attack your whole system.

You feeling like that?  He wronged me. She left me. They robbed me, let me down, cheated me, abused me. My friend, bitterness doesn’t pay, you pay. Even if it is for a justifiable reason, as in Ahitophel’s case.  If we don’t learn from his story, we’re heading for the same destiny – hang ups!  Ahitophel’s death was another unnecessary death – he literally hung himself up, and lost everything.

But there is an alternative route – and for those who like a happy ending and who struggle with the hard truths, read on next week!

God bless you – as you leave your hurts behind.

Another Unnecessary Death – Ahitophel (2 Samuel 16-17) (01/07/15)

#3:  So why was Ahitophel so bitter?  Why did he hate David so much as to advise Absalom to disdain and humiliate his father, and allow him to murder him personally?

Well, Ahitophel had a son called Eliam, and Eliam had a daughter called Bathsheba, and David committed adultery with her, and had her husband Uriah killed (2 Samuel 23.34; 11.3-4).  In other words, Ahitphel was Bathsheba’s grandfather!  No wonder he was bitter – quite understandable and quite justifiable.  His inner turmoil must have gone something like this: “How could David, my King, my friend, to whom I am the closest confidant, do this to my family?  How could he have an affair with my granddaughter and then have her husband executed to try and cover it up?”  And that bitterness finally surfaced eleven years later.  Anger, unforgiveness and grief had been festering in Ahitophel’s soul.

My friends, what we harbour in secret will come out in the end.  In the soil of Ahitophel’s soul lay the root of bitterness, and that causes a person to fall short of the grace of God, to cause trouble and defile, not just one person, but many (Hebrews 12.15).  If anger, hurt and unforgiveness are not dealt with, are not submitted to, handed over to and handled by the grace of God they will grow deeper and deeper, become harder and harder to root out and produce fruit that is brutal, bloody and awful.  It may take a month or a year or even a decade, but it will surface.

Was Ahitophel justified in feeling the way he did?  Oh yes, he most certainly was!  If your daughter or granddaughter was violated and her husband murdered you too would have to deal with the issue of anger and bitterness.  But we need to know that  the price to be paid for even justifiable anger or bitterness is unbelievably high – it will hang you up, as it did in Ahitophel’s case, literally.

To be continued ….

God bless you, as you let it go

Another Unnecessary Death – Ahitophel (2 Samuel 16-17) (24/06/15)

#2:  Not only did Ahitophel advise the seductive young Absalom to treat his father with disdain and publicly humiliate him (which Absalom did), but he also said, “Let me deal with him personally.” (2 Samuel 17.1-4).  In short his advice was, “You humiliate him, and I’ll kill him.”  Thus his power would be consolidated and his kingdom secure.  And it seemed a good idea to Absalom.  BUT …

…he asked someone else’s advice, a man by the name of Hushai, who is recorded in Scripture for all eternity as David’s friend (2 Samuel 16.16).  Hmmm…plot is thickening eh?!  Hushai’s advice was not to chase King David that day (17.7-14).  Now Absalom took Hushai’s advice, over and against Ahitophel’s, and when Absalom did not follow the second part of his advice, Ahitophel knew that Absalom would fail, and that he had sided with the wrong person.  So he fetched his donkey, went home to his city, put his affairs in order, hanged himself and was buried in a tomb (v23).  In other words, if you don’t let me kill David today, he’ll survive, come back, get you and I’m dead anyway.

Now, the question is, Why did Ahitophel want to kill David personally?  What was his problem?  And why do I entitle this Another Unnecessary Death? Follow me through … Psalm 55.12-14 reveals our King David agonising over the hatred and betrayal of a formerly very close friend.  That friend was Ahitophel.   He had been David’s closest friend and advisor, and David is crying out, “How could you do this to me?  Why join my son in his rebellious treason, and desire to murder me?”  Well, the answer is found in Matthew 5.21-22 where Jesus says that if you are bitter or angry with someone, then you are on the road to murder, you are guilty of murder in the heart.  Now you may not stick the knife in or shoot the bullet through the head, but you will speak words that kill, you will assassinate that person’s character and murder their reputation.  The gossip you speak because you are angry or bitter makes you guilty of murder in the heart.

So, my friend, how about you heart?  Examine yourself…and you may have to go back many, many years.  Whose name can you not bear to hear mentioned, let alone praised?  Anyone?  I hope not!  Check yourself out, please…for your own sake.  Remember, it was Ahitophel who destroyed himself, not David.  But why was he so bitter against David?  Why did he so radically change his allegiance from closest friend and adviser to sworn enemy and potential murderer?  We’ll see next week…

God bless you, in your self-examination!

Another Unnecessary Death – Ahitophel (2 Samuel 16-17) (17/06/15)

#1: King David’s family is in a mess. His third son, Absalom, is launching a rebellion against his Dad – i.e. treason. And David is getting out of the city of Jerusalem, where he had formerly reigned gloriously and victoriously.  Preliminary point: when God blesses you be careful how you handle it.  David blew it and paid the price.  I have seen over the years God bless so many ministers and ministries, they expand and grow, and then it goes to their heads, they become proud and arrogant, harsh and controlling in order to safeguard and keep their reputation for success and they believe themselves to be above reproach, above advice, above other fellow servants of God.  Oops…watch out, I say to them – remember the Tower of Babel.  Not all church splits are man-made or devil-inspired.  If you’re basking in an apparently ‘successful’ ministry right now, mark my words.  Who are you listening to?  Who are you humbling yourself before?  Can you cope with criticism?  Advice?  Are you just surrounded by ‘Yes’ men?

Well, Absalom, motivated by a spirit of seduction, does in fact ask advice, from a counsellor, famous for his wisdom and counsel, namely Ahitophel.  What do I do next? (2 Samuel 16.20)  The advice he gives is essentially to fulfil the prophecy of Nathan the prophet given years earlier (2 Samuel 12.11-12).  And Absalom does so, and commits hideous acts of immorality in public and in broad daylight.

My point for today: we can choose to sin or not to sin, but we cannot choose the consequences of our sin, if we do so choose to sin. The voice of temptation never says what will happen next.  What we do in secret will come out in the open, one day.  You think you’re in control, you think nobody will find out.  But God has seen all along, and says, “Don’t kid yourself, and don’t make a fool of Me; your actions will have consequences, and you’ll be found out.” (Galatians 6.7; Numbers 32.23 – my paraphrase).  In other words, our ever-loving Father God is telling us His children, “Hey, watch out!  Stay away from sin, because in the end it will surface, humiliate you and embarrass you.”  Remember, Jesus has good eyesight.

Enough for now – this is a heavy one and needs to be taken in and meditated upon and not skim-read.  Words! Words! Words!  We are so bombarded with words today, on TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, bill boards and pulpits…that they are devalued.  Someone once said to me, “A church should not have another sermon until the congregation have fully grasped the previous one, and are putting it into practice.”  Good advice – but we have to blast out a new message week after week, most of which goes over most people’s heads, or in one ear and out the other!

What else did Ahitophel advise?  Well worth noting … and the consequences.  See you next week …

God bless you, transparent one!

An Unnecessary Death – Judges 11 (10/06/15)

#5:  Sometimes people think they would like to be God!  All that power, and authority and control over everybody and everything in heaven and on earth… Not me! How would I respond to Jephthah’s ‘honourable’ murder?!  Let’s see how God did …

Hebrews 11.32 mentions three of the judges, one of whom is Jephthah.  He is singled out by the Holy Spirit for all eternity as a man of faith, exemplary, and who had God’s approval.  But surely he had broken t least one of the Ten Commandments?  Here’s my take on it … yours may well be different, but “Let My people think,” as Ravi Zacharias reminds us.  It seems to me that God expects us not to be ignorant of His will and His way as expressed in His word, if we have the means to access it. But if we do not have access to it, He overlooks ignorance and definitely values faith, belief and trust in Him.  Hence Jephthah appears in the famous chapter of faith, Hebrews 11.

But faith, belief and trust in God without sound Biblical knowledge and strong theology can lead to disastrous mistakes and great damage.  Many believers today say, “Ah, you just need an experience of God.  You need to go to a church where you feel the presence of God…never mind teaching and doctrine and Bible studies – knowledge puffs up, the letter kills, the Spirit gives life.  I want a pastor and a preacher who fires me up, who lays hands on me and knocks me over in the Spirit.  I don’t want someone who’s sound and grounded in doctrine and theology and who teaches and is going to preach at me and tell me what to do and not to do.”  Hmmm…you have a stomach ache, it could be appendicitis, or the beginnings of a cancerous tumour.  So you go to the doctor, who says, “Well, I don’t pay much attention to medicine…it’s dry, dull and boring, all facts and formulae.  I prefer to concentrate on making you feel good, on my one-to-one approach, on my bedside manner.  I want to make you feel comfortable and confident when you come to my surgery. I want you to like me and recommend me to your friends and relatives as a great doctor so I’ll have a large and successful practice.”  Would you let him diagnose your condition or let him operate on you? I wouldn’t, that’s for sure!

If you have deep faith but shallow knowledge of God through His written word, and little or limited doctrine and theology, you will be exposing yourself to superficiality and can do yourself and others untold damage and harm.  I love to go to the seaside.  I smell the salt, I feel the spray, I watch and hear the gulls diving.  And when I get home I look at the map of where exactly I’ve been, and it’s a bit of an anticlimax, somewhat dry and disappointing, a let down and certainly not so much fun or such an experience as being by the sea itself.  But I must remember the map – it is based on the experiences of thousands of other people, not just my own.  It is developed and drawn up by and based on the understanding and knowledge of people far better qualified to analyse what they see than I am.  If you want to get to the seaside, you need the map! It’s essential.  The Bible is your map – read, know and understand it, if you have the means to.

So God can and will use anyone from any background.  He overlooks ignorance if we have no means of finding out knowledge and the truth.  But He does not overlook unbelief.  Unbelief was the only thing that Jesus “marvelled at” and which limited His miraculous power (Mark 6.5-6).  Fine faith, abnormal anointing, exceptional experience of God and great gifting PLUS sound and strong Bible knowledge, doctrine and theology will produce fruit that remains, and bring glory to God, joy to our own hearts and the hearts of others, and Godly character and conduct.  Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your MIND as well – there’s too much at stake not to do that.  That’s why Bible teachers face a stricter judgement (James 3.1). Jephthah’s daughter’s death was an unnecessary death.

Next week, God willing…Another Unnecessary Death.  Got you wondering who’s that could be?  See you then …

God bless you, as you are filled with the Spirit and the Word!

An Unnecessary Death – Judges 11 (03/06/15)

#4: An almost greater tragedy than the death of Jephthah’s daughter was that he did not have to make the vow in the first place – that’s why I entitle this, “An Unnecessary Death”. You see, if he had known the Scriptures, from the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, he would have known that God not only did not require human sacrifice, but specifically forbade it. But Jephthah didn’t know that.

My point: great faith, great anointing, great calling, gifting and choosing of God, coupled with weak theology and poor knowledge of God and the Scriptures results in catastrophic and unnecessary mistakes. How well do you know God? How much do you know about Him? How well do you know your Bible? How often do you read it? Does your church provide opportunity for weekly teaching of the Bible, or do you feed on Christian books, easy reading devotionals and God TV, and weekly social house meetings for ‘fellowship’ ( = “sharing each other’s ignorance around the room”, a friend of mine once said!)? Does your minister or pastor preach from the Bible, or bring the latest ‘Christian’ trend? Why is it that in so many countries where there are churches everywhere, Christian TV channels, radio stations, bookshops and online sales of DVDs, CDs, books, magazines, cards and gimmicky trinkets of all kinds, of big style conferences and concerts, expensive programmes and projects, of social media mayhem, that so many of the general public are ignorant of the truth about God and His Son Jesus Christ their Saviour? Ask the average man or woman, boy or girl in my country, the UK, for example what Christmas or Easter are about and they will either look blankly at you, or say, “Erm…presents, food, drink, parties, chocolate, bunnies, family, erm…. ” One major supermarket chain this Easter time proudly posed the question to the public in their advertising campaign, “What has Easter got to do with the church?” God’s reply: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4.6) And He holds His people responsible, because He has entrusted His Spirit and His word to us – not to the angels, not to the clouds in the sky, but to “My people…” (His words – 2 Chronicles 7.14; Acts 1.8).

Not knowing the Scriptures = not knowing God (John 1.1). Because Jephthah was ignorant of the word of God, because he had weak theology, despite his great love for God, his great spiritual sensitivity and his exceptional anointing, he committed murder and sacrificed his own daughter – and he never had to do it. It was “an unnecessary death”. Friend, be very careful of men and women with all those qualities and giftings, if they show no depth of understanding of the word of God…and I mean the written word of God, the Bible, not just the ‘rhema’ word of God. How many times do the preachers and teachers you listen to quote the Bible? Do they base their addresses around a passage of Scripture? Or a joke? Or an experience they’ve had during the week? Or what physical and financial benefits you can get from God? Count the number of times the name Jesus is mentioned in each message or sermon. Who are they really talking about? Jesus, or themselves, or their church or ministry? And what are they really saying? Are they there to entertain you, be liked and appreciated by you, manipulate your money from you, or to teach you the truth and raise and nurture you to be strong in Him and the power of His strength (Ephesians 6.10)?

Next week…how did God respond to this Unnecessary Death?

God bless you, Bible reader, as you feed on the real word of God – and maybe look for another church!

Director’s health (02/06/15)

Any prayers, great or small, of any shape, style, length, depth or breadth, at any time or in any place, in any language or just a groan, random, haphazard or carefully crafted and stylishly delivered, impromptu or read from a book, are all welcome and heap up as a memorial before the throne of grace (Acts 10.31). I remain largely housebound at the moment, recovering from hospitalisation due to return of prostate cancxer, but am improving.

Normal weekly post resumes tomorrow, God willing.

God bless you, fellow fighter, co-combatant!

An Unnecessary Death – Judges 11 (13/05/15)

#2: Jephthah was very much a man of his times. A valiant, mighty warrior, a brave soldier (Judges 11.1) God raises up all kinds of leaders, each unique, and each fashioned by his/her time and background.  His family was dysfunctional by anybody’s standards, even today’s.

His father, a leader, spent a night with a prostitute, and Jephthah was the result, and his mother was sent away.  Just imagine his upbringing – no mother, a step-mother who saw him as the product of her husband’s infidelity, step-brothers who despised him and no doubt used the “son of a whore” jibe whenever they wanted. I suspect his heart, understandably, burned with anger, hatred and bitterness.  So this unexpected child, this unwanted boy ran away and became a gang leader (11.3). Good gang leaders must have sharp minds, be good with fists and weapons, have male aggressiveness, irrepressible anger that won’t go away, can’t be quenched and must be expressed.  Jephthah was such, and a good one with such a reputation that it reached all the way back to his home town (11.5).

But times changed, as they do.  Israel comes under attack from an enemy, and needed a leader.  Who better than Jephthah?! So they humbled themselves and sent a delegation which may even have included some of his taunting brothers of old, and they invited the boy whom they had taunted and tormented, despised and driven out, to return and become their leader, their champion.  And he agreed.  Such was the other side of our Jephthah.  He was also a man of peace.

And as such he endeavoured to negotiate with the enemy, to settle the dispute amicably rather than just go to war.  But he was refused.  A man of his times, but also a man of peace and reason.  And he was a man of God.  He took Jehovah seriously, in fact he refers to Jehovah more than any other character in the whole book of Judges.  And when he finally went in to battle, the Spirit of God came upon him (only said of three other judges).  A man of God, of spiritual sensitivity, who experienced personally the power of God, whom God chose and used…despite his atrocious upbringing and background.

Friend, never allow your background, however appalling it may have been, to eliminate you from being sensitive to the touch and hand of God on your life.  He can, and will use you if you take Him seriously.  And to others, never dismiss someone from a dysfunctional family background, who through no fault of their own may have been used and abused, and who may well justifiably be carrying and harbouring bitterness, anger and aggression, and expressing it violently – God can save a nation through such a person at a desperate time of need.

But this is not the essence of my story about Jephthah, nor is it the reason that I entitle it “An Unnecessary Death”.  See you next week…!

God bless you, whatever your background and upbringing.

An Unnecessary Death – Judges 11 (06/05/15)

#1: There are a few passages in the Bible I really don’t like to read. The rape of Tamar by her half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13) and the gang rape of the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19) are two of them. And here is another. But they are there for a reason and a purpose, for those who will to learn lessons from the mistakes of others. With today’s emphasis in so many churches world-wide on personal gain and profit, the spectacular, performance, feelings and experience, this story needs to be told once again. Jesus looks for fruit that will remain, rather than religious experiences that go up as rockets and come down as sticks! (John 15.16) By ‘fruit’ He means converts, yes, but also Godly character and Godly conduct which impacts and affects all it encounters

My story centres around a man by the name of Jephthah. He was what was known at the time as a judge – not a black-robed person with a wig who heard legal cases, but people who were sometimes political, sometimes military, semi-religious and charismatic characters whom God raised up at specific times to help His people. Jephthah was such a man – a man of his times. And his times were not good. Everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes, or “just as he pleased” (Judges 17.6; 21.15). The only problem was that it was evil in God’s eyes (Judges 6.1). They had turned their backs on God, and had brought in gods from other nations, and in so doing had adopted the lifestyle that went with idolatry, from sexual promiscuity even to child sacrifice (Judges 10.6ff). And God let them get away with it… for twenty years. Then He reacted, in such a way that the people finally regretted what they had done (Judges 10.10).

But regret is not repentance! Regret is discovering your deeds have consequences which you may not like. So they sent their regrets to God…Who sent them back! “Let your other gods help you,” came the heavenly reply! (Judges 10.13-14). Finally, however, their regret turned to repentance and they changed their ways, put away their foreign gods and practices, and reoriented their lives and worship around Jehovah, their God (Judges 10.16). In response to that, God sympathised with their cries, took pity and raised up Jephthah. Who he was, why God used him and how, and why I entitle this “An Unnecessary Death” we shall see in due course.

God bless you – as you do what is right in God’s eyes!

Coping with Crisis – Luke 13.1-5 (29/04/15)

#5: “Where was God when the earthquake ripped through Nepal at the weekend, leaving a trail of grief and chaos?” I have just read this comment. “Why did God allow those people to drown in the Mediterranean sea trying to reach ‘freedom’?” Innocent people…it’s not fair! Well, no-one can question a person’s innocence other than God, for a start, and He has declared we are all guilty, every single one of us. So let’s put the ‘innocent’ claim aside. Back to the incident Jesus Himself faced – “Why were those people killed by Pilate’s guard, and by the collapse of the tower of Siloam?” Today we question – why did this happen to him/her/them? Sorry, friend, you’re asking the wrong questions! The question we should be asking ourselves at such a time as this is: “Why wasn’t I killed? Why didn’t this happen to me? Why doesn’t this happen more often, or even all the time? The answer is….

…because of God’s amazing grace. In stead of complaining, criticising, getting outraged, angry and shocked at the apparent absence of God’s grace, coupled with a constant demand for more prosperity, favour, finance, success, and blessing, we should really ask, “Why is God so unusually good to me?” And the answer is, “Because of His amazing grace.” Someone may ask, “Well, how can I know God’s amazing grace? What must I do?” Jesus’ answer was clear and simple: “…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13.3,5) Heard that preached in your church recently? I doubt it! But that’s what Jesus said. And we don’t like to hear it, or to preach it ourselves. So like the woman at the well we come up with our religious questions for debate and discussion…”But what about…?”

Imagine a group of 250 new University students. They are given three assignments during the first semester. The professor makes clear the conditions – first assignment to be submitted by 12 noon on 30th October. Second by 12 noon 30 November. Third by 12 noon 30 January. Failure to submit on time guarantees a Grade F. “Do you all understand?” “Yes, Sir.” All understood and agreed.

30th October 12 noon arrives. 225 out of the 250 have their assignments submitted by 12 noon. 25 failed. We’re young, new to uni life and ways, trying to re-adjust. Please can we have extra time, a second chance. The professor agrees, warning them not to let it happen again. He shows grace, mercy, kindness and forgiveness. Everyone thinks what a great guy he is, really nice, kind and understanding, and he is very popular.

30th November – second assignment due. 200 out of 250 assignments in on time, 50 failed to submit. Apologies, excuses, so much work, haven’t managed time well. It’s mid-term, sorry…etc. Appeal for extension. Extension granted, and the professor becomes even more popular.

30th January – third assignment due. 150 out of 250 submitted, 100 failed. The 100 arrived, late, casual, no papers. “Oh sorry, Prof…no worries, we’ll get them done…sometime. Had a lot of Christmas parties and stuff.” All 100 are graded “F” in the record book. “That’s not fair!” cry the students. “Alright,” replies the professor, “if you want fairness, and I don’t want to be regarded as unfair or unjust, I’ll change your last grade to “F” as well because you were late then also, as we agreed at the beginning of the semester.”

My point: the first time they humbly asked for mercy, forgiveness and got it. The second time they asked for mercy, and got it. The third time they assumed and presumed they would get mercy and when they did not get it they were outraged and demanded it. Let’s continually thank God for His amazing grace, and not be so astonished and outraged when His judgement is delivered, His anger is revealed and His justice is exercised. “Conflict and hard times keep us on our toes – and our knees.” (Bob Gass) “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34.19). A church that whines is a church that declines.

God bless you, as you ask the right questions.

Coping with Crisis – Luke 13.1-5 (22/04/15)

#4:  Possibly the most well-known and widely sung Christian song is “Amazing Grace”. But often with familiarity there is a downside – the truth and reality of something is dumbed down.  In the absence of crisis, chaos and disaster, of dire difficulties and disappointments, and in the on-going, frequent and regular presence of peace, comfort, prosperity, calm and success, we no longer find God’s grace so amazing, or astonishing.  We come to take it for granted, and cease to appreciate it. In stead we are amazed at and astonished by His testing, trials, wrath, anger, and permitting of difficulties, disappointments, disasters, hardships, wickedness, crises, catastrophes and downright evil.  But it’s around, which is why Jesus told us to pray daily to be delivered from it.  Do you?

Evil is lurking around us all the time.  If you are a child of God, don’t you think you’re a prime target of the evil one?  Make no mistake about it, he hates you, and if he can’t prevent your witness for Jesus, he’ll pervert it. The whole world lies in the grip of the evil one, we are told (1 John 5.19).  In the world we will have tribulation, and it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come (Matthew 18.7; Luke 17.1). So we must ask on a daily basis to be delivered from them.  And sometimes the answer will be negative.  But there will be a reason behind it, which one day you will discover.

It is possible to take for granted God’s grace, favour, loving kindness, mercy, blessing, provision of food and clothing, shelter, housing, health, prosperity and welfare.  It is possible to assume God will automatically be merciful, kind and gracious, just the way we want, when we want – which is all the time!  We can regard it as our right, and can even fail to appreciate, acknowledge and thank Him for His “amazing grace”.  And then we are shocked and astonished and outraged, questioning, complaining and criticising when His blessing, favour, grace and goodness are apparently absent, withheld or removed.  We choose to forget the words of the long-suffering Job, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2.9b-10)

Tough questions…and a tough answer. A final illustration next time…

God bless you, tough one!

[You may also enjoy my weekly posts on the Virtual Voice page – just ask to join group if necessary]

Coping with Crisis – Luke 13.1-5 (25/03/15)

#3:  We all get asked, and ask ourselves, the tough questions – Why this?  Why that?  Why him/her/them/now/there/not me? Etc.  So did Jesus.  The motive behind the questions vary – in His case it was often to criticise or catch Him out.  Never be fazed by the tough questions – none of us like them really.  Most of us wish they never needed to be asked.  But they are… so how did Jesus handle this one – the horror of a gross act of butchery on worshippers in their place of worship whilst they were worshipping?  And oh, how we would love a slick answer… and be able to copy it.  But no, Jesus did not respond with slick or spin.  So what did He say?

Unless you repent (change your thinking and your lifestyle) the same fate awaits you (Luke 13.5).  In effect He is saying, “You’re asking the wrong questions.  Why did God allow this?  Why did God not prevent this?  Why did this happen?  You’re focusing your anger, astonishment, outrage and shock in the wrong place, and on the wrong person – i.e. God, the victims, and the afflicted.  Never mind their sin or guilt, what about you?”  We love to deflect our attention from ourselves, but Jesus would pinpoint and focus people back onto their own situation, state of heart and mind. “Who do YOU say that I am?” He asked His disciples (Mark 8.29).  To Martha He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Do YOU believe this? (John 11.25-26).  To Peter, who had asked Him about someone else, He said, “What is that to you?  YOU follow Me.” (John 21.23).  In other words, you’ve got your focus out; you’re shocked at the wrong things for the wrong reason.

So my friend, I know this is not the answer you were hoping for.  And there is more to say.  But for now, how about YOUR heart?  Is it right with God?  Who do YOU say Jesus is?  What fate awaits YOU?  “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”  His words, not mine!

God bless you, as you look into your own heart.

Coping with Crisis – Luke 13.1-5 (18/03/15)

#2: Tough situations produce tough questions and require tough answers. How did Jesus handle the tough questions about man’s inhumanity to man, and an engineering disaster?  (See last week’s introductory post).

Let’s observe what He did NOT say.  Sometimes silence speaks louder than words. Firstly, He did not try to excuse, justify or explain His Father’s activity or non-activity. He did not say that God was too busy to notice or handle it, or that He was resting, or that He had too many other world problems to cope with at the time. Believe me, I have heard people coming out with these kinds of answers! No, God sees, hears, knows and permits everything , down to the minutest detail of all human affairs. And … this is what we don’t like … He doesn’t necessarily prevent apparent tragedy.  He did not stop His Son, Jesus Christ, from undergoing the most brutal death any person has ever experienced.

Secondly, He did not attribute the disasters to human sin.  Once when asked whose sin caused a man to be born blind, his own or his parents’, He replied, “Neither.” (John 9.1-3) Human nature always wants to play the blame game. Nor did He try to ignore, avoid, dodge or duck the question.  I have heard it said, “His ways are not our ways.” And “He’s the potter and we’re the clay.” And “It’s not for us to question.” All true!  (Isaiah 55.8-9; 29.16; Romans 9.21) “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker— An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?”  (Isaiah 45.9) I grieve when I am subjected to God’s people criticising and blaming Him – very unwise. Nor did He try to defer the question – “Hmmm…that’s a good one…I’ll get back to you on that.”  Nor did He confess ignorance – “Erm, I don’t really know actually … I can’t answer that one.”

Most of us, myself included, have or would have responded with one or more of those.  But how did Jesus respond to the tough questions?

See you next week!

God bless you, inquisitive one!

Coping with Crisis – Luke 13.1-5 (11/03/15)

#1: Recent events have profoundly shocked me.  I am a product of the relative world peace we have enjoyed since 1945.  I don’t watch violent movies or TV programmes so maybe I am not very thick-skinned when it comes to violence. I am well aware of the Scriptures, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous…” (Psalm 34.19) and “In the world you will have tribulation…” (John 16.33), but I have not encountered or experienced ever before what I have read about in the past nine months, of brutal beheadings and cold-bloodied burnings, triumphantly broadcast to all who will watch.  It raises questions.

There was another time in the Middle East when similar things were happening and questions were being asked of Jesus.  The then world power, Rome, had occupied the land of Israel. The guards of the head of the occupying forces, Pontius Pilate, had burst into a religious gathering of Jews and butchered the worshippers in the midst of their devotions.  They then literally mixed the blood of the local nationals with the blood of the sacrificial animals.  This understandably led to outrage because it was an act of extreme offense spiritually, racially and nationally.  And it raised questions: “How can God allow this? Why did God allow this?  What kind of God permits this?”  Similar questions are being asked today – “Why him?  Why her? Why them?”

People ask the same questions when other disasters, some natural, some as a result of human shortcomings, occur.  Earthquakes, or buildings collapsing and crushing those inside.  A huge tower had collapsed and killed numerous people around the same time as Pilate’s slaughters. “Why such suffering?  Why such pain?  Why such human tragedy?”  Have you ever asked those questions?  “Why this accident, or that crisis, illness, death, disappointment, heart-ache, heart-break?”  The wise writer of the book of Ecclesiastes, the aged King Solomon, wrote: “Here’s something that happens all the time and makes no sense at all: Good people get what’s coming to the wicked, and bad people get what’s coming to the good. I tell you, this makes no sense.” (Ecclesiastes 8:14 – The Message).

Where is God in all this? “God, if you are real, where were you, where are you? Why?”  Jesus was asked these questions, and over the next few weeks we shall see how he handled them.

Interested?  See you next week!

God bless you, with your questions!

Journey to Judgement – Acts 25.6-12 (4/03/15)

#11:  Well, you may have wondered if this journey will ever end!  Yes, it does end, and so will yours.  What did the apostle find when he finally arrived at his destination?  Remember how the journey began.  He had appealed to the highest authority, and insisted upon being tried only by that authority, in his case the Roman Emperor, the most powerful human being on earth at the time.  You have appealed to the highest authority, not only on earth, but also in heaven.  You have called upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10.13).  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to the One to whom you have appealed, Jesus Christ (Matthew 28.18). A day has already been fixed when He will judge (Acts 17.31).

Well, upon arriving in Rome, his final destination, he was met by other like-minded believers (Acts 28.15). In fact, they sought him out! My friend, there is waiting in heaven for you a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12.1).  I have no idea how great that cloud is, but believe me, they are there awaiting your arrival.  You won’t be alone, and you won’t be lonely, that’s for sure.  You won’t be the odd one out, the Jesus freak, the religious one, in the minority, on the back foot, on the defensive!  Oh no, you’ll be on the winning side, with all the others who have appealed to the highest Authority. But, the most important thing of all, that grips nearly every human being on the face of the earth, of whatever colour, creed or culture, is this … What will the verdict be?  You have appealed.  The heavenly court will sit, and the Judge will deliver the verdict.  “We have received no bad report about you, no-one has reported or spoken anything bad about you.” (Acts 28.21) “What?!” you exclaim, “You have heard nothing bad about me?” “No, you are declared innocent.”  “But how can this possibly be?”

When you appealed to Jesus Christ, instantaneously He took the blame for every sin you ever committed, great and small, deliberate and accidental, conscious and subconscious. When He voluntarily stretched out His hands on the cross of Calvary, He took the punishment, the guilt and the blame for all your misdemeanours.  “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities … All we like sheep have gone astray, but the Lord caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”(Isaiah 53.5-6).  Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15.3). When He cried, “It is finished,” He did not cry, “I am finished,” but “It is finished.”  The penalty and punishment for your sins was paid, in full, by Him.  Thus, the ultimate verdict at the end of your Journey to Judgement will be, “No-one has reported or spoken anything bad about you.  Not guilty.”

So, my friend, keep journeying, with your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross and despised the shame and has now sat down at the right hand side of the throne of God (Hebrews 12.2).  He is waiting there for your arrival, and with joy all over His shining face, He will say, on that day, “Welcome home!”

God bless you, fellow traveller – see you there!

Journey to Judgement – Acts 25.6-12 (25/02/15)

#10:  Reading  on in the story you will see how God worked on that island where the apostle Paul was shipwrecked.  You will read about miracles of preservation (Acts 28.5), of himself and others (v8).  Some were immediate and spectacular, others more discreet and occurred over a period of time.

God is a miracle-working God, and He is always at work.  Yes, I have seen the cripple walk, the blind see and the dumb speak.  I have seen the demons silenced, bound and cast out of traumatised souls.  Recently I was shocked to encounter children as young as 8 and 9 years of age helplessly demonised and shuddering and shaking under the devil’s control as they encountered the power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. I remember the answer the man gave to Jesus when asked how long his son had been like that… “Since childhood.” But too often we fail to realise the supernatural dynamic operating in our everyday preservation and our well-being.  We look for the spectacular, the extraordinary, and ignore the fact that we are still breathing, eating, walking, talking, with powers of mind and body new day after day.  Most of you reading this will be able to eat and drink today unless you refuse by choice.  Most of you will have already made a decision as to what clothes to wear today. Multitudes alive at the same time do not have those choices.  Be grateful for the miraculous in your life.

But note another typical experience on our Journey to Judgement. The local people accused Paul of being a murderer whom justice was about to kill through a poisonous snake (Acts 28.4).  It was their ignorance and misunderstanding.  But realise that there will be times when others around you misunderstand you, for whatever reason, and may well falsely accuse you.  Don’t harbour the hurt, it will slowly destroy you.  You know the truth, and the truth sets you free.  So believe the truth you know, and not the lie you have heard – that will bind you, not set you free.  I have been accused of all sorts of outrageous things, falsely.  And you may well be also.  Just remember the Master – what did they say about Him?  A glutton and a drunkard, demonised, dividing people wherever He went, a deceiver. Don’t fret – best rest in the Saviour’s words, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23.33) And even if you think they do know what they’re doing, leave it, and trust in “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” (Romans 12.19) It’s not your problem!

God bless you, in your relative ease, and in your hurt!

Journey to Judgement – Acts 25.6-12 (18/02/15)

#9:  Just as you’re thinking, “Can this journey get any worse?” what happens?  Shipwreck!!!! (Acts 27.41). But don’t despair … it became their salvation (v 44).

Disaster is not always disastrous.  Before I came into a living and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my life was pretty well shipwrecked. I had just about everything going for me, well-educated, excellently qualified, highly employed, succeeding it would appear in all respects.  But I did not know how to handle it, and made some unwise decisions, and ended up in a mess.  But people were praying for me.  The more they prayed, the worse things got!!!  Their faith was being sorely tested.  But God knew that I, like Jonah, had to go down to the depths before I would cry out to Him and He could lift me up to the heights He had planned and destined for me.

Many years later, when I was well established in Christian ministry, through no fault of my own this time, I had another ‘shipwreck’.  I was deserted by a close and loyal friend and supporter.  As a result, I lost my pastoral assistant, and my wife was obliged to return to earning.  But the assistant gained new qualifications which has then established him in his successful employment ever since, and my wife ended up qualified in Braille and with an Advanced Diploma in Special Educational Needs from the University of London Institute of Education, and subsequently Head of the Visual Impairment Unit at the Secondary School in our area of the country which served the blind and visually impaired students.

I’ll say it again – disaster is not always disastrous.

God bless you, as you cling to your particular piece of the boat!

Journey to Judgement – Acts 25.6-12 (11/02/15)

#8:  Tough old journey, eh?  But you shouldn’t be surprised – Jesus said it would be (John 16.33)!  “What next?” you may well ask. Aha…a violent wind (Acts 27.14)!

They now encountered such a wind that they were “caught in it”, “couldn’t face it,” and “were driven along by it.”  They were all but out of control (v 14-16).  Sounds like fun! Reminds me of a recent Ministry Trip in northern Uganda I undertook!  Look, friends …crises, calamities, disasters, sickness, accidents all happen, despite the glossy, sugary promises of false prophets today.  From your experience, am I right?  Our intrepid sailors “undergirded” their ship (v17).  And so must you, when you encounter the violent wind.  Undergird yourself with prayer, with fellowship, encouragement from good friends, support and the word of God.  Don’t surround yourself with naysayers who question your faith or conduct! If you’re encountering what Charles Spurgeon referred to as ‘the devil’s growl’, well done, I say!

Jettison your cargo (v 18).  Ditch the baggage you don’t need…and you won’t need it. These are times to prune and be pruned, to winnow and be winnowed.  What has played its part must go, however fond of it you may be.  Attitudes, past successes, past failures, good memories and bad ones, good relationships and bad ones. Today is the day…don’t sink because you won’t let go of yesterday, and its triumphs and traumas. It may well seem that the sun has disappeared, no stars to get guidance from, and hope dwindles (v20).  But remember, the sun and the stars are still shining even when you can’t see them.  Some have referred to such times as “the dark night of the soul.” Well, again you’re not alone – you’re in the company of David, Jeremiah, Job, Jonah and of course the Master Himself who knew the power of darkness and whose heart was ready to break with grief, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Luke 22.53; Mark 14.34; Isaiah 53.3).

Hey, keep up your courage (vv 22, 25). You will get there. It may take a long time – 14 nights for our apostle Paul and co.  For Noah it was over a year (Genesis 7-8).  The best advice is to take some food (vv 34-35).  Yes, eat literally if you can, but also do what Jesus asked you to do to remember Him, and take some bread to represent His body, and some wine to represent His blood.  Without meaning offence to different religious traditions, just do it!  And feed too on the bread of life, the Word of God.  Now’s the time to read your Bible, not to close its pages in despair.  Get alongside others, be encouraged, sing praises and encounter the God who inhabits and is enthroned on the praises of His people (Psalm 22.3).  Tell me, is the alternative of self-pity, self-justification and self-righteousness a more satisfying option?  I don’t think so.  And if you said, “Yes it is,” I wouldn’t believe you!  You live not by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4.4).  So get where you can read it and hear it!

One final point – remember others will look after themselves! (v 30). There are plenty who will jump ship when the going gets tough!  Let them go.

God bless you, intrepid sailor! Take courage!

Journey to Judgement – Acts 25.6-12 (04/02/15)

#7:  If your particular Journey to Judgement seems to be taking a long time, get used to it!  It will take the rest of your life-time!  God perfects (completes) what He begins (Philippians 1.6).  The next obstacle the apostle Paul encountered on his journey to judgement was one we must all face – his advice was not taken (Acts 27.9-12).

We don’t like this!  It hurts our pride.  More often than we realise, deep down our attitude is, “There are two opinions, mine, and the wrong one!”  It dents our pride when we are convinced we are right (and we may well be), but others reject that advice.  One can understand the Roman commander – the sailors surely knew better than the preacher!  And then it was put to the vote, and the majority opinion prevailed.  Remember, it was a dangerous situation (v9).

God never desired democracy! The majority opinion is not always His opinion.  He never wanted a king over His people – He was the King.  But they insisted on being like everyone else around them, so He granted them the desires of their heart (1 Samuel 8).  The desires of our hearts may well not be the desire of God’s heart.  Be careful. To be like everyone else around you is not as important as being who God wants you to be…like Him. Even in today’s church worldwide we find people trying to emulate apparently ‘successful’ ministries which, in fact, lack the fundamentals of Christ-likeness, starting with humility, servant-hood and self-sacrifice.  Again and again throughout world, history has proved that the majority are certainly not always right.  Seek God, and His will, before you make any decision – and just because everybody else is doing or saying it, you don’t have to follow them.  Follow the Master – you will know His voice (John 10.4).

Even in crucial and dangerous situations, even though you may well have the mind of Christ and be sure of the will of the Father, when your advice is not taken you have a choice – to take offense, or to trust God.  Ahitophel took offense and took his own life.  His hang up hung him up, literally (2 Samuel 17.23). Jesus was hung on the tree of Calvary so that you need not hang because of your own hurts. Leave it with God and get on with living.

God bless you, and them, even when they don’t agree with you!

Journey to Judgement – Acts 25.6-12 (07/01/15)

#6:  I’m an action man…always have been.  Sitting still is anathema to me! I like Jesus to turn water into wine instantaneously, rather than wait for grapes to ripen, be picked and crushed, the juice to ferment and clear, be bottled and then mature…that all takes far too long!  As a young boy my favourite seeds were cress because you could see them grow within just a few days. Resonate with some of you?!  Come on, be honest!  Well, let’s learn from our story of the apostle Paul’s Journey to Judgement …  “they sailed slowly and with difficulty;” (Acts 27.8).

The cedar tree, the oak tree, precious stones and metals, cheese, wine and much more develop, improve and mature slowly, over time. “The vision is for the appointed time…if it seems to tarry (delay), wait for it, it will surely come” (Habakkuk 2.2-3).  There is no point fretting over things not happening yet.  The fruit of the Spirit is…patience (Galatians 2.22).  Love is patient… (1 Corinthians 13.4). “Be patient,” writes James, “the farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and late rains.  You also must be patient.” (James 5.7).

This new year did not arrive any faster because we wanted it to, or prayed it to, however earnest and fervent we may have been!  Time will not be hurried by anyone.  So, as we say farewell to the year behind us and enter the year ahead, let’s remember that both have 365 days and 52 weeks, regardless of our impatience.  Make the most of each day as it happens, even when it passes “slowly and with difficulty”.

God bless you – plant an acorn this year!

Journey to Judgement – Acts 25.6-12 (17/12/14)

#5: The easy times we can all cope with…it’s the tough ones that hinder us.  That’s why I am focusing on those in our Journey to Judgement, so that you are neither dismayed nor doubtful when you encounter them.  Fear and doubt are the devil’s two most powerful weapons, and frequently used because of their effectiveness.  Now for one that some of us find very hard indeed…Change!

Acts 27.6 tells us that Paul had to change ships on his journey.  On your journey there will be changes…of area of service, geographical area, residence and accommodation, job, ministry, friendships, relationships, churches.  There will be mood swings and inevitable natural and physical changes, all having their own effect. When we encounter change, we are vulnerable, and once again feel uncomfortable.  We are insecure and can actually fear change. But these are the times when we naturally call upon the Lord and find Him anew and afresh.

If you hold one hand up in the air and the other down by your side, that is how you are at the beginning of a change….highly dependent on God (the hand in the air), and with little confidence in self (the hand by your side).  But as you grow accustomed to the new environment, the higher hand lowers, and the lower hand lifts…you’re getting to be able to handle the situation.  But what so often happens is that you increasingly depend upon your own skills and abilities until you are scarcely aware of your deep need for God, and the two hands have reversed positions. It can easily happen even in church ministry…you can run a church programme almost prayerlessly!  The show goes on. Pastors, ministers and church leaders, let me ask you a question – “If the Holy Spirit left your church/work today, how much of the programme would continue?”  The honest answer is, “Probably most of it.”  Then it’s time to change ships!  And God will see to it that you do!

God bless you, as you change … from glory to glory! (2 Corinthians 3.18)

Journey to Judgement – Acts 25.6-12 (10/12/14)

#4:  The beautiful Celtic blessing asks that “the wind may always be at your back.” Desirable though that may seem to be, we all know the wind is not always behind us. Paul discovered this on his journey to judgement in Rome. Acts 27.4 says the winds were contrary.  Are you facing “contrary winds” right now?  Someone who reads this is.  Well, take heart, and learn from the wisdom of the sailors.  What did they do?  They sailed under the shelter of Cyprus.

How often we try to bind contrary winds, or complain and seek sympathy. In a frenzy of faith we speak to the storm, some even try shouting in case it is a little deaf, but somehow it doesn’t cease!  No, the journey to judgement is not a matter of simple formulae, tricks and techniques…it is one of sensible, stable faith.  Sail in the shelter of Cyprus.

Cyprus represents Christ.  Sail close to Him when the winds are against you.  I am reminded of that little creature the rock badger, or whatever it is, of Proverbs 30.26 – he never goes far from the hole into the rock, so that whenever the predator comes, or danger of any sort appears, he dives back into the rock, and is safe. Treasure God’s word in your heart (Psalm 119.11) and stick close to it.  Be safe and sanctified in His word, which is truth (John 17.17).  Live under the shadow of His wing (Psalm 36.7-9), and be protected by the shield of faith (Ephesians 6.16).

Short and simple this week!  Yes, Jesus does sometimes appear to us walking on the water, and He does sometimes climb in our boat and still the raging storm, but on the whole He expects us to be wise and shelter when the winds are contrary – they won’t be for ever.

God bless you…sssh!

Journey to Judgement – Acts 25.6-12 (03/12/14)

#3:  Who said it would be an easy ride?!  Not at all – most journeys to see Jesus, starting with those wise men from the east, are long and arduous.  Acts 27.1 pictures the apostle on his Journey to Judgement as a prisoner on board a ship in the care of a Roman officer.

Our journey to the Highest Court of Heaven necessitates us being restricted.  Yes, we are free from slavery to sin, free from guilt, free from condemnation and much more (Romans 6.6; 8.1; 1 John 1.7,9), but we are nevertheless restrained, restricted and confined, as Paul was on board that ship.  There are places we simply cannot go to, as much as we may like to, even though they may be good and decent  places. We will be tied geographically to a village, town, city or country.  We will have responsibilities in our relationships with family, friends and church members – we can’t just abandon our children because we feel like it, or up and disappear when we have committed ourselves to fulfil certain roles or functions.  Finance and resources will contain us often.  Health may likewise keep us within certain borders and boundaries.

You are no longer your own, you have been bought for a price (1 Corinthians 6.19-20).  The believers Paul was writing to at that time didn’t seem to realise that, and he was surprised they didn’t!  Having been crucified with Christ it is no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you (Galatians 2.20). “If anyone would come after Me,” says the Master, “let him deny himself…and follow Me.” (Mark 8.34-35). To deny means to say No to something or someone, to disown them or it. This journey calls for the surrendering of personal rights to self, just as the freed slave could choose to remain in his master’s service and care, and a pierced ear demonstrated that choice (Deuteronomy 15.17).

But don’t worry, you’re not alone!  Elijah made the mistake of thinking he was God’s only choice left remaining – “I alone am left,” he lamented. “You’re not actually,” was God’s reply, “I’ve got another 7000 gooduns!” (1 Kings 19.14,18 – my paraphrase!).  Paul had friends with him, and he was considered and cared for (Acts 27.3).  However, like Joseph, our journey will find us often contained and constrained, financially, ministerially, geographically, physically.  Joseph was trapped in a pit, then in a house as a slave in a foreign land, and then in a prison.  But….the Lord was with him (Genesis 39.2,21) … and He is with you too.

God bless you…as you sail on!

Journey to Judgement – Acts 25.6-12 (26/11/14)

#2:  If you have appealed to the Highest Court, the Court of Heaven, to judge your case, then you’re on a journey.  Well, in fact we will all stand in the Courtroom of Heaven on the day appointed (Acts 17.31) – but who is your defence lawyer going to be?  If you have appealed to Jesus to be your advocate, what will the verdict be? (1 John 2.1) We’ll see!  But on the way, get ready to face some challenges.  Let’s learn from the apostle Paul’s appeal and journey to the highest court of his day…

“I would like to hear the man himself,” said King Agrippa (Acts 25.22).  Friend, you have your own story to tell, you have your own personal, unique account to give of what Jesus has said to and done for you.  Tell it!  People want to hear you…no-one can argue or disagree with your experience.  Sure, they may not like it, they may not understand it, they may not have a similar story to tell, but no-one can contradict what you know happened and happens to you – it’s your personal experience.  You know it’s true because you experience it.  Jesus doesn’t ask you to be His defence lawyer, He asks you to be His witness.  A witness is a person who says what he saw and heard himself.

We believe, therefore we speak. Always be ready to give an account of the hope that is in you, gently and reverently (2 Corinthians 4.13; 1 Peter 3.15).  No need to get heated and argumentative!  Just tell it as it is! “No, that the pastor’s/priest’s/minister’s job,” you say. “Leave it to the pros. Who am I to speak?”  “You are permitted to speak for yourself,” says King Agrippa to Paul (Acts 26.1).  “And so are you permitted to speak for yourself,” says King Jesus! It’s how you win, it makes you a winner…not a loser!  You overcome the accuser of the brethren, the devil himself, by the word of your testimony.  Wow, that’s a powerful weapon, eh?  “Shoot the arrow,” said the prophet of old to the young and fearful king, “It’s the Lord’s arrow of victory!” (2 Kings 13.17) It is powerless unless it it is loosed.  An unpreached gospel is no gospel at all. An untold testimony is no testimony at all.

One final word of warning though…not everyone will be convinced! With most people, it takes time (Acts 26.28-29). Don’t let that silence you though…people want to hear you themselves.

God bless you, verbal archer!

Journey to Judgement – Acts 25.6-12 (19/11/14)

#1: One thing every human being agrees on, regardless of culture, colour, caste or creed, is that everyone dies…and most only die once.  Yes, there are those who have died and been resurrected, but of the billions who have lived this mortal life, they are a minute number.  “It is appointed to man to die once,” writes the God-inspired author of the letter to the Hebrews. But he didn’t stop there, he went on to pen, “and after this comes the judgement.”  Aha…not every culture, colour, caste or creed agrees on that!  But the Bible is uncompromising, unequivocal on the matter that “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God and give account of ourselves.” (Hebrews 9.27; Romans 14.10-12; 2 Corinthians 5.10)

The apostle Paul appealed to the highest court, to the supreme judge of the day, to Caesar himself, regarded by his own people as a god.  Those of us who have decided to put our trust in Jesus rather than ourselves have made a similar appeal – but we have appealed to Almighty God, who “has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”  That’s Jesus, folks!  And so, like the apostle of old, we too have set off on a Journey to Judgement.  What might we expect on the way?

Let’s set out together next week…as the song says, “Sailing homeward it’s time to go home, Over the oceans of life we must roam…” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnjhmoiIXPc

God bless you, sailor!

Feeling at the end – Revelation 1.1-20 (12/11/14)

#6: There’s no place, no circumstance, no situation or set of events that God’s power cannot take you through, and His love cannot reach you. Those tired, worn, dusty, wounded and pierced feet have become feet refined, polished and shining, as tough as bronze. They are feet of dominion, power, authority, victory and strength. Bronze in Scripture denotes strength. Fire caused metal to be prepared for gates to defend cities, shields, helmets and breastplates to protect men in battle, wheels to fix to chariots of war. The last time John saw those feet they were nail-pierced, as He ascended. Now he sees those same feet transformed.

The power and authority of the feet of the risen, ascended and glorified Saviour, who sits at the right hand side of the Father, with all principalities and powers, rulers and dominions under His feet, is ours as we go through the refining fire. The God of peace will soon crush satan under your feet. (Romans 16.20) “Look, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10.19). Whatever snake or scorpion is attacking you, tread on it, stamp on it, crush it under your feet, in the name of the One who has gone through the fire and come out refined and victorious and glorious. And as you also go through the fire, you too gain such feet.

So hear Him say, “There’s nothing you face that I can’t handle, that I haven’t already anticipated. Trust Me, I’ll see you through!” Nothing can take us from His grip (John 10.27-28) – He holds the seven stars in His right hand, He holds the angels of the seven churches in His right hand, and He holds you in His right hand. Your name is engraved on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49.16). Just when Jesus seems so far away from you, just when you’re feeling at the end, He writes His love letter saying, “I’m here, I’m for you, I’m with you, I’ll walk with you through this, you’ll come out refined, purified, sanctified, glorious, victorious. It’s all going to be alright…trust Me!”

God bless you, as you read His love letter!

Feeling at the end – Revelation 1.1-20 (05/11/14)

#5:  You feeling at the end?  Jesus says, “My love still reaches you, My Spirit still lifts you, I haven’t completed My story for you yet, and now…”

Lesson #4: “…there’s no fear when I am near.” (Revelation 1.12-16) The last time John saw Jesus was 60 years before.  Yes, He had a resurrected body. Yes, His wounds were healed.  And yes, He wore ordinary, albeit glorified, clothes.  But now John is shocked – He sees Jesus with eyes blazing like fire, face shining like the mid-day sun, hair as white as wool and snow, a full length robe with a golden belt and sash, speaking with a voice like a roaring waterfall, and with feet like bronze, refined and polished.  No wonder he fell flat on his face!

No-one knew Jesus better than John.  He was the disciple that Jesus loved, who breathed His every breath as he rested and nestled on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper.  But now he sees the splendour and majesty of the risen, reigning Christ, who says, “I WAS dead, but NOW I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and hell.”  This would be a proper use of the adjective “awesome” – He is truly awe-struck, over-awed, and falls down at Jesus’ feet. Maybe he fainted.

My point?  You may think you know him well, but He is saying to you, “You haven’t seen anything yet!  Lift your head a little higher, I’m more glorious, more majestic, more mighty, more powerful than you can imagine.  And I’m closer than you think. So, don’t be afraid.”

God bless you, as you look up – and fall down!

Feeling at the end – Revelation 1.1-20 (29/10/14)

#4:  Jesus’ third revelation in “The Revelation” is that no story is complete until He concludes it.  “I am the alpha and the omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1.8).  “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last…” (v 17). Your story is not completely written until Jesus has the last word, and puts the final full stop. The apostle Paul writes, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect (complete) it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1.6)  Elsewhere he writes, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard (keep) what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1.12)

It may seem to you it’s all over…you’re feeling at the end.  Well, it’s not all over, and you’re not at the end! Jesus says, “I am the One who determines your beginning and your end. I am the author and finisher … I’m writing the book of your life, and I haven’t reached the final chapter yet.  I am committed to seeing you through this.  It may seem like the end to you, but it’s not.”  John was suffering, you may be too.  He was “going through the mill”, as we say, and you may be too. It was not a good time for him, and it may not be for you right now.  But he calls himself your “brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus.” Life in Christ is not all about having everything you want, when you want and how you want! Another translation puts it well – “your partner in patiently enduring the suffering that comes to those who belong to His Kingdom.”  In effect, the apostle John is saying to you, “I know what you’re going through, and this is what Jesus says to us at such times, “I’ll see you through; I’ll finish your story.””

God bless you, as Jesus continues to write this chapter of your life!

Feeling at the end – Revelation 1.1-20 (22/10/14)

#3: A man was walking down the road thinking about all his problems, when another man rode by on a bicycle.  The man walking said to himself, “If I had a bicycle like that man, I would be happy like he is.”  But the man on the bicycle was thinking about all his problems.  Then a man drove by on a motorcycle.  The man on the bicycle said to himself, “If I had a motorbike like that guy, I would be happy like he is.”  But the man on the motorbike was thinking about all his problems.  Just then a man drove by in a car, and the guy on the motorbike said to himself, “If I had a car like that man, I would be happy like he is.”  But the man in the car was thinking about all his problems…! And so the story could go on….

There are many times when we feel at the end….of our patience, of our resources, of our hope, and so on.  The one who received the love letter from Jesus, entitled “The Revelation”, must surely have felt the same many times on the tiny island called Patmos, a penal colony  under the authority of the greatest world power of the time. He was in prison, and there was certainly no way out – no escape, no legal team, no court of appeal, no circumstance would alter his predicament. Was he thinking about all his problems?  No.  We read, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…” (Revelation 1.10).  He transcended his environment, his circumstances, his context, and his surroundings. He was “in the Spirit.”

Are you surrounded by water and rocks?  Does it seem to you there no way off your tiny island? Well, you too can be “in the Spirit”, and not only on the Lord’s Day, but on any day of the week. You too can worship your way out and transcend your circumstances. My wife and I were not able to have children for some early years of our marriage. It was, in fact, one Sunday morning as we were worshipping together, that we were “in the Spirit” and she knew the Lord had touched her.  Immediately she told me, and within two months she conceived our first child.  I wrestled for many years with a nicotine addiction, even after I had given my life to Christ.  It was again one Sunday morning, as I worshipped the Lord and was “in the Spirit” that I felt an overwhelming sense of something coursing up through my body, deep within my very bones, slowly and surely rising up until it reached my lungs, and at that very moment I knew I had been released and set free from that addiction which I had tried and tried and tried to get free from.

It is not about feeling happy, or even talking happy or looking happy.  It is not about good feelings, or changing circumstances or situations – sometimes you can, most of the time you can’t.  It is about  leaving the realm of this world and entering into the realm of the Spirit.  Yes, it was on the Lord’s Day – but don’t get hung up on that!  You are living in the Lord’s Day, the Day of the Lord, right now – His favour is currently freely available: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55.6). As the apostle John worships he enters into that ultimate day of victory and triumph, when the Day of the Lord comes in its fullness, and the kingdom of this world becomes the Kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ;” (Revelation 11.15).

The second thing Jesus is revealing in “The Revelation” is that you can transcend your prison walls by being “in the Spirit” and worshipping Him. Let me leave you with the words of that beautiful old hymn chorus by Helen H Lemmel:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.”

Go on, sing it again – and if you don’t know the tune, just lift up your hands and start singing and God will give you a tune as you get “in the Spirit”!

God bless you – on this, the Lord’s Day!

Feeling at the end – Revelation 1.1-20 (15/10/14)

#2: Yesterday was one of those days when all the news I received was not what I wanted to hear!  And guess what?  You’re right, I was feeling at the end…of my strength, resources, etc etc.  Been there?  Bet you’ve got the T shirt too…like me! But let’s listen to the love letter from Jesus…

There is no place where Christ’s love can’t find you!  That’s the first thing Jesus is revealing in the The Revelation! Patmos, the island where John received this letter of encouragement from Jesus, was, and is, a tiny island in the Aegean Sea, four miles square, a dot on the face of the planet!  It was at that time a Roman penal colony – in other words, John was in prison. He writes that he was “on the island called Patmos.”  Were it well-known, he more likely would have written, “I was on Patmos” (1.9).  One doesn’t write to someone and say, “I am in a city called London” – everybody knows there’s a city called London, so you say, “I am in London!”  Patmos was an insignificant, unheard of place, to most of the then-known world.

The point is: you can never be in a place so insignificant, so unknown, and so unheard of, that God’s love cannot reach you.  You may be in a place called Confusion, or Despair, or Doubt, or Poverty, or Rejection, or Persecution, or…as in my case yesterday…Exhaustion.  Maybe you are on an island called Uncertainty, or Misery, or Anger, or Loneliness, or Bitterness. But John writes, “Jesus came to me when I was on an island in the middle of nowhere.  And the message today is, Jesus can come to you wherever you are today, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, socially, and physically.

No prison wall, sea or ocean can keep Him out, if you want Him in.  No state of mind or condition of body, soul or spirit is able to prevent Him from bringing revelation to you.  You may think you’re too small, too insignificant, too unworthy, too ungodly, too burnt out, or whatever…but you’re not.  So this week’s revelation, what God wants you to see this week, is that your Patmos is not so small that Christ’s love cannot find you.

God bless you …and cheer up!

Feeling at the end – Revelation 1.1-20 (08/10/14)

#1: Personal letters are rare these days.  But they are precious when they come, in whatever form.  They bring refreshing and encouragement when you are down, or struggling, or things are tough and you’re feeling at the end of your tether, or at your wits’ end, as the expressions go.  The book of Revelation is just such a letter, a personal one, from Jesus Christ, to just such people.

It is written to His servants (Revelation 1.1)…to show them something, to reveal something (hence it’s title, “The Revelation”).  It is personal, not general.  It is often made sensational.  But Jesus revealed it and John wrote it, not to have us puzzling about what may or may not happen, and when, where, how and to whom.  It is to aid us in facing the challenges that today’s life hurls at us, and, in fact, the challenges that life in any age hurls at people.  It is to aid us in seeing victory when we feel at the end, of our hope, of our energy, our resources, our patience, even of our faith.

It is not a revelation of information, but a revelation of Jesus. It is not a revelation of prophecy, but a revelation of Jesus.  It is from Him, and it is about Him – God gave it to Him, to show to us (v1).  People like to focus on the anti-Christ, 666, the millennium, the rapture, the beast, the false prophet and so on.  But it is written to enable us to keep things in proper perspective.  Whatever pressures, problems, difficulties you are experiencing or encountering, be they domestic, academic, financial, social, physical, emotional or whatever, Jesus is saying, “I want you to see Me; I am committed to seeing you through all these.”

Jesus reveals six things He wants you to see…next week we’ll examine the first. See you then, God willing.  Meanwhile …

God bless you – it’s not the end!

Influencing an Alien Culture – lessons from Esther  (01/10/14)

#4: Wherever you are, follower of Jesus Christ, you are, or should be, surrounded by an alien culture.  There are two parallel kingdoms, the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God’s Son (Colossians 1.13).  Everyone is in one or other of those two. Don’t hang around in a Christian ghetto – you are meant to be salt and light in a foreign world. How can you influence that alien culture?  More lessons from one who succeeded – Queen Esther.

She was not hampered or hindered by her gender, origin or identity.  She feared God more than man.  She practised piety. And she changed the shape and course of human history.  Esther influenced an alien culture.  So can you.  But as we have seen, it costs. Light-hearted luke-warmness, and preoccupation with pride and possessions (the lust of the flesh and of the eyes and the boastful pride of life – 1 John 2.16) will not change the society you are in. What will?

Lesson #4: Esther maintained integrity and a proper sense of perspective.  She was surrounded by recognition, power and authority as the Queen, she had succeeded in being selected over all the other carefully groomed girls, she had wealth and luxury, but through it all she knew that God, and not her beauty, had put her on the throne (Esther 4.14).  Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15.5) A prophet spoke to a different king on another occasion, saying, ““Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord.” (Zechariah 4.6)

Lesson #5: Esther remained patient, and waited for God’s timing.  How tempted she must have been to rush things ahead.  But as she waited, the king could not sleep, and…read the story! Visions are for APPOINTED times, and we must wait for them (Habakkuk 2.3). Some of us find patience and self-control amongst the slowest fruit of the Spirit to ripen in our lives! (Have you ever wondered why children are sometimes named Patience, but never Self-control? Just a thought!) (Galatians 5.22-23).  To change society and influence an alien culture requires all this. And finally…the one we like the least…

Lesson #6: Esther was prepared to die. She risked her life and sacrificed her right to live, in order to save God’s people from destruction and death.  She is not alone in Scripture – she is joined by Barnabas and Paul, Prisca and Aquila, and Epaphroditus, to mention a few (Revelation 12.11; Acts 15.5-6; Romans 6.3-4; Philippians 2.25).  And if we are to truly follow the One who did give His life we must be prepared also. In fact, in Esther’s case it resulted not only in her saving the nation but also in great personal honour.  But she was willing to forgo the latter for the sake of the former.

I guess we would all put our hands up to effect change in an alien, and often hostile culture.  So learn from Esther…she succeeded!

God bless you, history-maker – you are shaping someone’s destiny!

Influencing an Alien Culture – lessons from Esther  (03/09/14)

#3: She was an orphaned foreigner, groomed for the king. Did it intimidate her? Did it cause her to cower and cry? No, she determined to fear God, not man. And she saved her people, and remember… God’s people. She influenced an alien culture. And you can too! What else can we learn from this supreme young lady?

Lesson #3: she practised piety. She was not ashamed to identify with her faith group, even though they were an ethnic minority people. But they were God’s people. And as a believer in Jesus Christ, you are one of God’s people, in fact you are one of His precious children. Never be ashamed of that! Even if, wherever you may be in the world, you are regarded with disdain or indifference (Romans 1.16). Connect, identify with, relate to your spiritual relations, whether you like them or not! Small mountain streams eventually merge to become a mighty river, but as they begin to come together there is always a bit of turbulence. But the result is a powerful, strong, life-giving, life-sustaining, energy generating river!

She also understood the power of prayer with fasting. “Fasting without praying is just dieting.” (Grace Oletu). She recognised the reality of the spiritual realm and of the Holy Spirit’s resources. She understood the meaning of praying at all times and praying without ceasing (Esther 4.16; Ephesians 6.18; 1 Thessalonians 5.17). How to influence an alien culture is not learned from books and Conferences, but from practising piety and being serious about the principles of God and His Kingdom.

God bless you, and please don’t trickle along on your own!

Influencing an Alien Culture – lessons from Esther (27/08/14)

#2: Jesus never called His followers to be defence lawyers for Him!  He called them to be His witnesses – to tell the story as it is, what they saw, what they heard, what exactly happened from their perspective, what they know to be true. And that story-telling, wherever you are as a follower of Him, will change the social climate where it is told.  No need to be on the back-foot, people of God – the gates of hell can’t prevail against us!

Look at Esther – nothing much according to the spirit of her age going for her.  Wrong gender, wrong ethnic origin, wrong family background, according to the standards of the day. Yet she changed the alien culture around her.  So can you!  How?

Lesson #2: she feared God, not the people around her, including her husband, and the king (same person!). Her cousin, mentor and guardian also refused to bow to a powerful politician, thus incurring his fury (Esther 3.1-6; 5.9). Esther risked her life by going in to her husband, the king, unsolicited.  She lived her life always in submission and obedience to God, and in dependence upon Him.

The result? Was she ostracised? Mocked? Marginalised? Criticised?  Persecuted? Imprisoned? Executed? On the contrary – she was received and respected by her husband, the king. And what about  her cousin who refused to play the ‘people game’?  He was rewarded with greater honour, increased authority, more privileges and further responsibilities in the nation, to the extent that he became a household name in the whole region! (Esther 9.4)

What about the one who tried to destroy God’s people?  He was destroyed himself, by his own self-contrived means of death (Esther 6.13; 7.10).  The same principle applies to the devil and his demons as he awaits his certain fate (Revelation 20.10).

So my friend, wherever you are, fear God, not man, however popular the latest ungodly principle or policy may be in your land, however widely and rampantly it may be being proclaimed and practised. And you will be a society shaker, a culture cleaner!  Easy call?  No! You must love not your life even when faced with death (Revelation 12.11). Fear God and keep His commandments, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell, and always remember He honours those who honour Him (Ecclesiastes 12.13; Matthew 20.28; 1 Samuel 2.30)

God bless you, overcomer!

Influencing an Alien Culture – 20/08/14

#1: Wherever you may be in the world you will find yourself in an alien culture. Maybe those around you will look similar to you, maybe not. Maybe they will speak the same language as you, maybe not. But unless you are surrounded by God’s people, you, as a child of God, will be in an alien culture. “My Kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus, and so your kingdom and your citizenship and your culture is a heavenly one, not an earthly one (John 18.36; Philippians 3.20). How can you influence an alien culture? How can you make a change in an alien culture? Let’s learn some lessons from one who did – her name? Esther.

Lesson #1: she was not hindered by gender, origin or identity. She was a Jewish girl in a foreign land, one of an ethnic minority group. She was a girl, and therefore regarded as inferior to men at the time, an orphan, and adopted by her cousin. Not too hopeful! But gender, nationality, social status, ethnic origin and family background are no hindrance to God calling, choosing and using you to influence those around you for good.

David was the youngest and almost overlooked. Gideon was the youngest in a family which was the least in the tribe. Jeremiah thought he was too young. Moses was a murderer and stutterer and had been out of the country for 40 years. Ruth was a foreigner. Rahab was a prostitute. Cyrus was a Persian, not even a Jew. Naaman’s little servant girl is not even named. And the list goes on and on throughout the pages of Scripture. Yet they all significantly influenced those around them despite their apparent ‘unworthiness’.

You didn’t choose Jesus, He chose you! (John 15.16; Ephesians 1.4). So cheer up – you’re the grain of salt in your society, you’re the flickering light in the darkness around you. Don’t catch spiritual influenza, be a spiritual influencer.

God bless you, in your socially incorrect place!

Be careful what you say about God (Matthew 12.36) – 13/08/14

It is written in the Bible “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

Here are some men and women who mocked God:

JOHN  LENNON:
Some years before during his interview with  an American Magazine, he said: “Christianity will end, it will disappear. I do not have to argue about that. I am certain. Jesus was ok, but his subjects were too simple. Today we are more famous than Him” (1966)”. Lennon, after saying that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ, was shot six times.

TANCREDO NEVES:
During the 1985 Presidential campaign in Brazil, he said if he got 500 votes from his party, not even God would remove him from Presidency. He got the votes, but he was taken ill a day before being made President, and died before the inauguration ceremony.

CAZUZA:
Brazilian composer and singer. During a show in Canecão (Rio de Janeiro), whilst
smoking his cigarette, he puffed out some smoke into the air and said: God, that’s for you. He died from AIDS aged 32.

THE MAN WHO BUILT THE TITANIC:
After the construction of Titanic, a reporter asked him how safe the Titanic would be. With an ironic tone he said: “Not even God can sink it.” The result: I think you all know what happened to the Titanic.

MARILYN MONROE:
She was visited by the preacher and evangelist Billy Graham during a presentation of a show. After hearing what the Preacher had to say, she said: “I don’t need your Jesus.” A week later, she was found dead in her apartment.

BON SCOTT:
The ex-vocalist of the hard rock band AC/DC. On one of his 1979 songs he
sang: “Don’t stop me, I’m going down all the way, wow the highway to
hell”. On the 19th February 1980, Bon Scott was found dead, aged 33, from acute alcohol poisoning.

CAMPINAS:
In 2005 in Campinas, Brazil, a group of friends, drunk, went to pick up a friend. The mother accompanied her to the car and was so worried about the drunkenness of her friends she said to the daughter, holding her hand, who was already seated in the car, “My daughter, go with God and may He protect you.” She responded, “Only if he (God) travels in the boot, coz inside here it’s already full.”

Hours later, news came by that they had been involved in a fatal accident, everyone had died, the car could not be recognized, even what type of car it had been, but surprisingly, the boot was intact. The police said there was no way the boot could have remained intact. To their surprise, inside the boot was a crate of eggs, none was broken.

Many more important people have forgotten that there is no other name that was given so much authority as the name of Jesus. Many have died, but only Jesus
died and rose again, and he is still alive.

God bless you, and never doubt the Word of God …

(adapted from Godlike Productions)

PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR … 05/08/14

97% of pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused or hurt by their trusted friends.

70% of pastors battle depression.

7,000 churches close each year.

1,500 pastors quit each month.

10% will retire a pastor.

80% of pastors feel discouraged.

94% of pastors’ families feel the pressure of the ministry.

78% of pastors have no close friends.

90% of pastors report working 55-75 hours per week.

PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR!

(victormarx.com)

I would add ENCOURAGE YOUR PASTOR

40 years Personal Testimony by Director Peter Marchand – 23/08/14

Forgive me…I’m suspending the normal post for this week. Tomorrow, Thursday 24th July 2014, will be my 40th Anniversary. It was between 12 noon and 1.00 pm on 24th July 1974 that I was “laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3.12). I remember very clearly the time and the place, the day and the date. I did not understand, but I did know. Now I knew the Lord, no longer just about Him.

I had graduated with a Masters Degree in Theology from the University of Cambridge. I was a regular church goer (which most of my generation weren’t). I was already, at the tender age of 24, Head of Religious Studies at a prestigious Grammar School (State Secondary School in UK for top 30%). Only a few months earlier I had written and performed the music for a Rock Mass. These are some of the lines I had written and sung:

“But one thing I ask, Lord, come wind, rain or snow
Is that for me and all like me, you’ll just let us know.
Oh Lord, am I too late?
Oh Lord, how long must we wait?
I’ll try once again, Lord, I’ll put it to you now.
All that I’m asking is you’ll just show us how.
Please make it more easy, I give up on my own
Come now and tell me, I’ve had enough all alone.
There’s one other thing, Lord, that I must add
If I say it to you now I won’t feel quite so bad.
Please don’t think I’m demanding, I know I’ve got no right
Just come to me, Lord, sometime one night.
Oh Lord, am I too late?
Oh Lord, how long must we wait?”

That was 21st February 1974 between 7.30 pm and 8.30 pm. I was not too late. The answers came on 24th July 1974, just five months later.

I want to thank God publicly for answering my cries with a “Yea and Amen!” For keeping me these 40 years, sustaining and strengthening me in good times and in bad. I joined the “mighty army of preachers of the gospel around the world” in August 1981, which has taken me regularly to four different Continents. I’ve lived by faith, with no guaranteed income, since 1983, and He has never failed me. I’ve made mistakes and wrong decisions, but He never left me. I’ve come through cancer on the strength of Psalm 118.17: “You will not die, but live to declare the works of the Lord.”

So, 40 years on… sure, I’ve lost my temper like Moses did, but I don’t plan on going up a mountain to die! Like Caleb, I’m as strong now as I ever was, so I’m going in to knock out a few more giants and take a few more mountains! I really don’t know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future – my Lord and my God, Jesus Christ.

Thanks for reading this. Please join me in thanking God for His love and faithfulness. “Where Does Great Strength Lie” continues next week.

God bless.

Where Does Great Strength Lie? Judges 16.5 – 30/07/14

#3: Was Samson strong because of his ancestry and background, eloquent speaking, respect for family and culture, reasoned and balanced thinking, openness and honesty, great self-control, gentle nature, moral uprightness, great physique or intimacy with God? Definitely NOT! Nor is anyone else that God uses strong because of those attributes, good and commendable though they may be. Samson was strong because he was dedicated to God.

He was also strong because he was chosen by God (Judges 13.5). So was Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1.4-5; 10). So was Paul (Galatians 1.15ff). And so are you, believer in Jesus Christ (John 15.16; 19; Colossians .12; 1 Peter 2.9; Ephesians 1.4). Great strength does not lie in our abilities and achievements for God, in our own efforts and labours. It lies in being chosen by Him, dedicated to Him and…

… in maintaining careful confidence in Him. That’s where your part kicks in. Samson lost his strength because he was careless (Judges 16.17). He took his anointing for granted and was unwise about what he said, when and to whom. He was not careful to guard his heart (Proverbs 4.23). Your great strength lies in your confidence in God, as Peter and John practised (Acts 4.13), as Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 30.15; 26.3), and as Paul preached (Philippians 1.6; 2 Timothy 1.12; Romans 8.28).

God Himself is our strength – Moses knew it, the sons of Korah, those Temple worship leaders, knew it, King David knew it and so did the prophet Habakkuk (Exodus 15.2; Psalm 46.1; 28.7; Habakkuk 3.19).

So, are you feeling weak? Or feeling on top of things? Is everything going great…or falling apart around you? Whatever your circumstances and situation right now, be strong in Him and in the power of His strength (Ephesians 6.10). Don’t be confident in your giftings or achievements, be confident that you know Him (Jeremiah 9.23-24) and that He knows you (John 10.14). Don’t be like the woodpecker that landed on a tree just as the lightening struck it, and squawked, “My, my my…I never knew I had such power!”

God bless you, mighty one!

Where Does Great Strength Lie? Judges 16.5 – 16/07/14

#2: Do you realise that God’s not looking for spiritual, or even physical or financial machos! He tells the wise, the mighty and the rich not to boast (Jeremiah 9.23). He doesn’t call many wise, mighty, powerful and noble people.  No, he calls the foolish, weak, low and despised of this world (1 Corinthians 1.26).

God can only work with flawed people.  Why?  Because there are no unflawed people! Peter and John – uneducated and untrained.  Nathaniel – cynic. Peter – impulsive. Levi – despised, treacherous and no doubt corrupt. James and John – hot-headed and self-seeking.  Philip – slow; Thomas – doubter; Judas – thief and traitor. Yet (apart from the last one mentioned), having never travelled beyond 75 miles of home they went to the world of great learning and sophisticated thinking and became the link between Jesus and the world of powerful armies and great engineering – in fact, the whole world was turned upside down by them (Acts 17.6).

Then there were Noah, the drunkard, Jacob the deceiver, Moses the stutterer, Saul the medium-seeker, Rahab the prostitute, David the adulterer and Solomon, his son, the back-slider.  And the list could go on and on.  So be careful if you’re priding yourself on how much better than all these people you are – God may not choose and use you, for that very reason!

So where does great strength lie then?  Back to Samson – firstly, in being dedicated to God (Judges 16.17).  He was a Nazarite.  Nazarites were dedicated to the Lord, separated and holy (Numbers 6.1-21). Never mind if your parents or relatives dedicated you or not, had you sprinkled as a baby or not. Have you dedicated yourself to the Lord? “My son/daughter, give Me your heart…” (Proverbs 23.26). “Come to Me … believe and trust in Me … follow Me,” calls Jesus. Once you have come and believed and given your heart, you are no longer your own, but God’s possession, bought for a price, the highest price of all, the life of His Son, Jesus Christ. You are truly a “pearl of great price”. You are separated and set apart from others. (Matthew 13.46; 1 Corinthians 6.19-20; Galatians 2.20; Romans 14.7-8; 2 Corinthians 5.15)

Are you one of today’s “Nazarites”? Have you dedicated yourself to God?  If so, then you are eligible to be strong! If not, just do so…now: “Lord, here I am, take me.  I give You my heart, my life.  Make me strong in You and in the power of Your strength, to live for Your praise and glory, now and for ever.  In Jesus’ name I pray.” In fact, why not rededicate yourself right now with the same or similar words?

God bless you, strong one!

Where Does Great Strength Lie? Judges 16.5 – 09/07/14

#1: If I mention the name Samson, what is the first thing that comes into your mind?  Long hair?  Judge of Israel?  Womaniser?  I suspect it would be, strong man! Right?  Well, where did he get his strength from?  His hair?  His good looks?  His women?  Where does great strength lie?

It was not from those.  Nor was it from his background or parentage.  His father is just called “a certain man” and his mother was barren (Judges 13.2).  Maybe because of his ancestry and ethnicity?  No. He had no respect for them…he wanted a Philistine woman (Judges 14.2). It was not because he was a smooth talker – he spoke in riddles (Judges 14.12). Nor did he respect the God of his people – Jehovah, as he married a foreigner, a Gentile, not an Israelite (Judges 14.3).

Ah, but he was a great thinker, wasn’t he?  Surely that’s where his great strength lay?  No, wrong again – he wanted the woman because “she looks good to me”.  Scarcely profound thinking! Was he open and honest and transparent?  No. He kept secrets, lied and was dishonest (Judges 14.6, 9, 12). He lacked self-control – “his anger burned” (Judges 14.19). Wasn’t he rather gentle natured?  Didn’t he have a peaceful and forgiving manner? Far from it! He set fire to foxes and slaughtered people in their thousands (Judges 14.19; 15.4, 8, 15). He was immoral too, enjoying the company of prostitutes and strange women (Judges 16.1, 4).

OK, you say, so he wasn’t great in all those ways, but his strength lay in his incredible physique, his ruthless training regime and his strict diet – that’s how he was so strong (Judges 16.3). Sorry…wrong again! Aha…then it was his deep personal intimacy with God that gave him his strength?  No, he didn’t even realise when the Lord had departed from him, he was so out of touch with God (Judges 16.20).

All wrong.  And he’s not the only one in the Bible whose strength was not in his prowess physically, spiritually, morally or culturally.  Nor does your great strength lie in any of those, however much you may pride yourself on them. So where did his great strength lie?  And where does yours, and mine?  Find out next week….

God bless you, in your gym of whatever kind!

The Wisdom of Small Creatures (Proverbs 30.24-28) – 11/06/14

#4: Final module in Masters in Wisdom: lecturer – Revd Dr Lizard.

Yes, it’s true, because the Bible says so! Want to acquire wisdom?  Want to be wise?  Observe four little creatures.  So what can Revd Dr Lizard possibly teach me, a superior creation made in God’s own image? Huh?  Well, humility for a start!

This little guy you can hold in your hand.  He’s small, often quite unattractive, with a jerky little head and weird eyes and a long tail.  Nervous.  Shy.  Harmless, no bite, no sting.  So who wants to learn from him?  And why?  Well, for all his weaknesses he can be found in kings’ palaces!  Sure, he can creep in easily and silently to the highest of high places.  He can sit beneath the monarch’s throne, or under the courtiers banqueting table.  He can go where the lion and the tiger and the elephant and the giraffe and the bear can’t go. And he doesn’t even need a royal invitation – he just creeps in!

My friend, God’s ways are not ours! God’s thoughts are not ours! (Isaiah 55.8-9) In His Kingdom it’s the opposite way round.  The way up is down. To be first, be last. To be honoured, be humble. To be rich, give away. To gain life, lose it.  To live, die.  To rule, serve.  To be great, be the least.  You may think you’re unattractive, harmless, small, unimportant, and unnoticed, insignificant, or whatever.  But Christian, you can be in the King of kings’ presence any time you want, and one day you’ll be there for ever, permanently! Doubt my word?  Just read Isaiah 43.1-5; John 1.12; 5.24; 1 John 3.2 – that should convince you!

So we’re done.  Thanks little creatures – you’ve taught us so much!  May we be wise like you – storing up while we can, staying safe in our Rock, moving together, and in the King’s palace.

God bless you, wise one!

The Wisdom of Small Creatures (Proverbs 30.24-28) – 4/06/14

#3: Who’s next in line to be observed and to acquire wisdom from watching? Prof Ant and Dr Badger have taught us to store up while we can, and stay safe in the Rock of our salvation. Now Principal Locust becomes our teacher!

No king, council or committee to control, rule, regulate, or stipulate, organise, order or govern him! Wow, that sounds nice! But he is wise because he goes out in ranks, he moves in formation. By nature he moves together with others – he doesn’t go out randomly on his own. He knows that alone he is vulnerable and can achieve little if anything, no threat. But in a swarm he can devastate a nation (Exodus 10.1-19).

Christian, to acquire wisdom, to be wise, you must unite with others. You need others and others need you! Locusts interact and stimulate each other. They are not all the same – there are different types. Joel 1.4 tells us there are crawlers, and strippers and swarmers and hoppers. Jesus was sent to destroy the works of the evil one. He said, “As the Father sent Me, so I send you…Go therefore…” Our purpose is to continue the Master’s work in destroying the works of the evil one, devastating the kingdom of darkness. (1 John 3.8; John 20.12; Matthew 28.19)

Personal faith, yes. Individual faith, no. God calls you to no ministry that you can do by yourself, except perhaps intercession. Unity for territory. Alone no ministry, no congregation, no denomination will make a significant and lasting impact for God, or impression on society. Pray and practice with me for God’s people to be wise in this way.

God bless you, fellow locust!

The Wisdom of Small Creatures (Proverbs 30.24-28) – 28/05/14

#2: You project what you focus on. So if you want to be wise and to acquire wisdom, focus on four of God’s little creatures.  We looked at the ant. Now…the rock badger!  Like the ant, he’s not big and strong and mighty and powerful.  So how is he wise?

Easy! He makes his home in the rock. He can get his food and sunbathe or do whatever outside but as soon as the predator comes, the moment he senses the vulture or lion or eagle he dives in underground where he’s safe, knowing it must knock the mountain down to get him! He knows his security is in the rock. If he stays on top, or wanders too far from his hole, he’s dead meat!

Friend, be wise!  God is your rock, your stronghold, your only safe place (Psalm 62.2,6). Jesus is your rock (1 Corinthians 10.4). Are you IN Christ?  If so, you’re safe – no condemnation, a new creature with new things (Romans 8.1; 2 Corinthians 5.17).  Don’t wander away from Him or you’ll be picked off, for sure.

And one other thing – it’s Jesus, not the minister, vicar, pastor or priest, church, stream or denomination, PCC, elders board, diaconate or trustees board, doctrine, programme or policy.  Good (hopefully) signposts to the safe place, but not the safe place themselves.  It’s not wise to stand by a signpost pointing to a town a few miles away and thinking you have arrived!  You haven’t!

God bless you, little badger – happy diving!

The Wisdom of Small Creatures (Proverbs 30.24-28) 21/05/14

#1: Jesus tells us to be as wise as serpents, and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10.16).  We are told to acquire (gain) wisdom (Proverbs 4.5-9). Yes, but how?  Well, the best way to learn is from example.  So who or what should we look at to get wisdom? Or to become wise?  Read books written by learned men? Study at great length?  Observe the so-called great men and women in the Christian or even secular world?  The celebrities? Answer: No!  We get it from considering FOUR SMALL CREATURES which are exceedingly wise! (Proverbs 30.24)

First up…the ant!  (v25) He’s not strong, nor are most of God’s people – not many wise, powerful and high social standing (1 Corinthians 1.26).  Wisdom is not acquired from body, personality, learning, education, knowledge, money, possessions or social status.

He prepares and stores up food in the summer – i.e. when it’s there in plenty, when the weather’s good and it is available.  Why?  Because he knows that winter will come. Store up your spiritual food when it’s available, while you can.  Pray when you can, fellowship when you can, read your Bible when you can. Sure it’s hard work, and takes time, effort and discipline.  Winter will come – good times change, tragedy, crisis, accident, sickness, temptation are all down the road.  And if you escape all of those, old age will come creeping up on you, despite healthy living and positive confession!

Know what season it is, and when it’s summer, be wise – store up while you can.

God bless you in your summertime!

The Potency and Potential of Small Things (Zechariah 4.10) #4: (14/05/14)

You don’t always have to fast forward! If the devil can’t stop your progress by standing in front of you, he’ll get behind you and push you so fast you fall over! Busy busy busy should never be a boast! “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10). “And the work of righteousness will be peace, And the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32.17)

Little steps of progress will in time transform the Christian life. A small change now can make a big difference later. A small change now in lifestyle and attitude will have a big impact in the future. One small amendment to your prayer life will have a huge effect. If you spend just one minute per day in prayer for someone, that’s seven minutes a week, which is more than six hours in a year which is an average working day! Not that tough eh?! But a day in prayer for someone is going to change their life, even if it takes you a year to accomplish!

A modest gift will bring a generous reward. A small favour will bring a big blessing.  One kind word will produce a great result.  The Children’s Bible translates our verse: “People should not think that small beginnings are unimportant.”  That’s good.  Coca-Cola sold 400 bottles in their first year (1899) – that’s less than five per week. They now sell 1000 million bottles, cans and cups PER DAY in at least 195 countries! Domino’s Pizza started in 1960 with one shop.  It was burnt down.  Today Domino’s is the second-largest pizza chain in the United States and the largest worldwide, with more than 10,000 corporate and franchised stores in 70 countries.  One of the finest windows in Europe was made from the remnants an apprentice boy collected from the cuttings of his master’s great work. The sweepings of the British mint are worth millions. The little pivots on which the works of an old watch turn are so important they are actually made of jewels.

Don’t despise yourself, don’t despise others because of the smallness of size or number or gifting or talent – you can do all things through Him who strengthens you (Philippians 4.13).

God bless you, little one!

The Potency and Potential of Small Things (Zechariah 4.10) #3: (07/05/14)

Step by step…first the blade…then the ear…then the full grain within the ear (Mark 4.28).

The gradual (literally = step by step) application of Biblical truths and principles produces a good, sound, stable, steadfast and mature Godly life (2 Peter 1.4-11).  There is enormous power and potential in a small amount of faith (Luke 17.5-6). There is enormous power and potential in a small gift (Luke 21.1-4).

Victory is won little by little (Exodus 23.30; Deuteronomy 7.22).  One small stone catapulted in the name of the Lord God of Hosts can kill a giant (1 Samuel 17).  One angel sent by God can kill an army of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (Isaiah 37.36).

How many rescued the man on the Jericho road?  One good Samaritan.  How many did it take to confront Pharaoh and lead the Exodus?  One man, Moses. One woman broke tradition, entered her husband’s throne room and saved her nation – Esther. One vote gave America the English language in stead of German.  One vote gave Hitler control of the Nazi party.

A young boy was walking along a beach with his father one morning after a storm had thrown up a large number of fish.  Some were still alive, struggling for their lives.  The little boy ran ahead and started throwing as many as he could back into the water.  His dad cynically shouted, “You won’t make any difference – there’s too many of them.”  The boy turned back and defiantly picked up another fish and threw it back into the sea.  Over his shoulder he called to his father, “Made a difference to that one!”

You too can make a difference. Why not pray this with me? “I am only one, but I’m still one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What do you want me to do, in Jesus’ name?”

God bless you and may your potential be released.

The Potency and Potential of Small Things (Zechariah 4.10) #2: (30/04/14)

I hope you avoided the orange skin and the mosquito (best advice for that is The Executioner – electronic fly, wasp, mosquito and bug zapping raquet.  Hear them go Crack crack … oh yeesssss!).

But hey, we all need a spiritual Executioner.  We can do great things for God, but fail to maintain basic standards.  David escaped the paw of the bear, the jaw of the lion, the sword of the giant, but was defeated by a woman in a bath robe.  Beware – it’s easy to defeat a carnal Christian, and the devil knows it.  David wasn’t promiscuous, wasn’t addicted to internet pornography, just careless about one small look.  Someone once said, “You can’t stop a bird flying over your head, but you can stop it from nesting in your hair.”

The potency, the power of small things. One small mistake has toppled governments, started and lost wars, broken marriages, ruined friendships, split churches, and so I could go on… Never underestimate the consequences of one small mistake.  Moses lost his temper and the Promised Land at Meribah in a split second.  Never play down minor threats, reconcile petty quarrels, rectify small character faults.  Watch out for little temptations … there’s no such thing as “little” temptation.  Master the small and you’ll be disciplined and destined for the great.  One rotten egg spoils the whole omelette!

God bless – enjoy your omelette!

The Potency and Potential of Small Things (Zechariah 4.10) #1: (24/04/14)

Very soon now the eyes and attention of millions around the world will be on the football World Cup.  In 2010, 840 million people tuned in to see the Final on television, that’s 12% of the world’s population! For many it is their religion. I still remember the blatant foul in the dying moments of the Ghana v Uruguay game, and the subsequent penalty which was saved, and the whistle was blown and Ghana went out and the hopes and dreams of a nation (and by that stage a whole continent) were dashed.  One foul, one referee, one missed penalty, one striker, one goal keeper, one small football held the heart of one Continent.  Who has despised the day of small things? (Zechariah 4.10).

Followers of Jesus should never underestimate or despise small things – whether they are small in number, small in quantity, small in size or small in shape.  They can be highly POTENT (= powerful)! Think of the tongue – not a large part of the human body yet it has the power to give life or death to another human heart.  Like a tiny spark it can start a forest fire, can defile our entire being, can change the course of our life, and be set on fire by hell itself (Proverbs 18.21; James 3.5-6).

Alexander the Great, in the 4th Century BC conquered all the kingdoms of the then known world, but was killed by…a mosquito!  Or even smaller, by the parasite it carried! Robert Leech became world famous when, sealed in a barrel, he went over the great Niagra Falls, but died nine years later when he slipped and fell on…the skin of an orange!

So watch out!  Next week…what to watch out for!

God bless

Spiritual Greatness #5: (16/04/14)

You: “I really want to be great in Your Kingdom, Lord!”

Jesus: “Fine, no problem.”

You: “How can I be spiritually great, Lord?”

Jesus: “Follow Me. I lived and gave My life for other people, not myself.  I suffered, even to the point of death.  I denied Myself day after day, and said No to the things I wanted and coveted but were not what My Father wanted.  I didn’t even speak and teach my own thoughts and ideas – I only taught and spoke My Father’s.  I submitted My will to His, day after day after day.

You: “Erm…hmm…ugh…gulp…$#@!%£$*%^~:-(…” (John 7.16; 8.28,38)

Greatness in the Kingdom of God is within the reach of all of us.  We are all capable of being last, of serving, of being like a humble little child and giving our lives for the sake of others rather than ourselves. The only obstacle in the way is our self, and our refusal to take God at His word, to believe what He says about His Kingdom, to deny our self, take up our cross daily (i.e. live each day as our last) and follow the One who was the servant of all, but who is now highly exalted, whose name is above every name, and at whose name every knee shall one day bow, and every tongue shall one day confess to be LORD.  It’s all about Jesus. (Philippians 2.5-11)

You can be spiritually great. If a little child can be, you can be. You too can be like Jesus, with His help, if you chose.  Want to?  Come on, go for it!

Happy Easter! God bless.

Spiritual Greatness #4: (08/04/14)

Is there such a thing as spiritual greatness?  Is it wrong to think or ask about it?

Well, actually there is!  And in fact it is quite ok to think about it, ask about it, and even seek it.  So that’s good news!  What did Jesus say and not say?

In answer to the question, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of God?” He did not say, “Nobody.” He did not say there were no such people.  Nor did He say it was wrong to ask questions about it, or even to desire it.

But what He did say completely contradicted the thinking of His first followers, and so many of His followers today.  They thought it meant being first.  He said it meant being last …of all.  They thought it meant being a leader, ruler and exercising authority over others. He said it meant being a servant …of all.  They thought it meant putting others down.  He said it meant being put down by others, in fact being a slave …of all.  They thought it meant being known to be a generous benefactor.  He said it meant being like a humble little child (Mark 9.35; 10.43-44; Matthew 18.1-4).

Was that child famous? No. Was he noticed? No. Was he a great preacher? No. Had that child written a book?  No, probably couldn’t even read. Did he have a PhD? No, probably didn’t even go to school. Did he have an international ministry?  No, probably never left his home village. Did he give a lot to the poor, and to charity? No, he was the poor.

There is nothing essentially bad or wrong with any of those things.  One can be a fine theologian, preacher, teacher, or scholar.  One can be widely read, full of knowledge, travel the world and influence thousands and more. But they don’t make a person great in God’s kingdom. One can be all of them, but still not spiritually great.

So how do I attain spiritual greatness?  Come back next week and you’ll find out!

God bless you, little one!

Spiritual Greatness  (02/04/14)

#3:

Question: When did the first followers of Jesus argue about who was the greatest amongst them?

Answer:  Whenever Jesus spoke about the cross, and what He would become, His first followers quarrelled about themselves and what they would become. Position and power and influence preoccupied their minds. When He spoke about His being broken, and bleeding and giving His life for others, loving and being God-centred, they by stark contrast spoke about being first, being noticed, being influential and powerful, exercising authority, and ruling, leading, lording, and being self-centred. Even after three years, those who had stood by Him through His trials, to the end, even as they celebrated the great Feast of the Passover “before I suffer…”,  with the hand of the one betraying Him on the table, just a matter of hours before He died, they were still at it! (Luke 9.43-46; Mark 9.30-34; Matthew 17.22-18.1; Mark 10.33-37; Luke 22.14-27)

The late singer song-writer Pete Seeger wrote in his song Where Have All The Flowers Gone?… “When will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?”  Still today the same lessons have to be taught and learned – following Jesus is not about leading and lording, it is about loving.  If there is to be a coming after Him every day, there is a cross to be taken up every day, and there is a denial of self to be made every day.  The apostle Paul had learned it – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me;” (Galatians 2.20).  He seemed surprised when he wrote on another occasion, “Do you not know…that you are not your own?  For you have been bought with a price…” (1 Corinthians 6.19-20).  It seems they either did not know, or had chosen to forget!

Try to remember!  God bless.

Next week…Is there such a thing as spiritual greatness?  Is it wrong to think or ask about it? We shall see…

Spiritual Greatness  (26/03/14)

#2: “I want to be a somebody for God.  I want to do great things for God.  I want to …. I want …. I….”  That says it all really. The centre letter of sin is “I”.  The centre letter of pride is “I”.

What was in the minds of those first ones that Jesus called to be with Him before He sent them out to preach?  What were they thinking when they argued with each other about who was the greatest in the Kingdom of God?  And what is in the minds of His followers today when they too compare and compete with each other?

  •          I want to be first: Mark 9.35; 10.44
  •          I want to be noticed: Mark 10.37
  •          I want to rule and exercise authority and have power over people: Mark 10.42
  •          I want to be known as generous to others, doing them good: Luke 22.25
  •          I want to be a leader: Luke 22.26

The result always was and still is resentment, ill-feeling, indignation, envy, conflict, friction and division, because those who want to be first are never satisfied with second place! To be number two is less than they want to be! Put a stroke through the “I” and you have a cross (Mark 8.34).

And when did they argue about it?  You’ll find out next week…it’s an eye-opener!

God bless…and try not to argue with or about other followers of Jesus!

Spiritual Greatness (19/03/14)

#1: “Oh he/she’s a great man/woman of God!”  Heard that before? “Wow…powerful ministry!”  Hmmm…. No such person as a great man or woman of God – only a man or a woman of a great God! What is spiritual greatness?  What is greatness in the Kingdom of God??  Is there such a thing, or such a person?  Can anyone be spiritually great?

Well, it obviously bothered the earliest followers of Jesus.  In fact they seemed pretty preoccupied with asking the question and arguing about the answer!  (Mark 9.33-34; Matthew 18.1; Luke 22.24)

So are His followers today!  We ask it of ourselves.  We ask it of others.  We ask it about individuals, and about churches and about ministries. Who are the real ‘greats’? How about me?  How about us? How about them?

What did they mean?  What was in their minds?  What is in our minds?  What do we mean? And when did they ask it?  On what occasions?  And most importantly of all, what was Jesus’ answer?

To find out, check in next week….!

God bless you in your questing and questioning!

Mountains to Climb and Giants to Conquer (12.03.14)

#6: Pride

Well, you’ve done pretty well so far!  Five mountains climbed and five giants killed.

Feeling rather pleased with yourself?  I hope not!  Because there’s just one more, the highest mountain of all and the toughest giant to fell.  He’s subtle, crafty, cunning, deceitful, and his name is …Me!  He lives in Alternative Trinity Castle (“Me, Myself and I” Castle) in the Kingdom of Self.  Yes, it’s pride.

C.S. Lewis, the Christian writer, called it “the great sin” in his book Mere Christianity.  Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century revivalist, called it “the first sin”.  And they were both correct.  From Adam and Eve onwards, we have chosen to “be like God”, or be our own god (Genesis 3.5). The problem with this giant is we actually like living with him on his mountain because he makes us feel good about ourselves. But pride distorts our view of ourself, and is never content with second place.  It distorts our view, opinion and treatment of others and causes us to compete with or look down on them, to resent them or overlook and ignore them, and criticise them.  Even the earliest disciples complained to Jesus about others who were casting out demons using His name, because they were “not one of us” (Mark 9.38). Incidentally, they were smarting as they had just failed to cast out a demon themselves, all nine of them! (Mark 9.18)

Battle plan:

  • Never think more highly of yourself than you ought (Romans 12.3)
  • Be like a little child (Matthew 18.1-4).
  • Walk humbly (Micah 6.8)

What does the Lord require of you? Your book entitled, “Humility – and How I achieved it.”?!  No! Jesus’ little visual aid (Matthew 18.1-4) had never written a book (he probably couldn’t even read or write), never travelled beyond his home village (certainly not to a foreign country), never spoken at a Conference (probably only ever spoken to his friends and family), didn’t own a house or a car, didn’t have any qualifications or title or letters after his name. And he is the one the Master picked out!

So, there we are!  Caleb had his mountains to climb and his giants to conquer in order to get where he was destined and determined to go.  So do we!  Keep climbing, keep fighting – like Caleb, don’t look at the giant, look at Jehovah, and then you will see who the real grasshopper is!

God bless you, you mountain climbing giant killer!

Mountains to Climb and Giants to Conquer (05.03.14)

#5: Image

“I wish I weren’t so….I wish I was more …. then people would like me and I would feel better about myself, and have more confidence, and more friends.”  This is a big giant these days, but he lives secretly on a little mountain in your mind, whispering away to you, hoping you won’t spot him.

Story – a man was walking down the road thinking about all his problems, when another man passed him on a bicycle.  He said to himself, “If I had a bike like that man, I’d be happy like he is.”  But the man on the bicycle was thinking about all his problems.  Then a guy came past on his motorbike. The fellow on the bicycle said to himself, “If I had a motorbike like that man, I’d be happy like he is.”   But the man on the motorbike was thinking about all his problems too.  Then someone drove by in a car. “If I had a car like that man, I’d be happy like he is,” said the man on the motorbike to himself.  But the man in the car was thinking about all his problems… And so the story goes on!

You are who you are, made, cherished and adored by the One who made you, as you are, with your good points and not-so-good points (Psalm 43.4a). You are born again of his imperishable seed, He is your Father…and His name is I AM WHO I AM (Exodus 3.14-15).  Therefore, as His child, you BE WHO YOU ARE.  What you look like, how you dress, what you earn or own or what you wear, what your work is or whether you are unemployed, single, married, adopted, divorced, widowed – your identity is as a child of God! You are in Christ (1 Corinthians 5.17, plus another 163 times in the New Testament) and He accepts you as you are.

When a player transfers to a new club at the beginning of a new season, he must wear the new kit, not that of his former club or team.

So, just tell that giant – I’ve been transferred, I’m wearing my new kit…and I like it! Goooooooooooal!

God bless.

Mountains to Climb and Giants to Conquer (24.02.14)

#4: Lust

Oops…can we really talk about is one?!  Yes, Caleb, you’ve got to get that giant down and out and take his mountain top as well as the others! Matthew, Paul, James and John all wrote about it…in the Bible too! (Matthew 5.28; 2 Timothy 2.22; James 1.13-15; 1 John 2.16)

Don’t misunderstand it – sexual desire is good and God-given (you wouldn’t be alive to read this if it weren’t!). But sin, like with everything if allowed to, corrupts all of God’s good gifts, including our sexuality.  Lust is craving sexually what God has forbidden.

King David can teach us here – 2 Samuel 11

Battle Plan:

1)      Beware of dangerous circumstances (vv 1-2a)

2)      Don’t take the next step (vv 3-4)

Don’t panic!  God’s word convicts, yes (12.13), but it also comforts (12.13) and commands (John 8.11).  It doesn’t condone or condemn. You can’t stop a bird flying over your head, but you can stop it from making its nest in your hair.

Be a warrior, not a worrier!

God bless you.

Mountains to Climb and Giants to Conquer (17.02.14)

#3: Depression
“At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light
And the burden of my sin rolled away;
It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day.”

I could sing the first three lines heartily, but kept my mouth firmly shut for the last line! Why? Because I wasn’t “happy all the day.” Nor could I sing, “This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Saviour all the day long,” because I wasn’t! And I haven’t yet met an honest person who is. Sure, we have our good days and not-so-good days, we take the rough with the smooth. But there are those who have to climb the Depression mountain and slay that giant who lives there. Be true to yourself…if that’s you, here’s what to do. Learn from the son of Korah, a worship leader …

Battle plan: Psalm 42-43
1) Express your feelings: I am dry (42.1); I am drowning (42.7); I am disheartened (43.2). Tell God (He knows anyway, so He won’t be surprised!).
2) Address your feelings: look in, look up, and look forward (42.5,11; 43.5).

Lost your enthusiasm? Lost your energy? Lost the spring in your heel? Sleep disturbed? You’re not the only one, believe me! Come on, I’m praying with you and for you to get up that mountain and bring down that giant! It’s easier than you think when you use that Battle plan – he can’t resist. Weeping may tarry in the night, BUT…joy comes in the morning! (Psalm 30.5)

God bless you – that’ll be three down!

Mountains to Climb and Giants to Conquer (10.02.14)

#2: Doubt
“Who me? A doubter? Never!”
“OK then, what has God said to you about…?”
“Erm…I’m not sure!”

As a minister I genuinely find many, including born-again, self-professing evangelicals and Pentecostals, confused, wondering, hoping rather than believing, guessing rather than confessing! It’s one of the tools of the trade for the liar and father of lies, the ancient serpent, the devil himself. “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3.1). He loves to put the ‘if’, the ‘perhaps’ and the ‘maybe’ into it …“If you are the son of God…” (Matthew 4.3) etc.

Battle plan:
1) Prayer – God knows you’re tempted to doubt, so no need to pretend (Mark 9.24)
2) Perspective – stick with God’s, not yours (Matthew 16.24; 26.39). If you feed doubt, it will grow.
3) Perseverence – exercise faith and it will develop. Press on with this, and you will definitely prevail (Philippians 3.14-16)

Does God love me? Yes, He does! (John 3.16)
Will I get to heaven? Yes, you will! (Romans 10.13)
Will He provide for me, meet my needs and answer my prayers? Yes, He will! (Matthew 6.33-34)
Is the Bible really true? Yes, it is! (2 Timothy 3.16; Psalm 119.89)
Etc…

So that’s the second giant down…well done!
God bless you

Mountains to Climb and Giants to Conquer (3.02.14)

Caleb had his mountains to climb and his giants to conquer in order to get where he was destined and determined to go. So do we! Let’s look at some Mountains to Climb and Giants to Conquer.

#1: Guilt.
Oh, that nagging, constant presence – “I shouldn’t have…I should have…Why did I?…Why didn’t I…?” That’s because God has put a conscience in us …“the secrets of men.” (Romans 2.15-16). God’s “heavy hand” is upon us (Psalm 32.4).

Battle plan: (Psalm 32)
1) acknowledge, admit, never deny or diminish (v5)
2) appreciate God knows anyway, and forgives always (v5)
3) be happy! (v11)

You may well find this is not just one mountain, but a mountain range well populated with giants. Just take them out, one by one, using the same strategy – it always works!

God bless you, giant killer!

Characteristics of Caleb (27.01.14)

Why not copy Caleb?

Lesson #5: summary – to be like him, you need to be different from others around you, and …

1) see that you can possess your destiny, receive what has been promised you and fulfill what has been prophesied over you
2) have a faith that through God it can be done, even when others say it can’t
3) have a vision and a dream that neither time nor circumstance can diminish
4) have a fire that neither time nor circumstance can extinguish
5) have a spirit that neither time nor circumstance can quench.

God bless you as you copy Caleb, and strive to be a man or woman of vision, vitality, valour and victory. Follow the Lord your God fully! (Joshua 14.8, 9 and 14)

Characteristics of Caleb (20.01.14)

Caleb as a role model. The man of vision, vitality and valour (see previous posts – Lessons #1, #2 and #3). I want to be like him!

Lesson #4: he was a man of victory. He didn’t just think about it, or talk about his dreams and visions! He did it! He fulfilled them…he drove out three giants (Joshua 15.13-19).
And he inspired and encouraged others to follow in his footsteps, in his case his nephew Othniel.
And he was a generous rewarder…he gave his daughter to him, and springs of water to her.

Aim to be a man or woman of victory! You are more than a conqueror through Him who loves you, and you can do all things through Him who strengthens you. (Romans 8.37; Philippians 4.13)

So, God bless you as you conquer, inspire, encourage, and reward!

Characteristics of Caleb (13.01.14)

Everyone is inspired by someone! Whom do you want to be like?

Imitating Caleb – a man of vision, and man of vitality! (see previous posts for Lessons #1 and #2)

Lesson #3: he was a man of valour. “I am still strong for war and for going out and for coming in”, he says, aged 85 (Joshua 14.11). And the going out and coming in was up hills and mountains, and the war was against giants!

Whatever age you are, be a man or woman of valour. Put God’s words to the test…Be bold, be strong, for the Lord your God is with you. Don’t sit back and expect others to fight the battles. God never gave you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and discipline (2 Timothy 1.7).

God bless you as you go up hills and fight giants, and come back in again still strong!

Characteristics of Caleb (9.12.13)

Who inspires you? Whom do you want to be like?

Imitating Caleb

Lesson #2: he was a man of vitality. He lived life to the full, and served his God fully (Joshua 14.6-14).

Caleb was not luke-warm and half-hearted, even in his old age. From his selection as the spy to represent his tribe, to the final taking of his last mountain, he served his God fully. He could confidently claim the promise of God because fulfilled condition (wholly/fully followed the Lord his God) – Mark 12.30.

Huge giants, massive mountains, fearful friends and old age did not quench his spirit! He scored 10 on a 0-10 rating.

Where do you rate yourself on the vitality scale? And where do you think others rate you?!

God bless you as you aim for that 10 rating! Go for it…(y)

Characteristics of Caleb (2.12.13)

We often imitate our favourite role models.  Paul even told his readers to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11.1). Caleb is worth imitating. 

Imitating Caleb

Lesson #1: he was a man of vision (Numbers 13).  What did he see?

He saw the good (a land flowing with milk and honey) and he saw beyond (God’s people living there).   He saw the bad (fortified cities and giants), and he saw beyond (their protection removed and God with His people).

Can you see the good plans that God has for you? (Jeremiah 29.11)  Do you see only things temporal, or can you see things eternal? (2 Corinthians 5.7)

God bless you this week as you imitate Caleb – be a man or woman of Vision!

Be a risk-taker (25.11.13)

3) We prefer the comfort zone. But faith calls us to take risks. Following on from our previous posts…

Risk-taking Lesson #3: Go until God says No! King Saul sat under the tree with his priest and the ephod, a means of hearing from God. But what was he waiting for? It was “the day of battle” (1 Samuel 13.22) – he didn’t need a special word from God to get up and fight.

Imagine how your whole area would be transformed if every believer in Christ prayed as God has already told us to pray, gave as God has already told us to give, served as God has already told us to serve, loved as God has already told us to love…etc. It is possible to spend your whole life waiting for God to move when in fact He is waiting for you to move!

Assume today that God has already called you, chosen you, equipped you, empowered you, anointed you and sent or placed you where you are. Don’t wait for a special word – get up and do what He has already told you to do. No more debate!
No more delay!

God bless you as you get up and go for God!

Be a risk-taker (18.11.13)

2)  They say faith is spelt R-I-S-K.

Risk-taking Lesson #2: You know that you do know!  Surely that contradicts Lesson #1 -knowing that you don’t know?  No!  You won’t know all the details and you won’t know the outcome, but you will know your God! “The people who know their God shall be strong and do bold exploits.” (Daniel 11.32)

Jonathan’s plan took him to the place of no return.  If God didn’t step in once he had revealed himself, he would be stepping out…of life! Risk-takers don’t work solely by human intelligence and understanding, and can only succeed, even survive, if God acts.  Often He won’t step in until we step out.  God’s Kingdom comes when God’s people go!  My tortoise can only move when he sticks his neck out!

Don’t take risks until you know your God, but when you do, then go!

God bless you as you get to know God and stick your neck out!

Be a risk-taker (11.11.13)

1)      Prisca and Aquila, and Epaphroditus are recorded as taking risks for the sake of the gospel (Romans 16.3-4; Philippians 2.25-30).  Sometimes faith calls us to take risks.  One of my favourite risk-takers was Jonathan, son of Saul.  In 1 Samuel 13.19 to 14.15 we can read his amazing story.  Three lessons to learn from him about taking risks for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Risk-taking Lesson #1: You know that you don’t know. To enter into the extra-ordinary, the ab-normal, the un-usual and the super-natural you must know that you don’t know all the details or even the outcome.  That’s where faith comes in.  Jonathan said “Perhaps the Lord will work for us…” He did not know the outcome but was prepared to rake the risk.

“A good leader launches out before success is certain.” (Mac Anderson)  There will always be a degree of uncertainty in our walk with God – don’t let it paralyse you; understand that God doesn’t need programmes and plans and projects all carefully conceived in order to succeed – He can “save by many or by few” (14.6).

God bless you as you step out in faith!

Lessons from John the Baptist

07/10/2013 – Ever felt overlooked? Feeling in someone else’s shadow? Our insecurities, which we generally try to hide, can manifest themselves in so many ways, which often we can’t, or won’t see. Last lesson to learn from John the Baptist –

Lesson #6: he did not resent Jesus’ greater ‘success’, but on the contrary he promoted it! (John 3.26-27, 30). He lost followers to Jesus (John 1.35-37). He was not included in the initial twelve that Jesus called to be with Him – a righteous prophet overlooked in favour of some fishermen, a traitor (tax collector), a thief and a zealot!!!

But he was never resentful because he was confident in his own calling, gifting and identity. He had supreme security and confidence in God and his calling. So must we!

Cheer up! You are you, and God made you as you, wants you as you, and loves you as you! So enjoy being who you are .

At the end of the day
Ain’t nobody else
Gonna walk in your shoes
Quite the way you do.
So be at peace with yourself
Keep a spring in your heel
Keep climbing that hill
And be at peace with yourself. (Bill Fay)

God bless you, as you are, for who you are!

Lessons from John the Baptist

30/09/2013 – Wanting to do your own thing, your own way, on your own? Be careful…God won’t let you! A finger is useless unless attached to a hand…an eyeball rolling around on the floor by itself is, in fact, blind! But you may not function like the part you are connected to… John the Baptist and Jesus understood this.

Lesson #4: they were different in many ways – John lived and worked in the wilderness, Jesus went to the towns, villages and the city. People came out to John, Jesus went to people. John ate only locusts and wild honey, Jesus launched His ministry at a Wedding Party and ate regularly in people’s houses, declared all foods clean and cooked fish on a beach for His friends.

Folks, we’re different, and just because someone working with and for Jesus in the same place as you operates differently, it is not profitable to criticise, condemn or compete with them. (Galatians 5.15)

God bless you…and those God has put in the same place as you, doing it differently!

Lessons from John the Baptist

09/09/2013 – “Unity for territory” has been and always will be the word of the Lord. A house divided against itself cannot stand. John the Baptist and Jesus understood this.

Lesson #4: they agreed on many areas. They both preached the same gospel, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” They both spoke clearly about bearing good fruit, about not bearing fruit, and about hypocrisy. They used the same strong language – “brood of vipers…”

Find the areas of agreement with those you are ministering alongside in the same place, and encourage one another to press on in them. Be a help, not a hindrance! Be a support, not a stumbling block! Be a blessing, not a burden!

God bless you, and all those serving the Lord wherever you are!

Lessons from John the Baptist

02/09/2013 – We are in this together! So we must learn when it comes to serving the Lord. More to learn from John the Baptist who operated alongside another ministry (Jesus’).

Lesson #3: he was sometimes confused and puzzled! (Matthew 11.2-3) How could the One whom he had seen the Holy Spirit descend upon as a dove, who would baptise in the Holy Spirit and fire, who’s winnowing fork was in His hand possibly have got the reputation of being a friend of sinners, keeping company with the poor, marginalised, downcasts, outcasts, prostitutes and such like?

So he dared to ask Him the question!

Be prepared to be surprised by the way other ministries operate, be willing to ask them and be willing to be asked yourself by those who don’t understand why you work the way you do!

God bless you!

Lessons from John the Baptist

27/08/2013 – Ever wondered why there are other churches or ministries operating where yours is? Don’t worry – it is Jesus who is building His church and He knows what He’s doing where, when and with whom! Learn from John the Baptist who operated alongside Jesus.

Lesson #2: he knew, honoured and respected the call, gifting and identity of the parallel ministry (in His case, Jesus the Messiah). (John 1.27-36). Likewise Jesus knew, honoured and respected John’s ministry (Matthew 11.7-15).

Seek to know, honour and respect those God has put alongside you in the same place at the same time. Rivalry frustrates revival.

God bless you (and them)!

Lessons from John the Baptist

19/08/2013 – People often struggle with parallel ministries in the same place at the same time. How did John, Jesus’ forerunner, handle it so successfully? Not easy having the Messiah ministering at the same time in the same place!

Firstly, he was confident in his own identity – “I am not … I am not … I am …” (John 1.20-23). To be continued …

Be confident in your own identity and ministry, and you won’t feel threatened by another’s.

God bless you!

12/08/2013 – Rest + Relax + Refresh + Replenish = Revive!

PrettySimple Maths . God the Father did, Jesus the Son of God said we should, Elijah the prophet of God should have done. So why don’t you? And me …?! (Genesis 2.2; Mark 6.31; 1 Kings 19)

God bless you!

15/07/2013 – No-one actually witnessed the resurrection of Jesus. But the evidence shows that it happened. God is working for you even if you can’t see it…so look for the evidence. (1 Corinthians 15.4-8)

God bless you!

08/07/2013 – Dreams may take 77 years, or 30 years, or more, or less, but write yours down, and wait. Don’t let your vision die – keep believing and be patient (Habakkuk 2.2-3). It will come!

Dream big dreams, pray big prayers, and obey God.

God bless you!

01/07/2013 – When it’s time to take on a baton, take it on. When it’s time to run with a baton, run with it as fast as you can. When it’s time to pass a baton on, pass it on. There will always be another relay to run which needs you! (1 Corinthians 9.24; Hebrews 12.1)

God bless you!

24/06/2013 – In a sticky position? The Holy Spirit is like oil – He lubricates.
Feel messy? The Holy Spirit is like fire – He refines.
Exhausted? The Holy Spirit is like wind – He refreshes.
Dehydrated? The Holy Spirit is like water – He revitalises.

Be filled with Holy Spirit today and every day! Luke 11.13

God bless you!

17/06/2013 – Final thoughts about the power of the blood of Jesus –

– It brings you near to God (Ephesians 2.13): it leads you
– It keeps you near to God (John 5.56; Hebrews 10.19)): it sustains you
– It has the ear of God (Hebrews 12.24): it speaks for you
– It gives you peace (Colossians 1.13): with God
– It gives you power (Revelation 12.1): over the devil
– It gives you a promise (Hebrews 9.15): of eternal life

May the blood of Jesus work in your life always.

God bless you!

10/06/2013 – There is power in the blood of Jesus. By it you have been, or can be
– cleansed from all sin (1 John 1.7): you’re pure
– justified (Romans 5.9): you’re not guilty
– healed (1 Peter 2.24): you’re healthy

Ask for the blood of Jesus to work in you this week. More reminders next week of the power of the blood of Jesus.

God bless you!

03/06/2013 – There is power in the blood of Jesus. Through it you have been, or can be
– purchased (Acts 20.28): by God, to belong to Him
– redeemed (Ephesians 1.7): for God, to live with Him
– sanctified (Hebrews 13.12): in God, to become like Him

Ask for the blood of Jesus to work in you this week. More reminders next week of the power of the blood of Jesus.

God bless you!

27/05/2013 – James and John asked for personal glory, and got a “No.” Then Bartimaeus asked for personal mercy, and got a “Yes.” (Mark 10.35-52)

God bless you!

20/05/2013 – For anyone needing to move on – when you pray, supernatural power is released to take you to where you need to be (Psalm 46.10)

When you are still you’ll hear His voice
When you are still you will rejoice
He loves you.
As you gaze into His glorious face
You will surely end the race
In His love for you, child.

This, and the previous two posts, are verses from a song I wrote not long ago. Here is the link – I know you’ll love it.
He Loves You, by Director Peter Marchand

God bless you!

13/05/2013 – Facing a giant? The task ahead of you is never as great as the power behind you (Psalm 60.12; 108.13).  Don’t look at the giant, look at Jehovah!  God bless!

In the place of prayer you’ll be revived
In the place of prayer, sanctified
He loves you.
If you let your heart receive His grace
You will surely know your place
In His love for you, child.

06/05/2013 – When things appear to be a bit out of place, keep watching and praying (Matthew 26.41).

If you come before the throne of grace
All else will fall into place
He loves you.
If you set your heart to seek His face
You will surely know the taste
Of His love for you, child.

29/04/2013 – It is the last step that wins  (2 Corinthians 8:11).  For anyone feeling weary, keep going!  Drink from the well that never dries … He’s the all sufficient One.
God bless you!

20/04/2013 – Hoping makes waiting possible (Isaiah 49.23).  For those of you who are waiting, keep hoping…He’ll never let you down.
God bless you!

01/04/2013 – “Perils as well as privileges attend the higher Christian life. The nearer we come to God, the thicker the hosts of darkness in heavenly places. The safe place lies in obedience to God’s Word, singleness of heart and holy vigilance.When Christians speak of standing in a place where they do not need to watch, they are in great danger. Let us walk in intimate and holy confidence, yet with holy, humble watchfulness, and He will keep the feet of his saints”.  A. B. Simpson

25/03/2013 – “There are but two essential requirements: first: Has any one cheated death and proved it Second: Is it available to me Here is the complete record: Confucius’ tomb – occupied; Buddha’s tomb – occupied; Mohammed’s tomb – occupied; Jesus’ tomb – empty. Argue as you will. There is no point in following a loser.” – G. B. Hardy

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