All posts by bobhext

Prepare Ye the way the Lord! Make His paths straight.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.“ (Colossians 3:17).

I’ve just come back from a mission trip to Liberia in West Africa, a nation destroyed by civil war in the 1990s and more recently ravaged again by Ebola. Our team spent a week preaching the gospel, doing leadership training, working with women,  children and teenagers, and holding medical clinics. There were eight of us in the team, each with different skills and specialisms, which we all used to one purpose, which was to share the love of Jesus wherever we went, in word and deed. We had a full schedule, and our trip was focused and fruitful. We used different ministries effectively. I think we could say, with some confidence that it was a fulfilment of the injunction of Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

I have mentioned this, not to draw attention to our ministry, but to use it as a model of what we are called to be doing all the time. We are not our own, but were bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20), commissioned to be on mission all the time wherever we are. We have different gifts and ministries, but they are all devoted to one goal, which is for the body of Christ to become “a perfect man“ (Ephesians 4:13) and for the Kingdom Of God to come on Earth as we live through Him and do everything in His name according to Colossians 3:17.

If someone wants to do something in my name, I would want it to be done as if I were doing it; if not, I would not want my name on it. To do something “in Jesus name,“ not does not mean just to use the phrase like a rubber stamp on all our prayers and proclamations, but to live and speak in such a way that Jesus is happy to have His name on what we say and do.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes: “For us there is one God, the father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.“ (1 Cor 8:6).  If we live through Him, that means He’s touching everything we do, and everything we do can be a path from heaven to earth.  If  He isn’t touching everything we do, we aren’t living through Him.

One of the biggest problems in Liberia is the lack of roads. One of the greatest empires in the history of mankind was the roman empire. The Romans built a civilisation by building the roads first: once the roads were down, people and supplies could travel to build and strengthen communities. Without the roads, communities in Liberia remain weak and isolated.

Jesus is coming back soon: how well are we building His roads?  The gospel is being preached to all nations: the Queens’s evangelistic funeral service was attended by the heads (or their representatives) of all but two of the world’s nations, and now the TV series “The Chosen” is being watched by millions. End time prophecy is being fulfilled, the world is going up in smoke , global warming has already gone past tipping point, and no policy or man can fix it. Our call is to prepare the Way of the Lord and make His paths straight: this is the work of the Holy Spirit through us. Our lives are His paths: every day, every moment, is an opportunity for Him to travel from heaven through us. What are His paths in our lives like: straight, like Roman roads, ready for him to bring his supplies at a moment’s notice; or are they potholed unsurfaced tracks that leave His kingdom unfinished and His people impoverished and incomplete?

So many of us are full of knowledge, but knowledge puffs up and does nothing to build the roads. Only love edifies. Whatever we do in love will have His name on it, and nothing else will make His paths straight.

What made Jesus angry?

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:13-14)

We don’t often read about Jesus getting angry. We know what He thinks about the Pharisees and how He addresses them, and what He thought about the money-changers in the Temple, but where else do we see His anger provoked?

We see His anger in Mark 10:14. Children come to Jesus, and the disciples turn them away. How did the son of God react? Anger. “Do NOT turn them away!” (My emphasis, but we can imagine him expressing himself like that), He said, and went on to famously teach: “assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom Of God as a little child will by no means into it.“ (v. 15). After declaring this kingdom principle, He received the children in His arms, blessed them, and laid hands on them.

Why did Jesus get angry? I don’t think it’s just because He loved the children and His disciples were hindering them: I think it’s more than that. His declaration was that we need to be like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven, and it was the very attitudes that keep us out of the kingdom that were turning the children away.

As a bit of an aside, the context of this passage is interesting: it is sandwiched between Jesus’s teaching on divorce and the story of the rich, young ruler. Sex and money. Probably the two biggest preoccupations of adult life. Most of the cares and pleasures of the world, the thorns that choke the seed of the kingdom, have their roots in one or the other of them. In between the two, Jesus demonstrates the good ground of entry into the the kingdom of heaven: we come as children, with neither of them on our minds; He receives us in His arms, we receive His blessing, and finally, He lays hands on us and we receive the Holy Spirit so that we can truly come of age…

But what made Him angry? I think it’s not so much because our own “thorns” are keeping us out, but because we mistake our thorns for fruit. His arms are open wide to receive us. He has come to save the world by giving us free entry to the Kingdom Of God. He knows all the things that stand in the way of the door to the kingdom. And He sees those who cannot enter in preventing those who could, because they have totally misunderstood the conditions for entry. It’s the same anger that He displays towards the teachers of the law, who don’t enter themselves and who stop others from coming in. (Matt 23: 13-14) I think He is angry at the self righteousness of sin that keeps us away from the righteousness of God, the justification of self that stands in the way of justification by grace. It’s when we think know better than others that we actually know the least of all: I think the Bible shows us that if anything makes Jesus cross, it’s this.

To be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Eph 4:23) is to renew the childlike attitudes we had before the thorns began to grow. God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. It’s actually when we think we’re being the most grown-up that we are probably being the least mature. Like Benjamin button in the 2008 film, we need to be ageing backwards to grow up in the kingdom of God: we need to take to the cross what made Him so cross, and become like the baby in the manger.

Happy child-like Christmas, everyone!

Spiritual weapons of warfare

I have been hearing a lot about being a warrior lately: spiritual warfare is a term all believers are familiar with. Two of the principals of spiritual warfare that we know from Scripture are that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12)  and “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds…”(2 Cor 10: 3-4) The text from Ephesians introduces the passage on the armour of God and the need to “stand against the wiles of the devil,” and the passage in the letter to the Corinthians is written in a context of matters pertaining to Church discipline. But I think it’s appropriate that we look beyond these contexts to consider some principles behind the matter of spiritual warfare. In particular, what are “carnal” weapons, and what are the weapons that are “mighty in God?” Or to put it differently, when are we fighting our enemy in the flesh, and when are we fighting in the Spirit?

The place of peace

The most important aspect of any battle is not the clamour of the fight, but the peace that is won. When Christ came as an infant, the angels announced peace on Earth. Jesus promised us “peace, not as the world gives.“ (John 14:27) The psalmist exhorted us “to seek peace and pursue it,“ (Ps 34:14) and Paul urged the Romans “pursue those things that make for peace.” (Romans 14:19) As has often been said, we may well do battle with principalities and powers in the heavenly realms, but Jesus has already won the war at Calvary. So one thing at least is obvious from these scriptures: peace is already ours, and so we carry it into our battles with us. This peace is neither worldly nor carnal,  but is brought to us from Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Our peace is actually one of our main weapons of spiritual warfare, and all the protective items of the Ephesians six armour of God help us to keep it in our hearts. Indeed, if we are not operating out of the place of peace, we are not moving in the victory Jesus has won for us, and we are not going to see our enemies vanquished and our giants fall.

Gentleness

Proverbs 15:1 says “a gentle answer turns away wrath,“ and James writes: “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God “ (James 1:20) I have referred to this scripture elsewhere, and pointed out that the Greek word “orge,” translated as “wrath,“ is not limited to anger but to any uncontrolled outburst of passion. Jesus cast out demons “with a word,“ not by shouting at them. This is how He is described prophetically by Isaiah:

Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.

He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.

A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.

He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law.”
(Isaiah 42: 1-4)

He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. Yet I’ve been to a couple of conferences recently where the voices of some of the speakers could definitely “be heard in the street.” I’ve certainly done my share of shouting at demons and generally raising my voice, as if my carnal loudness, or even any display of human emotion, could somehow demolish a spiritual stronghold. We do need to use spiritual gifts to identify the enemies that we are fighting against, but to go on and win the battles we need to fight in the same spirit as the Christ of Isaiah 42, not with raised fists and human “orge”. We cannot fight Goliath with the armour of Saul. It’s not by might, nor by power.

Building the church

Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
” (Isaiah 9:7)

Jesus said that he would build His church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. The increase of His government and peace will come as He builds His church. Paul writes “let us pursue the things which make for peace, and by which one may build up another.” (Romans 14:19). So if Jesus is going to build His church through us, the spiritual weapons of our warfare must be the ones Jesus used. He said: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” The last lesson of the Jesus Christ 3-year Discipleship Training Programme was not “How to attain Third Heaven Revelation,” but “How to wash each others’ feet;” not “How to build your ministry,” but “How to build up one another.” These are the weapons of warfare that are mighty in God: the peace and the humility of Jesus, a servant heart, and love for one another. With them we work with the Holy Spirit to build the church in the face of the gates of hell.

The Battle Plan

I could go on. We fight the enemy of lack by giving: “Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.” Luke 6:38) We fight the enemy of destructive emotions with kindness and tender hearts: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph 4: 31-32) In fact Jesus laid out the battle plan for His warriors when He gave us the Sermon on the Mount, contrasting the light of Heaven against the darkness of the world. And end-time revival will be led by those whose feet stand securely on this Mount and no other, because it is when the Light of Life is seen burning in our hearts that the darkness is pushed back and ground is taken for the Kingdom of God.

The prayer of a fruitful apostle

I’ll end with a prayer. Not mine, but from someone who was one of the greatest apostles of the church age, although he never identified himself by his fivefold ministry title.  Christianity had become a ruin of corruption, and Jesus called a young man from a wealthy family to turn away from the life of luxury he had known and rebuild His church. The young man committed himself to the call and gave his life to preaching the gospel and establishing communities of believers. The weapons of his warfare were not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.  His name was Francis of Assisi.

This was his prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

“Oh lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise” (Psalm 51, verse 15)

A couple of weeks ago I watched tens of thousands of starlings flocking together,  and saw how they can represent the unity of the Body of Christ. The other evening I walked down the road and watched one starling singing from a chimney pot. It was captivating. I was actually in Spain, and I noticed how different this bird’s song was from the ones at home. Although they do have a lot of sounds in common, each starling has its unique song:  they vary according to the area they live in and what local sounds they pick up and mimic. And this one was definitely singing in Spanish!

So why starlings again? Because God is calling forth the voice of his people. Each one of us in the Body of Christ has a unique voice. A voice might be for a region or for a nation or for the church, for a workplace or the family, but it will be different from any other voice in the body; and when we open our lips and express anything that God has given us with the voice that is our own, it is to the praise of His glory.

However many of Gods starlings are not opening their lips. They may have been saved for years, yet they still don’t know what their voice is – they literally don’t know the sound of it. And yet the Lord wants an expressive people, a church who will declare His word, minister His truth, share His love, and praise His name. Jesus sent us all to preach the gospel. Most of the gifts of the Spirit needs to be put into words. God is a verbal God, and he wants a verbal people. A verbal people is a powerful people.

This is where the five-fold ministries come in. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are people who have found their voice. God has given these gifts to the church to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)  1 Corinthians 14:26 says “each one has a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church is built up.”  Paul writes to the Romans: “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” One of the main goals of the church that we find in the New Testament is the edification (building up) of disciples so that they can come to maturity.

But over the centuries, the enemy has silenced the voices of God’s people and the church has not been built up the way that God intends. Whether we operate in a five-fold ministry or not, we need to help His starlings to find their voices, however we can, whenever and wherever we can. We need to equip the saints for works of ministry so that the whole flock is opening its lips and declaring the praises of God, and we need to share this vision with everyone we can. There are many church leaders that need to hear this message: it won’t always be received, particularly if religious or other controlling spirits are over the church, but it must be spoken.

Finally,  we must never stop listening to the starlings, because we are only starlings ourselves. And when everyone has found their voice, the whole church is built up. What is the result? Ephesians 4:13 tells us clearly: “We all come to the unity of faith and to the knowledge of the son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Once that has been achieved, the bride is ready for the groom.

They shall be one…

A murmuration of starlings – click this link for the 2 min video

The video shows a murmuration of starlings gathering to roost for the night. It is only a portion of the 200,000 or so that will have gathered altogether. You can see waves and waves of birds flying over to join the group. They continued to fly in for probably 20 or 30 minutes. Below them, flying backwards and forwards over the water is a group of other birds (lapwings) which for some reason known only to the birds seem to want to join in the dance. It is an amazing spectacle, and I have felt the Lord speak through it, to say something like this…

The massed groups of starlings represent the body of Christ. In these days, the Lord is gathering together all of those who will flock to him, who know the freedom of movement in the spirit, and to choose to belong to one another and love one another as they belong to Christ and love Christ. God is calling His body away from the groups and identities and differences that we have subscribed to, to join together in a flow and movement orchestrated by His Spirit that the world will see and wonder at. Those who have joined the flock have died to self and are part of its flow and pattern as it moves as one.  There are no individuals who stand out, no leaders pointing the way or driving on the groups: they all move together in perfect unity in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This is a work that has started and is gathering momentum as more and more of His children move into the work that God is doing, which is a work of beauty and love and unity.

This is how our light will come as darkness descends on the Earth.

“Who are these who fly like a cloud,
And like doves to their roosts?

Surely the coastlands shall wait for Me;
And the ships of Tarshish 
will come first,
To bring your sons from afar,
Their silver and their gold with them,
To the name of the LORD your God,
And to the Holy One of Israel,
Because He has glorified you.”
(Isaiah 60: 8-9)

You have an Anointing from the Holy One

It’s all about the river. The deeper we go the more we know of God’s provision and his power. Either we die to self or we don’t: either the flesh is buried with Jesus or it’s walking. Either we are yoked to Jesus in the spirit, in resurrection life, or we are tethered to self, holding on to our own life instead of losing it. I have been thinking recently about “the anointing,” and how we approach the subject in our various church groups. Belonging as I do to a pentecostal/charismatic stream, it is a word I hear and use a lot. Here are some conclusions that I feel that I am coming to.

A lot of teaching today, especially in prophetic circles, would seem to suggest that there is some sort of historical timeline of levels of anointing that God pours out on the church. I have believed this myself. But I no longer think that it is true. We only need to read the accounts of some of the lives of the Saints in the middle ages and the miracles that they walked in to know that full-blown, high octane, resurrection power is not a manifestation of God’s glory that He has reserved for our generation, but is actually something that has been covered by the successive cloaks of religion, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the spread of industrialisation which are only now, in the 21st-century, finally being seen to wear very, very thin. Just as he did with the Amorites, (Gen 15:16) God has allowed – and still is allowing, (I think) for just a little while longer, the sin of civilisation to come to its fulness before invading it with the kingdom that his old covenant people foreshadowed.

The living sacrifice
1 John 2:20 says this: “but you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” Anointed teaching – that is teaching from the spirit of God and not the mind of man – brings revelation of truth that the Holy Spirit has already given to us but which we haven’t yet accessed with our renewed minds. The Spirit of Truth brought the full download with Him when He came into our hearts: He hasn’t changed or added anything to who He is because He is already the fullness of truth. Growing in maturity in the spirit is becoming more like Jesus, and since the flesh and the spirit are at war with one another this growth is only achieved when the flesh is taken to the cross – whether we are talking about negative though-patterns, self-centred annoyances, ungodly desires, or whatever else is lurking there to trip us upon our walk with Christ. And as we grow more like Jesus, the greater the revelation of the Spirit of Truth within us.  It’s not rocket science.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 1:2)

We know from 1 Cor 2: 16 that “we have the mind of Christ,” yet we also know that God’s thoughts aren’t our thoughts. I think it’s as we continually “present (our) bodies a living sacrifice” and are not “conformed to this world,” that we are “transformed by the renewing of (our) mind,” and revelation of what is in the mind of Christ becomes part of our own thinking. To put it another way, I think God’s thoughts become ours by revelation as we learn to walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh. The mind of Christ and the anointing that we have from the Holy One are what we were born into the Kingdom with: we access more of them as we mature in Christ and “come…to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph 4:13)

Children of Promise
Of his countrymen “according to the flesh,” the Israelites, Paul writes “to whom pertain the adoption, glory, covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises,” (Romans 9:4) Yet not even this rich heritage is qualification for kingdom citizenship. So how much more are we, “the children of the promise“ (Rom 9:8) born into when we turn to Christ? I think that there is enough evidence in the Word of God that has been delivered to us to show that we don’t have to wait for something special to come from Heaven before the Church moves in true revival power. As darkness and light are separated out in these times of shaking and we, the children of the promise, learn to trade in the currency of faith and not the currency of credit, we will be seen increasingly to be standing “in a broad place” (Ps 18:19) by those who are slipping off the narrowing ledges of security that the world affords, and they will want to join us. This is a new experience for most of us living in the West; not so of course for those brothers and sisters in the persecuted Church for whom it has been the norm for decades.

We have all read what Paul wrote to the Philippians:

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. (Phil 4: 13-15)

For two thousand years the Church has been growing up, and now it seems that we are starting to come to maturity, individually and collectively. It’s time to put away childish things, and it’s time to realise that we don’t need to wait for Christmas, because we have already been given the presents.  When we have less of Earth in our lives, whether by choice or necessity, we will start to see more of Heaven: the bride will be ready for the Groom, and we will see His kingdom come.

More than Conquerors

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
 
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
(Rom 8: 33-35)

Do you know what it is to be a hypernikao?

Hypernikao is the Greek word translated as “more than a conqueror.” This passage from Romans is familiar to all of us, so much so that, if you’re like me, you pass over the full significance of the term “more than a conqueror” when you read it now. I would say that I read the words with my human mind and think ”Yes, Jesus has the victory, there’s nothing to worry about, God will look after me if things go pear-shaped…” etc. It’s all true, but I would say that they are my thoughts, not God’s. And if they are my thoughts, they won’t stir real faith,  “the faith of God.” (Mark 11:22) They are no more than intellectual assent to my Christian set of beliefs, as opposed to the “substance of things hoped for” that is the definition of true faith (Hebrews 11:1). In fact they are quite likely to melt away in the face of tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword. Although God in His mercy will bring deliverance, because He is our loving Father and He is our shield, is that His best for us? Wouldn’t we rather have the faith that sees mountains move, that will “run  against a troop,” (Psalm 18:19) or “put a thousand to flight” (Joshua 23:10)? Because this is the purpose that we are called to.

The sense of hypernikao is not just more than a conqueror in the human sense of, say, twenty being more than ten, or even an Olympic athlete being more of a sprinter than me. The impact of a sledgehammer cracking a nut is nearer the truth. A different order of reality is coming into play. “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” (Rom 8:11). Hypernikao is a whole lot “more. ” Death was the nut; the Holy Spirit was the sledgehammer, and He is the One giving life to our mortal bodies. These are God’s thoughts on our status as more than conquerors.

The world is already moving into the time of separation. Deep darkness is moving across the nations, and our light has come. It is time to arise. (Isaiah 60) If we are going to arise as opposed to just being rescued we will need our light to push back the darkness, so that those in the darkness can see hypernikao in action. That is when “The Gentiles shall come to (our) light, and kings to the brightness of (our) rising.” (Isaiah 60:3). We need to wake up, trim our wicks, and fill our lamps with oil, looking forward to the return of the King instead of looking back to the relative stability of the Western world as it was before Covid broke us free from the security of our moorings and sent us rocking into the waves of an uncharted sea. Those moorings have gone; we won’t be going back there. To use the words God spoke to Jeremiah, we’ve reached the floodplains of the Jordan; it’s time to start running against the horses. (Jeremiah 12:5)

Persecution, famine, sword and the rest  are actually what is coming. They may be tough nuts to crack, but we have the sledgehammer.

“If My words abide in you…”

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:7)

Jesus tells us clearly that our fruitfulness comes out of answered prayers that are rooted in the truth of His word. If we want the Father to do what we ask we need God’s words to “abide” in us, meaning “to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure”. We are told (1 Corinthians 13) that the things that remain are faith, hope and love. We also know, because Jesus tells us, that even when heaven and earth pass away, “every jot and tittle” of the Law – His Word – will remain (Matthew 5:18). If His words to us are Spirit and Life, then the essential qualities of that remaining life are faith, hope and love, because these, and these only, are the “things that remain”. If we walk in the Spirit, these are the qualities that will manifest in us. We cannot walk in the Spirit unless we walk in the word. If the life of His words abides in us, the life of His words will also come out of us. By THIS – not by anything else – we will be His disciples. The yoke that He calls us to take upon ourselves, the yoke that keeps us close to Him, is formed out of all the words that He speaks into our lives.

On Earth as in Heaven
Psalm 119 is a treasure trove of truths about God’s word. Just to pick two jewels: it is settled in heaven (verse 89); even perfection has its limits, but God’s commands have none (verse 96). A cursory reading of just a few verses makes one truth absolutely clear: God’s word is the perfect expression of heavenly perfection and power. Nothing on earth can even begin to approach it in beauty, truth and majesty. It is imbued with the very atmosphere of heaven; and that is why the Word can only be brought to life by the Emissary of heaven who dwells within us: the Holy Spirit. But once the Holy Spirit has brought God’s word to life in our hearts, there is one thing that does connect this capsule of heaven to the mortal realm of earth, and that is our obedience. As we walk in our yoke, our obedience grounds God’s word on earth. When we do what Jesus says, the creative power of the Word is released into the world. It is our obedience that brings heaven down to earth.

The things that remain
The challenge in all this is, of course, the extent to which we allow His word to have complete authority in our lives. “Oh dear – I let the yoke slip there – good and proper. And there! And there as well! Am I still His disciple? Oh, now I’ve really blown it. May as well give up altogether . . .” How easy it could be to let the devil whisper to us along those lines and lead us away from our commitment to the Lord. Fortunately God knew that. He knew it before the beginning of time when He prepared those works we were created to walk in (Ephesians 2:10), and in His mercy He has told us what to do: quite simply to “be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain” (Revelation 3:2). This message is given as a warning to the church at Sardis, which He says has a reputation for being alive, yet is dead – because the “things that remain”, He says, are “ready to die”. To the Sardis in all of us, He says, “Wake up! Get into My word! Let faith, hope and love arise in you as you do so! Be My disciples!” The promise held out to those who rise to the challenge begins with the words: “They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy . . . ” (Revelation 3:4).

Jesus longs for us all to walk with Him in white, yoked to Him by the truth and power of His word. If we do, we also walk in the promise that He held out to the church at Philadelphia: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:8).

(Originally published in Two Seconds to Midnight.”)

The Lens of Tears

The Lens of Tears

“Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him,  “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).” (John 20: 8-16)

What, Why and Who
The disciples went away to their own homes, but Mary stood outside tomb weeping. We don’t have a film of the scene, but as far as we can imagine from the text, Mary had gone to tell Peter and John that Jesus’s body wasn’t there; Peter and John ran ahead to the tomb to see what had happened, and Mary went back to the tomb with them. We know that John outran Peter, and it seems like they both outran Mary – although since she had run to find them there is nothing to suggest that she ambled back. We don’t know how far they had come or if the men were still in the tomb when Mary arrived, but I think we are safe to assume that they are all within roughly the same time-frame, and there are some things that we do know about the three (human) characters in this scene: Peter and John both saw what had happened and left again, and John not only saw that Jesus had gone, but “believed” –  not just believed that He really had risen from the dead, but presumably believed in Him as the Son of God. And we know that Mary was weeping. Peter saw and recognised what had happened; John saw what had happened and understood why; but Mary was weeping because of who it had happened to. “They have taken away my Lord!” she cried through her tears.

They had taken away her Lord. She said this to two angels sitting by the graveclothes of Christ. Was she so distraught that she didn’t realise that they were angels, or was she so distraught that she didn’t care? Again, we don’t know; but what we do know is that she saw them, and the two men didn’t. Why were they there? Again, we don’t have an answer to that because we don’t need one, but it isn’t wild speculation to assume that the angels had also been there when Peter and John came into the tomb: they had probably been there ever since the dead body of Jesus had been brought in. Mary saw them, then she turned round and saw Jesus.

The Lens of Tears
Mary was weeping because she loved Jesus, and now her last remaining contact with Him, His dead body, had gone. She was crying over her lost relationship with Jesus, and not even the sight of the angels impacted the emotions in her heart. I believe that she saw the angels because she was seeking Jesus with a heart full of love that had just burst: “Where is my Lord?” was her one thought. She was looking through a lens of tears, and through that lens it was Mary who saw the angels that the two men missed, and not only did she see the angels, but when she turned round she saw the Lord she was seeking.

I have never knowingly seen an angel, although I know people who have, including Anne. I would love to, as I would love to see more supernatural manifestations of any sort. But I think this passage may give us a clue as to why perhaps many of us don’t see as much as we would like to in the Spiritual realm. Maybe, like Peter and John in this passage, we accept it too easily and just “go back to our own homes” when the person of Jesus isn’t a reality in our lives, instead of being more like Mary, who stayed by the tomb and broke her heart because He wasn’t there.

Is everything just chance – or is there a plan?

This is the story of how I met the Living God.

My (second) marriage was already falling apart. I’d gone to a church because it had beautiful grounds and I thought I’d find some sort of peace there. Christianity didn’t interest me; Jesus was a pretty two-dimensional Sunday school figure who lived in children’s illustrations. The priest was talking about “The God of Love and the Love of God”. I was looking out of the window into the gardens, and thinking more about the love of women, something along the lines of “If we split up there are plenty more fish in the sea, and I could see our daughter at weekends – it won’t be the end of the world…”

Suddenly I saw something I’d never seen before: all my string of relationships (including the present one) lined up like dominoes, and all falling over. Each of them had something in common: me. I realised that the next relationship would go the same way as all the rest, and I would be without love. There may be plenty more fish in the sea, but for me the sea would always be empty. Being without love was the one thing in life that I could not face. Meanwhile this guy in a black dress was standing in front of me, talking about Jesus loving me so much he went to the cross and died for my sins.

I didn’t really understand about Jesus “dying for my sins”, but I understood about being loved. I shut my eyes and said something like this: “Jesus, if you really are there and you love my like this bloke says you do, I’ll have to have your love, because I can’t live without any at all!”

The next moment it was as if Jesus himself was standing next to me with His arm round my shoulder.  It was so real that I felt like I would have seen Him if I had opened my eyes. It was as if I was being filled from head to toe with golden, liquid light. A voice came into my head, saying, “I have always loved you, and I will never leave you nor forsake you”.

I came out of that church feeling that I had hope and a future. I didn’t say anything to my wife though, in case she said “That’s fine, then – you’ve got Jesus now, so you don’t need me…” Two weeks later, though, she had a deep personal experience herself of the reality of Jesus, and, after considerable prevarication, we joined a church and started on a new life as Christians.

That was nearly forty years ago. Life has not been easy, but it has been fruitful: we have three lovely children and six  grandchildren, and run a successful business that has won several awards. One of our children works in the business with us. Over the years, in our lives and in the lives of many other people that we know, we have seen this living God at work supernaturally to bring peace, healing, resources, and victory over impossible circumstances. Not always, to be sure, and sometimes not when you feel like you need the intervention the most; and we will all have a lot of questions for Him when we get to heaven. But knowing God is like listening to an Orchestra where you only might only get to hear a few of the notes, but those chords are so real and so amazing that you know they all belong to one piece of music, led by one master conductor. You want to hear more, and most of all you want to get to know the conductor.

The Kingdom of God
If you’ve already met the Conductor this next bit will be familiar territory for you: you can stop here, and I hope you enjoyed my story! But if you haven’t – please read on, because it could change your life.

I didn’t understand it at the time, other than that I knew I had met God for myself, but that first experience was the Holy Spirit flooding me with the love of Jesus.  One of the fundamentals of biblical Christianity is that, while Jesus died on the cross, rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven until such time as He returns (and the way the world is going it looks like that could be soon!), He sent the Holy Spirit to the Church – His body on the earth today – to carry on what He started with His original disciples. When we meet to worship on a Sunday, we expect the Holy Spirit to speak and work through different people, just like in the early church, touching people’s lives and bringing change – bringing more of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Eternal Life
This is God’s plan: sin (that “domino effect”) came into the world, bringing death to everyone; Jesus defeated it by accepting the cosmic punishment for the sin of all humanity, bringing forgiveness and eternal life to all who accept Him. What is eternal life? When Jesus prayed to God,  His Father, just before He was crucified, He said this: “This is everlasting life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Him whom You sent, Jesus Christ. “ (John 17:3) Eternal life is knowing God, and we find it, and Him, in Jesus. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No-one comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6). At this point what you are reading becomes more than just information to store away, because you can become part of that plan right now. You can meet the Master Conductor yourself, whoever you are and whatever you’ve done. You can start a new life in relationship with God. You decide to live differently (that’s what repentance is), and He guides you and helps you. Here is a simple prayer you can pray before you do anything else. It’s called “The sinner’s prayer:”

Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Saviour and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life.

The Real Giant Leap
Wow. If you prayed that from your heart, lights went on in Heaven for you. It was the first step of your new life, and the most important step you’ll ever make, because you’ve just stepped from darkness to light; from death to life. You have stepped into a relationship with God. Jesus came to mend the relationship between us and our Father who created all things, including you and me. You may well have prayed The Lord’s Prayer in the past, but now you’ve met the person you were talking to; because when we meet Jesus we meet the Father too. Never mind the moon landing; that was the real Giant Leap. And you’ve just joined millions of other people who have prayed those words, because that was the prayer that Billy Graham used at his crusades. Now of course you’ve got to keep walking! Where you stand is a great start, because you are now in the light of eternal life instead of the darkness of death and sin, but you don’t want to stand still for the rest of your life, do you?

Now What?
There’s loads to understand of course – that won’t ever stop. But start by reading the Bible –  begin with the New Testament for now, which is the story and teachings of Jesus and His first disciples (you’ve just become one). Start talking to your new-found, long lost Father about the important things in your life (that is prayer), and ask Jesus to lead you to other Christians and to show you a church to join. You can’t really be a Christian on your own: we need each other. God is a God of relationships. If you see an “Alpha Course” (an international non-denominational introduction to the Christian faith) advertised anywhere, join it. They are really good, lots of churches run them, and they are the real deal.

The Connection
One last thing. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is and has always been in Heaven. The Son, Jesus, came to Earth and went back to Heaven, and the Holy Spirit came from Heaven and is now on Earth. They are all part of each other, and it’s the Holy Spirit who connects Heaven to Earth in His people, the church. Ask Jesus to fill you with the Holy Spirit. There is no textbook description of what you will experience when you do, because we are all different, and it may be nothing straight away; but one thing is sure: He will start to change your life. It’s through the Holy Spirit that you will start to make sense of the Bible; your desires and appetites may well change; you will find the ability to do things you couldn’t do before, (including maybe using a heavenly language called speaking in tongues, and possibly other spiritual gifts – you can read about them in the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14); and above all you will start to find that you can love others where you couldn’t before. Because now that you have the love of God inside your own heart, the most important thing for you to do is to share it. Sharing the love of God is what it is all about.

That’s it. I do hope you’ve prayed that prayer. If you have, I’ll see you in Heaven, if not before. Meanwhile, there’s nothing more exciting in Life than when the conductor points His baton at you and says: “It’s your turn!”

Footnote: If you want to use this material to help others to find God’s plan for their lives, it’s available as a pdf file in the “Free Downloads” section.

Second footnote: I go into more detail about my conversion, as well as other significant moments in my life as a disciple of Jesus, in my book “Wheat in the Winepress.”