Category Archives: Be prepared; hold on.

As we approach the last days, sound doctrine will be diluted in many churches to appease the spirits of liberalism as large in the world, and persecution of those believers who hold on to the fullness of the gospel message will intensify. We need to “build ourselves up in our most holy faith” so that we can be prepared for whatever the enemy might throw at us, and be ready at the last, a spotless bride, to receive our Lord into the Kingdom of our God and His Christ.

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!

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 Funnel

I was asking the Lord about how we should be preparing for His planned outpouring and the concurrent time of shaking that is just going to get stronger, and I felt that He showed me a funnel, like one that is used to pour liquid into the neck of a bottle. I believe He is saying this:

“Many of you are like bottles, standing on the ground with a funnel in the neck of the bottle, desiring to funnel in all that I can give you: all the power, all the gifts, all the teaching and all the provision that is available for you. But you wonder why your bottle isn’t being filled. My precious ones, do you not see that the base of your bottle is much wider than the neck, and is actually open, not sealed? You actually are the funnel. But you need to let me tip you upside down, so that as you pour out what is in you through the neck, I pour in from the base. The base is wider than the neck. What I can pour in is so much more than what you can pour out, and yes, I am waiting to release it. Have I not said? Give, and it shall be given unto you: pressed down, running over shall men pour into your lap. I am letting the world run dry so that my children can pour in my living water. See! I am already pulling out the plugs. The faith I am looking for is the faith that will allow me to tip you up and pour you out, so that I can pour in: fresh water, fresh provision. Love one another as I have loved you and gave myself for you. Let me tip you up so I can pour into you, then as you continue to pour out so I will pour in more. This is the faith that I desire to see on Earth when I come. This is how revival will happen; this is how the world will know that you are My disciples.”

I Will Build My Church


Jesus said “I will build my church, and the gates of hell so not prevail against it.“ We are in the world, but we are not of it.  Jesus was from above; we too are born from above. All good and perfect gifts come down from the Father of lights.  All that Jesus builds of his Church is from above. When the kingdom of God comes on Earth as it is in Heaven, it comes from above, and what is built is from above. What is built is not of the world, even though it is in it. What is of the world is passing away; what Christ brings into the world is eternal. As the apostle John wrote:  “The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17) Even in the rubble and devastation of war, the eternal Kingdom of God is being built in the hearts of men and women who love him. (Other references from this paragraph: Matt: 16:18, John 17:16, John 8:23, James 1:17.)

That is all solid scriptural truth, and it’s easy for me to sit in my armchair and dictate it into my iPhone, in the comfort and convenience of the Western world and its technology. But if a bomb landed on my house now as they are landing in Ukraine, and took away in seconds all that I have built over 40 years, where would my heart be?

David wrote “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” (Psa 101:2) If my house collapsed around me, I wonder if  my heart still be perfect? I think not. I don’t have to look back very far over the last 24 hours without seeing glaring imperfections in my heart. In fact there is only Jesus, whom David prophesied in that psalm, who can say in truth that He walks within His house with a perfect heart. And we are all His house; (Heb 3:6) By His Spirit He does walk among us, building His Kingdom as we give Him the building materials of our lives. As Christina Rosetti wrote in the words of the Christmas Carol, all that we can give Him is our hearts, and when we give Him our hearts, He builds with them. His house is the place where righteousness dwells, and where love, truth, peace, and joy are found.


Paul wrote: “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.“ (2 Cor 5:15) If I’m living for myself I’m not building His house, but I’m building my own. If my heart is attached to the house that I build, to my own satisfaction, my own peace and joy, and it falls down around me, I will be devastated. But If my heart is truly devoted to building His house, and I live  for Him through loving others, I will not care if mine collapses,  but I will pick my way through the rubble looking for people who have been hurt by falling stones. And as I do that His kingdom will be built in that place on Earth, even though not a stone of my house remains standing.

I am a long way from this, as I expect most of us are. But we can choose on a daily basis to build His house rather than stay huddled in our own, simply by preferring one another…

Ready to give a defense…

When we are talking about sharing our faith, we often quote the apostle Peter, who wrote “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (From 1 Peter 3:15). Many people who don’t know the peace and blessings of knowing the love of Jesus Christ have been turned off Him by well-meaning Christians who have been so focussed on the first part of this scripture that they have ignored the second: they have been given the reasons why it’s so good to know Jesus without ever having asked for them. Peter is basically saying that we should always be ready to answer questions about our faith to everyone who asks them. The challenge here, as I see it, is not so much having reasons that answer the questions that people ask, but to give people a reason to ask the questions. If they don’t ask the questions, they aren’t ready for the answers. If the hope that is in us isn’t evident to the people we are with, why should they be asking about it?

The fact is, that we tend to only quote half of the scripture. The full verse is this: “But sanctify the Lord God  in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15) Being ready with answers to questions about our faith goes alongside a mindset of holiness (having the Lord God “sanctified” in our hearts) and an attitude of meekness towards others and reverent fear towards the God who has commissioned us with this task.

I am not the greatest living example of these attitudes, but I do have a story of one occasion (there aren’t many…)  where I definitely had “sanctified the Lord God in my heart,” and as a result was asked a question about my faith which led to an opportunity to minister to some strangers. I have written about it in “Two Seconds to Midnight,” so if you have read the book you will recognise it. Here’s the extract:

“I sat down to start this chapter on January 4th; my eldest daughter Shelley, her husband and their three children had gone home two days earlier after spending ten days with us. Lisa, our middle daughter, her husband and their two-year-old were also with us for three days over Christmas. So the holiday was noisy and messy, with lots of clearing and washing up, governed very much by the routines of the children and punctuated by the sound of their unwillingness (the older ones anyway) to comply with them. Now I love my family, and Anne loves to be surrounded by them; but I also like to spend time in quiet solitude, reading, writing, birdwatching, doing photography or listening to music. As you can imagine, there is a clash of interests here, and I have to confess that at times in the past I have let my irritation at the level of mayhem in the house when my grandchildren are roaring around get the better of me. So I had really been asking the Lord to help me, and particularly to give me wisdom throughout the day if any tensions or difficulties arose, so that I didn’t get bad-tempered and spoil the atmosphere for everyone else.

In my morning quiet time I had been reading through the gospel of Matthew. About a week earlier I had been struck by Jesus’s words to a would-be follower: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head” (Matthew 8:20). The Holy Spirit showed me that as soon as things got noisy I was looking for somewhere to “rest my head”, but that this wasn’t an option for me any more than it was an option for Jesus. Instead I was to seek His peace, which as we know is “not as the world gives” (John 14:27). This verse became a great support for me in the ensuing days, and when the family had gone Anne remarked how well I had coped with everything, and (although she didn’t specifically use the word) how much more pleasant I had been on this visit than on some previous occasions. God had sent me His word as I spent time with Him reading through Matthew, and it had been living and active through my circumstances, bringing His peace into my spirit when my flesh could find no rest:  “Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.” (Prov 3:17)

But the story doesn’t end there. Anne had seen some furniture on eBay that was perfect for her plans to do some redecorating in our living room. The complication was that it was in London, and I would need to drive our company van (not my favourite driving experience) down to pick it up – three hours each way. In addition, it became clear that I needed to go immediately. It was the weekend, and I had planned to spend it recovering from the busy week before going back to work on Monday. But after Anne and I had discussed it, I was able to give the whole thing to the Lord, and I had an assurance that it was right to go. I felt a real peace about the trip which dispelled all my anxieties (I drive an automatic and the van is manual; I was worried about driving the big van through London streets; I was worried about getting too tired to drive safely, etc.), and I even started to look forward to it. A total turnaround.

Bear in mind here that I had been reading, thinking and praying about God’s peace for this chapter of the book. The furniture (it was a three-piece suite) was being sold by a Greek family. I spent six months in Greece in my backpacking days before I met Anne and had learnt to speak it fairly competently, so it was a touching point that I was able to say a few words to them in their language. Soon we were sitting down and drinking tea in the kitchen. One of the first things that the man I had been dealing with (I’ll call him John) said was how much more peaceful I seemed than other people. (Interesting, I thought. “My peace I leave you . . .”) We chatted a little more, and soon they were telling me how John’s sister had died suddenly, aged 21, less than two years ago. The mother – I don’t know her name, so I’ll call her Mama – was fighting to hold back tears as she talked. I told them about our baby Miranda who died at ten weeks. I began to feel that this visit was not just about a three-piece suite. Then Mama said something really unexpected. She said, “As soon as you came in, I saw that there was something about you, and I got goose-bumps all down my arm!” John then repeated to Mama what he had said to me earlier about the peace that he saw on me. I explained that what they felt was the presence of the Holy Spirit, and soon I was praying with them, asking the Lord to comfort them in their grief, and that they would know His presence. Then I was on my way home.” (Adapted from Two Seconds to Midnight by Bob Hext, Malcolm Down Publishing)

The chapter goes on to develop other points, but I think this is a helpful real-life example of 1 Peter 3:15 in action. Because I had sought God to put my heart right in an area where I knew my behaviour could easily become ungodly, the light of sanctification that shone in me as I submitted to the word of God also shone out of me onto other people.  I’m not aware of any other occasions when the presence of the Holy Spirit on me has given anyone goose-bumps, but one is a start… The point is this: we are called to be light in the darkness, but unless we have our light switched on nobody is going to ask us why we are shining. Being a witness is drawing others into our light; witnessing is shining a torch in their faces.

The Overbearing Invader

The map of Europe has been pencilled in by man, country divided against country. When divisions arise and nation rises against nation, all that happens, as a friend of mine said, is that the lines are etched in more deeply; and so I saw recently a newspaper report on the Ukraine crisis that declared: “The map of Europe is being re-drawn  in blood.“ If the war in Ukraine – any war, in fact – makes one thing clear, it is that only God can erase those pencil lines and bring unity; it’s only when the government is on His shoulders that will this happen, and until then nation will continue to rise against nation.

We however are citizens of another country; we are pilgrims in the world and citizens of the kingdom that is to come. We don’t belong to a nation; we belong to the kingdom of God. His Kingdom is the realm of love, peace and unity. What happens when divisions arise between us? I would not like to count the number of times that I have been in an argument with someone (usually my wife)  and told myself how completely untenable the their position is,  and have done nothing except justify where I stand (usually in the vain belief that by raising my voice I increase my powers of persuasion), convinced that ultimately they will see my point and change their ideas. I don’t see that the place where I am standing is actually on their toes and it hurts. When I keep explaining why I am sanding there, all I am doing is hurting them all the more.

God’s ways and God’s thoughts are not our ways and our thoughts. God’s way is the way of love. If what I am doing and saying makes complete sense to me but you are hurt by it, the fact that you are hurt is of far more importance to God than the fact that what I’m saying makes sense to me. It’s His righteousness that goes before us, not my rightness. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov 1:7) I don’t fear God if I say I know better than you. If one ministry is pulling down another, it is not in the Spirit of Jesus that they are ministering.

When we are about to let our overbearing attitudes crush and invade another person or another ministry let’s remember Ukraine, because it’s the same bear that is trying to work in our own hearts.

The Path of the Just (3): Wars and rumours of Wars

It is no surprise that the West seems to be moving towards war with Russia. This isn’t because of the political situation that has been developing, or the apparent belligerence of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but it’s because Jesus warned us of it 2,000 years ago at the same time as He warned us about Coronavirus:

And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.” (Matt 24: 6-7)

When we came to Christ we were born into a battlefield. Sometimes the battle is invisible, and sometimes it is visible: the same spiritual forces are stirring the hearts of men today as when Goliath taunted the Israelites, and the commander of the Lord’s army is the same person today as when Joshua met Him outside the walls of Jericho. What is important for us today is not that we react to Goliath waving his spear, but that we listen to what our Commander is saying and obey it.

First of all He tells us not to be troubled, because “these things must come to pass.” If we are praying for them not to happen we are ignoring the fact that they are already in God’s diary, which means that our prayers should be leading us in a different direction. Instead of asking God to take away what is troubling us, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us stay untroubled. As we all know, Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, because they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt 5:9). And as Jesus also said – again, we know the verse – “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.” (John 14:27.

When the wars and rumours of wars come to pass, as they must, we can remain untroubled if we let His peace rule in our lives. The quiet of His peace is louder than the shout of war; His stillness is stronger than the tumult of any storm. It is true that a peacemaker can sometimes be one who brings reconciliation between warring parties, but I think a true meaning of the word in the context of Jesus’s teaching is this: a peacemaker is one who brings others into the peace announced by the angels that God brought to Earth in the person of His Son.

So how can we be peacemakers amid the clamour of war? The key, as I have said, is to know His peace ourselves, because unless we do we have nothing to share. But knowing His peace means so much more than not being afraid, because when we are still we know that He is God (Psalm 46:10), and when we know His presence among us we can also expect to hear Him speaking His word into our lives. When we hear Him speak we can have faith for His provision, whatever privations wear might bring, because “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) When we act in faithful obedience to a word from God we do see mountains move and impossible things happening, which then strengthens our faith and helps us to keep walking along the narrow way.

And because the Way of love is narrow we can easily stray from it, so we have to walk in the close company of our Good Shepherd, who guides and comforts us through the valley of the shadow of death. If we are cringing in terror ourselves, we will find it difficultreach out to bring peace to another; if we aren’t trusting the God who feeds the ravens and clothes the lilies of the field for our provision, we cannot participate in Heaven’s economy by meeting someone else’s need when our Commander calls us to do so. At Jericho Joshua asked the Lord whose side He was on, and, like every other verse I have quoted here, most of us will know what He said. It was:  “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” (Joshua 5:14) Jesus doesn’t take sides in our battles: He brings us the peace emanating from the Father’s love that He won for us at the cross, and He also asks us to pass it on to others. When the rumours of war are loud and the storm is raging, uncertainty screams at us from all the media: that is when the certainties of faith are our anchor. We don’t hold onto the anchor chain with hands that can be ripped from it by every passing wave, but by the nails that held Jesus to the cross.

When Jesus began to make it clear that He would soon be leaving them, Thomas was uncertain. He said: “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5) Jesus replied: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” When we have the certainty of knowing that we are no more going to be separated from the anchor chain than Jesus was going to come down from the cross, we can trust Him enough for our feet to stay on His path. David wrote:

“I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy,
For You have considered my trouble;
You have known my soul in adversities
And have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy;
You have set my feet in a wide place.”
(Psalm 31: 7-8)

The child of God brings His peace when the world is rife with rumours of war. It is when we stay on the Narrow Way that our feet are set in a wide place.