Category Archives: Discipleship and witness

The world will know that we are Jesus’s disciples by our love; but Jesus didn’t tell us that this is how we make disciples. The New Testament model for making disciples is to glorify the Father by doing His works in the name of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are called to show the world the Triune God in action.

The prayer of the unprofitable servant. 

“So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded [a]him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ “ (Luke 17: 6-10)

The parable of the unprofitable servant was the Lord’s answer to His disciples’ request to increase their faith. We can read it as saying that increased faith comes from increased obedience, but the context that we are given is far less straightforward than such a simple equation: real faith, even as tiny as a grain of mustard seed, will accomplish impossible acts. Even a tree that has no ears will obey a command that is given out of faith, when that faith is itself an obedient response to a command from Above.

Every believer wants to increase their faith, and we all long to command those mulberry trees to be planted in the sea. Whether we spiritualise the image or take it literally, we want to see God’s hand transforming our landscape. And all the while that this desire motivates us, we can be wrestling with another question: what is it that God has asked me to do, so that I can obey Him?

If we know our Bibles at all, we can quote any number of Bible verses that give us the answer, and many of them will be found in the writings of John: if we want to obey Jesus, we love one another. Simple. The trouble is that obedience to the New Commandment isn’t of itself a guarantee of progress along the pathway of faith: the imperative to love can be a guiding principle in the Christian life without being a requirement for mustard-seed faith, and while this guiding principle is fundamental – there is no Christian life without it –  it is not enough alone to equip us to “be strong and do exploits” as promised in Daniel 11:32. Love is the only good ground where the seeds of faith will be fruitful, but the seeds have to come from the Sower as well. The question is, how do we get those seeds?

Again, many answers come readily to mind, because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and His sheep hear His voice in many ways. But about a week ago I said something to the Lord that I have never said before. It was this: “Lord, are there any jobs you want me to do today?” I suppose you could say it was the prayer of the unprofitable servant. And there was. It wasn’t a miracle on the streets, and no-one fell to their knees and said ‘What must I do to be saved?’ It was just (just?) a simple manifestation of our Heavenly Father’s lovingkindness. This is what happened.

I was on a birding mini-break, driving out of a pub where I had had lunch, and was flagged down by an elderly lady walking up the road who asked me if I knew how far we were from a certain village. I checked on Google maps and told her, “Two miles.” She was devastated: she actually lived there and had gone for a walk, but had taken a wrong turning and got lost. When I offered to drive her home her gratitude was palpable. I was able to tell her that I had asked the Lord that very morning if He had any jobs for me, and this was clearly one – so He was the one to thank for sending me to rescue her! She said “I will!” She was a Christian herself, and told me that she had been at church the previous day to celebrate Ascencion Day. We chatted a little more on the short journey, and she arrived home thoroughly blessed, and with a story to tell about how much the Good Shepherd cared for her by sending a “good Samaritan” (this is what she called me) to rescue her when she was lost.

I was so encouraged by this unexpected answer to my  prayer that I asked the Lord the same question the following morning. “Is there anything you want me to do today, Lord?” I said. I was spending the day at RSPB Minsmere, which is a lovely nature reserve in Suffolk (Google it if you’re interested). I arrived early and saw no-one else around (birder’s bonus!) until I was walking along a path and saw a chap behind me looking with binoculars into a field that a rare protected species is known to frequent. I waited for him to catch up. “Did you see the stone-curlews?” I asked. “Nah,” he replied, and we fell into step and started chatting birders’ talk. We were heading for the same hide, and went in together. As we both watched the birds through our optics – me with my camera and zoom lens, he with his binoculars – we soon started chatting about ourselves. He was about 15 years younger than me, but looked fairly grizzled by life’s mill. We warmed to each other, beyond the pages of our field guides, and defences came down. His name was Bert.

Bert told me he used to be a new age traveller, living off-grid for years in the 1980’s. He was steeped in new age spirituality, actually calling himself a “born-again pagan.” Before I met Jesus in 1983 I too was a “new ager,” so we had many touching points in our pasts; and before long I was not only sharing the gospel in the context of my testimony in a depth of detail that he could identify with, but was suggesting that he should read the gospel of John and revisit the account of Jesus with fresh eyes. And all of this was happening as we looked out from the bird hide and shared what we were seeing. The conversation went something like this: “Look! Little ringed plover there on the mudflat! Actually my background is Catholic”– “Yes, got it! Look at him running along the water’s edge. I love those little birds. But if you read John you get the spiritual truth behind the packaging of religion. You need to know Jesus for yourself. There’s a black-tailed godwit by the reeds – have you got it?” “Yes, I can see it. Beautiful male. It’s Matthew Mark, Luke and John, isn’t it?”

And so it went on. It was one of the warmest and most authentic evangelistic conversations I have ever had, and by Bert’s question about the location of John’s gospel I know he was listening – please pray for him with me. You can read the story that I shared with him here, (scroll down the the section entitled “Which Yoke?”) and you’ll see how significant it was in the context of that meeting; but the main point is that I had asked the Lord if He had any jobs for me that day, and that’s what He gave me to do.  

I pray that prayer every morning now, and each day so far has been marked in some way by a fresh and unexpected unveiling of God’s purposes for my life in the path that I am walking. And what is more is that I am more aware of the reality of His Love and of that guiding principle of the New Commandment as I walk it, because I am looking out for the next job He has got lined up.

Try it for yourself. We are unprofitable servants. All you are doing is showing up for work, doing what it is your duty to do. The Sower will send the seeds.

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…

The Key of David

I was recently at the UK National exhibition Centre (the NEC) where our company was exhibiting and I was a speaker at an event. It’s a while since I have set up our exhibitions stand at a show, but the people I usually delegate weren’t able to do this one, so the lot fell to me, and because I have had other priorities over the last couple of weeks – and because I tend to leave things till the last minute anyway – my preparations were minimal, and I arrived at the exhibitor traffic control entrance for the exhibition hall expecting the procedure to be the same as last time we were there. It wasn’t.

“Have you got a QR code for me, mate?”

“QR code? Sorry, what QR code?” Apparently I should have registered on the (new) traffic control website to be given allocated a timeslot for setting up. I would have been given two hours. There had been road works and a diversion just before the NEC where it had seemed like every access to the centre was closed, and I had gone badly astray,  and with other (more self-imposed) delays I was already over an hour behind my hope-for schedule. I was on my own, and I had a van full of stuff to unload to build my stand and set up my display. This was not what I needed.

 However the gate attendant was very friendly and helpful, and said, “Don’t worry mate. You can do it now.“

So I logged onto the site on my mobile phone, filled in my details, (hassle, hassle!) and pressed register. Nothing. I pressed register again. Still nothing. I could not register on the site. No matter how many times I pressed the “register“ button, the site failed to respond. I called the attendant over. “I can’t log on!“ I shouted through the van window. I had asked the Lord for help with setting up – angels, I was thinking – as it’s a good few years since I have set up a big exhibition on my own, and at this moment I did not see the help that had just come my way.

The attendant grinned. “Ah! Site crash!“ he said. “Don’t worry mate – hold on a minute.“ He went back to his little hut, and came back with a printed form, which he started scribbling on. “ Here you are!” he said. “You’re Dave today! Put this on your dashboard. That will keep security happy.”


He gave me the form he had filled in, and “Dave” was written in the space where my name should have been. Why he didn’t ask my name to fill in I wlll never know, but what I did know straight away was that I am a brother of Jesus, and Jesus was the Son of David. I was very happy for Dave – David – to be my name. Revelation 3: 7 says And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true,”He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens,” and right now this was my key of David, and indeed it opened the way into the exhibition hall for me.

But that isn’t the whole story, and of itself would hardly be a tale worth telling. What is worth telling though is that because the traffic control website crashed, I wasn’t allocated a time slot on the system. It took me four hours to set up my stand. A heavenly hand had frozen the system for me because God knew how long I would need, and what the key of David opened for me no-one could shut…

But it doesn’t end there. I left the hall at 7.30 – the last man standing, in fact – and headed for where I thought the hotel was. I found a multi-story car park and a brightly-lit complex called Resort World, but nothing that said The Genting Hotel. I drove round some cones in the road to ask another gate attendant if he could help me (The NEC is full of cones and gate attendants), but all he did was shout at me for driving round the cones and point me to the multi-story car park, where the entrance to the one-way system yawned like the gates of hell I had two suitcases – mine and Anne’s, my laptop, and another large shoulder bag, and I had visions of having to park the car and still go looking for the hotel, carrying all that luggage.

Actually the Genting Hotel is inside Resort World, but I didn’t know this until I had gone to the very top of the multi-story, parked the car, and saw the sign by the entrance to the lift.

When I came out of the lift at the bottom I was in a world of loud music and bright lights: the shopping arcade and the bars and restaurants of Resort World, but I saw the entrance to the hotel off through an archway. So by his time I had got lost in the diversion, been unable to find the hotel – oh yes: I hadn’t been able to find the exhibition hall loading bay  either – had an unwelcoming encounter with a gate attendant, and now found myself in a world of noise and bright lights and shiny people heading for their night out, when all I wanted was rest,  dinner, and my bed. I was supposed to have been at a speaker’s welcome dinner at six o’clock, so that ship had truly sailed. I felt like an alien in Babylon.

However when I finally got to my hotel room it was delightful, and I did manage to find a restaurant where there was no loud music and I could eat a nice meal in pleasant surroundings, and when I went back to the comfort of my room and reflected on the evening I saw a glimpse of the story that the Holy Spirit was writing…

Hebrews 12:23 says that we have “come to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven.” Because I am registered in heaven there was no need for me to register for my limited timeslot, because my Father was going to supply all my need (4 hours) according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus, not just half of it. (Phil 4:19) By Christ Jesus He gave  me the Key of David which opened a door that none could shut. I felt like an alien in Resort World because I am one: I am not of the world, even though I am in it.  And in that world there is going to be opposition – traffic diversions, confusing road signs or lack of them, unfriendly officials, all seeming to conspire against me fulfilling the purpose I was there to accomplish.  But Jesus has overcome the world, and in the midst of that alien environment He didn’t just give me a few scraps that would keep me going, but He looked after me as a child that He loves, and whom he had sent into that place for a purpose.

What was my purpose at the event, as a speaker and an exhibitor? My talk was well-received, and the exhibition of our products was a success commercially. But none of that was really the purpose of my mission: they were just aspects of the marketplace where the Son of David was walking with His key on His shoulder, ministering His truth and love. Because in the course of the social events of the following evening He opened opportunities for me to speak of Him to four different people: a lapsed Baptist, a liberal vicar, and two agnostic academics.

Whatever we are doing, our purpose in the world is to reveal Him through it. Whatever opposition we receive, all things will work together for good because we love the Lord and are called according to this,  His purpose. Because we are his beloved children, registered in Heaven, He will meet our need according to His riches in Christ Jesus and not our poverty; because we are His masterpiece walking in the works prepared beforehand for us in this crumbling world, and because we are His light shining like stars in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, He will make a way where there is no way. (Rom 8:28, Heb 12:23, Phil 4:19, Eph 2:10,  Phil 2:15,  Isaiah 43,  2 Cor 3:3)

We are the epistle of Christ: what is the Holy Spirit writing through you today?

“Lord, teach us to pray…”

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11: 1-13)

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he gave them – and us – the Lord’s prayer. We tend to think – or at least I always have – that the Lord’s prayer is His answer to their request. But the teaching doesn’t end there. In Luke 11, the first four verses are the prayer itself, the next four are the illustration of the value of persistence in prayer, and the next five are the illustration of the Father’s generosity towards all who “ask seek and knock.” We have 13 verses of teaching, not just four: what to pray, how to pray, and how we can expect the Father to answer.


It’s been said before, but what strikes me about the illustration of the persistent friend is that he isn’t asking for bread for himself, but for the traveller who has come to his house. Jesus isn’t teaching us about how to pray for ourselves, but how to pray for others. Actually what He does teach us about praying for ourselves is quite short: basically He says our Father has got what we need before we even ask Him! (Matt 6:8)  If we walk in daily relationship with our Father Jesus says that He will feed and clothe us without the need for our shopping list. It’s  when we have nothing in our larder for those who come to out “house” that prayer is a requirement.


The model that the apostle Peter gives us for evangelism is to always be ready with an answer for those who ask us about our faith (1 Peter 3:15.  I wrote about it last week). I think we can read the reference to our “house” as being more than the bricks and mortar that we live in (if we are fortunate enough), but our whole area of influence and the network of our relationships. In a sense, whoever we are with is in our “house,” and the Lord wants us to feed them with His bread. We don’t feed them with our bread; we feed them with His bread. We have nothing in our personal larders they can feed anybody else’s spirit: we have to go to the Lord for His provision. And it seems that sometimes we have to pester Him before He provides. Why? I wouldn’t like to say that I know, but it might be that He wants us to show a bit more love for and commitment to the needy person then one quick request. It may be our persistence is a hallmark of our love and also, maybe, a measure of our faith. But whatever the reason, Jesus teaches us to ask until we have received what we are asking for.

And this leads on to the final section of the teaching. Having shown that we need to be persistent when we “ask, seek, and knock” (the Greek tense means “ask and keep on asking), the Lord’s teaching goes on to tell us how faithful the Father is to answer. The persistent friend kept on asking for bread to give to his visitor. Jesus said that if we, as “evil” mortals, know how to give “good gifts” to our children, our good Father can surely be counted on to give “good gifts” to us, His children. In the next verse, the idea of the Father giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask (v 13) seems to come out slightly of left field in the context of the passage, but if we think of asking the Father to give us “bread” for others it follows on very clearly.

“Bread” is an accepted image for Words of Life. Our “daily bread” is the spiritual sustenance we receive through God’s word as well as the sustenance we need for our bodies. When we need Words of Life to give to someone, there is only one person we can turn to, because only Jesus has them (John 6:68). The only way we can receive those words of life are by the Spirit.  It is not unintentional that the writer of the Book of Acts quotes Jesus as making a connection between the Father giving the Holy Spirit and earthly fathers giving “good gifts” to their children. If an “evil” earthly father can give “good gifts” to his children, how much more will our Heavenly Father give “good gifts” when He gives the Spirit to those who ask (persistently)? And those good gifts, I would say, are precisely what the context suggests they are: they are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We get “bread” for our friends by asking our Father for gifts of the Holy Spirit.

If Jesus’ passion is to build His church, and our commission is to get the job done in His name, especially by having an answer for everyone who asks us about our faith, we have in Luke 11 1-13 a classic three-point sermon on how to go about it:

1: We walk in God’s ways. If we live out of the Lord’s prayer from our hearts we will be doing that, and our light will be seen by others. (vs. 1-4)

2: They will come to our “house” out of the darkness because they will see that light and they will need to be fed. (vs. 5-8)

3: We can’t feed them ourselves, but we know someone who can give us the best bread of all – the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (vs. 9-13) To adapt Zechariah 4:6, it’s not by might, nor by power, nor by any human “bread” that we can share the gospel, but by my Spirit, says the Lord. All we have to do, whenever someone sees our light and comes to our “house,” is to ask. Persistently.

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 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.

The Path of the Just (2): The Needle’s Eye

“God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us,

That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.”
(Psalm 67: 1-2)

“And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved? But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:24-26)

I sometimes think that we can get so caught up in our desire to see revival sweep across the nations that we can lose sight of why revival is sent. We know for a fact that one day the Glory of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, because it is stated in God’s word; and we can be fairly certain – because the message has been given consistently through a number of reliable prophetic voices, including Smith Wigglesworth’s notable 1947 “The Last Move” prophesy – that God is preparing a move of the Holy Spirit that will eclipse anything the world has seen up till now. But if God is going to be merciful to us and bless us with an outpouring of His presence, and if He is going to cause His face to shine upon us and bring His light into the darkness of broken communities, broken lives and broken bodies, it will be for a purpose: that His way is known and His salvation revealed.

God’s Way is of course revealed in Jesus. Jesus is the Way; we, the Church, were first called “Followers of the Way, or even at times just “the Way.” So far so easy. But it tends to get more difficult when we look at exactly how Jesus Himself described the way He came to reveal, because He isn’t just the Way; He is the Narrow Way: “Small is the gate, and narrow the way leading to life, and few there are who find it.” (Matt 7:14). His is the way that humbled Himself to death on the cross (Phil 2:8); who “didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Way is “meek and humble of heart” (Matt 11:29); and although “He was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.(2 Cor 8:9). When God mercifully pours out His blessing it is to reveal the way of His Kingdom, which is a life lived without self-interest, motivated only by the needs of others. Indeed there are few who find it.

We all know Romans 8 28: we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” but we don’t all quote the following verse quite so often: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The word “for” connects the two verses: God’s purpose for us, within the frame of which “everything works together for good,” is that we are “conformed to the image of His son.” Within God’s Kingdom purpose there is an inevitable progression as the blessing of God causes all things to work together for good, whereby the followers of the Way become part of the Way themselves, and in doing so are able to show the Way to others. Yet if the entrance to this salvation is narrower than a needle’s eye, and we (certainly in the rich developed world) are at least as fat as camels, how, as the disciples asked, can anyone be saved? (Matt 19:25)

Jesus answered the disciples’ question succinctly:  “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (verse 26) God doesn’t take away the eye of the needle: what He does by His Spirit is to make us small enough to go through it. When the Son of God came as the Son of Man He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” (Phil 2:7) He sat the disciples down and told them very clearly: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35), and John’s gospel shows how He demonstrated the Kingdom way of Lordship by washing the feet of his disciples. (John 13: 1-17). “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (vs. 13-125)

These are familiar scriptures. They all illustrate the same thing: that God’s ways are not our ways. To walk in blessing, we bless others. To walk in authority, we serve others. If we give, it will be given unto us. If we want to walk without fear of our needs not being met, we meet the needs of others; because it is our “Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32). This is the Way that God desires to make known on earth, the way of the Spirit that the flesh is ever opposed to (Galatians 5:17), the needle’s eye.

A sister at our church had a dream in which the Lord showed her that we, and all our fine plans, were like rocks that needed to go into a bottle in order to be poured into the places where He would direct. The rocks needed to be broken down and sieved into fine sand before they could go through the narrow neck of the bottle in order to be poured out. Only God can do this. He will only do it when we give Him permission, and our flesh will try to deny that permission in every possible way. Even if all our intentions are to serve the Lord and His Kingdom our best efforts are worthless if the rocks we bring Him are not so broken and sieved that He can direct them where, when and how He wants, and not where, when or how we think He wants.

I have just returned from a birdwatching holiday, where a group of us were taken by a guide to various birding “hotspots”  in and around the Scottish Highlands. Two members of the group had cameras with such big, powerful lenses that they could only use them when they were set up on a tripod: I would need more muscle strength than I am endowed with to even lift them to my eyes. They could take brilliantly clear pictures of a Slavonian grebe a quarter of a mile away on the other side of the Moray Firth, once they were set up and focussed on the bird; but they would have completely missed the crossbills flitting between the treetops that I could capture an image of with my lightweight handheld gear. It is God’s word, borne on the wings of His Spirit and received in an obedient heart that brings His life, not our cumbersome structures and heavyweight programmes.

For those of us who might feel that we are more reliant on the impromptu leadings of the Holy Spirit than organised missions and programmes, there is still a “heavyweight lens” that will keep us from passing through the needle’s eye, and this is the lens of signs and wonders, the prophetic lens itself. God will “cause His face to shine upon us, That (His) way may be known on earth.” The purpose of all that He does in a time of outpouring will always be to see more lives conformed to the image of His Son, swelling the numbers of those who walk the Narrow Way. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human  wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2: 1-5) Paul’s ministry clearly manifested the power of God, but his life was just as obviously a demonstration of the Narrow Way. He could write 1 Corinthians 13 because he lived it.

Psalm 85:13 tells us “Righteousness will go before Him, And shall make His footsteps our pathway.” If we are seeking for signs and wonders to follow the words that we preach and for revival outpouring to fall on our churches, we tend to focus on the mechanics of ministry – how to share Jesus, how to move in words of knowledge, how to prophesy, how to lead worship etc – but what about how we can “make ourselves of no reputation” so that we can be small enough to walk in His footsteps through the eye of the needle? There is plenty of training on prophesy, evangelism and all the fivefold ministries, and I am not saying that these are not valuable; but I have yet to see a course on how to be meek and humble of heart like Jesus so that we can demonstrate His Way in our lives on Earth.

Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16) To pray “in the name of Jesus” is not a mantra that we tag onto the end of every supplication, but it is to ask the Father what Jesus would ask Him for, because we are walking in His ways and conformed to His image. From the testimony of the Acts of the Apostles this obviously worked for Paul: he saw the  power of God at work, and he saw His Way established on Earth: he bore fruit that remains. We need the power of God as much as Paul did: not just to demonstrate His sovereignty, but also to make us small enough to make His way known on earth.

Psalm 62:11 says this:

God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.

Power belongs to God; the narrow way belongs to us. It is when they work together that the Kingdom is built.

The Parable of the Dragnet

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:47-50)

When Jesus compared the Kingdom to a dragnet he was talking to people for whom they were central to their daily life: if they weren’t fishermen themselves, they were dependent on what the  nets brought in for their daily sustenance. In a very real sense, the dragnet was part of the very fabric of their lives. And  since the King said that His Kingdom is like one, we can expect the image to speak into our lives as Kingdom people today.

The strength of a net is in its connections. Peter wrote: “If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever.” (1 Peter 4:11) We are part of the dragnet when we are reaching out and making connections with others. Since we can only operate fruitfully “with the ability which God supplies,” in His strength and not our own, the connections themselves – the knots in the net – have to be made by the Spirit of God and not by our own selfish desires. Put simply, we either reach out to others to give them something that we have got (Kingdom, Spirit), or to take something that they can give us (self, flesh).

What I have I give you,” said Peter to the cripple at the Gate Beautiful. (Acts 3:6) What I have may be a Holy Spirit gift of healing or prophesy, it may be my time, my skills or (what Peter and John didn’t have) my money; but if it’s a connection made in love it will glorify God and it will add to the net. If I am just reaching out to take – your knowledge, your resources, your reflected status, your companionship, your approval – I am not making a Kingdom connection; I am actually doing nothing more than the beggar at the Gate who was reaching out his hand for whatever he could get. Spiritually I am as crippled as he was.

The Law Jesus gave us is to love one another, and when we obey His law we build His net. He said to his disciples: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt 7:22-23), and He clearly defines what He meant by lawlessness in Matthew 25:41-43, where, put simply, it’s another word for lovelessness:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

So we can even be moving in the power of the Holy Spirit and yet not be making Kingdom connections. God is sovereign and can use the results of what we do for His purposes, whatever our motivation; but if our hearts are not in the right place and we are seeking our glory and not His, looking after our own needs and not those of others, we are not adding to the dragnet. The context of this parable is the principle of fruitfulness: a good tree bears good fruit, He tells us in verse 17. If our “mighty works” are not grounded in Love, they will be a flash in the pan and will not bear fruit that endures. A local revival may be birthed in power, but starved of love the flames die out, and the net finishes no bigger than when it started.

“As the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. (1 Cor 12:12)

There are many squares in the dragnet, many connections. All the squares are the same size, there are no greater or lesser  squares, and they all do the same job, which is to catch fish. A strong thread in many messages coming from the Holy spirit to the church through prophetic ministers today is that God is, and will be, pouring out His anointing on unknown members of the Body of Christ who have no status in their churches, no public platform ministry and no website or You Tube channel, but who are full of the compassion of God and are wholly submitted to His will. As they believe the Word of God and trust the power of the Holy Spirit, these, the unknown brothers and sisters who lay down their lives for love, will be the ones who make the connections and cause the net to spread out across the oceans of the world.

The dragnet is a parable for the end times. The devil clearly tried to use the Covid pandemic to pull apart our connections right across the globe in an attempt to weaken our love, but God “turns a curse into a blessing” (Neh 13:2) and now not only do we seem to value our relationships more than we did pre-Covid; but church networks are growing in an unprecedented way through the use of virtual meetings. The time of the dragnet is approaching. How are our relationships? Will they break when the dragnet is drawn to shore, or are we giving what we have “with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever?”

Faith comes from hearing…

Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.”
(Psalm 40: 7-8)

How often do we step out of our daily routine to draw aside with God, and then bump into a word that speaks directly into a situation that we are praying about, in a portion of Scripture that we read that very day? What never ceases to astound me as how that word has been waiting for this moment. I want to invite you to put on sunglasses for a moment and stare with me into the blazing glory of the substance of the Word of God.

The psalmist writes that Gods word is “settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89) The Hebrew word for settled means established, standing firm. This is the word that created the universe, and that sustains “all things;” (Heb 1:3) it is the Word that was in the beginning before becoming flesh. (John 1:14) Jesus says that His words will remain even though Heaven and Earth pass away (Luke 21:33). He tells us that His words are “Spirit and they are life.” He does not say that they are from the Spirit or that they bring life; He says that they are spirit and they are life. God’s word is living and active. It seems that the substance of the word is actually part of the substance of God himself. John 1:1 affirms this, because the gospel writer tells us clearly that “the word was God.” God’s words do not just come from Him; they are part of Him.


Speaking through David by the Holy Spirit, Jesus says (Psalm 40 verses 7 to 8) “Behold I come, it is written about me in the scroll of your book. I delight to do Your will Oh Lord.“ He made it clear to the scribes and Pharisees that the law and the prophets revealed Him: He was written there long before He came in the flesh. We find many messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, but I think the clearest of them all is actually Psalm 22, where we find not only Christ’s experience of the crucifixion described in great detail, but also His birth and life (vs 9-10), His resurrection (v 21), the Church age (v 22) and His coming Glory (vs 27-29) as well.

The Psalm famously starts with Jesus’s cry from the cross: “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?“ And it tells how He can count all his bones, how He is “poured out like water“ and “all His bones are out of joint“, how His hands and feet have been pierced. how His enemies cost lots of His garments, how He is mocked and taunted. (vs. 12-18) Then, like a blazing comet in a dark sky, comes a single sentence set on its own: “you have answered me.“ (v 21)

Following this, we see in quick succession the establishment of the church “my praise should be of You in the great assembly“ (v 22), and the fulfilment of the kingdom promises of justice and mercy: “I will pay my veins before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him will praise the Lord.“ (v 26) The final declarations of this wonderful psalm focus on the end time promise that “all the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nations. (Verses 27 to 28)

When Jesus came to do the Father’s will, these words were already settled in Heaven and written about Him in the scroll of the book. When He cries out “My God My God why have You forsaken Me?” He is not only declaring God’s judgement of and turning away from the sin of all mankind, He is also connecting with the eternal word of His purpose and His posterity that is settled in the scroll of Heaven. In the extremes of the greatest anguish known to man, the Son of God is trusting the Father because He had already declared that He was, and that  His prayers had been answered, 1000 years beforehand. It was settled in heaven.

As Jesus so powerfully and finally demonstrated from the point of the cross, when God’s word comes alive in our circumstances it comes with all the power of Heaven. Our lives too are written in the scroll of God’s book, as we know from Ephesians 2:10 that talks of the works prepared for us beforehand “that we might walk in them.” When we pray and speak words from that book we too are taking hold of words that are “settled in heaven,“ and we are bringing something of the very substance of the spiritual dimension into space and time. We know that we are praying prayers that will be answered, because the answer is there already, just as it was for Jesus (verse 21: “You have answered me.“)

We read in Romans 10: 17  that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.“ When we hear a word spoken by the Holy Spirit, whether it is a word of scripture or a word spoken directly to our hearts, we know it will be fulfilled because God’s word never returns to him void ( Isaiah 55:11) God hasn’t only given the word that is spoken, He is also actually in its very substance in order to fulfil it. Our challenge as disciples of Jesus is to always try to make sure that the words we are speaking and the prayers that we are praying are words that are settled in Heaven. Jesus said more than once: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.“ (E.g. Matt 11:15) Peter says that we are “born again of the incorruptible word of God, ”(1 Pe 1:23) and I believe that these “Ears to hear” are the  “hearing” that comes by the word: it is ours at the new birth, and ours to refine as we mature in Christ. It is only this “hearing,” these spiritual ears, that is able to hear heavenly words.

We know that Spiritual things are spiritually discerned; (1 Cor 2:14), and also that “the flesh profits nothing.” (John 6:63) If we read words from Heaven that are written in the Bible with our ears of flesh, they cannot impart faith: we cannot receive the life that is in them, and the consequence will be disappointment.  We will profit nothing. We know that Heaven’s answer will always come from Heaven, but we can so easily forget that our prayers, like the prayers of Jesus on the cross that we read in Psalm 22, must also come from Heaven if they are going to bring Resurrection life into situations. These are prayers of mustard-seed faith; this, as well as praying in tongues, is praying in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray (Romans 8:26). If we want to see more prayers answered, we must always remember to ask Him for His help.

Extracts from Two Seconds to Midnight

How to be ready for God’s next move

“Two Seconds to Midnight” combines personal testimony, teaching, Bible commentary and prophetic themes in an exploration of Matthew 11:29-30: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  The premise of the book is based on a prophetic revelation that there is very little time left before we reach the time marked on God’s calendar for something momentous to  occur, and we need to stay yoked to Jesus in order to be ready for it. Who knows (only the Father!) – it may even be the return of Christ. The following short extracts, starting with the introduction, are intended to give something of the flavour and the diversity of the book.


Introduction: Midnight

“On the eve of my birthday, my watch stopped at three seconds to midnight. The next morning I was writing this interesting fact in my diary, thinking about what it meant. Could it be a sign that there were just a few seconds left on God’s clock before Jesus returns? Or could it have been the Lord saying that there are just a few seconds left before the beginning of the new season we have been hearing so much about?

“I glanced up from my diary to the watch that was on the table before me, and suddenly, as I looked on, the second hand began to move again. It moved exactly three seconds and stopped with the hour, minute, and second hands all in line at midnight. Suffice it to say that the hairs on the back of my neck and on my arms literally stood on end!”

(Andrew Baker, Heavenly Visions: A Portfolio of Prophetic Revelations series 2 book 5, Ark Resources)

As Andrew Baker wrote, what happens at “midnight” was not made clear. What is abundantly clear, however, is that there is not long left until it happens and, whatever it is going to be, it is very, very important on God’s agenda. When a child is out with a parent with a deadline to meet – a train to catch, for example – we can expect to see the same parenting strategy employed again and again: “Hold my hand!” And as the child holds the parent’s hand, she knows that she isn’t going to get lost or left behind. She knows she’s safe; she knows she’s loved. And the parent who loves that child and who has a plan for them both also knows two things: she is safe, and the plan is on track.

We have a deadline, a train to catch. Jesus is calling out to us to focus; to stay close to Him. He doesn’t just ask us in Scripture to hold His hand: He asks us to do something that is more solid and safer still. He says to us “Take My yoke upon you . . .” If we remain yoked to Jesus we will not lose our way: we will be where He wants us to be, when He wants us to be there.

Andrew Baker recorded that experience in 2016; since then I believe the clock has ticked again, and with the advent of COVID the world has changed and midnight has been brought closer. Of course none of us knows how long the next two seconds will last, as “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8); but this book is an exploration of what it means to be yoked to Jesus so we can serve Him best in what little time remains on His heavenly clock before midnight chimes.


Which yoke?

Evening came. I had my file ready for taking notes. I had produced a school play earlier that year, which I had written around a published series of songs that told the story of Noah’s Ark. (My heart, even then, was always drawn to the divine.) One of the characters was God, and the ring binder we had used in the play for His book was the file I was using for my notes. She went into a trance. If I hadn’t so totally bought into what was happening I would have run a mile: her face became Chinese. Muscles that she didn’t possess changed her features and slanted her eyes as the thing that was controlling her moulded her face like putty. And then we saw Akhenaten: he was a hunchback, and she grew a hump before our eyes. He also had a deformity that twisted his mouth: her mouth twisted, her face elongated, and I was sitting in front of the pharaoh that had been dead for nearly 4,000 years. I asked him questions for my book, and wrote down what he said. But what remains with me, and the reason I am telling this tale, is the first thing that was said by “Lao Tzu”. In a thin, reedy voice, it said, “We are very pleased. We see that you have found the golden book!” The cover of the file, God’s book from my play, was sprayed all over with gold paint.

The spirit realm isn’t “up there”, it is all around us. A testimony for all of us who seek to walk with Jesus is the experience of how God can control situations, lining up our personal universes so that we step into situations, or read a relevant Bible passage, in His perfect timing so that we know that our lives are aligned with His will. But what my experience in Glastonbury shows is that it isn’t just the Lord who can move us around to fulfil His plan for our lives. The devils aren’t just randomly prowling around looking for opportunities to do us harm: they too have plans – nasty, evil plans – and will proactively seek to draw us along the path that they have laid out for us. For Anne and me it was to be drawn deeper into the occult. Decisions that we thought we were making of our own free will were actually the result of demonic manipulation designed to bring us into greater bondage. The only real difference between us and the spiritist couple was that they were probably told to go to Glastonbury by their “spirit guides”, whereas we thought we were choosing our path.


Not a Tame Lion…

In Numbers 3 – 4 we read of the specific tasks allotted to the Levites. Unless our Bible study resources take us to the books of the Law, we (or is it just me?) tend to pass over these sections of Scripture in favour of the sweeping narratives of Samuel and Kings, the beauty and the raw emotion of the Psalms, the wonders of the prophets and of course the grace-filled New Testament. But if we want to encounter the holiness of our God we will find Him above the place of atonement in the tabernacle of Moses. We too easily humanise our heavenly Father. Yes, He is Abba. Yes, He welcomes us into His arms. Yes, He sings a song of love over us. But His accessibility by the blood of Jesus and His presence among us does not dilute the awesomeness of His majesty. As C.S. Lewis famously said in the Chronicles of Narnia, He is not a tame lion. While we inhabit our tents of flesh we cannot see Him as He is (1 John 3:2), but this does not diminish who He is among us. Because grace had not been given (one could say that Moses was the exception) the Levites only had a detailed set of regulations to keep them safe from destruction as they carried out their duties. The power that emanates from His being and permeated through all the sacred objects is like the electricity coursing through overhead power cables: touch it and you die. Such was – such is – the power that if any of the Kohathites, whose job was to transport the ark on their shoulders, even looked at a part of the load that was not their designated area, they would be destroyed. When God was allocating the tasks He gave specific instruction to Moses regarding the Kohathites “that they may live and not die when they approach the most holy things” (Numbers 4:19).

The pure perfection of creative love that made and powers the universe is not cuddly daddy. This is the power that raised Jesus from the dead. This is the cable that is coiled inside our spirits. Because we have the insulation of the blood of Jesus we can grasp the power line, but because we can grasp it without being destroyed does not diminish it at all; it just gives us an understanding of the power of the blood of Christ.


The lesson of gentleness

Gentleness brings peace. At the beginning of this section we looked at James 3:17, which tells us that “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” Verse 18 goes on to say that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”. If we want to see the kingdom of God established in and through our lives we need to sow “the fruit of righteousness”. Whatever emotional turmoil may be in your heart as a consequence of words spoken or deeds done by someone close to you, it is possible to make a decision to be gentle in response. You lose nothing by doing so: it is only the powers of darkness that lose their hold. As I said with reference to Jesus, this does not diminish your authority but, on the contrary, it creates emotional space for peace to reign, the wisdom from above to descend, and ultimately for a harvest of righteousness to be reaped.

At the time of writing, Anne and I have been married for 39 years, and we have been Christians for most of that time. But if I were able to go back in time and make just one change to my character, I think it would be that I exchange my orge for gentleness. I was cooking something on the hob last night. Anne came into the kitchen and said, “Turn the ring down! You always have it too high, and it just burns! You need to have it on a gentle heat.” I think I have always liked to say things emphatically and to be dominant and, as I delude myself, in control. My flame tends to be high, but instead of transforming what it touches, it too easily burns. We need to trust God to do the work of transformation, and keep our own flame on a gentle heat. When we see red, we need to see a red light. So if you are someone whose relationships are marred by emotional tidal waves, don’t wait until you are over 60 to learn the lesson of gentleness. And wherever we are in our journey, Jesus asks us to learn it from Him. He specified it because it is important, and we need to learn it now (if we haven’t already, of course) because there are only two seconds to midnight.


Daily Bread

George Muller lived with his arms wrapped tightly around God’s pipeline. He was a man yoked to Jesus. God’s abundant provision is there for us, as it was for Muller, but I believe that we are to give in faith ourselves if we are to fully appreciate what it is to ask, and receive in faith.

There are only two seconds left. Jesus warns us (Matthew 24:38-39): “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Before that time comes, He tells us that we would see various signs that many would say are strongly evident now. We are on ice that is getting thinner by the day – not just in the Arctic, but in a financial system based on debt and greed, and flashpoints increasing in the geopolitical sphere. If – or rather when – the ice breaks and society falls through into the dark water’s chaos, we will need increasingly to rely on the Lord for our daily bread. The hole in the wall will be empty. There will need to be Josephs who will feed their brothers, and who will also demonstrate the goodness of Jehovah Jireh when world systems fail. Jesus said, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Let us make sure that He does.

Another sign of the last days is given to us in Revelation 13:18: “The number of the beast.” Whatever the deeper meaning and identity of 666 may be, we don’t need an online Bible teacher to help us understand the simple facts laid out for us in Revelation 13: that anyone who doesn’t have that number on their right hand or their forehead will not be able to buy or sell, and risks death. At the time of writing, thousands of people in Sweden are inserting a tiny microchip, the size of a grain of rice, into their hands so their biometric details can be scanned by various digital readers. It is being used to pay for train travel, to gain access to clubs and car parks, and it is said to be ready for use to take payments in shops and restaurants. Sweden is on the cusp of becoming the first cashless society in the world. The technology, known as RFID, is the same as that used in other contactless payment systems, so all of us who use contactless payments are only a skin-deep layer away from it ourselves.

The COVID crisis has brought cashless transactions closer still, and I don’t think it takes a great leap of the imagination to connect these developments in with the arrival of a completely state-controlled system of buying and selling under the beast. It will be hailed as a great boon to society, eliminating financial fraud as well as the contagion risks of handling cash. If that scenario is only two seconds away, we need to learn, urgently, how to stay yoked to Jesus in order to receive, and give, provision, because we do not know when we really will have to depend on God for our daily bread.


Blue tassels in our garments

Just like my game with Shelley is now an intrinsic and permanent part of how we behave with each other, and a source of fun that never diminishes, God wants the fabric of His word to so run through our lives that its living, active power is continually expressed through who we are and what we do. The Lord said to Moses:

“Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.’” (Numbers 15:38-41

The quality, the commitment, the fruitfulness of our discipleship depends on the centrality of the word of God in our lives. Our faithful response to God’s word is a measure of the extent to which we have taken His yoke upon us.

 A lot of the wisdom in the book of Proverbs is sound advice that anyone will benefit from following, and expresses ideas that are not unique to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Many of the moral teachings of Jesus resonate with adherents to other major faiths. But what God wants for us is not just for His words to give us a pattern to follow and principles to abide by; He wants us to be channels for the creative power of His word to be released in the world, releasing light into the darkness and building the kingdom of heaven. This means that we live in faith that the power of God’s word to bring His rule and reign into our lives is greater than the power of the circumstances around us. To apply the wise teachings of the Bible to our lives is the best way of navigating our circumstances, but to believe in and release the power of God’s word is the way to overcome them. This is why John 15:7 is so important, where Jesus says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” To move in power, contrary to the prevailing currents of the world, contrary to “the harlotry to which [our] own heart and [our] own eyes are inclined” (Numbers 15:39) we need to know Scripture, not just have a passing acquaintance with it.

In The Silver Chair, the sixth of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan (Jesus) sends Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb on a mission to liberate the prince of Narnia from an evil spell. He gives them four signs, which they are to repeat daily and never forget, and to follow whatever the circumstances. However, as the children come under the spell of the evil witch themselves, lured by a lying temptation of rest and comfort among some giants who would actually have killed and eaten them, the signs fade from significance. They neglected the discipline of keeping them uppermost in their minds, at a level where they actually would “direct their paths”; consequently their quest was more difficult and dangerous than it needed to have been. All the Narnia stories are rich in spiritual significance. We too are on a mission to bring freedom to the captives, and we too have to hold onto the “signs” that God has given us, irrespective of appearances and in the face of temptation. We cannot accomplish God’s mission without God’s word. We need to have those blue threads in the tassels of our garments.

Possessing our Souls

Jesus tells us, “By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19) when we face end-time betrayal and hatred. Patience is translated elsewhere as “longsuffering” and “perseverance”. The writer to the Hebrews says, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12). To be patient we need to be still, because we know that when we are still we know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). We need to know how to wait on the Lord, because that is how we renew our strength. Patience is a crucial attribute of the Spirit-filled life, because patience says to us, “Stop! Don’t rush to react. What is God saying here?” We believe God’s promises in our hearts, but without patience we do not stop to reach out for them.

Peter writes (2 Peter 1:4) that we partake of the divine nature through His “great and precious promises”. When we are in a time of trial and the wolves come howling round our houses, we can run to protect our flesh, which is when they will come running after us and pounce; or we can stop, and “in our patience possessing our souls”, we can reach in faith with renewed minds into the truth of the divine nature which is our promised inheritance.


Pressing on…

“Trying to be good” is a burden, because no matter how hard we try, we are going to fail. And when we fail at being good, where do we go to escape the guilt? If we know Jesus personally, then the chances are we will run to the cross, we will receive forgiveness, and then we’ll start trying to be good again until the next time we fail. But how do we “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14)? If we keep having to go back to the beginning? Paul has already given us the answer in the previous two verses:

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 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.” (Philippians 3:12-13)

We don’t slide down the snake and go back to the start: it’s not snakes and ladders. There aren’t any snakes on this board, because the snake has been defeated! Yes we fall, yes we need forgiveness again, but we continue to reach forward “to those things which are ahead”. In the Spirit we already partake of the “divine nature”, so if we sin there is only ever one reason: we have walked in the flesh and not in the Spirit. Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisees that they “bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4). Religion today writes the report that says, “Could do better. Must try harder.” What does Jesus say to us? “Take My yoke upon you. My burden isn’t the heavy burden of religion: My burden is light.” The difference is this: modern religion, whether you are a tongue-speaking Pentecostal or an incense-burning Catholic, is trying to be like Jesus and to do what He would do. Walking in the Spirit, yoked to Jesus, is asking Him what He would do then doing what He says. His yoke is relationship. By simply doing what He says we are reaching ahead into the divine nature which is our inheritance.


The Biggest Wave

“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, AND TO EACH HIS WORK, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming – in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning – lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:33-37, my capitals)

Scripture encourages us to discern the times when Jesus castigates the Pharisees for not doing so (Luke 12:56). We need to understand the season we are in, and this book is a response to the impression that the times we are in are basically the End Times. I think the “midnight” of Andrew Baker’s vision and the title of this book might be the return of the Lord, but since this is not a detail that the Father will reveal we cannot make that assumption. I see us as surfboarders out in the sea, where the waves seem to get bigger and more frequent with every passing year. I imagine God saying something like, “You are not going to have an easy ride. There is no longer going to be a calm sea; a swell is building up that is not going to die away, and the waves are only going to increase and get bigger. But the biggest wave of all shall be the wave of My Spirit as it sweeps across the face of the earth . . .”

The biggest wave will be the wave of God’s Spirit as it sweeps across the face of the earth. Whatever the waves are that crash into the foundations of society, I believe God’s wave will be bigger. I believe this wave will be unlike anything we have known in two thousand years: it will come crashing into the church and will completely uproot some of those big “leafy trees” so that they will be completely washed away, while the fruitful ones will multiply exponentially to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. We ride the wave, or we are engulfed by it. To ride this wave we need to be focused on our purpose, or our quest for it – “to each his work” – and not be found sleeping. Our debt-based economic system cannot withstand shocks forever. But whether they come in the form of virus outbreaks, oil-price collapse, water shortage, plastic pollution, war in the Middle East or elsewhere, global warming, cyberterrorism, or something else as unexpected as coronavirus was in 2019, God knows all of it, and He has given us authority and responsibilities in His house. “Joseph” ministries, responsible for providing for the household when the world system crumbles, how full are your granaries? Are they even built yet? You’ve only got two seconds left . . .


The Blind Beggar

“So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, that I may receive my sight.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:40-43)

Of all the healings that we read of in the gospels, the blind beggar is the only one who is specifically referred to as following Jesus after his healing. What this tells me is that we cannot be yoked to Jesus unless we ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes. And when He does, not only will we be glorifying God, but those around us will be giving Him praise as well.

Our promised land – the “exceedingly great and precious promises that have been given to us” – is this: to be “partakers of the divine nature”. If we allow ourselves to be invaded by the Spirit of God, we not only find ourselves starting to really know Him – to know His heart, His character, His desires for us, and above all His voice – we start becoming like Him. We will do what He did, and we will do the “greater things” promised in John 14:12. We will start to feel His compassion, so it won’t even occur to us to want to feed ourselves before feeding the 5,000. We will speak out of His love instead of our self-interest. Our promised land isn’t our city, the mega-church we want to build, a worldwide ministry, or 10,000 views on our YouTube channel; it’s to be partakers of the divine nature. The prerequisite to entry is that we have “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust”. All that leaven has to go. Only Jesus can make this happen, because “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36) and He will do it by the power of the Holy Spirit, because “the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor 3:17). Peter needed Pentecost to be yoked to Jesus. And if it was necessary for Peter, it is necessary for us.

If we are going to face the coming Jerichos we need the presence of the Holy Spirit to be so real in our meetings that bystanders see fire coming out of our buildings and call the emergency services. It happened at Azusa Street; it happened much more recently (21st-century recently) at a glory conference in Washington DC; and I am sure that there are other occasions that I haven’t heard of. It needs to keep happening. The church needs to be baptised with the Holy Spirit and fire, just as John the Baptist prophesied. And if we take His yoke, really take His yoke having had our eyes opened to all that He is and all that we are in Him, we will start to see that happen. The walls of Jericho falling down? Easy.