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.

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.

“The testimony of Jesus (2): when two or three are gathered in my name…”

We often quote the words of Christ: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the mist of them.“  (Matt 18:20) I don’t think that this is just a reference to the presence of the Holy Spirit manifesting Jesus in the body of Christ, although of course it is that. But I think it also points to the underpinning of truth found in the law, where a matter has to be established by two or three witnesses. (2 Cor 13:1) Where two or three witnesses are gathered in His name, His presence is a proven reality and is a fulfilment of the law.

But we cannot just leave this as an article of faith. “The just shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) Our faith is not just a given set of principles that we believe: it is the source and fabric of our lives. Faith colours and directs what we do. It’s a reality: “the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) The presence of Jesus “in the midst”  when two or three are gathered in His name is a reality to be experienced, evidence that testifies to the truth of His existence. It is the testimony of Jesus.

The qualifier that I think we can pass over rather too easily is the need to be gathered in His name. The ancient idea of “name” is so much more than an identifier or a label: it is the whole of a person’s identity, it is the reality of who they are. To be gathered “in the name”  of Jesus is not to be together in one place that has the name of Jesus on a plaque outside; it to be gathered in submission to His will, open to His power, and as vessels for His love. If we gather in the name of Christ it is with our desires and our agendas laid at His feet.

When we fulfil these requirements the Holy Spirit can come and make Jesus an experienced reality among us: we are gathered in unity, the blessing is commanded (Psalm 133), and the prayer of Jesus quoted in John 17 is fulfilled. The spirit of prophesy is evident. If we do not lay down our agendas we are being double-minded, and cannot therefore “expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:7) If we bring them to the gathering with us, the only requirements that are fulfilled are ultimately those of “confusion and every evil thing” (James 3:16) and of religion that “has a form of godliness but denies its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) And we know what the Scriptures say about that.

The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19:10) 

The key word here is testimony: martyria, meaning evidence given, record, report, testimony, witness. The testimony of Jesus is the evidence if His reality. Those who have the testimony of Jesus are those who testify to the truth of who He is. When Jesus left the disciples at the mount of ascension He said “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The word He used, although in a different grammatical form, is the same: the witness is the one who gives evidence. The term “martyr” has come to mean one who physically lays down his life for Christ in the ultimate sacrifice that is evidence of the strength of their faith, but the original Greek is broader in its meaning, and it applies to every Christian: we are all called to lay down our lives on a daily basis, and, through the power that we have received from the Holy Spirit, to give testimony to the reality of Jesus. But I think there is an important connection between our call to witness, and the testimony of Jesus that the angel spoke about to John.

Jesus said to the Jews (John 5:30): “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. If I bear witness (martyrio)  of Myself, My witness is not true.”

Jesus said that his testimony had no validity if He just talked about Himself. Referring to the law (Deut 19:15), He said: “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” (John 8: 17-18). When Jesus promises the disciples that the power of the Holy Spirit would come on them and they would be His witnesses, He was saying that the signs and wonders that followed their ministry as the Lord worked with them (Mark 16:20) were not just a bonus to their preaching, but were the necessary ‘second witness’ that proved that their testimony was true.

There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved… But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness (martyreō) of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me.”(John 5: 32-34, 36-37)

Jesus speaks “that you may be saved.” It is the words of Jesus that bring salvation. Only He has “the words of eternal life (John 6:68). But for Jesus’ words to be proven true the “testimony of man” is not sufficient: the works done in His name by the power of the Holy Spirit are what bring the witness of the Father. The truth about Jesus, the proof of His reality, has to come from the Spirit of God, not the spirit of man; so when the Father bears witness of Him through the Holy Spirit, He can speak and bring salvation.

“He who believes in the Son of God has the witness (martyria) in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony (martyria): that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (1 John 5: 10-11)

The testimony of Jesus that every believer has within himself is that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. But I don’t think that the scriptures encourage us just to tell people about Jesus and move on, or that quoting His words alone will bring eternal life.  The testimony only has weight when there are at least two witnesses: the disciple speaking in His name, and the Holy Spirit confirming the disciple’s words and transforming the testimony of man into the testimony of Jesus. It is only through the revelation of Jesus that anyone can receive eternal life. I think our words are of little or no effect – and can even push people away from Jesus instead of drawing them to Him – unless the Lord, the Holy Spirit, is working with us to reveal Jesus. We need Him to be leading us in our conversations, and who to have them with; and to be revealing His love for the people we are talking to, often through gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of prophesy – the essence, the breath, the pneuma – is always the revelation of Jesus, confirmed through the Holy Spirit, speaking words of salvation. The angel tells John what we must do to walk in it:

“Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophesy

The spirit of prophesy isn’t the gift of prophesy, the ministry or the office of the prophet. It’s the very heart of what prophesy is, the God-life that flows in it. The key to walking in this is worship. This isn’t just singing songs: it’s worship in spirit and truth. I think worshipping in spirit in the context of the church service  is allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us, to make room for His ministry and be led by Him into the presence of God. But that is only one half of the story, because we need to be worshipping in truth as well. And we aren’t worshipping in truth if we are not obeying Him by loving each other, and we’re not loving others if we are on our own agendas. To be worshippers we have to be continually checking our agendas. Am I on God’s agenda, or my own?

David prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139: 23-24: ) David only knew the Old Covenant Ark of the Testimony, but he looked forward prophetically to the testimony of Jesus and revealed it throughout his psalms. Just as the Old Covenant Ark carried the testimony of the Law, we, the church, are the Ark of the New Covenant, and we are the carriers of the Testimony of Jesus. If we pray David’s  prayer on a daily basis (at least!) we give God permission to examine our hearts and  minds for hidden self-centred agendas, and our worship will begin to reveal the truth of who He is.

Here are just a couple of those “wicked ways” to be going on with. Paul writes to Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15). Approval. Am I looking for God’s approval, of Man’s? Do I want to give my testimony because I want people to hear my dramatic story, or because the Holy Spirit is going to work with me to reveal Jesus? Only the last one is the testimony of Jesus: the first is the testimony of man, which He doesn’t receive. And secondly: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7) Is everything I am saying and doing grounded in God’s power, His love, and the realities of salvation – or is there fear lurking somewhere in the woodwork? Fear hides in surprising places, and nothing prompted by hidden fear will bear good fruit. We all need to allow the Holy Spirit to flush it out of our lives, because it will keep us off God’s agenda.

I think we are like water channels that can get silted up: the deeper the silt, the shallower the water. If as individuals and churches we want to see the Spirit of prophesy bring the testimony of Jesus into people’s lives, we need to worship in Spirit and in truth: we need deep to be calling to deep (Ps 42:7), which means praying those verses from Psalm 139 every day to keep dredging the silt out of our lives.

Rescuing Bertie: The Fields Are White Unto Harvest…

Yesterday evening Anne and I went for a walk at a spot about half an hour’s drive from our house. We parked the car and were only about 20 m down the path when I saw something that looked like a dead bird. When I approached it though, I saw that it was actually very much alive: it was a young pigeon, but it was lying on its back and flapping around hopelessly in the dirt. It couldn’t seem to turn over. At first I thought it might just be stranded because it was on its back, so tried to put it right; but it immediately flopped back upside down and continued to flap its wings around to no effect other than to make desperate circles in the dirt. I picked it up, and saw that one of its wings had some sort of injury. It had been bleeding, and it was caked in dirt around the wound. We didn’t know how to look after it if we took it home, but we knew that if we left it there it had zero chance of survival. Two friends of ours at church are vets and live very close to us, so we decided to take it home and ask their advice. However when I rang on the doorbell there was no reply. I had decided to call the pigeon Bertie. From that moment Bertie’s life was in our hands.

Fortunately Google knows all about what to do with injured baby pigeons, and even more fortunately Google also knew that there happens to be a wildlife rescue centre about 10 minutes drive from our house. And even more fortunately still, the centre was open from 10 o’clock this morning (Sunday – church starts at 10.30). I also “just happened” to have the perfect sized empty box, with everything necessary to make a warm comfortable bed for Bertie (as you do), in the car. It definitely seems as though God was on the case.

We had everything that Bertie needed

So we made Bertie comfortable in the box, and went to bed hoping that we wouldn’t find a dead Bertie in the morning. We didn’t: in fact he was a lot more perky then he had been, having recovered from the obvious state of shock he had been in. So I took him to the rescue centre, they had a quick look at him and confirmed that his wing was injured, said he would be fine, that they would look after him and would “put him with all the other pigeons.” I even managed to arrive at church in time for the beginning of the service.

I left Bertie in the hands of the wildlife centre, happy that our little rescue mission looked like having a good outcome. But then I began to think about what a powerful metaphor the whole story was for God’s love and our mission to share it with others. Before God reaches down for us, we are just like Bertie, wounded and flapping around desperately in the dirt that is caked on wings that were made to fly. Unless we are rescued, our chances of survival are zero: we would flap around upside down in the dirt and into a lost eternity without ever knowing the freedom of flying into God’s eternal purposes. God in Christ left the heavenly realms and came to us; He parked his car here on Earth where He walks down the path where we have fallen, and if we will let Him He will step down lovingly and rescue us from the dirt, clean us up, heal our wounds, and release us to fly with “all the other pigeons“ that He has taken into his House.

We thought we needed our friends the vets to look after Bertie, but that wasn’t the case: we had everything that we needed for our part of the rescue mission, including the box and a warm soft lining him to lie on, as well as the availability of all the necessary information. And what I found even more amazing was that there is a specialist wildlife rescue centre just down the road, which has been there for years but that I knew nothing about, even though I call myself a wildlife lover. I can even top that: the first picture on their website of the work that they do was of a baby pigeon very similar to Bertie. All that was needed from us was the willingness to take that first step, to reach out, pick him up and bring him home.

The (slightly younger) “Bertie” on the rescue centre website.

We are on God’s rescue mission. There are “Berties“ all around us, created by their loving father to spread their wings and fly, but broken, wounded and upside down in the dirt where they will stay unless we reach out to rescue them. We don’t need an “expert“ to do the job: it has been given to you and me. And we don’t have to carry out the whole rescue, just our part; but everything that we need for us to do that part has been made available to us since before time began. God has already got their pictures on His website.

The fields are white unto harvest. Will we go?

Abiding in Him

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Prov 3:6)

Sometimes I go birdwatching if I wake early  in the morning. I like to leave early, but usually spend a bit of time with the Lord before I go. (The prayer time also involves coffee…) If we abide in Him and He abides in us this will involve our leisure pursuits (assuming they don’t involve ungodly activities!) as well as everything else we do, and He will use them to His purposes – sometimes just to bless us, because He loves to do that – and sometimes because He has something else in mind. Here are three examples of why it matters.

An important aspect of my hobby is taking photographs of interesting birds that I see. Taking the pictures and looking at them afterwards is a big part of the enjoyment for me. A few weeks ago I woke at about 6.30 and decided to go up onto Cannock Chase, our local beauty spot, and see what might be around before the dog-walkers and joggers started to turn up. Because my “window” of hopefully uninterrupted time was relatively short, I decided on that occasion not to even bother with the coffee or the prayer time – I’ll do that when I come back, I thought – and headed straight up to Cannock Chase. I parked the car, and my head was full of what I might see at this time of day. I switched off the engine and reached for my camera. It wasn’t there. I had gone out to photograph birds but I had left my camera behind.

It doesn’t take a word of knowledge to work out what the Lord said to me through this. Proverbs 3:6 tells us “In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” As I have written more than once before, the word “acknowledge” here means to know, not just refer to. The sense is closer to “abide in” than what we understand by “acknowledge,” which is just to accept or admit the existence of something or someone. I didn’t acknowledge the Lord in the sense of Proverbs 3:6 before I went birding, and He quite categorically did not direct my path.

There have been a couple of times since ten when, equally categorically, He has. One was on my birthday, which was nine days ago at the time of writing. I woke at about 6.00 am and decided to go birding. There are various hotspots within half an hour’s drive of our house, and I decided I would go to one of those rather than just go up onto the Chase. This time though, I had my coffee with the Lord. When I left, I felt strongly that I should go to a particular reservoir that is actually managed as a nature reserve by West Midlands Bird Club, of which I am a member. My favourite birds are warblers – little two ounce balls of fluff that migrate thousands of miles to breed in the UK and bless us with their various tweets and twitters from our woods, heaths and hedgerows. There are about ten warbler spieces in the UK, including some rarer types, that an informed birder has a reasonable chance of seeing in the UK, depending on where they are. One of the rarer warblers is the grasshopper warbler, and a few breed on a patch of heathland about the same distance from me as the reserve I was heading for.

As I drove down the motorway, I thought: “Perhaps I’ll go to Norton Bog in the hope of seeing a grasshopper warbler, and not the reservoir?” “No!” came the thought back. “Go to the reservoir. Stick to your original decision.” So I stuck to the plan. When I arrived I found that a small team from the bird club were ringing birds. They put up nets in strategic places, a bit like volleyball nets, catch the birds, inspect them for their general health, their age etc, ring them and of course release them. The activity plays an important part in the scientific study of bird populations. When I saw them I said “Have you got anything interesting?” “Yes, said one of the ringers. We have got something special.” I could spin this out, but I won’t. It was a grasshopper warbler. That morning I saw six different spieces of warbler, including another one that I hadn’t seen since I was a boy of about 11 (that’s sixty years ago!) and took some lovely photos. What a birthday present from the Lord! Why did He give it to me? Because He loves me, and wanted to bless me on my birthday! He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (Eph 3:20) and we can so easily forget this. I could, probably would, have traipsed around Norton Bog and seen nothing of interest. Instead of that, His power at work in me directed my paths and blessed me with a birdwatching birthday present that I am going to remember for ever, and which I would like to think I will thank Him for personally when I get to Heaven. Not only will His immeasurable power do such wonders for us, but He will do them for others, through us, if we will only seek His presence and believe His word.

A grasshopper warbler being ringed. More than I could ever ask or imagine…

The final example of how He directed my paths on a morning birding excursion has got more of an immediate “Kingdom” aspect to it, and happened just three days ago. Again, I had my coffee with the Lord, and felt that I would go a bit further afield, to a place called Barr Beacon. I left at about 6.30, but when I was nearly there I was slowed down by the first wave of commuter traffic so by the time I arrived the first dog-walkers were already out. However, I was blessed almost as soon as I got out of the car by a little family of yellowhammers, and once again I tried to allow the Holy Spirit to “direct my paths.” After about 20 minutes I was on a particular path, trying to get a picture of a willow warbler in a tree, when a man came in my direction with his dog. “Oh, well; bye bye willow warbler,” I thought, and made a fuss of the friendly little dog which came up to me with its tail wagging. The man and I exchanged pleasantries, then he called his dog and went on.

I was going to move on myself, but I felt a prompting to stay around there. Maybe the willow warbler will be back, I thought. Actually it was the man and his dog that came back after a few minutes. In fact the warbler hadn’t gone far, because I could hear it calling from the hedgerow. Max (the dog) stopped to say hello, and the man stopped and we chatted some more. He told me he had heard something in the hedge, and we started chatting about  warblers and the wonders of migration. I started thinking, “Lord, is this where You come into the conversation?” Soon He did, and I was talking about the God of Creation. He was agreeing with me, and before long we were referring to the Bible and I was thinking the Lord may have led me to a brother in Christ. I asked him if he was a Christian, and he said with a little smile, “No. Actually I’m probably the devil to you, because I am one of Jehovah’s witnesses!”

I had been directed to that place at that moment to testify to a Jehovah’s witness of how I had been led to our conversation by the Holy Spirit that he didn’t believe in.

We had a couple of the inevitable conversations and he fished a tract out of his pocket and gave it to me (I was convicted: why didn’t I have one in mine?), but I felt strongly that God hadn’t sent me there to argue with him. Just like Paul with the Corinthians, I don’t believe that we convince JWs “with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1 Cor 2:4). Like a lens on a camera, they have their own lens that they put on the Bible, and they view everything through it. The Holy Spirit has to get them to change lenses. I felt that my mission was to make two declarations of truth concerning the Trinity, and to leave them with him. I said, “Born-again Christians and Jehovah’s witnesses always argue, and I don’t want to do that. I just want to make two declarations to you: there is a personal Holy Spirit (they believe that He is a force), and Jesus isn’t a created being (They translate John 1:1 as “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word was a God.) At that, we parted company amicably. His name is Kevin. Please pray for him!

One last little story. The next time I went out after the episode where I had left my camera behind, I opened my Bible to the psalm I had been reading the previous day. It was Psalm 84. Straight away I noticed verse 3, which says: “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God

We will even find an anointing on the subjects of our leisure interests if we stay near the altar of our King and our God.

To Be a Pilgrim

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.

(Psalm 84: 5-7)

I came to faith as an adult, but God was preparing me for my journey many, many years before I finally made a decision for Christ. I loved singing certain hymns in Primary school, for example. I didn’t understand them, but I remember how uplifted I used to feel, and how I didn’t want them to end; and looking back I can see how that was the presence of the Holy Spirit touching my young heart and drawing me to Jesus. One such song was “Guide me o though Great Jehovah:”

“Guide me O though Great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak but though are mighty,
Guide be with thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more!”

The second line, especially the word “Pilgrim,” conjured up something heroic in my imagination; something romantic, something above the humdrum of the daily routine of school desks and the constraints of parental authority, something that had mountains, deserts and jungles in the background. I had read “Pilgrim’s Progress” (almost certainly a children’s version!) when I was seven or eight, and another song I loved was “He who would valiant be,” by John Bunyan, taken directly from the book:

“He who would valiant be
‘Gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy
Follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.”

I didn’t really know what a pilgrim was when I was 9, but I knew I wanted to be one.

The Hebrew מְסִלָּה (pronounced mĕcillah), translated as “set on pilgrimage” in most modern versions, is actually a noun meaning a road or causeway, a raised way or a highway. A more literal translation of the text rendered whose heart is set on pilgrimage” would be something like “at the core of whose very being is a highway.” We can set our hearts on a thousand different objectives, from something we want to buy or somewhere we want to go, to a particular career or someone we want to marry; but in every case the objective is the destination, and not the journey to it. The psalmist had a different vision: the man is when he sets his heart on the journey, not the destination. And even though the Holy Spirit makes it clear where the journey will end, which is “Before God in Zion,” at the core of our pilgrim’s heart is the walk with the Way Himself, Jesus, as we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14) God took care of the destination at Calvary, so that we can focus on the details of the journey.

Verse 6 tells us where the path takes us, which is through the Valley of Baca. “Baca” means weeping, probably (according to the Blue Letter Bible) suggesting gloom and barrenness. Jesus sends us to bring His life into a dark, barren world, through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Where there was darkness, He sends us to bring light; where there was weeping, springs of Life. And as we let His rivers of living water (John 7:38) flow out of us, this scripture promises that the rain will also come and “cover it with pools.” Although we often find valleys of weeping in our own lives, where the Lord works in our hearts to bring healing and life, this scripture tells us that it’s the pilgrim, not God, who makes the barren valley into a life-giving spring. The purpose of the pilgrimage is for us to bring God’s life and love to those around us, rather than to receive it for ourselves. And as we set our hearts on this purpose the Holy Spirit does what only He can do: He covers it with pools. Supernatural manifestations of the presence of God will gather in the valley as the pilgrim passes through releasing the love and power of Jesus into the barren place.

These promises are fulfilled for the one whose strength is in the Lord (verse 5); who trusts and relies on the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish those things that are impossible for the human frame. The more we draw on the strength of God, the more it increases in us. As we get older the natural course of our human strength is to diminish with every passing year, but in the Spirit the opposite is the case: we go from strength to strength as we walk on the path of faith.

Jesus is the Way: to say that the core of our being is our journey of faith is really another way of saying that Jesus is Lord of our life. Our journey ends when we “appear before God in Zion,” but we do not have to work for our acceptance: Jesus has paid the price for that, and our Heavenly Father has already received us as His babes when we were born again. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

To be a pilgrim is to have no objective other than to walk the Narrow Way with Jesus and to have our hearts set on the journey, knowing that the destination is already taken care of and our purpose is to turn the barren places into springs of water as we pass through them; and believing the promises that His strength in us will increase as we do, and that pools of revival will gather as He pours out His Spirit on the thirsty land. What a blessing!

He who would valiant be
‘Gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy
Follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

Who so beset him round
With dismal stories,
Do but themselves confound –
His strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might,
Though he with giants fight:
He will make good his right
To be a pilgrim.

Since, Lord, thou dost defend
Us with thy Spirit,
We know we at the end
Shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away!
I’ll fear not what men say,
I’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim

John Bunyan (1628-1688)

I will Guide You WiTh My Eye


I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.

Do not be like the horse or like the mule,
Which have no understanding,
Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,
Else they will not come near you.

(Ps 32:8-9)

The essence of walking with God is knowing where God wants us to walk. We “walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh” because we are born-again children of God, with new hearts that have His Law of Love inscribed upon them, and so, as I have already written, our inclination is to walk in the light and not in the darkness. But how often do we stay on that path – or return to it – because we have been “harnessed with bit and bridle,” not because we have an understanding of where the Holy Spirit is wanting to lead us, but because we are responding to the tug on the reins and the pressure of the bit in our mouths that is pulling us away from the trajectory that we are on?

A horse cannot see its rider; it can only see what is in front of its nose. All of us who are serious about following Jesus want to be people who will respond quickly to the lightest touch on the reins from the Holy Spirit. But when I read this psalm again recently I realised how my responses to the Holy Spirit’s prompts are often the response of that horse or mule being led back onto the right path, rather than of someone who is choosing God’s direction of his own volition.

To be like the animal with “no understanding” who needs to be guided by the bit and bridle is to consistently behave in a self-centred way that does not direct God’s love into the lives of those with whom He has put us. Yet as people whose lives are, by our own confession, committed to being God-centred, we could be expected to understand that this is not why Jesus died for our sins and called us into His Kingdom. If I am walking with an understanding of the Holy Spirit’s purposes for my life I will not react to people in a manner that is in any way damaging, hurtful or otherwise destructive. This is all the work of the evil one, the thief who only came to “kill, steal and destroy,” and whose work Jesus came to eradicate. If we are living through Christ, everything we do and say will in some way “bring life, and that in abundance.” (John 10:10; 1 John 3:8) If we understand this, we should not need a tug on the reins to remind us.

So how does God say He will teach us in the way we should go? He says He will guide us with His eye. If someone is guiding me with their eye they do not need to speak: they just need to see that I am looking at them and direct their gaze to the thing or person that they want me to notice, so that I  look where they are looking. It’s a universal form of communication between people who know each other well.

Psalm 32 tells us that this is God’s intention. He wants us to live lives that are focussed on Him, and to know Him so well that we can see what He is showing us with just a look, and to walk in that direction with an understanding of His purpose. God is love, and God is light: that is who He us, so the general trajectory of His purpose is never difficult to understand. We may not know how He is going to accomplish His purpose on that occasion, but if we are walking in faith we will know that He will give us what we need to know when we need to know it, because

“the eyes of (our) understanding (will be) enlightened; that (we will) know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” (Eph 1: 18-21)

All in all, this is a far preferable alternative to a tug on the reins.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us  commandment.” (1 John 3:18-23)

“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4: 17-18)


“Perfect love casts out fear.” This is a Bible truth that we have all turned to, been turned to, or turned others to at different times and points of need in our walk with God. If certain scriptures are familiar “meeting rooms” that we all know and visit on many occasions, this has to be one of them. But I think that there is an aspect of this room, a décor, that maybe we don’t often see, and that I would like to spend a bit of time looking at and appreciating here, and it’s this: the perfect love that casts out fear is not just the love that has been poured in, but the love that we pour out in obedience to God’s command. It’s the love that we walk in. Output, as well as input. And not only does it have implications for our emotional and spiritual well-being, but also for the effectiveness of our faith. We know that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5), but we have to walk in love for it to be manifested: it is only when that love is manifested that we do actually love “in deed and in truth” and not just in word and tongue, as John so succinctly puts it. That is when “As He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)


Walking in Love

God’s desire is for His love to be manifested on earth as it is in heaven. We love the Lord and His love is revealed in us when we obey His commands; and John tells us clearly that when we obey Him we know that we abide in Him: “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him and He in him.“  (1 John 3:24) Moreover, “Whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” (1 John 2:5) When we keep God’s word His love is perfected in us, and so we have no fear of condemnation, because perfect love casts out fear. John tells us that fear involves punishment ( “kolasis:” correction, punishment, penalty. NKJV above: “torment”), so to put this simply we know we aren’t going to get punished because we know we are being obedient. While it’s the input of God’s grace through the cross that brings us to salvation, it’s what comes out of us when we express that love in obedience to His word that casts out fear. And when we walk in the manifestation of this love, we will receive whatever we ask, because we are asking in the full assurance that we know we are walking in His purpose. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5: 14-15)

Much of 1 John is a reprise of what Jesus taught and John recorded towards the end of his gospel (see John 15): we love Jesus and remain in Him when we keep His word; when we do this we will do even “greater things” than what He accomplished during His earthly ministry; when we remain in Him we will “bear much fruit,” but without Him we can do nothing.

All the time we walk along the path of love, we walk in ‘the works which are prepared for us beforehand’ (Ephesians 2:10), and we will receive whatever we request to accomplish them because we won’t be asking for anything that is not on our path. If there is a tree in front of me and I need the fruit that hangs from a branch that I can’t reach, God will give me a ladder by the power of His Spirit, because I am keeping His commandment and abiding in His purpose. “Now he who keeps his commandments abides in Him and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.“ (1 John 3: 24). However if there is another tree, or even a whole orchard, beckoning from somewhere over the fields and off my path, God will not give me the means to reach it. And if I do, stubbornly, manage to beat a path there myself I will find that the fruit is either under-ripe, inaccessible, or rotten.

The Lie of Condemnation

The devil is always working to thwart the purposes of God in Christ, and we are called to achieve them by walking in faith and love. We are fighting a war, and these are the battle lines. The devil will use the world and the flesh to try and tempt us away from the path because these are the domains under his sway; and he will undermine our faith by telling us that we are not walking in love, because if our hearts are under condemnation we will not have the assurance of faith that God will answer our prayers. Faith only works through love, so if he can weaken our resolve to love and convince us that our love isn’t perfect enough, our faith is undermined and our prayers ineffective. Bringing us under the lie of condemnation is one of the enemy’s main strategies.

But “God is greater than our hearts”: He knows that we love Him, and He knows that He has called us according to His purpose. Even though the heart of the old man is “deceitful above all things” (Jer 17:9), the heart of the new man – the new, soft heart of flesh – has God’s  law written upon it  (Jer 31:33) and is therefore always directed towards fulfilling His purposes. And when we miss this direction because we fall into the ways of the old heart, we know, and God knows, that if anyone sins “we have an Advocate with the FatherJesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1).

The commandment that we are given, which as John says “is not burdensome” (1 John 5:3), is to love one another and to believe in Jesus. These two are like the twin poles of an electric current: out of our born-again, righteous heart we walk “after the Spirit and not after the flesh,” (Gal 5:16) loving one another with the resources that the Holy Spirit has poured into our hearts. And when we fail to obey this part of God’s commandment – which we will do, regularly – we obey the other part, which is to believe in the power of the blood of Jesus and the Grace of God to forgive our sin. So perfect love – the love that is perfected in us by our obedience to God’s commandments – casts out fear, because There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) Free of condemnation, we can walk in faith that our prayers will be answered.

Come Boldly to the Throne of Grace

To complete the picture of the electric current, there is (in the UK anyway) a third pin on an electric plug, and that is the earth. We can neither hear what Jesus is asking us to do, nor receive His forgiveness for not doing it, unless we stay close to Him all the time. So we need to always be earthed in the presence of God for the twin poles of our obedience and His forgiveness to be active in our lives. When they are, God’s current flows and the power of the Holy Spirit moves among us, and those “greater things” become possible.

So brothers and sisters, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb 4:16) knowing that in this place the devil ‘has nothing in us’ (see  John 14:30). When we can ask, free of fear and in full assurance of faith, for whatever it is that we need to see His Kingdom furthered, His love will be manifested among us and the name of Jesus will be glorified on the earth.

Faith working through Love

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Gal 5:6) And then in chapter 6 of the same letter he writes “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything but a new creation.” (Gal 6:15) First he says “In Christ, it’s not about the law, it’s about Grace; and Grace is only about one thing, and that is faith working through love. Then he writes, “In Christ, it’s not about the law, it’s about Grace; and Grace is only about one thing, and that is a new creation.” So by this logic, faith working through love and the new creation are synonymous. We are born again for one thing only, and that is for faith working through love.

If this is the case, what is the work of faith? James famously writes “for as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.“ (James 2:26) When Paul writes to his friend Philemon he talks about faith becoming “effective:”

“I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgement of every good thing which is in you by Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.” (Philemon 4 – 7)

The Greek word translated as effective – energes – is only used in the new Testament for supernatural power. It’s the same used same word translated as “powerful” – or in some translations “active”- in Hebrews 4:12: “for the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword.“ Effective faith is active and imbued with power. It is Faith with Works; not dead but very much alive.

As the writer to the Hebrews says: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11: 1-3), and Paul writes to the Romans: “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” (Romans 4:17) God creates by the power of his word. He knows that what he speaks will bring about the fulfilment of his will, and will call into reality things which did not exist before his word was spoken. His creative word carries His life. It “framed the worlds“ and “gives life to the dead.“ The words of Jesus are “spirit and life.“ It is God’s own faith that knows for a certainty that what He says will happen: that His word “will not fall to the ground void.”

So how do we receive this faith ourselves? The answer, as Paul writes in Romans 10:17 is this: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” When we hear God speak His  word into our hearts we know it carries his creative life giving power. If we want to move mountains, we need God’s faith.

“So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. (literally “the faith of God”) For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.  (Mark 11:22-23)

If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt 17:20)

Paul is clear about the source of effective faith when he writes to Timothy: “And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.“ (One Timothy 1:14)

Faith is in Jesus, as indeed is love. When we exercise effective faith we are drawing on the faith carried by Christ in us, not on something we have generated ourselves. If you have God’s faith the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains. This faith is activated by a word from God brought by the Holy Spirit, and it operates in the spiritual realm. Human faith is activated by the soul and operates in the realm of flesh. You can have human faith the size of a mountain, and it won’t even move a mustard seed. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!“ is the cry of a heart  that recognises the difference between the two.

What else do we need to operate in effective faith? Paul tells Philemon that faith becomes effective “by the acknowledgement of every good thing which is in you by Christ Jesus.” The word translated as “acknowledgement” means precise and correct knowledge. The church is “the Fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:23)  Effective faith is borne out of “precise and correct knowledge” of every good thing that the Holy Spirit – the  Spirit of Jesus – has put into us: the gifts and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Unless we are operating in the fullness of the Holy Spirit we are unlikely to share our faith effectively – ie, with power. And since any one gift of the Holy Spirit might carry a mustard seed, we need to be open to them all.

Effective Faith takes us  from death to life, from flesh to Spirit, from human effort to divine enabling, from standing in the boat to walking on the water. We cannot know it unless we are filled with the Spirit who brings it. “All you who are thirsty, come to the waters!” (Isaiah 55:1)

When spirit-filled faith abounds in the Church, things start to happen…And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. And Stephen, full of faith  and power, (in other words, effective faith) did great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6: 5-8)

HOWEVER…

To be filled the fullness of God we need to be empty of the emptiness of self. The works of faith go hand in hand with the labour of love. “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.“

The Prophet Bob Jones, who died in 2014, was known for the remarkable accuracy of his prophetic ministry. He is also known for the fact that he temporarily died many years previously, in 1977, after after a short illness. When he reached Heaven he heard Jesus asking everyone the same question. It was this: “Did you learn to love?“ Bob Jones obviously hadn’t, because he came back to this life, and from that time on he was known not only for his gifting and the power of his ministry, but the depth of the love that he showed to others. He was known as “the prophet of love.“ However powerful our ministry, without love we are nothing

Love doesn’t come naturally: it is the result of a choice. At every interaction we can choose love or we can choose self. We can choose life or death. We can walk by faith, or we can walk by sight. We can walk according to the spirit, or according to the flesh; we can live out of the new creation or out of the old. We were born again so that we can learn how to love and bring Gods love into this world. To do this we need to “be renewed in the spirit of (our) mind “(Ephesians 4:23); we need to “put off concerning your former contact, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,“ (Eph 4:22) and “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:24)  The new man is a supernatural being. Just like faith, love is found in Jesus, so to walk in love we need to walk in Him. To do so we need to die to self. And dying to self all day is hard! That’s why it’s a labour of love. Actually without the Lord’s help it isn’t just hard; it’s impossible. As Paul says: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)

If we keep close to Jesus and keep in mind why He endured His cross, He will help us with our own. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:4)

Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before him.“ What was His joy? Sit down for this: it was you and me! And the rest of the Church, of course. Paul writes to the Ephesians “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5: 25-27) He has a vision for His bride and He is working on bringing her to the potential that He sees. We need to let His love that is within us show us His vision for each other so that He can work for us to bring others to their potential in him.

We are given a wonderful example of how the Holy Spirit gave one man revelation of his vision for another brother. A young man in the early church was clearly on fire for God, but he was not accepted by the other disciples. Barnabas, like Stephen a man “full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” saw his potential and introduced him to the elders of the Jerusalem church, who accepted him into the group. His name was Saul. “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.” So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.” Acts 9:26-28 Before long there was an attempt on his life, and the brethren sent him off to Tarsus, presumably for his safety. At around the same time Barnabas was sent by the Jerusalem church to Antioch, where the Holy Spirit had begun to move in power. After encouraging the brethren there, Barnabas went to Tarsus – a round trip of about 500 miles – to fetch Saul to assist him in the work. The two of them then spent a year ministering together in Antioch. This is where Paul’s apostolic ministry began to emerge, and the term “Christian” was first used.

Barnabus saw the vision that Jesus had for Paul; he connected him with the leaders of the church; he singled him out for an important ministry opportunity in a young, growing fellowship, and almost certainly would have been discipling him during the year at Antioch where he was leading the apostolic team. Later, Paul would write: ““From whom (Christ) the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph 4:16). To disciple others and to be discipled by others is a natural outworking of relationships in the church and the supernatural work of faith working through love in the body by the power of the Holy Spirit, and is what moves us closer to our destiny in Christ.

So to have the power, we need to be connected; and to be connected, we need to have the power. The essential characteristic of the new creation is faith that works through love.  It is the supernatural lifestyle that brings the supply of Heaven to Earth, releases the potential in others, matures the bride of Christ, and makes disciples.