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.

Sunday 13th Sept: discipleship

It’s great to have a “live stream” of the prophetic in our Sunday meetings again, even though we aren’t physically together. As I write this, I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians ; “For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit.” (1 Cor 5:3). We use the phrase “with you in spirit” a lot, so much so that it has basically lost its meaning. I think it’s time that we rediscovered the spiritual power of these words. Our born again spirits really are in the same place, seated in Heavenly places in Christ.

There were two prophetic words this morning.

Jake had the following scripture
“Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)

He felt the Lord saying “There is a battle coming, but I want you to know that I have given you everything you need to be more than conquerors, so that you will be standing strong at the end.”

The Lord spoke to me during the worship.
Anne and I were sitting on the sofa watching the meeting on my laptop. I was quite happy; the laptop was adequate for the job. But as we were watching, Anne was sorting out the connection between the wi-fi and the TV, so that we could enjoy the meeting on a bigger screen and with better volume. As she was putting in the password, I felt the Lord say to me: “Are you content with just the laptop, or do you want more?”

God want us to press in for the big screen. He wants us to move onto a new level in our relationship with Him, and not to be content with what we have at the moment.  His desire is for us to have Him on that big fixed screen and stay connected all the time, not to fold up our laptops and switch them off when we feel like it.

Discipleship is not a part-time activity. As Rob’s message that followed emphasised, it is an all-in, full time call.

Soaring like Eagles

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40 v 31

We need to understand the eagle to get a more complete picture of what the Lord is saying through this passage.

The eagle is the fastest animal created, soaring at speeds of 140 miles per hour and in excess of 200 miles per hour when it spots prey. It also flies at a height of between 23000 feet to 36000 feet, sometimes for days without a single flap of its wings, and even can fly through a hurricane. Eagles actually love the challenge of a storm . When other birds will try to flee, the eagle will fly into it, using the wind of the storm to rise higher in a matter of seconds, just  soaring  unaltered from its path but at a greater height. The eagle’s wings are so aerodynamic that air flows over them causing very little turbulence. I believe that as we wait upon the lord He prunes and trims our wings to be more aerodynamic, so that we may soar on the thermals and fly into the storms when they come.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15 v1-8)

Eagles are very efficient birds, which is how God wants us to be:  soaring on his thermals in the Spirit. So just like He prunes us to make us fruitful, the Lord will also prune and trim our wings to be ever more aerodynamic, soaring and remaining steady through the storms of life. Another amazing fact about the eagle that if it loses a feather either on one side – on land or soaring – it instantly loses the same feather on the other side to keep it in balance. I believe when the Holy Spirit prunes us He does the same thing, keeping us balanced so we can continue soaring with Him.

Eagles are famous for their vision: we talk about having “eagle eyes.” The eagle flies well above the ground so it can one see what is going on. What we are called to do as a church and as members of His body is to wait on the Lord so we can soar above the troubles of life, even flying into the storms, appearing almost motionless as we keep an eye out for anyone caught in the enemy’s snare on the ground.  When we see someone in trouble we can dive down to rescue them as quickly as possible, carrying them with us up to the safety of the skies to be restored by the Lord .

Thanks and credits

Here I wish to give credit to Adele and Phoebe for letting me take picture of Phoebe having her feet being washed for the cover and chapter 1 pictures.

Thank you to Graham Russell for taking the photograph of Pete their dog.

A big thank you to Bob  Hext for mentoring me and  for reviewing materials that I have written and am writing.

All thanks and Praise goes to the Our Lord for gifting me and  guiding me.

Identity Crisis

Bartimaeus (Mark 10 v 46-52)

Bartimaeus knew about Jesus and knew what he would do for him, yet he also was aware that he did not deserve to be healed as he called out “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Herein lies another key, which is knowing our frail spiritual state. As Bartimaeus showed, we really don’t deserve anything: all that we receive is by the Lord’s mercy. But because of what Jesus has done on the cross for us  we can boldly enter the throne room of our Father and ask for what we want. “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)

Bartimaeus recognised Jesus and not stop calling out to Him.  Even when he was told to be silent he was persistent and called out even more, and when Jesus called him he  threw off anything that was hindering him, jumped up  and went to Him.  Then jesus asked him what he wanted.  Bartimaeus simply said: “I want to see,” not “if it’s your will,” or “It would re really nice if I could see…”

So we can see how much he wanted to see and be healed: he threw his cover off and jumped up;  he didn’t just get up on his feet and tentatively wander over in the hope that he might be noticed.  Bartimaeus had one thing on his mind, and his actions expressed it. Although this story is used for healing, I believe we can do the same with whatever we want from the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12 v1))

These weights could be things that we have held onto from the past that we have allowed to  become part of our identity. This could include illness, disability, even sin:  essentially anything that we hold onto that means that we are not fully accepting our identity In Christ. Are we willing throw off everything, even things that have become our identity, like Bartimaeus’s begging bowl?  We don’t need them: we are new creations, as 2 Corinthians 5: 17 makes absolutely clear.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here!

Our identity is in Christ and not things of the past; whether it’s our wealth, our position in our job, what we have given away, our house, our reputation, even our healing.  It has all gone, and the new has come. We are hidden in Christ.

For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God .(Colossians 3: 3)

So our identity should be focused who Jesus says we are; and since this is hidden in Him, nothing can take it from us.  It will always be true.  How we process this truth is our choice: we can either throw everything off to fully take hold of it in faith; or we can put some of our eggs in different baskets, maybe because we don’t want to let go of something else that has become our identity due to fear, or maybe we are just hedging our bets because our experience hasn’t matched up to the  truth. However, the truth remains, whether we choose to believe it and act on it or not, much like the sun is always shining even if it cloudy. If our experience is not matching the truth we need to take hold of the Word fully, letting go of everything that hinders us. 

Now go back to the sub-title of this article. I left a word out. What was it?

So anything that stops us remembering and living out these truths could be classed as part of the identity of our old self; the one that has gone.   Are we willing to throw them all off and jump up, making ourselves look  foolish, shouting louder than the noise of the distractions around us? Are we prepared to stumble blindly towards Jesus, through the mocking and the catcalls, despite all the adversity, until we hear Him say to us: “What can I do for you?”  Will we speak the truth that is in our hearts and say directly and plainly, “I WANT TO SEE!”

Our Father in Heaven doesn’t mince His words. Jesus tells us to let our “yes be yes, and our no be no.” I believe we need to follow His ways in this, and tell Him what is on our hearts without wrapping it up in formulae.

John Wesley and Billy Graham.
Two more recent examples of calling out earnestly and in desperation are John Wesley and Billy Graham.  In John Wesley’s house there are two knee sized marks in the carpet next to his bed where he cried out to God for revival. When Billy Graham was a student at Wheaton College he was one of a group of students that visited the building. When the lecturer returned to the coach he counted the students and found one missing, so he went back into the building to find Billy Graham kneeling in the same knee marks as Wesley, his face flat the bed, calling out: “Do it again lord!” Do we have this passion? How much do we want to know Jesus and do what He asks of us? Will we long for and cry out for healing and revival? Do we cry out for God to touch us again? And the big question: what are we willing to sacrifice to gain these things?

If we want to learn from Bartimaeus and Billy Graham we must be willing to shut ourselves away and lock into the Lord, to become more like Jesus and to let his holy fire refine us. In so doing we in turn will be set on fire for him.  If it only takes one man to stand in the gap for the Lord to do what He did through John Wesley and Billy Graham, just imagine what one church can do. Jesus said when two or three are gathered in my name I will be there in the midst.

Bartimaeus’s old identity.
Bartimaeus’s old identity was “blind.” This was the word I missed out earlier.  He knew who Jesus was, and not caring what he sounded or looked like he approached Him boldly and in complete faith that Jesus would meet his need. His identity was Bartimaeus, not Blind Bartimaeus. And yes, Jesus healing him was an awesome miracle, but there is more written about Bartimaeus than the miracle here. I think that the fact that he was blind is secondary to the fact that he was persistent and didn’t hold onto his disability. I think Mark is making the point that it was persistence and desperation for Him which caused  our Lord to stop. He wants to see how much we really want what He has for us.  He wants us to be utterly reliant on him and desperate for Him. In His presence all of us are beggars.

Serving to Soaring

A series of five articles by Jacob Dominy.

CONTENTS

Service

Flowing or stagnant?

The Crumbs under the Table

Identity Crisis

Soaring like Eagles

Service

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10: 42- 45)

We must be prepared to serve; even to clean the toilets. We may have to serve for a long time in the most menial tasks; unseen and not seeking praise. Serving with a heart of love and enthusiasm are key: we must never serve in order to gain position.

Wildwood Church meets in a school, so every Sunday involves a lot of setup work. I have been on the set-up team at various times since 1988. Quite often this has meant making my own way to church, leaving early on a Sunday morning and having to walk or cycle there before I had a car.  It became more of a sacrifice when I was married, when I would cycle and find a lift for my wife. We are given clear instructions on how to serve in Matt 6: 3-4: “when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” If we take the lowest place at the table (Luke 14:10) our host will eventually say ; “’Friend, we have a better place for you!’”

Jesus, the King of Kings,  gave us the ultimate example of royal behaviour to follow:
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” (John 13: 3-5)

Finally, 1 peter 4 10-11 tells us:
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

However we are called to serve, we carry on in that capacity until God makes a change.

The Rose

I was looking at this image of a rose this morning.

It struck me that we all love the beauty and (when they’re scented) fragrance of the rose, and the many images of the rose in art and literature – the poem by Robbie Burns, “My love is like a red, red, rose” comes to mind immediately – express well the fact that roses symbolise much of what our flesh longs for. But I was drawn to the “dead head” behind the bloom, where the petals have fallen and the seed head, the fruit, is beginning to form. When I looked at it I thought that in its own way it is as beautiful as the flower, full of all sorts of little details of life in transition that the Creator has put in place.

And I felt the Lord say something like this, not just to me but to many of us:

“You seek the beauty of the bloom, but like the grass it is transient and soon fades and falls. Consider what I am doing in the seedhead that is being formed, for this is the part of your life that I am looking at. You may feel at times like the flower that is over. You may feel that everything is in transition. But it is in the seedhead that is forming, and that the eyes of the world pass by, where my life is hidden. You don’t need the appreciation that the world gives to the beauty of the flower: you need to remember that it is the seeds of my life and of my word that I have put into you that are of lasting value.”

Jake also had a word about roses, which he sent me this afternoon. This does emphasise  the fragrance and beauty of the bloom rather than its transience. He had been looking at a climbing rose in his garden. It may even be this one, as it’s his picture. He writes:

“What I felt the Lord say was that not only do we need to be grafted into the vine of the rose, but we also need to be shaped and tied back in order that we can bear the fruit that we are called to bear, without breaking or being burdened with it. The tying down or tying back I feel is being linked into the Body of Christ, and having close fellowship with other believers, and in this way becoming one beautiful rose bearing much fruit and becoming a showpiece of His glory.  The Lord says: ‘The wind that will carry your aroma is my Holy Spirit, and the bees that pollinate my body are those who share my word: both believers and non believers who visit the church and talk about my body in a positive light.’ ”

I (Bob) think it is important that we catch what God is saying about being “tied into” fellowship with others. When winds blow and storms rise, blooms that are leaning out on their own are in danger of being broken off.

The Snowball

I felt that God gave me this yesterday:

God has made a snowball, and has set it rolling down a mountain. It is the true Church; the righteousness of God in Christ, the people of God loving one another, held together by the Word of God and moving in the power of the Spirit of God. As yet it is small, but as it rolls it gathers momentum and it increases in size as it keeps gathering more snow to itself. The enemies of God and of righteousness say “this is only a snowball!” and seek to stand in its path to break it up, and they set fires to melt the snow. But the snowball crushes those who stand it its way, and puts out the fires that would melt it. Our strength is in Him as we hold fast to one another and to the Word that binds us together, and as we keep to the trajectory that He has ordained.

As I was meditating on it this morning I thought the following, but this is my further reflection on what I had felt the Lord had showed me, rather than the original rhema word:

As we do this we will find the snow sticking to us as we go, because we will be His witnesses. We do not have to make this happen, and we cannot gather another person’s snow: our responsibility is to pray for those that we are connected to in the Body of Christ, that they will be “sticky” enough to gather the snow that is in their path and remain united to the rest of the snowball as it rolls. For each one of us, the snow that we gather is our part of Ephesians 2v 10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Or, in this case, roll in them.

Jesus Talking

According to a personal evangelism course called “Talking Jesus,” a high number of people come to faith as a result of “conversations with a Christian.” I think it was about 35%; the only higher number (over 40%) being those who grew up in a Christian family. This is good to know, as we all need as much encouragement as possible to share the gospel! The lowest figure of the five mentioned (the others were, and I think I am quoting correctly, “attending  a standard church service”, and “experiencing the love of Jesus) was 17%, which is the number of Christians who have come to faith (as I did, in fact) through an “unexplained spiritual experience.” But I can’t help thinking that this 17% is a sad reflection of the state of the church today, and how far removed it is from the pattern set by Paul, for example, who came to the Corinthians “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: 4-5)

Actually, Jesus never told us to “share our faith.” He told us to “make disciples,” and He said “”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 Greek word for witness is “martyr.” We all know one meaning of that, which is something that I don’t think any of us want to be; but the other meaning is “spectator.” This passage seems to be telling us that when the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon us we will watch Jesus (be spectators) doing His work – the works of the Father, in fact. This is what happened throughout the Book of Acts, and this is what happened with Paul at Corinth. We have consigned the meaning of the word to being witnesses of what Jesus did, rather what He is doing now; and from that we have created an activity called ”witnessing,” which, as far as I can see, is actually divorced from the model that we are given in the New Testament.

“The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) When Jesus (today, through the Holy Spirit) speaks, one of two things happen: people run, or they turn (I’m quoting my wife, Anne, here). They don’t just stand there and say, “Yes, that’s interesting.  Of course you are entitled to your opinion.” In politics and business especially, the power of influence is sometimes called “leverage.” Judging by the figures we are given in the Book of Acts, the leverage of Holy Spirit empowered signs and wonders confirming the preaching of the Word is very high. By contrast, the leverage of other forms of evangelism has to be much lower. What would the figures look like if we were to carry on in the biblical pattern, hungering and thirsting in prayer for the Holy Spirit to come and do the works of Jesus for us to witness, instead of just trying to “witness” ourselves?

It is God’s heart and our calling that we reach out to as many as we can with the good news of salvation. The world needs to see how much we love one another, because that is how it will know that we are disciples of Christ. But Jesus didn’t say that this is enough to make new disciples; He only said that it confirms the truth of who we are in Him. Although there may be some people who are drawn to the light that they see in us, I think the New Testament pattern for making new disciples is to be witnesses of His work among those who don’t know Him. We need to ask Jesus who He is calling and we need to pray for them and ask for opportunities for them to meet Him. But when we are with them, we mustn’t be like tradesmen without a toolkit: we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit if we are to witness Jesus in operation. Without them, our leverage is poor or non-existent, but with them, how many more people exponentially would be coming to faith as that 17% became 37%, 47%, 57% or more? Because this is what happens when revival comes.

A friend at Wildwood Church was saying recently how she was with someone and the Holy Spirit said “talk about THAT” (Whatever THAT was, or who it was, of course she didn’t say.) Her first thought was “No, I can’t mention THAT!” But she obeyed. Tears, repentance, and blessing followed. She simply used a gift from the toolbox – in this case, a word of knowledge. Her talking  was leveraged by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Paul exhorted Timothy, we need to be ready to preach the word “in season and out of season.” (2 Tim 4:2), so we certainly do need  to be talking Jesus; but most of all we need to see Jesus do the talking.

Feeding the flames

Following the message I preached recently on letting our light shine before men, one of our elders (Graham, if you are from Wildwood) sent me the following, quoting from what I said about discipleship towards the end.

 And it’s not a quick fix: little flames need to be shielded and fed with stuff that burns, or else they are likely to go out.

Last week on holiday we decided to light the fire one evening. The fire had been laid with paper and kindling which lit well, flaring up quickly. But the wood was too spread out and, although it burned, it didn’t become established. After a while my mother in law said, “It’s failed; it’s going out.” But I felt I should gather what remained, blow on it, and wait. I didn’t use another match. Five minutes later the kindling, now gathered, was roaring. I put some large logs on the kindling and shortly a healthy blaze was filling the whole house – and it did not go out.”

I’ve looked at this a few times now, and I think that there is quite a lot of detail that we can draw out of it prophetically:

Jesus has laid a fire in His church, and has struck the match. We are seeing, and will see, flames going up in different places as individuals and church groups catch the fire of the Holy Spirit. These flames will at first sight seem short-lived, just as there have been past “revivals” and “moves of God” that have flared up locally for a season, then faded away.

However the Lord is changing things in His church. He is taking away walls, and He is moving people around. Some of us can expect to be moved as He gathers the kindling that is alight in order to create the blaze that He has planned. We can expect to be put alongside different people in different places, just as that scattered kindling is drawn together and piled up. If we don’t allow ourselves to be “gathered together” like this our flames are at risk of spluttering out.

After the gathering comes the blowing. Among those already on fire there will be a strong sense of the breath of God stirring people to greater faith, greater love, more earnest prayer, more worship, more time in His presence. The cry of “More of You, Lord,” from the Welsh revival, from Toronto, will be heard again. We will learn to wait in faith for God to move. As has happened in the past, some onlookers will reject what they see; others will be drawn to it.

The large logs that go onto the kindling will be those “greater works” that Jesus promised us. A few will go on at first as individuals grow in their faith; then more, as the blaze takes hold. I think this will happen more of less simultaneously in different places as the blaze fills the “whole house” – all of His church – with the glory of God. I think that is when we will see a mighty harvest.

Let Your Light Shine Before Men

(Transcript of sermon Bob preached at Wildwood church 2 august 2020)

To watch the video CLICK HERE. It’s about 15 minutes.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5: 14-16)

The Light of the World

John’s gospel begins like this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The life of men is the light of Jesus, nothing else.

Darkness is what is outside of God’s light. Jesus talks about “the Outer Darkness” three times – it’s the place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” because you are regretting forever what you know you could have been enjoying. There aren’t degrees of darkness: you’re either in the light or out in the darkness. Forever.

Jesus is the light that God gave to the world because He loved it so much. God doesn’t want anyone in the outer darkness. He gave us His Son to live a perfect life in the form of a man full of light, full of the Spirit of God, to achieve perfection on behalf of the Human Race and then give His life willingly to pay the price for all of our darkness. God gave light for darkness, life for death. No-one can say He isn’t just.

His life is The light of Men

This isn’t mortal life that comes to an end; this is eternal life. What Jesus had in Him was eternal life, and He wants to give it away. When He was praying to the Father just before his crucifixion, He said this of Himself:

“You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)

Do you want eternal life? Here it is. You will never find a better free gift.

Romans 1:4 says that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.“ The light that’s in us is the power of God to everlasting life. And that’s not all: when we put our faith in Jesus we get to know Him and the Father, because the same Holy Spirit that raised him from the dead comes and lives in us. Because He lives in us we get to know God; not just know about Him. It’s a relationship. And what’s more, there’s no divorce; just grace. Do you know Him?

When Jesus talks about John the Baptist, He says “he was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.“ (John 5: 35). The Greek word He uses here is the same as the one for “light” in our opening scripture. Our light is the burning flame of God’s love for you and me, it’s the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Jesus tells us that WE are the light of the world, because we have Christ’s eternal life within us, which is the light of men. Church: are we burning and shining lamps? Are we on fire? Do people rejoice in our light? Do they even see it? Or is it under a basket?

Good works are the Father’s works

Jesus gave us a reason for not hiding our light: it is so that people would “see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” We need to understand that these good works are not our good deeds. Our good deeds don’t glorify the Father: it’s His own works that glorify Him. Jesus spent his entire ministry demonstrating that He was the Son of God because the Father was in Him and doing His works. Jesus said “if you don’t want to believe that God sent me because I say so, believe it because of the works that He’s doing through me!” He says this twice in slightly different ways, once in John 10: 38, and again in John 14:11; so it’s important that we grasp the point: good works are God’s works. They are demonstrations that the Kingdom of God is at hand.

 Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit so that the Father could do His works through Him, and he sent us the Holy Spirit so that the Father can carry on doing His works through us, because He doesn’t have another body on Earth – we’re it. We are the light of the world. The torch has been passed to us.

Paul tells us in Romans 14: 17 that “the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” We cry out to see these things in our communities; we know that they are the fruit of the Holy Spirit and that they only come from God, but we can’t expect our communities to turn to God unless we show them who He is in all His majesty. They can’t pick the fruit unless we plant the tree.

And if you’re still not sure about what I’m saying consider this: Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.“ (Luke 18:19) Good works have to be the Father’s works because nothing is good outside of Him. Acts 10: 38 says:           “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

We are His disciples. That should mean that we are cast in His mould, not following from a distance out of instructions in a book. The Bible says that Jesus “revealed His glory” when He did the first of His signs, which was turning water into wine. Romans 8: 18-19 tells us:

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.”

Among other things, glory means radiant light. Creation is waiting. We can give it water, or we can give it wine. If we want to show the world good works, we need the Holy Spirit and power no less than Jesus did. God is with us too, but we keep hiding Him under a basket.

Two basket cases: fear and pride

So what are the baskets that we can use to stop this life from spreading? What makes us basket cases?

I’ll look at three. Two are old chestnuts and one might be a surprise. The first old chestnut is fear. We are scared to spread the light because of what people might think. We are scared to pray for healing in case God is not listening. We are scared to prophesy in case we get it wrong. If this is you, God says, and hear Him: “I’m with you! Yes, you will mess up sometimes, and end up on your backside. But I’m still with you! And the more you walk, the less you’ll fall.” And if you’re not a Christian and you’re scared of what bits of your life might get burnt, you need to know this: it’s the burning flame or nothing. You can jump into it, preferably now, or you can regret it in the outer darkness for eternity.

The second old chestnut is pride. It’s wonderful to be involved in seeing other people come into the light of God, but the minute I start congratulating myself or seeking praise from others, or seeking to advance my position and status in my church, I may as well just tip a bucket of water onto the flames, because they won’t last. It’s God who must get the glory because He won’t give it to anyone else. This isn’t because he is selfish or egotistical, but because the world needs to know that the only good works are His works. We all need to know the meaning of good.

The third basket case: what we have done to church

So fear and pride are baskets of flesh. They need to go onto the fire, because that is all they are good for. And what is the third basket? It’s church! Not the church of Jesus that He talked about, that the gates of hell won’t prevail against; but the Sunday slot that we’ve invented to suit our Western lifestyle. The apostle Paul does say that we mustn’t stop from meeting together, but the point of meetings is to equip us to take the light out into the darkness. We seem to have turned it on its head, and now we ask people to come into the light in order to go to meetings. But guess what: God has allowed the baskets to be taken away…

The model Jesus gave us is to be living Spirit-filled lives and discipling others to do the same. And it’s not a quick fix: little flames need to be shielded and fed with stuff that burns, or else they are likely to go out. Jesus said that the Father is always working. Not just in our meetings. When the church began, the light of the gospel spread in public places wherever and whenever ordinary people burning with the flame of the Holy Spirit went out into the darkness and set it alight. Whoever we are, now is the time to seek that living light like never before, and take it out with us into the darkness in the name of Jesus, so that the Father can do His good works through us and the world can see how much He loves it.

God’s bonfire

Right now, in the Church of Jesus all around the world, the match has been struck. There was a Cindy Jacobs post a couple of weeks ago saying “Baptisms in New York City! The revival has begun!” However it’s not going to keep burning at our convenience. Isaiah 60: 1-3 says this:

“Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.

For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you

The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.

That is for us, now. God is lighting a bonfire: if you’re not on fire yet let Jesus come: he is holding his match to your heart. And leaders – if we want to get with the programme we don’t waste time handing out sparklers. There was a song in the nineteen eighties to the tune of Chariots of Fire. It never made it into Songs of Fellowship, but it went like this. If you’ve been touched by what I said, say it as a prayer:

“I rise up to worship, I stand to proclaim.

The Lord of all glory, Christ Jesus His name.

Come ride on my life, Lord Jesus Christ, My Lord and my Master;

Come ride on my life, and I will be a chariot of fire.”

And if Jesus is not your Lord and Master, he died on the cross for you so that you could receive his spirit, and enter life, to know Him and the Father right now. Say those last two lines again, to Him, from your heart. He will show you what to do.

Two Trees in the Garden

God put two trees in the garden of Eden: the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life.

Jesus spent His ministry demonstrating and preaching on the Kingdom of God, and He founded His Church to begin the work of establishing it on Earth, under His authority and by the power of His Spirit. Where there is Kingdom rule, the law of sin and death is nailed to the cross; healing overcomes sickness; the truth of God’s word directs our lives, and love prevails in our relationships.

Our first glimpse of the Kingdom of God is right back in the Garden of Eden, where two trees grow. One is the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. God didn’t put it there for Adam and Eve to be caught out; He put it there because its existence is central to the Garden where He wants us to walk with Him. Knowledge of good and evil was always designed to be part of our relationship with God: It grows in the garden of His presence, and it is His to give. Adam’s sin was to eat of it and make it his own. Because Man has eaten of that fruit, he has taken ownership of it, saying “The difference between right and wrong is now mine to decide.” Cast out of God’s presence, Man still takes knowledge of good and evil with him, but now he makes up his own mind about where the lines are drawn.

On the other tree grows the fruit of life. Figuratively, this is the tree of the Spirit: John 6:63 tells us “It’s the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” We don’t read about any fruit on the Tree of Life in Genesis, but we do read about it in Galatians 5 22-23, where Paul lists the different attributes of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. All of this abounds in the kingdom of God, which Romans 14: 17 tells us is “Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” This fruit grows on the Tree of Life, not on the Tree of knowledge. God’s fruit only grows on God’s tree. Anything that passes as the fruit of the Spirit but is grown from the flesh is counterfeit and profits nothing.

As Jesus longs to builds His church, the Father longs to restore His garden in the lives of the generation of the second Adam, so He can walk with us again there. For our part, we long to see the beauty and the fruit of the Kingdom of God in our communities. But what I felt the Lord showed me, and the reason I’m writing this post, is this: so often we preach the gospel of salvation and tell people about the Tree of Life, but what we give them is our version of the Tree of Knowledge. Without the Tree of Life, they can’t pick its fruit, and all they are left with is a sense that they are coming under the judgement of our knowledge of good and evil. This is why, I believe, so many people say that they feel judged by Christians: not that we are intentionally judging them, but we are only showing them one tree in the garden, and it’s the tree that tells them that they are wrong.

If we want people to know the fruit of the Tree of Life we need to make sure it is growing in our churches, and we need to make sure that it is planted securely in their own lives so that they can pick from it themselves. Otherwise all we are doing is giving them information. Worse than that, what we are telling them about is something that they cannot have.