Category Archives: Living by Faith

Living by Faith is not just the calling of a few “full time” Christians who depend on God for their income: it is the substance of things hoped for, and without it one cannot please God. Only by faith do we have access into the grace in which we stand. And “just in case any should boast,” faith is itself a gift from God.

Go Your way, your son lives.

A nobleman’s child was at the point of death. He begged Jesus, “Come down to my house before he dies!“ Jesus said, “You people will not believe unless you see signs and wonders.“ The man said again, “Come down…“ Jesus spoke the word: “Go your way, your son lives.“ The man believed him and went his way. (John 4: 46-54)

How often do we want the Lord to come into our circumstances until we see that He has changed them? We stay in the place of fear until we see the miracle. But the Lord tells us that He is in them already; He asks us to believe that promise before we see the difference that He makes. That father had to make a choice: believe the words of Jesus, or keep begging Him to come down to his house to heal the boy – maybe even thinking that his status as a nobleman would hold some sway. And he didn’t just live down the road: we learn at the end of the passage that his house was at least a day’s journey away. He had to walk away from the Healer, holding only onto His words, knowing that his son would probably be dead by the time he arrived if those words weren’t true.

We went to Liverpool to a football match recently, to watch one of the early games in the Champions League competition. We had hospitality tickets, which included a coach from the hotel to the ground, and then a return coach from the ground back to the hotel. With 50,000 people pouring out of the stadium after the game it was very reassuring to know that the coaches would be there waiting for us after the game. We were told at the hotel where the coaches will be picking us up, and that it wasn’t the usual location. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the announcement because I knew (so I thought) that we would see where the coach would be dropping us off.

However the coach left the hotel too early for our liking, so after the hospitality meal we decided to book a taxi for half an hour later. When we got to the ground I realised I had forgotten where the coach pickup point was to be. I have to say here that catching buses, trains and planes has always been a particular point of anxiety for me: I have always wanted to be certain that I would be at the right place in plenty of time to make my journey safely. So a dark blanket of panic started to fall: where would  the coaches be? How would we get back to the hotel if we didn’t find them? It was too far to walk and there would be no taxis for hours… “Jesus! Come quickly! My son is dying!“

With Anne’s help, I was able to trust that the Lord was in control. “Go your way. Your son lives.“

I regained my peace, knowing that we would either find the coaches or get back to the hotel another way without having to face the walk. And we did: despite being given some directions we never did find the coaches, but we were able to get a taxi once the crowds had dispersed (which wasn’t long, to our surprise) after a wait of only a few minutes, and we arrived back at the hotel in time to relax in the bar and enjoy some post match TV. And here is the important point: it wasn’t just that we got back to the hotel okay, but that God did something in my heart that will last longer than the journey from Anfield (the ground) to our hotel: He didn’t just deal with the journey but He dealt with my anxiety. That journey is over, but I know that the anxiety which has plagued me for so long on my life‘s journey is also defeated, and I know that whenever I am going I can go on my way in peace.

We won the game. Jesus won the competition once and for all at Calvary. Life has defeated death. The Cross has spoken. Do we have any “sick sons?” Because we can go our way, trusting that our circumstances live, even when it seems that they are at the point of death.

Peace Be With You…

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4: 6-7)

Jesus is the Prince of peace. The Angels announced peace on Earth. Jesus promised to leave us His peace. The above scripture is a very familiar one. But when our hearts and minds are assailed, and our prayer life seems to have packed its bags and moved to another planet, where do we find this peace?

We know Jesus is always with us because He promised that He would be, and because His Spirit dwells in us. But at the heart of a victorious and fruitful Christian life has to be the experience of walking in the reality of His presence. And if we are experiencing His presence we will be experiencing His peace. If you are like me these experiences are often short lived and irregular, like those occasional moments on a cloudy day when the sun breaks through and illuminates life in liquid gold. How do we get to walk in the sunshine?

There are different areas where this applies, but the main one – for a people called dwell in love – has to be the area of our relationships. This is where we need our hearts to be guarded. Following close behind that must be wisdom in decision-making, and here it’s our minds we need to guard; but I will look at this in another article.

As we know, the devil’s mission is always to destroy, and as often as not our sunshine is ruined not by destruction in our circumstances, but by destruction in our relationships. Paul famously goes into detail about how to stand against the onslaughts of the enemy In his letter to the Ephesians. Specifically, he writes about “all the fiery darts of the evil one.” Fiery darts often come in the form of unexpected negative reactions from someone close, often a loved one. if we let those darts penetrate our hearts, we flare up too: fighting ensues, and a fire starts, damaging the relationship. Yet we have been given a resource in that will extinguish those darts, and we all know what it is:

“Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” (Ephesians 6:16)

If we quench those darts with the shield of faith there is no fire. Behind the shield of faith we can find the peace of Christ.

All well and good, but how? There are 2000 years’ worth of applications of the image of the shield of faith, so I do not pretend that the following is the only way of understanding the scripture. But in this context I see the shield that we hold as the one that tells us that Jesus has overcome the world, and has lifted us into a heavenly place of fellowship with Himself and the Father. Now it becomes simple. When a fiery dart comes our way, do we sit on our heavenly seat with Jesus, and say: “excuse me Lord, while I just pop down there and argue with my spouse?“   Or do we receive His peace and hide our hearts behind the shield that tells us that His peace is ours?

This still may sound easier said than done, and I am sure it is, especially when she said this! And he said that! And that’s just not true! Maybe so. But at His trial Jesus said nothing to His accusers, and went on to tear down the veil of the temple with His love. The trials of “unfair“  words that come our way are not even the tiniest whispers in comparison with what Jesus went through on our behalf, so if we cannot respond with a healing word  to the hurt/anger/disappointment that in some way we have caused, then at least we can say nothing and stay behind our shield where God’s peace reigns. We don’t put our heads out again until we can share what the Prince of peace has given us.

If we hold up our shield to the darts that come our way we can be peacemakers, but if we don’t we become peace breakers. We know which of the two groups are called the children of God.

Take Heed How You Hear

“My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt 7:12)

There was a story going round in Christian circles a few years ago about a dream that someone had had, of people sitting at a long table covered in food, but with knives and forks that were too long to actually get the food into their mouths. The solution was simple: they just fed each other. It’s a lovely illustration of how God wants us to live: not for ourselves, but for others. I saw an illustration of this principle operating in the natural world the other day, when I had the pleasure of watching these two spoonbills recently at a nature reserve near Leeds in the UK. Their beaks are too long to preen their own necks, so they preen each other’s.

After teaching the crowds with the parables of the Sower and the revealed light, Jesus says this: “Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” (Luke 8: 18). Immediately after that He illustrates exactly what he meant by that. Luke’s account continues: “Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (vs 19-21)

The sequence here is not random: He told the parable of the Sower at that moment, following it with the illustration of the revealed light, because He knew in His Spirit what was going to happen next. We can either hear actively or passively. When we hear actively –“with a noble and good heart”- we do the sayings of Jesus and we bear fruit. Choose your metaphor: our talent multiplies; our seed bears fruit; our light shines; the river flows. When we hear passively, like someone who looks in the mirror and turns away (see James 1:24), we bury our talent in the ground, we hide our light under a bushel, our seed has no root or is choked with thorns, our river is silted up. The Greek word “kalos”, translated here as “noble,” has a strong sense of ‘goodness in action.’ One of the top-level Strong’s definitions is “good, excellent in its nature and characteristics, and therefore well adapted to its ends.” A good and noble heart is a heart with integrity; the opposite of the heart of the hypocrites, of whom God says they “draw near to Me with their mouths and honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” (Matt 15:8). The fruitful heart, the light that shines so others may see it, is the one that willhear the word of God and do it.”

James 1:17 tells us that “All good and perfect gifts come down from the Father of Lights.” I have written about the Father’s waterfall here:  the Father calls us to it so that we can pass on what we have received. This chapter of Luke carries on with a sequence of miracles; illustrations of faith in action beginning with Jesus calming the storm and culminating in the raising of Jairus’s daughter. Our spoons are for sharing. The Gospel is “for babes:” it might not be easy, but it’s simple. Carry your cross and walk after the Spirit who always wants to give life, and don’t walk after the flesh that always wants to hang onto it. We all want to see Jesus, but we stay outside unless we do what He says. And when we do, and those seeds of His take root in a noble and good heart, anything can happen.

The Key of David

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The hole in the wall, or the windows of Heaven?

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the LORD of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
“(Mal 3:10)

Although cashpoints are beginning to disappear from our High Streets, the idea that there isn’t somewhere fairly close by where we can feed our card into the “hole in the wall” and walk away with some cash is still relatively untenable. Even more untenable in today’s world is the idea that the hole in the wall is still there, but is no longer delivering the goods because the money has run out.

But how much longer will the economic systems of the world carry on? In 2008 there was a hiccup in the flow of credit and many people lost their homes and their livelihoods as loans were called in and money ran out. But soon the wheels that had come off were rolling again and (unless you were one of the victims of course) everything was back to normal. Was it though? World systems are on thin ice covering a lake of debt. When cracks appear behind us we don’t head back to the shore, but run further out into the middle of the lake…

One day the ice will break and the banking system will go spinning down into chaos. But God has another system, another bank. It’s the bank of Love and Faith – the Kingdom Bank. In this system we love others and give to them, and God, who loves us far more than we could ever love anyone, gives to us out of the measure of His love:

“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

This, along with the passage from Malachi, is a familiar scripture. We often hear one or the other of them when we are being exhorted to give into ministry, and as Jesus said of His words “they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). Yet, as can often be the case with some familiar scriptures, they can have the effect of inoculating us against the life they deliver rather than encouraging us into the radical lifestyle change that they hold out. If we hear the words of the Spirit with the mind of the flesh we will respond according to the flesh, so ‘they will not be mixed with faith and will not profit us.’ (Heb 4:2) We will either ignore them completely (“Yeah, yeah, yeah…”), or we will just give the small amount of money, time, energy, personal space etc. that our flesh can afford. We will be giving out of the resources of the hole in the wall.

But if we have bought into the Bank of the Kingdom we give out of God’s supply. If we receive those scriptures with the mind of the Spirit, ‘as a doer of the word, and not a hearer only’ (James 1:22), we draw on the life that is in them and walk in the blessing that they promise. Giving is like dieting: for it to be meaningful, it needs to be a lifestyle and not an exception to our norm. If we “go on a diet” for two weeks then resume our previous eating habits, we very quickly ‘find’ the weight that we had lost; the sacrifice of the two weeks was meaningless, and we have to do it all over again to enjoy the benefits of that fitter, healthier body. But if we adopt a new regime to replace the old eating habits for good (I speak from experience here), we enjoy all the benefits on a daily basis and no longer crave what we used to fill ourselves with. It is when we habitually look for opportunities to give, that we become the cheerful givers that God loves:

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Cor 9: 6-8)

Just like prayer, worship, and operating in ministry gifts, giving is an expression of life in the Spirit. When giving is part of our lifestyle we have moved away from the hole in the wall and are standing under the windows of Heaven. If we can grow our faith in this area while the cashpoints are still loaded we will find it much easier to rely on the Lord when they are empty.

(I was talking about “Two Seconds to Midnight” on UCB – a Christian radio station in the UK – recently, and used this image when asked by the presenter to sum up the message of the book. If you want to listen to the interview it is here: https://ucb.lightcast.com/player/31342/427999)

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 righteous shall live by faith

Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness(Romans 4:4).

Jesus calls us to have “the faith of God,” (Mark 11|:22), and this faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). This is the God-faith by which He “calls those things which are not as though they are.” (Romans 4:17) (See the article “the evidence of things not seen” )To walk the path of faith, however, does not mean that we spend all our time walking in the miraculous, although for some this is the call on their lives, and for the rest of us it is always a possibility and is part of the fabric of what Watchman Nee calls “The Normal Christian Life.” What we are primarily called to as the people of God is actually to demonstrate His righteousness on earth. As Psalm 23:3 tells us, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” For God’s name to be glorified, we are to walk in righteousness. Yet we know we trip up constantly, and it’s forgiveness and grace that we walk in, not righteousness. We don’t stride, we stumble. I am a new creation, but my old man has to die daily because he won’t lie down. I am crucified with Christ, but I keep jumping off the cross. I have to keep renewing my mind because the old thoughts still hang around. I have a new heart, but there isn’t a saint alive whose old one is still there, feeding his flesh. And “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

There is only one way to walk in righteousness, and that is the way that God has given us, which is the path of faith. As Paul writes (quoting Habakkuk 2:4) at the beginning of his letter to the Romans, and Luther declared again to Rome some 1,500 years later, this is the power of the gospel: “In it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just (the righteous) shall live by faith.’” Faith doesn’t come to the person who is righteous; righteousness comes to the person who has faith. Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness(Romans 4:4). Isaiah 51:1 is a word from God to all of us, not just the Jewish people of the time: “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, you who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.” The blessing which is our inheritance was poured out on Abraham and his descendants, and again on us by the Holy Spirit, because he acted on the word of God: “Go to a place that I will show you . . . Take your son whom you love and offer him to Me . . .” (see Genesis 22:1-2). Abraham had the faith of God, so through him God’s righteousness was revealed.

I am an evangelical Christian, and I certainly do believe that the moment when I trusted Jesus for salvation, accepted His forgiveness of my sin, made Him Lord of my life and was born again, is the moment when I received the robe of righteousness that I am wearing today and that I will be wearing for eternity. It is the gift to me of God’s grace. But I don’t think it stops there. If the Holy Spirit leads us in the paths of righteousness so that God can be glorified, if we are to look to the model of Abraham in order to seek after righteousness, and if the righteousness of God is revealed “from faith to faith”, it is this revelation of righteousness to the world that the Spirit of God is urging us on to, not just the security of knowing that we’re dressed properly for the wedding feast. We reveal His light to the world as we walk from faith to faith; one step of faith to the next. My faith yesterday was for yesterday. What is God asking of me today? Where am I exercising my faith in the next couple of hours? When did I last make sure that I was tuned into His wavelength? Are my decisions based on what I feel in my spirit God is telling me to do, or am I just following the path of conventional wisdom and doing what is expected? Am I walking by faith, or by sight?

Our pastor, Markus, demonstrated this walk of faith for me one night when I was with him at a 24/7 prayer meeting. He told me to stand in the corner of the room, then picked up some small floor mats, about 18-inches by 18-inches square. He said, “Cross to the other corner of the room without your feet touching the floor!” It was of course impossible – by sight anyway. “Go on,” he said, “cross over!”

“OK, whatever . . .”, I thought, and started out as if to walk. Immediately Markus dropped one of the mats in front of me, and I put my foot on it. Then he did the same with another mat, until I had crossed the room. So I did the impossible thing I had been told to do. I “set out for the place I did not know”, and arrived there. I could not have done it, of course, if I had not been close enough to Markus for him to drop a mat where my foot was about to go.

God is calling us all the time to stay close enough to Him, moment by moment, so He can whisper those floor-mats of His words into our spiritual ears for us to see where He has put the next mat and step onto it in confidence. And so we walk, faith-step by faith-step, from faith to faith, led by the Holy Spirit in His paths of righteousness, so that Jesus is glorified and His righteousness is revealed.

(From “Two Seconds to Midnight,” chapter six: The Path of Faith)

…And his hand stuck to the sword.

“And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel had retreated. He arose and attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand stuck to the sword. The LORD brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to plunder. “ (2 Sam 23: 9-10)

2 Samuel 23,  “The last words of David,” begins with a description – that looks forward to Jesus – of the man who rules “in the fear of God,” continues with the confession he doesn’t match up to this standard because his house “is not so with God,”  goes on with the declaration of faith that God has nevertheless made a covenant with him, “ordered in all things and secure,” that is “all his salvation and desire;” adds that that the “sons of rebellion shall all be as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands,” and concludes with a tribute to David’s 37 “mighty men” whom God used to defeat those sons of rebellion.

If we look at this chapter as a whole, we see a wonderful expression of God’s plan: because we are mortals and Jesus is God, our “house” will never be perfect this side of Heaven. Nevertheless He has made a covenant with us that secures our salvation: He will give us the weapons to “thrust away” the enemy, and even though we are weak and imperfect we can be mighty men and women of God, using the weapons that we are given to see our enemy utterly defeated: “But the man who touches them Must be armed with iron and the shaft of a spear, And they shall be utterly burned with fire in their place.” Among the items of the Ephesians 6 armour of God, the sword is the only offensive weapon. If we read this passage on a symbolic level I think we can understand the “iron” in this scripture as the iron of a sword, and in particular the Sword of the Spirit. The spear that we throw can be seen as prayer. It is through prayer and faith in the word of God that the enemy is “thrust away.”

Eleazar fought; he grew weary – but it was the Lord “who brought about a great victory that day.” Sometimes God tells us to “stand still and see the salvation of our God,” and at other times He asks us to fight until we are weary. In the campaigns that were fought in, and over, the Promised Land, the Commander of the Lord’s Army (Joshua 5: 13-15) directs His troops with a variety of strategies, but it is always His victory, not our own. Whether we have to battle through a situation until we are weary, whether we praise our way to victory or whether we just look over the ramparts and see that our enemy has completely self-destructed, one truth remains constant: “through God we will do valiantly,
For it is He who shall tread down our enemies.”
(Psalm 60:12)

A key point in this little story is not so much that Eleazar fought till he was weary, but that his hand stuck to his sword. Are our hands stuck to the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God? However we fight, it must be with our hands glued to the Word of God, because it’s the Word that is living and active; not our dead flesh. “The help of man is useless,” (psalm 60:11) but through God we will do valiantly. Our faith is the victory that has overcome the world (1 John 5:4), and faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:17). Like the Israelites, we have to fight for our promised land; and the first part of each battle is to know how God wants us to fight. Before we fight with our sword, we have to pick it up. What has God said to us about this battle? If we have heard nothing there can be no faith, and without faith there can be no victory.

The account of the Mighty Men continues:

“And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines had gathered together into a troop where there was a piece of ground full of lentils. So the people fled from the Philistines. But he stationed himself in the middle of the field, defended it, and killed the Philistines. So the LORD brought about a great victory.” (2 Sam 23: 11-12)”

I remember performing in a school play when I was 11 years old, called “The six who pass while the lentils boil.” The pot of lentils was the poor man’s sustenance; uninteresting, unspectacular fare; the stuff of routine; “the daily round, the common task,” from the words of the old hymn that I remember singing – and disliking – at about the same age. Why should I spend time praying about my lentils? But if we have had any experience of brambles we will know that they spread. Every year, long shoots reach out to put down new roots and establish themselves on a fresh area of land. The enemy is constantly prowling round to see whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) He doesn’t care if it’s our lentils he is ruining or our prized possessions: what he is after is us. If he can’t take our souls because they are given to Jesus, he will try devour our time, our energy and our resources in any way he can, so that at least he can stop us giving them to further the Kingdom of God. He will spread his thorns wherever he can, and if our lentil patch is unprotected that is where he will go.

Our calling is to “take the Kingdom of God by force” (Matt 11:12) – to wrestle it back from the enemy who stole from man the dominion that God had planned for him over His creation. If we are enlisted in the army of Jesus Christ, we are sold out to establishing His Kingdom on Earth, and so all our battles are His battles. Every situation either spreads the light or pushes it back. The way human resources are managed in a business is as much a matter of the Kingdom of God as the battle over the rights of unborn babies. Luxury holiday or lentil patch, God is “through all and in all.” Whether the battle is raging between opposing armies, political factions, or husband and wife, He is either glorifies or ignored; and He is glorified when our hands are stuck to the sword.

What has God said? How do I fight this battle? What are His promises? What does He want? If we keep these thoughts in mind as we face the “sons of rebellion” we will succeed in pushing back the thorns even if it means we have to rise early to pray and then work at the problem till midnight. When God brings about a victory not only is His kingdom extended but we, his soldiers, get to benefit as well: “the people returned after him only to plunder.” We may be feeble and imperfect, but if we hold onto the iron of that sword  and the spear of prayer we stand in the security of God’s faithfulness, the truth of our salvation and the extension of God’s Kingdom. Without them we will be grasping the invading thorns with our bare hands – and that can only lead to a painful defeat.