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.

They shall be one…

A murmuration of starlings – click this link for the 2 min video

The video shows a murmuration of starlings gathering to roost for the night. It is only a portion of the 200,000 or so that will have gathered altogether. You can see waves and waves of birds flying over to join the group. They continued to fly in for probably 20 or 30 minutes. Below them, flying backwards and forwards over the water is a group of other birds (lapwings) which for some reason known only to the birds seem to want to join in the dance. It is an amazing spectacle, and I have felt the Lord speak through it, to say something like this…

The massed groups of starlings represent the body of Christ. In these days, the Lord is gathering together all of those who will flock to him, who know the freedom of movement in the spirit, and to choose to belong to one another and love one another as they belong to Christ and love Christ. God is calling His body away from the groups and identities and differences that we have subscribed to, to join together in a flow and movement orchestrated by His Spirit that the world will see and wonder at. Those who have joined the flock have died to self and are part of its flow and pattern as it moves as one.  There are no individuals who stand out, no leaders pointing the way or driving on the groups: they all move together in perfect unity in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This is a work that has started and is gathering momentum as more and more of His children move into the work that God is doing, which is a work of beauty and love and unity.

This is how our light will come as darkness descends on the Earth.

“Who are these who fly like a cloud,
And like doves to their roosts?

Surely the coastlands shall wait for Me;
And the ships of Tarshish 
will come first,
To bring your sons from afar,
Their silver and their gold with them,
To the name of the LORD your God,
And to the Holy One of Israel,
Because He has glorified you.”
(Isaiah 60: 8-9)

You have an Anointing from the Holy One

It’s all about the river. The deeper we go the more we know of God’s provision and his power. Either we die to self or we don’t: either the flesh is buried with Jesus or it’s walking. Either we are yoked to Jesus in the spirit, in resurrection life, or we are tethered to self, holding on to our own life instead of losing it. I have been thinking recently about “the anointing,” and how we approach the subject in our various church groups. Belonging as I do to a pentecostal/charismatic stream, it is a word I hear and use a lot. Here are some conclusions that I feel that I am coming to.

A lot of teaching today, especially in prophetic circles, would seem to suggest that there is some sort of historical timeline of levels of anointing that God pours out on the church. I have believed this myself. But I no longer think that it is true. We only need to read the accounts of some of the lives of the Saints in the middle ages and the miracles that they walked in to know that full-blown, high octane, resurrection power is not a manifestation of God’s glory that He has reserved for our generation, but is actually something that has been covered by the successive cloaks of religion, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the spread of industrialisation which are only now, in the 21st-century, finally being seen to wear very, very thin. Just as he did with the Amorites, (Gen 15:16) God has allowed – and still is allowing, (I think) for just a little while longer, the sin of civilisation to come to its fulness before invading it with the kingdom that his old covenant people foreshadowed.

The living sacrifice
1 John 2:20 says this: “but you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” Anointed teaching – that is teaching from the spirit of God and not the mind of man – brings revelation of truth that the Holy Spirit has already given to us but which we haven’t yet accessed with our renewed minds. The Spirit of Truth brought the full download with Him when He came into our hearts: He hasn’t changed or added anything to who He is because He is already the fullness of truth. Growing in maturity in the spirit is becoming more like Jesus, and since the flesh and the spirit are at war with one another this growth is only achieved when the flesh is taken to the cross – whether we are talking about negative though-patterns, self-centred annoyances, ungodly desires, or whatever else is lurking there to trip us upon our walk with Christ. And as we grow more like Jesus, the greater the revelation of the Spirit of Truth within us.  It’s not rocket science.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 1:2)

We know from 1 Cor 2: 16 that “we have the mind of Christ,” yet we also know that God’s thoughts aren’t our thoughts. I think it’s as we continually “present (our) bodies a living sacrifice” and are not “conformed to this world,” that we are “transformed by the renewing of (our) mind,” and revelation of what is in the mind of Christ becomes part of our own thinking. To put it another way, I think God’s thoughts become ours by revelation as we learn to walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh. The mind of Christ and the anointing that we have from the Holy One are what we were born into the Kingdom with: we access more of them as we mature in Christ and “come…to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph 4:13)

Children of Promise
Of his countrymen “according to the flesh,” the Israelites, Paul writes “to whom pertain the adoption, glory, covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises,” (Romans 9:4) Yet not even this rich heritage is qualification for kingdom citizenship. So how much more are we, “the children of the promise“ (Rom 9:8) born into when we turn to Christ? I think that there is enough evidence in the Word of God that has been delivered to us to show that we don’t have to wait for something special to come from Heaven before the Church moves in true revival power. As darkness and light are separated out in these times of shaking and we, the children of the promise, learn to trade in the currency of faith and not the currency of credit, we will be seen increasingly to be standing “in a broad place” (Ps 18:19) by those who are slipping off the narrowing ledges of security that the world affords, and they will want to join us. This is a new experience for most of us living in the West; not so of course for those brothers and sisters in the persecuted Church for whom it has been the norm for decades.

We have all read what Paul wrote to the Philippians:

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. (Phil 4: 13-15)

For two thousand years the Church has been growing up, and now it seems that we are starting to come to maturity, individually and collectively. It’s time to put away childish things, and it’s time to realise that we don’t need to wait for Christmas, because we have already been given the presents.  When we have less of Earth in our lives, whether by choice or necessity, we will start to see more of Heaven: the bride will be ready for the Groom, and we will see His kingdom come.

More than Conquerors

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
 
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
(Rom 8: 33-35)

Do you know what it is to be a hypernikao?

Hypernikao is the Greek word translated as “more than a conqueror.” This passage from Romans is familiar to all of us, so much so that, if you’re like me, you pass over the full significance of the term “more than a conqueror” when you read it now. I would say that I read the words with my human mind and think ”Yes, Jesus has the victory, there’s nothing to worry about, God will look after me if things go pear-shaped…” etc. It’s all true, but I would say that they are my thoughts, not God’s. And if they are my thoughts, they won’t stir real faith,  “the faith of God.” (Mark 11:22) They are no more than intellectual assent to my Christian set of beliefs, as opposed to the “substance of things hoped for” that is the definition of true faith (Hebrews 11:1). In fact they are quite likely to melt away in the face of tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword. Although God in His mercy will bring deliverance, because He is our loving Father and He is our shield, is that His best for us? Wouldn’t we rather have the faith that sees mountains move, that will “run  against a troop,” (Psalm 18:19) or “put a thousand to flight” (Joshua 23:10)? Because this is the purpose that we are called to.

The sense of hypernikao is not just more than a conqueror in the human sense of, say, twenty being more than ten, or even an Olympic athlete being more of a sprinter than me. The impact of a sledgehammer cracking a nut is nearer the truth. A different order of reality is coming into play. “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” (Rom 8:11). Hypernikao is a whole lot “more. ” Death was the nut; the Holy Spirit was the sledgehammer, and He is the One giving life to our mortal bodies. These are God’s thoughts on our status as more than conquerors.

The world is already moving into the time of separation. Deep darkness is moving across the nations, and our light has come. It is time to arise. (Isaiah 60) If we are going to arise as opposed to just being rescued we will need our light to push back the darkness, so that those in the darkness can see hypernikao in action. That is when “The Gentiles shall come to (our) light, and kings to the brightness of (our) rising.” (Isaiah 60:3). We need to wake up, trim our wicks, and fill our lamps with oil, looking forward to the return of the King instead of looking back to the relative stability of the Western world as it was before Covid broke us free from the security of our moorings and sent us rocking into the waves of an uncharted sea. Those moorings have gone; we won’t be going back there. To use the words God spoke to Jeremiah, we’ve reached the floodplains of the Jordan; it’s time to start running against the horses. (Jeremiah 12:5)

Persecution, famine, sword and the rest  are actually what is coming. They may be tough nuts to crack, but we have the sledgehammer.

“If My words abide in you…”

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:7)

Jesus tells us clearly that our fruitfulness comes out of answered prayers that are rooted in the truth of His word. If we want the Father to do what we ask we need God’s words to “abide” in us, meaning “to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure”. We are told (1 Corinthians 13) that the things that remain are faith, hope and love. We also know, because Jesus tells us, that even when heaven and earth pass away, “every jot and tittle” of the Law – His Word – will remain (Matthew 5:18). If His words to us are Spirit and Life, then the essential qualities of that remaining life are faith, hope and love, because these, and these only, are the “things that remain”. If we walk in the Spirit, these are the qualities that will manifest in us. We cannot walk in the Spirit unless we walk in the word. If the life of His words abides in us, the life of His words will also come out of us. By THIS – not by anything else – we will be His disciples. The yoke that He calls us to take upon ourselves, the yoke that keeps us close to Him, is formed out of all the words that He speaks into our lives.

On Earth as in Heaven
Psalm 119 is a treasure trove of truths about God’s word. Just to pick two jewels: it is settled in heaven (verse 89); even perfection has its limits, but God’s commands have none (verse 96). A cursory reading of just a few verses makes one truth absolutely clear: God’s word is the perfect expression of heavenly perfection and power. Nothing on earth can even begin to approach it in beauty, truth and majesty. It is imbued with the very atmosphere of heaven; and that is why the Word can only be brought to life by the Emissary of heaven who dwells within us: the Holy Spirit. But once the Holy Spirit has brought God’s word to life in our hearts, there is one thing that does connect this capsule of heaven to the mortal realm of earth, and that is our obedience. As we walk in our yoke, our obedience grounds God’s word on earth. When we do what Jesus says, the creative power of the Word is released into the world. It is our obedience that brings heaven down to earth.

The things that remain
The challenge in all this is, of course, the extent to which we allow His word to have complete authority in our lives. “Oh dear – I let the yoke slip there – good and proper. And there! And there as well! Am I still His disciple? Oh, now I’ve really blown it. May as well give up altogether . . .” How easy it could be to let the devil whisper to us along those lines and lead us away from our commitment to the Lord. Fortunately God knew that. He knew it before the beginning of time when He prepared those works we were created to walk in (Ephesians 2:10), and in His mercy He has told us what to do: quite simply to “be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain” (Revelation 3:2). This message is given as a warning to the church at Sardis, which He says has a reputation for being alive, yet is dead – because the “things that remain”, He says, are “ready to die”. To the Sardis in all of us, He says, “Wake up! Get into My word! Let faith, hope and love arise in you as you do so! Be My disciples!” The promise held out to those who rise to the challenge begins with the words: “They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy . . . ” (Revelation 3:4).

Jesus longs for us all to walk with Him in white, yoked to Him by the truth and power of His word. If we do, we also walk in the promise that He held out to the church at Philadelphia: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:8).

(Originally published in Two Seconds to Midnight.”)

The Funnel

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

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

There is no rush

Hurry! You’ll miss it!
 If there is one weapon in the devil’s armoury that he uses against us on a daily basis, it is the thought that we have to hurry. We are running out of time. Quick, before the opportunity goes and the window closes! It is embedded in the core language of commerce: “Don’t miss out! Offer ends tonight!“ The thought is always there, lurking, because it’s the language of temptation: make hay while the sun shines, because it could cloud over at any moment  It’s the language of pressure, and the language of manipulation: hurry, we’ll miss the train. Hurry, I’ve got things to do. Hurry, dinner is getting cold. Hurry, Hurry, Hurry. No time to think. No time to look around. No time to just listen, no time to wait for others, no time to love, no time for the Lord.

Be anxious for nothing
I was asking the Lord if he had anything for me to bring to a meeting recently, and after a few minutes he spoke four words very clearly into my spirit: “there is no rush.” I didn’t feel led to share it at the time, as it turned out, and so it has been marinating for a while. The scripture that immediately followed was Philippians 4 vs 6-7: “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”. If we put the two words together, the Rhema and the logos, we get this: “There is no rush. Be anxious for nothing, but in all things…etc.“

Boundless God
Various Bible passages come to mind very quickly when we consider this. At the top of the list is probably Isaiah 40 vs 31: “Those who wait upon the lord shall renew their strength…“ This is probably closely followed for many of us by the raising of Lazarus from the dead: when Jesus heard that his friend was sick he actually waited two days before he set out for Bethany (John 11:6), by which time Lazarus had already died. Or we think of Saul, who rushed to save his kingdom from the Philistines by making a sacrifice in the apparent absence of Samuel, and actually lost it as a result. (He who seeks to save his life will lose it…) There are many others, but behind them are truths that underpin all of Scripture: God is boundless, and He is love. The biggest thing that limits our capacity to love is what we cling to, because whatever we cling to creates a boundary.

Stinking thinking
An old friend and pastor who is now with the Lord used to talk about our “stinking thinking.” We all have our examples of stinking thinking. Anne and I were out for lunch the other day and the waitress came to take away the plates we had finished with. One of them still had some tasty morsels on it which I thought I would still enjoy, so I told her to leave it on the table. I didn’t enjoy it particularly, and it just put on calories which I didn’t need and which aren’t good for me. I had grabbed what the world was offering because it was about to be taken away. Stinking thinking. God’s thinking says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.” (James 1: 17) As we know from Psalm 23, He sets His table before us in the presence of our enemies, so there is no rush to grab at what the world gives. How often we can let our appetites become our boundaries.

The Great Victory
 When Jesus was about to go to the cross, He said “the ruler of this world is coming, but he has nothing in me.” (John 14:30) He could lay down His life because He clung to nothing in the world, not even His own flesh: He just clung to His Father. Because He was free of every limitation, He could give the Spirit without limit. He overcame every boundary on our behalf so that we can enter into His boundlessness. He won the war against the world single-handed, so that we could receive His peace. This was the great victory of the Son of Man.

So there is no rush. We do not need to make hasty decisions that rely on our own understanding, without first seeking the peace that surpasses all understanding; and we do not need to grab the world’s opportunities before they are taken away. We have all the time in the world.

Stepping out of the boat

“The boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.“ (Matthew 14: 24)

We know what happens next. It was the middle of the night; the disciples were struggling in the boat; Jesus came walking across the sea towards them, and Peter said: “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.“  (Matt 14:28) And then follows the paradigm of the disciple who steps out on the boat and walks on the water.

This is the story of “stepping out in faith.“ We tend to think of it in terms such as:  moving out on mission, giving on God’s command when we seem to have nothing to give, trusting God for miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, believing for supernatural provision, sharing the gospel, etcetera. The “spiritual” works that we walk in (Eph 2:10) that are the exceptions rather than the rule. Most of the time we probably see ourselves in the boat, rowing across the water. But since Romans 14:23 tells us that “whatever it’s not from faith is sin,” it follows that actually every step of the walk of discipleship has to involve stepping out of the boat. Our life in Christ begins when we die to self, and we only “walk after the spirit and not after the flesh,“ (Gal 5:16)  when it is the Holy Spirit and not the carnal self that is leading us. Seen from this angle, the boat, quite simply, is self.

In Matthew’s account, the wind is “contrary,” and they were “in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves.“ They weren’t about to sink; it wasn’t a storm that was blowing. They just weren’t getting anywhere, they weren’t comfortable, and they couldn’t see where they were going. In John’s account they had rowed “three or four miles” and “a great wind was blowing.” (John 6: 18-19) They had lost their peace and their direction. It wasn’t necessarily a time of life-threatening danger, but it was definitely a time of discomfort and frustration. Instead of Peace, there was turmoil.

What do we do when the wind is contrary? When we can’t make ourselves understood? Or can’t grasp what someone else is asking us? When we just aren’t making headway with the task in hand, or when circumstances just seem to be conspiring to cause the waves to rise and the wind to blow against us? Do we grip the oars even tighter, put our heads down and battle on – or do we recognise that we have lost our peace, rest the oars and look out for Jesus?

John writes: “So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid.” (John 6:19) 

John doesn’t say that they were afraid of the weather conditions; he says they were afraid when they saw Jesus. How often do we find ourselves like those disciples? The wind and the waves may be alarming, but it’s much less alarming to grip the oars that we know and feel that we control, than it is to let go of them and reach out to Jesus. We may not feel we are in danger, but in truth we will be directionless and there is no peace in a wave tossed boat. And when God is not in control of the boat, who knows what waves might be building up.

The flesh is always contrary to the spirit. (See Galatians 5:17.) And if we are not walking after the spirit and following Jesus, the wind is always contrary, whether we feel the boat is being tossed by the waves or whether we are being deceived into believing that all is well. The kingdom of heaven is where Jesus rules, the one whom the wind and the waves obey (Matt 8:27). Stepping out of the boat isn’t just a matter of the miraculous, but it is a model of everyday discipleship. We cannot walk after the spirit if we are hunkered down in the boat of the flesh.

When Jesus got back into the boat with Peter the wind was stilled and they arrived at the shore. Jesus promises peace and it is an evidence of His kingdom rule, but we have to step out of the boat to receive it from Him. When we do, we find our direction. He is always there, waiting on the water.

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.