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.

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.

“God told me…” The question of divine guidance.

My beloved put his hand
By the latch of the door,
And my heart yearned for him.
I arose to open for my beloved,
And my hands dripped with myrrh,
My fingers with liquid myrrh,
On the handles of the lock.
I opened for my beloved,
But my beloved had turned away and was gone.
My heart leaped up when he spoke.
I sought him, but I could not find him;
I called him, but he gave me no answer.”
(Song of Songs 5: 4-6)

As the Lord’s plan for the ages unfolds, and we appear to be drawing towards the closing stages of this generation, the separation of the Kingdom of God from the kingdoms of the world is becoming increasingly apparent and necessary. As I wrote in “Not by Might nor by Power” lawlessness is abounding and “the love of many” is already “going cold.” If we are to separate ourselves from the world and its ways we also need to be separating ourselves from its direction. To follow after Jesus in the labyrinth of deception and destruction that surrounds us we have to be able to depend on his voice and his guidance, and we know that we, His sheep “hear His voice (John 10:27); that He promises to “lead us in the Way everlasting” (Ps 194:24); and that He to give us His counsel (Psalm 16:7). The question is: do we hear it, and even more significant: if we do hear, do we heed it?

Jesus is constantly calling to His bride, encouraging her to prepare herself for the time when He comes to take her to be exclusively His own, forever. Like The Beloved with His hand on the door latch (Song of Solomon 5:4) He draws close: His heart is for us to arise from our sleep and seek Him diligently. But sometimes we open the door to Him, and He isn’t there. Does that mean that the bridegroom isn’t speaking to His bride? Certainly not. What this passage (and the ensuing chapters) tells me is that maybe the voice of our beloved isn’t speaking to us as often as we might like to think, especially when we are metaphorically lying on our beds and ‘can’t get up;’ that when He speaks to us it is a special and a wonderful experience that He wants us to cherish and to seek out because we long for His presence more than for anything else.

So how do we distinguish the voice of our beloved from the voice of our own desires and imaginings, or, even worse, the deceiving voice of the enemy? Here are a few signposts that I think may be helpful. They relate specifically to how we receive counsel and guidance from the Lord in our own lives rather than words of knowledge or wisdom that we feel we may have for somebody else.

God doesn’t drive; He leads.

God is never in a hurry. Patience is a fruit of the spirit; haste isn’t. He is more interested in what He is doing for us and in us and what we are doing for Him. He builds with gold, silver, and precious stones: lasting minerals that are purified and refined, not hastily thrown together with “wood, hay and stubble.. that will burn up with fire.” (1 Cor 3:12) This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want us to move quickly sometimes: He may prompt us to act quickly over a particular situation, and if that is the case we will feel a repeated prompt in our spirit that won’t leave us alone until we have acted on it. But this is very different from rushing to put something together that doesn’t bear the hallmark of beauty and perfection that identifies it as a Kingdom project. When God created the heavens and the Earth it was good. When we create something in His name – because everything we do, if we are His brothers, is in His name – He wants it to be good as well. So if you feel that God is telling you to do something, He’s not likely to be saying you have to rush it. And while you’re doing that thing for Him, He will also be doing something in you. God doesn’t drive; He leads.

Love, Life and Fruitfulness

Because God is love, His words are words of Life, and His desire for us is that we are fruitful. His plans always lead to love, life and fruitfulness. If the plan that you feel is from the Lord is taking you away from the people that He has given you to love, it is very likely that those plans are from your fleshly nature, not the heart of God. Always ask yourself: where is the love in what I’m doing? I have mentioned elsewhere that I enjoy birdwatching and photography. One day I was praying about my hobbies; in particular I was saying to the Lord that they seem very self-centred and not very “Kingdom”, and what did He think? His answer was very clear: “Why don’t you share them with others?” So I have started taking people from church on birdwatching excursions that they have really enjoyed. Love, life, and fruit. He didn’t take away my enjoyment: He actually expanded it by adding love.

Opportunity – or temptation?

God is creator and master of the universe. And because that’s true, He can arrange circumstances to speak to us, just as He speaks to us through all of creation. But that doesn’t mean every time events line up in favour of something that we desire to do that it is the Lord who is arranging them and giving our plans a green light. Yes, an opportunity can be a confirmation, but it can also be a temptation. Anne and I come from a new age background and we have seen the powers of darkness line up events to further the devil’s plans for us, not Gods. God saved us out of that, and in doing so He has allowed us an insight into the workings of the spiritual domain that we were in. It isn’t pretty.

God doesn’t lead us into temptation, but He allows it so that we can recognise it for what it is. And He doesn’t allow any temptation without also providing the means to escape (1 Cor 10:13), and very often that means of escape is provided through other people. An important scripture in the context of guidance, again given to the Corinthians, is 2 Corinthians 3: 1 “in the mass of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.“ We may feel God is guiding us in a particular direction: that would be a “word“ that we have. A door of opportunity appears to open that confirms that word. But that opportunity is only one witness: on its own it confirms nothing. In fact It may actually be a temptation. But if a brother or sister also confirms the “word“ that we have received, we can possibly start to think that God is indeed leading us – as long as that leading also fulfils the requirements of Love life and fruitfulness. God put us into a body so that we can be carriers of His love. As we love one another the world can see we are His disciples, yes; but also as we love we can support one another in our discipleship walk. God puts us alongside people so that we can hear His through them and likewise so they can hear Him through us. It is through the body that God often provides that second or third witness which may be the way out of temptation.

Two or three witnesses

Scripture refers to “two or three” witnesses. When is two enough, and when do we need the third? If we need to step out in faith and rely on supernatural resourcing for a certain course of action, I think we need to hear supernaturally that those resources will be available from the One who supplies them. Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God: the word that we step on has to be irrefutably from God before we put our foot there. Generally speaking that would mean a confirmation being brought through a prophetic channel that has no natural connection with the plans we are considering. In this context I would say that even “godly conversation” with a trusted brother or sister is not enough. David said to Nathan that he wanted to build a temple for the Lord. Although David obviously had the resources available, such a project clearly would need Gods approval. Nathan encouraged David to go ahead, but the Lord corrected Nathan’s words in a dream that night to change David’s plans. God spoke supernaturally into the situation.

So “the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (One Corinthians 12: 21) We need each other. Again, “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety.“ (Proverbs 11:4) God is not interested in a loose assembly of Mavericks all pursuing their own ends and saying that God told them what to do, even though He didn’t tell anybody else. He loves us too much for that. He wants – and we need – a temple of living stones that are “fitly framed,” (Eph 2:21), set alongside one another and depending on one another for support, to be effective channels of His love and carriers of His presence.

Building the Temple

Zechariah 6: 12-13 says:
“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH!
From His place He shall branch out,
And He shall build the temple of the LORD
Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD.
He shall bear the glory,
And shall sit and rule on His throne
.” (Zech 6: 12-13)

He shall build the temple of the Lord. This is God’s master plan. I think that this may be the only place in the Bible where a phrase is directly repeated in this manner, emphasising it within the whole canon of scripture as a statement written in red letters, bold and underlined. Alongside this in importance is the beautiful obsession of the Bridegroom for His bride-to-be. The closing chapters of the Song of Solomon are rich in detailed descriptions of the lovers’ attributes as the dialogue switches between The Beloved and His bride while they speak of their knowledge of each other. Jesus, The Beloved, longs for the time when “We shall know Him even as we are known.” (1 Cor 13:12) In the divine scheme of things, knowing Him has surely to be more important than knowing what to do.

And so we return, finally, to the two Great Commandments: we love the Lord our God, and we love each other. In one way or another, everything that the Holy Spirit does on Earth in the name of Jesus is connected to His master plan and with our relationship with Him, the Master. If our guidance isn’t, then we have to assume it is not from the Holy Spirit.

The lighthouse on the Rock

Your feet will not slip, and My light is shining in you

“Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.

By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us,
O God of our salvation,
You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth,
And of the far-off seas;

Who established the mountains by His strength,
Being clothed with power;

You who still the noise of the seas,
The noise of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples” 
Psalm 65: 4-7

If you felt God called you to be a lighthouse, yet everything seems dark; if all you seem to know is the waves crashing against the rock, and it seems like your light has gone out, and sometimes you even doubt that it was ever shining; if you are saying: “Lord, this isn’t how I thought it was going to turn out!” He says to you:

“You are standing on the rock, and your feet will not slip. However hard the waves beat against it, they are passing ephemera; they have no power against me. Even though one wave after another beats against the place where you stand, the storm itself will pass and the sea will be calm and bathed in beautiful Sonshine. I have chosen you to dwell in my courts, and you are mine. Your light has not gone out, for I am the light that shines in you, and there are many in the storm that you cannot see who are being drawn to me through your light. When the storm has passed you will see them, you will see their sails filled with the wind of my Spirit, and you will know that they have been kept safe  because I have put you where you are. Trust me and dwell in my courts while the storm rages around you. I am the one who stills the noise of the seas and the tumult of the peoples, and my light is powerful in you.”

The Cave of Adullam

The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth”

(Ps 34: 7-16)

I heard a particular advert recently on the classical radio station that I listen to in the car, and I found myself crying out to God for mercy on our nation: it seemed that the judgement that He poured out onto Sodom and Gomorrah had to be coming our way. I felt the Lord say “I am bringing judgement, but it will not fall upon my people.”

Judgement and mercy. The next day I read Psalm 34, and I found the same theme again: “The eyes of the Lord are on the Righteous…” but “The face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” Again I felt the Lord speaking as I read the words, saying “I am separating the darkness from the light, the righteous from the ungodly; and the separation will be clear: the righteous will shine like stars in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.”

David wrote psalm 34 when he was fleeing from Saul: the inscription is “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.”  There are prophetic levels to many of the psalms and to the character and the story of David, the man after God’s own heart and forerunner of Jesus, our Messiah King. And as well as finding Jesus the King represented prophetically in David the king, we can also see aspects of the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth – past, present and future – revealed prophetically in the rise of the Kingdom of David in Israel. David was anointed King as a young man, but spent the first part of his life serving Saul in his court. Saul broadly represents the world and the flesh; David represents the Life of the Spirit. So the Church, anointed by the Holy Spirit, has spent most of the first phase of its growth in many parts of the world living in the court of Saul, and since Constantine’s edict of Milan in 313 AD has lived side-by-side with the state.

This is changing. In communist and islamic states it has changed already, and the church is being persecuted as Saul persecuted David. But now Christians in the West are also starting to face psalm 34 decisions: those who stand up for biblical lifestyle choices are increasingly facing persecution from those who deny God, and a body of legislation that seeks to outlaw Christian choices is growing like a cancer in the USA, the UK, and mainland Europe.  If we look at the story of David after he has left Saul, I think we can see some of the path ahead for the Church as Jesus builds a Kingdom on Earth that is separate from the Kingdom of this world, but which it will ultimately be subject to when “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” (Rev. 11:15)

For a start here will be persecution, typified by the slaughter of the priests of Nob by Saul’s senior servant, Doeg the Edomite. Jesus promised it; David pointed to it; we must prepare for it. The church will be driven into the Cave of Adullam, and just as David welcomed the cast-offs of society into his company so we, too, bring the poor, the needy and the broken into the fellowship of the Kingdom. Judah crowned David King, and as the praises of His people surround the throne of Jesus, His power and His love become visible to all in revival power. And finally, just as all Israel received David as King, every tongue and tribe will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Where are we in this story now? I think right now the spear of Saul is aimed at David. For “the man who desires life and loves many days” it will soon be time to flee, because a time will come when there will be a stark choice before us: we either compromise our faith and stay in the comfort of the court of Saul where we will ultimately have to give assent to the murderous intentions of Doeg the Edomite; or we fear God and move out into the unknown, where our trust is in God and not in the systems and provision of the world, and where He has to be the one who delivers us from our enemies because it is no longer in our power to deliver ourselves. We either hide in the darkness for fear of persecution, or we reveal our light and be ready to flee. But Judgement will come on the house of Saul, so our only place of safety is to be outside of its courts. And, as David writes in Psalm 34 and the Holy Spirit repeats echoes in our hearts today, it is the fear of the Lord that will be the key to our deliverance and our provision.

“I will teach you the fear of the Lord,” writes David. It can be hard to reconcile the message of the Grace of God with the idea of the fear of the Lord. If we are saved by Grace and cleansed of all our sin by the blood of Christ, and our place in Heaven is secure, what is there to fear- especially as we know from scripture that perfect love casts out all fear of judgement, and that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? (See 1 John 4:18, Romans 8:1) For me, the answer to this conundrum is that biblical fear of the Lord has nothing to do with fear of punishment or pain. I think the fear of the Lord is the emotion that accompanies a visceral awareness that each of the three persons of our Triune God has in the intensity of their gaze the power to create and destroy galaxies, that the depth of love that gave us Calvary is as deep as the recesses of the universe itself, and that the cradle that bore Jesus in Bethlehem and that cradles us when we are rocked by our anxieties is the cradle of all history, from beginning to end. When we contemplate this God, from whom the merest flicker of a thought could annihilate our very existence – even if we know He never would – I think we can begin to know what is meant by the fear of the Lord. This is someone we take seriously.

The verses from Psalm 34 above give us five ways to take God seriously, to “fear Him.” If we can take them on board they can help us to prepare for the years ahead and the choices that we will face.

Firstly, we “taste and see that He is good.” He is there; He is real; the power that made and sustains the Universe is within Him; and, most amazingly, we have access to His person through the cross of Christ. How can we not want to taste of His goodness; for it to be a reality in our experience, not just an idea in our minds? To take Him seriously we cannot ignore what the God of the Universe Holds out to us by His Spirit. When we “taste and see”, we can trust Him. We trust someone that we know. We trust Him because we know He is good; we have experienced His goodness.

Secondly, we seek Him. We understand that He has the details of our lives worked out, even if we haven’t worked them out ourselves. The “young lions” who jockey for success in the world, hunting down status and wealth, will go hungry because ultimately the world will fail them. If we will learn the lesson, COVID has already taught us that we cannot rely on what was always there, and that only God is the sure provider that we can trust. As I wrote about somewhere on this site (sorry – can’t remember which post!) – when the whole world was buying up toilet rolls at the beginning of the first lockdown, God sent a vanload of them to park at the adjacent pump in the gas station to the woman who said “Lord, I’m not going to panic buy; I’m going to seek you!” We don’t run after the provision; we seek the Provider.

Thirdly, we guard our tongues. “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov 18:21) This doesn’t just apply to the people that we speak to: it applies to us as well. As we give so we will receive. If we tongue-lash others, we will get a lashing. If we bless, we will be blessed. If we build up, we will be built up, and if we pull down, we will be pulled down. Words create or destroy, and Jesus tells us that we will be held responsible for every “idle” (fruitless, barren) word that we speak (Matt 12:36). If we “desire Life” and want to “see good,” we must speak life and speak what is good. “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Phil 4:8)

Fourth, we “Depart from evil and do good.” The gospel is about how we live; not the songs we sing, the books we read, or the words that we prophesy. It’s about how and who we love. It’s about “whatever we have done to the least of these…” (Matt 25: 35-40) It’s about faith that works with love. It’s about 1 Corinthians 13 being the anchor for chapters 12 and 14. What will hold us together in the Cave of Adullam is our love for one another; and it is that unity that Jesus prophesied in John 17 that the world will see when Judah arises in power.

Finally, we are to “seek peace and pursue it.” Not just because Jesus is the Prince of Peace do we make pursuing peace a serious objective in our lives, and not just because the peacemakers are blessed and “shall be called the children of God” (Matt 5:9) – although these in themselves are both very real reasons to seek peace. But the peace we are to pursue is not just peace with other people; it’s the peace that settles in our hearts which the Lord promises to give us (John 14:27) to keep our hearts from being troubled and fearful. After the massacre at Nob David says to Abiathar, the one surviving priest, “”Stay with me; do not fear. For he who seeks my life seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe.” (1 Sam 22:23) To be safe, we need to be close to Jesus. When we are close to Him – yoked to Him – we know His presence and His peace directs our steps. “Stay safe” has become a mantra of the COVID world. The only real way to stay safe is to seek the peace of Jesus, and pursue it.

We are at a critical moment in the life of the church. God is separating the light from the darkness: as He did right at the beginning of creation, so He is doing in the days of the new creation. I fell that this is what He is saying to us:

You are the light of the world: come out of the darkness and gather to Me! Taste of my presence, trust My provision, speak My words, walk in My ways, pursue My peace! The Cave of Adullam is ahead, but in that place you will know a warmth of love that you have not hitherto experienced, and out of that love you will see the light of my Glory arise and you will know, and the world will know, that I the Lord am establishing my Kingdom on Earth. The wheels are moving quickly now. Do not delay. The enemy of your souls would say that you can sit back, that you are fine as you are, but I say Consecrate yourselves because I am taking you to a place where the ground where you will be standing is holy. So prepare yourselves. For in the cave of Adullam all that you had in the court of Saul will have been taken from you, but everything that is yours in the courts of Heaven will be available. The enemy will say that you will be dying, but I say Die to yourselves, and Live! Live!”

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

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

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

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

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