Category Archives: Walking in the Spirit

God gives the Spirit without limit. Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the church to equip us to be His witnesses and carry on the work that He started by that same power. To deny that the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to the believer today, or to say, as some do, that God does not speak supernaturally to His people today, is effectively taking Christ out of Christianity.

Sit still and count the sheep

We are the sheep of His pasture
We are the sheep of His pasture

If you were at Wildwood Church with me on Sunday, you will have heard a sister share the following: (I am paraphrasing as well as I remember.)

“I was on a train in the Peak District recently when the Lord spoke to me strongly. It was one of those little tourist trains. It wasn’t an express. It only had a couple of carriages. It went slowly through the countryside and you sat and watched the scenery while you had a cream tea.

We were all on the platform and didn’t know when the train would be coming in, but the station master knew everything and told us what to do and when to do it. He reminded me of the Fat Controller in the Thomas the Tank Engine stories. I felt the Lord say to me: “I am in control. I know the timetable. This is not an express, you haven’t got to hurry. All you need to do is to sit there, look out of the window, and count the sheep.“

Doreen emphasised how the Lord was reminding her, and us, that He is in control. He knows the timetable. He knows our going out and our coming in. We are safe in him and we can relax and be at peace. This was a true “now” word, as the thrust of the sermon that was to follow (and which she obviously hadn’t heard) was, essentially, “be still and know that I am God.” And also I think there are a couple of other details which have prophetic significance, alongside the timely exhortation to rest in Him, which I would like to bring out now.

The first is this. The train was going through the peak district. The peaks are a reminder of all the excesses that we see in the world at the moment: not just the peaks of chaos and anxiety that fill  the news every day, but the peaks of excess that the ruler of this world is consistently seeking to tempt us with. God’s train passes among all of these, untouched by them. In Him we too remain untouched. The only  real peak of human experience is our relationship with God: we do not need to climb out of the train to scale any of the tempting peaks outside, or to run away from the threatening ones, however close any of them seem to appear. If we can be still and know that He is God, we will see them disappear behind us.

Secondly, there were the sheep. Doreen specifically said that we need to “sit there, look out of the window, and count the sheep.” As I was pondering this story I felt the Lord turning it around and saying “the sheep count!“ We are the sheep of His pasture. He is the Good Shepherd. Nothing counts more, collectively and individually, than the sheep that Jesus gave His life to bring into the Fathers sheepfold.

If we rush from one destination to another, all we will see is the peaks. But if we sit still on the Lord’s train, in Heavenly places with Him,  in the seat that He has bought for us, following the timetable that He controls, we will be aware of the sheep of His pasture and they will become more important to us than anything else on our journey. And sometimes He will even bring us a cream tea.

Of His fullness we have received…

“Of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1: 16-17)

Any Christian who believes that the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit are available and operational in the Church today will know of, and quite possibly tell others of, the need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, as Scripture exhorts us in Ephesians 5:18. But as I’ve become more aware lately of what it is to be standing under the waterfall of God’s Grace, (see the last article, Mountains and Waterfalls) I’ve been considering what it actually means to be filled with the Spirit.

If all the fullness of God dwells in Jesus (Colossians 1:19), and Christ, the Hope of glory, is in us (Col 1:27), then how much of Christ dwells in us? Do we believe that it is a fragment? A cell? Maybe just a fragment of a cell? Or do we dare to believe that our loving Heavenly Father will answer Paul’s prayer for every Christian of every age, that we would be “filled with all the fulness of God?”

We are called to love one another; to have grace in our dealings. Jesus made in clear in the Sermon on the Mount that Kingdom relationships are characterised by the fact that what we give does not depend on what we receive: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matt 5:46) On the contrary, if we “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” we have the astounding promise that “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Verse 47) We won’t just be good, because we have obeyed the rules, but we’ll be like God – because actually, as far as the rules of the world are concerned, we have broken them.

So a basic principle in the Manifesto of the Kingdom is that what we give to men does not depend on what we receive from them. We don’t love according to the tit-for-tat rules of the world, any more than we are to depend for what we need on the get-what-you-pay-for provision of the world. When Jesus preached repentance unto God, it was more than an exhortation to stop behaving badly: it was a call to throw out man’s rulebook and embrace God’s – whose book consists basically of two sentences: love God, and love one another. If we seek this Kingdom, everything else will be given to us.

“Of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” Just as we have received out of the fullness of God in Christ, so it is only out of our fullness that others can receive grace from us – the grace that rises above the tit for tat of the world, that enables us to overcome negative reactions to damaging words and quench fiery arrows with living water. The Grace that enables us to be perfect, just like our Father in Heaven.” The purpose of being full of the Holy Spirit is not so much to have access to supernatural gifts, but to have access to supernatural love, supernatural gentleness and supernatural generosity. If our Saviour had not been filled with all the fullness of God, Satan would have shown Him a good carnal reason to disobey His Father; but He could say that Satan “has nothing in me” because He was completely full of God.

So two questions. The first is this: how full of the Holy Spirit are we?  Because if we are really full, like Stephen was, we don’t run away when the stones start to fall, but we “see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55)  It’s often said that we leak, which is why Paul’s exhortation is the present continuous tense – “Be being filled.” But I don’t think it’s true that we leak, and every now and then have to go back to the fountain (often at Church) for a top-up. We can’t fill the flesh with the Spirit. I think we are more like completely broken bottles, and  the only way for Scripture’s present continuous tense to operate in our lives is to stay under that waterfall, standing permanently in the Grace of God, morning, noon and night; work, rest and play. And at church as well. What a blessing we could be at church by just staying soaked all week. And if we can do this, out of our fullness others will receive, grace for grace. At church, in the home, and in the workplace.

And here is the second question: what is our expectation of the “fullness of God” in our lives? I was in a zoom gathering last night, and the word that Father spoke to us by His Spirit was that He wants to bring a new level of creativity to His people: that the atmosphere of Heaven is the Beauty of Holiness, and that He wants us to release that beauty into the world in all that we do – our work, or pastimes, our creative projects, our relationships of course – and that He would bring us new gifts, new resources, new skills, new levels of faith, in fact all that we need out of the infinite unseen storehouses of Heaven to start bringing this about. It was a beautiful, encouraging Word, and I do not do it justice with my single-sentence paraphrase. And it would be so easy for it to remain on the shelf, along with the library of other beautiful encouraging words that I have heard over nearly 40 years in the faith. Except for one thing. If you know me or follow my site, you will know that I am a “birder”: I love watching and photographing birds. I was sitting in the sunshine in my garden this afternoon, enjoying a cup of tea, when I heard a birdsong in the tree that I did not immediately recognise. I managed to get a picture, and I identified it as a female linnet. The linnet is a little finch with a sweet song, which the Victorians used to keep in cages as songbirds.  Linnets are not particularly rare, but I do not recall ever seeing one in my garden before – and we have lived here since 1998. It was something unexpected, beautiful, and new.

This was the linnet: not just a little brown bird, but something beautiful, unexpected and new.

I believe that little bird was a sign from the Lord of all Creation to remind me, and you, that He has so much more for us than we could ever ask or imagine, and that even now, as the world seems to be rushing to pull down its tents, He wants us to stretch forth the cords of ours and enlarge our vision of who He is and what it means to be filled with all of His fullness. If we do this He will fill whatever we give Him with more of who He is so that when the needy come to us they can be filled in turn from our fullness, grace for grace. Whatever your garden is, and whatever those linnets might be for you, watch out for them, because the Holy Spirit is releasing them from their cage.

Mountains and Waterfalls

The flowers of the grass

“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 
because


“All flesh is as grass,
And all
 the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever.” 

Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” (1 Pe 1 22-25)

I was on a mission trip to Switzerland in May, staying at a Bible college up in the hills overlooking a lake, facing some prominent peaks of the Alps. I was walking down a path one morning to check out the bird life, having read the above passage from1 Peter before I left. In all the times I have read that scripture, I had never thought about “the flower of the grass,” until this moment when I found myself standing in it, looking across the valley at the view which the photo above captures a corner of. I took the picture from where I stood with the flower of the grass at my feet, the Bible school behind me, representing the enduring Word of God, looking across the valley at the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, drinking in liquid bird song and the flutter of butterflies among the wildflowers, drenched in peace, and above all feeling cradled in the love of the one who had made it all. After nearly 40 years in the Lord, I felt the Father’s love in a new, intimate way that morning.  And while I was standing there trying to contemplate the majesty of my loving Father through this tiny fragment of His creation the thought occurred to me: the flower of the grass doesn’t even last anything like as long as the grass itself. And this is as much as our glory is worth!

The thoughts tumbled in: how often do we try to elevate ourselves with our opinions, our superior “wisdom,” our spirituality, our ”rightness” – especially our rightness? But our glory is no more than the flower of the grass at my feet compared with the glory of God in all His majesty and the eternal truth of His Word, and my opinions are of no more value by comparison than a used bus ticket buried in the folds of  my pocket. “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.” And yet we carry within us the glory of the One who made the mountains. How can I possibly offer people my bus tickets instead of letting them know something of the love, the peace and the glory that has been poured out into my heart by the Holy Spirit of Creator Father God? Why do I even look at them?

Without love, we stand alone, and all we manifest is what is corruptible;  the flower of the grass. When we reach out in love to others we can manifest the glory of God and the incorruptible truth of His word, quickened by the power of His Spirit. Switzerland is full of waterfalls. I was telling a wise friend about my experience on the hillside, and likened the idea of standing in the flow of God’s love to standing under a waterfall (I am hardly the first person to do so…) My friend said “A waterfall pours into a pool, then flows out of it. Our job (actually he said “your job,” but it applies to all of us) isn’t to try and direct the flow of the water, but just to stand beneath it. It will take its own course out of the pool.”

Our hearts are that pool. The love of God has been poured into them (Romans 5:5), and it pours out as rivers of living water (John 7:38). I don’t think we can truly love unless we stand under that waterfall. Jesus came and died to make it possible. The Father’s waterfall carries no negative pollutants; it always brings forgiveness, always drives away hurt. It always renews, always washes away the old, it is always fresh, always new, always clean, always pure. It is the Father’s waterfall that drives the dynamo of His power on the Earth. When we stand beneath it we cannot hold onto pain and disappointment, but letting go we can let the water come, and in our own situations we can be like Jesus, “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23)

“Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17), and so the greatest and most perfect gift of all, the love of God, must also come down from above. It can’t return from where the waterfall has already passed. If we look to any other source to meet our deepest need we are looking for secondhand water.

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life. |
(Psalm 43:7-8)

Isaiah exhorts all who are thirsty to “Come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1). When we do, it is not just our thirst that is quenched, but the thirst of those around us as the Lord commands His lovingkindness with the water that pours out of the pool of our hearts. If we will stand in the Father’s waterfall we will see the glory of the mountains made manifest, not just the flower of the grass.

The Key of David

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lord, teach us to pray…”

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11: 1-13)

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he gave them – and us – the Lord’s prayer. We tend to think – or at least I always have – that the Lord’s prayer is His answer to their request. But the teaching doesn’t end there. In Luke 11, the first four verses are the prayer itself, the next four are the illustration of the value of persistence in prayer, and the next five are the illustration of the Father’s generosity towards all who “ask seek and knock.” We have 13 verses of teaching, not just four: what to pray, how to pray, and how we can expect the Father to answer.


It’s been said before, but what strikes me about the illustration of the persistent friend is that he isn’t asking for bread for himself, but for the traveller who has come to his house. Jesus isn’t teaching us about how to pray for ourselves, but how to pray for others. Actually what He does teach us about praying for ourselves is quite short: basically He says our Father has got what we need before we even ask Him! (Matt 6:8)  If we walk in daily relationship with our Father Jesus says that He will feed and clothe us without the need for our shopping list. It’s  when we have nothing in our larder for those who come to out “house” that prayer is a requirement.


The model that the apostle Peter gives us for evangelism is to always be ready with an answer for those who ask us about our faith (1 Peter 3:15.  I wrote about it last week). I think we can read the reference to our “house” as being more than the bricks and mortar that we live in (if we are fortunate enough), but our whole area of influence and the network of our relationships. In a sense, whoever we are with is in our “house,” and the Lord wants us to feed them with His bread. We don’t feed them with our bread; we feed them with His bread. We have nothing in our personal larders they can feed anybody else’s spirit: we have to go to the Lord for His provision. And it seems that sometimes we have to pester Him before He provides. Why? I wouldn’t like to say that I know, but it might be that He wants us to show a bit more love for and commitment to the needy person then one quick request. It may be our persistence is a hallmark of our love and also, maybe, a measure of our faith. But whatever the reason, Jesus teaches us to ask until we have received what we are asking for.

And this leads on to the final section of the teaching. Having shown that we need to be persistent when we “ask, seek, and knock” (the Greek tense means “ask and keep on asking), the Lord’s teaching goes on to tell us how faithful the Father is to answer. The persistent friend kept on asking for bread to give to his visitor. Jesus said that if we, as “evil” mortals, know how to give “good gifts” to our children, our good Father can surely be counted on to give “good gifts” to us, His children. In the next verse, the idea of the Father giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask (v 13) seems to come out slightly of left field in the context of the passage, but if we think of asking the Father to give us “bread” for others it follows on very clearly.

“Bread” is an accepted image for Words of Life. Our “daily bread” is the spiritual sustenance we receive through God’s word as well as the sustenance we need for our bodies. When we need Words of Life to give to someone, there is only one person we can turn to, because only Jesus has them (John 6:68). The only way we can receive those words of life are by the Spirit.  It is not unintentional that the writer of the Book of Acts quotes Jesus as making a connection between the Father giving the Holy Spirit and earthly fathers giving “good gifts” to their children. If an “evil” earthly father can give “good gifts” to his children, how much more will our Heavenly Father give “good gifts” when He gives the Spirit to those who ask (persistently)? And those good gifts, I would say, are precisely what the context suggests they are: they are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We get “bread” for our friends by asking our Father for gifts of the Holy Spirit.

If Jesus’ passion is to build His church, and our commission is to get the job done in His name, especially by having an answer for everyone who asks us about our faith, we have in Luke 11 1-13 a classic three-point sermon on how to go about it:

1: We walk in God’s ways. If we live out of the Lord’s prayer from our hearts we will be doing that, and our light will be seen by others. (vs. 1-4)

2: They will come to our “house” out of the darkness because they will see that light and they will need to be fed. (vs. 5-8)

3: We can’t feed them ourselves, but we know someone who can give us the best bread of all – the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (vs. 9-13) To adapt Zechariah 4:6, it’s not by might, nor by power, nor by any human “bread” that we can share the gospel, but by my Spirit, says the Lord. All we have to do, whenever someone sees our light and comes to our “house,” is to ask. Persistently.

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.

The Path of the Just (2): The Needle’s Eye

“God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us,

That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.”
(Psalm 67: 1-2)

“And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved? But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:24-26)

I sometimes think that we can get so caught up in our desire to see revival sweep across the nations that we can lose sight of why revival is sent. We know for a fact that one day the Glory of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, because it is stated in God’s word; and we can be fairly certain – because the message has been given consistently through a number of reliable prophetic voices, including Smith Wigglesworth’s notable 1947 “The Last Move” prophesy – that God is preparing a move of the Holy Spirit that will eclipse anything the world has seen up till now. But if God is going to be merciful to us and bless us with an outpouring of His presence, and if He is going to cause His face to shine upon us and bring His light into the darkness of broken communities, broken lives and broken bodies, it will be for a purpose: that His way is known and His salvation revealed.

God’s Way is of course revealed in Jesus. Jesus is the Way; we, the Church, were first called “Followers of the Way, or even at times just “the Way.” So far so easy. But it tends to get more difficult when we look at exactly how Jesus Himself described the way He came to reveal, because He isn’t just the Way; He is the Narrow Way: “Small is the gate, and narrow the way leading to life, and few there are who find it.” (Matt 7:14). His is the way that humbled Himself to death on the cross (Phil 2:8); who “didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Way is “meek and humble of heart” (Matt 11:29); and although “He was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.(2 Cor 8:9). When God mercifully pours out His blessing it is to reveal the way of His Kingdom, which is a life lived without self-interest, motivated only by the needs of others. Indeed there are few who find it.

We all know Romans 8 28: we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” but we don’t all quote the following verse quite so often: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The word “for” connects the two verses: God’s purpose for us, within the frame of which “everything works together for good,” is that we are “conformed to the image of His son.” Within God’s Kingdom purpose there is an inevitable progression as the blessing of God causes all things to work together for good, whereby the followers of the Way become part of the Way themselves, and in doing so are able to show the Way to others. Yet if the entrance to this salvation is narrower than a needle’s eye, and we (certainly in the rich developed world) are at least as fat as camels, how, as the disciples asked, can anyone be saved? (Matt 19:25)

Jesus answered the disciples’ question succinctly:  “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (verse 26) God doesn’t take away the eye of the needle: what He does by His Spirit is to make us small enough to go through it. When the Son of God came as the Son of Man He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” (Phil 2:7) He sat the disciples down and told them very clearly: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35), and John’s gospel shows how He demonstrated the Kingdom way of Lordship by washing the feet of his disciples. (John 13: 1-17). “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (vs. 13-125)

These are familiar scriptures. They all illustrate the same thing: that God’s ways are not our ways. To walk in blessing, we bless others. To walk in authority, we serve others. If we give, it will be given unto us. If we want to walk without fear of our needs not being met, we meet the needs of others; because it is our “Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32). This is the Way that God desires to make known on earth, the way of the Spirit that the flesh is ever opposed to (Galatians 5:17), the needle’s eye.

A sister at our church had a dream in which the Lord showed her that we, and all our fine plans, were like rocks that needed to go into a bottle in order to be poured into the places where He would direct. The rocks needed to be broken down and sieved into fine sand before they could go through the narrow neck of the bottle in order to be poured out. Only God can do this. He will only do it when we give Him permission, and our flesh will try to deny that permission in every possible way. Even if all our intentions are to serve the Lord and His Kingdom our best efforts are worthless if the rocks we bring Him are not so broken and sieved that He can direct them where, when and how He wants, and not where, when or how we think He wants.

I have just returned from a birdwatching holiday, where a group of us were taken by a guide to various birding “hotspots”  in and around the Scottish Highlands. Two members of the group had cameras with such big, powerful lenses that they could only use them when they were set up on a tripod: I would need more muscle strength than I am endowed with to even lift them to my eyes. They could take brilliantly clear pictures of a Slavonian grebe a quarter of a mile away on the other side of the Moray Firth, once they were set up and focussed on the bird; but they would have completely missed the crossbills flitting between the treetops that I could capture an image of with my lightweight handheld gear. It is God’s word, borne on the wings of His Spirit and received in an obedient heart that brings His life, not our cumbersome structures and heavyweight programmes.

For those of us who might feel that we are more reliant on the impromptu leadings of the Holy Spirit than organised missions and programmes, there is still a “heavyweight lens” that will keep us from passing through the needle’s eye, and this is the lens of signs and wonders, the prophetic lens itself. God will “cause His face to shine upon us, That (His) way may be known on earth.” The purpose of all that He does in a time of outpouring will always be to see more lives conformed to the image of His Son, swelling the numbers of those who walk the Narrow Way. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human  wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2: 1-5) Paul’s ministry clearly manifested the power of God, but his life was just as obviously a demonstration of the Narrow Way. He could write 1 Corinthians 13 because he lived it.

Psalm 85:13 tells us “Righteousness will go before Him, And shall make His footsteps our pathway.” If we are seeking for signs and wonders to follow the words that we preach and for revival outpouring to fall on our churches, we tend to focus on the mechanics of ministry – how to share Jesus, how to move in words of knowledge, how to prophesy, how to lead worship etc – but what about how we can “make ourselves of no reputation” so that we can be small enough to walk in His footsteps through the eye of the needle? There is plenty of training on prophesy, evangelism and all the fivefold ministries, and I am not saying that these are not valuable; but I have yet to see a course on how to be meek and humble of heart like Jesus so that we can demonstrate His Way in our lives on Earth.

Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16) To pray “in the name of Jesus” is not a mantra that we tag onto the end of every supplication, but it is to ask the Father what Jesus would ask Him for, because we are walking in His ways and conformed to His image. From the testimony of the Acts of the Apostles this obviously worked for Paul: he saw the  power of God at work, and he saw His Way established on Earth: he bore fruit that remains. We need the power of God as much as Paul did: not just to demonstrate His sovereignty, but also to make us small enough to make His way known on earth.

Psalm 62:11 says this:

God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.

Power belongs to God; the narrow way belongs to us. It is when they work together that the Kingdom is built.

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.

Honey from the Rock

And the men of Israel were distressed that day, for Saul had placed the people under oath, saying, “Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.” So none of the people tasted food. Now all the people of the land came to a forest; and there was honey on the ground. And when the people had come into the woods, there was the honey, dripping; but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath; therefore he stretched out the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his countenance brightened.” (1 Sam 14: 24-27)

When our TV is switched on but the satellite box is off and there is no signal, a message displays on the screen saying:  “Check external input, or select another input using the INPUT button.” The other evening I was confronting one of the areas in my life where I am still failing to walk in the victory that Jesus gained for me at the cross, and that “no signal” message was displaying on tbe screen: we had switched off the box, but the TV receiver was still on. It caught my attention in a new way. In my reactions to the “battle” situation that I was facing and where I was still losing, was I checking my input? Was I looking with any discernment at where my thoughts were coming from, to determine whether they were flesh or spirit?

There is a very clear litmus test we can apply. Here it is: “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) If I am thinking about me – my reasons, my needs, my feelings, my motivation, my struggle, my interests, anything that is about me – I am focussed on self. The litmus says “flesh.” If however my thoughts are just focussed on the interests, feelings, needs etc of the other person, the litmus says “Spirit,” because I am dead to self and am operating in love. Sometimes I really think it can be that simple. Not easy, but simple.

The story of Jonathan and the honeycomb plays out this scenario before our eyes. Saul declared that none would eat or drink until he had taken vengeance on his enemies. The forest was dripping with honey, but none could touch it. Consequently the Israelites were weakened, their victory diminished, and they were so hungry that they fell on the spoils and devoured them with the blood, sinning under the law.

The flesh always drives, and always drives towards sin. God gave the Law to His people as a tool that would enable then to manage their flesh and remain holy. Inevitably they failed, as we continue to fail today whenever we bind ourselves under legalism. Yet the flesh continues to yearn for the Law: my spirit is justified in Christ, but if there is one thing that my flesh wants to do, it is to justify itself. Unfortunately the only law that self can access is the law of sin and death, and not the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus (See Romans 8:2). Saul sought to pursue his enemy, but his pursuit was fleshly and his pride and his emotions put the people under the bondage of the law, which they ultimately and inevitably broke. However Jonathan knew nothing of Saul’s oath and ate the honey, and “his countenance brightened” – or as the New Living Translation put is, he was “refreshed.”

The story had started with Jonathan and his armourbearer routing the Philistine garrison, and it ends with Saul discovering that his son had broken the oath; but I just want to focus on this one section rather than look at all the other conclusions that we can draw from the rest of the account. (Maybe another time…)  Whether we see it at times or not, we are always in a battle. However, as we know from Psalm 23, God has prepared a table for us in the face of our enemies. The forests where we face our enemy are dripping with the honey of the Holy Spirit. So do we eat at His table, or do we go hungry? Do we rest in His Spirit, or do we run with our flesh?  God calls us to dip our sticks into the honey; to taste and see that the Lord is good, and to be equipped for the battle by going in His strength and not our own. He is always there; the honey is always available, but we cannot taste and run at the same time. We have to stop and make the choice if we are to dip into what He has provided.

The Lord says in His Word: “With honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.” (Psalm 81:16) To return to the image of the “no signal” message on our TV screen: do our thoughts and motivation come from the Holy Spirit and lead to life, or do they come from our own flesh and the law of sin and death? The “litmus test” will tell us. Because we always need to check our input if we don’t want to be exhausted by the battle.