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.

To Be a Pilgrim

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.

(Psalm 84: 5-7)

I came to faith as an adult, but God was preparing me for my journey many, many years before I finally made a decision for Christ. I loved singing certain hymns in Primary school, for example. I didn’t understand them, but I remember how uplifted I used to feel, and how I didn’t want them to end; and looking back I can see how that was the presence of the Holy Spirit touching my young heart and drawing me to Jesus. One such song was “Guide me o though Great Jehovah:”

“Guide me O though Great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak but though are mighty,
Guide be with thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more!”

The second line, especially the word “Pilgrim,” conjured up something heroic in my imagination; something romantic, something above the humdrum of the daily routine of school desks and the constraints of parental authority, something that had mountains, deserts and jungles in the background. I had read “Pilgrim’s Progress” (almost certainly a children’s version!) when I was seven or eight, and another song I loved was “He who would valiant be,” by John Bunyan, taken directly from the book:

“He who would valiant be
‘Gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy
Follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.”

I didn’t really know what a pilgrim was when I was 9, but I knew I wanted to be one.

The Hebrew מְסִלָּה (pronounced mĕcillah), translated as “set on pilgrimage” in most modern versions, is actually a noun meaning a road or causeway, a raised way or a highway. A more literal translation of the text rendered whose heart is set on pilgrimage” would be something like “at the core of whose very being is a highway.” We can set our hearts on a thousand different objectives, from something we want to buy or somewhere we want to go, to a particular career or someone we want to marry; but in every case the objective is the destination, and not the journey to it. The psalmist had a different vision: the man is when he sets his heart on the journey, not the destination. And even though the Holy Spirit makes it clear where the journey will end, which is “Before God in Zion,” at the core of our pilgrim’s heart is the walk with the Way Himself, Jesus, as we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14) God took care of the destination at Calvary, so that we can focus on the details of the journey.

Verse 6 tells us where the path takes us, which is through the Valley of Baca. “Baca” means weeping, probably (according to the Blue Letter Bible) suggesting gloom and barrenness. Jesus sends us to bring His life into a dark, barren world, through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Where there was darkness, He sends us to bring light; where there was weeping, springs of Life. And as we let His rivers of living water (John 7:38) flow out of us, this scripture promises that the rain will also come and “cover it with pools.” Although we often find valleys of weeping in our own lives, where the Lord works in our hearts to bring healing and life, this scripture tells us that it’s the pilgrim, not God, who makes the barren valley into a life-giving spring. The purpose of the pilgrimage is for us to bring God’s life and love to those around us, rather than to receive it for ourselves. And as we set our hearts on this purpose the Holy Spirit does what only He can do: He covers it with pools. Supernatural manifestations of the presence of God will gather in the valley as the pilgrim passes through releasing the love and power of Jesus into the barren place.

These promises are fulfilled for the one whose strength is in the Lord (verse 5); who trusts and relies on the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish those things that are impossible for the human frame. The more we draw on the strength of God, the more it increases in us. As we get older the natural course of our human strength is to diminish with every passing year, but in the Spirit the opposite is the case: we go from strength to strength as we walk on the path of faith.

Jesus is the Way: to say that the core of our being is our journey of faith is really another way of saying that Jesus is Lord of our life. Our journey ends when we “appear before God in Zion,” but we do not have to work for our acceptance: Jesus has paid the price for that, and our Heavenly Father has already received us as His babes when we were born again. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

To be a pilgrim is to have no objective other than to walk the Narrow Way with Jesus and to have our hearts set on the journey, knowing that the destination is already taken care of and our purpose is to turn the barren places into springs of water as we pass through them; and believing the promises that His strength in us will increase as we do, and that pools of revival will gather as He pours out His Spirit on the thirsty land. What a blessing!

He who would valiant be
‘Gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy
Follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

Who so beset him round
With dismal stories,
Do but themselves confound –
His strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might,
Though he with giants fight:
He will make good his right
To be a pilgrim.

Since, Lord, thou dost defend
Us with thy Spirit,
We know we at the end
Shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away!
I’ll fear not what men say,
I’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim

John Bunyan (1628-1688)

I will Guide You WiTh My Eye

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.

Do not be like the horse or like the mule,
Which have no understanding,
Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,
Else they will not come near you.

(Ps 32:8-9)

The essence of walking with God is knowing where God wants us to walk. We “walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh” because we are born-again children of God, with new hearts that have His Law of Love inscribed upon them, and so, as I have already written, our inclination is to walk in the light and not in the darkness. But how often do we stay on that path – or return to it – because we have been “harnessed with bit and bridle,” not because we have an understanding of where the Holy Spirit is wanting to lead us, but because we are responding to the tug on the reins and the pressure of the bit in our mouths that is pulling us away from the trajectory that we are on?

A horse cannot see its rider; it can only see what is in front of its nose. All of us who are serious about following Jesus want to be people who will respond quickly to the lightest touch on the reins from the Holy Spirit. But when I read this psalm again recently I realised how my responses to the Holy Spirit’s prompts are often the response of that horse or mule being led back onto the right path, rather than of someone who is choosing God’s direction of his own volition.

To be like the animal with “no understanding” who needs to be guided by the bit and bridle is to consistently behave in a self-centred way that does not direct God’s love into the lives of those with whom He has put us. Yet as people whose lives are, by our own confession, committed to being God-centred, we could be expected to understand that this is not why Jesus died for our sins and called us into His Kingdom. If I am walking with an understanding of the Holy Spirit’s purposes for my life I will not react to people in a manner that is in any way damaging, hurtful or otherwise destructive. This is all the work of the evil one, the thief who only came to “kill, steal and destroy,” and whose work Jesus came to eradicate. If we are living through Christ, everything we do and say will in some way “bring life, and that in abundance.” (John 10:10; 1 John 3:8) If we understand this, we should not need a tug on the reins to remind us.

So how does God say He will teach us in the way we should go? He says He will guide us with His eye. If someone is guiding me with their eye they do not need to speak: they just need to see that I am looking at them and direct their gaze to the thing or person that they want me to notice, so that I  look where they are looking. It’s a universal form of communication between people who know each other well.

Psalm 32 tells us that this is God’s intention. He wants us to live lives that are focussed on Him, and to know Him so well that we can see what He is showing us with just a look, and to walk in that direction with an understanding of His purpose. God is love, and God is light: that is who He us, so the general trajectory of His purpose is never difficult to understand. We may not know how He is going to accomplish His purpose on that occasion, but if we are walking in faith we will know that He will give us what we need to know when we need to know it, because

“the eyes of (our) understanding (will be) enlightened; that (we will) know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” (Eph 1: 18-21)

All in all, this is a far preferable alternative to a tug on the reins.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us  commandment.” (1 John 3:18-23)

“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4: 17-18)

“Perfect love casts out fear.” This is a Bible truth that we have all turned to, been turned to, or turned others to at different times and points of need in our walk with God. If certain scriptures are familiar “meeting rooms” that we all know and visit on many occasions, this has to be one of them. But I think that there is an aspect of this room, a décor, that maybe we don’t often see, and that I would like to spend a bit of time looking at and appreciating here, and it’s this: the perfect love that casts out fear is not just the love that has been poured in, but the love that we pour out in obedience to God’s command. It’s the love that we walk in. Output, as well as input. And not only does it have implications for our emotional and spiritual well-being, but also for the effectiveness of our faith. We know that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5), but we have to walk in love for it to be manifested: it is only when that love is manifested that we do actually love “in deed and in truth” and not just in word and tongue, as John so succinctly puts it. That is when “As He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)

Walking in Love

God’s desire is for His love to be manifested on earth as it is in heaven. We love the Lord and His love is revealed in us when we obey His commands; and John tells us clearly that when we obey Him we know that we abide in Him: “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him and He in him.“  (1 John 3:24) Moreover, “Whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” (1 John 2:5) When we keep God’s word His love is perfected in us, and so we have no fear of condemnation, because perfect love casts out fear. John tells us that fear involves punishment ( “kolasis:” correction, punishment, penalty. NKJV above: “torment”), so to put this simply we know we aren’t going to get punished because we know we are being obedient. While it’s the input of God’s grace through the cross that brings us to salvation, it’s what comes out of us when we express that love in obedience to His word that casts out fear. And when we walk in the manifestation of this love, we will receive whatever we ask, because we are asking in the full assurance that we know we are walking in His purpose. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5: 14-15)

Much of 1 John is a reprise of what Jesus taught and John recorded towards the end of his gospel (see John 15): we love Jesus and remain in Him when we keep His word; when we do this we will do even “greater things” than what He accomplished during His earthly ministry; when we remain in Him we will “bear much fruit,” but without Him we can do nothing.

All the time we walk along the path of love, we walk in ‘the works which are prepared for us beforehand’ (Ephesians 2:10), and we will receive whatever we request to accomplish them because we won’t be asking for anything that is not on our path. If there is a tree in front of me and I need the fruit that hangs from a branch that I can’t reach, God will give me a ladder by the power of His Spirit, because I am keeping His commandment and abiding in His purpose. “Now he who keeps his commandments abides in Him and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.“ (1 John 3: 24). However if there is another tree, or even a whole orchard, beckoning from somewhere over the fields and off my path, God will not give me the means to reach it. And if I do, stubbornly, manage to beat a path there myself I will find that the fruit is either under-ripe, inaccessible, or rotten.

The Lie of Condemnation

The devil is always working to thwart the purposes of God in Christ, and we are called to achieve them by walking in faith and love. We are fighting a war, and these are the battle lines. The devil will use the world and the flesh to try and tempt us away from the path because these are the domains under his sway; and he will undermine our faith by telling us that we are not walking in love, because if our hearts are under condemnation we will not have the assurance of faith that God will answer our prayers. Faith only works through love, so if he can weaken our resolve to love and convince us that our love isn’t perfect enough, our faith is undermined and our prayers ineffective. Bringing us under the lie of condemnation is one of the enemy’s main strategies.

But “God is greater than our hearts”: He knows that we love Him, and He knows that He has called us according to His purpose. Even though the heart of the old man is “deceitful above all things” (Jer 17:9), the heart of the new man – the new, soft heart of flesh – has God’s  law written upon it  (Jer 31:33) and is therefore always directed towards fulfilling His purposes. And when we miss this direction because we fall into the ways of the old heart, we know, and God knows, that if anyone sins “we have an Advocate with the FatherJesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1).

The commandment that we are given, which as John says “is not burdensome” (1 John 5:3), is to love one another and to believe in Jesus. These two are like the twin poles of an electric current: out of our born-again, righteous heart we walk “after the Spirit and not after the flesh,” (Gal 5:16) loving one another with the resources that the Holy Spirit has poured into our hearts. And when we fail to obey this part of God’s commandment – which we will do, regularly – we obey the other part, which is to believe in the power of the blood of Jesus and the Grace of God to forgive our sin. So perfect love – the love that is perfected in us by our obedience to God’s commandments – casts out fear, because There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) Free of condemnation, we can walk in faith that our prayers will be answered.

Come Boldly to the Throne of Grace

To complete the picture of the electric current, there is (in the UK anyway) a third pin on an electric plug, and that is the earth. We can neither hear what Jesus is asking us to do, nor receive His forgiveness for not doing it, unless we stay close to Him all the time. So we need to always be earthed in the presence of God for the twin poles of our obedience and His forgiveness to be active in our lives. When they are, God’s current flows and the power of the Holy Spirit moves among us, and those “greater things” become possible.

So brothers and sisters, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb 4:16) knowing that in this place the devil ‘has nothing in us’ (see  John 14:30). When we can ask, free of fear and in full assurance of faith, for whatever it is that we need to see His Kingdom furthered, His love will be manifested among us and the name of Jesus will be glorified on the earth.

Be Renewed in the Spirit of your Mind

Changing the points…

But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4: 20-24)

The verses that follow (Eph 4: 25- Eph 5:5) give the Ephesian church – and the rest of us – a blueprint of what “true righteousness and holiness” look like as we walk in love as children of light and imitators of God. So we read them, maybe underline them in our Bibles; we pray over them, we memorize them and write them down – and yet we find that the old man is stubbornly clinging on like an unshakeable shadow. “O wretched man that I am,” we cry, quoting Romans seven, and maybe go back to our Bibles and our worship, feeling weak and defeated in our personal walk but thanking Jesus for His saving love. But we will have missed a key, though: like changing the points on a railway line, there is a course of action from which all those attributes of godliness can flow, and it’s that little one-liner that makes up verse 23: “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” If we can really grasp verse 23, the rest of the verses will follow.

The Blue Letter Bible lexicon defines the word spirit (Greek pneuma) as it is used here as “the disposition or influence which fills and governs the soul of any body.” Paul’s exhortation is quite uncomplicated: instead of letting the “old man” influence our thinking, we allow our minds to be filled and governed by the “new man.” To move the language away from first century male-dominated culture and into the twenty-first, I am going to use the term “new creation” from now on where Paul uses “new man.” The new creation is born of the Spirit, and, just as Adam and Eve before the fall, is made in the image of God. Since God is Love and He is light (1 John 1:5), the disposition of the new creation is always towards love and light. The new creation is a spirit being and has to walk in the light, and will always pursue love: not to do so is not to walk in the spirit. To be renewed in the spirit of our mind is to let our thinking be controlled by the desire to love.

We can get up at 5.00 am and spend three hours in prayer and worship to God, but if at 8.05 our words to the person next to us are negative and unloving, the spirit of our mind has not been renewed by the previous three hours spiritual activity. If we have not love, we are nothing. Jesus hasn’t called us to spend three hours with Him in Heaven and not to bring Heaven with us when we come back to Earth. He taught us to pray “You will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” and the Father’s will is always going to be to show His love. In all our communication and all our interactions, this has to be our priority. It is only the thinking of the renewed mind that is in line with the loving purposes of God, which is what Romans 12:2 makes clear: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Taking the steps
So how do we take the steps to walk in this direction? A few people are called to spend most of their time in prayer and public ministry, but for most of us the majority of our Christian life is spent with the relatively small number of people with whom we live and work. We work out our salvation in the close relationships of our daily lives. Our interactions may involve works of service and may involve prayer ministry, but most of all they are the words we exchange concerning the issues that affect us. These are the conversations that either build us up or break us up. We can either tend towards Ephesians 4: 14 “speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ;” or Galatians 5: 15 “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another.” It all depends on whether or not we are renewed in the spirit of our minds.

A key to the renewed mind is in the well-known phrase “speaking the truth in love.” There are two aspects to every conversation: the content, and the relationship. The way of the world – that Romans 12:2 says we are not to conform ourselves to – is to “tell it like it is”, to “have our say,” to “tell them straight,” etc., or at a corporate and governmental level to “have talks.” But the purpose is always the same: it isn’t to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” but for me to prove to you that it’s my will that is good and acceptable, and that you should comply with it. The discussion is about the content; relationship is secondary. If “talks have broken down,” at whatever level, so too has the relationship.

The Kingdom way is the opposite. Relationship comes first. It’s love that endures forever. If we are keeping in mind the law of Love we prefer one another (Romans 12:10); we submit to one another (Eph. 5:21); and through love we serve one another (1 John 4:7). Every conversation is an opportunity to allow the love of God to flow into a situation. Speaking the truth in love starts with considering what the other person wants from the conversation. This is what causes the body to grow “into Him who is the Head, Christ.” (Eph 4:15) Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies,” writes Paul (1 Cor 8:1), and to the Ephesians he writes “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Eph 4:29) Corrupt words come from the old creation, which “grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” Words that impart grace are what edify, and have their origin in the new creation, “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

Changing the Points
According to these scriptures, then, the purpose of everything we say should be to build up the other person and “impart grace” to them, releasing something of the love of God into their life. Every time we do this, prioritizing relationship over content, we establish our minds in the new creation rather than the old. Bob Dylan released the Christian album “Slow Train Coming’” in 1979. In one of the tracks he sings: “I’m gonna change my way of thinking, make myself a different set of rules.” When we change our way of thinking, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind; and when we renew our minds, as Romans 12:2 says, we start to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” We do literally change the points, because the purpose of my words is no longer for you to get my point, but for me to get yours. And once we have let go of our own agenda, it is a small step for me to move from trying to consider your agenda to actually being open to hearing God’s agenda for you, and to catch something of His perfect will for your life.

So if we want to impact the lives of others with the truth and the power of God, we start by seeing every conversation as an opportunity to love instead of an opportunity to make our point. And when we do this, we will be built up in our own lives too, because as we give, it shall be given unto us (Luke 6:38).  As Atticus said to Scout in  Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Jesus climbed into our skin, walked around in it and was crucified in it so that we could be renewed in the spirit of our mind and live, speak and act out of the new creation, rather than out of the old one that was crucified with Him. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

Becoming established
It is because the Son of God did this for us that we can to put off all the corruption and self-centredness of the flesh, and put on the new creation that has been born of the Spirit of God. We do this every time we make the decision to love. The more we do it, the stronger the new creation becomes, and the fainter the shadow of the old. This is what I think is meant by the idea of being “established” in God that we find, for example, in 1 Thess 3:13, 1 Pe 5:10, and Romans 16:25. The more we make it our habit to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, the more the new creation will walk in the love and the power of the Holy Spirit, bringing blessing to others, manifesting the character of Christ in the fruit of the Spirit, and building the Kingdom of God at every step. Who knows what miracles will flow, when we are open to God’s “good and acceptable and perfect will” for the person that we are talking to?”

Peace on Earth

I was born in 1950, so I was 17 in the “Summer of Love,” as 1967 came to be called. When I went to University I grew my hair and said “Peace, man!” to people, and I spent my 20’s generally identifying with hippie culture and coveting the lifestyle, even though (thankfully!) I was far too fearful to fully embrace it. Peace deals are brokered in the Middle East and across the world, political systems strive to bring a degree of peace to the lives of their communities, and harassed parents and carers crave just “five minutes peace” where they can spend a few moments recovering from the turmoil of their daily lives; but neither the world nor the flesh can find peace, because the old man “grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” World peace remains a cliché, an impossible dream forever eroded by the power of sin and death, because the world and the flesh do not enter into God’s rest.

We, however, are no longer of this world. The Kingdom we belong to is ruled by the Prince of Peace Himself, who promises us the very peace that the world can’t give: “Peace I leave with youMy peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27) If we read the Bible, we will know the words. But what some of us need is for this promise of Kingdom peace to move from the area of theory and mental assent, where they can evaporate so easily into the same misty dream that is shared by the world’s and the flesh’s version, into the place where they are the solid ground under our feet that we walk on day by day; Kingdom minute by Kingdom minute.

Hebrews 13: 20-21 might help:

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

The resurrection of Christ is ascribed individually to all three members of the Godhead (For a summary of these scriptures, see, therefore the God of Peace who raised Jesus from the dead is the whole of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At the cross, the power of sin and death was destroyed forever, and three days later the God of Peace became a living breathing reality on the face of the earth for the first time since it was created. The angels announced “Peace on Earth,” Calvary made it possible, the Resurrection delivered it, and Pentecost made it our own. Peace permeates the being of God and flows into all that He touches: as oxygen is to the Earth, God’s peace is an element of the very atmosphere of His Kingdom, and we breathe it with every step that we take when we walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh.

Paul emphasises the pre-eminence of peace as a characteristic of the Godhead in both his letters to the Thessalonians. In 1 Thess 5:23 he writes:” Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” And in 2 Thess 3:16 he writes “Now may the Lord of Peace Himself give you peace always in every way.” To walk in the peace of God is not just about being free of anxiety and fear: God’s peace is the agent of our sanctification, the balm that prepares the bride of Christ for her wedding day. This is made clear in Philippians 4:7 – words that most of us probably know by heart: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” and again in Col 3 15: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

I think these scriptures make one thing clear: the peace of God isn’t a bonus, the icing on the cake of our salvation; it is in every crumb of the cake. Jesus Christ brought salvation to the world so that the peace that pervades Heaven can be made manifest on Earth. The peace of God is a reality of the spiritual dimension that can only be accessed by “the new man, which was created according to God in all righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:24) If we aren’t walking in God’s peace, we aren’t walking in the Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Peace. When the peace of God isn’t ruling in our lives, Jesus isn’t ruling either. It’s our hearts and minds that the peace of God “guards in Christ Jesus.” Our spirits are seated with Him in heavenly places, but unless the peace of God is ruling in our hearts we aren’t bringing anything to Earth from where they are seated. Peace is the litmus of our spiritual walk.

I will close with one more point, which I will return to in another article. If you feel like the atmosphere of Heaven only exists in a room that you are locked out of, the psalmist has given us a key that will open the door. Psalm 119:165 tells us “Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble.” And just as we know the promise of peace, we also know the requirement of the New Commandment, which is to love one another. “To love, then, is to obey the whole law,” writes Paul. (Romans 13:10) If we want to have “great peace” we need to keep God’s law and show someone His love. The converse also applies: if we don’t have the peace of God it could be that there is someone to whom we are failing to show His love…

The enemy took “Love and Peace” and made it a slogan of the hippy movement. It’s time we took it back for the Kingdom of God.

How often I have longed to gather you under my wings…

I took these pictures of Juvenile starlings clamouring over a feed tray at the weekend. When I showed them to a Christian friend at work today, he immediately looked at the first one and quoted Jesus saying: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have longed to gather you under my wings, yet you would not…” I realised in that moment that there were other pictures in the collection that could also have parallels for some of us today.

If you have ever seen and marvelled at the wonderful synchronisation and unity in a murmuration of mature starlings, you will know how different that sight is from the squabbling rabble of juveniles in these photographs. Sometimes we must seem like these young birds, thinking only of ourselves and our own agendas, with no vision for what we are to become. But one day Jesus will gather His church under His wings, and we will all be one; and on that day we will be like the murmuration in the last picture, swooping and soaring as one in the freedom and the purposes of the Spirit.

Wherever we are as believers today, let us take heart in the fact that our Lord is not going to leave us there: He has a vision for His church, and it will be accomplished in all who will seek His presence and hold onto His word. I offer this series of images in the hope that they will inspire some of us to take another step forward in our journey towards full maturity and unity in the Spirit, when, no longer children, we will “all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (Eph 4:13).

Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often I wanted to gather your children together,
like a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, and you refused
(Luke 13:34)
“Do not be like your fathers, to whom
the former prophets preached, saying,
‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “
Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds.
But they did not hear nor heed Me,” says the LORD!

(Zech 1:4)
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart
of unbelief in departing from the living God;
(Heb 3:12)
“Blessed rather are those who hear
the word of God and obey it.”
(Luke 11:28)
He who supplies the Spirit to you and works
miracles among you, does He do it by the works
of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
(Gal 3:5)
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted,
forgiving one another, even as
God in Christ forgave you.
” (Eph 4:32)
“Not giving back evil for evil, or reviling for reviling,
but on the contrary, blessing, having known that you were
called to this, that you may inherit a blessing; “
(1 Peter 3:9)
“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:” (John 17:22)

The Weeding Fork

You look out at the garden and you feel overwhelmed, because it seems so overgrown. But take heart: I have given you a weeding fork. Do you not try to clear the whole garden, but work on the patch that is in front of you. The garden is mine; I will clear it. Yes, I will clear it! All I ask of you is that you take hold of your fork and work with it, for now is the time. If you have not picked it up, pick it up now. Do you not leave it on the table to pick up later, for now is the time to start the work.

The fork has three prongs: the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. Learn more about each of us, for we are all in you as we are all in one another, yet we are also distinct from each other and we all love you with our own love. Hold onto us and bring us into the patch that is in front of you and work on it. You hold the fork; we penetrate the hard soil, we loosen the roots of the weeds and we remove them. I am not sending bulldozers and mechanical diggers, I’m not sending tractors and crop prayers; I’m sending you, the members of my Body, to clear my garden with your weeding forks. And it will be cleared. Yes it will be cleared, ready for the planting that I have prepared.

So do not be discouraged because everything seems overgrown: now is the time for you to focus on your patch and not put down your fork, for I have given it to you, and I your Lord am with you.

Are All Workers of Miracles?

“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best  gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.” (1 Cor 12: 27-31)

Paul writes these verses at the end of the chapter in which he introduces the list of what are commonly known as the “gifts of the Spirit.” Although Paul writes in verse four “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit,” he goes on to refer to them (verse 7) as “the manifestation of the Spirit.” I think if we were to use Paul’s phrase “the manifestation of the Spirit” we might have more of a sense of the dynamic working of God in our midst, manifesting His presence, than the term “gifts,” which somehow leaves Him a bit more remote in the process – like a postman who has handed over a parcel and moved on. The gifts of the Spirit reveal the Spirit of Christ manifesting Himself in our midst and expressing His love through His supernatural power: they are not parcels left under the Christmas tree of one person’s, or one church’s, ministry. It is the question of supernatural power that I want to address here.

Paul’s message to the Corinthians in these verses begs a couple of questions that I think we prefer to gloss over if we want to feel comfortable about the level of manifestation of the Spirit that we expect in our churches. “Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healing?” he asks. I think in many cases we would have to make a slight change to his questions if we applied them to our churches today, where it would probably be more accurate to ask: “Are any workers of miracles? Do any have gifts of healing?”

We can avoid the implications of this question by saying, “Ah, yes; but Paul is talking about the church universal here, not local gatherings.” However, although we can receive the message to the Corinthians 2000 years after it was written, and in many times more than 2,000 places apart from Corinth, it remains true that Paul was writing to a local body – a church that he had founded himself on his missionary travels – and he was exhorting the individual members of that church to “earnestly desire the best gifts.” If he was clarifying to them what the different ministries and manifestations of the Spirit were that God had appointed to the church, it was because the teaching was relevant to that specific group of believers. He wasn’t just giving the Corinthians some theoretical information that had no application in their specific context.

Paul says: “God has appointed these in the church.” The word translated “appointed” is tithemi. It means placed; set down; established. They are not just incidentals. Even if we do take the view that Paul’s list in these verses – itself a summary of what he wrote earlier in the letter – does not have to be applied in its entirety to every local church, the fact remains that we are exhorted to “earnestly desire the best gifts.” What is true from Scripture is 1) that God has appointed them, and 2) that we are to earnestly seek them. Maybe we don’t see them in operation because we don’t earnestly seek what God has appointed. Instead of walking by faith in what God says He has set in place, we walk by the sight of the few supernatural ministries that we know of. But if, like Mary, we believed what He has said, we might see His word made flesh and these ministries emerging among us.

Which gifts he had in mind isn’t specified, but the first four are listed in order (first, second, third, after that), whereas “gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” all follow on grammatically from a single “then.” A little later in the same letter, he writes “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Cor 14:1) Whatever principal of ordination we choose to apply, miracles and healings are an integral part of the package of gifts established by the Lord when His Spirit put in place the foundations of the Church that He would build. The Church is a supernatural edifice, a work of the Spirit, the Rock not hewn by human hands. (Dan 2:34) And however much the gates of hell – the seat of worldly, carnal thinking – would strive against this church, they will not prevail. Worldly thinking would dilute apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healings, helps, administrations, and varieties of tongues down to intellectual teachers, human helps and practical administrations, and throw away all the rest; and in many cases it has. Mega churches and whole denominations are built on sand. But when the storm comes on the world and the only place of safety is seated with Christ in heavenly places, under the supernatural wings of our supernatural Father, they will all be swept away if they do not repent.

If you want to buy groceries, you go to the store to fill your basket. If you want a drink of water, you go to the tap to fill your glass.  To earnestly seek the best gifts, we have to earnestly seek the giver. If we earnestly seek first to know the fellowship of the Spirit, we are then in a position to ask the Spirit for those gifts. The Lord is the Spirit: (2 Cor 3:17) we can’t divide Him up into His different manifestations. If we aren’t seeking all of Him, His fullness, we aren’t seeking Him at all. Just as the body is not just a foot or an eye, (1 Cor 12: 14-18) nor is the One who fills it. For “He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence.” (Colossians 1:18)

Revival is coming. Revival isn’t a new development; it’s the manifestation today of that which was established at the beginning. God is pouring out the same Spirit that was poured out at first, because He wants to do again which He did then. To be part of what He is doing, we need to receive who He is. To his friend Philemon, Paul writes: “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgement of every good thing which is in you by Christ Jesus.” (verse 4) “Effective” in the New Testament, as we saw in “Pressing the Reset Button,” means supernaturally powerful. The Greek word translated as “acknowledgement” is epignosis, meaning precise and correct knowledge, especially of that which pertains to spiritual realities. We need  precise and correct knowledge of all the good things which are ours in Him, and which He has placed in us by His Spirit.

Over the years we have become like a pool of water which has been steadily evaporating away in the heat, and now, in the limitations of his wisdom, the devil has thought that by locking down the activity of the church he would lock down its life and fruitfulness and drain away the water even more. But the wisdom of heaven has declared that the end of activity is the beginning of stillness, and in stillness is the knowledge of God in whom is all life and all fruitfulness. And in the stillness, God is refilling the pool. The water level is starting to rise, even now. It will rise much higher still. Will we drink of its depths, or will we just continue to sip in the shallows?

God has dealt to each of us a measure of faith. (Rom 12:3) But He also gives the Spirit without measure. (John 3:34) So the measure that He’s given us is not a measure of limitation, but a measure of fullness which is dealt to each one of us so that we can operate in our giftings in His strength, and not our own, as Paul writes to the Colossians: “To this end I also labour, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.“ (Colossians 1:29) To your church and to mine, God has appointed workers of miracles and gifts of healings, as well as apostles, prophets, teachers, tongues, administrations and helps. We receive from God according to our faith. The opposite of faith is unbelief; and unbelief is the result of a hard heart that is resisting the Holy Spirit. (Hebrews 3: 12-13, Acts 7:51) Let us therefore turn to the Lord, and say in our desperation: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief,“ so that the measure of our faith can match the measure of who the Spirit is within us.

“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:9)

It’s time we took God at His word. Otherwise we will still be standing in a puddle when others around us are diving in the lake.

Pressing the Reset Button

 “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and all the flock, among which the holy spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the Church of God which He purchased with his blood.” (Acts 20 verses 27-28)

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph 4: 11-16)

“God is pressing the reset button.” We’ve all heard it in the wider context of the impact of Covid on the world, but it is also a strong theme in many prophetic messages that the Holy Spirit is bringing to the church in the UK, the USA, and elsewhere in the world. A recurring message that is coming through many people in various ways is that God is going to change the model of leadership in the church. There is a great harvest to bring in, and at the moment many of His people are not being equipped for the harvest field in the way that He originally intended. Although none of us, in our earthly life, can be perfect like Jesus, scripture repeatedly encourages us to become “complete” (see 2 Cor 13: 9; 2 Cor 13:11;  Col 4:12; Phil 1:6; 2 Tim 3:17). So how do we grow into “the perfect man,” and what does the Holy Spirit want us to understand by this? I think some of the answer can be found in how the flock is shepherded.

To Shepherd is not to pastor. If this is a surprise, consider this: Jesus is the good Shepherd, and He gave us what He knows we need to carry on His work, which is surely the package of gifts listed  in Ephesians 4:11 quoted above: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” If this is true, it must the responsibility of eldership to shepherd the flock using the gifts of shepherding that are provided. Arguably two of these gifts, pastor and teacher, can be seen as one ministry, but whether pastor and teacher are one minister or two, the principal of plurality remains the same.

In a prophetic word given to my own fellowship but with a general application, the church was likened to a four-wheel-drive vehicle. It has just been driving on the roads, but while the road has been closed by lockdown God has been getting our attention and telling us that we are an off-road vehicle designed for the mountain, not for the main road at all. In a four-wheel-drive vehicle, each wheel is driven independently, which is what gives it its grip on an off-road surface. Four wheels: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor/teacher.

Because Jesus has commanded us to love one another he has created a model of leadership that combines independence with interdependence. According to scripture it is the different parts of the body working together that cause the body to grow in love. The word translated as “effective working” is the Greek energia. In it we recognise the word energy. But what is important is that in the new Testament the word energia is only used of superhuman power, whether of God or of the devil. It does not refer to human ability or effort. We mature in Christ through the supernatural operation of all the ministries that Jesus gave to the body as each part “does its share” of His work. The stated purpose of the Ephesians 4 ministries is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying (ie building up) of the body of Christ.” As the different  ministries “do their share“ of the work of the Good Shepherd the body of Christ grows in love and unity, and, instead of being children, we grow up “in all things into him who is the head.” Working together, the four wheels take the vehicle up the mountain.

As a rule this is not what we see in many churches today. Although it is not true in every case, church leadership has often rested on the shoulders of a salaried minister who has been to Bible college and is therefore “qualified” to lead. But the purpose of a Bible school is to teach. The ministry gift in operation is primarily that of the teacher. The product of the Bible school will tend to carry the anointing that produced him or her – the anointing of the pastor/teacher. Therefore many churches are led by a pastor/teacher, who received at Bible School an implicit message that it is the pastor/teacher who leads church, and who therefore appoints more pastor/teachers to share the work of leadership as the church grows (if indeed it does grow.) Of course there are many other reasons – going back centuries, even millennia – why the teacher has been put on  leadership pedestal that Jesus never intended (“Do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.” – Matt 23:10), but the fact remains that the pastor-teacher is just one of four wheels. If only one wheel is driving the vehicle it will probably cope, for a while, on a smooth road; and many churches today have done just that. But they won’t travel very far up the mountain.

Discipleship is supernatural.

The mission of the Church is to go and make disciples. The goal of the disciple is to become like the master, and the more clearly the image of the master is replicated in the disciple, the better equipped is that disciple to carry on with the process and disciple others. If it had been left to the ability of the human brain to interpret the original teachings and copy the examples of Christ and the first apostles,  today’s disciples would be poor matchstick figures by comparison to the original master. But Jesus thought of that, so He told the disciples that “the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:15). Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, but by the power of the Holy Spirit His reality can be fresh in the heart of every believer in every generation. Without the power of the Spirit illuminating us, we only have our own understanding to lean on – which Proverbs 3:5 instructs us expressly not to do. So the work of making disciples has to be done supernaturally, through that energia – “the effective working by which every part does its share” – which flows  as a life-force through the body when it is operating in the fulness of the Holy Spirit.

To build and equip the “perfect man” who will make effective disciples all the ministries are needed. As each part does its share the believer is equipped in different aspects of the effective Christian life. Through the evangelist, the believer is equipped to preach the gospel. Not all are evangelists, be we are all called to share our faith. Through the prophet, he is equipped to hear God and speak His words. “All can prophesy,” but many need training and encouragement. The pastor heart brings an emphasis on growing loving relationships, in tandem with the teacher who brings clarity on doctrine and the written word of God. All of these are essential for Christian growth. The apostle – the “sent one” – imparts faith and carries an anointing to build, and nurtures the leadership skills of those who have the gifting to be church planters themselves. Although most of us aren’t called to plant churches (or are we??), we are all involved in building the Church of Jesus. Of course there is only one Lord, and one Spirit, in whom all of these streams flow together, and whose thoughts are not our thoughts anyway; and this is very much a thumbnail sketch of a far more complex picture. However the message remains that five different leadership anointings, carried by four or five different ministers, are referred to in Ephesians four, and each of them is necessary to edify and equip the “perfect man.” The ultimate goal of the “work of ministry” is that we go out and make more disciples. The qualification for the work is not a Bible College degree, but the measure to which the Christian ”graduate” has received from all of the fivefold ministries and  is able, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to build, prophesy, preach the gospel, care for others, and know the Word of God. All of this is achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit, not through leaning on human understanding.

Those of us who have children long for them to become all that they can be and fulfil all the potential that we see in them. We want to see them use their abilities and achieve their dreams. How much more does our heavenly Father want the same for His children? The Good Shepherd longs for all of His lambs to grow and multiply, and has put in place the “parenting” system by whichwe should no longer be children” but instead “grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—” . As we mature in the spirit and come into all that God has put into us, His glory will be reflected in the Earth in as many ways as there are individuals in the church. Surely this is part of  “the manifold wisdom of God” that He intends “might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” (Eph 3:10)  However at the moment there are many churches that are full of overgrown lambs who just expect to be fed and kept safe in the sheepfold, and who reflect very little of God’s glory. They have not grown up in all things, and since they are not mature they are not multiplying, because the flock is not being shepherded according to the shepherding plan that we have been given.

If God is pressing the reset button I think this is what He is working on now. And now that we are starting to move again, are we going to carry on along the road as we were, or will we turn off and head up the mountain that we were meant for?

The rain is starting to fall (Prophetic word)

Come up into the hills…

The rain of the Holy Spirit is falling. Even now, it has started; a fine drizzle is beginning to soak the hills. “Come up into the hills,” says the Lord, “And stand in my cloud. Let me soak you. Let your clothes get drenched as the drizzle penetrates through to your skin. And when you are soaking wet, run down into the valleys and announce that my rain is coming. Call my people out of their houses to stand by their doors and wait for my rain. Call those whose hearts are hardened through unbelief to come out in the rain, to believe me enough to let their hearts be soaked and softened again, softened enough for my word to be sown and take root in their lives. For I will soak even the pathways where the world has trampled the soil hard, and where the enemy steals the word as soon as it lands: my word will be sown in some of these places and will bear fruit. So pray for hardened hearts to be softened, for my rain is beginning to fall. And where you struggle with unbelief yourselves, recognise that this is because your own hearts have been hardened too, because it is unbelief that hardens the heart. My fine drizzle is the moist breath of my love, gentle but penetrating: expose your heart to me again and let my rain soften the crusts of your disappointment and feelings of failure, and you will know my word – even that word that you have cast aside in your unbelief – come and bear fruit in your life to my glory.”