Tag Archives: Be filled with the Spirit

Unless we are filled with the Spirit we can’t even hear what God is saying properly, let alone do it.

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.

Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

The roar of rushing waters at Lauterbrunnen falls.

There is a waterfall in Switzerland called Lauterbrunnen, where the glacier melt from high mountains pours down through the rock into the valley below. The water pours at a rate of 30,000 L per second: the roar of those rushing waters and the power of them is breathtaking. Yet when you look at the stream in the valley that runs away from the foot of the waterfall there is nothing impressive to see. It is just a little river running over some stones.

We often sing in church of the greatness and all surpassing majesty of God; the God of the heavens, the creator of the universe. When I look at Lauterbrunnen I am reminded that the same power and majesty dwells within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. All the power and resources of the kingdom of heaven are within us, yet most of the time our experience of the God who lives within us is more akin to that trickle over the stones than the roar in the rock. In our awareness of this reality, we cry out to the Holy Spirit to come – even asking him at times to “come down“ – and fill us some more; to pour in the waterfall to cover our barren stones.

Yet he has already come down: we don’t need to ask Him to come again – He hasn’t left part of Himself behind. When God pours out his Holy Spirit He doesn’t pour it from a cloud that somehow floats our head; He pours it from His own presence that is already here on Earth, living in every believer that makes up the church. When God pours out his Holy Spirit he pours from us, not into us. Rivers of living water flow out; they don’t flow in. We are exhorted to be filled with the Holy Spirit – that is, to be filled on a continual basis, not just once – so we tend to carry some sort of picture of a jug full of Holy Spirit pouring down into our rapidly emptying bowls a we hold them up to him. But I don’t think it’s like this. I think the space He fills is the space that we give Him. If we aren’t full of the Holy Spirit it is because we are full of ourselves. We must decrease, as John the Baptist said, so that He increases within us. God prepared the church for the Pentecostal revival at the beginning of the last century with the holiness movement: His people sought to make room in their lives for the presence of a holy God, and the result was that the Holy Spirit filled the space they gave Him, resulting in an outpouring of His love and power that has gone round the world ever since and brought millions of lost souls into the Kingdom of the living God.

Today, prophetic voices all around the world are declaring by the Holy Spirit that a new and even greater outpouring is on the horizon. But before Pentecost comes holiness. To be full of the Holy Spirit we need to be empty of everything else; otherwise we are not full, we are only partly full. But the Bible tells us to be filled, and keep on being filled. Jesus wants to operate through the Holy Spirit to be Lord of all of our lives, not just bits of them. He wants to be Lord of our thoughts, our emotions, our plans, our motivation, our will, our bodies; worshipping with all our hearts, all our minds, all our souls, all our strength. The extent to which we are filled with the Holy Spirit is the extent to which He is Lord.

He is calling the church today into a renewed commitment to His lordship, and when we respond to the call He will reveal Himself in a way that is unprecedented In the history of the church. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we will know the roar of the waterfall instead of just the trickle of the stream. And when we do, we will no longer be satisfied with anything else.

The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19:10) 

The key word here is testimony: martyria, meaning evidence given, record, report, testimony, witness. The testimony of Jesus is the evidence if His reality. Those who have the testimony of Jesus are those who testify to the truth of who He is. When Jesus left the disciples at the mount of ascension He said “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The word He used, although in a different grammatical form, is the same: the witness is the one who gives evidence. The term “martyr” has come to mean one who physically lays down his life for Christ in the ultimate sacrifice that is evidence of the strength of their faith, but the original Greek is broader in its meaning, and it applies to every Christian: we are all called to lay down our lives on a daily basis, and, through the power that we have received from the Holy Spirit, to give testimony to the reality of Jesus. But I think there is an important connection between our call to witness, and the testimony of Jesus that the angel spoke about to John.

Jesus said to the Jews (John 5:30): “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. If I bear witness (martyrio)  of Myself, My witness is not true.”

Jesus said that his testimony had no validity if He just talked about Himself. Referring to the law (Deut 19:15), He said: “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” (John 8: 17-18). When Jesus promises the disciples that the power of the Holy Spirit would come on them and they would be His witnesses, He was saying that the signs and wonders that followed their ministry as the Lord worked with them (Mark 16:20) were not just a bonus to their preaching, but were the necessary ‘second witness’ that proved that their testimony was true.

There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved… But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness (martyreō) of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me.”(John 5: 32-34, 36-37)

Jesus speaks “that you may be saved.” It is the words of Jesus that bring salvation. Only He has “the words of eternal life (John 6:68). But for Jesus’ words to be proven true the “testimony of man” is not sufficient: the works done in His name by the power of the Holy Spirit are what bring the witness of the Father. The truth about Jesus, the proof of His reality, has to come from the Spirit of God, not the spirit of man; so when the Father bears witness of Him through the Holy Spirit, He can speak and bring salvation.

“He who believes in the Son of God has the witness (martyria) in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony (martyria): that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (1 John 5: 10-11)

The testimony of Jesus that every believer has within himself is that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. But I don’t think that the scriptures encourage us just to tell people about Jesus and move on, or that quoting His words alone will bring eternal life.  The testimony only has weight when there are at least two witnesses: the disciple speaking in His name, and the Holy Spirit confirming the disciple’s words and transforming the testimony of man into the testimony of Jesus. It is only through the revelation of Jesus that anyone can receive eternal life. I think our words are of little or no effect – and can even push people away from Jesus instead of drawing them to Him – unless the Lord, the Holy Spirit, is working with us to reveal Jesus. We need Him to be leading us in our conversations, and who to have them with; and to be revealing His love for the people we are talking to, often through gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of prophesy – the essence, the breath, the pneuma – is always the revelation of Jesus, confirmed through the Holy Spirit, speaking words of salvation. The angel tells John what we must do to walk in it:

“Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophesy

The spirit of prophesy isn’t the gift of prophesy, the ministry or the office of the prophet. It’s the very heart of what prophesy is, the God-life that flows in it. The key to walking in this is worship. This isn’t just singing songs: it’s worship in spirit and truth. I think worshipping in spirit in the context of the church service  is allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us, to make room for His ministry and be led by Him into the presence of God. But that is only one half of the story, because we need to be worshipping in truth as well. And we aren’t worshipping in truth if we are not obeying Him by loving each other, and we’re not loving others if we are on our own agendas. To be worshippers we have to be continually checking our agendas. Am I on God’s agenda, or my own?

David prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139: 23-24: ) David only knew the Old Covenant Ark of the Testimony, but he looked forward prophetically to the testimony of Jesus and revealed it throughout his psalms. Just as the Old Covenant Ark carried the testimony of the Law, we, the church, are the Ark of the New Covenant, and we are the carriers of the Testimony of Jesus. If we pray David’s  prayer on a daily basis (at least!) we give God permission to examine our hearts and  minds for hidden self-centred agendas, and our worship will begin to reveal the truth of who He is.

Here are just a couple of those “wicked ways” to be going on with. Paul writes to Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15). Approval. Am I looking for God’s approval, of Man’s? Do I want to give my testimony because I want people to hear my dramatic story, or because the Holy Spirit is going to work with me to reveal Jesus? Only the last one is the testimony of Jesus: the first is the testimony of man, which He doesn’t receive. And secondly: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7) Is everything I am saying and doing grounded in God’s power, His love, and the realities of salvation – or is there fear lurking somewhere in the woodwork? Fear hides in surprising places, and nothing prompted by hidden fear will bear good fruit. We all need to allow the Holy Spirit to flush it out of our lives, because it will keep us off God’s agenda.

I think we are like water channels that can get silted up: the deeper the silt, the shallower the water. If as individuals and churches we want to see the Spirit of prophesy bring the testimony of Jesus into people’s lives, we need to worship in Spirit and in truth: we need deep to be calling to deep (Ps 42:7), which means praying those verses from Psalm 139 every day to keep dredging the silt out of our lives.

Faith working through Love

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Gal 5:6) And then in chapter 6 of the same letter he writes “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything but a new creation.” (Gal 6:15) First he says “In Christ, it’s not about the law, it’s about Grace; and Grace is only about one thing, and that is faith working through love. Then he writes, “In Christ, it’s not about the law, it’s about Grace; and Grace is only about one thing, and that is a new creation.” So by this logic, faith working through love and the new creation are synonymous. We are born again for one thing only, and that is for faith working through love.

If this is the case, what is the work of faith? James famously writes “for as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.“ (James 2:26) When Paul writes to his friend Philemon he talks about faith becoming “effective:”

“I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgement of every good thing which is in you by Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.” (Philemon 4 – 7)

The Greek word translated as effective – energes – is only used in the new Testament for supernatural power. It’s the same used same word translated as “powerful” – or in some translations “active”- in Hebrews 4:12: “for the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword.“ Effective faith is active and imbued with power. It is Faith with Works; not dead but very much alive.

As the writer to the Hebrews says: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11: 1-3), and Paul writes to the Romans: “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” (Romans 4:17) God creates by the power of his word. He knows that what he speaks will bring about the fulfilment of his will, and will call into reality things which did not exist before his word was spoken. His creative word carries His life. It “framed the worlds“ and “gives life to the dead.“ The words of Jesus are “spirit and life.“ It is God’s own faith that knows for a certainty that what He says will happen: that His word “will not fall to the ground void.”

So how do we receive this faith ourselves? The answer, as Paul writes in Romans 10:17 is this: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” When we hear God speak His  word into our hearts we know it carries his creative life giving power. If we want to move mountains, we need God’s faith.

“So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. (literally “the faith of God”) For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.  (Mark 11:22-23)

If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt 17:20)

Paul is clear about the source of effective faith when he writes to Timothy: “And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.“ (One Timothy 1:14)

Faith is in Jesus, as indeed is love. When we exercise effective faith we are drawing on the faith carried by Christ in us, not on something we have generated ourselves. If you have God’s faith the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains. This faith is activated by a word from God brought by the Holy Spirit, and it operates in the spiritual realm. Human faith is activated by the soul and operates in the realm of flesh. You can have human faith the size of a mountain, and it won’t even move a mustard seed. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!“ is the cry of a heart  that recognises the difference between the two.

What else do we need to operate in effective faith? Paul tells Philemon that faith becomes effective “by the acknowledgement of every good thing which is in you by Christ Jesus.” The word translated as “acknowledgement” means precise and correct knowledge. The church is “the Fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:23)  Effective faith is borne out of “precise and correct knowledge” of every good thing that the Holy Spirit – the  Spirit of Jesus – has put into us: the gifts and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Unless we are operating in the fullness of the Holy Spirit we are unlikely to share our faith effectively – ie, with power. And since any one gift of the Holy Spirit might carry a mustard seed, we need to be open to them all.

Effective Faith takes us  from death to life, from flesh to Spirit, from human effort to divine enabling, from standing in the boat to walking on the water. We cannot know it unless we are filled with the Spirit who brings it. “All you who are thirsty, come to the waters!” (Isaiah 55:1)

When spirit-filled faith abounds in the Church, things start to happen…And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. And Stephen, full of faith  and power, (in other words, effective faith) did great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6: 5-8)

HOWEVER…

To be filled the fullness of God we need to be empty of the emptiness of self. The works of faith go hand in hand with the labour of love. “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.“

The Prophet Bob Jones, who died in 2014, was known for the remarkable accuracy of his prophetic ministry. He is also known for the fact that he temporarily died many years previously, in 1977, after after a short illness. When he reached Heaven he heard Jesus asking everyone the same question. It was this: “Did you learn to love?“ Bob Jones obviously hadn’t, because he came back to this life, and from that time on he was known not only for his gifting and the power of his ministry, but the depth of the love that he showed to others. He was known as “the prophet of love.“ However powerful our ministry, without love we are nothing

Love doesn’t come naturally: it is the result of a choice. At every interaction we can choose love or we can choose self. We can choose life or death. We can walk by faith, or we can walk by sight. We can walk according to the spirit, or according to the flesh; we can live out of the new creation or out of the old. We were born again so that we can learn how to love and bring Gods love into this world. To do this we need to “be renewed in the spirit of (our) mind “(Ephesians 4:23); we need to “put off concerning your former contact, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,“ (Eph 4:22) and “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:24)  The new man is a supernatural being. Just like faith, love is found in Jesus, so to walk in love we need to walk in Him. To do so we need to die to self. And dying to self all day is hard! That’s why it’s a labour of love. Actually without the Lord’s help it isn’t just hard; it’s impossible. As Paul says: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)

If we keep close to Jesus and keep in mind why He endured His cross, He will help us with our own. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:4)

Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before him.“ What was His joy? Sit down for this: it was you and me! And the rest of the Church, of course. Paul writes to the Ephesians “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5: 25-27) He has a vision for His bride and He is working on bringing her to the potential that He sees. We need to let His love that is within us show us His vision for each other so that He can work for us to bring others to their potential in him.

We are given a wonderful example of how the Holy Spirit gave one man revelation of his vision for another brother. A young man in the early church was clearly on fire for God, but he was not accepted by the other disciples. Barnabas, like Stephen a man “full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” saw his potential and introduced him to the elders of the Jerusalem church, who accepted him into the group. His name was Saul. “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.” So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.” Acts 9:26-28 Before long there was an attempt on his life, and the brethren sent him off to Tarsus, presumably for his safety. At around the same time Barnabas was sent by the Jerusalem church to Antioch, where the Holy Spirit had begun to move in power. After encouraging the brethren there, Barnabas went to Tarsus – a round trip of about 500 miles – to fetch Saul to assist him in the work. The two of them then spent a year ministering together in Antioch. This is where Paul’s apostolic ministry began to emerge, and the term “Christian” was first used.

Barnabus saw the vision that Jesus had for Paul; he connected him with the leaders of the church; he singled him out for an important ministry opportunity in a young, growing fellowship, and almost certainly would have been discipling him during the year at Antioch where he was leading the apostolic team. Later, Paul would write: ““From whom (Christ) 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 4:16). To disciple others and to be discipled by others is a natural outworking of relationships in the church and the supernatural work of faith working through love in the body by the power of the Holy Spirit, and is what moves us closer to our destiny in Christ.

So to have the power, we need to be connected; and to be connected, we need to have the power. The essential characteristic of the new creation is faith that works through love.  It is the supernatural lifestyle that brings the supply of Heaven to Earth, releases the potential in others, matures the bride of Christ, and makes disciples.

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.”

Dabbling Ducks and Goosanders

Goosanders: sawbilled fisher ducks, swimming in the deeper water.

In a pond near where I live there are two types of waterfowl: there are dabbling ducks, and there are goosanders. The dabbling ducks (mallards and a couple of domesticated spieces) on this pond are so called because they feed on or near the surface of the water, mostly on aquatic vegetation, small molluscs etc. And of course on whatever is thrown in for them by people who go along, usually with children, to “feed the ducks.” We commonly see these ducks “dabbling” as they upend in the water to feed.  Goosanders are altogether different. Although still a type of duck, they belong to a group called “sawbills,” that have thinner beaks with serrated edges for catching and gripping fish. And not just tiddlers – a goosander will grapple with a trout or perch, or even a salmon, nearly as big as the bird itself.

Jesus has sent us, His disciples, out to “catch fish” – to be fishers of men, like Peter. We don’t need to be reminded of the story of Peter’s life, and the transformation that he underwent at Pentecost. We probably know his story best of all, because he tended to go for the “epic fail” rather than just the ordinary fail; but none of the disciples actually caught on to any of the Kingdom truths that Jesus was feeding them until the Holy Spirit brought all His words to life at Pentecost. For three years they had been dabbling ducks that understood nothing of catching fish. But when the Holy Spirit fell they were transformed into sawbilled goosanders, and they began fishing for men.

In a pond like this one, a significant portion of the dabblers’ diet is what is fed to them by local humans. You will probably see them congregating on one side of the pond, in the shallow water where they can get to the aquatic vegetation and where the food is thrown in. But here is the point: dabbling ducks do not grow into goosanders. It doesn’t matter how much, or how well, you feed them; to become goosanders equipped to catch fish they have to be transformed into sawbills, and only an encounter with the Holy Spirit can bring that about. Without people having that encounter you just have a pond full of dabblers. Jesus loves them of course, and loves to feed them, as we all do; but what He longs for even more is to see them continue their journey in the Spirit just as Peter and the rest of His original flock of dabblers did.

For some churches, it is a central platform of their ministry to create a current in the water that will lead all the dabblers out of the shallows and into the deeper waters where they can be transformed by the Holy Spirit. For others, the sawbills are there because they happened to fly in, or because they wandered over to the deep water on their own individual journey round the pond. For others still there might be large (or small) flocks of dabblers quacking and splashing, or maybe just sitting on the bank waiting for the food to arrive, but not a sawbill to be found. It is only one part of the church’s mission to put out good food that will attract the ducks. The other part is to lead every dabbler into the present power of the Holy Spirit, so that they become the sawbills that Jesus has called them to be.

I believe this is one of the Lord’s main priorities as He works on the overhaul of His church.

The Yeast of the Kingdom

Today I made some bread rolls with fresh yeast. I made the dough in the bread maker before they went into the oven. It was a busy morning: my mother-in-law died recently and we had a van full of furniture and other items from her house to be distributed round various households. One of these was an electric “riser recliner” chair for our friend and School of Prophesy member Linda, who had been asking the Lord for one of these for John, her father. Another item she needed for him and hadn’t been able to get hold of was a commode. We had one of these as well. The timer on the dough had 45 minutes left when we set off for Linda’s house. Also in the van were a coffee table and a bedside cabinet for the charity shop. Linda and David live 10 minutes away.

The chair was perfect. We wheeled it in.

“Linda, you don’t happen to want this table and bedside cabinet as well, do you?”

“Oh yes, he’d love them in his  room! And you don’t happen to have anywhere you could store this carpet for us, by any chance, do you?” (Conversations are summarised.)

We did. We took her furniture out of the van and put in the rolled up carpet. When we got home there was one minute left for the dough in the bread machine. The timing was perfect.

God’s perfect timing

What’s this got to do with yeast?

Linda had asked God for one thing – the chair; she actually got five: the table, the cabinet, the commode, and storage for her carpet as well. And on top of that, it saved us a trip to the charity shop. God is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” The power of the Holy Spirit at work in us is the power of the Kingdom of Heaven. Without the yeast doing its work of multiplication we would not have had bread rolls for lunch. God want to feed us from Heaven, but for that to be possible we need to have His yeast at work in our lives. It looked impossible for Linda’s Dad to come and live with them, but she and David both felt the Lord had told them that He would make a way where there was no way, and they believed Him; and today we were part of that way being made.

I felt that God allowed that perfect timing of the bread rolls to show us something that we would have missed if it hadn’t been so exact: the yeast in the dough represented the multiplication of His blessing in John’s life. John isn’t a Christian yet, but the Lord is on his case. I believe salvation will come to him while he is with Linda and David. And it will be because of three things that are all core to the Spirit-led life:
1) A hunger to hear the word of God;

2) A willingness to trust and obey His word, even when it looks impossible; and

3) An everyday familiarity with the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is “the power that works in us.”

These three are essential if the leaven of the Kingdom of God is going to transform the dough of our daily life into the bread of Heaven.

Fresh bread, anyone?