Tag Archives: Holy Spirit power

Poured out at Pentecost and poured out today: the essential fuel for the victorious Christian life.

“Lord, teach us to pray…”

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Path of the Just

The path of just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.“ (
Prov 4:18)

I started my prayer time this morning, half thinking and a half praying the usual daily thoughts, along the lines of “Lord, what are my priorities today? What should I be doing?” And then it was “And is there anything I should be writing about?” The last question was quite unusual, because I tend to write when I feel I’ve got something to say: I don’t usually ask the Lord first if he’s got something for me. (Maybe I should…) When I sat back in my chair the morning sun came out from behind a cloud and streamed through the window, so dazzling that it was difficult to open my bible and read it. But when I did it opened at Proverbs 4 verse 18:
“The path of just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.“ (Prov 4:18)

It seemed fairly clear that His answer to my question about writing was “Yes, and this is it!” So this is what I’ve got…

Until the day that the lord chooses to intervene with the mechanisms of the universe, the Sun is never going to stop rising. It will always bring life, and it will always bring light . God does not want our path to be intermittent and jerky. Smith Wigglesworth said that once we are called to the Spirit we can’t return to the flesh. “God has given to us in the spirit, and behold, we are spiritual children today, and we must know that we have to be spiritual all the time. God forbid that we should ever be like the Galatian church, after we been in the spirit, we could come in the flesh. You are allowed to go into the spirit but you are never allowed to come in the flesh after you have been in the spirit.“ (Message given at Glad Tidings Tabernacle and Bible training school, San Francisco, August 22, 1922*)

So it is with the path of just: like the Sun, it is set on a course that is governed by immutable spiritual laws that are laid down in heaven and condensed for us in the command to love. The Hebrew word translated as “just” (tsaddiyq) means both just or righteous in government and in deed, and also righteous as justified and vindicated by God. It is because we have been justified by the blood of Jesus we are the righteousness of God in Christ, and this applies to every saint. It is only the Just who can walk after spirit. The purpose of our walk, the path of the just, is to shine like the sun, and we do that when we consecrate ourselves to sharing God’s life and His love. When we walk after the spirit every step we take is like the footsteps of good King Wenceslas in the Christmas Song: they are warm with the love and the life of Jesus.

Many of us pray see that sun shining in revival, but how much do we really want to pay the price of being part of the fire? In “Compelled by Love,” Heidi Baker tells of how – to the consternation of the authorities – she went into a camp set aside for people with highly contagious cholera, hugged the sick and dying, and brought the healing and Life of Jesus to the whole camp. Jesus isn’t going to give us black marks when we slip into carnality, but I do believe he is sad when we do, because he knows that not only we are missing His best, but also that He is missing our best. He must long for us to partner with the Holy Spirit like the apostles of old, the Wigglesworths of yesterday, and the Bakers of today.

Anne (my wife) had a visitation from God a few years ago that lasted three days. She says she knows exactly when He started to withdraw: it was when she reached out for a kit-kat (a chocolate biscuit that breaks into “fingers”) after He had said “don’t eat that now,” said to God “Why not? It’s harmless,” and ate it anyway. God has nothing against chocolate biscuits and He isn’t about micro-managing our appetites, but on that occasion He had a reason for wanting Anne to say no to her desire, harmless though it seemed. Because the presence of the Holy Spirit wasn’t so strong on her from that moment, the next time she was tempted to move out of the Spirit it was more difficult to resist, and so it continued until the sense of His manifest presence had gone.

We can scratch our heads over what it means to grieve the Holy Spirit, but I think it begins with this: the Lord wants us to be so in tune with His Spirit that we can dismiss those promptings of carnality that make our vessels so leaky, and He is grieved when we aren’t. When we spiral down the path to sin and death (James 1:15), His grief must increase, and David expresses acute awareness of this in Psalm 51, but I think this is the lesson of Anne’s story. Instead of being full of the Holy Spirit like Stephen and Barnabas in the Book of Acts, we judder along with our tanks on reserve, leaking because they are pierced through by chocolate biscuit fingers.  If more of us came to church full, instead of needing to be filled, we would be more likely to see the power of God moving among those who stagger in empty.

So we press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus – although actually how much pressing do we really do?  A small group of us were praying to know the manifest presence of God in our midst, for the Daystar to consume our lives with His presence. A sister prayed with wonderful honesty: “Lord, we long for revival, or we think we do anyway…” I think she nailed it: do we really want revival, or do we just want to warm our hands on the fire?  Jesus tells us clearly that we should count the cost of following Him, whether he was talking specifically about carrying the cross, or teaching through the illustrations of assessing the cost of building a tower or the strength of an opposing army. If we want the Presence, I think we do need to press. When that shining sun is on its trajectory in the spirit, pouring God’s life and love into others, it cannot come down to Earth for a night out or a bit of r and r. It stays on course as it heads for the perfect day. The Son of Man had no place to rest His head.

The Mighty One, God the LORD,
Has spoken and called the earth
From the rising of the sun to its going down.

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God will shine forth.”
(Ps 50: 1-2)

God will do what He says. He will shine forth out of Zion. Zion will be found wherever that sun is shining. Are we just going to dream of the perfect day, or are we going to commit ourselves to staying on the path towards it? If we feel that we need a prayer of renewed consecration, we can do no better than the one or merciful Holy Spirit gave to David all those years ago:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
“(Psalm 51: 10-13)

“In royal robes I don’t deserve.
I live to serve
Your Majesty”
(Jarrod Cooper, from the Album “Days of Wonder.”)

*The Smith Wigglesworth quotation is published in “Smith Wigglesworth, the complete collection of his life teachings,” compiled by Roberts Liardon.

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.

Not by might nor by power

We know that “nothing is impossible with God,”  and that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We also know that it’s “not by might nor by power” that the Kingdom of God is established on Earth, and we know that we walk by faith and not by sight. The stories and the imagery of Scripture is full of the opposition between flesh and Spirit, or the kingdoms of the world and the Kingdom of our God and His Christ; Saul and David; Babylon and Jerusalem; Egypt and the promised land. We only have to spend a few minutes reading the news headlines to have an idea of what is happening and, sometimes, what to expect in the world of the flesh. But there are headlines being published in the spiritual realm as well, and if we pay attention to them we can also have an idea of what is going on in that dimension, which is important as It will directly affect what we see on the news. As Amos 3:7 says “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.”

The headlines in the spiritual realm

Just as we don’t believe every newspaper headline we read, there are some “prophetic messages” that have more credibility than others. Nevertheless there is a clear narrative from recognised individual prophets and groups that has two main threads. One is that we are moving into an unprecedented time of darkness and chaos, most probably that which Jesus prophesied in the “wars and rumours of wars” passage recorded in Matt 24: 4-25. Woven in with this thread is a second one, announcing that a great revival is coming onto the Earth as prophesied by Smith Wigglesworth in 1947, and that it this outpouring will be unlike anything hitherto experienced. Both these headlines can be found in Isaiah 61:1-3:

Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.

For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you

The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising…”

The point is not that these words have been around for thousands of years, but that, as Peter declared in Acts 2 when he preached at Pentecost, “This is that which was spoken of.” The headlines of prophesy today are essentially this: now is the time that was spoken of by Isaiah in verse two. It’s now. And in this context, it’s imperative for the church to separate itself from the darkness. Just as God separated the light from the darkness at the dawn of creation; just as Jeremiah – and the voice from Heaven heard by John (Rev 18:4) – called God’s people to “come out of the midst of Babylon” (Jer 51:45), so it is time for the church to separate itself from the world and be serious about consecration to a holy God.

Swept up, or swept away

As we allow God to reveal more of His holiness to us, so He reveals more of His majesty, and as He reveals more of His majesty so He reveals more of His love. The attributes of God are bound up in His identity, and we find them all in Jesus, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), and equally in the Holy Spirit, whom the Father “sends in the name (the identity) of Jesus” (John 14:26). The Kingdom of God is established “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zech 4:6), and His Spirit is holy. Holy comes before Spirit: as the Holiness movement preceded the Pentecostal revival at the beginning of the last century, so the “story” behind those prophetic headlines today is that God is calling the Church today to wake up to His holiness: those who do will be swept up by the power of His Spirit, but those who do not will be swept away.

Under the Old Covenant, the only route to holiness was through obedience to the many external requirements of the Law.  In Christ, holiness dwells within us by His Spirit and we are given just two commands to obey: to love God, and to love one another. When we obey these two, we “obey the whole of the law,” (Romans 13:10) and the holiness that dwells in the immortal part of ourselves, our spirits, can reach out through our mortality to bring light and life to a dying world. In calling the church to holiness, God is calling us to love: to worship Him and to love one another. It is where “lawlessness abounds” that “the love of many will grow cold,” (Matt 24:12) and it is because of that lawlessness that “darkness shall cover the earth and deep darkness the people;” and it is when we separate ourselves from that darkness by submitting to the Royal Law of love that “The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.”

There is no other way. It is not by might, nor by power, but by the Holy Spirit that this prophesied revival will come. To bring these thoughts to land in Scripture, 2 Cor 3:18 spells out exactly how it will come about:

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

We will see the Holy Spirt at work through us and the light of Christ reflected in our faces when we remove the veil that separates us from His holiness.

The Cave of Adullam

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

(Ps 34: 7-16)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Charge of the Light Brigade

A prophesy given to me on 8th-9th Sept 2021

“Many of you are like phones that are running out of charge. While some are topped up, others among you are running at 40%, 30% or 20% charge. Some of you are on low power mode. You need to be fully charged. You need to be connected to me all the time, so that you never run out of charge. For I am doing a new thing in the Earth and the ground is being prepared. You are the Light Brigade, bringing light into the darkness in my name and in my power. Unlike the first one, which was done in the strength of man, this charge will not fail; but you will need to be fully charged to complete the mission. It will be as in the day and Gideon, when my people revealed their lights as one and the massed powers of darkness fled before them. Stay connected to me, so that when I blow the trumpet and say “Charge!” you will both hear the call and have the power for your light to shine. Those who are connected will hear the call, and all around the world my Light Brigade will shine as one. Do not be like the phone that cannot receive a call because it is out of battery, but make sure you are fully charged, connected to me. This is my charge to you.”

(Historical note – for those not familiar with UK history, the “Charge of the Light Brigade” was a famous military disaster that took place in the Crimean War in 1854. It has been the subject of much literature and art , especially the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, as an iconic example of pointless heroism.)

Abiding in Him

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Prov 3:6)

Sometimes I go birdwatching if I wake early  in the morning. I like to leave early, but usually spend a bit of time with the Lord before I go. (The prayer time also involves coffee…) If we abide in Him and He abides in us this will involve our leisure pursuits (assuming they don’t involve ungodly activities!) as well as everything else we do, and He will use them to His purposes – sometimes just to bless us, because He loves to do that – and sometimes because He has something else in mind. Here are three examples of why it matters.

An important aspect of my hobby is taking photographs of interesting birds that I see. Taking the pictures and looking at them afterwards is a big part of the enjoyment for me. A few weeks ago I woke at about 6.30 and decided to go up onto Cannock Chase, our local beauty spot, and see what might be around before the dog-walkers and joggers started to turn up. Because my “window” of hopefully uninterrupted time was relatively short, I decided on that occasion not to even bother with the coffee or the prayer time – I’ll do that when I come back, I thought – and headed straight up to Cannock Chase. I parked the car, and my head was full of what I might see at this time of day. I switched off the engine and reached for my camera. It wasn’t there. I had gone out to photograph birds but I had left my camera behind.

It doesn’t take a word of knowledge to work out what the Lord said to me through this. Proverbs 3:6 tells us “In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” As I have written more than once before, the word “acknowledge” here means to know, not just refer to. The sense is closer to “abide in” than what we understand by “acknowledge,” which is just to accept or admit the existence of something or someone. I didn’t acknowledge the Lord in the sense of Proverbs 3:6 before I went birding, and He quite categorically did not direct my path.

There have been a couple of times since ten when, equally categorically, He has. One was on my birthday, which was nine days ago at the time of writing. I woke at about 6.00 am and decided to go birding. There are various hotspots within half an hour’s drive of our house, and I decided I would go to one of those rather than just go up onto the Chase. This time though, I had my coffee with the Lord. When I left, I felt strongly that I should go to a particular reservoir that is actually managed as a nature reserve by West Midlands Bird Club, of which I am a member. My favourite birds are warblers – little two ounce balls of fluff that migrate thousands of miles to breed in the UK and bless us with their various tweets and twitters from our woods, heaths and hedgerows. There are about ten warbler spieces in the UK, including some rarer types, that an informed birder has a reasonable chance of seeing in the UK, depending on where they are. One of the rarer warblers is the grasshopper warbler, and a few breed on a patch of heathland about the same distance from me as the reserve I was heading for.

As I drove down the motorway, I thought: “Perhaps I’ll go to Norton Bog in the hope of seeing a grasshopper warbler, and not the reservoir?” “No!” came the thought back. “Go to the reservoir. Stick to your original decision.” So I stuck to the plan. When I arrived I found that a small team from the bird club were ringing birds. They put up nets in strategic places, a bit like volleyball nets, catch the birds, inspect them for their general health, their age etc, ring them and of course release them. The activity plays an important part in the scientific study of bird populations. When I saw them I said “Have you got anything interesting?” “Yes, said one of the ringers. We have got something special.” I could spin this out, but I won’t. It was a grasshopper warbler. That morning I saw six different spieces of warbler, including another one that I hadn’t seen since I was a boy of about 11 (that’s sixty years ago!) and took some lovely photos. What a birthday present from the Lord! Why did He give it to me? Because He loves me, and wanted to bless me on my birthday! He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (Eph 3:20) and we can so easily forget this. I could, probably would, have traipsed around Norton Bog and seen nothing of interest. Instead of that, His power at work in me directed my paths and blessed me with a birdwatching birthday present that I am going to remember for ever, and which I would like to think I will thank Him for personally when I get to Heaven. Not only will His immeasurable power do such wonders for us, but He will do them for others, through us, if we will only seek His presence and believe His word.

A grasshopper warbler being ringed. More than I could ever ask or imagine…

The final example of how He directed my paths on a morning birding excursion has got more of an immediate “Kingdom” aspect to it, and happened just three days ago. Again, I had my coffee with the Lord, and felt that I would go a bit further afield, to a place called Barr Beacon. I left at about 6.30, but when I was nearly there I was slowed down by the first wave of commuter traffic so by the time I arrived the first dog-walkers were already out. However, I was blessed almost as soon as I got out of the car by a little family of yellowhammers, and once again I tried to allow the Holy Spirit to “direct my paths.” After about 20 minutes I was on a particular path, trying to get a picture of a willow warbler in a tree, when a man came in my direction with his dog. “Oh, well; bye bye willow warbler,” I thought, and made a fuss of the friendly little dog which came up to me with its tail wagging. The man and I exchanged pleasantries, then he called his dog and went on.

I was going to move on myself, but I felt a prompting to stay around there. Maybe the willow warbler will be back, I thought. Actually it was the man and his dog that came back after a few minutes. In fact the warbler hadn’t gone far, because I could hear it calling from the hedgerow. Max (the dog) stopped to say hello, and the man stopped and we chatted some more. He told me he had heard something in the hedge, and we started chatting about  warblers and the wonders of migration. I started thinking, “Lord, is this where You come into the conversation?” Soon He did, and I was talking about the God of Creation. He was agreeing with me, and before long we were referring to the Bible and I was thinking the Lord may have led me to a brother in Christ. I asked him if he was a Christian, and he said with a little smile, “No. Actually I’m probably the devil to you, because I am one of Jehovah’s witnesses!”

I had been directed to that place at that moment to testify to a Jehovah’s witness of how I had been led to our conversation by the Holy Spirit that he didn’t believe in.

We had a couple of the inevitable conversations and he fished a tract out of his pocket and gave it to me (I was convicted: why didn’t I have one in mine?), but I felt strongly that God hadn’t sent me there to argue with him. Just like Paul with the Corinthians, I don’t believe that we convince JWs “with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1 Cor 2:4). Like a lens on a camera, they have their own lens that they put on the Bible, and they view everything through it. The Holy Spirit has to get them to change lenses. I felt that my mission was to make two declarations of truth concerning the Trinity, and to leave them with him. I said, “Born-again Christians and Jehovah’s witnesses always argue, and I don’t want to do that. I just want to make two declarations to you: there is a personal Holy Spirit (they believe that He is a force), and Jesus isn’t a created being (They translate John 1:1 as “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word was a God.) At that, we parted company amicably. His name is Kevin. Please pray for him!

One last little story. The next time I went out after the episode where I had left my camera behind, I opened my Bible to the psalm I had been reading the previous day. It was Psalm 84. Straight away I noticed verse 3, which says: “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God

We will even find an anointing on the subjects of our leisure interests if we stay near the altar of our King and our God.

Love Never Fails (Mirror, mirror, on the wall)

In the last five minutes, I have been frustrated with my internet connection because it has failed yet again, and I have been annoyed by a text arriving on my phone and requiring my attention just as I sat down to write this piece. Of course there is no-one in my study with me to witness these little mini- explosions…

Although that isn’t true, is it? Actually the One through whom the Universe was made is here too. He knows every thought in my head, and every ripple of emotion that ruffles the surface of my heart. He gave his life up in agony so that I might live through him, delivered of the negatives embedded in my flesh and bearing fruit that glorifies Him, and that demonstrates to the principalities and powers of darkness the consummate victory of the cross and the eternal wisdom of God’s Great Plan. Yet in the space of five minutes, instead of spiritually “possessing my soul” by bearing the fruit of patience (“In your patience possess your souls” – Luke 21:19) I have yet again delivered it to to sin and death by yielding to my flesh.

As if to reinforce the point, Anne has just come upstairs with the landline phone in her hands: a friend from church wants a chat to arrange a cup of tea together. This time I smile. I smile because I am writing about love: the love that never fails. How far I am from that love! But as Paul famously writes, I can thank God for Jesus, who delivers me from “this body of death” (Romans 7:25). I may not have offended anybody mortal, but I offended Him.

The Light of Love

Love never fails. One day the sun will dim and the light of the stars will fade, but God’s love endures forever. As part of creation, even the sun and the stars are “subject to decay,” as Paul writes in Romans 8:20. But when The Perfect is come, the New Jerusalem will be coming with it, with “no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory  of God illuminates it. The Lamb is its light.” (Rev 21:23). The love of God is not like the light of the sun: it cannot decay. It cannot be dimmed. It’s not the created light that God separated from darkness (Gen 1:4); it’s the light that created the darkness and shines in it, which the darkness cannot put it out. “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all,” writes John (1 John 1:5). Uncreated eternal light is the light of love; it’s God Himself.

I’m not writing this because I think you don’t know it, because I’m sure you do: what I’m trying to put into words is the sense that the love that God pours into our hearts by the Holy Spirit is totally outside and beyond anything in the Universe that could diminish even a single spark of its light and power within us. Not just the abstract idea, but something of the experiential knowledge that it is the power of Life itself, it is the power that raised Jesus from the dead, it is the power that created the universe, and it is the power by which we were born again to eternal life and by which our spirits were resurrected with Christ to be seated with Him in heavenly places. Can anything separate us from this love? (Romans 8: 31-39)

“No!” we say, because we know that this is the truth of the Word. Yet how much of our lives are actually spent in the experience of this truth? When I lost my patience with the internet, then again with the person who dared to send me a text while I was writing, was I living in its glory? The new creation walks by faith and not by sight; after the Spirit and not after the flesh, bathed in the light of this love. It wasn’t the new creation Bob that lost his patience; it was the old one that is supposed to be passing away. Although nothing can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus, we can lose contact with it oh, so easily. And the more we live outside of this contact, the less we see it working through us and wonderfully touching other people. ”You are restricted by your own affections,” as Paul writes (2 Cor 6:12).

Treasure in Earthen Vessels

Yet  “It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” What is shining in our hearts is brighter than the sun, and it is not subject to decay. We have this amazing treasure in the earthen vessels of our lives (2 Cor 4:7). But what do we see when we look in the mirror: the treasure, or the earthen vessel? Paul says “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18) Can we really see the glory of the Lord’s blazing love in our own eyes when we study our reflection?

Paul had already written about reflections in the earlier letter to his church at Corinth: “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known,” (1 Cor 13:12) Perfection hasn’t come yet, but it’s on its way. And as we allow the Holy Spirit freedom to work in our hearts, we keep moving closer to its glory. We can catch a glimpse of it even now, burning undimmable in the depths of our unveiled hearts – for “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Cor 3:16) – and He changes us from glory to glory as we become more like Him.

Before I formed you in the womb

The wonder of all this is, that the light of Christ within us is already part of who we are as the spiritual beings who have been raised and seated with Him in heavenly places. In that place that is outside the realms of time, we are already glorified: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom 8: 29-30) Our heavenly body already exists: “we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1) Paul doesn’t say that “we will have” an eternal heavenly body (“building”); he says we have already got it. Since it’s eternal, it actually existed before time. God said to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:4) When “this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality,” (1 Cor 15:4) we will finally be stepping into the eternal self that has been waiting all our lives to receive us.

Is this what we see when we look in the mirror? Because it’s what the love of God planned for us before He created time itself. Before He called creation into being and subjected it to decay, our glorified selves were already raised with Christ, and the works that we would do on Earth as we move in contact with the fire of that love were already prepared. (Eph 2:10) To walk by faith is to step through eternity, in the blazing light of perfect love by which we are being transformed from glory to glory.

If you want patience – and love, and joy, and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit – take a step of faith now and look at yourself as you really are. I am an amateur photographer, and I long for images that are ‘pin-sharp.’ What you will see will not be pin-sharp yet, but the more you long for it, the clearer it will become. Meanwhile it is no less real, and the light that you see it by is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6) Look, there He is, burning with unfailing love: Christ in you, the hope of glory.