Tag Archives: Love one another

Without love, we are nothing. We are on this earth to learn how to love. Jesus showed us the way.

Take Heed How You Hear

“My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt 7:12)

There was a story going round in Christian circles a few years ago about a dream that someone had had, of people sitting at a long table covered in food, but with knives and forks that were too long to actually get the food into their mouths. The solution was simple: they just fed each other. It’s a lovely illustration of how God wants us to live: not for ourselves, but for others. I saw an illustration of this principle operating in the natural world the other day, when I had the pleasure of watching these two spoonbills recently at a nature reserve near Leeds in the UK. Their beaks are too long to preen their own necks, so they preen each other’s.

After teaching the crowds with the parables of the Sower and the revealed light, Jesus says this: “Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” (Luke 8: 18). Immediately after that He illustrates exactly what he meant by that. Luke’s account continues: “Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (vs 19-21)

The sequence here is not random: He told the parable of the Sower at that moment, following it with the illustration of the revealed light, because He knew in His Spirit what was going to happen next. We can either hear actively or passively. When we hear actively –“with a noble and good heart”- we do the sayings of Jesus and we bear fruit. Choose your metaphor: our talent multiplies; our seed bears fruit; our light shines; the river flows. When we hear passively, like someone who looks in the mirror and turns away (see James 1:24), we bury our talent in the ground, we hide our light under a bushel, our seed has no root or is choked with thorns, our river is silted up. The Greek word “kalos”, translated here as “noble,” has a strong sense of ‘goodness in action.’ One of the top-level Strong’s definitions is “good, excellent in its nature and characteristics, and therefore well adapted to its ends.” A good and noble heart is a heart with integrity; the opposite of the heart of the hypocrites, of whom God says they “draw near to Me with their mouths and honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” (Matt 15:8). The fruitful heart, the light that shines so others may see it, is the one that willhear the word of God and do it.”

James 1:17 tells us that “All good and perfect gifts come down from the Father of Lights.” I have written about the Father’s waterfall here:  the Father calls us to it so that we can pass on what we have received. This chapter of Luke carries on with a sequence of miracles; illustrations of faith in action beginning with Jesus calming the storm and culminating in the raising of Jairus’s daughter. Our spoons are for sharing. The Gospel is “for babes:” it might not be easy, but it’s simple. Carry your cross and walk after the Spirit who always wants to give life, and don’t walk after the flesh that always wants to hang onto it. We all want to see Jesus, but we stay outside unless we do what He says. And when we do, and those seeds of His take root in a noble and good heart, anything can happen.

Of His fullness we have received…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Will Build My Church


Jesus said “I will build my church, and the gates of hell so not prevail against it.“ We are in the world, but we are not of it.  Jesus was from above; we too are born from above. All good and perfect gifts come down from the Father of lights.  All that Jesus builds of his Church is from above. When the kingdom of God comes on Earth as it is in Heaven, it comes from above, and what is built is from above. What is built is not of the world, even though it is in it. What is of the world is passing away; what Christ brings into the world is eternal. As the apostle John wrote:  “The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17) Even in the rubble and devastation of war, the eternal Kingdom of God is being built in the hearts of men and women who love him. (Other references from this paragraph: Matt: 16:18, John 17:16, John 8:23, James 1:17.)

That is all solid scriptural truth, and it’s easy for me to sit in my armchair and dictate it into my iPhone, in the comfort and convenience of the Western world and its technology. But if a bomb landed on my house now as they are landing in Ukraine, and took away in seconds all that I have built over 40 years, where would my heart be?

David wrote “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” (Psa 101:2) If my house collapsed around me, I wonder if  my heart still be perfect? I think not. I don’t have to look back very far over the last 24 hours without seeing glaring imperfections in my heart. In fact there is only Jesus, whom David prophesied in that psalm, who can say in truth that He walks within His house with a perfect heart. And we are all His house; (Heb 3:6) By His Spirit He does walk among us, building His Kingdom as we give Him the building materials of our lives. As Christina Rosetti wrote in the words of the Christmas Carol, all that we can give Him is our hearts, and when we give Him our hearts, He builds with them. His house is the place where righteousness dwells, and where love, truth, peace, and joy are found.


Paul wrote: “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.“ (2 Cor 5:15) If I’m living for myself I’m not building His house, but I’m building my own. If my heart is attached to the house that I build, to my own satisfaction, my own peace and joy, and it falls down around me, I will be devastated. But If my heart is truly devoted to building His house, and I live  for Him through loving others, I will not care if mine collapses,  but I will pick my way through the rubble looking for people who have been hurt by falling stones. And as I do that His kingdom will be built in that place on Earth, even though not a stone of my house remains standing.

I am a long way from this, as I expect most of us are. But we can choose on a daily basis to build His house rather than stay huddled in our own, simply by preferring one another…

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.

The Parable of the Dragnet

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:47-50)

When Jesus compared the Kingdom to a dragnet he was talking to people for whom they were central to their daily life: if they weren’t fishermen themselves, they were dependent on what the  nets brought in for their daily sustenance. In a very real sense, the dragnet was part of the very fabric of their lives. And  since the King said that His Kingdom is like one, we can expect the image to speak into our lives as Kingdom people today.

The strength of a net is in its connections. Peter wrote: “If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever.” (1 Peter 4:11) We are part of the dragnet when we are reaching out and making connections with others. Since we can only operate fruitfully “with the ability which God supplies,” in His strength and not our own, the connections themselves – the knots in the net – have to be made by the Spirit of God and not by our own selfish desires. Put simply, we either reach out to others to give them something that we have got (Kingdom, Spirit), or to take something that they can give us (self, flesh).

What I have I give you,” said Peter to the cripple at the Gate Beautiful. (Acts 3:6) What I have may be a Holy Spirit gift of healing or prophesy, it may be my time, my skills or (what Peter and John didn’t have) my money; but if it’s a connection made in love it will glorify God and it will add to the net. If I am just reaching out to take – your knowledge, your resources, your reflected status, your companionship, your approval – I am not making a Kingdom connection; I am actually doing nothing more than the beggar at the Gate who was reaching out his hand for whatever he could get. Spiritually I am as crippled as he was.

The Law Jesus gave us is to love one another, and when we obey His law we build His net. He said to his disciples: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt 7:22-23), and He clearly defines what He meant by lawlessness in Matthew 25:41-43, where, put simply, it’s another word for lovelessness:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

So we can even be moving in the power of the Holy Spirit and yet not be making Kingdom connections. God is sovereign and can use the results of what we do for His purposes, whatever our motivation; but if our hearts are not in the right place and we are seeking our glory and not His, looking after our own needs and not those of others, we are not adding to the dragnet. The context of this parable is the principle of fruitfulness: a good tree bears good fruit, He tells us in verse 17. If our “mighty works” are not grounded in Love, they will be a flash in the pan and will not bear fruit that endures. A local revival may be birthed in power, but starved of love the flames die out, and the net finishes no bigger than when it started.

“As the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. (1 Cor 12:12)

There are many squares in the dragnet, many connections. All the squares are the same size, there are no greater or lesser  squares, and they all do the same job, which is to catch fish. A strong thread in many messages coming from the Holy spirit to the church through prophetic ministers today is that God is, and will be, pouring out His anointing on unknown members of the Body of Christ who have no status in their churches, no public platform ministry and no website or You Tube channel, but who are full of the compassion of God and are wholly submitted to His will. As they believe the Word of God and trust the power of the Holy Spirit, these, the unknown brothers and sisters who lay down their lives for love, will be the ones who make the connections and cause the net to spread out across the oceans of the world.

The dragnet is a parable for the end times. The devil clearly tried to use the Covid pandemic to pull apart our connections right across the globe in an attempt to weaken our love, but God “turns a curse into a blessing” (Neh 13:2) and now not only do we seem to value our relationships more than we did pre-Covid; but church networks are growing in an unprecedented way through the use of virtual meetings. The time of the dragnet is approaching. How are our relationships? Will they break when the dragnet is drawn to shore, or are we giving what we have “with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever?”

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.

If the body were an eye, where would the hearing be? (1 Cor 12)

Paul’s teaching on the gifts of the Spirit in the church and the diversity that He has placed within the body of Christ is a well-known passage. In the first part Paul shows how the Holy Spirit distributes supernatural gifts among His people when they meet together to reveal Jesus, the second part shows how each born again believer is a unique gift to the body of Christ that helps enable the kingdom of his Love to  be established on the Earth.

The world and worldly culture celebrate diversity. However the politically correct emphasis on diversity that we see in today’s society is not an expression of the rich variety that God has put into His creation, but is a worship of diversity for its own sake. Diversity in the world has become an idol: worshippers gather round it In abandonment to their lusts just as the children of Israel gathered round the golden calf and “rose up to play.” (1 Cor 10:7)

The devils’ idols are always a substitute for God’s truth. If the Lord is doing something in Heaven, the enemy will try to set up his copy on Earth, so where the Kingdom of God is advancing there is often an idol to be pulled down in order for God’s will to be done. If we look at the counter culture that the enemy is seeking to establish on Earth, we can often see the emphasis of the heavenly culture that the Holy Spirit is bringing to the church. Diversity is an example of this. The devil is seeking to establish his doctrine of diversity in the flesh, according to which every divergence from God’s created order is to be not only accepted, but celebrated. There are many bodies, but no membership.  In fact membership of any one group is often regarded as sectarian.

In God’s kingdom there is one body, and we are all members of it. Like the snowflakes, each one of us is different and each one of us is beautiful, and each one of us is a unique expression of God’s perfect order. But we are all made of water. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:13)  The devil, on the other hand, would have us celebrate snowflakes made of plastic, rubber, bronze…

How does this translate into Gods kingdom purposes today? I believe that the enemy is parading his version of diversity in front of our eyes because he wants to blind the world to the beauty of God’s Kingdom truth. Jesus is calling His body to unity, but in that unity is the essential principle that we recognise the diversity and beauty that He has put into each individual. A prophetic theme currently being expressed is that God will be removing many leaders from the platforms and podiums where they have become exalted, and raising up the unknown and lowly to minister in the power of his Spirit when he sends the next great wave of Revival. We will no longer gather around denominational flags and banners; we will just gather around Jesus under his Banner of Love, honouring and serving Him as we honour and serve one another. The Unity won’t command the blessing because we all sing the same songs, have all read the same books, or all agree with the same teachers; and not even because we all pray in tongues and prophesy (or not!): the unity will command the blessing when we love, serve, and prefer one another.

We will all be one when we have recognised that we are all different. If you are an ear and I am an eye, we may look like we have nothing in common, but the same blood flows through us, we both serve the same body, and we both have the mind of Christ. I’m not inadequate because I can’t hear like you, and – even more important – I’m not superior because you can’t see like me. When we really celebrate each other’s uniqueness I believe those beautiful snowflakes will fall more and more thickly, until the glory of God covers the Earth as the waters cover the sea.

God’s Budget

A line has been crossed.

Just as this was the week when government in the UK set out its budget, I believe that this may also be the time when the Lord is setting out the budget for the government that is on His shoulders. There will be be a release and a directing of physical resources alongside the spiritual, as God moves in the business and financial realms. Even now, God is establishing Kingdom outposts in the unlikeliest of places, and is starting to build an ark that will bring resources to His people and salvation to the lost, even as a flood of chaos and darkness seems to sweep the Earth. He is calling people to bring their wood – operating their businesses and finances under Kingdom principals of love, faith and generosity – so that it can be added to the Ark. He is raising up apostles and prophets around the world to play a part in proclaiming, spearheading and directing this move of His Spirit.

I was talking about this with a friend over a coffee recently, and felt the Holy Spirit on me as I made an illustration on the coffee table (pictured), using a jug and a teaspoon. I felt that  we have “crossed a line” in the spiritual realm: the spoon handle represents the demarcation between what Man has done up till now, and what God is going to do from now on. Also the jug represents what God pours out, and the teaspoon represents what man portions out. I believe that the Lord is saying something like this:

“Up to this time, Man has put his teaspoon into my provision and portioned it out – ‘ one for you, one for me; or one-hundredth for you, one hundred for me’ –  but now the time has come for me to start pouring. Do not say “The jug looks so small!” for as it was in the days of the indebted widow in the time of Elisha, so it will be in these times: every jug that is brought to me I will pour from. There is no limit to what I can and will pour. And as it was I who determined how many vessels were available to meet that widow’s needs, so it is I who will determine how many vessels are needed to resource my work and to prepare my bride in these days; and I will call and appoint all the jugs that I require for what I am about to pour out.”

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)

“I shovel out the money, and God shovels it back. but God has a bigger shovel!” R. G. Letourneau. (Businessman and designer of earthmoving vehicles, 1988-1969)

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!”

He that is in us is Greater than he who is in the World

We’ve all seen this sign: there is a bumpy road ahead. There are bumps ahead for all of us: political and economic bumps as systems weaken and collapse in the face of “the beginning of sorrows” that Jesus prophesied in Matt 24:7, and emotional bumps as we navigate our paths over them. Some will be minor disturbances; some will be catastrophic upheavals. Some we will face as individuals; some as churches, and some as nations. But whatever goes on in the world, the truth is this: “He that is in us is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Is this truth something that is alive for us, burning in our hearts like a bright fire against the cold and the dark, or is it just another Bible verse – albeit a powerful one, we acknowledge – that we know is true but that somehow we don’t experience the truth of? We know that He has given us His peace, “not as the world gives,” but do we walk in it? “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) As we hit the bumps  we need to know how we can receive the peace that the One who is in us is giving. The apostle John gives us some pointers:

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4: 12-16)

By this we know…

If we wanted to write down two of the central planks of New Testament theology it would be that we are in Christ and He is in us. In these five verses we find four references to God being in us, and three references to us abiding in God.

We know it’s true that we love one another. (verse 12) We might not express that love all the time, and we may not feel it consistently; but there are times in our lives when we know that the love that God has “poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us” (Romans 5:5)  flows through us and reaches a brother or a sister. John tells us that this love that we carry in our hearts for one another is the proof that God “abides in us”, because it comes from Him, not from our own flesh. However this is still head knowledge, and to have the proof in our heads is not enough for it to become the experience of our hearts. John – and Jesus – wants more than that for us. He says “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”

More head knowledge, you may say. But I don’t think it is. To “know” – ginōskō – is to know fully and intimately, empirically as well as intellectually. We know fully and completely the reality of God dwelling in us when we experience the person of the Holy Spirit operating in our lives. “By this we know – have experiential knowledge – that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”

So the proof that he abides in us is that we love one another, but the experience of that truth is the empirical knowledge of the Holy Spirit who has put that love into our hearts. What follows from those two statements is this: the more we express the love that we have for another, the better we know the one who is in us. And the better we know the One who is in us, the better we know that He is greater than the one who is in the world, and the more we are able to express the love that He has given us for one another.

Gently does it.

And so we come to the bumpy road and a practical application of these verses. How do we go over the bumps? By going slowly. Gently does it.  If we don’t go gently we are likely to crash. This is not just an application of material experience to spiritual ideas: it is a scriptural principle. Gentleness is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus tells us to learn from His gentleness in Matt 11:29. When we hit the bumps in life, our first recourse must be to behave gently and not be quick to react. The victory that has overcome the world is our faith (1 John 5:4), and we need faith to slow down instead of being driven headlong into the bumps by our flesh. It is only by trusting God and not our own abilities that we can be still enough to listen to Him and be led by the Spirit in gentleness. Those bumps might be out there in the world, or they might be right inside our own front doors. Wherever they are, trusting God enough to be gentle gives us time to love, and when we love we walk in the proof of His presence within us, the One who is so much greater than he who is in the world.

There is bumpy ground ahead: when we face it, we need to remember to walk slowly enough to love one another, because

When we love one another we can know His presence,

When we know His presence we can feel His power,

And when we feel His power we can receive His peace.