Tag Archives: My peace I Ieave you

Ready to give a defense…

When we are talking about sharing our faith, we often quote the apostle Peter, who wrote “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (From 1 Peter 3:15). Many people who don’t know the peace and blessings of knowing the love of Jesus Christ have been turned off Him by well-meaning Christians who have been so focussed on the first part of this scripture that they have ignored the second: they have been given the reasons why it’s so good to know Jesus without ever having asked for them. Peter is basically saying that we should always be ready to answer questions about our faith to everyone who asks them. The challenge here, as I see it, is not so much having reasons that answer the questions that people ask, but to give people a reason to ask the questions. If they don’t ask the questions, they aren’t ready for the answers. If the hope that is in us isn’t evident to the people we are with, why should they be asking about it?

The fact is, that we tend to only quote half of the scripture. The full verse is this: “But sanctify the Lord God  in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15) Being ready with answers to questions about our faith goes alongside a mindset of holiness (having the Lord God “sanctified” in our hearts) and an attitude of meekness towards others and reverent fear towards the God who has commissioned us with this task.

I am not the greatest living example of these attitudes, but I do have a story of one occasion (there aren’t many…)  where I definitely had “sanctified the Lord God in my heart,” and as a result was asked a question about my faith which led to an opportunity to minister to some strangers. I have written about it in “Two Seconds to Midnight,” so if you have read the book you will recognise it. Here’s the extract:

“I sat down to start this chapter on January 4th; my eldest daughter Shelley, her husband and their three children had gone home two days earlier after spending ten days with us. Lisa, our middle daughter, her husband and their two-year-old were also with us for three days over Christmas. So the holiday was noisy and messy, with lots of clearing and washing up, governed very much by the routines of the children and punctuated by the sound of their unwillingness (the older ones anyway) to comply with them. Now I love my family, and Anne loves to be surrounded by them; but I also like to spend time in quiet solitude, reading, writing, birdwatching, doing photography or listening to music. As you can imagine, there is a clash of interests here, and I have to confess that at times in the past I have let my irritation at the level of mayhem in the house when my grandchildren are roaring around get the better of me. So I had really been asking the Lord to help me, and particularly to give me wisdom throughout the day if any tensions or difficulties arose, so that I didn’t get bad-tempered and spoil the atmosphere for everyone else.

In my morning quiet time I had been reading through the gospel of Matthew. About a week earlier I had been struck by Jesus’s words to a would-be follower: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head” (Matthew 8:20). The Holy Spirit showed me that as soon as things got noisy I was looking for somewhere to “rest my head”, but that this wasn’t an option for me any more than it was an option for Jesus. Instead I was to seek His peace, which as we know is “not as the world gives” (John 14:27). This verse became a great support for me in the ensuing days, and when the family had gone Anne remarked how well I had coped with everything, and (although she didn’t specifically use the word) how much more pleasant I had been on this visit than on some previous occasions. God had sent me His word as I spent time with Him reading through Matthew, and it had been living and active through my circumstances, bringing His peace into my spirit when my flesh could find no rest:  “Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.” (Prov 3:17)

But the story doesn’t end there. Anne had seen some furniture on eBay that was perfect for her plans to do some redecorating in our living room. The complication was that it was in London, and I would need to drive our company van (not my favourite driving experience) down to pick it up – three hours each way. In addition, it became clear that I needed to go immediately. It was the weekend, and I had planned to spend it recovering from the busy week before going back to work on Monday. But after Anne and I had discussed it, I was able to give the whole thing to the Lord, and I had an assurance that it was right to go. I felt a real peace about the trip which dispelled all my anxieties (I drive an automatic and the van is manual; I was worried about driving the big van through London streets; I was worried about getting too tired to drive safely, etc.), and I even started to look forward to it. A total turnaround.

Bear in mind here that I had been reading, thinking and praying about God’s peace for this chapter of the book. The furniture (it was a three-piece suite) was being sold by a Greek family. I spent six months in Greece in my backpacking days before I met Anne and had learnt to speak it fairly competently, so it was a touching point that I was able to say a few words to them in their language. Soon we were sitting down and drinking tea in the kitchen. One of the first things that the man I had been dealing with (I’ll call him John) said was how much more peaceful I seemed than other people. (Interesting, I thought. “My peace I leave you . . .”) We chatted a little more, and soon they were telling me how John’s sister had died suddenly, aged 21, less than two years ago. The mother – I don’t know her name, so I’ll call her Mama – was fighting to hold back tears as she talked. I told them about our baby Miranda who died at ten weeks. I began to feel that this visit was not just about a three-piece suite. Then Mama said something really unexpected. She said, “As soon as you came in, I saw that there was something about you, and I got goose-bumps all down my arm!” John then repeated to Mama what he had said to me earlier about the peace that he saw on me. I explained that what they felt was the presence of the Holy Spirit, and soon I was praying with them, asking the Lord to comfort them in their grief, and that they would know His presence. Then I was on my way home.” (Adapted from Two Seconds to Midnight by Bob Hext, Malcolm Down Publishing)

The chapter goes on to develop other points, but I think this is a helpful real-life example of 1 Peter 3:15 in action. Because I had sought God to put my heart right in an area where I knew my behaviour could easily become ungodly, the light of sanctification that shone in me as I submitted to the word of God also shone out of me onto other people.  I’m not aware of any other occasions when the presence of the Holy Spirit on me has given anyone goose-bumps, but one is a start… The point is this: we are called to be light in the darkness, but unless we have our light switched on nobody is going to ask us why we are shining. Being a witness is drawing others into our light; witnessing is shining a torch in their faces.

Entering the Land 3: Gilgal (Teaching)

We are the new generation, and we are camped between the Jordan and the Promised Land. We have not been this way before. Some of us feel we have been here a long time, waiting for everyone else to catch up; others are just arriving. Ahead of us we see the promise of many prophetic words for this coming season being fulfilled. But as we look into the promised land we see the walls of an enemy stronghold before us. Each of us is facing a wall: it may be in our ministry; it may be in our personal lives; it may be the strongholds we are seeing in the nations, and it may be any combination of these. But the Lord says: “Because you are seeing Jericho, it means you are about to enter the Land.”

And we ask: “Lord, how?”

And He answers: “Gilgal. I will roll away your reproach as I did at Gilgal. Make yourselves vulnerable Me, and rest in my presence. And then in that place of peace I will bring you my word, and you will move out on my word to enter the land with a trumpet sound and a shout of victory, and you will see the walls of the stronghold collapse. Where is your reproach? I will roll it away. What stronghold do you face? You will see its walls collapse.”

And some of us might say: “Lord, I’ve been staring at that stronghold for years, even for all of my life. How come I’ve never yet seen the victory in this?”

And He replies: “Because only now are you at Gilgal. But you need to take off your shoes, for you stand on holy ground.”

Whatever shoes we have worn to take us to this point must be removed: from here we move forward in the holiness and the beauty of His presence. When that stronghold collapses it’s because of the unassailable victory of the cross. It is not about us, it’s about Jesus. And if it’s taken us most of our lives for him to get the glory, that’s fine, because that is our purpose and the point of our lives. It doesn’t matter how long it’s taken to get to this point: it’s the glory of the cross that counts.

Lambs and Wolves

In 1978 a book appeared called “The Upside Down Kingdom”, by Donald Kraybill. I’ll say now that I haven’t read it, but I heard of it years ago and the title has stuck with me ever since, because it seems so true of the King who wins by apparently losing and leads by serving. The Kingdom of God certainly turns the world’s wisdom upside down, and it has continued to turn the world upside down for the last 2,000 years. I used to be reminded of it often as I had a plain leather Bible cover with no marking to show the front of the back, and it seemed that every time I opened my Bible I opened it upside down. Maybe I needed a lot of reminding.

Going as lambs into the wolf-pack to take their territory is definitely an upside-down idea. However it’s no more upside down than the Israelite “grasshoppers” going into Canaan to defeat the giants, because it’s not the lambs who overcome the wolves any more than it was the puny Israelites who overcame the giants: in both cases, the battle is the Lord’s. And if the battle is to be His, because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God,” (1 Cor 15:50) it is imperative that we do not attempt to fight the battle any other way: it is only as lambs that we will see the wolves defeated.

The key to our protection is of course the fact that God does not ask His lambs to go out alone. He is with us, and He is the only protection we need. Our first stop for a “protection” scripture has to be Psalm 91, and indeed we need to look no further if we want to discover exactly how the Shepherd has established protection for His lambs. The psalm is full of wonderful promises for protection, but they are summed up well in verses 9-10:

“Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;”

No evil. No plague. Thank you Lord; I’ll take that, particularly now! However there is a condition; a “because.” The condition is that we make the Most High our “dwelling place.” Our dwelling place is where we live; it’s our habitation, our home. It’s the place where we dwell intimately with our spouse and family. It’s the word used most frequently in the OT for the Lord’s “holy habitation,” whether on Earth, in His sanctuary, or in Heaven where He has His eternal home. The opening verse of the psalm says: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” These verses don’t mean that when we are threatened we run to him from wherever we have gone and remind Him of His promise by quoting verses of scripture in His face: they mean that if we dwell with Him and He is our home, we dwell under His protection, we abide in His shadow.

As parents we might play shadow games with our children: we walk around outside in the sunshine, and they have to stay in our shadow as we move. To stay in our shadow, they will have to stay close. To stay in God’s shadow, His Word says that we must dwell with Him. We stay close. We don’t go running to Him from the other end of the garden when next door’s big dog suddenly barks close by.

Jesus will have it no other way. Our protection is nothing other than His presence. Moses said to the Lord “Unless you go with us, I’m not going anywhere!” Jesus turns this round, and says: “Unless you go with me, you’re not going anywhere!” This isn’t just for our benefit, because our souls are fragile; it’s for the purpose of the Kingdom, in our lives and in the lives of those to whom we are sent, because it’s as we abide in His presence that we are also able to walk in His ways, “not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.“  (1 Pe 3:9) This is the way of the Lamb. It’s the way to bring His peace and righteousness into our world.

We know the Lord speaks to us through His word, and we know that there is power and authority in the word of God to perform His will. But He is drawing us closer into His presence in these days, and those verses from one of everyone’s favourite psalms are only part of the picture. Yes, they declare the Truth, and as it’s the Word of God this truth is “living and Active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Heb 4:12) However they also point us to a higher truth: just as God is with us, He desires passionately for us to be with Him, so that we can know the truth of the words He has given us in the fullest possible way.

A final thought. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was the final verbalisation of all the passion that Jesus carried in His heart. This is one of the things He prayed for you and me: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I amthat they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24) If we stay close to the Lamb, not only does he protect us from the wolves, but we get to behold His glory. What more could we ask?

Draw Near to God

If there is one over-riding theme in what the Holy Spirit has been saying to the Church over the last year, it can be found in James 4:4 “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  God is calling His people into greater intimacy with Him. This is nothing new, of course, but it is something that He is emphasising at the moment. The Lord has given Jake two pictures recently which help us to capture something of why this is so important. They are both very different, but they both emphasise the importance of intimacy with God. He writes:

Autumn Leaves

The other day I looked up why it is that sometimes we get such a beautiful display of colour in the leaves of autumn. It is due to the amount of light and sun they get. Then I felt the lord say this: ‘My people are like these leaves of autumn.  The more they let my light in, the more glorious they appear, due to my light shining on and through them. And when I shine upon you, like the sun on the trees, my glory shines out, so that even at the changing of the seasons they are radiant to those around them. My beloved I want to use you to reveal my glory to this desperate world.’

The Hurricane

I saw a hurricane swirling around the country:  there was mass destruction – buildings , nature all being razed to the ground. This was across the whole country.  Then the Lord reminded me that the eye or the centre of the storm is not only calm but quite often cloudless.  He said to me  that the hurricane is God moving across the Land. And those (churches and world systems) that do not get in line with what the Lord is doing will be destroyed.  I felt both a comfort and also a warning from the Lord on this, in that as long as we stay close to the Lord and move with Him, we will be safe and enjoy life to the full.  On the flip side there is a warning, that if we, as individuals or as the body of Christ – whether local, national or international – do not stay close to Jesus, in the eye of the storm, then not only are we in danger of destruction, but we also become part of the destructive force affecting those around us, like the bits of rubbish swirling around in the winds of the hurricane.

Walking on the Water

This is the full text of what I felt the Lord gave me for this morning’s meeting (Sunday 18th Oct):

We have just sung “My Lighthouse.” Jesus was the disciples’ peace when they were in a boat on the troubled sea of Galilee. But to find His peace, Peter stepped out of the boat and began to walk towards Him. He put his foot on the waves. God wants to teach us all to put our foot on the waves, because in this troubled sea it will actually be safer than trying to stay in the boat. The Holy Spirit is teaching us all to walk on water because the ship of the world system is sinking. We have his power and his authority to do so, and he gives us the faith by His Spirit to trust that who He is in us is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). He says to us this morning: “Learn to listen to my voice so you can hear me calling you to come, step out of the boat and onto the waves; because that is your place of peace, not inside the boat. Do not be afraid, because I am with you, and I will not ask you to step further than I know you are able. Seek My presence in all that you do and be attentive to My voice, because I am going to start giving you opportunities to do by My power what you cannot do in your own strength. The storm is rising and the ship of the world’s system is going to sink, and that is why I am training you now to walk on the water.”

Bob.

Jake also had a word this morning about being on the water. Although the picture is far from stormy, it echoes the theme of God “calling us out onto the water” (as we sing in the song “oceans”) to do by His spirit what we cannot do on our own. While there is a strong sense in what I felt God gave me that He is calling us deeper into the supernatural for our own survival, the burden of Jake’s word is that we need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to effectively minister God’s love to others. The two go together: we cannot minister to those who are caught in the storm if we are stuck in our own boats ourselves. We are the body of Christ: we need to be on the water, calling “Come!” in His name to the lost and the frightened. Here is Jake’s word, and the picture that goes with it that he took at Trentham Gardens.

“Just like these swans, the Lord is saying that He wants us to be in sync with Him. Only through being in sync with the Spirit can we reveal God’s heart, which is Love, to those around us.”

“You call me out upon the waters,
The great unknown, where feet may fail…” (From “Oceans, by Darlen Zscheck)

Whatever the storm may look like, the place of peace is on the water.