Tag Archives: “My sheep hear my voice.”

We need to have our spiritual ears tuned to our Good Shepherd’s voice, and to recognise the voices that aren’t His and that often drown Him out.

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.

The Path of the Just (3): Wars and rumours of Wars

It is no surprise that the West seems to be moving towards war with Russia. This isn’t because of the political situation that has been developing, or the apparent belligerence of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but it’s because Jesus warned us of it 2,000 years ago at the same time as He warned us about Coronavirus:

And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.” (Matt 24: 6-7)

When we came to Christ we were born into a battlefield. Sometimes the battle is invisible, and sometimes it is visible: the same spiritual forces are stirring the hearts of men today as when Goliath taunted the Israelites, and the commander of the Lord’s army is the same person today as when Joshua met Him outside the walls of Jericho. What is important for us today is not that we react to Goliath waving his spear, but that we listen to what our Commander is saying and obey it.

First of all He tells us not to be troubled, because “these things must come to pass.” If we are praying for them not to happen we are ignoring the fact that they are already in God’s diary, which means that our prayers should be leading us in a different direction. Instead of asking God to take away what is troubling us, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us stay untroubled. As we all know, Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, because they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt 5:9). And as Jesus also said – again, we know the verse – “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.” (John 14:27.

When the wars and rumours of wars come to pass, as they must, we can remain untroubled if we let His peace rule in our lives. The quiet of His peace is louder than the shout of war; His stillness is stronger than the tumult of any storm. It is true that a peacemaker can sometimes be one who brings reconciliation between warring parties, but I think a true meaning of the word in the context of Jesus’s teaching is this: a peacemaker is one who brings others into the peace announced by the angels that God brought to Earth in the person of His Son.

So how can we be peacemakers amid the clamour of war? The key, as I have said, is to know His peace ourselves, because unless we do we have nothing to share. But knowing His peace means so much more than not being afraid, because when we are still we know that He is God (Psalm 46:10), and when we know His presence among us we can also expect to hear Him speaking His word into our lives. When we hear Him speak we can have faith for His provision, whatever privations wear might bring, because “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) When we act in faithful obedience to a word from God we do see mountains move and impossible things happening, which then strengthens our faith and helps us to keep walking along the narrow way.

And because the Way of love is narrow we can easily stray from it, so we have to walk in the close company of our Good Shepherd, who guides and comforts us through the valley of the shadow of death. If we are cringing in terror ourselves, we will find it difficultreach out to bring peace to another; if we aren’t trusting the God who feeds the ravens and clothes the lilies of the field for our provision, we cannot participate in Heaven’s economy by meeting someone else’s need when our Commander calls us to do so. At Jericho Joshua asked the Lord whose side He was on, and, like every other verse I have quoted here, most of us will know what He said. It was:  “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” (Joshua 5:14) Jesus doesn’t take sides in our battles: He brings us the peace emanating from the Father’s love that He won for us at the cross, and He also asks us to pass it on to others. When the rumours of war are loud and the storm is raging, uncertainty screams at us from all the media: that is when the certainties of faith are our anchor. We don’t hold onto the anchor chain with hands that can be ripped from it by every passing wave, but by the nails that held Jesus to the cross.

When Jesus began to make it clear that He would soon be leaving them, Thomas was uncertain. He said: “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5) Jesus replied: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” When we have the certainty of knowing that we are no more going to be separated from the anchor chain than Jesus was going to come down from the cross, we can trust Him enough for our feet to stay on His path. David wrote:

“I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy,
For You have considered my trouble;
You have known my soul in adversities
And have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy;
You have set my feet in a wide place.”
(Psalm 31: 7-8)

The child of God brings His peace when the world is rife with rumours of war. It is when we stay on the Narrow Way that our feet are set in a wide place.

Faith comes from hearing…

Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.”
(Psalm 40: 7-8)

How often do we step out of our daily routine to draw aside with God, and then bump into a word that speaks directly into a situation that we are praying about, in a portion of Scripture that we read that very day? What never ceases to astound me as how that word has been waiting for this moment. I want to invite you to put on sunglasses for a moment and stare with me into the blazing glory of the substance of the Word of God.

The psalmist writes that Gods word is “settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89) The Hebrew word for settled means established, standing firm. This is the word that created the universe, and that sustains “all things;” (Heb 1:3) it is the Word that was in the beginning before becoming flesh. (John 1:14) Jesus says that His words will remain even though Heaven and Earth pass away (Luke 21:33). He tells us that His words are “Spirit and they are life.” He does not say that they are from the Spirit or that they bring life; He says that they are spirit and they are life. God’s word is living and active. It seems that the substance of the word is actually part of the substance of God himself. John 1:1 affirms this, because the gospel writer tells us clearly that “the word was God.” God’s words do not just come from Him; they are part of Him.


Speaking through David by the Holy Spirit, Jesus says (Psalm 40 verses 7 to 8) “Behold I come, it is written about me in the scroll of your book. I delight to do Your will Oh Lord.“ He made it clear to the scribes and Pharisees that the law and the prophets revealed Him: He was written there long before He came in the flesh. We find many messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, but I think the clearest of them all is actually Psalm 22, where we find not only Christ’s experience of the crucifixion described in great detail, but also His birth and life (vs 9-10), His resurrection (v 21), the Church age (v 22) and His coming Glory (vs 27-29) as well.

The Psalm famously starts with Jesus’s cry from the cross: “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?“ And it tells how He can count all his bones, how He is “poured out like water“ and “all His bones are out of joint“, how His hands and feet have been pierced. how His enemies cost lots of His garments, how He is mocked and taunted. (vs. 12-18) Then, like a blazing comet in a dark sky, comes a single sentence set on its own: “you have answered me.“ (v 21)

Following this, we see in quick succession the establishment of the church “my praise should be of You in the great assembly“ (v 22), and the fulfilment of the kingdom promises of justice and mercy: “I will pay my veins before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him will praise the Lord.“ (v 26) The final declarations of this wonderful psalm focus on the end time promise that “all the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nations. (Verses 27 to 28)

When Jesus came to do the Father’s will, these words were already settled in Heaven and written about Him in the scroll of the book. When He cries out “My God My God why have You forsaken Me?” He is not only declaring God’s judgement of and turning away from the sin of all mankind, He is also connecting with the eternal word of His purpose and His posterity that is settled in the scroll of Heaven. In the extremes of the greatest anguish known to man, the Son of God is trusting the Father because He had already declared that He was, and that  His prayers had been answered, 1000 years beforehand. It was settled in heaven.

As Jesus so powerfully and finally demonstrated from the point of the cross, when God’s word comes alive in our circumstances it comes with all the power of Heaven. Our lives too are written in the scroll of God’s book, as we know from Ephesians 2:10 that talks of the works prepared for us beforehand “that we might walk in them.” When we pray and speak words from that book we too are taking hold of words that are “settled in heaven,“ and we are bringing something of the very substance of the spiritual dimension into space and time. We know that we are praying prayers that will be answered, because the answer is there already, just as it was for Jesus (verse 21: “You have answered me.“)

We read in Romans 10: 17  that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.“ When we hear a word spoken by the Holy Spirit, whether it is a word of scripture or a word spoken directly to our hearts, we know it will be fulfilled because God’s word never returns to him void ( Isaiah 55:11) God hasn’t only given the word that is spoken, He is also actually in its very substance in order to fulfil it. Our challenge as disciples of Jesus is to always try to make sure that the words we are speaking and the prayers that we are praying are words that are settled in Heaven. Jesus said more than once: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.“ (E.g. Matt 11:15) Peter says that we are “born again of the incorruptible word of God, ”(1 Pe 1:23) and I believe that these “Ears to hear” are the  “hearing” that comes by the word: it is ours at the new birth, and ours to refine as we mature in Christ. It is only this “hearing,” these spiritual ears, that is able to hear heavenly words.

We know that Spiritual things are spiritually discerned; (1 Cor 2:14), and also that “the flesh profits nothing.” (John 6:63) If we read words from Heaven that are written in the Bible with our ears of flesh, they cannot impart faith: we cannot receive the life that is in them, and the consequence will be disappointment.  We will profit nothing. We know that Heaven’s answer will always come from Heaven, but we can so easily forget that our prayers, like the prayers of Jesus on the cross that we read in Psalm 22, must also come from Heaven if they are going to bring Resurrection life into situations. These are prayers of mustard-seed faith; this, as well as praying in tongues, is praying in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray (Romans 8:26). If we want to see more prayers answered, we must always remember to ask Him for His help.

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.

The righteous shall live by faith

Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness(Romans 4:4).

Jesus calls us to have “the faith of God,” (Mark 11|:22), and this faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). This is the God-faith by which He “calls those things which are not as though they are.” (Romans 4:17) (See the article “the evidence of things not seen” )To walk the path of faith, however, does not mean that we spend all our time walking in the miraculous, although for some this is the call on their lives, and for the rest of us it is always a possibility and is part of the fabric of what Watchman Nee calls “The Normal Christian Life.” What we are primarily called to as the people of God is actually to demonstrate His righteousness on earth. As Psalm 23:3 tells us, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” For God’s name to be glorified, we are to walk in righteousness. Yet we know we trip up constantly, and it’s forgiveness and grace that we walk in, not righteousness. We don’t stride, we stumble. I am a new creation, but my old man has to die daily because he won’t lie down. I am crucified with Christ, but I keep jumping off the cross. I have to keep renewing my mind because the old thoughts still hang around. I have a new heart, but there isn’t a saint alive whose old one is still there, feeding his flesh. And “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

There is only one way to walk in righteousness, and that is the way that God has given us, which is the path of faith. As Paul writes (quoting Habakkuk 2:4) at the beginning of his letter to the Romans, and Luther declared again to Rome some 1,500 years later, this is the power of the gospel: “In it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just (the righteous) shall live by faith.’” Faith doesn’t come to the person who is righteous; righteousness comes to the person who has faith. Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness(Romans 4:4). Isaiah 51:1 is a word from God to all of us, not just the Jewish people of the time: “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, you who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.” The blessing which is our inheritance was poured out on Abraham and his descendants, and again on us by the Holy Spirit, because he acted on the word of God: “Go to a place that I will show you . . . Take your son whom you love and offer him to Me . . .” (see Genesis 22:1-2). Abraham had the faith of God, so through him God’s righteousness was revealed.

I am an evangelical Christian, and I certainly do believe that the moment when I trusted Jesus for salvation, accepted His forgiveness of my sin, made Him Lord of my life and was born again, is the moment when I received the robe of righteousness that I am wearing today and that I will be wearing for eternity. It is the gift to me of God’s grace. But I don’t think it stops there. If the Holy Spirit leads us in the paths of righteousness so that God can be glorified, if we are to look to the model of Abraham in order to seek after righteousness, and if the righteousness of God is revealed “from faith to faith”, it is this revelation of righteousness to the world that the Spirit of God is urging us on to, not just the security of knowing that we’re dressed properly for the wedding feast. We reveal His light to the world as we walk from faith to faith; one step of faith to the next. My faith yesterday was for yesterday. What is God asking of me today? Where am I exercising my faith in the next couple of hours? When did I last make sure that I was tuned into His wavelength? Are my decisions based on what I feel in my spirit God is telling me to do, or am I just following the path of conventional wisdom and doing what is expected? Am I walking by faith, or by sight?

Our pastor, Markus, demonstrated this walk of faith for me one night when I was with him at a 24/7 prayer meeting. He told me to stand in the corner of the room, then picked up some small floor mats, about 18-inches by 18-inches square. He said, “Cross to the other corner of the room without your feet touching the floor!” It was of course impossible – by sight anyway. “Go on,” he said, “cross over!”

“OK, whatever . . .”, I thought, and started out as if to walk. Immediately Markus dropped one of the mats in front of me, and I put my foot on it. Then he did the same with another mat, until I had crossed the room. So I did the impossible thing I had been told to do. I “set out for the place I did not know”, and arrived there. I could not have done it, of course, if I had not been close enough to Markus for him to drop a mat where my foot was about to go.

God is calling us all the time to stay close enough to Him, moment by moment, so He can whisper those floor-mats of His words into our spiritual ears for us to see where He has put the next mat and step onto it in confidence. And so we walk, faith-step by faith-step, from faith to faith, led by the Holy Spirit in His paths of righteousness, so that Jesus is glorified and His righteousness is revealed.

(From “Two Seconds to Midnight,” chapter six: The Path of Faith)

“God told me…” The question of divine guidance.

My beloved put his hand
By the latch of the door,
And my heart yearned for him.
I arose to open for my beloved,
And my hands dripped with myrrh,
My fingers with liquid myrrh,
On the handles of the lock.
I opened for my beloved,
But my beloved had turned away and was gone.
My heart leaped up when he spoke.
I sought him, but I could not find him;
I called him, but he gave me no answer.”
(Song of Songs 5: 4-6)

As the Lord’s plan for the ages unfolds, and we appear to be drawing towards the closing stages of this generation, the separation of the Kingdom of God from the kingdoms of the world is becoming increasingly apparent and necessary. As I wrote in “Not by Might nor by Power” lawlessness is abounding and “the love of many” is already “going cold.” If we are to separate ourselves from the world and its ways we also need to be separating ourselves from its direction. To follow after Jesus in the labyrinth of deception and destruction that surrounds us we have to be able to depend on his voice and his guidance, and we know that we, His sheep “hear His voice (John 10:27); that He promises to “lead us in the Way everlasting” (Ps 194:24); and that He to give us His counsel (Psalm 16:7). The question is: do we hear it, and even more significant: if we do hear, do we heed it?

Jesus is constantly calling to His bride, encouraging her to prepare herself for the time when He comes to take her to be exclusively His own, forever. Like The Beloved with His hand on the door latch (Song of Solomon 5:4) He draws close: His heart is for us to arise from our sleep and seek Him diligently. But sometimes we open the door to Him, and He isn’t there. Does that mean that the bridegroom isn’t speaking to His bride? Certainly not. What this passage (and the ensuing chapters) tells me is that maybe the voice of our beloved isn’t speaking to us as often as we might like to think, especially when we are metaphorically lying on our beds and ‘can’t get up;’ that when He speaks to us it is a special and a wonderful experience that He wants us to cherish and to seek out because we long for His presence more than for anything else.

So how do we distinguish the voice of our beloved from the voice of our own desires and imaginings, or, even worse, the deceiving voice of the enemy? Here are a few signposts that I think may be helpful. They relate specifically to how we receive counsel and guidance from the Lord in our own lives rather than words of knowledge or wisdom that we feel we may have for somebody else.

God doesn’t drive; He leads.

God is never in a hurry. Patience is a fruit of the spirit; haste isn’t. He is more interested in what He is doing for us and in us and what we are doing for Him. He builds with gold, silver, and precious stones: lasting minerals that are purified and refined, not hastily thrown together with “wood, hay and stubble.. that will burn up with fire.” (1 Cor 3:12) This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want us to move quickly sometimes: He may prompt us to act quickly over a particular situation, and if that is the case we will feel a repeated prompt in our spirit that won’t leave us alone until we have acted on it. But this is very different from rushing to put something together that doesn’t bear the hallmark of beauty and perfection that identifies it as a Kingdom project. When God created the heavens and the Earth it was good. When we create something in His name – because everything we do, if we are His brothers, is in His name – He wants it to be good as well. So if you feel that God is telling you to do something, He’s not likely to be saying you have to rush it. And while you’re doing that thing for Him, He will also be doing something in you. God doesn’t drive; He leads.

Love, Life and Fruitfulness

Because God is love, His words are words of Life, and His desire for us is that we are fruitful. His plans always lead to love, life and fruitfulness. If the plan that you feel is from the Lord is taking you away from the people that He has given you to love, it is very likely that those plans are from your fleshly nature, not the heart of God. Always ask yourself: where is the love in what I’m doing? I have mentioned elsewhere that I enjoy birdwatching and photography. One day I was praying about my hobbies; in particular I was saying to the Lord that they seem very self-centred and not very “Kingdom”, and what did He think? His answer was very clear: “Why don’t you share them with others?” So I have started taking people from church on birdwatching excursions that they have really enjoyed. Love, life, and fruit. He didn’t take away my enjoyment: He actually expanded it by adding love.

Opportunity – or temptation?

God is creator and master of the universe. And because that’s true, He can arrange circumstances to speak to us, just as He speaks to us through all of creation. But that doesn’t mean every time events line up in favour of something that we desire to do that it is the Lord who is arranging them and giving our plans a green light. Yes, an opportunity can be a confirmation, but it can also be a temptation. Anne and I come from a new age background and we have seen the powers of darkness line up events to further the devil’s plans for us, not Gods. God saved us out of that, and in doing so He has allowed us an insight into the workings of the spiritual domain that we were in. It isn’t pretty.

God doesn’t lead us into temptation, but He allows it so that we can recognise it for what it is. And He doesn’t allow any temptation without also providing the means to escape (1 Cor 10:13), and very often that means of escape is provided through other people. An important scripture in the context of guidance, again given to the Corinthians, is 2 Corinthians 3: 1 “in the mass of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.“ We may feel God is guiding us in a particular direction: that would be a “word“ that we have. A door of opportunity appears to open that confirms that word. But that opportunity is only one witness: on its own it confirms nothing. In fact It may actually be a temptation. But if a brother or sister also confirms the “word“ that we have received, we can possibly start to think that God is indeed leading us – as long as that leading also fulfils the requirements of Love life and fruitfulness. God put us into a body so that we can be carriers of His love. As we love one another the world can see we are His disciples, yes; but also as we love we can support one another in our discipleship walk. God puts us alongside people so that we can hear His through them and likewise so they can hear Him through us. It is through the body that God often provides that second or third witness which may be the way out of temptation.

Two or three witnesses

Scripture refers to “two or three” witnesses. When is two enough, and when do we need the third? If we need to step out in faith and rely on supernatural resourcing for a certain course of action, I think we need to hear supernaturally that those resources will be available from the One who supplies them. Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God: the word that we step on has to be irrefutably from God before we put our foot there. Generally speaking that would mean a confirmation being brought through a prophetic channel that has no natural connection with the plans we are considering. In this context I would say that even “godly conversation” with a trusted brother or sister is not enough. David said to Nathan that he wanted to build a temple for the Lord. Although David obviously had the resources available, such a project clearly would need Gods approval. Nathan encouraged David to go ahead, but the Lord corrected Nathan’s words in a dream that night to change David’s plans. God spoke supernaturally into the situation.

So “the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (One Corinthians 12: 21) We need each other. Again, “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety.“ (Proverbs 11:4) God is not interested in a loose assembly of Mavericks all pursuing their own ends and saying that God told them what to do, even though He didn’t tell anybody else. He loves us too much for that. He wants – and we need – a temple of living stones that are “fitly framed,” (Eph 2:21), set alongside one another and depending on one another for support, to be effective channels of His love and carriers of His presence.

Building the Temple

Zechariah 6: 12-13 says:
“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH!
From His place He shall branch out,
And He shall build the temple of the LORD
Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD.
He shall bear the glory,
And shall sit and rule on His throne
.” (Zech 6: 12-13)

He shall build the temple of the Lord. This is God’s master plan. I think that this may be the only place in the Bible where a phrase is directly repeated in this manner, emphasising it within the whole canon of scripture as a statement written in red letters, bold and underlined. Alongside this in importance is the beautiful obsession of the Bridegroom for His bride-to-be. The closing chapters of the Song of Solomon are rich in detailed descriptions of the lovers’ attributes as the dialogue switches between The Beloved and His bride while they speak of their knowledge of each other. Jesus, The Beloved, longs for the time when “We shall know Him even as we are known.” (1 Cor 13:12) In the divine scheme of things, knowing Him has surely to be more important than knowing what to do.

And so we return, finally, to the two Great Commandments: we love the Lord our God, and we love each other. In one way or another, everything that the Holy Spirit does on Earth in the name of Jesus is connected to His master plan and with our relationship with Him, the Master. If our guidance isn’t, then we have to assume it is not from the Holy Spirit.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

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

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

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

Abiding in Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will Guide You WiTh My Eye


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

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

(Ps 32:8-9)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ministry Gifts

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

Paul distinguishes three giftings in his letter to the Corinthians:

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. “(1 Cor 12:4)
The Gifts of the Son: “There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.” (1 Cor 12:5)
The Gifts of the Father: “And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” (1 Cor 12:6)

Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, often known as the fivefold ministries, are the gifts that Jesus gave to men. They are distinct from the gifts of the Holy Spirt enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, and distinct from the gifts of the Father, sometimes called the “motivational gifts,” listed in Romans 12 vs 6-8.

The gifts of the Son are unique in that they refer to people rather than the gifts of the Holy Spirit which can be “given to each one for the profit of all;” or to the “level of faith” imparted by the Father to every individual to serve in a particular way. Everyone in the church is given a “level of faith” for a specific area (or areas) of service; everyone in the church can be a channel for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself through a particular supernatural gift or ”manifestation of the Spirit” (1 Cor 12:7), and certain individuals in the church are ministry gifts given  by Jesus to the church to bring it to maturity.

Jesus will be returning for a grown-up; not a child bride. The yardstick we are given for maturity is the “fullness of Christ” Himself. When He returns “we will be like Him.” (1 John 3:2) We will be “a perfect man,” we will know Jesus intimately, and our Unity will be complete. The cry of the Saviour’s heart narrated in John 17 will be answered, because we will be one as He and the Father are one. The fivefold ministries are given to the Body so that we can attain to this perfect goal.

How? When the church is functioning and the Body growing according to the Ephesians 4 blueprint, the saints are equipped as for “works of ministry.” The word for ministry – diakonia –means ‘obedient service.’ In other words, the body learns to do what the head tells it to do. And if we untangle the convoluted language of verse 16, the picture that we find at the core is that everyone grows when Love and Truth flow from the head (Christ) through all the connected members. The purpose of the fivefold ministries is to enable that flow of love and truth into and through “every part.”

What comes next is key. This equipping that brings the bride of Christ to maturity is enabled by what Paul calls the “effective working by which every part does its share.” The language  means more in the original Greek than the English translation suggests. The word “Energeia” – ‘effective working’ – is only used in the New Testament  for superhuman power. The body of Christ grows to maturity when, enabled by the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, each member relates to the others through the operation of supernatural connections. Placing this in the context of the gifts of the Father and of the Holy Spirit, this means that we have to apply “a measure of faith” – going beyond our natural abilities or inclinations, and reaching into the Father’s inexhaustible supply – to whatever works of service we are motivated to carry out; and it means that we expect and rely on the gifts of the Holy Spirit to touch the spirits of our brothers and sisters in ways that are impossible in the flesh. The gifts of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all work together as the church grows into the “perfect man.”

In his book “Into Action,” Reinhard Bonnke saysChristianity was never intended to be anything else but an outpouring of the spirit. It is a reviving, quickening, renewing energy. Revival is not an extraordinary work beyond normal Christianity. Christianity is revival.” Reinhart Bonnke has raised the dead, seen thousands of people healed, and led millions to Christ, so he has some credibility. The church cannot grow to maturity without the power of the Holy Spirit impacting every member and enabling each one to respond to the Head by reaching out supernaturally to others. Jesus has put five ministries in place in order to bring this about, so unless leadership is in the hands of all five the growth will be unbalanced and incomplete.

Revival isn’t just about a lot of people getting saved and healed; it’s about the Church growing up.