Our Covenant

I was clearing out my filofax today, taking the old year's stuff out, putting the new year's stuff in. One of the things I like about a filofax is that because you just take the stuff that is no longer relevant out, you can accumulate some gems over the years. Here's one such gem I found from yesteryear. Anyone remember this?

Today we gather as members of Christ's church, in the presence of Almighty God our Father, and the elect angels, to covenant together to live as God's people, holy and separate from this present evil age.

Confessing our faith in the death, resurrection, ascension, glorification and return of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the church and world today. And in the triumph of the Kingdom of God, the victory of the church of Jesus Christ, and the discipling of all nations.

We covenant to walk in the obedience of faith and in love with one another, watching over and caring for one another; sharing in each others joys, bearing our own and one anothers burdens.

We covenant to meet together regularly for worship, instruction in God's word, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.

We covenant with one heart and mind to persue the purpose of God in our generation — the establishing of the Kingdom of God and the manifestation of His glory in all the earth.

We covenant this between ourselves as a congregation of Christ's church while at the same time we readily recognise our covenant is with God and all who embrace the faith of Christ and walk in keeping with the purity of the truth.

© Covenant Ministries International


We wish you a Merry Christmas...

My last day of work today before the holidays: Woohoo! Not sure how much I will get to blog between now and the new year, and if my site-traffic is anything to go by, not sure how many of you will be checking anyway! So let me take this opportunity, on behalf of Jacqueline, Michael and myself, to wish you all a wonderful Christmas, and a healthy, prosperous, fruitful and abundantly blessed New Year!

2006 is going to be a good 'un. I can feel it already!


Blog Brothers

Christmas is a time for visiting relatives, so why not on the internet too? I decided to visit my web relatives by going to Google and typing related:chrishamer-hodges.blogspot.com. It was very interesting to see who Google thought my blog was most similar to.

Here are my first 10 relatives at the time of writing:
  1. James Aubrey

  2. Jo James

  3. Jonathan Cooper

  4. Erling Thu

  5. Pilgrim Heart (Matthew Ling)

  6. perfilip

  7. 'Rooting deeper into Life' (Chris Negron)

  8. Roger Aubrey

  9. Planted by Water (Trevor Lloyd)

  10. Kari

So of all the blogs in all the world, I'm most like James Aubrey! I guess I must still have some "cool" left in me yet! ;-) It was also interesting to find some blogs I had never heard of, never linked to, and as far as I know have never linked to me: like Kari's. I shall watch her blog with interest now to see what she has to say. I was also curious to see that Google does not list "Living Rock Church" anywhere in my relatives (it does for Matthew), but it does link me (#13) with Community Church Huddersfield. I'm intrigued.

Merry Christmas to all my Blog Brothers (and sister) and to all my faithful readers too. Every blessing.


Kingdom living in a fallen world

"[We] have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come" (Heb 6:5)

I was off work with a cold yesterday. Now, I know to some this confession is tantamount to backsliding, but I have to be honest. I believe in the blessings of the New Covenant, and I walk in divine health, I have seen miraculous healings in my own live and the lives of others, but I do not deny the fact that I do sometimes get sick. We have tasted of the power of the age to come but we have not yet seen it come in its fullness. The kingdom is something that we must advance and lay hold of by force, not something that we passively receive as a one off. If I claim Jesus has made me well when I am sneezing and coughing, I either make myself out to be a liar, or I imply that his healing virtue is like the "Emperors New Clothes." Either way it's hard to see how he gets glory.

The glory of the name of the Lord is the primary concern of a kingdom man. I would rather be wronged than rob God of any glory and honour that is due his name. Yes, God wants me to be healthy and prosperous, but his purpose is embodied in the Kingdom, not in my personal happiness, fortune or health. If we seek the Kingdom first then we have the promise of God that he will look after the rest. However, I don't see anywhere to imply that this will always be instant.

Let me make a bold statement. I do believe God can get glory through sickness. Not because God wants us to be sick, I don't believe that for a moment, but because I believe it is possible to give glory to God in all circumstances — fair, foul, or indifferent. God obviously gets glory through healing, and my earnest prayer is that we see more and more of God's Kingdom power demostrated through miraculous healings. But I myself cannot heal anyone, I can lay hands on the sick in obedience and pray in faith — but my faith is not in my own authority, but in the authority of Christ who defeated every enemy and has a name that is above every name. My faith is in him, not in myself or any of my own abilities. I don't need faith in my faith to heal the sick. Just enough faith in Jesus to take him at his word and do what he commanded.

But if I am sick and I do not get divinely healed, does that mean that my Kingdom walk is on hold? Does it mean I am unable to minister to God or to others or bring God glory until I get well? By no means! I will seek God for my healing, but I will not be deviated from my determination to glorify God in every thought word and deed whether I see that healing come immediately or not. Even when I look to God for healing or provision in any other area, I will still seek his Kingdom first.

God can use even the results of the fall to give him glory. If he brings healing, he is glorified. If he does not instantly bring healing then we develop perseverance and so our character is refined to be more like Jesus, and again he gets glory. In my Bible James 1:2 doesn't read "Count it a personal attack from Satan, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds", but that these things come to refine our faith which is of greater worth to God than gold, and actually prove the Father's love to us.

Whatever you think on these matters, and I know there is a great diversity of opinion on this issue, surely God gets no glory through denial or deception. We must be real with where we are at. If I am sick, God gets no glory if I pretend I am not, nor is this a comfort to anyone who goes through the same trial; the enemy will have an easier job convincing them they are the only one. But nor should I just accept these things as "they way things are" in a fallen world. As a Kingdom man, I will be honest about where I am at, but always seek to press on to lay hold of the power of the age to come.


A few of my favourite things

Favourite Blog
Roger Aubrey's "Stars and Sand" of course.

Favourite Post
From Matthews blog: Matthew is a man who is not afraid to tackle the deep and controversial theological issues of our day. My favourite post is one of those: Heaven's Menu?

Favourite Browser
Firefox! What else?

Favourite Aggregator
RSS Bandit

Favourite Blog Tool

Favourite Food
Chicken Jalfrezi. Mmmm

Favourite Film
For a Few Dollars More.

Favourite Psalm
Psalm 103

Favourite OT Book

Favourite NT Book
Matthew's Gospell

Favourite Bible Version
NIV, but rapidly converting to ESV

Favourite Wine
Australian Shiraz

Favourite Whiskey
The Oban

So enough about me. What are a few of your favourite things? [If you have a blog, why not do the same or similar list on your own blog and add a trackback]


From the River to the ends of the earth

I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle-bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zec 9:10)

Sometimes you come across a single verse of scripture that seems to embody in a single sentence the essence of the whole purpose of God. That's one of the things I love about the word of God, you can get revelation from the broad brushstrokes, but also from the tiniest detail. These two views, the macroscopic and the microscopic, do not contradict (if exegeted correctly) but wonderfully confirm. How could this be possible in a text written by scores of authors over thousands of years, unless the whole thing were carefully crafted by the divine hand. All scripture is God breathed — all of it — no exceptions!

This I believe is one such verse. "From the River to the ends of the Earth" sums up the whole Kingdom plan of God. (Sorry School of the Word students, I know you have already handed your essays in!! ;-)) It encompasses the purpose of Eden, with the river that flowed out from the paradise of God and split into four headwaters to symbolically touch the four corners of the world with the life of God. It encompasses the vision in Ezekiel 47, where the River flows from the temple of God, brings healing to the nations, and life to the "dead" sea. And it encompasses our great commission as those who have been filled with the Spirit, out of whom rivers of living water flow, to touch men from every nation under heaven.

"From the River to the ends of the earth" represents Jesus' unstoppable Kingdom advance through men and women who have been touched by the Spirit, to go into all the world, transforming it with his life and filling it with his glory.


Christmas Crackers

(c) freephotos.com I'm still in the mood for more humour. So with Christmas fast approaching, lets talk about cracker-jokes. Have you ever read one that was funny? (If so please share) Do they deliberately make them so groan-worthy? Let's have some funny, witty or intelligent alternatives for some cracker jokes. It shouldn't be too hard to raise the bar should it?


What do you call a Royal Mail worker who thinks one letter-box is as good as any other?

Postmodern Pat!


Festive Cheer

I haven't done one of these for a while. To get in the festive mood, post me a humourous caption to this picture.


What are you seeking?... You will see greater things

Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” (Jn 1:38)

Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” (Jn 1:50)

As I was reading the first chapter of the gospel of John, these two phrases from the words of Jesus jumped out at me. "What are you seeking?" and "You will see greater things."

What am I seeking? What is it that drives me? What do I live for? What is the highest motivation in my life? What do I give my time and energies towards? What am I seeking?

It's always relevant to stop and ask yourself such questions. This question forms the first words of Jesus recorded in John's carefully constructed gospel. It's no accident or insignificant detail. Jesus, as always, goes straight to the heart of the matter: "If you want to be my disciple, I want to know what you really want from me." Very often, when people cried out for Jesus for a miracle, he would still stop and ask them the same question: "What is it you want me to do for you?"

For me the question is timely: for some time my hearts cry and earnest desire has been to see more of the Holy Spirit's working in my life and in the church. It was quickened by the Elders and Leaders weekend, it was accelerated by the tough times my family has walked through with the Lord, it has been confirmed by what David (our senior elder) has returned with on his heart from his 40 days of seeking the Lord, and it is breaking out with all that Roger has come and ministered to us. I am coming to the point where being in the Spirit is not just something I desire, but something I cannot be without!

However, I am also aware that neither I nor the church I am a part of is there yet. We have begun a voyage, we have not completed it. No matter how fantastic the recent ourpourings of the Spirit in our midst have been, these are not the destination, they are the departure lounge! We need to see greater things than these if we are to reach the place I believe God wants us to get to. It's not just for a moment, or for a few, but as Joel prophesied, it is God's desire that his Spirit would powerfully move on all flesh with a powerful anointing that endures. Not just for Sunday mornings. Not just for Thursday evenings, but so that every moment of every day we drip with the fresh oil of the Spirit's anointing on our lives. This is how we were designed to live.

Roger, I'm so glad you are coming back to minister to us again. Your job is not finished amongst us. The Spirit's work upon us has just begun.

We will see greater things in the days ahead. God's Spirit is on the move!



Yesterday, to mark my birthday, my statcounter hits ticked past the 10,000 mark.
Many thanks to all my blog readers, this was my present from all you guys!

DAB hand

Woohoo! Another gadget! This late birthday pressie arrived this morning. Look forward to playing with it tonight. At last... 5 Live without the crackles! :-)


You will receive POWER!

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

Power — Dunamis — dynamite! We have had a weekend full of the Spirit's dynamite here at Living Rock Church. What a pleasure and honour to have Dr. Roger "Dunamis" Aubrey ministering amongst us over the last few days.

I worked out over the weekend that I have known Roger now for over 11 years. I first met him as a fresh graduate on a young-adults weekend-away he was ministering at when I was based in Manchester. It was great to spend time with him and his wife Dianne. Jacqueline and I were greatly blessed by their fellowship. But what really made this weekend so powerful were the encounters with the Holy Spirit.

On Saturday Roger ministered to those in leadership roles in the church. It was a powerful time of anointing and equipping. I found the time when we moved into bringing messages in tongues and interpretations particularly exciting. I have felt for a while that this is an area we have needed to see more of in our congregations, and when some brought a message in tongues for the first time it came with such clarity and power that it was clear that they had the anointing for it (just been holding it back?) anyway I have an expectation we will be seeing more of this, and all the other gifts in the weeks to come. While the Spirit was ministering to us one man was sovereignly healed. No laying of of hands, not even a prayer, but when he stood up at the end of the meeting, he realised that the intense back pain he had had for the last month had just gone. He was deeply moved by the goodness of God. He is good all the time in so many ways!

This morning we had more powerful encounters with the Spirit. Some spoke in tongues for the first time, and many were knocked off their feet when the Spirit came on them in power — including me! I'm so grateful to God, for the way he is abundantly blessing me with the greatest gift of all — his presence!

Oh, and it's my birthday today (a decade, decades and half a decade!). So who could think of a better way to celebrate than amongst God's people with the Spirit of God moving in power. Thank you Roger for your ministry, and thank you Jesus that you are still working by your Spirit to raise up a people who will give you glory in the whole earth.


Aspects of Christ

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ. (Eph 4:7-13)

I mentioned on a previous post, that we have an inbuilt need for each other. God has placed us in a body for a reason, because no one individual has it all. If they did they would be Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher all rolled into one. Why do I say this? Because the ascension gifts are all just aspects of Christ himself. Thus, all these ministries find their archetype in Christ alone.

He is our Apostle. (Heb 3:1)

He is the Prophet. (Ac 3:22)

He was the original Evangelist (Mk 1:14)

He is the good Pastor [Shepherd] (Jn 10:11)

He is the Teacher like no other (Mk 1:22)

This is why we need all the ascension ministries. Because we do not have a full representation of Christ in the church without them. They are to equip God's people to become Christ-like and to do the works in same area that they are gifted in. An apostle imparts the big picture and gives rule, order and direction in the house; he also equips others, especially elders to do the same. A prophet not only prophesies, but provokes God's people to be prophetic. An evangelist not only wins souls but equips and provokes others to do the same (Just like Jesus who not only preached the good news, but sent out the 12 and the 72 to do the same) The pastor will not only look after God's people but impart a love and care for God's people. And the teacher will not just be a bookworm with a head full of knowledge, but will disseminate the word under the anointing and authority of the Spirit, in a way that will be infectious and enable those who hear to sow the message themselves.

Without any one of these gifts of Christ the picture is incomplete and so is the formation of Christ in the church. We are not told that we should attain a partial measure of Christ but a full measure!

Just imagine the combined anointing of Keri Jones, Tony Ling, Dave Roberts, Graham Deakin and Roger Aubrey, and you have the beginnings of the picture of the manner if not the measure of the anointing that was on Christ. [If you do not relate to these men, insert names of the equivalent ministries you do. If you do not relate to any such ministries, stop and ask yourself "Why not?"] Just the beginning because 1) we are not there yet, and 2) all the ascension gifts are given in plurality. Even in the limited aspects of Christ's anointing, no one man has it all. There is a built in accountability and recognition to protect all from the corruption of pride and the flesh.

Recognition, because, no where do we see any instruction in the word on how to appoint an Apostle or any of the other ascension ministries. They are given by Christ. You cannot become an Apostle, you either are one or you are not. If a man is an Apostle then he will be one whether the body of Christ gives him that label or not. Yet because they are needed it is best for all concerned, that we are not coy with God's giftings and recognise them for what they are.

"Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward" (Mk 10:41)

When we co-operate with these ministries, we are taken onto a wonderful journey to see the full measure of Christ manifest for all the world to see in the Church. When that day comes, then the reality himself will return to the earth in glory. Oh what a day!

On that day, and not a day before, will there be a cessation of gift and ministy. For who needs the reflection of Christ on the glorious day when we will all see him face to face. How can we live for anything less?

Ongoing Acts

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach (Acts 1:1)

Luke's former book, was of course his gospel account that concluded with Jesus' ascension into heaven. Jesus' earthly ministry, even his death and resurrection was, says Luke, just the beginning of his work on the earth! The book of Acts continues the story of what Jesus continued to do through his chosen Apostles after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The book of Acts itself is deliberately open ended. This is because in a sense (hear me right!) it is still being written. The Acts of Jesus through his chosen servants continues to this day (I do believe the canon of scripture is closed!).

Sometimes it can seem like there is a wide chasm between what we read in the pages of Acts and what we see manifest in our own Christian experience. Not so in India! If you haven't discovered Chandrakant's blog, go over and read it now. Just today he has posted on two outstanding miracles that could have come straight from the book of Acts.

Chhagan receives eyesight
God heals people

I have had the privilege to meet this quiet, humble, yet powerfully anointed man of God. There is no exaggeration in what he writes, and I know he considers these things to be just the small beginnings of what God wants to do in his great nation. He is an apostle chosen by God, used by God, with a passion to see no less than one million lives in India impacted with the radical life changing good news of Jesus Christ. I am totally humbled that this man, for some reason, also thinks highly of me!!

It's an inspiration. God has no favourites. He can do the same thing here. The Acts go on...


Google Bomb

This is the best one I have seen for a while...
  1. Go to www.google.com

  2. Type: french military victories

  3. Hit "I'm feeling lucky"


Every Man like David

On that day the LORD will shield those who live in Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the Angel of the LORD going before them. (Zec 12:8)

I found this fantastic promise in the word this morning. Part of God's restoration heart is that every one of his people should be like his servant David. Of course the greater purpose of God is that we should all be like Christ, but being like David can illuminate some important things. Here's what it means to me:

  • Every man with his heart caught by the purpose of God

  • Every man with an abundant and enduring anointing of the Holy Spirit

  • Every man a passionate worshiper who seeks to give God the glory due his name with every fibre of his being.

  • Every man under authority, submitted to those whom the Lord has placed over him: preferring to be wronged rather than to lay a hand on the Lord's anointed

  • Every man a bold warrior who extends the kingdom in one victory after another no matter what the opposition.

  • Every man preparing those who will succeed him to continue where he left off.

[I use the word man in the generic sense, so ladies, this includes you too]

How great it would be if even the weakest amongst us was like David! Yet this is God's heart for his church.

I also believe it is a warning. David's failings are presented to us as well as his successes. David shows us that no man, no matter how great, is beyond the reach of moral compromise. Our battle is not without an enemy, and this enemy would seek to destroy us. The way he does this is not by putting colds and coughs on us, as some believers seem to think. His MO is to tempt and to accuse. He would seek to seduce us into moral compromise under the deception that it is secret and no-one will know, and so seek to disqualify us from ministry, or else so accuse us by our past failings that we disqualify ourselves.

I feel stirred that we must be prepared and on our guard against such temptations and accusations. For a man to be powerfully used by God he must lay hold of and remain in the grace of God, and master the sin on his doorstep (Ge 4:7).


Feeding on the Word

And he said to me, "Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. He then said to me: "Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them." (Eze 3:1-4)

So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey." I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings." (Rev 10:9-11)

The Bible has a lot to say about many things, including itself. However we should not expect to find prophetic imagery of leather bound books with crosses on the front. The book form of the Bible only existed after the printing-press. In biblical times the word of God was recorded on scrolls. So when we see a scroll in prophetic language, especially if that scroll is coming from the Lord, what we are seeing are the Scriptures referring to themselves: we are seeing the recorded word of God.

It is interesting that in these two cases where the prophets are commanded to eat the scroll we are told it tasted like honey. This is of course what the manna tasted like. The manna was another demonstration to God's people that they needed to feed, not just on bread alone, but on every word that comes from God.

The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. (Ex 16:31),

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Dt 8:3)

It is also interesting and highly significant that in both cases the prophets had to feed on the word before they were commanded to prophesy. It is a rather obvious statement, but a valuable truth nevertheless, that you cannot bring the word of God out of you, if it is not in you to begin with. The scriptures are prophet food. If we are to be God's prophetic people we must make sure we are getting a good diet of the word of God. God doesn't speak into empty heads, but into hearts that are full of his word.

Bon Appetit!


Sons of Fresh Oil

And a second time I answered and said to him, "What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?" He said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord." Then he said, "These are the two anointed ones [lit. Sons of New Oil] who stand by the Lord of the whole earth." (Zec 4:12-14)

Tony Ling brought a fantastic word to Living Rock Church on Sunday. It was a key word for us. I'll add a link to the audio as soon as someone [probably me! ;-)] puts it up on the LRC website.

It excited me for several reasons. I'm always stirred when Tony speaks. He is a man who carries the anointing of God, and there is something about his prophetic gift that always sparks something in my spirit. I was also strirred because so much of what he shared resonated with what the Spirit has been communicating to me in my own meditations in the word.

Tony spoke about the Spirit and Power of Elijah, and how this relates to the ministry of the Church who are preparing the way for the Lord by restoring all things. The fact that Elijah is a type and pattern of the church is something I am utterly convinced of from my own studies in the word. I even wrote a short paper on it. Tony shared how on Mount Carmel Elijah brought restoration to a people who had "rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death" (1Ki 19:10) This he linked to the "Way of God" (the Lordship of Jesus), the "Worship of God" and the "Word of God". He then went on to talk about Elijah's cloak, and how it represented his prophetic anointing. In a fantastic parallel he linked how this cloak floated down to the ground after Elijah ascended, and anointed Elisha to continue his ministry, to how the Spirit was outpoured after Jesus ascended, and how we are cloathed with power from on high, to enable us to continue the works of Jesus. I was chuffed because of these four things: the Lordship of Christ, the worship of God, the word of God, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit; I had preached on three of these the previous week. Three out of four ain't bad! ;-) It's great when you hear the word of God when you prepare to preach, but it's even better when you have this confirmed. From the mouths of two or three witnesses a thing is firmly established.

On the subject of the two witnesses. Once you see that Elijah is a type for the prophetic ministry of the church, you can also follow that the two witnesses in Revelation 11 (who perform the miracles of Moses and Elijah) also correspond to the witness of the church in the world. This in turn corresponds with the visions of the prophet Zechariah, which I had just been reading that morning!

As a church, as God's prophetic people, God is clearly speaking to us at the moment. We need to be sons of fresh oil. We need a daily anointing with his Spirit to get his job done, just as surely as we need the daily bread of his word. If we are serious about being a part of God's plan to impact the world, and bring in his kingdom there is just no substitute for the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." (Zec 4:6)


One year on

It's my blogday! One year ago today I wrote my first post and entered the wonderful world of blogging.

It's no coincidence that my blogday comes so soon after Roger's. It was reading Roger's blog and the encouragement that he gave me, that prompted me to start my own blog. Now, one year on, I'm still going strong.

So what has a year of blogging done for me? The main thing I have got out of blogging is the sense of community that exists between fellow-bloggers and regular readers. I have "met" like minded people I would never have come into contact with otherwise, and felt in close contact with dear brothers I would otherwise only have had infrequent dialogue with.

Next it has been an exercise in discipline. Blogging is hard work! Nothing worthwhile is ever easy is it? I nearly gave up on a couple of occasions. You run out of things to say, and after a while you just get out of the habit. My thanks to Cerys Wood, and Roger Aubrey again who provoked me to get going again at those moments.

I have found it helpful in my own meditations in the word. When you write something down and share your thoughts with the world, it forces you to think things through much more thoroughly than when you just keep the thoughts buzzing round in your head. Also when you have "discharged" your thoughts in this way, it gives a release that allows you to move on to thinking about something else.

It has been rewarding too. All sowing produces reaping doesn't it! I love getting comments on my blog, or seeing other bloggers make reference to my posts. It's great to look at my stats too and see the number of visitors. I had 40 unique visitors yesterday — that's more than attended my first Daniel Masterclass! To be honest, it's the visitors who keep me blogging, so thank you. Special thanks to all my regulars who leave comments: Marcos, Cerys, Anna, Kev C, Joe, Roger, Matthew. It was also through my blog and Google that I got back in contact with a dear long-lost friend. That was a great moment.

So to any would be bloggers out there, or those who are just starting, here are my three top tips from 1 years experience:

  1. Sowing and reaping! Yes, it works even in the blogoshere. If you want to be linked, start by linking others first. You want more comments, leave comments on other people's blogs.

  2. Read like-minded blogs (An Aggregator is an invaluable tool for this). Blogging, like any communication, works best when it is not just monologue. Read what others are writing about. If you are feeling uninspired, a good way back in is to take what someone else has written and expand upon it in one of your own posts.

  3. Install a stat-counter as soon as you can. It will be demoralising at first, but there is nothing like seeing your hit-count rise to keep you posting.


Threefold Authority

This post is brought to you by the number three.

I mentioned in a previous post that the number three is very significant in scripture. The problem is, though, that it is significant for more than one thing.

Three days is a prophetic time in scripture that points forwards to Christ's death and resurrection. Examples are Jonah's three days in the belly of the fish, and Moses' declaration that the people should take a three day journey into the wilderness in order to offer sacrifices. (Mt 12:40, Ex 5:3)

Three is also significant in that is one of the numbers of established witness: by the testimony of two or three witnesses a thing is firmly established. An example would be Abraham's three visitors who testified against Sodom. Most other examples of witnesses tend to be twos rather than threes: Joshua and Caleb who gave a good witness after spying out the land, Moses and Elijah who witnessed Christ's transfiguration, and the two witnesses in Revelation. But it is still worth bearing in mind that three can be used in this way too. (Dt 19:15, Mt 18:15)

But the threes that have been jumping out at me lately are the threes of God's delegated authority. Within the Godhead of course we have Father, Son and Spirit who set the example for all the others. In the heavens God established Sun, Moon and Stars. In the created order he established Man, Woman and all the animals. In the family his order is husband, wife, children. And in the church we have the pattern of Apostles, Elders, and all God's people.

It is interesting to speculate about a possible link between the final two uses of three. Three is the number of the community of God. Two is the number of the community of man (husband and wife). Either of these two numbers can be used to establish something, which reflects the fact that God has delegated his governmental authority to man.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecc 4:12)


Snow is falling...

From the mouths of infants

My 2½ year old son is starting early with his good confessions of faith. Yesterday while I was giving him his tea, we were listening to "Open the Eyes of My Heart" by Sonicflood (A firm favourite of Michael and mine) While they were singing the chorus, "Holy Holy Holy, I want to see you," Michael looked at me and said, "Michael not holy holy holy?" I agreed. He thought for a minute and then replied: "Just Jesus."

That evening as Jacqueline was putting him to bed, she asked him to sit nicely and not squirm around because Mummum had a sore head. He knelt up, put his hand on her head and said: "Make you all better. Amen!"

My Cup Overflows

Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of bringing the word to the good folks at our Lutterworth congregation. I shared on the foundation, heart, and means of restoration: The Lordship of Christ, the worship of God, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I concluded from Amos 9, that the result of a restored life is overflowing joy: "New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills."

As I was preparing I felt stirred to do something a bit different. I felt I should take a saucer, and a glass, and fill it to overflowing with wine at the relevant point in my message. At the time I felt confident I had heard from God, so I assembled everything I needed there and then. But doubts quickly tried to crowd in: "What if it comes across like a gimmick?", "What if they confuse it for the wine in breaking bread?" Never the less, I determined that I would do it. I'd rather be a fool for Christ than be disobedient to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit. What did I have to lose? Just my pride and a good bottle of wine - nothing in comparison.

I need not have worried. Matthew was there leading worship, and he had already decided to break bread. So there was no chance of confusion there. Also, just before I reached the point in my message, a lady in the congregation interrupted me and shared on Psalm 23: the anointing of joy, and our cup running over! Praise God! We all heard from God and went away blessed. God is good.


Which Version?

I have nearly finished reading the Bible through in two years. I have often over the years tried to read the Bible through in one year, and even succeeded a couple of times, but my success rate at this has been around 30%, and I think I'm not alone at finding it a challenge. But reading the Bible through in two years I have found much more achievable and more rewarding — you have more time to reflect on what you are reading.

I want to do the same over the next two years. And with my birthday approaching at the right time, I have asked for a Two-Year Bible. The only question I have is what version? I did a scary calculation today, and realised that I have been reading the NIV almost exclusively now for over seventeen years! Time for a change methinks.

I had thought of going to the New Living translation, because they have a two-year version, and because Keri Jones, our apostle always recommends it so highly. But my recent meditations in Amos have made me think twice. The layers of symbolism in Amos 1:3 and similar verses is an excellent place to compare versions:

ESV: For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment

NIV: For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.

NLT: The people of Damascus have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not let them go unpunished any longer!

In the ESV (which is a recent discovery I am appreciating more and more) the NKJV and NASB the word and is preserved which allows an exploration of all the layers of significance. In the NIV the dynamic equivalence has obviously picked up on the tetrad and translated it to fit better with this form using even instead, but you miss the possibility that this is actually a seven split into 3 and 4. Whilst in the NLT you are completely oblivious to any levels of prophetic symbolism at all!

What to do? Am I splitting hairs (and numbers) and could do with just taking in the broad-brushstrokes? Should I stick with the ol' faithful NIV and aim for 20 years!? Or should I go to the ESV and really dig down deep!?

Any comments or advice appreciated. Two years is a long time so I want to get the right version before I set out!!


Feed for thought

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For three, and for four

OK, here is what I've got on Amos' use of numbers in the first two chapters of his book.


First, the structure has been carefully chosen to be very close to the tetrad forms of the kind found in Proverbs 30.

Three things are never satisfied; four never say, "Enough" (v15)
Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand (v18)
Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up (v21)
Three things are stately in their tread; four are stately in their stride (v29)

These tetrad forms were apparently a popular Jewish teaching device of the time. The introduction of the elements as three, and then four, was to give emphasis to the fourth item. I guess they are an ultra-micro version of a three-point sermon with a conclusion — no wonder they were popular! ;-) The fact that Amos chose to use a form (very similar) to these tetrads, perhaps implies that he was a prophet who also had a teaching ministry, or maybe a prophetic teacher — I like that! This might also explain his reticence to include himself among the mainstream prophets of his day. (pure speculation of course!)

But I stressed, that his words are very close to this kind of tetrad, because although they are crafted to have the same form as this device, Amos' words are not tetrads! If they had been they would have been subtly different. If Amos had said:

"For three sins of Damascus I will not revoke the punishment; for four my wrath will not be turned away."

This would have been a true tetrad. But he didn't; the structure of the sentence is very close, but subtly and deliberately different. Also note that unlike the tetrads in proverbs, no list of four sins or transgressions is listed - just one! What Amos is actually saying is "For three sins and for four", in other words in a roundabout way he is saying: "For seven sins of Damascus...."


This leads on to the second point. The symbolic use of the number seven in scripture is clear and unambiguous. It represents fullness or completeness, because on the seventh day God rested from all his work of creation. Seven transgressions would thus correspond to a full measure of sinfulness.

Compare this with the following scriptures:

In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure. (Ge 15:16)

In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. (1Th 2:16)

God is the creator of emotions, and he is an emotional God. He feels anger, love, zeal, even hatred and jealousy. But unlike human emotions, the emotions of God are never from wrong motives or out of control. God is never in an out of control rage, but he does decide to get angry. In his mercy and his forbearance he does not respond immediately to sin, but allows time for repentance and restoration, but there comes a point when sinfulness reaches its limit, and God decides, enough is enough; I'm going to get angry now.

Amos was prophesying that the sins of the neighbouring nations, and of Judah and Israel themselves, had reached that limit; God's judgement was imminent.

And something else I can't quite put my finger on....

The third layer of symbolism is one that I have not quite pinned down yet! I just have a gut instinct that there must be more here. I'm not trying to force the scriptures to say anything that is contrary to the plain reading of the text; I'm not looking for any "hidden coded messages". I believe, despite what some may think after reading the latter part of Daniel, that the purpose of prophetic symbolism, and all prophetic communication for that matter, is always to illuminate never to obfuscate! And it is for this reason that I feel there is more here.

The main message of Amos is clearest understood as "For seven sins of....", so why would he split it into 3 / 4 unless there was some more significant symbolism to be communicated by doing so. Although the tetrad device is clever, I do not for one minute think that the prophet communicated this way just to show off how clever or educated he was. "I may be a farm boy, but get a load of this..." No, just doesn't sit right. The prophet is bringing the symbolism of the number 3 and/or the number 4 into play.

My first reaction was to link this and contrast it with the three righteous men mentioned by Ezekiel in his judgements of the nations: Noah, Daniel and Job could save only themselves if they were present (Eze 14:16,18). But on closer inspection it didn't seem to stick.

Something to chew over, and come back to another day, I think. My good friend Matthew has already suggested a possible significance of the 3 / 4 split in a comment on my previous post, that I think has some mileage.


A way with numbers

“For three transgressions of Damascus,
and for four, I will not revoke the punishment..." (Amos 1:3)

It seems I'm not the only one who is intrigued by numbers. The more I read in the prophetic writings, the more I am struck by the significance and prophetic symbolism in the numbers they chose. This is particularly true with the books of Daniel and Revelation which I have studied in some depth, but I believe it is also true of some of the other prophets.

Take the above quote from the beginning of Amos, repeated throughout chapters 1 and 2. If you are like me, you have probably skipped over the numbers here without giving them much thought. But I suddenly have a new found respect and admiration for this "rustic" prophet. Far from being a simple farm lad, he had an ingenious grip on the prophetic symbolism of numbers. I believe there are at least three layers of meaning carefully chosen and crafted together in this phrase....

....Unfortunately I don't have enough time to fully expound them today, so you'll have to come back tomorrow if you want to know what I've discovered. ;-) If you can't wait here are some clues: Abraham. Proverbs. Completeness / Fullness.


Sorry! This is what happens when you post in a hurry! The link to Abraham is tenuous at best! What I had in mind was actually Eze 14:16,18. And as Ezekiel was some 200 years after Amos, he could not really have been building on this revelation. In my haste I misrecalled the number of righteous men for which God would spare the city when Abraham pleaded for Sodom. Although Abraham had three visitors the number which he "bargained" down to was 10 not 3. Kinda takes the wind out of my sails on this one. But hey, you don't get fresh revelation if you're not prepared to explore some new avenues... but some turn out to be blind alleys.

Three is still a significant number in the scriptures even without this link. So I may still post on it anyway.


The Continuance of the Prophets

And I raised up some of your sons for prophets,
and some of your young men for Nazirites.
Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?”
declares the Lord. (Amos 2:11)

“For the Lord God does nothing
without revealing his secret
to his servants the prophets.
The lion has roared;
who will not fear?
The Lord God has spoken;
who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:7-8)

I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ (Amos 7:14-15)

I have been stirred to look at the book of Amos recently. As I have been reading and meditating, and looking into some of the detail of the prophet and his book, I came across some interesting information.

The above quotes from Amos do not look at all remarkable until you consider this fact: he was the first of the prophets whose utterances are recorded in the canon of scripture among the prophetic writings. Yet he does not claim to be the first of the prophets; he makes reference to a continuous lineage of prophets, and implies a company of contemporaneous prophets to which he barely considers to include himself.

It struck me that this is much like the cessationist debate, but in reverse! There is certainly no doubt as to whether there was a continuance of prophetic ministries before the canon of prophetic writings were started. Amos makes reference to a whole lineage and company of God's prophetic people that had nothing at all to do with the writing of scripture. It seems clear to me, and to Amos, that God's desire to have a prophetic people is an eternal and continuous thing, that is for the most part independent of the process of inspiration and writing of the word of God.

God has always desired to have a prophetic people, before, during and after his word was written!

“Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Nu 11:29)


Infinite Beauty

My post on perfect numbers generated some interesting discussion, so at the risk of being labelled a geek again, I thought I would continue for one more post on the amazing beauty and infinate detail that exists in God's creation, not just in the details without (the vastness of the Cosmos) but also the infinite details within, and in particular in numbers. What's so beautiful about numbers, I hear you say? How can a number have infinate detail?

Consider the snowflake; though it is tiny, it has beautiful detail, and were you to magnify these details, you would see just as much beauty on the finer details that exist upon these details. There are details on details, and further details on these details, right the way down to the atomic level. Not quite infinate detail, but these types of shapes are known as fractals, and can be represented by mathematical equations which do indeed, theoretically at least, have infinate detail. There is as much beauty and detail, no matter how much you zoom in: infinity enclosed within a finite space. Incredible!

One of the simplest of these mathematical equations (Zn+1 = Zn2 + C) is also one of the most beautiful. It's called the Mandelbot Set, after its discoverer, but the infinate beauty of this equation was crafted by God, just waiting for man to discover it.

Here's another Java Applet I wrote so you can try it out for yourself:

To explore the infinite (within the limits of the computer's arithmetic) detail in this fractal, drag a box around the area you wish to explore and then click in this box. You can repeat this as often as you like, increasing the magnification each time. When the screen stays blank, your computer has run out of decimal places to perform the calculations . Press the 'Reset' button and start again!


Perfect Numbers

I took a number of books on holiday to read. Apart from the Bible I took a book on Church history that I still have to finish, a collection of early Christian writings, and a good paperback novel which I bought in the airport.

The paperback I bought this time was "Fermat's Last theorem" by Simon Singh. I had already read his follow up book "The Code Book" and found it fascinating. Despite this book being about mathematics, I found it a rivetting read.

As part of the background to the theorem, Singh provides some background to some mathematical theories in the dramatic historical context in which they were first formulated. One such concept that particularly caught my imagination was the idea of "Perfect Numbers"

Every number has a set of divisors: numbers that can divide the original number into another whole number. If the only whole number (apart from itself) that can be a divisor is 1, then the number is said to be "Prime". Examples of prime numbers are: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 etc. If the sum of the divisors is more than the number itself, that number is said to be "excessive". If the sum of the divisors is less than the number it is "deficient". But if the sum of the divisors is exactly equal to the number itself then it is said to be a "perfect" number. The first 2 perfect numbers are 6 (1 + 2 + 3) and 28 (1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14).

Why this caught my interest is that some early Christian writers, like Augustine, noticed a link between these perfect numbers and the numbers involved with God's creation: God created the world in 6 days, and the moon which was created to mark the months has a 28 day cycle. This, they say, points to the initial perfection in all God made.

Now, I'm still unconvinced on the merits of this link. One has to be very wary of imposing modern scientific understanding upon the text of the scriptures, which neither knows, nor cares about such ways of viewing the world. The language of Genesis is one of description, not mechanics, and it holds true regardless of what the current scientific theories might be (I don't include Darwinism as a scientific theory!). Also the term "perfect" is a happy accident; if Pythagoras had named them "balanced" numbers instead, I wonder if the connection would have been so apparent. Finally the third "perfect" number is 496 which has no scriptural references whatsoever.

Never the less, I can't help but like elegant connections and details like this. God's creation was indeed perfect in every way before sin marred it. Who knows if God chose these numbers to reveal this perfection or not? One thing that I particularly like is the restoration of the number 6. This number has often been associated with evil or demons, but even Revelation 13 is very clear: it is man's number. Man was the pinnacle of God's perfect creation, created on the sixth day. To me the fact that 6 is a perfect number is a fitting reminder that man was created perfect, and is destined to return to perfection. Man does not belong to the devil nor to demons, but to his perfect Creator.


1100 miles and 20 degrees.

Hi, I'm back.

We had a fantastic time in Portugal. The weather was gloriously sunny and warm for the majority of the time we were there. Bit of a shock to the system coming home though: yesterday morning I was sipping my second cup of strong filter coffee in T-shirt and shades, overlooking a panoramic view of the sea; this morning I was scraping the ice off my car!


Off to Portugal!

Hooray! Tomorrow the Hamer-Hodges family fly off to Portugal for a much needed week's break in the sun. It's still about 20°C out there and sunny!

Michael has been looking forward to it sooo much! He even packed a little bag of toys a week or so ago, and said "I go to Portugal now?" Just one more big-sleep now, and we can all go on the big aeroplane.

Don't miss my posts too much! ;-) I've left you something meaty to chew over while I'm away; I look forward to reading your thoughts when I get back.

Abundant Blessings.

Blood, Fire and Billows of Smoke

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
" `In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
(Acts 2:14-21)

I mentioned in a previous post that the imagery of "Blood, Fire and Billows of Smoke" in Joel 2 / Acts 2 fascinates me. It's one of those places in scripture, where you just know there is great revelation to be unlocked if only you could get a handle on it. I have often stopped to chew it over when I have read it, but it has only been recently in the light of conversations had on this blog, revisiting scriptures relating to baptism in the spirit, and re-reading Jordan's book, that the pieces of the puzzle finally seem to be fitting together. I'm not claiming I have the definitive exegesis, or that what everyone else says is wrong, but for me, this seems to satisfy in a way that other explanations haven't. I certainly think at least there is some mileage in it, or I wouldn't be sharing it. Anyway, read on and see what you think.

Signs on the Earth

Jordan points out in "Through New Eyes" that this scripture is a Chiasm ["A chiasm is a literary device in which parallel ideas or terms are presented in a sandwich form instead of normal parallelism"]

 (A) I will show wonders in the heaven above
    (B) and signs on the earth below
    (B) blood and fire and billows of smoke
 (A) The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood

This helps, because is shows that "Blood, fire and billows of smoke" are related to "Signs of the Earth Below". Jordan suggests that the imagery of Blood fire and smoke are to do with war, and links this to the darkening of the heavenly bodies representing human authority and rule. Whilst this is certainly plausible, I don't find it very satisfying. The scripture uses many symbolisms for war, but never "blood, fire and billows of smoke", what is more these symbols are very powerful scriptural pictures that are used elsewhere, and not in the context of war. The darkening of the sun and moon does not have to represent the fall of a human government either. They are there to govern time and seasons, so they could equally be pointing to the end of an age in some other way than just geo-political. Couple this to the fact that Peter includes these verses in the fulfilment of what happened at Pentecost and the explanation of war seems even less satisfying.

Blood + Fire-and-Billows-of-Smoke

Since "Blood, fire and billows of smoke" only occur together in Joel 2 and Acts 2, we must de-couple at least one of these symbols to examine where the other two are used together. The most fruitful approach I have found is in separating "blood" from "fire and billows of smoke." This seems a good way to proceed, because Joel 2 is a prophecy about the baptism in the Spirit, and we have already come across the column of fire and smoke in relation to baptism in the Spirit pictured in the Old Testament, described as baptised in the cloud. (1Co 10:2)

Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. (Isa 4:5)

Fire and billows of smoke is also the language of Sinai, and represents the awesome presence of God that none but Moses could approach.

Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently (Ex 19:18)

It is also repeated in the description of the altar of incense, when the priest would go behind the curtain on the day of atonement. Here again it represents the awesome holy presence of God, that only the high priest could enter.

He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain.He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the Testimony, so that he will not die. (Lev 16:12-13)

The way in changed forever

This second image of fire and billows of smoke is particularly useful as we are told in Hebrews about this event: But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. (Heb 9:7) So now we have all three elements re-united again: blood, fire, and billows of smoke. If this is the event they are referring to, then they represent the means by which sinful man is permitted to come into the presence of almighty God.

So we have signs on the earth relating to the way man comes before God, and signs in the heavens relating to the end of an age. Is it beyond the realms of reason to assume that these are both connected, and relate to Pentecost? Could it be that they represent the end of an age of how man comes into the presence of God! Before it was exclusive to the high priest, but now it is inclusive of "all flesh"; before man had to come into the presence, but now the presence is poured out; before it was limited to once a year, but now we have an abiding presence of God within us that will never leave us nor forsake us.

So where's the blood and smoke?

Joel prophecies that the day of Pentecost will be marked by "Blood, fire and billows of smoke", but when we come to the New Testament scriptures we see that the only sign that is given is one of fire.

"I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Mt 3:11)

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:3-4)

The fulfilment of the sign of fire is clear, but it begs the question: where is the blood and the billows of smoke. After pondering this question for some time I am of the opinion that this is exactly the question the scriptures want us to ask! The blood and smoke speak volumes by their absence!

The absence of blood is easy: we no longer need to come before the Lord by shedding blood, because it has been shed once for all by the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Our sins have been covered, and God's wrath fully propitiated. Christ's blood now seals an eternal covenant by which we may now enter boldly without fear of condemnation.

But the absence of smoke is not without precedent in scripture either. Consider Isaiah chapter 6; above the fiery coals of the altar, he saw not the billows of smoke that should have shielded his gaze from the holy presence, but he saw the Lord himself! It is also interesting that the first consequence of this encounter is that his lips were consecrated with this same fire, to enable him to declare the very words of God!

So this links in with the fact that the signs in the heavens reveal a change of an age. It is no longer one man who enters the presence of God, to make atonement for the people. But it is now a people who have been touched by the fire from heaven, and whose lips have been opened to declare the wonders of God, who take the presence of God with them, out to the whole word to declare to every nation tribe and tongue the good news of Christ's atoning sacrifice for sins, and that the way to God has been changed forever. It is open:

Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved!


Sticking my oar in!

I couldn't resist! I have recently been browsing wider in the Christian blogsphere, and I came across a big debate on the gifts of the Spirit. Sadly the debate was not on "How do we best move in the spiritual gifts?" or "How should the gifts be administrated?", but the age-old "Are the gifts of the Spirit for today?" cessationist / charismatic argument.

There are still many of our brothers and sisters in the Lord who are in expressions of the church where the gifts of the Spirit do not operate, or if they do, they are ignored or suppressed. What is more, some of them actually seem to like it this way! They actually argue that the church is better off without the gifts of the Spirit, and that God never intended them to last beyond the "apostolic" age!

What I found most ironic was one site where many cessationists were patting themselves on the back for their doctrinal correctness, and bandying around the term Sola Scriptura. How sad! A term that was originally intended to restore biblical practice to the church, has now been distorted to the point where it means that God can only communicate through the scriptures! Surely, if these people want to claim "Sola Scriptura", they should base their doctrine on the gifts of the Spirit on what the scriptures actually say about the gifts, and not on their misguided notions of the implications of Sola Scriptura!

I guess the reason I stuck my oar in, and joined the debate is that I once used to attend congregations like these. I was never deliberately cessationist in my theology, but I had received no teaching on the gifts, and had no experience of their operation. I was concerned about the discrepancy between my experience and what I read in the letters and Acts, but I had no idea what to do about it. I knew people who allegedly spoke in tongues, but because in the circles I moved in at the time, it was frowned upon, they used to put their hands in front of their mouths, and all you could hear were slurping noises! The first time I properly heard someone speak in tongues, the words were coming out of my own mouth! No-one laid hands on me, no-one directed me. Just a young man earnestly praying alone in his room for God to fill him with his Spirit so he could effectively witness to his friends, who got what he asked for! I don't know if my comments have done any good, but even if they encourage one person to seek God and find out for themselves what he can do... it will have been worth it.

If you want to follow the debate, or flex your theological muscles and join in, the best place to start seems to be Adrian Warnock's blog.


Bon fire and billows of smoke

Had a great time at the Eagles' tonight! They really know how to put on a firework display! I was very impressed.

Michael loves fireworks, but until tonight has only ever caught a few from his bedroom window as we have been putting him to bed. He had been counting the days until he could see "Lots and lots of rockets!" He wasn't disappointed!

Thanks Andrew, much appreciated.


Staying Close to Stay Full

One last observation (for now) from the river in Ezekiel 47. As I mentioned before the river flows from underneath the temple. It comes from the presence of God. To stay in the river, we have to stay close to God.

We can see this in another portion of scripture that talks about baptism:

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (1Co 10:1-2)

We often pick up on the fact that the passage through the Red Sea was a picture of water baptism. But Paul also states that being under the cloud was also a picture of baptism.

Now we know that the cloud represents the presence of God. And it was this presence that led them for forty years in the wilderness.

In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out--until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels. (Ex 40:36-38)

If "baptism in the sea" represents water baptism, what can "baptism in the cloud" mean except baptism in the Holy Spirit: the presence of God within us.

It is interesting, in this case, to notice again the difference between these two baptisms. For although they passed through the sea as a one-off, they stayed under the cloud for the entire duration of their pilgrimage to the promised land. Baptism in the Spirit does not mean a one-off filling, but a life continually led by the Holy Spirit. If we are baptised in the Spirit we should be leading lives that are continually led, guided and prompted by the stirrings of the Holy Spirit within us. As we obey these promptings and stay close, we stay in the river, and so we stay full. As it says in Galatians 5:25:

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.


Staying Under to Stay Full

Back to the image of the river again. The picture in Ezekiel 47 reminds me of what Matthew shared with us on Sunday: the difference between the baptism in water and the baptism in the Spirit.

When we are baptised in water we come up again straight away, but when we are baptised in the Spirit we are meant to stay under forever!

We often think of being filled with the Spirit, like taking our cup back to God for him to turn on his "tap" and replenish us. But I think a far more scriptural image, certainly post-pentecost, is to think of it like Ezekiel in chapter 47, being immersed in the river that is the Spirit. This fits both with the concept of "baptism", and the reoccurring New Testament phrasiology of being "In the Spirit". We thus should not ask "have you been baptised in the Holy Spirit", but "are you baptised in the Holy Spirit". It is a lasting position we are meant to live in, not a one-off experience so we can tick the box "Charismatic"!

It's not about trying to get more of the Spirit into us, but like Ezekiel, getting more of us into the Spirit. It's no problem to stay full if you stay in the river.

As I have said in a previous post it is also interesting to note what Jesus says in John 7: "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." It's not a picture of a vessel filled from on high, but of a well springing forth from within. The Holy Spirit, the river we need to get into, is already inside us! We just need to make sure that our well is not blocked, and we do not inhibit his "gushing forth" in our lives.

If this concept of staying in the river, to keep the river within us flowing seems a strange mix of "who's inside who?" compare it with what Jesus says in John 15:4:

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you."


The Hand that made us is divine

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun from day to day
Does his Creator’s power display,
And publishes to every land
The works of an almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
Whilst all the stars that round her burn
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings, as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball;
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid their radiant orbs be found;
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
Forever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”

–Joseph Addison

I was thrilled to discover yesterday on Matthew's Blog, a link to the complete text of "Through New Eyes" by James Jordan. If you haven't read this book, stop what you are doing and download it now! It is an outstanding book that will help you get the most out of the Bible by bridging the gap between our 21st Century way of thinking, and the worldview and symbolism contained in the pages of scripture.

I have been devouring it again, and came across this poem that I really like. It appeals to me both as a scientist and as a believer. The true study of science will never disprove God — how could it?! That is a fantasy propogated by the lies of the Darwinists. The study of God's creation will always point to the creator. That is why, when I was at University, the Physics department had one of the largest Christian Union groups of any faculty, and why when you consider the greatest Physicists of all time: Newton, Einstien, Maxwell — they were all firm believers in the divine hand that had shaped the cosmos.

Jordan, correctly points out in his book, that besides being giant balls of gas, the stars are there for a divine purpose. To reveal to all who will see, aspects of their creator. Not just the majesty and awesome greatness and power of God, but they also speak of his rule and his Kingdom. They were placed in the heavens to govern.

I was meditating on this recently, and I believe it explains the purpose behind, what is one of the most misunderstood scientific discoveries of our time.

In 1924 the astronomer Edwin Hubble (Made famous by the recent spectacular images beamed back from the space telescope that bears his name) made observations of the spectra of light emitted from the stars. He made a remarkable discovery. All the spectra were "red-shifted": the spectral lines for the emission of known elements in the stars did not fall on the frequencies they should have, but occurred at lower frequencies. This is an effect known as a doppler shift. Waves from an object travelling towards you appear to have a higher frequency than stationary waves, and those travelling away from you have lower frequencies. It is the reason for the "neeeeeOOOOOW" sound as a race car goes past: you hear the engine sound make a high-pitch noise as it is approaching, and a low pitch one as it roars away.

The fact that all the spectra of light were red-shifted meant something amazing: all the stars in the universe are moving away from us. This led to the discovery that the Universe is expanding — all the time, and in every direction — something that was also predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity. But this data has been misinterpreted! Georges Lemaître, in 1927 proposed what is now known as the Big Bang theory, by assuming that if the universe will be bigger tomorrow than it is today, it must have been smaller yesterday, and even smaller the day before that, all the way back to when it would shrink to a single point.

It is interesting to note however, that although this theory is today championed by atheists, it's original proponent, Lemaître,was a Christian, and tried to use it as proof that God had created the Universe.

If only Lemaître had read Jordan's book!! (I know it wasn't around then!) Then he would have understood that the eternal expansion of the Universe is there to tell us about the nature of God's kingdom. I believe it to be a cosmic declaration of Isaiah 9 verse 7! Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. And we would have been spared the precedent of trying to explain creation by science; a trap which many Christians still fall into. Creation defines the laws of science; science does not, nor can it, explain the miraculous divine act of creation itself. Its ultimate purpose is to point us to God.

All heaven declares the glory of the risen Lord!


Flowing out, to stay full

This Sunday I had the pleasure and privilege of praying for some brothers to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. I love this! Nothing make me feel more alive than when God uses me as a channel for his blessing. It's always fantastic to see people powerfully touched by God and filled with his holy presence, but there is something extra special when it is the first time. It's like what it says in the scriptures; even though God loves everyone the same, and shows no favouritism, there is still more rejoicing over one sinner who repents, than over 99 righteous men who do not need to repent.

It also made me think of the image of the river again. I think sometimes Christians miss out on staying full of the Spirit, because they try to be cisterns rather than rivers. The blessing of the Spirit is never meant to be contained by us, for a personal blessing, but to overflow out to be a source of life to many. Ironically, the more we "give out" in the Spirit, the more full we get. The more we try to receive and contain, the drier we become.

It's the same principle that's at work in other forms of blessing: sowing and reaping. The amount we reap is determined by the amount we sow. If we sow sparingly we reap sparingly. If we sow generously, we reap generously. It also follows, in the same vein, that if we are faithful with little, God will entrust us with much. As Keri Jones says "God gives seed to sowers."

It's just the same in the spiritual as in the natural. The more we give out, the more we receive, and God increases the gifting of those who are faithful in using what they already have. If you want to stay full of the Holy Spirit, don't just wait for opportunities to receive, look for opportunities to give!

Be blessed.


Rivers of Living Water

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (Jn 7:38)

I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple... As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in--a river that no-one could cross... When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh.... Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing. (Eze 47:1-12 [selected])

We had a great time in cellgroup last night. It was a time together in the presence of God. There was much that happened that was encouraging, but the most exciting thing for me was that God was present and he spoke to us through prophetic words. He reminded us of who he is, the awesome God who is bigger than anything we can imagine, and beyond any description we could aply to him, and yet he is the God who is with us, and who reveals himself to us. He also spoke about "Rivers of Living Water" and his desire to refresh those who were thirsty or weary.

As we ministered to a couple of the group members in response to this word, the Lord quickened to me the image of the river in Ezekiel 47. In particular three aspects of it:

  1. The Lord is leading us deeper into the things of the Spirit. He doesn't want us to be dry or weary but full of the river of life that comes from the Spirit. This is not just something that comes from above, but something we stir up from within — the Holy Spirit within us.

  2. The river makes the sea fresh! In the natural the sea makes the river water salty, but not in the spiritual. God's river is sufficient for whatever situation we might face, no matter how "salty" it might seem.

  3. The river flows from under the temple. It is as we draw near to God, and seek his presence that we experience the river of life.

Speaking of being immersed in the waters of life, there is one other fantastic bit of news from cell that I have to share. Richard gave testimony of how on the day that Joshua his son (5) was to be baptised, his granny was so moved, that she gave her life to Jesus too, and they were both baptised together, the same day, one after the other. We watched the video together, and rejoiced greatly that God is saving whole households! Praise God!!


The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Today is the first day of the rest of your life
— unknown

As I was driving to work today, I was thinking of some of the things I had not done very well previously, and how when we work, whatever we do, we should do it as if we are working for the Lord himself, and not just for our boss or our company or our clients etc. I wasn't beating myself up about these things, or feeling down about them, but I was feeling convicted of the need to change!

I was reminded of a scene from Vanilla Sky (weird film!). In it Tom Cruise plays the role of a self-centred, hedonistic business tycoon, who is brought to his senses when he falls in love (awwww!) Penelopy Cruz, his love interest, is decidedly unimpressed with his lifestyle so far, and convinces him to mend his ways. She comes up with this great quote: "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." (Anyone know who this quote is from? Answers in the comments please) In other words: "It doesn't matter how you have lived your life so far. Now you have a fresh start. What matters is what you do with today that sets a pattern for the rest of your life."

When we come to Christ, we get a wonderful fresh start. All our past failures are erased and we get to start with a clean sheet. But it's not just a one-off. Jesus paid for all our sins, not just past, but present and future as well. Every time we mess up, and come to the Lord and say sorry, he forgives us as if it had never happened. (1Jn 1:9) Each day with Jesus is a new beginning. There is nothing bad in our past that needs to set a precedent for how we live today. Today really is the first day of the rest of our lives. We don't need to wait for the new year, or for a specific ministry time, or for someone to lay hands on us. If God is convicting you of something you need to change, Today is the day to do it! Accept that your old mistakes have been forgiven and forgotten, and that before you is a great opportunity for success. Just make the decision to be different, and be different!

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (Heb 3:15)

Wash and make yourselves clean... Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! (Isa 1:16-17 [selected])

When he came to his senses, he said ... "I will set out and go back to my father".... So he got up and went to his father. (Lk 15:17-20 [selected])


One size fits all?

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armour on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. "I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them." So he took them off. (1Sa 17:38-39)

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (1Co 12:17-18)

I'm grateful to Cerys for bringing this to my mind today. Yesterday she pointed out that her experiences were different to mine, and the way God deals with each of us is very different. He is gracious, and knows exactly what each of us need. This is absolutely right! It made me think of the two scriptures I have mentioned above.

Saul tried to get David to fight the way he did, but it just didn't work. David had his own way of fighting which turned out to be far more effective. We can't try and force everyone to be just like us, or to do things the way we do them, it is not the way God has planned it to be. The body is made up of different parts; you get a very different response when you shove a cotton bud in your eye, than you do when you put one in your ear. In one case it is helpful, but in the other case it certainly is not. We need to recognise the God-ordained diversity that exists within the body, and not try to impose a "One size fits all" mentality.

Now there are some things which are the same for all of us. Truth is not subjective, no matter what our society might say. Doctrine is either true for everyone or it is not true at all. There is none of this pluralistic "If it works for you, Brother...." Personal morality, is not a matter of choice either. God has clear standards and shows no favouritism. But every child is different, and God has arranged his body full of people who think and respond in different ways, and God is able to relate to them all as individuals.

This is particularly true in the area of gifting. Which is the context of the 1 Corinthians passage: "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit." One error, that thankfully I have not heard for a while is, "I have the Spirit, therefore I have all the gifts." This is just not true. We all have the same Spirit, but we do not have the same gifts. Although God is transforming us into the likeness of Christ, no one individual can ever represent the fullness of the gifting of Christ. If there was such a man, he would be an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher all rolled into one — just as Christ was. But what does the scripture say? The gifts of the Spirit are distributed according to his will (Heb 2:4) We have different gifts according to the grace given us (Ro 12:6) And that not all are apostles, pastors or teachers (1Co 13:29)

We are designed to need each other! None of us has it all. None of us can survive without the variegated input from the full range of the ministries which God has arranged in his body. There is no room in the plan of God for a lone-ranger "Me and Jesus" mentality. We belong to each other. We cannot grow and function properly until we both find our proper place and gifting within the body of Christ, and also recognise and accept our dependance on the fellow ministries which God has joined us to.

We must never think we have it all, but equally we should never underrate the gift that God has given us. The body needs the gift that you have, and is incomplete if you don't use it. It's not arrogant to think this way... it's the way God has ordained it to be.


The Family of God

One of the things that has surprised some people about us (myself and Jacqueline) during this tough time for us, has been that we have not missed a single Sunday morning meeting. Sometimes it is right for those who are grieving to have space away from everyone; indeed our elders told us clearly that if we needed to we could stay away for a week or two. We considered this option seriously, and nearly went down this route, but in the end I decided against it.

The Church is the family of God. Who do you gather around you during a tough time, if it is not your family? As Matthew says on his blog today, it is when you have a few knocks that what is really inside you is revealed. Is the church as the family of God just a nice theory for us, or is it reality? The Church, Paul says, is a body, though it is made up of many parts, it is one. When one part suffers, the whole body suffers with it. I felt strongly that this was not a time to withdraw, but on the contrary, a time to engage with the body and embrace all the healing and love that they were more than willing to give. Theology is not just meant to edify the mind, but to guide your steps. In fact theology that has no bearing on how you live your life is worthless!

This is not to say that this has been easy for us. Jacqueline in particular has found Sundays quite hard. The well-meaning sympathy, brings all the emotion to the surface, when you would rather something so personal was not on public display. Never-the-less she has willingly submitted to my decision, and agrees it is the right thing to do. It would be hard whenever we came back to the meetings.

I hope also, that we have been a provocation to others. I may not have a label or a recognised title in the church, but I am a leader. I lead by example. If we, who have lost a baby, can still make it to the meeting on Sunday, I hope it will cause others to examine some of the reasons which keep them away! Not to condemn, but to provoke.

One thing that gives me great satisfaction in how we as a family have come through this tough time, is that our theological convictions have been tested and proven. We do not believe and confess one thing when things are going well, and another when calamity strikes, but the same truths that have sustained us in the good times, were there like solid rock for us in the tough times too.

One of the best compliments I have received for a while came from one of the folks on my Daniel class. He said, "When you were teaching from Daniel, I could tell that this was something you have lived through." Amen. God spare us from theology that cannot be lived through!


No Power of Hell, No Scheme of Man

No power of hell no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till he returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand!

— In Christ Alone, Keith Getty & Stuart Townend.

Tonight I had the privilege of ministering from the book of Daniel again. This time I was looking at chapters 3 and 4. Chapter 3 is the account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and chapter 4 is the account of the vision of the great tree and Nebuchadnezzar's fall and restoration.

Although it isn't mentioned explicitly in the text, chapter 3 is all about how God is sovereign, even over the activities of Satan himself. The Satanic influence can be seen by the direct comparison to Revelation 13 (worship the statue or die) and the fact that what is portrayed is a complete distortion of the plan of God. The golden statue is a false God, the music of all kinds of instruments is false worship, the decree is a false law, the sentence of the righteous is a false judgement, and finally the fiery furnace is a false hell! Yet through it all, even in this overt Satanic scheme, God turns that which was intended for evil and to destroy and works it for good: to advance his purpose and strengthen his people. It's wonderfully reassuring to know that the enemy cannot prevail, even his worst schemes cannot succeed, and that it is God who is working all things out for his glory. No matter what we go through, he goes through it with us, and he brings us out the other side into a greater blessing.

Chapter 4 shows God's sovereignty over the nations: "The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes" Even the mightiest of nations and the most powerful of kings is in the hands of the Lord and he can depose them in an instant. Once again, even though they seek their own glory, it is ultimately God's purpose and his will that prevails. We need not feel intimidated by being a lone voice in a big secular nation, for all things are in the hands of the Lord and he will always see that his kingdom advances and his people are blessed.

Taken together these chapters are a powerful message: God is in control! We need fear no power of hell, nor any scheme of man!

[If this has whet you appetite, you might want to check out my notes.]

Be blessed, and sleep well — our God is in control!


Message from Jacqueline

You've heard a lot from me on my thoughts and feelings on what we have been through lately, but I thought that those who know us would want to know how Jacqueline is doing. So I've managed to persuade her to prepare a post for this blog. Please leave her lots of encouragement in the comments.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us at this time. It is so comforting and encouraging to know that people are standing with us from all around the world. We have felt so blessed by the way that God's family have supported us over the past few weeks and have been greatly touched by all the e-mails, notes, messages left on the blog, meals and flowers. Thank you all very much.

Chris and Michael have also been a great strength to me and helped me to recover emotionally and physically. God has blessed me with a fantastic husband and son and I am extremely grateful for this.

I know that God is my strength and He has lifted me up when I have felt low. We sang a great song last Sunday (Lord, You are good) and as we sang, I confessed with my mouth that You are good all the time, and all the time, You are good. I know that He is restoring my soul and strengthening me every day. God is a Good God. Please continue to pray for us your prayers really are making a difference. Thank you.



He lifts me up

Yesterday I ended by saying that God is the one who raises us up. The Spirit is definitely communicating this to me at this time. This morning I read Ezekiel 2 and 3 and the same thing jumped out of the pages at me!

"As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet..." (Eze 2:2)

"Then the Spirit lifted me up..." (Eze 3:12)

"The Spirit then lifted me up..." (Eze 3:14)

"Then the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet..." (Eze 3:24)

I can testify that I have known through this time, and still feel strongly, the Spirit within me raising me up! Not just raising me above my circumstances, but stirring up deep desires and awakening the call of God on my life. My spiritual man is alert and attentive and ready for action!