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!


"The one who clings"

From one minor prophet to another; today I'm revisiting my old friend Habakkuk.

I was provoked by reading a post from my friend and elder Matthew Ling on the Now and the Not Yet. His post in turn was provoked by reading something on Trevor Lloyd's blog. (This just goes to prove what Trevor stated in one of his reasons for blogging: it provokes discussion and thought on deep issues that tend to be overlooked in normal Christian conversations.)

Habakkuk is one of my heroes in the faith, precisely because he understood the nature of the now and the not yet of the Kingdom. Or to be more accurate, its full threefold nature: the kingdom come, the kingdom coming, and the kingdom yet to come. You see, just as there are Christians who miss out on the "now" because of their focus on the "not yet"; there are also those who miss out on the "now" because of their fixation on the past, and what God has already done. Even if it is something as central and as important as the cross itself, a preoccupation with you've "already got" can stop you laying hold of the fresh grace God desires to pour out.

Habakkuk was a man who understood what God had already done, and lived in the good of all of it. "O LORD, are you not from everlasting?" (Hab 1:12) He also had one of the most profound visions into the future destiny of the Kingdom of God: "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Hab 2:14) But neither of these were enough for him; in his great prayer in chapter 3, which inspired the popular worship song, he shows that he is one of the violent men, who do not passively wait for the Kingdom to come, but who actively take it by force: "LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known" (Hab 3:2)

I like the way it is put in the NKJV: "Revive Your work in the midst of the years!" Like Habakkuk we live in the midst of years, between the now and the not yet. We have tasted of the age to come, but have not yet seen it come in its fullness. But we also recognise that as God's prophetic people it is our duty to actively lay hold of the not yet and bring it into the now. For his Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. To passionately call on God to renew his work in our time. Never to be content with the nostalgia of the past, or just the hope of the future, but with all our being to strive for a present reality! When we pray for God's kingdom to come, we are praying for it to come Today!

Habakkuk is also precious to myself and Jacqueline at this current time. A close friend brought the closing verses of Habakkuk as a word of encouragement to my wife recently:

Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

These words are not gloomy, self pitying or pessimistic. Habakkuk was not the Morrissey of his day! But he discovered the secret of worshiping God in all circumstances: It's all about him, and he never changes! He is always worthy of our praise. Last Sunday I danced before the Lord, and worshipped him with just as much passion and zeal as I always have. It's God I'm worshipping, not my circumstances I'm reflecting. God knows the sadness I have inside — I don't have to be miserable to prove it to him!

Even Habakkuk's name is inspiring. It means "The one who clings!" Whatever you are facing, be it good or bad, clinging to God is always the best thing to do. He is the one who will raise you up!

The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.


If God takes you through the valley, it is to get you onto a higher mountain.

— yours truly


Grain, Wine and Oil

I have been meditating on Joel chapter 2 over the last couple of days. What a great chapter of scripture it is. Like Numbers 11 (another of my favourites) it is a prophetic declaration of Pentecost and God's desire to fill all his people with an abiding anointing in the Holy Spirit.

There is plenty of other stuff in this chapter to get your teeth into too. There is the great promise of restoration: "I will restore the years the locust has eaten." And the signs in the heavens and on the earth (I'm still chewing over "blood, fire and billows of smoke" — fascinating imagery that I haven't worked out the full significance of yet. Answers on a postcard if you have any ideas — or just leave a comment below!)

But the thing that spoke to me from the chapter today was the great promise of abundant blessing: "I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully." Grain speaks of financial or material blessing (Lk 17:35 Lk 12:18, 2Co 9:10, 1Ti 5:18 etc) Wine speaks of the joy of life (Ps 4:7, Jer 48:33, Ecc9:7 etc) and oil speaks of the anointing of the Spirit (1Sa 16:13, Isa 61:1 etc, etc) It is thus a reflection of God's will to abundantly bless every area of our lives: materially, emotionally, and spiritually. Everything we need to be fully satisfied in life is found in God. He doesn't frustrate us (unless it is to provoke us to move on in his purpose for our lives) but he wants to satisfy us fully; to give us the desires of our hearts.

This theme of a blessing of grain, new wine and oil is one that reoccurs in scripture:

Ps 104:15 Wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.

May you know the Lord's abundant blessings in every area of your life today! Our God is good!


House abloom

Our house is full of flowers at the moment. Another precious sign of the love of God's people, family and friends. We have had to import some vases because we ran out of places to put them! Any more, and our fish (Splish and Splosh) will be getting some company!!

I have sometimes wondered, when I was on the "other side" and those I knew were grieving, how flowers made them feel. Is it a continual reminder of loss that makes them sad? A reminder of the love of friends that makes them glad? Or just a bit of colour that brightens the room and lifts the spirit? (Girls: You'll have to excuse me; being a bloke I have never really received many flowers before! So forgive me if I don't get it.)

For me, it is a reminder of the love and thoughts of others, and so, very welcome. But it has also made me think of something more prophetic: "The wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy." (Isa 35) It's a promise of restoration; of sadness being replaced with joy, and emptiness with abundance.

Isaiah 35
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendour of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.



Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?"
"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36)

What a mighty, awesome, wonderful, gracious, loving, all-sufficient God we serve! No matter what we face, nothing is too big for him. Nothing catches him off guard. Nothing can snatch us from out of his firm grip on our lives. It is he who is outworking his precious and wonderful plan for our lives and for his world. He has included us as part of his eternal plan to bring his glorious kingdom to the earth. He has made us co-heirs with Christ himself! He has forgiven all our sins, and welcomed us into his glorious holy presence. He daily pours out his love and his mercy and his grace into our lives. He has chosen to dwell within us by his Holy Spirit! We are participants of the divine nature! He surrounds us on all sides, and leads us on into ever increasing glory to become like Jesus. He rejoices over us with singing! He calls us by name before the angels. He looks upon us with an infinate Father's heart of love and affection. We are the apple of his eye! How awesome to know such love, and this by the authour of life himself: the almighty creator, the one who forged the galaxies and set them in the infinate cosmos — the same one who watches over me and my family!! What shall I fear? What shall make me afraid? Who is equal to such a God? All glory to God; it's all about him. Without him we are nothing; in him we have everything!


To put it another way...

Our God is a great big God
Our God is a great big God
Our God is a great big God
And he holds us in his hands

— Jo and Nigel Hemming (©2001 Vineyard Songs)


For men are not cast off by the Lord for ever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land,
to deny a man his rights before the Most High,
to deprive a man of justice-- would not the Lord see such things?
Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
(Lamentations 3:31-38)

The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.
Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"
He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
(Job 2:6-10)

One of the things I am very grateful for at this time is that all of the words of encouragement we have received at this time have been sensible and mature. I am very pleased to say, we have not had any of the flaky nonsense that usually surfaces when a believer goes through a time of trial. No-one, praise God, has tried to "discern my sin" or tried to imply that it is due to lack of faith that we went through what we did. All the words that have come, have focussed on God, and his love, his sovereignty and his mercy, and not on Satan and his alleged activities.

Maybe such talk is going on behind my back; who cares! That's where such sulphurous talk belongs! (Mt 16:23) I'm not saying that a believer cannot suffer as the result of sin; that much is obvious. But the conclusion that all suffering is the result of personal sin is just plain wrong! How then could Christ suffer? And why are we told that we will share the sufferings of Christ?

Let me take this opportunity to address a widespread theological problem. Everyone, I trust, can accept that good things come from God; indeed the scriptures tell us that all good things come from God (James 1:17). But many have a problem accepting that troubles and calamities can also come from God. There is a widespread belief that all such activity is from Satan. If anything "good" happens it is from God, but if anything that is not "good" happens it must be from Satan.

There are two big problems with this theology: first, you don't have to read the papers for very long to realise that the world is full of events that are not "good" — so just who is in control? God or Satan? But the real root of the problem is the deficiency of the word "good."

You see we use the word good to mean more than one thing. In the first instance we use "good" in the moral sense: ie. the opposite of evil. Good represents everything that is morally correct, pure and upright. In this sense of the word, God is good all the time and in every situation, and everything he does is good, and there is nothing that he does or is that is not good.

But good is also used to mean "pleasant"; ie the opposite of trouble. We talk of good times, and good things. But God is always good, by the first definition, even if we do not experience the "goodness" of the second definition. It is not correct to say, that everything God does is "pleasant". Indeed the scriptures plainly tell us, that every true son of God undergoes discipline from the Lord, and that no discipline is pleasant at the time. It is here where many believers go wrong, and attribute all such "unpleasantness" to Satan, and waste their time, shouting at the devil and "binding" him when they should be submitting to God (which will always enable us to resist the devil anyway! [James 4:7])

I am encouraged, if what I have received in the way of notes and comments is representative, that we are leaving behind such immaturity, and laying hold of the precious truths of the sovereignty and goodness of God. The Kingdom does not have to come in its fullness before Jesus is Lord. He is on the throne today. From the perspective of heaven, the whole earth is already full of his glory. There is no authority, in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth that does not come from him. He is the one who raises up kings and kingdoms and deposes and overthrows them again. He is not just Lord of the saved, but Lord of all. He is not just in control of our lives by the quiet waters, but even when we go through the valley of the shadow of death!

Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?



Thank you to all who have, and continue to, send us comments, emails and notes of encouragement. Thank you for the flowers, the meals, the prayers, the love, the hugs, the smiles, the ironing and the babysitting. We feel well loved. It's great to be part of a body of believers who know how to express the love and comfort of Jesus to those who need it.

Thank you too, to those who have offered us words of faith or verses of encouragement. These have not been received as trite or patronising platitudes, but as they are — words of life!

In particular the verse that Jo mentioned: Ro 8:28, has been particularly precious to us. We know that our family is not at the mercy of Satan, but in the hands of a loving sovereign God, who is working all things together for our good, and our greater blessing. We may not know, nor do we need to, why we had to go through what we did, but one thing is for sure — there is great blessing ahead for the Hamer-Hodges family!



God is good!

My, what a bumpy ride we have had the past two days! As if what we had already gone through was not enough!

Sunday afternoon, Jacqueline started bleeding and getting pain. She was due for a checkup on Monday, but sensibly decided to go into the labour suite at the hospital to get checked out by the midwifes on call. To her dismay she was told to stay in overnight. Being back in the hospital where we lost the baby was the last place she wanted to be, and caused her no small amount of distress. But she was assured it would mean she could get a scan first thing in the morning, and it was just routine.

Somewhere in the changeover of shifts, Jacqueline's situation was obviously not communicated, as a woman with a very troublesome labour was put in the room next to her, and kept her up half the night, and in the morning she was told she could not have the scan until 11:30am! The scan revealed that Jacqueline required a follow up procedure that would involve going under general anesthetic... and potentially another night in hospital! I don't know if it is possible to convey just how much anguish this news caused my poor wife!

As I sat on the bed next to Jacqueline, before she went in for the procedure. I comforted her, that this really was the last stage; after this we could escape far away from hospitals and have time to recover emotionally from all that had taken place.

The procedure should have only taken five to ten minutes; so after half an hour elapsed I got ready to welcome the bed carrying Jacqueline back to the room... an hour passed, and still she did not arrive. Then I saw the doctors striding past the door with concerned looks on their faces; no-one made eye-contact with me or said anything. At this point, I'm not ashamed to admit, I lost my peace, and became very anxious. I knew nothing should have gone wrong, but still it just didn't seem right!

After a incredibly long hour and fifteen minutes, the doctor came in to speak to me. She said the procedure had been a complete success, but during the time Jacqueline had been under the anaesthetic, her heart had developed an irregularity! They were keeping in the recovery room for further observations until a physician could examine her!

It was a heart-wrenching moment, to see the look on my wife's face when the doctor explained there was yet another complication and she would have to stay in hospital for another night, and await another doctor's assessment for what further treatments she would need!

It took two hours for this doctor to arrive, but as soon as he did, our situation changed! He explained that although he was the doctor on call, he was also a Registrar Cardiologist, and so we were getting immediate expert opinion. He had an excellent bedside manner, and was very professional, and sympathetic and considerate of what we had been through. He looked at Jacqueline's ECG and said it was nothing to worry about. It was perfectly within normal parameters for someone who was in a great deal of anxiety and stress. After questioning Jacqueline further about her medical history, and running another ECG, he declared that there was no risk, and we were free to go home!

How to describe the relief and joy of that moment! How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news! How wonderful it is when a man or woman with presence and authority announces good news to those who are in despair and sorrow! (How precious is the good news we carry to the lost!) How good God is to us that he sent us this man, this expert, at just the right time, and spared us from further anguish and another night in hospital. We are all home now. Praise God!



There is no easy way to say this. Certainly not in a public forum like a blog. I considered not saying anything at all... but nothing would seem genuine or sincere, or from the heart, if I did not write about this first, and I'm not ready to give up blogging just yet.

Jacqueline and I have had a very sad few days. We have known the Lord very close to us, and experienced an extra special measure of his grace and peace. Never the less, we still grieve, as all do when we experience loss, but it is grief that contains the ultimate hope of a joyful reunion in glory.

We lost our baby.


Seventy Sevens

"Seventy `sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. (Da 9:24)

The "seventy sevens" in Daniel are a much misunderstood passage of scripture. They have been forced into meaning all kinds of weird and bizarre things. Because of this, many Christians shy away from this prophecy, and would rather not say anything about it than be tarred with the same brush as the way-out dispensationalists, who love to speculate about apocalyptic passages like this.

But it is still the word of God! And it is all there to do us good. We should not surrender any part of the scriptures to false teachers. It is precisely because we remain silent on these issues, that they have room to spread all their fanciful nonsense.

In any case, I don't mean to sound arrogant, but it's really not that hard to understand, once you know how to look. Take a step back from all the details that people tend to fixate on and take in the big picture. Let me present you with the clues, and see if you can work out the mystery for yourself:

  • Does it help if you think of "seven seventies" instead? Daniel started the chapter by praying to God after he realised that the seventy years prophesied by Jeremiah represented the restoration of the Jewish people. As seven is the scriptural number of wholeness and completeness, what do you think seven seventies could represent?

  • Seven seventies are 490 years; approximately 5 centuries. Daniel prophesied around 500 BC.

  • The vision was announced by the angel Gabriel, who declared that Daniel was given the vision because he was "highly favoured" - ring any bells? (Lk 1:28)

  • "Seventy sevens" is mentioned again in the New Testament by Jesus, in reference to the forgiveness of sins (Mt 18:20-21).

  • The interpretation involves the "cutting off" of the "anointed-one" (literally: messiah). This is not the first time such prophetic language has been used. (Isa 53:8)

  • What is it that all the Old Testament prophets pointed towards? The anti-christ?? Think again! (1Pe 1:10-11)


Return to Daniel

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Da 7:13-14)

This Friday I begin to teach on the book of Daniel again. It is the Autumn term of our EQUIP course and I am re-running my "Daniel Masterclass." It is a real pleasure for me to return to these scriptures that I love so much, and contain such deep and profound truths on vital issues: the eternal Kingdom plan of God, the revelation of Christ, the sovereignty of God, the nature of trials, and the victory of the saints.

In my opinion the book of Daniel is a highly under-rated book. It is often only taught in the childrens ministry (our loss, their gain!) or is shied away from because of the difficult apocalyptic visions, that have been done such injustice by the bizarre interpretations of the dispensationalists. But we need not fear these passages; in fact they hold deep and precious truths, not bizarre and fanciful predictions.

Take all the numbers in Daniel. Let me share something simple, yet profound: all the trials of God's people in the book of Daniel are numbered! This is in itself the most important fact to grasp. Before you try and work out the significance of the actual numbers, the very fact that they are numbered speaks volumes. Before we face any trial, any hardship, any testing time, God has already set a limit on its duration. It will not last forever!

Any trial that God leads us into, he will also lead us out of. And Just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, he will be with us all the way through it too! There is nothing that we go through that he does not go through with us too.

It is a truth, whether your theology can handle it or not, that God does not always spare his children from the time of trial. Like Lazarus' sisters we can sometimes wonder why the Lord seems to hangs back from coming in miracle power. Sometimes it is his will, rather than taking us around the trial, that we go right into the heart of it, but then, just like our Lord, to come bursting out the other side, in greater strength, greater faith, greater courage, greater anointing, greater love, greater compassion, and into greater blessing.

How great is our God! All things work for the good of those who love him, and no weapon forged against us can prosper. We go from strength to strength, no matter what comes against us. Praise God!