Word Cloud

This is a "Word Cloud" of my blog. It shows the most commonly used words, the bolder the word, the more often I have used it.

It seems like a good visual way of seeing what's most important to you. "Out of the overflow of the heart the blogger writes"... or words to that effect! If you have a blog, why don't you give it a go? The site is http://www.snapshirts.com. They will also sell you a T-Shirt of your blog-cloud if you so desire!

[Many thanks to my friend Ricky for pointing this out.]


Life in Melton

I had a great time yesterday with Covenant Life Church - Melton Mowbray. I was impressed with many things. They have a wonderful strategic position right in the heart of the town, with big glass windows so that all who pass by can look in. They are certainly not a light under a bushel, but a lamp on a stand for all to see. I love that! But we know, don't we, that the church is not buildings but people. And I was impressed more with the people there. They are friendly, welcoming, hospitable, worshiping, prophetic people — the people of God — the best people in the world, wherever you find them.

Before the meeting even started we had a divine appointment! A visitor who was there for the first time, knew Jacqueline! (I always joke that Jacqueline knows everyone! But not normally first time visitors in a congregation we have never been to before!) She was a bridesmaid at Jacqueline's brother's wedding. She was really pleased to see Jacqueline; even more so when she learned we were only here for the one week.

I was also really blessed that the time of worship had a clear unified theme running all the way through it. Everything pointed to the amazing love of God for us, and how it was ultimately expressed through Jesus.

I felt a great liberty and anointing as I preached the word. I spoke from Genesis 12 about the call of God on our lives; that we are not just called out from sin to settle until Jesus comes again, just as Terah came out of Babylon but settled in Haran, but we are called in to new life in Christ which gives us a mission and a purpose here on earth to be a part of God's amazing eternal kingdom plan. Just like Abraham who continued to press on towards the vision of the city of God, Zion (the Church) that had captivated his heart. I shared that the true 'Passion of Christ' was not the events leading upto the cross, but the joy set before him on the far side of the cross for which he endured the shame. His glorious inheritance in the saints — the Church! We are the true Passion of Christ!

It was clear from all this that we were meant to be there that morning. Significant since on Friday night I had a bad fever, and woke up cold and shivery and couldn't get warm. All Saturday I was lethargic and aching. The temptation was to ring up, and say I was too ill to come. But instead I preached to myself about Bricks without Straw, and instead of giving up, I pressed on, pressed through and overcame. Sunday morning I woke up refreshed, without any trace of illness! Praise God!

After the meeting we were shown wonderful hospitality. The most fabulous roast dinner. And my little boy was instantly at home, playing with toys and watching TV with the other children. A great testimony in itself as he is going through a clingy phase at the moment. And... yes, I even met someone who reads my blog (occasionally) [Hi Gill!]

Many thanks to all the good folks at Melton who gave us all such a wonderful morning. May God continue to bless you abundantly in every way!


Off the record

One of the things I love about blogging is the interaction with my readers via the comments. However, I'm aware that not everyone is comfortable leaving a message that the whole world can read, even if it is done anonymously. So if you look at my sidebar you will see a new "Off the record" section where you can send me a quick note about something you don't want the rest of the world to see.

So now even if what you have to say is too obscure, too controversial, too off-topic, or if you're just too shy, or too lazy to email, there is now no excuse not to tell me what's on your mind.

...but if you have something relevant to say in response to one of my posts, I'd still prefer a comment. If I get any off the record messages that I deem should have been comments, I reserve the right to include them as such myself.

Look forward to hearing from more of you!


A joy to lead

"When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves — praise the LORD!" (Jdg 5:2)

We had another great time in cellgroup last night. What great folks the people of God in Nuneaton are!

As one prayer came "Lord, it's time for us to step out into the unknown..." I immediately recognised the voice of God. It was a prophecy prayed instead of prophesied: "It's time for us to step out with faith!" That's the word of God for us as a group in Nuneaton. It may sound simple, maybe even self-evident, but it is a powerful and timely word. One of my great joys in leading this group is that they are a people eager to please God, and very responsive to him whenever his word comes. I'm sure I'll get opportunity to expand more on what this means over the coming weeks, but for now I just want to commend the faith and obedience of my co-workers in Nuneaton. They are wonderful men and women of God.


Counterfeit Signs

So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. Still Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. (Ex 7:10-13)

Those who know me, or have read my blog for a while, will know that I don't like to make a big deal about the devil. I'd much rather talk about Jesus! If you have Jesus, then you don't need to fear or worry about the devil, his power or his activities. He who is in us is greater than he that is in the world! I have little time for those who see demons and their activities everywhere. God is infinately more powerful than Satan, and there are many more angels than demons. If you are under authority, going for God, and full of faith, then any demon who knows what's good for him is going to give you a wide berth!

However the Scriptures do say that we should not be uninformed about the enemy's schemes. By being aware of our enemy's M.O., we are more likely to spot his ploys, and less likely to be taken in by them. These opening chapters of the book of Exodus, give us some valuable insights into our enemy's tactics.

As I said before, Satan is powerless to stop the power of God, so he has to resort to other tactics. If he cannot discourage us (bricks without straw) then he will try to discredit us! The quickest way to stop a man of God is for him to fall into moral compromise! However it is not just our character that Satan would try to discredit, he also seeks to cast doubt upon our charismata (Spiritual gifts).

By producing his counterfeit snakes, Pharaoh had an excuse not to believe in the authenticity of the snake that Aaron had produced. Many people miss out on the miraculous moves of God, because all they see are "Pharaoh's Snakes". They point to the harm that false prophecy has caused, and deduce that this can't possibly be a gift from God that is active in the church today. Or with the so called "Toronto" blessing, they point at all the clucking and baa-ing and other strange phenomenon, and deduce that this could not possibly be a move of God. And so, just as the enemy intended, they miss out on the genuine life-changing powerful encounter with the Spirit of God.

The good news is that we don't need to go on a "witch hunt" for false signs. Aaron did not run around the palace stamping on the false snakes. His own snake did the job for him. We don't need to get drawn into a debate or battle over false signs, we just need to stir up the genuine gifts that are within us, and let them speak for themselves. When the light comes the darkness has to retreat.


Bricks without straw

The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’

Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”
(Ex 5:6-8, 22-23)

Over the years, I have come across much anecdotal evidence, from my own life and from the testimony of others, that when you first decide to make some breakthrough for the Lord, things may first get worse before they get better.

You become convinced that God wants you well, but after you storm the heavens the first time, you have a bout of illness worse than before. You become convinced of the need to tithe, but after the first month you go overdrawn. Have you ever heard testimonies like these?

I'm convinced that nothing can stop a man or woman who is determined to follow God; but that is just it, we need to be determined! Although the enemy never has the power to stop us, he does seem to have the ability to test our resolve. We are no threat to him when we are still bound by inertia in the status-quo, but as soon as we show signs of wanting to press into new ground, he throws at us whatever he can to make our situation uncomfortable. We then have a choice to make that will reveal what we value more: the comfortable life, or the victorious life. The choice we make will reveal whether the seed of the word that we initially responded to fell on good soil, or rocky soil.

These are the "bricks without straw" situations of life that test our resolve, and challenge what we really want. Moses and the people had to decide if they wanted a comfortable life making bricks in slavery, or a victorious life free from ever making bricks again. These are not times to give up, but times to press through. Times to prove that God is faithful to his promises and his power is greater than whatever the enemy may throw at us. No weapon forged against us can prosper, but in the "bricks without straw" moments they look like they might. These are times to show that our faith will not waver; that we are convinced that God will do what he said he would do. The fact that we encounter such opposition should actually give us great hope that the breakthrough we seek is just around the corner. If it were not, why would the enemy waste his efforts? Its always darkest just before the dawn.

Never give up in these moments, for that is just what our enemy wants you to do. Press on, press through, and overcome! Jesus is our great example: before he could sit down in glory, he first had to endure the cross... what are our difficulties compared with that!?

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Heb 12:3-4)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Gal 6:9)


Authority over sickness and the serpent

Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” (Ex 4:1-9)

I have mentioned in a previous post how the sign of "the serpent" is probably not the first one we would think of as a sign from God. Moses himself was afraid and ran from it. Sickness too is not something we would consider as a sign from God. Some people still struggle to come to terms with God's sovereignty over and in sickness, but that's another matter... What is important here is that the signs that God gave to Moses was not just that he could produce a serpent and sickness, but that he had authority over them.

Power over sickness and Satan were the same signs that Jesus himself used to prove that he had authority:

For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (Mt 9:5-8)

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (Mk 1:25-27)

It is this very authority, that Jesus delegated to his first disciples:

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. (Mt 10:1)

...but more than this, we are told in the Scriptures that these signs of authority shall follow all who believe.

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Praise God that he has given us his authority over Satan and sickness. We do not have to fear them, nor run from them, but reach out and lay our hands on them, and in the authority of Christ command them to submit.

But there is still a greater sign....

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Lk 10:17-20)

The greatest sign of all is that of blood and water. The sign that flowed out of the Saviour's pierced side. The sign that declares we are purchased for God, and that our names are written in the Lamb's book of life.


Athanasius on the Incarnation

It's Friday and you're looking for something light, right? Sorry, not this week! I'm finishing off this week's posts with something meaty for you to chew over the weekend. Do take the time to read it though. A good diet of meat makes you big and strong in the faith! Here is something from the 4th Century's arch-heresy buster, and theologian extrodinaire: Athanasius. These are selected sections from his masterful work: On the Incarnation. A book all about the glory, wonder and power of Jesus and what he achieved through his life, death and resurrection.

This is what Holy Scripture tells us, proclaiming the command of God, "Of every tree that is in the garden thou shalt surely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ye shall not eat, but in the day that ye do eat, ye shall surely die." "Ye shall surely die"—not just die only, but remain in the state of death and of corruption.

As we have already noted, it was unthinkable that God, the Father of Truth, should go back upon His word regarding death in order to ensure our continued existence. He could not falsify Himself; what, then, was God to do?

The Word perceived that corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death; yet He Himself, as the Word, being immortal and the Father's Son, was such as could not die. For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection. It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent. For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required. Naturally also, through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all men were clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection. For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word's indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all.

When, then, the minds of men had fallen finally to the level of sensible things, the Word submitted to appear in a body, in order that He, as Man, might center their senses on Himself, and convince them through His human acts that He Himself is not man only but also God, the Word and Wisdom of the true God. This is what Paul wants to tell us when he says: "That ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the length and breadth and height and depth, and to know the love of God that surpasses knowledge, so that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God." The Self-revealing of the Word is in every dimension—above, in creation; below, in the Incarnation; in the depth, in Hades; in the breadth, throughout the world. All things have been filled with the knowledge of God.

For this reason He did not offer the sacrifice on behalf of all immediately He came, for if He had surrendered His body to death and then raised it again at once He would have ceased to be an object of our senses. Instead of that, He stayed in His body and let Himself be seen in it, doing acts and giving signs which showed Him to be not only man, but also God the Word. There were thus two things which the Savior did for us by becoming Man. He banished death from us and made us anew; and, invisible and imperceptible as in Himself He is, He became visible through His works and revealed Himself as the Word of the Father, the Ruler and King of the whole creation.

Have no fears then. Now that the common Savior of all has died on our behalf, we who believe in Christ no longer die, as men died aforetime, in fulfillment of the threat of the law. That condemnation has come to an end; and now that, by the grace of the resurrection, corruption has been banished and done away, we are loosed from our mortal bodies in God's good time for each, so that we may obtain thereby a better resurrection. Like seeds cast into the earth, we do not perish in our dissolution, but like them shall rise again, death having been brought to nought by the grace of the Savior.

In a word, then, those who disbelieve in the resurrection have no support in facts, if their gods and evil spirits do not drive away the supposedly dead Christ. Rather, it is He Who convicts them of being dead. We are agreed that a dead person can do nothing: yet the Savior works mightily every day, drawing men to religion, persuading them to virtue, teaching them about immortality, quickening their thirst for heavenly things, revealing the knowledge of the Father, inspiring strength in face of death, manifesting Himself to each, and displacing the irreligion of idols; while the gods and evil spirits of the unbelievers can do none of these things, but rather become dead at Christ's presence, all their ostentation barren and void. By the sign of the cross, on the contrary, all magic is stayed, all sorcery confounded, all the idols are abandoned and deserted, and all senseless pleasure ceases, as the eye of faith looks up from earth to heaven. Whom, then, are we to call dead? Shall we call Christ dead, Who effects all this? But the dead have not the faculty to effect anything. Or shall we call death dead, which effects nothing whatever, but lies as lifeless and ineffective as are the evil spirits and the idols? The Son of God, "living and effective," is active every day and effects the salvation of all; but death is daily proved to be stripped of all its strength, and it is the idols and the evil spirits who are dead, not He. No room for doubt remains, therefore, concerning the resurrection of His body.

In short, such and so many are the Savior's achievements that follow from His Incarnation, that to try to number them is like gazing at the open sea and trying to count the waves. One cannot see all the waves with one's eyes, for when one tries to do so those that are following on baffle one's senses. Even so, when one wants to take in all the achievements of Christ in the body, one cannot do so, even by reckoning them up, for the things that transcend one's thought are always more than those one thinks that one has grasped.

If this has whet your appetite, you can read the whole work here:


Divine Symmetry: 110

Many thanks to all who have completed the Reader Poll... interesting results so far. Those who haven't registered yet, please do.

Today's post is brought to you by the number 110.

I have posted on this before, but as it was back in the early days when I averaged about 1 hit a fortnight, there's no harm in revisiting it. Anyone who can remember it from the first time round gets extra brownie-points!

Joseph lived 110 years, as did Joshua. I am struck by this symmetry in the Word, between the man who led the people of Israel into Egypt, and the man who led them back into Canaan.

Both Joseph and Joshua are types of Christ. I have already mentioned about the typology of Joseph, but the typology of Joshua is just as strong. Joshua was the conquering commander of God's people who led them in victory after victory to take hold of their inheritance. In fact even his name is identical to Jesus. It is only because Joshua is transliterated directly from the Hebrew Old Testament, and Jesus is transliterated via the Greek of the New Testament that the names are different. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) Joshua is called Jesus too!

The early church historian Eusebius makes much of this. In a great insight he points out that the two men that Moses had with him in the tent of God's presence, both had their names changed prophetically. Aaron became the high priest, the anointed one; and Hoshea son of Nun, had his name changed to Joshua. Thus in the Greek, these two men with Moses before the Lord were "Christ" and "Jesus"; just one more way the whole testimony of Scripture points forwards to our Lord.

This symmetry then becomes highly significant. Egypt was a time of sorrow and trial for God's people. Yet God wants it to be clear, that the same Lord who led them in would also lead them out! This is something we see repeated many times in Scripture, in particular in the book of Daniel. God does not always spare his people from the time of trial, but he is always with them in it, they only last an allotted time, and he always leads them out stronger than when they went in. The people of Israel went into Egypt as 70 individuals, but emerged as a mighty nation of over half a million!

So apart from this symmetry, is 110 in itself significant as a number? Maybe! I'd like to put forward that 110 is significant, in terms of times of trial for God's people, as being 40 + 70. We see this pattern in the very last chapter of Genesis. In the same passage where we are told that Joseph lived 110 years, we are also told the times of preparation and mourning for Israel (Jacob): 40 days, and 70 days respectively. Just like the flood, this period of 40 days reoccurs in Scripture as a time of preparation and testing; and both 40 years and 70 years represent times of mourning for Israel (the people) as the time in the wilderness, and the exile in Babylon.

By placing these two types of Christ, like book ends, either side of the time of trial in Egypt, and linking them with a number also representative of trials, God is revealing himself as the God who is there for us in every fiery-furnace of life. Trials may come, but God is always faithful. He is always with you, his strength is always available to you. You can and will overcome all that life can throw at you, and in the end, God will lead you out with increased strength to a place of greater blessing. In the 24 years of my walk with the Lord, I can testify this is always true.

Enough of the shadows and types, let us come out into the light, and see what the reality himself has to say on this matter:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (Jn 16:33)


First Reader Poll

Welcome to my first Reader Poll. The first poll of any kind on my blog, or any of those I regularly read, so somewhat of an experiment!

If you are a regular reader (and by that I mean that you have come here more than once with the foreknowledge that my blog existed, and with the intention of reading something I wrote) I would like to know a bit more about you, and in particular what relation (if any) you have with me. Are we members of the same church, or family of churches? Are you a friend, a friend of a friend, or a total stranger? A poll is a good way for me to find out about you (collectively) without you (individually) giving up any of the anonymity that you enjoy. Of course if you are not afraid to give up your anonymity, you can always leave me a comment; especially if you fit into the last category, I'd love to know how you found my blog, and more importantly, why you came back! ;-)

[FYI: The Band of Bloggers list I refer to can be found in my Sidebar on the right hand side]

17/02/06 13:35 GMT: The poll is now closed. Many thanks to all who took part. Here are the results

Regular Reader Poll
About you
Belong to a related Ministries Without Borders church 50% 12
Belong to Living Rock Church 25% 6
None of the above, but I know someone on your Band of Bloggers list 17% 4
None of the above, but I know you 8% 2
Just found your blog through browsing/searching 0% 0
total votes: 24
polls by

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The Big Picture - Part 5

The view from the river bank

Then he led me back to the bank of the river (Eze 47:6)

Ezekiel 47 is a great picture of getting deeper into the water of life, the waters of the Holy Spirit, which now flow from within us. In verse six of this chapter we see something, which at first sight seems a bit strange. Having led the prophet to the point where he was so deep in the river that he was out of his depth, the Lord leads him back to the bank of the river.

Now we know that God's desire is for us to have a lasting anointing in the Holy Spirit. We are exhorted to keep in step with the Spirit, and thus continually have life in the Spirit. God was not saying to Ezekiel (or to us!) "That's deep enough now, you can come out." It was for another purpose altogether that he was led back to the bank. It was to see the view.

It was only once the prophet had been deep in the river, that he could see the view from the bank. It was a view that showed him all that life in the Spirit achieves. He saw the sea become fresh, the great catch of fish, and the trees that produce fruit and have leaves for healing.

God wants us to lead a life continually immersed in his river of life, but he also wants us to understand the big picture: all that the Spirit-filled life is meant to achieve.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The purpose of a Spirit filled life, is not ultimately for our blessing, though we will get blessed! It is so we can be effective witnesses for the Lord.

The river of life flows into the sea, so that to the ends of the earth, every nation may be touched with the gospel, and so the whole earth can be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God.

We are empowered to be witnesses, so that as fishers of men we might have a mighty catch of all kinds of fish.

We are empowered with fruits and gifts of the Spirit, so that we might more closely reflect the character and anointing of our Lord, and witness to him with our lives, that he might draw men to himself revealed through us.

Being deeper in the river is great for us, but the Lord wants us to see the big picture. Life in the Spirit is not ultimately for us, but for others. No matter how blessed we get by being in the river, we must never forget the purpose of life in the Spirit. See the view from the bank again: Spirit-filled men are designed to change the world!


The Big Picture - Part 4

On Earth as it is in Heaven

God's will is perfectly done in heaven: his Kingdom rule is perfectly manifest. In the heavens too, we can look up and see a lasting testimony to the rule and authority of God, amongst the Sun moon and stars; which whilst tainted with Adam's sin as much as the rest of creation, nevertheless, faithfully and without faltering, continue to mark our days, months, seasons and years, millennium after millennium.

If he so desired, God could have so established his order on the Earth with a single word. It is not through lack of power or ability, that God's Kingdom tarries. It is certainly not due to some cosmic dualistic struggle between good and evil! Satan is just one fallen (and defeated!) created being. Rather it is by choice. God has chosen to manifest his Kingdom on earth, not through heavenly bodies, but earthly ones: the man and woman he made in his image.

Heaven is thus the template for the earth. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, that God's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is how his kingdom comes. God's big picture for the earth, is not to destroy it with an asteroid, a super-volcano, or the Ebola virus, but to redeem it and transform it to be like heaven. God's plan through man is to bring heaven on earth.

This is why Moses was commanded to be very careful that he built the tabernacle according to the pattern — because it already existed in heaven. What he was building on earth was to be a reflection of a heavenly reality.

In Daniel chapter 2, we see the vision of the rock, representing Christ and the Kingdom that he would bring, that smashes the idolatrous statue of the nations, and grows to fill the whole earth. We are told, not only that it grew into a mighty mountain, but that it came as a rock "cut from the mountain". The mountain already exists in heaven, now through the expansion of the Kingdom of Christ, that mountain is now coming on earth as it is in heaven.

This is why, we too must be careful, like Moses, that we build according to the heavenly pattern. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy, nor a free-for-all. God has already established his Kingdom order in heaven; if what we are building does not reflect that order, then it is not the Kingdom. It is only what belongs to God's unshakable Kingdom that will endure.

Psalm 19:4 says:

Their [the heavens] voice goes out into all the earth. (NIV)

I like the different emphasis that the ESV brings:

Their [the heavens] measuring line goes out through all the earth

God sets his heavenly measuring line against all we build on the earth, to see that we are building according to his pattern.


You can all prophesy!

On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. (Ac 19:5-6)

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. (1Co 14:1)

Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. (1Co 14:5)

For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged (1Co 14:31)

We had a great time in cellgroup last night. We met with the sole purpose of pressing into God, worshipping him, abiding in his presence, listening to the Spirit, and stepping out in the gifts as he prompted. One of the key words to us as a church (Living Rock Church) at the moment is to "go deeper in the river" — to increase our thirst for the living water of the Spirit, and to move on in our relationship with him. I started with some words of encouragement from the verses above.

In Acts 19, there was no time gap between the disciples being baptised in the Spirit and them prophesying. One of our group had already shared how he had come to the conviction that being a "new Christian" was "no excuse" and that God wanted to use him just as much as everybody else — fantastic revelation! In 1Corinthians 14, Paul again and again expresses his desire that all God's people should prophesy.

Guess what happened! Everyone prophesied! Every single one, even those who had never prophesied before. In fact the prophetic words flowed and flowed and flowed all night, as we kept listening and responding to what God was saying. It was 10:30 before we even knew it, and no-one cared a jot that we had run over! In fact I'm sure I speak for the group when I say that we are all in eager anticipation of our next meeting to go even deeper still!

Was also fantastic to have Chris Alton fellowshipping with us that night. Chris is a great friend, a man of God, a great teacher of the word, and someone at home in the movings of the Holy Spirit. I'd point you to his blog... but he doesn't have one YET!
[Really unsubtle hint Chris! ;-)]


Theological Debate

I love it! This is what blogging is all about (IMHO); when it ceases to be just a monologue of my thoughts, and becomes a vibrant exchange between men of faith: iron sharpening iron.

I really appreciate that people feel at liberty to leave comments on my blog, and respectfully disagree, or add a different emphasis to what I have shared. It causes you to rethink your position, and either readjust if necessary, or become more convinced and better equipped to defend what you believe.

Consequently, I'm not going to post anything new today. Instead I'll just point you to where the action is:
Tongues and Pentecost (great debate!)
Chalcedon Creed (not really a debate, but fruitful exchange nevertheless)


Tongues and Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. (Acts 2:1-6)

Believe it or not this is a favourite passage for cessationists! Their argument, which I have seen expounded many times, on my excursions round the wider blogosphere, is that the "Apostolic" gift of tongues was speaking in "known translatable languages" for the "purpose of evangelism". They then argue that since this is not how the modern "charismatic" gift of tongues is used, what is currently manifest cannot be the true gift of tongues as it was poured out on the day of Pentecost. Further support, so they claim, for the cessation of this gift.

It is somewhat surprising that any cessationist should claim to be an expert in what the gift of tongues is; but not surprising at all that they get it so badly wrong! Let's look at what the passage actually says.

they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues [plural].... they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them [plural] speak in his own language [singular].

First lets take note of the words used. They all spoke in other tongues [greek: glossa] and each heard them speak in his own language [greek: dialektos]. If the purpose of the passage was to show that the disciples were speaking in known languages, surely the same word "dialektos" would be used in each case, but it is not. Dialektos is the word used for the standard language associated with a particular nation; glossa on the otherhand is better translated not as language but as dialect, as it is used for the words spoken, not for a nation, but by a particular group of people.

Now lets take a look at the tenses. The standard way this passage has been understood would read better as "they were bewildered, because each one was hearing one of them speak in his own language" or "they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak many languages (including their own)" But this is not what the passage says.

Let us also put ourselves into the position. If as a foreigner in a strange land, I heard someone standing in the street speaking English, what would my reaction be? That something miraculous had happened? Or that I had met someone who had learned my language? How would I know whether his english speaking was due to learning or due to a miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit. If I had no reason to suspect the latter, surely I would assume the former. Also consider, imagine a group of people all speaking simultaneously different languages. How would that be different from the normal hubbub for the marketplace that already held people from all these different places? Who indeed would be able to distinguish what one man said in one language over the noise created by the other 119 speaking in languages that were not understood.

No, this is what I believe took place: the disciples all spoke in different tongues, that were distinct from the languages of the nations.

For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. (1Co 14:2)

This in itself was miraculous, for it was not words that they had learned, nor babbling that they made up, but utterance given by the Holy Spirit. But there was a second half to this miracle, for although they were all speaking different words, the Greek heard them as if they were speaking Greek, the Hebrew as if in Hebrew. Throughout the crowd, astonishment and bewilderment broke out, as they could not agree what language these men were speaking that all could understand as if in their own native tongue. And indeed we are told, that some did not understand them at all, but just heard the unintelligable words, like those of drunken men.

This was indeed a fulfilment of Joel 2, the Spirit poured out on all flesh. For what we see, is not just the miraculous gift of tongues on the disciples, but an indiscriminate outpouring of the miraculous gift of interpretation too. It was a reversal of Babel! At Babel, one people with the same speech were confused and scattered into many nations. At Pentecost, many nations were gathered together, and a new unified people of God was formed who again spoke with words that all could understand.

It is clear, however, from Paul's instructions to the Corinthians, that this is not a phenomenon that we should expect every time God's people speak in tongues (not to say that it cannot, nor has not occurred in some instances). Unless the tongues are interpreted, the usual situation is that no-one will understand. Further proof, that these were not known translatable languages. Nor were they used in evangelism, but were give by the Spirit to declare the mysteries of the Spirit, and the mighty works of God — in short, exactly the same manifestation of tongues that is present in every Spirit-filled believer today.


Bread and Wine: Death, Resurrection and Return!

I love the Old Testament; it's all about Jesus! When the risen Christ walked with his disciples along the Emmaus road it is recorded that "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." These Scriptures were not the New Testament (which had not been written yet) but the Old! All of the Old Testament points towards Jesus; on that walk, Jesus took any passage, and showed how through typology, symbolism and prophetic imagery they all ultimately served to point to him. This should not surprise us when we think about it, for all the Scriptures, New Testament and Old, were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and his ultimate ministry is to testify about the Son (Jn 15:26). Indeed the whole of history, from God's point of view, is really His story.

I have been reading the account of Joseph lately. Joseph himself is a "type" of Christ in the Old Testament: He left the place of honour at his father's side, was betrayed by his brothers, entered this King's service in humble and lowly sate, yet was raised in glory to his right hand, and through him many who otherwise would have perished were saved. Yet even within this account there are yet further details which testify towards Jesus and his work on the cross.

In Genesis 40 we read the account of Joseph's two visitors while he was in prison: the royal baker and the king's cupbearer. One was responsible to give the King bread, the other wine. Both had dreams, and Joseph interpreted them both.

“Do not interpretations belong to God?" (Ge 40:8)

The interpretations and the resulting fate of the two men were very different, but both were fulfilled within three days. The baker was sentenced to death and "hung on a tree", while the cupbearer was restored to his position of honour at the king's side. It was from this position, that the cupbearer (eventually!) called forth Joseph from out of prison too.

By now it should be obvious that both these men, what they represented, and what happened to them point towards Jesus. He was sentenced to death, hung on a tree, yet on the third day he was gloriously raised to life, and restored to his eternal place at the Father's right hand in glory. From there he will also return to take us to be with him. This is what we celebrate when we take the bread and wine of the new covenant meal.

It is important therefore that when we take the bread and wine, we do not just remember his death, making ourselves solemn by picturing the pain. It is indeed wonderful what the Lord endured on our behalf, but this is just part of the story. When we break bread, we are "proclaiming the Lord's death until he comes" (1Co 11:26). It does not speak ultimately of death, but of resurrection and return. Our Lord is not dead, but ALIVE! He is no longer on the cross, but risen gloriously, having conquered every enemy, and seated above every power and authority at the right hand of God in majesty. We do not just look back to the pain of Calvary, but forwards to the glory of the consumation. Our Lord is alive! Our Lord is risen! Our Lord is seated in glory. Our Lord is King of kings and Lord of lords. Our Lord has all authority in heaven, and on earth, and under it. There is nothing that is not subject to his authority. He now waits in heaven for us to take that authority and bring his Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven... and then at the fullness of time.... our Lord is coming again! Hallelujah!


Chalcedon Creed

I've nothing new to say today. Instead I thought I would share something old, something priceless, something in the heritage of every man or woman of the true faith. The creeds are fantastic. The foul grit of heresy in the early church produced some outstanding pearls, whose luster has not diminished over the years. It is right and proper that we give them the honour that they deserve. For if we do not honour the revelation of those who went before us, why should anyone who follows honour ours?

Here then is the Creed of Chalcedon:

Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
This selfsame one is perfect both in Deity and in humanness;
this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul [-human soul] and a body
He is of the same Reality as God as far as His Deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted.

Before time began He was Begotten of the Father, in respect of His Deity, and now in these "last days," for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of His humanness.
We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-Begotten
-- in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function.

The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the "properties" of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one Person and in One Reality [hypostasis].
They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-Begotten Word [or Logos] of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us;
thus the Symbol of Fathers [the Nicene Creed] has handed down to us.


Most Excellent!

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. (Ps 16:3 ESV)

God's people are the best people in the world! I love the Church and I love God's people. I have not just been joined to Jesus, but I have become a part of a people — The people of God.

How do you see the Church? What is your impression of God's people? Do you see all the divisions, the controversies, and the problems... or like Abraham have you been captivated by the vision of the city whose architect and builder are God, the new Jerusalem, a beautiful bride for the King of Glory?

When you spot problems and difficulties (and no-one is denying they are there) how do you address them? Do you go straight for the jugular pulling no punches, convinced that you have the heart of God for the issue.... or like Paul when he wrote to the Corinthians, have you caught the greater heart of God for his Church, so that inspite of it all you can still say "I give thanks to my God always for you" (1 Co 1:4)

God loves his Church! He is passionate about her. He sent his son to die for her. She is Christ's glorious inheritance. She is the joy for which Jesus spurned the shame of the cross. How can we claim to have the heart of God, if we are derisory about his bride?

I think I mentioned how stirred I was by listening to Richard Anniss's word recently [You really need to listen to it!] Part of the heart of God that Richard communicated was that "Our 'I' has to become 'We' and our 'Me' has to become 'Us'" Part of the outworking of this, I believe, is in the area of our confession. We need to take the Godly principles we have learned about the importance of our words as they relate to 'my' life and apply them to how we talk about 'Us' — the church. Those of us who would not dream of confessing anything negative over our own bodies... how can we make such confessions about the body of Christ?! We who would never consider speaking anything that dishonoured our wives... why should we feel at liberty to say such things about Christ's bride?!

I'm not the world's greatest councillor, but one thing I have noticed: when Christians talk about what's wrong in their lives, and start to talk about "the church" as something separate to themselves — a "them" rather than an "us" — alarm bells start ringing! We are not an isolated observer passing comment on something other to ourselves, when we say bad things about "the church", we condemn ourselves with our own words!

Let us line up our confession with what God says about his Church. Not because we have our heads in the sand, but because we have our gaze fixed in heaven.


The Road to Bethlehem

No, I'm not done with my "Big Picture" posts [that's the thing about the big picture... it's BIG... how's that for profound revelation! ;-)] Nor is this a belated Christmas post. But something I spotted in the word during my recent meditations in Genesis, that I feel stirred to share today.

Then they [Jacob and family] journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni [son of my sorrow]; but his father called him Benjamin [son of the right hand]. So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel's tomb, which is there to this day. (Ge 35:16-20 ESV)

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. (Lk 2:4-6 ESV)

Have you ever tried to put yourself into the place of the characters in the Bible and tried to imagine what they were thinking? It's pure speculation of course, but it can be a very helpful technique when meditating on the word, to grasp the full significance of some of the events.

What was going through Mary's mind as she travelled along the road to Bethlehem? It's impossible to tell for sure, but it is inconceivable that she would have been unaware of the account of Rachel's journey to that same town. Like her, she was pregnant with a son. Like her, she was due to give birth. She may have even passed the pillar that marked Rachel's journey's end. She knew she was destined to produce a son for God, but what did she know about her own fate? Did she wonder as she followed the steps of her ancestor if she was destined to follow that path to the same conclusion for herself? Was she anxious, concerned, afraid? If so, it would have been totally understandable. Perhaps for Mary, this was her own journey through the valley of the shadow of death.

Perhaps you are embarking on a "Road to Bethlehem" in your life right now? It's a road that is laden with negative expectations because of what has happened in the past. It's a road that brings back memories of sorrow and pain. It's a road that you don't want to take for fear that it will end where it did before — yet it is a road that, through circumstances you cannot control, you are compelled to take. Take heart and do not fear. For God is with you to accomplish his purpose. This may be an old road, but the day is new, and so will be the outcome!

Rachel through her death brought forth Ben-oni, Benjamin: the son of sorrow, the son of the right hand. Mary lived and brought forth Jesus! The Son, the man of sorrows who carried all our pains, and through his death, was raised to the right hand of God in majesty. It is God's plan to produce his son in you that will prevail. It is a plan to prosper you and not to harm you.

Whatever you may be feeling about it, take heart! The Road to Bethlehem is a road that ends with joy.


The Big Picture - Part 3

Once you begin to see the "big picture", you realise that it is bigger than you alone can relate...

I have just finished listening to Richard Anniss's message that he brought to our related church in Cardiff last Sunday. It's an outstanding, anointed, powerful word. It not only captures and conveys the big picture of God's heart for the world, in Christ, through the Church; but it also conveys this aspect of it: we can't do it alone! We were never meant to!

Take my advice: download it now, burn it onto a CD, listen to it in the car, or wherever is most appropriate... just do this: listen to it.

Outstanding, Richard!

The Big Picture - Part 2

It's all about Jesus

This is a very simple statement, yet absolutely critical. If we loose sight of the centrality of Christ in all we do, all we are, all we seek to become. The we have stopped being Christians and have become merely religious! The one we serve must always be more important than all our activities of service; the one we worship more important than the mechanics of praise; the one we minister on behalf of more important than "my" ministry; the one we witness to more important than the numbers of people we reach; the one who gives us authority more important than "our" results in prayer; the one we preach about more important than how well we preach. His glory is more important than my honour. I would rather be wronged than vindicate myself in a way that brings dishonour to the name of Jesus.

This was the difference between Mary and Martha. Martha was caught up in the activities, but Mary was first and foremost caught up with Jesus.

This does not mean that service is not important! Oh, how this passage has been abused to that end! We are first and foremost servants, before we are anything else (with the exception of worshipers). And it is as servants that we will be judged, and commended or rebuked. God has little good to say for the "wicked and lazy" servants who think they can cruise into glory without putting what God has given them to work (Mt 25:26). Our service is important, but it must always be for him. How sad, that on the day of judgement, there will be those who have worked all their lives under the impression they were pleasing God, yet Jesus will say to them: "I never knew you." (Mt 7:23) God takes no pleasure in religious acts, but he delights in lives surrendered to his son. One day, every knee will bow; we are God's prophetic people to the extent that we bow the knee to Jesus alone today.

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Eph 1:9-10)