An Angel from the God of Angels

For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. (Mal 2:7)

I have been meditating on this profound little verse a lot lately. I have experienced some of the outworking of it in my job lately. It is becoming more and more common for people to come to me for advice, information or insight relating to the problems (job related) that they are facing. In one incident just this week, a colleague was tackling a problem which had been unsolved for several months, and after struggling for a few hours, she said to herself - "I know what to do. I'll ask Chris!" And to her delight I was able to solve the problem in a couple of hours.

Now you may think, "What has this got to do with this verse or the role of a priest? Surely this is just because you are good at your job." Maybe, but I know the one who gives gifts and abilities to men, and has the power to raise them up or to bring them low. I believe that it is God's will to raise his people, like Solomon or Daniel, to positions of prominence so that they have a reputation of being able to solve difficult problems, to give good advice, and to be able to help when no-one else can. "From his mouth men should seek instruction."

This is where the role of the priest comes in, because I believe that this is caused, not just by a God-given excellence in our employment, but because we have stood (as the Old Testament priests did) in the presence of God. Just as in the case of Daniel and his friends, although it was the Babylonians who trained them, their learning and skill came from God - not just spiritual learning either, but learning in the secular literature of the Babylonians!

"God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom" Dan 1:17

You see, if we have stood in the presence of the Lord, then when people come to us for instruction we will have something to say. Whether it is on a spiritual matter or a secular one. It is the same God who created both realms.

When Jeremiah brought the world of the Lord to condemn the false prophets of his day, one of the accusations against them was that none of them had stood in the presence of the Lord to see or hear his word. When Gabriel announced himself to Mary, before he told her that he had come to bring her a message, he gave his qualifications to bring that message: "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God" It is those who have stood in the presence of the Lord who are qualified to speak on his behalf.

This last case got me thinking about the last part of this verse: "for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts." As you are no doubt aware the word for messenger is the same as the word for angel. And Lord of Hosts: "Jehovah Sabaoth", means God of all the angelic multitude. So we could also read this part of the verse as:

"For he is [like] an angel from the God of angels"

When we have stood in the presence of the Lord and go out into the world with his words on our lips we are to the people we meet like an angel from God. Never is this so much so as when we hold out the greatest knowledge of all: the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.


...to the ends of the earth

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
~ Psalm 72:8 ESV

As disciples of Christ we are called to the world. There is nothing parochial in our mission or our mandate. We may not all be international travelers or missionaries, but we can all have a global vision and impact by sowing into and supporting people and projects who go on our behalf, and represent the church of Jesus Christ, especially our local expression of it, in different nations around this world. The world that belongs to God and is destined to be filled with his glory.

The mission statement of Living Rock Church, the local expression of Christ's one universal body that I am proud to be a part of, is "From the heart of the nation to the ends of the earth." We currently have members of our church who are making that statement a reality. We have a team of folks who have gone to the Phillippines with YWAM to minister to the poor and preach the gospel in the "garbage city" near Cagayan De Oro.

Also check out a new blog aptly named "...to the ends of the earth" It belongs to another member of our church. A great woman of God, and a good friend: Linda Mezulis. She is off to Africa this Saturday to start a year's charity work in the needy nations of Uganda, Sierra Leone and Cambodia. She will be organising teams to do such things as the building of school rooms and dormitories for AIDS orphans. This is the love of Christ in action in our world. Visit her blog and give her your support in encouraging comments.

Update 29/06/06:
Kev C informed me that the Phillippines team have their own blog too! Mega Outreach. It's great to be able to keep up with what is going on the other side of the world through the wonders of modern technology. Makes you feel even more a part of the work. Thanks Kev


A Pure Heart, a Good Conscience and a Sincere Faith

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1Ti 1:5 NASB)

This is another verse that has grabbed my attention lately, being as it is to do with the purpose of teaching (and preventing false teachings) in the church. Having had a peruse of the original Greek and the Lexicons over at studylight.org I would like to offer my own amplified version of this verse:

The objective of our instruction is to produce and expression of God's covenant love in the church, which comes from a heart that is untainted and undivided, a conscience that is sound and upright, and faith that is genuine and not just for show.

It is a good reminder for all of us who teach and preach, that our ultimate objective is to produce a manifest expression of "Agape" - God's covenant love - in the body, and to do this our words must carry the utmost integrity. They should not be soiled by alterior motives or objectives, compromised by an inconsistent lifestyle, or dressed up to convey a larger measure of faith than we actually possess.

It is genuine faith that counts. All our faith-sounding eloquence will avail nothing, but genuine faith, even the size of a mustard seed, now that can move mountains!


Great weekend

Praise God for a great weekend. On Saturday Jacqueline, Michael and I travelled down to attend the graduation of Covenant School of Ministries, School of the Word, Class of 2006. It was a great honour for us to be the invited guests of Anna Sacha. She is a great woman of God who has become like an extra member of the family this year. She goes back to India shortly in the plan and purpose of God to work along side Chandrakant to be a part of the wonderful work God is doing in that great nation.

As an alumnus of the college its always inspiring to attend the graduation ceremony (we have only missed one in the nine years since we graduated) their commission and calling always reminds me of my own, and the powerful way God took hold of my life back then. Richard Anniss did an excellent job in addressing the students, and in words that spoke to all the alumni present as well as the graduating class, said that in the years to come, just having attended the college will not be sufficient; his words and his ministry are a great inspiration for us all to take hold of all that God has called us to.

While we were en-route to the ceremony other members of the Coventry congregation were involved with a Saturday children's club that reaches out to the children of Coventry and their parents. During that meeting 5 children gave their lives to Jesus.

Sunday, we had a great time of fellowship and the word. The presence of God was with us, manifest through prophetic word, and we had the privilege to hear Tony Ling minister the word. An even greater joy was that another man gave his life to Jesus in the meeting.

Praise God! Thank you Jesus, for all you have done and for all you are yet to do!


Gates to go

News has broken today that the head of the software giant Microsoft, Bill Gates is to step down from his day-to-day involvement in the company to focus on his charitable work.

In the light of this announcement, many are already discussing the legacy that Gates leaves (for good or for ill) on the computer world. My favourite comment so far is a quip from a writer in one of the the Slashdot news forums. He writes:

Bill Gates' tombstone will read

This man has performed an illegal operation and has been shut down

May God Arise!

May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him. (Ps 68:1)

I was grabbed by this verse. When God arises, his enemies are scattered. It's not that God is asleep and needs to be awoken, but that he chooses not to respond to wickedness immediately. He gives all a chance to repent and turn, not wishing any to perish. But there come moments when God decides enough is enough, he rouses himself, and we have a "suddenly" moment, when things change. His people are preserved and his enemies are scattered.

It makes me think of two examples in the Scriptures. The first is of Samson. Samson is a type of Christ for us in the Old Testament, believe it or not. Not because of his character - his flaws are obvious in that department, but because the events of his life unfold in a prophetic drama that point towards the realities found in Christ. First Samson was one of the Judges and thus was a savior for his people. His birth was announced by angels, and he was conceived as a result of a miracle. He was driven by passion for his bride, even to the point of surrendering his life, and through his death he brought about a mighty victory for God's people.

The event, or rather events, in his life I'm thinking of occur in Judges chapter 16, where Delilah is trying to find out the secret of his strength. Each time she tries to bind him, but each time as she cries "The Philistines are upon you", he rouses himself and his bindings fly off him. In the same way, when God arises on behalf of his people, it doesn't matter what threatens to bind us, or what enemies oppose us, they will be scattered just like the chords that snapped and scattered as Samson awoke.

The other event I'm reminded of is in the New Testament as Jesus is asleep in the boat. A great storm arises and the disciples are in fear for their lives. But as soon as Jesus awakes, at a word the storm is no more. It doesn't matter how bleak the situations we go through may look, if Jesus is in our boat we have peace that we will be safe. When God arises just one word is all it takes to calm even the most violent of storms.

Of course there is one more example. The greatest example of all. For our God has already risen! And as he rose from the grave his enemies received their final routing! Because God has arisen we have his authority to cause his enemies to scatter too! We are more than conquerors!

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. (Lk 10:19)


Pollution and the Solution

You shall not pollute the land in which you live (Nu 35:33a)

God cares about the earth he made. It's his planet after all. When he created man in the garden he gave them a commission of care for and rule over the earth. As Christians we are instructed to pray that God's will will done on earth as it is in heaven - for the earth to become like the pattern of heaven. God is opposed to pollution.

I've never liked dispensationalism [understatement!], especially the pessimistic escatology that says that everything is going to get worse in the end times, the church will barely survive, and Jesus will come to destroy everything and start again. In such a world view there is no incentive to preserve the environment, or even pick up your litter, because it's all going to be destroyed anyway! In my understanding the Kingdom is already coming, not just something that is yet to come, and the new creation is already breaking through like the first shoots of spring. It is in eager expectation that creation waits for its redemption - it is not cowering waiting for destruction. The wars and famines and trials that we see are described in the scriptures as birth pains not death throws! I understand the new heavens and the new earth in the same way as I understand that I am already a new creation. It is to do with the transforming power of Christ's death and resurrection, not to do with my literal physical disintegration and reconstruction. In this world view, everything we do to make the earth more like heaven is achieving the eternal plan of God for which man was created in the first place - I like that!

But before everyone thinks I have become a green activist, let me quote the whole verse in context:

You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.” (Nu 35:33-34)

The real issue is not environmental, but spiritual. And the reason God is opposed to pollution is not because he is a signed up member of the Green Party, but because it is God's intention to make his habitation amongst us. It is not just the ancient land of Israel that was intended to be a dwelling for God, but he desires to live inside each one of us.

The most serious pollution in the world today is not the litter in the streets or the carbon-dioxide in the air, but the sin in human hearts. It is this "blood-guilt" that pollutes the land and our souls prevents the close fellowship with God that we were intended for. It is not just murder that is the problem either, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Even to be angry against our brother is like the sin of murder.

The only solution to this problem is the blood of the polluter — the wages of sin is death. We are all under a death sentence because of the pollution we have caused. The only solution is redemption by blood. There was only one hope for the man who had shed blood, he could take refuge in a designated city until the death of the high priest. Upon the high priest's death, his sins would be forgotten and he could walk free.

This is just what happened when Jesus died on the cross on our behalf. He died in our place. His blood payed the price of redemption for all who have the pollution of sin in their hearts, and as our high priest his death allows all who have taken refuge in him to walk free, pardoned from all guilt with a fresh start — all pollution gone. It was not just the pollution in humanity that his blood cleanses, but the pollution in the land too. In fact we are told that even the heavenlies themselves were cleansed by his blood. On his brow, the crown of thorns, as he took not only the curse of our sins, but the curse on creation itself. With the pollution dealt with, God's original and eternal plan can go on - to make earth a place where God dwells amongst his people just as in heaven.

As important as environmental issues are, there is a solution for this polluted world, and it's not a "green" solution.... it's crimson!

...and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Heb 12:24)

Thank you Jesus for your shed blood! The blood that payed the price for me, and deals with the pollution in my heart so that I can walk with God and he can live in me!


Google Spreadsheets

Google Labs have just released another web base application for beta testing. This time its an online spreadsheet. It's great if you have spreadsheet data that you need to access from home and at work, or if you want to collaborate on the data. You can specify other users by email address who can edit or just view your data. Perhaps this is the future for church rotas? You could see the actual "live" version, rather than a paper copy that is already out of date by the time you get it. ;-)

Sign up for it here: http://www.google.com/googlespreadsheets/try_out.html

Ephesians Every Month feeds fixed

Apologies to everyone who is still subscribed to my Ephesians Every Month rss feeds. Over the weekend I tweaked my webserver settings and managed to break them! They were down for three days, but are working again now. If this is the first you have heard of them, why not subscribe and be blessed reading through this great book every month with us.



It's always wonderful to see increase; it's part of the nature of God's kingdom that it is always increasing.

It was a thrill for me this Saturday to spend some time with the folks who are desiring to become added to us as members of Living Rock Church. They already displayed the necessary commitment by giving up the most part of a glorious Saturday to listen to instruction from the word of God in what is foundational doctrine for us as a church. I was with them for the afternoon to teach them on worship, gifts of the Spirit, the laying on of hands, prayer, breaking of bread, head covering and to answer any questions(all in three half-hour sessions!).

On Sunday it was a great pleasure to see increase again in our eldership; Richard Jones and Christopher Alton (my fellow teachers on Saturday) were set into eldership. They are great men of God with a clear call and anointing from God on their lives. We will be greatly blessed as a body by their ministry.

Finally, I have just received permission from Jacqueline to broadcast to the world our own news of increase! Yes, we are expecting again! God is so good. Praise God for increase.


The Almond Blossoms - Postscript

They are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets (Ecc 12:5 ESV)

When I was doing my mini-study on the significance of almonds and almond blossom, I came across the above verse which raises more questions that it answers. If you find it puzzling you are not alone!

The context of this passage is shown by verse 1:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, "I have no pleasure in them"

The obvious explanation in the context is that these are figurative illustrations of the signs of aging. A man's hair turns white like the almond blossom, and he walks along bent over like the grasshopper. These are the signs of the "last days" of a man's life before he goes to his place in eternity.

The language in this passage seems to be ambiguous though. There is a sense of both "the almond blossoms grow white" and "the almond tree bursts into blossom"; "the grasshopper is a burden" or "the grasshopper is burdened". There is also the fact that these illustrations are not immediately obvious; this is clear from the diversity of ways this verse has been translated.

I have a suspicion that there are deliberately two meanings here. I don't believe the word is ever deliberately obscure, but that sometimes language is chosen precisely because it conveys more than one layer of truth. We seem to have a problem with this in our modern scientific way of thinking — we assume everything has to have one meaning, and all prophecy has to have one fulfilment. It seems to me though that biblical thought is quite happy with multiple layers of meaning and multiple fulfilments of prophecy. [e.g. people read Matthew 24 and puzzle over whether it is referring to AD70 or the end times. In my mind it is clearly both.]

So I'd like to propose that, just perhaps, there are two layers here. As well as having the obvious anthropological application - the last days of a mans life - it also conveys an escatological message - the last days, period. Verse 2 certainly has an escatalogical vibe about it:

before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened (Ecc 12:2)

You see, my only problem with the "safe" exegesis of "white hair" and "bent over" for the almond blossom and grasshopper pictures are that these are not the meanings these symbols convey in the rest of the scriptures. The almond tree is symbolic of the lampstand, or the word of God. And the grasshopper is more symbolic of those who have been intimidated.

I'd like to think that as well as conveying the signs of aging, they also convey the signs of the end of the age. Even though the days are evil and men are in fear and termoil of things above and below, yet the almond tree will blossom and the grasshopper will lose its strength. The word of God will be fulfilled, the church will come to maturity in manifesting the fullness of Christ, and the power of the enemy that intimidates and keeps people from coming into their inheritance in God will be subdued. There will be a great end-time harvest.

Even in evil days, the almond tree will blossom — I like that!

I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mtt 16:18)

We are not triumphalists, but we do expect to triumph! ~ Bryn Jones


The Almond Blossoms

On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. (Numbers 17:8)

The account of Aaron's stalf blossoming is a great illustration of God's validation of the men through whom he chooses to delegate his authority. God shows no favoritism, and loves all alike, but the people of Israel were mistaken on more than one occasion when they thought that this meant that all carried the same measure of delegated authority before the Lord and towards the people. To truly exercise authority we must be under authority and we cannot claim to be submitted to God unless we also submit to those whom he has chosen to exercise his delegated authority. We may not need priests to come before God on our behalf, but we certainly still need those men of double account who keep watch over us.

I saw something new in this passage though. I don't know if you ask questions of the Bible when you read it? I do all the time. This is very different from questioning the Bible, by the way — something I never do! When I read this verse, I thought, "Why Almonds?" It may seem like an irrelevant and trivial detail to most, which adds nothing to the main thrust of the message; nevertheless since all the Word is inspired by God and profitable, I'm of the opinion that it all communicates something, even if it is just a little shard of extra light in an already dazzling scene. These details intrigue me!

The best place to look for such answers is the Bible itself. It is its own best commentary. So I used a concordance (my most frequently used study tool) to look up almonds. Immediately I was struck by a possible connection.

And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers (Ex 25:34)

The lampstand with its main trunk and three branches either side which all ended in carved almond blossoms must have looked much like Aaron's stalf, or rather Aaron's stalf must have reminded Moses and the people of the lampstand before the presence of God!

This in turn speaks to me about Christ and the church — it's all about him after all. The branch that sprouts from the root and produces fruit is a prophetic picture of Christ.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. (Isa 11:1)

And the lampstand is a New Testament prophetic picture of the Church.

The seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Rev 1:20)

What is more both Aaron and almonds can represent Christ. Aaron was the high priest, the anointed one (Messiah). Almonds are the first to blossom in the year (January) and coming after the winter are the first signs of the new life of spring. Jesus is our high priest and the fist-born from among the dead. Jesus is the light of the world, just as the light on the lampstands shone from the almonds.

Being stirred, as I am lately, on the need for both Word and Spirit in the Church. I also spotted a connection here too. It's not unreasonable to think that the seven lampstands in Revelation that represent the church are like the seven pointed lampstand that stood before the presence in the tabernacle. This shone with light from the branches of almond blossoms.

We know from Revelation that the lamp on the lampstand corresponds to the Spirit of God (Rev 4:5), but we can also see in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament that branches of almond blossom represents the Word of God.

And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.” (Jer 1:11-12)

Thus Aaron's stalf that produced almonds communicates to us volumes about the nature of the Church. It is founded, joined and grows from Christ. It must be based on the ministries who carry God's delegated authority. It is to be a light to the world, and it does so by demonstrating the reality of the Word of God by a life led in the Spirit of God.

...not bad for an insignificant detail!