Waiting and hastening

...what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God... (2Peter 3:11b-12a)

I wrote yesterday on how some of God's servants of Old, Joseph and Habakkuk, and some of his servants today, had to wait with patience and endurance, maintaining their faith until the promises in the word of God were fulfilled for them.

But Biblical waiting is not a passive activity. It's not like waiting for a bus. Our lives are not on hold until the promise is fulfilled. Peter talks about waiting and hastening. Because for God the right time is not about the passage of days, months and years, but about the fulfilment of all he intended a given season to accomplish.

It is this tension that many fail to grasp, and either get discouraged and give up when they pray once and nothing happens immediately, or they become passive adopting a "It will happen in God's time" attitude. "It will happen in God's time" is absolutely true, but we need to grasp that we have a vital part to play in the hastening of God's time. It's not that he is slow and we need to twist his arm to move him along. Peter spells it out quite categorically that that is not the case. But in fulfilling the purpose of God in the season we are in we bring it closer to completion, and bring the next season closer to its appearing.

With each prayer we pray, with each day we live seeking first his Kingdom and his righteousness, we are one step closer to the fulfilment of the promise of God over our lives than we were before.

The prophet Habakkuk was given a vision that awaited the appointed time, but he was not instructed to sit on it, but to run with it! He was a man who knew of God's fame, all the mighty acts he had done in the past. And he was the one who saw that despite all the evil amongst the nations of his day, the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. Yet he did not live in nostalgia of the past, or daydreaming of the future - he passionately cried out for God to move in the midst of the years - in his time, and in his day.

This is at the very heart of what it means to be God's prophetic people. Not just to see what God wants to do tomorrow, but to lay hold of it in faith and bring it into today. Both waiting with patience and endurance, and hastening with passion and zeal.


The revelation and the appointed time

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end - it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:3 ESV)

Richard Gamble gave a great word at our congregation in Coventry, yesterday. He spoke on the life of Joseph and how he was tested in prison by the word of God he had received that said he would rule (something I have written on myself - see categories: meditations/joseph). For Joseph, like Habakkuk, the revelation of God's word, and the appointed time of its fulfilling were far from immediate. Joseph had to persevere in faith and not give up in order to see the fulfilment of God's word over his life.

One of the things Richard shared on, in a moving way, was his own struggle with sickness, and claiming the promises in the Bible for healing. This is an area where I too have a testimony of perseverance and God's faithfulness - a testimony that is long overdue being shared...

When I was 15 year old, 4 years after I became a Christian, I was diagnosed with an incurable disease: Crohn's disease. It is an inflammatory condition of the bowels. I was told that I would always suffer with this condition - a statement I refused to accept. You can call it denial, you can call it foolishness... I call it faith. For over ten years I did suffer with this condition, on occasions very acutely.

I was prescribed drugs that for a while prevented the progression of the disease. These drugs have well documented side effects - side effects I never developed.
However, after years of living my life as normal, and refusing to give any ground to this disease I didn't have to, it seemed for a while as if it got the upper hand over me.

In 1995, while I was in America on business, I developed acute gut pain. No prayer or medicine could shift it. On my return I was admitted to hospital, and a scan revealed that my bowel was now almost totally obstructed. The nurses were incredulous, that someone who on paper was so seriously sick had walked into hospital under their own steam. Never the less, I was seriously ill, and I required a week on a liquid diet just to build my strength and weight up to the point where it was safe to operate.

I praise God for the surgeon who operated on me. A man of great skill. All good things, and means of healing come from the Lord. In the operation I lost half a meter of my small intestine, but all the disease was removed from my body, and no more was removed than was necessary.

I made a good, but slow recovery. I'll spare you the horror stories from that time. But like Joseph, I knew a low ebb, where the word of God tested me. Yet I clung to my faith in the goodness and healing power of the Lord I serve.

Because of the part of my bowel that was removed, I was told that I would need injections of vitamin B12 for the rest of my life. A statement that I also rejected in faith; although I don't believe that it is wise to refuse medication unless one has a specific and clear word from God, so I took these injections every month for a year.

In 1996 I went to Bible College, almost completely restored to health, but still taking the injections. At the induction I fully intended to ask the Principal, one Roger Aubrey, where the local doctors was so I could continue to receive these injections, but it was on this day that I received a word of faith that released me from these injections.

Roger simply said: "The details of the local GP is on this sheet, but I'm in faith that none of you this year will need it." To me that was not just an off-hand remark, but a word of faith that found a deep resonance in my own spirit.

That was the last time I had a B12 injection... over 10 years ago! When I applied for life-insurance with a new mortgage a couple of years ago, the medical questionnaire flagged up that I had had Crohns. They were incredulous that I no longer needed any medication and wrote to my GP (who I had not had any need to visit for any reason for over 5 years). He sent me off for a B12 test which came back without any abnormality.

I can honestly say, that I am healthier now that I have ever been. I do more than fifty press-ups every morning, and swim half a mile most weeks. A far cry from that pale emaciated figure in 1995 lying in the hospital bed with tubes stuck in him from every angle. Yet that pale man had something that no illness can take away - faith. Faith that God is good in every situation and is always faithful to his word, no matter how bleak the circumstances.

Praise God for his faithfulness to his word. God's word will always be fulfilled. Though it lingers wait for it. It will certainly come.


Grace for tonight

O Lord, since we have feasted thus,
Which we so little merit,
Let Meg now take away the flesh,
And Jock bring in the spirit! Amen.
~ Robert Burns

Happy Burns Night! We shall be celebrating the Bard's birthday tonight with good friends over the traditional meal of Haggis, neaps 'n' tatties. Living south of the border, I can get away with my rendition of "To a Haggis", and no one is any the wiser! And of course there will be a wee dram or two to finish off.

Looking forward to it. :-)


Return of the Snowman

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Ephesians feeds fixed

Apologies to everyone who is still subscribed to my Ephesians Every Month feeds. They are working again now, but had not been updated since 21 December. <techie-bit>The cron job on my server that generates the feeds hung on this day.</techie-bit>

For those readers who don't know about these feeds: I generated them a while ago for those who want to read through the book of Ephesians every month in a rolling Monday-Friday four week programme. Anyone is welcome to subscribe.

I also have a couple of light-weight reader applications to display the daily reading on your desktop:

The .NET version (Windows XP with .NET framework 2.0 installed)
The Java Version (All platforms with Java Runtime Environment installed)


On Circumstances and the Favour of God

When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live." He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:3-6 ESV)

Circumstance is no way to judge the favour of God on a man's life. Good people are not immune to the evil in this world. Christians are not put out of reach of the serpent's attacks. Too many believers think like the Maltese in Acts 28, and whenever something bad happens, they assume that God has it in for them. Utter nonsense. God proved the extent of his love for us on Calvary, and even if he were never to show us another act of love, it would be enough for all eternity. How dare we question the love and favour of God in the light of Christ's sacrifice?

But it is not whether a man goes into trial that shows whether God is with him (for Jesus said we would all face trials), but it is how he comes out of them! The promise of God is not that no weapon forged against us will ever touch us, but that they shall never prosper - they may hurt us for a moment, but they can never do us any long-term harm if God is working all things for our good. We will come out stronger, and the enemy will face another defeat.

God delights to turn the attacks of the enemy on his own head. Paul was bitten by the serpent, but it was the snake that died, Paul was unharmed. David fought the Philistines with Goliath's sword. Haman was hung on his own gallows. Benaiah killed the giant Egyptian with his own spear. And Jesus transformed the cross - the worst form of execution devised by the evil of man, into the greatest source of life and the blessing of God.

How do we know the favour of God? It is the cross, not our circumstances that tells us how much he loves us. It is his promise not our prosperity that assures us that he is with us for our good. It is our victory over trials, not our delivery from them that shows the power of God at work in our lives.

We are shielded by the power of God, not to escape every bad circumstance, but to overcome them.

[We] through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1Pe 1:5-6 NIV)


The Three

Now these are the chiefs of David's mighty men, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the Lord concerning Israel. This is an account of David's mighty men: Jashobeam, a Hachmonite, was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against 300 whom he killed at one time... (1Ch 11:10-11)

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. (Mtt 17:1)

And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. (Mk 5:37)

There is a striking parallel between David's and Jesus' inner circle. Although they both had many followers there were three specific men of faith that they sought out to be with for specific times and tasks.

I can't help but think there is a kingdom principle here. Just as there is an importance to our large corporate gatherings, our small groups that meet in the home, and our own personal devotions, it would seem that there is also a time to draw to yourself two or three like-minded men of faith to achieve something focused and specific for the advance of God's kingdom.


Blogger Recent Comments Widget

A friend recently asked me to install the code for my "Recent Comments" widget on his Blog. One of the benefits of the new Blogger layouts and feeds, meant it was relatively easy to do. I have had a Recent Comments section for some time, but I used to have to jump through some pretty clever hoops to do it, involving a separate server running helper scripts.

But now anyone can have one! To prove how easy it is, if you are on the new version of Blogger using Layouts, then all you have to do is to click the button below. Yes, that's all. And you too can have a Recent Comments section exactly the same as mine.




Back to TrackBacks

Hmmm... using Blogger's backlinks was not as easy or as good as I had hoped. The links were not added retrospectively, and it seems hugely difficult, even for a hacker like me, to get the correct number of backlinks to occur in the footers on the main page.

I've opted to go back to TrackBacks for the post footers, but still keep backlinks enabled for those who can't or don't want to use TrackBacks.

Best of both worlds? We'll see... I don't have any more time to waste on it right now.

Held up by a hold-up!

I was slightly late in for work this morning. But I had a good excuse... at least I think being diverted due to a stand-off between robbers and an armed police response unit is a good excuse!


Staying for the encounter

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb
, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (Jn 20:1-16)

I'm really stirred and challenged by this passage in John's Gospel, by the attitude and determination of Mary Magdalene. She refused to leave until she had met with Jesus. Nothing less would satisfy her.

She saw the evidence, but it wasn't enough.

The other disciples left, but she remained.

Angels appeared to her, she didn't even flinch!

Nothing would divert her from her determination to encounter Jesus.

When we come together as the people of God, what is our expectation and our determination? We may come running with great enthusiasm, but what will we be satisfied with before we "go back to our homes?"

Is it enough for us just to review the evidence of his resurrection? Is it enough to "see and believe", receiving faith for our walk until the same time next week? Is it the miraculous visitations that we seek? If an angel appeared, surely then we would go home satisfied and full of praise? Or have we determined to have an encounter with our Lord Jesus himself?

nothing less will do


Names in The Book

I'm reading through 1 Chronicles at the moment in my two-year reading plan. It's easy to loose focus when all you are reading is name after name after name after name...

But these names represent real people, like you or me, people who went before us in the purpose of God. People without whom we wouldn't be here.

Genealogies are important, because they remind us that the plan and purpose of God did not originate with us! God was not in trouble before we came along. It seems obvious, but it is such a common error for those who are pressing in to a new move of God to become arrogant and dismissive of their past.

Even the great(est) prophet Elijah fell into this trap. In a moment of weakness and despair, he exclaimed: "I am no better than my ancestors!" (1Ki 19:4) Of course, in the ever-increasing purpose and rule of God, one should expect to go further and do greater things than those who preceded us, and maybe to give Elijah the benefit of the doubt, that's what he meant... but I don't think so. God's response to him was to feed him with bread from heaven, take him for 40 days through the wilderness to Mount Horeb, and there to reveal to him a part of his awesome glory - a deliberate parallel with Moses... one of the "ancestors" he had just been so dismissive about.

It is never God's will that we isolate ourselves from our legacy of faith. It is only once we have laid hold of all the inheritance that they laid up for us that we can press in to claim the new treasures of our own.

These names also communicate something else to me. We easily dismiss them because we think they have no relevance or bearing on our lives. They are just the names of people we know nothing about... but imagine if you came across your own name, or the name of your father or grand-father. Wouldn't it make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end to discover your name forever recorded in the eternal word of God?

If that gives you a buzz, just think how thrilled we should be that our names are recorded for eternity in God's book: The Book of Life

Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Lk 10:20)

But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Rev 21:27)

So next time you find your eyes glazing over as you read a genealogy, stop yourself and give thanks for all those who have gone before us in this great race that we now run, and even greater thanks that our names, like theirs, are eternally recorded before God in heaven.


Goal, Strategy, Tactics

Towards the end of last year I caught part of a Radio programme discussing a statement made by the Whitehouse about the war in Iraq: The tactics have changed, but the goal and strategy remains the same. There was some debate on the programme as to what this statement actually meant and the subtle differences between these three words.

This is not a political blog, and I don't want to get drawn into what I think about George W. Bush or the war in Iraq, but this phrase did get me thinking about these three key elements to any military success.

Goal: The purpose toward which an endeavour is directed; an objective.

Strategy: A plan of action intended to accomplish a specific goal.

Tactics: The ordered arrangement and manoeuvre of units in relation to each other and/or to the enemy in order to use their full potential.

In general then, in the military sphere, a goal is decided upon by the political powers that be; the Generals with the overall picture and military skill determine the strategy; and the commanders on the ground employ the tactics they have learned and trained to get the job done. The strategy must be subordinate to the goal, and the tactics subordinate to the strategy, but all three are needed if a military campaign is to be a success.

This three-fold source of direction for the soldier on the ground got me thinking about our three-fold source of direction in our spiritual life as Christians: The Word of God, the voice of the Spirit, and our own sanctified wisdom and experience.

The Word of God, lays out every goal for our spiritual life, completely and sufficiently. There is nothing more that we need to know the eternal plan of God for our world or the part that we are to play in it. It is vital for us as Christians that we know our goals. The purpose for which God took hold of us. We gain this by studying God's eternal and sufficient word as recorded in the Scriptures.

The voice of the Spirit, that comes through prophecy, tongue and interpretation, word of knowledge, and the visions, dreams and promptings we receive from him, are like the radio communications from our General. They will always be subordinate to the Word of God; indeed that is our most effective way of testing them. The Spirit will never contradict the eternal word that he inspired. He is totally committed to achieving the ultimate purpose of God revealed in them. We vitally need these strategies if we are to succeed. They make sure we are doing the right thing at the right time, engaged in fruitful and not futile activities.

The man of God is also trained for righteousness. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are given the mind of Christ. God gives us wisdom where we lack it. All of these things allow us, like good soldiers, to get on with the job we have been trained to do, without needing direction from a General to be told how to hold a gun or march from one location to another. We don't need to hear a voice from above to read our Bibles, pray, witness to our friends, bless our neighbours, give generously to those in need, abstain from sin, or fellowship regularly with other believers; all these things should be ingrained "tactics" that are part of our daily lives. However it is important that these tactics be subordinate to and directed towards both the ultimate goals laid out in Scripture, and the strategies and seasons revealed by the Spirit.

A good example of these things in the Scriptures is Joshua. First and foremost he was told:

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:7-8)

Yet when it came to the Gibeonites, he made a mistake because:

"[They] did not ask counsel from the Lord." (Joshua 9:14)

This was not because God's direction in his word was insufficient, but because Joshua's grasp of the situation was insufficient. It was also direct revelation from the Lord that gave Joshua the strategy with which to defeat Jericho.

Yet when it came to the battle of Ai (the second time), we see Joshua employing his own military tactics (laying an ambush) in order to secure the victory.

All three are needed, goal, strategy, tactics, to be successful.

I had an online interaction on another blog recently where it was suggested that all we need "these days" for success is our "goal" and our "tactics". The scriptures and our own sanctified understanding and wisdom. That we should go into battle with our radios switched off because God doesn't broadcast on that frequency anymore! How sad, and how foolish. The Scriptures are not insufficient, but our grasp of the big picture and our place in it certainly is. How we need, as much now as ever, the strategies of the Spirit if we are to succeed.


Anyone reading here late last night may have noticed some strange goings on. I finally flipped the switch and changed over from my old-style Blogger "Template" to the new-shiny Blogger "Layout".

What does this mean?

Well, for me it means easier maintenance in the long term. Although I am thoroughly proficient in HTML, it's still easier and quicker to use Blogger's new Layout tools than to hack the HTML source of the page. For you it means a couple of new features, with possibly some more to follow:

First, I have decided to switch from using Trackbacks to using Backlinks. These are not new, but this seemed like a good time to give them a go. They should be more accessible, as all you need to do to add a backlink to one of my posts is to write a post on your own blog containing a link to my post; Google and Blogger will do the rest. [Apologies to everyone who already had Trackbacks to some of my posts, not sure if the backlinks will be added retrospectively. If not you could try republishing the post with the link.]

Also you can now subscribe to a comment feed for this Blog. See the link near the bottom of my side bar. Additionaly, if you so wish, you can subscribe to a feed for the comments to just one particular post. See the links at the bottom of the comments section of that post. For those who have not yet joined the RSS revolution; time to get yourself a feed-reader?

Although I've tried to check and double check as much as possible, if you do spot any problems with the new layout, please let me know.

[At the time of writing some of the sections in the sidebar are incomplete. I'm aware of that. I'll add them shortly.]


Resolved to read?

Happy New Year, one and all!

This is the time of year where one traditionally pauses to take stock of the year that has passed, and to make resolutions for the year ahead. There is nothing wrong with this at all, provided of course that your assessment and resolutions are good and made from a position of faith.

One resolution, whether it is called that or not, that many Christians will be making at this time, will be to read through the Bible in one year. An excellent endeavour whatever the reasoning behind it. As believers we should be thoroughly acquainted with all of God's word, not just the bits we are already comfortable with. Reading the Bible through in one year is a great way to do this; one that I have done several times [Though, I confess, I have started reading the Bible through in one year about twice as often as I have actually finished!]

If you have just started on such a journey, can I point you towards an excellent resource: the Bible Tour Blog. Here you will find insight and resources along the way that will help you to view and appreciate the landscape of Biblical revelation. There is space for your comments too, so you may meet some travelling companions for the journey too.

My own reading plan is reading the Bible through in two years, and I'm pleased to report that on my third year of doing this, I am still ahead; over half way through second time round. You don't stop reading the Word just because you have read it all! There is always more to discover, learn, absorb, and put into practice.

But whatever your reading plan, or resolutions are this year, make sure this is a year soaked in God's word.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
(Psalm 1:1-3)