The Lion & The Lamb - Volume 1

It's no secret that I am not a great reader (with the exception of the Word). I don't read a lot of books, Christian or otherwise. Those books I do read, it takes me a while to get through. For me to finish a book is an endorsement in itself! So this book review has been a long while coming! Roger, Matthew, Gavin and Richard have all beaten me to it.

I could, perhaps, have written the review before I read the book. I know the author and I was at the conference where the material in this book was preached. Those two facts alone would have been sufficient for me to recommend this book to anyone. Tony Ling has had an enormous influence in my life, as he has had for many. There is no-one who sparks, stirs and provokes the Spirit in me the way his gift does. And he was on top form during this conference. If you would like a sample you can listen to the first session for free on the School of the Prophets website. It should give you a good impression of the book too.

Since the book is based on transcripts of the conference, it preserves the life and dynamic of Tony's preaching style, and makes it a very easy read. For those of us who have had the privilege to hear Tony preach, you can almost hear his voice as you read along!

What I love about this book, is what I love about Tony's preaching. His great love and profound insight into the whole counsel of God's word, enables him to paint the big picture of God's great eternal plan, drawing on scriptures from all over the Word. He makes connections and draws parallels that makes your jaw drop; not just because you have never seen them before, but because once he has painted the picture for you, you can't believe you had never seen it before!

The topic of the book of Revelation may put some people off. There has been so much rubbish written on this book in the past, that many are quite naturally wary of paperbacks written on the subject (or if they are not, they should be!!) But with Tony you are "in safe hands." He handles the word of God with great respect and care, showing how the symbolism in Revelation can be found throughout the rest of the Bible, and so only in this context can it be understood. Thus this is not one of those books that draws predictions and theology from this book that cannot be founded anywhere else in the word; quite the opposite. Tony shows how this book fits into place as the ultimate revelation of Jesus Christ the returning conquering king, and the fulfilment of the purpose of God in the earth that begun in Genesis; a hope we are not detached from but integrally involved in hastening.

This book leaves you wanting more, which is good because it's only volume one of two. The second volume should be out sometime this year (I believe).

If you love God's word, and have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying through it, you will love this book.

You can order it from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com or from Living Rock Church


The Cheerful Giver

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2Co 9:6-7)

God rewards the generous giver, but he loves the cheerful giver.

I was musing on this distinction during my holiday. Not that I think there is a conflict here, but there is a distinction: the cheerful giver will always be a generous giver, but a generous giver need not always be a cheerful giver.

Whilst there is an inviolable spiritual principle concerning sowing and reaping that applies to all men regardless of faith or motives, God is concerned with the heart. What matters to him is not the amount given, but the heart that was stirred to give.

It strikes to me that there are not one, but two wonderful cycles of blessing here.

On the one hand, as we sow we know that we will reap. We sow generously and we reap generously. God provides for us so that on every occasion we have enough and to spare, so that we can be generous in every occasion. We are blessed because we sow; we sow because we are blessed.

Parallel to this there is another, and to my mind, an even more wonderful principle. We give cheerfully because we have received the Father's love; we receive the Father's love as we give cheerfully.

Now, I have to be careful here, because I don't want to imply that somehow the love of God can be earned. That we receive God's love from works rather than through the grace that is ours in Jesus. But I do want to emphasise what the Scriptures say: God loves a cheerful giver.

God loves all that is good, that is, all that is aligned with his own nature. He is by nature the ultimate giver, and his giving is motivated by love. The most famous verse in the Bible begins, "God so loved the world that he gave..." And he continues to give, not because he has not already given us enough in Christ, but because it is an inseparable part of the essence of his nature to give.

If the love of the Father is in us we will be givers. Not reluctant givers who have to be coerced or hyped up from the pulpit to give. Not calculating givers, who are already looking for what they will get back in return. But cheerful givers. Those who give freely, without thought of return, generously and motivated by love.

Those who give this way have discovered the truth of the Lord's words: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." The generous giver will receive his blessing in due course, but the cheerful giver is already abundantly blessed by the extravagant love of our heavenly Father.

This post is not just theory. Here is a practical opportunity to give. The Disasters and Emergency Committee have recently launched a fresh appeal for the 4.5 million people dependant on aid in Darfur and Chad in the light of the imminent rains and the risk of a pandemic of diarrhoea and malaria this could cause. Darfur has been described as "one of the greatest concentrations of human suffering in the world at the present time." The oncoming rainy season is only going to make a bad situation worse.

Please consider if you wish to give to this appeal. Give a little, give a lot. Whatever you give - give cheerfully.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. (Pr 19:17)


Cream up!

Well, I'm back from a wonderful holiday in Portugal.

One of the first and most important parts of each day while we were away was applying suncream before we went out. Whilst it comes out of the bottle like a cream, when it is on your skin it feels like oil. I have to say I learned to enjoy my morning "anointing" before I went out into all that the day had in store.

In fact the Mediterranean lifestyle is "oily" in many ways. There is the smell of fish oils, the taste of olive oil, as well as the feel of the suncream oils. All of these are very good and positive things. In fact I heard on the Radio this morning further evidence of how healthy the Mediterranean oily lifestyle is.

As Christians, we too are called and designed to live an oily lifestyle. One under the continual fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high. I thought of this every time I told my son not to go out of the apartment until he had "creamed up." It wasn't enough that we had done so yesterday, we needed a fresh anointing for today.

Now that I'm back, I'm seeking to apply this good habit in the spiritual. It doesn't matter how full of the Spirit I was yesterday; what counts for today is that I am full of Him today.

But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil. (Ps 92:11)

Then he said, “These are the two sons of new oil who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” (Zec 4:14)

But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1Jn 2:27)


Back in Two Weeks

I'm signing off for two weeks. We fly to Portugal tomorrow for our holiday.

Although we are all looking forward to it greatly, my heart is full of empathy right now for the deeply moving events that have happened there over the last four days. My prayers are with the McCann family regularly. Lord, may Madeleine be returned safely and soon.

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With the right hand and the left

They were bowmen and could shoot arrows and sling stones with either the right or the left hand; they were Benjaminites, Saul's kinsmen. (1Ch 12:2)

by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left (2Co 6:7)

[I'm writing this post as a right-hander. If you are left-handed just reverse the illustration.]

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. The intense white light of Christ's glory cannot ever be fully reflected in any one man; instead it is spread, like in a prism into the multicoloured wisdom of God displayed in the Church. This is how God has ordained it to be, one body but may parts, each with our own unique strength arranged just as God has desired. So that together we represent the fullness of Christ.

Our right hands represent our strengths; they are used more and so have become stronger.

Our right hands represent our skills; the things which through a combination of practice, natural ability, and the Spirit's anointing we have become especially good at.

The right hand represents a place of honour. This is why Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

As members of the body, we all have our areas of strength, skill and recognition, but it is important that we realise we don't have to be limited just to those areas.

You don't need to be a healing ministry to lay hands on the sick and see them recover. You don't need to be a prophet to bring the word of the Lord. You don't need to be an evangelist to share the good news about Jesus with a friend or colleague. You just need to be willing.

Don't just expect that someone more qualified will come along. The right man for the job, is the man or woman of God who is in the right place at the right time. You may be the only representative of Christ that comes across that person or that need.

Don't let your strengths, your skills, or the gift that people recognise in you become a box that restricts you. God will use your right hand, but he will use your left hand also!


Moses and Elijah: The witness of the Scriptures

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (Matthew 17:2-3)

On the mountain of transfiguration we have two and three witnesses to the event. The three disciples and the two Old Testament characters, who appear when Christ is glorified. Two and three are important numbers in the Scriptures concerning witness; for it is by the testimony of two or three that a matter is firmly established. (Dt 19:17, Mt 18:16) So it is to the significance of Moses and Elijah as witnesses that I want to turn next. There is another way that Moses and Elijah represent witnesses, but the first one I want to examine is how they represent the witness of the Scriptures.

The Old Testament is frequently referred to in the New Testament as "The Law and the Prophets," Jesus himself referred to it this way several times. This is due to the division of the Old Testament books into the first five written by Moses, who was the one who brought the Israelites the Law of God that they were to live by; and the prophetic writings which included the rest (interestingly including the historical books eg. Samuel, Chronicles, Kings - which were often written by prophets. Just shows that you need a prophetic vision of the future to correctly understand your past!)

When Jesus is glorified it is highly significant that these two figureheads of the Law and the Prophets turn up. And it is significant that they immediately direct their speach towards Jesus. For the whole Testimony of the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, is directed towards and finds it fulfilment in Christ.

"We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." (Jn 1:45)

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

But it is also significant that the testimony of Moses and Elijah is revealed when the glory of Christ is revealed, for Paul says:

But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. (2Co 3:14-16)

It is only when Christ is revealed that the true testimony of the Scripture can received.

It's easy to see how these two go together. For if all the Scriptures are ultimately there to testify to Christ, then it follows that we can only receive this testimony when we know the one to whom they testify.

But, I believe there is a greater implication than just the one off event of turning to the Lord. For the disciples knew Jesus, they had (three of them) seen him glorified on the mountain, yet there were still aspects of the Old Testament Scriptures and Jesus' words that were still closed to them until Jesus was risen from dead.

Our revelation of the scriptures is governed by the extent of our revelation of Christ.

So we have a wonderful positive cycle between reading the Scriptures and knowing Christ. For it is by reading the word that we know him better, and in knowing him better that more of the Scriptures that point to him are unlocked to us.

This is not attaining to some new secret knowledge, not made clear in the plain reading of the word (like the Gnostics beleived), but a wonderful journey of discovery of the wonders of Christ, as if we too were travelling down the Emmaus road with him, slowly discovering how more and more of the word finds its true meaning to point to him, our hearts burning within us with each new revelation.

For Moses and Elijah show another thing in this respect. The word is alive; a living testimony to Christ. It is living and active (Heb 4:12). The Bible is not the kind of book you read once and then know completely. But one where you discover something new every time you open its pages. If we know how to listen we will discover that Moses and Elijah are still speaking!