One Drip at a Time

I’m sure you have your own way of remembering the difference but for me, I remember stalagmites as the ones that grow from the ground up because they “might” reach the top one day, and stalactites as the ones as the ones that grow from the ceiling down because they hold “tight” to the ceiling.

Either way, they are incredible aren’t they? Especially the limestone ones – the type we all think about – that are formed over hundreds or thousands of years one drip at a time.

So, I hear you thinking, what has this got to do with “spiritual things”?  Well, I was reminded of this slow but impressive growth today as I was pondering on how long it took me to grab hold of certain truths.

When my husband and I first met 26 years ago I was, frankly, a mess.  I’ve been a Christian all my life, but very much “self taught”.  I had only spent probably 3 years of my life attending church, with the rest of my knowledge of God coming first through my Mum’s example and sharing of her own faith, and then through my own reading of the Bible.

Well, it wasn’t so much ready as clinging…. The first Bible I ever had was a Gideons International.  At the front is the “where to find help when” section.  Aged 11, as my world crashed around me and I went from being the popular, confident girl everyone wanted to be with to the disabled, fat, ugly, victim of all the bullying, the girl everyone alternatively mocked and shunned (long story maybe for another day) I turned to those pages to “find help”.  I underlined in red biro, scoring through the thin pages, the sections for things like feeling alone, depressed, discouraged, suicidal, or needing peace.  I read those Scriptures over and over again.

It wasn’t exactly that they helped. I mean, the situation didn’t change and I didn’t feel any better.  But I read them to remind myself, because despite it all, I believed them.  I knew they were true. I knew God didn’t lie.  I knew therefore that my reality was the thing at odds with His Word, not the other way around.

I had no maturity, no teaching, no revelation to correctly fathom this out and I’ll admit my perspective was more one of “that’s true for everyone else” rather than believing that things were going to get better for me.  But still, I believed the Words and I reread them every single day.

Through my late teens and early twenties I stopped reading Scripture because I couldn’t handle the Truths in them, that were firmly at odds with the choices I was making.

My mental health was in pieces.

Back to meeting my husband.  He was a new Christian but he had the blessing of falling instantly in love with the Word and, being the way he is, determining to read it and understand it.  He spent hours every day studying, locked away with the Word (he was a youth pastor and evangelist when I met him).  Through his eyes I began to understand something of the richness of the Word, the power it contained, and to realise there was more to it than I had found or understood in those often-read verses.

Over the years of our marriage he taught me, showed me, encouraged me.  I began to read Scripture differently, looking for revelation.  In all this time I was battling several major mental health issues and again, being honest, although I was hearing the Word (as my husband continually declared God’s favour over me, declaring who I am in Christ, declaring God’s Heart for me) and even reading it for myself, I can’t say it exactly changed me.

Not at the time. Not noticeably.

Here’s the thing though (and the connection to the start of this post!): it all built up.

Drip by drip. Word by word. Declaration by declaration. Truth by Truth.

It all added up.

Without truly noticing, without really being aware of it or measuring it, one day I looked back at my life and thought “Hey! Where did that come from?!”  My faith had been built up and now reached the level of Heaven’s Truth.  I now believed, knew, understood, grasped, the depths and breadths and heights of God’s Love for me.  I now could see how He loved me.  I now could see that I WAS worth it. I was precious.  I was loved.  I was fearfully and wonderfully made.

He has plans and purposes for me.  He sent His Son for me.  He values me THAT MUCH!

All those Scriptures were true.  He never left me.  He has never forsaken me.  He didn’t leave me in that mess.  He did lead me out.  He did work it all together for my good.

The analogy works the other way too: that drip by drip God’s Love for me, His Truths, His Words, built up until heaven’s Truth came down and touched the my reality, the dust on the floor where I lay.

Either way, I can see looking back how vital every reading of the Word and every hearing of it’s Truth mattered.  Every verse I read, every verse my husband read out over me, it affected my spirit, and my soul.

It brings me to this: if you are feeling lack – whether faith, self belief, love, esteem, health, money, or any other area of need – keep reading the Word.  Find a verse every day. Use a plan.

It doesn’t matter that at this point in time you read it and think “so what”.  It doesn’t matter if you read it and think “that’s all very well but”.  It doesn’t matter if you read it and don’t fully understand, you don’t get goosebumps or hear a heavenly choir sing.

Read it.

Play those worship songs.  Turn up to the service.  Go to the prayer lock ins.

Again, it doesn’t matter if at the moment when you go to a prayer meeting you just sit and listen to other people pray.  It doesn’t matter that you don’t believe your prayers go further than the ceiling.  Sit in the room and listen to the prayers.  Hear the petitions.  Hear the praise.  Hear the faith.

Go along and sit at the side of the Healing Room sessions.  Turn up for the special speaker.  Download those podcasts.  Watch Bethel teachings on YouTube.

Allow the Truth to drip in to your life.  To drip on to you.

If nothing else is working for you, nothing seems to be getting through and you are just hanging in there, sitting in that damn boat in the middle of a storm feeling that, whilst you KNOW Jesus is there with you, you really REALLY wish He’d “wake up” and tell the storm to stop because its getting harder and harder to believe what He said that you would make it to the other side….  Just let the Word drip.

I promise you it is having an effect.  I promise you the gap between you and heaven is getting smaller.  I promise you that you will one day see, and know, and feel, and truly grasp just who you are, and Who He is, and it WILL make a difference.

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It is all a matter of perspective…

Jesus is dead.

The crowd look at His lifeless body on the cross.

Depending on how closely they followed Him – if they followed Him – or how well they thought they knew Him, they were thinking a variety of things:

“I thought he said he was the Son of God?!”

“So much for being a god…”

“Well I could have seen THAT coming!”

“There goes another one..”

“But… I BELIEVED him! I thought he was telling the truth?!”

“How did this happen?”

“What’s going on?!!”

“Why did this have to happen?”

“So what happens now?”

” But.. He was so convincing!!!”

“I don’t understand…”

“I don’t understand… what about those miracles? What about all the things we saw? How do you explain all that if he wasn’t who he said he was? Yet, if he WAS God… why is he now dead on that cross?”

“Its all over.”

“If he was fake, there really is no hope for us…”

The disciples and followers didn’t understand.  Jesus tried to warn them. Three times He told them He would die, but that He would be resurrected (Mark 8: 31, Mark 9:30-31, Mark 10:33-34).  And yet, on Friday, the world is a bleak place.  Hope has died and even those who remember what he said, don’t believe what he said.

Perspective changes everything.

Faced with the facts – he is dead – and standing in front of his body, on Friday, they have no hope.

The enemy always likes it when we lose hope.  When we focus on the past, on  unmet expectations, on loss and confusion.  He encourages us to feel sad, bitter, angry, hurt, and rejected.

When the unthinkable happens, when you lose that job, that house, that relationship, that loved one…  When promises fail to materialise and expectations aren’t met…

When you were SO SURE that you were right, that it was right and yet…

When you KNEW but then suddenly…

The enemy laughs at you.  He jeers at God. “Where is your God now then?! Why hasn’t he saved you?  Why hasn’t he helped you?  So much for being all knowing and all powerful!”

 

What a different picture on Sunday!  A total and utter reversal of the situation.  The opposite emotions.

HE IS ALIVE!  HE HAS RISEN – JUST AS HE SAID HE WOULD!!!!

The disciples can’t quite believe it but, faced with the facts, standing in front of His LIVING body, on Sunday, hope burst out. Faith rises.  He is ALIVE and so is their hope.

As Christians living after the day of resurrection, it is easy to judge the disciples and His followers.  It is easy to read the Scriptures and say “but they should have known”. It is easy to think that, after all the miracles they had seen, and all that He had taught them, they should have stood firm and believed and, instead of losing hope, waited expectantly – excitedly.

Ask yourself a question and, if you can bare it, answer it truthfully:

Are you any different?

Do you have any testimony of how God has helped you?  Brought you through a crisis? Healed you in some way?  However big or small, have you seen the goodness of God at any point in your life?  What about those around you?  Have you heard the testimonies of others?  Have you read books filled with stories of the miraculous?

Have you listened to sermons?  Downloaded that podcast?  Watched that Bethel live stream?

Have you read your Bible?

When crisis comes, when you are hurt, confused, terrified… do you wait expectantly and excitedly for the day of resurrection?  Or do you stand there and gaze at your “disaster” and think to yourself “but I thought He said it was going to be ok? That I was blessed?  Healed? Whole?”

I don’t know about you but for myself, I more often than not stand in the sandals of the disciples on a Friday rather than Sunday.  My perspective is that of the day of failure, not the day of restoration.

Scripture promises us restoration and teaches us to hope.  Faith is the substance of things unseen.  Faith is Sunday when it is only Friday.

Do you have faith today?

 

 

Free Versus Paid

Our church is going through a season of refocusing on discipleship.  Having experienced (and continuing to experience) growth in numbers as a body, it is important that the church has fresh teaching on what discipleship means – both for those who are new in the faith and for those maybe who have been knocking around on the edges for a while without fully grasping it.  Of course it also serves as a reminder and an encouragement to those who are already pressing on with their journey.
I often feel that the modern church way of separating a decision for Christ (such as after an altar call at the end of a service) with the discipleship process not only moves away from the clear New Testament model (decision, declaration, repentance, baptism in water, and an immediate conscious change or following of “The Way”) but also makes it harder for us.
For many, that point of decision involves on some level a recognition that there is more to life than this, that there is another way, that Someone can make a better job of guiding your life than you!  At that point we make some sort of surrender.  That is the point at which we need to clearly install Christ as not just our Saviour but our Lord.
Lordship suggests authority, ownership, submission, obedience… not words that are sexy in today’s society.  Heck they aren’t even considered “politically correct” in hardly any circumstance anymore!  Imagine your boss or company using those words.  Or your partner. The government…
We don’t like submitting.  We don’t like surrendering.  If we did it would make the whole discipleship process so much easier!
We like free things, but we don’t like having to pay for things.
Imagine some new game, some new app, coming out on the iPhone or Facebook.  A “free” game.
Suddenly everyone is playing it!  You spend all your free time (and probably a lot of time when you should be doing something else) playing it.  You realise you are a little obsessed.
Three months down the line out of say a hundred people who started playing that free game, what has happened?
Probably half of them or more are no longer playing it.  The reasons will vary.  Some got bored quickly.  They always bore quickly.  Once the novelty wears off, once it isn’t new and they aren’t the first or the only ones playing it, they aren’t interested anymore.
Some of them will have quickly realised that, despite being a free game, in order to really make progress you actually need to make “in app purchases”.  The experience, the free experience, is great but… there is so much more you can see the game can do.  But it will cost.  Some won’t pay.
Some of them will have realised that actually they didn’t really like the game as much as they thought they would.
What of those still playing?
Most of them are probably still playing the free version.  Many will have realised by then there is more to the game than the free experience, but they don’t want to pay or don’t think they can afford to pay.   But they are perfectly happy to just keep playing the free version.
Some will be paying.  Some will be progressing on through the levels and finding each level more involved than the previous one.  It keeps drawing them in and on further.  Just as they think they must be about to finish the game, a new level is unlocked!
 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8 MEV)
Everything we have is the gift of God.  It came to us freely.  It cost God dearly but it hasn’t cost us anything.  We receive it for free.
Hebrews 10: 38 says “Now the just shall live by faith”.  We all have faith to sustain us and the measure of faith given to us all is the same (Romans 12:3, 2 Peter 1:1).
It is the same, and it is enough! Matthew 17:20 tells us that even the tiniest measure of that faith can pluck up a mountain and cast it in to the sea.
At salvation we receive freely and we all receive the same.
Days, weeks, months, years down the line however… where are we?  Out of 100 salvation commitments what do those lives look like now?
Like in the game analogy (imperfect of course, but it does help make some points I feel) some people will have given up.  Their faith is like all those unused apps on our phones, those no longer played games.
The reasons for giving up will be varied.
Many will have decided that the “cost” of continuing was too great.  Discipleship, developing the mind of Christ, moving forward further and deeper with God, costs us.  It costs us pride.  It requires submission.  It takes time.  It calls for sacrifice.  It humbles us.
Not things any of us like doing if we are honest (or is it just me?).
If that doesn’t make someone quit entirely then at the very least it may stop them from pressing in.  They sit at the back of church (spiritually if not physically speaking), taking all the “free” stuff but never paying out.  Receiving not giving.
They look at the ones up the front who are leading, or the people coming up to share testimonies of blessing, healing, answers to prayers, and they think “its all right for them” without connecting the dots between the cost and the benefit, the sowing and the reaping…
Christ promises us so much more than some game!  Life and life abundant are the rewards for the cost of discipleship.  So don’t be satisfied with the free version – press on for the next level.
Remember we all start with the same – and it is ENOUGH so we have no excuse – but there is so very very much more to be had.  I don’t know about you, but I’m determined – and I’m determining – to reach for the next level and to be willing to pay whatever it costs.

Artificial Intelligence (or: “Having the Mind of Christ”)

According to reports, programmers are getting closer all the time to creating “artificial intelligence”, that is, programming a computer than can pass the Turing test.
Alan Turing’s thought experiment considered a conversation between two parties – one human, one computer – whereby an observer could not distinguish which was which.  Carried out via text messages,  and given the difficulty of defining “thinking”, the aim was to see if computers could at least imitate human conversation.  Turing argued that if the interrogator could not distinguish them by questioning, then it would be unreasonable not to call the computer intelligent, because we judge other people’s intelligence from external observation in just this way.
Both theorists and science fiction writers have had a field day over this concept, which raises serious questions for the future should computers achieve this defined level of “intelligence”.  Because once you ascribe intelligence to something you start to consider giving it rights…
Imagine a world where a computer (or computers) were ascribed basic “human” rights. Imagine the law protecting them.  Would you agree with that? Would you abide by those laws?  Perhaps you would obey those laws because the penalties of not doing so were great, but in your heart you wouldn’t really consider the computer to be equal to a human, even if the law forced you to treat them as such.
What relevance does this have to us as Christians?  Where are I going with this?
These are some of the things that Scripture says about our minds:
“For what man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? Likewise, no one knows the things of God, except the Spirit of God.   Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, so that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God.   These things also we proclaim, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.   But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.   But he who is spiritual judges all things. Yet he himself is not judged by anyone.   For
“who has known the mind of the Lord
    that he may instruct Him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:11-15 MEV)
“Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think.”  (Romans 12:2 The Passion)
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 KJV )
“For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mindset controlled by the Spirit finds life and peace” (Romans 8:6 The Passion)
Scripture is very clear.  As born again Christians, sanctified by the death of Jesus, in right relationship once again with our Heavenly Father and Creator, Holy Spirit lives in us and works in us.  This heavenly source provides us with all the wisdom of the Godhead.  We have the mind of Christ.  His “intelligence” if you like.
So whilst we are not Christ, we have His Mind and His Spirit lives in us.  Our daily challenge, our life walk, our discipleship journey, is to become indistinguishable from His in our thinking and our doing.
Remember what Turing surmised?  If an observer or interrogator can not distinguish computer from human by questioning, then it would be unreasonable not to call the computer intelligent, because we judge other people’s intelligence from external observation in just this way.
 
Likewise those around us judge God, Christ, religion, the Gospel etc from observing those who claim to believe/to follow/to be Christians.  So be truly salt and light, to be the Body of Christ on this earth as we are called to be, we must focus on developing the Mind of Christ within us.
There is another parallel. One to bear in mind in terms of the spiritual battle that we are in.
Remember the idea of the law ascribing rights to computers once they “achieved” intelligence?  Think again about how people might conceivably have to obey laws giving machines rights, even if we didn’t really feel it was the same.
We have rights.  As children of God, having the Mind of Christ, we have rights under God’s law.
Guess what.  The enemy has to obey those rules!
He doesn’t agree with it, he HATES it, it strikes at the very center of his whole purpose because, remember, he didn’t like not being equal to God so think how much more he HATES the fact that we are higher than him!  He doesn’t believe we could be equal to him let alone above him or more important to God.  He hates our free will, and our adopted son-ship.
But he has to obey the law.
We have authority over him which, when we use it, he has to obey.  He cannot stand against us.  Thanks to Christ’s sacrifice we are sons of God once more.  We have the same rights and authority as Jesus.  When we speak, the enemy has to listen.  When we command, he has to obey.  When we resist, he has to flee.  He doesn’t like it, but he can’t do anything about that.
Or rather, he can’t fail to obey but he does try to do something about that: he tries to  stop us from exercising those rights in the first place.  He would seek to keep us from being informed about our sonship and, once informed, stop us from having the faith to exercise our rights and live in them and live them out.
Seeking the Mind of Christ, becoming more Christ-like (aka being a disciple) is the key to overcoming and the key to really living.
Purpose today to study what Scripture says about the character of Christ.  Like Solomon, ask Holy Spirit to develop wisdom within you, and allow Him to transform you by the renewing of your mind day by day.

The Pain of Stretching

As I snatched ten minutes quiet this morning in my favourite spot, I was thinking about a conflict between what I’ve been seeking from God, and what I’m willing to accept from God.

On the one hand, for over a year now I’ve been asking God daily to take me deeper, to reveal to me who He created me to be, to guide me into my destiny, His Plan and Purpose for my life, to fulfill my hopes and dreams.

On the other hand I’m well aware that I don’t even have the courage to pray a prayer each morning that says “OK who do you want me to talk to today?” or to ask “what opportunities do you want me to take?” because I know if I pray those sorts of prayers, God will actually answer them and provide such an opportunity.

It has taken me an embarrassingly long time to realise those two attitudes are directly in opposition to each other..

As I thought this through I felt God ask “what are you afraid of?”

The answer of course is failure.

God’s response was “Don’t you think that I know you?”

I didn’t have a response to that.

Instead (slightly petulantly) I thought “but the thing is, stretching is painful!”

Immediately I thought of childbirth.  You know, if you genuinely really understood in advance, as a woman, exactly how much it was going to hurt (especially a natural childbirth), really could understand, you would be much less likely to chose to go through it!  Because stretching hurts!

Even as I thought that, I heard God’s response “So why, having gone through that once, did you chose to go through it again then? Knowing the second time how much it ‘really’ hurt?”

Good question! Why does any woman have a second child?!  I guess because although you know it is going to hurt you now know you survived it once, the pain ends (eventually!) and you now know the reward is worth it.

At which point there was a sense of God saying “Uhuh. I’ll wait for you to catch up and realise what you’ve just said…”

The stretching may hurt, but you survive, and not only survive but find the rewards are great.  You  realize that actually the stretching and that hurt wasn’t as bad – or rather it wasn’t as significant as you thought it would be in the grand scheme of things.

The pain of childbirth, viewed now as a mother of four (the oldest of whom is 22), isn’t any less.  The pain of those births hasn’t diminished – they’re still the worst thing I’ve ever been through – however it doesn’t seem as important afterwards.  It wasn’t a barrier to doing it again.  From the perspective of having seen the rewards, the fruit, the pain doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue as it may be felt at the time.

I felt God reflecting that back to me, over my fears of being stretched in order to be who He calls me to be, who He made me to be, over stepping out in faith, leaning in to Him.  A fear that stopped me praying dangerous prayers because I know the answers may “hurt”.

So this is where I am.  Realising the truth that even if stepping out and praying those prayers may mean I get “hurt” that “pain” will not, in the grand scheme of things, matter. He promises me only good.  He promises that the rewards will be greater and the fruit sweeter than any discomfort I experience as I allow Him to stretch me.

Just for the sake of keeping it real, I still haven’t prayed a truly dangerous prayer yet. But it won’t be long…

A Childlike Faith

Children, especially young children, don’t get a say in what happens to them or around them.

A baby may express its desires (food, comfort, changing etc) but the when and the how of what happens in response to that is out of their hands.

A toddler is dressed by its parent. The parent chooses the food they want the child to eat. The parent decides to go out/stay in. Visiting friends, shopping, holidays – all decided by the parent.

A young child may get up by themselves in the morning, and get dressed. But the clothes were laid out by the parent the night before, and the child is told what is an acceptable time to get up (ignore the points where a child challenges these things – just bear with me here for the sake of a serious point).

By the time they are, say, 11, the child is choosing what to wear – but the clothes have still been bought by the parent. Even if the child gets taken to “chose” the clothes that are bought, it is still within parameters set by the parent.

What school to go to? Where to go on holiday? Moving house? Visiting relatives? All the sort of things that are still outside of the child’s control.

As we grow up, our involvement in the decisions that affect us grows. We learn consequences. We learn decision making.

When we are old enough to get our first paper round/Saturday job, we have money that we have a right to spend pretty much how we want.

By the time we reach 18, and certainly when we finally leave home, we are fully in charge of the choices we make. Even if circumstances remain outside our control (the flat tyre, the difficult boss, unrequited love) we are aware of the ability to chose how to react to them, and what steps to take in response to them.

This is how it should be. This is independence. This is maturity.

Christian maturity however is (like most things in the Kingdom of Heaven) completely back to front.

From the moment we are “born again” we start a new life. A new journey. However, unlike our physical journey and life progression, this is all about losing our independence.

Bear with me here.

Jesus said “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3)

Remember the child who is dependent on the parent?

Each morning, from a very young age, my boys would ask “what are we doing today?” Even as teenagers and young adults, they still come to us (only now it is last thing at night!) and ask “what’s the plan for tomorrow?”

When they ask this, they aren’t asking about the big things. They don’t want a 6 month or 5 year plan. This isn’t a philosophical question. No, they are asking about the plans we have made for the day so they know how they will affect them.

My 10 year old knows he will have clothes to wear each day and he knows they will be cleaned when they get dirty. He knows there will be food in the kitchen and a hot meal prepared for his dinner. He knows the bills are being paid which means there are lights, heat, water and (because he is a modern 10 year old) internet connection!

He doesn’t fret about those things.

When he asks me in the morning what the plans are, he wants to know if anything different is happening. Anything exciting. Anything that will give a structure to the day, give him focus.  He has an expectation that I will take care of the big stuff, he just needs to know about the day to day stuff.  That day.  Today.

When you give your life to Jesus, and you are born again, the single hardest fundamental thing you are likely to spend the rest of your journey grappling with is losing your independence. Becoming child like.

Surrender.

Not my will but Your’s Lord. Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done. Not my way but Yours. Not my plans but Yours. Not my righteousness but Yours.

Slowly but surely you need to learn how to give up the need to know, to be in control, in charge.

Doesn’t that sound tough? Weak? Are you feeling threatened and argumentative in response to reading this idea or challenged? I know I felt genuinely stunned by the picture God gave me earlier this week in response to some serious (and right motivated) prayer time over issues to do with our future.

There is a lot of stuff going on in our lives and the lives of those around us in the church that is making things seem “out of control”. There is a lot I currently don’t understand! A lot of seemingly unanswered prayers. In some cases, we seem to have had the completely opposite answer to the one we were seeking!

It’s tough. I don’t like it.

It seems right and correct to “seek His Will” for our lives, but sometimes we misuse this “seek ye first” attitude and, if we are truthful, it becomes an excuse to justify our constant drive to KNOW, to understand, to control.

That was what hit me – like a spiritual truck – when once more I cried out to God “Why?! What is going on?!”

I have to tell you, I did not like the picture I received.

But it made sense. Total sense. I have to abandon myself to Him. Surrender all. How often do we sing those words in church on a Sunday or listening to worship in the car? “You can have it all Lord!”

Really?

I challenge you to become more childlike this week. Go to your heavenly Dad in the morning and thank Him for the new mercies of the day. Be thankful for the clothes set out for you. For the food provided. For the material comforts around you.

Acknowledge that He pays the bills. I don’t just mean the obvious big one, THE price He paid for us, but also I recognise that the financial provision in my life – job or benefits – ultimately come from Him.

Chose to live this week as if you truly believe He has charge of the big things. He has a Plan. He has a 6 month, 5 year, 50 year Plan for you and all of His creation. He knows the beginning from the end and He can work ALL things together for our good – if we let Him, if we leave the big stuff to Him.

Ask each morning “what’s the plan for today?” Who does He want you to talk to? Where does He want to take you? Is there anything exciting on the cards?! Be expectant of the good Father has for you.

Don’t sweat the big stuff. Focus on the small things. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

This isn’t an unhealthy dependence. This is truly living.

Can I ask one more thing? Can you pray for me? You see, I’m trying to respond to what God has shown me, and I am purposing this week (surely I can manage one week?!) to be more childlike. However I am aware of my flesh rebelling against the very idea. I am a list maker. A planner. Organised. I like to be in control (oh BOY do I like to be in control). I like to be prepared.

At the moment I am none of those things and apparently that is how it is meant to be!

Even as I write those words though, Holy Spirit is whispering in my ear, reminding me that I CAN be prepared. That it is still ok to be organised. But, His ways are not mine. I can be prepared by reading His Word. By listening to Him. By trusting. I can be in control by subjecting my will to my spirit – which is partnered with His.

Guess you’ve been praying already? 🙂

How Much Spirit Do You Have?

Language often gets in the way of understanding.

We talk about being filled with Holy Spirit. We sing “Spirit break out”. We pray “fall afresh”. We “come in to His Presence”. We ask for more of His Presence. We seek it.

The language suggests something that we can have more or less of, something outside of us, something out of reach.

The truth is, from the moment we surrendered to Christ, His Spirit came to live within us, our newly created (born again) righteous spirit united with His. That is the same – that is EQUAL – in all of us.

We are body, soul (mind, will and emotions) and spirit.

We all have a body. They may look different, they may work differently, but we all have one.

We all have a body (we are equal in that fact) but someone may become an athlete, or work out at the gym, and become stronger and fitter. They start with more or less the same muscular, vascular, skeletal system as me but theirs sure ends up looking different to mine – because of what they learn to do with it. They grow new muscle. Blood vessels can enlarge or even grow. Bone density can increase. The body can be remodelled.

We all have a mind. Generally speaking, they are the same. Some may seem to function better than others, and weigh slightly differently on the mortician’s scales, but we each have one.

We all have a mind but someone can train theirs. Grow it. Make new synaptic connections. Study. Increase their knowledge. They seem “brainier” than me. Cleverer. We talk about someone having a sharp mind.

We all have a spirit. When we are born again, this spirit is made new. A new one is given to us, we are spiritually a new creation, and Holy Spirit can unite with this righteous spirit we now have.

We all have a spirit. As born again Christians we have a righteous spirit. Equal to each other. So how come some people seem more spiritual? Like the gym going person, or the clever person, some people learn to make more of it, do more with it, Whilst that doesn’t change the fact that we still only have one, the same as each other, that effort they apply means they have become more spiritual, more in tune, more aware – mature in their faith.

It isn’t my spirit that enlarges in me but the old nature that recedes. I can learn to subject my body and soul to my spirit. I can make more room. Like a goldfish in a tank, my spirit will “grow” (develop) to match the size of the restrictions I place on it. A fish with better quality water and a larger tank, will grow bigger than one in poor water and a small fish bowl.

We need to focus on the quality of the “water” and size of the “bowl” in order to allow our spirit to grow. Immersing ourselves in the things of God – Scripture, prayer, worship – provide a better quality environment for our spirit. Enlarging the space means making actual time for God, withdrawing like Jesus did, giving opportunity for Him to speak, to teach, to fellowship with us. When we do these things, we feel stronger, more spiritual, maturer in Christ, because our spirit has grown in strength and is exerting more authority over the weaker body and soul.

We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, through His Spirit He gave us for that purpose. Nothing is impossible. We have everything we need.

When it doesn’t feel like it, when those Scriptural truths look like a lie in the light of our day to day life and experience, it is the same as when I watch the Olympics and think “I couldn’t do that!”.  Actually, I “could”.  I have all that I need to get started – a body! The drive, the determination, the dedication, the practice, the progression, the strengthening… that is what needs to be added to make an Olympian.

I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). I have the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2: 12). The same power that conquered the grave lives in me (Romans 8:11).

What I do with it is up to me.

 

Know Thy Enemy

“Satan can’t read your mind so when you take a stand against him, it is important to declare it out loud”

I’ve heard that taught many times over the years and understood the truth behind it, and seen that truth in action in spiritual warfare, and in seeing people set free from bondage and lies. There have been times however when it has been something that has troubled me.

If the enemy can’t hear my thoughts, why does it seem that he can? I know I’m not alone in experiencing time and time again when the lies that he whispers seem to match what I’m thinking.

When I’m feeling unlovable, he whispers to me that no one cares, that I’m all alone. When I’m battling temptation he tells me I’m a sinner and God isn’t going to forgive me.  Whatever the battle in my mind, he is there whispering a lie designed to hurt, confuse, rob and steal.

If he can’t hear that battle in my mind, how does he know what to say?!

I had a bit of a revelation today. Like all revelations it is immediately so obvious that you wonder why it has come as such a big deal when it was surely plain to see all along!

Have you ever heard of mentalism? Mentalism is not magic, but a clever use of science that revolves around understanding human behaviour and predicting different outcomes to mimic the act of reading somebodies mind.  Mentalists use social engineering, reading body language – 55% of all communication is non verbal – (called cold reading), hot reading (having some prior knowledge of the subject), the Forer effect (taking vague and general statements and using them in a way to make the reader feel they are specific – think horoscopes) and various other aspects of human psychology.

We understand that a person can learn to “read” another person and appear to know what they are thinking and we understand that this isn’t magic but science (well at least I hope you do dear reader!).  So it seems pretty darn obvious that satan and the other fallen angels can do this.

They were there when we were created. They have had thousands of years to study us.  Thousands of years of experiments to work out what motivates us.

The first such experiment was the Fall.  If you think about it, satan – as an angelic being created for worship – was most jealous of the fact that God gave man free will – something the angels didn’t have.  Knowing how it made him feel, he could surmise that man would also see not having control was unfair.  He suggested to Adam that surely God didn’t mean for him to not be in control, surely He didn’t mean to restrict his choice, surely it would be ok for him to make his own decision about what to eat and what knowledge to have…

The enemy does not know the specific plan, purpose and promise God has given you until it is declared out loud over you, but he certainly knows The Plan and The Purpose. The enemy knows Scripture (probably better than many of us) and he knows God’s promises to us and over us.  He knows that God uses the weak, the poor, the despised and the downtrodden to confound the wise and bring His truth to the world.  This shows him who to target, shows him who is likely to be the most useful, key people in God’s plans.  He knows that the love of money is the root of all evil so he concerns himself with keeping riches where he predicts it will do the most harm.

The enemy can read our body language. He can hear our words.  He can “sense” our emotions by the vast experience he has gathered on what makes us tick and how we react. Using that knowledge, at any one point, he can appear to know what we are thinking and strike with just the right lie, the right weapon, designed to find our most vulnerable parts.

That is one of the reasons the Psalmist learned the importance of telling his soul (body, mind, emotions) to rejoice and to be subject to his spirit.  We can take authority over those things and so rob the enemy of his source material.

It is also vital to appreciate that, because he isn’t omnipotent, the enemy cannot tell you the future.  Certainly, like the writers of the horoscopes, he will find the right vague statement, a fitting outcome, to suggest to you as your future.  But he does not know.

Satan only knows your past.

Jesus knows your past and still chose the cross, thereby assuring your future.

Don’t ascribe the enemy a power he doesn’t have.

Those thoughts you have?  That mental struggle?  The battle in your mind?  It isn’t the enemy IN your mind, but it is definitely his work.  When we take his lies (whether through direct attack or via the words or actions of people around us) and we internalise them, they do damage.

A bullet can’t hurt you until it penetrates – and the deadliest bullets are those that are designed to ricochet or disintegrate inside the body thereby doing so much more damage than just making a hole in us.

The lies of the enemy are bullets.  They can hurt us but the real harm lies in when they get in and rattle around.

Focus on renewing your mind, learning the promises, declaring them out loud at every opportunity and taking a stand on the Scriptures.  Find ways to spend time in His presence, and feed your spirit by spending time in worship, by speaking in tongues, allowing your spirit to communicate with Holy Spirit, and draw from that the strength to take authority over your mind and your emotions.  Remember, they are yours to control not the enemy’s.

What is the Truth?

I live in a beautiful seaside town. The guide books describe its vibrancy, the quirky shops, the golden sands, the amazing vistas, and its incredible sunsets.

If you got off the train today however, guidebook in hand, expecting to see all those things, you’d find the “reality” very different.

Thick fog obscures everything. Despite the weather app showing full sunshine and 16c for the day, it is currently only 6c and it feels colder as the damp fog envelops you. It is early so everywhere is shut. What the book describes and what you are seeing are very different.

Which version is true? What is the truth? Is this a beautiful picturesque town or a grey uninviting one? Is the beach amazing? Are the sunsets beautiful?

According to what I am seeing, my experience, the book is lying.

I know many Christians who struggle with what the Scriptures say about life. They hear a preach on the promises of God or on His blessings. Maybe they become a Christian after attending a particular service and they start out with this great hope. Their friend who brought them, and the person who preached, described this fantastic life, full of prosperity and peace, free from sickness and worry.

The guide book to that life, that Kingdom, the Bible, is quite clear. You meet people who confirm that yes the Kingdom of Heaven is just like that. God’s promises are true.

But you are unwell. Your job is tough. Your husband is having an affair. Your friends never call. Life is hard. Financial worries, depression, loneliness… even at church you don’t feel connected. You feel as you listen on a Sunday and hear people saying “amen!” and agreeing with the preacher that you must be doing something wrong… your life doesn’t feel like they describe. Your relationship with God doesn’t match theirs. He doesn’t answer YOUR prayers. Your life isn’t life abundant.

You didn’t get the job you prayed for. Your relationship didn’t mend. The cancer didn’t go and your friend died despite your prayers.

Which is true? The Book or what you can see with your eyes?

You can’t pretend all isn’t grey. There’s no point lying and saying you can see a good future or even just a way out of this place. But just like this morning, despite the true and real evidence of my eyes that say otherwise, the truth is this IS a beautiful town and the skies ARE amazing.

I just can’t see that for myself today.

Will that visitor go home and say the guidebooks lied and there wasn’t a great beach and beautiful skies? Will they deny the truth? Or will they just accept that on that day, today, they didn’t get to see it for themselves?

It is all too easy to drag the Truth of Scripture down to the reality of our lives. When my Dad was dying and I prayed for his healing but he died anyway, I could have denied the truth that God heals. I could have blamed God. The evidence I saw was that God doesn’t answer prayers and doesn’t heal.

When we had no money, facing losing our house, as my husband couldn’t find work, and we were surviving on food parcels from my Mum, I could have doubted God’s promises to supply all my needs, to prosper me.

Those things seemed true. But they weren’t The Truth.

The sun is still shining just as hot in the sky now as it does every day. Yet the fog means I can’t see it and I can’t feel it’s benefits. I don’t blame the sun and say it isn’t shining but instead I recognise that the fog is obscuring it.

Today, identify the fog in your life. Recognise the reality of the things that are preventing you from seeing the Son, from seeing His promises. Determine in your heart that you will believe what the Book says, what the Bible says, about the life you have and all your heavenly Father has for you.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Use the Bible as your reference point and purpose to live according to what The Word says, declaring it as the truth over your life and in your life.

The enemy wants you to be grey, cold and miserable. Once you are saved all he can do is bring fog in your life. He means for you to miss the beauty around, to bump into obstacles, to trip up, to feel alone.

But rejoice for in Christ, by the power and wisdom of Holy Spirit, we can overcome those obstacles and learn to see through the fog. As you spend more time in His presence, as you seek His face, your vision will improve. You will be able to “see” the truth despite the fog.

Learning to walk with that spiritual vision is like having night vision goggles!

When we trust Him and not our own senses and understanding we get the opportunity to see His promises and experience His goodness regardless of whether or not there is fog around.

That’s the secret to being content in every situation (Philippians 4:11).

The fog will clear. I promise you.

Making Sense of What You See

When I parked up this morning the visibility was good. I could see the wind farm clearly on the horizon and I counted seven ships.

There was one thing I could see that I couldn’t make sense of though. Right on the horizon was an odd shape. It looked like a dark plume of smoke. I watched it for a few moments and realised that it wasn’t moving so knew it wasn’t actually smoke.

I then rationalised that it must be a ship. The problem was that my brain couldn’t, on the basis of the information provided by my eyes (even with my glasses on!), make that shape match a ship.

It didn’t matter how long I looked at it, I couldn’t picture what must actually be there and make it fit what I could see. It didn’t make sense.

Then the sun came out.

Suddenly the object became clear. Of course it was a ship. The outline was now very clear, as the angle it was at meant the white container ship was dazzlingly highlighted by the sun. The “dark plume” was revealed to be simply the other angles of the ship that were in shadow.

It made sense. It was obvious.

When the sun came out it changed nothing about the truth of what was there, but it completely altered what I could see.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5

Everything makes sense in the light of the Son.

“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not remain in darkness” John 12:46

When you read Scriptures, they change nothing about the truth of what is around you, your day, your job, your relationships, your hopes, your mental health…. yet they can completely alter what you can “see”.

“For the Word of God is alive, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart” Hebrews 4:12

Whatever it is that you are struggling with right now, that thing that doesn’t make sense, that you can’t get your head around, the thing you are wrestling with, shine the Light on it. Find appropriate Scriptures to read. Ask Holy Spirit to remove the clouds and let the Truth of the Word shine on to the situation.

Nothing will change – other than what you can “see”.

Replace the truth of what you see with The Truth of who He is, what His Promises are.

Everything will look a lot better!

Be on your guard though. When the sun went behind another cloud, despite the fact that I now KNEW what was there, the shape I could see went back to being incomprehensible. Not immediately. My brain retained the shape of the ship at first, but after I looked away and then back again, I realised my brain was trying to match shapes again, seeing smoke or leaping whales, instead of what it “knew” was there.

The same happens with us.

A good meeting at church, prayer time with a friend, reading this blog… the cloud clears and God illuminates your situation with His truths. Then your focus shifts again. You go home. The friend leaves. You surf on to another site.

The clouds come back.

The Truth you saw so clearly before now is murky again.

The enemy will always, always seek to fog your vision. It is easy pickings for him.

“…because your adversary the devil walks around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” 1 Peter 5:8

“Therefore take up the whole armour of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

The answer? Being transformed by the renewing of your mind.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” Romans 12:2

Read the Word daily. Sit with God daily. However short or long the opportunity.

Keep in touch all day – talk to Him in your head throughout the day.

Keep blowing those clouds away by declaring The Truth, His Promises, every time the clouds start to thicken. Write them out and put them on the walls, on your screen saver, on the wallpaper picture on your phone.

Renewing is an ongoing process.