Schrödinger’s Cat

Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment examined the absurdity as he saw it at the time of quantum theory’s assertion that observation fixes the state of a particle. The theoretical cat was both (or neither) alive and dead at the same time – unless of course the cat’s observation was the thing that fixed its state…

Why am I writing about the cat? Well this morning in the prayer room God and I were talking about faith and doubt. A well trodden conversational path between us, I was wrestling again with stepping out in the exercising of His Gifts. Not just any specific gifting I may have received but the stuff every believer has. Not “my calling” but His calling – to go and make disciples and teach all He has made known to us.

I have always believed, from a very young age, that if I ever stepped out God would show up. Fact. Go and pray for that guy in a wheelchair? He will get up. Pray over the dead woman? She’ll wake. Pray against the truck rushing towards the child? It will stop. I’ve always believed in an all powerful, supernatural, miraculous God. My “daddy God” could do anything.

As I grew up into my teens, I began to read Scripture and go to church. I began to receive teaching. Nothing changed my view of a God of miracles, and in fact I’ve had the privilege of seeing a few first hand.

I’ve never stepped out publicly and prayed for one myself. Not like that.

I’ve never gone up to a stranger with a word from God. Never asked an unbeliever if I can pray for them, even though I believe if I do, God will be there.

Is it fear of failure that stops me? Doubt? Looking stupid and making that person think a) I’m a nutter b) “prove” God isn’t real if it fails?

I know I’m not the only person to have this sort of internal battle and conversations with God – I think most do!

So, back to Schrödinger.

All the time I don’t step out, I have not “fixed” my faith. God is neither proven real or it, I’m neither right nor wrong. To put it another way, until you roll that dice you don’t know the score – you could still be a winner and not a loser.

Not knowing isn’t the same as the unknown. That future, fixed state, is the unknown. Here and now I am in a state of not knowing. If I act, my state is unknown.

I realise that this is not a position I can stay in! It goes against everything I have ever believed. It is causing a spiritual friction within me, a dis-ease that has grown stronger as every year has passed. The more I learn, the closer I walk with Him, the more time I spend in His presence, the more ridiculous this position seems.

I feel like I’m offending Him, hurting Him, by not moving on from this place.

I read a lovely line today:

“Fear is the guard dog that is protecting the fortress of spiritual prosperity. When the dog starts barking, we know that the treasure he is guarding is near. Most people do not step over the growling dog. The result: They don’t grow because they don’t practice flowing in their gifts.” (Practicing the Gifts of the Spirit: Stories from Spiritual Java, Kris Vallotton).

Last Sunday evening we had a teaching session at our church, part of a “Firestarters” series.  We are looking at these very issues of stepping out, developing and using the Gifts.  One of the themes that developed was the spiritual principle of being filled – the constant, continuous state – and how that filling becomes an overflowing that reaches others.

We surely all know that principle?  We “get it”?  I’m sure you’ve sung a worship song at some point with words like it – calling on God to fill you, fill you to overflowing. I’m sure you’ve prayed it.  I’m sure you meant it.

For me, I know I have. I also know that if I examine my heart, truthfully, in light of all of the above, I have to come to the painful conclusion that at least in some part, I don’t FULLY mean it.

Have you ever left the tap running? Over filled the bath? Over filled the sink? Set your coffee machine to the wrong cup size? Had a saucepan boil over?

It was messy wasn’t it?  Took some clearing up.  Maybe left permanent damage (if it was the bath!).

I don’t like mess.

I was never (to my shame and guilt) a finger painting, cake making, messy play kind of mum (my mother was – I missed that gene!).  I WANTED to be. I TRIED to be.  I would set up the crafts stuff, cover the table with something to protect it, sit alongside my son(s) and make an effort.

It lasted until the mess started.  Then I started to intervene to try to prevent the worst of the mess.  Usually I ended up either taking over completely to finish the craft work myself (in a correct and tidy fashion) or in some sort of a meltdown – mine or theirs.

I don’t like mess.

I’m a chef and I clean as I go.  I cannot understand messy cooks!

Maybe, just maybe, part of me secretly realises that if I allow Holy Spirit to flood me, fill me to overflowing, it will be “messy”.

If I go up to that stranger in the coffee shop and share a Word, it will be messy. Uncomfortable. Challenging.

If God shows up and I heard the Word right and deliver it correctly, what then?!  Yes my faith will grow but hang on, what about the guy at the next table?  What about the woman behind the counter?  Doesn’t God want to talk to them too?  Shouldn’t I go up to them?

Once you throw that dice…. open that box…  you are in a new state. No going back. New ground.

If I don’t get it right (and our pastor shared an amusing – after the event – story of doing just that an approaching some woman with a less than warm reception), what then?  Will it make me doubt God?

“No!” (so my conversation with Him this morning went) “of course it wouldn’t.”

“What then?” (He asked). “Will you try again?  How many times will you try again?”

Messy.

Truthfully, this terrifies me.  How about you?  Will you pray with me? Stand with me?  If you have already opened the box/rolled the dice, will you encourage me?  If you are yet to do so, will you hold my hand and we’ll do it together?

Holy Spirit, reveal to me what I need to do to move past that guard dog of fear. Hold my hand as I step over it and step in to the fortress of spiritual prosperity.

Keeping Fit

These days we are all fairly aware of how we should take care of our bodies (even if we chose to ignore that guidance).

We know it is good to be active. We know just 10,000 steps a day is enough to keep you fit. We know crosswords, puzzles, and mind games, are good to keep our mental acuity. We know the basics of how to eat well, that fresh food is good, that we need to expend what we take in – feeding yourself rich foods that your body isn’t going to use leads to obesity.

We know that smoke pollutes – whether the stuff we out in our bodies ourselves or the pollution from the world around us.

We know how easily a small injury or illness can make us feel bad. We know our attitude can affect us not just emotionally but physically – “mind over matter” is a scientifically supported truth.

“For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the many parts of that one body are one body, so also is Christ.” 1 Cor 1:12

“But God has composed the body, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacks it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that the parts should have the same care for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts rejoice with it.” 1 Cor 1: 24-26

Something else we all know. Familiar Scriptures. But take a moment to meditate on them afresh. Fully appreciate the analogy that God is using. Let’s go back over what we’ve just said about our physical bodies and substitute the Body of Christ.

The “Body” needs to be active. That is how the Body is designed to be. Just a relatively small amount of regular activity will be hugely beneficial.

To keep the Body “mentally” active we need to be reading Scripture, praying, meditating, taking time to dream dreams and seek visions, to stay alert, prepared, sharp.

The Body needs fresh food – daily! Both as individual members of the Body and as church we need Scripture, we need teaching, we need rhema words for today instead of trying to still feed off something said over us or our church 20 years ago.

The Body can be polluted by what it feeds itself so again, individually and corporately, we need to guard what we put in to ourselves. We need to remember we are in a fallen world and the Body can be polluted just by the environment it is in. Something else to guard against and take action against.

Just as even a stubbed toe, or a runny nose can bring great discomfort, or feeling low can affect our entire day and condition all our reactions and choices, so it is with the Body. Remember, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it”.

Every member of the Body who is physically or mentally not well, everyone battling spiritual exhaustion or doubt… that affects the whole Body. As a church when we gather on Sunday – or in our small groups, or other gatherings – our overall “health” is affected by those things. We need to take care of each other – physically, emotionally, spiritually – with the same care as we know we should show our physical bodies! Be concerned about the “health” of your fellow members. Pray for your church. Pray for each other. Value each other for we all have a place in the Body and not one of us is without value.

The good news – because with God there is always good news – is that just as one member can affect the whole Body in an unhealthy way, so can we affect one other for good! “If one part is honored, all the parts rejoice with it.” That is why testimonies are so powerful. When we hear how God is working in someone’s life it can lift us, bless us. One person seeking God with a fresh heart, new determination, starting to read Scripture daily for the first time, establishing a quiet time, stepping out in using the gifts of the Holy Spirit… any of those things can affect the whole Body.

When we gather on a Sunday and begin to worship, have you ever had one of those times when it seems to catch alight? Maybe the worship leader is moving in some fresh blessing that day, maybe someone sings in tongues for the first time, maybe several people turned up that day thankful for how God has answered prayer that week and so have a heart full of praise…, anything, any small spark can light the fire of praise and adoration. Suddenly the whole mood changes, the presence of God becomes tangible, something unlocks within us…

We all play a part. Just one of us, any one of us, can bring that change.

One member of the Body. Any member of the Body. Every member.

“God has established the parts, every one of them, in the body as it has pleased Him.” 1 Cor 1:18

Don’t overlook the Biblical instruction to prayer for one another. Don’t think you don’t matter. Don’t think going to visit that church member who isn’t well doesn’t count in the Kingdom, or that giving someone a lift to church isn’t really service or that big a deal.

Let’s make a fresh commitment to take care of our Body.

Heaven’s Continuous Song

This weekend saw one of the twice-yearly gatherings of those in the wider leadership of our church, sharing food, fellowship, worship and learning, renewing our collective vision and our individual and corporate commitment to serve the part of the Body which we call home.

Even before the first strum of his guitar, the worship leader could sense – and drew our attention to – the tangible presence of God that was evident in the building.

We had come expectant – and God got there ahead of us!

The teaching, the prayer and the commitment that came out of that weekend meant that we entered church on Sunday with our faith levels high and doubt turned down.

Again, God was there ahead of us.

The corporate worship at the beginning of the service just exploded. It was indescribable.

One of the songs that we sung was “Praises (Be Lifted High)” by Bethel – which we had also sung the day before.  On both days whilst we were singing it was one of those miraculous times where there were more voices than the number of people present, as we were privileged to hear the sound of the angels joining in.  This morning it was the same.  The strength of the singing rose, the clarity of the words increased, the whole tenor and tone of the voices changed.

We moved on to “King of My Heart” (by John Mark McMillan) and it continued.

It was truly breathtaking.

As my spirit soared in response, I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me, explaining why it was happening.

When we lose ourselves fully, utterly, in abandonment, beyond our “understanding”, letting our spirit move freely in unison with His, we will always, always feel the most alive, the most free, the most US that we will ever feel.

Because we are His. We are made in the image of God.  We are His creation.  Our very DNA is imprinted with who He is.  Good. Worthy. Holy. Unchanging. Deserving of our praise. Always.

Nothing will ever make you feel as whole or as complete like that moment of true worship, being so much more than a song but an attitude, an expression, a declaration.

Furthermore, in that moment of worship not only are we in true union with our Creator, but we also join with the heavenly hosts.

Revelation teaches us that the angels worship Him day and night.  They were created for that purpose. Day and night they are lifting His Name higher than any other name.  Day and night they are declaring Who He Is.

When we are do the same, we join in with heaven’s continuous song.  If you truly listen with your spiritual “ears” you will hear your voice join in with those of the heavenly hosts.

During Saturday’s teaching, Neil Young (from Causeway Coast Vineyard, Coleraine) had taught us how understanding our IDENTITY leads into understanding our AUTHORITY which in turn brings CLARITY.  Today we moved into a deeper revelation of His Identity that led our hearts and spirits to respond in delight, as we moved into a fuller revelation of our own identity – as children of the living God.

I am so excited and so expectant to see how that revelation moves the church, moves me, into a greater understanding of our authority, and I am sure I cannot even begin to imagine where that will lead us in terms of clarity of purpose and calling.

There was a Word that I received for someone else during Saturday which, whilst it wasn’t given for me, has certainly blessed me and challenged me:

The walls of Jericho came down with the blowing of trumpets and the raising of voices – IN UNISON.  When we are united in purpose, in word and in deed, then strongholds will come down.

That is what God is asking of us, and it is going to be an exhilarating – if bumpy – journey as we pursue that.

The Same, but Different

One of the many themes that make up my conversations with God and my study of His Word at the moment is in the issue of gifting/calling/serving.  Trying to understand the difference between what we are all called to do, how we are all called to serve, alongside the belief that we all have a personal calling, that God has a plan for each of our lives, and that we each have a unique mix of gifts and talents.  In my quiet time on the sea front on Monday God brought to mind an analogy that helped me see the differences more clearly, so I’m sharing the thought process here in case it is of benefit to anyone else.

When we accept Christ and are born again, we call ourselves Christians – followers of Christ.  As such we are all called to share the Gospel, to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20).

The Word tells us we each are given the same measure of faith (Romans 12:3). We can all develop the same fruits of the Spirit.

However each of us is further called – some to be prophets, some evangelists etc – as the Holy Spirit gives gifts to each one as He determines, making each of us “qualified” in particular areas (1 Cor 1:11).

“There are various gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. There are various operations, but it is the same God who operates all if them in all people.” (1 Cor 12:4-6)

We all have eternal life, yet the Bible teaches that we also have the capacity to store up treasures in heaven (Mat 6:19-20), and that we shall receive reward according to our labour (1 Cor 3:8).

So. How do we deal with this “all the same but all different” issue and the “not works but faith/earn rewards” apparent contradiction?

I found myself thinking of the Olympic team (as I’m in England I thought of Team GB).

All of them on the team received the same: the accommodation, the support, the food, the opportunity. The same resources were available to all. The same gym equipment.

Some of those sportsmen and women were swimmers. Some gymnasts. Some were rowers. Some specialised in field athletics, some track. Within even those disciplines some further specialised – some only ran the 100m, others may do two or three events. In the cycling there were individual events and team events. Sometimes their time went towards the overall score of the team.

At the end of the day they were all Olympians, they had all achieved their place on the team. Yet only some got medals, and not all of those were gold, and not all of them were individually earned but for the team (such as hockey).

It seems as good an analogy as any to describe the way that we are all, as Christians, equally blessed and equipped, equally called, yet all with the opportunity to do something with our calling, all able to find our specialisation and all seek our gold medal – whether for a team or for our own singular calling.

I’d rather be an Olympian who came home with a gold medal than one who could simply claim “I made the team”.

It’s all in the Timing…

Let’s be real here: unanswered prayer is tough for Christians. There are many theologies surrounding the issues and it is often a topic for discussion in small groups/home groups within churches.

We reassure each other with talk about God’s timing instead of our timing, we remind ourselves (quite correctly) of the Scriptures that promise He DOES answer, that He is a GOOD God, a good Father. We even talk about Daniel and the delay in receiving his answer due to spiritual opposition (Daniel 10).

I had a revelation today when chatting with God over the time it had taken to see the answer to a particular prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I was thanking Him for the answer, and not feeling angry at the timescale – more I was wondering about the time taken, about why that was, and seeing how even in that delay, He had brought good. I realised that not receiving the answers to our prayers when we pray them (or in the timing that we ask for or expect) is more about the constraints of time itself than it is about God’s willingness or ability to act.

God is outside time. We are in it. It is linear.

When we pray over situations or about specifics, it takes time – our time – for those things to be worked out by God because of those constraints. We know that all things work together for the good to those who love God (Romans 8:28) and that is, by its very definition, a process, with an outcome.

If five people set off with directions to a certain place but each one read those directions it differently, after a period of time they will all be in a different location. Imagine they then speak on the phone and realise they are in the wrong place. Having now worked out where they should be – and how to get there – does that knowledge instantly put them in the right place? No! They now have to make their way. That takes time.

When we pray and we ask God to move, when we ask in His Name, He answers. He moves. But the “working together for our good”, the working out, the process, of that answer being manifested in our life is within the earth realm, within our time frame. It takes time to see the evidence of His moving, and time to see the result (the answer to the prayer).

Of course where there is direct spiritual opposition that takes even longer, as it is more than just time that God is dealing with (the good news is our enemy is also restricted within the linear constraints of time).

The “miraculous”, the immediate answer to prayer, the sudden breakthrough, maybe come simply because all things are lined up in such a way that His move and the result seem to us to be instantaneous. They don’t meant God decided to move in one instance but not another. It doesn’t mean that person necessarily had more faith, it certainly doesn’t mean they are more righteous, that God heard them when He didn’t hear you. It doesn’t mean God wanted to heal them now, but you in two years’ time.

So, remember when you pray that you are inside time and God is outside of it.

Learn patience. Seek wisdom. Keep praying.

Keep making yourself available to Holy Spirit so He can use you to bring answers to other people’s prayers, and to speed up the process by aligning yourself with the Will and the Word of God, thus enabling Him to move through you freely to reach others.

Relax… You are in safe Hands

A child grows in the womb, wrapped, enclosed, touched and held on all sides in that snug place. At the moment of birth – wow is it any wonder they cry! Torn from that place and thrust into space – like free falling almost – a sudden sense of nothingness all around, released, uncovered..

After prods and touches, random movements, the baby feels itself tightly wrapped again as it is swaddled and then – marvelous moment! The baby is placed into arms that encircle it, and there is the voice, the heartbeat, that it has known from the very first moment of conciseness, held, safe, secure…

“I am humbled and quieted in your presence.Psalm 131 verse 2

Like a contented child that rests on its mother’s lap,

I’m your resting child, and my soul is content in you.”

( Psalm 131: 2 The Passion Translation)

When  the day is long, the circumstances tough, the pain great, the fear overwhelming, read that Scripture, ponder the image, and let it speak to your soul.

“So then, my soul, why would you be depressed?
Why would you sink into despair?
Just keep hoping and waiting on God, your Savior.
For no matter what, I will still sing with praise,
For living before his face is my saving grace!”

(Psalm 42:5 The Passion Translation)

Renew your mind, rob the enemy of his plan to harm you, and CHOSE to focus on the goodness of God, and rest in the knowledge that you are in safe Hands.

“The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath you are the everlasting arms”

(Deut 33: 27 MEV)

Looking for a Storm

After a week of spending my daily quiet time in the new 24/7 prayer room at church, I’m back this morning by the sea.

As a storm is approaching, it is high tide. The waves are crashing and smashing and the wind howling around the car, rocking it around like crazy.

But I’m watching the seagulls.

They are divided into one of three actions. The most breath taking are the ones that are flying. I’m watching them soar, swoop and just hover – wings out, riding the 40 mile an hour winds and looking like the 60mph gusts are just a whole lot of fun.

Some of the birds have landed on the sea. As well as being birds designed to fly and use the wind, they are of course sea birds. They look just at home on the sea. With the waves piling up, an increasing swell, they ride on top of it, the ultimate roller coaster, looking like that is fun too. They certainly look better than some of the ships moored up here waiting for it to pass.

Every now and again though, some of the birds land on the promenade – and then they don’t look quite as at home. Facing into the wind, they are almost immediately blown off balance, feathers ruffling, looking ungainly. They usually take back to the air – just a few feet away from the ground, but seemingly finding it easier/more pleasant to ride the wind wings outstretched than try to balance on two legs against the gusts, on the ground.

It hit me, hard, that it probably mirrors our Christian walk – certainly mine!

When the sea of life is rough, I probably try to drop anchor and brace – instead of owning the waves and riding it out, trusting that my Maker has designed me to be able to do just that. When the winds of circumstance gust, do I try to stay on land, solid ground, and get buffeted around or do I spread my wings and face into it?

More than that, to use the wind differently in the analogy, how about when the Spirit blows strong around me? As I write I am listening to a spontaneous worship session from Bethel, that I’d listened to a lot in the prayer room last week. Throughout the hour and a quarter session you can hear and sense the rhythm of Holy Spirit as He moves. His “wind” gets stronger, then becomes gentle, then builds up to stunning strength with breath taking “gusts”. Thank God for anointed worship leaders, musicians and singers, who have learnt to just spread their wings and FLY when that happens! You can see in their faces, their bodies, their words and music, the exhilaration of being in the full face of His wind.

I want that! I have decided to pursue that. Always in worship (and we are blessed at our church to have people in our worship teams who are also learning to do just that, walking deeper every week into His Presence and taking the congregation with them) but more than that – in all of my life.

I’m praying dangerous prayers! I’m praying for Godly storms of His Holy Spirit, to see the full power of His Holy Spirit move. I want to see that for my church – I want to see us soar, calling out in exhilaration at the gusts, learning how to position ourselves to make the most of His power, His presence. I want those in our community, in our lives, our circles of influence, to watch us with the same amazement I’m watching those gulls – marvelling at how they are soaring, admiring their beauty and design. Because if they marvel at us, it will be because we are demonstrating God, His majesty, being His hands and feet, the visible expression of His grace and mercy.

I don’t want to be a ship, man made, surviving, riding it out. I want to be God’s creation, working in harmony with the rest of His creation, doing what I was designed to do, embracing Him fully, and soaring on the never ending wind of His Spirit.

Kingdom Come

The past few weeks have been quite a ride.

A week ago during the evening service at church, as I was worshipping, I clearly “saw” a spirit from the kingdom of darkness leaving the room. A few moments later I realised with sudden, stunning, shattering awareness that the battle that had been present in my mind for the last 35 years had stopped. The mental torment, the sometimes overwhelming, never less than background noise, interference, hassle, confusion and negative thoughts had ceased.

I realised this first because my mind suddenly went blank. I realised it felt empty. (All this was whilst the worship was still going on around me). Then, just like when a computer restarts,  the screen goes black, then you see the system reboot, my mind “rebooted” and I saw it wasn’t blank or empty – just empty of the depression. 35 years is a long time to carry something, and the reality of its absence was just indescribable.

All of a sudden I had my mind back! It was SUCH a rush! I couldn’t stop smiling. In fact, every time now I close my eyes to worship, or to pray, or I am alone and therefore have space to think, I start grinning as – gosh this is so hard to explain – it feels so different inside my mind, so clear, so clean, and I am so present in my own thoughts.

Over the past  week I have filled my mind with God’s truth and presence, through reading Scriptures, praying, worshipping, singing in tongues… Wanting to renew my mind in Christ and clearly mark that space as His and seal the door against the enemy for good.

At the end of the week I was blessed to be able to attend a 2 days basic training in the Bethel Sozo Ministry, and oh boy did that all tie in! I had a series of lightbulb moments as things fell into place. I described it to several people as being like holding up two X-rays or transparencies and slowly aligning then until you could see they were identical.

God’s plan and purpose for me, the reasons behind giftings, personality traits, and the way He had used the negative stuff in my past to turn to His good and strengthen those plans became clear and brought comfort, respite, encouragement and excitement. I have begun to pursue God for one of His gifts, accepting it (only about 30 years after I became aware of having it!), wanting to understand it, grow it, train, learn, explore and use it – and seeking Him for more, much more. Yes I am aware that is a “dangerous” prayer!

At my own, first Sozo on 5th June last year, God did an incredible work and finally broke the lie that I had believed my entire life, reversing it seemed my whole being in the space of a few moments. It was simply life changing. Since that time a new “me” began to emerge. Ways of thinking have been changing. New neurone pathways being created every day and old ones dying out. Reprogramming. Redesigning. Using the original blueprint, God’s plan, and doing away with almost all the framework I’d built myself on over four decades. The depression left last week because seven and a half months later, there was simply nothing left for it to cling to. No wounds for it to use to have right of access to me.

My journey for those months has been charted by the worship songs that have grabbed me, a playlist of songs whose lyrics seem to have mirrored the path I have been on. Right now it is “When you walk into a room” by Brian & Katie Torwalt from the Kingdom Come album (no coincidence that is the title of our evening services..). They write “when you walk into the room everything changes, darkness starts to tremble at the light that you bring” – and that is what happened. His light and more specifically His presence filled my mind after all the vines of experience, incident and trauma had finally died after being cut down in June, and darkness simply fled.

Yesterday evening, at the evening service, one week round from the depression fleeing, I had a vision – as I had been seeking God for the increase in the prophetic – that just stunned me and brought me literally and figuratively to my knees.

I saw with my own eyes the room full of people through God’s eyes.

Father God looked on us and we were a crowd of His children, clothed in white, dazzling like some commercial for washing powder, brilliant white. It was beautiful, moving, uplifting.

Then the vision shifted, and I saw through Jesus’ eyes. It broke me.

Jesus Christ, our Advocate, our Ransom, the sacrifice that took away our sins, looked at the room and saw it full of His brothers and sisters, hurting, broken. He saw pain, sickness, suffering, depression, despondency, fear, and sin. Every one of the things in each of our lives – past, present and future – that He died for, was there for Him to see as He looked at us. Of course, He bore them so He knows them. He knows them. He knows us. Intimately. He didn’t just walk this earth in His own life but by taking all our sins and our unrighteousness He has in fact lived all our lives and so truly, deeply knows us. That’s why He is our Advocate. Because He sees us God doesn’t – Father sees our righteousness in Christ.

On my knees, sobbing, overwhelmed with the debt I can never repay, the vision cleared again to that of Holy Spirit.

As He looked at the room, Holy Spirit saw something totally different, something remarkable. Have you ever watched Doctor Who, one of the modern ones, where they do the regeneration scene? Or a similar scene in a film, where the person is filled or “zapped” with some power, some super power? Every person was a column of light, a pillar of fire. Some had it shooting up and out, some blazed – but we all had it. Every born again person in that room carried it. The power of Holy Spirit. His resurrection power. Himself. As God promised from ages past (Ezekiel 36:27) and as He fulfilled at Pentecost, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19, Galations 4:6… I could go on!)

What an amazing sight it was! It was nothing short of exhilarating.

Again and again that vision is touching me, changing me, challenging me, drawing me. I pray it blesses you too.

We finished the evening with an equally challenging testimony and exhortation from an incredible woman of God, and right at the end I was completely undone when she spoke a Word from God direct to me.

I sit here this morning, in my special place with God, shaken and stirred, incredibly excited. My mind is filling with images and ideas that I would never have entertained even a few months ago and never in the years before. I can’t wait for next Sunday when we launch a new, permanent dedicated prayer space in our church (did you knew barely 5% of UK churches have such a space?) and we begin a week of 24/7 prayer. I shall be moving my special place to that room for the week and I am hugely expectant of what God and I will talk about, what He will reveal, and where He will take me during those times.

No teaching here today for you dear reader, but I hope sharing my testimony and journey will encourage and challenge you.

“But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 MEV)

Not of This World

“I have given them Your word. And the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.
They are not of the world even as I am not of the world.” (John 17: 14-26 MEV)

This morning I was pondering on this verse as a train of thought connected to something I had read. However I got well and truly side-tracked as I come up against a fresh revelation on it’s meaning – and how it looks in the life of a modern Christian.

It involves using a slightly dangerous analogy; dangerous because it refers to a rather emotive, political issue that people have strong opinions on. I ask you though to set aside your personal reaction to the subject and instead focus on the way the parallels can help illuminate these verses.

The issue? That of people living in a land not of their birth. I do NOT want you to think “refugee” or “immigrant” as those are the trigger words today. Think instead of ex-pats, those that have emigrated, moved home. I believe that analogy can help us unpack this lesson of how to be “in” the world but not “of” the world.

I have a passport that states I was born in the UK and that I am a resident of the UK. I am British through and through. Many British people – at retirement or earlier – sell up and move lock stock and barrel to France, or Spain. These are the “ex-pats”. They apply for citizenship, get a new passport. Spain becomes their new home. They live in a new land. A new culture. Sunshine instead of rain. New exotic foods. A new lifestyle. A new language.

I’ve always failed to understand though why so many of them seem to stay “British”. They live in ex-pat communities with other British people. They have a local shop that sells them English tea, Worcestersire sauce, Branston pickle – or they get visiting friends to bring “British” supplies with them or family back in Blighty to post regular food boxes. They talk English and socialise with each other.

I look at them and think “why did you move?!” If you love all things British, why go to live in a foreign land?

From Heaven’s perspective, I’m afraid many of us Christians must look like those ex-pats.

Jesus bought us a new citizenship. We were born again – no longer does our spiritual passport say we were born “in the world”. I have a new passport that says I was born in the Kingdom of God (not the United Kingdom). My address is Heavenly. My birthplace Heaven not Kent. My Father/next of kin is God. Jesus paid all my removal costs and now I am living in a new land!

I believe the Bible clearly teaches that Heaven starts here, on earth, in the heart of the believer. That is why Jesus taught us to pray “Your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”. That is our daily prayer surely, that in us and through us we see heaven established on earth.

So why do we insist on keeping our old ways? If I am now living in the Kingdom of God, why am I not only speaking it’s language? Why do I still use the words, the phrases, the message of the world, where I used to “live”?

Why am I still feeding myself things from the old kingdom? I have the store house of Heaven at my disposal but I’m sustaining myself with the things of the world. Instead of feeding on the Living Word of God – the Water of Life which we can drink of and never be thirsty again (John 4:14), the Bread of Heaven that we can eat of and live forever (John: 6: 51).

If the Angels look at me, do they see someone fully integrated into Heaven, or someone who may have technically moved location but has remained of the old world? As a born again Christian, I have “moved” spiritually and nothing can change that. But why go to all that effort of “moving” and then effectively stay where you were? Like those ex-pats, living on the Costa de Sol eating fish and chips, drinking tea, English lager, with their Heinz baked beans, talking English and playing English music.

They are missing out on the richness of the culture, the food, the people, the life style – the very things that made them fall in love with the place the first time! Whatever their passport says, they have stayed British.

Are you doing that? Despite your spiritual passport saying “heaven” have you kept the ways of the world? What riches are you missing out! We should be filling ourselves daily with the glorious riches that are ours in Christ and fully immersing ourselves in this new culture.

As I thought about this and how it applied in my own life, I found another analogy that looks at it from completely the other way and yet still makes the same point.

I was thinking first from Heaven’s point of view, with us as the people who had changed citizenship. But then I thought of it from the other way around, from those around me here in the world. Do I look to them as if I am “not of this world”? From that perspective actually I should look to those around me like those ex-pats do to the Spanish.

Think about it.

Do you have any areas near where you live that are known for being populated by people from another country? Most places I’ve lived have had known pockets/areas that might be, say, Chinese, Polish etc. It is understandable because if you were moving to a new country the idea of settling somewhere near “your own people” could appeal. Especially if you were unable to speak the new language.

When you become a Christian, Heaven should be able to look at you and see someone fully “in the Kingdom” as I said before. But, because we are still in the world (though no longer of it) to those around us we should now be different!

There is much debate over Sharia law and Muslims following that Islamic law even when it goes against the law of the land they are living in (if they are in a non-Muslim country). We perhaps need to reflect that, as Christians, our actions should regularly be showing up as following a “different law”, a different set of standards to live by, from those around us.

How often have you not gone along with something at work, with your friends, where you have known it was not right? Have you ever spoken out about it?

Do your non-Christian friends look at you and see someone who lives by different standards? Do we stand out?

Sometimes I think we get so caught up in making the church “relevant”, our services “seeker friendly”, our language “accessible” and our approaches “modern” that we completely and utterly miss the point.

WE ARE MEANT TO BE DIFFERENT!

Church isn’t meant to be like the rest of the world. Christians aren’t meant to be the same as everyone else.

Jesus expected us to be hated because we were His followers! He talked to Father about it! He expected our behaviour to make us stand out and, instead of asking God to change that, to take us out of this world, He asked for us to not be tempted or harmed by the evil one (the ruler of this world) whilst here.

If I look at my life, does that prayer seem necessary? Am I that much in danger because I stand out? If the answer is no then frankly, I’m doing it wrong.

If Jesus expected me to be ridiculed, mocked, lose friends, family ties broken, misunderstood, persecuted… And yet the reality is my friends might not even know I believe in God, then something is wrong.

You don’t have to be a pastor, an evangelist, “in ministry”, serving in some desperate part of the world, in danger of being killed for your beliefs for this to apply. In your workplace your faith should mean you are open at anytime to being mocked, over looked for promotion by your atheist boss, or know that at a family gathering your cousin (who is very anti religion) will make a beeline for you and start an argument.

We aren’t called to be different in order to judge, or to be “holier than thou” (because the moment you do, you are the same as the Pharisees), to say we are right and everyone else is wrong in condemnation. We are, however, still called to be different because by that difference, we demonstrate God’s message.

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have for one another” (John 13:35 MEV)

By the fact that Jesus said this meant He knew our behaviour – motivated by God and His Grace – would lead us to behave in a fashion different to those around us. He knew having love – the “love your neighbours” kind of love – we would be different. We are to be lights – which suggests something pure, shining, guiding, leading – in the darkness of the world. Again and again, He taught His disciples to be different.

I’m going to spend time honestly examining my life. I want to know that in Heaven I am “fully integrated”, but that in the world’s eyes, I am different – from another country and culture. I pray that the Holy Spirit will gently show me those areas that I need to focus on and give me the wisdom and courage to make the changes, and to be different in the way that Jesus called me to be, a way that loves, heals and saves and never condemns.

I invite you to do the same.

Kingdom First

At this time of year people begin to feel conscious of their over indulgence during Christmas. It is a time to consider a change of diet. Reducing calories. Eating more veg.

It is also atime for reflection on the year as it ends, and a time to look forward to a new year, a new start, fresh slate.

For some people this is a positive experience filled with happy memories and bright expectation.  For others it is a very negative time full of regrets and hopelessness.

Following the principle of “Kingdom first” though, any reflection should first and foremost be spiritual.

What indulgences have I had this year? What worldly habits or temptations have I succumbed to? Things I know are “bad” for me, that make me “fat” in the ways of the world?  What harmful thoughts do I need to stop feeding myself?

Just as going on a diet is not the way to get fit and lose weight (we don’t really need the experts to tell us that they don’t work, don’t last, and don’t make lasting change!) but instead one must make lifestyle changes, tackle habits and triggers for poor eating choices in order to make changes that are permanent, so it is with our spiritual health. If you are making poor choices on what to feed your soul – who you hang around with, what you watch, what you read, what you are focusing on, the actions you take – then a “diet” of some guilt based fast, a “giving up” is not going to help.

You need to look at what makes you vulnerable to those bad choices. You need to look at feeding yourself with “whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report” (Phillipians 4:8 MEV).

Focus on the right things rather than trying to give up the bad. That’s the Kingdom way. The Holy Spirit convicts of righteousness not sin (John 16:8)

Look at your spiritual “activity” levels. Are you lazy? Do you make an effort to pursue the things of God? Are you active in your church? In your community? Do you use your gifts or have you buried your talents in the ground rather than take the time and energy – and risk – to use them and therefore multiply them (Matthew 25:14-28)?

What spiritual lessons can you take from this year and how can they guide you in the new year?

Look back on the ways God has worked in your life throughout the year. See how He has turned all things to your good – and be honest enough to see where you have stopped Him from doing that by your wilful actions.  Those times when, if you are honest, you knew you were going against His best plan and purpose and stepped out from under that covering promise.

Let’s before God over the next few days with our honest evaluation and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate any areas we have missed.

Lay it all before Him and just spend time with Him, letting the Holy Spirit minister to you, to the hurts, the pains, the disappointments.

Let God have those desires of your heart, the hopes and dreams for next year.

Lay down the burdens and let go of the things that have been holding you back. Write it out if that is it what works for you, or speak it out.

Instead of making New Year resolutions, make a list of Scriptures that proclaim God’s promises over your life and consciously purpose to start 2016 firmly holding on to them. Have a list of 10 Scriptures and resolve to confess them and stand on them in faith. I can promise you that that will be a far more powerful and effective way to make changes in your life that any resolution!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you” (Matthew 6:33 MEV).