Who is Waiting for Whom?

I had a clear picture/vision this morning during worship at church.  To my shame, I did not share it at the time.  Sadly, sometimes, the voice of self doubt shouts louder than Holy Spirit and by the time I’d quietened it, the opportunity to share the picture had passed.

I’m hoping sharing it here will still have value.

The picture formed from the juxtaposition of two songs that we sang.  Firstly, “Boldly I Approach (The Art Of Celebration)” by Rend Collective, followed by “Waiting Here For You” by Christy Nockels.

The first song conjured up a vision of the Throne Room – actually a personal vision of mine that I’ve had since the age of 4.  The second song came and suddenly the picture changed as my perspective shifted, and I came out of the Throne Room and in to a waiting room outside.

The waiting room was full.

Many were waiting there for an invitation to go in to the Throne Room.  Despite the fact that they HAD such an invitation in their hands, “good manners” stopped them from just walking in.

Imagine the Queen of England had sent you a Royal Invitation to the Palace.  It gave you a date and time and said that, when you arrived, you were to go straight in to the Throne Room.

You wouldn’t, would you?  You would turn up, in the waiting room, and, well, wait.  You knew in theory it said “go straight in” but no one does that!  Not in to the Queen’s presence! Surely there is an etiquette? A butler?  If you wait around, someone is bound to come past and you can let them know you are there. Ask if it is ok to knock and go in.

Why is it that we are like that with God?

We have in our hands The Invitation. The Gospel. It says we can “boldly approach the Throne”.  It says we are Sons and Daughters.  We have a right to go straight in.

Yet we sing “waiting here for you” whilst God listens from inside His Throne Room, waiting THERE for YOU.  Arms wide. Lap empty.

Others are waiting out here. For them, for a variety of reasons, they wait in the waiting room because that’s what you do when you get summoned but for them, there isn’t an exciting encounter waiting on the other side but judgement.

They sat in waiting rooms outside headmaster’s offices.  Outside the boss’s office.  Outside the divorce lawyer’s office.  Outside the bank manager’s office.  Outside the doctor’s office.

For them, sadly, the experiences they have had means they really truly don’t believe an invitation leads to something good. Whatever awaits them, it doesn’t really fill them with hope but rather fear.

Whilst we wait, the outside door is flung open and some children pile through.  With the noise, bustle, fun and energy of youth they run across the waiting room and straight in to the Throne Room, without even a moments pause.

Go back to the analogy of the Queen.  Do you think, when her children were little, that every time they came in to the room she was in, they stopped and thought “that’s the Queen of England”?  Or do you think they thought “Mummy!”.

When her grandchildren visit, do they wait or do they catch and glimpse and run up shouting “Nanny!” and put their arms out for a cuddle?

They of course get taught as they get older how to behave “in public”, they get taught who Mummy/Nanny is and how important.  But I’m pretty certain the FIRST thing they see when they see her is Mum/Nan NOT Queen.

Holy Spirit is nudging us today, those of us loitering nervously in the waiting room.  He is whispering: “Look up.  Look at the doorway”.

If you do, if you look up at the doorway between the waiting room and the Throne Room you will see it is open.

“Here I am! I stand at the door!” Jesus is calling.  He is the Way to the Father.  He has MADE the Way to the Father.  The written invitation in your hands, the Gospel, is the Living Word who stands at that open door.  There is no barrier between the waiting room and the Throne Room.  This is an “open plan” Kingdom.

God is in Heaven, and Jesus is at His right Hand.  We have to, as it were “go to Him” now, in spirit because He first came to us.  As a man. Immanuel. God with us. Because He came to us we can now go to Him, as spirit, hand in hand with Holy Spirit, in to His Presence. In to the Presence of Father.

Please, please don’t sit in the waiting room.  Don’t picture a door or a barrier between you and Daddy.  Instead become like a child again and run with abandonment to Him, to Daddy, because as His Child you have that right and He is waiting for you.

Advertisements

You Had Just One Rule..

This morning I was mulling over some more the whole “why did God create us knowing what was going to happen” question, and it brought me to the area of the law and grace.

At the beginning, God gave man just one “rule”. He knew it was enough to keep us safe. He knew the best for us.

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17 MEV

Man ignored him, giving in to the temptation to follow his own plan, to make his own rules, to be in charge.

Now, man knew the difference between good and evil. Between God’s way and the enemy’s way (i.e. not God’s way). Between the way where it was all provided for us and we had very good thing, and the way of toil, pain, hardship and effort. Going the opposite way to God, the Creator of all, takes energy.

Things went on like that for a while but it was clear that man didn’t have a clue. Just knowing good from evil wasn’t turning out pretty.

God stepped in and, out of mercy, gave mankind a basic blueprint. A way of better understanding what right and wrong looked like. A guide. The Ten Commandments.

It still wasn’t enough. This led to a more detailed framework, the law of Moses, which set out the old covenant relationship between God and man. It covered ceremonial, sacrificial, civil, moral/spiritual matters. A huge list. It showed just how hard it was for man – though his own efforts – to keep to God’s way. It showed just how perfect, how righteous, God is.

Of course the teachers of the law realised this and over time built a “hedge around the law”: a further series of rules designed to keep man out of the grey areas so that they were less likely to stray far enough to break any of the Mosaic Law.

It is a little bit like having a 20mph speed limit in a built up area. If you are driving quite slowly you are more likely to have the time to react to a child running out in front of you, and therefore less likely to hit them. At that speed, even if you did, the chance of death or serious injury is reduced. That restrictive speed limit is a law that helps prevent you from breaking one of the “big” ones – not taking someone else’s life.

Imagine the first time a parent leaves a child alone to play, maybe just in another room or when the child is old enough, because they’ve trusted them enough to stay home unsupervised whilst the parent pops out. “Be good” is perhaps deemed to be enough of an instruction to keep them safe.

When you get back and see they have broken something, done something they know they aren’t allowed to do or hurt themselves, you realise that “be good” isn’t enough.

Next time you might be more detailed! This time there is a list of things, things you’ve realised they are more than likely to end up doing without you there to stop them.

More than likely you get back to find they did something that you hadn’t put on the list, but still wasn’t something you wanted them to do!

The list gets bigger..

In a tiny, imperfect-analogy way, that is a reflection of the journey mankind had with God regarding the rules that were designed to keep us safe once we had stepped out from under His protection.

So what was the answer? A bigger list? More rules? Bigger punishments? Harsher consequences?

We’ve all seen that parent in the supermarket… “Don’t do that!”, “Come back here!”, “If you don’t come back here this minute you will be in trouble!”, “Come here or I will smack you”, ,Come here [usually with expletives by now] or I will [insert ludicrous unlikely response e.g. ‘I will kill you’!]”.

It doesn’t work. It isn’t the answer. It wasn’t the answer.

God’s answer: Jesus.

We simply cannot keep ourselves righteous outside of the original relationship with our Creator, but we cannot have that relationship because we have sinned, gone our own way.

God’s answer was to sacrifice His Son to make payment for those sins in order that we can step back into relationship with Him. DESPITE THE FACT THAT WE KEEP SINNING!!!

Jesus, omnipotent God incarnate, Alpha and Omega, paid the price for every sin. For every one. For ever. Past, present, future.

So despite the fact that I can still chose to go my way not God’s way, despite the fact that I can still give in to temptation, I am now, having confessed Christ as my Saviour, believing that He died for my sins and rose from the dead, has defeated death and is sat at the right hand of the Father, back in that original Garden of Eden relationship.

I’m not worthy. I’m not righteous. On my own, I can never be. But once I accept Christ’s redemption, in Him, I am all those things.

The biggest oxymoron of them all: grace.

What was God thinking?!

There are many topics of conversations when a Christian is talking to a non-Christian about God but there are common questions that get asked.

One is, “why did God make us if He knew we were going to sin?” (it is also a question new Christian may struggle with).

When my husband and I decided to have kids we discussed numbers, preferred sex, names, hopes and dreams for any children we might raise but there is something we didn’t discuss. We never thought that it wasn’t worth the risk of having a child because they might one day reject us. We also didn’t think having kids was a bad idea because they might turn out “bad”.

Let’s face it, every murderer, abuser, psychopath or sociopath is someone’s child – and not all of their actions can be blamed on upbringing… some people just seem to end up bad. Their parents didn’t decide one day to raise a hell child. As parents we all try our best, hope for the best, believing that if we do a reasonable job our child will grow up into a reasonable person.

Sometimes they don’t.

God knows how that feels…

He gave us everything we could ever want or need.

It wasn’t enough.

We also understood we couldn’t make our kids love us. There was a basic assumption that there would be an in built, kind of automatic love (both ways!). However we knew they would be independent people who would make their own choices for their own lives as they grew up.

If you force someone to love you, it isn’t really love and it won’t really stand up to any kind of test.

God knows this. He created the angels to worship Him. You would have thought that would have worked out. But it didn’t. Lucifer, the “worship leader” of the angels, decided that he was worthy of worship too and set himself up against God. When he was subsequently thrown out of heaven he took a third of the angels with him.

God, frankly, fared little better with us. Creating us for relationship not worship, we were given free will. Free to chose to love. Just like my children were.

God gave us every good thing and a few instructions for our own good. Just like I tried to do with my kids. Knowing – from my perspective as an adult and their parent – what would be good and what would be harmful for them.

Just like our kids don’t always listen, we didn’t listen to God. We thought we knew better. Lucifer whispered his lies into our ears and we chose to listen.

Just like when your child decides to listen to the voice of their friends, some YouTuber, some other “role model” and you watch them walk into temptation and danger…

Any analogy drawing parallels between us as earthly parents and God the Creator of all is of course flawed but hopefully you get my point.

God created us for relationship, created us in love and for love, and part of that meant giving us the free will to chose to stay in that relationship, to chose to love Him in return.

Love is costly. It hurts. But it is also infinitely rewarding.

Take some time to really meditate today on how deep, how wide, how endless God’s love for you is. All He has done for you. Always giving and not counting the cost. Never giving up on us. The ultimate parent!

Marvel at how despite knowing the cost, He chose to create us. How despite knowing the cost, Jesus willing came to Earth, Immanuel, God with us. How despite the fact that we routinely ignore Him and shut Him out, Holy Spirit resides in us and is willing to gives us everything we need, a limitless supply of wisdom and power.

That is love.
God is love.
God loves YOU.

Fog

Today’s quiet time at my favourite spot lacked the view. Thickening fog obscured the beautiful vista that normally soothes my soul.

As I am prone to do, I immediately saw the analogy between the fog and where many of us can find ourselves.

I know the sea is still there – I can hear it even if I can’t see it. I know the horizon is there somewhere. The sky. Ships. Intellectually, I know they are there even though my direct experience – what my senses are telling me – suggests they aren’t.

I’m sure you see the parallel. As Christians, especially if we read the Scriptures or listen to Biblical teaching, know the Truth. I know God loves me. I know I have value. I know He has good plans for me. I know nothing can separate me from His love. I know He can work all things together for my good if I allow Him. I know He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Sometimes though, my “direct experience” doesn’t match what I know. Sometimes I feel alone. Sometimes there seems to be no hope. Sometimes it seems He isn’t listening. Sometimes He doesn’t even seem to be there. Sometimes I’m scared.

If you find yourself in that place, remember the fog. Remember that it isn’t sensible to only trust what you can see. To place experience over knowledge. Circumstance over Scripture.

If you were out walking and the fog came in, what would you do?

Maybe you would stay still. Stay where you know you are – where you knew you were before the fog came – and wait for it to pass.

Perhaps you are the sort of person who would get out their phone (let’s assume you had signal!) and rely on the map, the blinking dot, to tell you where you are and show you how to get where you want to be.

Perhaps you have no phone (or no signal!) and instead decide to trust in instinct and common sense. Find a road, find the edge of the field, the shoreline. Find a feature and follow it, knowing all roads lead somewhere and sooner or later you will come to a road sign.

Those are all good options for us when the fog of circumstances or our feelings cloud our trust in God’s Truth.

Stay where you are. Rest. Remember it was ok before and it will be again. This too shall pass.

Take out your Bible. See what it says about where you are and where you are going and rely on what it says instead of what you see.

Find a truth you do still believe, that you can still see, and follow it. Stay with it. Keep confessing and clinging to it until the fog clears and you can see more of the Truth.

One other part of the analogy from today’s fog… The longer I sat in the car the less vision I had. Not just because the fog thickened but because the water condensed on to the window screen and obscured my vision.

When I turned the ignition on and used the windscreen wipers to clear the screen I saw that actually the fog wasn’t as bad as I thought! The lack of vision came from where I was positioned…..

Do I need to spell it out?

Sometimes where we are is what is causing us to doubt, to fail to trust in God’s Word. That relationship. That attitude. The influence of that friend. The TV show you watch. The book you are reading. The music you listen to. That wrong teaching.

Find a friend you trust, someone you know walks closely with God, and get them to be your windscreen wiper. Ask them to pray and seek God for what is blocking your vision or, if you suspect you know the answer, deal with it.

Move from where you are currently positioned and see if your vision clears. Take a break. Go for a walk. Take an afternoon off. Sit in the prayer room. Have a holiday. Go visit someone. Anything to break the position you are in.

If you wake up feeling down and sit around all day on the sofa watching daytime TV, by the end of the day you will feel more tired, more sluggish, greyer, than if you’d got out of the house and gone for a walk or done some gardening… Where you are will affect how you feel and therefore what you can “see”.

Remember I write these words as someone who has been in all those positions, battled mental health issues, fought clinical depression, fought spiritual fatigue, been to the depths of emotions, the edge of sanity… I’ve been there and back.

If you are struggling in a place where you can identify with what I have described, I pray this post has at least wiped the windscreen for you and given you a moment where things are a little clearer. If so, please grab that moment and use that clarity to reposition yourself.

How To Break Into A Fortress

Imagine a house protected by the very best security. Outside sensors. CCTV. The best locks and sensors on every window, at every door. Secure. Impenetrable

There are only two ways anyone is going to get into that house: if the owners give someone the key/code so that they can bypass the security, or if they leave the door or a window open thereby making the security pointless.

As Christian we have an impenetrable defence against our enemy, the devil, the thief who wants to rob and steal all of our treasure (John 10:10).  We have the full protection of the Most High (Psalm 59:1). We have the full armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).  He is our fortress (Psalm 18:2).

So how does the enemy still rob us?! Why do Christians often seem as plundered of joy, peace, prosperity and hope as those who are still of the kingdom of darkness?

The same two ways as the thief enters: we give him permission or we fail to “activate” (use) the protection we have.

There are many ways we give our enemy the key to rob us. Sin is an obvious one. Circumstances and situations may have arisen where the enemy has deceived us into believing a lie contrary to God’s Word (“you are worthless”, “God doesn’t care about you”, “you are on your own”, “you aren’t good enough”, “God can’t save you” etc). The moment we believe him instead of God we give him permission to come in and rob us.

Bitterness, resentment, pride, anger… all keys to our house.

I am endeavouring to regularly check just who I’ve given “keys” to. Particularly if I am having a “bad day” I’m learning to stop and and check that I haven’t knowingly or unknowingly (because our enemy is a deceiver and father of lies – the smooth talking conman who gains your trust and entry to your home…) given away access.

Spiritually speaking, who has the keys to you? What friends do you trust that much? Think of the people you allow to influence you. Are they born again? If not, take care that their words, actions and influences don’t lead you to give away access to your heart. Often it is the well meaning “support” from our non-Christian friends (or even more tragically, our Christian friends who aren’t believing and standing on God’s Word alone) that leds us to forget God’s Truth and step out from His protection (Job’s comforters ring a bell?!)

Equally, or possibly more often, the thief gains access simply because Christians fail to use the protection they have against him.

We don’t read God’s Word so we don’t know His Word, so we fail to live in the blessing of His Word. The author of Psalm 119 knew that the key to blessing and fruitfulness came from knowing God’s precepts, knowing the Word, and living in it and by it.

We don’t pray. We don’t spend time in God’s presence, soaking in His goodness, His faithfulness, His love.

We don’t understand or keep hold of the truth that sets us free. Frankly some days we seem to live as if we’ve forgotten just what we were saved from – and definitely don’t live as if we remember what we have been saved in to!

Take time today to check your security. Find the Scriptures to meditate on that declare God’s truth over who you are – and who He is. Find the Word that is truth to counter whatever lie you are believing of the enemy.

We have the best security in the world. Let’s use it.

Prayer Room Reflections

“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”  2 Corinthians 3:18 New Living Translation (NLT)

This verse came to mind this morning in the prayer room. In the middle of the room is a “tree” of lights. As I walked around the room I noticed how it was reflected in various ways.

I saw the reflection of it in the window of the prayer room.

img_0236

I saw that I could see through the window, see what was on the other side, despite the reflection of the light.

Then I noticed the same lights reflected in the screen of the monitor on the wall (which was switched off, blank).

img_0238

This time all I could see was the reflection of the light.

That’s my goal. To draw nearer to Him, to be changed by glory to glory, transformed into His glorious image, so that all I reflect is Him, and not myself.

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”.