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.

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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)

Catching the Light

It is amazing the transformation that light can bring.

As I sit here looking out to sea, the metal railings in front of me look cold, grey, battered and old.  A little way to my right however the sun is just high enough to be clearing the corner of the peninsula and in its light the railings are glowing, gloriously catching the sunlight and making them look like a golden rail edging the sea.

I can just make out in the distance a dark blob that I’m guessing is a small fishing boat – and then it changes direction and the side window of the wheel house catches the sun and reflects it back. Now the “blob” is transformed into a bright blazing orange light that attracts my eye as I look out to sea.

The Bible tells us that God is light:

“This then is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 MEV)

“Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” ” (John 8:12 MEV)

It is up to us though to position ourselves so that we can “catch the light” just like the boat.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a basket, but on a candlestick. And it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 MEV)

How do we do that? How do we position ourselves? How can we make sure we are reflecting the Light of the world?

When we give our lives to Christ His Spirit comes and lives within us but it is then up to us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, fixing our eyes upon Him, studying His Word, learning His ways, modelling ourselves on Him, working to make sure there is “nothing between us and God” so that as His Light shines, it can do so clearly.  I love the way that the Message puts it:

“And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognised as obsolete, we’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 The Message)

Isn’t that exciting?  Isn’t that an awesome promise?! That is something to strive for – working to make sure that more of Him and less of me is shown, so that when others look at me they see His Light shining – a candle on a candlestick rather than hidden under the “basket” of myself.  I want that transformation!

There is something to guard against though.  We must keep in mind that in ourselves we are nothing, but that it is by His Light we can shine.  Reflective clothing doesn’t shine in itself – it needs light to shine upon it for it to be transformed.  We are to be like that with God. It is never OUR light that is drawing people but HIS Light that makes us attractive, that makes people want to be around us, that brings blessings to the places we work, success to the things we turn our hands to.

“For with You is the fountain of life;
in Your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:9 MEV)

 

May I never forget it is His Light not mine that attracts people and may I always ensure the glory goes to Him.

“Night shall be no more. They need no lamp nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5 MEV)

Not By Sight

Today is a rainy day.  I parked up in my usual spot and checked the app to see what ships were out there. This morning there are apparently 5 ships out there close to the shore and, if it was a clear day, another 7 visible to me. However this is my view:

Nothing to see

The wind is blowing from the south east which means the rain is driving against the right hand window which I usually have open when I am parked here, so I can hear the sound of the waves and see clearly without the slight tint of the car window. That isn’t possible today in this weather!

There is an obvious parallel with our daily walk as Christians. Sometimes the direction we are looking in is the direction of the storm. More so than that, using the “ship finder” app to see what vessels are out there – and trusting in its accuracy even when my sight can’t provide its own evidence – sounds like a certain oft-quoted Scripture:

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 MEV)

When the conditions around us – circumstances, other people, the news, our health, our jobs – aren’t favourable to “clear sight” then we must, MUST trust in the accuracy of Scripture for our guidance.

His Word is our compass, our “sat nav”.  The Holy Spirit is our guide, and our comfort amidst the storm, His presence a reassurance that we will come through as long as we stay close.

Three of my children are on the autistic spectrum and they don’t do very well in crowds. In particular, when they were young if we needed to go somewhere crowded I was mindful of how this would make them feel. “Stay close” I’d tell them “keep hold of my hand, or hold on to my coat, don’t let go”. Sometimes they would close their eyes to make it bearable, clinging tightly to me and trusting not only that I wouldn’t let them go but that I wouldn’t let them walk into any obstacles or get hurt.

[There’s that childlike faith again]

How much more so is our Father in Heaven like that (Matthew 7:11)?  When I am overwhelmed, when it is too hard for me to see clearly, I just need to close my eyes and put my hand into His Hand.  Listen only for the sound of His voice telling me the way to go.  Rely on the comfort of His nearness, the assurance of His presence, to quieten all that is within me.

Rest.

Trust.

Peace.

When the fear has subsided and the way is clear again, I can open my eyes again and rejoice that He has brought me safely through the trouble.

See how the rain has eased?  How the visibility is clearing?  The ships whose presence I had to take on faith now visible?

After the rain

In a world where we rely on electronic devices and pieces of software to tell us about the weather, where we are, and how to get where we are going, it is distressing to see how little trust we sometimes put in the inspired Word of God.

Holy Spirit, help me today and always to use God’s Word as the only true compass in my life, the only true oracle, and for it to be the first (and never the last) place I turn for comfort.

Being Filled

Over the years as a Christian I’ve heard countless sermons and numerous theologies focused on the issue of the difference between being filled with the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation/conversion, and the apparent additional filling/experience of the Holy Spirit in one’s subsequent walk.

There are many verses in the New Testament that suggest people can be full, or filled with the Holy Spirit in specific or additional ways to that which obvious takes place when we surrender our lives to Christ, and the Holy Spirit comes to take up residency in us (1 Corinthians 6:19).

This has formed the basis of many a small group debate, or conversation between Christians that I have witnessed (and participated in) over the years.

As deep an issue it is for Christians to explore, it can be a stumbling block to the newly-saved especially when they have no church, faith or religious background.  I constantly seek to remind myself that the things I know, the phrases I use, and the words I know the meaning of are completely alien to so many around me in today’s society: people who never went to Sunday School as a child, never heard the nativity story, never read the Bible, don’t even know what the Trinity is let alone understand it!

In my quiet time this morning therefore I was pleased to arrive at an analogy that I believe I will find helpful in the future when talking this issue through with new Christians and trying to explain the difference between receiving the Holy Spirit at conversion, and experiencing His filling as we walk on with Him.

Bear with me as I try to put this into words!

If I was to describe my house, I could say it has water.  By that, I would mean it is plumbed into the main, national water system.  All the water in the local reservoirs is at my disposal.

By saying our house has water, I don’t mean that if you open the front door a tidal wave will come out!

When you surrender yourself to Christ, it is a little bit like getting plumbed in to the mains. God installs a pipe, a conduit, from Him to you, His Spirit connects to your spirit.  You are now “plumbed in”.  You had the pipework – we are all designed to be in relationship with Him – but you weren’t connected (Adam and Eve took care of that).  At the point you accept the salvation of Christ, the plumber comes in and finally, you are connected in to the mains source.

You have water!

But think a moment… carry the analogy on…. If you go and sit in your bath, the bath may have water – it is plumbed in – but you are not wet!  You need to turn the tap on.  You need to open that connection and let the water flow.  Your bath needs to be filled!

You control the flow.  There is more water available that you as an individual could use even if you turned all the taps on in the house and let them run.  It is up to you to manage that flow.  You can have the taps on full, on a slow trickle – or off.

So many of us at conversion  have an experience that is akin to finding water – and then fitting the tap and turning it off.  Changing imagery, I think of those drilling for oil and the moment it gushes up, and men rush to put a cap on it, so that they can harness it (and not just get covered in oil).

When you first met with God, was it like that? An overwhelming sense of Him.  A filling. A flood of experience and emotion that you had never experienced before.  I know for many that can be the case.  But  after the music faded and the preacher had left the building, when you left that meeting, when you got home… was it different? The spring had been capped.  The tap shut off.

Every time you go to church, or put that worship CD on in the car, or travel to hear some amazing preacher, go to that healing meeting… are you really there to get the tap turned on again?  To experience that flooding?

“Fill us afresh Holy Spirit!” we pray, we sing.  “Flood us!” we cry.  I wonder if God looks on us in frustration (I know I would!) and says “the valve is on full from My end… I’m waiting on you to open the tap your end!”

Have you ever gone to turn off the tap (I’m talking actual not metaphorical again now) and turned it the wrong way?  Suddenly the water flow increases instead of decreasing.  You turn it the other way and nothing seems to happen, so you start to panic and turn it back again, flustering until you finally work it out and turn the tap off?  Or is it just me that often does that?!

THAT is the place I want to get to with the Holy Spirit – to have Him flooding out, gushing out, flooding my life and for me to find I’ve forgotten/can’t work out how to “turn the tap off”.  I want it FULL ON and OPEN and to be someone who can cope with leaving it that way.

Oh boy what that would feel like!  I look around the Kingdom and you can sometimes catch glimpses of people who are obviously living that way – and I want that for myself!

What a dangerous prayer this is but…. God guide me to the point, Holy Spirit give me courage, to be so open to You, so lost in that flood, that I CANNOT turn off the Source, but that I learn to live in the abundant, drenching, through to the core refreshing flood of Your Spirit.

 

The Daily Dew of Heaven

Dew is water in the form of droplets that appears on thin, exposed objects in the morning or evening due to condensation. As the exposed surface cools by radiating its heat, atmospheric moisture condenses at a rate greater than that at which it can evaporate, resulting in the formation of water droplets.” Wikipedia

In the region of Canaan, (today’s Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories, northwestern Jordan, and some western areas of Syria) rain rarely fell during the period covered by the Old Testament – indeed the main rain fell twice a year, in the spring and in the autumn (the former and the latter rain). Between those rains the source of life giving water came from dew.

This miraculously appearing moisture was so important to life that it is always referred to as a blessing.

When Isaac gave Jacob his blessing he asked “may God give you of the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and new wine.” (Genesis 27:28 MEV). Conversely, Esau would be ” away from the fatness of the earth and away from the dew of heaven from above” (Genesis 27:39 MEV).

When Elijah prophesied drought, he didn’t just say that it wouldn’t rain but also that there would be no dew (1 Kings 17: 1-3). That meant no fresh water, nothing to replenish the wells. Real drought.

We’ve all heard of manna – this was the “bread” left behind after the morning dew evaporated, to feed the children of Israel in the wilderness:

“in the morning a layer of dew was surrounding the camp. When the layer of dew evaporated, on the surface of the wilderness there lay a small flaky thing, as fine as the frost on the ground. When the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Every man is to gather of it according to what he will eat” (Exodus 16:13-16 MEV)

As well as symbolising blessing, provision, nourishment and God’s grace, dew is also used to describe the life-giving properties of God’s Word:

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;
hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
My teaching will drop like the rain,
my sayings will distill as the dew,
as the droplets on the grass,
and as the showers on the herb” (Deuteronomy 32:1-2 MEV)

Gideon of course used the presence or absence of dew on his fleece to test God, to prove the words that He had spoken to him (Judges 6:37).

Isaiah 45: 8 talks about the skies “dripping” righteousness, bringing forth salvation from the earth. This prophecy foretold Christ’s coming, bringing every good thing, every blessing, and salvation.

Hold all those things in mind and consider…

Sometimes we receive the Holy Spirit as the earth receives rain, falling down on us. A tangible refreshing, an anointing, a soaking, maybe during a particular time of worship or after someone has laid hands on us. A clear moment – just like a rain storm.

However practicing the presence of God, being in relationship with the Holy Spirit, produces a difference source of refreshing – dew. Those magical drops that appear, distilling out of the very air around us (Deuteronomy 32:2), out of the very womb of the morning (Psalm 110:3).

This dew of the Holy Spirit appears on us by a process that is of God, not of our doing, but as a result of us spending time in His presence.

Like earthly dew, it blesses, brings forth abundance, nourishes, makes us fertile – and enables us to bless others out of that abundance.

It also leaves behind manna. A tangible something that is our daily bread, sustenance, strength for the day – THAT day.  Dew doesn’t last, like the manna it leaves. This is daily evidence of spending time with God – daily.

So let us practice being in His presence, so that the fruit of the Spirit may manifest in us like dew, and provide us with the manna for each day.