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)

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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).

Crossroads

This is not an easy post to write.  In fact I have spent the last week struggling more and more over the subject of this post.  I find myself at a crossroads with regards to having started this blog, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, praying, crying, wondering, arguing and generally getting quite worked up!  I’m still not 100% sure I want to share this but… here goes.

One night at the start of the week a number of circumstances combined in such a way that I found myself very vulnerable – mentally, emotionally and therefore spiritually.  I have hinted in my “About” page of the dramatic change that recently came about in myself and, well, suffice to say there was a bit of a battle going on over some old thoughts and attitudes.  In the midst of this angst I wrote the following note on my iPad which I share here, edited only to remove the anger/tear driven typos….

“A late night post. Not such a good idea.  Many reasons why it isn’t a good idea but I can’t share them with you.

You see, that’s the point. I can’t share.

I am at the moment totally captivated by Beauty beyond Bones.  My spirit – in tune with His Spirit – is completely overwhelmed with her beauty.  Her courage.  Her strength. The things that she shares are life giving to so many. Those lost in the mire of an eating disorder, as well as others caught in depression or addiction. Such a powerful ministry.

But you know what? She has chosen to remain anonymous for now and I don’t blame her. The sad, sad, SAD truth is that we judge.  Us humans.  Even us Christians. Maybe especially us Christians.

We who have been forgiven so much.  Who have “got it”.  Who have come to understand what we have been redeemed from.  We who have met our Saviour.  Fallen at His feet. Received forgiveness.

Still we judge.

Many years ago, decades ago, at another church, we met a man out on life parole. Saved whilst in jail.  He who had taken a life had received eternal life and forgiveness for ALL his sin.  Do you know something? We were one of the few in that church who truly welcomed him. Yes most said the right things.  Chatted to him.  Prayed with him. But not many offered him unconditional friendship as we did.  He house sat for us when we went on holiday. He even babysat for us. Others were shocked! How could we trust him?!  Didn’t we know what he’d done?!  Although he had become a Christian, didn’t we think it was a little naive to be so trusting?

Er. Hello? Saved? Forgiven? Redeemed? Justified? Sound familiar?

I might not have killed someone directly by my actions, but I’ve wished someone dead. My actions have actually been part of someone “dying” emotionally too. Jesus said that if I think it, it is the same as doing it in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:27-28). So who am I to judge?

Really, truthfully, we humans just can’t get our heads around the fact that all have fallen short (Romans 3:23). That it doesn’t matter how,  just the fact that we are unrighteous. We have no right to stand before God on our own merit.

Even the most “goodly” among us. The “saints”. The ones documentaries are made of. The ones whose stories we share on social media.

Not even them. They are hell bent without God. Unrighteous.

Only by God’s grace and accepting our redemption through Christ can we stand before Him (Ephesians 2: 8-9).  Any of us.  All of us.

Why am I writing this?  Because it occurs to me tonight that I could write of struggles and battles that I have had, and am having, that could help others.  In fact, I know that part of God working all things together for my good is to allow Him to use those experiences to feed my mercy heart, to allow me to stand in empathy, to bring encouragement and direction to others walking a similar road.

But I’m not.  Because I’m scared. Because I have linked this blog to who I am in the “real” world.  Because people who know me, whom I see every Sunday, may read it. And they may judge. They may never look at me the same if I share. If they know. If I am that open.

How sad is that? Scared how my fellow Christians may react to me if they “only knew”?

I need to think and pray over this more. I need to decide who I am wanting to please and what my purpose is in writing this blog.”

You see the dilemma?  This morning in my quiet time I argued again with God about putting this up.  I really wanted to know if this is what He wants me to do.  For Him, I am willing to sacrifice and to bare all (how could I not?) but for no other reason because, frankly, I know it could hurt and none of us intentionally cause ourselves pain.

An analogy came to me that has led me to to the decision to put this post up after all.

An amputee goes for physio to learn how to function with a prosthesis, or maybe how to function without one.  The physio is always “able bodied”.  We accept that.  There is a place for that (in this comparison, this is the Bible teacher we may follow who has a strength we don’t have, a position we can’t share, but one that can nevertheless bless us and bring us somewhere new).

However, if that amputee needs support, encouragement, understanding, inspiration, the programme or help group that will probably be the most beneficial is one made up of other amputees.  Yes they may sit there and think “huh, what do YOU know, you only lost ONE arm I lost TWO” but generally speaking, in their heart, they know and acknowledge the right of the person to speak into their life and say “it isn’t over, you CAN do this” because they are on the same journey – just a little further down the road.

A support group for people who have suffer a miscarriage is no use if run by someone who hasn’t been there.  Unless you have known the battle with an ED then you could never even come close to understanding and supporting someone else who is.  A cancer survivor offers more hope and inspiration to the newly diagnosed that any doctor, friend or family member can who hasn’t faced it.

So, basically, here it is.  I have decided to be as open and as honest as God calls me to be about my past, and about any present struggles, in order to encourage and support any out there facing the same.  I love to write.  I have been writing fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose since I was first able to write.  Writing for me comes straight from my heart so if I am to write, I need to be free to do just that.

I hope that my readers are ok with that..

No Longer A Slave

The relationship between a dog and its owner is often used to exemplify devotion – to the extreme, the whipped dog that still comes back. However sitting here of a morning watching owners walking their dogs, I get a different story.

Owners walk across the sands when the tide is out, throwing a ball for their dog to catch.  Often their dog enthusiastically chases after the ball, time and time again.  But I also see the dogs that start to run off – then stop, either bored, tired or distracted by something more interesting.  I see dogs that will happily go into the waves to fetch a ball – but also others who stop at the edge, looking back at their master (who sometimes, to my amusement, end up taking off socks and shoes to wade in and retrieve the ball, watched by their dog…!)

Most often the word Scripture uses that we translate “servant” actually means slave.  The slave/master relationship is one that makes us uncomfortable in our modern lives.  But really and truly it is the right one to fit our relationship with God. We were, after all, bought with a price. Redeemed. Our debt paid for. Owned.  Representative of a relationship you can’t just walk away from.

Does that make you uncomfortable? It shouldn’t! It should make you rejoice!

“For he who is called in the Lord while a servant is the Lord’s freeman. Likewise, he who is called while free is Christ’s servant. You were bought at a price. Do not be the servants of men”. (1 Corinthians 7:22-23 MEV)

It doesn’t matter who we were or where we were when we found Christ. Only in Him are we truly  free.  Free from the slavery of this world.  No longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6), to the vagaries of the crowd, free from the snares around us  (Psalm 124:7).

Instead we owe it all, our freedom, our life, to Christ.

Maybe if we could get our Westernised, sanitised, modern heads around this we would behave differently.  I would behave differently.  God gave me free will and I chose to give my life to Him. I volunteered to be a slave! I accepted His offer to purchase me!

Frankly it doesn’t take very long meditating on this to realise I have got a bargain.

I have known God all my life but I haven’t walked in His ways for all those years. I have sinned. I have fallen WAY short. I know what I’ve done. I know what the consequences should be.  I know what He has paid for. I know the punishment that is rightly mine.  I am very aware what I have been saved from.  Grace is the largest Truth in my life as I did not come as a repentant sinner to the cross, but, as I often put it, I did all my sinning as a Christian. Willfully, knowingly, guiltily – AFTER I had accepted His payment for my sins.

I don’t think I’d treat a slave who behaved like that as well as He treats me!

What a redeemer! He may have bought me but, even if we get past the incredible price He paid, look how He now treats me now – not as a slave but as a SON.

 “Now a slave does not remain in the house forever, but a son remains forever” (John 8:35 MEV)

“So when we were children, we were in bondage to the elements of he world. But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born from a woman, born under law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth into our hearts the Spirit of His Son, crying “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a servant, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:3-7 MEV)

WOW!

So, purchased and a bond servant – my debt paid, my life His, owned, bought, indebted. But wait, even now my free will remains! More so, because I am now living free from the debt, free from penalty, but now I am no longer a slave in any sense because He now adopts me.

That is a whole new relationship. In His House, part of His family, not treated as a slave but as a son.

Wait – there’s more:  I’m now an heir!  Not only in this life do I enjoy the benefits of being in His family (all the promises to Abraham being mine) but eternally – I inherit His kingdom. A co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).  Not like Biblical earthly families where only the firstborn inherited, not like our modern families where a Will can leave the inheritance to anyone (or anything) on a whim, disowning blood relatives.  No, we are equal heirs with Christ (may I encourage you to take the time to read this excellent sermon from C H Spurgeon on this specific point – the “will and testament” of God as it were).

You see as Christians we all “know” this, but it is only when you approach it right, when you start from the position of a relationship  where we were as slaves to this world (and by default, to the ruler of this age, the devil) that you can feel the real impact of the Truth of our redemption and adoption.

[It is something I’m pondering much at the moment – how our modern view dulls us to the riches and truths of Scripture. We spend so much time bringing the Word “up to date” that we are in danger of missing the point. Yes of course the analogies of the day are historical, yes we need that context, but I fear we most often throw the baby out with the bath water as it were and in our pursuit of modern translations and interpretations, we lose the impact of many of the Scriptures.  For every Scripture I read in “The Message” or Passion translation that opens my eyes in a new way, there are verses that I miss the depths of precisely because I don’t read the original, historical analogies.]

Ponder today with me, on your relationship with God.

Dog and master?  Servant and master? Slave and owner? Adopted? Family?

I encourage you to think on those various analogies, to truly seek to grasp the depths and breadth of what He has done for us, and to celebrate the freedom and riches that we now have as heirs with Christ.

 

Honest Measures

“You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:36Modern English Version (MEV)

I must be honest and say that, whilst I am used to taking New Testament Scriptural truths and applying them to “modern” life, and whilst I will take Old Testament truths and look for the New Testament (post-resurrection) application and meaning, there are still large parts of the Old Testament that I gloss over, failing to remember that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 MEV).

Leviticus is definitely a book that I struggle to draw great meaning out of, but thank God for Holy Spirit inspired teachers of the Word who help to open my eyes to the hidden depths!

C H Spurgeon is one of teachers from the past that I have most respect for and many, many times I have been taken aback, overwhelmed afresh or found a new revelation from reading his teachings.  The verse above is one such example.

He pondered on this verse and saw that at face value the only current application was that of a Christian in business, checking to make sure that their dealings were fair and honest.  However he took me deeper into God’s Heart by meditating further that “There are, however, other balances which weigh moral and spiritual things, and these often need examining.”

What of the “measure” that we use to measure others by?  Who do we compare them to? Do we use one rule for them and one for ourselves?  Of course Jesus raised this very point:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged. And with the measure you use, it will be measured again for you.
“And why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank that is in your own eye?  Or how will you say to your brother, ‘Let me pull the speck out of your eye,’ when a log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “(Matthew 7:1-5 MEV)

We may not realise we are judging others but, as Spurgeon wrote, “Do we not turn our own ounces of goodness into pounds, and other persons’ bushels of excellence into pecks?”

What about the scales on which we measure our trials and tribulations?  How accurate are they?  Shouldn’t we use the Apostle Paul as our guide to what is an honest measure? He weighed his afflictions as “light” but when you recall just what it was that he was weighing….

“Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep;  in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brothers;  in weariness and painfulness, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness.

(2 Corinthians 11: 24-27 MEV)

I don’t know about you, but using those weights to measure my own troubles… they barely register on the scales!

With the current political and social storm surrounding the migrant/refugee (depending on which side of the argument you stand) crisis, we should also be careful to make sure the measure with which we weigh our obligations and responsibilities are just.  Any glance at a newspaper (real or virtual) will show a very unjust balance between how society values the poor versus the adoration they give the rich and famous. More column inches given to pop stars, soap stars and footballers than to community, social action and responsibility.  I must examine my heart and ensure that I am not ever guilty of such an unrighteous measure.

Spurgeon encouraged his readers to consider what else we might add to the list of areas where our “weights and measures” may be dishonest.  This has really taken hold of me and it is something I shall be doing over the coming days and weeks, asking the Holy Spirit to make me painfully aware of any such unrighteousness in my thoughts, words or actions.  I encourage you to do the same.

Totally Covered

I was meditating afresh this morning about the mind-blowing truth that when God looks at me, He doesn’t see my sin.  How?! How can that be?

“as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12 MEV)

As I was thinking about this, I was in my usual quiet time spot looking out to sea.  When the tide is out there is a wide area of exposed rocks where seagulls feed, children go rock pooling, and foodies harvest seaweed.

IMG_2175 When the tide is in, the water comes right up to the promenade. You would never know those rocks are there.

When you look at the surface of the sea, or look at flood water (think of those images of flooded towns) you can’t see anything other than the surface.  However when you are in it, your experience is different.  You know how shallow it is, the bumps and the lumps underneath.

In the shallows, the swirling water catches up the sand and makes the water muddy.

Praise God that His sea of grace covers all our sin – totally and absolutely! He sees only that surface of grace.  Everything else is hidden.  We need to grasp His perspective of us, rather than our I-know-what’s-under-here attitude because until we do, we are effectively cheapening and dismissing His mighty work of grace – the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ.

There is a song that has grabbed my heart at the moment – “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel Music – the lyrics speaking to the recent change in me and where I am now with Him.  The words speak of the waves of God’s love – great music to have on when watching the sea!

There is a line in there that is my closing prayer on today’s meditation:

“So I will let you draw me out beyond the shore into Your Grace”

Holy Spirit, help us to go deeper into You so we can experience life lived  in line with the Truth that You see – no sin, no unrighteousness, but sanctified by Grace.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1 MEV)

 

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.