Tag Archives: faith

The Synergy of Generations

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“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV)

It is good to know that we all have roots. We do not just appear out of nothing with no history or inheritance. Whether we know it or not we are part of a continuing purpose.

Paul thought it useful to encourage his young protegé Timothy to be fully aware of the divine plan that was being handed on to him. For the Jewish Paul, ancestry – traced through the mother’s line, was very important to maintain a valid witness. Accepting this cultural reality in the narrative, I would dare to say that we all need to be strengthened and encouraged by finding our spiritual history. Linking our purpose and prayers with those who have preceded us can create a powerful synergy to bring more of God’s ultimate plan and presence into our current exP1100423perience.

Honouring parents – recognising the contribution and foundations laid, is a strong Biblical principle guaranteeing success and sustainability.

“Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2, 3 NIV)

The prophet Joel’s words – also echoed by Peter at Pentecost, push to align the dream of the old man with the vision of the new generation.

“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:16, 17 NIV)

Bridging the Old and New Testaments, the prophet Malachi (4:5-6) cries out for a reconciliation, a healing, of generations – the older Jewish root with the budding Gentile nations, a reconciliation which is taken up centuries later by the ministry of John the Baptist.

“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17 NIV)

Timothy, having a Greek Father, was a young man who incarnated the diversity of a new global season of God’s work which needed a new form but which also needed the substance of faith from the past. He represents each new generation having to struggle with the age-old equation of inventing new forms but maintaining the foundational substance of the past. Listen to what Dee Hock – the founder of Visa, has to say about this:

“Substance is enduring, form is ephemeral. Failure to distinguish clearly between the two is ruinous. Success follows those adept at preserving the substance of the past by clothing it in the forms of the future. Preserve substance; modify form; know the difference. The closest thing to a law of nature in business is that form has an affinity for expense, while substance has an affinity for income.”

Can you discern the essential difference between form and substance in the challenge to build mission in today’s world?

Indeed, Paul’s challenge to Timothy was to preserve the substance of faith, not throwing the baby out with the water of a changing world. He encourages Timothy to do at least three things:

1) Guard the good deposit.

“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:14 NIV)

Partner with the inner conviction of the intelligent fire within to discern the essential substance of your life and mission and defend it as a good soldier against the onslaught of the enemy.

2) Fan into the flame the gift of such substance.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Timothy 1:6 NIV)

I do not think that the laying on of Paul’s hands was just a charismatic transfer of power. It was more of an apostolic recognition of the synergy of generations that was coming to bear on the young man. He wanted Timothy to be energised by this recognition of his specific place in the history of God’s purpose. May we too “fan into flame” the inheritances that await to be discovered on our own faith journeys.

3) Be bold, loving and pure.

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

A great crowd of witnesses is looking on (Hebrews 11). Don’t let them down.God and kids

Recently I went back three generations into my own family history. I discovered an amazing deposit of faith handed down via a “Penny and a Prayer!” 

Why not try and find out what you might discover in your own synergy of generations?

I think the same principle might also work for the history of churches and missions? My own beloved mission is in its third generation, launching young Timothy’s out into an ever-changing world.

Not all of our inheritances are useful. We can sadly – and only too often, get bequeathed pain and curse rather than love and faith. Often, like the parable of the garden sown with both good and bad seed in Matthew 13:24-30, we struggle between the positive and negative of our pasts.

What do you do with such wounds?

This is indeed the subject of a whole new devotional, but, in a nutshell, we need to bring “such empty ways of life” into the eternal redemption of Christ.

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:18-20 NIV)

We are still in these “last times” following Him who was from the beginning into the final frontiers of world history. Like Timothy, may we “preach the Word”, “endure hardship” and “fight the good fight.”

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Prayer – Is God unjust?

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scalesWe are about to reach the end of our journey into prayer, with our final lesson again emphasising the necessity to overcome the lies and find a true perspective on God’s character.

Our third text begins in the same teaching style when Jesus begins by exposing the erroneous, sinful view of God. Luke 18: 1-8 is a story designed to encourage prayer.

” Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. “

What makes the majority of people give up on prayer ?

The idea that God is uncaring, unjust and harsh !

Many people have an unhealthy fear of God, seeing Him as an unfair judge. This paralyses their prayer and makes them give up easily. Jesus exposes this wrong view in his opening lines describing this awful man.

” In a certain town “ – he might even have said  ” In a certain mind-set ! “

” ..there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. “

Again this definition exposes the hidden lies that have wounded our perception of God. It couldn’t be further from the truth of a generous loving God who so cared for the world that He sent His one and only Son to suffer and die on a cross.

The ultimate caring !

A widow’s prayer request is also mentioned.

” Grant me justice against my adversary. “

Her plea is the universal cry for justice which has risen from broken, bereaved hearts since the earliest ages. Literally she is saying  ” Give me justice against anti-justice. ”  As well as being the voice of humanity she is also the voice of a Church, perhaps not yet fully understanding her inheritance as a Bride, yet interceding for justice against the great adversary Satan.

Sometimes, in reading this story, it seems that the judge is more of a problem than the widow’s adversary. Sadly, many people in the world seem to spend more time blaming God for injustice and adversity than blaming their true adversary Satan. True evil hides behind perverted perceptions of God. Harsh-judge

Our ” judge God “ here is just as refusing as ” our asleep God “ in the last story.

” For some time he refused “

Refusing justice ! Unthinkable ! Even old Abraham knew better than that when he ” persisted “ in prayer to raise himself up to the level of God’s justice when he interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah.

” Will not the Judge of all the earth do right ? “    Genesis 18 :25

Again, the whole passion of Christ is a potent statement to God’s utter lack of procrastination in bringing justice to the world.

So are we to vainly pray for justice like some poor widow woman. Is prayer just  about giving God a headache until he gives in ! Are we meant to simply wear God out with our superstitious mumblings and good works ! I remember hearing a famous preacher once say that many religious people he met seemed to be ” nicer than God ! “ Is our attendance at Church, added to our cultural morality, myriad masses and prayer chains designed to wear down God’s resistance until he finally gives in and answers !

” Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t  eventually wear me out with her coming ! “

Surely we can do better than this ! Jesus’ whole aim here is to expose our wrong legalistic perceptions and spur us on to faith. If an evil father can give food to his kids, and if an uncaring judge can finally give in, how much more, does God want to answer !

” Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night ? Will he keep putting them off ? “

It is at this point that you have to think back to the pantomimes you saw at school… ” Oh yes it is!…Oh no it isn’t “. You get the idea?  The crowds around Jesus would be bursting to answer. ” No ! No !…Our loving God will not keep putting us  off ! Even if the Romans are here, bringing injustice with every step, we know that Yahweh is not an unjust judge. “ And Jesus, having got them to a point of faith continues:

” I tell you, he will see that they get justice – big cheer from the crowd !, and quickly – even bigger cheer from the crowd !”

And then he delivers us our ultimate, deeply challenging punch line:

” However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth ?  “

lambWill he find hearts freed from fear and unbelief, hearts which trust a loving Father who gives good gifts to those that ask. Will he find the faith that pushes through the apparent failures, lacks and contradictions of life, a faith that takes hold of Yahweh Jireh, God the Provider. Will he indeed find his chosen ones crying out in intercession, day and night, in full faith that their prayers for justice in the nations are being met and that deliverance is as quick and as sure as the rising dawn.

In reading these words and parables, the Holy spirit may have exposed deep wounds and lies that have distorted God’s generous beauty to your eyes. Allow these same words to gently encourage and heal and bring a fresh power and perspective on prayer and its certain answer !

Look to the cross, look to the heart of Christ and find total care, total Fatherhood,  total commitment, total grace, total intimacy, total action and total love !

Oh yes he is…..!

If only you knew…

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Jesus was on a journey to Jerusalem. It was his goal and target. jesus-walking

We too have our own personal journeys, goals and targets. Like Jesus, we may end up being rejected and misunderstood by the very people we are reaching out to. Or we may ourselves encounter within our own hearts the same resistance and rebellion to the Lord’s purpose over our lives.

On arriving at his goal, he made two powerful proclamations over the city, which may enable us to better interpret our own realities.

We find the first one in Luke 19: 41-44

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Jesus wasn’t some distant theoretician on ministry. He was directly, painfully involved in the cosmic drama in which he was playing a lead role. It was painful for him to see the unbelief and rejection of his target people. He shed tears.

So many solutions are offered in our modern world to give people peace. Only a deep; intimate relation with Jesus Christ can bring us true peace. “If only they knew!” we cry and pray. “If only we knew” as well! Our “peace” in Christ is often veiled by unbelief, tragedy or superficial religion.

The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3:13-18 spoke about a “veil” which covered the revelation of Christ from the chosen people. We too may sometimes find that our true peace is “hidden” under the same kind of veil. The solution is to turn our eyes afresh to Christ.

“We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.  Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Jesus’ words at Jerusalem represent the tragedy of a missed opportunity!

KairosThe “kairos” moment had come. The long awaited advent of the Messiah had dawned, and yet the opportunity was scorned and missed! It is so important that every veil of unbelief be torn away from our hearts so that we do not suffer this same tragic fate as missing the “kairos” moments that God sends our way. Pray too, that our target peoples and nations will also come free from the demonic veils and recognize God’s opportunity for grace and transformation.

The parallel passage in Matthew 23:37-39, gives another aspect to this.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ “

Jesus is longing to gather peoples to himself. Intimacy with the Lord will inevitably lead us to share this same longing to gather the peoples. It may be that after all these thousands of years of Jesus’ longing the time is coming for such longing to be fulfilled. No doubt it is a time to be praying for a “gathering” of Israel to their Messiah, but it is also a time to be praying for a gathering of many nations to the Lord.

Christ uses the beautiful image of a mother hen gathering her chicks. This was an important image in Jewish tradition and reflects the caring, feminine nature within the total personality of God only too often associated with the harder masculine qualities. Gill states the following in his commentary on this passage.

“So the “Shekinah” with the Jews is called, צפרא קדישא, “the holy bird” (m); and that phrase, לחסות תחת כנפי השכינח, “to betake one’s self, or to come to trust under the wings of the Shekinah”, is often used (n) for to become a true follower of the Lord.”

This is seen in Ruth 2:12:

“May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

Here are some other encouraging verses on being covered.

“He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
  for in you my soul takes refuge.
  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
  until the disaster has passed.” Psalm 57:1

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” Malachi 4:2

What an incredible offer of being gathered to a place of love, healing and security. It is also such a natural reaction (ever seen little chicks hurrying to be gathered under the safety of their mother’s wings?) to be gathered. mother hen

Sadly this offer is often refused.

If the first refusal was a veil of unbelief and legalistic religion, this second refusal is based on an unnatural demonic stubbornness – a spirit of rebellion.

“You were not willing.”

How often has the Lord had to say this tragic phrase over our own lives as we struggle to go our own ways and do our own thing instead of coming to him?

Our own way will always lead to a place of empty desolation. Submitting to the loving wings, turning around and being gathered to God’s way will lead to a life of celebration.

May we be able to respond to Jesus’  love by crying out

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. “

Let us pray that the stubborn rebellion of peoples and nations will be broken and that they too, in their own cultures, accents and gestures, may also submit to be gathered and welcome the coming of Jesus through the gospel.

To end it may be worthwhile to consider the following story from a farmer in America.

He tells a story about the day that the hen house burned down on his grandpa’s place just down the road. Ike arrived just in time to help put out the last of the fire. As he and his grandfather sorted through the wreckage, they came upon one hen lying dead near what had been the door of the hen house. Her top feathers were singed brown by the fire’s heat, her neck limp.  Ike bent down to pick up the dead hen.  But as he did so, he felt movement.  The hen’s four chicks came scurrying out from beneath her burnt body. The chicks survived because they were insulated by the shelter of the hen’s wings, protected and saved even as she died to protect and save them.

“How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…” 

Once again, Jesus Christ calls you and me.

He calls us to the shelter of his protecting wings.
He calls you and me to the safety of his arms stretched out for us on the cross.
He calls us to trust him, no matter what our fears, hurts, or troubles; to trust that his outstretched arms are strong enough, his wings broad enough to keep us safe.

And in the shadow of those wings we are saved.

Let us allow the power of the cross to tear away the veils of unbelief, to bend our wayward rebellious wills, and lead us to the place of security and love.

Feeling the pinch?

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Faith for FinanceThumeries_Nord_Le_Chateau_Blanc_dos

“Buying this building makes no sense – there is much renovation work to do and we have no financial resources to even begin to meet the £200,000 asking price.

These wise words from our mission directors echoed in my mind as I prayed. I was willing to listen to their advice…but the Lord’s prophetic word to go for the building was still before us.  Struggling in prayer to find the faith to go forward I lost my health and spent some time in bed shut up with the Lord.  One morning I was listening to a cassette by the Icthus churches’ founder Roger Forster.  In the middle of the cassette he broke off and began to talk about the First World War and how this had unleashed such a devastating destruction on the Welsh revival and the evangelisation of Europe.  As he spoke I felt the Holy Spirit gripping my spirit and I seemed to overhear the words “Redeem the Dreams”. He continued with a verse from the prophet Haggai chapter 2 verses 9:

“…In this place I will bring peace.”

“OK Lord, if this chateau is for us I am going down into the prayer meeting where I want someone to give me that same verse.”

I went downstairs where folk were praying.

“Does anyone have something from God?” I asked.

There was an embarrassed silence, and a few scuffling feet, before someone spoke up.

“As I was praying around the chateau on my way back down here, the Lord clearly said:

“In this place I will bring peace (shalom).”

Martin-Luther-KingIn that moment the step was made.  God was asking us to set up a “redemptive prayer house” at the gateway to Europe; a place where the dreams of so many young men who died in the war might be taken up afresh by a new generation of young men and women.  It all seemed a bit way out, and a bit mysterious, but the Lord’s grip was there. It was a long drawn out battle raising the finance, and God stretched us right to the limit with the loan coming on the day we needed to sign and the other half of the money coming in with 36 francs (about 5 pounds) to spare!”

I’m sure that many in world Horizons have similar stories of praying in finance for their ministries and lives. I include the above as it illustrated two fundamental principles:

1)      Provision is “for the Vision” – Your provision will be determined by the size and strength of your vision. Don’t be afraid to let the Lord nurture and grow a vision within you over a number of years. Don’t resist being discipled into a vision by serving and learning from older mentors. The financial provision will only be the visible tip of the iceberg of the many hidden years which have patiently woven the substance of vision within.

2)      Corporate prayer action – weighing up words, taking advice together and fighting a battle in prolonged faith filled prayer.

Let me add another few principles that have helped me personally in my financial journey of faith over the years.

3)      Learn obedience, generosity and honesty – Walking radically in these three areas will inevitably release financial provision over your life.

4)      Ask for a supernatural visitation of faith! –  When I could no longer go on in faith for paying impossible bills, the Holy Spirit graciously met me. A significant breakthrough came as I experienced the new wine of the Spirit which has been known as The Toronto Blessing. Hours of intercessory holy laughter seemed to heal my dead, unbelieving “spiritual womb” and put in a new vitality to enable an “Isaac”– he laughs, to be born.bird4

5)      Know your personal value – You are worth more than dumb bird! In Luke 12:24, God commits himself to feed the birds – “And how much more valuable you are than birds!”

6)      Learn the “Redemption Refrain” of Romains 8:32 – “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” If your loving auntie had already given you her most precious, priceless diamond, would it be an issue for her to give you a meal? God has already given us His “most precious” in Christ – will he not also give “all things”, with him, by grace!

7)      Learn to be content – “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6:6-10

 And finally, be willing to be very practical. If you have personal possessions don’t be afraid to sell them to raise money for ministry. It is always hypocritical to ask others to make a financial sacrifice you are not willing to make yourself. “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”  2 Samuel 24:24

Communicate your vision in the best way possible. Create a network of relationships. Be open to creativity. The apostle Paul, adopting the Levite ShoeStretch_0principle of the Old Testament, was at the same time using one hand to receive gifts but also the other hand to work…with a heart of faith in the middle! Some seasons and ministries require a total devotion to the “gift” principle, while others are being led to concentrate their efforts on entrepreneurial activities, which, apart from providing for basic needs, are designed to bring blessing and transformation to nations.

“Our incomes are like our shoes; if too small, they gall and pinch us; but if too large, they cause us to stumble and to trip.”  John Locke

I wish you good shoes for your long financial journey!

 

Praying for the harvest…

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God is longing for us to take up prayer as a key to missionary breakthrough. He wants us to look at the nations rather than our own needs and problems.

The story of the disciples in the storm-tossed boat in Matthew 8:25-26 reveals how most of us are used to praying.

Let’s call it “panic praying”.

don_t_panic_buttonOften it’s the only prayer that ever rises from the Church for without a crisis or problem to inspire us, we so often remain prayerless! Anyway the boat begins to fill up and the storm is raging overhead. All eyes are on the problem. A prayer rises out of man’s basic instinct for survival :

“Lord, save us !”

This is as far as many of us get. “Save me! Help me! Bless me!” As their eyes are fixed more and more on the storm the prayer becomes prophetically negative !

“We are going to drown !”

It seems that their prayer is being inspired more by the spirit of death than by the Holy Spirit! I’ll leave each one to judge what spirit inspires your own prayer meetings! Unfortunately so often missionary prayer meetings focus on the problem and risk the danger of praying out negative statements over the nations of the world.

Jesus hears the request, as he hears all our words. He hears more than the words, he hears the spirit and motivation behind them. With cutting discernment He succinctly summarizes the spirit behind their request :

“He replied : You of little faith, why are you so afraid ?”

Here we have it. Unbeliefand Fear, the two foundations on which our “panic praying” is based. Focussing on the problem always leads us into such unbelief and fear. We need to turn away and let Jesus and His word fill our perspective until we find faith and boldness filling our hearts.

We all know what it’s like when the water starts filling our boats, but before panicking, look to Jesus, “sleeping” as the waves rage, and find the peace and faith He is longing to inspire. Take time to look on His power and authority rather than your own weakness and problem. Let Him rebuke the waves and the wind, the earthly and the spiritual powers, and bring the calm.jesus_calms_storm1

Don’t panic pray the problem but look to the power and authority of Jesus! Then pray!

The home of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:40-41 gives us some more insight into how and how not to pray.

This time we’ll call it “worry prayer”.

Often folk relate well to Martha and of course we need to honour those with servant hearts and a practical bent. However in this particular incident Martha proved herself to be quite a formidable character.

First of all she wasn’t thinking straight. She launched into the “prayer”, or talking to Jesus, “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

How many prayers die before they even begin because of distraction ? It comes as no surprise that Jesus himself went to the quiet, desert places to pray, and advised his disciples to shut the door of the hidden chamber in order to find a place far from distraction.

The place of inner calmness (even if the outside is bustling) is the place where prayer begins.

Mr WorryAnyway, Martha is getting more and more agitated and, as the deadlines begin to approach and she imagines the guests arriving she blurts out.

 “Lord, don’t you care ?”

Fancy that! Accusing Jesus of not caring!

The distraction and agitation have given her a completely erroneous view of the Lord. She begins to lose sight of His love and compassion. This often happens to us all in the face of fatigue, weariness and advancing deadlines. We may not be as direct as Martha but often the hurt is there in our prayer, accusing Jesus of not caring. True prayer can only be birthed as we arrive at the place of knowing God’s commitment and compassion for a world of people. He may not care so much about our own selfish private agendas!

“My sister has left me to do the work.”

She accuses her sister next!

“Worry prayers” are marked by their spirit of accusation, no matter how religiously veiled they may be. Martha was focused on the work whereas her sister was focused on the word! Here is a key!

We must not let ourselves get focused on the work which will only lead us to worry, but rather be listening to the word of God which will only lead us to Jesus’ feet!

“By myself.”

She has arrived at the place of “self-pity”.

Looking only at the work has given her a false sense of martyrdom. Somewhere inside she is wounded with rejection and this shows itself in the desperate plea for help. Many missionaries, pastors and servants of the Lord may often find themselves praying as Martha, out of their feelings of frustration and loneliness. We long for more “workers” but often our asking is based on worry, need and a sense of getting an “uncaring” Jesus to act on our behalf!

“Tell her to help me!”

Now she’s giving orders to Jesus!

At first glance it doesn’t seem like sin and we all fall victim to the arguments that need and worry present before us. However, it really is quite serious, and Martha has slipped into a spirit of manipulation rather than the submissive resting of the Holy Spirit.  We really do need to be careful about how we pray for workers and the “needs” of the mission field.

If we drift away from the centrality of Jesus and His love and provision we end up self-righteous, accusing, worried and rejected manipulators!

However, before giving up in despair, let’s take a look at Jesus’ loving response to Martha.

“Martha, Martha!”

comeandrestwaterHe quietens her down. Speaking out her name restores the relation with Him and one can sense the love and patience of Jesus coming over in His double mention of her name. How often we need to be quieted by Jesus’ loving words to us.

“He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:15

As he did with the disciples in the boat, he put His finger on the true inspiration of Martha’s prayer.

“You are worried and upset – (turbazo in Greek meaning to make turbid like troubled waters –  in tumult and uproar), about many things…”

Worry should never be a substitute for true prayer.

“Do not be anxious about anything, (especially ‘many things’) but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God…” Philippians 4:6

Let the Lord calm our “troubled” waters before we pray. Worry and upset should never dominate or even infiltrate our prayer times.

Jesus brings the solution.Martha_and_Mary_by_He_Qi_China

“Only one thing is needed.”

What’s that we cry ?

Well, Mary was clever enough to have chosen it. We can choose it too. It is not forced upon us as a rigorous duty.

What is it then ? Simply to listen at Jesus’ feet. Prayer is all about listening.

Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”

We need to come back to Jesus’ own advice about praying for missionary advance which we find in Matthew 9:36-38.

“When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them…”

Jesus’ eyes were not on himself. He saw the crowds, and their utter helplessness. He had compassion. This is His spirit, and the same spirit which He longs to inspire within us as we pray.

He longs to melt our hard hearts with his compassion. Then He said :

“The harvest is plentiful…”

Jesus emphasises the opportunity not the problem.

Just take a look out there! All those nations to be won for Jesus! They are ready for harvest. What an opportunity!

Compassion and Vision:seeing the opportunity and seeing the ready harvest – are the two pillars of “harvest praying”.

“..but the workers are few.”

Again, Jesus is saying this as an opportunity rather than with fatalistic resignation.

At the time there were only 12 disciples. As they prayed and went they quickly became 72 and then 3.000 on the day of Pentecost. Some sad missionaries continually whine out this phrase as if it was set in stone at the time of “only 12” as an excuse for failure to pray and recruit more workers. They totally ignore the fact that the whole idea is to multiply the workers!

-Harvest-is-Plentiful1In an age when millions of “eleventh hour” workers are waiting to join the final thrust of world evangelisation surely we should be taking the prayer opportunity that Jesus offers us seriously.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

The key prayer for our generation is to ask God to release the workers from Africa, Asia and the Americas. Those who genuinely ask will probably find themselves going as well!

Ask and Go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The three faces of faith…

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In the south of France, as the sun gently rises to midday, many a boule playing man will cut short his game to indulge in the daily ritual of apéritif. A green glass bottle will appear pouring doses into glasses that are then filled with water according to the taste of each one. Everyone gets their daily dose of “pastis”.

Well, I’m sorry to tell you that pastis is not on the menu today. It has been replaced by an even more vital dose of “pistis”. Faith in Greek.

We live to get “pistis” ! (Be careful how you read that! It could mean the difference between getting drunk on wine or being filled with the Spirit!)

As there is only one God expressing himself in three persons, so there is only one faith expressing itself in three faces. Let’s take a look at these different expressions of faith.

  1. Confident Faith in the Father’s Provision – Faith for living and praying

This is an underlying trust that God will indeed provide and work things out for us. The verses in Matthew 6:25-34 seem to encapsulate this kind of faith – a faith which takes us beyond the worries and cares of this world and places us, as trusting children, into the loving arms of the Father.

“…your heavenly Father knows…”   Matthew 6:32 

 A greater revelation of the “Spirit of sonship” who causes us to cry out “Abba” will indeed strengthen us in this confident faith. (Romans 8:15-17)

Another strengthener of this confidence is a deeper grasp of the Old Testament concept of “hesed” – loyalty, unfailing love. This “hesed” alliance that God made with Israel is fulfilled in the new covenant of Christ’s atoning death on the cross. “Hesed” is released upon us in grace. David’s psalms are full of “hesed”. Psalm 13 laments the difficulties of being forgotten, abandoned, sorrowful, worried and vanquished, and yet finishes with the wonderful proclamation,

“But I trust in your unfailing love;”

 This perfectly captures the idea of confident faith in the midst of life’s storms. This is the confident, childlike faith which energises our prayer and gives us confidence to ask for our bread and fish.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11

  1. Theological Faith- Faith for sharing

 As the Church is buffeted by all sorts of “new age” and post-modern teachings, it is important that we enter the debate with a strong theological faith. This is a growing faith in the fundamental facts of Christianity. The Apostles creed sums up this “theological faith.”

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

 A strong theological faith is a fundamental part of our armoury in the spiritual warfare that rages around us. It is as much that belt of truth, as the shield we brandish and the sword we wield.

This faith gives power to our “kerygma” – our proclaiming and preaching of the gospel.

  1. The Gift of Faith- Faith for ministry and miracles

 In the famous passage on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul mentions the gift of “faith” in verse 9. “…to another faith by the same Spirit.” Like all faith, it is a gift from God, but it seems to be a particular ability to “hang on in there” in believing for the impossible. It is the kind of pioneer faith that sees churches planted amongst resistant people, buildings and projects developed, and miracles of healing and redemption manifested. It is the kind of faith, small as a mustard seed perhaps, that moves mountains.

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. ”   Mark 11:22-25

 The opening phrase is in the genitive case in Greek and hints at the translation – “Have the faith of God.” Step into another dimension. The “unmovable” mountain of communism was thrown into the sea as Christians prayed and suffered over the years. Have “God’s faith” that other such seemingly unflinching strongholds such as Islam and Secularism, will also be thrown into the sea.

On a more personal level, have God’s faith in your own ability to overcome your own strongholds and mountains. Speak out the words of faith and live in the holiness and fullness of forgiveness.

One faith in three expressions

Well…you can go and get your “pastis” now!

What is that in your hand?

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Successful ministry depends upon inner spiritual authority and depth. It is more about character than charisma. God constantly uses the events of our lives to disciple us into a deeper sense of his inner strength residing in our hearts through grace.

Authority comes through revelation not manipulation.

Moses

Moses (Photo credit: jimforest)

Exodus chapters 3 and 4 are such Biblical revelations taking us into the heart of God’s dealings with Moses in order to make him a true man of God. It all begins for Moses with a burning revelation of who God is. However the “burning wood” of the bush needs to become practical authority in the “staff” of Moses hand. Let’s look at the beginning of Exodus 4:1-9 which gives us some insight into Moses personal journey towards spiritual authority. It may well help us on our own personal trek with the Lord.

 “What if they do not believe me or listen to me…?”

 Moses begins like many of us with the fear of sharing his revelation. Many missionaries are in shut down mode because of a basic unbelief and fear that people will not respond to their message. We may do more training, conferences, set up prayer houses, and a host of other worthwhile activities, but we risk remaining on the periphery of genuine contact with our target culture. However, we will at some point have to confront the reality of speaking God’s word to other people.

 “What is that in your hand?”

Begin by accepting what is in your hand. Own your own character and history….Don’t fantasise about what you don’t have or can’t do.

 “Throw it down.”

There are seasons of abandon, of letting go and laying down our dreams and ministries before the Lord. Times of throwing down the masks and letting him take the initiative again.

 “It became a snake…”

What he feared happened! All hell sometimes breaks out! Our very “ministry” can become “hell”! Believe me this does happen. It is such a critical time. Perhaps we come face to face with our own sin and weakness, or get a revelation of the evil and danger around us. How will I react?

 “He ran from it…” 

Moses was human. He just wanted out. His knee jerk reaction was to run. When you want to run you can be sure that the Lord may have another option.

 “Reach out…and take it by the tail.” 

Moses' Rod Turned into a Serpent, illustration...

Moses’ Rod Turned into a Serpent, illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Face your fears head on. Grasp the nettle of your life. Confront the issues the problems and the people. Some folks keep running from their fears forever and make a ministry of it! At some time you have to stop running and reach out in faith to conquer your fears.

Are you a runner or a “reacher out”?

 “It turned back into a staff in his hand.” 

From fear to faith. Moses overcame his fear and reached out in faith. The very fear he ran from became the authority that would open a sea! The ministry that walks by faith through hell gains the authority to speak faith into other’s hell and makes a way for many to walk into freedom.

After learning the principle of faith overcoming fear, Moses gets a lesson on grace.

The revelation of grace and personal forgiveness is a key to spiritual authority.

 “Put your hand inside your cloak.” 

Moses takes an inward journey to his heart (Mark 7:21) and finds it sinful.

“It was leprous like snow.”

The great apostle Paul came to the conclusion that he was the worst of sinners, and when we truly begin to assess the motivations of our own heart we too will be discouraged by our shortcomings. So do we remain in leprous introspection and condemnation? Or do we respond anew to the call to repentance and grace?

 “Put it back into your cloak.”

Respond to grace and plunge your hand back into humble repentance as Naaman plunged into the healing waters of the Jordan. The crimson streams of Christ’s Calvary blood can indeed make the foulest clean.

 “It was restored.”

He breaks the power of cancelled sin! The sin is washed clean but the very Satanic, condemning power behind the sin is also put out of action. (“katargeo” – Romans 6:6)

One of Jesus’ first miracles was to change water into wine.  The last lesson Moses learns here is the principle of water into blood.

 “The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.

 Jesus’ blood soaked the ground of Jerusalem and manifested the spirit of sacrifice. The “water” of a superficial Christianity is called to become the victorious “blood” of a life laid down in sacrifice. Does our church have water or blood in its veins?

 “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;

They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”     Revelation 12:11

 So here we have three principles for growing in spiritual authority.

Overcome fear through faith.

Overcome sin through repentance and grace.

Overcome the devil through sacrifice.

Moses still had his battles. He had his own personal “Passover” in verse 25 when, before a nation could avoid destruction by putting blood on the doorposts, he had to avoid personal extermination by having blood put on his feet. When we walk in God’s purposes we need to be rigorous in personal holiness keeping faith with the covenant of grace.

May your staff be true.