Tag Archives: Renewal

New oil for a new season…

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“Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.” Matthew 25:8lamp

Matthew 25 opens with the challenging parable concerning ten virgins going out to meet the bridegroom. The foolish have only their shining lamps with a first deposit of oil while the wise have brought along jars in which to carry fresh oil.

I fear that many times we may be more like the foolish maidens if we only spend our time on the instant satisfaction of ministry and meetings rather than on the lengthy cultivation of a deep relationship with the Lord. In an ideal world we no doubt do both, but it seems that the coming emphasis may be more on the “jars” than on the “lamps”.

In Matthew 7:21-23 we are presented with the stark reality of a ministry in action without the corresponding intimacy of relationship. “Lamps” may have burned in casting out demons, or shone brightly in prophetic revelation, but the terrible final verdict is, “I never knew you…”

A midnight hour awaits this world; when, like the disciples at Gethsemane, the Church will become drowsy and even fall asleep. Let’s make the most of our ease and happiness while it lasts, as difficult times may well be ahead.

There is a critical moment in time just before the return of the Bridegroom. The virgins stir from their slumber and “revival” seems to be in the air. A wonderful time of opportunity presents itself as light pierces the darkness to illuminate a path for the Beloved’s return.

But is it sustainable?

So often it is easier to light a lamp than to sustain its burning. Early enthusiasm can wane in the lonely darkness of the midnight hour. The love of most can grow cold as wickedness increases.

Burn outBurn out or burn on? That is the question!

Whatever the eschatological time frame you use, many of us, here and now are confronted with this question. As John the Baptist sought to prepare a way for the Lord and rejoiced at the sound of the bridegroom (John 3:29) so churches and missions throughout history have trimmed their lamps in active ministry.

The oil may be running out of some our present structures and ministries. Excellent books have been written about the various paradigm shifts in history and the need for a different approach to an ever-changing world. (Transforming Mission – D.Bosch; The Shaping of Things to Come – Frost and Hirsch)

The lamp of our own minds and bodies can also ebb and flow in the natural rhythms of life and, rather than drift into the inevitable entropy of burnt out broken dreams, we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit shine on into a new season of usefulness.

How? Well, we need to be wise. We need to be able to draw on the stored resources of fresh oil.

We need new oil for a new season.

The bad news for the foolish Church, nourished on the instant “junk food” capitalist gospel, which says that you can just go and buy it, is that “You can’t!” Don’t miss out on the King’s return by losing your way on the consumerist religion road.

In fact, it would be better to wait in the acknowledged bankruptcy and darkness of our oil less life, trusting in the ultimate grace of the Beloved, rather than lose the whole thing by trying to buy our way out of the situation.

So where do we get this oil?

We need to take another road, the road that leads to the oil press, Gethsemane. Gethsemane means oil-press in most Hebrew interpretations.Oil Press

Gethsemane is the place of suffering, stress, and prayer. It is the ultimate place of obedience.

“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  Matthew 26:42

We store up this new oil in our jars as we follow Jesus into costly obedience. We take responsibility for the lot in life that has fallen to us and push through the pain barrier in vulnerable prayer, finding our strength at the cross. This is the oil of intimacy that will burn in the “end time” church and which has always burned in the faithful throughout history.

Do you remember the Jewish “Hanukkah” story which is inspired by the books of 1&2 Makkabees in the Apocrypha?

Under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes the Jewish temple had been destroyed and desecrated by the invaders. The “hammer” of the passion of the Makkabee family struck back and regained the temple, only to find that everything had been polluted. They so longed to light the lamps but only enough oil was found to burn for one day. It would take eight days to make and consecrate new oil. Then the slow burn miracle happened. The lamp, instead of burning out, burned on into the eighth day.

It burned on into a new beginning.

menorahMy prayer as I write these lines is for the costly oil of Gethsemane and the miraculous Hanukkah oil of new beginnings.

May none of us be foolish and “burn out”. Even though the midnight darkness closes in and our brows are damp with pain, may we continue to say “yes”. Even though we feel desecrated, broken and oil less, may we know the miracle of burning on to the transcendent eighth day of new start.  Dean Stanley writing many years ago about Gethsemane mentions eight olive trees. This is indeed a fitting image of the Hanukkah new beginning and the Gethsemane oil together.

“In spite of all the doubts that can be raised against their antiquity, the eight aged olive-trees, if only by their manifest difference from all others on the mountain, have always struck the most indifferent observers. They will remain, so long as their already protracted life is spared, the most venerable of their race on the surface of the earth. Their gnarled trunks and scanty foliage will always be regarded as the most affecting of the sacred memorials in or about Jerusalem.”

The time to fill your jars is now!

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Big heart, broad shoulders…

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Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”

Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.” Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the LORD stood by.

The angel of the LORD gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: `If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.” Zechariah 3: 1-7

Many times we find ourselves too worn out to pray or engage in victorious spiritual warfare. We feel accused and sinful. Useless parents, bad spouses and failed missionaries! The last thing we want to hear is someone telling us to fast or conjure up some effort to be free from the oppression, and yet we feel guilty about our lack of zeal.

After more than 30 years in mission I can well identify with Joshua. He represents every person who has tried to pray and minister before the Lord. He is also a sign of a movement (church, region, mission group etc) attempting to be “prayer based”. Every such expression will find itself thrust into warfare, enjoying no doubt the ultimate victory of Christ, but having to cope daily with the evil angel at the elbow! His clothes are no doubt stained by his own personal sin but they may also have become soiled through warfare and work. A visit to a smoky café will leave even a non smoker smelling like an ash tray.

I recently stood before the Lord under a cloud of accusation and discouragement feeling a burnt out failure. Hanging on in there I seemed to hear the Lord say.

“I really love the Joshuas”.

He loves us because we have owned our priesthood, even under the pressure of accusation and warfare.

His love expresses itself in His sovereign choice of our lives to belong to Him and bear fruit.

This “divine choice” is the key to spiritual victory. God will honor His choice and rebuke even the most intense opposition in order for His purpose to be achieved. I’m beginning to come to grips with the amazing fact that my spiritual victory doesn’t just depend on my own efforts, but more on my ability to believe and relax into His sovereign choice and love.

Relax into your election!

 So the first “prayer” is to overhear the echo of the Lord rebuking the enemy on your behalf!

 “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!”

The Lord’s rebuke opens up an enlarged space, a new field, a fresh initiative and is the ultimate necessity for apostolic advance and experience.

The second prayer ?

“Thanks for forgiveness and new clothes!”

Ever since the fall God has been in the tailoring business clothing His children with redemption and power. From the bloody animal skins which covered Adam’s nakedness in Genesis, to the heavenly bride making herself ready in Revelation, God has been infusing the life of Christ into us by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Much could be said concerning the garments of the high priest and Exodus 28 is well worth meditating.

A renewed and holy mind set anchoring our purpose and identity is found in the turban. The gold bells (noise) and pomegranates (fruit) arranged alternately around the hem speak of the delicate balance between gift and character so essential for Christian ministry.

However I feel that two particular articles are very much on the Lord’s heart to give to us for this season.

The ephod and the breast piece.

What are you carrying? What is on your heart? The people, places and projects that we own are like the precious stones on these garments. Perhaps some have lost their sparkle through disuse or disappointment, while others still lay hidden waiting for their moment to shine. Perhaps our shoulders have grown weak from the constant burden or our hearts have grown strangely cold over the years, as tearless eyes survey mission as a career rather than a passion. Take up your burdens afresh remembering Nathan’s advice to David to do what was on his heart. Christ, like Aaron, is our example as we own anew the prayer life of a priest.

“Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord.”

“Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart.”

Just as God gave new clothes to his priest, so he is wanting to give you fresh strength and encouragement. Your shoulders which have carried so much and can take no more will be given a fresh “ephod”. This miracle will enable you to carry even more weight…and carry on!

Your heart which is emotionally drained and dry from giving out to others can also be made new. Receive a new “breast piece” and be emotionally empowered to love again.

And a final prayer to receive a promise.

Extending the Kingdom of God in the world is all about authority.

Can you believe that God wants to open a new season of authority over your life? It may be time to speak to certain mountains rather than continue to journey around, or moan about them. Action without authority is just more empty work. I believe that our various works can know greater authority and breakthrough as we take up our Joshua mantle.

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: `If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.”

Receive a promise to govern. We are called to be the head and not the tail. Not in some cheap triumphalistic mantra, but in the sacrificial exercise of prayer and faith, incarnating itself in a life laid down for the nations.

Govern regions in prayer and worship, creating a favorable environment for men and women to discover the beauty of Christ.

Govern the discipling and team building activities, allowing folks to come free into courage and ministry.

Govern the whole realm of calling into existence new works and initiatives, releasing the workers for the strategic harvests.

Govern the finances needed to glorify Christ in His ministry through us.

 “Thank you Lord for calling me to be a Joshua. I receive your promise for greater authority and I choose to walk by grace in your ways. Give me a bigger heart and broader shoulders so that I can carry the responsibilities of my life and be renewed in love. May I, and those who travel with me, and the whole body of the church know a renewed mandate to govern in your Name and for your glory…Amen.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Jesus’ feet…

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“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”

“Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.  In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet.”

 

These beautiful verses from Luke 10:39 and Ruth 3:8 (we will look at this chapter together) give us insight into the “priority position” to take this summer. Whether you are in the breach or on the beach, or both, you need to find “what is better” and what lasts forever – our intimate relation with Jesus, the ultimate kinsman redeemer.

 “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?

 We find identity and a home with Jesus.  Relation with him is where all true provision begins.

 “Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes.”

 Confess and repent of your sins, washed in the cleansing blood of Jesus. May the incense of prayer and worship arise from our contrite hearts and may we clothe ourselves with the fruit of the Spirit and with power from on high. Colossians 3:12-14 gives us a whole wardrobe of “best clothes”. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience…and the “overalls” of love!

 “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.”

 How we need the garment of grace to approach our Lord. This is not our own garment but it is given to us freely. As Christ spread out his loving arms on the cross to embrace fallen humanity, so he extends his individual grace to each of us and clothes us in his righteousness.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.”   2 Corinthians 5:21

“And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask.”                                                                                               

“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:14

Move from fear to faith in his presence. Hear and believe his uncompromising promise to those who pray. Let your request rise to the generous level of giving expressed in the faithful words of our master. It is not time to be silent in unbelief or hedonistic passivity. It is time to ASK. Time to formulate a clear heart inspired request to a greater redeemer than Boaz.  Find a prayer from your intimacy, from your dreams, from the discernment of the lover’s longings.

“David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 1 Chronicles 11:17

Our Lord is still longing to drink from the occupied territories of this world. Who are the mighty men and women who will break through?

“Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her.

Ruth went from gleaning to extravagant provision. She was used to working all day for one “epah”- and that was on a good day. Now, from an encounter of intimate prayer she perhaps received about 6 times that amount, more than she could comfortably carry.

What these measures were is not expressed; the Targum is six seahs or bushels, as the Vulgate Latin version, but that is too much, and more than a woman could carry; unless we suppose, with the Targum, that she had strength from the Lord to carry it, and was extraordinarily assisted by him in it”  Gill’s commentary.

Ruth’s shawl may be an image of our lives and ministries. Perhaps the Lord is asking you to hold out your work, prayers and dreams before him once again so he can pour in the long awaited blessing. Ruth went from a great time of trial and famine to a place of wonderful provision because of her intimate prayer with the redeemer.

 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age.

 There is much talk of new paradigms for Church and mission. Some of the more traditional bastions of our faith, doctrine and practice are being assailed by a genuine quest for the new. This is not however the time to throw out the baby with the bathwater! We need the tension of the old and new treasures together. The place of prayer transcends human methods. A fresh encounter with the living Lord will bring renewal and keep us all on track. Ruth was able to give new hope to the “barren and bitter” Naomi and make her “pleasant” again in her old age. She brought Israel into its promised purpose by stepping into destiny and the genealogy of the Messiah. Prayer locks us back into our chosen destiny.

So, choose the place of prayer this summer.

 “May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.”