Tag Archives: Vision

From weeping to leaping..(1)

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A journey to HebronHebron_Basketball_Tower

As we celebrate the bitter-sweet journey from Good Friday’s crucifixion to Easter Sunday’s resurrection we might also think of another journey of a nation to Hebron. Hebron was just a piece of land, but it also represents “an inheritance” , an experience of the divine promises.

Easter has also brought its season of difficult news from around the world. I cannot help being gripped by the tragedy that is being worked out in Central African Republic at the moment. Friends are being molested and persecuted and unburied bodies have littered the streets like refuse. It is not the full story of this beautiful country which has so much potential.

I think of happier days pioneering a mission movement amongst the Pygmy tribes of this nation –  a gentle, artistic people in tune with earth and sky, and intimately acquainted with the God who sends his holy breeze to rustle the leaves of the trees and to carry colourful butterflies in flight. They are discovering this same God of Easter, who, beyond his historic Jewish incarnation, took on Pygmy flesh. No chocolate bunnies for them, only the naked wild worship in dance and song which encapsulates their forest offerings. I shared in their story for a few precious moments, becoming one with them in a  dance offering around a huge, life inspiring fire which sent sparks, like prayers, into the star filled African nights.

People are now dying in Central Africa…and Syria…etc

What do we die from?

I’m glad that although many die, many also live and find even greater life as the Gospel is brought to them by faithful servants of Christ. Central Africa possesses such servants in abundance. The Gospel was brought  for the first time to the Pygmies by the faithful African apostles of Nations en Marche. They were not part of the tribe that lives long on the couch of comfort in front of screens and illusions, stretching out the years in selfish survival. They were the warriors of the moment, living a precious life each day with the coming and going of light and birdsong; a people of cosmic community, investing their lives for the greater good of the tribe. Fires are being lit in heaven, and the little igloo leaf houses are putting the pearly gates to shame.

oubanguiI would like to think that the anonymous sacrifices in Central Africa and beyond have some meaning and value. My prayer is that all those associated with the “Hebron tribes” principle, those committed to investing their lives into the greater good of seeing indigenous mission movements born and nurtured, will be somehow encouraged and inspired. “Death is at work in us” cried the apostle Paul, “but life is at work in you.”

The following is my own inadequate homage to the Central African people who have found a greater life in a greater forest.

I am part of a mission movement which speaks about the “Hebron principle”. Our family principles handbook says the following about it. 

“In Chronicles the different tribes came together to make David King over all Israel. We aspire to see many people and ministries come together in their diversity and uniqueness to make Jesus king over all nations. We are called to start or facilitate new indigenous movements of mission.”

 I believe that we are at a kairos moment of opportunity to strengthen this value in the Body of Christ today.

So, over these next two articles (today and Easter Monday), we will take a closer look at this place called Hebron.

A place of Vision and Worshipvision

The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you….So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.”    Genesis 13:14-18

The Lord had a word for Abraham at a painful time of division and separation in his family. He told him not to focus on the problem but to lift up his eyes and receive fresh vision. We may be suffering our own various difficult partings at this time, and no work is ever immune from division. Never be dominated or discouraged through division but hear the Lord speak afresh to bring a new perspective. “Lift up your eyes!”

Having found the courage to move on, he also found a fresh impetus to worship, as his shepherd’s hands placed stone upon stone to build an altar to the Lord. Allow the Lord to bring together all the strands of your personality, carefully meshed with a new sensitivity and hunger for the Holy Spirit, in order to build your own special place of intimacy. Hebron was renowned for the goodness of its stones. An old Jewish saying goes:

“You have no stones in all the land of Israel harder than at Hebron; hence they buried the dead there.”

 Build the altar with field stones.

A place of Weeping and Sacrifice

Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her. Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”     Genesis 23:1-4

tears_in_heavenAbraham’s title-deed for his first patch of promise land was stained with tears. The promise bearer died at the threshold of the land of promise. Do not be surprised if the road to your dream, your inheritance, leads you to an eve of weeping. Over the last years my own heart has been inwardly weeping as I have felt that a context or mechanism for mission building in the Church has been strangely absent. Like Sarah, a movement which once gave life, may find itself growing old. However, death is also the prelude to new life. Perhaps the moments of death we experience, our personal “Good Fridays”, may well give us fresh access to our own tear-stained title deeds of our dreams.

A place of Warfare and Inheritance

“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.  Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)…Then the land had rest from war.  Joshua 14:10-14

Are you still up for it? How’s your spiritual vigor? Are you still dreaming of possessing your mountain, your “hill country,” your Hebron?

Caleb could have grown bitter during the long waiting and wandering in the desert. He could have sunk into self-pity, blaming circumstances and others who had negated his faith through their unbelief and fear. Unbelief and fear in myself and others drives me bonkers! I don’t think God is too pleased either! However, there is a place beyond frustration. It is a place that hangs on and believes in the promise no matter what. Caleb found that place and became better rather than bitter. He found a place of wholehearted devotion to God which transcended his circumstances.

After forty-five years of dreaming about crushing Anakite heads, he was finally unleashed to take his inheritance. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the first man in his way! Those who have learnt to wait are also the most aggressive in the battle for their promise land…

(to be continued…)

You can find another Easter article at Neil Rees’ Eating with Sinners blog

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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!

 

Triple Vision

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“They were all fixed faces, full not of possibilities but of impossibilities”

C S Lewis – The Great Divorce

 Vision fills a face with the glow of possibility. Such a face is a welcoming hearth, inspiring the warmth of hope in the barren chill of this hard faced world. I imagine that Jesus’ earthly face carried this divine sheen as an unfettered Holy Spirit brought His eyes into the realm of revelation. But what was Jesus’ vision?

No doubt, like His ancestor Jacob who was in love with Rachel, His eyes were fixed on the Bride, as she made herself ready for the consummation of history. For such joy set before Him, He was ready to endure the cruel cross, scorning its shame.

 Alongside this overarching purpose I would dare to propose three other “visions” that empowered Jesus as He walked the dusty roads of Galilee. May we too be encouraged and strengthened to walk in the same “triple” vision for our own lives and ministry.

1. The Vision of the Father

 “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”  John 5:19

Jesus worked by revelation rather than perspiration! No redundant, ambitious religious energy here. He took the time to “see”, and worked out of divine relationship with the Father. There was no forced tension or difficulty in this. Divine flowed into Divine.

 “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.” John 5:20

 Redeem your amazement at such a self disclosing God who longs to share His heart and partner with us in life! Indeed, the old adage is true which says that if we want to be successful in life, we need to see what God is doing in our generation and humbly do it with Him.  

 However, will all this “individual” revelation only lead to a lot of inspired loners (or couples) splintering off to pursue their own God given vision?

Deuteronomy 19:15 and Matthew 18:20 can help us here.

 “One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offence he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

 “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

 At least “two or three” need to “see” with you. (You can’t really count just your spouse or kids to make up the numbers!)  Real progress in Christian work comes when a team of people are bonded together in common vision. It is not an “imposed vision” but something that has been seen, and thus owned by all. Such visionary team building is strongly contested by the enemy as he knows how powerful such a team can be to bring a lasting incarnation of Christ to places and peoples. So our first conclusion is:

“Vision is born from the Father’s love and is validated in community.”

2. The Vision of the total defeat of Satan

“He replied, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Luke 10:18-19

 Jesus walked in the vision of the total demise of the enemy. It flooded His every pore and provoked unflinching courage with unbending authority. In Western society, which is tumbling into a lack of confidence and fear, we need to arm ourselves afresh with the revelation of the ultimate overthrow of evil. Fear cripples vision. May the church not be like Job’s friends who received the stinging rebuke.

“Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid.” Job 6:21

So our second conclusion is:

“Vision is cultivated in the absence of fear.”

 3. The Vision of the Harvest

“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35 …”When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

This links us back a little to the overarching vision of the Bride. However it takes her down from the lofty realms of the metaphysical and brings her to the “fields” and “crowds” of everyday existence. Jesus never lost His passion for people. He had the quiet faith that can handle the small, persevering beginnings because it sees the “ripe harvest”. He had the scope to see a whole field and yet meet the need of the harassed individual. He wasn’t waiting for some distant revival or personal sanctification before acting, but was able to channel all His energies into the eternal “now” of opportunity.

Don’t give up on your own personal “today” of ripe opportunities! May your face shine with possibilities!

So our third conclusion is:

“Vision always produces action – prayer and mission.”

Some people watch television – coming soon in 3 D! Others suffer with double vision. But I wish you all “Triple Vision” to see the Father, overcome the enemy and have hope for today’s kingdom work.

Extract from the book  “A fruit in Season”  (see books widget)