Monthly Archives: August 2012

Exodus 3:1-3 – Small Signs, Big God

In Scripture when God gives a sign it is often of Biblical proportion! Here’s a few examples.  Israel crossing the Red Sea and the Jordan River, God’s graffiti in Daniel and the dove descending on Jesus in front of crowds by the Jordan.  Other signs were on a more personal scale, Gideon’s fleeces, Jesus turning water into wine and the Burning Bush.

‘Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.  Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”‘ (Exodus 3:1-3 NRSV)

Just in case any one is not sure, a sign is a physical occurrence that has spiritual significance.  A sign is also prophetic because it is a way that God can use to speak to us.

The Burning Bush was a sign for Moses, and for Moses alone.  He was, as it says in the KJV in ‘the backside of the desert’, you couldn’t get more obscure than that!  He was in the back of beyond, he was living in obscurity anyway, and now he was in an even more obscure place than normal!

This is an encouragement to anyone who has ever felt that they have been passed over, or have escaped into obscurity when things have got too much, and have never left it.  God can meet you even there, in fact it can be the best place to hear him, as there are fewer distractions!

The Burning Bush was a sign to Moses, God got his attention through it, but it also had a meaning beyond that.  It was a picture of Moses’ own life from that time on, he was to experience the presence of God in a way that very few people experience without being burnt up because of their unholiness.

But what about us in our normal lives?  Very few Christians have ever seen God write on a wall, if any!  More Christians have laid a fleece that God answered, but in general most Christians have had only small signs that reveal how big God is!

Has God ever given you a sign about something that seems trivial when you mention it to anyone else.  Even if it seems trivial to them, it is not to God, and it should not be for you.  Let me explain from my own experience.

Just over 20 years ago I went to a two-day conference to pray for London as a financial centre, it was led by Clifford Hill and Kjell Sjoberg, and one of its main foci was to see finance released for the Kingdom from the shaking of the nations.  It was attended by around 200 prayer warriors, and was a very significant time.

On the second day we went out in groups to pray for various financial institutions, I went with a group to pray for the Bank of England.  As we could not go into the Bank of England we prayed in front of it and walked around it three times, if I remember correctly.

Regardless of the number of times we went round it, on the last time, when we had almost walked all the way round I picked up a 5p piece from the road, that had not been there on the previous circuits.  I felt that God was saying from this that he was releasing  money for his Kingdom.

For nearly 20 years I have periodically picked up 5ps from the ground.  Some have been very significant, others not, but all have kept that promise alive, and at times it has been rather an ‘in joke’ between myself and God!  About a month ago God first gave me 1p after specifically asking for one, and a few days later gave me £5 that was on the floor, 100x more than before, this was significant it upped my faith and was on the way to what happened yesterday when I was walking past a cash-point at a bank and it spewed out £50 and a till receipt, so I took it straight back into the bank so they could put it back into the account from which it came.  This was 1000x more than ever before!

This is very significant, God is growing my faith for financial provision both personally and primarily for his Kingdom work.

God has grown a small insignificant sign into one of greater importance, there is work underway in the Kingdom that will require much gifting of finance, of resources or of both.  Because God has used this trivial sign and built my faith over time, it is no longer a trivial sign!  What will I see in the future, I look forward to see.  But I know this, God is in control and that we should not despise ‘the day of small things’ (Zechariah 4:10 NRSV).

Father God, help us to see with eyes of faith and recognise a sign from you, no matter how trivial it may seem to others.  Help us to respond in faith and to grow in faith and in our walk with you, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

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Ezekiel 18 – Individual Responsibility

‘The word of the LORD came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?  As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.  Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.’ (Ezekiel 18:1-4 NRSV)

The whole of this chapter expands upon these opening four verses, and it is well worth a read!

Who is responsible for their sin? A person themselves, their parents or their children? And likewise, who will be punished for that sin?  In this chapter Ezekiel lays the facts out as they are, God holds each person accountable for their sinfulness or righteousness, and neither can it be passed from one generation to the next.

‘The person who sins shall die.  A child shall not suffer for the iniquity or a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own.’ (Ezekiel 18:10 NRSV)

It is true that the life choices of one generation may influence the life choices of another generation, but ultimately each person is responsible for themselves before God.

What about generational curses you may ask?  Paul Scanlon has written an excellent blog on that, here is the link Generational Curses or Choices, like Paul I also believe that in Christ we all start again from square one!

For me the Israelites in the days of Moses and Joshua are all the examples we need as to how God deals with each generation.

Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, yet they still had their hearts in Egypt and made false god, the golden calf, while Moses was still on Sinai with God!  God prevented that generation from entering the Promised Land because of their sin, despite all he had done for them!

The next generation was born just before the Exodus or in the wilderness.  The male children were not even circumcised, so great was the lack or concern for the things of God shown by Moses’ generation.  Yet it was this generation that entered the Promised Land and served God until all those who had seen God working had died!  The generation after them turned away from God once again.

If God had judged the following generation by the acts of the previous one then the story might have been very different!

I have been planning on writing this post for about a week or so but have only just got round to it, and this is definitely something on God’s heart at the moment.  Why?  God is moving the UK into a new season, and a new generation is coming to the fore.  Yes, there are still Joshuas and Calebs who have been waiting and believing for change for a long time , but many others have lost their faith in what God has promised.

It is 45 years this year since Jean Darnall first gave her prophecy concerning revival in the UK, to read it follow this link Jean Darnall Prophecy.  We are not there yet, although there are pockets of fire breaking out, but God is on the move in this land in a new way.

It is imperative that we pray with a new level of urgency and of expectation for God to move and revive this land.  If you struggle to do that, then ask God’s forgiveness for your lack of faith and ask him to renew your faith and he will!  Whys is this so important?  I shall let Ezekiel have the last words, I can put it no better than this:

‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD.  Turn, then, and live.’ (Ezekiel 18:32 NRSV)

Heavenly Father, forgive us when we have doubted your ability to revive this land and help us to pray and seek your heart with renewed fervour so that we might burn brightly for you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

The Lord’s Prayer #9 – Holy Father.

‘Our Father in heaven,
     hallowed be your name.’ (Matthew 6:9 NRSV)

This is the first of the four parts of The Lord’s Prayer that we shall be looking at.  This prayer is also known as the Paternoster (from the Latin) and its English equivalent the ‘Our Father’ by Roman Catholics.

In this section we are looking at the fact that God is our Holy Father and how we should respond to that.

If you are a Roman Catholic reading this, then you will be saying but that is the Pope’s title.  I would challenge that!  That title should belong to God alone.

Jesus said, ‘call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father – the one in heaven.’ (Matthew 23:9 NRSV). And elsewhere we read that God is ‘Holy, holy, holy’ (Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 NRSV), we see this here by two things that ‘Our Father’ is ‘in heaven’, and that our response is to hallow his name, that is to treat it as holy.

Let’s unpack this section in a bit more detail.

The first thing that we should notice is that we pray in , the prayer starts with ‘Our Father’, not ‘My Father’.  Even when we pray alone we always pray as part of the Body of Christ.  In fact we never can pray alone! Jesus could, but when we pray all the Trinity is involved, we pray to the Father, through the Holy Spirit and in the name and power of Jesus.

So we pray in community, but we are also praying as part of the family, this is unique to Christianity.  Under the Old Covenant Abraham was a friend of God, and John was the last and greatest prophet under that Old Covenant, but Jesus said that, ‘the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Matthew 11:11 NRSV).  There are two reasons for this, firstly because John was not filled with the Holy Spirit, and secondly because under the New Covenant we are children of God which John was not under the Old Covenant.

We are praying to ‘Our Father’ who is ‘in heaven’.  Scripturally there are three heavens. The physical heavens, the spiritual realm, and heaven where God dwells (I shall look at this in another post).  It is the third of those that is being referred to here, where God dwells.  Here there is nothing unholy, because God is absolutely HOLY.

This is why our response must be, ‘hallowed be your name’.  Our response to God’s holiness must be to recognise that holiness, and ask him to help us to live all of our lives in the light of that.  God’s heart is that everything will be ‘Holy to the LORD’ (Zechariah 14:20 NRSV) from horse bells to common cooking pots.  It is not about retreating from the world, but being so filled with God that all we do is touched by God and can be used to glorify him alone.

Holy Father, help me to live my life in light of who you are.  To worship you alone, and to live my whole life dedicated only to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Two Visions of Jesus – Like Revelation 1 and Commissioned by Jesus

About four months after I became a Christian, I had two visions within a short space of time.  You may ask whether these visions were in or out of the body.  Paul says (though speaking in the third person, he is probably talking about himself), ‘whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows’ (1 Corinthians 12:2 NRSV).  If it was not important to Paul then neither should it be important to us, and to be honest I don’t know, but I do know that I was there physically in both cases and that God knows even if I don’t!

By sharing these visions in this blog post I am sharing something that is very personal to me.  When I first had the visions I did share them, but most people did not seem to be able to comprehend what I was talking about and if anything gave me strange looks, or just had glazed expressions since they could not get their heads round it.  As I result I went for many years not sharing these visions, now I understand more that visions in general are well beyond many Christians experience, which is why in my post Ezekiel 1:26-28 – A Vision of The Glory Of God I talk about how ‘like’ is used a lot as you try to describe the heavenly in earthly terms.

In the first vision, I saw Jesus glorified, almost identical to the vision of Jesus that John saw in the book of Revelation.

‘and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed in a long robe and with a gold sash across his chest.  His head and has hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like flames of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.  When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.’  (Revelation 1:13-17a NRSV)

As I have already said my vision was almost identical to that of John, but not quite.  I only saw Jesus, I did not see any candlesticks or stars.  I saw Jesus glorified as John described with his voice like many waters, which I visually saw like transverse waves coming out from his mouth and spreading out.  I did not however see the two-edged sword come out of his mouth, but next to him.

I was in a time of prayer when I saw the vision, and like John I also had the same reaction, I fell as dead before Jesus, I lay prostrate on my bed unable to move for about 4 hours.  The first prophetic word I had given a month or so earlier was of a picture I saw of Jesus saying, ‘Come to me’.  Jesus in this picture had been gentle, and was asking us to draw closer to him.  In this vision however I saw another side of Jesus.  This was Jesus glorified, he was almighty and all-powerful, this was no gentle Jesus meek and mild, but Jesus as he will be when he comes to judge the world.

Whenever I think of this vision I am still filled with holy fear, Jesus is not to be messed with!  He is our best friend, but he is also our Lord, our King and most of all our God and we should never forget that.

In the second vision I was among a crowd of worshippers and was commissioned by Jesus.

In the second vision I was kneeling near what was like an altar in a church, behind me there were crowds of people as far as the eye could see worshipping and praising God.  Jesus came to me, he anointed me placing his hands upon my head and spoke one word to me, ‘Go!’.  My reaction to this vision was the same as the first, I was prostrate in worship and unable to move.

At the time, I did not really understand what this vision meant, but now I do understand it.  Jesus is saying that it is he who has:

  • Called me – I was there with him and not with the rest of the worshippers because he wanted me to be there.  Jesus has called me to a close walk with him;
  • Anointed me – It was Jesus who was anointing and enabling me, not anyone else.  After all, it is Jesus who baptizes us in the Holy Spirit, and I was baptised in the Spirit on conversion (read Prayer is … #1 Adventure for more information);
  • Commissioned me – Jesus has sent me out to work in his church, and now I know in what way.  I have always known that my heart is primarily in this country, and that I have always had a focus on church, up until now I always assumed that would be on one local church, but now I know that God is calling me to itinerate ministry to the whole church.  What God is calling me to do is to grow prayer, both personal and corporate prayer in churches.  I will share more about that in the future.

Prayer is … #1 Adventure

Here goes our adventure into prayer.  So what is more natural than to start by saying that prayer is an adventure.  It is not just any adventure, but one into more of God.

For everyone prayer is a journey.  I shall share some of my prayer journey, my prayer adventure, in this post.  Why because you may be able to connect with my story in this post, and it will help you all to get to know me a bit better.

My prayer adventure started as a child, like most children I was taught to pray with hands together and eyes closed, prayer was a formality there was nothing real about it.  Now here’s a thought, to pray with hands together and eyes closed is not in the Bible at all, so should we pray like that or teach our children to pray like that?  I’ll look at that more in another post sometime!

When I was at university, I started being interested in the things of God, I thought I was a Christian because I had nominally been brought up that way, but in fact I wasn’t.  Prayer was interesting, I prayed formally in chapel and less formally in the Anglican Christian Union, then I started going along to NCCF (New College Christian Fellowship) and here I experienced prayer that really connected with God for the first time, this had me extremely interested!

When one of my friends asked me if I would like to go to a half-night of prayer they were having, I jumped at it!  Here there was prayer, worship and some teaching all combined.  People prayed in different ways for different things, including praying out loud together (all at the same time) in tongues or English.  This spoke to me, I knew that their unknown languages were from God, and that their prayer in general that evening was somehow connecting with God in a big way.

I became a Christian when I was baptised in the Holy Spirit like Cornelius in Acts 10, now prayer became real to me, as it was based in a relationship with God.  I got things wrong at times, but I also saw prayer answered as we prayed together for people to be healed of things, and they were healed.

I soon got involved in a church prayer meetings, prayer meetings with para-church organisations, and spent time praying alone with God.  I read books on prayer which I brought from Canaan bookshop where I was working on Saturdays.

Some of the books I read included,

  • Rees Howells, Intercessor, Norman Grubb;
  • Learning the Joy of Prayer, Larry Lee;
  • Prayer the Key to Revival, Paul Yonggi Cho.

I went to a prayer conference in 1991 (I think) praying for London as a financial centre for it to be shaken which it has been substantially since then.  On the second day we prayer walked, the group I was in for the Bank of England, and we prayed for finance to be released for the Kingdom of God, and God gave a sign to us (a 5p piece) that he would.

After university, I got married and life and prayer continued, sometimes prayer was easy and sometimes it was hard.  But about 2001 I fell in and for quite some time all my prayer were tears and asking the question ‘Why?’, which I never got an answer for, but despite that I held onto one thing.  That God would never abandon mr like the Father had to abandon Jesus on the cross and turn his face away because of my sin.  God healed me over about 1 1/2 years after I was given a prophetic word that he would heal me.

Since then God has grown me a great deal, to where I am now.  I fought with him in prayer like Jacob at the ford of the Jabbok (see Day 4. Practice – Wrestling With God – When Intimacy Gets Personal).

Where am I now?  God is calling me to lead prayer, and to grow churches in prayer, both in its depth and breadth, and helping to restore prayer to the place it should have in this land.  Why?  To see revival and this nation restored to God!  To God alone be the glory! Amen!

What is your prayer journey like?  Do you see it as an adventure?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Prayer is …

What is prayer?

Prayer is so simple, yet there are so many facets to it.  So, we shall be exploring what ‘Prayer is…’ in this series of posts.

The aim of this series will be to help you think about what prayer is, about how we relate to God in prayer, and about what prayer means to each of us.

As I get older I am able to reflect more on prayer.  In some cases, I consciously understand things I used to take for granted, in other cases, there are new things that I am discovering about prayer.  All these thoughts and musing I will share here.

Here are a few examples of things that ‘Prayer is…’, that I will explore:

  • Prayer is … Conversation;
  • Prayer is … Worship;
  • Prayer is … Intercession;
  • Prayer is … Liturgy.

I will look at many more things, and if you have any ideas of things about prayer you would like me to explore then please leave your suggestions in a comment on this post.

What does prayer mean to you?  Has your conception of prayer changed over time?  Are you growing in prayer or are you stuck in a rut?  Let’s look forward to growing in the adventure that is PRAYER!

The Lord’s Prayer and Isaiah 9:6 #8

We most often hear Isaiah 9:6 read at Christmastime as it is about the coming Messiah, but what you may well ask has it got to do with The Lord’s Prayer?

‘For a child has been born to us,
     a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
     and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’  (Isaiah 9:6 NRSV)

When we look deeper into The Lord’s Prayer, I will be looking at in four sections (excluding the doxology), which is how it splits up if you take into consideration that it is Hebrew poetry.

In this post we shall be looking at Jesus in The Lord’s Prayer!  This splits it up into the same four sections, so it introduces the rest of the studies really well, and it also reveals another facet of this great prayer.

Before that we need to note that ‘authority rests upon his shoulders’.  Jesus has authority, more than that he said after his resurrection in the introduction to the Great Commission, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (Matthew 28:18 NRSV).  Jesus has all authority!  But how do we access this authority?  Through prayer (and fasting) alone, that is how Jesus accessed his Father’s authority before he was crucified, he had all authority then but choose not to use it, he chose only to act with his Father’s authority!  But after Jesus resurrection and before his Ascension he now has ‘all authority’, and when we pray his way we are standing in his authority, this is also why we pray for things ‘in Jesus’ name’, and can pray expecting to see things happen!

In a very real sense The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer about Jesus, as each of the characteristics of the Messiah from Isaiah 9:6 is mirrored by a section in the prayer.  Here’s what I mean:

‘Everlasting Father’ mirrors
‘Our Father in heaven,
     hallowed be your name.’

Jesus is co-eternal with the Father, he is not a created being.  Father in Isaiah refers to  how a king is father to their nation.

‘Mighty God’ mirrors
‘Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven.’

 Jesus is the Mighty God, he is able to do on earth what he has already purposed in heaven.

‘Prince of Peace’ mirrors
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
     as we have forgiven our debtors.’

Jesus is our peace because in him we have all the physical and spiritual provision we need.

‘Wonderful Counsellor’ mirrors
‘And do not bring us to the time of trial,
     but rescue us from the evil one.’

Counsellor here refers to someone who gives advice in a council of war these days we wold call him a general, and Jesus is the most wonderful and amazing general there is.

Aspects of God in The Lord’s Prayer.

In the following studies I will look at how The Lord’s Prayer focuses on four aspects of the character of God, as you will see they are very close to the four kingly titles of Jesus from Isaiah 9:6.  Here are the four aspects of who God is: Holy Father, Sovereign King, Daily Provider and Mighty Warrior.  Here is the overall plan of The Lord’s Prayer that I have developed.

God and Us in Prayer.
     Holy Father.
     Sovereign King.
Us and God in Prayer.
     Daily Provider.
     Mighty Warrior.
Later Doxology.
 

Why is The Lord’s Prayer so powerful? 

It is because the whole of the prayer is based on who God is and how interacts with his people and with the world in which we live.

Have you thought of The Lord’s Prayer as being based on God’s character or has it always just been a list of things to ask for?  Does this idea revolutionise your view of this prayer?