Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians

Matthew 16:18 – The Dry-Stone Wall Church

Before my prayer time on the evening of the 11th January 2013 I just felt that God was saying he had something special for me but I didn’t know what.  As is usual these days he was already there waiting for me to come into the place of prayer in his presence, not the other way round. I was saying ‘Thank you that your presence is already here’, not ‘Please come, Lord’.

 When I walked back into the living room to spend time with him he literally knocked me to my knees by the weight of his presence. While on my knees God gave me a glimpse of Jesus building his church in a vision. What I saw was a physical representation of the spiritual reality.

 The church was made up of rough stones, not dressed stones, and the building method Jesus was using was that of dry-stone walling.  This I easily comprehended and understood as I was brought up in Derbyshire where almost every field boundary is a dry-stone wall!

It was not a dry-stone wall like you sometimes see these days will regularly shaped dressed stones, but was one made up of irregular stones of different sizes and shapes.  In a dry stone wall there are faced stones which you see on the outside of the wall, within the wall you find many smaller stones which are used for packing and to stabilise the whole wall.  The whole church was being built on top of a large slab of bedrock, and the builder was Jesus. There was also a small bell tower on top, an open one and contained a single bell.

Boulder and Bedrock.

 ‘And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’ Matthew 16:18 (NRSV)

Here Jesus tells Peter that he is a ‘petros’, a ‘stone’, a ‘rock’, a ‘boulder’. He may be substantial in size, but he is separate from the bedrock.  He is one of the big stones built into the bottom of the dry stone wall of the church.

On the other hand he is not the ‘petra’, the ‘bedrock’.  The ancient city of Petra is called that because it was built out of the very bedrock itself.  That bedrock is Jesus himself and the fact that he is ‘the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ Matthew 16:16 (NRSV) as Peter stated on the Father’s revelation.

In this Scripture, as in the vision it is Jesus who is building his church. It is not you or I, it is not the pastor or elders or anyone else, it is Jesus. We need to make sure that we do not try to take credit for something which is not of our doing!

Bell Tower and Bell.

A bell makes a very pure sound and so should our preaching of the gospel. Living lives in holiness should be an integral part of our message that speaks volumes. We should also not complicate the gospel. The message is simple, we were dead in our sins (Ephesians  2:1) as all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory that God wanted mankind to have (Romans 3:23) so Jesus came and paid the price by the shedding of his blood on the cross to take away our sins (1 Peter 2:24). He then rose again and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Acts 2:33), when we trust in him we have eternal life which starts now (1 Timothy 6:12) and he sends the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33) to enable us to live lives that are both holy (Ephesians 1:4) and a demonstration of his power on earth (Acts 1:8).

There was only one bell, not many. Unity in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) is very powerful. God is calling us to live in unity as Christians. To come together in worship, humility, prayer and intercession as a united people. ‘If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’ 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NRSV). In past revivals God has moved because of the prayers of a few, this time I feel he wants more of his people praying in faith for him to move in power and reveal his glory. Are we prepared to come before him as a humble people united in prayer?

 Faced not Dressed Stones.

The fact that the stones were faced but not dressed is in fact significant. In the Old Testament God told Moses, ‘But if you make for me an altar of stone, do not build it of hewn stones; for if you use a chisel upon it you profane it.’ Exodus 20:25 (NRSV). This was one thing that separated an altar to the Lord from an altar to a false god, as their altars were generally made from dressed stones.

We are all different, like the stones being used to build the church building. We are to be in unity, but not uniformity. We are to celebrate our differences and be the individuals God wants us to be, then we will truly all fit together as he builds us into his church.

The visible stones were faced. In the past many people in churches have been taught not to reveal their struggles, but God is calling us to be honest. We can neither fool him, nor non-Christians with our religiosity, they see straight through it as easily as God does. In fact hypocrisy switches non-Christians off very quickly and is very bad witness, and it is one thing that makes God very angry as it is spiritual pride! We need to ask him to help us to be real, both with him and with all others whether they are Christians or non-Christians. Faced stones also look clean and fresh, we need to let Jesus knock off anything that will get in the way of his light shining through us.

 All important.

Not all of the stones were visible, but the hidden stones used for packing are incredibly important in the making of a dry-stone wall. This is also true in the church. As Paul says ‘the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect’ 1 Corinthians 12:22-23 (NRSV). We need to learn to raise up the encouragers, the intercessors, those with administrative and practical gifts so that their service is a joy not a burden as can often be the case because they are the lifeblood of the church and are central to its stability.

Jesus is building his church, and we are the living stones being built into its structure (1 Peter 2:5), although the vision I saw was of a physical structure it represents the spiritual structure of the church. Let’s be the church that Jesus has called us to be!

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Ezekiel 13:1-10 – False Prophets in Old and New Testaments.

‘The word of the LORD came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are prophesying; say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’  Thus says the Lord GOD, Alas for the senseless prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!  Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel.  You have not gone up into the breaches, or repaired a wall for the house of Israel, so that it might stand in battle on the day of the LORD.  They have prophesied falsehood and lying divination; they say, ‘Says the LORD’, when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they wait for the fulfilment of their word!  Have you not seen a false vision or uttered a lying divination, when you have said, ‘Says the LORD’, even though I did not speak?
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:  Because you have uttered falsehood and prophesied lies, I am against you, says the Lord GOD.  My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations; they shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.  Because, in truth, because they have misled my people, saying ‘Peace’, when there is no peace; and because, when people build a wall, these prophets smear whitewash on it.’  (Ezekiel 13:1-10 NRSV)

In the Old Testament the people of God were not filled with the Holy Spirit, and therefore they did not have any way of testing what was said by the prophets of the day.  Whatever they were told by a prophet they would assume was correct as the prophet would say, ‘Thus says the LORD’ when he prophesied.  In those days God called his prophets to be absolutely right, absolutely all of the time, as when God spoke to a prophet they were to speak his actual words.  Because this was the nature of Old Testament prophecy God was very harsh on false prophets in the Old Testament.

This was fine as long as prophets were honest and truly spoke when God spoke, but this was not always the case.  Some prophets lied, whether it was to fill their bellies or to increase their popularity, or because they themselves were deceived was irrelevant.  They lied and spoke ‘out of their own imagination’, rather than speaking God’s word.

What did God do about this?  He was ‘against’ those prophets, they would have no inheritance in him.  Later on in this chapter we also read how God is against lying prophetesses and well as prophets, God judges both sexes alike, do we share what God has shared with us, or do we share things that he did not say, them attribute those things to him?

What about prophets and prophecy in the New Testament?

In the New Testament things are different.  We see fulfilled what Moses wished for, ‘Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!’ (Numbers 11:29 NRSV).  God goes beyond that and fills us with his Spirit, ‘As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you.’ (1 John 2:27 NRSV).  In the New Testament and now, ‘we prophesy only in part’ (1 Corinthians 18:9 NRSV), prophecy is no longer absolute, which means we must no longer be 100% accurate 100% of the time, but we still should always be responsible when we prophesy and aim to listen to God as accurately as possible.

Under the New Covenant we should never take prophecy for granted, or in any way abuse it.  It is a gift from God, and that is true of both the charismatic gift and the ministry gift, the role of prophet in the Old Testament sense does not exist either in the New Testament or today.  The main reason for this is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as I said earlier, this means that both the person giving a prophecy, and the person or people receiving the prophecy are both to test what they are hearing.  Prophetic people who get things wrong are no longer immediately condemned, but should be given chances to grow, learn and get better at listening, but God will still judge real false prophets today just as harshly, as they lead Christians away from God, and do not confront sin where they see it.

The prophetic word may be completely right, partially right or slightly right or completely wrong.  Another thing is the emphasis may be wrong, or a prophetic interpretation may be wrong, or if it is a predictive word it is wrong if it does not happen in the given time frame, unless of course any conditions (either given or implied) are unfulfilled.  Another important thing in seeing a prophecy fulfilled is to pray into it and do God calls you to do.  Prophecies are not inevitable and will not just be fulfilled without our co-operation.

Lord Jesus, give us discernment to know what you are saying when you speak prophetically, and help us to know what is true and what is false.  Help those of us who speak prophetically to say what are saying, not to speak from our own imaginations like the false prophets Ezekiel is talking about here, Amen.

Olympic Games #2 – The Men’s Road Race

The Men’s Road Race for cycling was run on the Day One of the Games.

The British cyclist Mark Cavendish was expecting to get a gold. The whole British cycling team was determined to get him into a good position so he could win with a sprint finish.  But it just wasn’t to be!

After an early breakaway the British team were left in the front of the peloton, along with other good teams with other good sprint finishers (Australia and Germany).  They were behind the leaders, but the whole group could have caught up if they had all worked together, and taken a share of leading that group.

But the rest of the teams decided to leave all the work to the Brits, and it was too much work for four men to do!  Because the rest of the best teams in the peloton were not prepared to do their share of the work and risk Cavendish winning, they also sacrificed their own medal hopes.  The final winner, Vinokourov of Kazakstan, deserved it, he took a risk and pushed ahead and the glory went to him.

David Millar, one of the British team summed it up quite well, ‘We lost out, but a lot of teams lost out by planning against us.  We can’t complain because everyone knew what we were going to do, so it was their job to derail us.  Which they did.’

What is God saying through this to his church?

We are all individuals, and part of different churches, but we also are all part of God’s universal church.

Now, here’s the challenge.  Do you seek solely your own personal growth and advancement?  Or your church’s?  Or do you seek growth and advancement for the whole of God’s universal church?  Or are you prepared to let others do the work which will in fact mean that everyone loses out in the end?

The Apostle Paul says ‘Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win it.’ (1 Corinthians 9:24 NRSV).  Let’s support each other and run to win, that we may each get the prize that God has for us.

What does this mean in reality, go after the vision God has given you and do everything you can to support those with a greater vision than yours!  In the case of churches let us spur each other on and seek to learn and grow from each other.  If we are petty or insecure and don’t support each other, then we will all lose out in the end.

Lord Jesus, help us to run to win, and to help others too, both individually and as your church.  So that you may be glorified in all we do, in your name, Amen.

Azusa Street Prophecy – Certainty or Warning?

The Azusa Street Prophecy.

In the last days three things will befall the Great Pentecostal Movement:
1.     An overemphasis on power rather than righteousness;
2.     An overemphasis on praise to a God they no longer pray to;
3.     An overemphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, rather than the Lordship of Christ.

This is a very famous prophecy, it was given during the Azusa Street Revival from which it gets its name.  I am going to use it as an example of how we should view prophecy, as it is well-known and generally accepted.

The question is this.  Is what is talked of in this prophecy an absolute certainty, or is a warning of what we need to avoid, and deal with if it occurs?

Now in the Bible there are prophecies that are certain to happen, such as those about Jesus’ First and Second Comings, although these have been misunderstood by many Jews (about Jesus’ First Coming) and many Christians (about Jesus’ Second Coming). But many prophecies in Scripture are conditional, and outcomes can be delayed or changed due to how people live before God.  An example about this is how God delayed the exile of the nation of Judah until after Josiah’s lifetime because he had humbled himself before God (for the whole story see 2 Chronicles 34-35).

So what of extra biblical prophecies?

Firstly, the simple fact that they are not in Scripture means that they are not inerrant.  Part of the prophecy may be spot on, another part may not be.  The emphasis may not be exactly right.  If a prophecy involved a definite date or year it is false if it does not happen then it is a false prophecy, or that part concerning the date is false is it happens either later or earlier. (All the predictive words I have given which included years or referred to specific occurrences have happened.) Secondly, if we say that a prophecy is inevitable then we are misunderstanding how Christian prophecy works.  To say something is inevitable is fatalism, we see this in other religions, but not in Christianity.  God is not a divine watchmaker setting things off in creation then just sitting back and not interfering with it any more.  He is actively involved, and when ever we pray into something we are inviting him to fulfil on earth what he already done in heaven, as we pray in The Lord’s Prayer.  In most cases we need to both pray and act in faith to see God move and fulfil a prophetic word that he has given, God can and does act sovereignly but in most cases he works with and through US. Thirdly, warning prophecies in particular will either happen if certain things are either done (or not done), or they contain within them how to either avoid it happening, or how to deal with the situation if it does happen.

Azusa Street Prophecy – Certainty or Warning?

So how should we consider the Azusa Street Prophecy? It is an extra Biblical prophecy so it is not inerrant, however it has been well-tested over the years, and is generally accepted as a word given by God. It is actually a prophetic warning not an inevitability.  To see it as inevitable is to misunderstand the reason why God shared this.  The prophecy includes with in it how it can be avoided or dealt with if it happens.  It does not say that each of the things are overemphasized are not important, but that too much stress is put on them, and so things that are equally important are neglected. The church needs to focus on BOTH the power of God AND the righteousness of God and how that should impact our own lives.  We should never deny God’s power, and seeing him move in power should always happen in the church, but we should not overemphasize it – it should just be a supernaturally natural part of church life.  God is righteous so we should seek to live rightly before God and with our fellow people, not to gain God’s favour, but because of God’s favour in Jesus dying for us.  In both the Old and New Testaments righteousness has both vertical (with God) and horizontal (with men) components, we should never forget that! The church needs to focus on BOTH praise AND prayer.  This is one focus that has definitely slipped, but that God has been seeking to redress.  Jarrod Cooper from New Life Church in Kingston-upon-Hull wrote an excellent post a while back The Greatest Mountain? The Greatest Battle!, and the statistic that 60% of churches no longer have a corporate prayer meeting is easily believable from my experience in churches in suburbia.  Over the years I have had contact with various churches as I have worked in Christian bookshops.  Growing prayer in churches is very dear to my heart and God has given me a vision to help grow prayer in churches even before I became aware of this statistic. This might surprise you from looking at this part of the prophecy is that praise and worship is not the main thing that has displaced the place prayer should have in the church.  The main thing that has displaced prayer is actually the focus on small groups, and this has been future exacerbated by churches following Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church model which marginalises prayer by NOT making it one of the purposes of the model (the five purposes are Fellowship, Discipleship, Worship, Ministry and Evangelism).  This could be addressed by adding Prayer as one main focus to this model. In fact to grow prayer in churches you really need to reconnect it back with praise.  We see the two linked in the Psalms and in The Lord’s Prayer, and elsewhere in Scripture.  Again it should not be a case of either/or but both/and, let’s get the balance right! The church needs to focus on BOTH the gifts of the Spirit AND the Lordship of Christ.  In fact the gifts of the Spirit should just be an expression of the Lordship of Christ in our lives.  That is what they were in the early church, but even then things got out of focus at times.  That is why we have a whole section on public worship in 1 Corinthians 11-14.  Again this is part of the church being naturally supernatural. Spiritual gifts functioning correctly is the greatest expression of the Lordship of Christ in the church that there is!

So where do we go from here?

Pentecostal and charismatic churches are no longer just denominations, we now see the baptism and gifts of the spirit recognised across all denominations to one extent or the other.  Where the church is growing the most locally, nationally and internationally these are considered normal.  This would not have been foreseen when this prophecy was given. Now in different sectors of the church we do see different problems, we do see the different problems in different churches, in some churches all are problems, yet in others we see none of these problems. Let’s get things in balance, if things are out of balance we are given in this prophecy how to redress the balance, by focusing for a while on the thing underemphasized until the balance is restored.  Let’s re-focus on righteousness (which is a gift from God), prayer (through which he chooses to act on earth) and the Lordship of Christ! What do you think about the Asuza Street Prophecy?  Have you looked at it fantastically?  Will you now look at it differently?  I’d love to hear you thoughts.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 – Ordinary People, Extraordinary God!

‘Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in this world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ ‘  (1 Corinthians 1:26-31. NRSV)

Here’s to everyone who feels ordinary, foolish, weak and low and despised!  Why?  Because you are the people God calls, chooses and uses.

What if you are wise, powerful or high-born?  Well don’t worry because God can use you too!

We have to see God as he is, so that we can see ourselves as we are.  We are ordinary, but God is extraordinary.  We have nothing to boast in save in the Lord himself.

Jesus was active in creation so our physical life originates in him, and he is the source of our spiritual life through the foolishness and weakness of the cross.

We can boast in nothing of ourselves, because there is nothing in us worth boasting about!  But we can boast in everything of Him as he is our ‘righteousness and sanctification and redemption’.

Let’s get our perspective right! ALL OF HIM!

Heavenly Father, help me to see myself as I am, an ordinary created human being, but to see you as you really are, an extraordinary Creator God.  Thank you that everything I need is in you, and help me only ever to boast about you and all that you have done in my life and will do through me.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.