Tag Archives: 2 Chronicles

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!

Prayer is … #2 Conversation

Prayer is a conversation, it is a two-way dialogue, not a one-way monologue.

You’re overstating it, you may say from looking at the previous sentence, but it is a point that cannot be overstated!  I could refer to places in the New Testament for this, but you may be surprised to know that this was well understood in the Old Testament.  Here are a few examples.

The example of Abraham.

Well there is Abraham for starters, ‘he was called a friend of God’ (James 2:23 NRSV), and what do friend do but talk with each other!  When he interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah he was involved in a literal, physical conversation with God see Genesis 18:16-33, he was also bold enough to negotiate with God, but was wise enough to know where the limits were.

This is quite a challenge!  How much are we prepared to argue someone’s case before God?  Not for a Christian, but for a non-Christian to be saved!  After all, ‘The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.’ (2 Peter 3:9 NRSV).  We should not think that Jesus is slow in returning which is the context of this verse, but as with Sodom and Gomorrah, when he does there will be judgement, and by then all choices about eternal salvation will have been made.  Until then, let us be like Abraham praying for mercy and salvation, and wrestling in prayer for those who don’t know Jesus.

The example of Moses.

Moses is another great example of how prayer is a conversation, and again the best example we have of this from his story are when he was interceding on someone else’s behalf.  We see this in the time when Israel sinned by worshipping the golden calf (see Exodus 33).

God was angry, the people he had brought out of Egypt had spiritually returned to Egypt by making and then worshipping an idol.  God was more than angry, he was going to destroy all of Israel except Moses and his family, and make a nation out from him alone.  But Moses stood up for the Israelites, not because they had not sinned, but for the sake of the patriarchs and because if God destroyed them all the Egyptians would have a cause to celebrate and say that God could not complete what he started!

The result of this pleading.  God ‘changed his mind’ (Exodus 32:14 NRSV) because Moses had asked him to, ‘Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people’ (Exodus 32:12 NRSV).  We may deserve God’s judgement, but if we humble ourselves, pray and seek God’s face he can, and will, send revival (see 2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

Like Moses we can cause God to change his mind, or we can stand by, be fatalistic about it and see others perish.  Prayer is so powerful if we only grasp it, it is not just for the weak, and for old ladies (though it is for them also), in fact to pray like Moses did takes both strength and humility, and comes first of all out of a close relationship with God.

Are we, like Moses, prepared to lay down something that could be to our advantage, to see God’s kingdom advance?  What a challenge!

Prophets, priests and kings.

I could give other examples, when the nation of Israel came to together to pray, it was the prophets, priests and kings who would pray.  Why?  Because these were the people who would not just speak to God, but who could listen to God’s reply!

Under the New Covenant we are all prophets, priests and kings so this responsiblity of prayer and intercession now falls on us, and we can fulfil that task because we can have a conversations with God!

Lord Jesus, help us to learn to listen as well as talk when we pray, because only then can we pray and intercede effectively for those who don’t know you.  Help us to take up the challenge, and to lay down our agendas for the sake of others to build your Kingdom.  In your name we pray, 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.