26. Confidence

“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 26. Confidence

Hab 2:3  For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”

I think we often get tangled up in prophecy over timing. We think it is important that we know when something is going to be fulfilled. It isn’t. The important thing is that it is fulfilled. I have witnessed prophetic words being fulfilled within weeks. On the other hand, someone once came up to me and said, “Do you remember that word you brought over me ten years ago? It has just been fulfilled.”  I’ve also heard respected prophets declaring, “Revival will be here within the year,” and it wasn’t. We only prophesy in part (1 Cor 13:9). I sometimes think it is to ensure those with the prophetic gift don’t get proud. Prophecy is for strengthening, comforting and encouraging (1 Cor 14:3) not for self-glory. And the ‘part’ bit, it seems so often, is to do with timing. Prophetic people are notorious for their timing. Why? I believe it is because when you get the word it feels like you are there at the fulfilment and that feels like now, but so often it isn’t, it is simply we ‘saw’ that future fulfilment so clearly it felt like now but isn’t!

Now I say these things because this series, which we are ending here, has been all about waiting and watching in prayer and as we do that, like Habakkuk who we saw at the beginning, we hope God will speak to us and give us a clue what He’s doing and what He wants our part to be in it. If He does speak it is that we may prepare ourselves, take stock of our lives, get them ready to be used more fully, and pray! I am always amazed at the clarity that comes through the psalms sometimes.

The psalmist (or it may be one of the prophets) is crying out to the Lord and then the Lord’s will becomes obvious. Many of us at this point would just get up and say, “Right I know what God’s will is, I know what He’s going to do,” but not the psalmist or prophet. They then start praying for it to come about.  Hold on, you might say, why pray for it when they know God is going to do it anyway? Because when we pray we join in the process, we become part of what God is doing, we join in and share with Him in what is going on and, in some mysterious way, we help bring it about. We are called co-workers with Christ (2 Cor 6:1) and so as we are yoked to him (Mt 11:30) we serve alongside him. He enjoys our company, I believe, in the service. He’s the one with the strength, the purpose, the vision, the grace but he delights in having us with him. So when you pray and see – pray some more. When you have a vision, hold it firmly but now pray it out.

And remember, don’t worry about timing: “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” With that, we’re back with Habakkuk. It follows exactly after his declaration of intent to stand his watch, station himself on the ramparts, look to see what He will say to him, and what answer he was to give to his complaint. (2:1) It is the Lord’s answer. The Message version puts it as follows: “This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait!  And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.” There we sense an urgency in God’s desire to get done what needs to be done but the important thing that comes over is don’t worry about timing, it WILL come! This surely must summarize and bring to a conclusion our thoughts this month. If you catch something as you wait on the Lord, don’t be impatient – He has the right time to bring it; it may be soon, it may be later. Keep watching for the fulfillment, continue to remain available to play your part, and until you do see the fulfillment – keep praying. That’s what we said the prophets did: caught the will of God and then prayed for it to come. Let’s do that. Let’s determine to be part of His will – to watch for it, to wait for it, to sense it, to pray it in, to catch an understanding of the part we are to play when it is fulfilled, and may He be glorified in all we do and say. Amen. 

25. Eyes to See

“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 25. Eyes to See

2 Kings 6:17 Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.”

Spiritual sight is a strange thing. I think it grows. It is not natural and so perhaps Elisha’s prayer is one that we all need, “that we may see.”  Ordinary sight is something I suspect most of us take for granted. Whether we wear glasses, contact lenses, or nothing, ‘seeing’ is something most of us take for granted – until it is not there. We want to see, we want to see well; in fact seeing well is something we in the West at least consider an essential. Like many children as I grew it become obvious I wouldn’t see the board in the classroom unless I sat at the front. I was taken to an optician. Today they might be called an ophthalmologist or optometrist. 

In the following years I had various pairs of glasses (spectacles) because eyes change, and then one day I noticed a black area in my sight. I left it a couple of days, mentioned it to my wife who insisted I ring the doctor. When I told the receptionist my symptoms, she had me in the surgery within the hour. Within two minutes the doctor was on to the hospital and a few hours later I was going through a series of nurse – doctor – surgeon, and was told I had a torn retina. When I told them it had been like it for three days, eyebrows lifted in each case and the surgeon eventually told me, “In such cases we like to see the person within hours otherwise you might lose your sight in that eye completely!” He operated within the hour. A boring hour, (the operation is utterly boring as you feel nothing and see nothing while they work), later with a patch over the eye for the next twenty-four hours, instructions were given and to cut a long story short, several months later, a cataract was removed from each eye (cataracts often grow as a result of such an operation) and I had near perfect sight. No glasses needed except for close-up reading, for the first time in over fifty years!  Oh yes, we want our sight!  And the wonder of the day is that modern medicine can help us have that. Thank you Lord for that provision.

So why, I wonder, when we hold such store in having good natural sight, do we who are believers not hold the same store in having good spiritual sight? Is it simply because we don’t think about it, or our Sunday preacher never speaks about it? The thing is that when we have spiritual sight, it sheds a whole new perspective on the reality of the world around us.

The story of Dothan being besieged and the panic raised in Elisha’s servant is great – or at least it is when God opens his eyes to see the spiritual reality – a city surrounded not only by enemy soldiers but by the hosts of heaven, ready to blind them at God’s instructions and Elisha’s bidding. Brilliant! We may not be into angels (why not?) but dare we pray and ask the Lord to open our eyes to see the spiritual realities surrounding us? Of course there will be the ongoing prayer, “Lord, what do you want me to do with this revelation?” Yes, that’s the tricky bit!

The psalmist paves the way for us in this: Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law,” (Psa 119:18) which I suggest is a pretty good prayer when we approach His word, the Bible. What are we asking? Lord please allow me to see the wonder of your word, to realise its import, to see the meaning beyond mere words, to be taught by it, challenged by it, built up by it. Spiritual sight allows the word of God to come alive. If a preacher can’t see God’s word as that, they should not be preaching. I remember that old preacher from the mid-part of the 20th century, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who had such a heart for God’s word that in every sermon he seemed to convey that this was THE most important part of the Bible – oh yes, every verse. 

There was a tragic, but disciplinary, episode in Scripture then King David, fleeing from the uprising of his rebellious son, Absalom, said to Zadok the priest, “Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again.” (2 Sam 15:25) David, under the discipline of God for his past recent sin with Bathsheba, knew that the ark of God ought to be in the Tabernacle in Jerusalem, not on the run with him. He had right spiritual vision which enabled him to know what is right and, at the same time, create vision for the future, a day when he might be allowed to return.  Spiritual sight involves knowing the good and acceptable will of God and at the same time, seeing the potential for tomorrow.

So when we watch and wait, can we be established by vision that is made clear by knowing the will of God, and can our faith be enlarged to see the days ahead. Is the Lord coming? Are there signs of His activity, is there a small cloud, the size of a man’s hand? But then there is the main teaching from the story about Dothan. Do we understand that we exist in a material AND spiritual world? Paul’s teaching in Eph 6 is all about spiritual warfare that understands there is an enemy, there are powers and principalities (read Dan 10) and part of our role in all this is to be spiritually discerning. Various of the gifts of the Spirit are about ‘seeing’: wisdom, knowledge, faith, prophecy and discernment of spirits. (1 Cor 12:8-10) Jesus exhibited all of them and they are now available to us by his Spirit. Eyes to ‘see’? May it be so. 

24. Seek Life

“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 24. Seek Life!

Lk 9:60  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

I have just been talking with my wife about priorities in life. She had a question about eternal life. We talked and pondered. How we view our lives determines our priorities in this day. Some suggest we live this day as if it were our last, that we consider it very precious and special, and in one sense that is true, but there is another sense, that today is one of the days of my life that stretch into a distance without end – it is an eternal distance. So in that sense, it is a gift of God, bought by Jesus, empowered by the Spirit, lived to the glory of the Father, planned from before the foundation of the world. It is one day of the jigsaw puzzle of days that make up the big picture that, in eternity, will be seen to be ‘my life’. Yes, it is a special day because when one piece of the puzzle is missing, the puzzle picture is incomplete, unfinished.

I’m sure somewhere in past meditations I have referred to the butterfly effect or chaos theory, that a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world can bring about big effects on the other side of the world, or so the theory says. But the truth us that whatever happens in ‘today’ will bring about change either in me or in someone else. Even my talking with my wife a few minutes ago, changes her and changes me.  Our clearing our thinking adds to our faith, our assurance, we’re just a tiny bit stronger than we were before that conversation. Feeding our minds and our spirits is as important as feeding our bodies. It all contributes to the bigger picture.

And at that point we find ourselves with a two-sided approach to ‘today’. On one side there is a very contented feeling, that says I am in the Plan, being led by God, with God providing for me, and so when the apostle Paul so often wrote words like “grace and peace be yours”, there is a hidden implication that grace, which is the sum of all of His resources that He has made available to me, will mean that I have such a sense of provision and blessedness, that peace naturally flows. Taking hold of grace brings peace and peace breeds contentment. So on one side of the coin there is a wonderful contentment that I am living in the plan and provision and protection of the Lord.

But the other side of the coin has the questions, are there things I could be doing to share this wonderful thing (“This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.”  2 Kings 7:9), or are there things I could be doing to enhance this wonderful thing, this ‘eternal’ life, this particular day, what does God want for me in this day, beyond what I see at the present? Or perhaps, how does this day, this one particular piece of the puzzle fit into the big picture? Will this day complete a small part of the big picture? If you do puzzles you may know that sometimes there are the mundane bits – filling in the sky that appears almost all the same – but then there are specific bits that the single piece in your hand makes complete, like a boat or a building or a bridge, say. Will today be one of those days or is it a ‘sky-piece’ day, not special on its own but essential to complete the picture? However it is, it is a significant day when it is God’s ‘picture’, and that makes all the difference.

Our starter verse, “Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” fits in to all this. At first sight this may appear rather lacking in compassion but when you expand it, you see various other things: there are plenty of others who can make the funeral arrangements while you are with me elsewhere, is what he is saying, leave those who are concerned with dead things of the world to their own devices, you focus on bringing life. However we may put it – and the Message puts it, “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!” – it is a call to focus, not on the world, but on Jesus’ will and goals. Continuing to watch and wait must have that at its ongoing heart. Hold the ideas we shared before, of today be one small piece in the bigger puzzle picture and see the value of today as part of that, but then ponder on the distractions of life that may get in the way of the important issues of life. 2020 and 2021, the years of the Covid-19 Pandemic, have been like that. They can appear as distractions or even hindrances to the main job of just getting on with life, or they can be seen as pieces of the big puzzle-picture we hadn’t realized were there, part of it. That’s the thing about the big picture, we can’t see it all from the vantage point of ‘today’. We didn’t see this dark cloud or thick mist, that appeared on the picture, but it is now there and obvious. But instead of a distraction was it a learning time, a time of focusing much more clearly the important issues of life? Is Jesus, in our verse, saying ignore and forget all the grieving people of the world? Definitely not, but he is saying that there IS something more important than our personal losses, the deaths of the individuals of our lives. It is where have those loved ones gone, where will you go, where will I go when we ‘die’? Will death be the end or does the big picture continue on and on so, in fact, rather that it being like a single oblong cardboard picture, it is more like a picture on canvas that is being unrolled like the scroll in the hands of the Lamb? (Rev 5) These words of Jesus challenge us to think about our priorities and them being seen in the light of the possibility of eternity with him. Let’s do that.  

23. Use it!

“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 23. Use it!

Lk 12:18 I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones.”

In an earlier study we considered the problem of not using the ‘talents’ that the Lord has given us, but there is also the danger that having been given and having used and having been fruitful, we call it a day and stop there. The kingdom of God is never about stopping – except when the Lord says so. I do believe that sometimes the Lord gifts us for a season and then asks us to put the gift down and move on. Philip the evangelist, as we tend to call him, was like this. He had been one of the ones who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem where he had been called to be a deacon (Acts 6:5), then Stephen had spoken out (Acts 7) and his stoning seemed to release a wave of persecution with Saul at its head imprisoning the Christian believers (Acts 8:3). So many of the believers, including this little deacon, fled the city and going north Philip ends up in a Samaritan city (Acts 8:5) where he shared about Jesus.

I suspect it was to his surprise, and certainly joy, that many believed, and he found himself with an amazing signs and wonders gospel ministry (v.7). So deacon (season 1) to super-evangelist (season 2). After Peter & John had come to support and accredit him, and then return to Jerusalem, when Philip might be excused for thinking that it was back to business, an angel turns up and tells him to leave all this and “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (v.26) I don’t know of you have heard the expression, “the whole thing went south.” As on a map it means ‘going down’ badly! When the stock market is ‘going south’ you know it’s time to sell your shares quickly. But not only is he ‘going south’ as far as his present ministry, he’s now called to walk a ‘desert road’. The thing about such roads is that they are not heavily populated – and he’s now an evangelist who needs people, but that ‘season’ is coming to an end for the moment at least. He’s not told why he’s got to go, but he goes and then he comes across a high official from Ethiopia. (season 3) To cut a longer story short, he leads the man to Christ and the gospel is now being taken into high places in Africa. Who saw that coming? The Lord of course! When the man is about to leave, the Spirit catches Philip up and returns him to his next season of evangelizing (v.39,40).

But what has all this got to do with our starter verse. Well I recounted the story of Philip because his story is how it is supposed to be – us being led by the Lord (whether through His word, by the Spirit or by angels) from one place of fruitfulness to another, never considering we have arrived or even perhaps, retired. Just as an aside for older people, I love Psa 92:12-15 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” That’s me and I pray daily, “Lord, please use me today.” We may not as physically able as we once were but that should not hinder our mind or our voice or our pen! ‘Retirement’ just means moving on into the next season of fruitfulness.

But back to our starter verse: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones.”  The next verse shows what is really behind his intent: “And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  There are always three danger when you have been successful. First, the is the danger of wanting to hang on to what comes, what we’ve achieved. Second, there can be the tendency to be proud of what we’ve got and achieved and ‘they’ haven’t! Third, there is the danger of feeling, “I’ve done what I was called to do, that’s it, now I can relax and rest.” Philip’s story reveals the error in that.

There seems to be that combination of that in the farmer in Jesus’ parable. But in the kingdom of God the teaching is, use what you’ve got, or lose it, or give it away to bless others, or lose it. Even more, as Philip shows, the Lord wants our continuing availability – maybe changed because of age – so He can continue to use us and make us fruitful in whatever season we find ourselves. So if we’re still watching and waiting on God, how can we give away what we find ourselves with? If we have revelation – share it. If we’ve been encouraged, encouraged someone else. If we’ve received faith in prayer, how does the Lord want to extend our praying? Maybe the starting point is to ask, what have I received and then, Lord, how can I give it away? (Jas 1:5) Or in those words so often found on the lips of the President of the United States in the series ‘The West Wing’, “Right, what’s next?” Today’s success, today’s blessing, today’s fruitfulness does not mean we just sit back to the sound of applause from heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Mt 25:21) In one sense, the attitude, “‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty,’” (Lk 17:10) is a good one for the children of God to hold on to, as they prepare themselves for ‘the next thing’. 

22. Watching with Expectation

“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 22. Watching with Expectation

1 Kings 18:44 A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”

We have commented before in these meditations that shear optimism can be misleading in the Christian faith. Optimism is having a positive hope or confidence in whatever is ahead. Optimism does not occur in the Bible but hope certainly does. Biblical hope is the assurance of the future working out well according to God’s design and will. Optimism is usually defined as a mental attitude while Christian hope is built on the word of God, the work of Christ on the Cross and the applied working of the Holy Spirit. Optimism can just be ‘a feeling’ that all will work out well. Faith, on the other hand, believes that it will work out well when God says it will. Hope is positive trust in the future because God has said this is what will be. Optimism is thus often godless, not anti-God, just lacking God’s input, and that is when it is dangerous.

For those who are God’s children, God’s servants, those perhaps who have determined to stand on the ramparts and watch and wait, there is another aspect to be noted, again we have referred to before, that of the prompting Holy Spirit. We said just now that faith is about believing because God has spoken, and hope is trust because God has spoken, but there is an in-between experience when we are serving God, have been flowing in His Spirit, but are now waiting for His next move – which we are sure is coming, but not sure when. We are writing this particular series and encouraging this watching and waiting attitude because we sense in heaven they are getting ready to do something new – perhaps revival that hits a nation (or many nations) or renewal that reinvigorates the church to then impact the world. But we don’t know which or when. Various hearts around the world have over the past two years or so, been expressing this same thing. That phrase from Isaiah 40, “Prepare the way of the Lord” has been ringing loud and clear for those who have ears to hear. 

We find this same expectancy in one of God’s particularly obvious prophets. This was Elijah after having beaten all the prophets of Baal, and he goes up on the mountain and expectantly prays for rain. (see v.42). So expectant is he of God’s answer, he sends his servant seven times to look for clouds. Eventually he spots this little cloud. That’s enough! Tell Ahab to get home quickly before he gets drowned in the downpour! That is faith. That is a small answer that signals the big answer. That very small cloud was sufficient for the Spirit to confirm within him that the heavy rain was coming.

So the question for today perhaps should be, can we see “a small cloud”, an indicator of things to come, that may spur us into action as Elijah was. There is no point seeing the small cloud if we don’t take any notice of it.

Even Jesus spoke about learning to take note of the signs: The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (Mt 16:1-3) It is John’s Gospel that speaks so much about what Jesus did as ‘signs’ (Jn 2:11,23, 3:2, 6:2, 7:31, 9:16, 11:47,12:18,37, 20:30) but the amazing thing is that, despite him doing what were very obvious miracles, still the hard-hearted opposition in the form of the Scribes, Pharisees, priests, and traditional Jews, still demanded, What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” (2:18) and “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do” (6:30)

The warning that comes from this is that is that people who zealously pursue ‘religion’ can be absolutely blind to the workings of God. Having lived through and experienced the so-called ‘Toronto Blessing’ at the end of the last century, having witnessed and experienced the amazing power of God that was transforming Christian lives and creating a hunger for God, for His word and for prayer in ways I had never seen before, I am aware, having watched the observers who came and sat in our congregation as a group, sitting like a little black cloud of judgmental condemnation but refusing to let God touch and transform them, it is so easy to see the ‘signs’ and yet write them off.

As we watch and wait on the Lord today, will our hearts be open to see or hear or catch the first signs of what may be the equivalent to a “cloud as small as a man’s hand” that is the initial stirring of His Spirit. On one hand there is in the Christian world a gullibility to accepting strange, off the rails, interpretations of Scripture while on the other hand, the other extreme is refusing to hear, see, sense the prompting of the Spirit. Sometimes God does things that we don’t find in Scripture – as we saw in the Toronto Blessing – but He never goes directly against what He has declared in His word. That must always be how we check. But miracles that turn people to God, as witnessed through Jesus, are commonplace. They may be very small ones, simple little examples of God turning up and moving, but nevertheless, if they are things that turn our hearts to Him, be open! So, have you heard something small from God recently about what He is going to do? Have you seen small signs of His preparatory activity? Get yourself prepared then for what is coming. Yes? Yes!!!!!  

21. Little Beginnings, Big Endings

“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 21. Little Beginnings, Big Endings

Zech 4:10   Who dares despise the day of small things?”

“I’m not very good at prayer!” “I’m rubbish at sharing the gospel.” “I wouldn’t know how to pray over people.” “I’m just ….” And so it goes on, the negatives that the enemy whispers into our minds that we hear as our self-deprecation. Or maybe when you are reading His word, the enemy leans over your shoulder and whispers, “Abram, now there was a man of faith… no like you.” Or maybe, “Wasn’t Moses amazing facing the wrath of Pharaoh.. but you… you wouldn’t stand up for anything!” Or maybe it was, “David and his sling bringing down Goliath…. you’d run a mile if a giant came after you.” And so it goes on, more and more confirmation that you are just…..  That word ‘just’ is a curse. Do you realise that? It limits us and demeans whatever we are.

You know these words of our starter verse really need thinking about. We read about Zechariah in the historical records of that time, So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. (Ezra 6:16) and in the beginning of his own book, we read, “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo.” (Zech 1:1) He was a guy who hung around in the background, so to speak, with Haggai. Haggai was more direct and specific encouraging those who were being discouraged during the rebuilding of the temple. Zechariah did the same thing but suddenly found his ‘visions’ were on a bigger scale, speaking to bigger issues. 

When we come to our verse above, we find the Message version carries on: They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!”  They had laid the foundation and had been getting lots of bad press from some of the local non-Jews and that had been discouraging. Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (Ezra 4:4,5) Then up step the two prophets: “Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.” (Ezra 5:1,2) Excellent! And so it continued – see 6:16 above – the rebuilding continuing with the enabling and encouraging of these two men. The word of God released the rebuilding and helped maintain the rebuilding.

Clearly one of the discouragements, either from the enemy or in their minds was, “This foundation is all very well, but rebuilding a big temple is a big work, we’ll probably never manage it, it will take forever.” At which point the Lord speaks through Zechariah, “Don’t despise the day of small things, or small beginnings,” and implied, “that’s just the start.”

Whatever you and I are into, it’s just only part of the way along the path the Lord is taking us. You may have only recently started to watch and wait, so it is early days, and maybe you’ve been hearing the discouraging whispers, “This is going nowhere, give up now. Read your Bible a bit if you have to but forget all this nonsense about waiting on the Lord.” Recognise where that comes from and don’t despise or let him despise your small beginnings. I think I’ve come across somewhere someone saying, ‘the only way you can get prayer wrong is by not praying’. I like that! Now this may apply to prayer, to may apply to any form of service you have before you. Maybe as you’ve started praying, you’ve caught a sense of the need of the Church today, and you’ve seen something of what could be. If we start rebuilding the kingdom and you only see small beginnings, don’t be put off because God intends to have a great ending! Put another way, get started, do the stuff God gives you that we’ve considered previously, and don’t think little of it. Don’t presuppose the outcome by a small beginning. We’ve seen that again and again over recent days.  Let Him build faith through His word within you and get ready to step out in faith more and more to achieve the goals on His heart, which are much greater than our own goals. But the important thing is not to let the enemy discourage you. Hey, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, [the ways of the world] but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.” (1 Sam 17:45,46) So back off” (Jas 4:7) 

20. Currency of the Kingdom

“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 20. Currency of the Kingdom

Acts 3:6 Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.”

I love Peter and John at the gate Beautiful. There’s a lame beggar there who wants money for a meal. Sorry mate, goes Peter, we don’t do money but will healing do instead? Awesome!  Can we pray for that sort of currency as we wait and pray? Isn’t that what Jesus said he wanted for us? (see Jn 14:12) And as we don’t see it in church today, isn’t it about time we started jumping up and down in prayer in frustration and point out to the Lord – just like Moses did (Ex 32:12) and Joshua did (Josh 7:9) – that His reputation is taking a beating because of us and we’d like to change that? Dare we pray that, because if He hears and answers, we’re going to be the first ones changed!

OK, let’s think about this some more. We’ve pondered the question of God to Moses – “what is that in your hand” and concluded that often the best answer is, “Nothing Lord, but I am open to you for whatever you might want to do with them.” We pondered on the thoughts of living in expectation of fruitfulness or, to put it another way, how God can take the little we have in our hands and multiply it. But there is a common attitude so often found in ‘good Christians’ which I think can get in the way: what good can I do in the world today? At its heart it is goodwill but the problem can be twofold: first, it may not be what God wants to expend our energy on and, second, it may be nowhere big enough to match what God wants to do with your life and mine.

Transposing the Peter & John incident at the Gate Beautiful into our own days, if we came across a lame beggar we might, if we could get beyond our own self concern, think about setting up a charity to help lame beggars – or whoever appears a needy person before us. Now before I move on I must insert a recognition here of the teaching about caring for those who are needy: If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person,” (1 Jn 3:17) and so I am not going to advocate being like the Pharisees who failed to help needy parents for apparently spiritual reasons (Mk 7:11). No, there may be times when the Lord will be challenging us on bringing material or financial help, and that is very right. But I wonder about the times where we miss bringing about a major transformation in the world because our intervention was only at a surface level and never went to the heart of the problem.

So if we associate ourselves for a moment with Peter and John, recognising what we have been saying, we may start off legitimately (because it is inadequate) with, “Silver and gold I do not have,” but what is it that might be the currency of the kingdom that the Lord does want to bless this person with? As we pray, are our hearts open to the answers the Lord may want to bring to us as we watch and wait for Him to come, perhaps first as we’ve considered before, in expressions of Him or small activities of Him that will pave the way for His greater coming.

The first of these – and don’t take it for granted – is love. Love is the primary currency of the kingdom (Jn 3:16). If we say we have been filled with the Spirit, remember He IS love (1 Jn 4:8,16). When someone is filled with the Spirit (as we’re instructed to be – Eph 5:18), my first memory of it and what I have observed in others, is that it is first seen in an overwhelming sense of love and joy. Maybe we need to pray that we be filled again, to get us back into the right place to be God’s answer to His lost world – children of God filled with love – for Him and for those we encounter. When we encounter need, love is manifested in the form of compassion (e.g. Mt 9:36, 14:14, 20:34) and compassion always energizes into action.

The second of these currencies of the kingdom is truth. Now truth without love tends to be harsh, callous, and judgmental, which is why we need to first be filled with love. But very often, before a person can be changed, they need to be confronted with the truth. Now realise this is only a stage and if it is left as that, it can be hurtful and harmful. But truth that comes embraced in love (Eph 4:15) becomes acceptable. It may be that our friend’s problem is very simply they don’t know Christ, and that needs changing. It may be they need to face something they have done which was wrong, i.e. they need to repent. It may be they have taken on a wrong attitude – e.g. unforgiveness – and that needs changing.

Linked to this, the third of these currencies of the kingdom is wisdom. We, or they, may need help from heaven in the form of wisdom, the knowledge of ‘how to’. It may be what course of action needs to be taken to bring change. It may be that simple. It may involve a course of action to be followed in respect of family, individuals, work etc. each which may bring healing or reconciliation or right order.

The fourth of these currencies of the kingdom is power, which is what we see Peter and John administering. Now many of us are very wary about this. I’m not an apostle, we say, so I don’t have that sort of power. Well no, none of us do actually, only Jesus has but when he said, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing,” (Jn 14:12) that opens the door of faith that says when I sense the prompting of the Spirit, as Peter and John obviously did, that’s the sign that Jesus wants to step in and release his power as you pray. So all that’s needed is a listening ear (hence watching and waiting) and a willingness to respond to that prompting and let him bring that healing etc. So, yes, indeed, silver and gold I may have none, but I have a link to One who has unlimited resources for any and every situation – as he wants. Result? Transformation.   

19. Kingdom Maths

“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 19. Kingdom Maths

Mt 25:29 whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.”

In the spiritual world, as we saw yesterday, potential is enormous – IF only we watch and pray and listen and then respond. I often ponder, supposing someone who read these daily jottings, passes them onto a friend and that friend gets spoken to and goes on to become another apostle Paul, Billy Graham or the like. Just one little word has the possibility in the hands of the Holy Spirit to transform the world. Start with a little word you receive when praying, pass it on as God directs and then watch Him give more and add to it and transform a life. Yes, take whatever He gives you and expect an abundance outcome. He who uses a few loaves and fishes to feed thousands …. well what could he do with our small offering?

It sounds so simple and I suspect that for most of the time most of us don’t live with the thought of multiplication or growth or fruitfulness in the back of our mind, and yet so much of Jesus teaching points in that direction.   I am sure he didn’t let the large crowd follow him into a lonely place and then teach them until late in the day without realizing there would come a food problem. No, I am certain the feeding of the five thousand then the four thousand were set-ups, designed to let him show his disciples what can happen in the kingdom of God: five loaves + two small fishing + the blessing of God = a large crowd of well satisfied people. In our lives, when friends from a distance suddenly turn up, an almost empty fridge is a disaster. Not for Jesus – 5+2=5000.  Interesting maths!

I’ve been aware of the Lord doing this sort of stuff a few times. Many years ago after finishing a two week’s children’s mission, we drove across Wales in the evening on an empty petrol tank when all the few garages were shut! We prayed our way across the province. Typically, a week later I was driving in London on an almost empty petrol tank and unbelief set in and I thought, “I expect the gauge is just malfunctioning that enabled us to get across Wales last week. I stalled and came to a halt right outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London. Seriously embarrassing. I also repented of my unbelief. When you are serving God He does sometimes turn up with the miraculous.

I also remember an occasion when we were doing an outreach event and the drink barrel kept on flowing and supplied about four times as many people as it should have done. Or there was the year of our younger son’s wedding we were helping pay for and when I looked at our bank statements at the beginning of the year I knew we couldn’t afford to help, but it felt the right thing so we did, and paid out one bill after another throughout the next six months and I cannot explain it but when I checked the statements later in the year, I was expecting us to be in the red and have an overdraft, but no, comfortably in the black. I cannot explain it.

So I guess this verse, whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance,” doesn’t have some weird spiritual meaning, but can have very simple and straightforward and practical outworking. Yesterday we mentioned the widow who had a small amount of oil and when she obeyed Elisha and started pouring it out, it kept on pouring. She actually had some oil to start with. The disciples actually had five loaves and two fish to start with.

Again yesterday I suggested in prayer, you may just have a few words, but as you pour them out before the Lord, to your surprise they just keep flowing and revelation comes, but you’ve got the few words to start with and you’ve got to pour them out before the flow will come. What I’ve also found is that when you open your Bible and browse a few words with little understanding, if you will but take the time to watch and wait, the Holy Spirit delights in shining on them and making them come alive by adding understanding and further insights. But you have to start with a few words and take the time. I’ve watched the same thing, as I hinted at yesterday, when someone asks us to pray for their healing. You start with just a few words, perhaps only doing it because you don’t want them to feel rejected by you, and then as you start pouring the words out hesitantly before the Lord, they start flowing more easily, enabled by verses that just come to mind, pictures formed in your mind, and faith grows and the words flow and somehow, amazingly you hear such words coming as, “Wow, that’s incredible, I feel better.” Not so incredible when God is on the case.  

I’ve also found the same thing with personal prophecy. I think one of my most fun memories was being asked to speak to a youth group. I used to ‘do’ youth in my younger days but wasn’t feeling so confident now. But I was abroad and the youth leaders asked me to talk to their youth group. There must have about thirty of them, typical teens, a mix of enthusiasm and wondering why they were there. I was told it was a very mixed group so after I shared how God wants to do more in our lives, I addressed those who were believers and said if what I said resonated with them, would they like me to pray for them? About half the group stepped forward. I had only expected about four. But I started and words seemed to come and eventually got to the end of the line and before I knew what I was doing, I found myself addressing the others, “Maybe there might be one or two more of you who would like me to pray for you.” The entire rest of the group stepped forward. Youth!   Afterwards two of this latter group of ‘unbelieving teens’ button-holed me. “Hey who told you all about us like that?” Er ….. God? Open your heart, watch and wait and pour out the little you have – and watch what He provides. 

18. Handling the Riches

“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 18. Handling the Riches

Mt 25:15  To one he gave five bags of gold [or five talents], to another two bags, and to another one bag.”

Jesus’ parable of the talents that modern versions change to bags, has a footnote that says it would take an ordinary labourer about 20 years to earn a talent of gold. So this employer gives out mega-bucks! Enough for this first one to become a hedge-fund manager, the second to become a property developer and the third … well choose what you want to do, it’s a lot! If Bill Gates said, “Here’s a hundred million to use for good, what would you do? I suggest pray for wisdom. It doesn’t matter what God gives each of us, it’s staggeringly more than we realise and we still need to pray, a) to understand how much it is, b) how much you could achieve and c) how you need to go about it! Ponder that if prayer is your ‘talent’ or bag of gold to be used!

But what if we don’t feel prayer warriors? I don’t. I’m a pygmy in comparison to some of the people – mostly women – I’ve encountered along the way who seem to have prayer and intercessions weaved through their very beings so it is the most natural thing to do. Yes, I have been in, and led prayer meetings galore in the days gone by and relished in the wonder of praying in the Lord’s presence, and yes there have been times when prayer has felt like the air we breath – just natural. But it’s not like that most of the time. And yet there are times when someone with a need crosses my path and suddenly it seems like I am anointed with faith as I pray over them in ways that later I wonder about – where did all that come from? It is like there is this spring that just sometimes wells up and pours forth amazingly or, to use a different analogy, there is a room full of amazing resources where, when there is a crisis in someone else’s life, I go there and find what’s needed – though it isn’t like that most of the time, just the times, it seems, when He sees this is what is needed and releases it to me.

So you don’t feel a prayer giant or an intercessory hero, but the truth is that the resources are there, probably infinitely greater than we realise most of the time. Jesus said, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life,” (Jn 4:14) and “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit.” (Jn 7:38,39) Then of course there was that picture that Ezekiel had, of a river flowing out from the temple, a river that flowed deeper and deeper the further it got from the temple, bringing life to the land where it flowed (Ezek 47).

Now all of these verses point to the same thing: there is a resource that God provides that does not depend on us, it depends on Him. It is His Holy Spirit, this resource, and because He is eternal there no end to this supply. Now when we read Jesus’ parable from which we get our starter verse, we tend to see these resources as one lump sum, and that’s how it is in the parable – this rich man with his servants, depicting God with us – he hands out these bags of gold as this version puts it, so there you are with this single bag (?) or pile of bags at your feet for you to use. And that’s true, this is what He does, give us these ‘talents’, these resources which He expects us to use. But the water pictures add another dimension to our understanding, that the resources He hands to us, are just the start, they come from a ‘spring’ or a ‘river’ and both suggest ongoing volumes of supply.

So here we are, ‘standing on the ramparts’, or sitting in our quiet place, and some days we wonder what we are doing. After a bad night’s sleep, or some family mishap occurring, we feel less than wonderful. It’s a grey day, so different from the previous day when it was pure blue sky and the sun had shone and transformed the world into beautiful colours. And we stand or sit there feeling impotent and incompetent. The enemy reminds us of the healing we are not seeing, the family members who appear to remain impervious to the Lord, the difficult circumstances that don’t seem to get any easier with the passing of days.

And then the still small voice from heaven whispers, “What have you got there?” Just five small loaves and a couple of fishes that are nowhere near enough for what is needed, (Mt 14:17) or “nothing at all except a small jar of oil.” (2 Kings 4:2) He blesses it and so it starts, a revelation of a resource that cannot be seen with the natural eye, a resource that will go on and on until the need is fully met with some left over. So as you sit or stand there feeling impotent and incompetent, you sit in silence and He fills it with His presence, you utter a word and to your surprise another follows it, and another and another and the river is flowing. You think, I don’t know what to say to my unsaved loved one, but as you become sensitive to Him, you finds words flowing. They ask you to pray and you wonder what. You start on familiar ground, that God loves this person, and then suddenly you start seeing pictures, ‘words’ start coming, verses spring to mind and suddenly the river is flowing. The resource is there, enormous, enough to make you a hedge-fund manager or real estate manager, and all you’ve got to do is be available and open and let it flow, which is what it will do once you start.  

17. Empty Hands

“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 17. Empty Hands

Ex 4:2  “What is that in your hand?”

How many sermons have you heard on this verse? It comes from that famous conversation between the Lord and Moses at the burning bush. Moses has covered the intellectual bases with his questions and come to the point where he basically says, what if they just won’t listen to me or believe me? God’s answer is not to give him further intellectual ammunition, but instead He is going to do something miraculous with Moses’ staff, so He asks him to identify what it is he is holding.

Now when we take this verse, it doesn’t make it any the less poignant but in respect of prayer and watching and waiting it changes slightly. In respect of prayer, I believe my initial answer is, “Nothing Lord, I come with empty hands. Of myself I have nothing meaningful to contribute to this conversation. Before I utter a word, you know what it’s going to be. I know you changed Moses’ staff into a snake, but I don’t know what you want to transform in me as I come to you. I realise meaningful prayer is that inspired by you (Eph 6:18) so I need you to direct my eyes and open my ears and generally inspire me. If you don’t, I might as well give up for all I have is words. As I lift my hands to praise you (Psa 134:2), see them empty and clean – and available.”

Sometimes that honesty and integrity is the best we can hope for. Lord, I’ve got nothing. I’m empty, I recognise that all my endeavours, as good as they were at the time, leave me today with nothing. There is a precious reality here that visionaries need to be aware of. I have testified previously of the many and varied experiences that I have had in life. I have no question that the hand of the Lord was on me, drew me to Himself, saved me, filled me, used me, took me abroad, gave me experiences I had never dreamed of.

Yes, I have seen people saved, healed, spoken to prophetically but as far as my life and my experiences today are concerned, this is a new day and in the same way that the manna in the wilderness only lasted for one day except the day before the sabbath, so all those past experiences count for little because today I have to know Him afresh, today I have to receive from Him afresh, receive grace, receive guidance, receive protection for this is ‘the Day of the Lord’, a new day that has never been before, and the grace I need for today is to meet the needs of this day, not yesterday or tomorrow, but this day.

So I come with open, empty hands – and memories. Oh yes, don’t hear me saying the past was a waste, it wasn’t. Don’t hear me say that all those memories, all those experiences were a waste, they weren’t, they were the gift of the Lord on those days and now today they are a resource that I can use to remind myself of His goodness. When we pray, we thank, not only for today but all the good yesterdays, the days when He turned up with His grace and His guidance and His protection.

Isaiah cried, “To the Law and the testimony.” (Isa 8:20 AV) In Revelation 12 John heard of the believers, They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Rev 12:11) Testimony – bearing witness to what God has done – is good. It strengthens our resolve, helps us stand in the face of the lies of the enemy, and provides food for thought for the seeker. BUT! But testimony, as good as it is, is not what holds me, sustains me, guides and directs me, empowers me, today. It is Him. We’ve said it before and we’ll no doubt say it again.

I recently came across a beautiful little comment in one of my devotional readings. It was about a group of nuns and the writer wrote, “Their vocation is not their career. Their vocation is Jesus. And the different jobs and roles along the way are simply assignments, one not necessarily more important than the others. Each assignment is merely an opportunity for them to say yes to him.” Isn’t that lovely. Jesus is their central focus and everything else flows from that. So, perhaps like them, here I stand before Him today, with empty hands and I ask Him to put them to whatever use He can today.

But then I came across another comment about the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday which I also found helpful: “Holy Saturday seems to describe the place in which many of us live our lives waiting for God to speak. We know that Jesus died for us yesterday. We trust that there may be miracles tomorrow. But what of today, the eternal Sabbath when heaven is silent?” The focus of that comment was on the silence of the Saturday and all the wonderings that must have been in the minds of the disciples, but it is also a good picture of what each day is really like. As we’ve been saying, we have the memories of the yesterdays that were so wonderful, and perhaps also something similar to the memory of yesterday that was Good Friday and all its awfulness, and we wonder about what will come tomorrow. But tomorrow is not the issue, today is. How we handle today. Will we grab for things all around ourselves, put things into our hands that will make us busy, or will we stand before the Lord with open, empty hands and say, Lord, will you show me what these hands should be doing today, will you equip me with the ‘tools’ I will need for this day? Perhaps there are things we know we’ve got to be doing – looking after the family, performing the job, so it’s not a ‘blank-sheet day’. So then it becomes, “Lord, will you bless these hands that they may bless others.” Yes?