Lessons in Growth Meditations: 30. The Arrival of ‘Revelation’
1 Cor 14:3 (Msg) when you proclaim his truth in everyday speech, you’re letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience his presence with you.
(NIV) the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.
Different Responses: Moving into these practical outworkings of this picture of us being seated with Christ in the heavenly places to reign with him in bringing in the kingdom of God on earth, will almost certainly mean that a number will be feeling uncomfortable and even defensive because it transforms our concept of ‘church’ from a place where we go every Sunday and join in some rituals, sing some songs and listen to some teaching somehow connected to the Bible, to a living body that is an expression of the Son of God who actively speaks and moves in this world today. If you see Christ as anything less than this, I have to very gently suggest to you that you have an inadequate understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what Christianity is all about.
God on our case: In yesterday’s study we went from principles to practicalities and I suggested a very simple faith model example that allows Jesus to move in and through His body when they gather together. Because it is such a simple picture and yet a challenging one, perhaps we need to briefly look again at its significance. Back in Study no.26, ‘The Caring Church’, we observed two crucial things: the fact that as humans we still have needs to be met and, second, God is love and love delights to help, if I can put it as mundanely as that!
Start with the Bible: In the Evangelical wing of the church we have emphasised salvation through faith in Christ, the need to make a commitment, and the value of Bible teaching, and I would be the first to shout a loud ‘Amen!’ to all those three things, but then we stopped there. Indeed, some defensively then took on that ungodly and unbiblical stance that God is no longer the communicating God that we see throughout the Bible and everything we needed to hear was there in the finalised canon of Scripture. Yes, we do need to hear everything that we have in the final canon of Scripture, and I think you would agree that I am one of the foremost who value it so much I meditate on it every single morning, but as much as I do value it, I have to tell you that the life pivoting moments of my life have been when God has spoken directly to me. Yes, sometimes it has been when something in His word stood out so directly that it was clearly Him speaking to me, but there have been a number of other times when His word has come directly to me – and changed me!
Is it God? How do you know it is Him? First, it is in line with His written word. Second, it brings a sense of peace, of goodness and even worship. Third, it cuts across your existing train of thought in a way your natural mind would not have done. Now I am sure these three examples from long back, that I am going to give, are somewhere in the myriads of studies I have written but they have not appeared for a long time so bear repeating.
Conversation 1: When my daughter, our first-born, was just a couple of months old (forty years ago but it seems like yesterday it is so vivid still) she was in a crib in our room and as a new dad I crept into our bedroom one day and looked down at her. It was then a ‘conversation’ ensued (and I was a sufficiently young Christian as to just take it for what it seemed) when into my thinking came, and it came just like this:
“Son, what are you feeling for your daughter?”
“Oh Lord, I love her,” I thought back.
“What does she do?” That was a strange question. I paused and thought.
“Well, she cries a lot, she wakes us in the night, she’s always wanting feeding and she messes her nappies (diapers) and keeps on needing to be changed.”
“And you love her?
“Oh, yes Lord!”
Without a blink, “Because she’s mine!”
“And that, son, is why I love you, because you’re mine.”
End of conversation but I was never the same again.
Conversation number two (and there were others but this one stands out) came when I was preparing for a ministry trip to Malaysia. Now I had been several times before under someone else’s leadership, and each time, by way of preparation, we had prayed and fasted for ten days before we went. This time was my first time to lead a small team and although I didn’t impose those on the others who were young people, I had decided to do the usual ten days fast. The only problem was that ‘this voice’ had said, “Son, I do not want you to fast,” but I had rejected it as having come from the enemy, but the Lord is very gracious. There is nothing romantic about fasting, they are times of self-discipline, but I had previously got through the first three days without a problem. This time on the first morning, just a few hours from when there had not been breakfast or the customary cup of tea or coffee, I was literally rolling around the floor in agony and cried out to the Lord for His grace to cope. Back came the voice in my mind, quite clearly, “Son, I told you not to fast. Get up now and eat and I will bless your trip.” Chastened but still in agony, I got up and ate. I was fine. What is more the Lord blessed that trip and the subsequent one I did, doubly! I am not sure if I heard it, but I knew it: I didn’t need to try to twist the Lord’s arm to bless these ministry trips; He wanted to bless and use us more than I did!
Conversation number 3. I was reading a book and came to a bit where the author was writing about American TV evangelists who made big money, fail off the rails and so on, and I found myself thinking, “Lord, how can you use such people?” Now it was just a thought with, to my understanding, no significance or direction, but instantly I ‘heard’ back, and it came from beyond me, “The same reason I use you, son.” I sat bolt upright. Where did that come from? That didn’t sound good! But before I had time to think any more came the following: “Son, I use you, not because you are right but because you are available.” Again, I was never the same again.
When you hear it and learn to know it and know where it comes from, there is nothing so precious as the Father speaking directly to you. He knows me. He is here. He loves me. Yes, all this His written word tells me, but the ‘now-Presence’ is life changing in a way nothing else is. When the voice comes with ‘The Presence’ nothing is ever the same again. I remember another time, many years ago, when a group of us had been praying and fasting for the day, and The Presence had been very real. When we broke up and I returned to my home, after a little while I realised something strange: I was tip-toeing everywhere around my apartment; The Presence was still there. I have taken up my space but there is more to say, so I’ll continue it tomorrow.