Thursday, 22 March 2018

Empowered to speak

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said... Acts 4:8
Acts 3 and 4 are most obviously an account of the power to heal. But there is something else that struck me, that runs not just through these two chapters but the whole of the Acts narrative thus far...
The power to speak.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses. Acts 1:8
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak... Acts 2:4
Here again. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he spoke.
Being filled with the Spirit makes you speak. Jesus described receiving the Spirit, in John 7, as streams of living water. But it is interesting the direction he focused on. He didn't say receiving the Holy Spirit is like streams of living water flowing into your heart from above, but, "Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
The Spirit does not just give us supernatural words. Those are the spirit-filled utterances that most people think of. Jesus promised that he would give us powerful and appropriate words in our own language too...
And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11-12
I think the takeaway for today is pretty clear:
Be filled with the Spirit... and speak!

[Originally posted to Facebook 06/02/18]

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Unity and Anointing

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Acts 2:1
It strikes me that the first miracle on the day of Pentecost was not the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but the unity of the church!
Although Jesus after his resurrection was content to appear to different groups of his disciples at different times, it seems that when the Spirit was to be poured out from on high, God was waiting not just for the right date on the calendar, but the right expression of completeness and harmony on the earth.
There is something about unity on the earth that has always provoked a response from heaven. On occasion it is in the negative sense as at Babel. But most often it is as it says in Psalm 133: it commands his blessing.
Many in this day are looking to God for another great outpouring of his Spirit. I believe in the heart of God he is first looking for another great expression of unity in his people. He is longing to fulfil the great priestly prayer of his son, that we all might be one, just as he and the Father are one. It is this expression of unity that will provoke him to pour out a powerful anointing from on high, from the head to the corner of the robes, touching every part of his earthly body.
Make no mistake, this is still a great miracle. In some ways it is an even greater miracle than rushing winds, tongues of fire or supernatural languages. It cannot be achieved by the administration or natural efforts of man, but must be a work of the Holy Spirit. It's just we do not need to wait for another outpouring on high. The Spirit who will accomplish this already lives within us, as he does within all our brothers and sisters whom our common Father longs to unite us with.
Ezekiel first had to prophesy to the dry bones. They first had to come together, bone to bone, joint to joint. Then he could prophesy to the breath, and God poured out the Spirit from on high to raise them up as a mighty army.
So I believe it will be in these days.

[Originally posted to Facebook 05/02/18]

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Heaven and Earth

"Galilaeans, why stand looking into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into Heaven will come in just the same way as you have seen Him going into Heaven." Acts 1:11 (WNT)
Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, tells us that we are to fix our minds on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. It is interesting then that immediately after the ascension the disciples have an angelic visitation apparently telling them to do the opposite!
So which is it? Should we be focused on the heavenly realities where Christ is seated and with him our true identity and positioning, or on the earthly realities where there is still so much need for us to engage and continue the works that Jesus began.
To my mind, it is like asking which end of the battery most needs to be connected. The answer is of course both! You only get power when you have a connection between the two. So the most important one to focus on is the one that has come loose! We are not to be so taken up with the world and its activities that we forget our true identity and become no different, but neither are we to be so engaged with heaven that we forget we have been positioned down here for purpose!
Jesus told his disciples that he was going back to heaven to prepare a dwelling place for their coming. But that's not the end of the story, because after the resurrection they also learned that he was leaving them on earth to prepare a dwelling place for his coming!
If our eschatology is correct we will understand that these two events are actually one and the same! We are not waiting to be taken up to heaven, nor passively waiting for Jesus to return to earth. We are actively bringing forward the day when heaven and earth meet and the dwelling place of God and man becomes one.
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth... and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.'" Revelation 21:1,3

[Originally posted to Facebook 04/02/18] 

Monday, 19 March 2018

See the empty tomb!

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. John 20:1
I don't know if it ever occurred to me before, but it struck me this morning: the stone wasn't rolled away to let Jesus out, but to let the disciples in!
If Jesus, after his resurrection, could appear behind locked doors, and if he could pass through his grave clothes leaving them neatly folded where they lay, then surely he could have passed through the stone as well.
So the angelic moving of the stone is a divine invitation. An open door that beckons his followers to enter in and witness the evidence of the resurrection.
It seems the gospel of John ends with the same invitation which Jesus himself gave at its beginning: "Come and see!"

[Originally posted to Facebook 03/02/18]

Friday, 16 March 2018

Inner change

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17
We know that our righteousness and justification is on the basis of Christ's work alone, not our own works. But sanctification is the ongoing process by which we become more like God. It does not happen overnight when we get saved, but we must cooperate with the work of God's grace in our lives to allow ourselves to be conformed into his image.
However, many people get the process the wrong way round. They try to change their inner man by changing their outward habits. The pharisees were the classic example of this. They had many external rules an regulations which they thought if they followed would make them more holy!
Jesus said to them, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean." (Matthew 23:25-26)
True change has to come from the inside.
Trying to change yourself from the outside in is like pulling an elastic band out of shape. By the strength of your will you may manage it for a while, but eventually it is going to ping back into shape! Many people experience the same frustration when trying to change themselves by willpower alone! It's not meant to work that way. The outside will always conform to what is inside. Change your inner man, and the behaviour of the outer man will conform.
The way we change our inner man is to allow God's word of truth to do its work. Read it. Dwell on it. Meditate on it. Love it. Remember it. Speak about it. Then live it... out of the overflow of the heart.

[Originally posted to Facebook 02/02/18]

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Peace and Trouble

In me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. John 16:33
Trouble in this world and peace in Christ are not mutually exclusive. We are not meant to be blown to and fro from a state of peace at one moment to a state of trouble the next and then back again. No, even in the midst of trouble we can know and remain in his peace.
He is the rock upon which we stand firm even in the fiercest of storms.

[Originally posted to Facebook 30/01/18]

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Cleansing shears

Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. (John 15:2b-3 ESV)
Jesus makes a leap from talking about being pruned to being clean. In the Greek the word conveys both meanings. It is a cutting off what is corrupt but with the purpose that what remains might be pure.
No pruning comes without pain, but it is important that we understand that the pain is not the purpose, it is the purity. The natural response to pain is to recoil, but Jesus time and again in this passage tells us that we must remain.
We need to trust that the vinedresser is only cutting off that which we are better off without, and that the result will be a greater expression of his divine life and fruitfulness.

[Originally posted on Facebook 29/01/18]