Stand up!

So… in America, a coven of witches gathers publicly to place a hex on a public figure they don’t like. Without getting pulled into a political debate, I think most people would agree that to have a public meeting to curse someone, (as a display of their “religion” – for surely they worship someone?) has got to be looked upon as a hate crime, hasn’t it?

But then most people probably think it’s all just a puff of wind because witches are just fanciful (Disney!) imagination and have no powers to do harm – they’re good really aren’t they? And anyway, in this case, it’s just a way to get publicity and make a protest…

And that is the deception that is so prevalent in our society. Heaven and hell aren’t real; the devil isn’t real; witchcraft isn’t real; …and Jesus isn’t real.

What we believe as Christians is that Jesus IS real, he’s alive today and he is the ONLY way to the Father. The bible warns us in 1 Timothy 4:1

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”

Halloween will be upon us imminently. There’s no harm in trick or treat, they say. But if you don’t participate, you’re condemned as boring and miserable and can expect an egg on your window or something unsavoury through your letterbox. But it’s all just a bit of fun, isn’t it? You have to let the kids have fun! No! It’s opening a door to the darkness and giving the enemy a legal right to come in.

We are told to stand against the schemes of the enemy. And let’s face it, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll stand for anything!

WAKE UP CHURCH! “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

…And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Come and sit…

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Good old Martha. She’d opened her home to Jesus and all his disciples and wanted to make them feel welcome. I expect we’ve all done that – invited someone round on the spur of the moment. It seemed like such a good idea at the time, but then we start to worry… is it clean and tidy enough, what will they think, have I got enough food in, what if they don’t eat… (whatever it was you’d planned to make)? Worry, worry, worry!

So, you bustle about, being so busy (and possibly the teeniest bit self-righteous?) preparing everything, while someone else is enjoying your guest’s company – but, oh how you resent it! That’s what you’d really like to be doing… sitting, chatting, and not feeling stressed and cross! Mary, on the other hand, saw Jesus for who he was. She found rest in his presence. She recognised that Jesus had something she needed so she sat and focussed on him and listened intently to every word he said. I wonder which of them made Jesus feel more welcome?

Jesus gave to all who came to him, yet the more he gave, the more he still had within him to give. He said he had come, not to be served, but to serve. Often, we feel we have to give of ourselves all the time, to serve, to be busy… yet Jesus was pleased with Mary for receiving FROM him and said that she had chosen what is better. The thing is, we can’t do anything of worth for long, without receiving from Jesus. He is our reason for being AND doing. Mary rested in Jesus’ presence, she took from him all that he was willing to give. How much more do we need to rest in Jesus today?

When he was scourged and crucified to death, a divine exchange took place. Jesus became as sin for us and we became the righteousness of God in him. All that was unholy in God’s eyes was punished in the body of Jesus and justice was met! We have no righteousness of our own, only that which we receive when we believe on Jesus. When we are saved, we often say we have given our lives to Jesus, but the reverse is actually true – he has given his life to us! That defining moment at Calvary, when Jesus said, “It is finished.” – it was! Court adjourned. We are now free of our orange jumpsuits and dressed in clean white robes!

I know we know all this…

But the enemy’s strategy is to keep us busy. The last thing he wants is for us to sit at Jesus’ feet, gaze into his eyes and listen to his voice..! To KNOW that HE is already defeated because Jesus is victorious over every unholy thing in this world and the whole spiritual realm. He wants us to think we must always be doing and serving, because “that’s what Christians should do”!

And if you’re about to say, but faith without works is dead… you’re right! But they work together. And we cannot expect to do anything to serve the kingdom, without knowing first WHOM we are serving – the King! We must know who he is, what he stands for and what he requires of us.

Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Our service to the kingdom consists of the works prepared in advance for us to do, not to labour and strive in areas where we are not gifted or able, or be the one who never says no, which causes us to become exhausted and burnt out. We must rest in Jesus, sit at his feet as Mary did and receive from him, so we are equipped to do whatever HE asks of us, then our yoke will be easy and our burden light.

I love this version of psalm 23 from the Complete Jewish Bible, which really speaks to me…

ADONAI is my shepherd; I lack nothing. He has me lie down in grassy pastures, he leads me by quiet water, he restores my inner person. He guides me in right paths for the sake of his own name.

Even if I pass through death-dark ravines, I will fear no disaster; for you are with me;
your rod and staff reassure me. You prepare a table for me – even as my enemies watch;
you anoint my head with oil from an overflowing cup.

Goodness and grace will pursue me every day of my life;
and I will live in the house of ADONAI for years and years to come.

THIS is how to live life resting in the Lord!

A picture…

A few years ago, I went on a wonderful quiet day at a nearby Abbey; a day in the company of others, but where we literally didn’t speak to each other but waited for God to speak to us. This was something he showed me. I can still see this vividly in my mind and feel the peace that is there…

“A picture of the universe, rotating. At the centre, is a dark circle, like the pupil of an eye, with the iris surrounding it. God is in that quiet, still, timeless place; it is where His provision comes from. We need to rest in that same quiet, still, timeless place, where He is. If it’s timeless, we can be there constantly, as it’s not a material, time-passing place. Being in the timeless place brings protection – we cannot be hurt there because a) we are with God, and b) nothing else can be there that is material.

We need to go to that place, run to that place, stay in that place of refuge and rest. Curves are of the Lord, corners are manmade – you cannot hide in a curve, you are always in His presence.

The song says, Jesus be the Centre, but He already IS the centre! We ask for Him to be at the centre of us – He wants us to be at the centre with Him.”

Arrow Prayers

As Christians, we often berate ourselves and feel bad about not spending hours in prayer, pleading mournfully over world situations or the needs of people we know. Of course, there are some who are called to be intercessors, who do spend many hours at a time in prayer because God has given them a burden to pray for these things and to keep praying until there is breakthrough. For the majority of us though, we throw up a prayer here and there as we think of something, or see a need, and might expect that God is not very pleased with that. We call these arrow prayers.

Now, remember that the Lord made the physical universe and the laws that govern it… We cannot see light waves as such, but we can see everything else because of them. We cannot see air, but we can feel it when it’s windy. When an arrow is fired, the split second it is released from the bow, the arrowhead has an effect on the air molecules in front of it, pushing them out of the way. Very simply put, as the arrow speeds towards its target, millions of molecules have already been affected and some of the energy that was transferred from the bow into the arrow is transformed into heat from friction, and will be released into the air around it. We wait for the arrow to hit the target, but we do not see the effect it is having on its way there.

Father God does not despise our arrow prayers. Even as we are thinking or speaking them, they are already having an effect in the spiritual realm that is not seen by us in the natural. Sometimes we may never even see whether the target was hit, but we do know we have a loving Father whom we can trust. When we pray, however simply, His ear is inclined towards us and His desire is to bless.

The same power…

Satan must have been laughing all the way to hell when Jesus died on the cross. He thought he’d won, but he’d actually made a massive tactical error. As Obi-Wan Kenobi told the evil Darth Vader in Star Wars, “If you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” And Jesus rose from the depths of hell, victorious; alive with resurrection power, restored to his position of honour and authority at God’s right hand.

He promised that those who believe and trust in him will receive power from on high in the form of the Holy Spirit so, in the words of Hillsong, “The same power that conquered the grave lives in me” – lives in us! The SAME POWER! How amazing is that?!! The same power that spoke the universe into being; the same power that commanded the storm to cease; the same power that brought forth life and health in countless afflicted people during Jesus’ ministry… lives in us.

Why then do we, who call ourselves Christians, often act so helpless? ALL our sins were nailed to the cross and taken to the grave with Jesus. By God’s grace we are free and empowered with HIS spirit! We must walk daily in the knowledge of that power and understand that it is available to us at all times, but we need to SPEAK to release it. Jesus spoke and it was made so. If we remain silent we will never change anything!

WWJD?

So, here I am, spending a few days in a cottage at Ashburnham Place in Sussex with a friend. About 12.30am, with said friend fast asleep in bed, I was pottering about and listening to quiet music when I thought I heard knocking! We are on a private gated estate with no lights, extensive woodland all around and in the darkness outside, I realised someone was at the door…

I wasn’t scared actually, but thought it best to act with caution! I put the porch light on and called, “Hello?” through the bolted door. A man’s voice came back, “Hello? I’m booked in to stay here tonight.” I thought, You’re not Mate! And if you think I’m opening this door, you’re very much mistaken!

Anyway, the conversation continued and I realised he’d come to stay at the community up at the main house. He sounded French and there are a lot of young Christians from all over the UK and Europe who volunteer their time to help run this Christian retreat throughout the year. I told him reception was about half a mile up the lane, over the bridge, then follow the signs. He thanked me and left.

So, I then started thinking, I should have offered to drive him, as it really is DARK out here. I worried he might get lost and fall in the lake, or arrive to find all in darkness and end up sleeping on the grass. Poor guy…

So, I prayed for him. It was all that I could do in the circumstances, but I kicked myself for not being braver and bolder and having the courage of my convictions to help a lost stranger.

What would you have done? And, I wonder, what would Jesus have done?