What is the Holy Spirit Saying to the Church Today?

We published the first draft of this article a while ago - but the Lord has been speaking to us recently about some very important issues and it seemed appropriate to re-publish it now!

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A while ago we pointed out what the Lord was speaking to us about from Matthew 24. At the risk of sounding like repetition, I would like to revisit that passage. In the first two verses we are told:

“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

So, first in Matthew 24 they expose their false sense of security and the fact that they were impressed with the structure and the familiar. I think that what they were saying was: “Don’t forget that our heritage as a nation is tied up in these buildings. Don’t mess with them!” You can sympathise somewhat – he’d already stood on the Temple steps and told them that if they tore down the Temple he would rebuild it in three days! It’s just that he was talking about his body then, not the buildings.

What will stand?

His response shows that he was aware of the real condition of what they believed in – and that his intention was for it to be brought to the ground. He alone will stand; their history, theology, traditions (their security) will not. Jesus was really saying: “don’t try to prop up what’s coming down.”

The question is: what were the stones? It’s easy to assume that he’s talking about ‘tradition’, but maybe he’s not so much talking about just the traditions themselves, but rather the manmade things that had their roots in God, but could become obstacles to what he is presently doing, or they could become a false security instead of him.

As we look on into the next few verses we read:

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately.”

Now, we need to expect the next response if they were listening; otherwise just pride or fear could follow now that they see that he was showing them how wrong they were.

“‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’”

So now the answer comes – and Jesus gets the opportunity to speak directly into the situation they are facing:

“Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.’”

Three times Jesus speaks about deception in the following passage: even implying that false Christs will be found in the church itself – even horrific endorsements of the antichrist in the church itself (the ‘Abomination that brings desolation’ in the holy place).

Against the Religious Rulers

Now, in the previous chapter, Jesus was speaking out against the religious rulers of his day.  His tone was angry; he was both confrontational and critical.  He even used biting sarcasm several times to emphasise his point and illustrate how far these people had departed from God’s righteousness and truth.  But his heart was pure; his love and compassion for them was evident.  We’re not Jesus, and we can’t necessarily say our hearts are pure, even though we’d like them to be.  But, I can identify with Jesus in this one thing: when I see the religious deception perpetrated on people, my heart is grieved. So, to me, this subject of spiritual deception is intriguing.

If you look at Jeremiah 5 you can see that this passage doesn’t necessarily just describe the condition of Israel in Jeremiah’s day, it could also describe the condition of many churches today.  This is what it says:

“And should I not punish them for this rebellion? Declares the Lord.  Should I not avenge Myself on a nation such as this?  A horrible and amazing thing has happened in the land: the prophets are liars, telling the people only what they want to hear; the leaders deceive my people, using a false authority that I have not given them; and worst of all, the people want it this way.  But what will they do when the end comes, and they are still bound up in all this deception?”  (Jeremiah 5:29-31)  

I was shocked when I read, “and, worst of all, the people want it this way!” because here lies my greatest fear: that most people in the Church are happy with the way things are and will not be interested in anything that opposes the truth as they see it. In the face of the church having taken on board a great deal of ‘worldly wisdom’, it would be important to read what Paul said about it:

“Remember what Isaiah said, God will turn conventional wisdom upside down.  The time will come when the so-called religion experts will be the ones who look foolish.  So where does that leave the one who thinks he’s wise, or the well educated, or the one who understands the ways of the world?  Isn’t God going to expose all this pretentious nonsense?  The world never had a clue when it came to knowing and understanding God.  That’s why He uses the things that the world thinks are foolish or just plain wrong, even unpleasant, to guide those who trust in Him on their way to salvation.”  (I Corinthians 1:19-21)  

I believe with all my heart that God’s desire is to re-establish his true Church – the real Church. I’m talking about the Church as he intended it to be, the one that makes it possible for those who really believe in him to see His purpose fulfilled in their lives. And what is God’s purpose? To see all those who believe in Him conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit working in the Church, the Father wants to strip away everything in us that doesn’t look like Jesus.

Real Church

The first real church was Jesus and his 12 disciples. The first church was actually a training school for those who would establish the second-generation churches after Jesus ascended back to the Father. It was Jesus showing His disciples, first hand, how to have church. They met in houses and gardens, by the sea and on boats in the sea, in the middle of the road, on hillsides and on mountaintops. They met wherever Jesus happened to be. These meetings formed their understanding of what church was supposed to be and established a pattern for the next generation of churches.

If you look at your Bible and read Matthew 5:1 to 8:1. What you read is an account of one of the very first church meetings. The actual church was small, but there was a “multitude” of visitors that day and the sermon was really long.

Then read Matthew 8:2-4. That was the next church meeting, but this time there was only one visitor.

If you then read Matthew 8:5-13. Here’s something unusual. The sermon was only about 20 seconds long, and it was both confrontational and judgmental. I’m sure some of the visitors were offended this time, and I don’t think they’ll be coming back.

Then Jesus had another meeting at Peter’s house (Matthew 8:14-17); another the next day by the Sea of Galilee (8:18-22); then, later, in a boat (8:23-27); and still another the following day on the other side of Galilee with the disciples, two other guys, a bunch of demons, a herd of pigs and some more visitors from town (8:28-34).

Are you getting the picture? From Matthew 5:1 to 8:34, Jesus had at least 7 church meetings. Actually, He probably had many more than that. You can see the one, overwhelming principle illustrated in this first church. It’s really simple, but at the same time, really profound. What does the first church show us? What should every church learn from its example? What were the 12 disciples doing? THEY WERE LIVING WITH JESUS!!! The function of the church, any church, is to enable believers in their walk with Jesus. It must promote the reality of living moment-by-moment, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, week after week, year after year with Jesus.

What is Church?

Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 14:26 (The Passion Translation)

Guidelines for Use of the Gifts

Beloved friends, what does all this imply? When you conduct your meetings, you should always let everything be done to build up the church family. Whether you share a song of praise, a teaching, a divine revelation, or a tongue and interpretation, let each one contribute what strengthens others.

When discussing this with a dear friend recently, she said this:

“The early church, when they did meet together in various locations, used the gifts of the Spirit to encourage and build each other up. These were the outward expressions of a supernatural life. Where are they today? How many Spirit filled Christians are using these wonderful gifts, bought at such a price, today?”

The simple fact of the matter is that church is supposed to be the support system for believers in their continuous, uninterrupted relationship with Jesus. It should support them in their constant, openly transparent, submissive, obedient, life changing, transforming, renewing, Holy Spirit-led, love relationship with the Savior; and if you’re ever going to be conformed to the image of Christ, that is the lifestyle that is required. How can you be changed into something you haven’t experienced and submitted yourself to? If you just read the red bits in the Gospel accounts, you’ll see that Jesus never describes salvation as something that is quick and easy. Instead, he presents it as something that is difficult, something that demands persistence and something that only a few will achieve (Jesus said there would only be a few that would be willing to travel the narrow road that leads to life).

There is a New Testament model for Church. If Jesus and his 12 disciples were the first generation church, then those established by the disciples after Jesus’ ascension were the second generation churches. Remember the principle illustrated by the first church was living with Jesus. He was there, physically with them, every day, every night, day after day, week after week, for almost 4 years. Then he was gone! Now these people, and others, began establishing churches all over the known world (in Asia Minor, Europe and Africa). And the principle of these second generation churches comes through loud and clear. Here it is: LIVING WITH JESUS IN A COMMUNITY OF OTHER BELIEVERS WHO ARE LIVING WITH HIM TOO!!!

What's The Most Common Name For God In The Bible?

God’s name is sacred among orthodox Jews. The most important of God’s names is YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah). To protect it, it was read aloud as Adonai (The Lord). This name, along with the title Elohim, is frequently combined with other words to form the compound names we’re familiar with:

  • Yahweh Jireh (the Lord my provider)
  • Yahweh Rapha (the Lord my healer)
  • Yahweh Shalom (the Lord my peace)

These names help us to understand key elements of God’s nature, the sum total of which is God himself. Each compound name is used about 30 times in Scripture - each of them uniquely focuses on an aspect of human need and the divine answer to that need (peace, healing, provision).

Yet there is one compound name that occurs much more frequently - occurring about 290 times by itself. This name is Yahweh or Elohim paired with the Hebrew word ‘tzevaot’, translated ‘hosts’ or ‘armies’. In English this becomes Lord Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts.

The Revelation of the Divine Name

From the sheer number of references alone we can see that ‘the Lord of Hosts’ is the revelation of the divine name that the Lord most frequently demonstrated to humanity in the Bible. Lord Sabaoth is a revelation of God in the form of a divine warrior.

Angelic warriors (that's what the word 'Hosts' refers to) are not the creatures we sometimes think they are. They are shown to be fierce spirits with awesome power - so much so that when they appear in Scripture, he often had to tell the people around him not to be afraid. Their number - “ten thousand times ten thousand” (Daniel 7:10) is entirely at God’s disposal and cannot be defeated.

The supernatural power of angels is evident in their ability to:

  • Strike men blind (Genesis 19:11, 2 Kings 6:18)
  • Call down fire from heaven (Genesis 19:13, 21-25)
  • Move stones weighing many tons (Matthew 28:2, Mark 16:4)
  • Unfasten iron chains (Acts 12:7-11)
  • Open locked prison cells (Acts 5:19)
  • Kill rulers (Acts 12:23)
  • Sweep through army encampments with plague and death (1 Samuel 24:15-16, 2 Chronicles 32:21, Isaiah 37:36)
  • Release various calamities in the book of Revelation

In view of all this, the angelic hosts are seen as a real and present threat to evil and the agents of justice, righteousness, truth and salvation. Justice is always at heart of God’s righteous warfare.

As we observe his attributes, we can see the Lord’s priorities, methods and his purpose for humanity. We can also see that he is looking for a rulership-minded people who are willing to contend in love, humility, prayer and fasting for the breaking down of demonic strongholds.

The Divine Warrior King

Elisha’s assistant was given a literal sighting of God’s heavenly army. As human armies with horses and chariots encircled Dothan, Elisha says to his servant:

2 Kings 6:16-17 “‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

This is not the first revelation of God as a warrior. The first came when Pharaoh’s army was destroyed in the Red Sea. Safe on the far shore, Moses and the people sang a song:

Exodus 15:1-6 “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy.”

From this great song of praise, we realise:

  • God wants us to know him as a warrior.
  • This warrior was looking for a fight.
  • God’s triumph is on behalf of his people.
  • God receives praise and recognition as a result of his victory.
  • Other nations and gods should fear him.

This God inspires terror in the heart of his enemies. But we have to ask ourselves how much fear the church inspires today. Do world leaders dread the prayers and actions of the living army of God? Do principalities and powers tremble in anticipation of our activities? If the Lord of Hosts is our leader, why not?

Dean Briggs, in ‘Ekklesia Rising’ states:

“I propose it is because we pose no real threat. We take no ground, we yield it. We exist in a static, perpetually defensive posture, surrendered to political correctness, feeling slightly embarrassed and at a loss to explain the ways of a Divine Warrior to our culture of ‘peace’.”

The people of Israel didn’t have that problem. They saw themselves as a tribe of warriors. Many times they are described as ‘men of war’, ‘valiant men’, ‘valiant warriors’ and man ‘arrayed for battle’. The Exodus was seen as an act of war by God upon a corrupt human king and a depraved system of slavery. As such, the Exodus shaped this new nation’s identity and their conquest of Canaan. In the same way, that same God must inform our concept of his identity - and therefore our identity.

The activity of Christ involves victory and dominion - the Messiah was regarded as a human king and Jesus is King of kings. So God’s warring activity is inextricably connected to his kingship.

Psalm 24:8, 10 “Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. . . Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory.”

War, Peace and Justice

God is committed to restorative justice for all who are under the oppression of Satan, suffering in a fallen world. Spiritual authority is the product of a humble heart. Dominion does not mean to behave domineeringly. We need God’s power, but he doesn’t need our at all!

David told Goliath:

1 Samuel 17:47 “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

He deferred to the source of his victory - the Lord of Hosts.

So a loving God wages war! How can this be? It is crucial that we understand God in his totality. He is not schizophrenic - one moment warring, the other loving. Dean Briggs again:

“The virtues of love and mercy by which He extends salvation to sinners, tenderly cares for the weak and broken, and delivers the oppressed are the same motivating passions which stir Him to wrath and war against His enemies, those who defile purity, obstruct justice, and oppress the weak. He is humanity’s ultimate ally in that he is committed to destroy everything that his harmful to our lives. His warfare is an expression of covenantal love.”

God does not go to war because he enjoys violence, but because he delights in justice. So he is totally committed to removing barriers to love, defilements of sin, and every last evidence of Satan’s rule. The Lord of Host’s zeal is most evident in his care for the downtrodden:

Jeremiah 7:3-7 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.”

Jesus quoted from this passage when cleansing the Temple. His anger was that of the Lord Sabaoth because he is the incarnation of the Lord of Hosts.

In the incarnation, Jesus gave us more insight into the Divine Warrior. As the baby lay in the manger, the hosts of heaven appear in the skies over Bethlehem. But this time, unlike with Elisha at Dothan when the angels struck people blind - he now gives us sight. God’s justice is revealed with mercy and good news - the angel army speak of peace among men with whom he is pleased (Luke 2:14).

Isaiah prophesied the increase of his government promises an unending increase of peace. For this reason we must take care how we treat the weak and underprivileged around us. The Lord of Hosts comes to defend those with no reputation, nor rights and no recourse to achieve their own justice.

James 5:4 “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts.”

The principle revelation of the Lord of Hosts is not that he goes to war, but why and for whom. He is not motivated by the prospect of more war, but of paradise restored.

Psalm 46:7, 9-10 “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. . . He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth’.”

If you read the entire Psalm you will see several dynamics regarding the protection and strength the Lord of Hosts gives to his people:

  • He is a refuge who is present to help us in our troubles.
  • There is no need to fear, in spite of major upheavals and uncertainty.
  • Instead, joy and gladness flow to those who understand God’s righteous strength.
  • He is not distant, but dwells in our midst. Since he helps us, we will not be moved.
  • The nations rage against God’s sovereign support for his people.
  • Ultimately, since the Lord of Hosts is with us, we can be at peace.

In every generation Jesus gathers his Ekklesia to enforce and expand the outworking of his victory in practical terms. We are meant to achieve this with weapons of prayer, fasting, repentance, worship, confession, servanthood, sacrifice and truth. Nothing less than this will fulfil what Jesus asked us to pray in The Lord's Prayer - "Your Kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."

 

Some people pray for the strangest things!

We were sitting in the Harrogate Conference Centre many years ago listening to Mahesh Chavda speaking at the “Healing in the ’90’s” conference with John Wimber. We had been asked to look after John at the conference, but he was resting in the hotel next door while Mahesh spoke. 

The thing that intrigued us was Mahesh’s approach to the morning session. He began to tell us about a time when he had to repent to his dog who had snapped at his son and cut his face. He was really cross with the dog and it had made a big problem between the two of them! 
The next thing he said was very interesting - he talked about a lady he’d prayed for in Ohio who had cancer and she was totally healed. 

A few weeks later he was in a neighbouring city and she joined the prayer line so that she could thank him for the prayer and testify to what God had done. Then she asked if he could pray for her friend who also had cancer and was waiting outside. Mahesh asked why she was outside and her answer puzzled him. “Because she’s my dog!” She brought the dog in and he prayed for her. He went on to explain that it was perfectly OK to pray for sick animals and suggested that anyone who had cats, dogs (and numerous other animals) should stand and receive prayer for their pets.

It was now time to go and pick up John for lunch so we left the meeting and walked to the hotel nearby - wondering how we were going to explain what just happened in the meeting. The conversation went something like this:

John, “How did Mahesh get on this morning?” 

Martyn, “You don’t want to know!”

John, “Why is that?”

Martyn, “He’s still in there praying for sick animals!”

John put his hands over his face and said, “God bless him!”

However, John went on to explain that there was a time when some children in the church phoned him to ask if it was OK to pray for pets. John asked why they were asking him and they explained that their hamster had tried to chew through the wire cage, had lost a few teeth and was covered in blood. His response was, “If you’ve got the faith for it - go for it!”

Seemingly, they did have the faith for it - went ahead and prayed - and the hamster became the proud owner of a few new teeth!

Now John was on a roll! He began to explain about a situation with John G Lake in South Africa in the early 1900’s. John was apparently walking through the downtown area of Johannesburg when he came across a commotion on a street corner. Apparently, a horse pulling a flat-bed cart had collapsed and died at the intersection and it created a logjam. Seizing his opportunity, John walked over to the horse, grabbed it by the ears, lifted its head and said, “In the name of Jesus, get up!” The horse shuddered, shook its head and stood to its feet. Seizing another opportunity, John climbed onto the cart and started preaching about the healing power of Jesus to the sizeable crowd that had gathered because of the commotion. A number of people gave their lives to the Lord - one of whom was the owner of a boxing arena in Johannesburg. After John had prayed for him, he told him about the boxing arena and said that he didn’t have any fights planned for the next six weeks and so the arena was his to use as a venue for meetings.

John G Lake and his new disciple hand-printed flyers for the crusade meetings and started distributing them in the surrounding area. The first night the arena was two-thirds full and many people gave their lives to Jesus. After that, it was full night after night for the next few weeks and literally hundreds of people became disciples of Jesus.

All because someone had the faith to step out, seize the opportunity and minister healing to a dead horse!

So, next time your friend or neighbour tells you that their cat, dog, snake (be careful!), hamster or budgie is sick - you know what to do . . .

 

Dead As A Dodo!

What is the dodo?

The dodo is an extinct flightless bird that only existed on the island of Mauritius. Fossil remains suggest the dodo was about 1 metre tall and may have weighed 10-17 kg in the wild. The dodo's appearance is only known by drawings, paintings, and written accounts from the 17th century. Because these vary considerably, and because only some illustrations are known to have been drawn from live specimens, its exact appearance remains unresolved, and little is known about its behaviour. Though the dodo has historically been considered fat and clumsy, it is now thought to have been well-adapted for its ecosystem. It has been depicted with brownish-grey plumage, yellow feet, a tuft of tail feathers, a grey, naked head, and a black, yellow, and green beak. It used gizzard stones to help digest its food, which is thought to have included fruits, and its main habitat is believed to have been the woods in the drier coastal areas of Mauritius. One account suggests its clutch consisted of a single egg. It is presumed that the dodo became flightless because of the ready availability of abundant food sources and a relative absence of predators on Mauritius.

The human population on Mauritius never exceeded 50 people in the 17th century, but they introduced other animals, including dogs, pigs, cats and rats which plundered dodo nests, eating the eggs, and competed for the limited food resources. At the same time, humans destroyed the forest habitat of the dodos. The impact of the animals introduced to Mauritius on the dodo population, especially the pigs and rats, is today considered more severe than that of hunting. The strange thing about the extinction of the dodo is that it’s likely to have taken only 70 years from the time humans began to populate Mauritius - a much shorter timespan than extinctions of other animals and birds. Many think the reason for this shortness of time before its extinction is simply down to the fact that the dodo's eggs were attacked and eaten before they had a chance to be born.

Why an article about the dodo?

Many of us are seeking God’s face for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that would bring a great awakening to this nation (and the nations). It’s as if we’re really asking for something to be birthed in our day and age that would result in a revival the like of which we haven’t seen in our lifetime. However, God is God and he has an enemy who would love to bring this potential revival to nought - just like the dodo had enemies that resulted in its extinction, we too, because we are God’s Kingdom representatives on the earth, have an enemy who would love to see the extinction of this move of God that many of us are anticipating.

Isaiah pondered these things as he prophesied over Israel:

“Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labour than she gives birth to her children. ‘Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the Lord. ‘Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?’ says your God. ‘Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.’” Isaiah 66:8-10

The urgent need for a genuine revival is the deep concern of real Christians throughout the world. From so many places come reports of barrenness and frustration, instead of fertility and spiritual achievement. The all-important question is: Can we expect revival in our lifetime? Does the Bible give us definite grounds for such a hope? We believe it does.

"Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.” Zechariah 10:1

"In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” Acts 2:17

It is significant that this great outpouring of the Holy Spirit (which started at Pentecost) was to continue until "that great and notable [or terrible] day of the Lord come" (verse 20). Apart from the Holy Spirit there can be no revival. But the Holy Spirit always pours his revival power through people who have been prepared. It was so in the greatest revival the country of Wales ever experienced. It started in 1904 in a young people’s service. Soon it spread like a fire. In about nine months one hundred thousand people had been "born again" by the Holy Spirit and the life of Wales was transformed. People came from various parts of the world to see the mighty works of God in the Welsh nation. The main person used by God in the revival was a young man named Evan Roberts. For thirteen years he had prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He encountered many inward struggles before the blessing came. Then one morning in September 1904, he laid his life upon God’s altar and cried in agony of soul: "Bend me, O Lord, bend me!"

Then the fire came from heaven on the young man and he was wonderfully baptised with the Holy Spirit. Through him, a prepared channel, God shook the whole of Wales and many other nations.

God still waits for those who are willing to be "bent" and broken, so that they might be filled to overflowing with the spirit of true revival.

 

The Rewards of Patient Endurance

"Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." 

Hebrews 6:12

Many years ago, just before we got married, we lived in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Martyn had begun teaching and Linda was still at college training to be a teacher. We had both found out via different sources that was a need to help out at an Anglican church in Cheltenham called Holy Trinity. 

The vicar had died suddenly and a retired missionary couple, Lawrence and Annette Totty, had offered to help out by organising the Sunday services. We prayed about it and felt good about approaching them to offer our time and energy into the situation. 

We probably hadn't considered the enormity of the task that would lie ahead of us! We ended up leading the youth club on Friday nights, organising the Sunday school on Sunday mornings, running the bookstall and attending PCC meetings! We thought that we were filling in for a period of time while the patrons of the church appointed a new vicar. What we didn't realise was that, in fact, the Bishop wanted to actually close the church. Evangelical Anglican churches in the Gloucester diocese were few and far between at that point in time. The Bishop's desire however, was to close Holy Trinity but it was our hope that it could be  kept open. 

So, what we initially thought would be a year or so of filling in and waiting for a new vicar to arrive actually turned into five years of extremely hard work.

Thankfully, we persisted and really felt that we should pray and stick in waiting for the situation to change. After four years the diocese finally agreed to appoint a new vicar and so in 1977 Rev. John Risdon was duly appointed as the new vicar of Holy Trinity Cheltenham. 

Now, what about patient endurance?

Were those years tough? Absolutely!

Did we ever feel like quitting? Most Monday mornings!

But there was something inside us that made us keep on going. There was a growing sense of injustice about what the system was doing and a realisation that we needed to devote ourselves firstly to the Lord and then to pursue his Kingdom until we saw the situation change.

We've often said that it was our experience at Holy Trinity that kicked us into full-time ministry! One thing is certain and that is that we began to realise that if you want to change the system then you have to be prepared to get involved in it. 

Even during our period of training for the Anglican ministry there were times when we wondered if we had done the right thing, but the Lord always gently spoke to us and encouraged us forward - often with the perspective that one day he would lead us into a wider situation.

Now, fast forward to this last weekend. We had been at a conference in Milton Keynes for the weekend and decided to take a nostalgic trip back to Cheltenham on our way back home. We also decided that we would attend the evening service at the church which is now simply called Trinity Cheltenham. 

We have been back there before but this time it felt really different. Keep in mind that Trinity Church is now one of the largest charismatic Evangelical churches in the whole area. Their worship band frequently lead worship at the New Wine event in Somerset and it is now a large, thriving church with a heart to impact the whole of Cheltenham and the Cotswolds.

We're not looking for a pat on the back or for anyone to say "didn't you do well"! This is more about the Lord anointing and empowering a young couple (yes, we were young once!) to persevere even through the hardest of times. We couldn't have learnt what we did without going through those difficulties.

Yes, in the midst of the trials there were times of joy – especially seeing children and young people being touched by the Lord. We had the joy of seeing lives changed and people being given hope. 

We simply want to say, "Thank you, Lord, for being with us and strengthening us with patient endurance".

A Wakeup Call to the Church

While many are crying out to God for revival, we see turmoil and strife rampant in the world around us. What should our response be to the mayhem we see in the aftermath of the Manchester and London terrorist attacks? We firmly believe that the answer to this mess lies not in the hands of the politicians (whose only solution is to strengthen the intelligence services and put more armed police on the streets), but in the hands of the church of Jesus Christ. 

We recently attended a conference in Basel, Switzerland and one thing that was said has really stuck in our minds - that God is using the migrant crisis in Europe and the West to wake up the church to its responsibility to present the truth of the gospel to the nations. Think about that for a moment - could that really be the truth? The gospel with which we have been entrusted is amazingly good news - and with it comes the awesome power of God to see lives transformed and renewed. We have in our grasp the spiritual power and authority to see people’s lives being touched - body, mind and spirit! Then and only then will people see the supernatural power of God intervening in their circumstances and turn to him.

But here’s where we encounter a problem - in Matthew 24 Jesus is addressing his disciples about what will happen some time in the future. Four times in this chapter Jesus warns against deception - starting in verse 4, “Watch out that no one deceives you”. The very nature of deception means that those who are being deceived don’t know it! So, because there is a veil over our eyes we fail to see how the decadence and immorality of the world around us has become so acceptable and we begin to take on board a “new norm” - one which is totally at odds with the Bible we say we believe.

But . . . God is beginning to renew us through the transformation of our minds. He wants to wake us up to a new perspective - a kingdom perspective. A place where his ways and his purposes are fulfilled every day of our lives. The Spirit of God blows where he wills - and our testimony is to be one of him setting us up daily with Kingdom activity. Where there is kingdom we see the acts of God - it’s a realm or domain in which we can live through the anointing and the presence of God. It’s the place where his glory dwells - where he is glorified.

He breaks in (he is the God of the breakthrough) and it is imperative now as the circumstances unfold in our nations in the coming days that we seek God for divine intelligence and pray into the points of crisis and trouble in our neighbourhoods and region. He will enliven our senses to see things from his perspective and give us a godly conscience if we ask him. 

We believe God is calling forth a group of people who not only love him but who are willing to seek his ways - hear his voice and do what he asks. We’ve thought much over the last year about divine intelligence - it’s a download from heaven. We’ve also spoken about the “dancing hand of the Spirit” - bringing God’s word corporately and in agreement - the Holy Spirit loves to draw things together - touching us with wisdom and insight.  If we keep our antenna up he will speak and will give us clear directions in all the circumstances we encounter. 

God’s Ekklesia needs to become a place where we can openly share together and receive revelation - a place where we can testify to God's leading and goodness. We believe God desires to connect each one of us as a people who are commissioned to pray and stand as the government of the Kingdom of God in this land. Many of us have felt insignificant and without influence but God is calling the “foolish of this world to confound the wise”.    

If communication and trust in God breaks down in our nation we will to need to know, as the people of God, a oneness of spirit that only comes as we yield to his purposes - repenting of our sins and knowing his indwelling presence together.

God has a sovereign plan and purpose to take us through the challenges we face ahead. We are aware there has been a massive spiritual shift - a window of opportunity to turn back to God and ask him to deal with the false attachments that we have made with the world - out of a lack of trust in him we have been negligent. As the people of God we have become wayward and faithless - we have trusted in the things around us and not put our trust in him. 

We need not only revival in our land but a spiritual revolution. There has been a shift - a change in the spiritual atmosphere. God has provided an open heaven so it’s an important time - let it open up new beginnings for you. 

There were prophetic words back in 80's that there would come a time when terrorists would disrupt our land, but that out of it would come a great awakening - that as “fireballs” fell thousands of people would turn to the Lord. I believe God is giving us the opportunity to walk in this in this season of time. 

It could also be that what we’re experiencing now is only the tip of the iceberg. You may have heard of Braxton Hicks contractions - when a mother-to-be goes through “practice” contractions prior to the real labour. Those contractions are a sign that the real thing is on its way and it’s going to get worse! This is a time of preparation as the warfare builds - we need to recognise that we are waging war against principalities and powers as Ephesians 6 tells us.

If we have strongholds in our lives we are trapped - false attachments to things of the world have to go. Maybe there are things we have been busying ourselves with that, although they seem right in themselves, they are not in God's purposes - projects that are good but are distracting us from seeking God's face.  

We have time now to get ourselves in position in relationships to become the body of Christ that he created us to be - committed and submitted to one another out of reverence for Christ. I believe we could be at the beginning of the end of the age when the kingdom message will become loud and clear. But it has to begin with us allowing our minds to be led by the Holy Spirit - finding his way more precious than ours. 

Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to witness to you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,”

There are ways that God requires us to walk in that are opposite to what the world thinks. The Book of Revelation describes us as “overcomers”, but overcoming is not about battle and retaliation, nor is it about taking offence. But it is also not about tolerating wickedness. We are to pray and come against the principalities and powers that have strongholds in our cities.  

His commandments and laws still stand for purity and righteousness - even though we have freedom through Jesus we are not permitted to go outside the parameters of his ways (because they provide a protective hedge covering us) or we will loose his blessing and favour. Straying outside his boundaries means we break connection with him and he cannot hear us. 

Likewise, unbelief is a sin and it brings a barrier - and the only way to deal with sin is to repent. We are at a crossroads in our lives - and for many of us we have to go back to where we got stuck. We would do well to consider where we have come from:

1 Corinthians 6:11 “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

So, what can we do in the face of all that is coming against us at present? In the aftermath of the Manchester attack, we had messages from people all over the world. Here’s what our friends from the House of Prayer in Basel suggested:

“We did pray right now for Manchester and for the body of Christ! And for being filled with the complete love to cast out all fear..., to go and pray for and in the Muslim communities and to adopt every mosque in the city and every church and house of prayer praying for them every Friday 12-13pm... we believe that they are very open for the true God and Father of our Lord Jesus and of them as well.”

And some friends from Holland prayed:

“Lord, expose the evil plans of the enemy. That these evil plans would be exposed in Your light. Bind the hands and feet of those who want to do evil things. That this would prevent all bad intentions and that all of these will fail.”

The Integrity of God's Ekklesia

There are times in life when a massive shift takes place - sometimes in our own personal lives, sometimes it’s in the world around us. The other week in the UK, the Prime Minister called for a General Election in June. Immediately I was reminded of something Lou Engle said back in 2010 before that year’s General Election: 

“There are moments in history when a door for massive change opens, and great revolutions for good or evil spring up in the vacuum created by these openings. In these divine moments key men and women and even entire generations risk everything to become the hinge of history, the pivotal point that determines which way the door will swing.”

It also made me acutely aware of the responsibility on our shoulders as believers as we seek to live out the government of the Kingdom of Heaven here on the earth. In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus speaks about four things that focus on the governmental authority of the Ekklesia and what the Ekklesia is to do:

  • Dealing with anything that will undermine the spiritual authority of the Ekklesia (what do we do when a brother or sister sins?)
  • Binding and loosing (exercising spiritual authority - allowing or disallowing)
  • The prayer of agreement (when two agree about anything - it’s done!)
  • The promise of the presence of Jesus when we meet in his name (the minimum for Ekklesia is 2-3)

Now, it would appear that the primary way we bind and loose (i.e. exercise spiritual authority) is through agreeing prayer. What Jesus seems to be implying here is that the integrity of our community is more important than the passion of our prayers and the fervency of our worship

Binding and loosing and agreeing in prayer are sandwiched between two passages. Before this passage – if your brother/sister continues in rebellious sin and doesn’t repent, you have to remove him/her from the solemn assembly. After this passage Peter asks Jesus about how many times you have to forgive someone who sins against you - Jesus’ answer is not seven times but seventy times seven!

The implication is that when God begins to move in authority through his praying church rebellion in the company can shut down its authority - which means that if there’s persistent rebellion in the midst of the Ekklesia you’ve got to make it right – because the integrity of your community determines the authority of your ability to “bind and loose”.

What Jesus is really saying is, “You have to deal with sin because I don’t want you to have assumed authority – but real authority.” Agreement together is not just mental assent – it’s about the forming of relationship – one-mindedness with others – there’s no place for conscientious objectors in the community. 

He’s also saying that the bare minimum for his Ekklesia is just two or three who are walking in confession of sin and being washed in the blood of Jesus - two or three with divine revelation. When we release that on earth as it is in heaven – gates of hell will begin to tremble (see Matthew 16:18)

So what are the elements that result in us being able to exercise spiritual authority on the earth? In this context I believe we have overlooked the power and authority of one thing - communion (The Eucharist, The Lord’s Supper, breaking bread together).

Our authority has always come from an open heaven on earth - the writer to the Hebrews explains it this way:

Hebrews 10:19-22 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

So what happens when we break bread together? We need to look at two key passages that answer this for us:

Luke 22:19-20 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." 

1 Corinthians 11:26 “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

The word translated “proclaim” in the second passage literally means to “broadcast or reveal” - you could see it as a media wave or an audio wave. This means that at the moment you break the bread and drink the wine a revelation happens on the earth. Satan sees the cross and he fears - it can happen in other ways, but this is very important. In the day the Lord rescued the people out of Egypt, he asked them to make ‘communion’ - with a real lamb - so that the Ekklesia can be free and the curse of slavery broken.

We have been brought out from under that curse - that means that we have been given freedom to exercise spiritual authority on the earth today. Please pray for the Ekklesia of God to rise up in this hour and be the ones who lead out in these troubled times.

 

The Kingdom of God - This present time

Last time we spoke about the mystery of the kingdom - this time we’re looking a little more at the necessity of having our spiritual ears tuned into the Holy Spirit

  1. Now, the world places great emphasis on intellectual ability, but The Lord places great value and emphasis on our ability to hear spiritually.
    1. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 
      1. This means, therefore, those who desire to enter into an intimate relationship with The Lord and have a part in his end-time purposes must take up their cross and crucify all that relates to the intellect and the ways of humanity.
      2. The Bible calls these people "overcomers"
        1. Revelation 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
        2. These overcomers are been given a gradual, unfolding understanding of the mysteries of the Kingdom - its purpose, how it will be established and function, and their part in it. 
          1. 1 Chronicles 12:32 "men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do”
  2. We are living in a time in which there is much turmoil - person against person and nation against nation.
    1. There is a restlessness within humanity, which is being manifested in a violence that has been unknown until this time.
    2. Parallel to this restlessness, are those who are being called apart.
    3. These people are being prepared to be empowered to become witnesses to all humanity of the power and glory of the Lord
    4. This will be beyond anything this world has ever witnessed in past times of visitation.
      1. Ephesians 1:9-10 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
  3. The problem is that at this present time the world despises and laughs at the church.
    1. However, Jesus is standing at the door that leads into his Kingdom - he's knocking on it ready to come in and take his place as the head in full control of his body (his bride).
    2. This is the day of his power and the world will soon begin to tremble before this overcoming body.
      1. Psalms 110:3 "Your people shall be willing in the day of your power,"
    3. We have the privilege of living in a time when we could well see these things take place.
    4. The Lord is increasingly taking his place with of those in his body who are overcomers (his bride) - those who are coming to a place where they have become so transparent that only their head, Jesus, will be seen through their lives and actions.
    5. He will again do the miracles though this corporate body that he did during his first coming.
      1. John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 
    6. There is an urgency at this present time to respond to his call, and to come apart to be prepared to become a member of this corporate body which is being made ready for its manifestation.

 

The purpose of these videos is to encourage the body of Christ to be faithful to the call of Jesus. 

We’d like to connect with you - particularly if you have questions about the things we’ve been talking about. We want to be able to dialogue with you about the things God is doing in your lives

You can email us at admin@kingdomenterprise.org.uk - there’s a link on the YouTube page as well. so please feel free to contact us - so we can encourage one another in these exciting times.

Breakthrough - The Kingdom of God Part 4

  1. The Kingdom of God - The Mystery of the Kingdom
    1. Last time we looked at the parable of the Sower (it’s actually about the four soils) - we introduced the idea of the mystery of the kingdom. I want to build on that by looking at two other parables Jesus told - one about weeds and another about yeast
    2. The Parable of the Weeds 
      1. Matthew 13:24-30 “Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
        1. Jesus affirms that in the midst of the present age, while society continues with its mixture of the good and the bad, before the coming of the Son of Man and the glorious manifestation of the Kingdom of God, the powers of that future age have entered into the world to create ‘sons of the kingdom,’ those who enjoy its power and blessings. 
        2. So, the kingdom has come but society is not uprooted. This is the mystery of the Kingdom. 
        3. The Kingdom has come into history but in such a way that society is not disrupted. 
        4. The children of the kingdom have received God's reign and entered into its blessings. 
        5. They must continue to live in this age. Intermingled with the wicked in a mixed society. 
        6. The Kingdom that is present but hidden in the world will yet be manifested in glory.
    3. The Parable of the Yeast
      1. Matthew 13:33 “He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.’”
        1. This parable teaches that one day the Kingdom of God will rule over all the earth, but has now entered into the world in a form that is hardly perceptible. 
        2. The Kingdom of God is destined to permeate all human society until all the world is transformed by a process of gradual penetration and inner change. 
        3. One day the Kingdom will prevail to such an extent that no rival sovereignty exists. The entire mass of dough becomes leavened. 
        4. In Jesus’ day and age, the irresistible character of the eschatological Kingdom was understood by all Jews and would mean a complete change in the order of things. 
        5. The present evil order of the world and of society would be utterly displaced by the Kingdom of God. 
      2. But Jesus’ ministry appears to have initiated no transformation like that. He preached the presence of the Kingdom but the world went on as before. How then could this be the Kingdom? 
        1. Jesus’ reply was that when a bit of yeast is put into a mass of flour, nothing seems to happen. The yeast even seems to be engulfed in the flour. Eventually something does happen and the result is a complete transformation of the dough. 
        2. This idea of a gradual progression was unheard of by the Jews at the time but Jesus reiterated it again and again. 
        3. No one could have guessed that Jesus’ small band of disciples had anything to do with the future, glorious Kingdom of God. 
        4. However that which is now present in the world is indeed the Kingdom itself. This is the mystery, the new truth about the Kingdom. 

 

Questions for Individual or Group Discussion:

  1. In what ways would you expect to see the evidence of the coming of the Kingdom?
  2. What issues of the “uprooting of society” could we reasonably pray into?
  3. What would be the signs of the the Kingdom permeating society?
  4. Ask the Lord to show you what impact you could have on the people around you.

 

 

The purpose of these videos is to encourage the body of Christ to be faithful to the call of Jesus. 

We’d like to connect with you - particularly if you have questions about the things we’ve been talking about. We want to be able to dialogue with you about the things God is doing in your lives

You can email us at admin@kingdomenterprise.org.uk - there’s a link on the YouTube page as well. so please feel free to contact us - so we can encourage one another in these exciting times.

Breakthrough - The Kingdom of God Part 3

 

  1. The Kingdom of God - The Mystery of the Kingdom
    1. What is “The Mystery of the Kingdom”
      1. Mark 4:9-12 “Then Jesus said, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’ When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”
    2. The Parable of the Four Soils 
      1. Mark quotes this to summarise the message of the Kingdom parables. 
        1. The mystery of the Kingdom is the coming of the Kingdom into history in advance of its final manifestation. It’s what theologians call, "fulfilment without consummation." This is the truth illustrated by the several parables of Mark 4 and Matt 13.
        2. The word ‘mystery’ suggests there are secret plans, thoughts, and activities of God that are hidden from human reason and must be revealed to those for whom they were intended. 
        3. However, the mystery is proclaimed to everyone even though only those who believe understand it. All are summoned to faith; but only those who respond are shown to have spiritual perception and understanding (i.e. only to those who have been "given the mystery" as Mark 4:11 says.) 
      2. The same can be said of Peter in Matthew 16. 
        1. Matthew 16:17 “Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”
        2. Jesus is clearly indicating that we must receive supernatural illumination to understand the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. Although the mystery is proclaimed to all, not all are "given" this understanding. "Flesh and blood" is incapable of revealing it.
      3. In the parable of the four Soils Jesus said the Kingdom had come upon humankind but not for the purpose of eliminating evil. 
        1. It is now accompanied by no display of irresistible power. 
        2. Instead, the Kingdom in its present form is like a farmer sowing seed. It does not sweep away the wicked (or none would have hope). 
        3. It seems that only those whose soil had first been prepared by God would later receive the seed and bear fruit. 
        4. The farmer must sow the seed in ground that has been broken up and since good soil is not its natural state it must be prepared before scattering seed. 
        5. In other words, unless God is the one who first makes our heart of stone into a heart of flesh, we will not receive the gospel message.
        6. We must have our hearts ready and prepared by the Holy Spirit so that we can receive the message and gladly welcome the presence of the kingdom into our hearts and lives.

 

Questions for Individual or Group Discussion

 

  1. Has ‘The Mystery of the Kingdom’ ever confused you like it did the disciples?
  2. What ‘secret plans, thoughts, and activities of God’ do you think the ‘mystery’ relates to?
  3. Have you ever experienced a sudden ‘revelation’ from the Father like Peter did in Matthew 16?
  4. What is the Holy Spirit doing in your life today in order to prepare the soil of your heart for his Kingdom to come more effectively in your life?

 

The purpose of these videos is to encourage the body of Christ to be faithful to the call of Jesus. 

We’d like to connect with you - particularly if you have questions about the things we’ve been talking about. We want to be able to dialogue with you about the things God is doing in your lives

You can email us at admin@kingdomenterprise.org.uk - there’s a link on the YouTube page as well. so please feel free to contact us - so we can encourage one another in these exciting times.

 

Breakthrough - The Kingdom of God Part 2

  1. Kingdom of God - Jesus Announces the Kingdom
    1. Jesus suggested four propositions:
      1. The Kingdom will come some time in the future
      2. The Kingdom has arrived now
      3. The Kingdom isn’t here, but it’s almost here
      4. The Kingdom has been delayed for a long time.
    2. The Kingdom will come some time in the future - last supper
      1. Matthew 26:29 “I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” 
    3. The Kingdom has arrived now - 
      1. Matthew 12:28 "If it is by the power of the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."
    4. The Kingdom isn’t here, but it’s almost here - 
      1. Luke 17:21 not here or there - in your midst (within your grasp)
    5. The Kingdom has been delayed for a long time
      1. Luke 19:11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, "A nobleman went into a far country to receive a kingdom and then return.”
    6. So the kingdom has already come according to Matthew 12 and Luke 17 and the coming of the kingdom is still some time in the future according to Luke 19 and Matthew 26. 
    7. This is puzzling. 
      1. It threw the Pharisees into confusion. 
      2. It took John the Baptist off guard (Matthew 11:2–6). 
      3. It caused one crowd to want to throw Jesus off a cliff (Luke 4:29) 
      4. and another want to make him king (John 6:15). 
      5. It baffled Pilate when Jesus was on trial (John 18:36–37). 
      6. It left the apostles confused and hopeless between Good Friday and Easter (Luke 24:21).
  2. What does it mean?
    1. The end of the age has mysteriously invaded the present world
    2. There is a tension between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’
    3. An analogy from the last century - Oscar Cullmann
    4. The tension between fulfilment and consummation:
      1. 1 Corinthians 10:11 “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come.”
      2. Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
    5. All true at the same time!
      1. How do we understand it?
      2. It is the language of prophecy - not totally logical
      3. Only the ‘inner circle’ will get it (remember the ‘mystery’ in Mark 4)
    6. The big question is this: Is the kingdom of God a future reality to be hoped for or a present reality to experience now?
    7. The answer is that it is in some ways present and in some ways future. 
      1. Many of its blessings are here to be enjoyed now; but many of them are not yet here. 
      2. Some of its power is available now but not all of it. 
      3. Some of the curse and misery of this present evil age can be overcome now by the presence of the kingdom. But some of it can’t be. 
      4. The decisive battle against sin and Satan and sickness and death has been fought and won by Jesus in his death and resurrection, but the war is not over. 
      5. Sin must be fought, Satan must be resisted, sickness must be prayed over 
      6. and death must be endured until the second coming of the King and the consummation of the kingdom.
    8. The overriding issue for us is that we ARE Kingdom people NOW
      1. It’s a reality to be experienced now, but a mystery that must be taken hold of by revelation
      2. That’s the mystery I want to delve into next time.

Questions for Individual or Group Discussion

  1. Think of a time when you’ve experienced the power of the Kingdom in your life.
  2. Has there been a time when you’ve experienced the frustration of not seeing the Kingdom come in your circumstances?
  3. Has this ever puzzled you? Explain how you felt.
  4. Share some testimony about the joy of seeing the Kingdom come in such a way that it changed the atmosphere around you.

 

The purpose of these videos is to encourage the body of Christ to be faithful to the call of Jesus. 

We’d like to connect with you - particularly if you have questions about the things we’ve been talking about. We want to be able to dialogue with you about the things God is doing in your lives

You can email us at admin@kingdomenterprise.org.uk - there’s a link on the YouTube page as well. so please feel free to contact us - so we can encourage one another in these exciting times

Breakthrough - The Kingdom of God Part 1

  1. The first in this series of videos focuses on what Jesus taught us about the Kingdom of God
    1. Understanding the Kingdom is the key to understanding God’s purposes for his people
      1. Jesus pretty much only spoke about the Kingdom - even the sermon on the mount was primarily about kingdom living.
      2. Most of the parables were about the Kingdom.
    2. So What is the Kingdom of God?
      1. It’s about the rule and reign of God
      2. John the Baptist - baptised Jesus in the river then it all began to happen!
    3. The Kingdom coming:
      1. Suddenly
        1. Mark 1 - ‘immediately’
      2. With authority over:
        1. Sickness
        2. Demons
        3. Sins
        4. Nature
        5. Death
      3. Luke 4:18-19 (NIV) "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."
      4. Mysteriously - Mark 4 - the secret or mystery of the kingdom has been given
    4. Jesus’ announcement of the Kingdom
      1. Four propositions:
        1. The Kingdom will come in the future
        2. The Kingdom has arrived now
        3. The Kingdom isn’t here, but it’s almost here
        4. The Kingdom has been delayed for a long time

Questions for Individual or Group Discussion:

  1. What can we glean from The Sermon on the Mount about Kingdom living?
  2. Has there been a time in your life when the ‘rule of God’ has differed from your own thoughts and values to the point where you have needed to make adjustments in your life?
  3. Think about a time in your life when you have experienced the power of the Kingdom of God over sickness.
  4. In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus speaks about ‘releasing the oppressed’ - think about a time in your life when the Lord has released you from things that were oppressing you.

The purpose of these videos is to encourage the body of Christ to be faithful to the call of Jesus. 

We’d like to connect with you - particularly if you have questions about the things we’ve been talking about. We want to be able to dialogue with you about the things God is doing in your lives

You can email us at admin@kingdomenterprise.org.uk - there’s a link on the YouTube page as well. so please feel free to contact us - so we can encourage one another in these exciting times.

Ekklesia: The Government of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

Conspiracy Theories

These are rife at the moment - especially in the USA with the election coming up. Accusations back and forth about who's done this, that or the other. What we're seeing as we look at church history is that there's been a different kind of conspiracy taking place and it goes right back to the Third Century when Constantine adopted Christianity as the state religion. By making it the state religion he imposed a structure on the church that it was never supposed to come under. He knew that he was never going to overcome the impact of Christianity so he took the, "if you can't beat them, join them" approach (or, if you can't kill it, co-opt it). 

That's when church moved away from the open, interactive, participatory coming together Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14:26:

"What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."

Divine Intelligence

When we first got married we lived in Cheltenham - about a mile from GCHQ which is the centre where all the coordination of espionage takes place. It's where they listen to communication between spies - as well as the gathering of secrets useful in espionage and wartime activities. We are in warfare - military intelligence is a vital part of wartime activity. The Father has his council of war and the enemy has his as well. The ones who can listen in to the secrets of the other side have an advantage over the others. You and I have the ability to listen in to the strategy of the enemy so that we can be forewarned and therefore forearmed. 

ekklesia_graceunlimited.jpg

Ekklesia, that we have referred to previously, is just that. God's people coming together to listen to the Lord's strategy for his people. Like what happened in the Ekklesia in Antioch:

Acts 13:1-3 "In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off."

The believers listened to the Holy Spirit then did just what he said. This is the reality of the government of God among his Kingdom people expressing spiritual authority on the earth today. 

The Carousel

Each weekday we receive a "Prophetic Devotional" from a website in the USA. Last week here's what it said:

In a vision I saw a carousel going round and round with the horses of various, bright colors going up and down as the music played in the background.  I asked the Lord what the vision meant, and He said that the circus of life and circumstances are like this carousel.  It seems exciting and fun at first, but it becomes very monotonous and routine.  You can get off of this merry-go-round any time you want to and be about My business.  But, you will have to do so deliberately and refocus your attention.  Acts 17:28a "for in Him we live and move and have our being."                            

As we thought this through we considered how easy it is to get into a rut - church does this or that. We turn up on a Sunday or our midweek groups - it looks like activity, but like the carousel, we're often not actually getting anywhere. 

Agreement or Love?

So what does it mean for us? What's the basis of our coming together? If it's on the basis of agreement, we might encounter a problem when we come across something we disagree about - it often results in separation. But if we come together on the basis of love, when we encounter disagreement, we can work through it because we love! Love becomes our connecting point and it brings the "unity of the Spirit" rather than the "spirit of unity" that so often characterises our endeavours in unity. There are places the Lord will place us where we will be able to go to war together over the circumstances we see around us. We're in a war zone - the outcome is dependent on ‘intelligence’ and we have been given weapons - fasting, prayer, repentance, service, humility, even martyrdom. God is establishing an offensive movement going to attack gates of hell – Paul said “the weapons of warfare are not human, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses – speculations and every lofty thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God”

This is part of the reason why Kingdom Enterprise exists - skill sets coming together. Using skills to bring about righteousness and justice in our neighbourhoods through Kingdom entry points with signs and wonders. It will be relational and corporate and the strategy has to be Kingdom strategy that utilises Kingdom skills.

You Could Do This!

It’s possible for us to do this - the minimum to bring together in your home is two or three, but there are five stages of understanding we need to take on board:

  • First: Understanding what the Kingdom of God is in reality. This is about the rule and reign of God coming into the world today. 
  • Second: Seeing small groups as Kingdom activity - skill sets coming together to minister into specific areas and with a specific mission in mind. 
  • Third: Understanding how these small groups function - listening to the Lord and doing what he says. 
  • Fourth: The provision of teaching materials to tap into (more about that soon).
  • Fifth: Places where we can come together to report back what God is saying and to worship and minister to each other - Kingdom Enterprises and specific skill sets being released. 

Each one of you has been placed in a setting where you can play your part among the people you know. 

Find Out More

If you would like to hear more about the implications of what we’re talking about in this article, you could find out more about our upcoming Ekklesia Seminar in Bolton on Saturday 3rd December by clicking on the link below:

You could also email us at: admin@kingdomenterprise.org.uk 

And the Greatest of These . . .

What should a disciple look like? We know we’re all called to persevere, to continue in the word - all the important things Jesus said to his followers. But there seems to be one element that we ignore to our peril. In John 13, Jesus states in no uncertain terms what he’s looking for:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35

Jesus is speaking to his disciples - this was not an open meeting. Opening his heart to his disciples(presumably the same 120 who were in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost) he addresses some very important issues - we cannot succeed as believers if we brush aside these instructions in chapters 13 to 17. He is calling us to consider what are the ingredients of genuine discipleship. These are very focused instructions - and seemingly the only way to find fulness of joy and fruitfulness. 

He describes this as a “New Commandment” - to love “as I have loved you” - and he underlines it all by saying “by this!” He’s not saying we can add other things - he’s saying there is one mark to cause the purpose of God to be fulfilled in our lives. IF YOU HAVE LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER! This cannot be taken lightly - otherwise we will not have a lasting effect on people - people won't know. In his “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17, he adds this:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23

Now he’s adding the concept that the revelation of the Glory of God is also dependent on disciples loving one another. It’s interesting to note from Acts 2 that the coming of the Holy Spirit was preceded by this same issue - they were "all in one accord". This takes us beyond our individuality. Paul takes it further and applies the same test to the Christian life:

"If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

But love has often been relegated to the background of our thinking and the body of Christ is so divided. There are over 36,000 denominations in the world today - what’s the root of the word ‘denomination’? It’s linked to the word ‘denominator’ - that number at the bottom of a fraction that means you must divide the top number by the bottom one. Denominational thinking is based on the concept of division!

If we’re looking for a genuine revelation of the Kingdom of God - it can't be achieved without love. Jesus said this to just 120 of them. Some time later, on the day of Pentecost, Jesus released the Holy Spirit onto group who were in one accord. Later on, Paul said this: 

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” Galatians 5:6

The only thing that matters is faith that works by love. No other activity matters except faith working through love. Towards the end of the same chapter he said this:

"By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things."Galatians 5:22-23

The word is singular - FRUIT! I can't say that the manifestation of the Spirit in my life is joy! You cannot have peace if you don't have love. But in verse19 works of the flesh “are” (plural)! Our flesh can manifest enmity, idolatry and and impurity, but the Holy Spirit does not specialise in any one fruit - we can't be walking in the Holy Spirit and be impatient or violent. John obviously learned a very valuable lesson from Jesus and passed it on in his letters:

"Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.” 1 John 2:8-11

Hatred, avoidance, criticism all ruin our discipleship - there’s nothing in between love and hatred. I can't say “I don't love him but don't hate him”.

"The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:10

Let’s go back to John 13:34-35. This is not an exhortation but a command - I can't love and not keep commandments. Jesus said, “As I have loved you” - we don't have a choice. Love is my debt to others - no debt except the debt of love. I can't be walking in the Holy Spirit and disobey this command. Many are looking for genuine revival - this is a key. It’s so necessary for those who want to host a move of God - love creates a landing strip for the Holy Spirit to land on. AS - I have loved you - he gave us the pattern of how to love - it’s not about just loving those who does believe the same. John points to a very important issue:

“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” John 13:1

Did Peter never offend Jesus? He even denied Jesus, but Jesus loved him to the end. Not, "I used to love that brother." His love never dies or changes. In Romans 5 Paul points us to the same issue:

"... and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:5-8

“As (in the same way that) I have loved you.” 

There’s only one mark! One Commandment. What it takes to fulfil that command has already been provided - the love of God poured into our hearts. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book ‘Life Together’, makes some very poignant statements about love:

Christ Jesus stands between the lover and the others he loves. What love is - only Christ tells in his word. Contrary to all my own opinions and convictions Jesus Christ will tell me what love towards the brethren really is. Therefore spiritual love is bound solely to the Word of Jesus Christ. Where Christ binds me to maintain the fellowship for the sake of love I will maintain it. Where his truth enjoins me to resolve a fellowship for love's sake there I will resolve it. Because spiritual love does not desire but serves, it loves an enemy as a brother. It originates neither in the brother nor in the enemy, but in Christ and his word. (Life Together p35)

He goes on to explain that what he calls ‘human love’ can never understand ‘spiritual love’ because spiritual love is from above - it is something completely strange, new and incomprehensible to all earthly love. He says that human love is directed to the other person for his own's sake, spiritual love loves him for Christ's sake.

“Human love produces human subjection, dependence and constraint - spiritual love creates freedom of the brethren under the Word.” (Life Together p37) 

 

He suggests that spiritual love creates the fruits that grow healthily in accord with God's good will in the rain and storm and sunshine of God's outdoors and that the existence of any Christian life together depends on whether it succeeds at the right time in bringing out the ability to distinguish between a human ideal and God’s reality, “between spiritual and human community.”

If we are longing for heaven to open up to us this is something to take very seriously. This kind of love is birthed out of the Spirit not just good deeds. It's out of a heart of compassion and kindness.

 

Ekklesia - the lost word of the New Testament

Matthew 16 is the culmination of much of the New Testament – someone once described it as the epicentre of the gospels – the divine definition and calling for his people. Here’s the passage I’m referring to: 

Matthew 16:13-20 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church (Greek: Ekklesia), and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. 

Ekklesia or Church?

Right at the outset, we need some definition so that we can arrive at a right understanding of what Jesus is saying. In Tyndale’s translation of the Bible, he used the word “congregation”, but when the King James Bible translators came to this verse they used theEnglish word “church” - all future translations followed suit. Now, here’s the beginning of the problem because the word “Church” literally means “House of the Lord” – a modern word from which the Scots get the word “Kirk” – place where the people of God meet. 

The question is, does it matter? My response is “Yes it does!” And here’s why.

What did Jesus say?

The central focus of this passage is where Jesus says, “Upon this rock (this revelation) I will build my church (Ekklesia)” The Greek word “Ekklesia” is derived from two words: ek (out of) klesis (calling). It’s the word from which we get the word “Ecclesiastical” - something to do with “Church”. Some years ago we had a house insurance policy with the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group - they are the ones who insure the Church of England against acts of God!

This word is used 115 times in the New Testament and in our English Bibles it’s translated “Church” in all but 3 verses.

The word Ekklesia had been in use for 500 years by the time Jesus said it and it had a specific meaning – it referred to a ruling body which was the principle assembly of the government in Athens open to all male citizens over the age of 18 – up to 6000 citizens. They were responsible for declaring war, determining military strategy, electing military generals and other officials; they voted on decrees, treaties and law proposals.

The Ekklesia was a participatory, interactive assembly - they were ‘called out’ (summoned, convened) to conduct the business of the city. They met about 40 times a year to discuss issues and make policy decisions. Everyone was considered equal and anyone could participate and share ideas, opinions and concerns. 

In his letter to Corinth (a former Greek city state then under Roman rule) Paul described Christian Ekklesia like this:

1 Corinthians 14:26 “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

These words couldn’t help but cause the Christians in Corinth to remember the history of their city’s Ekklesia and how they, as believers, should also meet in an open, equal and participatory style.

It seems to be how the early Christians met - 

Acts 13:1-3 “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

New Testament Times

In Jesus’ day everyone understood what Ekklesia was (the called out ones of a city-state); so he was saying, “I am going to build my ruling body in the earth that will crush the gates of hell.”

In Joel chapter 2 the Israelites are told to call a solemn assembly (same word in Hebrew); they were to gather a people that could shift a nation – a solemn assembly by divine decree.

If we put together these different aspects of Ekklesia it means that when Jesus said, “I will build my Ekklesia” he was really saying, “I am going to build my governmental assembly – my ruling body in the earth on the revelation that I am the supreme ruler over the universe”.

Ekklesia in History

In the 1600’s the early Quakers applied this format to their meetings (based on the practises of a group of dissenters called the ‘Westmoreland Seekers’). This started a spiritual awakening in England which spread all over the world. They met in silence and waited on the Lord - only speaking when prompted by the Holy Spirit. This carried on until the late 1900’s when they adopted a more traditional church format.

Then in the 18th Century the early Methodists practiced an Ekklesia-style in their Class Meetings. John Wesley said:

“We will meet together once a week to ‘confess our faults to one another, that we may be healed’ . . . so that everyone, in order, speak as freely, plainly and concisely as he can, the real state of his heart, with his several temptations and deliverances, since the last time of meeting.”

He also said:

“What advantages have been reaped from this? Many happily experienced that Christian fellowship of which they had not so much as an idea before. They began to ‘bear one another’s burdens,’ and naturally to ‘care for each other.”

Jesus commended Peter for the fact that he had received ‘revelation’ (from the Father in heaven). Throughout Church history people have come to different conclusions about what he meant - was he referring to Peter, or the confession that Jesus is the Messiah? Or maybe he was saying that the ‘rock’ upon which Jesus plans to build his Ekklesia is actually people hearing directly from the living Jesus and then saying and/or doing whatever he tells them.

If this is what he meant, then the functioning of true “Ekklesia” is dependent on the Holy Spirit - the actual presence of the living Jesus that he promised when two or three meet together (Matthew 18). So Ekklesia isn’t planned and orchestrated by a human leader, but rather is directly assembled, led and orchestrated by the living Jesus himself.

Then we get to do what Paul spoke about in Colossians 3:16 -

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

The Reformation of the 16th Century brought into focus, among other things, the “Priesthood of all believers”. For Ekklesia to be rebirthed in the 21st Century, maybe we need another reformation? 

How does Ekklesia work?

An Ekklesia is a meeting where two or more everyday people are invited to come together to listen to the living, resurrected Jesus and then to speak and/or do what Jesus tells them to. It results in a divinely orchestrated time in the presence of Jesus. Hidden deep in the New Testament is this lost Ekklesia format that is radically different from the way almost everyone conducts church. 

In fact 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Colossians 3:16 are two particular verses we find in the Bible that tell us specifically how to conduct ourselves in Ekklesia (church)! It demands Spirit-led, active participation by those attending rather than passive listening (like an audience). It requires us to spend time in the presence of Jesus where we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. When Eli cottoned on to the fact that the Lord was speaking to Samuel (1 Samuel 3), his advice was to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” That’s all it requires - listening and letting the Holy Spirit speak to you - it may be a prophetic word, a scripture or a picture; something the Lord wants to tell you or ask you to do.

Can it work today?

Last Saturday evening we hosted a “Joining the Dots” gathering in our home in Bolton. After we had introduced the concept of “Ekklesia” we decided to put it into practice. We had a time of quiet - encouraging everyone to pray, “Speak, Lord” and after a few minutes, one-by-one, people began to share what they heard the Lord saying. It was a combination of encouragement to persevere, helpful pictures that meant something specific to the person sharing or others in the group and Scriptures (sometimes with an explanation or definition - like a mini-sermon).

Afterwards, we went into a time of worship - during which the Holy Spirit began to move powerfully in people’s lives. We asked a few people what the Holy Spirit was doing and people shared powerful testimony to what they saw and heard. One person shared an encouraging word from Psalm 23; replacing the word “my” with “the United Kingdom” - very sobering in light of that week’s referendum result!

In Matthew 18, Jesus implies that the minimum for his Ekklesia is “two or three”. My suggestion to you is that you pray about inviting (calling together) a small group of people in your home and giving the Holy Spirit the opportunity to bring the living presence of Jesus to your Ekklesia - believe me, it will be life-changing!

Church - Circus or Carnival?

A few years ago a good friend showed us a short movie called “The Butterfly Circus”. It’s a 20-minute parable about being liberated from our despair by grace and hope and it has something to say at a number of levels. In a world where exploitation and bullying are all too common, The Butterfly Circus tells a story about what it means to recognise that you are were made for a reason. 

The Butterfly Circus

In the midst of the Great Depression, Mr. Mendez leads his humble circus as they travel around the devastated American countryside. The attractions in The Butterfly Circus are meant to inspire and instil hope in its audience, a much-needed thing during the depression. While visiting a travelling carnival, Mr. Mendez and his troupe come across Will, a limbless man, in the carnival sideshow. Mendez sees him as a beautiful creature but Will’s anger and bitterness prevent him from seeing his own potential. The man leading the sideshow says of Will, “A perversion of nature…whom God Himself has turned his back upon.” Mr. Mendez says to Will, “You are magnificent!”  but Will spits on him and Mr. Mendez says, “Maybe I got a little too close”.

Many people find it hard to believe it even when God says to them, “You are magnificent!”. When God calls people they often spit in his face. But God is patient with us and continues to draw close to us, even when we reject him.

Will runs away from the Carnival, hitches a ride in the back of a Butterfly Circus truck, and ends up joining the troupe. He suggests they should start a sideshow of their own. Mr. Mendez talks to Will about people coming to the sideshow and asks, “Why do they come? There is nothing inspiring about man’s imperfections here in this place.” In the sideshow, people are ‘used’ and their imperfections are highlighted, there is no interest in the person but rather in their deformity. At the Butterfly Circus the focus is on the person - not their imperfections, but rather their perfections; what people can do in the midst of challenges. God is not going to use or exploit us, but rather he will help us reach our full potential. Each of the performers’ talents in the Butterfly Circus is unique and so to each one is needed. 

At first, his old way of doing things and his failure to see his own gifts prevent Will from finding a place. But he is inspired by the performers in The Butterfly Circus, and starts a personal journey to find hope in his life in spite of his considerable physical limitations.

A Turning Point

One day Will is watching the performers, envying their talents. Mr. Mendez says, “Look at you - a perversion of nature…whom God himself has turned his back upon”. Will asks him why he said those things and Mendez’s responds, “Because you believe it, if you could only see what can come from ashes.” Will says, “But I’m not like them.” Mr. Mendez continues, “There you have the advantage, the greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.” 

One day, Will experiences an unexpected baptism of sorts, and discovers that he can swim; his new purpose frees him to be a role model for others seeking to escape their own cocoons.

The performers in the Butterfly Circus were considered “last” in the eyes of the world. One was a violent drunkard, one a pregnant prostitute, one a washed up old man out of work and finally Will a limbless man who seemed to have no potential. But Mr. Mendez believed in them and saw in them what they and others did not see in themselves. They went from being outcasts to heroes. It is God that makes the last first. In our own lives have we been considered or perhaps are still considered “last” but through the Grace of God have been considered “first”. In the Butterfly Circus, Mr. Mendez is always on the lookout for people to join the circus and is always gently sending out the call to invite people in. God’s desire is for all to be saved and come to know the truth; he will never stop calling and inviting us. The question is whether we are listening, whether we are responding.

Circus or Carnival?

The movie begs another question to me. Has the church become a Carnival rather than a Circus? In the opening scene, when the young boy suggests going to the Carnival, the man says, “We’re all the Carnival you need.” The boy’s answer is, “But they have rides!”

It’s easy for the church to fall into the trap of emphasising the “spectacular” - 

“Come to us, we’re the biggest show in town.”

“Come to the big event with the big speaker - it will change your life.”

“Come to us and we’ll tell you your future.”

“Come and see the man who’s been drunk in the Spirit for the past 15 years!”

On the other hand, a circus is a company of people who are dedicated to helping each other excel in their skills - people who are cheering each other on to greater and greater things as they work together and serve the wider community.

In commenting on why some Christians become dissatisfied with ‘regular church’ after attending big conference events, someone once said to us, “The conference is to church what the birthday party is to the family.” In other words, if family breakfast every day was accompanied by balloons, birthday cake and take-home bags of goodies, one might be forgiven for thinking that this family was a little weird! Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t expect to see great things as we gather together week by week, but where is our focus?

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:18-26 “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.”

Paul argues that every member of the body is necessary. There are no exceptions. Those body parts that are deemed weaker, less honourable, or less presentable are all critically important. Paul rejected the Corinthians criteria for evaluating which gifts were most honourable. They had chosen the most visible or audible gifts for selfish reasons. The sole purpose of the gifts was to build up the body of Christ; the true criterion for the greatness of any gift would be its usefulness to the body of Christ.

How does this apply to the church? Every church has people who are out in the forefront, but what is really essential to the ongoing life of the church is the people behind the scenes—those who serve faithfully and quietly. In 12:26, Paul writes one of the most powerful verses in the Scriptures: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” If you’ve ever been sick with a cold or the flu you know that a simple cold, cough, or sore throat can affect your entire body. Worse yet, have you ever had a case of food poisoning? Several years ago, I had a terrible bout with this dreadful condition. I was so sick that I felt I was going to die! This little bug didn’t just affect my stomach, it affected my whole body. I ached from the tip of my head to the bottom of my feet. I experienced chills; I had a fever; I was in agony. When one part of your body suffers, the whole body is brought down.

Paul took the theme of mutual care one step further. As members of the same body we are so closely bound together that we actually share the same feelings. What causes joy for one member delights the whole body. When one member suffers the entire body hurts. Most of us do a better job empathising with those who suffer than we do rejoicing with those who are honoured. If we could ever come to the conviction that we are truly family - like the Butterfly Circus, it would change many of our attitudes about ourselves and others in the church. I know that I receive greater joy in seeing my children achieve than in my own achievements. If we are family, why is it so difficult to see another member of our own body receive honour? Our goal should be for the Holy Spirit to use us for the good of the family itself. We must desperately yearn, as in The Butterfly Circus for the fruitfulness of others - for the butterfly to emerge in each of us so that we can fly!

Reimagining Church!

Shifting Atmospheres

At the same time as the AzusaNow event the other week in Los Angeles, 30,000 church leaders gathered to pray for revival in the USA at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. God is up to something! 

Albert Einstein quoted as saying that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. In 1982 Mike Bickle was in Cairo, Egypt and the Lord told him that it was his intention to, “. . . change the understanding and expression of church in one generation.” If that is the case, what will it mean to, "do church differently?” The strap-line of Kingdom Enterprise is “Reimagining Church” - what does that mean?

Understanding the issues - Ecclesia & Koinonia

There are two words in the New Testament that describe “church” - Ecclesia and Koinonia. Ecclesia could be seen as “structure” and Koinonia is “fellowship” - there are issues that will undermine both.

In Matthew 18, Jesus goes to great lengths to stress the importance of getting things right:

Matthew 18:15-20 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 

“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” 

The key to understanding this concept is verse 19 - agreeing in prayer. That’s why anything that hinders unity has to be dealt with. Binding and loosing imply that the church should be exercising spiritual authority in its area of influence. It seems that the minimum ‘gathering’ for this to happen is “two or three” - that’s where Ecclesia and Koinonia come together.

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”

Agreeing in prayer as we exercise spiritual authority is a crucial part of understanding the destiny of any local church - that’s why Jesus stresses the importance of rooting out any instance of persistent sin in the body - the kind of sin that would undermine and weaken the church’s ability to exercise its spiritual authority.

The Call to Intimacy

The Lord is looking for those who are prepared to go deeper in their experience of intimacy with him - people whose goal is developing a secret history with God. Some time ago we wrote about Mary of Bethany - the few times she is referenced in the gospels we see that she had developed over time the attribute of living a life of extravagant love and devotion to Jesus.

True intimacy with God is not simply a feeling on a par with a romantic relationship. It goes much deeper than emotion, down to our very souls and reflected by our actions. Jesus is the model of intimacy with God because he and the Father are one (John 10:30) and no relationship can be closer than that oneness with the Father that Jesus experienced. His relationship with the Father was characterised by love and obedience. In love, Jesus came to earth to do his Father’s will. He did nothing on his own, but in everything did the will of his Father (John 5:30). This was most evident in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. Suffering the agony of anticipating what was to come, Jesus asked that the fate He was about to suffer might be removed from Him, but He ended the plea by saying,

“Yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Here we see a perfect example of true intimacy reflected in obedience as Jesus yielded his will to that of his Father.

If we hope to attain true intimacy with God, Jesus must be our model. We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:10), and we prove our love for him by obeying him. Jesus told his followers “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). By obeying him and keeping what He has commanded, he promised that we will remain in his love, just as he remains in the love of the Father by doing the Father’s will (John 15:10). There can only be intimacy with God when we are in good fellowship with him through walking in obedience. Then we can know the joy and peace that comes from trusting him and yielding to his will, just as Jesus did.

Intimacy with God begins when we radically pursue him with our whole heart. David wrote,

“When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to you, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek’” (Psalm 27:8).

God invites us in James 4:8 to

“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

We are instructed in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The word “be still” literally means to cease from striving. It means to let go and relax, to turn down the volume of the world and listen to the quiet whisper of God. It’s getting still and coming into a place of rest. It means soaking in God’s presence. The result is – you will know he is God. The word translated “know” in this context is literally an experiential knowledge of God. It’s not being still and knowing about God. It’s being still and experiencing his manifest presence. You will experience God. You will know the presence of God.

As we focus our heart, spirit, soul, mind, and body (the whole person) on his manifest presence, we become oblivious to the natural/physical world around us. The key is where your focus is – on the things of God or on things of this world. The last word is left to the Psalmist who exhorts us:

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:1-2)

 

A Vision for These Times

God is wanting to show his character and nature through us to the world.There are dangeroustimes ahead for the body of Christ and its Church and it's only through weakness that God will show his strength and power andenable usto enduring andpersevere these difficult times. The coming together in relationships,centred on the same goalis the sign of the body of Christ joining together to weather the storm. 

Christ is raising up his church - to form a partnership - for an awakening of believers - where there are young and old together. Prophetic singers andmusiciansfilled with joy and moved bythe Holy Spirit - where the supernatural is natural. A supernatural provision of finances will come. 

We see an alliance of leaders in cities and regions where there is partnership - Churches hand in hand - not resisting each other

Then the LIGHT OF HIS COUNTENANCE will SHINE! And Jesuswho is leading a great harvest giving us a great commission - a new level of leadership where leaders are walking hand in hand and where God’s Countenance will shine and trainingand equipping in the Kingdom is going to become vital for every believer. 

Not everyone is going to be ready or prepared for these times. It takes a committed group of leaders to model together the receptivity that it takes to sustain faithfor the long haul. 

Psalm 69:13-14 “At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

God is calling us to be men and women of prayer to step up to seekhis face and to know his ways. So much we have done so faris in our own strength and we become weary and tired. God told Martyn and I that he would eraseour diaries. That as we wait on him and stay in his presence he would begin to show us the things of the Spirit that were to occur. 

The hand of God is to transform - give beauty for ashes - as Isaiah 61 says - we so much need that love and beauty of God in our hearts. For many of us that means dialling down, FINDING our spirit set alive again with the Holy Spirit.  And A FRESH YEARNING for a TOUCH THE LORD

Some of you may remember the song “as the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after you.” The power and the authority that we desire is available to us but is only provided for us in our weaknessand in humility. We need to be desperate for the transformationin ourselves to see the glory increased in our midst. God has said - we won't miss it but we must watch for the Holy spirit to move first. Waiting before the Lord is the required position for preparation

The roots of holiness in this nation are to go down deep to undergirded it in difficult times. But it begins with us walking with the holy Godin our lives andholiness in his house,the temple. 

Weneed to develop an internal Compass for righteousness and truth - integrity

GOD TRYING TO STEADY THE CHURCH TO GET IT READY

The Lord said to me to ask the question “who will hear? who is ready? Who is hungry?”

We may be surprised that not everyone wants to hear - it's quite a lonely walk. But as the fire is kindled it will burn brighter and more contagious. Coming up from the ground from deep within our spirits is a new strength andcapacity to fight- it's a battle sound and its growing - to overcome the principalities and powers that are against us.

God will impart to us something that will require huge responsibility.We need to Impart andaffirm what God is doing not man. We need to govern wisely - as the work will be often messy.

So it's in thewaiting and preparation time - that he imparts his presence and power to us -conforming our wills to his and changing our hearts as he prepares us for the task. Restorationhealing wholenessand deliverance is at the centre. But the holy Spirit must be the leader. It's his move - it is his work - we justneed to cooperate. 

Habakkuk 2:3 “For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.”

Daniel 8:19 He said, “Listen, and I will tell you what will take place later in the period of wrath; for it refers to the appointed time of the end.”

 

Joining The Dots - What in the world is God up to?

14 The Highgrove, Old Kiln Lane, Heaton, Bolton, BL1 5PX

Please RSVP to tell us you're coming by emailing martyn@kingdomenterprise.org.uk

What is Joining the Dots?

We have felt for a while that the Lord was asking us to begin to create a new vehicle - one piece at a time. Something that would see people with a hunger for God coming together in a loving, safe environment to take hold of God’s prophetic encouragement and learn to ‘dance’ together as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit and allow the Lord to pull back the curtain so we can hear what the Holy Spirit is saying and get hold of his purposes for our nation today.

Hence the invitation to ‘Joining the Dots’ on this email. The first of these events will be on Saturday 16th April - 7:30pm at our house. Our anticipation is that we will quickly outgrow our home and move to somewhere bigger. The invitation is for YOU - if Bolton is accessible to you, come along and get behind what we see the Lord doing and saying to his people today. All we would ask is that you rsvp to the invitation so we know who’s coming.

Come and stand with us to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!

What's behind 'Joining the Dots'?

A friend recently sent us a prophetic word from the Elijah List with an encouragement for the beginning of this year - it made a very important point:

“Learn to move by the vibrations of the sound coming up through your feet. This is how I will move My people into place in days ahead! You will not move by the thoughts of your mind, but by the sounds of Heaven vibrating the ground and causing your feet to sense what I'm saying so you can move into place for the future.

This was based on an interesting observation:

”You will be like the elephant that hears through his feet, and because of that he can hear things coming from miles away. As he hears things coming from a distance and prepares himself for what's coming, he trumpets with his mouth what's going on so others can see.” 

So, as we seek to place our feet firmly on the ground to ‘hear’ what’s happening at a distance, here are some of the things we’re observing:

First, there’s a move of God, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that’s coming to God’s people and it’s bigger than anything we’ve seen before - people are feeling it and many people are expecting it. 

Second, in Genesis 18 the Lord commends Abraham for his stand for righteousness and justice in his family which enabled him to receive the promise from God that he would be the founder of a great and mighty nation. 

The Lord is looking for those whom he will call and equip to stand for righteousness and justice in the nations. In Proverbs 14:34 we read: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” As we observe the bleak landscape of the nations around us, we can see the effects of the ‘reproach’ of unrighteousness and injustice and its impact on society - God is looking for those who are prepared to make the same stand that Abraham did - so that we can receive the promise for ourselves. 

Third, there’s an awakening beginning in California - someone recently observed that every 11 years since The Azusa Street Revival in 1906 there has been a major outpouring of the Holy Spirit somewhere in the world. Here are some of those outpourings that coincide with that timeframe in the last 60-70 years: 

  • The great Healing Revival in the 1950’s
  • The Charismatic Movement in the 1960’s
  • The Jesus People Movement in the 1970’s
  • The ‘Third Wave’ outpouring in the 1980’s
  • The “Toronto Blessing’ in the 1990’s
  • Powerful manifestations of God’s power in the mid-2000’s

That brings us right up to date into 2016 and there is the beginning of a move of God happening right now in San Diego, California - God is coming to revive the church and bring in the ‘spiritual outcasts’.

Can We Dare To Believe?

In Psalm 27:13, David says: “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Sometimes, through all the ups and downs of our spiritual journey, it’s hard to hold on to that kind of promise. Over many years we have believed that God’s desire was to bring about a worldwide revival that would usher in a great ingathering of souls into his Kingdom. While we can be thankful for the evidence of significant moves of God in many places in the world, it always seems to be happening ‘somewhere else’!

Could it really be that we could see God’s Kingdom advance in such a way that it will touch the ends of the earth and bring about a glorious, end-time revival that will see a billion souls coming to Christ? In their day and time people like Abraham, Moses and David were used by God as ‘transition messengers’ - people who ushered in a new dispensation for the people of God. It’s interesting to observe that all of those people (as well as many of the Old Testament prophets) came into prominence after great failure and often an extended time of being ‘hidden away’ so that the Lord could prepare them for the task ahead. The same was true of John the Baptist who spent the first 30 years of his life in the desert being prepared by God to be “The voice of one crying in the wilderness”!

Psalm 62:5 says: “My soul, wait in silence for God alone, For my hope is from Him.” Hope is the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what he will do in the future - it is a confident expectation and desire for something good from the hand of the Lord. Biblical hope has moral certainty in it - when the Bible says, “Hope in God!” it doesn’t mean, “Cross your fingers.” It means, to expect great things from God.

God is on the move! Get ready to see his goodness poured out on the nations this year.

 

Martyn & Linda's New Year Newsletter

What’s happening with The Smiths?

We wanted to pull back the curtain on what’s been happening with ‘The Smiths’ over recent months. For some of you this news will not be news at all, but for others of you who don’t know us as well, maybe it will give you some insight into what the Lord has been doing with us in 2015.

As we entered last year, we made a decision for Martyn to reduce the amount of the travelling he had been doing in 2014 - many of you will be aware of the fact that for the past eight years we had been looking after Linda’s dad who moved in with us in 2007. His health concerns were making travelling more difficult and, as the situation unfolded, we realised the wisdom of Martyn being more home-based. Hence, the only trips he undertook in 2015 (other than Sunday preaching in Vinelife churches and the KLA Seminars) were to India in March and Colorado in June (we sent you some testimonies of both trips as they happened).

Linda has been pretty focused on caring for her dad, and this has meant being more involved in the local Anglican church (St. Peter’s, Halliwell and the daughter church, St. Andrew’s where we ministered back in the early 1980’s). This has been quite an interesting journey as she was able to get alongside people to pray with them and encourage them with prophetic input. Some of these folk are people we’ve known for a long time, but others are new acquaintances and people who are on an interesting journey with the Lord.

Our wider family

As far as our family is concerned, it’s been a major task to keep up with them all. For those of you who are not familiar with our wider family, we have three adult kids (now with three spouses between them) and nine grandkids (you know - the rewards for not killing your own kids when they were teenagers!!!) 

Phil & Sarah have continued to develop Vinelife Church, Manchester and are doing really well. In November they hosted the first Jesus Culture Europe Conference in Manchester and had probably close to 1000 delegates for the event. Phil spoke at the first session and he invited Luke up onto the stage to help him! 

Jo has been in the middle year of her Ph.D in Educational Psychology at Manchester University so Tim has reduced his EP work to be more available for the children. Nyah’s transition into secondary school didn’t quite go as planned and she ended up being Home-Educated for nearly the whole of the Autumn Term - thankfully she ended up getting a place in the school Jo & Tim really wanted her to attend in the first place.

Becci & Michael continue to lead Manchester House of Prayer - they have also hosted a number of conferences and training events as well as developing their own training track called ‘Intro’.  Developing their prayer opportunities, increasing their weekly hours in the prayer room, home educating three children and sending the fourth to Nursery seems to fill the rest of their time!

Life-Changing events!

We mentioned earlier the fact that Arnold, Linda’s dad, has been with us for the past few years - the most life-changing event that happened with us at the end of 2015 is that he passed away on 8th December - peacefully, at home with us. The circumstances leading up to his death were truly amazing and a wonderful testimony to God's goodness and mercy. He was 96 in November - all the circumstances of the last few weeks of his life were really amazing.

His passing was really timely - Jo, Tim and family were booked to go away to the USA to visit an old University friend and, against all odds, we were able to have the funeral the day before they left. Martyn led the service and Linda had decided that she should speak (Abi, Phil & Sarah’s youngest also shared a little). What Linda said was very poignant and really spoke to people - well over 80 came to the service and even the funeral director (who is a Christian) said it was one of the most moving services he’d ever been to! The great thing was that people saw the light of God in a dark situation - testimony to the love and honour with which the Lord strengthened and empowered us! We were inundated with messages from people all over the world who were praying for us and encouraging us as we enter a new chapter in our lives.

Looking to the future

We really do have a sense that we are entering a new season - something fresh as we commit ourselves to God’s purpose for us. The other day, Martyn was talking to a friend in the USA and he said, “Things will really heat up for you and Linda now.” - we’ve been on the receiving end of many such encouragements from people. We both have a recognition that there is something fresh on the horizon for us. It would be easy just to plough into things and get moving, but we really feel the need to take time out to seek the Lord and hear him together. So, we have made plans to do just that. On January 21st we will fly out to California for a month and stay with our friends Kevin & Suzanne Springer. After such a long stretch caring for Arnold it will be good to take a break and take a fresh look at what the Lord is saying to us.

We know there are specific things the Lord has put on our hearts - the kind of people we should be networking with and impacting and the prophetic encouragement about how he wants to move in the nations. We also feel that our focus will be on: 

  • Welcoming people into the presence of Jesus
  • Releasing people into a greater experience of anointing from the Holy Spirit 
  • Teaching people how to hear the voice of the Lord.

However, we feel that he will give us a blueprint and a strategy for accomplishing all that as we seek his face and come humbly into his presence to hear his word. Mary of Bethany sat at the feet of Jesus (Mark 10:39) to do just that and it had a powerful impact on her life - our desire is to do the same as we commit ourselves to fulfil his call on our lives.

Please pray for us!