No Fool!

Missionary Jim Elliot arrived in Ecuador in February 1952, with the purpose of evangelising Ecuador's Auca Indians. Towards the end of 1955, he and four other missionaries made contact from their aeroplane with the Huaorani Indians using a loudspeaker and a basket to pass down gifts. After several months, the men decided to build a base a short distance from the Indian village, along the Curaray River. There they were approached one time by a small group of Indians and even gave an aeroplane ride to one curious man whom they called "George". Encouraged by these friendly encounters, they began plans to visit the village, without knowing that George had lied to the others about the missionaries' intentions. Their plans were preempted by the arrival of a larger group of 10 Huaorani warriors, who killed Elliot and his four companions in a sudden and brutal attack on January 8, 1956. Elliot's mutilated body was found downstream, along with those of the other men. His journal entry for October 28, 1949, contains his now famous quotation, expressing his belief that missions work was more important than his life.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”.

Thirty years almost to the day after this tragic incident happened, I was sitting in a tidy, modern apartment in New York. I looked around at the odd collection of pastors and leaders who had gathered for their monthly get-together; supporting one another and praying for each other’s needs and challenges. Here I was – in the place I’d often dreamed of visiting – New York. The past few days had been a whirlwind; frenzied packing, getting ready to fly off to the USA and making sure my wife, Linda, and our three kids would be OK without me for a few weeks. Next was an eight-hour flight spent wondering if I’d done everything I needed to do before I set off on my six-week journey of a lifetime. New York, California and Colorado – staying with people I’d never met before and visiting churches I’d only observed from a distance. This was 1986 – during the season when the ministry of John Wimber and Vineyard Ministries had really begun to make a significant impact on the United Kingdom. Here I was; a fairly inexperienced Anglican curate whose PCC had offered him a sabbatical before he left for his next ministry assignment in Cambridge.

Now, as I looked around the tiny apartment in New York, I had the distinct impression that Jesus had something very important to say to me. The meeting had finished and people were milling around and ‘visiting’ with each other, some deep in conversation, some praying fervently for another with a comforting hand on the shoulder. My eye landed on a distinguished-looking gentleman in the corner; silver-white hair and beard, clerical collar and a broad smile. After a few words of introduction and genuine interest from him - who I was and why I was there - he leaned close to me and asked if I would like some advice from an old guy who’d been round the block a few times. As always, I was ready to glean something from someone who was further ahead in the race than I was, and so my answer was obviously affirmative. His advice was this, “You’ve got to give it away to keep it! If you hold on to it, you’ll lose it; if you give it away, you get to keep it.” Somewhat confused, I asked him what ‘it’ was. He spoke clearly and said, “Anything – in fact, everything!” 

That exchange started me on a journey of discovery that revolutionised my life and ministry. As I untangled this riddle over the next few months and years I began to realise that there is a crucial truth in this principle that we avoid at our peril. The interaction I had with the Episcopal pastor all those years ago opened up a whole treasure house of understanding of God’s ways. As I looked at my life I realised that I had already given up so much – but that wasn’t the point. The ‘it’ in the phrase, “You’ve got to give it away to keep it.” covered the whole of my life. That’s why we all need to count the cost and realise that following Jesus means leaving everything behind and moving forward with him without looking back and considering what I’ve left behind.

Over the next few weeks we will continue to unfold this amazing truth and seek to apply it to every situation in life that we come across.

UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS OF KINGDOM ENTERPRISE

WHAT'S NEW ABOUT KINGDOM ENTERPRISE?

Some time ago the Lord began to speak to us about a new identity as a ministry to the Body of Christ. Previously, as "Vinelife UK" we had functioned in a number of arenas to encourage the Church to be true to its calling - investing in training and equipping people to step up their calling in Christ as well as caring for leaders of Vinelife Churches and taking the the message of the Kingdom to places at home and abroad.

It seemed like a shift in emphasis was on God's heart for us - a new name that would actually communicate something of what we're about. The idea of "Kingdom Enterprise" came as a result of a prophetic word given to us in 2008 shortly after we launched into a new phase of ministry when we stepped aside from leading the Manchester Vinelife Church.

To find out more about what this new phase of ministry looks like you can visit the "About Kingdom Enterprise" page of our website by clicking here

We Need to be Kingdom People

  • Those who walk in intimacy with him will hear his voice and respond naturally to the supernatural leading of the Spirit - place of being at peace in His presence.
  • God is bringing together people for training in different skills in order to touch others in a very real and meaningful way so that the supernatural Kingdom of God occurs in a very natural way.
  • He is calling a people to know the Father's love such that the reality of God's presence is seen in our everyday lives.
  • It is through intimacy and worship our spirit will grow in Him and the power of the blessing will be activated to see people's lives changed.
  • Our destiny is to bringthe KINGDOM OF GOD into the church as well as into the world and to be glory carriers who honour God.
  • The KINGDOM of God is built on our identity in Christ who reveals in himself the Father's true character and nature.
  • Men and women of the KINGDOM are going to see differently as the thermostat that has been set is about to change - the temperature is rising and an exponential urgency for answers is needed.
  • A different response to the world is needed to draw in new recruits to KINGDOM life-  to a life of adventure that is purposeful and effective.

KINGDOM ENTERPRISE IS ESTABLISHED THEN TO PROVIDE THE HELP AND SUPPORT NEEDED FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD AT THIS TIME

  • Its function is out and about in the highways and byways providing consultation and insight into building THE KINGDOM in different arenas of LIFE. It provides a wider vision for the Christian community to grow and to develop in church or in the home - carrying confidence in spirit to a variety of pots of people hungry and serious for spiritual life.
  • We need the faith and revelation to walk on the water as Peter did when Jesus says to us 'COME'.
  • He is providing the way that is right for you to walk in.
  • He is coming as KING to break through and set the captives free such that the light will pierce the darkness even in these troubled times.
  • This new mission and purpose is to be undergirded with holiness so that the love of Christ can shine through.
  • They will align themselves with His cause taking risks even in difficult times just as Joseph and Daniel served in their day.

Remembering

Remembering What God Has Done

Joshua 4:1-4:24

New Year!!! It's a time for looking forward, but also for looking back. Memory is an interesting phenomenon - I heard recently that the whole "I went upstairs to get something and now I can't remember what it was" experience is nature's way of making sure we get extra exercise as we get older!

God knows that we often forget what he's done for us. In Deuteronomy 6:12 Moses issued a final warning to Israel just before they entered the promised land, "Beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt . . ."

The meaning of the Hebrew word for memorial (v. 7) is “to remember.” Given man’s propensity to forget it is little wonder then that memorials have frequently played an important role in biblical history. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, Moses built an altar of stones to commemorate God’s covenant with Israel (Ex. 12:14) . Now in tonight’s text we see God command his people to erect a memorial.

Notice that according to verse one, “when all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan,” that the LORD gave more specific instructions in verses 2-5,

“Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood firm. You shall carry them over with you and leave them in the lodging place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel.”

According to these verses twelve men chosen earlier (3:12) were to go back to where the priest were standing in the middle of the river, holding the ark. Each man was to pick up a large rock or stone from the middle of the Jordan and carry it to the side of the river where Israel would camp in the land of Canaan.

“And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” (v. 7)

First, the memorial stones were to be a reminder of their own personal experience. Notice that in verse six this memorial will cause the children to ask; “What do these stones mean to you?” These stones are first of all to be a reminder those who were present of their personal experience, what they saw, heard and felt. “Tell your story, Keep a clear memory of what God did for you. Keep on telling your stories so that you never lose your own sense of awe and wonder of what God has done in your life.”

Whether you realise it our not we all have memorials in our lives, no not a monument of stones, but one built of memories.

There are memories of places, places that trigger memories just as the memorial stones in Gilgal. There are some significant places in your life that elicit memories. The little church where I was saved is such a place for me. It was there that was saved as a teenager. It is a special place for me. It reminds me of things that God had done in my life. You no doubt have such a place in your life.

There are memories of people. These are memories of people who God has used in your life. For me many of them are the people who encouraged me to pursue the ministry.
But how often do we sit down and think about the memories, and thank God for those people He’s used in our lives?

There are memories of experiences, of God’s answering prayer and of God’s marvelous hand of provision. I remember in seminary how God always provided for our needs. We learned some invaluable lessons on faith. These lessons on faith are not something you can be taught, it is something that you must experience to truly understand.

There are also mementos of the past. If you were to come into my study at home and look around you would see miscellaneous objects that are reminders to me of life experiences, mission trips, etc. Each of those objects triggers memories of what happened then, of the things that God did and that I experienced, experiences that have changed my life.

The point is that God knows how we think and that is the reason that he instructs Joshua to build a memorial. So that each time the Israelites saw it they would be reminded that they had not crossed the Jordan on their own ability, their own strength but because of God.
I challenge you to spend sometime thinking through your memorial stones, let them draw you closer to God and remind you of His faithfulness.

Secondly, the Memorial stones were to serve as a basis of sharing faith with their children (vv. 6-7). In two places in this chapter, parents are reminded of their responsibility for the communication of God’s Word and his calling on their children, generation to generation.

First in verse 6-7, “. . . that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”

And again in verses 21-23,

“Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over,"

As with other memorials in the Old Testament, the intention of the memorial was to provoke questioning especially from future generations. Christianity is never more than one generation away from extinction. If we are not careful UK could well be the exhibit “A” for this truth. Just think for a moment how far our country has drifted away from its foundation in just one generation.

God’s warning to Israel was not to let the environment of the pagan society that surrounded them dictate their values.

Deuteronomy 6:12-15 “. . . then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you (for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth”.

Third, the memorial stones were to be a signpost to a lost world. (v. 24)

“ that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

It has always been God’s plan that the whole world should “know” that He is the only living God. Not only was the crossing of the Jordan a stirring event for Israel, but it was also a terrifying event for all the people living in the land of Canaan.

What memorials are set in place in your life? Ponder them and let the Lord remind you of his goodness and faithfulness to you and those you love.

India Mission Trip - 28th February to 9th March 2015

Trip to Guntur - South India

Saturday 28th to Monday 9th March

You can read an article (click here) about how the Lord connected us with a ministry in India and some thoughts about ministry in India.

Martyn will be travelling there (hopefully with a small team) in March. The plan will to do a three-day pastors' training and equipping event with 300 pastors from the villages. Then we will do some open-air gospel meetings in six different villages in the evenings.

Support

We are entirely dependent on God's people to come alongside us to finance this trip - because the people we will be ministering to will be some of the poorest people in the world and so we will need to finance the whole venture from our end. This is the biggest financial challenge Vinelife UK has ever had to face!

Costs:

Essential:

  • Travel costs for 300 Pastors attending the training: £640.00
  • Feeding program for 300 Pastors attending; £1,280.00
  • Administration in India: £160.00
  • Martyn's travel costs: £600.00
  • Martyn's visa application: £130.00

Total: £2,810.00

Non-Essential, but within our target:

Writing materials, certificates of attendance, bags for Bibles and notes: £900.00

Grand Total: £3,710.00

How can you help?

Martyn is now registered with Stewardship Services, which means that if you are a UK Tax-Payer, we can claim back the tax you have paid on your gift. You can make a one-off gift by clicking on the button here:

If you are not a UK Tax-Payer (i.e. if you don't pay income tax or if you are not a UK resident) you can give through PayPal by clicking here:

If you would like to begin to give regular support to us - and make your giving go further by allowing us to reclaim the tax you've paid on your gift, please click on the link below:

Insights on India

In the Summer of 2013 the Lord connected us by divine appointment with a couple from India - Samson and Raji Kolagani. They head up a ministry in Guntur, South India, called “Sow the Seed”. Through this ministry they lead a large church in the city which is involved in church planting through crusades and pastors’ conferences. The church also provides a base for benevolent ministry in many of the surrounding villages - showing the love of Jesus in practical ways.

In September of last year, while Martyn was in Nashville, Tennessee, the Lord gave him a powerful prophetic word through Mahesh Chavda - part of which was about ministry in India. That same day, back in England, Linda received a call from Samson, who was in the UK at the time - Raji had said to him, “When you are in England, you must go and see Martyn & Linda!”. So, we have been pursuing the possibility of responding to the call to India. Here are some thoughts from a book, “India - One Act of Kindness” by Brendan McCauley.

There are two influences in India - the gospel and the cults. In the West, people say religion is a very private thing, meaning we can’t discuss it. But if it’s such a personal thing, why are Eastern ‘gurus’ making such an impact in the West? Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples - he didn’t say, “When you receive the Holy Spirit you will receive power to sit in church and be blessed!” The whole purpose of being baptised in the Holy Spirit is that we receive power be witnesses. India is hard work - there without prayer nothing works. To go into unreached territories necessitates much prayer and intercession because there is spiritual blindness like a veil that stops people from understanding the salvation message which is a revelation in which the eyes of a person’s heart are opened. Intellectual convincing and reason alone cannot break spiritual blindness. Spiritual blindness can only be broken through spiritual warfare through prayer and fasting.

For a nation like India to be saved we must get back to the apostolic preaching of the Book of Acts - on the day of Pentecost Peter preached the gospel and 3,000 people were saved. He preached the message without compromise - “You crucified him . . . The same Jesus whom you crucified.” In India the gurus are promoting their beliefs - telling people about their philosophies and winning people to follow their gods. In the West there is a huge spiritual vacuum and the church has to stand up and make an impact - otherwise these religious teachers from places like India will fill that vacuum with their new age philosophies.

Many of these cults are being financed from the West because that is where they are making an impact. That is why there is a role for the church in the West - not just to ‘go’, but to give our support to the many apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers God is raising up in India. What they need is for key people to go and pour out their hearts to train, equip and encourage the Indian church. People who can motivate and build up the body of Christ in India and then go back home and educate the church in the West as to how they can best help the work in India.

In 1984 the Indian government expelled all the Western missionaries - but God had already put a move of indigenous leadership in place. Now he has begun to release these local leaders as the next wave of missions and the role of the Western church has changed - there is a huge role for us to play so that we can help them to finish the work in this great country.

So . . . watch out for updates about Martyn's Missions Trip to India - 28th February to 9th March 2015

Declare What Is To Be . . .

Isaiah 45:21 Declare what is to be, present it—let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Saviour; there is none but me.

There's a lot happening in our nation and the rest of the world right now. So much so, that there is an urgency for the body of Christ to rise up and pray for our nations and, "Declare what is to be . . .". Jesus said that where two or three gather together in his name, he is there in the midst. The whole point about the passage in which Jesus promises this is that nothing should detract from us agreeing in prayer. Were we to gather in this way, we would probably come together with different things on our hearts, but this would give us an ability to discern the mind of the Lord for us to agree in prayer. It could be that some would come with a different angle on current events and as we shared together we would be able to pray in agreement into the various scenarios we see around us.

This would also create an urgency to get out the message that the Lord puts on our hearts as we gather together. One thing is certain and that is that the Lord has invested amazing things into us as his people - therefore we should actively pursue possibilities where we can invest in kingdom ministry.

The church has been given the secret of life. Christians are the only ones who have that secret. That might sound conceited and arrogant, yet it is based upon the teaching of the Word of God. Christ is the secret of life - and he promised that he would reveal to us the 'secrets' of the kingdom (Mark 4.11). That is why the message of the kingdom never changes no matter what the age, or the century, in which we find ourselves. That is also why it is always up-to-date. Only that message will meet the needs of the world in which we live. When the church forgets this and wanders off into peripheral paths, trying to produce the by-product directly, it loses its influence, its power, and its effectiveness.

Paul was very keen for his readers to remember this fact, yet he never wants us to get so wrapped up in the results that we forget what produces them. So many times we are so anxious to get to the end that we forget the pathway that leads to it. So in the midst of this practical dissertation of Ephesians 4, he breaks off to restate the great secret of Christian living.

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2)

That is a great declaration. Perhaps we can analyse it best by using the four words Paul uses: The first is to note the apostle's exhortation to us here. "Be imitators of God," The word for imitators is the Greek word that means "to mimic," to be a mimicker of God. Mimics are those who follow the pattern or the example of someone else. Here is what Christians are to be. If you want to put it in one word, you can say it this way, "Be godlike." That is the goal of Christianity. It is to produce men and women who are godlike in the midst of an ungodly world. That is what it is all about.

Mike Bickle, from IHOP-KC recently sent out an invitation to an event happening in Kansas City at the end of the year. We were really struck by what he said:

Today, a great confrontation is mounting up in the earth, as the powers of darkness rage against all that is godly, good, and pure, even attacking the sanctity of life, marriage, sex, and truth itself (Ps. 2:1–3).

In this hour of crisis, many are content to live in passivity and compromise, spiritually bored and disengaged. Yet at the very same time, the Holy Spirit is raising up a mighty army, those who will set their hearts to fully love Jesus and partner with Him to make known His love and power and to see justice go forth in the nations.

Deception and distortion of truth are being accepted by many who profess the name of Jesus.

At the same time, the Holy Spirit is raising up His messengers in pulpits, on campuses, and in the workplace, who will boldly proclaim the biblical message of grace, hope, and power as they believe God for a historic revival to sweep the nations.

In this hour we are witnessing a global move of the Spirit, calling believers to proclaim the name of Jesus in power and to raise up houses of prayer in every tribe and tongue and nation. He is restoring the first commandment to first place in the Church and filling the Church with hope. These are exciting times.

The Spirit is raising up a victorious Church that will be fascinated with Jesus as they encounter His magnificence and grandeur. No aspect of God’s grace more powerfully transforms our emotions than when God the Spirit reveals God the Son to the human spirit. The revelation of His excellence and supremacy is the sustaining power of our hearts and the transforming power in our ministry to others.

Jesus, the coming King, is raising up a Bride to prepare the nations for His return, when He will establish His throne on the earth. He is the mighty King, and no power can withstand His kingdom. Victory is fully assured for His kingdom, and His people will be overcomers in the battle against darkness.

He is not coming back to a prayerless, powerless, and passionless Church, but to a people walking in deep partnership with Him in worship and intercession for the release of the harvest and the establishing of justice in the nations (Lk. 18:7–8).

Where, then, does that take us? In other words, what should we be thinking about as we anticipate the next few decades of Christian existence in our nation? What can we expect to happen in that time? It seems that the church will look very different in the next 20 or so years and that will be a very good thing. It will cause us to discover how much we need one another for survival and that is also a very good thing. Our prayer is that the world in which we find ourselves will be not as violent as it has been but many don’t have much confidence in that. It would appear that the trends that prevail in our world today are heading towards a kind of chaos over which there is little control.

In the midst of that turmoil, Paul's instruction is very timely:

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Jesus said, "I Will Build My Church"

“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idolised community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands set up by their own law, and judge one another and God accordingly. It is not we who build. Christ builds the church.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Life Together 

We would be wise to take a careful look at this statement: “I will build My Church.” (Matthew 16:18). The first thing that strikes us about this thing called “Church” is simply that it is that which Jesus is building upon his own foundation. More specifically, the word “church” is the word “ecclesia”, the called-out assembly. It consists of those to whom God has chosen to reveal his Son. This revelation of who we are in Christ and who Christ is in us is the key. Without this firm foundation we cannot know, understand or experience being part of the Church. Quite frankly, our religious head knowledge or creed is of virtually no significance. Even the repeating of the “Sinner’s Prayer” or understanding “The Four Spiritual Laws” means nothing apart from the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to give us a “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ” (Ephesians 1:17-23). Then, our prayer and confession will be based on “Spirit and Truth” revelation, not “flesh and blood”, second or third generation “knowing”

Matthew 16:17 “Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”

The Church is not built upon Peter, but upon those who have been given revelation (the secret of the Kingdom - Mark 4:11 “And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables.”).

Jesus builds his Church through revelation to individuals - the revelation of himself. This revelation is sufficient to qualify us as members of the Church that Jesus is building. When we understand that revelation is the only thing which matters we will cease trying to grow the Church or gain members through better preaching, musical entertainment, great facilities, demographic studies, and marketing techniques. Instead, we will simply come to rely upon revelation and trust the Father to reveal the Son through the Spirit who brings illumination to our hearts. We are the Temple of God, his habitation, and this Church grows as a living thing.

Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.

Jesus is not building a denomination or founding a movement. The Church is not a denomination; stated simply, the Church is a spiritual house of living stones, invisible to the naked eye, but clearly seen and known in the Spirit. It is not an organisation, but an organism whose members are those who have the revelation of Jesus Christ. They are scattered in all directions, both inside and outside of what we see as the Church. Since the Church comprises individuals who have the revelation of Jesus Christ, how or where they meet together is of little consequence. In Jerusalem, or in this mountain (the woman at the well - John 4:20-24). Where we gather doesn’t matter to him, but WHY we gather is of extreme importance to him. If it is due to the revelation of Jesus Christ, we will worship in Spirit and Truth because the revelation of Jesus Christ draws us together. Why? Because our testimony is other-worldly, peculiar, spiritual. We are the called-out assembly, the ecclesia of Jesus. We are his particular treasure.

What we have, both within the ‘traditional’ Church and within what some people describe as the ‘New Church Streams’, is a mixture of people. Some of them have the revelation of Jesus Christ, and some do not. This revelation is the foundation the Church, regardless of the outward appearances. Where this revelation exists, THERE is the foundation of the Church that Jesus is building. Since it is an inward revelation, a spiritual seeing and entering into, we cannot classify everyone as being the Church merely because they are within a system of ‘Church’, or even if they have come out of a system. Nor can we include or disqualify them because of where or how they meet. Meeting together is only a small part of the whole picture. The question is not whether we are in or out of a human system, or how we meet, or what doctrine we emphasise. The question is, have we seen the Lord? Do we have the revelation of Jesus Christ? We may be correct in outward appearance but have no inward revelation. Therefore, not all who say, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of God:

Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.” 

Similarly, we may be politically or spiritually incorrect and offensive outwardly speaking, that is, according to what human beings value as good, acceptable, moral, and religious; yet the revelation of Christ is sufficient to bring us into the Kingdom with or without the support and approval of people.

Jesus said, “will build My Church.” The Church exists where individuals have the revelation of Jesus Christ and when this revelation takes hold of a person, because it is his Church, and we are the sheep of his pasture, all any of us can do is co-operate with him. Anything done apart from him will fall apart. We may acknowledge with our mouth that it is his Church, but apart from revelation these are empty words. The Church that Jesus is building cannot be overcome by the gates of hell. Since it is built upon the revelation of Jesus Christ, nothing can stop it.

What is my point? Simply this: the Church that Jesus is building will be the only thing which remains.

  • The visible will make way for the invisible, the temporal will give way to the eternal, mortal will put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15).
  • A new heaven and a new earth will be made and the New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ, the Church, will be completed (Revelation 21).
  • We are that Building of God, built upon the revelation-foundation of Jesus brought by the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).
  • We are the Temple of God, therefore we need no earthly temple, we seek no earthly kingdom, and we expect no earthly reward (1 Corinthians 3:16,17).
  • We look for a City whose Builder and Maker is God, and we are that City (Hebrews 11:10).

Jesus is building his Church!

Back to Crimea in June!

Hopefully, you were able to catch up with what happened during Martyn's trip to Yalta in April. One of the things that occurred is that about 25-30 of the people in the conference prayed and prophesied over Martyn on the last evening he was there. It was all very encouraging, but one thing that happened was that one person said, in Russian, "I feel the Lord is saying you will come back here soon." Then, someone else said, in English, "Yes, in June". He was somewhat taken aback by this because we had spoken about this trip being his last one until the Autumn and he wasn't planning on doing anything until then.

We spoke about it when Martyn returned and decided to just let it sit on the back burner and see what happened. Then last month we had an email from a friend in the USA who had been praying for the trip to Crimea. She said that she had been praying and had the impression Martyn would return sooner rather than later. We prayed again and came to the conclusion that we were willing for him to go, but we were looking for a sign from God.

This last weekend we had a very encouraging email from our friends in Yalta suggesting that Martyn goes over the last week of June - which is actually the only time I could reasonably make it. We still felt we needed to be absolutely sure about it so yesterday morning Martyn asked the Lord for a specific sign - that there would be some kind of financial provision for the trip. Then, later in the day we received some money which was to pay for the visa for his last trip, but there was an additional £140.00 which needed to go into our "Eastern European" fund. That kind of clinched it!

So, he went online to look at flights and discovered that on the dates he would plan to go, there was only one seat left! So he booked it.

The plan is to fly out there on Thursday 19th June and return on Tuesday 1st July. That will give him two weekends there - the benefit of that is that over those weekends I will be able to network with some of the contacts they have with other people developing prayer groups and houses of prayer in Crimea as well as being able to to some specific training with the Yalta Prayer Base team during the week.

It's interesting that in this season of time the Lord is giving us opportunities to connect with and give input to these houses of prayer in Ukraine, Crimea and Russia. Especially in view of numerous prophecies about the place of Russia and Ukraine in God's end-time scenario. If you would like to hear more - you can watch a video clip of Bob Jones speaking about God's End-Time calling on Russia back in 1995 by clicking here

So . . . please pray for this trip - particularly about the finances. It will cost about £580.00 for the flight and the Russian Visa (easier and cheaper this time since it's not last-minute!). That meas that we would need to raise another £440.00 to cover all the up-front costs.

If you would like to help towards this, here are a few ways you can do so:

  • A cheque in UK funds (payable to "Vinelife UK") - sent to:

Vinelife UK, 14 The Highgrove, Bolton, BL1 5PX

  • To email us for details of how to make an online payment, click here:
  • You could use the 'Donation' facility on our website (through PayPal - they make a small charge) by clicking below:

Thanks for your partnership in Kingdom Ministry!

Martyn Smith

The Mystery of the Kingdom

The Mystery of the Kingdom - 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!’”

Mark quotes this to summarise the message of the Kingdom parables.

The mystery of the Kingdom is the coming of the Kingdom into history in advance of its final manifestation. It is, what theologians call, "fulfilment without consummation." This is the truth illustrated by the several parables of Mark 4 and Matt 13.

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.

However, the mystery is proclaimed to all 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.)

The same can be said of Peter in Matthew 16.

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.”

Jesus is clearly indicating that one 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.

In the parable of the four Soils Jesus said the Kingdom had come upon humankind but not for the purpose of shattering evil. It is now accompanied by no display of irresistible power. Rather, the Kingdom in its present working is like a farmer sowing seed. It does not sweep away the wicked (or none would have hope).

It seems that only those whose soil had first been prepared by God would later receive the seed and bear fruit. 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. 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.

The Parable of the Weeds (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.’”

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. The kingdom has come but society is not uprooted. This is the mystery of the Kingdom. The Kingdom has come into history but in such a way that society is not disrupted. The children of the kingdom have received God's reign and entered into its blessings. They must continue to live in this age. Intermingled with the wicked in a mixed society. The Kingdom that is present but hidden in the world will yet be manifested in glory.

The Parable of the Yeast - 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.’”

The 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. 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. One day the Kingdom will prevail to such an extent that no rival sovereignty exists. The entire mass of dough becomes leavened.

In Jesus’ day and age, the mighty irresistible character of the eschatological Kingdom was understood by all Jews and would mean a complete change in the order of things. The present evil order of the world and of society would be utterly displaced by the Kingdom of God.

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? Jesus’ reply was that when a bit of yeast is put into a mass of flour, nothing seems to happen. The leaven even seems to be engulfed in the flour. Eventually something does happen and the result is a complete transformation of the dough.

This idea of a gradual progression was unheard of by the Jews at the time but Jesus reiterated it again and again. No one could have guessed that Jesus’ small band of disciples had anything to do with the future, glorious Kingdom of God. However that which is now present in the world is indeed the Kingdom itself. This is the mystery, the new truth about the Kingdom.

The Character of God Revealed by the Kingdom Message

The God Who Seeks

The interesting element in Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom is paralleled by a new element in his teaching about God, that God is the seeking God. While the God of the prophets was active in history, the God of Judaism of Jesus’ day had withdrawn from the evil world and was no longer redemptively working in history.

Jesus’ message of the Kingdom is that God not only will finally act but that God was now again acting redemptively in history. God had now entered history in a way and to a degree not known by the prophets. The fulfilment of the OT promises was now taking place; the messianic salvation was present and the Kingdom of God had come near. God was visiting his people.

In Jesus, God has taken the initiative to seek out the sinner, to bring the lost into the blessing of his reign. He was, in short, the seeking God. This great truth is set out in three parables in Luke 15. He said it was the divine purpose to search out the sheep that had strayed; to seek the coin that had been lost; to welcome the prodigal into the family even though he did not merit forgiveness.

In each parable there is the divine initiative: the shepherd searches for sheep; the woman sweeps the house for the coin; the father longs for the prodigal's return. These parables illustrate, not primarily the sinfulness of mankind but of the love and grace of God.

The God Who Invites

Jesus pictured the eschatological salvation in terms of a banquet or feast to which many guests were invited. To invite sinners to the Great Banquet was precisely Jesus' mission. He called people to repentance but the call was also an invitation.

Jesus’ demand for repentance was not merely a summons to men and women to forsake their sins and turn to God; it was rather a call to respond to the divine invitation and was conditioned by this invitation, which was itself nothing less than a gift of God's Kingdom.
God is inviting sinners into the messianic blessing and demanding a favourable response to his gracious offer. What they cannot do for themselves, however, he does for them …

He is the one who brings to people the blessing he promises.

The God Who Fathers

God is seeking and inviting sinners to submit to his reign so that he might be their Father. An inseparable relationship exists between the Fatherhood of God and the Kingdom of God. In the eschatological salvation, the righteous will enter into the Kingdom of the Father. The prayer "Our Father in Heaven . . . your Kingdom Come," shows that Kingship and Fatherhood are closely related. It is a blessing and a relationship that cannot be enjoyed by all people.

Fatherhood is a way of describing the covenant relationship between God and Israel. This relationship is not grounded in fallen creation, but was created by the divine initiative. When Israel became faithless, God's Fatherhood was limited to the faithful remnant of the righteous within Israel.

Also, Jesus never called anyone but his disciples children of God. People become children of God by recognising his messianic sonship. God seeks people because he wants to become their Father.

The God Who Judges

God remains a God of righteousness retribution to those who reject his gracious offer. His concern for the lost does not change his divine holiness into a benign kindliness. God is seeking love, but he is also holy love.

The Power of the Kingdom - 1 Corinthians 4:20

Paul had some very arrogant opponents at Corinth. But he was confident that there was no kingdom power in their arrogance. So he says in 1 Corinthians 4:20, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” This raises two questions we will need to consider.

The Nature of the Kingdom of God

First, what is the nature of the kingdom of God?

Here it seems to be a present demonstration of power. But two chapters later in 1 Corinthians 6:9 it seems like a future realm: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”

Is it future or is it present?

Is it a power to be exerted in the world by Christians or is it a realm that we will one day enter in the age to come?

Is it both?

How do these fit together?

The Power Exerted by the Kingdom Today

Second, what is this “power” that the kingdom exerts now in the church? Paul said the same thing back in 1 Corinthians 2:4–5,

“My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 

What is this power?

Is it the power of 1 Corinthians 5:4–5 that the people use to deliver a member to Satan for the destruction of the flesh?

Is it the power of Romans 15:19, “the power of signs and wonders”?

Is it the power of Colossians 1:11, the power “for all endurance and patience with joy”?

And is this kingdom and this power for us today?

The Goal of Love

Notice that Paul wants to come with this power in love and a spirit of gentleness.

1 Corinthians 4:21 “What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” 

I don’t think he means that the rod of rebuke and discipline would be unloving. He simply means, Shall I come with disciplinary love or gentle affirming love?

But the important point for us is simply the connection between love, power, and the kingdom of God. The power of the kingdom is going to show itself in love. Love is our aim.

Our interest in these things is very practical:

  • How shall we love unbelievers to Christ with greatest effectiveness?
  • How shall we love our way into the unreached peoples with most effectiveness?
  • How shall we most effectively love demonised, addicted, enslaved, broken people to the freedom of Christ?
  • How can love most effectively break the power of entrenched institutional evil, like abortion?

Love and compassion are the fulfilment of all practical Christian living.

When you love, you “fulfil the whole law” (Romans 13:10). “Faith, hope and love remain, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). “Faith working through love” is the only thing that is approved by God (Galatians 5:6). “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Love is the test of whether spiritual gifts and power amount to anything: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not 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 have not love I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1–2).

Our goal is to learn how to love with the greatest power and effect that the kingdom of God will allow in this evil age.

Power Evangelism

An example of this outworking of the Kingdom message is what is called “power evangelism.” Almost every instance of successful evangelism in the New Testament involved some demonstration of supernatural power alongside the preaching of the Word—a healing, a deliverance, a prophecy, a resurrection from the dead, speaking of foreign tongues.

The point is that this part of New Testament evangelism is missing in the western church for no good biblical reason and that this accounts for some of our weakness and ineffectiveness. These confirming miracles (called “signs and wonders”) have a valuable function, not to replace the verbal gospel but to win a more open hearing for it and confirm it.

That’s the pattern in Acts 14:3, “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. ”

The “signs and wonders” were the Lord’s direct miraculous witness to his Word.

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Reading this article may raise some questions in your mind. If so, and you would like to get into a discussion with us, please email us by clicking here

Bob Jones 1930-2014

Many of you will know that Bob Jones passed away on Valentine’s Day – which was really appropriate considering the fact that one of the main messages he had for the Body of Christ was, “Did you learn to love?” Bob had such a profound impact on our ministry in the past 25 years and we decided that the best way to honour that was for me to travel to North Carolina to his Memorial Service last weekend.

Last Saturday evening I travelled from Heritage (the home of MorningStar ministries) to a friend’s house to stay overnight before leaving on Sunday. It was a strange journey, because I went through a number of places that we have visited in the last 15 years since starting to traveling to North Carolina – many places that meant so much us over the years. Places we have ministered – the places that we had fun with dozens of young adults who traveled with us. Earlier in the day I had travelled with friends to West Meadows in Moravian Falls for a small gathering at the graveside where Bob is now buried – next to Viola (his first wife who died in 2005). That was also a poignant reminder of many years of travel to North Carolina and significant prophetic ministry we and others had experienced.

I thought about all the people who were at Bob’s funeral – the people who have influenced our life and ministry – some ‘household names’ in the body of Christ and many others you will not have heard about .

In a way I felt sad – because North Carolina is a place that was like a second “home” for us for many years – but it felt different now, because Bob’s not here anymore. And yet I know that the sadness I feel it’s selfish – moving on is part of life, and we cannot change it. It’s also selfish because Bob’s in a better place now – out of pain and in the presence of Jesus!

To try to hold on to someone like Bob is foolish – all we can do is remember the many happy times we spent together – and his love for Jesus and the people around him.

I think it’s fitting to quote two people who spoke at his Memorial Service last Friday:

Mike Bickle, director of International House of Prayer in Kansas City said, ”I am deeply indebted to Bob Jones for how the Lord used him in my early ministry. I loved him more than he ever knew and often told my friends stories about him, I am very sad for Bonnie and his son, Wayne, and for so many of us to hear of his departure, but I am so happy for him. I remember Bob as a man who loved people deeply and served them tirelessly for so many years. Bob was well-known for his remarkable love for Jesus and His Word—he devoured the Bible for 40 years.”

Rick Joyner, founder and executive director of MorningStar Ministries made this announcement on the day Bob died, ”Bob passed away at 6:22 this morning, peacefully and smiling, Bob was known around the world for his prophetic gift, but he was also the greatest lover of God and people that I ever knew. It seems fitting that he would pass away on a day that celebrates love.”

To Russia With Love!

It’s now just four days since I returned home from Russia - it’s 5:00am, but my body still thinks it’s in Moscow (where’s it’s already 9:00am) so I’m wide awake!

As I reflect on the events of the past couple of weeks, I’m overwhelmed with a sense of the amazing way in which the Lord connects us with people in other places, other nations and people-groups. In Moscow and the surrounding cities, we met with a great number of people whose hearts are on fire with the expectation that the Lord could move powerfully through their land; people who love Jesus with all their hearts and are ‘sold out’ for him. This trip was instigated through the prophetic encouragement of a number of people - and it really felt like the Lord went before us to prepare the hearts of the people to receive a download from heaven itself. Two friends came with me (Cathy Taylor from London and Peter Perchard from Runcorn) and it really felt like the Lord bonded our hearts with a common purpose.

New Places

We ministered in three different places: Sergiev Posad, Alexandrov and Karabanov.

The first weekend in Sergiev Posad was a regular event called “Prayer Mountain” - starting on Friday morning and closing on Sunday afternoon. The worship was wonderful and there were significant times when we tangibly felt the presence of the Lord. I was able to share about a number of things the Lord put in my heart for them - from Kingdom foundations to intimacy and many points in-between! The thing that amazes me looking back is the power of personal prophetic encouragement. The Holy Spirit gave me a number of extremely vivid words for people.

One couple was about the Lord developing their business in such a way as to make resources available for the Kingdom. He had planted creative ideas in their hearts (she is a fashion designer) and the Lord wanted them to dream and be creative with Kingdom ideas.

One young woman - I said the Lord believed in her much more than she believed in herself. I went on to say that the Lord wanted to meet with her profoundly and that she had been asking the Lord for that. I also said that the Lord wanted to use her to reach out to people with brokenness in their lives.

Another couple - the Lord wanted to use them to reach out to young people and they were going to see a great impact on the teenagers in their city. The Lord knows their hearts and he’s pleased with their devotion to him.

We also spent the final evening of the trip in Sergiev Posad. Once again we had a wonderful time of worship - powerful leading into God’s presence. I spoke about Character of Compassion (I was going to talk about Ezekiel 47, but I felt the Lord said to change it). Once again, I began to realise the dynamic power of words from the heart of the Father to bring healing to the heart. There was a family who asked me to pray for them. I told them that the Lord really loved them as a family - they are a crucial part of his plan for this church. I asked if they had had any trauma or difficulty in their family and they said yes. I prayed into that and against any lingering issues, I felt the Lord  said, “The past is the past - you can walk away from it”. All three ended up in tears and I hugged them for ages. As I began to walk away, I felt the Lord ask me to say to the wife, “You are not your sister and the Lord doesn’t compare you with her and he has a unique calling just for you.” She cried and told me that she always compared herself with her sister whom she saw as more gifted than her. I could see the Lord healing her heart as we interacted - I didn’t pray for her; the Lord did the healing through his rhema word straight to her heart.

A Busy Week!

Tuesday took us to Vladimir. During the day we visited the town and walked around the various cathedrals in the city and learnt about the history of the development of Russian Orthodoxy - mainly connected to political issues in the nation and the whims of the various Tzars! Taken around by Pastor Andrea - he is a very good English speaker. At a cafe we talked a lot about church and the meaning of ‘ekklesia’ - he was very moved. He asked if we might come back and if they could gather people to share some of these insights - he said it really was what the Russian Church needed to hear. It seems that the church mix is generally Pentecostal, Baptist, Charismatic & Methodist - they all seem to get along with one another, but don’t really mix with the Orthodox.

On Wednesday we spent the morning in Alexandrov and travelled on to Karabanov - where we joined a pastors’ meeting - we had lunch and then talked - about church and what the Lord is doing worldwide - we also spoke about the promises of an awakening starting in Russia. We had a long discussion about ‘ekklesia’ and what the Lord had in mind when he said “I will build my church”. People were very open to what God was saying. They are a really good group of pastors who care deeply about each other - they are from different backgrounds, but really supportive. It became clear to me that, although they have rejected the Orthodox Church per se, they are still impacted by Orthodox spirituality and theology - which seems a good mix.

In the evening there was a regular, monthly joint meeting of five different churches. The room was packed - wonderful worship interspersed with each of the 5 main pastors bringing a 5min word then praying. I spoke about intimacy and Mary of Bethany, but also about Matthew 21 - Jesus cleansing the Temple. We cleared the chairs and ministered to people.

The Power of God's Kind Words

The Holy Spirit was touching people’s hearts with his love and compassion - many people responded and again the Lord gave me words for people as I prayed for them:

I saw one young woman worshiping the Lord and dancing before him at home by herself and said that it touched the Lord’s heart - that no-one else knew that she did it. She said that was true.

A young man who I saw leading many young people to the Lord - he said he worked with kids and was praying for them to be saved.

We also prayed for healing and a few gave testimony to pain disappearing and freedom of movement.

It was a long drive home and on the way we experienced a wonderful example of what I have encountered in many different nations - “The toilet in the middle of nowhere!”. Words fail me - I’m thinking of writing a book entitled, “Toilets of the World”!

On Thursday we travelled back to Alexandrov to have tea with the pastor and his family. He had decided to gather his leaders - about 25 of them. I talked about the words about Russia and they asked questions - about dealing with difficult people in church, about the nature of church and how Houses of Prayer relate to church (they are considering starting a HOP in a building they might purchase).

We prayed for them at the end and some specifically asked us to pray for healing. I prayed for a woman who had a car accident 20 years ago and had back problems ever since - constant pain and restricted movement. As we prayed, she said she felt like anaesthetic was being injected into her spine and the pain disappeared. I asked her to try to do something that would normally bring pain - she twisted her back and couldn’t feel any pain.

Another woman had been suffering from depression and feeling that she had no purpose in the church. As we prayed, she said she felt like God was ‘rewiring her brain’ (her words) and she felt joy rising up within her.

We also talked about church planting in Alexandrov - they asked lots of questions  - particularly about whether the pastor should move on and start another church then raise up leaders and move on again. I said that we had mostly raised up couples who would either move to a place the Lord sent them to or start something in their area if they lived at a distance. They asked if there was any way in which we could help them in the future with their church planting plans.

On Friday afternoon we met with a couple called Masha & Vasily. They are a key couple in the church - they had been at the weekend. On their way home on Sunday, their car flipped over and crashed in the snow. Masha had broken her hand, but their two children were unhurt. Vasily came out of the car incredibly unhurt and alert and was able to help the rest of the family. Unfortunately, his sister was in the car and at the hospital the doctors said she had broken her neck. We prayed that night, but were not able to go to the hospital to pray. Vasily told us that on the Monday the doctor said that he must have made a mistake, because her neck was only bruised and there was no damage to the spine! OK - so was that true or did God heal her? I guess we’ll never know.

God's Amazing Love

As I look back, I am profoundly thankful to the Lord and humbled by the fact that he could call me to such a tremendous calling - to simply go and give what he’s given me. The love the Lord has for the people of Russia and the love that they showed us as we sought to simply be obedient to the Lord’s call to us is amazing.

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians - my prayer for the Russians:

Ephesians 1:18-23 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

All That Matters

Some years ago a Christian singer/songwriter called Paul Field wrote a song “All That Matters” - it’s a song about that fact that, at the end of the day, if we haven’t learned to love we have nothing - that love is all that matters. It was recorded by Cliff Richard on Princess Diana’s tribute album after she died and he also, ironically, sang it on the National Lottery program on TV! You can see Cliff singing this song if you click here.

So, I was thinking, what's at the heart of Christian love? Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). John said, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death." (1 John 3:14). And "This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome," (1 John 5:2-3).

It made me wonder what  these scriptures regarding "Christian love" really mean? Is it a warm fuzzy feeling? I don't have a warm fuzzy feeling for everyone I meet, Christian or otherwise -- but a "warm fuzzy feeling" is not what the Bible means by "love".

A Pharisee once asked Jesus, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40) He also said, "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

Paul said that we should, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.." (Romans 13:8-10)Jesus also said, "Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:30-36)

I've come to the conclusion that Christian love is giving to others those things that you would want them to give you if you were in their situation -- and it's doing so even if they can't pay you back. In fact, it's doing so especially if they can't pay you back! Christian love is respect for others. It's mercy.

It's also very demanding - but it's how I would like live my life. I think I would like to come to the end of my life believing that I had learned to love!

A Word for England from Yalta

During breakfast this morning I saw and aircraft carrier that represented England and it was tipping over on one side and it was touching the water on one side and the crew had to go on the other side to make it balance. But this ship was too big and the crew was too little to help to balance this ship. And I had the understanding that this ship would only survive because of the radical devotion and prayer of people. And this crew has to multiply by numbers by at least 10 times to balance this ship so it will not sink.

And then I saw an English teacup with tea with milk in it like English people drink. And I heard God say that I took milk out of it, and then tea I took out of it and then sugar I took out of it and only water remained. Then I put salt in  the water and asked England to drink it in order to disinfect the digestive system of England, but England didn’t swallow it, but spat it out. Because of this they couldn’t receive new wine - it’s being held back from England.

Then I saw England hanging in the air and 30% of England was straight and 70% was hanging again like a ship in the water. This 70% of England was almost ready to drop off and fall down. They are hanging, connected to this 30% only because of prayers, but there are not enough prayers and it’s almost like the 70% is tearing down - again I saw that there needs to be 10 times the number of radical prayers - it has to multiply radically in order for England to survive. At least 10 times again in order for this piece of England to survive spiritually. That’s a good task to do.

New Beginnings in Yalta, Ukraine

I've just returned from my trip to Yalta in Ukraine. I thought it would be good to feed back some reflections on my time away. Yalta Prayer Base is led by a great couple called Kostya & Vika Belyev. They have an incredible vision to develop YPB as a "City of Refuge" - a place where worship and intercession goes up 24 hours a day, seven days a week and changes the spiritual atmosphere of their region. They also have a vision to plant Houses of Prayer throughout Ukraine and beyond. They are a pioneer apostolic centre and it's been a privilege to be part of the unfolding of their vision.

You will find a number of references to people's names, here's who they are:

Vinelife Team:

Michael Ball, Lizzie Bhatia, Tsitsi Danga, Cathy Taylor, Alice Anderson & Adam Walsh

Yalta Team:

Olga (translator - amazing!), Sveta (worship leader - amazing!)

Thursday

As I stood up to speak, the Lord said to pray for people who had pain - about 30-40 people stood and I asked the team to go and pray for them. After a few minutes, many of the people said that their pain had completely gone - others said 50% or 90%. We prayed for quite a long time and some carried on praying after I began to speak.
I spoke about the dream of the angels from the pool then spoke about the incident at the Pool of Bethesda.

In the ministry time, we prayed for a release of healing anointing and people come forward to receive as they responded to the manifestation of the Spirit on their bodies.

Friday

I spoke about Mary of Bethany and Extravagant Devotion to Jesus - intimacy basically.
I asked people to come forward who felt the Lord was speaking to them about a “Mary of Bethany” calling - sitting at his feet, listening to his word and living a life of extravagant devotion to Jesus (breaking the jar of perfume). About 40-50 people came forward - most of whom were people already connected to Yalta Prayer Base - and there was a powerful manifestation of the HS - people on the floor, laughter, people all over the place. This went on for quite a while and people just wanted to stay in the presence of Jesus.

Then we gave people the opportunity to receive prayer for healing and many responded.

Sunday Morning

I spoke about Matthew 18 and the things that undermine our spiritual authority - especially that issues in people’s lives can affect our ability to experience the presence of Jesus, agree in prayer and ‘binding & loosing’ (bringing heaven down to earth) - referred back to Matthew 16 and the fact that Jesus said he would build his church (briefly touched on what ‘Ekklesia’ means)

Then I felt the Lord said I should speak to them about giving and breaking the spirit of poverty - after a few minutes I thought “Why am I talking about this, how is it relevant to the rest of what I’m saying?)

Vika told me afterwards that they had been praying on Saturday about the finances for the next stage of the development and really felt the Lord said that they should set an example because he wanted the people to give - so the challenge had to go out. The problem was that none of them wanted to be the one to speak about giving! They were blown away by the fact that the Lord spoke about it through me even though I wasn’t aware of what had happened the day before.

The ministry again focused on healing - I shared some words of knowledge and then asked people to respond. Again, about 30 people responded and the team did a good job of praying for them.

One word I had was about someone with a scar on the right side of their lower abdomen - maybe from surgery. One lady responded and was pointing down to where I had pointed. Apparently, Olga had translated it as and “appendix scar”, even though I hadn’t said that. This lady asked if she could talk to me and Olga after lunch. She said she doesn’t have an appendix scar, but what she was saying was that sometimes she feels like an appendix - not much use and a bit of an inconvenience. She said she found it hard because “I just pray”. I told her that ‘just’ and ‘pray’ should never appear in the same sentence and she just sobbed as we prayed for her. She said she knew that this was her calling, but found it hard when she had been so active when she had a ‘proper job’.

Sunday Afternoon

I spoke about priesthood and David’s call to be a priest (ministry to the Lord) before a king (ministry to the people). Also that the Great Commandment comes way before the Great Commission and that we have no right to throw ourselves into ‘activity’ if it doesn’t spring out of being in God’s presence.

In the ministry time I encouraged people to stand in the presence of the Lord and let him speak to them. This went on for ages and people really stayed in the presence as the team went round and prayed for them.

Monday Evening

In the afternoon my phone rang and the number was +88888888 - eight eights. I decided not to answer it because it didn’t seem like a real number. I thought no more about it. Here's a photo of it from my phone:

 

Michael led worship, Sveta played keyboard and Lizzie sang. Worship went on for nearly two hours and it was really powerful. As I got up to speak, I was really conscious of the weight of God’s presence at the front. I was overwhelmed and I felt like if I spoke I would interrupt what God was doing. So I just stood there for about 10 minutes. The more I stood silent, the more heavy the presence of the Lord felt - then I started to cry - first just tears running down my face, then actually crying. I actually felt scared of saying anything and eventually I got down on the floor on my face - when I looked around Olga was also on the floor and people all over the room were kneeling or just sitting - many of them crying too.

Vika came over and asked what I thought we should do and I said, “nothing yet” - I still felt that to say or do anything would break the moment.

Then I remembered the missed call - 8x8 - 8 being new beginnings - maybe 8 8’s meant the Lord was really saying that this was a major turning point for the Yalta Prayer Base - that nothing was going to be the same again and that it was now OK to speak and tell people about the missed phone call.

Vika also said she thought two angels had come as well.

I asked Kostya & Vika to come forward so we could minister to them first - that was a powerful ministry time. Then I asked for all the people who live on the base to come forward (there are about 16 people) so we prayed for them. Then I asked for people who don’t live on the base, but who see themselves as part of the Yalta Prayer Base to come forward and there were about 50 in all.

This led into a powerful, very noisy ministry time with people all over the place - shaking, falling over, laughing, crying etc. Some time into this I saw Tsitsi sitting on the front row shaking and crying - I felt that a spirit of intercession had come upon her so I asked her to come forward and pray - that brought things up a notch or two! I videoed her praying!

Then Lizzie came up to play keyboard and sing (I had asked her beforehand to do this) - Sveta joined her to sing in Russian and later Michael went up and played guitar. This went on for ages (probably until about 10:30pm) - people just didn't want to leave. Lizzie did really well and I thanked her afterwards.

Towards the end, I just went to the back, sat down and prayed. Quite a number of people came over and laid hands on me and prayed. I just felt overwhelmed by what God was doing.

On Tuesday morning over breakfast, the team shared their reflections on the evening - most had never really experienced anything like it and felt overwhelmed. One of the team said he has never been in a situation where there has been consistently so much verifiable healings taking place.

Tuesday Evening:

I spoke from Ezekiel 47 about the river running from the Temple - starting ankle deep, then knee deep, then waist deep - finally “in over your head”! I suggested that all of the stages that the ‘faceless man’ was beckoning Ezekiel forward to had great significance - from ankle deep (beginning of salvation), to knee deep (a call to prayer), to waist deep (a call to intimacy). The concept of being “in over your head” or being “swept off your feet” implies that the only way in is through falling in love with Jesus. Also, that when someone is in water which is over their head and their feet can’t touch the bottom, all you can see is the head! We have often venerated the church rather than the head of the church (Jesus) and that has to change for us to go deeper into the things of God
Jesus is also in the process of dealing with control issues in the church (when you’re in that kind of deep water, you’re out of control!) and the ‘political spirit’ that often has the church in its grip.

In the ministry time I encouraged people to ‘get into the river’! Practically the whole group came forward and soaked in the presence of God - the team went round and blessed what God was doing and we got back into worship.  

Re-establishing the Tabernacle of David

The Church in the 21st Century

As we look at what has happened in the Church over the past 2,000 years, we can see that in many ways the world has invaded our lifestyles and softened the gospel of Jesus. For the most part, it has turned the church that was birthed in the midst the of burning flames of revival into buildings full of slumbering, sleeping saints. Jesus spoke of our day in the parable of the “10 Bridesmaids” in Matthew 25

Matthew 25:5 “As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.”

God has promised in the scriptures to bring us back to his paths if we will co-operate with him.

Amos 9:11 “On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old.”

The pattern of the Tabernacle is now being manifest and made known to the people of God. It illustrates the true pattern of worship, reverence and intimacy God designed – and has always intended – for his people. It is a plan for his church to be, “. . . a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:10). This is a group of called-out people who are preparing themselves in this season of time. This royal calling is found in the pattern of the Tabernacle, in the original Tabernacle of Moses and the subsequent Tabernacle of David. God has promised that the Tabernacle of David would be rebuilt as it was in the days of David. This is one of the paths he promised his people would take. It is a path to true worship and intimacy.

Why the Tabernacle of David?

Because David established it in obedience to the Lord as pattern for true worship — and he also promised that it would be rebuilt!
Jesus came to bring his Kingdom into this world and it has never changed! To change the analogy, his desire is to bring his bride into the true pattern of adoration and worship he ways intended us to enjoy. But . . . he has his ways of doing that:

Zechariah 4:6 “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

Amos 9:11 “On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old.”

God is bringing his church into a fresh new paradigm of his majesty and holiness. The Old and New Testament are being reunited in the person of the Bride! This is the eternal realm of the his end-time activity when God is reviving his “called out ones” for the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). I would say that we’ve seen only a small part of what God’s intention is.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

God is in the process of leading his people into the Promised Land again. It is a place of victory, fruitfulness, peace, purity and supernatural intimacy. There is nothing else that can stand in this place, only oneness in the Spirit. There is only true intimacy, only the pattern he gave us from the beginning, only true intimacy with our God.

Bringing in the Presence

Before he established his Tabernacle David decided to bring the Ark of God from the house of Abinadab into the city of Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 6:2 “He led them to Baalah of Judah to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim.”

As a true King David wanted to acknowledge the Lord’s Kingship and rule over both himself and the people by restoring the Ark to the place of prominence in the nation. But he decided to bring the Ark of God in his own way; he didn’t ask the Lord about it and as a result it brought destruction and disappointment. David thought that putting the Ark on a new cart and making music with different instruments was good enough to bring God’s presence to Jerusalem. We are often no different from David in this day and age. How often do we bring new programs, new speakers, and new ideas into our churches in order to initiate some move of God, usually without success.

There is God’s order to bring his presence to his people and we must do it his way and his way only. According to 1 Chronicles 15:12-15 the Levites should have carried the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders but instead, David followed the examples of the Philistines, rather than following the instruction of the Lord. (1 Samuel 6:7) When Uzzah reached out to hold the Ark, God struck him and he died. Uzzah’s intent may have been good, however he violated the clear instructions of the Lord of how to handle the Ark (1 Samuel 6:19). At this important new beginning in Israel, the Lord gives a shocking and vivid reminder to David and to the people of Israel; that those who claim to serve him must acknowledge his rule with absolute seriousness (Leviticus 10:1-2). In 1 Samuel 6:9 we are told, “David was afraid of the Lord that day.” David’s anger was matched by his fear; not the wholesome fear of awe and respect for the Lord but an anxiety arising from sensing his own guilt. David decided to leave the Ark in the house of Obed-Edom for a while. And in 2 Chronicles 6:11, “…the Lord blessed him and his entire household.” God’s presence resided in the house of Obed-Edom and everybody was blessed. There was healing, restoration, prosperity and all of the goodness of God! When God’s presence comes to you, he brings everything with it. So what is God’s order to bring His presence on our midst?

God’s Protocol

First of all because of its importance, the sacrifices of burnt offerings were offered to the Lord, the blood of bulls and calves were shed. In Leviticus 17:11 it says, “The life of a creature is in the blood.” The bloodshed in the sacrifices was sacred and had to be treated with respect. Atonement involves the substitution of a life for a life. The blood in the Old Testament points forward to the blood of the Lamb of God who obtained eternal redemption for his people

Hebrews 9:22 “And without the shedding of the Blood, there is no forgiveness.” 

The Blood of the Lamb opens us to a door of entrance into his presence.

Secondly, David was wearing a linen ephod (2 Samuel 6:14). A linen ephod is a priestly garment worn by those who serve before the Lord in his sanctuary. It was a close fitting sleeveless pull-over usually of a hip length, specially worn by the High Priest. The breast plate piece containing the Urim and Thummin, these were divinely ordained means of obtaining guidance from God, placed in the custody of the High Priest (Exodus 28:4-13). When we want to enter God’s presence we put on the garments of salvation.

Isaiah 61:10 “For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in the robe of righteousness.”

God chose Israel to be, “His treasured possession… a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6) As the nation God intended Israel to be, we as God’s children are called to be set apart for him, to seek his face daily and to serve him as his priests (1 Peter 2:9). As we walk with the Holy One, we are clothed with God’s righteousness and holiness.

Thirdly, in 2 Samuel 6:15, It says, “David danced before the Lord with all his might.” Our exuberant praise and worship from a pure heart brings the presence of God. In John 4:23, Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “A time is coming and has now come when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” To worship God in Spirit means to worship him through the Holy Spirit and by the Holy Spirit. There is no other form of worship acceptable in God’s eyes. In verse 20, when David danced before the Lord, Michal, the daughter Saul came out to meet David. She criticised him for dancing half naked in the streets in front of everyone and she despised him in her heart.

To worship God in truth is to worship Jesus, for he is the Way, the Truth and Life.

Hebrews 10:21-22 “We must draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

In John 4:23 the last part of this verse says, “For they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”  Another translation would be, “passionately waiting for”. God is waiting passionately for you that you will seek him; and when you find Him, you will be in his presence.
We are entering into the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, the place of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark represents the Throne of God in the earth. The Ark represents the glory of God revealed in divine order and worship. The Ark represents what Paul spoke about: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9)

The Ark of the Covenant

This Ark of God, with the Mercy Seat captured between the two wing-stretched Cherubim, is a picture of God’s grace, his perfect love and his eternal protection.

Psalm 91:11-12 “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

This Mercy Seat, this place of rest in the “Holy of Holies” represents the “secret place” of the Most High. It represents the only place we can find true rest – true peace and joy! It is our rest in Him!

Psalm 91:1 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

God is restoring the Tabernacle of David. He is restoring his priesthood, his Kingship and his Eternal rule through his church – His “called out ones.” He is restoring the joy, the singing of psalms, the shouting, the dancing – the fullness of worship. As priests in the kingdom of God we can enter the Holy Place and have intimacy, rest and perfect peace and joy. God is preparing his loved ones for the harvest.

Alignment With Jesus

I woke up from a dream at 5:55 the other Sunday morning - 5 is the number of grace so it seems that if grace is mentioned three times, then the dream I woke up from is very important.

In the dream I walked into the Prayer Room at the Yalta Prayer Base and I could see that there was no band at the front; instead, Jesus stood there in front of the chairs but not on the stage. The band was lined up behind him - all of them people I know. Jesus began to move - as he moved his arm, they all moved the same arm - as he turned his head to the right, so did they; as he bent forward they all did the same. As he moved each part of his body they all copied the same move - from my seat all I could see was Jesus but because they were all moving with him, I couldn't see any of them - just Jesus - and there was a big smile on his face.

Then I noticed that as Jesus made each move and as each of them followed the move precisely, he began to get bigger with each move. The people in the room began weeping - the sight was so awesome. Then people began to fall to the floor and as they did I could see things dropping off their bodies - I think it was sicknesses and oppression.

Then I remembered Matthew 21:12-17

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

As we all align ourselves with Jesus and create his house as a "House of Prayer" - then the sick and the lame will come and be healed (Jesus healed all those who came to him). There will be people (those bound by religion and legalism) who won't like it - they will become indignant. But Jesus will be pleased - there will be a big smile on his face!

Bethany is where Mary lived - the one who sat at his feet - the one who broke the jar of perfume and anointed him with it. She had developed a lifestyle of extravagant devotion to Jesus. He liked to go to Bethany because he likes to be around people who have chosen to live that kind of devoted lifestyle.

Later I also thought about a similar situation in Luke 19:37-40

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

This suggests to me that there is a ‘song’ buried in each of the locations we live in (in the ‘stones’ on which we have built our cities) and one of the tasks of the church is to discover what that song is and give it expression. The verse in Matthew 21 that says that he has ‘called forth praise’ could more properly be translated “you have perfected praise”. Both these passages speak of a release in the Spirit of something that will fulfill the purposes of God in our day.

A Radical Shift For A Nation

Hezekiah made a radical difference when he came to power as King of Judah in 715BC. He really turned the nation upside down. The House of Prayer (the Temple) had been closed for 16 years; the doors had literally been nailed shut. 2 Chronicles 29 tells the story of the cleansing and rededication of The Temple, but chapters 29 to 31 give us a description of an incredible revival that took place in the Nation. The reason this is of enormous interest to us is that the church carries a pattern of the Hezekiah revival - we are on a journey that we could map out in these chapters.

The nation only went as well as their priesthood and there were only brief periods when kings and priests functioned in the way God intended. When nation went downhill the key was the priesthood; when they held their place the kingdom prospered.

Here are a few interesting points about Hezekiah:

Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old: Hezekiah came to the throne of Judah at the very end of the Kingdom of Israel. Three years after the start of his reign the Assyrian armies set siege to Samaria, and three years after that the northern kingdom was conquered. The sad fate of the northern kingdom was a valuable lesson to Hezekiah. He saw first hand what happened when the people of God rejected the Lord and his word, and worshipped other gods.

He reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem: Hezekiah was one of the better kings of Judah, and thus had a long and mostly blessed reign. No doubt his mother Abijah was a godly and important influence on his life; she was the daughter of Zechariah, probably the person mentioned by the Isaiah (Isaiah 8:2) as a “faithful witness”. This possible friendship of his mother with the prophet, combined with the certainty that up to this time he had been under the influence of Isaiah’s ministry, may account for Hezekiah’s action on coming to the throne.

He did what was right in the sight of the LORD: Hezekiah was one of Judah’s most zealous reformers, even prohibiting worship on the high places (2 Kings 18:4). These were popular altars for sacrifice set up as the worshipper desired, not according to God’s direction. God was never happy about this practice, but none of the other good kings ever found the courage to forbid it. Hezekiah did.

He was blessed because he walked with the Lord: 2 Kings 18:5 makes this remarkable statement about Hezekiah: “He trusted in the LORD God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.”

Reopening the Temple – Ushering in God’s Presence

In his first month of service, King Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple and repaired them (verse 3). This was as much a physical act as it was a spiritual act. It wasn’t simply architectural or engineering in nature; this was a symbol of worship of the Lord. Ultimately, by doing this first deed, Hezekiah was demonstrating a desire to usher back in the presence of God, to be open once again to the Spirit of the Lord. The Nation needed God, and so he decided it would start with him. This is top-down spiritual restoration that would affect not only him and his family, not only his nation at the present, but the nation of Israel in the future. That is a really high calling!

In the years before his reign, the people of Judah had turned away from the Lord and done evil. They had snuffed out the lamps in the Temple, stopped offering sacrifices to God, and had closed up the doors. The Temple had not been in use as it should have been (verses 5-8). And like that empty Temple, his ancestors had empty hearts, unfilled by the presence of God, unwilling to communicate with the God of the Universe. Hezekiah stood in the gap for his people by saying “Yes, Lord, I want to open up the highway once again to You, My God.”

There is a very distinct parallel to each of us today in this passage of Scripture because if we are Christians, then our bodies are called the “temple of the Holy Spirit” or the “temple of the Living God” or just the “temple of God” (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5).

Our hearts should house the living God - so we need to take that first step of repairing the door to our hearts. Let’s get serious about our walk with the Lord. Let’s make a covenant, as Hezekiah did (verse 10) that we will clear the path for the Lord of Hosts to enter in and show us what to do.

Purifying the Temple – Remove Your Idols

Deep cleaning is more than doing an exterior wipe-down. And purifying a Temple is more than getting out a feather duster and flicking the dust off. You have to get the ground-in dirt out.

The Temple in the nation of Judah had become a junk room, an unused storage room filled with ungodly things. Hezekiah had a pretty overwhelming task before him. Realigning a nation back toward God meant calling in a specialised cleaning service, which in those days were the priests or Levites. They were the only ones who could do the job because they had obediently kept themselves pure in the sight of God. It was their job to sanctify the sanctuary of the Lord and usher the people back to worship (Exodus 28:40-29:9). They were set apart by God to do this spiritual act of service.

These Levites were told to go in and take out the defiled things (verse 4-5). They also went one step further and made sure that every item that should be there in the Temple was there and that each piece was clean and ready for use (verse 18-19).

What about you and me? Have you ever tried to clean up your act by yourself? You know you have sinned against God and you want to make things right again, so you try to rid yourself of bad habits or stop doing those addictive behaviors. It might work for a while, but eventually you find yourself unable to keep up. The problem is that you are in this same state that Paul mentions, and that is that the things you do you don’t want to do, and the things you don’t want to do you do (Romans 7:21). But there is an answer, and it is also found in that same passage from Paul: “. . . but thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, the One who can save me from my evil ways (Romans 7:25).

We need the Holy Spirit - we don’t need to call in the Levites, as Hezekiah did. We just need one priest, a high priest, the High Priest. I am talking about Jesus, and he knows just how to clean out our temples (see Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 6:20; 7:27; 8:1; 9:11).

Jesus can restore back to the temple of our hearts a right spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, which are the fruits of the Spirit. He can rid us of all bitterness, rage, anger, and the like when we ask for his empowering presence. He will help us to once again clothe ourselves with compassion and humility.  

Through focused effort combined with spiritual help from his Levite laborers, Hezekiah was able to get the Temple up and running again in only 16 days (verse17). God can and does work his grace in our lives when we need it most. You can almost sense that the nation of Judah was surprised that the work got completed that fast. “And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced greatly because of what God had done for the people, for everything had been accomplished so quickly” (verse 36, NLT)

Rededicating Yourself to God – Make It Holy and Make it Public

The morning after Hezekiah got the word that the job was done, he set out to visit the Temple of the Lord. Hezekiah’s quick response was very important. A spiritual house that has been swept clean of defilement will not stay clean without a dedication to God. Those spaces of purity and holiness are going to get refilled with junk before long (see Matthew 12:43-45 for an example). It’s imperative that we ask that the Holy Spirit fill our cleansed vessels so that evil cannot re-enter. It is imperative that we daily dedicate ourselves to the Lord and offer our bodies, our temples, as instruments of righteousness.

Hezekiah didn’t go on this journey alone? He went with the city officials for the dedication ceremony of the Temple (verse 20). The idea was not just to assess the newly restored Temple. It was more than some grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Hezekiah took this next step as his very holy and very public proclamation of worship to the Living God. Hezekiah could have had a private ceremony. He could have kept his newfound passion for the Lord hidden until it was politically correct. He could have claimed that his relationship with God was “strictly personal” and stayed tight-lipped about it. Instead, he set out with a select few governmental leaders. Everyone in that entourage knew exactly how King Hezekiah felt about God. Not only that, but the group was to participate in worshipping the Lord. They took with them animals that the priests would sacrifice to atone for the sin of the nation (verses 20-24). This was an important task.

Sin offerings were offered on the altar in the Temple. And as the burnt offerings were presented, the Levites and priests played their musical instruments, and songs of praise to the Lord were offered. After the offerings were finished, everyone in that assembly bowed before God and continued in praise and worship (verses 25-30).

God is pleased when we proclaim Christ in our lives, as Hezekiah and his officials did. I think of that verse in Matthew 10:32 that says, "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven”.

Rededication must equal realignment with Christ. We take ourselves off of the throne and put Christ back into his high place as King of our lives. We do not look to ourselves to save us. We look to the blood of Jesus. We look to Christ’s death on the cross, His resurrection, and His power to cancel out our sins and save us from the wrath of God.

The remarkable response of the people was proof that God had prepared them. There could never be such a response unless God was at work among his people, and this was evidence of that kind of     work. It was a very great change that the people, who shortly before this, were so ready to comply with wicked Ahaz in his idolatrous orders, were now so free and ready in God’s service; it was clearly the work of the Lord changing their hearts by his Holy Spirit. Two consequences followed from these offerings. The first was to acknowledge that only God had made it all possible (2 Chronicles 29:36; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 2:18). The second was that everyone rejoiced (2 Chronicles 29:36), in complete contrast with the situation in which they had begun.

Assessing Where You Are Today

As you contemplate this passage of Scripture, what is the state of your heart? Does it need repairing? Does it need to be gutted? Ask the Lord God to help you discover what defilements in your own heart need to go. Ask Him how you can rededicate your life to holy service to him. And ask God how you can proclaim the great things he has done so that all the world can see and glorify him. When people set their hearts on God, many things are possible. A whole nation, a whole people could be cleansed when a single man makes himself available for God’s purpose.

Extravagant Devotion To Jesus

Jesus modelled perfect intimacy with his Father – he even implied that intimacy was the basis of his ministry and his ability to see what the Father was doing:

John 5:19-20 “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”

He not only modelled it, he made it possible for us to enter into it ourselves. Intimacy opens a door to knowing and experiencing God at new and rewarding levels. There is a wonder and joy in growing towards intimacy — we can never get enough of Jesus. It’s a never-ending, increasingly rewarding journey.

Our First Priority: To Love God With All Our Heart

The Holy Spirit is in the process of restoring the first commandment to first place in the Church worldwide. Therefore, to co-operate with the Holy Spirit and to do only what we literally see and hear the Father doing, we must consciously cultivate the ability to be responsive to God with wholehearted love.

It’s very poignant that the Great Commandment comes well before the Great Commission!

Matthew 22:34-40 “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Loving God with all our heart is the first commandment because it is the first priority to God. It is the first commandment, not the “first option.” It is the great commandment because it has great impact on God’s heart and our heart. Wholehearted love for God is the greatest lifestyle.

The Extravagant Devotion of Mary of Bethany

Luke 10:38-42 “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Mary was a young single woman who came and sat at Jesus’ feet: The Holy Spirit emphasised that Mary was there to listen to him (v. 39). Each time she is mentioned the Spirit highlights her as being at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39; John 11:32; 12:3). It is only as we listen regularly to the Lord Jesus that we will we stay fresh in our relationship with God. It is not enough to study the Bible—we must talk to God as we study. Reading the Bible is meant to lead us to an ongoing conversation with God by giving us food to mull over in our prayer life.
Jesus’ response to Martha’s reprimand is, “Really, only one thing is needed.” As we sit at the feet of Jesus, we position ourselves to receive from him – that’s really all we need. By saying that Mary had chosen what was better, Jesus settled the issue of how important this kind of lifestyle is by calling it “good”.

In his opinion, Mary had chosen a particular kind of lifestyle (v. 42); we must also choose it -  no-one can choose it for us. Cultivating a heart of extravagant devotion to Jesus takes time and effort and it would not be taken away from her (v. 42). Grace for a lifestyle of extravagant devotion can be sustained throughout our lives if we continue to choose it.

The second incident in which Mary and Martha appear occurs in John 11 with the raising of their brother, Lazarus, from the dead. When Mary hears that Jesus has come and is calling for her, she immediately leaves the assembly of mourners in her home and rushes to meet Jesus. So great is her love for him and her desire to please and obey Him that she leaves those who had come to comfort her to place herself in the arms of the greatest Comforter mankind has ever known. Jesus sees her great sorrow and weeps along with her, even though he knows her sadness is going to be short-lived and that her brother will be restored to her momentarily. In the same way, when we sorrow and grieve, our greatest comfort is found in Jesus, whose compassion is boundless. When we place our hand in the nail-scarred hand, we find comfort, peace and security, and we learn the truth of Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Wasting Your Life!

The third occasion we come across Mary of Bethany is just a few days before Jesus died:

Mark 14:3-9 “While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. 4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. 6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

We’re told the perfume Mary used was worth a year’s wages. It was probably the embalming perfume that people in those days saved up to buy so that they could be properly treated after they died. Jesus had already told his disciples that he was soon to be crucified (Matthew 26:2); but Mary seems to have been the only one who really understood what Jesus was saying and so she took the jar of perfume and poured it on him. Such a powerful and expensive perfume  would probably have meant that the fragrance was still on both of them at the cross. Mary…wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance… (John 12:3)

The apostles objected to Mary’s action by appealing to the Scriptural mandate of serving the poor as their reason to criticize her extravagance. The fact is that all who love Jesus like Mary are likely to receive criticism from others who do not deeply love Jesus.

Their point was, “Why this waste?” Again, anything over and above the minimum commitment is seen by some as an “unnecessary waste.” To “waste on Jesus” money, exceptional musical talent, or a brilliant mind with good career opportunities is regarded by some as an unnecessary waste of one’s life and talents. Jesus’ response is to leave her alone; Jesus will vindicate any who choose a lifestyle of extravagant devotion to him. In fact he described this act as, “A beautiful thing . . .” A year earlier (in Luke 10), Jesus had commended Mary for choosing what was the better thing in sitting at his feet to hear his word; she had presumably developed her personal history with God in this way.

In responding like this, Jesus laid down an important principle: Unusual acts of devotion come from cultivating a spirit of devotion as a lifestyle. Her lifestyle of choosing the better thing by hearing the Word equipped her to choose good in other things.

So . . . What are you wasting your life on? People seeking to live with extravagant devotion to Jesus will never be content with the minimum – rather, they ask, “What is the most that God will empower me to give him?”
I started going to church when I was 8 years old – I went to church because I joined the choir – I joined the choir because I got paid to sing!!! I didn’t get to know Jesus until 10 years later. However, one thing always stuck in my mind throughout all those years – at Christmas time very year we sang the carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter”; one verse always touched my heart in a way I didn’t understand until I came to know Jesus for myself:

What can I give him poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man I would do my part.
Yet what I can I give him – give my heart.

How do you waste your life? Make it your life vision to pour yourself out on Jesus like Mary did. Jim Eliot, a missionary in South America in the last Century wrote in his journal a short while before he was martyred – “No fool is he who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose!”

David summed it up like this:

One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

Letter to a Friend

This is a letter Linda sent to a friend - take it as a New Year blessing and encouragement to you as well.

I remember you said to me a long time ago why not E-mail and so as I was composing this letter to you in bed early this morning in my sleep I knew it was important for me to write it to you.

It was such a great help to me to watch the DVD yesterday - the one that you made some time ago with Martyn and Jo about helping people to get out of debt - you spoke of caring for your mother and how you didn't always get it right and yet you knew that God had spoken to you about the honouring of  parents.

Also that it was as a prophetic sign: a forerunner of what is to come and be modelled in families: relationship and peace in the family community and the working through of differences. I too have felt  the requirement of very much the same.

Looking after Dad is becoming more challenging and although I have no problem in doing what I believe the Lord has asked us to do, the tensions of maintaining 'the ministry' and developing forward at the speed I am accustomed to is stressful - my fears rise that I am failing in 'the call' and am going to lose friends (of course I  know my grandma's old principle - that you can't buy friendship even when you do care to help people). It's been a long time since I saw friendship without  turning on the trimmings of ministry and without the high expectation of overnight revival and breakthrough.

I have continued to journal extensively yet find there is a heart cry of hope for something more and of finding that which is tangible and real. My thoughts deceive me sometimes and tell me that I am missing something such that the church portrays (yet another organisation). However I no longer feel my roots are there.

The Lord still urges me to be steadfast and settled; whatever happens I want to hold on to the wonderful promises of God and the purposes that he has spoken to Martyn and me about and trust things are still seasonal.

I find myself  looking back to my roots more and more and thinking how wonderful it is where God has taken us and yet so far from where we thought we would be. The church as we know it must rediscover its God-given original purposes of intimacy in the context of meaningful relationships.

As I look at the overview of life I can see God's faithfulness and love. So it seems good to step back out of the mundane tasks and see his goodness as I write to you (by the way, my supervisor at  the Nazarene College - said I was an unusual student - I think in the way that I am meticulous and in the way I write - my childhood background and schooling stands strong even when I see myself now as an adult in a totally different world).

I have just watched 'Mansfield Park'  by Jane Austin and noted  how long ago the ways of etiquette and kindness have been removed from our assertive society (a result of a lack of love and connectiveness at the heart). However I am aware that we are being driven in no less a corrupt world than has always existed and so we are still in desperate need of a saviour.

I met a head waiter on holiday who began to explain that his mother had kept all the family and cousins together as long as she could until she said, 'no more'. They were no longer pulling their weight and offering hospitality. He explained it was happening all over and in his country of Poland  - people were no longer family - (Jesus, as you would say, spent time caring for his mother and spending time eating with his extended family). The waiter noted they no longer had the energy to socialise - they were too busy in the workplace and so instead of grouping together in restaurants they wanted to sit by themselves for a breather since they were exhausted.

Family had been strong when they had known poverty and hardship in his country so we spoke of the day coming when people would become glad of one another AGAIN. Perhaps, as I am now thinking, the Polish waiter hadn't realised that his job on the Queen Mary 2 after 16 years  had become a facade.  We had a really good holiday and rest but the average age on the cruise was 75 years - tired, closed down gentry (as the Queen says -those who had become lax and complacent!)

Oh God wake them up to the true valour and biblical truth that established them in God in the first place.

It seems the young are running into a closet yet desperate to find genuine love and the elderly cannot keep up with them. (We need bridgers) and those who are willing to humble themselves and serve in like manner as Jesus did (as the Queen spoke of in her Christmas speech).

Today Martyn heard of young people wanting to spend New Year at a house parties because they were tired of being ripped off at the clubs and restaurants. Hopefully an awakening to the falsehood being sold out there is occurring.

We have spent several years now ordering our finances and getting life in order for the future season. Trusting him to care for us is more critical than ever. How incredible that as I put words to paper more things become clarified and I see the helpfulness of talking to someone at this level.

Out of church Christians as you say are finding more and more the importance of real meaningful family.

You spoke wisely about God blessings coming from what he likes and not what we think is good and that he gave you courage to try new things. This last year has brought many blessings to us in meeting new people  and being able to encourage and bless them; Martyn has kept The Gathering going and his KINGDOM LIFE ACADEMY has received some very positive response. Things have been ordered by God and brought surprises of his faithfulness and his sovereign intervention in our lives.

For myself I have lost energy sometimes in keeping up the momentum but have now realised this is God re-ordering my life. Listening to the DVD and your thoughts on watching God in the small things is encouraging to hear - it is how I too have known the Lord in my life but I just needed to hear it was true that the 'the ministry'  isn't the be-all-and-end-all of things.

Prophetically people have said 'God is erasing you diary' for a purpose and that the Lord will lead us out from there but its not quite as easy as you think when you have lived in the public ministry for so long. My friendships have often been built on goals and expectations - probably ones I have put on myself - so I will have to let go and see what God newly initiates. Watching your DVD was therefore exceptionally timely. The children may also have to see another side of things.They are sometimes disappointed to not be able to have my help and I am torn having to let them down but Grandpa's routine is now often changing and more demanding.

Martyn is going to do some business in Kansas City next week and I need to stay home based for the following week: adapting to not much  travelling is a challenge.

There is a whole new rhythm of life coming both spiritually and physically for us all to keep in step with the Spirit but it will require overcomers who will be ready to face the changes; this does not come without great adjustment as I am finding.

I have been  urged by the Lord to look more closely at the book of Judges - noting that what we consider good in our eyes may not be God's way and that for the next generation's sake we need quickly to be at one in following God's best purposes for our lives and not our own bright ideas - God forgive us and get us back on track - be reconciled to him, restored and lifted back into his ordained purposes through repentance.

Father God's plan for his people was a corporate identity of Holiness - walking with him and working out his purposes in love and kindness. He provided the way through the example of Jesus walking out his life in obedience to the Father even unto death so that the power of submission before his Father (death to self) would release the power of resurrection to new life through the Spirit. The church would then become a faithful witness of Jesus and his Bride - 'deny yourself - take up your cross and follow Him'
Let go of personal expectations and step out of the driving seat!

Thank you so much  for your continued love, support and kindness. Don't stop praying for us.

I will be 60 years old in February and am trusting the next stage of life is even more purposeful than the last.

Love and blessings,

Linda