Faith is not Fantasy…

Disturbing but useful dream: Was walking through various scenes in which I saw differing reactions from Christians to the realties of life, particularly its harsh realities. Some were reacting in anger against distress they had known, some were reacting by escape, some were turning to a series of emotional fripperies, some were focussing on trying to improve tiny irrelevancies… etc. The sense was I was just to observe and that trying to “help” would not have been the right thing at that moment.

The sign of maturing faith is not that we deny facts or reality as they emerge, nor shut them out, nor cope by giving in a smaller and smaller world of spiritual experiences where harsh realities are not allowed to show their disturbing distressing face. Faith sees facts of all types, pleasant and distressing; sets itself to live fully in reality, in truth; refuses to create false spiritual reality into (non)existence separated off from factual reality. Faith sees the way things are. It is more aware of the way things are than the closed mind and limited awareness of facts that unbelief and atheism suffers from, for it sees – sometimes with ease sometimes with struggle – that God is, and that He always is…

If something has hit you hard in the face recently, or even this very day, Jesus is praying for you, that your faith fails not. I pray that even if it is like a smouldering wick, it will not be put out. If you are like a bruised reed, remember Jesus is there to lovingly help you not be broken as you may fear this very day you might be. Easy to say…not always easy to believe or live out…

God bless your faith and deliver us all from fantasy. May we know the difference.

Kenny

Die a little, rise a little: the inescapable law of Christian living…

Got a couple of private posts today from people talking about “mourning.” Some thoughts…

I think that one of the most common needs or difficulties a pastor comes in contact with could be put into the category called “mourning.” It may be mourning for a person who died or mourning over a person from whom we have been separated, over a relationship that has ended; it might be mourning over a lost job. An Occupational Health doctor back in 2016 challenged me with this question: “Have you ever mourned your loss of health?” I had not allowed myself to do that. Henry Nouwen says that sometimes there can even be mourning over a form of Christian devotion or worship which meant so much to us, but is now deemed to be out of date, irrelevant and not fit for the present times; what was precious to us in the formative years of our Christian experience can come to be almost outlawed and drowned out with cynicism or sarcasm as no longer fit for purpose.

Christian life in practice means a whole lot of little deaths, little mournings, followed by little resurrections. It may have been brother Roger of Taize who said that, but I am not certain. No one escapes. Leaning to mourn and move on is vital. Not only is it vital but with Jesus it is possible when it seems impossible. He helps us mourn our losses well, and then to rise to the next chapter of new life, the good things prepared beforehand for us to live in and do, when His Father chose us for life in Christ before the foundation of the world.

The evil one tells us that our life was lost in what was taken from us or never given to us in earlier chapters of our story. He tells us there is no life possible, no recovery of joy or happiness in the face of loss. Living in Christ means our truest self is never in the past, whether that was a good or dark story, but waiting for us in my present journey towards my future which God alone can unfold in time and more fully in eternity. This is called “Hope.” It meant more to early believers than to many believers now, I think. They did not make themselves as at home in the happenings of this life as present day believers. They did not look for their life in what could be taken away or had been taken away, in what can be stolen or destroyed, but in what can never be lost. Our life is hid with Christ in God. Let the glory of what you will be on That Day rise like the sun and shine in glory across the plains of time from eternity. Walk into who you are. The thankfulness of faith affirms, often through mourning and tears, that I am more me than I was this time a year ago, despite my fears to the contrary. Resurrection Hope says I am not yet who I will be, but that is where I am heading. I choose that life…

So may God help you and I with our losses when they happen (and they will) and enable us to receive His promised comfort in our mourning, and then to sense the sun rising on us as we look forward and onward.

I heard of a leader who made a huge pastoral mistake, in my opinion. After hearing someone give their testimony they stood up publicly and said, “That testimony has just glorified Satan.” The person had majored on the difficulties they had been living through. The pastor should have spoken to them privately about the imbalance of their story and what is meant by giving a testimony; it is never right to humiliate a person publicly. Even the best of leaders get it wrong from time to time. However I know what that leader meant. Take care about how you talk about your sufferings. Never give Satan the glory. Glorify the God who promises true comfort in true mourning, The God of all comfort, the God of all hope, the God of resurrection.

The Revd. John Miller, the well known former minister of Castlemilk in Glasgow, was once asked by a 6 year old, “What does a minister do?” His reply? “A minister helps people to know that there is a way to be happy even after bad things have happened.” I like that…I really do… because of Jesus, it can indeed be so… Look to Him…

God bless

Kenny

The Cross…your Future…

Spend time at the cross and you become a prophet visiting the future.

At the cross Jesus tells us, in John 12, that three things about the future were being established for certain by Him before their chronological time comes: at the cross we visit the Day of God’s judgement against all forms of human sin; we see the throwing of the devil and his angels into the lake of fire is irrevocably established; we see the people of God drawn from every tribe and tongue whom God will dwell among and from whose eyes He will wipe away every tear. Not only do we see future happening now, we taste it and start to live in it.

Are you a believer? Well, spend time in your “future now”, thanking the One who bore our judgement, defeated our enemy and will bring us home as one flock to be with Him forever!

God bless

Kenny

“O God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Ruth, Deborah,Daniel, Ezekiel etc.. Hear my Prayer.”

It is not a bad idea when you are reading a book of the bible to turn what you have read into prayer. Keeping in mind you are going to do that when you have stopped reading is a good way of not missing what matters most as you read. So for example I have been reading Ezekiel recently and praying to the God of Ezekiel. There is a lot of what he writes that I find confusing, but there is a lot that is perfectly plain. So, as I pray to the God of Ezekiel, who is my God too, the unchanging God who came to us in Jesus, I pray to the One who:

…judges His people. Even though I am saved by Jesus from the coming wrath of God as Paul tells me in Thessalonians, I must still appear before His judgement seat to give account. I search my heart with God’s help. If I search it on my own, I would end up in despair rather than in truth.

…who says vengeance belongs not to us but to Him. One day for sure, Justice will not only be done, but be seen to be done. What does that mean with regard to those who have harmed me and my family unjustly? I shudder to think and should pray they might find forgiveness before that day in the same place where I have found it for my sins, which are many.

…who never washes His hands of His people completely. Ezekiel sees blessing in the future for the people of God facing judgement in the now. He sees God as Shepherd as dwelling with His people and being their God. I thank God that in Christ, there is always hope.

…is perfect in all of His ways. Ezekiel sees no contradiction between the God who judges and saves, the God who pours our his wrath until it is satisfied and the God who acts in astonishing mercy and grace as rescuer and Shepherd. There is no contradiction or dualism in God. His perfect holiness, perfect love, perfect wrath, perfect mercy, perfect righteousness and perfect everything else that the bible reveals of Him are in complete harmony.

…will clear His own Name in His own time. On that day we will see what sometimes it is difficult to see now: all His ways are just. We will even see He deserves praise for His judgements, that they are righteous. “Behold He does all things well.”

I worship the God of Ezekiel today because I have been reading his book. As you pick up your bible today, remember to say as you read, “I am going to pray to the One these God breathed words are revealing to me.”

God bless

Kenny

…earnestly desire… especially…

(This is long, so don’t bother reading it, unless you are interested in seeking the gift of Prophecy, which actually we are encouraged to do in the bible. All that follows on below, is really just an encouragement do just that!)

Daniel Chapter 11! In that one chapter, Daniel saw 135 events covering 366 years of world history. Everything is known by God. Because some people cannot handle that idea, they explain Daniel away: he never existed but was just a literary invention; the predictions must have been written in after they happened, etc.

I am a bit prophetic, but only a wee bit. God occasionally shows me people I have never met in dreams and then I meet them. Occasionally, a scene unfolds before my eyes, showing me something that I could not naturally know about someone. When I share what I was shown with the person, it usually helps them to receive a touch from God. But the detail and the extent of revelation from God to Daniel is astounding. Even his contemporary, his fellow prophet Ezekiel, realised there was something pretty special about him. God mentions him a lot to Ezekiel and puts him up there as a living legend along with two huge figures of Israel’s past, Noah and Job.

I am just a baby in prophetic terms, in fact compared with Daniel I have barely emerged from the womb and given my first cry. I know others who are children or maybe teenagers, and one or two, and maybe two or three more who seem to have reached maturity in this gift and ministry. There will be many more of course. I am just speaking about the circles I have mixed in. The bible says we should earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For those of you who have embarked on a journey of obedience to this scriptural exhortation, keep going!

Of course it needs to be stressed that prophecy is often speaking what only God could know into the present. It is not all future looking. Ezekiel was given knowledge of things that were happening many miles away as they were actually happening. He was told to write them down and date them. However the future looking element of prophecy that we see so strongly evident in the latter part of the book of Daniel should not be downplayed. In prophecy, the God who knows the end from the beginning, the God who knows the history of every single cell in the universe and its destiny, speaks of what He alone could know about a person or situation. He can reach into the future and into the past. He can see more deeply into our present than we can, no matter how insightful we may be.

If you want to grow in the spiritual gift of prophecy, ask God more often than you currently do, “Lord, is there anything you want me to hear today so that I know what to say to someone who needs to hear it.” Ask a similar question when you are with someone in the course of your day or when you gather with your fellow believers in Church. It says of Jesus in the Old Testament that he had an instructed tongue. Morning by morning, His Father wakened Him to know the word that would sustain the weary. It is more than a geographic note of interest when we read in John Chapter 4 that Jesus had to go through Samaria. It is a good thing to pray as followers of Jesus that God would give us an instructed ear and an instructed tongue. It can lead us to people and places we never knew or even thought of visiting.

By the way, part of learning to have an instructed ear and an instructed tongue is hearing from God when to be silent and say nothing, even when He shows you something that you might be itching to say. Prophecy is to bring honour to God, not to make you or I look impressive. Can you be trusted with something you are told by God to deal with it as He tells you to? Learning not to speak is a vital training experience if we would learn to speak in the Name of the Lord, to the honour of that Name.

All of you have made a start in this. You have all had hunches from the Lord to speak to someone, phone someone etc. We would never usually think of calling such a happenings anything to do with being prophetic, but it often is. Well, let such moments you have known help you to believe there is maybe something more for you to seek and pursue.

Prophecy, when it is the real thing and not just holy sounding platitudes that every believer knows and agrees with anyway, changes lives. In fact, it can often mean saving someone from death. I have known that in personal experience. On at least two occasions I can remember, and there may have been others I cannot now remember, if I had not given a person the word I believed God gave me for them, they could have died. God simply revealed undiagnosed medical conditions that would have killed them if they remained undiagnosed and if they had not gone to the doctor after receiving the prophecy. The doctor confirmed medically what had been said prophetically. I remember one condition was Pancreatic cancer.

Anyway, however far you get along the road, remember that Scripture encourages every believer to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that we may learn to prophesy. As Jim Graham used to say, Bible in hand, “ I am not making this stuff up! I am just telling you what it says.”

God bless

Kenny

Shepherds…

I guess every true teacher of God’s Word and Gospel gets it wrong sometimes. That does not make them a false teacher.

False teachers in seem to have at least two characteristics in the New Testament that I can think of. Number 1 they say that what you have heard before they arrived to teach you was incomplete, it was ok as far as it went, but they have some new insight that will lead you into a better understanding and a fuller experience of Christ than received teaching has brought to you. Thus with faint praise they condescendingly damn the faith once delivered to the saints and have a mission to move folk away from the true Christ under the guise of moving people on. Others nowadays for various reasons have become more daring and moved further along the road to error. They say what we have received, the gospel in which we found God’s love and salvation from our sins and the wrath to come is not just inadequate but wrong. So, for example, I think of a former leader of an organisation that reports to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland who said that his mission as a minister was to destroy belief in the truth that Christ was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities and bore punishment for our sins in our place. The same leader allowed the worship of idols in his church building. The seed of error planted even in New Testament times has flourished and far from being censured by church discipline is even applauded. It all fits with fallen religion in Romans Chapter 1.

However, not all the blame lies with the false teachers themselves. Yes, they will bear punishment for destroying God’s temple, the church, by not building true to the foundation of Jesus Christ Himself, but they are not wholly to blame. The bible also says that listeners have itching ears to hear something that suits them, that somehow does away with elements of Christian truth they find distasteful or elements of Christian discipleship that they would rather not be challenged by. People are innately spiritual, but are drawn to create their own god in their own image, one they can live with more easily than living with the Living God.

Anyway these thoughts were sparked off by rejoicing today that there are so many places where there are true teachers of God’s Word. Thank God it is so. Thank God for the Bible and those who seek to teach it with humility and faithfulness whatever their intellectual or oratorical skill may or may not be. What an immense blessing if you are a member of a congregation where there is a true teacher, a true Shepherd. Many congregations do not have that blessing.

By the way, part of teaching with faithfulness and humility is being able to straightforwardly admit when you have taught something that is wrong. Secure leadership can do that. It enhances credibility. Without knowing it, preachers and teachers like myself can have a loyalty to a theological system which we have found a good framework for understanding the Bible’s teaching. However there is no theological system without its blind spots, bits of the bible here and there which it misinterprets, forcing the bible text into the mould of the system rather than allowing it to speak fully and challenge fully. All of that can lead us to temporary discomfort and disturbance. It is good to acknowledge when we have been teachers that got it wrong (though if we are basically committed to teaching the Bible, that admission should in actual fact turn out to be rare and occasional, otherwise the flock will feel unnerved rather than blessed by the Shepherd they called). The result will be God will be glorified, life will flow, even though some may reject you as a traitor to the theological camp which you may well alwayslthink of as the home in which you have been born and nurtured and to which you basically still feel in a human sense you belong.

God bless.

Kenny

Disloyal to the cause? No, just thinking out loud…

I am a Charismatic in the eyes of other people, and indeed I am that in terms of Biblical conviction and spiritual experience. I feel though as Charismatics in Scotland we are maybe going round the same roundabout we have been going round for years and failing to have any significant impact for the Kingdom of God in Scotland. Our concentration on looking for more healings, more signs and wonders, is making the wrong things central. These things matter but what is God really calling His people to in these days?

Signs and wonders were there in the Old Covenant. What is the essence of the New Covenant spoken of in Jeremiah, ratified by the shedding of Jesus blood who was put forward as a sacrifice for sin by God Himself, as distinct from the accompanying signs which verified both covenants, albeit that in the New these signs accompany the many not the few, as God sovereignly chooses? I think our pursuit of more healings, more signs, more wonders, is hindering what is truly on God’s agenda.

Still thinking this through for myself, but it arises from reading a book by someone committed to signs and wonders, a truly good man, and feeling strangely empty and disappointed, feeling, as I say, that I was being taken round the same roundabout, just by another face and another name, using slightly different language…

Don’t get me wrong. I thank God for signs and wonders, healings, prophecies etc., but there is something more that God has in mind to do. He is waiting I believe for our coming into line with His desires. God’s sovereignty and our responsibility are both there in Scripture. Someone said on Facebook recently that in answer to a question about the reconciling of God’s Sovereignty and our Responsibility, Charles Spurgeon said that in Scripture God’s Sovereignty and our Responsibility are friends: there is no need to reconcile friends.

God bless

Kenny

Consecration Conviction…

“And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (Jesus praying in John 17.}

I am so comforted and challenged try the fact hat Jesus, our great High Priest, gentle in his dealings with sinners, ever lives to make intercession for His own, those the Father has gifted to Him.

The words quoted above in particular have been playing around in my mind and somewhere deeper than my mind over the last few days, ever since Morag and I had lunch with a friend who asked me what my dreams were.

I have been thinking of some of the desires that God has put on my heart. This is the thought that challenges me as I do that: how set apart am I with regard to what I long to see? I may be set apart by God for certain purposes since before I was born, I may have been set apart by His church which has confirmed and recognised these purposes as being more than my own illusion, but by the grace of that same God, can iI honestly say, “For this I consecrate myself, for this I sanctify myself, set myself apart,”?

It has not been a comfortable question to think through, but it has led to some observations, some heart searching that has been free of condemnation, though not free from a conviction which has the feeling of fresh air and sparkling life attached to it.

Perhaps the same sort of wondering could bring fresh life to you?

God bless

Kenny