A man who was sort of despised by the local community when I was a parish minister in Thurso , used to visit me in the manse. After settling himself down in the chair signalling his intention to stay for a while, his opening question was always the same: “ How are you getting on with the bible then minister?” That was a good question but it was preparation for him telling me how he was getting on with the Bible! He had an old tattered Authorised Version with tiny print which he treasured. His reading skills were as poor as his eyesight. He had no bible reading aids apart from a dictionary to look up words he did not understand. God still uses the “foolish” and despised things of the world to shame the wise. Usually I felt a bit agitated as I knew the uncomfortable moment would come when I would have to usher him out the house and get one with other things, but as I did so, I would be left chewing on an insight I had never seen…
It is now early morning. I slept well and hope you are still sleeping as I write! The robins woke me up followed by the blackbirds, just as “Springwatch” said would be the case! Whenever you read this, I ask you the question:”How are you getting on with the bible then?” I just read a text from someone who said that yesterday they had looked back over their journal and it was pretty dark. They shut it and picked up the bible and were refreshed as their Father in heaven spoke words of light and love to them.
I love doing my blogs and vlogs and chatting back and forward on Facebook Messenget etc., but nothing refreshes my soul like the Bible. If it has become dry as dust to you, let me share one of the most powerful prayers I have learned to pray:”Lord, renew my relationship with your Word.” Even preachers need to pray that from time to time for their own soul’s sake.
I read a good thought in H. Nouwen yesterday. “Often we think about the word as an exhortation to go out and change our lives. But the full power of the word lies, not in how we apply it to our lives after we have heard it, but in its transforming power that does its divine work as we listen…it is in the listening that God becomes present and heals…it is a word to heal us through and through, and in, our listening here and now…At first this might sound quite new for a person living in a society in which the main value of the word is its applicability.”
Right now, before I listen to the Bible, I am listening to the robin and the blackbird speaking into one or two concerns I am carrying, saying, “Don’t worry. Your Heavenly Father knows.” Maybe you also need to make time to listen to these feathered preachers and messengers that Jesus told us to listen to, as well as listening to the bible as you open it!
May your “listening” today be truly blessed with transforming “presence” and grace.
If you want to learn to hear God better, stop listening for Him to agree with your thoughts, your understanding, your opinions, your reading of what is right and wrong with a person, church, nation or even yourself.
I have sought to obey the word of God through the Apostle Paul to pursue the gift of prophecy. I have not done that as diligently as I should so don’t know as much about it as even some of you. I know this however: when I have heard the voice of God in that way for myself or others or a situation, God has shown me not what I already know or think, but truth I would never have seen and may not even want to see. Sometimes He will direct me away from a verse of Scripture that I have quickly convinced myself backs up the insight of my own mind to a verse that He seems to be saying to look at if I want to hear His mind on the same situation.
There is a lot of confident shouting these days about what God is or is not saying, what He is or is not doing in these times, what He can or can’t do. Little of it seems to be prophetic to me, baby prophet though I may be. “God’s thoughts are my thoughts” seems to be the bold assertion, which leads to every contrary voice being ridiculed, picked apart or even accused of being blasphemous.
By the way, when I spoke about God showing me things I would not want to see, it may interest you to know usually that has meant seeing good things, positive things, that I did not want to see! He has also at times shown me concealed sin and perversity which I was even more reluctant to see.
This was a live Session from this afternoon. It is on the subject of deliverance. In one sense this could be regarded as Vlog 15 in the “Lockdown Magnifying Lens” series. It will take about 49 minutes to listen to it.
I did this as a “Live” Facebook experiment, but felt it became Vlog 13 as I was speaking. Gave no notice I was going to do it but about 200 folk tuned in! May do something live again but will post notice of day and time. Will also put on my glasses! Didn’t know the idea of “Live” is that folk can make comments and ask questions at that moment! Kenny
This is 20 minutes long, about a third or half a sermon length! It is a really important aspect of life in all its fullness… living in the present and future for healing of past wounds.
Before you listen: Correction! Replace the mention of ” Will Young” with Will Smith!”
“I do not have to move faster than I can.” I am “allowed to stay in the place where I am consoled.” H. Nouwen.
Through the first few years of adjusting to my lung disease and it’s effects upon my body, soul and spirit, my own harshness against myself fought so hard against the voice of God’s tender compassion and even His felt tangible calming hand and breath. With a mixture of compelled and grateful surrender, I eventually learned to slay the inner taskmaster and accept His kind blessing was there in overflowing fullness for me in my limitation, and I rested in Him. I gave myself permission to receive tender consolation from Jesus as my non-condemning divine friend, from my Heavenly Father who was for me not against me, from the Holy Spirit who sets me free from slavery with a deep cry of sonship. I gave myself permission to stay in that place of consolation. It was not God who had been forcing my pace.
Are you feeling comfortless today, follower of Jesus? Perhaps He is not ahead of you, but behind you, waiting in a place where He brought you comfort rest and hope before. Go back to that well of refreshing where He sits and waits, offering you a fresh drink of living water. Read the books that brought you life before. Listen to that song, however old fashioned and unsophisticated it may be considered by others, which carried the fragrance of Jesus to you before. Put down your whip. Let the scars of self inflicted wounds heal.
Minister! Leader! Say “The Benediction” with confidence today . That word in essence means to speak well, to speak good things over people. It is what God did to you in Christ and does to you still. In all your imperfections He looked at you in Christ and said something no one save Jesus deserved to hear: “You are my Son, my Daughter, whom I love! You bring me great joy!”
Hear these words yourself before you minister, before you do a thing, before your enemy mocks your worth or suitability or gifting to minister to anyone at all. Then say over others today, courtesy of Zoom, what is said over you. Maybe you should stop before speaking “The Benediction,” “The Blessing,” and tell those entrusted by the Chief Shepherd to your care what these last few words mean, why you can and do utter them every week.
I remember our New Testament Professor telling us how in one University he worked in at one point they decided to give slightly higher marks than the students’ work merited. The result? The work standard of the students improved.
There is a lesson about the power of blessing in there somewhere and linked to that the power of grace truly understood and truly received! The people you are called to serve will live holier and more fruitful lives, the more you speak grace in its full truth and truth with fullness of grace.
Perhaps if we really understood “The Benediction” we would not just pronounce it. We would instead shout it with the joyful shout of those delivered from the power of their enemies and set free from the snare of the fowler, sing it with joy, or hardly be able to say it without being overwhelmed with tears of wonder at the love of God…
When I had to step back from being a parish minister through ill health one of my elders said to me with moist eyes “ Kenny, could you not stay on and just come each week, and say ‘The Benediction’ over us? That would be enough for us all.” He had got hold of the importance and living power of those customary words at the close of worship.
I am remembering a time at a Leaders’ Retreat when we prayed blessing on someone’s painful leg. It was instantly healed. Were there things wrong with the leg? Of course! We were not asking the Lord to bless that!
Some have criticised “The UK Blessing,” the song sung by singers brought together by Tim Hughes, recognised by the PM as “a point of light.” The criticism runs along the lines that there is so much wrong with the UK and the Church in the UK that we cannot possibly ask God for His blessing. This is false understanding. God can’t bless what is wrong and sinful. He can bless and make stronger that which is good, life giving and health giving. Blessing is only part of the jigsaw of the moment. It is not the only part by any means, far from it.
I loved being a minister who at the end of every service could pronounce and pray for the perfect blessing of God upon imperfect people including me. I look for that same blessing on those I pray for anytime I pray for them! I would be sunk if the blessing of God could not rest on me today because there are areas of my life still to be brought into closer harmony with Christ.
I am not a great gardener, but I know to prosper the growth of things I want to see in the garden helps to control weeds I don’t want to prosper.
Let’s pray the blessing of God to increasingly to be upon what He can bless. That is a great power for transformation he puts into our hands. It is not the only tool for these days to be sure, but it is an extremely important one. Let’s use it and see the power of blessing released in wonderful ways.
It is entirely possible for any aspect of Christianity to take on a life of its own with no connection with Jesus Christ: mission, evangelism, worship, giving, serving, prayer, contemplation, bible study, pastoring, leadership, discipleship, etc.
Let me extend that thought specifically to those who lead churches and therefore think about the development of its life and shape:
Someone sent me some follow on questions from the Zoom meeting with New Zealand leaders. One of them was a question as to what I was reading at the moment. Well, reading is a problem for me for two reasons. I had to get rid of my books, several hundred of them, because of my lung disease and cant really afford to replace them or buy new ones! That is not a veiled appeal for you to buy me a book, as the second reason I don’t read as much now as once I did, is that ever since I started on steroids 7 years ago, one of the weird effects is that my mind is not still enough to read! I want to rush on to the next sentence and page at great speed, the same way as steroids made me want to drive incredibly fast when I first went on them: the GP wisely took my keys away! However, I do manage to read a bit. Today I read this in H. Nouwen. If you are a leader, if church matters to you, then maybe you could do with thinking about his words:
“There was a time when I got so immersed in problems of church and society that my whole life had become a sort of drawn out wearisome discussion. Jesus had been pushed into the background or had himself become just another problem. Fortunately it hasn’t stayed that way. Jesus has stepped out in front again, so to speak, and asked me, ‘And who do you say I am?’It has become clearer to me than ever that my personal relationship with Jesus is the heart of my existence. It is about Jesus, above all, that I want to write to you, and I want to do so in a personal way.”
Was asked to do a talk on “Suffering” for a “Youth Group.” They seemed to find it helpful, so here it is for you, if you are interested. 15 minutes is not going to answer the whole question. This is just some of the ABC’s of basic gospel map reading. As a pastor I have found that most folk’s struggles come from forgetting the ABC’s of bible truth. Anyway, take a listen if you wish! K
Seasoned Servant of God! Watch out for a spiritual Coup!
Prophetic Word for those in ministry who are getting older.
This may only be for a few. It came to me in a dream, however, and my dreams seem to often show elements of what I would call a spiritual season, either of blessing or attack.
I saw a lion training a young lion. My set reading for this morning when I woke was Psalm 17. There, we read these words:”The wicked…speak arrogantly..He is like a lion eager to tear, as a young lion lurking in ambush.”
I wrote not long ago about withdrawing from Conference speaking, partly because I believe in making way for those of a younger generation. I think that was the right decision. In any case, health limitations demanded it! It was no longer truly within my capacity. BUT, this dream was about people of spiritual standing, gained over decades, being forced into a premature exit from their ministry. The eagerness of the young lion to pursue and pounce was the central thing I was to note. Though I believe in making way for the up and coming generations, beware of the pressure to do that before the right time. Beware too of what I would call “gently simmering bitterness of entitlement” from the gifted who somehow want your job, your role, your platform, and who may regard you as keeping them out and standing as an obstacle in their way.
In short, some of you are coming under pressure from younger gifted people as though you MUST make way for them! Raising and nurturing is one thing, but making way for the frustrated and the entitled is another! What a disaster can be unleashed when the entitled and gifted are unleashed upon the church in leadership roles, rather than the nurtured, the humble and the ready.
So, God wants some of you, older in years, to know this: YOU are still Today’s Man or Woman! Resist the pressure from the Entitled, however gifted they may be. Continue to nurture the gifted and humble. You have no obligation at all to pay attention to young lions being nurtured by the prowling lion who seeks to devour you.
Age and isolation of potential prey is fertile hunting territory for lions and lions in training. I think lockdown is making some faithful ministers, with a track record of decades of integrity, become potential prey to doubts about their ability, their relevance. It would be so easy to step back or step down before the time is right…
If you happen to be reading this and you are gifted and also younger than most of the folk who read my posts, be sure of this: stay humble and your progress in God will be as unstoppable as the Resurrection of Jesus! God will open every door necessary. He knows where you stay. You don’t have to force your way to the front or try and bring yourself to anyone’s attention. Don’t lose your integrity to underhand, pressurising, self-advertising ways. Stay faithful. God can and will lift you up higher. When it happens, you will know God has done it, not you yourself. That will be a treasured thought that will have great sustaining power in battles to come.
Climbing down the ladder to fact is the way up and on out of the prison of interpretation. Confused? Listen in…
…. ask the Holy Spirit to help you find the plug in the bath…
Back in December in Glencoe I had a prophetic moment when I saw people calling on the hills and mountains there to fall on them to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. Later on that day there was in actual fact an earth tremor in that very place. I felt the Lord saying something fearful was on the way. A few days later I had a vision of a whirlwind breaking over the land. Unlike the mountains falling which was simply a picture of terror, the whirlwind felt both wonderful and fearful. It had the feeling of both awesome revival but coming out of a fearful experience.
While in the Lord’s presence a few days ago, just wondering about these experiences as I have often done in relation to the pandemic, I believe He at last spoke into my to and fro wondering this way and that, with greater clarity. “This is not it.” We need to learn to call on the Name of the Lord before “it” does come. No medical science will make any progress when “it” arrives. No common grace blessings will be sufficient to face it or make the slightest dent in its progress. It will result not just in a huge part of the world in lockdown, but one quarter to one third dying. Only calling on the Name of the Lord will bring it to an end.
This is not “it” yet, but have we, even as God’s people never mind a lost world, learned in this pandemic thus far to call upon the Name of the Lord for mercy and help, or along with the world have believers erected a few new man shaped idols in which we trust for salvation? Have we gone beyond thanksgiving where it is due to people and to God, to worshipping the gifts of His grace to a fallen world which come in the form of knowledge and skills to relieve suffering?
I have not the slightest idea of timing as to all of this. What I have written here, is the sum of what I have been given: nothing added for effect and nothing left out to make it more palatable or less shocking. I have only very occasionally been told timing windows for God’s purposes but have not been given the slightest hint about timing in regard to what I am sharing here.
“ Cry out!” “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is like grass… the wind blows and carries it away.” “The Word of the Lord endures forever.”
“But Kenny, how can I pass on the love of God to my younger hurt self while I am still not yet sure of that love, even now?”
Which “You” is waiting for “You” still in a lonely place?