If you have a gift from God be humble enough to learn from others about how to take the first steps in that gift, open to advice, learning, training and even correction. A gift from God can be enhanced by training. Anointing and gifting on the one hand and learning and training on the other are not exclusive. As you submit to that process you will progress in your gifting which according to Paul’s words to Timothy is what is meant to happen. Something unique arises in that process and progress. How your gift is meant to operate healthily through you will emerge in all its uniqueness. To say, “ Well, this is how the gift operates through me!” right at the start is a sure way of never finding the road towards progress and true uniqueness.
My preaching now bears little resemblance to 40 years ago when I took first steps in my calling, but I am so grateful for guiding hands, voices and influences from those days. As long as humanly speaking I have the capacity to preach and the opportunity to do so I still intend to make more progress towards the discovery of the anointing in its full bloom that God intended should grow from the seed He planted for His good will and pleasure.
To learn by helpful rules does not mean fresh adventures beyond previous horizons you had in view are prohibited.
What is the progress I am still pursuing? To be as thin a barrier as possible for an encounter with the Living God to happen for others.
I share these thoughts with you in the hope that you may be able to think them through in relation to your calling and gifting, that “place” where you feel most truly alive in serving God.
Some folk may “tut tut” at this, but this seal I took a photograph of a couple of days ago, is how I feel when I am preaching: I am in my zone, doing what I am made to do, bringing glory to my Creator and Redeemer by doing it! I enjoy it! I have never reached that stage others tell me I should aim for, namely, that one should only preach if it is the last thing in the world you want to do and you should feel like a man being dragged to his own execution and funeral! I feel a great joy in preaching! “Let me get in there and get on with it, Lord” is how I feel waiting to preach! Like a horse in the traps. Great joy in what you are doing can be a sign of death to self! I don’t care what the reaction is to what I preach so long as it is done under the smile of the Lord and honours His word as faithfully as He enables me to do at this stage of knowing Him in part.
Whatever your zone is, GET INTO IT! “ What larks!” Yes, I mean it! That is a prophetic word God gave me for someone not long ago. I questioned it, put on the TV at random and within 2 minutes or less, the phrase was spoken from a production of “Great Expectations.” “What larks,” when you take seriously the doing of the Holy will of the thrice Holy Lord God Almighty, even when hell’s fury is roused against you!
Why is so much Charismatic talk (thankfully not all) so full of riddles and complications? The Jesus presented is so often a remystified God rather than demystified God. Clarity that can be understood by a teachable child with an eager heart to understand and learn, is replaced by veiled ascending levels to a hidden God, accessed by the spiritual illuminati.
We seem to forget the most astounding mystery is that God became an ordinary human being with ordinary human beings. He became “seeable”, “touchable”, “hearable”. Thank God!
Who would have thought the purposes of God lay supremely in an insignificant woman giving birth to a baby in Bethlehem or in a man dying as a condemned criminal on a tree? Don’t get obsessed with what seems to be the major events going on around you. They may not be nearly as significant as the clamour around then and attention given to them would suggest.
I just got this propheticky thing this morning. “Deep below the noise of the world and the noise of ‘church’, the stream of my life is silently springing and flowing with freshly experienced vitality in the hearts of those praying from a place of humility and faith, gifted by my mercy and grace.”
What could seem more irrelevant to the world than your prayers? What is more forsaken in church than the altar of prayer? We sacrifice time at virtually every other altar other than that: programmes, projects, consultations, planning, conferences, events, blue sky dreaming, thinking, meetings between leaders, imagining. Yet in that humble place, “Father, Our Father” life flows, endless and infinite, undermining the foundations of every dark stronghold. There will be a Confluence of such streams one day to the dismay of an unbelieving world and an unbelieving church. Yet when that day comes it will be a sign spoken against that the hearts of many may be revealed.
If you find yourself being more drawn to prayer in these days, this is the doing of the Lord. You are part of this seemingly insignificant and irrelevant divine happening.
For whatever reason my lung problem made itself more known recently. However, if I never had this problem in the first place, there is so much of the love of God I would never have discovered.
I read a phrase today in a book that reminded me of that truth when I was somewhat alarmed at how I felt physically, yesterday: “There, away from their ordinary and proper place, they discovered life anew.” That is my testimony of the last 4 years. It was not an easy transition, as what for so long had been my “ordinary and proper place” was shifted from beneath my feet, but I thank God for the transitioning. I hope that may bring hope to those of you for whom all that is “ordinary and proper” seems to be shifting. May you know the presence of the Lord who, as Henri Nouwen points out, left his ordinary and proper place in heaven to come and be with us.
(Philippians 2, where we read of God moving from his right and proper place in order to be in the right and proper place is a good passage of Scripture to meditate on if you are in a time of “shifting” right now.)
When we share our spiritual life and experiences (especially any unusual or spectacular and dramatic elements) does it bring us into a fellowship of solidarity and compassion with others and their ordinary human struggles, or does it set us apart as an object of admiration or fascination? When we become an object of interest and attention something has gone wrong either with what we are sharing or how we are sharing it. We have swallowed hook, line and sinker the values of the X factor world, wanting to be the Star in the life and mission of the Church rather than its servant. The essence of the religious spirit is not to do with tradition or rules, rituals or requirements, but a Pharasaic underlying message, “I thank you God that I am not like all other men and women.” When the religious spirit is present, “Competition” reigns rather than “Compassion.”
Here is the paradox: genuine experiences of the Spirit of God, true gifts of the Holy Spirit can get in God’s way in our hands. We can obscure His compassion, His being close to people and with people in their need. See if you can get out of God’s way today as you live true to all He has made you and to all He has given you and to all He has done for you in Christ.
In the gospels, Mary, the sister of Martha , seemed to annoy people just by being herself. There were two outbursts against her. She was attacked for what she didn’t do and for what she did do. On each occasion Jesus commended her: in one incident He commended her for her wise decision making, in the other for sensitively blessing Him when others were completely insensitive to His needs. In her presence He felt blessed and ministered to, open to the physical touch of love, comfortable enough to weep.
Those folk that annoy you either by what they don’t do in church or by something they suddenly do for Jesus, may be the very ones with whom Jesus has the closest of relationships.
Or let me apply this another way. Do you feel that others consider you an odd bod? Do you feel that everyone seems to look at you as though you are a bit strange and even avoid you a bit, not including you, not even thinking you may have something worthwhile to contribute or thoughts worth hearing? Do you feel on the edge of church, that you don’t quite have folks’ approval, that some even seem irritated and angry with you? You may even be a leader or a leader’s spouse and be experiencing that. No matter. Enjoy Jesus enjoying your company today.
I think I must get a sermon together on how comfortable Jesus is with those considered by themselves or others to be “odd bods”, how He honours them and how much His church needs them in its life and mission…it will probably bless some and annoy others who are more compliant with rules as to how one is meant to be, ought to be, should be. I can cope with that…
Felt the Lord’s indignation tonight as I came before Him and was aware of His presence.
I am not saying it was a propheticky thing, but it was close to it. This was the thought:
“Who made you a judge of the reality or adequacy of the Church’s repentance in readiness for Revival, the fittedness of this or that person, this or that congregation, etc? Attend to your own humbling of yourself before God, and others will catch fire from you, otherwise your call to repentance is a powerless, unblessed cliche, trumpeted by your flesh. It will not bring about the righteousness God requires in you or anyone else, no matter the fierce anger with which sin is denounced by you.”
I believe I needed to hear that because of reading a discouraging post that seemed to denounce the genuineness of every sign of life and hope in the church. I think the Lord’s indignation was about the spirit and the heart and pen behind that article, but I felt I had to search my own heart, my own attitudes as well.
I bless God for those times in my life where I have come close to those burning with fresh fire. Just being with them made me desire God with fresh intensity without them saying a word to me. It was as though God poured from the pores of their skin and was on their breath and in their eyes and in their sighs: on each occasion when such people have become part of my story, even for a fleeting moment, I found myself not only on my knees but on my face before the living God until fire from heaven came afresh upon me too.
Even remembering such people now seems to create in me a longing for the presence of the Living God, to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The sense of God hovering over me as I remember is very real.
I noticed some Facebook friends apologising with humility and integrity for promoting prophetic words and declarations about the ending of Coronavirus that were not fulfilled. It is humble of them to do so and may God bless their humility and and integrity. If the well known prophets and leaders of Intercessory prayer movements who made these declarations in the Name of the Lord would themselves apologise publicly rather than try and twist the meaning of what they clearly said, that would have even greater significance for the Charismatic Church. Since well known names have not yet repented of unfulfilled prophecies concerning year 2 K maybe I am hoping for too much. “Sorry” seems to be the hardest word for many but without that word in the spiritual vocabulary of a ministry it lacks integrity and may well lose the blessing of God though continuing to exist as an exciting, noisy carnival or show. I have found it necessary to say sorry now and then throughout my years of ministry. It is not so hard once you have said it a couple of times.
By the way some will jump on this post as a weapon to be used to enable them to further mock the very notion of there being such a thing as the gift and ministry of Prophecy today. (If you use this post exalting humility and integrity in the exercise of Prophecy to do that, then perhaps you need to seek God for greater humility and integrity for yourself.) I believe in the gift and ministry of Prophecy one hundred percent and thank God for those who exercise this wonderful gift with integrity, known names or otherwise. Prophecy from others has strengthened me at crucial moments in my ministry right from early days of feelings of spiritual inadequacy and insecurity, consolidating my calling, to this present moment. It has brought great comfort and strength to me in some darker moments of life. It has often confirmed my own sense of where God is taking me in a new phase of life and ministry, even to this present hour( well , a week ago, since we are talking about integrity!). I am immensely grateful to God for those who exercise the gift and ministry of prophecy with reverence and love, honouring God and people, lost and found. God bless all of us with obedience to Scripture to seek the spiritual gifts, especially that we may prophesy. It is part of making love our aim.
Worried about a financial need? Been there frequently and could see no obvious answer. I remember at one such point when I was trusting BUT trying to work out how God would probably meet the need. He said to me, “Get rid of the Abacus.” I am sharing His word to me in the belief it is a truth for all God’s redeemed family, including you. An Abacus would never lead you to a fish with a coin in its mouth, would it? Don’t limit God to the horizons of your calculations or imagination.
I know some of you are facing imminent unemployment this coming week and have no financial reserves. Some of you are single, but some of you are in that situation with a family to support, not just yourself. Whatever, you are not a failure. You have lived wisely, lovingly and faithfully. I hope this word does not taunt you. Don’t worry if you struggle to believe it immediately…
Another thought just came to me: God’s Spirit has probably placed you in someone’s heart and prayers, even though they don’t know why they have started to think about you and you have told them nothing.
Was remembering my Mum today. When I preached for the charge of St. Peter’s and St. Andrews, Thurso, hundreds of votes for and 2 against. My mum was furious about the 2! “Don’t you just want to knife them, Kenny?” What laughter ensued then and over all the years since!
Well, a mother’s love, and all that. I think of her and that memory when someone puts a thumbs down to my online preaching or when I see the odd angry face floating up my screen! It brings warm memories and laughter to my soul.
Preacher, don’t be worried by angry faces on screen or in a congregation. “Lord speak to me that I may speak in living echoes of thy tone.” If that is your prayer, leave the reactions up to him. Everything that truly comes from Christ will always have something about it that means it will be, at least to some extent, a sign spoken against that people’s hearts may be revealed. Irrational anger may be the first sign of hope that someone is awaking out of their own cherished religion to the Kingdom of God.
A wee P.S. Make sure it is the offence of the cross that people are angry at and not at you because you have been a stupid plonker of a messenger.
By the way , I think Jesus would have been laughing uproariously at my Mum when she said that! Let’s know when to lighten up about things. He understands what He made when He created the love of a mother, the heart of a lioness. It is a reflection of His glory, one of the most fearful wonders in all that He has made.
“From faith to faith!” Pray for converted preachers who preach from faith and who believe for faith to be awakened. I have sat through quite a few sermons from unconverted men and women in different settings from college days onwards over the years, sharing nothing but their own unbelief in the Word of God, creating nothing but ongoing spiritual death in the listeners. Pray for a fresh wave of born from above, saved by the grace gifted blood of the Son of God messengers, who preach from faith awakened hearts to faith awakened ears. We need the sparks that will cause faith in Jesus to blaze once more in Scotland and beyond…You may think “Judgmental” so I will just put that comment there on your behalf… You may think “old fashioned religion”… guilty as charged: “Like an old fashioned sinner I began to pray, and God heard me and saved me, in the old fashioned way!”
Sorry, there was a break in my internet connection, hence the 2 parts. An abrupt end to Part 1 and a scratchy beginning to Part 2! Apologies, though it was beyond my control as were the dogs yapping in a nearby garden! Maybe the difficulties mean this will be used in a significant way to help bring some into freedom. May it be so.
I can’t fully put into words the beauty and mystery of what I felt the Lord saying to those of you who may begin yet another day with raging anxiety dominating your heart and even your home at this moment, but here goes:
God may presence Himself with you today, draw near to you, like an unfamiliar bird to a garden, blown off its usual expected flight patterns. He may appear vulnerable rather than impressive, weak rather than powerful, storm battered rather than radiantly feathered. He may come to you as the unexpected Messiah with an unexpected rescue: to be with you in your weakness, to be the storm tossed presence in your storms. For you, he will not be found amidst the noisy chatter and competitive, confident, territory declaring squawking of other garden visitors. He stands aside from that, quietly. Look out a side window and there He is. Gentle and lowly. Bring him in without fear to your disordered heart and home. This is the mystery. As you receive the storm tossed bedraggled Saviour, as you give to him the attention and love he awakens in your heart, He will develop in you eagle’s wings.
“All our idols have feet of clay.” Your idol may be a Christian leader. They will have their blind spots and weaknesses that may surprise you and disappoint you. That does not mean they are hypocrites. It means they are followers of Jesus. He is the Shepherd, they are still learning to follow just like the rest of us. Give them the honour due as leaders, but don’t put them on a pedestal of your making from which they will fall in your estimation. The most influential leaders in my life got it wrong at points, but they all taught me as followers to look to Jesus, not them, as the author and finisher of my faith.
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.