A Matter of Faith
By Grant Marshall: Lost Sheep Community
Faith is the central tenet of scripture. It is what cements the relationship between YHVH and those that have been chosen by Him to receive this amazing gift.
Have you ever thought of it like that? Scripture tells us that faith is a gift from God.
Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God . . .
"But without faith [love and obedience] it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out]" . . .
Hebrews 11:6 The Amplified Translation.
But what is faith all about? Each of us will have a different understanding of it. That understanding will of course cause us to appropriate it differently in our lives. Some believe that simply having a religion quantifies a faith. Some have an ethereal type of hoping; others buy into cosmic laws of attraction, mindfulness, and positive thinking, and others have the type of faith that God demands. By this, I mean that faith is linked directly to Him, YHVH. Any other type of faith that does not link through a direct relationship with Him, is not the faith the Bible talks about and God demands. In this respect, we must ask "Who is your god?"
A person might say that he has faith and what he believes in through that faith happens. However, if that person has no relationship with God, then what is manifesting in his life is coming from somewhere else. Faith is not simply about believing and receiving it's about trusting in God and believing His promises for us.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
We can have faith in ourselves or someone else but that is not faith in God. If we want the material substance of this world then the scripture tells us that we can receive that from someone else.
Mark 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. 9“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Let's try and break Hebrews 11:1 down. The statement itself is not quite as straightforward as it may seem. It tells us that faith is a substance. The substance is what is hoped for. But how can you have the evidence of something that cannot be seen?
The scripture is simple and complex at the same time. Can you think of something that cannot be seen but yet is there? Electricity is not seen but the evidence of what it powers is. The air around is invisible but the evidence of you and I still breathing is there. When we turn on a light switch, we operate it without thinking about it. We are trusting that the power will surge down the cable and power up the device. God is an invisible substance, He is without form. He is the divine energy of all the cosmos; in fact His very existence precedes the beginning of the cosmos. Scientists have proved that the big bang existed, but can't explain what happened before it. I propose that they can't explain that because the big bang came from the mind, thought and deed of God. You could say that He exists on the other side of the big bang. But where is the evidence? Hebrews 11:1 tells us that this evidence is not seen. That puts us into a quandary. However, when we look at it through the mind or eye of God, we get a better view.
When God says something, when He uses the 'I AM' title of His name, we are witnessing a prophetic event. The thought and voice of God is uttering things into existence. The statement in Hebrews is describing the same event. It tells us that with faith, putting our trust in God, what we say and believe through seeing, will come about. In other words, faith works through God, and God works through us. Hebrews 11: 6 shows us that when we put that trust in God, allowing Him to work through us, He rewards us. There is, however, a caveat; we must diligently seek Him, and we must not be double-minded, as these passages in James tell us.
James 1:7 , That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
James 4:8 , Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
This passages clearly state that in order for faith, or the result of faith to be in operation, one must draw near to God.
Faith in the Bible is believing and trusting in YHVH. The scripture above tells us that faith in Him means that we do not trust in our own insights or understanding.
Proverbs 3:4 Then you will find favour and high regard in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will do it.
YHVH spoke to Abraham and gave him a promise that would affect all his descendants, but Abraham had to believe it. Even Moses and Aaron saw the land of promise. They believed in the promises of God.
2 Corinthians 1:19-20 For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us — by me and Silvanus and Timothy — was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.
Philippians 4:19 And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Let us now look at the covenant God made with Abraham: Genesis 15:6 And the Lord took him outside and said, "Now look to the heavens and count the stars, if you are able." Then He declared, "So shall your offspring be." 6 Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness. 7 The Lord also told him "I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the
Chaldeans to give you this land to possess."
Romans 4:3 For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
Living in a pagan society, Abram would have witnessed the daily sacrifices of children into the fires of Molech. This would have been a normal occurrence for him, but God knew Abram's heart. He knew he would be faithful and have the resolve to walk with Him, even though he would come against resistance. By choosing God, Abram became Abraham, who in turn through his seed, begat a chosen people. By Abraham's faith, new generations would be born. Follow the thread now. From Abraham, Israel is birthed. This is the seed of Abraham — all who believe in the God of Abraham and put their trust in him. But not all Israel is Israelite. Ultimately, the seed of Abraham will be reduced to a single seed - Yeshua and in that one seed is the DNA of God’s family.
Yeshua said, however, that not all Israel is the seed of Abraham. Romans 9:6 It is not as though God's word has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are Abraham's descendants are they all his children. On the contrary, "Through Isaac your offspring will be reckoned." 8 So it is not the children of the flesh who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as offspring.
The offspring are regarded as being as righteous as Abraham. He, in essence, through faith, multiplied after himself. YHVH said to him that this would be his inheritance. This was Abraham's promise and we today are part of that promise. But that promise, physically, is still to be fulfilled, because the promise of scripture is a restorative one. In faith, it has already occurred.
We have to believe without doubt that in God's plan, His promises are already fulfilled. In order for us to receive and walk into it, we have to believe and obey Him. Fundamentally God is telling Abraham, "I am going to restore the breach that happened in heaven and on earth, and I'm going to use you to do it."
As believers, we cannot have faith and trust in anything else but YHVH. The scriptures remind us constantly of the type of relationship YHVH is looking for.
But what faith does the world rely on? Cosmic energies, positive thought, and mindfulness are the trends of our ever-increasing secular society. Even in the church today areas of disbelief in miracles and the gifts and offices prevail. Theological arguments abound as to whether the apostolic ministry and signs that accompany it are still apparent.
But we are called to live a very different life from the one we were born into. Understanding the restorative process will help us to realise what our faith demands of us and what we are part of.
What does it mean for us who take instruction for the believer's life from the whole of scripture, especially from the renewed covenant?
Yeshua reiterates the essence of 'Shema' for all of us. Declaring Him as One, God of gods, and loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbour as ourselves is the condition, and furthermore, that belief in God promises us blessings.
When I first got saved I listened to the 'believe it and receive it' message in the faith movement. All the big mega ministries preached that type of message and they still do the 'bless me and live' coaching messages, which are still the prosperity message, taking the scripture of what Yeshua taught us completely out of context. There are many true and faithful believers out there, but fundamentally there is a corruption of the word which is being taught to many today and has been doing so over the decades. The admonition in scripture tells us to first seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness'. This observance and focus on our faith put us into an intimate relationship with God. It drives us into the heart of God and gives us the desire to fulfill His plan for the whole of creation, including the realms of the heavenly abode.
The admonishment of Yeshua in the Lord's prayer was to pray the will of God, and James writes to us about the fervent effective prayer. These are two clues in the prayer attitude which are directly linked to the opening words of our Lord Yeshua's prayer. When we ask for healing, we can believe we will receive it because it is God's will. His will and care also provide for us victory against the enemy, financial provision, and breakthroughs through the storms and tribulations of life. But the conditions of loving Him, which mean for us a repentant attitude and obedience, are crucial to receiving.
Now let us throw a spanner in the works. When Ha'Satan (the satan) tempted Yeshua, he offered an earthly kingdom to Him if Yeshua would just worship him. We have to realise that there are forces other than those of YHVH which are at work, helping us to make decisions that will ultimately lead us down the wrong path. Those voices can be heard in many areas of our life; for example in clairvoyance, mediumship, tarot, meditational practices, and the use of drugs; many cases in mental health. We may receive answers to what we desire and even encouragement to take a certain path through mediumship and horoscopes for instance, but this is the path that Satan, and the voices he uses, wants to lead us. His device is tuned into our hearts, our groaning, moaning, and dissatisfaction.
Proverbs 3: 5-6 tells us that when we lean on God, He will make our path straight. In order for Him to do that, we place all our faith in Him and desist from leaning on our own insight and understanding.
The Lord's prayer is the method and pattern of prayer which, when appropriated in parallel in the believer's life, availeth much, according to James' scripture. So when we pray and believe that YHVH hears us in accordance with His will, it will be answered.
Scripture tells us that 'faith is the substance of things hoped for, of things not yet seen.' To break that down, it simply means that a. faith (trust in YHVH) plus b. YHVH (the substance) = a future event coming to pass.
This is similar to the 'I AM' declaration of YHVH. In Hebrew, the words are 'Ayer Asher Ayer' Exodus 3:14, which makes more sense than the English translation. It means 'what will be will be'.
It is a prophetic utterance about events that will happen. The message that YHVH spoke through that name was "tell Pharaoh what will happen".
Permit me to side track for a moment. Christianity argues that we all have free will, agreed. We can choose to obey God and obey His prescribed ways. However, we cannot choose to obey God and change the way He asks us to do things. By choosing to hear the voice of God, we must be obedient in observing the instruction. So in this sense, we do not operate free will. Choosing to obey God is the only free choice we have. There is no choice in obedience. We simply obey. Obedience demands 'the way' and not our many ways. We cannot engage with God across the table to discuss avenues of obedience or any aspect of His sovereign will. Although God wants us to obey Him and have faith in Him, He still wants us to do so freely, and so He gives us choice. We may choose freely to do the exact opposite of what God wants, through a rebellious spirit, and God will stand back and watch as the effects of that choice play out. His hope, even though He is omniscient, is that we will make this choice:
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14: 15)
In 1 John 5: 2-4 (NIV) 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God, by loving God and carrying out His commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Obedience to YHVH tells us that we cannot take the wrong path because He makes it clear and straight - there's no shadow of turning. But predestination is different. This is YHVH's sovereign omniscience at work. This is an illuminating moment. This is the 'I AM' and the 'Dabar' moment in one; the 'what will be' event and the 'spoken' moment coming together.
This is what we speak in faith. I am not saying that we take the place of God as 'I AM' but what we are doing is reflecting Him and His nature because He has given us authority to do so.
We are to be imitators. Prophecy works in the same way. It can be changed if things fall in line. For example, we may receive prophecy and it will only come true if we are obedient to God; that's foreknowledge. And there is prophecy that cannot be changed; that's predestination.
The promises of blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 28 tell us about two courses that we can take. The foreknowledge of God tells us what will happen if we choose to obey one or the other. That is not predestination.
Now, look at this passage in the book of Acts chapter 13: 48.
44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.
45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.
46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly:
"We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.' "
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
Here we seem to approach the subject of predestination and foreknowledge. YHVH is omniscient; He knows all things. If He interfered in every part, thought and response of our lives, we would be robots, all responding to Him alike. What sort of relationship would that be? We see the foreknowledge of God at play. Because God is omniscient, He knows what the outcome will be if we choose to take another course. We all have foreknowledge. That is not clairvoyance. If I asked someone who had never drunk alcohol to drink a bottle of wine, I know he would get drunk and probably not be well after it. I know that through my foreknowledge.
In faith we live in Christ because He is our substance. When a new believer begins the walk of a new life, that substance is the light of God. When we turn on a light, it does not stay where it is. It shines into the distance, touching everything around it, until it dies or is turned off.
Scripture tells us that the word of God is a lamp to our feet. It lights the pathway ahead and into the distance, showing us where we should walk. If the word is our light, then it illuminates what is there plainly in our sight. So we can trust in what we see. The light points to a future mark or destination, but we can only get to that mark in another moment of time. But what if the light dies on our journey and we cannot see where we are going? Well, we either stop because we physically can't go any further, or we wait till dawn, in which case we lose time unless we have come prepared and have enough power to keep the light on. The latter is what we are called to
be — prepared.
Now at the future point, there will be people waiting for us. That is our inheritance because an inheritance is a future event. We don't have it now. This makes sense when we look at faith and how YHVH called the descendants of Abraham his inheritance.
The point that is really being made for us when we look at the patriarchs particularly, and I include Moses amongst these, is that YHVH is saying that the moment or the life space you occupy now, is not for you; it's about your descendants, your fruit, and your multiplication. But nonetheless, without you, there cannot be any fruit. "I am going to use you to fulfill My will, to multiply My image, and I'm going to cause your descendants to imitate you", says the Lord.
If we ever think that this life is about us, then we are shamefully full of pride. The prayer of faith ultimately secures our future. The predestination event is one where YHVH will fill the earth with members of His household, which will be the fruit of the marriage of the Lamb.
We have already looked at what prophecy is and isn't. It certainly isn't about you or what you can have and achieve. The foreknowledge of God gives us choice and with prayer, humility, and the seeking of the Lord, we cannot help but walk the path and receive the outcome He desires for us.
In the latter days, many false prophets will arise and they will be like wolves in sheep's clothing. They will entice and lead many astray. The message preached in many of the mega ministries teach personal prosperity and material gain. You can choose to listen to those voices and you can have all that they offer in this life, but your inheritance will be lost. The scripture tells us that the rich have their reward on earth whilst they live. Be careful also of prophecy spoken from many platforms. Many false prophets seem credible because they speak the word, but they are often echoes from other voices. They will hook you in, making you believe that the word is alive in them. If the Lord has not put His word in your heart first, be careful of what you receive. Prophecy is a future event - not a now event. God does not change. He has set out a pattern of events and abides by His own laws. It is good for us to understand this.
Faith, therefore, is believing God for who He is and what He will do. He has proven Himself to be faithful, loving, and unchanging. That's a truth moment. If the truth is absolute, then we can put our faith in it. When Yeshua, who is the Word, told us that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life', and we believe that with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then what's the problem with faith?
The words in Hebrew: amanah 548, emet 571 refer to truth in the old testament, meaning: assuredly, establishment, faithful, right, sure, true, verity. From these words we get the affirmation 'Amen'.
In the new testament the Greek words 'pistis 4102' and 'aletheia 225' refer to faith. For example in John 4:24 "God searches for those who worship in spirit and truth (aletheia)" and John 14:6 Jesus refers to Himself as 'the way', 'the truth' (aletheia), and 'the life'. The word 'pistis' is used in this scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:7 'we walk by faith (pistis - the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ), not by sight.
If we ratify, therefore 'truth' with 'faith', we are convicted, knowing that truth is absolute. We are unwavering, as there can be no shadow of turning. 'Truth' and 'faith' being absolute, reflect therefore the nature of YHVH.
Coming to this conclusion tells us that there cannot be any problem with faith. We are of the 'House of Faith' absolutely.
The believer, in his relationship with God, is affected by the light of the word shining on him, because more about him is revealed. He is acutely aware of his former nature and hopes that conversion will do what it promises. But faith is built on the truth. We, in a sense, have been found out. Our fallen nature has been exposed. Luke 8:17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be known and illuminated.
We may grasp from this passage, both evil intentions made in the dark, sin, and that which is intended for good; both are revealed by the light. Regarding the latter, when God shines His light on us, it reveals who we really are; in this case, the person we are meant to be. We were hidden and lost, but now we are found.
The danger is that we can often be self-condemning, but forgiveness on God's behalf has dealt with that. We have to accept that, or we are rejecting God's precious gift of mercy. 1 John 3:20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
The new man must regenerate with a new mind. To know more about God, demands a deeper understanding of the grace that tells us that even though He knows all about us, He nevertheless wants to know us too. That level of intimacy comes from faith. Just think about that for a moment. As humans, our nature is to draw near to those whom we know and trust. Every relationship has some element of it. We want to establish these principles in those relationships. The greatest faith we can share, is with our spouse or with our closest friend.
What kind of relationship results from one of distrust? The breakdown of trust that brought the humans and God together in the Garden of Eden, resulted in the fall of man from His presence. The thread within the whole of scripture is about renewing that trust and restoring the relationship.
Hebrews 10: 38 Now the just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness
Grant Marshall - Lost Sheep Community
Isaiah 40 “Comfort; comfort my people,” says your God. 2 “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her, that her compulsory labor is fulfilled, that her sin is paid for, that she has ⌊received⌋ from the hand of Yahweh double for all her sins.” 3 A voice is calling in the wilderness, “Clear the way of Yahweh! Make a highway smooth in the desert for our God! 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall become low, And the rough ground shall be like a plain, and the rugged ground like a valley-plain. 5 And the glory of Yahweh shall be revealed, and all ⌊humankind⌋ together shall see it, for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.”
A man called to be a Preacher, by which I mean a person chosen to speak out for God, must consider himself an enemy to Satan and a stranger to others. He is by definition in contention with everything ungodly. He must force himself through the thick darkness and the stench of human wickedness and depravity, a symbol of hopelessness and idolatry, to bring a comforting note and point to those attending his audio announcement into the direction of Christ. He must consider his visit to church platform, or to the assembly, a one off, unless that is, the Lord gives him instruction to stay in a particular place for a time.
He will become an agitator and an aggravator to those whom he will convict, but a deliverer of hope to those who realise their wretched state before God. The message of repentance is the foundation of his preach, and for those who receive it in all humility, and as the way forward, will not have an easy journey.
Among the rules of the five fold ministry, where exactly does the role of the Preacher lie? He is not specifically a pastor or even a teacher of the precepts of the law. He’s not really a discipler, tho’ he may bring many out of the crowd to Christ. In fact, he brings the word, as prophetically as John the Baptist, and brings those who cry inwardly from the wilderness of life, to God. His passion is to see the lost and lonely found, and brought into relationship with our creator. The Preacher moves around, and his role falls between the Prophet and the Evangelist.
He is an advocate for revolution — a deliverer of the message — and that indeed is his purpose — to bring a revolution upon humanity in order for it to be restored through repentance and in right relationship with God. He is a proclaimer and a publisher of the gospel. In the New/Renewed Covenant, the word ‘Preacher’ is used at least sixty times. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the word ‘Qoheleth’, is used. It means ‘ a wise man or scribe, one who collects the word, or a sentence.’ This would also have been incumbent upon the King, who was considered to be both wise and a scribe, as he would have to write his own Torah scroll.
We also see for example, the word ‘Preacher’ in the following:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach (Strong’s H1319 : Basar - announce, to bring forth the good news) good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year…
2 Pet 2:5
And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, (Strong’s G2783 : Keryx : to herald, ,preach or publish divine truth) a Preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
Mark 16: 15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. G2784 : Kerysso : to herald, ,preach divine truth)
You see, God takes everyone who believes from the wilderness of darkness into the wilderness of light. The transition finds the sojourner in many grey areas. It is like getting into a bath when you have been covered in dust or mud. The water, though it washes you, becomes discoloured and filthy as the dirt mixes into it. What is required are further baths until we emerge from clean water. It’s all a process.
Telling someone the truth is hard enough if you know them and love them, but receiving it from a stranger is not acceptable. Truth and judgement are co-workers. The voice that cries in the wilderness must be heard by one who is in the wilderness also, wherever that wilderness may be.
The Preacher is not so much a teacher, as our modern understanding goes. He may well have the capacity to do so but it is not his prime function. He is a ‘Nevi,’ a prophet, an audible sign post. The Preacher says, “ If you want life and freedom, If you want identity, destiny and purpose, then turn, repent of your wickedness and return to God; if you hear His word, then do it!”
The Preacher must bring the bitter and the sweet together, but ultimately, he is nobody’s friend and certainly not a people pleaser.
Jesus confronted the religious fraternity of His day. He highlighted their misdirection and manipulation of the Torah and their intentions of misleading the people. They had numbered themselves among the elite and forgotten that they are the servants of God. Their traditions and teachings had become embedded within their worship of God and now Jesus would be the realisation of the stumbling block before them, as it was prophesied in Isaiah 14 (a) and reiterated in 1 Peter 2:8 (b)
“And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.13“It is the LORD of armies whom you are to regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. 14“Then He will become a sanctuary;But to both houses of Israel, He will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (a)
6 For it stands in scripture, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Therefore the honor is for you who believe, but for those who refuse to believe, “The stone that the builders rejected, this one has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence,” who stumble because they disobey the word to which also they were consigned. (b)
Jesus called the Pharisees ‘white walled sepulchres,’ comparing them to ‘painted mud walled tombs’ whose true foundation could not be seen. Jesus goes on to call them ‘sons of the devil,' ‘the father of lies’ (John 8:44) and John the Baptist and Jesus both refer to them as a ‘brood of vipers.’
The Preacher, in his preaching must encounter the threat and the accusation, and cannot enter into battle with the sweetness of the word. That is why the word of God is a two edged sword. Its edges, both sweet and bitter. The Preacher does not have time to make friends. He may, however, find true worshippers along the way but he must soon hand them over to his master.
In part, the Christian world has reflected the nature of Christ with His humble, sacrificial and servant qualities in reaching out to the orphan and the widow, the sick, the poor, the hungry, but it has also reflected the pharisaical heart throughout its history. Peddling its traditions, the hired man has hidden the truth and traded his wares among the merchant corridors of the temple.
However, we cannot ignore what Christianity has achieved through God’s use of fallen man. Imagine how much more we could achieve if we were a little more perfect, and embrace the way of holiness. We may conclude that perfection is unattainable in our current sate, but nonetheless we should strive to attain close proximity to it, and thanks to God, we can, if we walk the way of holiness.
Now let me tell you a true story. Many years ago my son and I were walking in the peak district in Yorkshire. He was fifteen at the time. Our goal was to reach the summit of one of the peaks. We had walked it before but this time we decided to take another route. As we reached the base of the peak, the weather turned from rain to cold and then thick fog. The going got tough as this side of the peak was steeper. We climbed and we prayed and soon, emerging from the fog, we came to a level. We thought we had reached our destination, but the fog had only hidden the next part of our climb. The fog was getting thicker and we were getting colder. We found that this level was one of three; we had two more to go. Once we reached the top we could take the easy route home. The second peak got harder and still we prayed. We reached another level and prepared to take the third peak. The fog was thicker still but eventually reaching the top we stood for a few moments and tried to get a visual point. A compass would tell us the direction but the fog hid the path. We just could not see the ground in front of us. I moved forward carefully to try and see the terrain. I stopped just in time; I was standing at the edge of the peak. Another couple of steps and I would've been over the edge. We tried desperately to see if we could spot any sign of a nearby village. We did not know where to go. Suddenly through this curtain of fog, a fell runner ( a crazy, incredibly fit runner of hills and peaks, appeared). Despite the cold wet weather , he was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. For a brief moment he stopped, seemingly surprised to see two more crazy people who had also ventured up the peak. We had barely enough time to ask him where the nearest village was and the best way down. Following his brief direction, and with him jogging on the spot, he ran off into the fog unfazed by the climatic conditions. We began to make our way down, and as we did, the fog lifted. We could see our destination clearly.
God will often take us along uncharted and less travelled routes. Familiarity is not part of God’s plan for His sojourning people. The fog comes down to hinder or to prevent frivolous action. The man of God must walk step-by-step, day by day, into all kinds of situations. His safety is in not running ahead because he could soon find himself on a cliff edge looking down to his permanent place of rest. The danger of running ahead is of course that he may look back, only to find that he is lost. It is not that God has changed course at all, only that the man has veered off route.
I dare say, that perhaps we, as the church have too veered off route, and in this respect gone off just a little too far. This is why it is imperative that we must always, on our journey, check marker points behind and in front, and adjust our self to the compass bearing. Sometimes of course, mountains get in our way. Then we must decide if the mountain needs to be climbed or if there is another safe route around. But what happens if both options are just too perilous? Well, we look and listen, watch and pray, and believe God will show us the next move or even send a crazy fell runner along, just as He did for my son and I on that cold, wet, foggy day. And if that next move means that we must spend some time at the base of the mountain then so be it. Until we cry out to the Lord, recognising our dilemma and condition, we cannot expect a response. God may not personally come back for us, but He will send his Preacher.
One of the reasons why we may still find ourselves at the base of the mountain, may simply be down to the fact that we have not been attentive enough to God’s voice. The prevailing condition will ultimately lead to frustration and the propensity to create a set of camp rules that will address issues arising in the future. Not knowing that God has moved on, leaves us open to attack.
Today we fight against the enemy of freedom as we see liberty of worship and speech, including the evangelism of the people being gradually taken away. We can no longer reach out in the ways we were used to. We can no longer reach out with a caring hand or give someone a warm embrace without the laws of protection, safe guarding, racial and gender equality coming into play. Fear and reservation have exchanged the natural function of love and service.
Preaching the truth of scripture brings conviction to the sinner, but now we are not allowed to judge anyone because what we find as sinful and wicked must be tolerated. Believing in the inherent word of scripture, believing in Christ and the God of creation is foolishness and abnormal. It is the stuff for weak and gullible fools, and yet it is quite acceptable that others can propagate the things of witchcraft and wizardry quite openly and be praised for it.
Alternative ways of expressing the fallen human state and tolerating physical and mental morphism in all its facets, must be the new normal. Recognising the psychological conditions involved cannot of course be tolerated by the secular world and the new age of man it is creating. The believer in Christ recognises sickness and looks to Him to heal us. The unbeliever refuses to look at his sickness and therefore looks to someone to accept it as normal. It’s like wearing a decorated plaster cast over a broken arm and not taking it off because it looks good.
In truth, the believer must be offended and must be ready to contend and defend the truth. Jesus warned us that this will be the latter stages of the life of His people. If we are to experience none of this, then sadly we have become friends to the world. As a result, our identity will be brought into question. Our image of Christ, whom we have tried to emulate, will all but fade.
So, the role of the Preacher is thus: preach the truth, make enemies along the way. He should not look to make friends and should not expect to return to the place where he once preached. A Preacher is not your father or mother, tho’ he will clothe and feed you. He is not your saviour, tho’ he will be ridiculed, accused and persecuted and in doing so, he will give his life for you. He is not your physician, tho’ he will heal you. He is not your counsellor, tho’ he will give his time for you. He will lay down all his dreams and he will not ask you for anything, tho’ he needs more than you can imagine.
He is a voice in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord. He says, “Know the truth, know God, know Jesus as the Son of God and live, believe and be baptised.”
Fighting for your Blessing
Grant Marshall - The Lost Sheep Community
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And,“But my righteous one will live by faith.And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:36-39
In this message, I want to look at the struggles we all face and possibly the reason why we never seem to get any breakthrough. We will also look at the struggles we often associate with the patriarch Jacob. We will come to realise that although his trials were peculiar to him, we too, sometimes have to wrestle with angels.
Each of us experiences struggles and trials at different levels. For some, small things can be like mountains; for others, big things, though just as serious seem to show very little or no external signs. Whether those trials are little or big they will have eternal consequences. We may not be in the throws of extreme suffering, as some may experience for example, the loss of family or loved ones, especially during times of war or conflict. We may not be experiencing loss through tragedy or accident, the loss of work or business, and neither may we be experiencing heartache through relational breakdowns and even the trauma felt by families affected by divorce or marital strife. In other ways, be may not be experiencing the difficulties that come through infirmity or the results of some dreadful disease. Degrees of suffering, loss and lack, is of course relative. Each of us will respond with different levels of resolve. Some will make it through; others may not. Some will make it through the night; for others, it may take several nights. Whatever situation we may find ourselves in, we must know that as believers, God is with us and in Him, we put our trust.
Isaiah 53 is called the account of the suffering servant.’ It is a prophetic utterance that foretells the coming Messiah and depicts the sufferings of Christ. It shows us that Jesus was not unfamiliar with our ways and concerns, and that He Himself, suffered as a human being.
It is harder to go through the fog of misfortune and meet God along the way than it is to go through it with Him having prepared already, by our relationship with Him. Our relationship with God brings us the promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us - Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6.
God is not a God who is absent from His creation. He is not a God who is too far off for us to reach, and He is not a God who lacks the capacity in understanding the mind and conditions of man. The very fact of the Holy Spirit living in each believer, testifies to this, knowing that God, who hears our cries and responds accordingly, shows us that He is attentive. Jesus, at the time of his birth, survived the cull of the infants, through Herod’s edict. In Jesus’ earthly ministry, He witnessed the suffering of His people under Roman rule. He saw the sickness and depravity of man — He saw death and the lack of faith amongst His dearest and closest friends. But nothing of what He saw had any place or power in His presence. Wherever He went, the darkness was dispelled. We read that the sick and infirm were healed, the hungry were fed, the dead were brought back to life. However, we don’t always have to be in the depth of struggle and suffering to call out, “Jesus, help me!”
We need His help every day. Jesus promises us our daily bread. In this promise, He gives us Himself, because He is the Bread of Life, the Word of God. Just as God provided the needs of the Israelites during their exodus journey, He will do the same for us all. God’s promises for our daily lives include the prosperity of our hands. He makes our paths straight and grants the desires of our heart. He gives His angels charge over us, and protects us from the storm, the fire and the pestilence. When we make Him Lord over our lives and obey His Word, making Him our Rock, Refuge and Fortress, He dwells with us and walks with us in the valley of shadows, and raises us up to the high places, bringing us through to victory. He promises, and this is the breakthrough key, that when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. Ephesians 6:10 tells us about the heavenly armour we should wear during our spiritual battles. We are called to wear it in the power and strength of God, and in doing so, our fight against the powers and principalities in the heavens are defeated. These are the promises and the power that we have.
Life can take us around an unexpected bend, with very little warning. Sometimes the ground will open up unexpectedly and sometimes we might just want the ground to open up and take us with it when all our trials have become too much. However, to be an overcomer, means that you will push through to the end because you believe that all will be better, and brighter. The overcomer also knows that change must take place too if he is to sustain and benefit from his victory. Change is a future event. It may begin from something in the past, but it begins ultimately on the single moment of realisation that our future is not our past, and that yesterday is gone.
The caveat in moving forward to a positive and victorious result is that the baggage of the past cannot be allowed to hamper future success. Jesus told us that His yoke is easy and His burden light. It’s simply down to choice. We can choose to have Jesus share our load or we can carry it all ourselves. But remember this, Jesus will not help carry the load we don’t need. Those who make it through the valley, don’t look back. Someone with a rearview focus cannot walk a straight path. They will continue to fall into every ditch and stumble upon every rock along the way. They will never see the light at the end of the tunnel, and for them, there will never be a breakthrough. Every day will be the same — hopeless.
It was a grey, wet, foggy, cold day for me yesterday, but today as I write this, the sun is shining. It’s a new day and the mercies of God are brand new again. By His grace, I will walk into tomorrow, that is if I survive today. My survival depends on Him. My human state of mind does not depend upon any drug to balance the thousands of chemical responses in my brain, but on the word of God that transforms my mind. I have to rest in the fact that God sees me at every moment of my humanity. He sees me when I am sad. He sees my quirky ways and actions; He knows my every thought and probably shakes His head at my excuses. I am well aware of my weaknesses and failings, but I can’t keep apologising for them, and neither can you for yours. You see, our humanity is a failing in itself. We are made from the red man, Adam. He is a flawed and sinful creature, but our colour and hue come from the crimson blood of Christ in which we are marked, like sheep. This is the colour and mark that God sees when we come before Him in Jesus’ name.
We overcome by the blood of the lamb, and through our new birth, we are given spiritual power and blessings over the sinful nature.
Now let us turn our thoughts to Jacob. We are told that the very name of Jacob means: supplanter or deceiver. What a name to be born with! His little baby hand, reaching out to grab the heel of Esau, ended up with him receiving a not too delightful beginning. Imagine being called ‘the deceiver’ by his friends and family. We forget the meaning of names, and how they can influence our lives. However, I believe that that little baby had more about him than his name implies. We see that the struggle of Esau and Jacob in Rebekka’s womb would continue even to this day. In Jacob we see two characters fighting for dominance. Inside Jacob was Israel. I believe the name given to him after his struggle with the angel, was the real meaning of his name. Let me show you: this is the pictographic meaning of Jacobs name:
It means: the work of the hand, dedicated (worship) to the Lord, is to watch from behind (through time and experience) the house/the family.
The family is the family of God - the flock of Jesus, the sheep of Israel — the House of Israel. The one who struggles with God, will overcome trials. Through time and through much experience, they will overcome and be united as one family again as prophesied through scripture.
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved.
As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
He will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.
Jacob was loved by his mother but not so much, it seems, by his father, Isaac. Isaac loved Esau more because Esau embodied strength and enjoyed the pursuits of his father. Esau was a man of the field — “ishtzayid [hunter]"and his antics were shown by his physical appearance — his smell and colour. Jacob, on the other hand, was a stay at home kind of guy — “ish ohalim [man of the tents]. He was closer to his mother and preferred to shepherd. But one thing we must see — Esau gave Jacob his birthright. Esau exchanged, in essence, his position. The position Jacob lost during his birth was given back. It may seem that deception played a part in him receiving Esau’s firstborn blessing from Isaac, but Esau had in effect given it to him and the prophecy that the elder would serve the younger would come to pass. It may also seem that the subsequent years of Jacob’s labour for Rachel in Laban’s house was pay-back time in a way. Jacob, had also been deceived, it would seem, or was he?
God had plans for Jacob who prospered despite Laban’s antics. The years would go by, and Jacob, having once left Laban with his family, would again come face to face with his brother Esau. In Genesis 32 Jacob, on his way from leaving Laban’s house, is met by angels. We are not told what happened at this meeting but it is the prelude to the meeting of the brothers. As the meeting approaches, trepidation and fear come to the fore and Jacob’s faithfulness is brought into question. He suddenly becomes apprehensive and is possibly even prepared for a confrontation which is alluded to in the stance of the brothers and in their brotherly kiss. The word for ‘kiss,’ is vayishakeihu. The word for ‘bite,’ is vayishakheihu. The difference is one letter. This may mean, that if the spelling refers to the latter, Esau would not have been sincere in his greeting. It’s all to do, according to the Midrash, with the jots and tittles in the writing of the Hebrew text.
However, Jacob reminds God of his promise:
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”
Prior to the meeting, Jacob would look at dividing his camp in a survival strategy and hope to find a way to appease his brother in offering him a large portion of his flocks. On their meeting, the brothers seem to unite, putting the years behind them. Esau, now powerful and a tribal leader of kingly status, seems to have forgotten about his birthright. What he has gained from his years in the field, an analogy of the world has prospered him. The difference between the brothers’ characters is shown clearly in the text. Esau tells Jacob that he has no need for Jacob’s gift; that all he has is enough. Nonetheless, Esau accepts the gift because of Jacob’s persistence.
Jacob, on the other hand, tells Esau that he has plenty. The differences in their response show us that Jacob saw that God had provided and increased his wealth and that Esau obtained his wealth through his own means. This is an insight into Esau’s character and reflects on the little value he gave to his birthright.
To backtrack a little, we are told that prior to the meeting with Esau, Jacob wrestles with a stranger. We can struggle with this narrative, as we are not sure who the stranger is. Jewish writing depicts the stranger as the territorial angel of Esau. There is a rather confusing note at this point which may seem to add credibility to this notion.
Gen 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
The question as to why the struggle must end at daybreak is perplexing. Midrashic and Talmudic writing speaks about the angels assigned over the nations. This may also allude specifically to the 70 nations of Noah. In this context Jacob was meant to struggle with Esau’s angel, and that the dawn represents the finality of Israel’s struggle at the end of time.
Jacob sees the struggle with God. In truth, it is God, for all angels do the ministry assigned to them. Though the spiritual status of the territorial angel has credence, we must notice that the angel had the authority to change Jacob’s name to Isra’el. Who would have this power?
The result of Jacob’s wrestling match leaves him with a dislocated hip, leaving him to walk with a limp for the rest of his life. Jacob in this sense comes to symbolise the nature of Isra’el — a nation that remains infirm in itself, still struggling with God, and somewhat separate or dislocated from the rest of the world.
As we conclude this message we must realise, that if we are to receive our blessing, and if we truly believe in the promise given to us by God, we will have to fight for it.
And now, let me say this: there is something so precious and valuable in your life, and even though you have reminded God of it, even though you have prayed for years, perhaps, and believe for it, and still there is no breakthrough, and still it all seems out of reach, then you need to change tactics.
The Lord has shown me this, and I want to share it with you. For something so precious and valuable, you have to be prepared to labour and fight through the dark hours. You will have to stand on the promise and want it so badly that you are prepared to be emptied and have your character changed. You must be prepared to die, or at the very least to emerge from the place of wrestling, carrying the scars of battle. This is the cost Jesus speaks to us about — the price of following Him. The prize at the end of the race is our crowning reward. This is what happened at the river of Jabbok, meaning ‘place of emptying,’ or to ‘empty itself.’ It is here that Jacob became Isra’el. Friends, your breakthrough will come. Though things don’t seem to add up at the moment and seem somehow dislocated in your thoughts, don’t give up. You are about to enter into the place God has for you. The Bible tells us that those who endure and are willing to change will receive a new name. God’s favour will last a lifetime, and though weeping tarries for the night, joy will come in the morning.
Isaiah 62: 2 The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will bestow
Revelation 2: 12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent, therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
For us to change and comply with God’s will, we have to look at what needs to be changed. We have to repent and turn from our old ways, and from the desires and even our practices to receive our blessings. To breakthrough and walk in the victory, we must put down the baggage of the past and move lightly, step by step, with Jesus into our destiny. That’s what happened to Jacob. Your struggle will end and you will receive your precious hope. If it's worth fighting for, then fight!
A Conjunction of C’s
Grant Marshall - The Lost Sheep Community
The book of Ecclesiastes begins thus:
1 There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven-
I want the reader to pay attention to the ‘appointed time.’ In the Hebrew the word used for an appointed time is ‘Moed.’ I also want us to define the difference between a time and a season. A few years ago, I found myself on a ministry trip to Israel. We managed to get permission to hold a meeting in the garden of Gethsemane. It was here, after a period of prayer, that the Lord showed me the difference. I had not been wondering about the difference and neither did I pose the question. The Lord showed me through the visitation of a small tortoise that sped across my path, just in front of my feet.
Seasons, are defined by the rotation of the earth around the sun. In these seasons we mark off, generally, quarters of the year. They change in climate and bring with them their own peculiar nature. We have no choice in what they bring. The seasons can bring life and decimation. They can bring fruit and crop, famine and feast. Every year is different. Though we have no choice in what the seasons bring to us, we can as we have found out, influence what they bring. Certain crops, flora and fauna, emit their beauty, fragrance and nutrition to the living world. Man’s influence on our God given ecosystem has affected its delicate balance, and now we are reaping the consequences.
Times, however, are a little more unreliable because they are based on conditions. For example: certain flowers can bloom out of season, simply because the conditions are right. We can have a warm spell in winter and spring can seem to come a little earlier. Sometimes a child can be born earlier than expected, all down to the conditions that surround it in the ecosystem of its mother.
We speak, as believers, of being in a season of something. Seasons have time limitations put upon them, but times and events come become the conditions are right and there is not designated any length for them.
Let us look at the season or the time we are in now.
Every believer in Christ, by which I mean a follower of our Messiah Jesus, by consent is acceptant of His life and allows Christ to become sovereign. The new believer immediately consents to giving up their life in exchange for the one that God has for them, by being born again of the Spirit, allowing a transformation that will give us access into the realm and presence of God. Whereas once, we did not understand Him, we can now learn to. Whereas God was far away, once, He is now near. When we were far-off, by being under the ownership of Ha’satan, we now because of God’s great and merciful purchase — the redemptive sacrifice of Lamb of God — belong to Him.
Our fallen nature began the process of regeneration and rejuvenation. God began to make us or remake us into who we should be or once were. In order for us to become malleable in the hand of the great potter, our earthen vessels must be emptied of ourselves. The process is hard, because the old contents are claggy, and like the tea that stains the inside of a cup, it needs to be scoured, making the inside of the cup squeaky clean. The process of this remake, will depend on what purpose the potter deems for his new creation. I think of the extraction of the old man as being like Marmite; it just does not want to come out of the jar. I apologise to those who don’t like Marmite. I love it, and have it most days on some homemade bread. I have developed a technique now that gets the stuff out of the jar without it falling off the knife and coating the outside of the jar.
I have noticed over the years that my own personal thoughts, those regarding my nature, the changes, the influences of my past, the echoes of thoughts and the responses I would have had at one time, constantly float to the surface of the pot. They unsettle me at times and then I am disappointed and never completely satisfied. I want to be a better man and husband, kinder, more patient, stronger, gentler; better in all the fruits of the Spirit. Make no doubt, there is only one judge who judges me harder than I judge myself and that is God. I do not believe for one moment that I am better at anything than anyone else. I am acutely aware of my abilities and skill levels at certain things.
Having never formally trained in anything, I have found that determination, time and practice, experience and application, and of course the need to learn something, have proven my course in attaining the levels I find myself at in most things. All in all, I’m just an average guy who has been given the gift of Christ, and in this gift, I rest in the knowledge that in Him I can do what He calls me to do.
As I have said, to be a vessel used by God, a person has to be processed. He has to be cleaned from contaminates, broken, softened, soaked, kneaded and compressed just like the clay. He then has to be reshaped in expert hands, left on the shelf until the potter returns to put him in the fire. It is said that the heated clay vibrates a particular tone when it is ready to come out from the intense heat of the kiln.
I loved pottery at school. I was pretty good at it. I even had permission to use the potter’s wheel and everything else after classes. Years later, I looked at taking it up again. Having not the resources to purchase or even run a kiln, I found a local potter. I asked if he would fire my pots. He said he would, but as a potter who earned a living at it, he said it could only happen when he was not doing his own pieces. You see, although the outside of my own pieces would have looked ok, any imperfection or air bubble in them would cause an explosion under the intense heat and destroy his work.
This is what is happening to all of us, as believers. We will not enter our heavenly abode unless we have gone through a similar process. There simply cannot be any imperfection in us. God has to remove the air of this world from us. Our time will come, but for sure we will spend some time on the shelf, curing before we enter the fire.
Our confidence and trust must be in God. He must increase and we decrease to the degree that we can do nothing without His hands around us. We are all being reshaped, bent, battered and hammered, just like the iron in the blacksmith’s hands, and in the greater analogy, the cosmos, in which immense forces and powers pull and extract every atom apart and join them together again. As human beings, we are frail and infirm. Our bodily functions can fail at any time, leaving us infirm for a season or a time. Despite our arrogance and knowledge, we are extremely vulnerable and weak. We are a liability to each other and to the cosmos. At the same time, God has given every believer, in relationship with Him, the ability and permission to affect creation, whether on our blue planet or in the space that surrounds it, or indeed in the spaces in-between. When we find our final allocation in the world to come, it will not be by our own efforts but by God’s great pleasure, love and sovereign judgement.
Creation is going through great change, or should I say continuing on a path that will bring for us phenomenal, unprecedented and extraordinary change. These changes will affect every realm, spiritual and physical. The enemy of our souls and the adversary of God, is not happy.
The substance of his world is passing away. We see in the book of Exodus that whenever Moses performed the acts of God in front of Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to copy them. Satan is the counter-creator, unable to create anything original. He is the ultimate illusionist, wizard of wizards. His responses to God’s creation is to create confusion and doubt. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. There was chaos and a void - a gap that lacked the light. God brought order to it.
The plan of the adversary of God designed his new scheme before the world began. So we must understand that this world is not ours. We are in it to show that the pure image of God cannot be duplicated. When this world passes away and all creation is made anew, God will inhabit it. There will be nothing organic within it. Spirit will dwell with Spirit.
In this world of Hi-tech, illusion, lies and fake news, how will we know what is counterfeit? I learned many years ago that experts, trained in detecting counterfeit money and stamps, don’t spend hours looking at the fakes — they study the real ones.
I have written before, that this time of isolation and lockdown, because of the Covid pandemic, (personal beliefs aside) is every believer’s chance to get himself into the ark and learn to listen to the voice of God and to recommit himself to His instruction. In this divine cell, we will transcend the restraints of this world into the spiritual realm. The scaffolding of religion will fall and religious restraints will be broken. The believer will emerge in the understanding with power and freedom. We will understand ourselves through periods of fasting and repentance. We will leave our tent of meeting, renewed with a new resolve and back bone.
Know this: the crisis of faith that has now come upon the world serves at least three purposes: to bring unbelievers to Christ, to strengthen believers in Christ, and identify those who will lose their faith.
Nonetheless, Colossians 1:16 tells us that, “ All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing.”
With the evidence against, stacking up, that’s hard to believe isn’t it? But there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Every season in every year brings different events and outcomes. Agricultural crops produce different yields: sometimes abundance, sometimes lack. 2020 was a severe year in weather patterns and crop yields. Devastation and slow-down has been the overriding trend across the global economy. The gospel is referred to in agricultural, military and building terms. Using agricultural terms we see the examples of fruit, harvest, wheat, tares etc and even Israel is referred to as the fig tree.
There is nothing that can prevent the Word going out, only our doubt and disobedience. Have no doubt, God will remove all of this. Anyone who harbours this duo, has no place in the divine cell.
Finally as we come to the end of this article, I am going to share with you the conjunction of C’s. This weekend the Lord revealed to me a parallel that aligns the current Covid pandemic situation with the coming apostasy. The forces of the world and the kingdom of God are converging rapidly. What is happening in this world is being allowed by God for this purpose, The Covid pass is the certificate that will clarify your position in society. If you have been marked as one who has taken the test and received the vaccine, you will now receive your tick in the passport box. You have been targeted and bought, and can benefit from travel, journey further afield, resume your family relations and even go back to work. The doors of your home are now unlocked and you are free. Because of your faith in the system, you are now a bonafide covid citizen.
In the system of the God's Kingdom, we are also targeted, tested and marked. We make the decision to receive the mark of God and are certified by the blood of Messiah. We become blood bought citizens of the Kingdom of God and we are vaccinated and made immune by the blood of Christ. We become bonafide Kingdom citizens.
As the two realms converge, conflict arises and a crisis of faith occurs. The fallout and devastation on business, the economy and the personal loss of wealth and through death, will force many to reconsider their belief system. As a result, many will begin to fall away from their faith and tradition, believing that God does not answer prayer, is not loving and has failed them. Many will become bitter and turn away. Some will of course learn of their mistakes and return, but others will reject God totally.
However, what will emerge will be those who remain, and those who will enter the Kingdom, because they have called out to the Lord.
This is the collision of C’s: Conjunction, (an alignment in spirit and the physical) Cosmos, (planetary conjunction and cosmic events) Climate events, and a time unique in Creation) Calamity, Chaos and Confusion, Covid, Cash-Crash, Counterfeit, Conflict and Church.
There is a Convergence occurring now in so many realms that it is absolutely bewildering and utterly staggering. What has seemed impossible is now happening. Each generation is subject to its own part to play in the redemptive plan. The generation that witnesses the beginning of the end will have much to bear. We know that our Lord is coming back soon. May the strength that comes through His grace be with us as events unravel.
As this age draws to an end, the final thrust for the presentation of the light of the gospel, will go out into possibly the darkest time of human history. The responsibility upon the generation of our day is seek the Lord in how we do this in an ever increasing secular world.
Let us continue to watch and pray, brothers and sisters.
The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come’.
16Furthermore, I saw under the sun that in the place of judgment there is wickedness, and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness. 17I said in my heart, “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, since there is a time for every activity and every deed.”
18I said to myself, “As for the sons of men, God tests them so that they may see for themselves that they are but beasts.” 19For the fates of both men and beasts are the same: As one dies, so dies the other—they all have the same breath.a Man has no advantage over the animals, since everything is futile. 20All go to one place; all come from dust, and all return to dust.
The Exodus Parallel - The road map of every believer.
The book of Exodus is commonly know, through its Greek name, as ‘Way out.’ In Hebrew the word is ‘Shemot’; in its full meaning it is known as ‘Wa'elleh Shemot’ - ‘Now These Are The Names [Of The Sons Of Israel].'
The exiles of the Jews are many but there are two distinct themes of Exodus that are explicit within the timeline. There seems to be a swing from one to another. We begin in a sense with the calling out of Abraham from Babylon, into the prophecy of God to Abraham regarding the exile of Israel into Egypt and then out of it, and then into Babylon again. We have among the associated names of the son's of Israel, Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Judah. What is consistent with every exile is an exodus; the calling out from captivity of God’s people. The pattern of exile shows us that God dispenses the judgement with regard to His people’s disobedience. Each moment of exodus demands a new agreement and declaration. It also demands a complete heart change among the people, causing them to be committed to a new, dedicated and consecrated path.
According to the biblical calendar Joseph was 39 years old when his father Jacob, aged 130, entered the land of Egypt. It is from this point that we can start the Israelite period of captivity in Egypt. The event on the biblical time line puts the event some 250-290 years after the prophecy given to him by God. During the office of Joseph, Israel prospered and grew in number. It would be clear that such a growth among a culture would affect the economy of a nation. Israel's presence therefore had a clear impact amongst its host nation. Before we proceed with the crux of this study we must clarify that Jacob was brought to Egypt at a time of famine and drought in Canaan, the land that God had promised him that he would possess. The book of Exodus can be considered an anchor point in trying to work out some crucial dates, and of course a pattern that is perpetually echoed through the history of Israel and indeed the life every believer. Thus the pattern reflects a prophetic events calendar. In Genesis 32 the narrative tells us of the time when Jacob is alone and suddenly a man appears and starts to wrestle with him. The stranger can be considered as a result of Jacob’s response to be either an angel/Angel of God or God Himself. From the moment of Jacob’s defeat or indeed victory, we are witness to the birth of a new man who would come to epitomise the nature of Israel as a nation. Jacob, and his new name, Israel, is used at times synonymously throughout scripture and peculiarly when God refers either to Jacob the man or Israel the nation. Understanding God's dealing with one or the other defines God's judgments. We can see in the imagery that the person, though divine, chooses to manifest himself as a man. The event is spontaneous and leaves the struggling Jacob with a memorial of the event for the rest of his life. This disability of the dislocated hip reflects in part our personal disability in our struggle with the Almighty. When we are born again, we begin struggling with God. This is pivotal in understanding the believer’s walk. Struggling with the man can be seen to be symbolic of struggling with ourselves but at the same time wrestling with God. But how does Jacob's story parallel the life of every believer? Jacob in essence is the beginning of the nation to come. From him will come the 12 tribes. These are the projected descendants of Abraham. It takes 130 years for Jacob to leave his land but what is strange is that God causes a famine in that land that makes Jacobs only option, to save his family, is to go to Egypt which miraculously has escaped the calamity. For Now!
A Family Separated.
When we look closely at the family of Jacob, we fundamentally see a story of deceit and jealousy. Some of us may find ourselves blessed by having a believing family. But others may stand alone as a believer in our families. The latter can be a difficult place but I believe the hardest of all scenarios is one that can separate a married couple. In what should be the closest of human unions, division in marriage is particularly difficult. The narrative throughout scripture speaks purely about a divided relationship and that God’s desire and prophetic plan is to unite His family. The Bible’s shadow picture is shown to us through the nation of Israel and the division of the house of Jacob. This picture reflects a deeper message of the separation of God and His bride and the division that occurred at the beginning of human time in the garden of Eden. Each call upon the believer is in fact a prophetic one - in other words it is by an act of grace that each believer receives the message given to them. They are chosen from other members of the human race to carry the spark of light to an otherwise dying flame. The message within that light is that God is going to restore His relationship with His bride by setting in place a number of scenarios which will cause His bride to remember Him, desire Him and finally return to Him thus restoring the Kingdom. That fundamentally is the gospel of the kingdom.
Every believer should understand that the pure message of the word points to this fact. In order to bring to Himself His purified bride, she must be searched for and chosen from all humanity to be a separate and holy entity. In her perfected state, she will enter into union with her husband and become a high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
When we look at the position of those called out, from Abraham onwards, we see that a separation or distinction had to be made first. God chose unique individuals. He made them through the renewing of their minds to be chiefs/kings, priests and prophets. This dynamic or protocol has never changed. We see since the time of Adam that God has split families and siblings: Abel and Cain, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Moses and Aaron, Judah and Ephraim.
The Wilderness Journey.
The extraction of Israel from Egypt is the story of that same principle of God; calling out His people from the world. Leviticus 18 speaks about how we as believers are not to follow the ways of the nations we find ourselves among. When Israel and the mixed multitudes left Egypt,they were to leave behind their habits and traditions and would have to learn how to worship YHVH God in the way He decreed and not in the way they thought. The giving of the Torah and the teaching of Moses and the elders, would help them to change and transform their ways, renewing their heart's and mind's. The story is familiar, but we must reflect on the fact that many did not finish the journey. God had to deal with a great deal moaning, arguing, disgruntled and not-so-happy people. These acts of rebellion and negative processes led the people to the state of disobedience and lack of trust in God, despite the many miracles He performed among them. There were even those who believed they could do the job of Moses better than he could. The number forty, represents a time of maturing or of attaining wisdom. Obviously, many of those early pilgrims never progressed much further from that same intact state in which they left Egypt.
It is sad to say that for many believers today, their journey may seem to be over. They have not progressed in their maturity or in their knowledge of God because they have never sought wisdom but are content to be fed on what comes out of the religious media machine. In truth, the Bible is not an easy book to read, let alone study, but understanding that God desires that we learn from it and want to hear what His letter to us has to say, should be part of every believer’s quest in trying to find out more about the divine family we belong to. We must reconcile ourselves to knowing the Word of God and knowong the God of the Word.
Boots on the Ground.
There is no way in which a believer can progress any further if they read the Bible alone. They must put their faith in action. That means that they must first want to draw near to God. Some see that that entails some kind of mission or a perceived calling. The church is eager in its zeal to propel people into ministry but often the lack of wisdom and preparation allows many to fail at the first hurdle. This is not to say that failure at the first attempt is due to some misunderstanding. No! It boils down to simply running before you can walk; pursuing the path before understand the terrain or the road map.
God uses many models, allegories and metaphors to help us understand certain messages and patterns. Mainly, they fall into three types: military, agricultural and building/architectural. Scripture speaks of the military armour, which is an allusion to a warrior priest. It speaks to us of being men at arms; trained in the art of battle. The offices of the gifts are the leaders, captains and generals. Among them are the instructors and teachers. Included in them are the watchers and listeners. They survey the land and listen for the voice and commands of God. If we fail to follow their instruction and do not hearken to the leading of the Lord then we are on a slippery slope indeed. We will find that we make wrong decisions and presumptions, and veer off course, losing valuable time and wasting resources. If we are leading unwisely, disregarding the voice of the Lord and presuming that what God wants from us is what we’re giving, then we run the risk in bringing others. Unfortunately, today, because there is very little discernment among the body, many followers fail the question the person in the pulpit, regarding them as being beyond reproach.
Failure to Prepare
For the most part, failure comes through inadequate preparation or simply failing to understand clearly the course and route we are to take. In such times we can find ourselves giving up or turning back, simply because we have not prepared adequately.
The message of the Exodus is one that prevails in the life of each believer, individually, corporately and jointly as a nation. The Exodus in its incremental parts spans over the life of Moses. The first 40 years represents the man and his life in Egypt. The second 40years represent his preparation by God for the task ahead of him. The final 40 years represent the call upon his life. Some of us may take the calling to the end of our lives; others may fulfil it or achieve it in part. We must be clear that God is sovereign and uses us as He wishes.
It is crucial in these days therefore, that we draw near to God as Moses did, finding our own tent of meeting, and gather with others with whom we find leadership and fellowship among our own tribe. Too many are looking at the prevailing conditions and not moving forward because of fear, or failure to gain clarity. Some are listening to echoes found among the false prophecies and listening to the esegesis of untrained teachers. Many also call themselves prophets but act as the echo chamber for other voices, never releasing and original word of God.
We must remember that the prophetic voices bring the charges of God, the warnings of judgement and the way out. They bring also the message of grace and of God’s love and hope for a future restoration. through this grace, we find time to change the conditons we find oursleves in and in doing so we can draw God's attention to His mercy. This was Moses’ message to Israel; Get ready, pack your bags and move when I tell you. God is making a way out and He will surround you and protect you if you listen to His voice.
Friends, the message of the Exodus needs to be relearnt and we need to reacquaint ourselves with the voice of God, yield and desist from presumption. Before Moses, the man, could take His people out, God had to take Moses, the person, out of himself. The born again event is supposed to do this. Each new believer must desist from drawing back into the world they have left behind. That is the moment of embarkation. We do not look to the Exodus story as a distant example, but look to it as our ever present guide, the line on our own map to follow, allowing the Holy Spirit, our pilgrim partner to change us along the way.