When ‘Too Late’ is actually ‘Just Right’.

I’ve lived most my life feeling like I was out of step with the rest of the world…. Around, but not really in; seen, but not really visible; tuned in but on a different frequency…. Like I came so close to making the cut or getting into the venue but was stopped on the wrong side of the line. I’m sure many can relate!!

Now I’m not saying any of this to make you feel sorry for me – like everyone else I’ve lived my share of challenges and triumphs and been both wounded and blessed along the way. Now as I approach my 50th year on this globe I can honestly say I’m so thankful God made me as I am, quirks and all; because they make me uniquely me and connect me uniquely to all God had in mind when he wanted a ‘me’ on the earth!

But sometimes I wonder what the purpose was for a whole lot of the “almost but not quite” moments of my life.

Reading through the start of Acts I found someone who I think could relate… I know I relate to him! In Acts 1:12-25, the apostles have returned to Jerusalem after seeing Jesus’ ascendance to heaven and are waiting the giving of the Holy Spirit.

It says from verse 15 – “In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “ ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”

There’s a lot going on there, I know. But Matthias jumped out at me in a new way as I read this. I felt like I got him! Peter had said they needed to choose a replacement for Judas, one who had been with them and Jesus all along. I can imagine being Matthias. You’d faithfully followed, learned, grown and believed. You’d been as close to the inner circle as you could get without actually being IN the inner circle, and now someone just like you was about to be given the opportunity to step into new areas. I wonder if there was that voice in his head saying “it won’t be you. They don’t really see you, they are happy to keep you at arms length.” I wonder if he looked around and saw the qualities in all the other possible candidates?

It could have been a demoralizing process for a Matthias. I know many years ago this is what I would have seen and focused on as I read this story.

Matthias was a follower, a believer but he hadn’t been called by Jesus. He was there the entire time Jesus ministered on earth but he wasn’t one of the 12, those closest to Jesus. Then Jesus dies, is resurrected and goes back to heaven. It seems like his opportunity to step closer to Jesus is over. It’s too late. It’s done.

Then Peter speaks up and says that they need to replace Judas. He isn’t chosen by Jesus like the other apostles, but is nominated by those around him. Matthias isn’t their instant favorite, either… it’s between him and another man. Then they don’t even choose him based on his merit or character or anointing, but they cast lots!

So he slides in to apostleship after years of faithfully orbiting, as a replacement for a betrayer, not chosen by Jesus but nominated by men and then picked by an heads or tails scenario. Not exactly the dream elevation! He could have felt less than. He could have allowed his entrance to what God was about to do across the world to make him insecure.

But I have a feeling Matthias saw something that for a long time I didn’t see. It may have looked like it was too late, but in fact Matthias was perfectly positioned for just the right time.

From the beginning of time as God laid out the plan for the salvation of humanity, Matthias was earmarked for his moment in history. He was to be the fulfillment of the words King David spoke in Psalm 108:9 that Peter referred to as they sought to be obedient to God.

Matthias wasn’t an after thought or a fill-in, he was a fulfillment of prophecy. I need to let that sink in. When God spoke through David hundreds of years earlier, he spoke of Matthias. Wow.

How that changes things!!!! Matthias wasn’t a “not quite” he was a “not yet”. He wasn’t forgotten, he was reserved. His faithfulness and stick-ability wasn’t wasted, it was preparation. And when God hit go over his life, it was a door that had always been his.

As we too look towards God outpouring over his people and the world again, perhaps we are about to step into our own moment of fulfillment… who knows what has been said over us in heavenly places and God has been preparing us for such a time as this? Perhaps all the times I thought I was missing out had actually prepared me for my own “just right” in God. I want to be like Matthias and be ready because God is so good and his timing is perfect if I will just stay faithful and trust him in it.

Today’s thoughts from Luke 24:13-33 – The Walk To Emmaus

That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago. “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.” Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared! They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them,”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭24:13-33‬ ‭NLT‬‬
https://bible.com/bible/116/luk.24.13-33.NLT

What a picture of the goodness of God! These two disciples were leaving. We don’t know why they were headed out of Jerusalem; just that they were… and while they walked they discussed in complete sadness all that had occurred.

We know that they were’t part of the 12, because the passage records that after Jesus revealed himself they rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the 11 of their experience; yet Jesus chose to appear to, walk with and talk with these men – as they left in sadness and despair, thinking all they had believed in was over.

They were followers, disciples. They heard Jesus teaching and saw his miracles. They had expectations and had built a mental framework of what they believed was happening in and through Jesus; and for the most part they weren’t wrong. The problem was that they had taken the puzzle pieces to the coming of Messiah, and assumed they knew what the picture would look like. When the pieces didn’t fit, they didn’t realise they needed to let go of their picture, not abandon the puzzle!

Even when the women came back from the tomb declaring Jesus was alive, they just couldn’t get past their own mindset to see the truth. Their immediate circumstances seemed so overwhelmingly negative they had concluded that they were wrong and chose to walk away rather than challenge their preconceptions and dare to believe it was just the beginning.

How incredibly kind is Jesus, that he met them on their road out of town? It wasn’t over. In fact what they had just witnessed wasn’t the death knell to the Kingdom coming, but instead was the crescendo that broke open the way permanently! Jesus loved these men and didn’t want them to miss what was about to be poured out; he knew they had destiny written on their hearts that was still to be outworked and they needed to be ready, waiting with the others, back in Jerusalem.

I wonder what the conversations looked like when they packed up and made to leave? I wonder if other believers tried to convince them to stay… I wonder if others encouraged them to go… I wonder if they thought their chances were better elsewhere… I wonder if so many were so caught up in their own faith-wobble or attempt to manage a myriad of emotions, that these two left unnoticed and unaccounted for? Whatever it was and however it happened, they disconnected and walked away, and the rest of the body – for whatever reason, had to let them go.

We can’t hold on to everyone. We can love, can reach out and can support to the best of our ability and people still leave. Some slip through the cracks, some drift and some choose to cut ties and go. But Jesus is bigger and more gracious than anything, and when those who are meant to be connected disconnect, Jesus meets them on their journey and reveals truth that breaks through disappointment, disillusionment, doubt and many other ‘D’ words!! He breaks through the ‘facts’ of a situation to reveal the truth and his plan behind it, and this changes everything.

What seemed like the end was the trumpet call to the beginning of his plan for the rest of the generations to come, and those two disciples were integral – so whether they were let go, or whether they left didn’t matter. What mattered was that soon the Holy Spirit would be poured out, and they needed to be in Jerusalem for what God was about to do.

I think we find ourselves in a very similar place right now. It can be really hard to watch people step back, pull away, move on and break relationship in the face of overwhelmingly negative circumstances. While we aren’t free of the responsibility to care for and reach out to those struggling, I do believe that God is so big and so gracious that when we feel like we fail and lose people, we can trust that when He comes in power – and He IS about to pour out again in power – He will meet people on their road out of town and turn them back; faith restored, eyes opened and running in excitement to be a part of it!

And likewise, if you find yourself feeling like it’s all over and you’ve chosen to pack up and move on, know that God is not fazed by doubt, grief or sadness. He loves you too much to not meet you right where you are, and restore your hope and your future!

So we trust you, Jesus, in this whirlwind of a season because you are faithful and you are about to show up in power, and we want to be ready and waiting, united in faith and expectation!

Thoughts from Luke 22:31-34

Part 3 – When failure isn’t failure

In the last two posts I looked at Jesus’ use Peter’s names – first addressing him as Simon, and then as Peter; and at Satan’s request to sift the disciples. Today for my last instalment, I want to focus on verse 32.

“But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. so when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32 NLT

In the past, I have found a fair bit of comfort in what Peter was about to go through, even though that sounds a little mean!!! After all, here is is guy who is right there with Jesus benefiting from his presence, teaching and physicality in a way we have yet to experience and still he messed up. BUT on the other side of his denial of Jesus, not only was he restored, he became one of the most influential and solid fathers of the Church as we know it. Peter’s story gives me hope that my own shortcomings are not fatal, but rather a bump in the road that doesn’t have to be my undoing!

It’s interesting that Jesus told Peter of Satan’s demand to sift not just him, but all of the disciples; yet in this conversation Jesus doesn’t say that he had prayed for all of them. Now I’m not saying Jesus DIDN’T pray for the others, but here he specifically tells Peter “.. I have pleaded in prayer for YOU, Simon, that YOUR faith should not fail”……

Jesus said that he had pleaded in prayer – made an urgent appeal to God on behalf of Peter for the sustaining of his faith. He knew what Peter was about to go through, what he would do; and how it would affect him mentally, spiritually and emotionally. He also knew that Satan would seize on Peter’s moment of weakness and fear, and do everything he could to use it to separate him from his faith permanently. There was a lot riding on the next part of Peter’s story! He had a vital role to play on the other side of this sifting, and Jesus had made an urgent appeal on his behalf to protect his faith THROUGH what was about to occur.

Jesus said ….”That your faith should not fail, SO WHEN you have repented and turned to me again”….

Jesus never said he had prayed that Peter’s faith wouldn’t fail, or IF it did that the would repent and turn back to him. For me this is a big deal! It leads me to conclude that Peter’s denial of Jesus, which I had always seen as a failure of faith is not how Jesus saw it. Jesus prayed his faith would remain THROUGH his time of weakness, not that his faith would prevent it. If this is the case, then it changes what a failure of faith actually looks like.

The word ‘Fail’ in the original Greek is ekleipo, which means to leave out, leave off, by implication to cease; to stop, quit, to die, to expire. I believe Jesus was letting Peter know that his denial wasn’t evidence of his faith failing. Peter would – if he didn’t let go of relationship – get to the other side and still go on to be the man God had called him to be. Jesus was saying “I’ve prayed hard that your faith – the evidence of the relationship we have will stand. That you won’t give up on our relationship because you mess up. That you will trust me enough to believe that you can come back from this if you stay connected to me and desire this relationship more than you want to hang on to guilt. I need you to believe that our relationship can survive your frailties and that I am able and willing to restore you when you return to me and put it right.”

We perhaps have looked at Peter’s denial of Jesus as a failure of faith, but the failure would have been Peter not coming back from it and walking away from relationship as a result. If we allow the enemy to convince us that we have destroyed the relationship Jesus paid so dearly for, and we quit – this is the moment faith fails. Faith is not the evidence of a desired result, but the proof of a genuine relationship. It can survive the storms of life and human nature because it rests on who we know, not how we behave. Now this doesn’t excuse bad behaviour….. if anything, faith works to eliminate it because we (should) want to please best those we love most.

The last and possibly the most beautiful part of this verse is found at the end where Jesus says “so when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

Peter wasn’t the only one about to go through a sifting and crisis of faith. Every disciple was about to face their own battle and would be tempted to pack it all in. I’m sure many followers of Jesus did just that. Jesus gave Peter a heads up as to his own personal storm and then reassured him that he would come through it, relationship intact, and would then be in a position to provide strength to his spiritual brothers who would be dealing with their own need of restoration. Wow. I know if I were Peter, I may not have thought much about the entirety of what Jesus had said in that moment; but I would have been combing over Jesus words after I had run from my place of denial. I would have beat myself up, allowed the accusations of the enemy to batter my mind, would have remembered Jesus telling me I would be in this exact position, beaten myself up a little more; and then when I stopped my mental free fall for a moment, felt the gentle voice of God reminding me that my betrayal wasn’t all Jesus told me of. And hope would flicker….. and light would come back….. and I would realise Jesus had said I would repent, return and then move forward in his call. And I would have been overcome with gratefulness that God would still choose me, trust me, and allow me to serve him by caring for others.

I can almost hear Jesus saying “Peter, I need to you come back to relationship. Not just for yourself, but because on the other side of this sifting I need you to strengthen your brothers who have also been sifted, but don’t necessarily have the same immoveable conviction of who I am that you do. They may be bruised and battered and barely hanging on. They need your strength borne our of our relationship. I re-named you Peter for a reason and once this is done you need to pick up your faith and use it to help others be ready for what I am about to do.”

Again, wow. This is so relevant to where we find ourselves today! The Church is going through a sifting, with out a doubt; and we are being given insight by a loving God who doesn’t want us to give up on and walk away from relationship because of the storms, or even our responses in the storm. Falling isn’t failing as long as we get back up, come in repentance and allow Jesus to bring restoration! We are headed into miraculous, supernatural, revolutionary days where we see God moving in so much power, and we need to be ready. We need to hold tightly to truth and to doggedly pursue relationship with Jesus no matter what; because on the other side of this sifting we will have brothers and sisters who need the strength of our faith and conviction to help them be ready for this outpouring too.

We have a God who intercedes – pleads in prayer for us because he loves us and has called us to bring heaven to earth. I for one, am so grateful and my prayer for you as much as for myself is that as we move through this sifting, our faith would not fail but make us ready for the greatest move of God in history.

Thoughts from Luke 22:31-34

Part 2 – The Sifting

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So When you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” But Jesus said, “Peter, et me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

In my last post I wanted to look at Jesus’ use of Peter’s names; first Simon, then Peter. In this post, I want to concentrate on verse 31, “Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat…..”

What a fascinating line! The word ‘Asked’ in the Greek is exetesato – which is substantially more potent than what we understand the word ‘ask’ to be. If you look at Strongs Concordance and Thayers Greek Lexicon we can see it means to request a full handing over, a complete take-over, an intensifying demand to have. This was not just an ask, but a request for God to release the disciples from his hands and put them completely into Satan’s.

In his arrogance, Satan believed he had the right to test and sift the disciples. It’s not the first time Satan had pushed for this kind of access to God’s people. We see it in the book of Job, and again in the Gospels when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, so Satan certainly felt confident in his demand!

What’s really interesting to me is the timing. We know that our enemy is smart and very aware of the way God works, and of biblical prophecy. He knows when God is up to something, even if he doesn’t fully understand or know what it is. He is NOT all-knowing like God, but he certainly knows when trouble is headed his way and will do whatever he can to circumvent whatever God is up to.

After Jesus was kissed by Judas in the garden and just before he was arrested, he said to those who had come for him “Am I a revolutionary that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there every day.” He then made the statement “But this is your moment, when the power of darkness reigns.” (Luke 22:52 & 53)

There is a time for being about Kingdom business; where we may not necessarily have favour, but we don’t face much in the way of opposition. But before we arrive at the fullness of what God intends, but he enemy shows up in full force and darkness has its moment. It may seem scary and like the world is out of control, but it’s actually a sign that things are about to turn around in the most incredible ways!

We are in a time of training. But as with any training, it has a purpose – to prepare for the main event! Jesus had been teaching the people and readying the disciples for their own main event when death and sin would be conquered on the cross and the disciples would step into their apostolic calling to establish the Church on the earth through what Jesus was about to do. Satan didn’t know what was coming, but he knew SOMETHING was, and that if it wasn’t stopped, would be very bad for him.

So he demanded the right to sift the disciples “like wheat”. The word ‘Sift’ – Siniasai in the Greek – means an inward agitation to try one’s faith to the verge of overthrow; to prove by trials; to winnow.

Winnowing is a farming term where the valuable grain and the waste chaff would be separated. The chaff was the outer tough husk or shell that no longer contained seed and was useless beyond being fuel for the fire or feed for the stock. It had no ability to be sown and produce after itself, and so was worthless. Because it no longer had seed inside of it, it was substantially lighter than the grain. The farm workers would throw the grain and the chaff up in the air and allow the wind currents to blow through it. The lighter chaff and any pests would be carried off by the wind, while the valuable grain had too much weight to be carried away, so would fall back down for recovery.

Satan wanted complete access to the disciples; to throw their lives and their faith completely up in the air and agitate them to the point of overthrowing all they knew to be true in the hopes that they did not have enough spiritual weight to remain. If he could remove them from the picture by getting them to abandon Jesus, their call and their faith at this point, then he would not have to worry about the threat they may pose on the other side of God’s plan. The disciples were fast on a collision course with victory, and while they didn’t yet know it, once Jesus died and rose from the dead, they would have all the authority they would ever need to take the fight right to the gates of Hell and see those gates buckle in defeat.

I don’t believe that we are called to experience warfare, but wage it! It is not meant to be something that just happens to us – we don’t live on the defensive but are called to offense! When we understand all God has done for us and the authority we carry as we are untied with Christ, we take the battle to the enemy’s camp to release those he has imprisoned. Satan’s chief tactic is always to intimidate and take people out under the cover of darkness before the fight, because he knows that when it comes to a battle his defeat is certain.

One other side note that got me thinking……

Satan used the term “sift like wheat” or winnow. Now I believe that every word and picture in the Bible has significance, so I find it an interesting parallel that Satan was using the imagery of wheat being thrown in the air and subject to strong winds to remove what had no value. When I look at the day of Pentecost after Jesus had completed his work on the cross and through resurrection, I see the disciples waiting on the gift of the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised. His entry is referred to as “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind coming from heaven and filling the whole house where they were sitting”. (Acts 2:1) Satan wanted to use spiritual wind to blow the disciples away, take them out of the picture and destroy their faith like it was of no weight or substance…. God used a spiritual wind to usher in the presence of the Holy Spirit who would add even greater weight and value to the faith and mission of those who Satan had failed to overthrow. What a great picture! Like Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 45, what Satan intended for harm, God intended for good to accomplish the saving of many lives! Because the disciples had already been sifted by the enemy, what was of no value had already been removed so when the Holy Spirit came like a mighty rushing wind, they were ready to receive and were set up to carry all well all that God was about to do. They were ready for revival.

We are certainly going through one heck of a season right now. The enemy is hard at work employing every sifting technique he knows in the hope of taking out as many as he can. Why? Because he knows God is up to something big, something that is going to be deadly to the kingdom of hell. Heaven is getting ready to fall again and we need to be wise to the schemes of the enemy and alert to his intimidations so that the winds of sifting remove only what is of no value and our faith stands strong ready to embrace and carry the move of God we are so desperately waiting for! As we submit to the process and allow God to remove the empty hard husks and pests from our lives, the enemy’s plans turn from destruction into something miraculous! Let’s not be shaken and blown away from our faith and trust in God, but stand strong and press in to God knowing victory is on the horizon!

Thoughts from Luke 22:31-34

Part 1- Simon to Peter

My Bible reading this morning took me to Luke 22:31-34. Jesus and his disciples are in the upper room having just shared their last meal together before Jesus is arrested and crucified. He was preparing his disciples, as he continued to teach about what was about to happen, and what the Kingdom would be like for them. During the meal, Jesus spoke to Peter, telling him of the trial headed his way.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.  But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail.  So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”  Peter said, “Lord I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” But Jesus said “Peter, “let me tell you something.  Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Luke 22:31-34

It still blows my mind how much can be contained in 3 short verses!  I don’t think I’m ever prepared for how cool it is to see things I’ve never seen before when reading the word. So let me share over a few posts some of those insights.

I hadn’t really picked up on this before, but Jesus – when addressing Peter – calls him Simon….. repeatedly.  Now I know that technically this is his name, the one he was born with, but Jesus had as we see in Matthew 16:13-19 already given him the new name of Peter.  So this begs the question, why did Jesus call him Simon in this moment?

First, let’s look at who Simon was and what his name means.  Simon Peter was your typical sanguine; loud, exuberant and outspoken.  He had a knack for trouble and had a tendency toward being unstable.  He was most likely pretty changeable when it came to core beliefs, probably bored of detail quickly, liked new and interesting ideas and was open to being swayed by the thoughts and opinions of others.  Simon means ‘Listen’ or ‘hearing’ and like his name, he was probably happy to pick and choose what he believed based on who he was listening to at the time.

This makes his name change even more interesting.  When we look at the story of Jesus giving him his name ‘Peter’, it begins with Jesus turning to the disciples and asking “Who do people say that I am?” After the disciples had tossed around all the different things they had heard, Jesus asked them “who do you say that I am?” Peter by this stage had been front row to miracle after miracle and had built a strong relationship with Jesus.  He was no longer subject to the views of others because he had experienced truth, and instead had a solid, immovable conviction that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, GOD; and said so.  Jesus declared him blessed and changed his name to Peter, meaning ‘rock’.  Peter had changed internally from someone who would listen to and adopt the popular opinions of his time to someone who had an unshakable trust and faith in Jesus.

So again, why refer to him in Luke 22 as Simon? I think that Jesus had something so important to communicate that he wanted to make sure Peter was paying close attention. He was asking Peter to tap into that part of himself that had the sensitivity to really hear, to listen to and pick up on what Jesus needed him to know. Jesus wanted to make sure he wasn’t walking into a spiritual and emotional storm without the understanding and foresight that Jesus both knew and was making a way through. Peter seemed to miss it though! His response was very much a ‘Peter’ response and not a ‘Simon’ one! Instead of ‘listening’, his ‘rock’ personality kicked in and he responded by being gung-ho and ‘call to arms’ passionate. Instead of really hearing what Jesus was saying, he responded from battle mode when he said “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you!” I love how Jesus then meets him where he is at! Verse 34 says “But Jesus said “PETER, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning you will deny three times that you even know me ”……

Peter didn’t pick up on what Was being said the first time around, so Jesus switched from addressing his ‘Simon’ side to his ‘Peter’ side, and made himself very clear! I love that God is willing to meet us where we are at! He wants to prepare us for what lies ahead and will come to us gently, asking for our attention and wanting us to be sensitive and listen to what he wants to say. But if for whatever reason we are unable to hear, he doesn’t pull away or stop speaking but instead speaks in a way that we can receive. If Simon wasn’t listening, then Peter would have it served to him straight. I know that I can get really impatient with people if they don’t hear me, or see what I see. I don’t see a need to change how I am communicating, instead I get annoyed or even dismiss them as a lost cause and leave them to either figure it out or miss out entirely. I’m so thankful God isn’t like that! He loves us enough to start gently with our ‘Simon’ side and gradually move to our ‘Peter’ side to make sure that we have every opportunity to face the challenges ahead prepared and ready, knowing he is with us!

Stay tuned for Part 2 – The Sifting!

Thoughts on the 10 Lepers…

Luke 17:11-12, 14-19 NLT

As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.””

I actually don’t think the problem with the 9 lepers who didn’t return was lack of gratitude, but rather lack of understanding.

The religious system of the day had for many reasons fallen into teaching that righteousness was transactional and earned by following the rules. When you did what was required, God would then reward you with the desired outcome. This lead to the incorrect assumption that what you received was based on your own merit and efforts.

When I want to purchase a product, I follow the system set up by the company that have what I’m after. They provide the platform for me to obtain what I want, and I follow their guidelines and give them my money. I expect that at the end of the process I will get what I have paid for, as both the company and I have played our parts, fulfilled our obligation and the transaction takes place. I don’t owe them any extra gratitude for delivering on what I have purchased for myself.

When we, like the 9 Israelite lepers see God through the filter of ourselves, we believe that we earn what we receive through obedience to religious protocols. The 9 who didn’t return didn’t see the need, I think; because to their understanding they had met their obligation and earned their reward.

The Samaritan however, recognized that while he had to agree with his healing by activating his faith and acting on Jesus’ command, he played no part in purchasing his healing. Instead, he saw himself through the filter of God’s Grace understood that his healing was not his due, but a gift.

If someone wants to give me a gift and I need to lift my arms to receive it, I cannot claim that my actions have in some way contributed to the gift! I cannot assume that accepting it has made the gift my right, and therefore I have earned it and owe the giver nothing!

We live in a consumerist society and have believed the lie that people and systems should serve our rights as an individual. Unfortunately it has caused us to buy into a consumerist faith. We focus on “my purpose”, “my ministry”, “my giftings”; and go to God to find what we need to outwork these. This causes me to go to God with an agenda. I build my relationship with him with my needs in mind, seeking to know him more to then use what I discover in becoming the best I can be.

What we fail to see is that God changes us to become the best we can be as a RESULT of getting to know him. I don’t give my time, prayers or attention to get from God for my own sake; rather I get from God because it’s just who he is. In response, I give him my time, prayers and attention for HIS sake because my thankful heart just wants to know him more!

God owes me nothing and I owe him everything. The most mind -boggling thing is that while we do not earn his goodness like a reward, he rewards us with it anyway; and in far greater measure than we were hoping for.

So just like the Samaritan, I want to live my life running to fall at Jesus’ feet in gratitude and worship because my entire life with him as my Lord, Savior, King and friend is a gift. He deserves the glory, he deserves my adoration….. he deserves my all.

LESSONS FROM CLAY

Luke 10:21-23

At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and he said “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.  Yes Father, it pleased you to do it this way.  My Father has entrusted everything to me.  No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  Then when they were alone, he turned to the disciples and said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen.  I tell you, many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it.  And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”

This scripture follows the return of 72 disciples Jesus sent out to minister and preach the good news to the surrounding towns.  They had been watching Jesus declare the nearness of the Kingdom of God and had seen him perform miracles and now it was their turn.  They came back so excited, ready to report to Jesus all they had done and said in v 17 “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”  Jesus responded by saying “yes, I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!  Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them….”

Wow!  What a moment for these disciples!  They had watched, learned, been given authority, and moved so powerfully in the supernatural. Not only did demons have to obey them; but I wonder if perhaps they caused so much disturbance in the spiritual realm that Satan was knocked off his seat of power for a bit through their actions!  And then to top it all off, Jesus goes on to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit to see these disciples stepping into their calling.

This really took me by surprise!  I know that as sons and daughters of God we have the authority and the mandate to do what these disciples did… we are supposed to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God and back it up with power through signs and wonders; but it never occurred to me that it would fill God with JOY when we do!

We are in a time where Christians are becoming more and more dissatisfied with powerless faith.  We are getting hungry for God to move powerfully, and to take Him at his word that we will do even greater exploits than Jesus did, but we aren’t yet operating in the spiritual the way we want to and the way we believe God wants us to!

So this leads me to wonder – why aren’t we?  Why are we seeing more lockdowns, more trouble, and more dissatisfaction but not more of the supernatural power of our King at work in and through us?  

It got me thinking about clay.  It seems like a strange connection, I know… but this morning as I felt a little hopeless about the way the world feels “stuck” right now, I saw an image in my mind of pottery.  These pots were beautiful – hand made, unique, one-of-a-kind pieces that had been shaped, glazed, and fired ready to carry whatever was put in them.  Of course it meant I had to look up what the process is that goes into their creation, and what I discovered fit perfectly with what I believe God is doing right now.

I found a website called The Spruce Crafts.com which had some great articles on pottery; and the first thing that jumped out at me was this line, “Pieces of pottery have survived for thousands of years, all because clay met fire.”  What a statement!!!!  We, as Christians are meant to encounter fire, and I believe there are two sorts that we need to be willing to embrace if we too are going to not just survive, but be the unique, one-of-a-kind vessels God can use to carry his presence and authority; and to bring about Kingdom advancement in these days.  There are two types of fire we encounter as believers – the refiners fire that comes through challenges, trials, and lessons; and the fire of the Holy Spirit which is all consuming and designed to be carried!

If we try to embrace the fire of the Holy Spirit but will not embrace the process of the refiner’s fire, we are in trouble! Let me explain.

A finished piece of pottery begins as a lump of clay formed in the potter’s hand.  The potter shapes, molds, and draws out the vessel, then leaves it to become completely air dried.  The pot, at this stage is called “greenware” and must go through two different firings in a kiln before it is able to be used.

The first firing of the clay is called the bisque firing, where the newly shaped greenware goes through a high temperature heating.  Both the heating and cooling processes must be done gradually.  Even though the greenware pot looks dry, there is still water bound to the molecules within the clay that must be evaporated off.  If this isn’t done slowly, the water will expand too quickly, and the pot will explode.  Also during this first firing, the impurities that are found in all clay, must be burned out of the clay body. If this doesn’t happen, the clay body is weakened considerably and may not withstand being used as anything beyond decorative.

Greenware may look just like a bisque fired pot, but greenware is fragile and can be easily broken.  Once a pot is bisque fired, while the pot may look the same, it’s chemical structure has changed forever. It now has a new strength while remaining porous to accept the glazes and coatings still to come. It is no longer classed as clay but has become ceramic material.

The second firing is called Glaze firing and is where (an often decorative) coating is applied to make the pot waterproof and ready for use.  Once again, after the glaze is applied, the pot is put into the kiln and the heat is turned on and steadily increased to the correct temperature and slowly cooled so the glaze fuses to the pot permanently, bringing both the pot and the glaze to ‘maturity’.  The Spruce Crafts article put it this way…” This firing causes a remarkable change in clay and glaze, completing the process from a soft fragile object to one that is rock hard and impervious to water and time.”

The crazy thing about the firing process is that the right temperature depends on the clay.  Different types of clays mature at different temperatures and the potter must know what the right temperature is for each type of clay.  If the correct temperature isn’t reached, the necessary change in the clay isn’t achieved; maturation is not reached, and the pot does not have the resilience it needs.  It will not have the hardness and durability it needs and will be prone to damage and breaking.  If the temperature is exceeded, however; the pot begins to deform and slump and can even puddle on the kiln shelf.

The potter will neither remove the pot too early as the maturing process isn’t finished; nor will they leave the pot in the fire longer than is needed to protect what they have made.  The right amount of heat for the right amount of time is essential to protect their creation!

So what does all of this “pottery-speak” have to do with the times we find ourselves in – dealing with having the heat turned up again yet longing to see the supernatural released over our lives, churches, and world?

If we want to carry the fire of the Holy Spirit, we need to be mature, formed and forged through the process of refinement where we allow God to permanently alter us; removing our fragility and changing us to those who are more than decorative but strong and able to last!  The refiners fire is a process God uses – controlled and steady; not so short that we are weakened and lack maturity and not so long that we succumb to the heat and are damaged.  God will not leave us in the fire beyond his perfect timing to create in us the strength and resilience needed to carry his power and presence as he intends!  He does not want to risk us encountering the fire of the Holy Spirit if we have not allowed him to remove the things that will cause us to break under His power.

Which brings me back to the scripture we began with.  God gets JOY from seeing his children move in the anointing, authority, and power of the Holy Spirit as we bring heaven to earth!  No good father is going to allow his child access to a power that they cannot safely carry and sustain, and as such he will continue to refine us through the fires of life – not to harm us, but to protect and strengthen us!  When we refuse, abort, or stay stuck in the challenges we face, we put ourselves at risk when we try to carry the supernatural power of God. In his graciousness, he will hold back in releasing all he wants to because he loves us too much to see us break.

So even though the temperature seems to be rising and I feel like I’m going nowhere, I will embrace the refining knowing it is for my good; and for the sake of what God has for us just around the corner.  I believe we are in for miraculous days, and I want to be right in the thick of it when God moves. So I will lean in, and learn, and allow the maturing process to have its way so I can live out my purpose and bring joy to my King!

Praying Dangerous Prayers

It’s been one heck of a few weeks.

You know the kind of time-period I’m talking about…. everything seems to be going swimmingly then out of the blue you feel the squeeze, the obstacles, the push-back; and your life seems to crash into a giant storm!  Yep, one of those times. 

My first thought was “I’m under attack!”. After all, God and I are in a great place, things are stirring and moving; so the enemy must be at work to Mess. Me. Up. Stuff was surfacing that I didn’t even realize was still buried in me – stuff that I had written off as attributes of my personality; but it was like the ‘stuff’ was on steroids and out of control inside my own head!  For a good while I was trying to figure out how to fight this spiritual assault, yet it just wasn’t easing off.

In looking to God to try and figure out where all this internal mess was coming from, I came face to face with some mindsets that when I traced them, went all the way back to a little single-digit Rachel; trying to figure out how she saw herself based on what she picked up from those around her. I realized I had formed beliefs way-back-when that had become core to how I related to God, and how I believed I was viewed by others. It explained quite clearly some of my behaviors and God, in His kindness and generosity helped me see what was a lie, where it was formed and enabled me to let it go and replace it with truth. It wasn’t a comfortable process, and it meant confronting things that were painful and had scarred; but in going there it also meant freedom and much greater clarity!

For a long time I have been pursuing a relationship with God, but with a renewed single-mindedness over the last 18 months or so. My whole focus has been on really, truly knowing Him and have been beginning every morning for the last few months by praying certain scriptures like Psalm 51:10 – “create in me a clean heart…” and Psalm 139:23 & 24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”

I wanted to make sure that anything that could cloud my ability to know my King and be close to Him would be cleaned away, so it made sense to pray like this at the beginning of the day. I expected that it would help in the small adjustments and little blind spots that muddied the waters of my relationship with Jesus. Things were going well, and then I hit my storm! It honestly threw me and made me wonder if I was deluding myself in thinking that I was doing well in my Christian life!

I had no idea that I had simply received an answer to my prayer.

Father God, in His graciousness, had taken up my offer to do exactly what I had asked when I prayed Psalm 139. The thing is He knew the fullness of what I was asking, I had no real clue.

In studying these verses today, I finally understood that I had prayed a dangerous prayer. When David asked God to search him and know his heart; to try him and know his anxious thoughts, he wasn’t just asking God to have a bit of a look around and point out a few areas to work on. The words “search”, “know” and “try” speak of looking at, discerning, examine intimately and then test and prove through testing, like metal being purified. This is no quick health check! This is an invitation to dig right in, examine fully and penetratingly, and put mindsets and thought patterns through a trial by fire to bring clarity and purification.

When David says, “see if there is any wicked way in me….” He isn’t just asking God to show him any little sins he may have missed. The word ‘Wicked’ in the original Hebrew is ‘Otseb’ and means an idol that we have set up that causes pain, sorrow, and travail (hard work). An idol isn’t necessarily something we intentionally worship, it can be something we believe to be true that skews our image of God. And anything we believe of God that is not true and is unworthy of his character, is a problem! Once that incorrect belief is set up in our minds as fact and becomes entrenched and we begin to operate out of that place, it can become an idol. David was asking God to dig deep and go after any skewed beliefs he was living out of that would only cause pain and create a barrier to him truly knowing God.

So I found myself in a place of answered prayer, that I mistook as a spiritual attack.

I wonder how often God goes after things that are hurting us and damaging our relationship with Him only to have us blame the devil? Now I know that Satan does hate humanity and will seek to take us out when and where he can, but maybe he doesn’t do as much as we think. Sometimes the fire is actually for our refining and meant to do us good, but we go to war to avoid it. Instead of confronting what is revealed in the fire, we look for an enemy at work. We either run from or stand and battle an imaginary foe until the storm quiets. It always does eventually, and so we assume the fight is won. We may have peace, but we remain unchanged, and the enemy takes the round without even having to step into the ring. How disappointed God must be that instead of going to Him to understand what is happening, then submitting to His gaze and His hand, we blame the devil and miss the healing that would have permanently removed mind-idols keeping us from greater relationship!

I may have thought I was praying a good prayer to keep moving forward and stay healthy before God; but God knew I was praying a dangerous prayer that would ultimately shift everything and make the enemy nervous. And my Heavenly Father in His grace, wisdom and kindness answered my prayer by healing brokenness I didn’t even know I had. It was confronting, and it was uncomfortable, but I am eternally thankful that I have a new heaven-perspective instead of the limitations of damaged thinking. Like the Good, Good Father He is, God will take me through trials to remove anything that causes me to believe anything about myself that is less than who he made me to be.

And then finally, as Psalm 139:24 finishes with, “lead me back to your glorious, everlasting way, the path that brings me back to you.”(TPT) He wants his kids to be free, unencumbered and walking well on the path that leads to his heart. The devil may not have much to fear when we blame him for things he hasn’t done, but he has a lot to worry about when God works in us, and we become more like Jesus! When we pray dangerous prayers, God is sure to answer and change us to be more like Him, and when we are, we ourselves are dangerous.

What I learned in the Carpark

The thing with catching a train to work is that getting a good car space is hard! The closer to the station entrance I want to be, the earlier I have to leave.

I get to the station over 30mins earlier than necessary each morning just to make sure I get a decent spot.

If I don’t get there early enough, I have to leave my car a long way away – which isn’t so bad on the way in, as I have plenty of time.

Unfortunately it adds and extra 20mins or so to the end my day when coming home as I fight all the other cars trying to leave the station too!

My last resort for a spot when I arrive if all the marked spaces are gone, is parking in the overflow area. This is at best a dirt track filled with swimming pool sized divots when dry and mud pits when wet; and at worst is a lawless zone where people park wherever they can fit with no regard to the flow of traffic!

They see no problem in blocking others and creating chaos. At 6:30pm that area becomes complete anarchy.

I’ve seen people stuck, unable to move their car until whomever parked across the back of their vehicle returns. No thanks!

There are multiple parking areas on both sides of the station, but only two sections where I actually want to park.

The first I call the dress circle, as even the furthest spot is only around 15m or so from the platform exit. The second is area b (again, my name!) which is a further walk, but still easier to get out of than on the other side of the station.

Both of these guarantee an easy and quick exit!

Even leaving as early as I do, I usually end up in B zone because the best area is full before 7am each morning.

VERY occasionally there are random parks in the dress circle, when in their hurry people don’t check there, figuring they are better off to grab what is obvious and just get to where they need to go.

If the B section if filling fast, I usually do this too; but sometimes I will check it the best area just to be sure.

Today I was running a little later than usual, and AS usual was chatting to God as I made my way from home.

While chatting, I decided to ask for a great park in the dress circle, right in front of the platform exit.

As I drove into this area another car in front had the same idea, so when I saw a park second from the end, I grabbed it, happy to at least be in the best section! I made it!!!

My train arrives 25 minutes after I arrive and my car is definitely more comfortable than the platform, so I often wait there and get myself ready to go.

While sitting there this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were any parks even closer and had this nagging feeling I had missed an opportunity – buyers remorse, if you will!

I hadn’t wanted to risk driving closer and missing out, I had just grabbed the first park I saw. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to go for a walk and have a look.

Sure enough, there were another 2 closer, a few cars away from where I was. Then another even closer, around 10 parks from the exit.

And then I saw it, one lone park right outside the entrance! Suddenly I had a dilemma…. did I stay where I was – not as close as I wanted but not bad and already mine to occupy; or did I risk what I had for what was better?

I wasn’t going to risk it, I decided. I was happy with close enough. Besides, cars were coming in all the time and if I pulled out of my good spot it would be snapped up, and my great spot may not be there when I drove around the corner.

But then I had this thought…. what if God answered my prayer, gave me favor and provided the best for me in that moment and I was too afraid of risking what I had in the “good enough” to let go and reach for the “best”? Would God be disappointed that when I asked him and he provided I wouldn’t trust him enough to believe it was really for me?

Then it hit me. I do this so often. I can see the potential of his call, I hear His whisper and I want what he is offering but my own fear of the “what if’s” of life cause me to get close and then get cold feet and settle into the good but lesser places. I could almost hear God sigh at my choosing to accept what I could naturally reach over what he was offering.

Like the good father he is, he has more than I can ever hope or imagine lined up for me and I can see it, feel it and want it. But fear and doubt get the better of me and I stop along the way enticed by the near enough moments.

Matthew 7:9-11 speaks about how if a child asks for bread, their father does not give them a stone; or a scorpion when they ask for a fish. Just as fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more do does our Heavenly Father want to give good gifts to those who ask!. I saw a stone and decided that it was enough for me. I didn’t even keep looking for the bread. I was satisfied. After all, it was more than what I had before! I can only imagine how in these moments I must frustrate my Heavenly Father!

The crazy thing is that God is extravagant! He doesn’t just provide bread but has laid out a whole table, and invites me to it if I will just trust him and believe in his absolute goodness!!

When it comes to the crunch, asking costs me nothing. It’s easy to ask, it requires only a little faith. How many times in life do we hear “it doesn’t hurt to ask, they can always say no”? Where I put my faith on the line is on the other side of the ask; in expecting God to come through. That’s when my actions expose my level of trust.

So I went back to my car. I offered up a quick prayer that if this was God teaching me something and not just me being a bit of a nut job over a carpark, then it would still be there when I arrived. If so, I would learn a valuable lesson about the heart of my father and about how I need to lift my faith!

Guess what??

It was, and I am learning.

Today’s Thoughts from Numbers

“Now the Lord sent a wind that brought quail from the sea and let them fall all around the camp. For miles in every direction there were quail flying about three feet above the ground. So the people went out and caught quail all that day and throughout the night and all the next day, too. No one gathered less than fifty bushels! They spread the quail all around the camp to dry. But while they were gorging themselves on the meat—while it was still in their mouths—the anger of the Lord blazed against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. So that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah (which means “graves of gluttony”) because there they buried the people who had craved meat from Egypt.”

‭‭Numbers‬ ‭11:31-34‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/num.11.31-34.nlt

I’ve been fascinated by this story for the last few days and have been turning it over in my mind as I have read it.

In the lead up to this passage, the Israelite community is free from slavery and is on the way from their place of captivity to their promised home of blessing. God has done incredible things to bring them to this point – even supernaturally providing food, yet the people are beginning to complain. They have tired of what God is giving them and are craving elements of the life they left behind.

God gives them what they want yet it doesn’t go well!

The problem wasn’t with the provision, but with their perception. They had begun to see their past through rose colored lenses that distorted and corrupted their view. As a result they ascribed a goodness to destruction and a lack to perfection.

I need to remember that what God provides is ALWAYS the best option for me and isn’t just about my comfort but about my progress. Manna is a temporary gift designed for a season – and an encouragement to keep moving toward the fullness of what God has! God knows us well enough to know that if he assured our comfort in the middle of our journey we would happily settle and never reach the place he has for us; and that the trappings of our past are exactly that – a trap designed to keep us confined.

The miraculous becomes mundane when we forget that we cried out for this – for this job, this home, this family, this faith, this freedom etc. We longed for more than what we were living and trusted God to move on our behalf and he did, but we forgot that when God supernaturally answers we still have a responsibly to faithfully steward what he gives.

Today I will practice gratitude for all that God has done in my world and remember that as I follow, he continues to bring greater and greater levels of blessing until I reach the fullness of his promise.