The Five Fold Ministry

Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. 

Ephesians 4 v11-12

This often seems to me to be like a five cylindered engine, where the operation of all cylinders are necessary for proper functioning.

Like a faulty engine, the Church misfires when it tries to operate from only a few cylinders. Spluttering and smoking, we may get somewhere, inefficiently. While the going is good.

But what happens when the road begins to rise, into the foothills and then the mountains? Where the church has to go. A steep traverse, hairpin bends. That requires a fully functional engine, all cylinders operational and working together, supporting the whole. That is what we have to be in the times to come, the times right here – right in front of us.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

John 14 v12

That’s the Bible. The words of Jesus. The words of the Word, that will never pass away. Painfully difficult to read, because we so often fall so far short of them.

Where are these works in the church? You will do greater things than these! And so, what is it that we are doing?

The solution.

Come to the foot of the cross. There is no other place. Repentance, abandonment, surrender. Emptying of self, of striving, of any ambition. Faith and trust, and most importantly love. None of these gifts are in our power, but only in Him.

Gone will be the time of “going to Church”, coming with be one of two things – being the Church – following our Lord on the Golgotha road, endued with power in the midst of powerlessness. Or mating with the dark nation, that turns its back in finality and walks away, a journey that ends in outer darkness.

This is the choice that lies before us, and this is His anguished cry, calling into the shadowlands for a people after His own heart, that will bear both His power and His stripes. Shining His love in a time of hate, bringing the Glory and beauty of the true Body of Christ.

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The scientific consensus is not scientific

This post is a bit of an aside from normal, but I wanted to briefly touch on something that keeps coming up lately, this phrase, ‘scientific consensus’. With reference to the blog title, the one thing that a scientific consensus is not, is scientific! Rather, the placement of this phrase indicates that the scientific method has been abandoned in favour of groupthink.

In our age without gods, science has been elevated to one of our golden calves. ‘Trust the science’ they say. The science…maybe sometimes…but the scientists, well that is a different story. It seems as if the popular culture is still captured by the illusion of a measured, thoughtful group of people in the ubiquitous white coats who are able to carefully consider all opinions and theories and dispassionately arrive at a wise conclusion. We know it’s not really true, but for the sake of our own comforts, it’s desirable to maintain the illusion.

I was dispossessed of that pretense many years ago, while reading a science subject at university! It didn’t take long to realise that scientists are no different from the rest of us, and in many cases even worse. More subjective, more prone to confirmation biases, more intolerant of any other opinion, maybe because they are somewhat shielded from accountability by the very illusions we erect to keep this particular god safe.

This is where the phrase ‘paradigm shift’ applies. When the weight of evidence becomes so overwhelming in a particular direction that it becomes impossible to continue to defend the indefensible, the scientific tribe has a tendency to suddenly flip and migrate en masse to camp around the new truth. It may still be wrong, but it becomes the new shibboleth.

Does this seem a bit cynical? Well, perhaps, I’m not denying that there are those willing to genuinely seek the truth and pave a new way when required. But the weight of the scientific establishment is institutionally inclined not so much to seek the truth, but to protect the current position.

We are perhaps blessed that there is still objective truth, even if we only occasionally catch glimpses of it. The strength of truth is that is needs nothing to prop it up, whereas something untrue requires constant effort to defend and maintain. Something we are conspicuously good at, nevertheless it can’t be continued for ever!

So we continue to widely gyrate around the pole of truth – in science as much as in any other area. Perhaps recent events regarding what is ‘acceptable’ to discuss, and the related whiplash paradigm shift might have one associated blessing – to weaken our fixation on the scientific idol and to be able to see that science and scientists are not gods, and worship of them is more than a little unwise.

Yet my people have forgotten me;
    they burn incense to worthless idols,
which made them stumble in their ways,
    in the ancient paths.
They made them walk in byways,
    on roads not built up.

Jeremiah 18 v 15

I am the Lord; that is my name;
    my glory I give to no other,
    nor my praise to carved idols.

Isaiah 42 v 8

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Solid Ground

For some countries at least, the end of the coronavirus pandemic is in view and the restrictions that have so chafed us over the last year are beginning to be loosed. At last – we can get back to normal! The vaccines have saved us!

For a short time at least, we were shaken, and maybe started looking towards a security or reality greater than our own. But now, with the salvific power of the vaccine, we have an idol that will again comfort us, and allow us to go back to our slumber.

But it will not be that way. Events have begun that will culminate in the close of this age. The combined sins of the nations weigh down and require a response. Business as usual will not be on the menu.

Nevertheless, as I said here at the start of the year, it is not so important what will happen, or when, but where we individually and as communities are when it does. Because the next shaking is just on the horizon. We will be woken up one way or another.

When everything that can be shaken is, where will you be found? There is only one solid Rock, only one place that can never be shaken. This refuge is found in no earthly location. It can only be found in the abandonment of any worldly security, in order to reach out in faith to Him who is unseen.

To gain all, you must lose all. The only way to life is though the narrow gate, where all else is stripped away.

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 125
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Soon enough, I will come for you

Ten years ago today my friend in the blogosphere, Joseph Walker, wrote this on what was then Holy Saturday:

“Are we there yet?” Any one who has spent time in a form of cultural character building exercise known as the family vacation will have experienced the ritual and almost liturgical repetition of this phrase.

We drove across the northwest USA in a 1974 station wagon. The kind that Chrysler used to make, with the engine that consumed gallons per minute and where the various parts of the rear seat belts were forever tucked under the living room sofa that was called a “back seat”. It was covered on the exterior with that charming 70’s wood paneling which was popular not only on certain brands of American automobile, but throughout numerous suburban basements. In retrospect it was probably a good idea, ahead of its time. If your wood panel station wagon got into an accident, you could repair it easily with supplies from your own family “rec room”.

And still the cry went up to the father: “Are we there yet?”

Father was always the one to drive. On we would drive, through towns and cities, wilderness and mountains. Leading us on with blazing headlights by night, and a pillar of exhaust and fumes by day; the kind that only an 8 cylinder Detroit horsepower factory can produce. We never questioned his ability to get us to where we needed to go; only his ability to get us there quicker.

The phrase rang out in our father’s ears for mile after mile (this was all before metric). During the day we passed the time in games, in counting things, and of course, in fighting among ourselves. The scenery was always new – that is what makes the journey exciting. It seems that even back then, we kids would always try to claim “our seats”. And heaven help you if you encroached even one finger’s width on someone else’s territory.

For a while the journey itself was interesting enough, with its stops and interruptions and breaks for this and that. But after a while one gets tired of merely journeying and actually wants to “get somewhere.”

I have discovered that what goes around comes around. There is a green hill far away, outside a city wall. It is located in the Monashee mountain range of British Columbia. The drive itself is measured in hours now. It is 12 hours, with at least 3 or 4 stops along the way. I first traveled it over 25 years ago. And these days I hear the voices carry on the great tradition, and I feel my sense of place in the great congregation who hands on that which it has received.

They have slowly come to know the place name signs along the highway, and the turnoff just past the small town, then finally onto the logging road, and then the place where that road ends as well. It is I alone who hike through the mountain to get the boat (where I am going you cannot come now!) – for they too must pass over water to get to their destination.

They think I should be hurrying. But to tell the truth when I have hiked to our destination, and launched the boat, and see them waiting on the far shore through the cabin’s binoculars, I stop hurrying. I sit on the dock, and I rest.

I am here.

Soon enough, I will come for you.

In June of the same year, Joseph was diagnosed with cancer and died a couple of months later. He was 47, and was survived by his wife and four children. His last post was deeply poignant, all things considered.

It’s a reminder to us as well. If we’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s the fact of our mortality. None of us are guaranteed anything; every day is a gift. For those of us in Christ, He is already at our destination, and in His good time He will come for us too.

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The Song of the Redeemed

A little meditation for Easter Sunday….

The song the Lord brings to birth through us, the Song of the Redeemed, is majestic, sorrowful, joyful and beautiful beyond human understanding. It is is made up of so many parts intertwined. The sweet notes of new life, of joy, of hope, contentment and peace. The notes of pain, of loss, of sadness and loneliness, offered to Him. Even the evil that is done, the rebellion, the hatred, form a part of this song; the darkness that yet highlights light.

This is a song only possible because on this glorious Day of Days he set free us captives, bound to sin and death, and won for Himself a people that can make a home in Him. He weaves the tapestry of our lives into an audible portrait. Maybe we only see a thread or two, and we cannot understand what He is creating. But one day, when it is complete, we will. The day His Church fully reflects His image. That day, at the creation of the New Heavens and Earth, this song will be sung, to welcome into birth everything our Father has proposed for us.

So your life, maybe it seems small, maybe unimportant, your concerns trivial. However the truth is this – nothing that is done in Him will go to waste, or be forgotten. You are part of His great song, and every note of your life is essential to the final composition on that great and final day. We have a great Saviour, and marvelous are the things He is creating through His people. Alpha and Omega. Beginning and End. Everything that ever was, is or will be, is breathed to life through Him.

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Choose this day whom you will serve

What if I were to tell you that a Canadian man was arrested and jailed for refusing to obey a court order to refer to his daughter using male pronouns? It reads like an ‘it could never happen here’ story. But, it is true. For the crime of resisting a state ordered mandate to cooperate in the mutilation of his daughter, Rob Hoogland was jailed for six months. And the only reason I can tell you his name, is that I do not live in Canada and as such can ignore the state sponsored gag order.

The reason I bring this up is to reinforce the call to prepare. It could never happen here….until the day it does. It could never happen to me, or to you…. until the day it does. A father resisting the mutilation of his daughter upon the altar of insanity, he could never be jailed for doing so… until the day he was.

They say one of the reasons the Nazi’s were able to round up the Jews so successfully is that the Jews never believed it could happen, and certainly not happen to them. Surely somebody would protest, surely somebody would say something? They didn’t then, and they won’t now. Outside of a small cohort, the media and politicians will always turn a blind eye to the abuse – those that are not actively acting as persecutors themselves.

This is the kind of thing I mean when I say we need to prepare for the coming storm. All of us, sooner or later, in one way or another, will come to that choice. To walk the Calvary Road of suffering, abused by and jeered at by the crowd, in fellowship with our Saviour. Or to shrink back, to flee away, or even to join the crowd itself.

On the day of your decision, it will be too late to Prepare. You will have already made that decision in choices leading up to that moment. This is why Jesus calls us to discern, purchase oil for our lamps and be ready.

Choose THIS DAY whom you will serve. Tomorrow is too late.

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Storm Warning

The Church in the West, what are we like? I see the image of a boat filled with many different people, engaged in so much activity.

Some contentedly fish from the sides of the boat, enjoying the sultry evening breezes. Some mend the nets and paint the sides of the boat. Some plot their course. Some sunbathe, catching the fading gleams and the residual warmth. Some party below decks. Others run the engines, cook the food, serve. Some welcome new people on the boat and provide them a place. Some slumber in their hammocks. So many different types of people… Still for so many, the focus remains within the boat, on what is familiar and comfortable. Many have glanced at the sky and the water, perceiving the change in the horizon, but in discomfort soon turn back to their tasks.

And there are some that see – they can see the swells rolling in, the clouds gathering, and they know what is to come and is now here. Some of those still prevaricate, concentrating on other things. Some dismiss the storm, mighty in their own imagination and strong in the tower of their own mind. Other quietly prepare, battening down the hatches, breaking out the foul weather gear. And yet some seek to make others aware of the storm brewing, trying to wake those who slumber and encouraging the crew and passengers of the boat to look beyond the hull of their own experience….

All of this time, our Lord calls to us – Prepare! See the times you are entering? Do I not care about you as a husband cares for his bride? Are you not the Apple of my Eye? I eagerly desire for you to be ready, prepared, holy, to stand firm in the times to come.

Yes, the wind will rise and the waves roll in. I have seen it, and I am the master of both. Both persecutions and revival will come. You will be despised, rejected and hated for bearing My name – the great and good will spurn you and you will be left destitute and homeless. Yet remember, you will never be alone. And you will rescue the least of these, the weak, powerless, the little regarded, those I have loved since the foundation of the world.

Are you yet afraid, considering that you will undergo many trials? Never forget – I am not absent – I am in the boat with you. I know this storm intimately. It did not overcome Me then, it will not now. The stormbringers – they do not hate you so much as they hate Me. They did not overcome Me before, and will not now.

My Church, you are going to Prepare one way or the other. Either you will Prepare to endure the coming storm, or you will Prepare to surrender. There will be no middle way. All will come to the decision point – to walk the path I trod, or to turn away.

My Church, I call you, you whom I love. I desire none to perish, none to walk away into the night. I desire you to be ready. Set yourself into the path of this storm, choose the Way that will lead you to lose every worldly trapping, and to gain an inheritance imperishable, as one who follows in my footsteps and also overcomes!

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The long defeat

As Christians, we are the people of the long defeat. And, though that might sound negative, it is actually a container of deep hope and joy.

What does this mean? Well, this article explains it well. If our hearts are rooted in any system or institution of the world, whether that be politics, entertainment, causes or anything else that has a temporal foundation, we will either be crushed and disappointed or, more scarily, we will be successful and make a hell building utopia in our own image.

For Christians, we are the harbingers of the new Kingdom, we are salt and light where we are placed, playing our part in ushering in that Kingdom. But, it is His Kingdom built in His image, and ours by the inheritance as His children. In realising that, we can avoid the error of those who would make themselves gods.

For those who do not fall under the spell of these empty promises, who do not place their hope in the realization of a future utopia, a political or cultural defeat does not create an existential crisis. And indeed, for a certain kind, it’s to be expected. This viewpoint assumes, quite reasonably, that a fundamentally fallen world will not be brought to perfection by a fundamentally fallen humanity. Instead, humanity should expect a series of failures.

This is the long defeat, the understanding that

we will never be able to overcome fallen human nature by any program, system, or force, because those structures themselves will be corrupted by the presence of the fallen human beings at the helm.

This is neither defeatism, nor resignation. It is wisdom. Within this long defeat is contained the seeds of final victory. It is understanding that the Church must follow her Lord, and also walk the Golgotha path to Good Friday, which is the only path to Easter Sunday.

It is understanding that the power of the Holy people must one day be completely broken, and the Kingdoms of the world stand in apparent victory.

The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand towards heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives for ever, saying, ‘It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.’

Daniel 12 v7

Then will come the new heavens and earth, and then will come the final victory of the Lamb, the one who was slain.

‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honour and glory and praise

Revelation 5 v12
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In the midst of trouble, when the wind and the waves of the world crash on the shores of your life; when you are anxious and fearful and it seems as if darkness reigns supreme – in these times remember the One who has gifted you peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14 v27

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4 v6-7

This is a promise, not a suggestion. The Hope that we carry, the Light that indwells our lives, is a Testament to a reality that will soon burst forth.

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2021 Prophetic Word – Unshakeable!

2020 has come and gone, a year that certainly brought new challenges for many of us. So, what will 2021 bring us? Is there a word from the Lord for this new year?

Before we go there, perhaps an initial thought on the prophetic gift itself. Prophecy is a mixture of foretelling and forthtelling, and although it is the former that exhibits the glamour, it is the latter that contains the substance.

Or to put it another way, it is of no use for us to know what is to come, if it does nothing to prepare us. I believe the heart of the prophetic witness is to proclaim what people already know at some level in their hearts, but often do not want to address.

With that in mind, before we go on to look at this year, let us cast an eye briefly on the year just past.

For anybody who did not sleep through the whole of 2020, it was hard to avoid the spectacle of the US Election. Most of what I would have to say on that is encapsulated in the post, Do not fret.

I also concluded that this election only served to widen the divisions in the U.S.A. Was there significant fraud? I do not know. On searching for the signal through the noise, the only thing that became clear to me is that it is essentially unknowable as things stand. The system seems to have been designed in such a way that it is very difficult or impossible to properly audit a vote.

There is nothing good to come when a basic standard of truth cannot be agreed, and where only thing that appears to really matter is whether our ‘side’ won.

Echoing my previous post, I can only reiterate: do not get so hung up on the outcome of the election of an earthly prince that the heavenly King becomes eclipsed in your mind.

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

Psalm 146 v3-5

Here’s the thing – a prince may rule for a while and do good, or do evil. But the Lord plays a much longer game. If we were alive in King Josiah’s time, perhaps we would have celebrated the great good he did. We would have thought, at last, we have won! All the evil is being rolled back! But yet, 30 years later, what was already set in place in Judah continued. The outward form had been temporarily modified, the inward heart remained degenerate.

So it is now. That is a word, if you would hear it. The preparation for us is to be ready for a form of exile – for rejection and persecution from the societies in which we have been nestled, but also for the Christ-coloured thread of hope, redemption and revival that will weave its way through the cord of trouble.

Now, a reflection from the other side of the Atlantic. As I write, the U.K. is on the brink of completing Brexit. So many words have already been written on this, a subject that has also caused deep divisions. My take on it is inspired by the following:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6 v12

I would encourage you not to look at the politicians, the agencies, the media, the courts and treaties, but what lies behind them. I have no problem with the E.U. per se, but I discern the spirit behind that organisation is set up in opposition to God. For the U.K. to leave the E.U., after a massive struggle, is actually a sign of hope.

Not that the U.K. has it ‘made’, far from it! But we are now in a spiritual position that God can deal with us as a sovereign nation once more. All I can see at the moment is a potential for something good to come out of this, but the road to get there will not be gentle.

Lastly, the elephant in Room 2020 has to be Covid 19. I have already written about this extensively earlier in the year. I called for us to Wake up, and Understand the times. Maybe added some perspective on the question of Why? And all this set in context of a Mercy Judgment. There is nothing new under the sun here, this is a trouble we are all intimately acquainted with.

Now, the word for 2021? It did not change. I have written, and still believe – It is the twilight of the current age, and we bask in its fading gleams. Much that can be shaken, soon will be.

If you would like something more, I would see Covid as the first shaking of many in this twilight. More will come, until we can properly see the foundations upon which our lives have been built. A shaking not so much a judgment as a form of mercy if it allows us to see what we have been standing on all these years – sand, or solid Rock?

I only pray for grace for us to see it, and courage to take action to save our very lives. When the wind comes howling and the waves crash against us – to have the grace to look to Christ alone, He who can draw us out of the waters too deep for us, and set our feet on the very Rock of His presence. That grace, to reach out and take His hand, and trust in Him to make a way when there is no way.

It is not so important what will happen, or when, but where we individually and as communities are when it does. We are called to be Kingdom people.

Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’

He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

Revelation 21 v1-7

We are the heralds of a new heaven and earth, we are sons and daughters of a great, redeeming and victorious King who even now is making all things new. We trust in what can’t yet be seen, because it is more real that what can be seen.

Do not be tied into this world, do not trust in wealth, in status, in health, in the plans of princes, the lies of media, or anything temporal to influence you as to what is truly important. Remember this world has already been overcome! Those who have married the spirit of this age will find themselves widows in the next. Do not be counted in their number!

So this is the key, the message for 2021. It is not about what will happen, but where you are and whose you are, when it does. Root your whole being in Christ alone. Put your hands in His every day. Then, in the times to come, you will not be shaken, because He is and always will be, Unshakeable!

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