Vital Sequence

In the last few weeks God has been showing me that the order things happen in the Bible is very important. Vitally so.

This was driven home to me tonight when I was talking with my wife. God dropped the 23rd Psalm into my mind, bringing it back to my remembrance so to speak.

Recently we’ve been through something of a battle. I won’t go into details here, but the battles we’ve been fighting have been life-threatening, literally. Our finances and health have been rocked, and we have been tempted to give up our faith as the onslaught has continued, although we haven’t given in to that temptation. It has felt like we have literally and figuratively been walking through the shadow of the valley of death.

This has taken a heavy toll on us emotionally. We’re tired and broken and some days it feels like this journey through the valley will never end.

Then Psalm 23 came to me. Specifically the order of the psalm.

In verse 4, we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. God guides us with His rod, correcting us as we move forward through the valley; and protects us with His staff, the primary tool of a shepherd to keep his flock safe from predators that would try to devour them. We have seen this in a very practical way. From the way job opportunities for me opened up from nowhere, to provision to manage our financial worries by professionals whose advice and assistance we could never have hoped to afford being given to us for nothing by those professionals. Legal and medical advice from experts at the top of their fields being placed around us to guide our steps who we could not have approached, or even known of a few short months ago. God has guided our steps at every turn.

Then comes verse 5.

God prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.

I used to think that was referring to Heaven. Tonight it hit me: we won’t have enemies in Heaven to prepare a table in front of. The Contemporary English Version translates the verse by saying “You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch.” A feast. Bounty. Plenty. Abundance. In the presence of our enemies. That can only refer to this world, this life. In the life beyond this one, no matter whether you believe it’s Heaven, a re-created Earth or something in between, there will be no sin, and therefore no enemy to set the feast before.

As Christians, we need to move away from the recent concept that has been taught in some denominations that we must wait for the next world to see Victory manifest. Each of the great men of faith through the last 2000 years has held fast to the conviction that Victory comes in this world. We feast at a table God places before us in our enemy’s presence. Peter walked in a powerful anointing of God’s Spirit, and saw healings and miracles following in his wake. Recently, men like Smith Wigglesworth saw healings and miracles which have been documented by independant witnesses. A “Feast” of God’s Power working through them. Each of them had great hardship in their lives before seeing God’s power work to turn their past experiences into powerful testimonies of His Grace in their lives.

Paul writes that Faith, Hope and Love endure eternally. The promised feast gives us Hope, which allows Faith to grow, because He Loves us.

The order remains, however. Be strong, because after the Valley comes the Feast!

Everything changes…

When I was at primary school – under 11 – we had assembly most days. There would be a hymn and a short talk, usually from Mr Ward, the Headmaster. One hymn that has never left my head goes like this:
“Ev’rything changes,
But God changes not;
The power never changes
That lies in His thought:
Chorus: Splendours three, from God proceeding,
May we ever love them true,
Goodness, Truth, and Beauty heeding
Ev’ry day, in all we do.
Truth never changes,
And Beauty’s her dress,
And Good never changes,
Which those two express:
Perfect together
And lovely apart,
These three cannot wither;
They spring from God’s heart:
Some things are screening
God’s glory below;
But this is the meaning
Of all that we know:”
The meaning in this little hymn is lost on many. Yet it’s based on scripture. Hebrews 13:8 to be precise.
I was reminded of it again earlier today when a friend said to me that we should remember the world is changing, and we need to change with it.
That is a lie.
We need to base ourselves on something better than the current whims of the world.
At one point in Holland, tulip bulbs were worth more than houses. Then the world changed and they weren’t any more. In the Roman empire at one point tin was the most valuable metal. Things changed. Through the whole of history only one thing has remained constant. God.
God’s values don’t ebb and flow with the tide of popular opinion. He will always hate Sin, no matter how it is dressed. Even when the world’s view is that it isn’t sin any more.
I remember reading a story of a man in his late 90’s who applied to be re-patriated to England from Australia. He had been in the country for decades, and had never left since his arrival almost 70 years previously. When asked why he now wished to go back to England, he reportedly replied that as a young man when he arrived he was informed the penalty for homosexuality was death, by the time he was 40 it was 20 years hard labour, by 60 it was a fine, and it was legalised a little while after that. When the debate about gay marriage began he decided to leave before it became compulsory…
The world changed, but God didn’t.
Sodom and Gomorrah had the opinion of the modern world regarding sexual sin. God judged them. The Greek and Roman empires both fell as they became more and more obsessed with appearances than substance. Israel fell into the trap more than once in scripture. The world’s views change constantly, like shifting sands. We build on them at our peril.

 

Walking on Water

I’ve been looking at things from a worldly perspective for too long. I realised this a few months ago, and with that came the lightning bolt that told me I had to make a change.

My wife, whom I love very dearly, is seriously ill. This has been going on since March, and whilst I’ve been writing here about health and prosperity I couldn’t understand what was going on in my own life. Her health has deteriorated despite my belief and prayers that I know God’s atonement buys us healing. Our finances have been depleted massively, we lost our business, and for several months now we have been largely supported by our family, despite knowing God’s plan was different than our reality.

In short I have felt for months like I was drowning, which is a big part of why it’s been a few weeks since I wrote here.

Then I found a recording online by Andrew Wommack that I used to have a few years ago about becoming a “water walker”.

I’ve been meditating on this for several weeks now, and as I started to really listen to it with my heart instead of my ears things started to change.

Drowning is not a pleasant experience. A few years ago while I was at the beach with some friends we swam out to a buoy in the sea and back. It was great fun, and so a few hours later – after the tide had been coming in for some time – we swam out again. Unfortunately for me, I was too fat and unhealthy (and stubborn) to make it now the distance was almost twice what it was the first time we made the trip. The tide was against me, and by the time I was alomst at the buoy I knew I was in trouble. Not enough strength to turn back, and the shoreline getting further from me. Somehow I made it to the buoy, but barely had the strength to hold on to it.

I knew I was going to die.

Thankfully, the friends I was with also realised this. They were able to get the attention of a lifeguard stationed on the beach with a boat. They helped me hold on to the buoy, then get my terminally exhausted self into the boat. By the time they got me in to it I’d taken more than one breath with my face in the water. It was not good.

Emotionally this year has been much the same as that afternoon on the beach. Over my head, and no possibility of saving myself.

Peter had that experience in Matthew 14. The waves were swamping the boat, the disciples were drowning, and Jesus noncholantly walks towards them on top of the very thing killing them. Peter did something I didn’t fully grasp until I really listened with my Heart to Andrew’s teaching on the passage.

Peter called to Jesus, and walked on the water to Him. I always remembered that Peter sank. I always remembered that Peter failed. It never occurred to me that Peter had walked most of the distance to Jesus before he started to sink, but when Jesus took his hand there is no indication that Jesus then slung Peter over his shoulder to get back to the boat. Jesus and Peter walked back.

Peter refocussed on Jesus and was able to walk again on the very thing that would otherwise kill him. As soon as I began to understand this, and I in no way claim that I’ve got it completely nailed, things began to change. I got out of the boat.

In my last post I touched on this. Doors began to open for me that ought to be closed here. I am a white, male, mono-lingual immigrant to South Africa. I should be unemployable. God has opened doors according to my faith in Him. As my understanding of how God works has increased and I have been able to stop limiting His power in me in certain areas of my life.

More accurately, I have begun to understand that it is not so much that I need more faith, but that I need to have less unbelief. Peter didn’t stop believing in Jesus’s power to let him walk on water, but he allowed his fears and doubts to overwhelm him as he saw the wind and the waves again. As I have focussed on Him again, Jesus has lifted me up and empowered me as I have allowed Him to.

It is almost impossible to lift yourself out of a bad situation. Especially when you’re drowning. But God can. One word from God can lift you out of your circumstances and place you on top of them. We are more than conquerors by His strength. No circumstance, no matter how desperate, can overcome the power He has made available to us. We can be Water Walkers in His strength.