Hard hearts and spiritual blindness

In Bill Johnson’s Hosting the Presence I was reading (pages 26,27).  He summarizes the time when Jesus, aged 12, was lost by his parents.  Historically I have struggled with this  passage as my default way of looking at things was that surely Jesus had been thoughtless towards His parents and how did that reconcile with Him being without sin?  I have always been willing to accept the fault was in my understanding not Jesus!  I just haven’t understood.

Bill quotes, “Son, why have you done this to us?  Look, your father and I have sought you anxiously (Luke 2:48 NKJV)”.  He goes on to emphasize that Jesus caused their anxiety.  Bill continues, “Jesus responded, “Why did you seek me?  Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? (Luke 2:49 NKJV)”

As I read that I stopped in my tracks.  The key word that grabbed me was “anxiety” and I was reminded of my recent reading summarized in The Release of Fear.  That talks about the fear of the disciples when Jesus walks across a lake and the fact they had not understood about the loaves.  It made me wonder what had Joseph and Mary seen in Jesus before that time.  We do know about the amazing revelation and calling on their lives when an angel announces God’s plans through Jesus, but there is no information about Jesus’ early years.

Fundamentally I am reminded that this is not about us.  This is all about God and His plans.  Too often our prayers concern asking God for help in our lives rather than seeking His will and simply seeking guidance on our calling within that.  He will achieve His purposes His way.  Understanding that requires a submission of the heart – and I am assuming that means a softening of the heart.  So, could it be said that as we submit, out hearts soften, our understanding increases, our trust of (faith in) God increases and thus we are no longer afraid?

Food for thought.

Snippets from Hosting the Presence (Chapter 1)

This will be added to as I get through the book.  I recommend you read the book rather than just my own thoughts.

Page 25. Bill describes how just being in the presence of Jesus (touching his garment), Peter (his shadow) and Paul (via pieces of clothing sent for the purpose) brings healing.  He goes on to say, “These stories are extraordinary.  They are glimpses into the Ways of the Holy Spirit.  We have yet to live in what has already been revealed.  I believe it also implies there are ways of the Holy Spirit that are yet to be discovered.”  In others words Peter and Paul see people healed in a way we did not see with Jesus (or at least is not recorded).  It is not our regular experience and in addition God did something new and will do again.

Page 26.  “It’s time for these exceptional stories to no longer be the exception.  It’s time for them to become the rule – the new norm.  And that is the cry of my heart.  The apostles learned from Jesus’ example that the greatest treasure was the Presence of the Holy Spirit resting upon Him.  Learning to the Host the Presence of God is the biggest challenge of the Christian life.”

Page 28.  “If you were renting a home from me, I wouldn’t walk into your home without an invitation, or at least without your permission.  You would never see me in your kitchen, taking food from your refrigerator and cooking a meal for myself.  Why?  Even though it is my house, it is under your charge or stewardship.  While there may be landlords who would violate such protocol, God is not one of them.  He planted us here with a purpose.  Yet it’s a purpose we can’t accomplish without Him.  Our true nature and personality will never come to fullness apart from His manifest Presence.  Learning to host Him is at the center of our assignment, and it must become our focus so that we can have the success He desires before Jesus returns.”  The highlights in bold are mine.  One day I will share my thoughts about our need to get out of the boxes we live in.  Boxes made out of walls of fear.  It is another way of saying we can only become ourselves as God intended through the Holy Spirit or “Our true nature and personality will never come to fullness apart from His manifest Presence.”  His ongoing presence enables us to get out of the box.

Page 29. “He’s a Person, not a machine.  He longs for fellowship.  He loves to love.

The importance of trust

I am sure that faith is more than trust.  But I do know that trust is central.

Yesterday I started reading Translating God by Shawn Bolz (this links to a talk I have not listened to yet).  I stopped after reading 2 pages!  I was struck by the importance of trust.  God was reminding me (again) what He keeps saying to me.

In summary these two pages describe how God reveals specific insight into a man’s life who Shawn is sitting with on a plane.  The man is so moved and comforted because he has a personal revelation of God’s love.  He says, “I feel like everything is right again in my world!”

Shawn goes on to say , “What a statement!  I knew he had never felt more loved and connected to God that at that moment, and I knew both of us would never be the same.”

I made the following notes:

  • Connection through personal revelation
  • Belief – how do we come to really believe that God loves us and thus put our trust in Him?
  • How is it that John comes to a point where he can simply write, “God is love?”  To know that He loves us more than we possibly imagine.  That his motivation in everything is love.  That He only has plans to prosper us.
  • Trust is often measured through waiting (patience).  Hanging on to the promise whilst we wait for the answer.
  • If we fail to trust (wait) there is a danger in trying to force things to happen that we may believe are right.  For example, if we end up speaking ill of people (I am guilty of that) or we take action that harms others.
  • With God the means are not justified by the end.  The means are a measure of our faith in God.

 

The Release of Fear

Today’s ODB is:

The Release of Fear

It’s worth a read.

When I was reading the passage I noticed:

“They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”

Now, I think I must have a hard heart, because I don’t fully understand either.  It seems perfectly rationale to me that if I was rowing across a dark lake and I see a dark figure walking across the surface of the water then I would be afraid.

However, I think there must be a link between hard hearts and our tendency towards fear.

Lord give us tender hearts, increasing faith and with it a release from fear.

We also have access to the continuous presence of the Holy Spirit – which the disciples did not have at the time.  If we choose and remember to call on the Holy Spirit (let’s develop the habit) then we call on the very presence of Jesus and Peace is Presence and peace dissipates fear.  However, the writer still seems to link their fear to their hard hearts through a lack of understanding.  I believe it is a lack of understanding who God is, of His power and with it His hand over our destiny.  May we understand more, believe more and see our faith increase.

Faith not Fear.

Fearless Giving

Today’s Our Daily Bread is:

Fearless Giving

I didn’t read anything new or fresh, I just loved the title.  Especially given how the Lord is challenging me about my fears, recognizing them and bringing them to Him.

Let’s be honest, it is often our caution (or tentative fear) that can hold us back from generous giving.  Remember, our fears point towards false worship, putting our faith in something or someone other than God.  And remember also that God gives Himself totally to us through Christ and asks that we simply do the same all the while promising He will out give us.  The question is, do we believe it?

Jesus Saves!

This morning in church (at Stoneleigh Baptist Church) after a time of worship in which I felt the Holy Spirit move in a way I haven’t felt for months we sang Only One Name by Pete James.  We end the song singing “Jesus Saves” over and over.

I felt lead that God was saying those very words over us as a church and that He wanted those words to stay over us going forward in the coming months.  So I got up and shared what I thought God was saying.

I believe God wants us to really take on board the meaning of those words, to own them and to embed them.  He wants to prepare us for what is coming.

Blooming in the right spot

I subscribe to Daily Bread and receive their daily inspirations by email. This is one I received today and it encouraged me.

Blooming in the Right Spot

I would add one thought.

Jonathan is lead by love not fear – as Saul is.

Identity – God looks forward not back

In October 2017 I attended a Partners in Harvest conference at Oasis Church Colliers Wood. During that time the Holy Spirit did some amazing things and I was spiritually cut-off from past hurts and curses. I gave a testimony which a friend, Matt, videoed. Unfortunately the video is too large to update on this site, but maybe I can work something out in the future. In the meantime here is a summary of what I shared.

Before going forward I had hands laid on me within a “fire tunnel” twice – on the day before and that same day. During this time God dealt with some very painful issues from my past going back to my childhood but also replacing it with something new. However, during a worship time we were singing “I love you” to God and I was reminded of John 21 where Jesus restores Peter starting off by asking him “Do you love me more than these?”

This single thought translated my worship to saying to God that I love Him more than anything. That was challenging – because if you are honest you then have to consider those that you love more than any other person in your life and could I really say that I love God more than them? However, I knew that I could trust God and that He actually loves those that I love more than I love them. So, in choosing to love God more than I love anyone else I know that He will only ever want me to do something that demonstrates His love through the love He gives me for others. In other words by choosing to love God more than others my capacity to love those other people actually increases. So, it is safe to do! It is not a betrayal of those I love, rather it is simply a commitment to love them even more.

But we do need to be honest about our hearts. How do I love God more to the point that I love Him more than anyone else? It’s simple really, the more I trust in God’s faithfulness the more I can leave with Him and the more I can love Him. Have I reached the point where I can say like Peter, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you (more than these)”? I am not sure, but I do know that I love my wife and children even more and that I am learning it is the fruit (result) of giving myself more to God and that therefore I can trust Him more. The more I trust, the more fruit I see, the more I love God even more and I can now say I have reached a point where I have to pursue this path more and more. I can’t look back, I have to move forward. So yes, I do think I now love God more than I love anyone else. I want to spend more and more time with Him.

Now, that is a lot of words for a quick moment during a worship time, but the reality is that God had been sowing this within me leading up to that time. So I knew it already in my heart. It just needed unlocking – to reach my mind. The Lord then reminded me of what He had shown me about the whole passage (John 21:15-19) and in particular the shock I had when I paid close attention to verses 18 and 19. This is what I shared in my testimony but the big reveal for me at the time concerned identity. Given the work God had already done at the conference I realized He was dealing with things in my past that were holding me back and hemming me in. However, given that Jesus effectively releases Peter into a whole new identity (see below) in this passage I started asking God during the worship time, “what is my identity?” I am still asking that question, but I am beginning to get some answers.

This is what I said (paraphrased).

This passage is how Jesus restores Peter following his 3 times denial. He asks Peter 3 times “Do you love me?” and in particular the first time he asks, “Do you love me more than these?” In other words, “Am I your first love?” which is what we were singing. Peter gets very upset. There is then a bit that comes after which when I read it really surprised me because it seems quite brutal. Jesus says to Peter, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Well that is not very subtle!

When I read that anew I was shocked.  So called “gentle Jesus” tells Peter he is going to die.  It seems brutal.

But it’s not.

Jesus words would echo with Peter over the years.  These words would overwrite anything the enemy might try to whisper in his ears.  Remember, Peter denied Jesus 3 times.  Can you imagine the guilt and condemnation he felt after he did that until Jesus restores him?  When Jesus asks Peter if he loves him 3 times he will have his very denial running through his conscience.  It’s why it hurt so much when Jesus kept on asking.  But Jesus then uses Peter’s very declaration of love and follows up with a prophetic word that reverses Peter’s destiny and identity.  Jesus was saying you are not the person who betrays, that is in the past, it is forgotten (you are separated from your sin as far as the east is from the west).  Going forward you will follow me with all your heart even to die the same death on the cross.  You will not betray me, you are the rock on whom I will build my church.

In short Jesus changes Peter’s identity and destination.  It is a total change of trajectory.

Having shared the above revelation (as it was to me) I then went on to share more about what this meant for me.

I was asking God what is my identity?

God had shown me at the conference that my whole life I had been afraid of rejection.  From within my own family (lots of heated arguments) or for example with friends at school where I would try so hard to be liked and fit in with usually the opposite effect.  Within the family I had worked out that having seen the arguments between my father and older brother that you have to tread carefully around my father.  My dad used to joke about how when he was running late and was due to take me to rugby that rather than ask him to hurry up I would put his shoes outside the bathroom door without saying anything.  I did this as I was afraid he would blow his top.  During the times I received the Holy Spirit at the conference God cut me off from that fear of rejection.  God told me “I am accepted”.  My name is not rejected, my name is accepted (said with passion).  On top of that as I was prayed for by a another friend, Mark, he prayed against a spirit of intimidation and God then said to me, “I am giving you a heart of courageous fire.”

I am no longer going to stand in the identity the enemy has tried to put on me, I am going to stand in the identity that God has given me.  Remember, Jesus’s identity for Peter was based on his future not his past and that is what I am claiming for myself.

Having given that testimony John Arnott then prayed I would be filled up with the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Yes please!

An afterthought.  Recently God has been highlighting to me the importance of recognizing and dealing with our fears.  It is these fears that the enemy uses to give us a false identity.  They are like walls of a box keeping us contained and away from our true identity.  But more on that later …….

New beginnings

This site has been set up simply to capture thoughts (or revelation) I believe God has given me over time.  Initially I plan to go through past notes and bring together one by one.  Over time I anticipate adding new things as they are given me.  That will include links or quotes from anything that inspires me.  Right now, this is for me and maybe a few chosen friends.  After that, we will see.