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Yeast, and that wonderful question: “Can I pray for you?”

Reading: Luke 13

Scripture

Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Luke 13:20-21 NIV

Observations

Recently I have had the privilege of praying for people in our central city through a ministry called Healing on the Streets. The folks we pray for are passers by who stop to talk, respond to our invitation for prayer, and are brave enough to take a seat and allow two or three of our team to gather around and pray for them, in full view of other shoppers.

I believe that in those few brief minutes of prayer, the folks we pray for truly come into contact with the presence of God.

And so I love this thought that the kingdom of God is like yeast. I like to think that during those short encounters people have with God, a deposit of the “yeast of the Kingdom” is given to them.

And just as yeast, when the conditions are right, will cause dough to rise, so the yeast of the Kingdom, when the conditions become right, can bring to a person life and restoration and the joy of a relationship with God.

Application

Every invitation I make to pray for someone is an opportunity to give that person an encounter with God. For some that encounter will be profound; for others, it may simply be a curiosity. But no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time, the kingdom of God is like yeast! Who knows what effect that little deposit of yeast might have as the Spirit does his work.

At work, at school, on the street, at the mall, or with family and friends, I will always have opportunities to offer to pray — opportunities too precious to miss.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, please give me opportunities to share the yeast of the Kingdom. Help me to see and respond to the needs of those around me, in practical ways, but also by offering to pray. May I be gentle but bold, and always motivated by love as I ask the question, “Can I pray for you?”

 

“Speak To That Rock!” — On Praying With Authority

Reading: Numbers 20:1-13

Scripture

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” Numbers 20:7-8, 11-12 NIV

Observations

Moses' good old staff was tried and tested. With it he had turned the Nile river to blood and parted the sea. It was familiar, and he trusted it. He knew that God was going to bring water out of the rock, and so hitting it with his trusty stick was well within his experience.

But God hadn't told Moses to strike the rock with his stick. He had told him to speak to the rock. This was something new — an authority Moses wasn't used to. I imagine him wondering, “Can I really do this? Would it be right? Will my spoken word alone actually be enough to release God's power?”

I note that God didn't tell Moses, “Pray and ask me to bring forth water.” He specifically told him, “Speak to that rock.” Jesus has something similar to say to us:

“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” Mark 11:23 NIV

It seems that in bringing things to pass, Jesus spent little time speaking about those things, and much time speaking to them. And just as God told Moses “Speak to that rock”, Jesus teaches us now to “Speak to that mountain.”

Application

Speaking to things instead of praying about them takes a bit of getting used to. Like a child standing on the edge of the garden shed roof in a Superman suit, there comes a nagging feeling, “Can I really fly?”

Can I really speak this mountain and have it move? Can I really speak to this sickness and command it to go? Do I really have authority to command a blessing, or to break the power of a stronghold?

For most of my life, I have simply asked God to work on my behalf. Just as Moses had his trusty staff, 'prayers of petition' have been mine — my tried and tested method. There's nothing wrong with having a trusty staff. Look at what God said to Moses: “Take your staff”. It was important. Just as my prayers of petition are.

But then God said something new: “Speak to the rock”. I feel that God is bringing the same command to his children today, revealing afresh the authority we have been given. The truth of that authority hasn't changed, but the appreciation of it has the potential to change everything.

Prayer

Lord God, I want to honour you with my obedience to your promptings. I pray for courage, that I might step out in faith at your command. Please teach me more of the authority I have in Jesus, and help me to walk in it, that your glory might be revealed to all.

See also an earlier post on this theme, Walking in Authority

 

Generation Changers

Reading: Joshua 23:1 – Judges 3:6

Scripture

Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua 24:31 (NIV)

After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord… Judges 2:10-11 (NIV)

Observations

Head knowledge will always be trumped by personal experience. Though stories be a powerful influence and storytelling vital to sharing and passing on my faith, being IN the story takes it to a whole new level. To walk on the bed of the sea with water heaped up on either side, to feel the heat and the power of God manifested in a pillar of fire, to see water spontaneously gush from a dry rock, and to collect bread from heaven every morning – these are experiences that no handed-down story can match.

In the days of Joshua, these and many other encounters with God influenced the heart of the entire nation. They knew God not just because they had heard the stories, but because they were in them. But as these encounters with God became past history, even by just one generation, the faith of the nation began to crumble.

Application

It's not enough just to share stories handed down from others. I need my own stories. I need my own first hand experience of the power and presence of God. I need to have been on the receiving end of his goodness. I need to have been healed. I need to have prayed in faith and seen miraculous answers to my prayers. These things form the basis of my personal testimony.

Not only that, but others need to be able to see God at work in me and through me. Why would people be drawn to my faith if the substance of it was simply the stories of others? How much weight would that carry? No, I need my own stories.

It's not that my own faith depends on it. But the faith of others just might. Jesus himself expected that some would believe in him because of his miracles: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:11)

And in the very next sentence, he reveals his expectation that some would believe in him because of miracles happening in and through me: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…” (John 14:12).

These things aren't for my benefit. They're for those who don't yet know him, because just as it was in the days of Joshua, so it is in this day: To see God at work first hand, and even more, to experience him – to be IN the story – that is the stuff that turns hearts and generations to God.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I so want to be a generation changer! To be salt and light in this world and to see your hand at work, to be a testimony to all whose hearts would turn to you. Please break the power of low expectation that has defined my generation, and release in us faith to move mountains and to do the work you have commissioned for us, that through us your love and glory might be clearly revealed, in our generation.

See also Supernatural Encounters with God and Faith Isn't Just Believing – It's Expecting!

 

Faith Isn’t Just Believing – It’s Expecting!

Reading: Luke 8:19-56

Scripture

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Luke 8:24-25 (NIV)

Observations

“Where is your faith?” [Didn't you know I could do that? You could have too with faith]. Jesus clearly expected his disciples to have faith. He often rebuked them for lack of it. Yet when faith was present, all heaven broke loose! People were healed. Miracles were performed. Hope was kindled where once there was despair.

All through the gospels I see that it was faith that released the power and presence of God. And Jesus makes it exceedingly clear that if I have faith to believe, I too can receive from God! Not only that, if I have faith to believe, I can in Jesus' name do the same things that he did, releasing his power to heal and to save. The very idea would be preposterous but for the fact that Jesus himself said it, and repeated it over and over. The power of God is released by our faith.

“According to your faith will it be done to you.” Matthew 9:29 (NIV)

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14 (NIV)

Application

Faith isn't just believing – it's expecting. There was another storm, presumably later, when Peter climbed right out of his boat, fully expecting to walk on the water, and he did! (For a short while anyway). He acted on the mustard seed of faith that he had, and the power of God was activated.

In the same way, my faith will only grow as I act on it. In the gospels, those who expected Jesus to heal them came to him and were healed. And as the faith of the disciples grew, especially after the coming of the Holy Spirit, they too learned to speak and act on the basis of expectation. Such is Jesus' expectation of me, that I would grow in my faith and act on it, releasing the power of heaven into the world in which I live.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I want more faith! I ask that even at this very moment, you would in your grace impart faith into me. I receive it, and I thank you for it! And now I pray for opportunities to exercise that faith. Jesus, may I not be one of whom you say, “You of little faith”, but rather, one who steps out in faith and expectation, that you might be glorified and others might come to know your wonderful love and grace.

 

“The same works I have done, and even greater works…”

Reading: John 14

Scripture

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…” John 14:12 (NLT)

Observations

Right! The time has come to stop tiptoeing around the tulips, because here, Jesus is making such a clear and radical statement that a response is mandatory. “Anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…”

What works did Jesus do? He healed the sick. He restored sight to blind people. He said, “Stretch out your hand,” and the withered hand was made straight. He said, “Stand up and walk!” and people lame from birth began jumping with joy. He set people free from demons. He even raised people from the dead!

So who is Jesus addressing when he makes his statement? Just the twelve disciples sitting in front of him? No, “Anyone who believes in me…” That includes me! Is that really true, that I might pray for the blind and see their sight restored, and for the lame and see their limbs made strong? And even that dead people might be raised to life through my prayers?

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…”. There really can be no other conclusion. He even begins his statement by saying, “I tell you the truth!” It is clear then that with this statement, Jesus is telling me exactly what to expect of myself, and also what he is expecting of me! Jesus is now in heaven and has left us, his church, to continue the work he started – the same work done in the same way, and empowered by the same Spirit. “And, even greater works…”

Application

Long have I stumbled on this verse, believing it in my head and seeing it happening for others but not experiencing it firsthand, except in ways that are more “ordinary”. If I'm honest, those times when I have prayed and not seen healing have sapped my faith and watered down the boldness of my prayers.

Yet faith is rising, and I find myself hungry for the reality of God's kingdom to come to the place where I live. I don't think I can stand any longer to live in that place of spiritual impotence and feebleness, nor to let fear hold me back from stepping out in faith. The time is now here for faith to start bearing its fruit.

Prayer

Thank you Lord Jesus for your great commission, and for the expectation you have for your Church. Lord, we are your Body, and we want to function fully! Let faith rise in each one of us, Lord Jesus, and in us together as your people! May your Spirit move in power amongst us and your kingdom come, that those who are sick will be confronted by the power of your love, and the lost discover a life-changing relationship with you.

This week I took my first steps to being involved in a ministry called “Healing on the Streets”, which is soon to start in our city, God willing, and is already operating elsewhere. This ministry is very public but not “in your face”, and involves putting out a few chairs on the street, along with a “Healing on the Streets” banner, and simply inviting people who would like prayer to sit down and be prayed for. What an opportunity to share the life-changing love of Jesus with others! And so practical. Holy Spirit, let's go! You can read more about this ministry here: healingonthestreets.com

 

God’s Increasing Revelation of Himself

Reading: Luke 7:1 – 8:18

Scripture

“And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.

“No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.

“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” Luke 8:14-18 (NLT)

Observations

In Matthew 5, when Jesus talks about not hiding a lamp under a bowl, he is encouraging me to 'let my light shine before men'. But in Luke, the 'lamp under a bowl' illustration is used in a different context, being just one part of a longer passage on listening and responding to the word of God. (See Luke 8:4-18).

Jesus starts with the Parable of the Sower, about how four different types of “soil” respond to the word of God (the “Good News about the Kingdom of God” which Jesus is “sowing” as he travels around). He then uses the lamp under the bowl illustration to say that God has no intention of hiding his light from me. One day, all will be revealed, but His clear intention is to increasingly reveal his light to me now.

In view of this, Jesus challenges me to consider carefully how I listen. Because, “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” So this whole passage is really about God's initial and ongoing revelation of himself to me, and how I respond to that revelation.

Application

“To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given.” What a wonderful promise! The more I seek to know and understand God, the more God will reveal himself to me. The more I meditate on his word, the more understanding I will be given. God doesn't reveal all of himself to me at once, but in greater and greater measure as I seek him and respond to him. And the closer I get to the light, the brighter it becomes. “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18).

The result of all this will be fruitfulness, “a crop that [will be] a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Luke 8:8).

Prayer

Lord God, I am hungry to know you more! Thank you that your purpose is to reveal yourself to me. I want this! I don't just want to know about you – I want to know you personally, and deeply. Please draw me closer in my walk with you each day, and as I get to know you more, may my mind and my heart be transformed, and that transformation be outworked in my everyday life.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8

For more on listening and responding to God's word, see What is SOAP? and Nourishing the Inner Man – George Müller inspires me!

 

Kingdom of Light

Reading: Colossians 1

Tags: light, dominion, kingdom of light, kingdom of God, truth, darkness, inheritance

Scripture

…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:12-14 (NIV)

Observations

I have been rescued from the dominion (the sovereignty or control; the supreme and independent power or authority) of darkness (the partial or total absence of light). The problem with darkness is that it prevents me seeing. When there is darkness, I can be controlled by something that I can't see, and remain completely unaware of it. Not until light is introduced do I begin to see things as they really are. In effect, light reveals truth.

I had to be rescued from the dominion of darkness because I had no way of escaping it myself. And who was it that rescued me? God. He didn't just “turn on the light” to show me the true state of things. He rescued me from the sovereignty and control of Satan and brought me into the wonderful kingdom of light – the kingdom of the Son he loves.

Application and Prayer

One day, I will experience the full glory of the kingdom of light. It is something I look forward to with incredible excitement and anticipation. But Father, until that day I ask that you would fill me with your light, and keep filling me, revealing and dispelling the darkness that still remains in my heart. May no untruth darken my thinking, and no work of the evil one remain hidden and active in my life.

Even at this moment Holy Spirit, is there any darkness in me that you would bring to light?

Lord, I pray too that would you fill me with light not just for my benefit, but that others may see the light of truth in me. I don't want to be hidden or inconspicuous, like a lamp hidden under a bowl. Rather, may the treasure in me shine for all to see, and others come to know you and be qualified themselves “to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalm 36:5-9 (NIV)

See also, Radiant!

 

Anakites?! Big gnarly inconvenient obstacles… (mutter, mutter)

Reading: Joshua 15-20

Scripture

In accordance with the Lord’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah—Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai—descendants of Anak. Joshua 15:13-14 (NIV)

Observations

Joshua: Well, here's your promised inheritance Caleb – Kiriath Arba. The land is yours. Oh, and by the way, it comes with a few Anakites…

Caleb: No worries, Joshua, I'll sort them out.

And so he does. Caleb had been promised this forty five years earlier after spying out the land with eleven others. Only he and Joshua had believed that with God they could take the land. “So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’” Joshua 14:9

Finally the time had arrived to claim that inheritance. “Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day,” says Caleb to Joshua. “You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.Joshua 14:12

Caleb sure had spirit, even at a young 85. As far as he was concerned, the promise had been made, the land was his, and nothing was going to stand in the way of him claiming it for his own.

Application

It strikes me that the promises of God often seem to come with “Anakites”. I wish that wasn't the case – I don't like big gnarly inconvenient obstacles parked all over my driveway. When I read in Isaiah 61 (for example) of those things that Jesus won for me at the cross, and then look at my actual situation (and those of others), it's clear that there are still a few gnarly old Anakites out there. Some of what has been promised to me through Jesus I have yet to claim. And I see others weighed down with burdens that, with his life, Jesus paid to remove.

Caleb is my teacher today. First and foremost, he took God at his word. Secondly, having spied out the land years earlier, he knew what had been promised to him, and had a clear picture of this in his mind. I too need to become completely familiar with God's promises, and then set about claiming those promises with the same spirit that Caleb had – one of faith and determination.

Thirdly, it's clear that although Caleb didn't focus on the Anakites, he did deal with them. As I deal with the “Anakites” in my life, and help others to deal with theirs, prayer is so vital, along with worship and time in the Word. By myself, I actually can't use these things, but with the ever-present help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, they are powerful in my hands. “The Lord helping me, I will drive [the Anakites] out just as he said.”

Prayer

God my Father, I pray for the faith and courage of Caleb. Help me Lord to truly be a man of prayer, and to take real action as I claim what you have promised me. As I spend time walking and talking with you, as I converse with you during the moments of my day, and as I talk and pray with others, may “your kingdom come, Lord; and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

See also Walking in Authority and To Him Who Overcomes…

 

Walking in “Promise Land”

Reading: Joshua 14

Scripture

So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. Joshua 14:9 (NIV)

Observations

The land on which Caleb's feet had walked was the very land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants hundreds of years earlier. Twelve men were sent out by Moses to spy out that land – Caleb, Joshua and ten others. Two of them had seen a land of opportunity, “flowing with milk and honey”. But the other ten had seen men like giants living in fortified cities, and their report made the hearts of the people “melt with fear”.

Whereas Joshua and Caleb viewed everything in the light of God's promise, their colleagues' eyes were darkened by fear and doubt. Perhaps they just didn't know God well enough to trust him. Perhaps they hadn't truly yielded themselves to God despite the amazing miracles they had seen him perform.

Nonetheless, the same promise of God was made to them all. Joshua and Caleb took the promise to heart, and prepared to take it in hand. They acted on their wholehearted belief that God was faithful, and their faith was richly rewarded. But the half-hearted were left empty-handed.

Application

What a difference it makes to view the world in the light of God's promises! It changes my perspective completely, like a new pair of glasses, bringing a confidence and hope that draws me out of my comfort zone, out beyond what I can achieve in my own strength, and into all the plans and purposes that God has for my life.

As I write this, I am aware of how quickly I jumped to condemn the ten fearful men, from the comfort of my armchair… Would I have acted differently? How am I responding myself to the promises of God as revealed in his Word? I suspect there is much “promise land” I have yet to walk on. And yet my strong desire is to walk there. Lead me on, Lord!

Prayer

Yes Lord, lead me on! Cut me loose from my fears and insecurity, and help me to live my life on the strength of your promises. Thank you for your written Word the Bible, and for all the promises it contains. Infuse my heart with the truth those promises contain, and may they be fulfilled in my life.

“The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance…”

See also, Confidence and Tumbleweed (If Trees Could Walk)

 

Kingdom of Possibilities

Reading: Mark 10:1-16

Scripture

When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:14-16 (NIV)

Observations

Something about the way children come to Jesus delights him. Clearly it's not their spiritual maturity, nor their wisdom or knowledge, as these things are yet to develop. It surely wouldn't be their good behaviour, nor the selfless way they consider others before themselves, given that children are more naturally self-centred.

Children react with delight to anything that is fun and makes them feel happy. They often squeal and laugh and become playful. They are not limited by what they see around them. Instead their imaginations enable them to explore and enjoy all sorts of possibilities.

Application

The kingdom of this world may constrain me in all sorts of ways, but the kingdom of Heaven is a kingdom of possibilities. If I can just let go the handbrake of my own limited thinking, and instead let my imagine run wild, I would be free! I have walked through the door into a rich and exciting land, but have spent far to long camped just inside the door. The Kingdom is for explorers, and it's time for me to explore!

Prayer

Jesus, I get the distinct feeling that there is a LOT more to living in your Kingdom than I currently know. Will you be my guide? I really want to explore and know more of what it truly means to be in the Kingdom. Please open my eyes, increase my understanding, and release me into the possibilities that you have for me and your children.

See also Supernatural Encounters with God.

 

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