Saturday, 11 July 2020

"Living Out" the Gifts

In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Paul beautifully writes, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

Rev. G. P. Eckman tells the story of a young English artist who stood before his canvas one day painting a picture called “A Lost Woman." As the work grew under his hand, his soul became more and more engrossed in the tragedy he was trying to portray. It represented a stormy night in winter. A poor woman, thinly clad, with her babe pressed to her bosom, was wending her way along a dark, deserted street. Faint lights flickered here and there, and all doors were closed and barred. As the artist depicted the agony on the unfortunate woman's face, his emotion deepened, and he threw his brush aside and exclaimed, "Why not go out and seek to save the actually lost?"

In that instant, he forsook his studio and resolved to prepare himself for the ministry. He entered Oxford University, supporting himself by the aid of his brush till he had finished his course. He then plunged into the work of rescuing the perishing, which took him through the slums of London to the dark regions of Uganda.

This is the story of Bishop Tucker of Africa, and it helps us to understand the Master's attitude toward the lost and those God is calling us to.

The Gifts of the Spirit are not merely to entertain, to paint a wonderful picture that people can “Ooh!” and “Ah!” at. They are not toys but tools. They are the living embodiment of God’s calling for us and must be used in the context of compassion for a dying world.

The moment the Gifts of the Spirit were activated in my life the Lord was calling me to “live out” what these gifts are all about – reaching the Lost. After Tongues and Healing the next gift the Holy Spirit manifested through me was the gift of supernatural Faith. All of us are to have faith for salvation and daily living in Christ, but there is a special gift of faith that comes to step out into greater things for the Lord. As a naturally shy and introverted young man, and a home-loving mummy’s boy, I would not have normally stepped out into risky activities. However, when a team from a missions organization, called World Horizons, came to our Christian Union and challenged us to go with them on a mission trip to a certain country, I felt faith rise up in me and I signed up to go, not knowing where the money would come from or what I was in for.

In my first book, Picture Perfect, I shared the story of how the Lord prepared me for this trip by arranging for me to meet a man from that country, preparing me to reach this people group with the love of Jesus and be filled with His compassion for them. As I was praying in my room for this trip the Lord gave me a vision of a man coming towards me near South Kensington Underground station. It was very detailed, and I saw what he was wearing plus the fact he was carrying two plastic shopping bags.

Immediately, I went to this station and waited. There were very few people around and no one matched the man I saw in the vision. However, there was a Cultural Centre of that country nearby and soon many people were pouring out of it. As a result, I had dozens of people from that country coming towards me and I asked the Lord to show me the one in the vision. Then, at the back of the crowd I saw him, carrying the bags and wearing the same clothes I had seen. As he came towards me, I prayed under my breath that God would help me to approach him. As he was about to pass one of his bags handles broke and his shopping went sprawling all over the pavement. I leapt forward to help him and he was so happy that I did and stopped to chat with me. As I shared Jesus with him, I just felt the compassion of the Lord flow through me and knew this was a preparation for my trip.

This was the start of my calling to go to the nations, eventually to South East Asia and be based in Singapore, and all because I chose to “live out” the gifts He was releasing in me.

We must be His hands, painting the gift as we have received it.

Jesus said to the Father in John 17:18, “As You sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
 He also said to His disciples in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”

There is a true story that tells of a church in Strasbourg that was destroyed during the Second World War. After the bombing, the members of this church went to see what was left and found that the entire roof had fallen in, leaving a heap of rubble and broken glass. Much to their surprise, however, a statue of Christ with outstretched hands that had been carved centuries before by a great artist was still standing erect. It was virtually unharmed except that both hands had been sheared off by a falling beam.  The people hurried to a sculptor in town and asked if he could replace the hands of the statue.  He was willing, and he even offered to do it for nothing.  The church officials met to consider the sculptor's proposition -- and decided not to accept his offer.

Why? Because they felt that the statue without hands would be the greatest illusion possible that God's work is done through His people. In a very real sense that is true. Jesus Christ chooses human hands.  Sometimes they seem to be the most infirm hands, the least potentially successful hands, or the least qualified hands -- but those are the hands He uses.

Nanette Elkins writes in her blog ‘Hope in the Healing’, “One of the greatest examples of the apostles being the Hands and Feet of Jesus in the early Church is found in the third chapter of the Book of Acts. Peter and John were on their way to the Temple to pray, like they did every day at around three o’clock. There was a man who was lame from birth being carried in. Every day, he was put beside the Temple gate, the one they called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple.
When the lame man saw Peter and John, he asked them for money too, but Peter said, “Look at us! I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” Acts 3:4-6 (NLT). According to the Word, and the Name of Jesus, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed! He jumped up and began to walk! The Bible said he went “…walking, leaping and praising God…into the Temple with them.” Acts 3:8 (NLT).
Peter and John were being the Hands and Feet of Jesus! Jesus had already ascended into Heaven. He had told the disciples to wait for the Promise of the Father, the Comforter, which He would send. And He did! They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, according to Acts 2. And the Church is born. We are the continuance of the Early Church. We are Acts 29! And the only way we can continue to write that 29th chapter is to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus.”

Just as the early disciples received the call to be the hands and feet of Jesus so I found the Lord was calling me to step out for Him in the power of the Holy Spirit. For me it was a clear call to leave my family, my homeland and go to a place the Lord would show me. This call came to me on my twenty first birthday, as I was on a mission trip to Morocco. We had travelled right down to the south of the country and were spending a night in sleeping bags in the Sahara Desert. I awoke at four o’clock in the morning (not a usual thing for me, but on this trip, we travelled early to avoid the heat of the day) and, by torchlight, had my quiet time with the Lord. My Bible reading on that day was Genesis 12:1-3, but verse one leapt out at me:
“Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.””
This became a living word to me as I literally heard the voice of God within me saying this was not just for Abram but also for me. These literal words to leave one’s family and nation and go to another country as the Lord leads, to be a blessing, are not for everyone, but for me this was a very real calling. It was a call to be the hands and feet of Jesus according to the gifts He was equipping me with. We will all have that call but its outworking will be as unique as each star in the sky and each grain of sand on the beaches of this world.

We must see the gifts as our passport!

Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.”
Gustav Dore, the famous artist, lost his passport while traveling in Europe. He was at a certain boundary post between two countries and the officer in charge asked him for his passport. Dore fumbled about and finally announced, "I have lost my passport, but it is all right. I'm Dore, the artist. Please let me go in." The officer replied, "Oh, no. We have plenty of people representing themselves as this or that great person! Here is a pencil and paper. Now, if you are Dore, the artist, prove it by drawing me a picture! “, Dore took the pencil and drew some pictures of scenes in the immediate area. “Now, I am perfectly sure that you are Dore. No one else could draw like that! “, the officer said as he allowed the great artist to enter the country.
When I was baptized with the Spirit there were many gifts that were released, but there was one that surprised me the most, even more than Speaking in Tongues. This was the gift of singing spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19), a form of the Gift of Prophecy. At school I auditioned for the choir but, even after my first line, the music teacher dismissed me, as I was so out of tune. I was not naturally endowed with an ability to sing well.

However, after my Baptism with the Spirit, I found new songs rising in my spirit and, as I would sing, either in tongues or in understanding, the sound was beautiful and anointed.
As I started singing out in small groups, people were testifying that this was truly a gift from the Lord and a blessing to them. Doors began to open for me to minister and later I found myself in demand to lead worship times in small groups and to this day I lead worship in my Church, both in the service and the Tuesday night prayer meeting (sometimes singing in Chinese, which I don’t speak fluently).

Another gift I found rising up in me was the gift of Teaching the Word of God with anointing, insight and life-touching effect, at first in small groups and then later in churches and missions organizations.

When I was twelve years old and only just Born Again, I remember taking a spiritual gifts evaluation in my church (the church did not believe in the supernatural gifts but still accepted the gifts mentioned in Romans 12:6-8). My results showed that Teaching was clearly my main gift, meaning the spiritual gift of teaching the Word of God. At that time, I didn’t really believe the results as I was very shy and wouldn’t even say “Boo!” to a goose. Even if you’d have asked me to teach the Bible sheep in a field, I would have run away from the task at lightning speed.
However, after I was baptized with the Spirit, I found a boldness to teach His Word rising up within me and the Lord started giving deeper insights and revelation that I started to share in small groups. Again, doors started opening for me to teach in churches and missions’ meetings.

Indeed, in more recent times I have found these two gifts marrying together as I minister in teaching/preaching with prophetic songs coming forth over groups or individuals, especially as I minister overseas in other churches.

Truly, I have found that God’s spiritual gifts to us, if opened and used, are like a passport that opens the way for us to minister in His call on our lives. My prayer is that you too will live fully in the gifts that God is empowering you with by His Holy Spirit.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Using Your Gifts

 We must then open and wholeheartedly use our gift.

“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10

Rossini was once presented with a watch by the King of France—of which he was justly proud.  Several years after, showing it to a friend, he was told that though he had possessed it so long, he did not know its real value.  "Impossible," said Rossini, whereupon the friend, taking the watch, touched a secret spring, at which an inner case flew open, disclosing a beautiful miniature painting of Rossini himself.

This is characteristic of a certain type of modern Christianity. It values its ethics and is acquainted with and appreciates much of its teaching, but it has not discovered the inner secret which gives it its supreme value. The portrait of Christ is still hidden. When the secret spring is touched and the Face of Christ is recognized, the whole attitude of mind and theory of values is changed. The secret spring for the Christian is the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, where the Spirit comes to reveal the face of Christ and unlock His full power in and through us, revealing so much more of Him. 

“Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?"  (John 14:9) Christ said to one who called himself a disciple and an intimate. The Apostle John lay as dead before a revelation of the one he thought he knew so well but didn’t really know at all (Revelation 1:17). In both cases what was needed to see more of Christ was a revelation of Him by the Spirit, and this is exactly the same for us today.

The extent to which we open up God’s gift of the Spirit to us is the extent to which we will see more of Christ and His Image will be formed more and more in us. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” This is clearly in the context of the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives if you read the preceding verses from verse 1. The Holy Spirit is the seal that carries the image of Christ upon our lives (Ephesians 1:13-14), and it is therefore imperative that we fully open up and open up to the gift of the Holy Spirit.

After I was baptized with the Spirit on the Holy Spirit Weekend I saw that God started to reveal more and more of His Word to me. As I read the Bible, things I previously could not understand were opened up to me and as I prayed there was a greater sense of His presence and guiding. However, because I stopped short in praying in the new language that was bubbling up in me on that day, I had not fully opened up to the working of the Spirit and there was still so much more of Christ that I was missing.

It was several months, during which my friends spent time praying for and encouraging me to move more in the Spirit and pray in Tongues, before I allowed the free flow of the Spirit through me and spoke excitedly in a spiritual tongue. When this happened, and I continued to pray in tongues privately, I noticed a definite deepening of my relationship with God and I seemed to know Him more and know more of His ways for me. Indeed I could hear more of His guidance and started getting more involved in the Christian Union, in leading a small Bible Study group and sharing my faith with greater boldness. I also started hearing God’s calling to go on mission trips to France, Spain and Morocco, where I would receive my calling for fulltime missionary and, eventually, local church work. This is all because I wholeheartedly opened up this special gift.

Bertoldo de Giovanni is a name even the most enthusiastic lover of art is unlikely to recognize. He was the pupil of Donatello, the greatest sculptor of his time, and he was the teacher of Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor of all time. Michelangelo was only fourteen years old when he came to Bertoldo, but it was already obvious that he was enormously gifted. Bertoldo was wise enough to realize that gifted people are often tempted to coast rather than to grow, and therefore he kept trying to pressure his young prodigy to work seriously at his art. One day he came into the studio to find Michelangelo toying with a piece of sculpture far beneath his abilities. Bertoldo grabbed a hammer, stomped across the room, and smashed the work into tiny pieces, shouting this unforgettable message, “Michelangelo, talent is cheap; dedication is costly!” 

We should not merely coast along with our talents, be they natural or spiritual, but be dedicated to unlock the full potential God has for us. This is only done by opening up wholly to the Holy Spirit’s work in us and through us. Although I did not initially open up fully to this wondrous gift, I had great dedication to go deeper and found myself wholeheartedly opening up to the Holy Spirit so He could paint more effectively through me.

We must not question God’s choice of colours (gifting).

“But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” 1 Corinthians 12:11.

David Jeremiah relates the true incident of when Raphael was engaged in painting his celebrated frescoes. He was visited by two cardinals who began to criticize his work, and found fault without understanding it. "The Apostle Paul has too red a face," said one. "He blushes to see into whose hands the Church has fallen," answered the angry Artist.

When the Holy Spirit starts manifesting His supernatural gifts through us we may find the way He does so is not to our liking, just as the cardinals thought of Raphael’s painting. We now know that Raphael, a master painter, chose exactly the right colours and, in the same way, the Holy Spirit will work through us in exactly the right way. Let us not be like these cardinals but allow Him to manifest as “He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

At first I questioned the Holy Spirit’s use of speaking in Tongues through me, but later I began to see His wisdom and the fruit of such a gift. Indeed I can remember a time when Speaking in Tongues probably saved my life. This was when I was on a mission trip in Sabah and myself and another pastor went swimming in the sea. A long way out we found ourselves surrounded by jellyfish that were stinging us from torso to toes. We both started speaking loudly and unceasingly in Tongues and swimming to the beach. When the lifeguard came to us on the beach (even he was too afraid to rescue us with so many jellyfish) he marveled that we were unhurt as previous cases needed to be taken to hospital or even proved fatal!

Later, as the Spirit continued to manifest more and more supernatural gifts through me, I saw His wisdom as lives were being touched and His will was being outworked.

I can vividly remember one time soon after being released in speaking in Tongues, I was in Holy Trinity Brompton church on Sunday and worshipping the Lord. Halfway through the songs the worship leader said that the Spirit was moving mightily in the building and we should all allow the gifts of the Spirit to flow. As they said this I felt a warm sensation in my hand, a gentle burning. Being new to the move of the Spirit I asked the person next to me what this meant and they said it was often a sign that the gift of healing was being released. The person on my other side heard this and said they had a bad back that needed healing. I laid my hand on her back and prayed for healing in the name of Jesus. The lady I prayed for leapt up to her feet saying she felt something like electricity run down her back. Then she smiled gleefully and said that the pain had gone!

When Jesus sent the disciples before Him across the Sea of Galilee and they got caught in a life threatening storm, He came to them walking on the water. The Bible tells us that “in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.” (Matthew 14:25). Jesus was coming to them and about to call Peter to walk into the miraculous by stepping on the waves, but all they saw was a scary ghost and they were filled with fear. During that time Jesus was physically with them but later He sent His Holy Spirit to come to them and empower them. Older Bible translations use the term Holy Ghost instead of the Holy Spirit. Often, Jesus sends the Spirit to us but we’re afraid and see a scary ghost instead. However, when Peter realized it was indeed Jesus He launched out on Jesus’ word and walked on the water, walking into the miraculous. In the same way we must see that the infilling of the Holy Spirit, the empowering of the Holy Ghost, is of God as the Holy Spirit Himself is God.

Was I expecting that these were the colours the Spirit would use to paint through me? Certainly not! Indeed I was shocked in both cases. I was like the disciples in the boat seeing a ghost walking on the waters. 

However, like Peter, I began to see this as truly being of God and stepped out of the boat as He willed. Speaking in Tongues was something I thought was from the Devil but I found it to be the tongues of angels (1 Corinthians 13:1). The way the gift of healing came shocked me as much as it did the lady who was healed, but was a wonderful blessing to both of us. 

We must not question God’s choice of colours but simply yield to the Spirit’s working and by faith move in the gifts as He wills.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Receiving the Holy Spirit

 This is a three-part series on the Gift of the Holy Spirit taken from my Book “Painting the Picture”. I believe that we need to move in the power of the Holy Spirit more than at any other time in history as we await the return of Jesus. Remember, the Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’, but He is the third person of the Triune God.

Leonardo da Vinci had started work on a large canvas in his studio. For a while he worked at it, choosing the subject, planning the perspective, sketching the outline, applying his own natural genius. Then suddenly he ceased, the painting still unfinished, and summoning one of his students he invited him to complete the work. The student protested that he was unworthy and unable to complete the great painting the master had begun. But Da Vinci silenced him with these words: "Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?" 

That which God has started, may we be inspired to complete with excellence and reverence, using the gifts given to us by our Divine Teacher to His honour and glory. Just as the early disciples were to continue the work of Christ throughout events described in the book of Acts, so we are to continue His work as His body, the Church, here on earth. We do this, as they did in Acts, through the enabling and empowering of Christ's gift, the Holy Spirit:
Jesus said in Luke 24:49, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
And in Acts 1:8 He said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

But We must firstly realize what Christ’s gift is.
In John 14:16-17 Jesus says,  “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
When I first became a born again Christian if you had asked me what Christ’s gift is, I would have answered “Salvation”. Now I know that salvation is the Father’s Gift (Salvation through His Son, Jesus). Jesus’ gift to His Church is the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Bible passage I have quoted (John 14:16-17) says the Father is the one who “gives us another helper”, the Holy Spirit, but it is at the request of Jesus, so is ultimately His gift to us.
At first this gift was forbidden to me by the teaching I had in my first Church, which taught that speaking in Tongues was of the devil and Spirit Baptism happens at New Birth. It was not until I left my home and went to university in London that I would realize what Christ’s gift really is and, indeed, how important it is.

We must freely receive this gift.
In Acts 2:38-39 we read, Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Legendary Spanish artist Pablo Picasso was virtually unknown when he painted his famous portrait of American writer Gertrude Stein in 1906.  Picasso gave the portrait to Miss Stein since, as the artist himself recalled with a smile, at that time in his career "the difference between a gift and a sale was negligible."  Some years later, the portrait attracted the interest of millionaire art collector Dr. Albert Barnes, who asked Miss Stein how much she had paid Picasso for it. "Nothing," she replied.  "Naturally, he gave it to me." Dr. Barnes was incredulous that such a priceless work of art could have been a gift.

If you have ever thought about the gospel for very long, you can probably appreciate Dr. Barnes's incredulity. Think of what we have been given in Christ: forgiveness, eternal life, and all the riches of heaven, all at a cost we could have never paid!  But that is not all; we have the privilege of sharing this treasure with others. But the greatest gift of grace is the Holy Spirit Himself. In Him are all the gifts. The Holy Spirit is the seal bearing the image of Christ (Ephesians 1:13), enabling us to paint the image of Christ, the Master Artist, in our lives and in His creation. The Holy Spirit endows and empowers us with His gifts of grace.

After backsliding in my Christian life for about four years I finally came back to the Lord in 1985 when I was in Imperial College, London. Simon, my next door neighbour in Tizard halls of residence, was a born again, spirit-filled Christian and I saw something in him I did not have in my Christian life. One night I was really depressed and felt compelled to go and speak to Simon. As I was about to knock on his door it opened, and I almost knocked him on the head! He was going for the Christian Union meeting and asked me to go with him. That night the speaker was talking about what Jesus has done for us in His death, resurrection and the sending of the Helper, the Holy Spirit. I felt like the speaker was speaking just to me the whole time and at the end I recommitted my life to Jesus and decided to find out more about the Holy Spirit.

Soon after my recommitment I started going to Holy Trinity Brompton Church, right behind my halls of residence. It was there that I enrolled in an Alpha Course (an informal course for pre and new believers). At the end of the Alpha Course we had a Holy Spirit Weekend where we went to a big mansion in the countryside to have teaching on the Holy Spirit, ending with a time of praying for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit over our lives to equip us with the power gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) and empower us for witnessing for Him (Acts 1:8). 

All the way through the book of Acts you see this two-step experience (conversion then a later baptism with the spirit) – Acts 19:1-6 gives us just one example:
“And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

This promise was not just for the early Christians but for every subsequent generation (Acts 2:38-39).
It was during this time that I realized I needed to be baptized with the Spirit as John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:11, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (see also Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).

Water Baptism is full immersion in water, but Spirit Baptism is to be fully immersed in the Spirit. Yes, when we are Born Again the Spirit of God lives in us and we are baptized into the body of Christ, the Church (1 Corinthians 12:13), but there is a “second blessing” after salvation where not only does the Spirit live in us but we live and move in the Spirit. This is called Spirit Baptism or Baptism in or with the Holy Spirit.

On the last day of the Holy Spirit weekend we all gathered in the main meeting room in a large circle to be prayed for to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. I was ready to receive and knew that if I asked in faith for the Holy Spirit, I would indeed receive Him:
Just as Jesus says in Luke 11:11-13, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” 

Nicky Gumbel, who was teaching us during this weekend, just came through the door to the room and stood at the opening. He simply said, “Come Holy Spirit!” In an instant I saw a white light bathe all of us and I saw a vision of a huge dove coming to rest in the centre of the circle. I felt waves of joy and power come over me and a sensation like harmless but powerful electricity pulsating through my body. What I can remember of that time is that I just could not stand still for the joy that I was feeling, and I started running around the room. Then the room seemed too small, so I went outside and started running around the circular gravel driveway. There was a bubbling up within my spirit and I opened my mouth to find a new language starting to burst forth.
It was at this point I stopped dead in my tracks.

Was this the dreaded “Speaking in Tongues” that I was starting to utter and had been taught was from the Devil? At that moment I quenched the Spirit and although I continued to experience breakthroughs in understanding the Bible, deeper times of prayer and fellowship with the Lord and witnessing my faith to others with boldness, I was not fully opening up this new gift.

Next week I will continue to share how I broke through to keep on using this wonderful gift but now I would like to lead you in a prayer to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
  • Even if you have received it before, you can pray for a fresh infilling.
  • Lay your hand on your heart or your forehead.
  • Ask the Father for the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus.
  • Expect to be filled with His power.
  • You receive by faith, but just like anything else, you need to put your faith into action. After praying for the baptism do not resist any unction of the Spirit to speak in Tongues or jump or run or dance.
Dear Heavenly Father, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, and I ask you in His name for the baptism of the Holy Spirit with power. I believe and receive from You.  In Jesus' name, amen.
Now open your heart and respond in faith to the Spirit’s outpouring.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Testing What You Hear

As I continue to teach on hearing God’s voice, which I believe we need to do more than ever in this time of trouble and uncertainty in the world, I want to share a  condensed version of Chapter 7 from my first book, Picture Perfect, which talks about testing what we have heard to see if it is really from God or not.

In 1212 a French shepherd boy by the name of Stephen of Cloyes claimed that Jesus had appeared to him disguised as a pilgrim. Supposedly, Jesus instructed him to take a letter to the king of France.

This poor, misguided boy told everyone he saw about what he thought he had encountered. Before long he had gathered a large following of more than thirty thousand children who accompanied him on his pilgrimage.

As Philip Schaff records it, when asked where they were going, they replied, "We go to God, and seek for the holy cross beyond the sea." They reached Marseilles, but the waves did not part and let them go through dry-shod as they expected.

It was at Marseilles that tragedy occurred. The children met two men, Hugo Ferreus and William Porcus. The men claimed to be so impressed with the calling of the children that they offered to transport them across the Mediterranean in seven ships without charge. What the children did not know was that the two men were slave traders.

The children boarded the ships and the journey began, but instead of setting sail for the Holy Land they set course for North Africa, where they were sold as slaves in the Muslim markets that did a large business in the buying and selling of human being.

   Few if any returned. None ever reached the Holy Land. Two cunning men enjoyed enormous financial profits simply because they were willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of children.  

This sad story was taken from, ‘Family Survival in the American Jungle’ by Steve Farrar (1991, Multnomah Press, Page 60-61), dramatically reveals to us the importance of correctly discerning if any apparent guidance, whether audible or visual, is from the Lord or from other, more dubious, sources.

In this case, the angel that appeared to Stephen was of demonic origin. I can categorically state this because this guidance led Steven and thousands more children into a web of deception and eventually into a lifetime of bondage. Also, the goal of seeking a holy cross is not within the arrow of God’s eagle-like vision!

As we shall see, God’s will never call us into such situations and He enables us to practically distinguish between His godly guidance and other, destructive, forms of guidance.

Understanding what God does call us to will help us avoid what He does not call us to.  All the voices we hear and think maybe God must be tested. Are they from God or our emotions or from the enemy?

I did an extensive search through Scripture to see what we have been called to as God’s children. Knowing this will help us avoid forms of guidance that we can forecast will lead us into anything else but God’s way.
The following seven areas show us what we are called to according to Scripture, and how knowing each area will give us practical tests in discerning if any guidance is from God or not.

1. The Fellowship Test.
"God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:9

God's calling will always lead us into greater fellowship with Him and His people. The Greek word used here for ‘fellowship’ is ‘koinonia’, which means ‘participation, social intercourse or communication’. If we think we’ve heard God call us into a situation where it will be detrimental to our participation, social intercourse or communication with Him and His people, then we’ve not heard properly and this is not His calling.

I have watched on in agony as many people I know convince themselves that God is calling them out away from the ministry and into secular work due to rough circumstances. Now, I’m not saying that God will never do such a thing, but in the cases that I have witnessed it was eventually clear that this was not God’s call, as they later fell away in their relationship with the Lord and His people.

God’s true calling will lead people into a more passionate relationship with Him and His body, the Church.

2. The Liberty Test.
"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."   Galatians 5:13

His calling always leads us into true liberty. There will never be a negative sense of internal bondage in going according to God's call, unless we are walking in the right direction with a wrong attitude.
What I mean by this is that it is possible to hear God’s call and respond to it but allow our flesh life to control us so that we get frustrated or stressed out in doing His will.
Some people feel that taking on too many responsibilities will bring them into greater bondage, but the reality Is that the responsibilities God calls us to will bring us great inner freedom, and lead others to true freedom too.

3. The Peace Test
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful."  Colossians 3:15
His calling is always one that brings shalom peace. This peace is the peace of God and not our own. It is a supernatural peace that surpasses all our human understanding.
Unfortunately the phrase, “I have great peace about this” has been misused by many Christians who are trying to convince themselves and others that a course of action, that they really want to follow in their own flesh, is from the Lord. 
The word for ‘rule’ in the above verse can also be interpreted as ‘referee’. It comes from the Greek word ‘brabeus’ which means ‘an umpire, one who judges in public games’. The peace of God in us is like a football referee. When a referee blows his whistle in a certain way, we know that there has been a foul and play should stop. Again, if he blows the whistle in another way, we know play can resume.

4. The Life Test
"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." 1 Timothy 6:12
God calls us to have a quality of life called ‘eternal life’ and indeed to lay hold on this. His calling will cause us to come alive with this supernatural life. It will cause us to feel more alive and clearer in ourselves as to His life in us (‘it’s no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me’ – Galatians 2:20).
‘Eternal life’ is not the same as ‘temporal life’ (our own human soulish life). We need to mature such that we recognize what His ‘eternal’ life is and what our own ‘temporal’ life is.
Remember, Jesus said He came to bring abundant life to us. This is His very own quality of life. In every decision that we make there is His ‘pathway of life’ available to us:
“You will show me the pathway of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forever more”.  Psalm 16:11

5. The Holiness Test
"For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in (unto) holiness." 1 Thessalonians 4:7
God always calls us to greater purity. His calling should lead to a greater level of holiness, of separation unto Him. If the so-called 'call' does not lead into greater holiness, then it is not from God.
If you feel God is calling you into a particular course of action ask yourself, “Does it cause me to live a purer life? Does it challenge me to be more like Christ and separate myself more to Him?” If the answer is ‘Yes’ then this could well be the direction God is leading you in.
6. The Blessing Test
“..not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing."   1 Peter 3:8-9
As the call to Abraham was to be a blessing (see Genesis 12:1-3), so is our call. We must ask whether the direction we feel God is leading us in leads to blessing for others or not. He always draws us out beyond ourselves to be a channel of blessing. In whatever we do we must ask ourselves, ‘Does this course of action bring blessing to others?’
Every day the Lord loads us with blessings that are to be used for His kingdom purposes – to bless those around us we are called to. We need to see ourselves as Postmen and Post women.
God loads us with His ‘holy mail’, some has our own name and address on them, but most will have the name and address of others on them. His ‘holy mail’ will contain no bills, trash, or hate mail, only words, deeds and resources that will bless, encourage, and motivate others into His purposes for their lives.

7. The Suffering Test
"For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:"1 Peter 2:20-21
This test must not be misunderstood. The word 'suffering' comes from the Greek word 'pascho' where we get the term ‘passion’. It means going through certain hardships or allowing certain things that go against the flesh to happen for the sake of Jesus. In old English if one said 'suffer it to be so' it meant to allow something to happen, as it was the best course. Just as Jesus’ calling led Him down the pathway of suffering, so will our calling. After all, we are called to partake in the suffering of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5-7) and if we want to be joint heirs with Him then we must suffer with Him (Romans 8:17).
Please note that this is not suffering for any wrong we do, which could be termed ‘corrective suffering’, but it is suffering precisely because we do what is right – it is ‘Christ like suffering’. It is suffering His will to be done in our lives. I am not saying that unless we are always suffering then we’re not in the Will of God. What I am saying is that if our ‘call’ is very comfortable without any hardship and suffering at all then it cannot be a true call from God!
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul says,    “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
All Scripture instructs us as to the right way we should go in our life and equips us to do those good works that we have been prepared beforehand to do. Does the course of action you are considering agree with the overall counsel of God's word - the Bible? In all the above tests the underlying test must always be that it agrees with the Word of God.  Even if it passes all seven tests above but it is not a Scriptural course of action then it must be rejected. This obviously means that we must ‘let the Word of God dwell’ in us ‘richly’. The more we really know of the whole counsel of God’s Word, the wiser and more accurate will be our life decisions.

Implementing all these seven tests with the underlying test of God’s Word will help us keep on track with the Lord. He constantly desires to show us His way forward and invite us on in tangible ways, but we need to distinguish His high, holy and heavenly calling from worldly, fleshy or demonic callings that will lead us far from outworking His purposes in our lives.

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