When Paul was writing to the people in the churches he loved so dearly he knew the power of praying for others. Yet his prayers were not always for the obvious. It seems he realised that as much as God wants to meet our external needs, Paul knew the importance of praying for our internal needs too.
Isaiah 6:8 ‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am, send me”.’ I’ve heard and read this verse before but it has never been as relevant to me as it has this Easter. I have not long returned from a mission trip to Albania. Answering a prompt from God my response was, here I am, send me!
This was my first mission trip, having spent many years raising my family going on a mission trip was not something I ever thought of doing. Then approximately 18 months ago a friend asked if I’d ever been and suggested I go and would really enjoy it. I put the conversation aside and forgot about it. However, the seed had been planted and God reminded of the conversation in early 2017. Over the coming months, he watered that seed and my hunger to go on mission grew, until the day a trip to Albania was announced and inside I leaped and said, here I am Lord, send me. As a lone parent there were practicalities to work through not to mention raising the finances, but in my heart, I knew that God called me and therefore would be faithful in helping me get there.
In the months and weeks leading up to the trip, I was facing various personal challenges that brought a great deal of stress and anxiety. I started to wonder if I should pull out, but the pull from God and his calling were even greater.
Ahead of the trip we met as a team and started to plan. Everyone seemed to have an idea of their role and what they wanted to achieve. To be perfectly honest I didn’t, but I knew that was going to go anyway. As I spent time with God and prayed he simply reminded me of his love for me, and to go and love his people.
Wow, wow, wow! The entire trip was incredible from the moment we left. God is good all the time. It was such a privilege to be welcomed into their lives, their church and to share God’s love and hope for his people in Albania. We were able to help practically with their worship team; sharing advice, vision, and passion. We worked with the children bringing fun, creativity, and love. We cleaned up a housing estate; a very small gesture but demonstrating that we care and bringing God’s love.
We spent time with the leaders building relationships further, encouraging them, praying with them. We humbled ourselves to wash their feet, anoint them with oil and prayed, releasing them into their God-given calling. We climbed a mountain, singing and praying over the city of Sarandë, declaring greater things are yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in the city. We supported them in putting on an evangelistic Easter outreach. It was incredible; I’ve never been a part of anything so powerful.
It was full to rafters, standing room only, overflowing outside. People gave their lives to Jesus, lives were set free, God’s love was overflowing and the worship continued long after it finished and people had left. One of the most poignant things that struck me was that this was theirs. We supported and encouraged, helped in a small way, but they had put the work in and this powerful outreach to their community was theirs.
As much as I went to love, bless and help in any way I could, I received so much more. I was loved, I was blessed. I have made new friends that I am now richer for. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the people who welcomed us, loved us, danced and celebrated with us. I’m overwhelmed with God’s love. When they thanked us I thanked them more. When they begged us to return there wasn’t a moment of hesitation, of course, we would return.
Another part of the trip was the wonderful fellowship we had as a team. It was a privilege to grow together, for relationships deepen and strengthen, to pray and minister to each other, for the meals we shared and for the endless laughter and fun. Thank you, Jesus, for the blessing they were to me. Thank you for calling me. Thank you for giving me a glimpse of your love for the people of Albania.
Will I be going again? Absolutely! What will I say when God asks, “who shall I send?” I will say “Here I am, send me.”
In the final part our Tool Kit of Truth we are going to look briefly at the power of consultation as a tool for truth and finish by calling us to habit and huddle in our Mosaic Community.
TOOL 6: CONSULTATION
We Consult God
We always ask the spirit to help us “open our eyes” and gain divine revelation. We need to intentionally open ourselves up in prayer and sensitivity to this. Otherwise, it can just be a book of head knowledge, not heart transformation. The spirit and the word work together in partnership.
We Consult Others
If in doubt, Get help! Reading books, study guides and commentaries can help you interpret Scripture more effectively. Many people have done a lot of heavy lifting to help us on our journey. There are so many great resources out there and a few terrible ones as well. Ask someone you trust to recommend resources and consult wise people to answer any questions and help point you in the right direction. However, if all you read is a daily devotion where someone is writing about a passage of scripture, you may grow too comfortable with second-hand revelation. Using these kinds of resources to compliment never to replace the Word.
We Consult Community
There is power in reading the bible in the context of a spirit-filled Community. This is why we are looking at embedding the “Habit & the Huddle” in our lives this year in Mosaic Church. (Watch the video to find out more)
The Huddle Questions represent the three basic tenants of handling and responding to the Bible.
- Observation (Huddle Question: What are you reading?)
- Interpretation (Huddle Question: What is God saying?)
- Application (Huddle Question: What are you doing about it?)
Our prayer is that as together we use this Habit and Huddle tool God would begin to move. In The Toolkit Of Truth Consultation is key.
These are the six tools in the TOOLKIT OF TRUTH to help you correctly handle scripture.
- Common Sense
You might want to add a secret 7th - Consistency. Consistent engagement leads to life revelation and revelation changes lives. As you start to put these tools into practice as you engage with the Bible our prayer is that not only would you know how to “Handle the truth” but you would let the truth transform your life too.
In this series, we are looking at a set of tools to help us understand and interpret scripture effectively. We will call these tools our toolkit of truth. In the first parts, we looked at classification, context, and Christ Centredness. Now let’s move onto tools number 4 and 5.
- TOOL 4: COMMON SENSE
Common Sense matters! Sometimes we just need to read the text for its plain and obvious meaning when taken in the right context. People are very quick to super spiritualize things. “Do not murder”… I wonder what God was trying to say? We don’t need to overcomplicate it. People jump through linguistic hoops to make a passage mean what they want it to mean. Sometimes people deliberately stay in confusion, ignorance or intentional blindness so they don’t have to respond to the word!
It is common sense to consider the context of a passage to see if instructions, commands or blessings in both the Old and New Testament were specific to individual circumstances or can apply universally to all today. Otherwise, every time we go to the town centre we might expect Jesus to leave us a donkey tied up ready to use (See Matthew 21 for that obscure joke!)
We also need to understand the difference between DESCRIPTIVE and PRESCRIPTIVE in the Bible. For example, you may read a story in the Old or New Testament where a character behaves in a horrific way –don’t be confused or offended - it is not prescribing how we should respond, or even endorsing the behavior, it is merely relaying it for future generations. This is why it is never a great idea to take more than one wife!
It is not all about using our head knowledge though. Perhaps we should use the term Uncommon Sense to speak of the unique combination of common sense and spiritual discernment we need when engaging with scripture. There is always a spiritual dimension at work behind the scenes. God is the God of the impossible! We can’t explain every miracle or understand all the mysteries of an infinite God. We need uncommon sense to recognize that the supernatural defies logic and that God can work beyond the realm of the natural.
The Bible does contain some real mysteries. Some things need further consideration and study – other things we may never know this side of Heaven. Yet as Mark Twain famously said, “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”
In the midst of mystery, we need to pray for the spirit to bring clarity as we keep Christ central to all we do. In THE TOOLKIT OF TRUTH, Common Sense is key.
- TOOL 5: CROSS-REFERENCING
For the past 10 years, there has been one series of films I never fail to see at the Cinema with at least one of my children. I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe because it is so connected. Every story arch and character somehow links to the next – from Iron Man to Spider-Man to Rocket and Groot. Fans will look for clues known as “Easter Eggs” hidden in films to help them gain an understanding of the bigger story.
The idea of an interconnected universe is nothing new – we find it first in the Bible. Many times the imagery or language in the New Testament mimics or expands the language and imagery of the Old. When Peter says “You are a Royal Priesthood” he is directly referencing passages from Exodus and Deuteronomy. Revelation is full of references to the Old Testament prophetic imagery and can’t be understood apart from this interconnectedness. We need to see ALL scripture as part of the Biblical Cinematic Universe.
Practically a good rule of thumb is let the Bible interpret the Bible. When looking at a topic or theme ask “Where else does the Bible talk about this?” Other passages in the Bible shed often light on the passage you are looking at. If you can’t figure out a verse - Look for comparisons but be careful not to assume that the same word or phrase in two different passages means the same thing. The Picture of Yeast, for example, is symbolic of the Kingdom but also a picture of false doctrine. It is also sometimes simply referring to actual yeast!
As we read we see there are big reoccurring themes of scripture that sweep across the whole architecture of scripture; from Creation to New Creation. In THE TOOLKIT OF TRUTH, Cross-Referencing is key.
In this series, we are looking at a set of tools to help us understand and interpret scripture effectively. We will call these tools our toolkit of truth. In the first part, we looked at classification and context. Now let’s move onto tool number 3.
TOOL 3: CHRIST-CENTREDNESS
What is the most powerful page in the Bible? The blank one in-between the Old and New Testament. Why? We have to view the whole of scripture through the lens of the message, life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Christ changes how we see everything. It is like seeing Star Wars trilogy from beginning to end and already knowing the crucial “Luke I am your father” plot twist. Apologies for those that don’t know that. The Titanic also sinks. Leo dies.
When Jesus encountered two men on the road to Emmaus he began to teach the greatest Bible study of all time and unveiled the scriptures through the lens of himself.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24 v 27
We find shadows, types, and precursors of Christ all over Scripture. From Genesis where he is the Seed of the Woman, to Revelation where he is the Alpha and the Omega. Every page whispers his name. Jesus is the visible image of an invisible God – all conclusions about the nature of God need to be put through the filter of Christ.
There is a great visual example of the supremacy of Christ in the story of the Mount of Transfiguration found in Matthew 17. Jesus reveals his true nature to three disciples alongside Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (representing the Prophets) and a voice from heaven declares that we are to listen to Jesus. Hebrews echo this when it tells us that in the past God spoke through his prophets but in the last days God has spoken to us through Jesus. In other words – in word and deed- Jesus is perfect theology.
We don’t ignore or diminish the rest of the Bible because of Christ but we do need to reframe it. Christ is our lens through which we view and interpret the scriptures with care.
One example of a Christ-centred lens in practice is how we see the Old Testament Law. Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. When you read the Old Testament Law today you have to read it as if you have already seen the end of the Movie. The laws are all reframed in the light of Christ…
- What about the OT Sacrifice Laws for worship? Why did you leave your lamb and doves at home this morning? Sacrifices were fulfilled in Christ’s once and for all death – they are obsolete.
- What about the OT Ceremonial Law? Festivals, feasts, ceremonies, circumcisions, clothes or customs that were meant to provide right standing with God, or distinguish the Israelites from other nations are no longer needed as we discover our new identity “in Christ”. Jesus touched unclean lepers. The New Testament declared that all foods are lawful to eat. Why? In Christ purity now comes from the inside out not outside in.
- What about the OT Moral Laws? The law is now summarized as love God and love your neighbour. Certain laws about love, relationships, and ethics not only still stand, but form the foundation of the life in the spirit we are now empowered by GRACE to live. We know that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus got to the heart of the matter – internalizing the external law – for example, “Do not commit adultery” becomes “Do not lust”. This is why we need the spirit and grace. Everything changes with Jesus.
Taking a Christ-Centred approach to scripture is like viewing the landscape from the heights of the mountaintop and not the depths of the valley. Everything looks different from the right perspective. In THE TOOLKIT OF TRUTH, Christ-centeredness is key.
What I am going to do over the next few posts is share some practical tools to help you start to responsibly interpret ANY passage of scripture. We will call these tools our toolkit of truth!
TOOL 1: CLASSIFICATION
The Bible is not one book but a library of books - so we need to identify which kind of literature we are reading to help us understand it. That’s classification. On Sunday, October 30, 1938, the UK experienced a big problem caused by incorrect classification. HG Wells’ War of the Worlds played on the radio for the first time, but people mistakenly believed it was real, causing mass panic and fear of an alien invasion. It was a case of a mistaken genre.
Each genre communicates in a different style or structure. What is the genre of the book you are reading in the Bible? Is it narrative, law, prophecy, poetry, history or a letter? This impacts how we read it. We read a science textbook differently to how we read a novel or we read a newspaper differently to an email from a friend. Should we read the Bible Literally? It depends on which classification of a genre you are dealing with!
Single men - be wise – or you may end up waiting for the Song of Songs woman and she looks like a monster! We always need to look carefully at the language of the text within the genre– is the passage using metaphors or other figures of speech such as Hyperbole (deliberate exaggeration)? How does this affect the overall meaning of the passage? If you are not sure, how might you find out more? We need to read the Bible Literarily as much as we read it literally! In THE TOOLKIT OF TRUTH, classification is key.
TOOL 2: CONTEXT Did you know? The Bible clearly says there is no God! Whaaaattt??? Psalm 14:1 says ‘There is no God.” Obviously, we are conveniently overlooking how those words are introduced: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.“’ This why we always need to be careful not to build entire doctrines on single sentences.
Consider the context of the passage you are reading. You can answer 75% questions about the meaning of a passage just by reading the whole text. The context in which any passage is written influences how it is to be understood. Context includes several things like the verses immediately before and after a passage - This is often where the convenient division of chapter and verse can sometimes be unhelpful – we are prone to see things in isolation.
• The paragraph and book in which the verses appear
• The time and culture in which it was written - we tend to default to see everything through our 21st-century lens.
• The message and themes of the entire Bible Anyone who has ever tried to tell a joke in a different country will probably see it go down like a lead balloon (now there’s an expression they wouldn’t get in 1st century the Middle East!)
Why does humor so often fail? Because we miss one another’s context and culture. The Bible was written to address real people who were living in real locations and real times for a real reason. That’s context. In THE TOOLKIT OF TRUTH, context is key.
There is a famous scene in the movie "A Few Good Men" where there is a brutal exchange between a lawyer, played by Tom Cruise, and a General, played by Jack Nicholson. At the end of an intense argument over a military case, Tom Cruise's character demands that he wants to know the truth, to which the General famously replies “You can’t handle the truth!”
The accusation that we can’t handle the truth is probably one that Christians have to admit we may sometimes be guilty of. And this has always been the case throughout history.
This was a clear concern in one exchange in one of the New Testament letters where Paul asked Timothy to handle the truth with care.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Tim 2:15
The term “correctly handle” originates from the Greek concept of “cutting a straight line.” Some people think Paul may have been using an expression that tied in with his trade as a Tent Maker. Back in the day, tents were made from the skins of animals in a patchwork sort of design. Every piece would have to be cut and fit together as part of a bigger pattern. If one didn’t cut the pieces right, would the whole thing fit together properly? Perhaps this was the essence of the charge to Timothy from Paul about the Bible?
The challenge to correctly handle the Word of God still stands for us today; yet 2000 years later there are new challenges we have to overcome that Timothy didn’t have to contend with. We need to Mind the Gap as we seek to understand scripture.
Which gaps are we talking about? Well there is a time gap, A geographical gap, a cultural gap, a language gap, a writing gap and a supernatural gap! That is more gaps than the London underground!
In light of these gaps we need to handle scripture with care. Some Christians vary wildly in their conservative or liberal views – with both sides throwing around the phrase “THE BIBLE SAYS” and both sides often misunderstanding how to actually interpret the Bible.
Everybody interprets the Bible – the question is do we do it responsibly?
What I am going to do over the next few posts is share some practical tools to help you start to responsibly interpret ANY passage of scripture. These are what I use all the time and will help you take steps towards becoming a "Bible Jedi"!
My name is Nicky Johns, and I now love to use art to express my faith in God.
Over the past few years, I found that I was frequently given pictures by the Holy Spirit, which I had always been too shy to share.
Recently, however, our church received some teachings around creativity which encouraged us to use our own creative gifts and talents in church and daily life.
It was around the same time that I attended a women's conference where I had the pleasure of meeting the prophetic artist Julia Powell, and in this meeting she encouraged me to try using art more to express the visions I was receiving.
At this time it had been years since I'd done any painting, but feeling affirmed by the encouragement around me I made the decision that I would try and paint some of the pictures and visions the Holy Spirit had been giving me.
Later, when I joined the intercessory prayer group at Mosaic, I started to share my paintings with the group, and found myself amazed and encouraged when my pictures would fit in or match the pictures and revelations that others had received during our meetings.
I have grown more confident in sharing the pictures that the Holy Spirit has given me, and find that I am more open to receiving pictures now that I have become more open to that side of my faith. Now, when I receive a picture repeatedly, I try and get it on canvas as soon as possible, and regularly share these pictures with the church.
Ephesians 2 vs 10 says, "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."
I have found that many people relate better to images, and the Holy Spirit can use these pictures to connect with them in a new and exciting way. I am so looking forward to seeing how the Lord will use me in this way, and the good things God has planned for me and others who are affected by my paintings.
In the journey of giving and receiving love there is never a problem at the Father’s end of the equation. Until we deal with the barriers to receiving that are at our end, perhaps we will never feel comfortable sat around the Father’s table. What do you think are some of the barriers we need to breakthrough to receiving the Father’s love? Perhaps there is a barrier caused by our own good, bad or ugly experiences of earthly fathering or from our encounters with those in positions of authority. Perhaps there is a barrier caused by religious experience, terrible teaching and the fact that we feel we are pawns in the hands of an angry God. Maybe there is a barrier caused by our own experience and circumstances that don’t feel like they reflect the goodness of God right now, and if we are honest the Father’s love feels distant.
Think for a moment of the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15 as distinct scenes in a film and ask yourself where you are in this picture? Perhaps you are in that place where you are enjoying the Father’s house, and inviting others to join the banquet table? Maybe you are in the scene where you have run away from the Father's house to seek other comforts? Maybe the shame you carry from your time outside the Father's house is causing a barrier today? Maybe the pain and unforgiveness you live with from events on your journey keeps your scene on repeat. Or maybe you are on the road, trapped in the cycle of bargaining as you walk back towards the Father’s house?
Wherever you see yourself in the story, I want to suggest the number one reception issue is caused by our perception of the kind of Father we think we will find when we get to the Father’s house. Who we think the Father is and what response we think we will get from Him when we turn up at his door will determine the quality of our whole Christian walk.
A friend of mine recently said “The reason the world sees the church as so judgmental and condemning is because deep down the church sees the Father the same way. The world doesn’t respond to our message because no matter what we say out loud it is picking up on the unspoken culture of the church. Too many Christians are born again into an orphanage.”
This strong statement floored me and you may not agree with it all. But it does make you think. What if we don’t see the Father for who He really is and what impact is that having on my life? We need to renew our mind with the truth of the word in order to start to clear our lens and change our perspective.
Despite dealing with the very real barriers we face in our journey to receive, my prayer is that as you dwell on the story of the prodigal son and think about the teaching of Jesus on prayer rooted in being fathered that you will find fresh hope that we can still come in spite of all these things and declare those powerful words that can change everything…. “Our Father.”
The prodigal son found in Luke 15 is a story that works in all cultures and is for all generations. It is a story I have shared many times with unbelievers, a story that has been retold in a thousand sermons, and something that I sometimes wonder whether there is ever anything more to be said about that hasn’t already been said.
While it may be true that this story is well-known (if by chance you haven’t read it, hop on over to Luke 15), let’s take a fresh look at the Prodigal son parable for a moment as an analogy of taking vs receiving.
The Spirit of Taking
The son likes to take what he wants and take it now! The son takes the inheritance from the Father, demanding his portion, seeking to take worth and significance. The son seeks all the experiences of the world on his terms, seeking to take his freedom. The son takes comfort in momentary relationships and sexual encounters seeking to take intimacy. The son takes the world by storm, squandering his resources, engaging in wild parties – demanding community from a crowd of strangers, but using them for what he can get.
This path of demanding and taking eventually leaves him with nothing left in his bag of tricks. Even as he starts to return home he is still living in the fake it and take it mentality, trying to plan how and rehearse how he will earn and take his way back into the fold of the Father.
Learning to Receive
Yet the most wonderful moment in the crescendo of the parable comes when the father takes him back. In these moments of acceptance, forgiveness and grace we see the son finally learns to receive. He receives the robe, the ring and the shoes as he enters the Father’s house and in that moment he realizes he has been given the Father’s blessing, the Father’s significance, the Father’s worth and the Father’s authority: Not only that, but he receives his place at the Banquet table, and in that moment realises he is part of the Father’s family. All of these are given from the Father's love irrespective of the son’s behaviour. They are all given not grabbed.
When you consider the response from the Father’s heart and the invitation back into the Father’s house against the contrast of either the rebel living wildly or the hypocrite performing desperately for attention, both seem awkwardly out of place. These behaviors feel alien and orphan like - they don’t feel right around the Father's table. Yet, why do they sometimes feel so commonplace in church?
Perhaps this story reveals a great truth that we need to explore further. In the journey of giving and receiving love there is never a problem at the Father’s end of the equation. Until we deal with the barriers to receiving that are at our end, perhaps we will never feel comfortable sitting at the Father’s table.
You can tell what people are most passionate about simply by listening to what they talk about and how often they talk about it. It was plain to all who listened what Jesus Christ was passionate about. Jesus taught about His Father in Heaven at least 181 times in the scriptures. In fact in 1 out of every 140 of his recorded words, Jesus was speaking about His Father. Have you ever stopped to think about what it would mean to receive the same father’s love that Jesus talked about so intimately and affectionately?
As Christians we talk a lot about believing but probably not enough about receiving. Learning to receive rather than feeling like we have to take it for ourselves is one of the differences between acting as an orphan and living as an adopted child.
Everyone knows how panicked a teenager gets when they can’t receive Wi-Fi! A reception problem can cause major family issues! But our struggle to receive can show up in different ways in our daily life that aren’t just connected to technology.
I have met many people who simply are not able accept compliments. You say something like “You’re an amazing singer…” and they immediately respond with “Oh but I am not as good as him or her.” You might say “You are such a great friend” and they say “Oh but I never do enough for people”. The compliment doesn’t land and gets deflected straight off.
For others they are actually okay with compliments about their achievements but struggle with compliments about character. When we achieve something great or win or earn it we love to get affirmation, but we can’t accept a compliment for who we are because deep down it jars against our sense that we have to earn affection. Many who struggle to receive a compliment from a human, can also struggle to receive love from the Father. We have a reception problem.
Receiving help and care
When I was ill recently, a number of people asked after me and said they were praying for me. Someone I don’t know well asked at work and I reacted negatively internally. I didn’t want them to think I was weak. Even in this minor issue I struggled to receive care and concern. I have to challenge myself - Is it enough for me to give care, or do I need to learn to receive it too? Is it okay for me to be vulnerable, is it okay for me to be weak? We often feel fine when we are the ones doing “community” because we are still in control and we don’t have to be vulnerable. Receiving creates moments of connection. Prioritizing giving over receiving can sometimes be a convenient way to keep people distant and our hearts defended. We have a reception problem.
Receiving invites us out of the place of control and into vulnerability. We all know the people who are relationship drainers – those who demand time, energy and love off us, they take take take but it is never enough because they don’t know how to receive. The irony is, that when we are caught in the attention and approval cycle and are seeking love we are actually unable to receive it even when our efforts “pay off.” We strive for intimacy but actually we fear it because we don’t know what to do with love when we find it. We have a problem with our reception.
So how do we deal with our spiritual reception problem? Well just like that teenager who runs around the room trying to find the best connection, we have to adjust our position. Not a physical position, but a mind-set one. What if the reason Jesus spoke so obsessively about His Father is because of how incredible it is when we are able to experience and receive His love? What if we don’t actually have to DO anything, we simply have to start to receive?
In the life of Mosaic at the moment we have been spending time looking at Jesus' revolutionary teaching about Prayer. This has come alongside a season of praying for breakthrough for major issues we've been facing in the body of Christ at this time. The reading below is so much more than a 'How to' manual for prayer as it represents a complete cultural shift in how humans can connect with their creator.
Matthew 6 v 5 - 9 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! 9 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy."
In prayer Jesus compels us to move away from the need to feed our own demand for attention and approval from others or even God. So often we strive from a place of performance – acting out and faking it, feeling like the one who shouts loudest will get the biggest portion. We try to be the one with the most knowledge and skill to win at the competition of life. We revel in the maximum exposure we get from outworking personal ambition. We seek satisfaction in the rewards of outward spirituality. The Bible simply calls this behavior being a hypocrite (ouch!). I call it being caught on the religious hamster wheel.
Life on the religious hamster wheel is like living with the competitive attitude of the Apprentice, the striving of Bake Off, the cut throat nature of X Factor and the performance mentality of The Voice all rolled into one. It is like dressing up in the glitz and glamour of Strictly Come Dancing yet underneath you know you can’t dance. It is exhausting!
Life in the Father’s house is different. This passage on prayer helps us see that none of this stuff will cut it when we come to connect with the Father. We don’t have to make ourselves seen, God sees us. We don’t have to earn points, yet God rewards us. We don’t have to beg for it, God knows what we need. We find Satisfaction in the rewards of simply being a child. The defining factor in how Jesus prayed was not that He used a set structure or formula but that He rooted His prayer life in response to God’s fatherhood.
A few weeks ago at a prayer meeting, a women in our church, Tracy Harding, shared a picture of people begging for bread at the palace gates. She then saw an image of those people being led inside the palace and invited into the throne room to be with the King. What a contrast! She shared that God doesn’t want us to be like those begging at the gates, demanding attention and approval, striving in a place of performance and shouting loudest so we get the biggest portion. This is the behavior of orphans, not of sons. We simply need to receive our invitation to the throne room and come.
Jesus taught us to pray like sons and daughters when He said “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8). How does this concept transform the way you might approach God for your breakthrough today?
My name is Shahkabir, I am ten years old and I live with my Mother and older brother Jahangir in Coventry. I was born in Pakistan, into a Muslim family. I don't like talking about my early childhood much because it wasn't very nice. My father was not very kind to us, which is why my mother decided to bring us to England.
Before I used to believe in Allah, and that if I wasn't good I would be punished. We still followed the Muslim faith when we moved to London, it was only after we moved to Coventry that our journey really started. First we came across Hillfields Evangelical Baptist Church. We discovered that they offered a children’s club called “Young Explorers”, and we started going to church on Monday evenings so that my brother and I could attend the kid’s club. We found the Hope Centre, my brother attended the Mosaic Identity youth group, and we met such kind people that we kept going back to Mosaic.
At church I was able to hear God’s word and the gospel, and the more I heard and read about Jesus, the more my faith increased, and the more I grew to love God, His people, and His word.
This is why I wanted to get baptised - so that I could follow the Lord Jesus, who is my saviour, my father, and my friend."
My testimony comes down to community, God knew I couldn't do it alone.
I was raised a non-Christian, with only a few early experiences of the church, but nothing like Mosaic. I moved to Coventry 2 years ago for uni, and met Gemma on the very first day. We like to call it a “God-incidence” because since then we've been inseparable. Gemma challenged every preconceived idea I had about Christians. She was nothing like I'd expected her to be. I would ask Gemma questions all night long, even if they were hard to answer. She never judged me and accepted me for who I was. I've always been one for questions, starting with Gemma, then Fiston, and then Jayne and James. We'd have question nights, where I'd throw all my questions at them and they would answer without judgement or doubt. I felt so comfortable and welcome, which encouraged me to keep asking and continue learning.
I was fortunate that through my job at the time I also met other Christians. My work hosted an event called Sunday Evening Sessions which was run by another church in Coventry. I ended up working at the Sunday Evening Session event, where I heard worship music for the first time. I remember turning to my colleague and saying how I wish I had something in my life I could be that passionate about. It was through my work that I met the Longden family, who were so kind and welcoming. Jason and Kez showed me that you could be “our age” and still love this God who I didn't yet know - I thought Gemma was the only one!
Meeting all these amazing people prompted me to attend the Good Friday service at Mosaic. I loved the service and watching everyone worship God. I cried that night because I wanted to know God and feel the passion they felt. It was after that service that I started coming to Mosaic on Sunday whenever I could. I did Bible Buddies with Gemma, and continued to learn and grow in my faith. Then over Christmas 2016 I began having what I now know as visions from God, in which a re-lived all my past experiences, but this time I saw God there with me, with His hands on my shoulders, guiding me through. I saw that I had never been alone. It was then that I gave my life to Christ.
I have been a Christian for 9 months now, and I am still learning and growing with God. Since then I have completed the Grace Course and another Bible course with Jayne and James Rose. My love for God and my wisdom is ever growing. This year I also had the amazing opportunity to go to Soul Survivor, where I witnessed God doing amazing things both with the youth and with the youth leaders.
I was not only saved by God, but I found a family here in Coventry and I can't wait to see what God has planned for me next.
‘Are we there yet?’ are four words that any parent heading to a desired destination will know all to well. Sometimes spoken in fun before getting to the end of the street, other times shouted in frustration when every aspect of the in-car entertainment has been exhausted. Whatever the reason, our children are telling us that they are no longer enjoying the journey and want a speedy arrival at their promised destination.
In this month of September when we’re prayerfully pressing through for God ordained change, I find myself impatiently asking my heavenly father the same question. ‘Are we there yet?’ – I’ve prayed a little, maybe gone without a meal and now I’d like to arrive at that dream destination called, ‘Breakthrough!’
But maybe in my haste to get to the destination I’m missing out on a key aspect of the journey!
Let me explain:
When describing the character of God, an Old Testament prophet called Micah, characterised Him as, ‘the breaker who goes up before [us]’. In this the prophet reminds God’s people that ultimately it is our heavenly father who has the power, ‘To press through and remove all longstanding obstacles that inhibit His ongoing purpose’.
Although my desire for the destination is intense, I need to be reminded that the journey will involve ‘Breaking through to the Breaker’ – that is, spending quality time in the presence of an almighty God.
To find the space and place where I can:
- Seek a deeper level of spiritual intimacy with my heavenly father
- Soak in God’s presence
- Spend time listening rather than talking
For when I bask in the presence of heaven I give my Father the opportunity to ‘quieten me with his love’, to make me feel safe in His embrace, to overwhelm me with His unspeakable joy and surround me with a peace that goes beyond all human understanding.
‘Are we there yet?’ – have we arrived at our desired destination? Well sadly no, there is a way to go yet. But to avoid spiritual fatigue, we need to punctuate our journey with holy pauses, moments of solitude in which we still ourselves from all other activity and simply soak in God’s presence.
For a journey towards the miraculous involves spending quality time in the presence of the miracle-maker.
- Chris Spicer
We love sharing great stuff online don't we? After all, everyone wants more of what they know to be good. As we start to learn more about the Holy Spirit, it is natural for us to ask how we receive more of the spirit in our lives. We are a generation that always wants more! How do we get more of God? Perhaps a stunningly simple answer to receiving more is found in a slightly deceptive parable of Jesus.
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11 v 5-11
There is so much we could draw from these verses about many aspects of life but let’s focus on the powerful statement at the end. To finish his parable Jesus says “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” And we thought this was a message about how to get late night bread?
This parable starts about natural provision – someone needs bread for a friend in the middle of the night -but Jesus twists the punch line to make it about something deeper. You see we use this scripture all the time about prayer – ask and you will receive what you need. Sometimes we think we need more bread but God actually wants to give us more of himself. We think we need natural provision but God wants to give us supernatural sustenance. We want to solve a crisis in the dead of the night but God always wants to point us towards a bigger and brighter tomorrow.
Jesus reveals to us how we can approach God and ask for more. It is not out of shame, timidity and fear that we beg and grovel but instead we can persistently approach God with shameless (overt and unrestricted) audacity (a willingness to take bold risks). Jesus is daring us to be bold and willing us to be relentless in our pursuit of God’s spirit. How can we be sure that God wants to answer us? Because he is our father. And secretly all Dads love to be asked when they know they have the provision in their resources.
Why not ask for more today! This parable is a good reminder of why we ask for more of the spirit. We don’t just need bread for ourselves but for others. We need more of the spirit so we can be more like Jesus in serving others. We ask for more so we can become more like Him. As we ask for more and more, our lives begin to look a little bit more like Jesus. As Frank Viola says “The Spirit takes the experiences of Jesus … His incarnation, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension … and brings them into our own experience. Because of the Holy Spirit, the history of Jesus Christ becomes our story and experience.”
What does asking for more look like to you today?
Dave Boden – Lead Pastor
Reading the bible out of context can be the curse of the modern Christianity. Individual verses can hide the beauty of the bigger picture and keep us trapped in a microscopic view of God. As we look at the breadth and depth of scripture in both the Old and New Testament we can understand more about how the Holy Spirit loves to connect with Mankind. Looking at God’s big story we see the connection between God and mankind has expressed itself uniquely in different seasons through biblical history.
Through a brief look at this history we learn more about the character of the Holy Spirit. We can also see how significant the season of the spirit is that we are now in. It might seem a bizarre analogy at first but the history of the internet almost directly mirrors the biblical unfolding of mankind’s connection to God’s spirit!
The internet has unfolded in many different stages since its inception – from dial up and broadband, to Wi-Fi and now the cloud. Can you see how this analogy works in terms of the holy spirit?
The Old Testament shows us the spirit of God connecting with mankind like dial up internet. It was a connection available at set times and set places. People had to plug in for a task or connect in via the temple. Thankfully they didn't get that weird sound from the telephone line when they did!
God connected in the moment for a task. In the example of Gideon we see the spirit of the Lord coming up him to achieve great things in battle against the Mideanites. We also see a picture of God coming upon a person to fulfil a task in the person of Bezaleel with God saying to Moses “And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship" (Exodus 31:1-3). This is a powerful endorsement that Gods spirit can not only anoint us to prophecy but also to do great creative work as well. God works in the workplace!
God also connected in the moment in the temple. One powerful exampleof this is shared in 2 Chronicles 5 v 13-14 “when they praised the LORD saying "He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting," then the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.”
The Old Testament was characterised by dial up style visitations from God - they didn’t last long and the connection wasn’t exactly stable.
Then came Jesus and everything changed. In Luke 3 v 22 we see the power of God come upon Jesus and stay upon him “…and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
Jesus was like broadband - online all the time. Jesus stands up in the temple and quotes Isaiah 61 saying The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace. This is an ongoing connection that wasn't about to go away even outside the temple walls. Jesus showed us, as the visible image of an invisible God, exactly what it was like to live a life permanently connected.
Then came an even bigger shift. Jesus puzzled his followers by saying it was good that he went away or else the spirit would not be able to come. This was confusing as his followers could not imagine anything better than being with someone who had a permanent connection to God. That is until they realised they could have it for themselves.
Through the power of Wi-Fi we get connected to the internet via a hotspot. There is no better example of spiritual Wi-Fi than what happened at Pentecost. In Acts 2 Peter addresses a crowd who have just experienced a major connection at a spiritual hotspot by saying:
“These men are not drunk as you suppose. It is only the third hour of the day! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people; your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
The last days are here. Just as a phone can now connect to the web via Wi-Fi, we can now connect via the spirit directly. But this connection is not just meant for individuals it is destined for whole communities. Maybe it was good that Jesus went away after all!
We now live in an era known as the internet of things. We can get networked access to the web almost anywhere. This network of networks is known as the cloud. God’s intention was always to have the cloud of the spirit accessible through communities of people across the whole earth. We are part of an eternal network of networks. We are the church.
Ephesians 2 describes the church as being like the new templesaying “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” We no longer have to plug in at set times in set ways. All of us are free tostay online all the time yet somehow our signal is always at its strongest when we stay connected into a spirit filled community.
As you enter the USA and turn on your smart phone you will be greeted by a text message saying “the cloud is here – would you like to connect?” What if God is saying the same to you and me? We live in the days when the cloud of the spirit is raining across the earth and through the church more and more people are able to plug in. What does the potential of this connection mean for the amazing spirit filled community we are part of?
Dave Boden – Lead Pastor
Don't you just love Greek words – especially the word kebab! One of the richest pictures of the Holy Spirit I have discovered in recent years is found in the Greek word Perichoresis (pronounced Peri cori sis). This word has and is transforming my view of the trinity from being so impersonal. static and disconnected to being part of of a divine dance. Theologian Jonathan Marlowe describes the trinity as a divine dance of God expressed in the word Perichoresis.
“If any of you have ever been to a Greek wedding, you may have seen their distinctive way of dancing . . . it’s called Perichoresis. There are not two dancers, but at least three. They start to go in circles, weaving in and out in this very beautiful pattern of motion. They start to go faster and faster and faster, all the while staying in perfect rhythm and in sync with each other. Eventually, they are dancing so quickly (yet so effortlessly) that as you look at them, it just becomes a blur. Their individual identities are part of a larger dance. The early church fathers and mothers looked at that dance and said, “That’s what the Trinity is like.” It’s a harmonious set of relationship in which there is mutual giving and receiving. This relationship is called love, and it’s what the Trinity is all about.”
The illustration of the dance speaks of a divine dynamic within the father, son and spirit. It describes to us a God who lives in perfect unity, intimacy and creativity. We need to understand this relationship or we won’t fully grasp who the Holy Spirit is.
The DANCE reveals Complete Unity
Oneness is at the heart of the father, son and spirit relationship. It is a non-static partnership with full participation and connection. The relationships in the trinity are never separated but somehow distinct. They are one in heart, mind, movement and purpose with no division. It is therefore interesting that where there is great division in the church we see the work of the Holy Spirit is grieved. Perhaps this is why Jesus prayed you and I would be one as they are one? Can you imagine there being grudges or offences in the trinity!
The DANCE reveals Perfect Intimacy
Relationship, community and love are found first within God himself. In the dance we discover that God is Love. Love is what we get invited into. When we are baptised in the name of the father, son and spirit – we don’t “let God into our life” but our life is immersed into God’s!
Baxter Krueger once said “The gospel is not the news that we can accept an absent Jesus into our lives. The gospel is the news that the Father’s Son has received us into his. We don’t make Jesus part of our world; he has made us part of his.”
We are invited to join the dance of heaven. It is a dance marked by the spirit of love, joy, peace, kindness, freedom and goodness. This is the very nature of God in which there is absolutely no fear present.
If you want to know if you are acting according to the spirit you can simply test your actions against love. The surest hallmark of the Holy Spirit working in a community is that there are expressions of authentic love and unity not just signs and wonders. Why? The last two characteristics can be counterfeited but the first two cannot. What if out of an atmosphere of love and unity we begin to naturally see more supernatural signs and wonders?
The DANCE reveals Powerful Creativity
Dancing changes atmospheres. The creative energy and power of God’s dance causes a shift in the spiritual atmosphere and then things begin to happen. Nothing God does happens in a vacuum. It happens as an expression of his creative nature.
Think about it; The Holy Spirit is the most powerful creative force in the universe. Present at creation hovering above the empty form of the earth, the spirit helped formed the universe. The spirit helped formed mankind from the dust and breathed life into our human spirit. That’s creativity in action. The creative power of the spirit caused the miraculous conception of Jesus, moved through Jesus to set captives free, and it even raised Jesus from the dead. This same power that made us new creations is the power that endlessly fuels the dynamic dance of God between heaven and earth.
When you pray for more of the spirit of God in your life, you are not just praying for more of a feeling, you are accepting an invitation to join the dance of unity, intimacy and creativity. What does being part of this dance mean for you?
Dave Boden – Lead Pastor
They say that lightning never strikes twice in the same spot but when you realise that Lightning actually flashes more than 3 million times a day worldwide — that’s about 40 times a second, this can be hard to believe. Did you know? The average lightning bolt can release enough energy to operate a 100-watt light bulb for more than three months straight. That’s pretty powerful stuff coming from the heavens all the time.
In Luke 24:49 Jesus speaks of a different kind of power coming from on high when he says to his disciples “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The spirit of God is spoken of as a source of power. In the same way that the spirit is not impersonal, power itself is not an abstract force. We always need power to do something. I don’t care about where the plugs are in my house until I need to recharge my phone and can’t find a spare one. It’s the phone I am bothered about not the power.
We so often long to experience the power of God in meetings, but what happens when the final worship song ends and we have to go back into the real world? After all, people don’t get excited about electricity just because it can gave you a buzz when you touch it! People are excited about what can be achieved when we connect with it. This can be the same with us and the Holy Spirit.
Through the work of the spirit of God in our lives God empowers us with the power to know, to show and to go.
The Power to Know
The Spirit gives us the power to know and discern God’s love for us. Paul prays in Ephesians 3 and says “I pray you may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to understand how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”. The first power we need is a “power to understand”. Because our lives are full of brokenness from the scandal of sin and the shackles of our own shame we can sometimes miss the reality of the depth of love that God has for each one of us. Unless we experience this love we can never fully embrace an experience of the holy spirit at work in and through our lives.
In Romans 8 v 16 we discover that “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” This means that God is at work in you and me showing us that he loves us enough to call us his own child. When you know you are God’s child you are free to act more like your father. That’s what the spirit does. The power of the spirit comes to unlock the revelation of sonship and the amazing inheritance that brings. We need the power to know.
The Power to Show
The spirit gives us power to show and demonstrate God’s love. If you look deeper into the scriptures about the work of the Holy Spirit we find that God empowers his children with supernatural gifts, prophecy and many other special abilities. We see the spirit move through people in miracles and divine circumstances. Natural skill and traits such as the gift of leadership or hospitality are given a supernatural edge and can make an impact way beyond the sum of their parts. What is the purpose of all these things? Is it so that a person can show off some power like a super hero in training? No, it is so that they can show and demonstrate God’s love to others. Every prophecy, every gift of wisdom, every healing and miracle and every moment of divine intervention speaks of the love of God to our world. If you want to know if something is of the spirit of God test it against love. The plumb line for all expressions of the Holy Spirit is love. And the reason for all the gifts and fruit of the spirit in our lives is to give us power to show that love in action.
The Power to Show
The spirit gives us the power to go and declare Gods love. The Spirit of God emboldens us to boldly preach the gospel and anoints us for impact in our sphere of influence and calling. We can only truly GO when God gives us the power to get off the starting blocks. Isaiah 61 declares that we have power to go and proclaim freedom for prisoners and liberty for captives. This can be outworked in exciting, unique and specific ways for each person according to who God has made you to be and where he has placed you in his plans and purposes. We have the power to show the kingdom of God wherever we are.
We need to know God’s love before we can be empowered to show and go in God’s love. Don’t just settle for the buzz, plug right in and move in that power today. What does this mean for you?
Dave Boden – Lead Pastor
If the motto of the old TV show X Files was “The Truth is out there” then the motto of the New Testament was probably “The Truth is in Him”. In a world that is endlessly searching for answers, our notion of what is true is now redefined through the filter of Jesus. In the midst of our fake news culture, as Christians we are given access to true truth through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus taught his disciples who the Holy Spirit is in John 16:13 when he said “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” Truth is important. Jesus wasn’t just a cerebral teacher who came to increase our knowledge, he came to give us an “abundant life” not just an “abundant ideology”. Poor understanding of truth always leads to poor Christian experience.
If the Holy Spirit is known as the spirit of truth then the opposite can be said of the devil when Jesus describes him by saying “There is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Other versions of that same scripture in John 8:44 describe the enemy as one who spins a narrative of lies. The age old battle of light versus darkness can also be seen as a battle of truth versus lies.
When we are caught up in false narratives, it is often too easy to become deluded about the nature of who the Holy Spirit is. There are however some clear warning signs that we have fallen into believing a “narrative of lies” about God rather than holding to the spirit of truth.
We can DEPERSONALISE the spirit. If we see The Holy spirit simply as am impersonal floating force then we may as well gird up our light sabres and say “Use the force Luke”. When we believe there is no character to the spirit, we inevitability start to put our own character onto the work of the spirit. We remake God in our own image. When God works outside the box of our personality, we either reject it, don’t understand it or simply miss it altogether.
A depersonalised spirit becomes a tool for the fulfilment of our own desires and dreams. God becomes like a genie we rub to make our wishes come true. “Ask anything in my name” quickly turns into “Ask anything I want”. When our fanciful hope in a depersonalised God doesn’t come through it inevitably causes disillusionment.
We can DISTORT the spirit. If we just rely on the weird and wonderful in meetings to teach us about God, God’s spirit can become a caricature. We get a distorted view of the spirit which leads to distorted expressions of our spiritual life. An overly charismatic experience can easily lead to imbalance where we get more excited about the high of the spirit than the fruit of the spirit. A distorted view of the spirit leads us to believe God is only useful for the whizz bang of platform ministries and not suitable for the whisper of parenting, work and family life.
We can DISENGAGE from the spirit. We disengage with the spirit because our false views of God cause us to believe that he Holy Spirit is not for us. If God is not working in the way we think he should then it must be because we are not good enough. We look at people who we think are living spirit filled lives and say “I could never do that” or “I could never be that” or “I could never say that”. We think the Holy Spirit is only for the Christian “superstar” or the super spiritual or the professional “full time” Christian. This disengagement leads to multitudes of disillusioned Christians all over the world.
The story of depersonalisation, distortion, disillusionment and disengagement is sadly a source of faulty thinking that is a disease rife in the heart of the church. Too many of God’s children have believed the father of lies. This is why we need to know the spirit of truth more and more. Like a Sat Nav for the soul we need the spirit to help us navigate through the webs of deception into the story of truth.
The promise of the coming spirit of truth gives us an assurance that we don’t have to depersonalise our faith because God is with us. We don’t have to live with a distorted perspective because God is in us and we don’t have to disengage from our faith because God will work through us. Now that’s a narrative worth believing in. What does this story mean for you?
Dave Boden – Lead Pastor