I bought a novel…well two actually. One, a lawyer, court room drama type thing, the other a mystery, with twists and turns - not a horror or thriller but a page turner that has you guessing what on earth is going on, usually set in England with a bit of history thrown in. Two for £8…a bargain of two of my favourite authors...a stocking filler from the kids…happy!
I had a conversation with a friend recently where in the crazy busyness of life we have things that we look forward to - our happy place. She was going away for a night with her husband leaving her very lively kids with the grandparents and I was looking forward to settling down with a good book on a ten and a half hour flight to southern California to see my son, his wife and my two gorgeous grandbabies for Christmas. With films lined up to watch that I missed at the cinema, a glass of wine, worship in my earphones and a good book I was ready to relax.
Don’t get me wrong. God is my happy place! Totally. He is my life, my joy and my peace. But in the pursuit of Him, intense Church-life and a busy household sometimes I just look forward to chilling on holiday with a good novel.
It has been an amazing season with God. We’ve had powerful times of worship and there is such a sense of expectation of more of God breaking out amongst us and in our community. We’ve had some great and challenging words recently about pressing into God, living in the fear of Him and being ready and sensitive to be led by the Holy Spirit to reach out and speak out to those around us as He leads. More than ever our nation needs Truth, it needs God, so it needs us! We are His glory carriers.
Over the last week or two before I went away, in the context of everything God was doing, there were a couple of moments where I heard or felt inside that I shouldn’t read the book that I had chosen for the flight out. You know that little voice that you hear way back or deep down inside…and then pretend you didn’t hear it…or is that just me?! It happened a few times. Once in the middle of the night and then in the middle of a message my husband, Clive, brought on a Sunday morning. And then these words came out of my own mouth “We need to be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and do what He says”- even my own preach was coming back at me!
Surely not. I groaned to myself as I tried to stuff what I’d heard back down and pretend it wasn’t God. “Get behind me Satan” and all that! The book’s harmless. It’s just for my holiday then I will focus and hit the ground running in January with our 21 days of prayer & fasting - I rationalised to myself. The thing is, I know the voice of the Holy Spirit. If He asks me to do something out of my ordinary I usually do it pretty quick. But it’s funny how if He tells me not to do something then a battle ensues!
So what do I do?
The day to fly to California arrived. I packed the book in my hand luggage and thought I would see how I ‘felt’ on the flight. In other words - would God intervene loud and clear in my plan or leave me to it because He would realise the book was harmless. The book went from my bag to my lap…to opening it to reading it…so far so good...no audible voice. There was a great plot - intrigue at its best.
After a while I noticed that the flight was very bumpy. We didn’t seem to be going above the clouds but through them for the longest time. I found myself praying but then thought how can I pray when I had just ignored God?! So I carried on reading. Then the plot thickened and there was a woman in the book named Jane who had disappeared. Oh that’s a bit close to home I thought. And I heard His voice say to me “Do I want fear or Fear of Him?" Ok. I put the book down!
The food came round and I decided to watch a film. The flight became so bumpy that I was holding my water in one hand and wine in the other off the tray so it didn’t go everywhere. The lady next to me had a cup of tea, which I thought was extremely brave of her, and I was hoping that it didn’t go over the both of us! We were swaying all over the place. Apparently there was a storm heading for the UK but we couldn’t get high enough over it. Then we hit the jet stream that was pushing it - and it got worse!
I have never been on such a bumpy flight. It was a bit unnerving and watching the wing and engine bouncing around outside didn’t help. I decided to read my Bible. I was reading some of the Psalms we are reading as a Church at the moment. I’m loving The Passion Translation – God’s voice just seems to come through loud and clear.
“For I’ve kept my eyes focused on His righteous words and I’ve obeyed everything that He’s told me to do...I’ve done my best to be blameless and to follow all His ways, keeping my heart pure. I’ve kept my integrity by surrendering to Him.”
Psalm 18:22 (The Passion Translation)
Oh my goodness...I can’t believe what I’m reading!
“For in a visitation of the night You inspected my heart and refined my soul in fire until nothing vile was found in me. I’ve wanted my words and my ways to always agree. Following Your Word has kept me from wrong. Your ways have moulded my footsteps, keeping me from going down the forbidden paths of the destroyer. My steps follow in the tracks of Your chariot wheels, always staying in their path, never straying from Your way.”
Psalm 17:15 (The Passion Translation)
“And He said to me, ‘My holy lovers are wonderful, My majestic ones, My glorious ones, fulfilling all My desires.’ Yet there are those who yield to their weakness, and they will have troubles and sorrows unending. I never gather with such ones, nor give them honour in any way. Your pleasant path leads me to pleasant places. I’m overwhelmed by the privileges that come with following You, for You have given me the best! The way You counsel and correct me makes me praise You more, for Your whispers in the night give me wisdom, showing me what to do next.”
Psalm 16:3-4, 6-7 (The Passion Translation)
There it was in black and white. His love for me - His best for me. Why would I chose lifeless words over Him? I read more...
“The rarest treasures of life are found in His truth. That’s why I prize God’s Word like others prize the finest gold. Nothing brings the soul such sweetness as seeking His living words. For they warn us, His servants, and keep us from following the wicked way, giving a lifetime guarantee: great success to every obedient soul! Without this revelation-light, how would I ever detect the waywardness of my heart?
Lord, forgive my hidden flaws whenever You find them. Keep cleansing me, God, and keep me from my secret, selfish sins; may they never rule over me! For only then will I be free from fault and remain innocent of rebellion.
So may the words of my mouth, my meditation-thoughts, and every movement of my heart be always pure and pleasing, acceptable before Your eyes, my only Redeemer, my Protector-God.”
Psalm 19:10-14 (The Passion Translation)
Loud and clear I was convicted of my inner movement away from God’s thoughts, away from purity of Spirit...I was convicted of my rebellion. I imagined, in the midst of this storm we were bumping through, the captain asking the passengers “is anyone on the plane disobeying God?” like in the Jonah story, then me putting my hand up and them throwing me off the plane - with just a life jacket and whistle! Just a crazy thought. Things like that don’t happen these days…do they?!
Am I a modern day Jonah disobeying You God and You’re using this to get my attention? I know You don’t punish us because Jesus took our punishment but are You speaking to me through this? God I am so sorry…please forgive me.
I decided then not to pick the book back up...ever!
I started to read Revelation in my Bible. Then I sensed God wanted to speak more to me about this whole thing. Does He move and speak in ways these days as He did in the past? Do we ignore His voice when He’s speaking, go the other way and then there are consequences for others? Are people’s lives at stake if we do that like the people of Nineveh in Jonah’s story?
A few weeks before, I had been to an event called ‘The Urgency of the Hour’ where it was said that Revelation is the most under read book in the Bible and yet so much of it speaks of our day that we are living in - the last days - and we are certainly in days of crisis. As I was reading about the martyrs in heaven (chapter 6) I started to think of a story I read in Sky News recently about a young guy that insisted on going to an island where a protected unreached people group lived and getting himself shot and killed with an arrow.
When I first read it I couldn’t help wondering what on earth he was up to. It was a big hoo-ha because it was illegal to go there. They are a protected people group, firstly because it was dangerous for the tribe itself in case they contracted a modern disease but even more so for whoever went near the island. They had photos of the tribe throwing spears and arrows at helicopters trying to get close to them!
A few days later I read on a Christian website that the guy was a Christian and wanted to go to the island to tell the tribe living there about Jesus, that he had tried before to get to the island to speak to them, and he had been shot at and his Bible hit by an arrow. He wrote this to his parents before he went to the island:
“Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed. Rather, please live your lives in obedience to whatever He has called you to and I’ll see you again when you pass through the veil. This is not a pointless thing. The eternal lives of this tribe is at hand and I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshipping in their own language, as Revelations 7:9-10 states”
John Allen Chau
Wow! There it was on social media, a modern day martyr. A guy giving his life to give the good news of Jesus to people and then that story going out all over the world for all to hear. A while later the story came back again on mainstream media about how he was a Christian and had gone to the island to tell this unreached people group about Jesus.
As I was thinking about this on the plane I felt God answered my question. Yes He still moves as He did, He is the same yesterday, today and forever and He is speaking loud and clear. He is speaking to His people and He speaks to all the nations of His love and His desire to know them and for them to know Him as well. His desire is that the world will know His love and His plan is that the Gospel will go to the ends of the earth, and that every tribe and tongue will hear the message of Jesus before He comes back (see Matthew 24:14)
God wants to get people’s attention. He is speaking loud and clear to all people…but are they listening? Am I even listening?!
Going into 2019 I feel a sense of urgency. There are storms, turbulence and crisis. My heart and mind needs to be focused, to be listening to the Holy Spirit and surrendered to Him. In doing so Jesus will be glorified in these days.
A couple of days ago I was reading about how the Hebrew letter this month (December/January) “Ayin” depicts an eye and is associated with vision and focus. This month we are to look at things and get focused.
What are you focusing on this month? Is this bringing you fear or peace? Bring it to Him and allow Him to "grow up your eyes" and learn to see things from His vantage point. When you do, you will experience His wisdom and rest.
Now is the time! Ask the Lord to highlight those areas of your life where you need to grow up. Write down those areas and surrender them to the Lord. Ask Him to show you the rewards of maturity and the foolishness of folly. Are you allowing your evil eye to rule over you? Ask the Lord to give you His eyes to see from His heavenly perspective.
Samson was called to be a deliverer of Israel; however, he did not submit or grow up in the Lord but allowed his passions to control him. In the end, after losing his strength and sight, Samson did finally submit his will to the Lord.
Lord, I want to be tuned into You and submitted to Your Kingdom purposes as Your return approaches!