God’s love came first

Mother goose watches over her baby gosling on Weobley Marsh common.    Image credit: Ian Greig 03412

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10 (NIV)

Why should God love me?

“If you really knew me… knew what was in my life behind the front that I put up … If you really knew me (I suppose God knows me like that) you wouldn’t expect God to love me.”

It’s not a real quote but I have heard a version of that comment many times as a pastor.

The way we see ourselves and the way God sees us, are not the same. The way we value ourselves and the way God values us are not the same.

We work on the premise that our relationship with God works like the way we get to know anyone else. God has to get to know us, and hopefully He will see some things He likes and over time, become warm to us.

Wrong. God loved and accepted us first.

He may not love and accept all our attitudes or behaviour… but He created us and sent His Son Jesus to be the “atoning sacrifice”, to pay the high price to make things right for us.

Is this automatic? The fact of God’s love for us is not a maybe — that’s established. What is not automatic is our love for God, and our acceptance of Jesus for who He is. That requires us to make a choice!

We agree with Jesus about who He is and what He has done in our behalf. What He did was costly. Our decision also has a cost to it – the cost of our independence, of giving someone else a higher place in our lives. But now we realise the extent of God’s love for us that was there all along. We just had to make our move, to receive it.

As the Passion Translation puts it:

This is love: He loved us long before we loved Him. It was His love, not ours. He proved it by sending His Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins.” 1 John‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭TPT‬‬


First responder

Moor Street , Hereford… and no way through. Image credit: Jaggery, Geograph

Where do we turn first?

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; He brought me into a spacious place. Psalm 118:5 NIV

Q. Does God care? Is He there for me?

A. There’s an old saying, which probably originated in Yorkshire, along the lines of: “If you don’t ask, you’ll never get owt”…

Read on
…The so-called Lord’s Prayer, actually the model for disciples to pray, has that kind of “tell it like it is” Yorkshire flavour, mixing declarations, “Thy kingdom come…” with some pretty direct asking in “Give us this day our daily bread“. Luke’s version of the prayer1 looks like a prayer you pray as it is: “When you pray, say….” while Matthew’s2 looks more like an outline of headings for our own expressions of prayer. Either way, it assumes a robust relationship with the One addressed with familiarity as “Father”.

This challenges the person who says (and who hasn’t, at some time), “I don’t pray because God never listens to me – He doesn’t answer.”

In our logic, those two statements are joined into one. 

And answers seldom come, as it were, by return post, and we discount what doesn’t exactly fit with what we asked.

Yet we allow this in the rest of life. Politicians who have come under attack by journalists at the recent televised briefings commonly give a the answer they want to give, or at least a more nuanced response, to the questioner seeking to score points and get an angle for the story. We may not like the refusal to be drawn into a black and white argument but we accept that there is a bigger picture and that reality has many shades and soft edges.

The point behind the psalmist’s verse is about the first response to difficulty, the “what” that follows the “when”.

Our version would be more like: “When I was hard pressed, I did everything I knew to fix it. And when I couldn’t, I cried to the Lord.”

That puts more faith on our ability, and not very much faith or expectation on God as a “might as well” direction to try. How would you respond to such an approach.

Fortunately God, whose character in a word is merciful, is not too put off off by our behaviour (following the Yorkshire theme) being “daft”.

But He does expect us to come to Him out of some kind of relationship, prepared to trust and poised to expect. And when hard pressed, to let Him know all about it — first.

PRAYER

Lord, forgive me to placing more reliance on myself than on You. Forgive me for blaming You when I didn’t recognise what you were doing in a situation — or see the bigger picture of the spiritual battle, and where the discouragement was coming from.

Father, I turn to You again, and rely on You first. You may show me what I must do to be part of the answer to my prayer, but I share with You how I am being squeezed and how it feels to be hemmed in, this ‘no through road’ with nowhere I can see to get through or to turn. 

You have the bigger picture and I say again “Your kingdom come”. You can and will bring me into that more spacious place. I trust You for that — and thank You in Jesus for hearing me again. Amen. 


  1. Luke 11:2-4 []
  2. Matthew 6:9-13 []

Pleasing people or pondering unpopularity 2

Jesus warned that He would cause conflict

Light and shadow: Recognising the darkness which opposes the light and causes hostility
Image credit: Ian Greig 03117

Matthew 10:28, 34-36, 38
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…
… “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”

Jesus was pretty up-front about the reality of hostile reactions — not everybody sees the Good News as good for them, especially if it threatens their status quo in some way.

Even families, He said, would be divided about what He represented.

Saying that He did not come to bring peace presents us with a problem. What, then, He did come to bring?

Foretold as the “Prince of Peace” with government on His shoulders1, Jesus was announced as Saviour and Messiah by an angel accompanied by a heavenly host praising God for the One bringing peace to those on who His favour rests2.

This is a fundamental truth and expectation — that “The Lord blesses His people with peace3. In His final long discourse to the disciples, He promised them: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you… not… as the world gives”4.

But there’s a clue in the “not as the world gives” phrase, easily overlooked. So let’s look at it.

Peace with God is taking a position against the one who opposes God. Peace with God by definition is a rejection of Satan and his control — and that puts up a target for all the retributions Satan is known for, like confusion, conflict and slander.

Wind back the story three years and we have Jesus fasting alone in the wilderness, and having a series of encounters with Satan5. In the third and final of these confrontations, Satan shows Him “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour”6, and he goes on to say, that if Jesus would worship him (Satan) instead of His Father, he would (so he said – but he is is a liar on every occasion) allow Jesus control of those power structures.

There’s a lot of power and control in the world’s systems and institutions where sin, corruption and lack of submission to God puts them at the disposal of the devil. These might be human kings or rulers, and they might even be religious leaders — the Temple and Sanhedrin council was a case in point — but Satan had all he needed to pull their strings and use them for harm, and not for good. We see this same strategy today.

Jesus the Prince of Peace and proclaimer of justice to the nations7 is resurrected and ascended to heaven as Lord of Lords and also as Great High Priest. So our allegiance and deference to Jesus — just by itself — stands in opposition to every strand of ungodly control and corrupt administration, in the world or, sadly, in the less spiritual and more institutional dimensions of Christian religion..

Why does that mean His disciples will encounter conflict rather than His peace?

  1. Many people will receive Him and respond to His love and the grace of His acceptance. However some will react against to the Lordship dimension of this.
  2. Jesus in you or me — the Holy Spirit one with our human spirit — will stir up opposition from every spirit that is not submitted to Him. It is an unseen, unspoken, spiritual stand-off.
  3. The mention of Jesus, as well as the presence of Jesus, brings into focus the reality of two spiritual kingdoms which are opposed. The kingdom of darkness is exposed by Jesus’ kingdom of light. Jesus taught about the “strong man’s house” and Satan’s kingdom,8 and went on to say, “Whoever is not with Me is against Me”,9. With Jesus, the common philosophy of the world is overturned: everything is not relative, there no middle ground, there exists no variety of paths to the truth. It is light or darkness, Him or the enemy of our souls!

That said, Jesus as Lord confers peace, wholeness, spiritual prosperity and inner joy on to those who are His. It is like joining a regiment on the front line: being shot at by the enemy is what happens — but this is a uniquely well supported and equipped regiment, led personally by the most highly decorated and personable commanding officer, who also has an unmatched record of victory.

  1. Isaiah 9:6 []
  2. Luke 2:10-14 []
  3. Psalm 29:11 []
  4. John 14:27 []
  5. Matthew 4:1-11 []
  6. Matthew 4:8-9 []
  7. Matt. 12:18-20, Isaiah 42:1-4 []
  8. Matt. 12:25-29 []
  9. Matthew 12:30 []

Real insight comes through seeking God afresh

Attachment.jpeg
Image credit: Ian Greig

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7 NIV

TODAY’S news leads with alarming increases in coronavirus cases where regions — and individuals — have disregarded the call for isolation. Rallies, protests and rave parties have shown people who look like “fools despising wisdom”, and reported surges in hospital admissions give evidence to the connection.

Independence is part of the human condition and it is not all bad. We were created in the beginning to be thinking people with free will and the ability to exercise judgment – either well, or badly, in the case of Adam and his legacy to us.

We have been created to exercise good judgment in this world, administering it well under God. This goes back to the earliest of all the covenants when God spoke:

God created mankind in His own image… male and female… blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase… rule over every living creature…” Genesis 1:27-28.

This is freewill combined with responsibility in covenant with God whose creation it is. Everything we have, we have and hold for God and His glory.

Fast forward to the here and now, and church buildings have been closed for three months. A limited opening of buildings is beginning, but restrictions on gathering and worship (no singing!) remain. What is the Lord saying about this?

For people whose church experience is centred on a building, part of a historic institution, presided over by a minister sometimes called a ‘priest’,  whose identity is very much about having reserved functions and even access in that building — the restrictions have been a severe blow.

Set-back or wake-up?

But is this a set-back or a wake-up? In the NT, the priesthood of Aaron’s family ended at the Cross — the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom during the crucifixion, a rather big hint. A generation later, the temple itself had gone, completely destroyed in the siege of Jerusalem. Now there were no priests, no ritual, no buildings — and the teaching in the early church went a quite different direction, emphasising how every believer was a specially shaped “living stone” of a new kind of spiritual ‘temple’.

Now with Jesus ascended and enthroned as the great and permanent and — dare we say — only High Priest, the ‘priesthood’ has now been shared out, not among those of a particular priestly tribe or privileged order, but involving every single committed Spirit-filled Christian believer who looks to serve Jesus and represent Him to the wider world. This is not about a ‘holy person in a holy building’ and it is not about the performance of an elaborate ritual — there is no hint of either of these things in the NT record. Where there were attempts to institutionalise the church and put existing Jewish traditions on to new believers, Paul writes in forthright terms saying: “It is for freedom you have been set free!” Don’t go back into [religious] slavery!1

That makes lockdown restrictions a God-given opportunity to recalibrate and reassess. He didn’t send the pandemic, but He is adept at turning what is intended for evil, to His own good – and using times of difficulty and, one hopes, increased prayer – to help His people rediscover, re-imagine and re-align with His purpose.

Genesis 50:20

See also Max Lucado article on this verse

Book of Esther

Perhaps God wants His church back! With buildings closed and the usual routine of activities curtailed, it is our opportunity to exercise some “fear of the Lord” as Proverbs puts it. That for us is intentionally putting Him first, giving Him what is His, willingly deferring and setting aside our own preferences and priorities. Not simply wanting the imagined security of the old routine.

Some churches have been forward in finding creative ways to connect and share worship without physical contact. Church by livestream compels something more engaging, more relevant, more participative. There’s no room for anything lengthy or boring on a small screen, and no one has to stay on the link! 

Set-back or wake-up?

As one church leader told me, “We realised almost immediately that there was no point in trying to replicate what we used to do week by week — we had to be different.”

Others trying (I think misguidedly) to recreate a formal Sunday service in formal clergy attire and mannerisms over Zoom from a kitchen have given a mixed, and strangely discordant message!

It would be tragic if there were a return to the old ways of church being building-centred and clergy-dominated when it has just been pushed out into the community. People have been encouraged to learn to celebrate their Lord by hearing and sharing the word for themselves, express their own prayers of adoration and intercession, and remember His sacrifice with their own bread roll and wine glass. 

This is the true fear of the Lord, awe of Him, which is the beginning of walking in the knowledge of Him. This is the seedbed of revival. 

Let’s not trample this new growth, these small green shoots of revival,  with a return to dull and wordy religiosity.

  1. Galatians 5:1 []

Pleasing people or pondering unpopularity 3

Trusting God is required of us – and we can trust Him. When we don’t, it’s a response from the old life “ruled by sin”.
Sid the cat, image credit: Ian Greig 02829

Avoiding the trap — when life pushes us towards sin

Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…

Romans 6:1-2, 6-7

Earlier we considered Jeremiah’s dilemma, experiencing “insult and reproach all day long”. And he ponders how to respond in a God-honouring way, and the temptation to react by refusing to speaking out any more: “If I say, ‘I will not mention His word or speak any more in His name…’ “

For Jeremiah, identified by God before birth to represent him, NOT to speak out would have been apparently wise, quite understandable, a reasonable choice – and knowingly disobedient. Not have been the most obvious sin in the book — but it is the more nuanced forms of disobedience which often trip us up.

Jesus’ teaching about the persecution and conflict that would follow His disciples reveals a subtle sin that the enemy sets up for us, and then uses in accusation. It is simply lack of trust. Being constrained by fear, rather than being led by the Holy Spirit, is a reaction rather than a measured response. Jesus emphasises repeatedly: “Don’t be afraid”.

The old reactions are ingrained — getting angry, finding someone to blame, saying the wrong things — and ignoring God rather than listening and trusting. But, as Paul says, the old reactions belong to the old self.

This is an encouragement to choose to respond, with God, rather than react independently from God. That way, we avoid giving the devil a foothold, a way into our thought-life and life generally, Ephesians 4:27.

Pleasing people or facing unpopularity? 1 of 3

Image credit: Ian Greig

Jeremiah’s dilemma

Jeremiah 20:8 and 10-11, 13

“..The word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long… All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, ‘Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will… take our revenge on him’. But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior, so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail… Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked!”

THOUGHT

Politicians live in the tension of opinion polls and election results, trying to represent everyone and also attempting to keep the voters on-side…

Someone of my acquaintance who has a somewhat prophetic dimension to his ministry wrote recently under the heading “Is the Lord telling us we don’t need church buildings any more?”

His point was about the good lessons and new focus on being Christians in the community that has come  through the present restrictions. To go back to the former routine with no lessons learned, no new practices gained, would be a tragedy, he suggests. Not a popular message!

I heard today on the radio a minister  – or ‘priest’ – of one of the more formal traditions explaining that the church building was consecrated with ‘a golden thread’ and was where the reserved sacrament and so the presence of  the Lord was to be found. A special place, essential, and so permission to return was vital.

I am more of a marketplace person. My experience has been that a ‘holy person’ performing ‘holy actions’ in a ‘holy building’ can present quite a barrier  — well, three barriers in fact — to people who don’t feel for all sorts of reasons, that they belong there!

Added to which I have been hearing the Lord say, for a couple of years now, “I am doing a new thing…”. So to go back to buildings and formality and exclusivity and access through another person doesn’t seem to me to be “a new thing” at all.

This will be an unwelcome line of argument for many who find peace and solace in a historic place of worship (as I have on many occasions). And it may appear threatening to those whose identity is bound up in the role and the building. So this is inviting the insult and reproach that came to Jeremiah.

Most of us are not politicians or even public figures, but we still want to be people-pleasers. We want people to like us, and agree with us. We are shy of conflict.

But sometimes the Lord puts a word on our heart1 which is not the popular view. It may not be ‘politically correct’ or within the current ‘woke’ way of looking at the world. It might not be right… but if it is, if it is a word from the Lord, what do we do with it?

You may not see yourself as a preacher or a writer but you are still a person of influence within your own circle. Possibly even more so at times of tension and risk and lockdown. And what the Lord has impressed on you, in your quiet times and reading the Word, may not be  the obvious ways to ‘win friends and influence people’, even if you have the wisdom to share it humbly and in a loving way.

Like Jeremiah, we are responsible for being faithful to what  we know to be true, or what we understand to be our hearing of God’s truth of the moment.

Jeremiah said (v.9) “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones – I am weary of holding it in. Indeed, I cannot!” And  then we will find ourselves, as Jesus said in the same context but much later on, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me [but]… whoever loses their life for My sake will find it.”2

To be born again3 is losing one’s life – the old life. And there are facets of that old life, like being popular with everyone, that might need to die some more. When we lay down what matters to us, we pick up the kingdom life4 of what matters to God. That kingdom life, we find, is a pearl of great price5, worth paying for in other ways..

  1. 1 Corinthians 14:1, 29-30 []
  2. Matthew 10:38-39 []
  3. John 3:7-8 []
  4. John 3:3, 5 []
  5. Matthew 13:45-46 []

Invited to join the kingdom franchise

The summit of Mount Sinai, where God spoke to Moses and set out His partnership offer
Image credit: gypsygiraffe.com

Exodus 19:2-8

2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
3 Then Moses went up to God and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:
4 “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.
5 Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is Mine,
6 you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’
7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak.
8 The people all responded together, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said.’ So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.

Here’s the story:  Moses is back on the slopes of the mountain where He encountered God before and heard God speak and reveal Himself in a personal way1. As Moses was starting to grasp, everything about God is about relationship. And now God is calling to him again – and with that sense of relationship, with that sense of God being love, giving him what amounts to a heavenly commission:

…If you… keep my covenant, then… you will be my treasured possession… a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…2

The whole nation would be part of this, called up by God, known to be good, loving and totally consistent, to serve Him as distinctly as joining up to serve Queen and country in uniform today.

How different this was from the nations around, trying to appease the whims of their deities (which represented demonic strongholds over the region) while trying to please a capricious and often cruel human king.

Exclusive rights and privileges as a ‘kingdom of priests’

The people of God were to have exclusive rights and privileges as a ‘kingdom of priests’ looking to Yahweh their God and their king, being set apart from other people to belong to Him as a holy nation.

This language of privileged priesthood, or relationship with God, was echoed by Peter, writing a generation after the Resurrection. Now it was not an ethnic distinction. It was the call of those trusting and believing in Jesus, every one of them, to be part of this priesthood.

It wasn’t about old-style priests performing rituals and offering sacrifices – Jesus had made Himself the full and final sacrifice for all people and for all time. However, the world around didn’t know that. So it needed priests in the deeper sense of go-between mediators, to represent God to those who did not know Him, and to help them to find Him.

The spiritual nation of Moses’ time, and what we call the Old Covenant, has now become for us under the New Covenant in Jesus, not a nation but a spiritual house or family. Every believer belonging to Jesus is an essential partner who shares His continuing ministry. And each one is fitted in as part of its structure – Peter uses the picture of “living stones”3.

The present-day practice which captures some of this sense of investment, commitment and partnership

Is there anything in our world which is like this? Our ideas of partnership are nowhere near as good, but the present-day practice which captures some of this sense of investment, commitment and partnership is a form of business familiar to us — the franchise partnership.

You might not know that your favoured fast food outlet, or the hotel you like, or the technician who uses clever technology to remove dents and scratches from your car, or that modern style of optician or the different kind of veterinary practice, is following a successful model based on franchise partnership. Those operating them have invested heavily – it’s a major commitment – to be able to practise this exact business, agreeing to follow the strict rules of the franchise, laid down by the franchisor. In return they are supported by a unique and competitive product range, and being part of a well-known, advertised brand. Customers like this because they know what they are getting – there’s an assurance of quality.

Like inviting Jesus into your heart and giving Him your life, it is costly, a big commitment and an act of submission which turns our natural independence on its head. Like having Jesus in your life, it is also an enabling and hugely beneficial partnership.

We can learn from the comparison

To relate the kingdom of God which Jesus spoke about, to a brand or a franchise, is making it far too cheap and worldly – but don’t dismiss this, we can learn from the comparison. Jesus came to establish His kingdom, His Way, on earth and He spoke about it constantly. We talk a lot about the church – something Jesus mentioned it just three times. The kingdom of God is the focus of His teaching again and again, with more than 100 instances. The kingdom of God was His message, the essence of the Good News.

Active partners… bearing the warrant of His authority and commission

The rule of God, the fair and just and good order of the way God does things, was starting and everyone was invited into it. Not just to enter in, not just to come into salvation and freedom and new life, amazing gift though that is. Jesus was signing up workers for the harvest4 to be active partners in His harvest, bearing the warrant of His authority and commission.

The first disciples had some coaching for this partnership by being involved with Jesus, watching Him as He ministered throughout Galilee. Now the coaching took a different form as they were sent out to do what they had seen Him do, this time with Him watching them5.

1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and illness
5 …These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions…
7 As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”
8 Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Paul reminds us, as he wrote to believers in Rome, that this partnership is not without its difficulties — but the challenges prove how the partnership works, helping us to grow in trust and showing God to be greater.

Romans 5:1-5 NIV
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
3-4 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Your new Specsavers or Burger King business is not launched as a naked competitor into a competitive marketplace – it comes with the backing of solid business experience and all the know-how gained in other start-ups which show how it works. A franchise brings success for both stakeholders in the partnership by replicating the proven franchise model. When we grasp the kingdom of God and seek to live it the way the Holy Spirit shows us, and with His help, we see growth and God is glorified.

He said… that His disciples… would find themselves doing even greater things

Living for Jesus is challenging enough and partnering with Him in His kingdom mission feels like an impossibility. “Hang on, ” we say, “Jesus did those things as Jesus!” But He said at the end that His disciples, knowing a spiritual power and boldness beyond themselves by the Holy Spirt, would find themselves doing even greater things6.

And us? This takes a reminder from where we started, acknowledging that everything about God, is about relationship. “God is love”7 and in this relationship, we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts by the Holy Spirit living in us8. Looking at Jesus was like looking at love with arms and legs, and it was this love which drew people, healed people and transformed them into such effective witnesses.


  1. Exodus 3:14-15 []
  2. Exodus 19:5-6 []
  3. 1 Peter 2:5 and 9-10 []
  4. Matthew 9:37 []
  5. Matthew 10:1 []
  6. John 14:12 []
  7. 1 John 4:8, 16 []
  8. Romans 5:5 []

Explaining the Trinity

Three separate conductors creating a single power supply – at least it’s an illustration that has not been overused. Apologies for the less-than-beautiful image. (Image credit: Ian Greig)

Introduction

IT’S ALWAYS a the place to go for comedy scriptwriters, whether it’s the vicar in Barry where Gavin and Stacey have unwillingly attended church to hear their banns, or Peter Sellars the misfit country vicar in Heavens Above! Hapless ministers trying to illustrate the three-in-one of the Godhead can provide plenty of humour in trying to explain something quite counter-intuitive that really needs to be spiritually discerned. The three leaves of the shamrock, used by St Patrick in Ireland, or three strands of one rope, or three conductors which are essential for one electricity connection, are all good attempts which, however, are bound to fall short of illustrating the three individual, but indissoluble, Persons who are at the same time the One Person of the true God.

Scriptures that bring together Father, Son and Holy Spirit

There are more than 20 Scriptures that bring together Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one way or another and they’re not all in the New Testament. Isaiah, speaking of the Messiah to come, spoke for Him saying: “And now the Sovereign Lord has sent Me, endowed with His Spirit”1 . Just those few words tell us quite a lot about the relationship. The Father doing the sending, the Son who becomes incarnate as man being able to be sent and be among us, and the unseen empowering of the Holy Spirit enabling natural man to rise above himself in supernatural ways.

The trinitarian blessing

And here’s a verse that everybody knows — in many churches people will say this to one another at the close of a service or meeting: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” This is a simple but profound statement about how we experience God:

  • In the grace of what Jesus did for us, who are undeserving, and in the new life we discover in Him;
  • In the love of Father God, knowing that we are loved and accepted by a Father who knows every detail of our lives and cares deeply about us, with us in the trials and difficulties and as close to us as we make ourselves close to Him;
  • In the fellowship one-ness and spiritual kinship we experience by the Holy Spirit, so other believers who may appear very different, perhaps of another culture and colour and country, are one in the same salvation experience and the same values of Christian life. That makes the breaking of bread with others in communion (the same word as fellowship) a truly special and uniting time – one with each other and with God.


The Great Commission given by Jesus

Some of Jesus’ very last words were a commission to His first disciples, and by extension, to us, to concentrate on mentoring new apprentices, drenching them metaphorically and symbolically in all three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit2 . Those who have made a commitment to Christ are commonly baptised in water and anointed with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus was, using these words of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as the headlines of the ministry that will grow in them

God is love – in three Persons

Perhaps to best way to grasp what the Trinity means, is in how we relate to God as three Persons who are one. God is love3 , and we understand what this means in the three distinct ways we encounter God and His love:

  • The Father’s heart of care and generosity, seeing our needs before we say anything, and providing;
  • The Son whose understanding love comes out of having this lived this life with its rejection and injustices and slander – He has seen it all, experienced it all, and become the remedy for it all, for us.
  • The Holy Spirit and His upbuilding love which we experience from Him as Encourager, Helper and Revealer. If you want to understand the Trinity, The Holy Spirit is the One to ask, because it is something that needs to be revealed in your heart. Is your heart submitted to Jesus and belonging to Him? The Holy Spirit is the person who shows you Jesus, resurrected, alive and present with you now.

The mission of God by Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Finally, let’s take a quick look at the mission of God and how this is a team exercise between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God created the world, and saw it was good, but as we know4 sin entered, man became increasingly independent — and after the flood and Noah, a path of salvation was needed. The Father’s plan increasingly highlighted the Servant who was to come, the Son who would be given — and who would become that plan of salvation. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12 NIV.

Jesus, the Son of God and the Anointed One lived his earthly life in total deference to the Father and therefore without sin, but then took on the mantle of sin in allowing Himself to be put to a cursed death. His self-sacrifice paid the price for all who would choose salvation and restoration with God through believing in Him. But who will choose? Who is aware of their rebellion against God and their need of a saving solution? Who can overcome their pride to call Jesus Lord? We have the Father’s plan, carried out by the Son, but the third vital element is the preparatory work of the Holy Spirit in calling people out of darkness into light, and His part in the process of grace, salvation and faith proceeding from God before they arise in a person’s heart, calling them to be born again into eternal life5.

Regeneration is a choice to receive Jesus, but it is a choice which is initiated by God with all three Persons of God involved.

  1. Isaiah 48:16 []
  2. Matthew 28:19 []
  3. 1 John 4:8 and 16 []
  4. from Genesis 3 []
  5. 1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 2:8; John 3:3-7; Titus 3:5. Romans 1:7; 1 Timothy 6:12 []

Pentecost: the kingdom of God and the Holy Spirit

Joining the Dots — the kingdom and the Holy Spirit

Phil Arnold will be known to many across the church spectrum, in Herefordshire and the borders. He is a farmer in Preston-on-Wye as well as being the pastor of Oasis Church, a vibrant fellowship that meets in the St Barnabas church centre in Venns Lane, Hereford. Here is his engaging teaching on Pentecost and the Holy Spirit in our lives now (watch for the chicken that enters stage right!)

The first revival

Ian Greig offers a short message for Pentecost, the historic outpouring and revival in our time, drawing on the account in Acts 2:1-41

For notes and references to this message go over to this page on The Living Word associated site

And now we need rain!

Castle Field on the Garnstone Estate, Weobley, Herefordshire
Image credit: Ian Greig

FOR many — if not most — of us, this warm dry weather has been one if the best things to offset the lockdown restrictions and gloom. At least we have been able to get out and enjoy clean air and beautiful countryside at a special time of year.

Fields are greening over with growing cereals and the cattle and sheep are clearly enjoying their pastures.

But there is a side that is not so positive for people whose livelihood comes from the land.

“Many farmers are already feeling the effects of a dry April and May”

After winter floods, one of the driest springs on record is threatening grass recovery and the supply of winter forage. And the spring-sown crops, just established and without root systems yet to give them resilience, are starting to show signs of being checked.

The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday (May 29): “…The dry weather is having a particularly bad effect in farmers, with many fearing an ‘extremely challenging’ season ahead.

“Stuart Roberts, the deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union, said: ‘Many farmers are already feeling the effects of a dry April and May, with some cereal crops already suffering from this early dry spell.’ “

Sheep farmer and Oasis church pastor Phil Arnold, over the river in Preston-on-Wye, is seriously concerned about the prolonged dry period and its effect on his grass recovery. He told me: “Two months ago after the floods I could hardly have imagined asking people to pray for rain again. But we desperately need it!”

TO REFLECT IN PRAISE

Psalm 147:5-11 NIV
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.
The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp
He covers the sky with clouds; He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.


PRAYER AND BLESSING

For the prayer that links to this, go to the associated prayer site www.glowweobley.com on this page