Go back to normal view
15th Jul 2018
Praying for our Political Leaders:
Paul writes to Timothy, in 1 Timothy 2, about the subject of Prayer. In 1:18-20, he had just exhorted him to fight the good fight of faith & remain true to his ethical & moral values. Paul highlighted two blasphemous men who didn’t do this, Hymenaeus & Alexander, whom he has allowed Satan to sift & destroy in order for them to be brought to a place of true repentance & reformation of character.
One of the principles of the Kingdom is a recognition that it is good to pray for our political leaders, for our governments (1 Tim 2:1-4). In fact Paul urges the following types of prayer to be made for all people:
1. Petitions – ‘signifies a request for particular benefits, & is a special form of the more general word rendered “prayers.”’ Ellicott’s Commentary. ‘To prevent evil’ Benson
2. Prayers – ‘To procure good’ Benson
3. Intercession – ‘suggests a closer & more intimate communion with God on the part of the one praying. It speaks of drawing near God, of entering into free, familiar speech with Him. The Greek word suggests prayer in its most individual, urgent form’ Ellicott’s Commentary. ‘On behalf of others’ Benson
4. Thanksgiving – ‘expresses that which ought never to be absent from any of our devotions, gratitude for past mercies’ Ellicott’s Commentary. ‘For mercies received’ Benson
In verse 2 he specifically mentions that such prayer should be made on the behalf of all political leaders. What this meant to the early church can be seen in a passage in the Apology of Tertullian, written about a century and a quarter after St. Paul sent his first letter to Timothy. This shows how well and carefully this charge of the great teacher, written to the Church in Ephesus, was kept in distant Carthage: “We Christians...do intercede for all the emperors that their lives may be prolonged, their government be secured to them, that their families may be preserved in safety, their senates faithful to them, their armies brave, their people honest, & that the whole empire may be at peace, & for whatever other things are desired by the people or the Cæsar.” Early in the second century, Polycarp of Smyrna bears similar testimony to this practice in the early Church of praying publicly for their pagan rulers:—“Pray for all the saints; pray, too, for all kings & powers & rulers, & for your persecutors, & those that hate you, & for your cruel enemies.”
Paul’s purpose was the Church would be able to advance because there was a stable, peaceful political period which allowed Christians to practice their godliness & holiness which would be a wonderful witness to their neighbours of the life of faith following Christ. In 3-4, he states that praying in this way pleases God because He is gracious & merciful & desires that the Church should win converts by walking in the life that is full of Christ & the Spirit’s power.
The basis for this sort of view is found in the OT. Jer 29:7, NLT, ‘& work for the peace & prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.’
Paul also highlighted how we should view political governments & authorities in Romans 13:1-7. He raises the bar considerably. Perhaps I will come back at a later date & explore Romans 13:1-7 exploring its implications for our citizenship within our nation. Peter does the same in 1 Peter 2:13-17.
Therefore, we should pray for our Conservative government with its DUP support,
& for our Labour Opposition along with the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru & Sinn Fein parties, who are largely aligned with a Socialist outlook on politics,
plus UKIP with its own focus
Perhaps we can pray:
1. that what each party offers to the nation will contribute to the well-being of the whole population of the UK.
2. that the political parties, the UK Civil Service, plus the many lobbyist, special interest & focus groups, will not be divisive nor introduce the language of hatred & disrespect into the public debates around politics – especially Brexit.
3. for a new season of respect, compassion & sincere good will among all these parties & groups.
4. for them to work together to seek the higher good of the whole nation, not just particular segments or pockets of our nation.
5. that our leaders lead so that the nation is strengthened in righteousness, truth & love, & so Christ is honoured.
6. for all those who have come to this country from overseas, especially other EU nations, & who are unsure about their future in the UK outside of the EU. That they will know that they are welcome.
7. for a new prophetic voice to arise in the UK Church which begins to redirect our nation towards a shared future which allows people to flourish & integrate into the UK with its particular Judeo-Christian heritage.
8. for a change in the primary focus of policy makers away from the individual & his or her happiness to a primary focus on the good of neighbours. Love your neighbour as yourself...
Our nation was built upon the principles of the Magna Carta - a Charter of Liberties which:
1. limited the King’s ability to imprison his opponents without a trial by jury,
2. guaranteed access to swift & good justice for all, even the poorest of the land,
3. sought to protect the church from State interference,
4. became the basis for many of the later freedoms which protected the individual citizen from the power of the State.
The example set by the Magna Carta eventually led to the beginning of a constitutional monarchy in our nation, & ultimately to the recognition of the importance of voice of the ordinary citizen. However, the UK government has proven itself just as bad. Many establishment figures, including many in aristocracy in the 1930’s supported Hitler & anti-Semitism. They were attracted to his power. Lord Sempill spied for Japan from the 1920’s – anti-Semite & Faciist leaning. Many elite spied for Soviet Russia from the 1930’s.
The EU form of government is based on the French Napoleonic Code which has many wonderful points to it, but it differs significantly in that it is:
1. Secular & Humanist based
2. brings power to the centre under a small political elite
3. seeks to banish the Church & faith from the public square to the private settings of church & the home
4. seeks to impose certain policies in keeping with its worldview on the Church
5. sees the professional Judiciary as the ultimate arbiter of law, not a Parliament of the people.
I believe that the Napoleonic form of government leads to endless laws to proscribe what the individual & nation can do making anything that happens outside of that law illegal imposing a Secularist & Humanist worldview on the population.
Although certainly very flawed, the UK form of government was based upon the Magna Carta which did allow the UK Church the freedom to evangelise & proclaim the full Gospel.
There has been a gradual imposition of the Napoleonic Code on our nation through the EU with its Secular & Humanist agenda.
Perhaps we need to prophetically proclaim that this is a form of government that ultimately seeks to impose its Secular, Humanist, Rationalist view on the people rather than allowing the biblical base of our Judeo-Christian heritage to hold sway.
There are powers at work in our nation that are antichrist – we need to understand this.
We should pray that God’s Kingdom’s values, some inherent in the Magna Carta, can be brought to the fore in the UK & be the basis of our government.
It is good to pray in this way because it pleases God.
He is gracious & merciful & desires that the Church should win converts by walking in the life that is full of Christ & the Spirit’s power. In order for this to lead to a Reformation of Society in a Christ-honouring way – we need to pray...
10th July 2018
Some people are born naturally upbeat, others grow in confidence because of nurture – their self-esteem & confidence have been built up by parents or an important authority figure in their lives, & some develop confidence only as they begin to step out on their own. Some people appear to be confident to others when in fact, on the inside they are full of doubt, insecurity & fear. Others can appear to be nervous when in fact they are full of a firm resolve, are confident in their own abilities & are certain they will do well. Athletes & boxers feel confident when they know that they have put in the hard yards of training & are physically in peak condition. I can be confident about doing my job well when I understand what is required of me personally in that role, what I can expect to happen when I do my job well, & have clearly defined lines of accountability & support.
Things that undermine our confidence include the opposite of all I have just stated. In work, when I am unsure of what I am required to do, not clear of what it is I am expected to achieve, uncertain about who I am accountable to & what that accountability looks like. Athletes speak about how they had to rebuild their confidence after a serious injury or setback in their career. Living without confidence leads to self-doubt & even self-distrust. Many people cannot trust themselves to say the right thing or do the right thing in a situation – so they say & do nothing which only compounds the sense of inadequacy. One of the most difficult areas of this is inner insecurity. There are so many questions which arise from this state of being including: am I good enough, am I valued by others, am I able to remain true to my own values & ethical outlook on life or will I compromise when challenged, do I know what my dream really is never mind actually pursuing it.
Interestingly, I have never heard a sermon about Jesus which highlighted His self-confidence; yet, in every possible measure He was self-confident. There is a word which is often used when someone is overly self-confident – it is ‘arrogant.’ No-one could ever accuse Jesus of being arrogant.
In the UK we dislike arrogant people immensely – especially anyone who is really financially successful & who we perceive to be arrogant. We like our successful people to almost be apologetic for their success & wealth. In the United States on the other hand they like those who are on top, those who are self-assured & confident in their own abilities, & who are not apologetic for their success & wealth. I wonder if the reason for this is that in the States business is king & people measure success in any field outside of business, such as sport or entertainment, like they do about healthy profits in their biggest companies – a good thing. Here in the UK profit is often seen as bad. It isn’t business that is king in our nation – it may be that playing according to the rules of fair play is king. The rules we set are linked to what we consider to be fair & right. This means that we can never be truly confident about anything we do because we are not sure everybody else will abide by the fair play rules we abide by. Having just stated about abiding by fair play, strangely, it is a paradox, in the UK we consider anyone to be a hero who is antiestablishment & who breaks the rules that the establishment set. Finally, we really also love the underdog & rejoice when they defeat the favourite.
I think the following may be a helpful way to consider developing our confidence: 1. Spiritually, deliberately developing our trust in Christ by declaring God’s word about who He is & what He comes to bring to us; 2. Allowing our hearts to be made whole in Christ leading to sanctified passion & a true godly outlook on life; 3. Honing our abilities, whether natural or taught, in order to make us stronger in those areas we are good at; 4. Recognising the good things about our own personalities & prayerfully engaging with God about sanctifying our personality so we reflect Christ more clearly; 5. Carefully considering our bank of experience & how we sometimes allow that to get in the road of truly changing the way we approach life & do things – while recognising we can draw immense confidence in God because of our experience of His past faithfulness to us.
1st July 2018
The Power of Speaking in Tongues:
‘He who speaks in a tongue edifies or strengthens himself,..I wish you all spoke with tongues,’ (1 Corinthians 14:4-5). Paul writes these two positive statements about speaking in tongues to the Corinthians. This says three things to me: 1. It gives a biblical foundation for expecting people to speak in tongues; 2. It also indicates that not everyone will speak in tongues; 3. Speaking in tongues is a means of strengthening your spiritual walk with Christ
In Acts 2, speaking in tongues resulted from the Baptism in the Spirit – there the Baptism in the Spirit was a miraculous event which meant that people could understand, each in his or her own language, what was being said. For the Jew, even those spread across the Roman Empire by the Jewish Diaspora – the language of worship was mostly Hebrew. Hence, it may have appeared that the speakers were drunk – using ordinary local languages to express worship instead of Hebrew. There were 15 languages mentioned - although Aramaic & Koine Greek were the most common spoken by all Jews in those days.
In Acts 10:46, in Cornelius’ home during Peter’s sermon – the listeners were Spirit baptised, spoke in tongues & exalted & glorified God. Later, Paul ministered God’s word to a group of 12 Ephesian men & then laid his hands on them in order for them to be Spirit baptised - they spoke in tongues & prophesied (19:4-7). Three separate impartations of the Spirit, Spirit baptism which directly resulted in tongue speaking, along with joy, praise, prophesy, power & boldness.
When the Samaritan converts received the Spirit after Peter & John prayed for them & laid hands on them in Acts 815-18, although tongues are not mentioned – Simon the sorcerer saw what happened to these people & he asked for the same power to be able to lay hands on people & they then receive the Holy Spirit. Paul’s own baptism in the Spirit in Acts 9:17, was a key moment in his life. Later he was able to say in 1 Corinthians 14:18, ‘I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all.’ Of course he goes on to add in the next verse that in public ministry five understandable words are better ‘than 10,000 words in a tongue.’ This does not set aside the fact that he thanked God that he spoke in tongues.
Smith Wigglesworth, a great early Pentecostal apostle of faith, related his own experience of speaking in tongues: After his baptism in the Spirit - including speaking in tongues – Wigglesworth then spent 9 months praying for & laying hands on many people & seeing them Spirit-filled with tongue speaking. During this time he did not speak in tongues himself. One morning, as he was going out the door, he suddenly started speaking in tongues & immediately asked for the interpretation. He stated he was so glad it happened this way because no one could ever say that he was inconsistent – his tongue speaking was of God.
The great Pentecostal missionary to the Congo, WFP Burton, became seriously ill with fever & his friends, with great sorrow, expected him to die. In fact he was lying helpless & seriously ill. Suddenly he jumped up & gave praise to God & was wonderfully & miraculously healed.
On furlough in London, at a meeting, a lady came up & said that on a certain day at a certain time that Willie Burton came very strongly to her mind. She got down on her knees & started praying in tongues. Suddenly she saw a vision in which he was helplessly lying in a vulnerable position. This led her to more intensely intercede in tongues for him. She asked Burton if he kept a diary – he said, yes. She had brought her own with her & he also happened to have his with him. They compared the diaries & found the same date & time recorded in both. Burton had recorded the exact time of his healing in his diary in the Congo; she showed him the exact same time recorded in hers in England when she was led to pray for him in tongues. Wonderful stories of faith & hope.
I believe the gift of tongues is more liberally bestowed by the Spirit than we can imagine. You never know – it may even be for you... May God bestow this wonderful, strengthening gift on many of us. Personally, I find it a wonderful means of building me up & now try to pray in tongues at some point each day.