Following instructions

Today there will be parts of England that will be waking up with a hangover. It will be a couple of weeks before we know whether the enjoyment has been worth it.

Further lockdown restrictions have been lifted and for the first time in months it has been possible to go to a pub for a drink.

Strict social distancing rules are allegedly in place, but if the photographs are to be believed, they have not been adhered to. 

The danger is that as the country opens up and gets back to ‘normal’, the virus which has been on retreat will find a way to re-emerge causing the feared second wave. 

I have to say that as someone that works in the NHS, not on the front line as such as I don’t look after patients directly, but carrying out the testing for Coronavirus, a second wave would be devastating. We are already stretched and have been for months. To ask us to ‘go again’ would be incredibly difficult, but we will, because we always do.

Although the rules are in place to keep people safe, it is evident that many struggle to follow them, (especially if they have been drinking.) If I’m honest, I haven’t been great at following instructions in the past.

If told to stand, my natural reaction is to want to sit. If I am told to dress a certain way, I will resist for several years before conforming to fashion rules. I think there is something in all of us that wants to push back against boundaries. One just needs to look at a child growing up, gradually trying to see how far their parents can be challenged before they break to appreciate that.

My question is – if we struggle to follow the instructions given by the highest authority in the land, how do we perform when challenged with instructions from the highest authority there is? 

Jesus said, ‘this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you’ (john 15:2)

He said ‘heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons’ (Matthew 10:8)

‘If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’ (Matthew 5:39)

‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28:19)

These are just four of the things that Jesus asks us to do. 

I once saw a picture with the caption “Simon says pat your head, and we pat our head. Jesus said make disciples and we hand out gospel tracts.” 

As humans we struggle with instructions, but with us as Christian’s it should be easier to follow Christs instructions. Why do we struggle so much? As I have noted in an earlier blog, it is our mind that needs to be renewed, our soul is battling against the new creations that is our spirit man. It is time to speak to our soul, command our mind and tell it that obedience is far better than sacrifice. 

How are you getting on with loving others? Even those that upset or annoy you? Have you decided that it is just too hard at the moment? 

In a world that is shouting about its rights are you prepared to be the one who stands and allows others to realise theirs at the expense of yours? Are you prepared to suffer for the things that you hold to be true?  Are you confident in the one who has saved you? Does the verse “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me?’  Are you convinced or simply hopeful?

Have we become guilty of handing out gospel tracts (in reality or figuratively) rather than making disciples? A disciple is one that follows in the footsteps of the one who has taught them. We are to make people disciples of Jesus. In order to do that effectively, we too need to be disciples. We need to be so immersed in the life of Jesus, his teachings and his instruction that it becomes second nature to us. That is the only way that we will be able to help people become accurate reproductions of the Master.

I hope and pray that we as a nation become better at following instructions. That we realise that they are there for our safety and our good. That we will stop trying to rebel against them simply as a way to make our voices heard. 

And that we will follow instructions of the one who makes it all worthwhile, who made us, holds us together and knows what is best for us.

Awake my soul

I don’t know about you, but I’ve realised more and more during lockdown that I’ve had to give myself a good talking to. I’ve found that my mind is easily gets distracted and I find that I get so focused on little things that actually ‘real life’ becomes challenging.

The trick is to try and ensure that you catch yourself before it becomes a real issue, preventing normal functions.

At times, I wonder why I am the way I am. Many of you, like me will have been taught that when you become a Christian everything becomes ‘rosy’ and all you have to do is get on with life. The reality tends to be a bit different though doesn’t it. 

The more I think about it though, the more I realise that it shouldn’t surprise me. As a human I am ‘made’ up of three parts – body, soul and spirit. 

My body (greek = soma) continues to get older, creaks more each day, and will eventually cease to allow me to continue to experience that which we refer to as life.

When this happens, my spirit (greek = pneuma), which is the part of me that because of my relationship with Jesus is acceptable to the Father will continue to exist. My spirit is where I find my conscience, and it is the part of me that communes with God.

My soul (greek = psyché), or mind is a part of me that needs continual work. Romans 12:2 tells us that we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I think that we forget that our minds need to be transformed. We assume that becoming a Christian means that we will automatically think the right way. We can find ourselves getting more and more frustrated as we realise that our minds are not in line with our spirit. 

As a church we are spending some time looking at the life of David and some of the Psalms that he wrote.David spent a lot of time telling his soul to come back into line and to start thinking the right way.

I believe that it is important to feed our ‘spirit man’ We need to spend time with the Father, communing with Him, stretching our faith, enjoying His presence. It has already been make perfect by the cross, but He loves it when we spend time with Him.

But we need to be disciplined with our body too – too much junk and not enough exercise will reap its own reward.

Our soul can be talked into a place of destruction or one of promise and hope. 

Consider these verses. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 103:1-2)

‘Why are you downcast O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” (Psalm 45:2)

In each example, David tells himself to remember things, to consider things, and questions why he feels the way he does. I dare say, if it is ok for David to do this, it is safe to assume that we can too.

There is an old story about an even older Cherokee and his conversation with his grandson.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

There will be some who read this for whom simply talking to yourself is not the answer. Some will have very real medical issues that need to be dealt with by a professional. Please seek help as appropriate. If you are already receiving help, can I encourage you to speak positively to your soul as an addition to anything that has been provided, whether that be medication or something else. God is absolutely able to transform any situation around in an instant, but sometimes He uses medical professionals to effect His perfect plan for your life. 

Speaking truth to your soul is a good thing. I pray that as you do, your experience of lockdown will change for the better, and you will begin to see clear paths and opportunities where there may only have been mountains before.

Stay safe.

Dates matter

Some dates are important.

They need to be remembered on the day they happened.

Birthdays.

Weddings.

Graduations.

For me, I love to remember the happy things in life. 

For the not so happy things, whilst I think it is important to remember them, I don’t want specific dates to be associated with them. For example, I don’t want Christmas to be spoiled because something sad happened in my world just before or after it.

Or so I thought. 

Turns out I seem to find the dates of the sad things important too. 

I had to stay late at work today. It was busy, things had to be done. I had planned to visit the cemetery. I’ve been there on an off for the past year and half or so. I don’t really enjoy it – I don’t think one is supposed to have a good time there, but I am always glad I’ve been. 

Today, having planned to go, and then finding that it might not be possible, I discovered that I really did care about going on a significant date. 

As it is June, it was actually still light enough after I left work, so I decided to pay a quick visit. (gates were open, but once I had parked it seems that the cemetery is actually closed to ‘visitors’. It had been such an emotional rollercoaster of a day that I decided to ignore the signs and stood for a few moments at the foot of the final earthly resting place of both my mum and dad. 

As I stood, I reflected on the world that we live in. The unprecedented impact of Covid-19, the protests in the USA, London and beyond. I wondered what mum and dad would have made of it all. On one hand I am glad that they are free from all the change and risk that Covid-19 has brought, on the other, I wish I was able to talk to them about it, to learn from their experience.

I wondered how they would have coped with things like church by Zoom, and not being able to give their grandchildren a hug. 

The strange thing about faith, at least the faith that I have, and that I know my parents shared, is that whilst I would give almost anything to have them here with me right now, I know with absolute assurance that they are in a much, much better place. I know that I will see them again. I know that if I could but glimpse the experience they were currently having, I would want to be there more than I want them back here.

The Apostle Paul summed that up well when he wrote “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” He understood that co-labouring with Christ here on earth was often a painful, but always worth it experience. He also knew that finding himself with Christ on the other side of death was infinitely better. 

I believe that too. It doesn’t always stop the tears though.

It was important that I went today. 

I miss them both.

What kind of fish are you?

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us that ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught up all kinds of fish. When it was full the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I began a series recently looking at ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ statements in the gospels, and wanted to explore this one a little.

Even if we haven’t been fishing ourselves, most of us are familiar with the picture of someone standing at the edge of a body of water with a rod, fishing line and some bait. This type of fishing is for sport or ‘fun’. Most of us will also be aware that the majority of the fish that we eat is caught in large nets, dragged behind a boat, capturing all in the way. This is the sort of picture that is being painted by Jesus. 

When He began talking about good and bad fish, I started to wonder how they would have decided which was good and which was bad. Was it a size thing? Did the smaller ones get thrown back to fight another day? Was it only those whose appearance (have you ever seen a good looking fish??) was appealing and would bring a good price at market? Surely all fish are good? Genesis 1:20-21 tells of God creating the things that live in the sea, and states that ‘it was good.’

When God gave the Law to Moses, He said that the only ‘clean’ type of fish were the ones that had scales and fins. (Leviticus 11:9-12, Deuteronomy 14:9-10). Clearly sin had entered the world between the two statements, a fracture in the goodness that God had established, but I am unclear as to why things like sharks and sturgeon were singled out as being unclean. 

I assume that this is the basis in which the fishermen of Jesus time chose the fish that were good and threw away those which were bad.

What then are the ‘signs’ that will allow the angels to separate us? Jesus says that the wicked will be separated from the righteous. What does a righteous person look like? What will the evidence be.

At the end of Mark’s gospel, Jesus tells us about the signs of those who believe. He says they will drive out demons, they will speak in new tongues, they will hold snakes and not get hurt, they will drink poison and not die, they will place hands on the sick and they will get well. (Mark 16:17)

I get very cautious about people that say they believe, confess that they are Christians yet I can see no evidence of the transformation that they claim has happened in their day to day lives. Jesus says there will be. 

The challenge for me, for us, is what is the evidence in my life. I don’t think it was necessarily Jesus intention that we use the list he gave as a check box exercise. It isn’t as if once we have spoken in tongues and prayed for a few people we are two steps up the ladder to heaven. I believe it is there to remind us that with the Kingdom of heaven within us, the things that should be impossible are actually possible. Have our lives been sufficiently changed by the King, that the rule and reign of the King leaks out of our lives, changing the atmosphere and culture of our environment? 

A place where the King is on the throne is a far more peaceful, powerful, effective place to live. 

Will you join me?

The Kingdom of Heaven is…

The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.

This is a parable that I’m sure you are all familiar with. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man plants, and although it was a really small seed, grew into a tree that birds could rest in.

I was thinking about this and did a bit of research which I think gives us a bit more insight into what Jesus might have been saying to us.

It seems that there are at least four different contenders for which type of mustard seed that Jesus might have been referring to. Sinapsis nigra, the black mustard seed appears to be the most likely candidate. It grows in the right area, with the right climate and produces the right size of seeds. (others that may also fit the bill are Sinapsis arvense or Sinapsis alba)

The black mustard seed is known for its rapid germination. It seems that it begins to grow the day after it is planted, and grows rapidly in one season.  Although not actually the smallest seed in Palestine at the time of Jesus, it would have certainly been the smallest that was planted and cultivated.  (between 1 and 3mm in diameter) 

In order to grow, a seed needs to die, germinate, take root and breakthrough the soil. 

When Jesus said the Kingdom of heaven was like a mustard seed, what was He saying? If we understand the Kingdom of heaven to be a place where the rule and reign of the King is realised, and we apply that rule and reign to our lives we notice the following.

Without Christ, we begin as something small and insignificant. We have no real structure, and can easily be blown away on the wind. 

When we surrender at the foot of the cross, the outer shell is broken away, and there is a new germination of our inner being. This takes root quickly and we begin to grow. The ideal of heaven is that our growth is rapid. There is no waiting around for the right conditions. Everything we need is supplied, and we flourish, demonstrating the power and majesty of the Creator. 

As we grow, we reproduce, more seeds that will yield still more potential. There are two purposes to our growth. We are positioned ideally to allow other to rest, to take refuge and shelter from all the world throws at them, and we reproduce, more seeds. The seeds can be used for flavour – we are to flavour those around us with testimony of the King. New trees can be grown, to increase capacity for allowing still others to rest and take shelter.

One of the errors the church in the West makes far too often is that when we see a small mustard seed planted, we try to control its growth. We water it and feed it with small nurture groups and special ‘new Christian’ classes. We prune it ever so carefully, to make sure the growth is shaped into what we believe a new follower should look like, taking off the leaves and branches that don’t quite fit or look right, and we find ourselves with powerless Christians that come to church out of obligation or habit, and never actually fulfil their potential to grow new trees and shelter those who need it.

Jesus said that if we were His friends, we would do what He did (and greater things than that too). Let’s not put too many restrictions on the new growth, the growth that is supposed to be rapid, that is supposed to surprise given the small beginnings. Teach them, yes. Encourage them, yes. 

Tell them they can’t, simply because we haven’t. Absolutely not. 

Who does He say you are?

I saw a quote today attributed to Mohammad Ali. He said “I am the greatest. I said that before I knew I was.”

He wasn’t the greatest at the time he said it, but was aware of his destiny and what he was created to achieve. I imagine that when he first said it, there were very few that believed him. Undetered, he kept telling himself that he was the greatest, and once he believed, he went about convincing others that it was true too.

Many people in the church (certainly in the UK) are very cautious about saying things that are not true. Often this is borne out of wisdom, but my concern is that in doing so we prevent some to fulfil their destiny by speaking out truth as God sees things. At its heart, prophecy is seeing a little further ahead, and a little deeper than can be seen in the natural realm. It is speaking the truth that will be, rather than what appears to be.

James tells us that the power of life and death is in the tongue, so speaking positive things about people, including ourselves, will help us to experience life to the full. It could also be said that the opposite is true. If you constantly tell yourself that you are no good (generally, or at something specific), or that you can’t, or that no one loves you, it will not be long until you believe that. The more you believe it yourself, and tell others, many of them will believe it too. It won’t be a conscious thing, but they will.

I know that being British puts a bit of a hold on being able to be too positive about ourselves, so, if that is the case for you may I encourage you to listen to what God says about you.

You are known. God knew you before you were formed (Jeremiah 1:5). He has had a plan for you since before you were even thought of.

You are His workmanship, created to do good things. (Ephesians 2:10) We are created in His image.

You are a child of God (John 1:12, Romans 8:17) We have been adored into His family, and we are joint heirs with Christ.

You are friend of Jesus (John 15:15) He doesn’t call you servants or slaves, He calls you friend, and shares things with you.

You are not subject to any condemnation (Romans 8:1) (and if He doesn’t condemn you, it is a pretty good bet that you shouldn’t condemn you either)

Called to be a saint (1 Cor 1:2). I think we spend to long believing (even if we don’t actually say it) that we are a sinner. That isn’t how God sees us. My experience is that if we believe that we are sinners, we will end up doing just that. If we tell ourselves that God sees us a saints, we will begin to live like saints.

You are being transformed into His image.(2 Cor 3:18). The closer we walk with Him, converse with Him and listen to what He says about you and what you are capable of, the more like Him you will become.

The bible says that you are glorious (2 Cor 3:18). He is transforming us from one degree of glory to another. Even if you don’t feel as glorious as someone else, the truth is that you start glorious and become more glorious.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. The bible is full of messages about His feelings about you. I guess the most obvious one is that He loved each of us so much that He sent His Son, who willingly offered His life to make it possible for relationship with the Father to be restored.

Perhaps that is the greatest statement of all. He considered you to be worth it. How much more evidence do you need?

Think about these things

The nation (and most of the world), is in lockdown. For months restrictions have been placed on us. There isn’t a person in the country that hasn’t been affected. Families have been unable to visit each other, shopping has changed for ever, in time we will have to come to terms with a new normal. 

Despite the restrictions I consider myself very fortunate. I have been able to do something that before lockdown I was thrilled to be able to take some time away from. Since lockdown, I have been happy to be able to leave the house and go to work. That’s not to say it’s been easy. Work too has changed. Routine has disappeared. Tasks that used to fill the day are now completed in a fraction of the time. Tests that didn’t exist a few months ago now take up more than a full day’s work. There is little expectation that numbers of Coronavirus tests to be performed will decrease anytime soon. Perhaps the type of test to be carried out will change from testing to see if someone has the virus to testing to see if they have already had it (the promised antibody test). My suspicion is that somehow, we will be expected to find a way to do both.

I know of others who have not been outside their own home since lockdown started. They have had to communicate with the outside world and their family through windows and online. 

Many of you will either have had similar experiences, or variations on these two extremes.

The question I want to ask you is while you are restricted in movement, with time to do things that are out of the ordinary for you, what are you thinking about? 

Some will be dreaming of life after lockdown, to getting back to the things that they used to do. Others will be thinking about holidays they want to go on, or simply to be able to walk around without fear. 

For a lot of people, fear really is gripping them. They are struggling to cope without interaction with others. Sitting at home with no outlet can be crippling. 

When Paul and Timothy wrote to the church at Philippi, they gave some suggestions for things to think about. 

They wrote “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is an excellence, if anything is worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

Don’t let fear take hold. Life will never be the same as it was before coronavirus. We need to get used to a new normal. The more we think about true, honourable, just, pure, lovely and commendable things, the more we will be able to shape whatever the new normal is into something that is better than that which we have had to leave behind.

More than just a ride

So you wanna be a cowboy, don’t you know it’s more than just a ride?”

Just one line from an album by Bon Jovi, but one that has stuck with me since I first heard it – more years ago than I care to remember.

The thing is I have applied the question to pretty much everything I have ever done, particularly when it comes to my faith.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been times that I have forgotten the answer, but the question seems to keep cropping up.

Let me put it another way “So you wanna be a Christian, don’t you know it’s more than just a prayer?”

For me becoming a Christian doesn’t happen simply when you pray a prayer. It is a change of lifestyle, a commitment to try, with God’s help to get things right. It is an about turn, a purposeful march in the opposite direction. Ultimately it is a change in management, from one who was determined to bring destruction, to one whose wants to bring life in a way that I never thought was possible.

The term Christian really means someone who has put Christ first and foremost in their lives, someone who has chosen to model their life on His example. “little Christ” may be a better way of saying it. In the same way that in many ways my son is a ‘mini me’, I am to be a mini Christ. In time, I hope my son will grow to be more like me, leaving the bad bits to one side, but I try to be an example that is worth following.

Christ is the ultimate example of what I hope to be. The more I learn about Him, His ways and His mission, the more I want to emulate it.

Which is why when I meet or hear of people that profess to be Christians, the first thing I look for is whether I can see evidence of the one who lent His name to the label in the way they live their lives.

Too often today, the example that the world sees of Christ is people that have prayed a prayer to get them a ticket to heaven, but with no sense of change in their day to day lives. If Christ truly is living in me, then surely, I should be doing what He did. 1 John 2:6 says that “if we abide in Him, we ought to walk in the same way which He walked.” That means having compassion for those that don’t deserve it, loving the unlovable and feeding the hungry. That means healing the sick and telling others of the reason for the hope that we have.  

John 14 quotes Jesus “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (emphasis mine)

Christianity looks like something. There will be fruit if you are connected to the Vine. It’s not about praying a prayer and then going to church occasionally (or even regularly). It’s about changing everything, because He is the pearl of great price. Totally worth it.

So – you wanna be a Christian – it’s more than just a ride – but what a ride.

Behind closed doors

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”” (John 20:19-22)

I wonder what you think of when you read these verses?  Perhaps you find yourself reading the part about Jesus showing his hands and side, and think about Thomas, and that he doubted, and sometimes you do too? Do you skim read the first part, and get to the exciting bit at the end when Jesus gives the disciples the Holy Spirit? 

As I read them this week I was struck by the first sentence.

The evening of the first day after Christ was crucified, behind locked doors the disciples were meeting. It was the locked doors that made me think.

They were scared. I can understand why. Their best friend, their Rabbi, the one who they were beginning to really believe was God had been taken, brutally beaten, crucified and laid in a garden tomb. Everything that they had come to believe was upside down. The people who had done this to Jesus were looking for those who followed him. Harsh punishment was the least that they could have expected. Death for them was a very real possibility. 

How does that relate to us today. The truth is, certainly in the UK at the present time, believing in and following Jesus is unlikely to result the death penalty from the ruling authorities. I understand that this may well be true in some parts of the world, but it isn’t where I live. 

But I wonder though if we are guilty of still locking our doors and hiding away for fear of what might happen to us? I don’t believe that we really are afraid of the authorities or of what others think. None of us like ridicule, so perhaps that might be seen to be a reason to be careful, but I think the reason lies much deeper than anything man can do to us.

A friend of mine recently shared about a wall in her garden that had fallen down following recent storms. The brick wall had stood firm for over 15 years, performing the purpose of a wall and appearing to be strong. After the winds from the storm hit and the bricks lay in rubble, it was discovered that the cement holding them together was largely sand rather than cement. She shared that perhaps this was a time to sift out the sand that wasn’t doing us any good out and allow Holy Spirit to bind that which was there together in a stronger, more lasting way. 

I wonder if sometimes we are so afraid that sand might infiltrate our lives that we hide away and don’t allow anything in at all. We have our salvation, our version of doctrine and that will do us nicely thank you very much. We have been told that the world is ‘bad’ (and to a large extent a lot of what the world stands for is not helpful for the believer), so we lock ourselves in our holy huddles and pray as if by isolating ourselves from the world we will fulfill the Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples.

Sometimes I think that we are so convinced that we are going to be tainted that we are even afraid to listen to new thoughts and ideas from other Christians. We are so afraid that if we listen to someone outside our circle that we will be betraying that which we believe in and have ‘signed up for’ that we miss the new thing that God is doing in this season. It was once said that the biggest obstacle to the next move of God, is the current move of God.

It is vital that we weigh each and every new thought against scripture. There is a wealth of errant teaching available, so we have to be “wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16). Jesus himself did not come to abolish the law; he came to fulfill it. He didn’t come to change the heart of what God had revealed to Moses, but to show how there was a deeper meaning to what had been passed down. There are several “you have heard it said……but I……” sayings in the gospels. Let’s not shut our hearts to Jesus challenging our interpretation of things.

I pray you have been and will continue to be blessed this Easter, and in spite of the restrictions on movement and fellowship in place at this time, you will find a way to unlock the doors of your heart, and receive every new thing that Holy Spirit is pouring out at this time.

Crossing Jordan

Crossing the Jordan

I began reading the book of Joshua recently. Early on in the book, the people of Israel approached the river Jordan. In order to take the land that God had promised them, they had to cross. At around 100 feet in width during normal conditions, the Israelites approached whilst the river had burst its banks and was in flood (as it was around harvest time) We are told that the priests were 1000 yards in front of the people, and that they were in the middle of the rivers. That’s a minimum of 2000 yards to cross. Imagine trying to cross that distance with one or two people, let alone a nation. 

We are all familiar with the account. The priest carried the Ark of the Covenant into the middle of the river, and the waters dried up. 

The people walked across on dry land.

I wanted to share some thoughts that occurred to me as I was reading.

The priests had to take a step of faith – the Jordan was in flood at that time of year. 

God had spoken (through Joshua) – but they still had to step out.  It wasn’t until they stepped into the river that the waters parted. Sometimes even when we hear clearly, and have a course plotted out for us by God, we don’t get the final confirmation until we take that step of faith, until we get our feet wet. 

It was the priest that had to take that first step. The people were gathered, all ready to go. There was no sense of trying to rush things though, of trying to get across before the priests had led the way.

The third thought that I had was that the priests were 1000 yards in front of the people they were leading. 

It’s often lonely at the front. Often, leaders are standing alone, having taken a step of faith, having showed the people the way. At 1000 yards away it can be difficult to see what is going on clearly. The priests would have had a much better vision of what lay on the other side of the river than the people. Are you ready to trust your leaders? They are further along the path than you are and have been shown what lies beyond where you currently are.

I also find it interesting that in standing firm in the middle of the river, they allowed the people to pass them by. To go and take the land on the other side whilst they stood firmly where God had told them to be.  Protecting the people, ensuring that before they moved on everyone was across who was going across. Are the leaders who are reading this willing to hold the ladder that you have put in place and allow others to climb it before you? Perhaps that means that they will see the things you have longed to see sooner than you. Are you prepared for that to happen?

It takes tremendous courage to take the first step of faith into the unknown. How much more courage does it take to stand whilst those you lead are forging on ahead? I love how the priests were resolute in their task. Not only were they making sure that everyone got across, they were also ensuring that those that had crossed didn’t try to go back. The way forward was the only way that they could inherit the land that God had promised. There was nothing for them if they went back to the wilderness, back to Egypt. 

The priests did the job they were asked to do. If they had tried to rush it or had moved forward rather than standing in the middle, the people would have perished, just like the Egyptians when the Red Sea parted to allow the Israelites to cross. In standing in that middle ground, they were protecting the people. Your leaders are doing the same for you.

Let me encourage you to pray for your leaders. I would suggest that leaders outside the church need prayer too, as leadership can be a very lonely role, even if it is done as part of a team.

There were further instructions for the people after they had crossed. They had to go back and collect stones in order to build a memorial to what God had done for them that day. All that time the priests stood there. Waiting for the purposes of God to be fulfilled. You might wonder why your leaders seem to lead you somewhere then pause for a while. Some of you will be excited to move on to the next thing, but good leaders will often wait for a season to allow everything that God has promised or commanded to come to pass. It is good to maintain a momentum, but it is also good to wait. Isaiah wrote “those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength, they will rise up on wings like the eagle. They will walk and not grow weary they will run and not feint.”

Once the priests had moved on out of the water the way behind them was shut off. The waters started to flow again. The way back was blocked.

Once the task/mission/ direction from God has been accomplished it is important to head to the next one (in this case Jericho.) This was to be the first of many battles after the miracle of the waters parting. 

The people had waited knowing the importance of prayer, worship and leadership in getting where they were supposed to be. Until the priests came to set the atmosphere for the next battle, there was no point in going forward.

We cannot take strongholds alone. Prayer & worship are essential. We need leaders that are prepared to model what to do. That might mean looking a bit silly in front of perceived wisdom. No battle tactician would have suggested walking around a city singing and playing your trumpet would be successful. When your leaders seem to be modelling something a bit new, or different to how they have done things before, are you willing to follow in their footsteps, believing that they have heard from God?

The concept of submitting to anyone, especially leaders isn’t a popular thing these days especially outside the church. I think that the reason for that is that we have been subject to some bad examples who had demanded submission. The Greek word hupetasso means to arrange oneself under. There is a sense that arranging under a leader is not burdensome or difficult, but actually something that brings joy, comfort and security. 

May I encourage you to submit to your leaders, as a choice, not because they expect it. Choose to follow, even if that means getting your own feet wet, even if it means standing up to be counted, even if it means doing something that the world may laugh at you for.

But most of all, pray for them.