|There have been
times when I have gone to minister in various places
that I have looked over the congregation and
thought, “What these people need most is not more
head teaching but a deeper encounter with the Risen
Lord” For most of us, if the truth be told, there is
a “gap” between what we believe in our hearts to be
true, and what we experience on a day to day basis.
This simple booklet is an attempt to bridge the gap:
to develop the life of intimacy within us that will
affect all that we are and do.
It is all about opening the pores of our heart to
receive His sunlight. It is equally a book about how
the Lord can lead us on when we our spiritual life
feels dull, or when we feel as though we are getting
nowhere and have made a mess of everything.
from God’s perspective
Consider whom we are drawing close to (i), (ii)
How are we to live in the light of this?
Knowing Christ requires a degree of silence and
Learning to live in the awareness of God’s leading (i),
Living in an eternal framework
implications of these words of Jesus:
The Host of Heaven are at Hand
First appearances matter!
One word from God is worth a hundred bright
Renewing our Mind (i), (ii), and (iii)
Intimacy always starts with Repentance
"Swilkering” God’s presence
Asking God questions
Developing sensitivity in our spirits
God loves a good Adventure! (i) and (ii)
Intimacy embraces Risk
Intimacy and tough times
Beware of Enemy
Intimacy in the Home
Forgiveness clears the blockages
When we are facing satanic opposition
When the going is tough
When we are feeling dull
God gives authority to match our
God with content
Don’t make impossible demands of each other
Turn everything into prayer
A nice surprise!
Welcome the surprise call of God
Know the times and the seasons in your life
Restorer of our soul
precious to the Lord
Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord
Jesus knows us through and through
What will make us more Christ-like?
Getting away with the Lord
Why do people hold back from such intimacy?
The Lord knows what He is doing – so we can
Intimacy Develops our Sensitivity and our
When the Heavens feel empty
The Lord can turn any situation around
Spirituality without discipline is like a
river without banks
Taking Intimacy Wider
Intimacy from God’s
Jesus said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover
meal with you” (Luke 22:15)
That is a perfect picture of how much it means to Him
when, in the midst of a world that is so largely indifferent
to Him, we make a warm welcome for Him.
There is nothing more precious to God than when someone is
“feeling” after Him. It is not that He has favourites but
rather that just as we can give ourselves more, and more
easily, to an open and smiling child than we can to a sullen
and surly one, so He must find it easier to reach the
trusting and the loving.
all that I am, and all that I have I offer to You.
not even the blessings You have given me,
or the things You have promised,
are as important as being with You.
I refuse You nothing.
Before we go any further, let’s prepare our hearts
to meet with Him and to come into His presence.
You, my Lord,
You listen even to my thoughts.
Teach me to listen,
That I may hear You when You speak.
Teach me to rest in You.
Teach me to close my eyes and to rest
in the Love that has supported me all my days.
Teach me Lord, to rest in You.
Consider whom we are
drawing close to (i)
The goal of our walk with the Lord is intimacy with Him that
communicates itself to others. 99.9% of our lives and more
lies ahead of us in eternity. Here are some starter thoughts
this is eternal life, that they may know You, the
only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
All I have is Yours, and all You have is mine.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that
they may be one as we are one.
Father, I want those you have given Me to be with Me
where I am, and to see My glory.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
He who is united to the Lord is one with Him in
1 Cor 6:17
Consider whom we are
drawing close to (ii)
In this section we are going to explore the concept of
God’s sovereignty, which is everywhere implicit and often
explicit in Scripture.
|I am who I am (God
replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the
people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” Exodus
3:14, Ponder also, ‘Then the LORD asked Moses, “Who
makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people
speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or
do not see? Is it not I, the LORD?’ Exodus 4:11, ‘I
am the LORD; there is no other God. I have equipped
you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so
all the world from east to west will know there is
no other God. I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I create the light and make the darkness. I send
good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one
who does these things.’ Isaiah 45:5-7)
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched
to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living
God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of
angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the
firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You
have come to God, the judge of all men, to the
spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus, the
mediator of a new covenant. (Heb. 12:22-24)
How are we to live in the
light of this?
The most important thing about drawing close to the
Lord is to spend time with Him.
Talk with the Lord about your times with Him.
Is there anything He would show you that would help you to
be more consistent in your seeking after Him?
Chris Bowater loves to quote the words of the hymn ‘Fill
Thou my life O Lord my God in “every” part with praise’. He
points out that we can’t divorce any part of our spiritual
life from the rest of it. “Every” means “every”: Every part
of our life, our marriage, of our finances, of our
attitudes, of our interests, our hobbies. Pray into this.
In the very best sense, time with the Lord and in the glory
of His presence becomes the air that we breathe. Don’t worry
that your experience of God’s presence will vary from day to
day, according to your health, mood and circumstances: it is
the intention of your heart that matters most. Our task is
simply to come to Him, and to make frameworks for seeking
Him. How does this work out in your life from day to day?
|Enter his gates with
thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks
to Him and praise His name
happens if we come first in a spirit of worship?
put our needs and failings first, we may never get
Knowing Christ requires a
degree of silence and solitude
Ponder the following statements.
Discuss what role such silence and solitude have in your
How you might like to explore these subjects.
|“When the door of
the steam bath is continually left open, the heat
inside rapidly escapes.” Even so the desire to say
many things through the door of speech dissipates
the remembrance of God: “Timely silence then is
precious, for it is nothing less than the mother of
the wisest thoughts.”
(Diadochus, 5th-century Greek bishop).
“Whenever we begin talking about God we are
necessarily falsifying Him . . . Silence should at
least take the place of the continuous prattle and
rambling about God (for) silence is the very nature
of theology . . . it is something positive, like
love, death and life. It is not a pause between
noises, sermons and theological disquisitions, but
something without which words lose their meaning.”
(The Orthodox Tradition)
“The present state of the world and the whole of
life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked
for my advice, I would reply: Create silence! The
Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of
today. And even if it were blazoned forth with all
the panoply of noise so that it could be heard in
the midst of all the other noise, then it would no
longer be the Word of God. Therefore create
(Sřren Kierkegaard, 19th century Danish writer)
There is a film called Into
Great Silence, shot entirely in a Carthusian monastery.
Permission was given to film sixteen years after the initial
request was made. Carthusians are clearly fairly deliberate
in making their decisions! Here is a film without a
voiceover, showing rather than describing the monks’ true
inner life. This film creates silence – which is not just
the absence of noise, but a profound inner stillness.
Virginia Woolf spoke of the experience of a silent retreat
as enabling her “to see to the bottom of the vessel”,
acknowledging that this could sometimes be a troubling and
even terrifying experience.
In the course of a week on retreat, I always seem to
experience at least one day when the Lord takes me to the
cleaners, and shows me my wrong motivations concerning all
sorts of things and people. True silence it is very far from
escapism, because you come face to face with yourself and
your own base motives. Silence is no place for cowards.
||Take a phrase,
either from the Bible, or along Biblical lines and
meditate on it for at least five full minutes. When
intrusive thoughts rise up, ignore them. It is good
for the soul, for we need to develop inner ears, our
inner eyes, our inner heart.
||Study the writings
of Richard Foster to understand how to approach such
Learning to live in the
awareness of God’s leading (i)
The Early Quakers believed that unless you hear His
voice and discern His will directly yourself, the church
could not function properly. Their motto was, ‘Christ has
come to teach His people Himself’. (cf John 5:19)
||Have we used our
busyness as an excuse for not seeking the Lord more?
Deep down we may even be quite glad that our stated
desire to spend more time with the Lord is not more
often put to the test!
||Do you look on
extended time alone with God as a treat to be
enjoyed (solitude) or as rather scary prospect
(loneliness) and rush to fill the silence with
Many people, even when they
go away to be with the Lord, take such a busy cluttered up
timetable with them that the emphasis is still more on
productivity than on intimacy. But Jesus said to Peter, “Do
you love me?” not “are you doing lots of work for Me?”
Remember: noise often keeps the “still small voice” at bay!
often whispering to us throughout the day,
but unless we have stilled our souls,
and are giving our full attention to our Lord,
who is the Lover of our souls,
we may miss these whispers.
It is a sign of maturity if
we can hold silence together. Too many people just say
‘let’s have a moment of silence now – and that is literally
all it is! The more confident we are in drawing close to God
in such ways, the more we can lead others into this
Learning to live in the awareness of God’s leading (ii)
We often find ourselves pulled in many different
directions. There are so many different things we could be
doing. The social part of us desires the evening off, even
whilst another part reminds us of a dozen administrative
chores that need attending to. Our soul needs feeding too.
All must be integrated within the purposes of God and the
time we have available, so that, like a finely balanced pair
of scales, we can sense what it is the Lord would have us
do; sense, too, when we are running out of anointing for
doing something and need to turn our attention elsewhere.
The answer to these competing needs is to try to “find out
what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:10). We won’t always
get this right, but God honours the fact that we are trying.
you, Lord Jesus, to inspire within me, Your lover,
an affection that is unbounded, a desire that is
and a yearning that throws discretion to the winds.
May reason not hold my love in check, may fear not
inhibit my devotion
and may decorum not temper my fervour.
The sweetness of Your love
vastly exceeds the pleasure of any earthly joys.
those who lust after the things of this world
are ignorant of the delight of Your love.
If they have a single taste of Your sweetness,
they too would become Your lovers.
One of the best ways we
develop intimacy with God is by spending time with people
who are more in love with Jesus than we ourselves are. For
some this may be through big ‘God-chasing- meetings, of the
kind that are taking place now in places like Florida and
Dudley. Others will meet the Lord most deeply when they are
on their own. Paul said, Join with others in following my
example. (Phil. 3:17) Think of people you know, who, like
Richard, radiate the love of God.
Ask the Lord to develop in you more of this characteristic.
Living in an eternal framework
From everlasting to everlasting You are God (Psalm 90:2)
I the Lord do not change (Malachi 3:6) cf: He who is the
Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is
not a man, that he should change his mind. (1 Sam. 15:29)
Everything in this life is progressive. We progress from
having no understanding of a subject to some understanding
of it, to finally becoming experts in it. Perhaps we have a
subconscious thought that God too develops and progresses.
Do we take into account that He is the same yesterday, today
and forever? Before mankind or even time itself began, He
was. And when time and this earth are all wrapped up, He
will forever be. (cf 2 Peter 3)
Ponder the implications of these words of Jesus:
‘Before Abraham was born, I am.’ John 8:58
Ponder too how when Moses and Elijah returned on the Mount
of Transfiguration they had not aged. They had been with the
Lord, and returned without looking one second older – rather
as the children in the Narnia stories have adventures that
span many centuries of Narnia time, but which only occupy a
fraction of a second by our time scale.
|God knows what our
great great grandparents did.
He knows that what we are doing now will affect
generations to come if He tarries:
so let’s sow well now!
Many of the people we lead to the Lord now will in
turn lead many others to Him.
Lord, help us to understand more of Your eternal timescale.
Your plans originate in a different context from ours, but
they mesh and dovetail intricately with our timescale when
they need to. Keep us in step with Your plans for our lives.
But about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read
what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of
Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead
but of the living. (Matt. 22:31-32)
The Host of Heaven are at Hand
God knows what is happening to and around us. He never has
to say ‘whoops, that took Me by surprise!’ He thinks on more
levels and dimensions than we can comprehend.
How can we learn to think more spiritually?
Ponder the passage in which Elisha told His servant to open
his eyes and see the host of heaven and to realize that
those who are with us are more than those who are with the
opposing forces (2 Kings 6). How should this understanding
affect both our awareness of heavenly resources when we face
problems and challenges as well as our daily
Would you say that you are:
||a) living constantly
in the awareness of spiritual kingdom, aware that at
any moment the powers of the age to come are able to
||b) Rarely think
||c) Believe it, but
suppose that it this is something that is of direct
relevance to others rather than to you?
It sometimes happens that we are on the edge of receiving
revelation and preparing something really important, but we
miss the moment by leaping to answer an e mail, or by
setting off to attend to some administrative matter. These
things really do need doing, and they are in many ways
easier to do because we can get a handle on them – but they
may not be God’s best.
Inspiration is so precious that it needs cultivating
carefully. Catch and store the drops, like rainwater in a
water butt in a drought-ridden land. At any time God can
take what He has shared with you and develop it further.
Eddison may have been right when he said that genius is 1%
inspiration and 99% perspiration, but it’s no use perspiring
unless you have received the 1% of inspiration to work with!
When plaguing thoughts intervene, as they are bound to do,
for the devil is a Distracter as well as an Accuser, just
make a note of the things you need to come back to. That way
you do not need to spend the rest of the quiet time worrying
that you are going to forget to ring Fred or take the
chicken out of the freezer – or (w)ring the chicken!
First appearances matter!
People make their initial decision about how they feel
about a church before they hear a sermon, by the welcome
they receive and the worship and the general feel of the
place. Are we sowing towards that level of welcome? (Marx
was turned off by the way the church treated him – and
millions upon millions suffered and even died as a result of
the dogmas that he devised. That’s how serious it can be
when we fail to be a welcoming community). If we come, as it
were from the throne room of God, however, we bring His
presence with us. In other words, it is not so much that the
structure of the church that should define us as that the
flow of God’s Spirit should define the way we church
One word from God is worth a hundred bright ideas!
While [the church at Antioch] were worshiping the Lord
and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me
Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
God wants us to think spiritually. He sends us dreams
visions to help us get there; He allows us to have
experiences that point to the reality of His eternal
spiritual kingdom, and He takes us on many adventures in
order to get us to the destination He has in mind for us.
Share some of the things you have experienced along these
Where the people saw only piles of rubble, Haggai and
Zechariah saw a brand new temple rising from the ruins, and
their words galvanized a generation into achieving a
remarkable transformation: the temple was rebuilt and the
nation’s spiritual life was largely restored.
One word from You, Lord,
is worth a hundred of our own bright ideas! Help us
to make the effort to still our hearts, for that is
so often when Your perspective on an issue becomes
Ponder the implications
of Acts 13:1-2 – all that would not have happened
had the disciples not been in a place to hear God
tell them to set Saul apart for his future great
Renewing our Mind (i)
love to speak, Lord, even beyond the need for words.
You listen to our inmost thoughts
and bring us to a place of stillness,
where attentive listening ushers in
the intimate communion that You are longing for.
Enlarge our understanding, Lord.
Never stop speaking.
We need to hear what You are saying –
even if that means saying the same thing over and
Consider the ways in which
Western society has all but institutionalised doubt and
unbelief. We let our minds crush the Spirit in us, instead
of allowing the Spirit to inform our minds.
Heidi Baker prayed a few years ago for a man in a wheelchair
in Dudley who was suffering from MS. By the end of a long
time of soaking prayer he was not only out of the wheelchair
himself but pushing others around. Heidi declared that this
was a sign to the paralysed church that has been too much
and too long in the fear of man and in sheer unbelief, in
which the mind has dominated.
What effect does worry
have on our inner life?
It is like driving with the brakes on; it is the
interest we pay on trouble before it happens – but
it is such a common feeling that if you feel it is
too heavy to insist that worry is a sin, then try
turning that sentence round: it’s not a sin not to
|To adapt the famous
image of the “glass half full, glass half empty”:
two people looked out of a prison: one saw walls and
the other saw the sky. Which category most nearly
Renewing our Mind (ii)
When you feel waves of doubt and anxiety sweeping
through your soul, try to catch the crest of these waves,
and turn it into fervent prayer for God to do the opposite
of whatever these negative thoughts are suggesting. In this
way, you harness their negative power and turn into
breakthrough prayer for the kingdom. One plus God is still a
majority. God has done great things in the past, but the
goodness of the Lord is always coming towards us (Exod.
33:19) He is brim full of ideas and wisdom, and He is always
doing something new!
The mind of sinful man
is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is
life and peace. (Romans 8:6)
He has made us competent as ministers of a new
covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for
the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor.
Renewing our Mind (iii)
Those who most desire intimacy with God are often
extremely sensitive. This is the gift which enables us to
tune in both to the Father’s wavelength but also to other
people’s hurts and needs. But this can work against us, in
that we can easily feel that things are our fault, or that
we are cast off forever. We have to get used to handling our
sensitivity. Ask the Lord to put filters on, so that we
don’t pick up more than we need to: otherwise we pick up
Radios 1, 2, 3, 4 and the news in Welsh and can feel
overwhelmed by too many stimuli.
We cannot afford to have our spirits taken up by other
people’s needs agendas and expectations. It helps enormously
if we can work out what the plot is that God has given us,
and can stick to it, even if circumstances and location
“All this”, David wrote in 1 Chron. 28:19, “I have in
writing from the hand of the Lord upon me, and he gave me
understanding in all the details of the plan.”
What goals has God given
you to aim towards?
Are you doing enough to
make it possible to bring them about?
Pray that Your wishes
may increasingly be His.
Intimacy always starts
Godly sorrow brings
repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but
worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has
produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear
yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what
concern, what readiness to see justice done. (2 Cor.
In terms of encountering God deeply and directly, in my own
case I would say there has usually been a lot of repentance
needing to happen first. Repentance is first the initial key
for release and then for sustaining it.
Repentance ‘justifies’ God intervening on our behalf. But
repentance must always be accompanied by godly sorrow.
Humility is not beating ourselves up, but knowing who we
are, who God is, who we are in God, and how far short we
fall of that.
In what ways is
repentance different from remorse (which is the
counterfeit of repentance) just as timidity is the
opposite of faith and courage.
Dear friends, now we are children of God,
and what we will be has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself,
just as he is pure.
(1 John 3:2-3)
People you share your heart with as well as your projects.
Honesty can cure almost anything. Freedom and accountability
are built into everything that is of God. (This can be as
true of our thought life as of our actions).
It is comforting to remember, as Jesus said of Pilate, that
these people would have no power over us unless God has
allowed it (see John 19:11). Nothing is too hard for God.
Don’t be surprised if strong emotions come up as you try to
grow in intimacy: things that make you cry, and things that
make you angry too. There are many imbalances hidden in the
labyrinths of our heart that will need bringing to the
surface and healing or removing, like worms and viruses on a
computer. It takes us a long time to bring our hearts to
stillness. Never assume the Lord is not interested in us, or
is not working: it is rather the devil who fears what will
happen as we grow in the life of intimacy!
A time for hurts to be exposed, bitterness repented of and
released, grace to be received. ‘Lord, may my heart be at
rest, so that I can act by Your Spirit, rather than being
driven by the pressures.
When we become aware of ways in which we have seriously
failed the Lord, or are grieving His Spirit, we must be
prepared to face it honestly. There is no such thing as
secret sin. We do not have a special standing with God that
will excuse us from His judgement. ‘His love and grace are
always matched by His passion for justice’. He disciplines
us more severely because of His love for us. ‘Grace and
discipline belong together; spirituality without discipline
is like a river without any banks.’
Are you being particularly tempted at the moment? Be honest
and open with one another. Honesty can cure almost anything.
If we are not fervent as we once were in the life of prayer,
we may be suffering from one or more of the following
Knock-on effects from
relationship breakdowns, that make us hold back, and
cause us to expect things to go wrong. The more we
get into the habit of blessing one another, the more
our generosity releases God’s generosity.
blunted your faith? The sense of disappointment can
be crippling: ‘I’ve tried it before and it didn't
work’. ‘I didn't get very far with it’. A vision
that didn’t work out, a person who didn’t attend a
meeting . . . such thoughts may strike us in the
form of a flashback just as we are about to set out
in some act or errand of faith. Don’t crumple as the
thought assails you – it is those who persist in
doing good that God honours most!
It is as well to bear in
mind that disappointment leads to a vicious spiral.
First it turns into discouragement (that most
insidious of all temptations!) and from there it
descends into self-pity or bitterness, and
eventually to despair or cynicism. It is so much
better to cry out to God further up the spiral, long
before we reach such depths. This calls for an
active response of faith: to cry out for the Lord to
turn our disappointments into His appointments.
It is sometimes worth turning
a Scripture upside down to understand how much God wants to
‘Now may the God of all discouragement fill you with no
joy and peace as you fail to trust in Him, so that you may
underflow with hope and hopelessness by the absent power of
the Holy Spirit.’ (not Rom 15:13)
‘Now to Him who is not able to do more than, we ask or
imagine, due to the lack of power that is at work within
us.’ (not Eph. 3:20)
“Swilkering” God’s presence
If God is calling us to spend more time with Himself, we
will find ourselves becoming tense and tetchy if we resist
this call. Why? Because we are struggling to perpetuate
something that no longer fits or to be the type of person
God is not asking us to be. What happens if we yield to the
call? A deep underlying sense of peace that we are
fulfilling what we have been called to do, for all there may
be many strains and challenges associated with fulfilling
You ‘catch’ peace from
people who have found their peace in Christ. Being
with them is like being handed a bouquet of
Centuries ago a
Christian declared, ‘Find your peace in Christ and
many others will find their peace around you.’
In Shropshire there used
to be a phrase to describe milkmaids walking along
carrying two buckets on a yoke slung across their
shoulders; as the top of the milk frothed over the
top it was said to be ‘swilkering’. May each one of
us “swilker” the presence of the Lord.
Asking God questions
“For this, moreover, will I be inquired of by the house
of Israel, to do it for them” (Ezek. 36:27).
It is good to ask God questions. It means we expect Him to
be answering them. You don’t ask questions of bare ceilings.
When Dom was four he asked a lot of questions. (He still
does!) “Where does water go to?” “Where does TV come from?”
“Shall we put these flowers outside again so they can grow
tall again?” It seemed a shame to have to tell him that once
flowers are cut they are already on their way to the dustbin
– but let’s enjoy their beauty first.
I love Teresa of Avila’s expression, “The water is for the
flowers.” No matter how much you drink, or give away, the
river of God won’t run dry. There is no “quota” of answered
prayer that we can ever exhaust.
Pray for the Spirit to be our Counsellor: "I will ask the
Father, and He
will give you another counsellor to be with you for ever –
the Spirit of
Truth. (John 14:16-17)
The Lord would not tell
His people to ’Listen to Him’ were it not possible
to do so. When Mother Theresa was asked about
prayer, she replied, “I listen!” There is no special
formula – it is a matter of love. He doesn’t bid us
come just to put a workload on us, although waiting
on Him obviously greatly helps to sharpen and define
all we do.
Keep alert for the
particular subjects the Lord wishes to bring to your
Sometimes if we are not
getting through in prayer, try praying from another
angle. If you are not getting through on one tack,
If you feel stuck asking
the question, “Is such and such Your will?” try
“loading” the question in one direction or another.
“Lord, so far as I can see the right thing to do
here is to . . . is there any reason why I shouldn’t
do this? Doing this breaks the logjam, and gets us
moving again. So long as our desires or prejudices
are not leading us astray, the Lord will not fail to
warn us if we are in serious danger of going off
course (Isaiah 30:21)
The angle of prayer is
important too. We may be praying from so far
‘underneath’ a situation that all we are really
doing is just vocalizing our unbelief. Come from an
attitude of praise.
One thing have I asked of
Jehovah, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the
house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the
beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. (Ps. 27:4)
Developing sensitivity in our spirits
God wants our spirits to be sensitive to pick up the
longings and the burdens that are on “His” heart. To this
end, He often uses images, pictures and prophecies to do
this. He wants us to be able to recognise His voice and to
respond to His leading. We may have to battle through all
sorts of static in our soul and chatter in our mind and tune
into His wavelength. Again, one touch or word from the Lord
can restore souls and revive hope and receive joy and
creativity flow again.
God loves a good Adventure! (i)
The people that know their God shall be strong, and
do exploits. (Dan 11:32)
God is a great scriptwriter! Have you noticed that He is
better than Shakespeare and the writer of 24 put together?
In the TV thriller series 24, the screen often divides into
panels as we follow what is going on for four sets of
characters at the same time. God works things together for
good, however, on an incalculable number of dimensions,
often right through to last minute deliverances.
We are so familiar with the outcome of the biblical
adventures that we may be in danger of forgetting how finely
poised the outcome often was – and just how much faith and
courage people needed to act on the improbable words that
God had given them. What riches the Church would have missed
had Ananias not obeyed the improbable word to visit Saul,
who was known only to the church as their most rabid
persecutor? (Acts 9:10f)
The Lord calls His people to adventures of faith! If you
know anything about the history of the Celtic church, think
of Patrick returning to Ireland, the country he had
previously known only as a slave, and how the call of God
made it possible to bring that nation to Christ. Or Columba
setting off to found a missionary monastery in Iona that
would bring large parts of Scotland to the Lord. Or
Columbanus heading off to evangelise Europe.
The odds stacked against these people must have seemed as
impossible as it did for Noah to build his ark, or for Moses
to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but they went forward
in obedience to what God had shown them – and God did
amazing things through them. But that can be a bit like
saying ‘One, two, miss-a-few, ninety-nine, a hundred – it
overlooks the enormous challenges these servants of the Lord
went through in order to get to the place of release.
Share adventures of
faith that you yourselves have experienced, or that
mean a lot to you.
God loves a good
If anyone had told me a few years ago, when I had just
written a book about St Cuthbert of Northumbria, that I
would move to the most remote and northerly part of the
British Isles, (which in turn would lead to working on the
most Southerly islands) I would have been most surprised.
Sometimes the Lord tells us what we are to do before we set
out; at other times we discover His purposes as we continue
on our pilgrimage. The most important thing is to remain
open and flexible. At that point, it is so important that we
do not try to hang on to anything He is asking us to lay
down. As Corrie Ten Boom remarked, “It hurts if He has to
prise our fingers open!”
Bless each other as you continue on the path that God has
set before you, and opens up new dimensions of Him call. May
the Lord enable each one of us to do many ‘exploits’ for
Him. Ponder Eph. 2:10 and Acts 17:26-28 in this context.
Intimacy embraces Risk
So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you
with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul – men who have
risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Acts 15:25-26, cf Rom. 16:4)
There is always a degree of risk involved in following the
Lord wholeheartedly. As Brother Andrew put it, “the command
is to go to all the nations; there is no automatic guarantee
that we will come back again!”
Whenever we witness to people, or reach out to them in some
way, (it is great to offer to pray with people, by the way,
even those who are not yet Christians) there is always a
risk that they will say reject our advances. More often than
not, however, they will be grateful – and it gives God the
chance to work in power.
Whenever we see
opportunities for the Kingdom we must reach out and
Drivers in Pakistan hurtle
into gaps that we westerners might never even have realised
were gaps. In rather the same way, we must turn our spirits
to pick up the opportunities the Lord sends our way. We may
be inclined to see the risks and dangers only too clearly –
but God is looking at the possibilities. He knows that He
can provide everything that we need for the journey He is
asking us to go on for Him.
Dare to adventure your
opinion. If God has given you creative ideas, or you
have seen things that could be done better, don’t
just sit on the idea. Tease it out and share it
If you are in a
leadership position, encourage people to take time
to work out what it is that God is asking of them –
and then to step out in faith. Spot the potential
and gifting in people before it is visible to the
naked eye. Develop their callings and giftings by
providing the opportunities for them to grow.
Don’t let fear of
getting things wrong, or the memories of past
failures stop you from stepping out. You are certain
to make mistakes along the way, but if you seek to
learn from them, your ministry will continue to take
shape and develop. It is those who persevere beyond
the inevitable disappointments who emerge into their
Almost all those who
are greatly used in healing ministries, once prayed
without success for people.
Intimacy and tough times
by such things men live;
and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
and let me live.
Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such
Sooner or later all of us
find things developing in ways we would dearly have wished
that they were not doing. The temptation is just to say ‘God
change the circumstances’ – but sometimes the Lord is more
interested in using them to change the way we react to
If you are tempted to say, ‘Why is God allowing (me to lose
my job, have this relationship difficulty, or whatever it is
that you are facing?) ask God not only to bring you safely
through the situation but to grow through it. It may be more
about you and God than about the other person or the
How else are we to interpret passages such as James 1:2-4?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face
trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of
your faith develops perseverance.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature
and complete, not lacking anything.
‘Heavenly thinking’ helps us not to react primarily by
blaming the other person. The Lord is still in control,
though we may need to seek Him urgently to set us free from
various traps and difficulties. Again and again we will find
ourselves inclined to think, ‘this isn’t possible and this
isn’t fair.’ But where do such thoughts get us? It is only a
small step from here to embracing the serpent’s assessment
of the situation. He is the supreme faith quencher and
The enemy does his
homework carefully, bases his temptations on our
track record and then attacks remorselessly, seeking
to weaken our levels of trust. Jesus is our heavenly
Advocate, who defends us, who sets us free to start
again, and who works very hard to lead and bless us.
The devil is highly
skilled at finding ways to accuse us, and making us
feel outsiders to grace. Shrug him off! Our destiny
is the Lord’s destiny, not Satan’s – therefore we
must rid ourselves of all such things as anger,
rage, malice, envy and so on.
There are some problems that
we have been hoping will go away for years. It is realistic
to suppose that these are not going to change by our own
unaided efforts. Share with someone wise how the devil
whispers to you. Different things will get beneath your
guard. You can lift the shield of faith for each other over
those areas where you need reinforcement. In the sense that
the other person is not weighed down by the baggage of past
failures in that area, ‘the prayers of others can reach the
parts our own can not!’ (cf James 5:16)
I have adapted a well
known advertisement to illustrate the fact that The
prayer of a righteous man (or woman) is powerful:
“The prayers of others can reach the parts our own
Pray to use your times
together with friends to pray more, and to enter
together into God’s presence. Every such encounter
is an opportunity to draw near to the Lord.
If we do not have the
humility to ask for prayer in those areas where we are
struggling, we may never succeed in getting ourselves free
by our own efforts. We will just continue to wallow around
in the quicksand!
Beware of Enemy Interference
Accusations, suggestions, misrepresentations . . . the
Accuser of the Brethren tries all he can to divert our soul
and to keep us from the stillness of God’s welcoming
presence. Pray that you can recognise when these forces are
at work in your life. Send them packing in the name of
Jesus, affirming the opposite of whatever it is that they
are trying to have you believe. Then your spirit is free to
move on and pray wider again, and to receive the words that
Jesus speaks to us, which are full of spirit and life. (John
The enemy’s propaganda works because of its constant
repetition. If Satan were to take part in a Mastermind quiz
his specialised subject would be ‘How many ways can you make
someone fearful!’ God's might be, ‘How love can set you
free’ – from the fear of man and from the snares of the
Again and again we will see God making a way for His
purposes to prosper and prevail. That is why it is so
important that we do not withdraw from the fray (or from
each other either) and write ourselves out of the script.
Many give up too soon,
and so they stop praying. Only we can do the things
that God has called us to do. Don’t beat yourselves
up because you are not reaching people by the
thousand – God has given you neither the anointing
nor the calling of a Billy Graham. But He is waiting
for us to seek Him, so that our will can
increasingly become His will, and His will can be
done in and through us. We never know what we will
turn into, or what Jesus will do in and through us
Intimacy in the Home
I am an enormous believer in the power of “harnessing”
prayer. Gordon MacDonald makes a fascinating point when he
claims that one draft horse can pull two tons of weight, but
two horses can pull an astonishing twenty four tons. Here we
see an exponential growth that seems to me to have direct
parallels in the spiritual realm when we pray together.
Sadly, few couples pray together on a regular basis. Why is
this? Perhaps because there is no hiding place. We may do a
pretty good job of convincing most people much of the time
that we are deeply spiritual, but we can’t fool the
spiritually discerning, let alone our wives or husbands.
Take to heart too, Peter’s instructions in 1 Peter 3:7:
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with
your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker
partner . . . so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Very few people set out to have a bad relationship with
their partner, or with anyone else for that matter: rather,
many drift into it. Occasionally this comes as the result of
some major failing or infidelity, but more frequently it
comes through a succession of irritating habits and by
apparent areas of incompatibility. I say ‘apparent’ because
I believe that we are called to create an atmosphere of
compatibility. The first and best way to do this is to
respect our partner for their strengths and differences,
rather than being frustrated with them for not being clones
of ourselves, or as “perfect” as we think they ought to be.
Where we have allowed disrespect to colour our attitude, we
specifically exclude any chance of creating a spiritually
creative or welcoming environment. Most of us have much to
repent of here. As the realisation of these things comes to
mind: irritating habits, the subtle demands we make on each
other: give each other permission to point out things that
we ourselves are almost certainly blind to. Believe them
when they tell us!
As a top priority, find
out what your partner’s top needs really are. If you
are showering them with lots of comfort when their
real need is actually for appreciation or trust,
then you may not be meeting their real needs at all.
They will be frustrated because you are “missing”
them, and you will be frustrated because you feel as
though you are giving so much and yet never quite
managing to hit the bulls eye.
Men and women both need
affirming, though often in very different ways, as books
such as John Gray’s Men are from Mars and Women are from
Venus make clear. It is good to take preventative action to
strengthen marriages, rather than emergency action because
they have been neglected.
What is your partner’s
Humble yourself before each other in order to find
Agree to sit down together and work through these
what is it that you need:
This is not a distraction.
Cultivating strong foundations in our marriages is most
important to our effectiveness in ministry. Marriage is
under attack and it is right to compensate against the
pressures. Intimacy begins at home.
Sanctify your homes. Watch your viewing habits. Can you
watch with Jesus? Or is it just a waste of precious time?
Forgiveness clears the blockages
Charles Finney reminds us that God can do anything through
us, provided only that we are willing to forgive. To show
mercy is to reflect the heart of God, and to set ourselves
and others free from many blockages. Practise forgiving
a) have hurt you badly.
When you can think of them without any surge of
heart-beat you are well on your way to being healed!
b) who simply annoy you.
Remember, there is only one
letter difference between ‘resent’ and ‘repent,’ but all the
difference in the world in their outworking.
Do you find it harder to
forgive on-going situations (e.g. in as family)
rather than sudden big crises?
Go round the circles of
your life: your immediate family: your neighbourhood
or colleagues at work; the people you know at Church
and so on and see if you are holding anything
against any of them.
The Spirit and the bride
say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is
thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the
free gift of the water of life. (Rev. 22:17)
When we are facing satanic opposition
It is only to be expected that we will not feel close to God
when we are under genuine attack. When Satan attacks a
church or institution, or even a family, it is rarely by the
front door in the first instance. That would normally lead
to a tightening of the ranks and to immediate retaliation.
He works around the edges, trying to lull us into a false
sense of security.
The way most splits occur in churches and movements is that
Satan focuses on some weak link somewhere in the system,
gains an entry point into someone's thinking and then
through gossip, misrepresentation or suspicion drives wedges
that do incalculable damage.
We must do everything
possible not to do Satan’s work for him. Yes, we are
quite capable of doing it - it's not just other
people! Remember Paul's teaching that our real
warfare is ‘not against flesh and blood, but against
the rulers, authorities and powers of this dark
world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in
the heavenly realms’. (Eph. 6:12)
Beware anyone who is
always denigrating other people, or setting
themselves up, however subtly, as being superior.
There is a small handful
of people who try to make a niche and a name for
themselves in the whole realm of prayer and
spiritual warfare as a way of not having to face up
to harder challenges at home or elsewhere in their
lives. That is not healthy. Satan is always trying
to intoxicate people with an attraction to power in
any form, and authority in prayer is no exception.
It can be a heady matter and we need constant honing
and humbling to exercise the power of the Lord
When the going is tough
Everyone desiring to lead a godly life in Christ Jesus
will be persecuted.
(2 Tim 3:12)
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are
going through, as if something strange were happening to
you. (1 Peter 4:12)
Although the details will obviously vary from person to
person, and country to country, we all face the same
If we understood that better, we would be far less inclined
to feel jealous of those who appear to have so much more
than we do.
Feeling spiritually dry doesn’t disqualify us
‘Between the promise and its fulfilment falls the shadow,’
TS Eliot warned. It is normal that when God grants a vision
or gives birth to a project, there is often an initial rush
of excitement, signs and confirmations. At some later point,
however, everything goes strangely quiet and we find
ourselves in the doldrums. The temptation to conclude that
we have got it all wrong and to backtrack is almost
There are barrier zones
to bash through: discouragement zones when it feels
as though we have a run of red lights against us.
The only thing to do is
to trust that God is just the same in the darkness
as when you were able to see. I could ask the
darkness to hide me and the light around me to
become night – but even in darkness I cannot hide
from you. To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you. (Ps
Don’t make major
decisions when you are in the doldrums. So far as
possible, don’t go back in the darkness on what you
felt was right in the light.
God gives authority to
match our responsibilities
You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in Your
providence watched over my spirit.
Few things put our intimacy with God under such pressure as
when we find ourselves in positions of maximum
responsibility but are given insufficient authority to do
anything about them. God gives us power and responsibility
to accompany our anointing, just as he called Adam, to name
the birds and animals. Realistically, that does not always
happen in the positions we find ourselves in in life. How do
you cope then? There is no formula answer. Sometimes it is
better to extricate ourselves for the balance and well-being
of our soul. At other times, God uses these experiences as
part of his learning curve for our life and we must do all
we can to learn form these “grace growers.”
Ponder: CS Lewis argues that few things put the enemy to
flight more than real genuine joy and enjoyment. There is a
time for fun too. Fun need not be a ‘secular’ concept!
“God’s character, nature and purposes are changeless, His
plans are flexible.” (Brother Andrew)
Much of the Lord’s planning depends on our praying. Don’t
stop knocking on the door because you are afraid that
everything will fade away, leaving you worse off than if you
had never started.
This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we
ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we
know that He hears us – whatever we ask Him – we know that
we have what we asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)
When Jesus says that prayer is answered, it means that God
answers prayer. Not necessarily in quite the way that we had
planned or expected, but it will be in keeping with what we
have been led to ask. Here is an opportunity to repent of
“Repentance is a sincere apology to God for distrusting
Him so long, and faith is throwing yourself with confidence
on Christ.” (Tozer)
If you are feeling
particularly troubled in your conscience, and
blocked in your spirit, use the measure of truth the
enemy injects into his lies to help us face up to
things about ourselves we would much rather pretend
were not there.
Ask the Lord’s
forgiveness for anything wrong that you have done in
a situation – but don’t forget to receive His
forgiveness and to trust Him to lead you on again!
If you are simply not
sure whether what we have done is right or wrong,
remember that Jesus is our Heavenly Advocate. We can
tell Him that we are not sure where we stand in a
given situation, but ask Him to show us clearly if
we are wrong. The Holy Spirit is specific whereas
the enemy usually prefers to tell an outright lie or
to be hopelessly vague in his accusations! It may
actually be the case that we are more in the right
than we realize – in which case, ask the Lord to
bless and increase what He is doing.
This then is how we know
that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at
rest in His presence, whenever out hearts condemn us. For
God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. (1
Worship God with content
Worship is always the best antidote to extreme pressure.
Sometimes it may consist of little more than crying out
‘Lord Jesus, have mercy on me!’ It is good to praise with
content. Greg Haslam tells the story of a westerner who
heard singing inside an African kraal and thought it
beautiful. When he asked what it meant, the reply came ’If
you boil the water you won’t get dysentery!’
Some choruses are lacking in content and depth – but there
is always depth when God brings us through serious crises.
‘It is well with my soul’ Spafford wrote, not in a rose
garden but in the middle of the Atlantic on the precise spot
where his four daughters were all drowned when their ship
struck another vessel.
I have heard it said that Michael Ledner wrote the beautiful
song, “You are my hiding place” in a foxhole while shells
were flying overhead from the Golan Heights.
As somebody wrote,
“Only You, Lord, can turn MESS into a MESSage
a TEST into a TESTimony
and a TRIal into a TRIumph!”
Don’t make impossible demands of each other
If you look only to each other for the satisfaction of your
soul and spirit, you will end up at best disappointed, at
worst making impossible demands on each other. If you are
flowing together, then the gifts of the one can wonderfully
compliment the gifts of another.
Turn everything into prayer
God uses our times of silence to pray through us for other
people. Ask the Lord to help you:
to bear burdens in the
spirit and not in the flesh
to take up old burdens
that you have stopped praying for
to be open to new
burdens, whether ‘occasional’ ones (such as an item
on the news) or ‘regular’ ones, in terms of a
disciplined commitment to pray for someone or
Apart from your ‘regular’
times with Him, try to be open to His prompting at other
times. An inability to get to sleep, or waking early, may,
for example, be His call to you. Resolve to win the battle
of the bedclothes – at least, more often than you lose it!
A nice surprise!
Bill Johnson always says, “I always expect God to work in
power – and I am constantly amazed and taken by surprise
when He does!” That is actually a very healthy balance.
The first definition of a surprise is something that causes
us to feel amazement or wonder. Isn’t that how it is when
God shows up? No matter how many times we have experienced
His presence before, we are amazed that He knows and that He
cares. If we become complacent about this, watch out: we may
be on course for allowing a foothold that most dangerous of
spiritual foes: cynicism.
Reflect and call to mind
occasions when God has surprised you, almost
ambushed you in His love.
Ponder how you can
“surprise” other people. Give them a phone call or a
gift that will bless them. Pray for the right words,
the right spirit, the right gift to bless them with.
The second meaning of
surprise is to encounter or discover something unexpectedly.
How do you handle surprises? Is your first reaction to take
two steps backwards, even to assume it is bad news when
actually it may be very good news, albeit somewhat in
disguise? Such things test the underlying expectations of
our heart. Many years ago the Lord gave me the verse, The
righteous man will have no fear of bad news; his heart is
steadfast, trusting in the Lord’ (Ps. 112:7). Instead of
receiving the verse as a blessing, I spent the next few days
wondering what bad news was going to come my way!
Even crises (which most of us loathe at the time) may have
the seeds of possibility within them. For many years Brother
Yun suffered appallingly in China; now he is free to travel
the world and to tell people of the greatness of our God.
Not everything, of course, works out so ‘neatly.’ Another
great Chinese pioneer, Watchmen Nee, spent twenty five years
in prison being indoctrinated in Maoist thought. When he was
finally released it was only in order to go home to die. On
the face of it, it seems like the waste of a good life. Yet
all the time he was in prison, his writings were
circulating, and preparing the way for the great harvest
that is now being reaped amongst the Chinese people.
If the way we understand God’s workings is too limited we
won’t recognise His coming or spot His nudges because we are
too busy insisting on doing things in a certain way. The
Pharisees missed out because they couldn’t believe the
Messiah would heal on a Sabbath. God doesn’t want us to know
too much – but He delights to give little steering touch
just to reassure us that it really is Him at work!
In order to follow Christ’s leading, we may often need
extreme courage not to go with crowd, and with the largely
unwritten rules and expectations that so easily cramp the
Welcome the surprise call of God
It is so easy for us to stay within our comfort zones! We
say we don’t like the style or substance of something, when
what we really mean is that we do not want to have to change
our routine. We plead kid’s stuff, and say ‘We’d love to do
it but we have to stay for the sake of the family.’ The
truth is that we often ‘sacrifice’ so much only to give them
things that are of mere passing interest, and we ourselves
fail to move on as a result to accomplish things that would
have really helped others. We stifle our intimacy and our
creativity, never realising that we are teaching our
children to stifle theirs.
Point to Ponder
What tram lines and
excuses do you feel you may be stuck within?
Pray for the Lord to
take you out beyond them!
Know the times and the
seasons in your life
God’s leading is often surprising. It will often take all
our concentration and attentiveness to work out what he is
Every problem has many sides. He will solve each one, but
not necessarily all at once.
We must often pray and ponder first. Mary pondered the
angel’s message for her for many years. To ponder means
considering different courses of action. In Christ are
hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3).
He knows what is best for us. But so much remains hidden.
A mystery is something
that is hidden until such time as God gives us
understanding concerning it.
Where should our love be
directed? Do we know what our goals are?
Beware red herrings,
however. The devil loves to see us ‘almost’ helping
people instead of spending time with the people we
really can help and be helped by.
I watched an extraordinary
programme once about red crabs on Christmas Island. The
whole thing is one of nature’s true wonders. At a certain
time of the year, millions of crabs migrate several
obstacle-strewn kilometres to the shore.
Crossing roads, passing over gardens making the floor
completely red. There the mating happens, in carefully
constructed burrows in the sand. At the peak moment of the
highest tide of the year, they enter the water at just the
right moment and the female strews one hundred thousand egg
larvae into the waves. Most will be eaten by the fish inside
the reef; or the deep-sea fish outside. But a small
percentage will make it back to land some weeks later in the
form of tiny crabs about the size of an ant. The baby sprog
crabs make it ashore, retracing the steps of their parents
into the forest. Then they disappear mysteriously
underground, to emerge years later as fully formed crabs.
What a miracle!
It is by no means every year that the larvae manage to
return to dry land. Many years none do. But this most
delicate of cycles continues by God’s rhythms. There are
rhythms in our soul likewise; rhythms we only gradually
become familiar with through experience and observation,
rhythms that are disturbed by our slowness to respond, and
by sins and affections that draw us into dead ends; or by
illness and other demands that weigh us down. But the call
continues and the rhythms resume. All is not lost if, for
some reason, we are slow off the mark. He is longing for us
to come deeper, to explore more, to open the pores of our
heart that have become closed, or which we have never known
how to open.
There are people stifling under the load of their
loneliness, longing for something exciting to come their
way. Their soul becomes wistful, fanciful even. Deprived of
opportunities to drink in the Lord’s presence, or any clear
sense of His leading, the imaginary life takes over. People
effectively spend time just gazing out of windows, like the
woman in Elisabeth Goudge’s “The Third Window”, who was
always waiting and, watching, hoping for her loved one to
(Just to even matters up, it is important to point out that
men have different ways of doing the same thing, burying
themselves in their work or hobbies)! Intimacy hopes all
things – but it does not descend into embracing illusions.
Neither does it allow false loyalty and allegiances to keep
us from stepping out into God’s new leading.
When I first started attending a church in my town fifty
kilometres outside Paris, there was little life there, but
it was still a wrench to have the courage to leave it to
travel an hour and a half’s journey to a church in England.
But the first day I went there I led someone to the Lord,
and many adventures ensued. If I had stayed where I was out
of misplaced loyalty, so much would have been missed.
I often hear people
saying, “Yes, yes, I know I ought to do this that or
the other; I know it would be better, but, but, but
. . .” It is so easy to find excuses for not doing
things – but by letting the ‘but’s’ win it often
causes them (and others) to miss out seriously. It
is so important to be willing to step outside the
boat when Jesus calls.
Step outside the Boat
‘Without courage, nothing great is ever accomplished for
I know most days that I have only
to play my part and do my chores.
And I will seek and find Your leading
on the well-worn path
of duty’s regular route.
But when more distant shores begin to call,
where duty’s path would never think to go,
Your vision beckons and my spirit stirs,
and I must set my face like flint
If I am ever to step outside the boat.
Though the prospect looms and daunts,
You must have gone ahead
– and if I should fail to step out,
I know this vision will fade and pass away
like the waves beneath my boat.
So from deep within I cry for grace
to make this change of course,
for You alone can stay the waves
and send the favourable wind
that steers me safe to callings new.
I summon up my courage,
embrace the risks entailed
and step outside the boat –
and we, with heaven,
will rejoice that I did not stop short
by staying home on safety’s shore.
Restorer of our soul
As the years go by, it is easier to let our faith ceiling
come down, whereas it ought to be going up. If nothing has
changed for you within the last few years in your intimacy
with God, then something needs to change! Not necessarily
because it is bigger but just deeper.
Are there specific
disappointments and traumas that you end setting
It is a simple thing to
ask and drink. John 7:37
“If you’re walking in a
desert without water, dry and parched of thirst, and it
rained, you wouldn’t open an umbrella and let it all pass
you by! No, you turn your face upwards and drink in all that
heaven has given you”.
“Many have opened an umbrella in the Church – running to
shelter with like-minded people who will mutter with them.”
Intimacy is precious to the Lord
As we come towards the end of this course, it is good to
conclude where we started. There are things that do not
appear to be of much use to men, but which are of great
worth in God’s sight. Intimacy with God is right up there in
Just as Jesus looked
upon the widow’s mite and commended it, and likewise
the act of love of the woman who poured nard over
Him, so He notices things that are done out of love
Lovers always somehow
manage to carve great chunks of time out of their
busy schedules to spend time with each other. We
must do the same with the Lord.
‘God wants worshippers
before workers because the work won’t have much
heart in it if there isn’t passion and devotion in
our lives.’ (Greg Haslam)
Try to find out what is
pleasing to the Lord (Eph. 5:10)
The Lord wants us to be at home with Him – to know how to be
in the mode that He is in. It is often a question of knowing
“when to wrestle and when to nestle.”
I mourn the number of times I get myself so hot under the
collar because something isn’t working out as I had hoped it
would, only to find out later that the Lord was actually
wanting to do something quite different, or saving me from
rushing off after something else that was exciting me at the
time. May the Lord both lead and restrain us!
It is by no means always
easy to discern what is of God, Satan or machines
just not working! Sometimes the answer seems to be
all three more or less simultaneously! That begins
to make sense when you remember that the same word
is used in Scripture for to test try and tempt. The
devil tempts, God tests and our faith is being
Jesus knows us through and
It is so lovely when someone notices you. Jesus gives us His
attention! He is the Comforter in our distress. To comfort
means to strengthen – the Hebrew word is chazaq – and it is
used over three hundred times in Scripture. He is the
counsellor for wisdom – I will help you – He is the Helper.
What will make us more Christ-like?
Firstly prayerfulness: a real determination to take
matters to God, and to turn them over to Him.
David Watson was greatly impressed by the example of Corrie
Ten Boom because she prayed for everything: from missing
keys to international situations.
Secondly, increasing our compassion and our love for people.
Thirdly, by judging aright – which often means not judging
at all! A leader has to discern – which involves making
judgements. There is no way round that: you invite people to
do something, and you cannot but judge how well or otherwise
they do; feedback and mentoring will help many to do better
in the future, but some are simply not able to function at
that level, in which case it may be time to take action and
find them something more suited to their skills, resilience
and wisdom. But this owes nothing to that kind of judging
which effectively makes ourselves out to be either superior
or inferior to other people, and that prevents the love of
Christ from flowing freely through our hearts.
It is a great mistake to
promote people purely because of their gifting if we
can se clearly that their character is not up to
speed. A person’s gifting can take them where their
character cannot keep them.
Getting away with the Lord
It is so good to get away from time to time, regularly, to
enjoy uninterrupted time with Him.
Sometimes we actually need to physically get up and get away
from where we are. If we live in a city we may find it
‘sitting on us’ from time to time – and if we live in the
country we may suddenly find ourselves needing more company.
Practise stillness. Just practice it. So often I come to the
Lord feeling empty, with no particular desire to pray, and
no particular expectation that He is going to say or do
anything. But again and again He comes.
At the World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, the Pope held
silence with a million young people – not for the seven
seconds of silence that only radio audiences can cope with –
but for twenty whole minutes. That is just brilliant!
Learn to recognise by experience which places and company
stimulate and which hinder your seeking of the Lord.
What are the places that are conducive to you hearing the
Lord? What people? Search them out. It’s often the country
walks for me – I hear the Lord far more often there than in
church – or rather I tend to get directive steering touches
from the Lord in church what to do next rather than intimate
conversation. If you ever get to the end of the day and
discover it’s been one great rush and you haven’t really
touched base with the Lord, then do it before you go to
sleep. Try and tune in to Him in the morning too before the
big rush starts. The waking moments can be precious too.
St. John of the Cross said,
“You owe it to your heart to give it this peace and
stillness, since your heart is a place where the Spirit is
pleased to dwell”.
God has designed us to be close to Him.
Sanctify your house.
Pray in it. Pray with
the people in it.
Bring people to the
place of prayer. From His presence, you can pray the
prayers that break through, rather than just praying
about a situation.
Why do people hold back
from such intimacy?
Why do you think? Here are a few suggestions.
Most obviously through
fear. But this may not the heart stopping heart
pounding variety but something far more subtle. A
fear of not appearing to be a good person or a
dutiful member of the Church, for example.
“Good people don’t rock
the boat,” we hear. Oh yes they do. Jesus quite
realistically declared that He had come to bring
division rather than just peace and harmony (Luke
The kindest man the
world has ever known was also the most radical. So
too must we be.
The Lord knows what He is
There is another reason why people hold back. We are afraid
of letting other people steer our ship. We are so used to
rowing somewhere we find it hard to trust ourselves to the
current. This implies a lack of understanding of the
deliberateness of God. There is nothing random or arbitrary
in the ways God leads us. He is careful about what He allows
to come our way, and thoughtful about what He is doing.
God is not insecure. He knows that what He sets in motion,
He can bring to completion. God knew on day one that He met
with Moses in the burning bush, that He could help Moses
succeed against all the odds. He knew that David could
outsmart Saul in the desert. He knew that eleven restocked
to twelve unlettered men could overturn the world.
The Lord does not send people out on wild goose chases. He
doesn’t lead us astray. He isn’t insecure about his ability
to get us to where He has promised.
‘Submit to God, and you will have peace; then things will go
well for you. Listen to his instructions, and store them in
your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be
restored – so clean up your life. If you give up your lust
for money and throw your precious gold into the river, the
Almighty Himself will be your treasure. He will be your
Then you will take delight in the Almighty and look up to
God. You will pray to Him, and He will hear you, and you
will fulfill your vows to Him.’ (Job 22:21-27)
Remember: God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son
of man, that he should change his mind. Does He speak and
then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? (Num. 23:19)
Don’t hold back when the Spirit stirs within you and calls
you towards more time apart. Some may not understand this
desire; and you yourself may not be sure that it is
worthwhile as the precious hours tick away and you have
little to show for your time apart. Don’t measure such times
out by worldly standards.
Imagine how crazy it would be if I said that it was in
athletic training, and can now run a mile in four . . .
kilograms! This would be to use the wrong set of measuring
yards. You are coming to your Heavenly Father; and opening
your soul to the sounds and leadings of eternity. That is of
immense value in itself. You may also come to see in how
many other areas of life you may be applying those faulty
measuring sticks. Perfectionism is such a faulty standard.
Some of the steps we take seem small and mundane but are
actually extremely significant. The means by which we bring
our souls to peace are so many.
Go for a walk just to be
with the Lord.
Make a tryst with the
Lord. Have places which You love to go to just to be
with Him. This may be an inner or an outer place.
Make sure it is a place
where you will not be forever interrupted.
Read books that touch
your spirit rather than just instruct you.
Watch films that
entertain and relax you rather than always keeping
you on edge; they too can play their part in
recharging our batteries.
Even a few minutes in a
park, or by a stream, or climbing a hill or watching
the clouds can do wonders to refocus our soul on
something wider than ourselves.
Being in the presence,
or on the phone, with someone who means a great deal
to you, and bringing God right in on the
Doing things with your
hands: whittling, shelling, painting – whatever and
wherever your bent lies.
Listen to music that
inspires, enables and envisions you.
Admire a tree (or climb
it!) Cuddle a baby, watch the sun set and the
moonlight play on the ground around you
God tells stories:
parables, accounts from the past, we hear
“testimonies” all the time as rich and famous people
swagger their way through life – but have you ever
thought that you too are living a soap? Our lives,
even the most mundane of us, are real life
adventures that contain all the stuff that make for
the high drama episodes we watch on television.
Ok, so how about telling
God a story? Tell Him how you are feeling, and
what’s going on. You may want to write it down,
because writing has a wonderful way of clarifying
matters and purifying us mind and spirit. Don’t
prejudge the outcome – there are parts of the story
that have yet to be written. The scriptwriter is
still at work.
Just tell Him the details,
and the longings you feel that accompany those details and
see where you go from there. Tell Him how you are really
feeling –not the ‘holy’ language you perhaps feel you ought
to use for such an occasion!
“Farther on and farther” is the cry in CS Lewis’s The Last
Battle. However much we have known of God’s presence and
power, there is always more to experience. Perhaps it will
be that way, even in Heaven itself. The Lord wants us to
perceive the glory, even if only in fleeting moments. These
occasional moments do so much to direct and inspire our
lives. Come beside Him; His face is peace.
Every time we hear any news, even think any thoughts, get
into the habit of turning it into prayer. There are elements
in what we hear and what we share that are prayer-worthy.
This is a wonderful discipline to get into. There is no
quota of prayer we can ever exhaust.
Share some aspect of
your story with someone this week. Be as honest as
Come back again later if
need be and add something more: “And what I didn’t
mention was . . . ”
Finally, a rather solemn
warning: If we do not take time out, our soul deteriorates.
So too does our health. This is not an optional extra.
If you are falling prey to the assumption that everything
will fall apart if you don’t keep going at the pace you are
doing, be warned: you may be further advanced on the burnout
trail than you realise. You may need to stop for a while,
lest you have to stop later for a much longer period of
time. Leave a margin. Come back beside the Father’s
presence! You will regain your poise and spiritual focus.
If we do not make the time out that our souls are craving,
we are in danger of lashing out and taking it by force. I
have seen men overturning and shipwrecking their marriages
altogether because they felt their partners had not allowed
them the modicum of freedom within it that they needed to
enjoy time out. I have seen people break down when a few
gentler course adjustments along the lines suggested by John
Gray might have prevented the overstrain.
I see so many trapped by the spirit of household
perfectionism. We are so far from being able to approach
this ideal state ourselves that I am perhaps particularly
sensitive to it. I see people making their lives a misery to
perform for a modicum of approval to avoid a deluge of
disapproval, but which in real terms achieves nothing but
angst. God is not into nit-picking. It is more important to
keep the soul tidy. Short odds in relationships, deep trust
and love in our walk with the Lord.
Intimacy Develops our Sensitivity and our Gentleness
What would the Lord say to you about sensitivity and
gentleness in our personal relationships and in our
I believe we need to
become more sensitive to His voice and to His
gentleness, and then we will find that we are
becoming more gentle to each other as well.
Gentleness is not a weak
quality; rather it is like a strong horse that has
been broken in. Gentleness can change our meetings
out of all recognition. It keeps us from coming in
our own combativeness, and helps us to make room for
Don't come with an
elitist determination to teach everybody what you
think you already know: that is to be a sheep in
In worship, let your words be
few: God is in heaven. Let the music flow. Most people
interrupt too much. Let the healing love of the Lord flow
When the Heavens feel empty
Every person who has ever sought to go deeper with the Lord
has experienced times, sometimes prolonged ones, when they
become more aware of God’s absence than His presence.
A key concept to sustain us at such times is this verse from
‘Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his
servant? Let him who walks in the dark, and who has no
light, trust in the name of the Lord, and rely on His God.’
We are called to trust His character at times when we cannot
feel His presence. He won’t let us down. As the following
verse makes clear, the most important thing is not to light
our own fires at this point and to put our trust in them.
CS Lewis says that prayers prayed during times of aridity
are of particular worth in God’s sight. Or as Screwtape puts
it, “Our cause is never in greater danger than when a human
being looks around on a world from which all trace of its
creator appears to have vanished; hurts; shrugs and still
resolves to trust.” Our calling is still to be available to
the Lord, even though it feels now as though there is no
benefit for us in doing this. May the Lord give you courage
to persevere through the gray days: the sunshine will
If you would like to explore this concept in more detail:
on the website:
See also Robert’s Book
‘Veil of Tears.’ Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
for a copy
The Lord can turn any
An atheist angrily threw the Bible of a Russian pastor out
of train window during the days of Soviet intimidation. One
night, the pastor heard a knocking on his door. It was not
the dreaded KGB, but some folks who wanted to be baptised.
They had an amazing story to tell. They been converted as a
result of one man, a builder, who found a Bible by the rail
side, and had read it and been converted by it!
Yield back the hard things that have happened to you to, the
things that really were the last thing you would have
expected or planned. Lord, You said, “Let nothing be
wasted,” after You fed the 5000. (John 6:12). You can
somehow find ways to turn this situation around for good.
For further meditation
The more time we spend in stillness with the Lord, the more
easy we will find it to integrate our love for the Lord with
the rush and bustle of everyday life. Someone who discovered
how to do this was Jeremy Taylor, in the seventeenth
century. He had been King Charles 1st’s chaplain, and, as
such, loved the luxury of court life. Following Cromwell’s
victory, he had to escape to Wales, where he became the
domestic chaplain of a small country house. His extravagant
tastes gradually gave way to a deep mystical awareness of
God's presence in every event, no matter how small and
insignificant. Here a few of the prayers he has left us.
i) The Divine Presence
Almighty God, infinite and eternal, You are in the
consciences of all men. Teach me to walk always in Your
presence, to fear Your majesty, to reverence Your wisdom,
that I may never dare to commit any indecency in the eye of
my Lord and my Judge; that I, expressing the belief of Your
presence here, may feel the effects of it in eternal glory.
ii) For Families
Bless Your servant (my wife, husband or friend) with health
of body and of spirit. Let Your hand of blessing be on his
or her head, night and day; support him or her in all
necessities; strengthen them in all temptations, comfort
them in all their sorrows, and let them be Your servant in
all chances. Make both of us to dwell with You for ever in
Your favour, in the light of Your countenance, and in Your
Bless my children with healthy bodies, with good
understandings, with the graces and gifts of your Spirit,
with sweet dispositions and holy habits; and sanctify them
throughout in their bodies, and souls, and spirits, and keep
them free of all blame at the coming of the Lord Jesus
Christ. (Jeremy Taylor)
‘Help me to make my house a home, full of joy and security,
a home to which others will be eager to come, a centre of
love and understanding. Help me to make time for the most
important things, and not to become so over-tired that I
forget that You have honoured me with this far-reaching and
Bless our free times together and all our fun. Bless our
plans as we look ahead; our relationship with friends in the
community, and in the church here and in the wide world.’
iii) For Friends
Be pleased, O Lord, to remember my friends, all that have
prayed for me, and all that have done me good. Do good to
them, and return all their kindness double into their own
laps, rewarding them with blessings, and sanctifying them
with Your graces, and bringing them to glory.
iv) For Contentment
Almighty God, Father and Lord of all the creatures, by
secret and undiscernible ways bringing good out of evil:
give me wisdom from above; teach me to be content in all
changes of person and condition, to be temperate in
prosperity, and in adversity to be meek, patient and
resigned; and to look through the cloud, in the meantime
doing my duty with an unwearied diligence, and an
undisturbed resolution. . . Take from me all affection to
sin or vanity; let me affections soar upwards to the element
A prayer for those who are feeling anxious
‘I lift up my heart, O God, for all who are in the prey of
anxious fears, who cannot get their minds off themselves,
and for whom every demand made on them fills them with
foreboding, and with the feeling that they cannot cope with
all that is required of them.
Give them the comfort of knowing that this feeling is
illness, not cowardice; that millions have felt as they
feel, that there is a way through this dark valley, and
light at the end of it.
Lead them to those who can help them, and understand them,
and show them the pathway to health and happiness.
Comfort and sustain them by the loving presence of the
Saviour who knows and understands all our woe and fear, and
given them enough courage to face each day, and rest their
minds in the thought that You will see them through’.
Spirituality without discipline is like a river without
I want to draw a comparison here with writing. If you wait
until you feel like writing, in all probability you will
never write much. We have to be able to do it more or less
We need to be in the presence of the Lord to break through.
It says in 2 Chron. 9:23 that ‘All the kings of the earth
sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put
in his heart.’ The simple fact is that people will seek us
out if we are getting closer to the Lord. Other people may
go a long way out of their way to avoid us. We operate with
so little light in this country, that when someone really
does dwell in the presence of the Lord it stands out as
At a time when I was going through the mill, I remember
entering a church in the Lake District. Before the vicar
said a word, I could see that he was man of God. It brought
so much reassurance and showed so much of Christ. I want to
propose that example in a sense as a model: that who God is
should be infectious through us.
You can pretend that you
have got mumps but if you are suffering from measles
what are people going to catch?
Every time you meet
someone is a chance to influence that person for
good and for God!
Taking intimacy wider
“If it stays inside the church it dies inside the
church.” (Bill Johnson.)
I mentioned at the start of this guide that it is not
more information that many of us really need so much as
grace and courage to use what we have been given. The Lord
is in us as a river – not as landlocked lake. There has to
be an outlet and an overflow! The present move of the Spirit
that is sweeping the world is empowering people not just to
have a good time, but to receive God’s impartation for the
specific tasks and callings He has in mind for us to do.
Healings on the street really are happening. Some of us may
well be called to this. Others are called to share the
gospel more effectively with their profession. Of the
increase of His government there will be no end!
May the Lord set us free from self-consciousness to be
effective in this realm. It is said of John Wimber that
although he ministered to thousands, He was really only
interested in an audience of one: the Lord Jesus Himself.
How can we stay fresh and encouraged in the face of the many
challenges that come our way? The answer Bill Johnson
proposes is to feed our spirits on what God is doing rather
than worrying about what He has yet to do. To put that a
slightly different way: if you can't figure out what He is
doing in any given situation, remember what He has already
done. So much of our thinking (and our worldview) is based
on what God hasn’t done rather than on what He has done.
|Bill Johnson continues,(1) “Jesus didn’t come just to show
what God can do: He came to show us what one man who is
right with God can do. Our proneness to unbelief is an
insult to the Lord who is perfectly faithful. It is all too
easy for any of us to end our legacy of grace by feeding our
souls with stories of things that do not work out well.
We’ve all got such stories. Even when things don’t work out
as we had hoped, we have to keep walking. My questions do
not have the right to undermine the power of the authority
that is of God. Often there is nothing else for it but to
give up our right to understand. We hold God to a ransom,
demanding an explanation. Doing this makes us ineffective,
and reduces the faith and resolve we used to have.
It is not that God is afraid of our questions, or opposed to
us developing our intellect, bye He does not want to breed
carnal Christians, in which the mind is in charge. When
follower, it becomes the canvas on which God paints His
picture. The kingdom does not come just in word but in power
– Nicodemus said, “we know that you are a teacher come from
God because no one could perform the miraculous signs you
are doing if God were not with him (John 3:2)
“Blessed is He who is not offended in me,” Jesus said, “and
who who does not fall away on account of Me.” (Luke 7:23)
Many do take offence – and feeding themselves on what has
not happened merely makes it harder for them to yield to God
and to experience His peace and comfort. Even the painful
things we go through can make our hearts stronger and not
harder. God is so good at giving back to us for the losses
we experience on the way. By having to struggle against some
situations that appear unmoving we develop a strength which
enables us to handles lesser problems that others would be
tempted to regard as impossibly large!
Because we are called to carry the presence of God to the
people around us, who are often desperate to see God as He
really is, we can’t afford to be too introspective. As the
Spirit stirs in us, share what God gives. We never know how
powerful this can be. Many times I have witnessed (very
poorly as I have often thought) and the person has said that
they were quite unable to forget what I have said, and have
subsequently given their lives to the Lord.
The impartation God gives us enables us to speak out and to
reach out. “You are the light of the world,” Jesus reminds
us in Matthew 5:14. It does not just say that we reflect the
light: it says that we are light. He expects His lights to
shine! It is not that He is dependent on us, but very often
He won’t work unless we are prepared to act.
Intimacy is all about partnership. He expects us to do the
things that He did and to minister in His name according to
the power that is at work in us, empowering them to become
all that God would have them be.
Sometimes we will be called to work very hard. At other
times, our task will primarily be to wait – and to entwine
ourselves in the Lord during this waiting process. The
important thing is to be in step with the Lord’s timing for
our lives, and to act on the word of the Lord when the right
time comes. It is easy to live in the past or in the
abstract. To keep in step with the Spirit, however, empowers
us to live the present to the full in such a way that it
releases God’s purposes and shapes the future.
The material in this booklet is (copyright 2008) to
All material may be freely used outside of this booklet if
Explore Intimacy with God in more details on this web site:
www.ruachministries.org and follow the links to Intimacy and