Conduits and Channels

I was watching a film on Netflix recently called “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind.” It tells the true story of 13-year-old William Kamkwamba who built a wind turbine to save his Malawian village from famine. From a combination of corporate exploitation and greed, Government corruption and a failed rainy season, the people of William’s village and surrounding areas were starving.

What was significant to me was that the village had a well which was not dry, there was enough water in it to supply all their needs. However, because there was no pump they could not draw enough of it quickly enough to irrigate their crops. And so they were starving.

Back in King Ahaz and Hezekiah’s time, Jerusalem faced a similar problem. There was an abundant supply of water in the Gihon spring but it was located outside the walls of Jerusalem. This meant that it had to be laboriously collected in buckets day by day. Its location also left the city vulnerable. If there was a besieging army it was easy for them to prevent the people getting to the spring.

King Ahaz lived around the time Isaiah was prophesying. He started to build a tunnel from the spring into the city and his son, King Hezekiah, probably completed it. You can read more about the inscription found in the 19th century and Isaiah’s softly flowing waters of Shiloah in my other blog on the subject.

This tunnel would have had a significant impact on the lives of the people of Jerusalem at the time. The water from the Gihon spring flowed through Hezekiah’s tunnel into the Pool of Siloam (Sent). Later on Jesus sent a blind man to that pool who returned seeing (John 9).

According to the understanding I have been given (hopefully by the Lord – I will let you be the judge of that) the following is what is represented by the spring, Hezekiah’s tunnel and the pool of Siloam (Sent):

  1. The Gihon spring represents the 5 fold ministries and gifts of the Body of Christ, His Church. Powerful and upwelling these gifts and ministries supply sustenance and support for any living church. Without them any church will die – or was never living in the first place.
  2. The tunnel represents a means of enabling the 5 fold ministries and spiritual gifts to function or be channelled into a church. I believe Paul has shown us how this is done using the model of church meetings he describes in 1 Cor. 14:26- 40.
  3. The Pool of Siloam is the healing place for the saints in the midst of the church. The 5 fold ministries and spiritual gifts are functioning in it and people are being healed, set free and delivered.

The literal tunnel in Jerusalem run for 500m under the wall of the city and the waters emerged, gently flowing, in the centre of Jerusalem. However the work required to build it took two teams of workers coming at it from both directions and meeting in the middle. They didn’t have tunnel boring machines so this was wielding pickaxes and sledgehammers, blow by blow at the rock that underlaid the city’s foundations. There was risk involved. No doubt many said at the time it was too dangerous. Perhaps some lives were lost. But the results made it all worthwhile.

It wasn’t long after the tunnel was built that the King of Assyria arrived with a horrific army and a reputation for flaying people alive. All he could do was lock Hezekiah and his inhabitants up inside the city. He knew the water supply and no doubt tried to block up the tunnel but who knows how much valuable time Jerusalem gained while the waters still flowed. In the end not even the spring could save them but God intervened.

Without Him we can do nothing.

But with Him anything is possible.

Greater Things

Paul said to some members of the church at Corinth that in effect “some of you are boasting as if you had power when you do not. The Kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” (1 Cor. 4:18-20).

It should be a matter of concern to us that our churches are so lacking in power.

Jesus wants us to be like He was on the earth. The church should collectively be out in the streets and public places speaking like Jesus and doing the things that he did: healing the sick (a lot), raising the dead (on at least a couple of occasions) and addressing the powers and authorities, especially religious ones, and calling out their hypocrisy. This needs to be done fearlessly but also in the Spirit of overwhelming, reckless love that Jesus passionately poured forth as our example.

Paul’s whole work was to establish local churches that could prepare and bring about this. It was his inspired answer to how to “make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt.28:20). It is a study in itself of how Paul understood this but just reading his letter to the Ephesians would give you enough to be excited about. In that letter Paul describes how the whole body is involved in church, each member doing its part in building it up until we all become like a mature Christ. He also describes there the role and authorities of what is commonly known as the five fold ministries, all of which should be operating: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. In 1 Corinthians 14: 26-40 he describes a format for a church meeting which enables these ministries to function in the church.

The goal of local churches should not be to reproduce themselves in some kind of pyramid scheme that in the end actually delivers nothing of any relevance to the nation they are in.

The goal of a church should be to ensure that Christ’s promise that “Greater things than these will you do.” (John 14:12) is fulfilled for all the disciples in their care.

(It is hard to imagine greater things than raising the dead but that only considers the word “greater” in the sense of “mightier”. I believe that at least one way Jesus intended the word “greater” to mean was in quantity and geographical spread. What Jesus did in Galilee and Judea, He wants His disciples to do all over the world.)

If all local churches produced disciples that were truly like Christ in every way (including with His power) then it is in this sense that “greater things” would be achieved. Being like Christ is to grow up in a local church and under its authority but eventually, at the right time, to be let loose on the world and behave like Christ did in the streets and villages of Galilee. This is not individuals being released one at a time to be devoured by the wolves of the world. This is flocks being released at once. This is sometimes called revival, or a move of God. In practice it should be an ongoing phenomenon.

And it is not as if this has not happened in the past. The Methodist movements of the late 18th century carried many of the signs of the church impacting the communities with Jesus manifest in all sorts of signs and wonders. The legacy was community changing and we feel its effects to this day. The reformation of the early 16th century showed similar Christ like people saying and doing similar things to Jesus in their communities. It arose spontaneously in at least 3 countries, affected thousands and changed the course of nations. The whole world is still benefitting from the reforms that the Spirit of God introduced at that time and under its influence through godly men and women into both churches and civil society. More recently Asian countries like Indonesia and China have seen Jesus move in power through His people. And those are only the ones we know about.

We are thinking in very small terms about our Almighty God if we think what we have seen in Ireland in the Evangelical / Pentecostal churches is all there is to being a disciple or to His Church “Awesome as an army with banners.” (Songs 6:4).

The best is yet to come.

Thoughts on Healing: Elisha

The middle of the night is a good time to hear things it seems. I woke up this morning remembering Elisha’s incident with the women of Shunem:

One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat.

She said to her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God. 10 Let’s build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.”

11 One day Elisha returned to Shunem, and he went up to this upper room to rest. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, “Tell the woman from Shunem I want to speak to her.” When she appeared, 13 Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tell her, ‘We appreciate the kind concern you have shown us. What can we do for you? Can we put in a good word for you to the king or to the commander of the army?’”

“No,” she replied, “my family takes good care of me.”

14 Later Elisha asked Gehazi, “What can we do for her?”

Gehazi replied, “She doesn’t have a son, and her husband is an old man.”

15 “Call her back again,” Elisha told him. When the woman returned, Elisha said to her as she stood in the doorway, 16 “Next year at this time you will be holding a son in your arms!”

“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.”

17 But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following year she had a son, just as Elisha had said.

18 One day when her child was older, he went out to help his father, who was working with the harvesters. 19 Suddenly he cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!”

His father said to one of the servants, “Carry him home to his mother.”

20 So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died. 21 She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and left him there. 22 She sent a message to her husband: “Send one of the servants and a donkey so that I can hurry to the man of God and come right back.”

23 “Why go today?” he asked. “It is neither a new moon festival nor a Sabbath.”

But she said, “It will be all right.”

24 So she saddled the donkey and said to the servant, “Hurry! Don’t slow down unless I tell you to.”

25 As she approached the man of God at Mount Carmel, Elisha saw her in the distance. He said to Gehazi, “Look, the woman from Shunem is coming. 26 Run out to meet her and ask her, ‘Is everything all right with you, your husband, and your child?’”

“Yes,” the woman told Gehazi, “everything is fine.”

27 But when she came to the man of God at the mountain, she fell to the ground before him and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi began to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. She is deeply troubled, but the Lord has not told me what it is.”

(2 Kings 4:8 – 27)

One of the traps of any ministry is that you think you have to always perform, know all things, always be able to carry out the ministry. But that is not God’s way. Not only did Elisha not know what was wrong with his friend but even when he did, he entrusted the miracle to a corrupt man who couldn’t help her. The woman knew better than Elisha in this case: she didn’t trust Gehazi though Elisha apparently did.

28 Then she said, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? And didn’t I say, ‘Don’t deceive me and get my hopes up’?”

29 Then Elisha said to Gehazi, “Get ready to travel[a]; take my staff and go! Don’t talk to anyone along the way. Go quickly and lay the staff on the child’s face.”

30 But the boy’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I won’t go home unless you go with me.” So Elisha returned with her.

31 Gehazi hurried on ahead and laid the staff on the child’s face, but nothing happened. There was no sign of life. He returned to meet Elisha and told him, “The child is still dead.”

32 When Elisha arrived, the child was indeed dead, lying there on the prophet’s bed. 33 He went in alone and shut the door behind him and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he lay down on the child’s body, placing his mouth on the child’s mouth, his eyes on the child’s eyes, and his hands on the child’s hands. And as he stretched out on him, the child’s body began to grow warm again! 35 Elisha got up, walked back and forth across the room once, and then stretched himself out again on the child. This time the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes!

36 Then Elisha summoned Gehazi. “Call the child’s mother!” he said. And when she came in, Elisha said, “Here, take your son!” 37 She fell at his feet and bowed before him, overwhelmed with gratitude. Then she took her son in her arms and carried him downstairs.

Elisha was used in astonishing ways. This account of him raising someone from the dead is the first of two, the second raising from the dead occurred after Elisha died!

But the lesson from this passage is that Elisha was very fallible and not a good judge of people it would seem. When we start being used by God it would be good to remember what we are.

Blessed is the One Psalm 1

Charles Haddon Spurgeon says Psalm 1:

“..may be looked upon … as the text upon which the whole of the Psalms makes up a divine sermon.”

The Treasury of David Vol. 1, Psalms 1-57 by C. H. Spurgeon available at https://archive.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps001.php

Because it is such an important Psalm it is worth learning off by heart. Hopefully this mind map helps with that – start in the centre and follow the numbers around:

Verse 2 lines up very closely with the command given to Joshua about meditation in Joshua 1:8

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success.”

I have written about Christian meditation based on this verse in more length in this post. In that post I bring out the point that the Hebrew word (“Hagah”) translated as “meditate” here and in Psalm 1 is better translated as “deeply connect” or “allow it to well up and out of you” day and night.

There is no way of this happening naturally. None of us are going to think about and express the bible day and night, hour by hour, in our own strength. Maybe some people could do that for a few days but for your life to be the expression of Psalm 1 – a tree planted by rivers of wateralways bearing fruit – and whose leaf never withers – you need a fundamental change to your heart, mind and soul to start with.

Jesus says you shall:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and all your strength”

Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30, (quoting from Deut. 6:5)

This is a promise only He can make true in our beings by His Holy Spirit within us. God says I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you (Ezekiel 36:26).

When you are born again (John 3:3-8) and baptized in the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4, 9:17-18, 10:44-48), you have the power within you to enable you to meditate on – eat, chew, deeply connect with – God’s word day and night. As a disciple of Jesus Christ you can do what your new heart craves to do, be fully in love with Him and hang on every word He says. There is satisfaction for your thirsty and hungry soul in Him – He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) and the Living Waters that satisfy your eternal thirst for something deeper (John 4:13, 14).

However, there is a “not yet” to the promises of God. We won’t ever know full satisfaction in this life because we don’t get a new body until the next one (1 Cor. 15:42-44). You still have to take up your cross daily and deny yourself even as you eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus.

Paul describes the answer to this predicament in Romans 7:14- 8:4. We know there is another law working in our members that tends to bring us into bondage to sin. But thanks be to God that Jesus delivers us from this body of death. Because we know Him we can hear His voice (John 10) and obey Him unto the saving of our souls and eternal life. There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1). The answer is to walk with Jesus, take his light yoke upon you (Matt. 11:28-30) and learn from Him.

That way you won’t progress down the path of walking alongside, standing and eventually sitting down with sinners.