You can still define your moment with faith – even if everyone else chooses unbelief

We don’t like to believe that we could ever miss out on what God has for us. Nor are we comfortable with the thought that a whole church – or even a movement – could miss out on God’s purpose. But it does happen. It happened to most of the churches mentioned in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. And of course it happened to a whole generation of Israelites.

A whole generation of Israelites except two, that is. When Israel had the opportunity of entering the Promised Land, the people decided to believe the fearful report brought by ten of the twelve spies. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, advocated entering the land, believing that God would lead His people to victory.

Whilst the will of the majority prevailed, Joshua and Caleb lived to fight in another generation.

At eighty-five years of age, Caleb is commended for the attitude that he had shown forty-five years earlier. With the same faith filled outlook he goes on to gain his inheritance.

What was a negative defining moment for the whole nation was still a positive one for Caleb, and of course, Joshua.

What made the difference?

Firstly, Caleb was a man of a different spirit (Numbers 14.24). He had a different attitude, a different outlook to the ten spies who filled the people with fear. Caleb stood out from the crowd. And he was willing to stand up for what he believed – even though a million people were against him.

Secondly, Caleb was a man of defining conviction (Joshua 14.7). What do I mean by that? What he believed determined his take on what he saw. Truth be told, we all have defining convictions! Our beliefs determine how we see. Caleb and Joshua and the ten other spies all saw the same thing, but Caleb and Joshua saw those things differently. They saw through the filter of faith. The ten other spies saw through the filter of unbelief. Beliefs shape vision.

Finally, Caleb was a man of deep commitment. Moses said that Caleb followed the Lord wholeheartedly (Numbers 14.24; Joshua 14.8). Caleb was not hedging his bets. His service was not half-hearted. He approached the task of surveying Canaan with a wholehearted commitment to the Lord.

That generation of Israelites all missed out on the Promised Land, but not Joshua and Caleb. They kept the faith and received their inheritance.

However people are reacting around you, make sure you keep the faith. You can still make your defining moment one of faith. Even if a million people are against you. Caleb did.

Defining Moments: Stepping Outside The Tent

Throughout this year, the Elim Movement has been celebrating it’s one hundredth anniversary. The theme of Defining Moments has helped us to recall and describe points in our history that have proved significant in shaping what we know as Elim today.

Every movement of the Spirit carries defining moments. If you read church history, early or modern, you will find moments in which decisions were made that impacted the trajectory of what the Spirit was doing.

Of course this applies personally as well. We can look back to points in our lives where we knew that God was at work and we responded.

The same is true for characters in the Bible.

Abraham had many defining moments during his earthly pilgrimage. God called him to go into the land of Canaan. Abraham obeyed the Lord and went. God promised him a child. But even though he obeyed God, the promise of a child was not fulfilled. Without a child there was no future. And God’s promise that through Abraham the whole world would be blessed, would remain unfulfilled.

At the beginning of Genesis 15 we see Abraham beginning to think about how a “plan b” might work (15.2-3)

“Plan b” was not, however, on God’s agenda. To reinforce that he was serious about His promise, God asked Abraham to step outside his tent and look at the stars in the sky. Such would be the number of his offspring (4-6).

Sometimes our vision of what God can do is limited by our familiar surroundings. Like Abraham, defining moments can happen when we step outside of our “tent”  of domestic familiarity to see God’s bigger picture.

God invites us to expand our thinking and our vision. He does not want us trapped within the confines of naturalistic thinking. He wants our vision to break through the ceiling of our “tent”. He wants to dazzle us with a picture of His purpose too great for our tiny minds.

Have you ever felt that God is not moving in your situation? Perhaps you need to “step outside your tent”. I don’t know what that means for you, but it’s moments like this that help to define our faith and shape our future. Why not take a step outside your tent and lift your eyes to God’s heaven instead of your ceiling?

Fear Is My Friend

Fear is something that we have been told is bad for us. It is something that gets in the way of our relationships with one another. It is something that blocks the path to great achievement. And of course, we have written books and preached countless sermons about how to overcome it.

It might seem strange therefore to cosy up to fear, to the point of calling it your friend.

Of course fear can be just as negative and destructive and inhibiting as I have described it. However, there is another way to think of fear.

We tend to think of fear as the opposite of faith. and therefore we conclude that if fear is present, faith is absent. And if faith is absent, then God is not present either. The presence, of fear, we conclude therefore, equals the absence of God.

I am not sure that this kind of logic is as flawless and as obvious as at first it might seem. In fact, I think there is a strong biblical case for saying that fear is present when God is active. Fear surfaces when God speaks.

You might well have heard the saying that there are three hundred and sixty-five “fear nots” in the Bible. Of course, if you do a search on the words “fear not” or “do not be afraid”, you will not find three hundred and sixty-five scriptures with those actual words. However, if you take into consideration all those passages that address the issue of fear but do not necessarily include the words “fear not” you will find more than three hundred and sixty-five.

Statistics apart, what you will find is the exhortation to “fear not” at significant times when God was at work. For example, Abraham (Genesis 15.1), Joshua (Joshua 1.9), Elijah (2 Kings 1.15), Joseph (Matthew 1.20) and Mary (Luke 1.30) were all exhorted to let go of their fear.

Whilst you could see the manifestation of fear as evidence of human weakness and frailty, it would miss the point entirely. The reason that fear surfaced was because God was on the move – in a big way! When God is about to do something and He invites us to be involved, our immediate reaction can be one of fear.

A new kind of logic emerges when we look at fear in this way: the presence of fear does not mean the absence of God but the activity of God. In fact, in all the cases I have referred to, God addresses fear with a reassurance of His presence and promise.

Fear only becomes a problem when we overlook the presence and power of God.

So the next time you have an opportunity to do something for God, to step out in faith, don’t let your fearful reaction put you off. And don’t let your fear convince you that God is absent. He’s not absent. He’s active!

5 Additional Reasons To Reject The Assisted Dying Bill

Tomorrow, 11th September, M.Ps. will debate the Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill in the House of Commons.This bill allows doctors to administer drugs to end the lives of terminally ill people who have been given less than six months to live.This could only be carried out when two independent doctors and a high court judge have agreed that the patient had made an informed choice.

This piece of proposed legislation is very controversial and very emotive. Whilst on the surface it might appear to affect only a few individuals and promise alleviation of unbearable suffering, in reality it threatens to change the medical and moral culture of the United Kingdom.

Whatever protections and qualifications its proponents claim are built into this bill, it takes us in a whole new direction as a society, a direction that will ultimately replace support for many who are suffering with an unspoken pressure to end their lives.

I believe that there are many reasons to resist this new direction that some within our society want to take us in.

Of course, as a Christian, I believe that one reason is sufficient in itself. It is simply that such legislation contravenes the sixth commandment: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20.13). To take life in this way is to grant to human beings the power to make decisions which belong to God.

However, I recognise that many will not share such a stark analysis of assisted dying. Therefore, I want to offer additional reasons, both social and personal, why this proposed law takes us in a wrong direction.

Firstly, this legislation undermines the integrity of the medical culture in our nation. Based soundly on the Hippocratic Oath, along with Judaeo-Christian convictions about the sanctity of human life, those in the medical profession have practised with a view to care and healing. Such will no longer be the case if this bill becomes law. There will be an expectation on doctors that, given a particular set of circumstances, they should administer drugs that will end a patient’s life.

No doubt doctors will be able to turn down such a request on the basis of conscience. That does not, however, compensate for the creation of a new climate in which ending life as well as preserving life is entailed in the practice of a doctor.

Secondly, a corollary of this change in medical culture is the change in relationship between patient and doctor. At present, one can undergo treatment in any hospital in this country, safe in the knowledge that, however ill one is, the medical staff are committed to caring and preserving life. One can also be sure that they will do everything in their power to alleviate suffering. And, however ill the patient is, he or she can be sure that there will be no pressure from medical practitioners to end his or her life.

If this bill becomes law, those assurances no longer exist. The trust between patient and doctor becomes strained. Suspicion replaces that trust, because even if the doctor does not articulate the option of ending the patient’s life, the possibility that that expectation might be there must be entertained by a terminally ill patient.

The BMA has recognised this alteration in the patient / doctor relationship if assisted dying becomes law:

‘The BMA’s view is that the unique relationship between doctors and patients risks being undermined, and trust lost, if doctors were permitted to play a role in ending patients’ lives’

The BMA has expressed its opposition to all forms of assisted dying in very strong terms.

Thirdly, it should also be recognised that legislation of this kind would also create expectations and pressures for doctors with respect to how they should advise patients or their families. Doctors, of course, face, daily, tough questions and emotive decisions as to what constitutes the best interests of those who are suffering and or coming towards the end of their lives. Once again, however, this bill places further responsibility on the shoulders of doctors: in some cases they would be expected not only to rule on whether treatment should be continued, but on whether life should be ended by the administration of drugs.

Fourthly, the pressure on relatives of those who are terminally ill should be considered. At a time when a loved one is suffering, families do not need the additional pressure of whether their loved should choose to bring their life to an end.

There are all sorts of dimensions to this kind of choice. Are families going to feel guilt in the aftermath of such final decisions that somehow they contributed to their loved one choosing to end his or her life? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But what is certain is that the choice to have one’s life ended is not made in an emotional vacuum. It is not a clinical decision made in isolation from those to whom one is closest. It impacts on all connected to the patient.

Fifthly, as indicated above, there is the wider social impact of such legislation to consider.

What message does this send out to those in our society who have serious health struggles? Or to those who are disabled? I will leave you to reflect on that.

This bill is being presented as a humane attempt to alleviate suffering. Undoubtedly its supporters are sincere in their motives. Sincerity, however, has no control over how legislation enacted for genuinely humane reasons, can end up having an impact that was never intended.

Our abortion laws are a case in point. One of the arguments advanced in favour of the 1967 Abortion Act was that it would stop back street abortions. Nearly half a century later, abortion has become an additional method of contraception. Of the almost two hundred thousand abortions in the UK every year, 98% are performed on the basis of mental health.This was never the intention of Lord Steel who is considered the father of the Abortion Act.

We cannot always accurately predict the consequences of a given law, but the trajectory of Lord Steel’s legislation should at least give us pause for thought.

Statistics from Oregon (scroll to page 7 on this report), where assisted dying has been legal since 1994, indicate that of those who ended there life in this way, 59% in 2014 stated “burden on family, friends / caregivers” as an “end of life concern”. For the previous year the figure was 61%.

Legislation that starts out granting the right to die has all the potential for creating a climate in which those who have the right to die feel a duty to die. I cannot for one moment believe that this is a direction in which a nation that considers itself an enlightened Western democracy should wish to travel. Whatever way you look at this legislation it supports taking life rather than preserving it.

Although many would dismiss it as alarmist, I believe that we are in danger of promoting a culture of death in our society.  And legislation such as this catalyses the growth of that culture.

I have written to my M.P. asking her to vote against this bill. Please write to your M.P.. It is not too late. This link will show you how you can contact your M.P. by email.

In May of this year, the Scottish Parliament voted to reject similar legislation in Scotland. Let’s pray that Westminster will follow the moral lead given by Holyrood.

The Christian Institute, EA and CARE all have more detailed analysis of this issue.

Everyone needs a Mordecai

The Esther story is often told in a way that presents the young queen as a fearless heroine.The picture we are left with is one of a woman who never for a moment entertained a doubt about her destiny, nor her ability to fulfil it.

Yet when we turn to the fourth chapter of Esther, we find someone very different. Esther is not initially open at all to Mordecai’s plea to represent the cause of the Jewish people to King Xerxes. It is only after a strongly directive coaching session mediated by her servant Hathak.

When Esther tried to turn down Mordecai’s request, he set about dismantling the beliefs that underlay Esther’s reluctance.

In verses thirteen and fourteen of chapter four, Mordecai challenges the idea that Esther can remain safe in the palace while everyone else perishes.Then, he impresses on Esther that God will work anyway, but if she does not play her part, she and her family will miss out. Finally, he touches the deep sense of destiny that God had put in her soul: this is your moment Esther.

We all need people around us who will challenge us to embrace the will of God at any and every moment in our lives, especially when it entails doing something that is intimidating.

Who are the people that challenge our false sense of security and our instinct to “play safe”? Who among our friends helps us to see that the difficulty before us is an opportunity for God to work and for us to work with Him? And who draws out of us the deep sense of destiny that the Holy Spirit has planted within us?

We need such people. If the kingdom of God is to advance and our nation is to be turned around, we need an army of such people. Pray that God will give you such people. Pray for the courage and humility to be open to their godly provocation.

Esther needed Mordecai. We all need a Mordecai. Such people help to shape our future and perhaps even the future of our nation.