June 2002

 

Another Open Letter to the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ at Gateshead.

 

Dear friend,

                   greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I hope you are keeping well and still hearing from our Master. 

As you may notice above, we have moved house a couple of miles to Lobley Hill, which is where I grew up. In fact our new house was the caretakers house at the junior school I attended.

Some good news for those who may know of our friends, Pavlo, Victoria and their son Visi. They have finally been granted asylum and are now trusting our Father for a proper home and jobs.

The open discussion evenings continue at our new home on Thursday evenings and all who are keen on following Jesus are most welcome, at 7-30pm.

As ever, anyone wishing to be included in the directory of the saints at Gateshead and to receive an updated copy of the same need only get in touch.

 

I have been greatly encouraged by listening to the journal of George Fox while at the gym. (Three times a week, normally.)  He went about the UK proclaiming the reality of the kingdom of God, here and now, and the availability of the risen Christ to all, here and now.

As a result he was hated, abused, beaten, imprisoned and plotted against by those who had plenty of faith in the Christ for the next life, but none for this life.

World religions (including some parts of Christianity) will often promise much for a future after this life is over, but not often something tangible for today.  Jesus Christ however, is the same, yesterday, today and forever. All He has accomplished in the cross is ours now, in Him. A living faith in the living Saviour results in a changed life, not merely culturally but inwardly, with the bearing of visible fruit of holiness and love.

While on holiday in Spain this year the Lord talked to me about the gifts of the Spirit which He has given to us, His body here on earth, and used lightning rods as an illustration.

Lightening rods? Well, a lightening rod is something designed to attract the shot of electrical power when it is released from the cloud earthward. As a matter of fact it is the earth that attracts the power from the cloud, but the lightning rod becomes an extension of the earth, reaching up to be the point most accessible to the source of the power. In the absence of a lightning rod, the electrical power just hits whatever happens to be the nearest conductor available.

Jesus said, blessed are you poor in spirit, (to His disciples), for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

In other words, if we are in the correct state – of feeling empty, mourning, hungry, longing, - seeking for the things of the kingdom – then we will attract the ministry – blessings and power of the Kingdom.

Religious folk came to Jesus complaining that while they and the disciples of John the baptiser fasted often, the disciples of the Christ did not. Jesus explained that while they had the bridegroom with them, the friends of the bridegroom could not be expected to mourn. But He said, the days would come when the bridegroom was taken away from them, and they would indeed mourn then. This passage helps show that mourning and fasting were two aspects of the same thing in the context of their culture. If you mourned, you fasted. Fasting on it’s own was not seen as relevant. Hence Jesus says blessed are they that mourn, rather than they that fast.

Interestingly, the prophets and teachers at Antioch in Acts 23 were mourning – fasting and praying. Subsequently they received instructions from the Holy Spirit, (through the prophets?) followed by more fasting and praying, followed by the emergence of two new gift ministries – apostles. Genuine mourning for the reality of the Kingdom and the accompanying working of the Spirit will be rewarded in a tangible and effective way.

As a Pentecostal I was familiar with the idea of ‘earnestly desiring the best gifts’ – ‘and do not forbid speaking in other tongues’. I had looked at it strictly from the point of view of desiring to be the one who ‘performed’ – who got the best gift! However, as Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, quoting the psalm, ‘When He ascended to heaven, He gave gifts to men.’ Christ has risen and sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high and has already given gifts, ‘distributed severally according to the measure of faith’ as Paul writes in Romans. ‘I am what I am, by the grace of the Lord, and all that I ever shall be’. The gifts have been given. Will we earnestly desire them? Will we receive the gifts that Christ has given the members of His body, and more relevantly His disciples at Gateshead? Jesus said to the apostles, ‘he who receives you, receives me, and he who does not receive you, does not receive me.’ If I do not receive the gifts in my brothers (and sisters) in Christ then I am rejecting the gifts of Christ, rejecting Him.

Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus is a clear illustration of the way that Christ has chosen to operate through His members on the earth. The initial contact Saul had was with the Lord. When Saul asked ‘what shall I do?’ – he was told; ‘Go to Damascus, to the house of Simon in the street called straight, and you shall be told what you must do.’ Then a disciple of Christ (Ananias) is told to go to that house and convey specific instructions to Saul, to baptise him in water, and to lay hands on him that he may receive the Holy Spirit and receive his sight back.

If Saul had rejected Ananias, he would have been rejecting Christ. But Saul received a very important lesson in that Christ works through His body. The gifts (each member has at least one gift) are there to do Christ’s work to, within and on behalf of the assembly, for Christ, the Head.

In the experience of many of us, we have become conditioned to look for ministry from one or two outstanding members of the body rather than from whomever the Lord would use. A prophet is not without honour except among his own folk.

Jesus was the same person in Nazareth as He was in Capernaum. But in Nazareth they only saw the carpenter’s son, James’ brother, the man they knew well and had grown up with. They did not see the Son of God, the gift of God, the Christ of God. They asked ‘ where did this man get all this?’  They should have asked ‘What has He for us?’ In the same way, - even more so, we may overlook the gift of God that is in our brother and sister for our good. Because of their unbelief, Jesus could do not many mighty works in Nazareth. The same Jesus in Capernaum healed all who came to Him. Because of our unbelieving dismissive attitude to one another we may miss out on the mighty works that Christ wants to do in Gateshead, through His body here.

As Jesus said – ‘If you knew (recognised) the gift of God, you would ask of me, and I would give you.’

May the Lord make us truly hungry for the best gifts, especially prophesy, to be freely operating throughout His body here in Gateshead.

Let us pray for one another.

 


Colin Thompson