Prosperity versus Spirituality

Personal Matters

Last week I was in Bandung Indonesia for an Asian Christian leadership conference.

This Christ-centred event raised more sharply than ever the question of whether a spiritually mature Church can ever exist in a materially affluent culture.

For instance, an elderly South Korean related how after two major wars Korea was one of the poorest nations on earth, then the people started to cry out to God and experienced both economic and spiritual miracles.

Today Protestant Christians are easily the most highly educated and professional group in the country.

But in recent years there have been subject to public scandals a marked decline in prayerfulness and the nation’s youth are turning away from the Church in droves.

What surprised me in Indonesia was listening to speakers from a wide range of nations bemoaning deviations that are becoming normal part of church life. In Thailand for instance a leader is more likely to be chosen for strategic reasons than because he/she is a person of character.

All the sins of the Western Church I have been speaking against for decades seem to be infiltrating the “two thirds world”.

One Puritan famously said of the early American experience; “Religion begat prosperity and the daughter devoured the mother.” Is this situation inevitable? It certainly seems to be usual in scripture.

Fat Believers

Moses explained that the wilderness experience of Israel was a fatherly test so that in the land of promise they might not say;

‘my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’

Deut 8:5, 17

But he also prophesied,

‘“Israel soon became fat and unruly; the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed! Then they abandoned the God who had made them…”

Deut 32:15

Throughout the history of God’s old covenant people physical prosperity is repeatedly followed by spiritual ruin.

Possessed by our Possessions.

For instance the mega rich Solomon, unlike his father David, led Israel into idolatry (1 Ki 11:4).

Whilst the New Testament covers a short span of time we see the same problems surfacing.

Paul warns, “in the last days…people will be lovers of self, lovers of money…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power (2 Tim 3:1ff.).

These are our days and Christ warned a Church like our own; “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:16).

Few Australian Christians find material prosperity a block to their spiritual maturity because the creature comforts of our capitalist culture long ago got the upper hand. We are possessed by our possessions.


Contrast this with the testimony of the Early Church; “those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common…There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them…and it was distributed to each as any had need.” (Acts 4: 32, 34-35).

Living as the family of God the first Christians laid aside their legal rights of ownership so as to better care for each other.

Working to Give to Others

In the light of Christ they knew everything a Christian has is a gift from God and presents an opportunity to give to others. E.g. “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” (Eph 4:28).

I can’t think of many local believers whose primary motivation for working is to give to others. If you are an exception it can only be because you have had an exceptional revelation of the gospel.

Christ the Key

The Bible upholds the super-generosity of God in Christ;For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9).

In heaven Jesus was full of the riches of the love of his Father, but sensing a lost humanity in great spiritual, moral and physical pain he was moved to empty himself and enter our sphere of suffering (Phil 2:7-8).

The absolute impoverishment of the cross launched Jesus into the resurrection as the restorer of all God planned for us to enjoy in the beginning (John 1:16).

Christ’s emptiness has becomes fullness for us (Col 2:9-10).

This measure of love alone can heal the selfish possessive individualism which grips the culture of Western Christianity.


Jesus gave up everything for us that we might give up everything for him, and for others. Such sacrifice is the essence of Christianity; “By this we know love that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16). Many Christians are praying for the power of the Spirit to signs, wonders and live a more prosperous life. Yet how rare is it to hear folk praying for spiritual power to lay down their lives for others like Christ did. Such prayers would be answered! Whilst most believers would affirm what I have said above hedonism still reigns among us. When I asked the Lord for a solution to this problem he gave me a concrete reply. 

Spiritual Exceptions

The “Clapham sect” was a group which combined affluence with extreme Christian commitment. Gathered around William Wilberforce this wealthy influential group were moved by the sufferings of slaves to give unreservedly of their resources to alleviate suffering.

These men and women truly knew the Spirit’s power because he enabled them to be sensitive to Christ’s sensitivity to the pains of others. This empathy is exactly what is lacking in the affluent Australian Church of today.

It is the “fellowship of sufferings” that alone can enable us to live as exceptions to our greedy culture (Phil 3:10).

The cross teaches that the one thing more powerful than personal pleasure is a love that feels the pain of others. 

Material prosperity and spiritual maturity can exist together wherever the followers of Jesus are willing to be brought in touch with the sufferings of lost humanity. It’s as simple, and as hard, as that.


The history of humanity’s quest for affluence is predictable but not inevitable.

The enticements of the delights of Eden overpowered any awareness of the pain sin would cause God (Gen 3:6).

Canaan was a new Eden whose worldly temptations proved as irresistible as the Garden.

Contemporary Australia too is an “Eden” where most believers choose possessions and sensory experiences, especially the emotional one they have in Church, over the pure but painful love of God!

This can change if we ask the Holy Spirit to give us a deeper identification with love’s sensitivity to the pain of others expressed in the cross.

The fruit of such prayer will surely be the highly unusual combination of material prosperity and spiritual maturity.

Do not however expect such a form of life to be appreciated by the wider society or the dominant culture of the Church.

Those who follow in this way of Christ will experience the power of the Spirit, but they will also be labelled, like the godly of old were, as another extreme Christian “Sect”.

But haven’t we had enough of “normality”??


Author: Dr. John Yates

The Way

On the Journey with Jesus 4:


The popular approach to the theme of being On the Journey with Jesus emphasises Christ as a loving companion and guide to me on my life journey.

Jesus is someone who listens to my prayers and satisfies my deepest needs.

This approach reflects the self-centeredness of our age.

The biblical truth about the human journey is that it not my journey with a place for Christ but Christ’s journey with a place for me.

Jesus is someone who answers our prayers and satisfies our deepest needs because his prayers and needs were first of all met by the Father.

John says this about Christ; “Jesus, knowing…that he had come from God and was going back to God” (John 13:3).

Jesus own personal journey was a trip from being with the Father in heaven entering into our world and returning back to the Father (cf. John 1:1, 18; Phil 2:5-11).

On our journey with Christ:


Whereas today’s popular spirituality has more to say about the trip than its destination, Jesus was focussed on the goal of his life journey as returning to the eternal glory of his Father (John 17:5).

All the works of Jesus, his saving presence and healing and delivering power were designed to illuminate the character of the Father and motivate men and women to join him in his journey back to the fullness of the Father’s love in heaven (John 5:19-20; 10:38; 14:11)

The Way to the Father

In words which are unpopular today Christ said, ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The song we heard from Keith Green (“You Are The One”) is an authentic expression of his own life journey. Green, who came to Christ from a background that mingled Judaism, Christian Science and hippy love, authentically testifies that every human being has been totally lost, repeatedly lied to and spiritually dead (Eph 2:1).

It is only Jesus who brings us complete guidance, absolute truth and eternal life by being the Way back to God. I was walking in the park the other day and I struck up a conversation with one of the “dog people”. After a while of sharing her many painful needs she said, “I am dying inside”. This lady was once a church-goer and Bible reader, she had no problem talking about Jesus, but when she kept talking about “God”, “God”, “God” I knew her great need for comfort and strength would only come when she joined with Jesus in his return to the Father. She was lost because she was Fatherless. With his sole desire to obey the Father and lead others to the Father Jesus is the Way. The paradox of the gospel is that for Jesus to put us on the Way he must lose his way.

Christ said he had come “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

To save us all and set us on the path to the Father Jesus needed to do more than mighty miracles and marvellous words.

He needed to take upon himself all our lostness and disorientation; this is the work of the cross.

Jesus’ terrible cry; ““My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34) is the crisis point of his human journey, and it is a crisis about where he is going.

Bearing all our sinful confusion Christ loses all consciousness of himself as the Son who is the Way to the Father, his life journey seems bereft of all purpose and identity (2 Cor 5:21).

But the climax of the cross is not lostness, when Jesus prays these words with his final breath we know he has recovered his place as the Way to the Father; ““Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46).

The following resurrection and ascension of the Son back to the Father completes the journey he came to make on our behalf (John 20:17; Rom 1:4).

The claim that Christ is the Way to the Father is fiercely opposed by non-Christian spiritualities.


People today love stories about self-discovery because that’s what they long for themselves.

Eat,_Pray,_Love_–_Elizabeth_Gilbert,_2007After a painful divorce, in 2006 Elizabeth Gilbert[1] wrote her memoirs of a journey around the world called, “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia”[2] It quickly sold 10 million copies was on New York Times best sellers list for nearly 4 years and became a motion picture. It was a great hit because it promised “the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of.”


As the word “Pray” in the title of her book indicates Gilbert is a very spiritual person, but her spirituality is an expression of the popular pluralism which says there are many ways to God.

John Yates

To illustrate this let me quote some words from an interview between Canon Frank Sheehan[3] the chaplain at Christ Church Grammar and a RC nun.

Sheehan cites her words with approval;

“There’s no one way (to spiritual realisation) as far as I am concerned. From the top of the mountain you can look down and see many paths (to the summit) it’s the journey that matters. I start with my own experience.”

Canon Frank Sheehan

This form of spirituality is totally back to front because it puts ‘ME’ rather than Jesus at the centre of everything.

The True journey of life is not my experience with a place for Jesus but Jesus’ experience with a place for me. Only as we share Jesus’ journey can he reveal to us our true identity.

What about this image of a spiritual mountain from whose summit we can see the many paths to God.

There is a spiritual mountain but only one person has ever reached its peak; only the resurrected Jesus could say, “‘I am ascending to my Father and…my God…’”” (John 20:17).

Founders of other religions point people to a “way”, perhaps in the Koran, or the noble eight fold path of the Buddha and so on; but only God’s only Son pronounced he was the Way to the Father (John 3:16).

The way to God is not an abstract theological discussion.

Debate has been raging recently in America where a lecturer in a Christian College (Wheaton) was stood down for stating that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God”. Christians and Muslims both believe that there is one Creator God who speaks through his prophets will raise the dead judge all people and send some to paradise and others to hell.

But do they worship the same God?

The Dome of Rock in Jerusalem (Al-Aqsa mosque) is the third holiest site in Islam, inscribed on its walls are words drawn from the Koran; “The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God….So believe in God and His messengers, and say not ‘Three’ – Cease!…God is only One God.

Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son.” It makes no sense to say that the followers of a religion which denies that God is Father and Jesus is his Son worship the same Lord as Christians.

Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Way to the Father is not on the same journey as we are.

Jesus warned about the popular wide and easy way that leads to destruction and the unpopular hard and narrow way that leads to life (Matt 7:13-14).

The apostles took Christ at his word.

When preaching to the followers of other faiths in Athens Paul explained why we must believe in Jesus as the Way to heaven; v.30“God overlooked people’s ignorance…in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. v.31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”” (Acts 17:30-31).

The stamp of divine approval on every aspect of the human journey is on the life of only one person, Jesus of Nazareth, only Christ so totally pleased the Father as to be raised from the dead into everlasting life. So far this sermon sounds very individualistic, but there are community dimensions to being on a journey with Jesus.


There is a scene in the TV series The Tudors[4] where King Henry VIII is standing in the grounds of one of his palaces and says to a companion, “Walk with me.” When the king says “Walk with me” we would expect every one of his subjects to obey him and allow him to set the tune of conversation on the journey.

Our King is Jesus and we should expect that Christians on their journey together with Christ would function as a tight knit community. Churches however are often known for power plays, internal politics and personality clashes.

The prophet Amos says, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (Amos 3:3).

Moving in the same direction is not a matter of agreeing about every point of theology, morality, ministry or liturgy; the non-negotiable point of agreement is mutual submission to the will of Christ.

His words are clear, “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” (Matt 18:19).

If the members of a church are agreed in their submission to Christ his promise will be true in our experience, ““anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12).

If we are not seeing Christ’s works in our midst; healings, salvations, deliverance from demonic powers, it must be that we are not in close agreement in our journeying with Jesus.

I am reminded of a scene from a film where a group of warriors in scattered formation was approaching a rival troop and one by one the soldiers on the outside of the pack were being picked off by enemy arrows.

When the soldiers closed ranks and joined shields the arrows could not get through.

Spiritual warfare is like natural warfare. Paul exhorts the Church; “In all circumstances, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.” (Eph 6:16).

It’s time to take the shield of faith for others and clump together on the journey with Jesus recognising that our enemy is never another Christian but always the devil (Eph 6:12).

Early this morning the Lord started to speak to me about these things with some clarity.

There are two father figures in the Bible, God the true Father and the false father who is the devil (John 8:44.)

In the presence of the true Father these words come true “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Col 3:13).

In the presence of the lying father (Satan) there is gossip, rumour, innuendo, accusation and condemnation which give birth to embarrassment, shame, fear, anxiety, a muted spirit, depression and confusion.

All these very earthly things paralyse the power of the presence of the kingdom of God (James 3:14-16).

Where the presence of the true Father is manifest from heaven there is always love, joy, peace, victory and boldness in the things of God (James 3:17-18; 1 John 5:4).

Week by week in our service we say together;

Send us, we pray, in the strength of this meal, to tell the Good News to neighbours and strangers with creative words and compassionate service, walking the way to Christ.

These are great words, but how many unchurched people are being drawn in to join us “walking the way to Christ”? 

As a total community we are struggling to walk closely together in spiritual fellowship because we have yet to learn the true meaning of “fellowship”.

The New Testament word for “fellowship” (koinonia) does not mean “sharing”, but “having a common share”.

The common share we have is not being of the same race, gender, social, educational or economic status, it is not being Australian or Anglican, it is not moral character, spiritual gifting or Bible knowledge, the one eternal thing we have in common is a joint share in the life of Christ (Rom 8:17).

The Christ in whom we share has travelled the human journey on our behalf and brought it to successful completion for us all by returning to the Father.

In Christ there are no spiritual superiors or inferiors.

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. (Rom 14:4).

Only in the light of this revelation of a God-given equality in Christ can believers stay close together on the rough road that leads to eternal life. If the journey is so difficult and so opposite to all our self-centred desires how do we get others to join us on the journey?


We must have confidence that at the end of the journey we will share in the everlasting joy of the Father; Hebrews exhorts us, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2).

Every person knows that their earthly journey will end in death; but then what?

In the last week the topic of life beyond death has come up with people repeatedly so it must be something the Lord wants to speak to us about.

The apostle Paul approached death with boldness and excitement; “So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord… v.8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor 5:6, 8 cf. Phil 1:21-23).

It is not that Paul had a miserable life from which he wanted to escape, but the thrill of reaching the end of the journey by being with Jesus and his heavenly Father was overwhelming. This is our call too.

Our authority to speak about the journey of the Christian life to others, including going to heaven, flows from our own desire to depart from this life and be with Christ.

The goal of the spiritual journey is the key to every aspect of the journey.

But not everyone is on the same journey.


The Bible speaks of two eternal destinies at the end of life’s journey; the goats join the devil in hell and the sheep of Jesus share heaven with his Father

Matt 25:31-46.

Friends, when was the last time a neighbour, relative, workmate or friend said, “I want to go where you are going”?

At the level of our church, when was the last time a totally unchurched person asked to join with us on the Way?

To the degree that an individual or a congregation manifests the triumph of love over hostility, of Christ over Satan, of heaven over hell, to that degree people will join Jesus on the way to heaven and be added to the church (Acts 2:47; 1 John 3:8).

Tragically, Satan has successfully disabled the gifts and presence of God amongst us so we are not regularly seeing people turn to the Lord.

What then can we do?

It is time to take our eyes off earthly things/people and be united in pressing on “to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Phil 3:14).

No one can arrive at the destination where Christ is in heaven unless they have personally heard and responded to his call to receive him as Lord and obey him in whatever he says.

The human journey out of time into eternity is not about a personal path of self-discovery nor even about discovering who we are as St Mark’s/Church on the Rise; it is about the revelation of Jesus as the Way to the Father.

This must be our sole passion and this must be, for Christ’s sake, our united prayer.

Preached at St Mark’s 24th Jan 2016



The End is Joy

Text: Mark 13.6.15 Zeph 3:14-20; Isa 12:2-6; Phil 4:4-7; Luke 21:25-28


Preparing this sermon has stirred up a level of perplexity that takes my mind back to some events decades ago; more of that later. But when I first saw the lectionary readings for today I was excited because they are so tremendously uplifting; “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will rejoice over you with loud singing” (Zeph 3:17); v.3“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. v.4 And you will say on that day: Give thanks to the Lord…v.6 Shout aloud and sing for joy…for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Isa (12:3, 4, 6); v.4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. The Lord is near. v.6 Do not worry about anything (Phil 4:4-6); v.26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken….v.28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’ (Luke 21:26, 28).

All positive; but a famous theologian once said we should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. The newspapers will tell you a depressing story about street crime, sex abuse, domestic violence, bushfires, sharks, economic woes, islands sinking through rising sea levels, and the constant threat of terrorism.

One of my emails this week asked:


“in Nigeria…Thousands of Christian families will be tearfully hoping for the return of their captive children and…hoping for a return to homes, churches and communities. Across Syria and Iraq, hundreds of thousands…displaced by Islamic jihad will be hoping for the same. Meanwhile, Christian prisoners…in Iran….on death row for alleged blasphemy in Pakistan and…in ‘black jails’ in China will…hope that they might be reunited with their families.” Finally the writer comments; “For the first time in my lifetime Christians in the largely post-Christian West may well be hoping their worship services and festivities will not be targeted by terrorists.

When people look at our lives which news source seems to be triumphing, the good news of the Bible or the bad news of the day?

Australians once were interested in being “good people” today

We mostly want to be “happy people”.

This is why more and more Australians see the services of the Church as irrelevant because how could Christianity possibly make life more pleasurable?

This common frame of mind reflects a:


The famous theologian who told us to hold scripture in one hand and newspaper in the other also said; “the theologian who has no joy in his work is no theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thinking and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this science.” (Barth). When the person on the street hears the word “theology”, “Christian” or “church” they usually don’t think “joy”, but the God of the Bible is essentially a God of joy.

When Paul tells the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Phil 4:4) he is exhorting us to share in the radiant joy of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God’s eternal plan is so radically different from the way people normally think about religion because it is a plan for pleasure; v.5 “God predestined to adopt us…by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This…gave him great pleasure….v.9 he has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfil his own good pleasure.” (Eph 1:5, 9). God created us in joy; v.30then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, v.31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” (Prov 8:30-31). When I think about my delightful grandchildren I have an insight into the infinite delight the Lord had in creating us to be his children. But how many grandparents make this connection?

Continuing this theme of God’s plan for joy, the Bible teaches the climax of history is a wedding celebration; “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isa 62:5); “Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honour to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself.” (Rev 19:7). We are the Bride and the Lord is preparing us to enjoy Messiah’s wedding banquet; v.6the Lord…will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. v.7 There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. v.8 He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.” (Isa 25:6-8 cf. 1 Cor 15:54).

Jesus said ““The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son,” where all are called to join in the celebration (Mat 22:1-10 cf. 8:11). Followers of Jesus are to be big picture people. Sadness and sorrow might seem to reign in the world for a few thousand years but everything will end in joy. This was the experience of the early believers.


In the catacombs under Rome is a Christian inscription; “Vita, Vita, Vita.” “Life, Life, Life”.

Whoever wrote this was bursting with the joy of the new creation in Christ (Neh 8:10; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15).

Paul saw his ministry in terms of joy; he said to the Corinthians, “we don’t mean to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy” (2 Cor 1:24).

Everything the Church does must be directed towards God’s great End-goal, a universe full of joy. Yet when non-believers look at us they usually don’t think of Church as an extraordinarily happy place.

My favourite atheist philosopher challenged the Church of his time; “They would have to sing better songs for me to learn to have faith in their Redeemer; and his disciples would have to look more redeemed!” (Nietzsche).

To answer this challenge our lives need to be impacted by Jesus’ teaching in our Gospel reading for today.

The End through a Shaking

According to Christ things would get so bad “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world” (Luke 21:26).

The word for “fainting from fear” is the word for such a severe panic attack that a person literally stops breathing and thinks they are about to die; unfortunately the people I know who have had such attacks are Christians!

When circumstances are outwardly dire Christ prescribes;Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your salvation is drawing near.’” (21:28).

When things seem to be going bad in the world this should be a confidence booster for the people of God to go forward in confident hope that Jesus is coming back soon.

We are called to live in the spirit of the psalmist; “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (v.7). As we lift our hearts towards Jesus in prayer and praise our heads will lift up too. Joy on the inside of a Christian, whatever the troubles on the outside, is a sign to a perishing world of the triumph of Christ’s life in us. 

James boldly says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (1:2) n.b not just persecution.

This joy is not ordinary circumstance-dependent human happiness, it is the supernatural joy of the approaching End.

It is sharing by faith in the joy which motivated Jesus to go to the cross; Hebrews says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (12:2).

Jesus knew that the more severe the shakings that were coming on his life the closer he was getting to returning to his Father.

At the End of the Day he knew that his final experience would be the joy of his heavenly Father’s perfect presence.

We are called to share in the shape of Jesus life experience.

A little later in the same chapter of Hebrews the writer says, v.26 “ (God) has promised,Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This v.27 …indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” (Heb 12:26-27).

Looked at through the lens of the cross the shaking of this world and its suffering are accelerating everything towards the End (cf. Rom 8:17-39).

Hardship is transformed into joy through mature faith.

I was talking to a returned missionary from Kazakhstan last Sunday, a nation where the church grew explosively in the 90’s, but then persecution came.

Those who thought following Jesus would increase ordinary earthly happiness fell away (Mark 4:16-17), but the mature believers in that country responded like the early apostles, who after being beaten “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name (of Jesus).” (Acts 5:40-41).

Donna and I were at a prayer meeting for the persecuted church earlier this year and there was a video clip of the congregation in Cave Church Cairo.

She spontaneously remarked, “You can see the depth of joy in the faces of the people.”

It’s not easy to follow Jesus in Egypt, you will experience discrimination at every level of society, Christian girls are kidnapped and at times churches are bombed.

However it is suffering for Christ that gives the believers there a sense of the joy of eternal things through the triumph of the cross and the Lord’s soon Return.

Paul’s exhortation, “Rejoice in the Lord always” is undergirded by his reminder “The Lord is near.”(Phil 4:4-5). Likewise, his words to the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thess 5:16-18) reflect an end-time attitude that God’s triumph over evil in Christ is experienced most powerfully, not in the best of times, but in the worst of times.


The sort of supernatural unconquerable joy in the midst of the shakings and terrors of this world is a powerful testimony to lost people whose only hope is in this perishing world (Eph 2:12). Zephaniah’s prophetic words in our first reading today; “The LORD your God…will rejoice over you with singing” (3:17) are true for us because the Father’s heart sings over Christ living in us.

Our meetings in Jesus’ name need to overflow with delight. The word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving”; something happy people do. The Lord’s Supper is the fulfilment of the Last Supper which was a prophetic pointer to the banquet of Messiah.

The grace of the Supper is meant to joyfully empower us as we travel to the eternal feast of the kingdom of God. Australians love parties, let’s invite them to the party that never ends.

I remember talking with someone who was involved in setting up men’s sheds in aged care facilities. He told me about meeting this old man who seemed to have nothing left living for.

But when he “invited him to the banquet” he became a Christian (Matt 22:9). One crucial reason why Alpha has been so successful is that it is accompanied by a free meal; which is a prophetic sign of the joy-filled banquet of the Messiah.

In the increasingly dark and scary days that lie ahead for our world (terrorism, water crises, refugees from Pacific islands) churches baptised in End-time joy will have increasing power to lead people to Christ.

Where is the Joy?

Mockers in Isaiah’s day  offered a taunt that could be spoken by many sceptics of Christianity today, “‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy’.”(66:5). I remember radical R.C. theologian Matthew Fox speaking to a packed audience in Christ Church Grammar chapel.

When he quipped, “The worst thing you can do to people is to invite them to church and bore them.” the whole place spontaneously broke into applause and shouts of approval because so many present felt that this was their own experience.

I am not asking whether you and I find church boring, but why mainstream society, and young people in particular, think this way!

The people of God are often fossilised, not primarily because our music is antiquated our liturgies incomprehensible and our preachers passionless, all of which is sometimes true, but because we lack Christ’s gift of End-time joy.

The Body of Christ lacks the joy that cannot be conquered by any evil circumstances because we are too attached to the things of this perishing world. (This can include religious forms cf. 2 Tim 3:5.)

Jesus speaks bluntly, “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” (John 12:25 cf. 2 Pet 1:4).

Let me use on illustration.

When Donna was first diagnosed with her cancer I said to her, “What’s the worst thing that could happen to you? The worst that can happen to you is that you die and go and be with Jesus.

No doubt at that time Donna was thinking of her loving hopes and attachments to children, grandchildren and even to me!

Faced with death Paul is more spiritual than any of us, “I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me…But for your sakes I will remain alive for your progress and joy in the faith” (Phil 1:23, 25).

Even Islamic State has something to say about here and hereafter. In a decree published after the Paris bombings they said, ISIS ‘loves death like you love life’.

Their point was that those who truly seek God turn away from idols and are willing to sacrifice their present lives to get to the pleasures of Paradise (Sura 3:14; 14:3; 75:20; 76:27).

Christ’s way to convert the world is not through violence, but by manifesting a holy End-time joy that shows to people that there is something far more valuable than the passing affairs of this life.


The perplexity induced by preparing this sermon took my mind back to my reluctance to minister in the Spirit’s power in a traditional Anglican Church 30 years ago.

In the end I did however obey the Lord and that church experienced tremendous spiritual renewal and salvation.

Today the Lord is calling us all to a major change of mind.

We need to think about Christ’s Commission to bring the gospel to everyone from a new angle.

Before Nehemiah told assembled Israel, , “the joy of the LORD is your strength.”” he commanded them ““Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing.” (Neh 8:10).

Only if our hearts are overflowing with End-time joy can we persuasively communicate good news to a world full of bad news (Ps 23:5; Isa 66:10-11).

This is a great challenge to me personally.

I remember times of being in Church as a young Christian when my experience of the presence of Jesus made my heart feel like it was going to burst through joy and I would find myself in heaven.

Since then too much of life, especially too much of church life, has gotten on top of me.

Today I sense the Lord calling me/us to make a faith decision about the triumph of the cross; has Jesus really conquered all those dark and depressing things of the world which would rob us of his joy (Gal 4:15).


To seek a new awareness of Jesus that will concentrate, surpass and sustain all our past experiences of his presence so that we might become his triumphant joy-givers to a world that has no other hope.

This is his clear call today. Will We Obey Him?

SHE (The Church)

Personal matters

The deepest revelation comes in the context of conflict, because it involves sharing in the sufferings of Christ (Heb 10:32).

Such enlightenment however does not come automatically but through willing submission to God’s profoundly exacting purposes.

The intimate bonds of marriage make it a particularly powerful arena for these sorts of eternal insights.

So when Donna and I had an unusually intense and prolonged disagreement about some features of our relationship recently I was not surprised when I sensed the Lord speaking about core issues of identity, especially the feminine nature of the Church. This has nothing to do with the recent alien cultural “feminisation” of the Western Church but is about the Church as Bride who receives her identity from her Head and Bridegroom, Jesus (Eph 5:23).

Where the Church as Woman and God as motherly have often been neglected the Spirit recently was drawing me to passages with this emphasis. The “Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.”; Jesus compares himself to a mother hen, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…” and God is like a woman who throws a party when her lost coin is found (Luke 13:34; 15:8-10; Gal 4:26).

The implications of the mother-like presence of the Lord are vast and probably cannot be accepted until we recognise that as Church we are a SHE (Isa 49:15). So that our biases do not overcome us the place to begin this connection is NOT with women/men, mothers/fathers or husbands/wives but with God’s own inner life.

Equal Glory

Despite all earthly appearances the priority of the Father does not mean he possesses more glory than the Son; v.22The Father…has given all judgment to the Son, v.23 that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father.” (John 5:22-23; 1 Cor 8:6; Phil 2:9-11).

If anything less than the fullness of the glory of the Father was mediated through Jesus then our salvation would be infinitely incomplete. Though from our perspective the Father and Jesus appear radically distinct there can be no degrees of glory in the Godhead.

Earthly images cannot assist us at this point; since only God can reveal God the Spirit alone can show us “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 3:18; 4:6).

This Trinitarian insight means that women and men as created in God’s image share an equal glory (Gen 1:26-28; Isa 43:6-7). Paul’s reflection; ““man…is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” does not mean the creation of Adam prior to Eve gives the male greater glory than a woman, but that Adam’s call was to completely communicate all the glory he had directly from God to his wife (1 Cor 11:7).

The gendered ordering of creation in Genesis ultimately speaks about our Lordly Husband imparting to us as his Bride all of his exalted glory (Eph 3:20-21; 5:32). Despite all appearances, the Church is the glory of Christ (2 Cor 8:23).

Contrary to our hierarchical dispositions Christ does not have pre-eminence over the Church, he has first place “for the Church” (Eph 1:22).

For biblically literate Christians the above teaching should be uncontroversial, but it is hugely difficult to live out. The tension I recently had with Donna did however open up a previously more hidden area of my hypocrisy in our marriage.

In the world of earthly appearances my ministry of the Word might appear to give me a greater position of honour than that possessed by my school teacher wife. Donnas’ recent protestations that I have at times acted as if my ministry was more important than hers could not be refuted.

The truth is however that my vocation as a prophet-teacher exists to empower marketplace people like Donna for their ministry in the everyday world of work (Eph 4:10-12). I have long professed these things but now the Spirit is calling me to more consistently image Christ to my wife as an image of His Church (Eph 5:32).

Within my personal circumstances can be found some keys as to why the Church today is not looking anywhere near as “radiant” with the glory of God as she is called to be (Eph 5:27; Rev 21:9-11).

Confident Submission

The Church as we know Her in Australia is not behaving as a confident Woman who has been pledged the inheritance of “all things” in Christ (1 Cor 3:22).

Her issues with pastoral dominance, centralised control, disempowerment of marketplace Christians, prayerlessness, biblical illiteracy and an obsession with numerical growth point to a Bride that has lost intimacy with her Groom. Jesus taught us that if we abide in Him as our single great desire all other things will come to us (Luke 10:41-42; John 15:5ff.).

But where does one find a congregation living in such marital closeness?

A terrible thing has taken place in the nuptial relationship between Bride and Groom, Christ’s Woman has so fallen in love with herself that SHE has lost the ability to be taken by her Lord. “Taken” in the sense that a wife was always meant to be taken by her husband in overwhelming rapturous love (Gen 24:67; SoS). 

But why would SHE, the Church, step away from such an intense union?

There is but one answer, to avoid submission to Her Head (Eph 5:23-24).

Submit to Death

To submit to Jesus means to share in his obedient submission to the Father all the way to the cross (Phil 2:7).

Our Husband promised, “‘If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.’” (John 15:15).

The current discipleship crisis across the Church, whereby people are not keeping Her teaching, is a sign that we as His Woman have not obeyed His word about persecution. The fact is that the more the Church is persecuted and vilified for Christ’s sake the more SHE grows in confidence and authority in the Word of Her Lord (1 Pet 2:23; 3:16).

Since Jesus proclaimed, ““Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”” we must understand that the radiance of the Church in her true identity will only come forth as SHE is despised as a useless irrelevant relic from the past (Matt 5:11; Luke 24:26; 1 Cor 1:28). The mystery of the glory of the Father and Son shining through the Bride of Jesus can only be revealed through costly submission (1 Cor 2:7, 13).


The Lord is working to transition His Church into a true understanding about who SHE is in Her true greatness in Him.

This has nothing to do with the dominant gendered ideologies of our time.

The idolatries of patriarchal defensiveness and feminist aggression are equally avoidances of the painful submission that alone brings heavenly revelation. To step out of these idolatries will lead us into new insights and expressions of the equal glory of Father and Son in the power of the Spirit.

I believe a new confidence and authority is coming for the obedient Bride.

Where the Western Church has skilfully avoided persecution by long flirting with popular culture a coming time of open rejection will reveal to Her just how much SHE has been loved by her Bridegroom of blood (SoS 4:9ff.). When such tribulations come to a submissive Woman SHE will desire with great desire to be taken by Her Lord. This is our true identity.

Beware the Gift

Personal Matters

The first thing that came up on ABC news radio this morning (8/6/15) was the decision of Hillsong to cancel their invitation to controversial US pastor Mark Driscoll to speak at their upcoming conference.

Until his dismissal last year Driscoll had seen Mars Hill Seattle grow from a lounge room meeting to a 10,000 plus megachurch. Since his leaving the church has effectively dissolved. There are some similarities with the case of Australia’s first televangelist Clark Taylor, whose ministry grew perhaps the largest church in the nation in the 70’s.

He was forced to resign because of repeated infidelities.

Whilst Taylor has been restored he comes to mind because I have recently been counselling someone whose family was devastated by his ministry. Both Taylor and Driscoll are extraordinarily gifted men of God.

My thinking about the influence of giftedness actually began a few days prior to the ABC clip when I encountered several men confused about their relationship with the church because of the powerful influences of gifted leaders on their lives.

I can personally remember occasions where I was drawn to men of great gifting, the results were always disastrous. “Beware the Gift” calls us to look through the minister of the gifts to the sole ministry of Christ to the glory of God the Father.


The most obvious sin in following gifts rather than Jesus as Giver is idolatry. Humans obsessively “exchange the glory of the immortal God for images representing mortal man” (Rom 1:23). This is a chronic problem. When I went to the website outlining Clark Taylor’s current ministry there was a bio which jumped over the years of his disgrace and placed him under the heading, “My Hero”.

This is dangerous behaviour which may be illustrated with an example.

Whenever I do marriage preparation one of the first things I look for in a passion-filled young couple is infatuation. Infatuation not only glazes our physical eyes but also dulls our inner eyes to the faults in another person. Samson’s sexualised blindness to Delilah’s true ambitions is a biblical case in point (Judges 16). The lure of blind attachment to another person actually operates on multiple levels.

It may simply be that we believe that their gifts can impart to us something we need for a fuller life e.g. health and wealth.

More profoundly however the sort of “soul attachment” that breeds a deep dependency on another mortal being is an attempt to absorb from them a quality we don’t believe is in us. This may become a sort of “cannibal compulsion” whose end result breeds cultic attitudes towards “anointed” visionary leaders (Leanne Payne).

The root sin underlying idolatry is unbelief concerning the worth we have in the eyes of the Father.

Our worth before God is unlimited because his lives Son in us (Gal 1:16; Col 1:27). Even the glorious angels “long to look” at our salvation in Christ (1 Pet 1:12). What then blinds us to “the riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the saints” so that we are swayed to follow other mortals (Eph 1:18)? We fail to understand Christ crucified!

The Cross Brings Clarity

Jesus’ closest earthly companions failed to grasp that only through suffering could his (and their) identity be fully revealed. When the Lord said, ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” the disciples were dumbfounded. (Matt16:24). When Jesus declared, ““the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected …and be killed”” Peter rebuke him (Mark 8:31-3 2).

Such resistance to following a suffering Messiah flows from a natural mind which can only see suffering as a painful sign of lost glory (Rom 3:23; 8:7). The transformation of the disciples thinking about suffering awaited the resurrection. In his risen splendour Jesus testified to his apostles; ““Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”” (Luke 24:26).

Whilst those who followed Jesus as a power Messiah all fell away because of the blinding effects of guilt, the vision of the crucified-and-risen Christ who suffered for us convinces our doubting hearts that God truly loves us and counts us to be of inestimable worth (John 2:23-25; Rom 5:6-8). Only when Christ is publicly portrayed as crucified do we transparently see God’s loving heart valuing us in our lost and broken condition (Mark 15:34; Gal 3:1).

The marginalisation of the cross in the Church is the spiritual root of the following of gifts today.

Transparent Disciples

Jesus made remarkable comments about the inability of “Christians” to discern his presence, or absence, in their lives. “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you;” (Matt 7:22-23).

These miracle workers and exorcists knew the power of the name of Jesus but lacking inner transparency could not discern the Lord was never in them.

So inwardly dull were the apostles they were unable to recognise the presence of a demonised Judas in their midst (John 6:70). Responding to Christ’s declaration of a betrayer amongst them they spoke in unison; ““is it I Lord”” (Matt 26:22). Such a gross lack of personal and interpersonal transparency amongst Jesus’ team before the cross can be traced back to their avoidance of the call to suffer for his sake.

Jesus promised a blessing of joy for those persecuted for his kingdom, a promise that later came true when Peter and John were beaten for their testimony and “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name.” (Matt 5:10-12; Acts 5:41).

Suffering for the Lord brings a compelling sense of worthiness that expels the idolatrous need to seek something special from following others. Our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church have a clear head start over us in these matters.

Yet we do not have to wait for open harassment before we can sense our worth in Christ and be freed from following the gifts of men. Whoever surrenders sickness, personal conflict, monetary need, psychological pressure or any other source of pain to Jesus for the glory of God will soon experience their agonies as enveloped in the “fellowship of sufferings” (Phil 3:10). Such people sense the glory of God in them and are moved by the Spirit to follow Christ alone.


Jesus always wants to spare us from the useless pains bred of idolatry and bring us into genuine spiritual maturity. Consistent Christ-centredness is maturity (Col 1:28).

I fear however for the spiritual condition of the mainstream Church today. Scripture warns us that Satan’s ultimate deception will come “with all power and false signs and wonders,” (2 Thess 2:9).

With many Christians crying out in prayer for mighty works apart from seeking a deeper revelation of Christ crucified the stage is set for a great falling away from the true Messiah; just as Jesus predicted (Matt 24:24).

Such things do not have to be! If we are wise we will ask the Lord to reveal to our own hearts any places where we have been following the gift rather than the Giver. Once freed from distractions and disillusionments we will become those wise persons who turn others towards Christ alone, not as some sort of “hero” but as the man whose present power came only by the weakness of the cross (Dan 12:3; 2 Cor 13:4; Heb 5:7-10).

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev 2:7 etc.)

The Puzzle of Humanity

 by Dr. John Yates

Personal Matters

Being human is a struggle. Looking back over my life I can see three phases of inner wrestling. When I was an unbeliever I nearly went crazy, especially when drunk, turning over and over in my mind whether life had meaning.

Coming to Jesus resolved that issue; but another intense dilemma soon emerged.

It has been poignantly said,

The longest distance in the world is between head and heart.
This distance between my doctrinal affirmations and my actual experiences tormented me for some years until I stopped looking at myself.

As a more Christ-centred believer another acute tension surfaced, the one which still so often troubles me and from which there seems to be no deliverance. This is a tension generated by the massive difference between who I know Jesus to be and the outworking of this in and around me through the Church.

Is this a special prophetic burden that comes through discerning the difference between a present condition and a future state (Zech 12:1; Mal 1:1)?

If a spiritual gift is at the source of my inner tensions then the generally apathetic Aussie Church needs a revelation of Jesus as the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8; 1 Pet 1:13). God can shift our lukewarm spirituality, but only if we seek the depths of “the love of Christ that leaves us no choice” (1 Cor 2:10; 2 Cor 5:14; Rev 3:16).

To possess biblical wisdom about who we are not we must go back to our beginning.

Made for Glory

Adam and Eve were made in the image and glory of God but knowing that they could die made them acutely aware they were radically incomplete (Gen 2:17; 3:4-5). This awareness of imperfection was part of a larger divine plan; “God…has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (Eccl 3:11).

The first couple must have longed for an eternal marriage, but the divinely imposed shadow of death presented itself as an impenetrable barrier to endless marital joy.

Knowing there were things only God knew about good-and-evil proved to be an intolerable tension, one which they tried to solve by reaching out for personal immortality (Rom 1:20, 23). The result was a terrible Fall; instead of ascending to perfection humanity fell short of the glory which God had always designed for us (Rom 3:23).

This loss of glory is experienced as shame, an unbearable sensation everyone tries to over with the substitutes of religion, money, sex, power, family, knowledge, work and so on (Gen 3:7; Jer 2:11; Acts 17:29; Rom 1:23). Such idolatries actually satisfy some people, even those thought to be enlightened. “Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being.” (Ghandi) By God’s grace however such satisfaction always eluded the pre-Christian me.

My serious efforts to “kill” my inner puzzlements about life through attachment to the pure materialistic determinism of behaviourist psychology only intensified my sense that something drastic was missing inside.

This severe discontentment, for which I now thank God, was a necessary stimulus in moving me towards Jesus. In this “lucky country” however we face a powerful social taboo against confessing despair over life itself. Adopt this attitude and expect to quickly be hit with some demeaning psychiatric label to explain away your “confusions”. 

Praise God he is working to a plan for our restoration to glory and Jesus is its absolute centre (1 Cor 2:7).

Showing the Glory

The history of salvation moves forward through bursts of the revelation of glory; “the God of glory appeared to…Abraham”, Isaiah has a vision of the glory of God “filling the whole earth”, Jesus’ “manifested his glory” at the wedding in Cana moving his disciples to “believe in him”, Saul is struck down by an epiphany of Jesus on the road to Damascus, John sees the glorified Son of Man so that he is equipped to receive the visions filling Revelation (Isaiah 6:1-6; Acts 7:2; 9:1-9; John 2:11; Rev 1:12ff.).

Manifestations like these shake our humanity to its foundations, not simply because of the vast gulf between divine glory and fallen human wretchedness, but because they are revelations of the glory of God in the humanity of Jesus.

The scriptures teach that even the Old Testament saints and prophets had a vision of Jesus; Christ said Abraham, “rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”, likewise John tells us that Isaiah’s vision of the Lord was a vision of Jesus (John 8:56; 12:41)! If the glory of God is concentrated in the face of Jesus why are our churches so preoccupied with our healing, salvation, deliverance and prosperity (2 Cor 4:6)? It is because we cannot bear to embrace the broken glory of Christ’s cross.

True Glory

Approaching his “hour” of death Jesus prayed; ““Father, glorify your name…. glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,”” (John 12:28; 17:1). The full manifestation of the Father-Son glory for which Christ prayed comes only through Jesus immersion in our radical incompleteness. The cry “My God, my God, why have you….?”” (Mark 15:34) is a total identification with all our sin-laden puzzlements.

Unlike us however the bewildered Jesus never turns to idols to cover a place of shame but turns only towards the covenant God of Israel (Ps 22:1). Whilst the glory of the cross is hidden to natural eyes the resurrection of Christ “by the glory of the Father” testifies that God’s glory was perfected in the supreme weakness of his Son (Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 12:9).

Whilst the cross as God’s plan for our glory remains hidden from the “wise and understanding” by grace it is revealed to those who puzzle over their very existence (Matt 11:25; 1 Cor 1:18; 2:7).

For too long our churches have imbibed the self-confident spirit of an age which claims an answer to everything. We need immersion in the eternal Spirit who transited Jesus through the existential exasperation of the cross into his perfection as the glorified Son of God (Rom 1:4; Heb 9:14).

For the sake of moving us to seek his glory the Father will allow us to pass through periods of deep perplexity (2 Cor 1:8; 4:8).

For only those who know they do not hold the answers to life’s deepest puzzles can possibly live a truly Christ-centred existence.

Only in radical incompleteness are we driven again and again to the scriptures where we find that Jesus really is the answer to every question. He is the glory of what it means to be a human being, a spouse, a worker and one who knows God as Father (Gal 4:6; 1 Cor 11:7; 2 Cor 4:4; Heb 2:5-9). Only in Jesus can we sense our future glory; “when he appears we shall be like him, for we will see him as his is.” (1 John 3:2).


Until we meet the Lord face to face the radical incompleteness of human life will remain with us.
 «Yet our perpetual puzzlements are no barrier to the conquering grace of an all wise Father» (James 1:5).

The revelation of Jesus as the Lord of glory which us apathetic Aussies so desperately need will not come through the confident professionalism of the super-churches of our day but through unlikely candidates whose brokenness embeds them in constant humility (2 Cor 12:5-13). Such wise children are those who thank God that being human involves such a struggle, one that  moves us to turn again and again to the only person who truly understands us, Jesus our Lord (Matt 11:25; 1 Cor 2:7).

Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done

By Pastor Teresa Tay 

I have been spiritually challenged for the past months by this statement – 

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done

One day I was introduced to a lady by a friend of mine. What disturbed me was the way I was introduced by my friend. She said, ‘This is my good friend Teresa. She is a prophet.’ The lady said, ‘Excellent, she can pray for us.’ I was utterly shocked with such an introduction. Fear, feelings of inadequacy entered my mind and I felt sick in the stomach.

your_kingdom-01The next morning I woke up with a song in my heart on ‘Our Lord’s Prayer’.

The line ‘Your Kingdom come Your will be done stayed in my mind for some time and I sensed God was saying something important to me; I taught this prayer so my disciples will know the Fatherhood of God. I taught them to pray first about the thing that concerns the Father’ heart so they will act with my Kingdom mentality’.

There is only one Way

He carried on to speak to me from Matthew 26, where Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matt 26: 38 | – My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death….

v39 | – … He fell on His face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.

v42 | – a second time Jesus prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’

v44 | – once more He prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Jesus must be asking the Father, “Is there any other way to bring redemption Father?”. But there is no other way because He is the way.

The Lord said to me,

When I prayed your will be done, my mind was focused on my Father’s plan, to save and redeem all man. At such a time of agony, I was thinking of my Father’s love. It was that love that helped me to stay committed to my Father’s plan. The thought of victory that would follow after my death gave me the strength to endure the pain.

He said,

Notice I said ‘Our Father’, not ‘My Father’. I expect my people to have a sense of community in their prayer. I was teaching my disciples not to think of themselves only but think about the well-being of others both in prayer and in the things they do.

As I pondered on this, I think of what the Lord said in:

Mat 22:37-40 | Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments

We are saved us so that we would know the Father’s love. I believe God’ desire is that He will be the lover of our souls. Everything we do and say has to be birthed out of that divine love in our heart and that can only come out of an intimate relationship with Him. If we know Him and His love deeply, we will know His heart for others. The deeper we experience His love, the more His love will be imparted in us for others because the very nature of God is LOVE.

Your Kingdom Come

The Lord asked me, ‘What does your kingdom come your will be done mean?’ I said, ‘It means letting go of my own desires, my ideas and my plans. It means knowing and embracing your heart’s desire and acting in obedience to carry out your desire and your will.’ He said to me, ‘Do it then. Am I not sending you?’.

A huge sense of responsibility came upon me, I felt if I would not pray for that lady due to fear, then I really cannot sincerely pray ‘Our Father, let your Kingdom come let your will be done’. I felt convicted that day to pray His kingdom come; His will be done means to be obedient when God requires me to do anything that is on His heart, for anyone and at any time.

I came to the conclusion that if I pray Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done, I have to cooperate with our God.  It means stepping out of my own limitations and understanding, avail myself to be a vessel God can use. The ability to do the job will follow the step of obedience I take.

Kingdom of God is within you

Jesus said to His disciples :

Luke 17:21 | – “…the Kingdom of God is within you

The word kingdom speaks of “the domain of a king.” It also carries the meaning of “a realm or region where there is rulership by something or someone.”

So, the kingdom of God, or the domain of God, exists inside every  believer: the reign of God is within us.

To pray Our Father, let Your kingdom come Your will be done, we have to see ourselves as partners of Christ doing His will and His purposes. How is God going to do His will unless His people align themselves to His will? As far as the kingdom is concerned, it has to begin with us. The Lord’s prayer is a prayer for the church to be His Kingdom builders.

Application Time

I have been so challenged by it that ever since and often enough I prayed this simple prayer,

Lord let your kingdom come let your will be done here.

As a result many miracles happened. God’s Kingdom is indeed about bringing salvation, healing, and deliverance for all. It is about transforming life.

I am convinced that the time has come for the Lord to release the mantle for signs and wonders on His people not just only in church services but also in the workplaces, at homes, in the hospitals, at shopping centers and on the streets. With the anointing comes responsibility. God is looking for vessels He can trust, He can use. We are a channel of God’s presence in the world; we are called to be Kingdom builders in this world.

This calls for a lifestyle of deep intimacy with Him. As we walk in deep intimacy with the Lord we carry heavenly atmosphere wherever we go.

May your life be completely surrendered to Christ even dying to self as if you are offering a daily living sacrifice – the very essence of the Lord’s Prayer.

Sanctuary/Secret Place 2015

pdf Downloadable PDF

by Dr. John Yates

Date 31 December 2014

2014 will be remembered as a year of great evils; MH 370 disappears somewhere to the west of Perth; MH 17 is shot down over Ukraine; another flight QZ8501 “goes missing” over Indonesia; Ebola breaks out in West Africa, 100’s of Nigerian schoolgirls are kidnapped, ISIS hits the headlines and a “lone wolf” strikes in Sydney.

It would be naïve to predict that in 2015 the visible terrors that strike fear into the human heart will somehow disappear. I sense however the Lord wants to reverse our priorities and transport our perceptions from the visible to the invisible realm. As the decline and fall of the Roman Empire precipitated a prayer revival in the form of monasticism so the arrival of numerous barbarian influences, not only at the gates of our cities but deep within them, is a catalytic call for a prayer revival in 2015. This wave of prayer will give priority to the eternal and unseen world (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Seeing the Invisible

In God’s plan his “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:20). Today however the idolatrous heart of man worships the power of science and technology (scientism) distorting our discoveries of the order and potential of the natural world into a drive that takes us further and further away from God. The recent rise of militant atheism in the West e.g. Richard Dawkins, may appeal mainly to the intelligentsia but it helps create a climate where talk of the immortal, invisible and eternal (1 Timothy 1:17) becomes an object of ridicule.

It is time that the people of God defied the dominance of the visible and moved in the realm of the unseen Spirit. After all “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” which are our real enemies are themselves unseen to the physical eye (Eph 6:12).

It was said of Moses, “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” (Heb 11:27). The ability to “see the invisible” is exactly what needs to be recovered today. There is I believe an important order to help us move into this realm that is outlined in the book of Revelation.

Seeing Behind the Curtain

In Revelation 6 Jesus begins to open the scroll in the hand of God and war, famine and plague are released on the earth as expressions of the wrath of God and his all conquering Lamb (Revelation 6:1-8). These are exactly the horrors headlining our world today. To those without access to the throne room of grace the traumas of this world are simply causes to turn away for the face of God and curse his name (Revelation 6:12-16; Revelation 16:9-11, 21). But we share the heavenly throne of God’s grace with Jesus (Eph 1:3; Eph 2:6; Heb 4:16).

Hebrews exhorts us, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh…let us draw near” (Heb 10:19-20, 22). To go behind the curtain is to enter into the most intense intimate presence of God, it means to enjoy that place where wrath has been turned away; it is to see the Lamb smiling upon his Father’s children (Matthew 18:10; Heb 2:17).

It is by going behind the curtain with Jesus that we can see what God is doing in the world and affirm it with a sense of peace. Those who dwell in the holy places in heaven reign in life in the midst of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and the sword filled with the conviction that in all these things God is working good for those who love him (Romans 5:17; Romans 8:28, 35-37 cf. Ps 110:2).

In the last week we have remembered the 10th anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami which took a quarter of a million lives and the 40th anniversary of cyclone Tracy that devastated Darwin, such is the world in which we live (cf. Romans 8:20-22). Whilst I cannot see good growing in the world in 2015 we can grow in the goodness of God by drawing near to him.

The Secret Place

Jesus counselled us to give, pray and fast “in secret” and our heavenly Father “who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4-6, 18). In 2015 we are being called to live a secret life of prayer, fasting and giving in the presence of God. Those who would know the secrets of the kingdom of God and of the wisdom of Christ and his Spirit must abide in the secret place (Amos 3:7; Mark 4:11; Romans 16:25-27; 1 Corinthians 2:7).

The dominance of highly visible persuasive charismatic personalities with can-do pragmatic solutions to life’s problems must to come to an end in the Church if we are to understand the order of God in creation and redemption.

The reversal to which we are being called reflects the order unveiled in the book of Revelation;entry into the heavenly throne room of God the Creator and the Lamb slain and standing in its fourth and fifth chapters must precede insight into the world of judgements in chapter 6.

Spiritual things are known only by spiritual people (1 Corinthians 2:13-16 cf. John 4:24).

Though more personal petition and greater time in interceding for others may be a fruit of the secret place this is not our primary call. The call is into the pure presence of God mediated only by Christ to know the Lord in a more direct face to face way (Exodus 33:11; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18; 1 Timothy 2:5).

This is the very opposite of the avoidance of the face of God which is the preoccupation of those who “dwell on the earth”[1]An expression used in Revelation for those under judgement [Revelation 3:10; Revelation 6:10; Revelation 8:13; Revelation 11:10; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 13:14; Revelation 14:6]. today (Revelation 6:16). When Revelation describes Christians persecuted by the beast as God’s tabernacle/sanctuary and “those who dwell in heaven” it describes the followers of Jesus both dead and living (Revelation 13:6). With lives “hidden in God” we are a tent of witness offering sanctuary and refuge to those whose lives are tormented by the evils of our time (Col 3:3). As the monasteries of the Dark Ages provided sanctuary for the fearful this is the call upon the Church in Perth today.

A call which can only be obeyed if we leave behind the dominance of the public space, the space of work, family or church life, to draw aside to be with Jesus as our first priority (Mark 6:31).


The presence of God which the Church and the world so separately needs in these fearful times cannot be found primarily in meetings characterised by mood music and lots of emotion, but in the secret place of stillness before God (Habakkuk 2:20; Zechariah 2:13; Revelation 8:1).

It is time for a “New Year’s Resolution” to spend more time with God and less time with people, or perhaps less time with people in front of screens. We are being called to the practise of the presence of God so as to taste of the goodness of the Lord and the power of the age to come (Hebrews 6:5; 1 Peter 2:3).

This unalloyed goodness of God in Christ cannot be expressed in words but can be expressed in peace and stillness to a mad, bad and busy world (2 Corinthians 9:15; 1 Peter 1:8). Coming from the secret place “every public thing in your life will be marked with the lasting imprint of the presence of God.” (Oswald Chambers)

In this way transformation will come not only to the people of God but a door shall be opened for the salvation of many.


1 An expression used in Revelation for those under judgement [Revelation 3:10; Revelation 6:10; Revelation 8:13; Revelation 11:10; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 13:14; Revelation 14:6].

Relinquish “Let go and let God.”

by Dr. John Yates

Text: Luke 2:25-35

Decades ago I pointed out that his opinion that that death could never be a good thing was contradicted by the story of Simeon. Luke tells us that “it had been revealed to him (Simeon) by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ”, when he sees Jesus a jubilant Simeon exclaims,“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; (Luke 2:26, 29).

For Simeon death was nothing to fear for it meant entry into the presence of God; rare is that Australian who faces death with peace. The recent terrorist tragedy has exposed that underneath our laid back exterior of watching yacht races or cricket matches with a beer in hand our nation is full of the fear of death. We need to see Jesus. The appearance of the baby Christ to Simeon was a prophetic prelude to Paul’s bold statement; “grace… has now been made known through the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who destroyed the power of death and illuminated life and immortality through the gospel.” (2 Tim 1:9-10). The appearing of Jesus means not only can we be freed from the fear of mortality but also of the anxieties over the many small losses that threaten us along life’s way. Such deliverance comes only as we see Jesus as Simeon saw Jesus

Seeing the Glory
the Holy Spirit was upon him (Simeon)” and he was “looking forward to the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25; cf. Luke 4:18; Isa 61:1). Knowing that God had promised to bring comfort to his people through the coming of the Messiah (Isa 40:1-2; Luke 2:26) Seeing by the power of God’s Spirit that Jesus is more than an ordinary baby boy Simeon prophesies; “my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32). What Simeon saw in the Spirit is best expressed in the words of John, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). To see Jesus by the Spirit’s light is to see all the grace and truth of the Father; it is to know with exceptional clarity that God is totally on our side. Such a revelation has the power to free us from all our striving to control the affairs of life (2 Cor 4:6).

Letting Go
Simeon’s peace-filled surrender of his life into the hands of the Lord is an act of faith fully free from resignation; it is a faith-filled “prayer of relinquishment”. (cf. Gen 15:2, 15; Num 20:29). Years ago when Donna was struggling to let go her maternal attachments to one of our children she came across the “prayer of relinquishment” in a book by Catherine Marshall.[1]“Meeting God at Every Turn” by Catherine Marshall Paperback: 256 pages Publisher: Chosen Books [September 2002] Language: English ISBN-10: 080079298X ISBN-13: 978-0800792985 Amazon Books After years of praying for healing from tuberculosis Marshall came to a turning point; “Finally I was able to pray, ‘Lord, I understand no part of this, but if You want me to be an invalid for the rest of my life—well, it’s up to You. I place myself in your hands, for better or for worse. I ask only to serve You.” Later, in the middle of that same night she suddenly awoke with Jesus in the room and she was totally healed.Let go and let a pillar of all Christian spirituality. This was true for mother Mary when Jesus was only 40 days old.

Simeon…said to Mary…, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also)…”” (Luke 2:34-35 ESV). Old Simeon prophesies to teenage Mary that her son will have a life filled with controversy and conflict; his prophecy that a sword will pierce her soul prepares her for the crucifixion. God calls Mary was to relinquish her natural desires for her baby’s earthly happiness and to relinquish him into his Father’s hands. This sounds like a very tough call, but God never asks us to do anything which he has not first done himself.

God Lets Go
God has always been a letting-go God. From Eden on the Father has let us sinners go our own way in the world (cf. Luke 15:12). Most profoundly, God must let go of God if we are to be saved. The Father “lets go” of the Son in sending him into a world where from beginning to end his life will be targeted by demonic powers, raging tyrants and envious religious leaders (Matt 2:16; Matt 26:59; Matt 27:18). The Lord’s greatest act of relinquishment comes in Gethsemane where Jesus must let go of the hold of the Father.

He prays; “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36). By faith Jesus knew that all the goodness of God is concentrated in the will of God and will lead to the glory of God; no matter how great the cost. In accepting the cup of judgement Christ lets go of all his entitlements as “Son of God” knowing that the relinquishment of such rights will lead to the loss of the presence of the Father; “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” (Mark 15:34). God however is greater than death. The end result of Christ’s relinquishment to the will of God is his glorious resurrection joy (Heb 12:2 cf. Rom 1:4). The death-and-resurrection of Jesus testifies to us that letting go according to the will of God always issues in extraordinary blessedness.

The Fruit of Relinquishment
Simeon’s soul was filled with a sense of peace as he surrendered his life to the Lord (Luke 2:29). Andrew Murray sums it up well by saying; “entire surrender is the Father’s claim, the Son’s example, and the true blessedness of the soul.” (A Murray). Paul testifies to the benefits of a relinquished life; “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:11-13). Living contentedly in all the ups and downs of life is a powerful testimony to Jesus in a stressed and dissatisfied world. The fruit of a life of relinquishment is satisfied rest. Why is this wonderful vision so rarely mastered?

The Struggle to Relinquish
In a prayer meeting the other day someone was praying for the healing of a Christian wife and mother with terminal brain cancer being kept alive by repeated painful surgery and chemotherapy; I was moved to speak out that she should already be dead but she had not been able to enter the Lord’s rest because she could not let go. Immediately another lady present shared her sister-in-law was in hospital slowly dying but was afraid to let go and leave behind an unbelieving family. The Church today has forgotten how to let go. We have forgotten how to let go of trying to meet the expectations we believe family, friends, and God have of on our lives.

I recently said to a dear brother who has been enduring a most painful separation that he needed to let go of all human efforts and hopes that his wife would be reconciled to him and leave the future of his marriage entirely in the miracle working hands of God. On the other hand I have had to pastorally exhort men and women to relinquish their craving for a spouse; they did not listen, their marriages ended in disaster and they later confessed I was correct. What about letting go and trusting God in relation to career and finance.

When Jesus was calling me to leave behind a career as a scientist and go school teaching I struggled very much. Anyone who has never had a struggle in giving away money either has perfect faith or does not know how to hear the Spirit’s voice. When our young family of 6 was about to cross over from Victoria to WA a young businessman who had recently suffered financial struggles walked in and said, “I need to give you this money. I was on my tractor mower and God said ‘Give the money from your latest job to the Yates’’. To be honest I didn’t want to do it, but here it is.”

Health, relationships, career, money but perhaps the greatest failure to let go and let God is found in church leadership. Most churches and ministries never grow to maturity because the leadership cannot let go of their control. A prophetic voice representing Jesus once said, “Give me back my Church so that I may give it to the world.”

Our society is bearing the bad fruit of its failure to live a life of relinquishment. Old people who have never learned to let go of feeling “useful” to their families lose a sense of dignity think of themselves as a burden and become candidates for the euthanasia lobby. I have a vision of older Christians who, having learned the secret of letting go and letting God, radiate the peace of God into a community where old age and terminal decline so often mean only fear and embarrassment. Simeon’s story has one last lesson for us; the title he uses for God at the start of his prayer holds the secret of how to “Let go and let God.”

Master, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word”. How we struggle to accept that God is our Master and we are his servants (Acts 4:24-27). When William Ernest Henley lost a leg to gangrene he wrote a God-defying poem in protest against the Lord’s will. “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” His poem is called Invictus, the Latin word for “unconquerable”, and he is boasting of an unconquerable will. Henley’s honesty is rare, but at some level we all hate the thought of someone else running our lives. The only solution to our arrogance is the crucifixion of the will.

Simeon possessed a will that had died to self-interest, Mary had to learn it, Jesus embodies it and Paul sums it up in a very well known verse. When I awoke at 2.20 this morning with a clear mind simultaneously aware of an impending problem for our household that emerged a few hours before I knew these words from Galatians 2:20 were a challenge for me personally to “Let go and let God”. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:19-20). True relinquishment requires a daily crucifixion of the will, letting go of what I will and accepting the will of my Father in heaven. This daily struggle is a mark of real Christianity.

In our “Age of Entitlement” where people think they have the right to an endless trouble free and happy life the notion of relinquishing your rights to a power greater than yourself is utterly offensive. But the benefits of a life of “letting go and letting God” are immeasurable.

The families of a church that practiced relinquishment would be free from nagging, bullying and rebellion because husbands, wives and children had surrendered their “rights” to getting their own way. The members of such a Church would radiate the peace of Christ in the midst of the crises of health breakdown, old age, relational strain, demotion, unemployment and financial strain. Wisdom in letting go and letting God is a complete way of life that opens the doorway to happiness with God. Jesus is calling us to follow him in this way today.

From eternity he surrendered the privilege of remaining in heaven and willed to come down to earth and lay down his life for us (Phil 2:6). The fruit of Jesus’ perfectly relinquished life is that he has conquered the power of death and re-entered the endless joy of his Father’s presence. Today he calls us to share in both relinquishment and resurrection power (Heb 12:1-2). .

No one but Jesus can make perfect sense of your life. Billions of dollars spent on Boxing Day sales will not bring one degree of lasting peace to our nation. Without the prophetic power of a lifestyle of relinquishment crazy consumerism, substance abuse and endless social and family problems will be our national inheritance. Without relinquishment life looks like the tangled threads on the back of a tapestry, the pains and suffering of existence leave us with a sense of random disorder drawing out anxiety, depression and the fear of death.

Simeon’s experience in the presence of Jesus teaches us that there is another way to live.

In letting go of everything into the hands of God we start to see the Lord’s hidden purposes in all of life’s experiences weaving all things together for our good (Rom 8:28).

A life of relinquishment is a life of great wisdom.

The Spirit is calling the Australian Church to a prophetic lifestyle of “letting go and letting God”; the Spirit is calling.

Will we obey Jesus today?


1 “Meeting God at Every Turn” by Catherine Marshall Paperback: 256 pages Publisher: Chosen Books [September 2002] Language: English ISBN-10: 080079298X ISBN-13: 978-0800792985 Amazon Books

God Will Always Have His Way

Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould but let God remould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity”  (Romans 12:2 J.B. Phillips)

We know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good  (Romans 8:28 J.B. Phillips)

“God will always have his way”.
It’s a statement so very easy to say,
Especially shortly after the day
Fulfilled, with little delay

I wonder of Joseph said it
When he was there in the pit,
Or during those years in Egypt
Aware of having God’s credit?

I think it was a growing theme
When Joseph interpreted a dream,
When he began to plan and scheme
And when he ruled supreme

Providence, promise and predestination
In a miracle of integration,
Showed God’s favour towards the nation
Of Egypt, and later, Israel’s formation

Humans may rule, God overrules,
In every culture’s ways and schedules
He uses an earthly way as a tool
Making it serve his heavenly module

In all things God is working for our good,
All the way from babyhood,
In all livelihood, adulthood and nationhood,
A truth that Joseph understood

The whole of cosmos is God’s territory
A kind of divine laboratory,
His purpose is always revelatory
His promises, an infallible authenticity

I have learned to find my rest
In what God says is for my best,
So in his will I shall invest,
God’s way for me, his prized bequest

Paul E. Grant | December 2010

Genesis 50:20