Nehemiah re-built The Valley Gate. This is a difficult gate and one that we don’t generally want to go through- the valley experiences which no-one likes. We would all (myself included) much rather stay on the mountain top and enjoy those experiences with God but I don’t believe that we can stay there forever if we are to grow, mature and move on.
The valley gate can be a necessary part of following our path to achieve what God is preparing us for. It develops our faith and trust in God and we learn from the experience that God is faithful. I believe that Jesus had to go through the valley gate when he went from Mt Olives through the Kidron Gate into Garden of Gethsemane and then to the Cross. He was in agony in the garden but He yielded to God’s will to be done. Generally, in life we will all go through valley experiences but the encouragement is that we are never alone at those times and we can get through them. Jesus promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. He will lead us through the valley – even the valley of death. The words of Psalm 23 encourages that God is with us and will not forsake us and will comfort us in time of difficulty and pain.
If you are in a valley situation right now – keep going, don’t give up and ask for God’s help. Sometimes the valley situations teach us far more than the mountain top experiences and our faith in God grows. God will show you the way through to the other side. Humility and the valley gate in my experience can sometimes go together hand in hand. I have had to humble myself under God’s mighty hand before I realise that I can’t handle situations on my own or with my own wisdom or little understanding. If I submit and surrender to God and acknowledge my dependence on Him then I have felt His peace even in the most difficult of situations.
Just as the name suggests this gate which Nehemiah rebuilt was the one used to get rid of the rubbish and dung. I don’t know about you but even after being a Christian for over 40 years, I am still a work in progress and I still sin (even when I don’t want to or intend to) and get things wrong. However, I don’t write myself off. Even though I still sin, I know that the power of sin over me has been broken because of the work of Christ at the Cross. I repent when I know I have done wrong and the Holy Spirit convicts me and I am cleansed by the power of the blood of Christ. The rubbish is swept out of the door. When the accuser comes to me I just point to the blood of Jesus and he has nothing on me. The slate is wiped clean. I don’t use the grace of Christ as a licence to sin but I rely on the grace of God in my life to convict me of sin.
If there is still rubbish in your life or you are carrying it around then I encourage you to get rid of it. It is only choking the word of God and the fruit of the Spirit maturing in you. If we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives then He will convict us of sin. Keeping our hearts soft and not hardened by disobedience. What rubbish needs to be out of our lives today? Let’s be ruthless with it and get rid of it – once and for all.
The fish Gate was another gate which Nehemiah rebuilt. As followers of Christ we are called like the disciples of Jesus to be fishers of men. We have been given the great commission to go out and make disciples. It is the mandate from Christ to His church. If however we just put all of our efforts into catching the fish and seeing converts, but don’t disciple them properly afterwards, then we shouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see any growth or maturity.
Discipleship requires service, commitment, love and sacrifice. In order to walk alongside people, especially people who are hurting, we can need grace, patience and love in great abundance. The Holy Spirit can help us to develop the fruit of the Spirit in discipleship and teach us how to disciple others. We need to know the truth of the gospel ourselves in order that we can help others to mature in Christ and follow Him. The Christian life can be one of suffering, hardship and persecution because of our faith in Jesus and preparing people for that is a key part of discipleship.
Are the nets ready for the catch? If there is to be a great harvest of souls then we need to get ready to disciple them. If you are a follower of Christ then I encourage you to share your testimony and life with others who are new to the faith and disciple them. Help them and strengthen them to grow and mature in Christ and share your experiences with them. We all have something to offer in service to Jesus. Is there someone that you can take under your wing today or give a supporting hand?
The message bible translation of Zechariah 3 v 10 is “At that time, everyone will get along with one another, with friendly visits across the fence; friendly visits on one another’s porches.” What a lovely picture of peacefulness.
We all long, I am sure, for a day when peace reigns in our neighbourhoods and cities. When people can rub along together despite “fences ” -the differences that separate them. The Bible talks here of just such a day when this can happen. I want that in my neighbourhood and I am sure you do too.
A day when knife crime and violence is not the words we see and read about in our newspapers and TV but instead there is genuine friendship and love for one another. Love your neighbour as yourself is one of the commandments in the bible and Jesus emphasised it in His teaching. As we come into this season of Lent what is it that we can do for our neighbours as a friendly gesture that will show God’s love for them through us.
What could it be? A friendly greeting, a smile, a bunch of flowers, a catch up with a cup of tea, an invitation for a meal? Showing friendship to those who are alone and lonely. I am sure that God will show us and open up the door of opportunity to us in this season of Lent.
As I was praying last week and in worship at Church I had a picture of a bride. I first saw a picture of a lion and knew that this was Jesus – the lion of Judah. The Lion was looking at something and when I followed his gaze, I saw that He was looking at a bride.
The picture shocked me. Although the bride was dressed in a beautiful white dress and veil -the dress was truly beautiful – spotless and pure bright white, the bride herself looked grey and gaunt, withered and frail. Her beauty had faded and she had no vitality or joy. Her skin was stretched tautly over her bones and was grey and papery. She looked weary as if she had no strength in her from lack of food. She reminded me of a living corpse. It was a terrible sight. The bride was not old which accounted for her appearance. She was young.
I thought is this a picture of the church at the moment- the body of Christ as a whole in the world? Is this what Jesus sees when He looks at us? That the body has lost its vitality, its beauty and is famished and without strength. I was encouraged that the bride’s dress was pure and white. Jesus’ blood truly cleanses us from all sin and purifies us. It reminded me that Jesus is coming back for a spotless bride, but I believe He also wants to come back for a radiant, beautiful and strong bride who is full of His life, joy, power and strength and who radiates His glory and goodness in the world.
I pray that if this picture is correct that the Holy Spirit will reveal it and show us our true condition. That our hearts will be convicted of our lack of His life working in and through us. That we will acknowledge and repent over our condition and turn again to the living hope which is in Christ Jesus by the power of His Holy Spirit to be restored and refreshed. We will realise our desperation and need of Jesus and that without Him there is no power for living. He alone is the bread of life and the living water. John 7 v37 “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink, he who believes in me as the scriptures say out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”. John 6: 48 Jesus said “I am the bread of life”. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh and His words are life to us. The bible is food for our soul.
Jesus is in the business of restoration. The Lord reminded me of the picture of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37 later in the same day and God’s question to Ezekiel – can these dry bones live? In my picture – Can the bride’s strength, joy, life, beauty and power be restored? In faith I believe that the answer is Yes and I say Yes to God. As Ezekiel prophesied to the dry bones – we say to the Church – hear the word of the Lord. “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live” V5 “I will put My Spirit in you and you shall live” v13.
Isaiah 40 v 29 says “He gives power to the weak and to those who have no might, He increases strength”. V31 “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint”. I believe God wants to restore our strength for these days ahead so that we will not grow weary in doing good but will have the strength to continue in the face of adversity and persecution and persevere. We are called to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. May our vitality be restored. May we be filled with the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of God.
Isaiah 30: 21 says “Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying “This is the way walk in it”. Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left”.
If you are looking for direction in your life and seeking the path that God wants you to take or a new door is opening up to you then take encouragement from the promise in these verses. God will direct your way.
This is a season for stepping into the new things of God. It may be paths that you or no-one else has travelled before, areas which you have never ventured into, things you or nobody else has ever done but take comfort that God will make it clear that you are on the right path. God will direct you to move forward into new things. Don’t look back at the old or try to do things in the same way but with boldness step into the new. This is a season for God to show you how to do things in a different way. Don’t worry or be anxious that you don’t know what’s up ahead – trust God. If you are walking where God wants you to walk then you are going in the right direction.
You may face discouragement – people may think you are crazy even to attempt something new but God will give you the vision and you will hear His still small voice saying “This is the way walk in it”. You will know it is God speaking to you. I encourage you to be bold in faith today as you hear Him speak to you. Take hold of the opportunity which God is bringing your way.
I sense this may be a season for some that God will completely turn things on their head. God will flip things upside down but you will emerge unscathed. Allow God to be in the driving seat.
I pray God will increase your vision in these days. To stir in you a new vision, a bigger vision and to break new ground for Him. To see new things and create new opportunities for the gospel to be preached and people to be reached with the good news of Jesus Christ.
As we have been praying recently there has been a great sense of God speaking again about His Fire and Oil being poured out on believers in an incredible way. A mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit to come suddenly and deluge us just as the rain came in the day of Elijah following years of drought. The fire first and then rain with a river of His Presence, Power & Glory. This will see many people being brought into the Kingdom as the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached with power.
I sense in my spirit that the Lord is saying Prepare and Position yourself ready to give and receive. The Lord gave me this word “Hitch up your garments and take up your position ready”. I believe preparation and positioning are keys for this season. In each of our lives we can prepare and position ourselves ready to give and receive and birth as the Lord shows each one of us by His Holy Spirit. Each of us has different gifts, callings and ministries and resources to use in the body of Christ and for the work of the gospel. If we have put these down or let them get a bit rusty then perhaps now is the time to pick them up again and start practicing and get ready.
I pray God will show each and every one of us what we need to do to prepare. I sense that for some people God is saying that you have to let go of the old in order to receive the new. If you are holding on to something from the past then perhaps it is time to let it go in order that you can receive the new thing God wants to do.
I am reminded of people of faith in the bible who prepared – Joseph prepared provisions for a severe famine, Esther prepared a whole year for a night with the King, the Jews prepared themselves with weapons to defend themselves against Haman’s plot to destroy them, the widow in the time of Elisha prepared jars ready to receive the miraculous provision of oil which only stopped when all the jars were used. At the wedding feast the jars were filled with water ready for Jesus’ miracle. Jesus gives us the example of the virgins who were prepared for the bride groom’s return with sufficient oil in their lamps. In times of difficulty God will use his people to be His voice and to help those who are in need.
In Isaiah 54 v 2 the word is “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, do not spare, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes”. This was a word on preparation. The barren woman in this verse did not need room in her tent as she had no children but God was promising that the desolate would have children and to get ready to receive them. You may feel barren at the moment and your ministry may look barren but believe in faith that God is going to bring in a harvest and birth something new. There are green shoots breaking through. Let us make room to receive the harvest and put in place the necessary support systems so that the stakes are well and truly strengthened. Let us mend the nets ready to receive the fish.
Some of us may need to re-position ourselves in this season. Are we in the right place to receive or prepare for what God wants to do through us? If you are in doubt then ask God to show you. It may take boldness and a step of faith to move out of a place of comfort – out of the comfort zone and into the new place or ministry that God has for you. Where does God want to position you for His glory to work through you. It might be time to move out.
The instruction to “Hitch up my garments” reminded me of Elijah. In the time of drought Elijah first heard the rain in the Spirit. Before the rain even came he said to the King to go up and eat and drink “for there is the sound of an abundance of rain”. Elijah sent his servant to keep looking for the cloud and eventually on the 7th time of looking there was a small cloud. Elijah saw the sign and knew that the rain he had heard in the Spirit was on its way. He prepared himself by hitching up his garments in order that he was prepared to run ahead of the rain and presumably the dangerous floods due to the dry and hard ground. Elijah managed to outrun the chariot of the King over a great distance of about 25 miles. The people of God will do great and mighty things in these times. Elijah did something which was not possible in the natural. He outran a chariot and over such a distance – God enabled it miraculously.
As the people of God, I believe this is a season to prepare ourselves and position ourselves ready to give and receive. God use us for His glory. Lord show us how to prepare and how to position ourselves so that we are ready for you. Ready to go, Ready to run.