Entering Heavenly Zones

Just as a top sportsperson controls their mental, emotional and personal faculties to stay ‘in the zone’, so too Christians can take responsibility for the heavenly zones God has made available to us. This post discusses how we enter those heavenly zones and go through the open doors God has created for us.

I mentioned in the last post on this topic that God has given us a number of doorways into heavenly realities. We are: seated in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6); under his wings (Psalm 91:4); accessible to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16); accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6); and able to run into the name of the Lord (Proverbs 18:10). There are more than that, and the most wonderful door we have is into God’s throne room.

King David taught that it is personally possible to choose to enter through the heavenly door into the ‘zone’ of God’s presence. He openly explained how it is done.

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” Psalm 100:4

We can choose to enter into God’s presence by thanksgiving and praise. We don’t have to stay in a place of fear or loneliness, when we can enter His gates and come into His courts.

David was so aware of our ability to take control of our inner state and thus to change the ‘zone’ we are in that he repeated a statement which shows how he did it.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted in me? hope in God: for I will yet praise him for the help of his countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember you from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.” Psalm 42:5,6

Allow me to paraphrase what David is saying here. He recognises that his soul is downcast. He is feeling low. He is not ‘in the zone’ to be a man of faith or to be a champion. He is struggling internally. But rather than let his natural feelings call the shots, he chooses to change zone. He chooses to move into a heavenly zone where he can overcome these depressive feelings. He reminds himself; in fact he demands of himself, that he trust in God. He also chooses to praise God, confident that God is the real help he needs. He then explains to God that he is feeling low and says, “That’s why I am reminding myself of who You are”.

David understood that our natural state does not have to rule the day. When we remember who God is we can encourage ourselves in faith and step into God’s presence, finding His grace in our situation.

The Apostle Paul had a similar idea when he gave instructions to Timothy, telling him to “stir up the gift” that was in him (2Timothy 1:6). Paul practiced the choice of his zone when he was thrown into the dungeon in Philippi. There, denied liberty and justice, Paul and Silas sang songs of praise. They were able to enter into God’s presence, despite their natural circumstances. What resulted was a divine visitation of a miracle earthquake that set them all free, without endangering any of them. Salvations resulted.

The point of the lesson is this. You can choose the ‘zone’ in which you are living right now. You can allow circumstances to make you downcast or keep you distracted. Alternatively you can take responsibility for which door you enter into. You can press in to God’s presence, access heavenly blessings, “be there” in divine glories, and overcome natural circumstances. You can build yourself up, stir up your gifts, encourage yourself in the Lord, keep yourself in the love of God, remember who God is, call on His name, access the throne of grace and much more.

Are you ‘in the zone’? If not, then why not? You can do something about it. You can choose where you will spend the rest of this day. You can choose to move in to your spiritual inheritance, or to remain in a prison while the door is wide open.

Let’s be a people who are ‘in the zone’ of God’s presence, enjoying His best for His glory, all the time. Amen.

Ramon Lull, Missionary to Moslems

This is the day that … Ramon Lull was stoned to death by a Muslim mob in North Africa, in1316.

He was born on the isle of Majorca, off the coast of Spain, in 1232. In teenage days he served as a courtier to the king of Aragon, and was educated as a knight. After a life of ‘utter immorality’ (to quote his own words), at the age of 30 he experienced a vision of “the Saviour hanging on the cross” and dedicated his life to God.

The composition of the “vain song” he was composing was now neglected as he gazed at that figure “in great agony and sorrow”. He penned a quaint verse:

Pardon I sought at break of day;

contrite and sad, I went straightway

my sins before the priest to lay.

(Bear in mind that this was 200 years before the Protestant Reformation).

Ramon Lull felt the call to missionary service almost immediately. But it was almost another 30 years before he boarded a ship bound for North Africa. By this time he had written a number of books – “the most voluminous author on record” (Man, Myth and Magic, volume 59)! There are volumes on grammar, politics, medicine, law, Antichrist, geometry, astrology, homiletics, theology – you name it, Ramon Lull seemed to have written on the subject. “Two hundred and forty of his books still survive”, although we know he wrote many, many more (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 608).

And he had equipped himself for his missionary expedition by learning Arabic from a Moorish slave.

“Since Thou, O Lord, art ever ready to aid … how can any Christian fear to preach our holy faith to the infidels,” he wrote.

His biographer, E.A. Peers, states that the conversion of unbelievers “was the ruling passion of his life” (Fool of Love, page 28).

There were three missionary journeys: the first at about 60 years of age, when he was imprisoned and then expelled from the country; the second when he was 75, and again he faced imprisonment and then banishment; and the third when about 83! He even commenced writing a new book during the voyage (page 102)! This time he was stoned to death. Marcus Loane, in By Faith we Stand, gives the date as 30 June, 1315 (page 71). However, most books say 1316.

With all his curious beliefs (the Pope refused to canonise him because it was believed he practised alchemy), he can claim the title of “first missionary to the Moslems”. He was utterly devoted to the service of Christ.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Cursing the Roots

Do you spend time pruning things in your life, only to have them grow back again? Are you struggling to deal with issues in yourself and our culture, without going to the roots? It’s time to rethink your strategy.

I have a laurel bush growing on my fence line. The neighbour is often frustrated by its virulent growth and I have to deal with it several times each year. One day, when I am ready to change the fence, I will get it dug out from the roots. But for now, as long as the root system remains, I have an on-going maintenance challenge.

And that’s how it is for many of our personal problems. We prune away the excesses and the worst elements of the problem, but we often leave the roots. Thus we must deal with the issues all over again.

Jesus once talked to a fig tree and cursed its roots. A short time later His disciples noticed that the tree was dead, having dried up from the roots. Jesus dealt a death-blow to the hapless tree, not by cutting back its branches, but by going straight to the source of the tree’s life.

We use the expression, the “root of the problem”, reflecting the same concept. When you have a problem you need to find the real root issue. The symptoms might mislead you. The real cause, the root may take quite some digging out. But unless you deal with the root system the problem will continue to shoot up again and again.

In my Steps to Release I advocate finding the real problem at hand. In order to best remove the problem it is ideal to find out what you are really dealing with, so the root of the issue can be dealt with and the problem resolved.

Your personal problems have roots. Pride is a root problem that leads to various results. We know that pride leads to destruction and a haughty spirit leads to a fall. Fear is a root problem that causes torment in people’s lives and leads them into slavery.

At the same time you need to keep in mind that social issues also have roots. Feminism, for instance, is anchored in fear. Materialism has roots in insecurity and lust. I recall one observer suggesting that the root issue behind the ‘get fit’ mania that has taken the western world is actually ‘fear of death’. People are desperate to maintain health, out of their fear of ageing and death.

For those of you engaged in confronting evil in the broader context, make sure you seek God for wisdom about the root systems that nourish that thing. Don’t waste your time pruning branches, when you have the authority and power to curse the roots.

Samuel Crowther as God’s Slave

This is the day that … Samuel Crowther was consecrated as a bishop, in 1864.

Adijah was 13 years of age, a black boy living inland near the west coast of Africa, when the slave traders attacked. He never saw his father again, and it would be 25 years before he was to again meet his mother … and lead her to Christ. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

At the age of 14 he was crammed into a Portuguese slave ship, chains around his neck, with 186 others, bound for South America.

But 14 years previously, in 1807, Britain had abolished the slave trade and the British Navy was out to enforce the law. The Portuguese trading vessel was captured by a British man-of-war – and young Adijah was free again. In Liberia he was cared for in a Church Missionary Society home, and was truly converted. At his baptism he was given a new name – Samuel Crowther, the name of a C.M.S. pioneer. And it was here he met Asano, also a freed slave, whose name was changed to Susanna, who later became his wife.

Eventually Samuel Crowther was ordained in the Church of England (1843), and on this day, in 1864, he was consecrated as bishop of the new African diocese. This red-letter day took place in Canterbury Cathedral, and among those present was Admiral Leeke of the British Navy, who had rescued him from the Portuguese slave ship 42 years previously.

Back in Africa Bishop Crowther reached many inland tribes with the gospel, and there he found his mother. “Crowther’s mother was one of the first people in Abeokuta to be baptised a follower of Jesus Christ. The new name chosen for her by her son Samuel was Hannah …” (Saints Without Haloes, by L. Dox, page 95).

This “African St Paul”, as some have called him, evangelised and translated the Scriptures. His son, Dandeson Crowther, shared in the ministry. Dr A.T. Pierson, Spurgeon’s successor at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, wrote: “Wherever he went he brought and left a blessing, and no man perhaps did more than he for the elevation and salvation of his fellow countrymen” (Great Missionaries, by C. Creegan, page 140).

In his final years racism reared its ugly head among the C.M.S. leaders in England. They insisted that the Niger Mission was to be under “white supervision”. The pressure upon Crowther led to a “stroke and made him into a sick man”. He was in the midst of the conflict with the C.M.S. committee when he died on 31 December, 1891.

Of the half-a-dozen books dealing with Samuel Crowther scattered around me, only one mentions the sadness of his final years, The Missionaries, by G. Moorhouse, pages 284-286. Even Jesse Page in his 190-page biography of Samuel Crowther does not mention it.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

I Believe in Home Schooling

As I write this my wife is sitting at the dining table with my daughter working over some math questions. Not only are mother and daughter working together on the project, but mother is learning from her daughter – Hmmmmm.

It has been our delight to have each of our seven children taught at home, for at least part of their school experience. We have used a variety of programs and found that they all work in different ways. We have changed our focus over the years, worked through a variety of attitudes and ideas and found many benefits of learning and teaching in the home environment.

Home educating has been popularised, neglected, revamped and revitalised in various circles in the past two decades or so. Christian schooling has also been through various phases and iterations. From our perspective we have a great affection for teaching and learning within the home. We love the process, love the amazing academic results and love the lifestyle benefits which both children and parents get to enjoy.

Our two youngest children, both being home schooled for their entire academic life, at least until tertiary studies, are significantly ahead in measurable academic terms. They have achieved this with much less time investment than their peers are putting in within the formal schooling context. They have also had time and opportunity to meet amazing people, work on amazing projects, explore their talents and learn many domestic processes that make them increasingly valuable to our home life.

Both children love to cook and especially to experiment with recipes and ideas. They both love reading as well and have devoured fiction and non-fiction works alike. They enjoy making home-movies, writing plays, playing sport, learning new things, playing with lego, designing board games and so on. It is an absolute joy to have them as a vital part of our lives and to be a vital part of theirs.

If you are looking for a home-school advocate, you can count me in. We have met many families who employ one of the many home-schooling methods and we have been continually impressed with what we see. I encourage parents to give prayerful thought to the possibility of enriching their own lives and those of their children by bringing the education back into the home.