"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus). Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil.4:3-14, NKJV).
I want to conclude my series of sermons on the Divine Eagle today by encouraging you to venture out in the spiritual life with a few practical tips. One of the greatest mistakes we can make in life is to block the efforts of the Divine Eagle when He attempts to push us out of the nest of what we are accustomed to and into the world of the adventurous.
One of the lesser known tribes of Israel was called as Asher. Of the forefather of this unexceptional tribe, who plays little or no part in the glory of Israel that was to follow, we read the following: "Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves" (Judg.5:17, NIV). Or as the Moffat translation puts it: "Asher sat still by the sea board clinging to his creeks". A creek is a narrow inlet or bay, usually in by a cliff. It is well protected. And doubtless that is where Asher felt safe, away from trouble. Instead of launching out into the ocean to experience the joy of a great adventure, he sat there clinging to his creeks. He settled for the 'little' and got little in return. These were Asher's creeks and he wasn't going to let the accustomed go in order to venture into the unaccustomed no matter how great the possibilities. Asher is a type of the Christian who wants to stay by the safe and secure, and finishes up by doing nothing and getting nowhere.
Now you all know that I am absolutely not advocating spiritual recklessness, and nor am I arguing for an unmindful and careless approach to the Christian life. I am simply saying that we ought to be ocean-minded and not creek-minded Christians. The people who try to find poise and inner security by clinging to the creeks are invariably unfulfilled for, as we have seen, we were made for growth and creativity.
The creek is like our eagles' nest. We need security to get started, but we are not supposed to remain bound up like infants in a cradle. A tortoise doesn't get anywhere until it sticks its neck out! To cling to our creeks for safety and security is to be upset at every call of the big. We were made by Yahweh-Elohim for the big and are restless in our littleness. The question remains, then: What did Yahweh make you for? We cannot be content this side of Yahweh's purpose. At the same time, we cannot be ultimately content doing something "big" if it is not in Yahweh's will. Contentedness, then, is, once you have found security, reaching out for the big call that the Father has given us.
I was, before I became a Christian, one of those creek-clingers. I was shy, timid, unadventurous, content with my books and other hobbies within the four walls of my room. I was afraid of people. At school I sat at the back of the class, preferably in the corner. My only ambition in life was to have a simple job and come home every evening to enjoy my little family of a wife and two children. Like all boys, another part of me fantasised about become important and famous. I wanted to be a politician and a national ruler. This was not, however, in Yahweh's will, and the fantasy gradually died out. So I contented myself with my job and little family of wife and two children. And things would have remained that way had Yahweh not overturned my nest and brought tremendous upheaval and suffering to my life. I not only lost my family but my religion, my country and my political ambitions too. I found myself in Norway, and then Sweden, on an incredible adventure.
As I look back over the years and retrace my steps back to 1988 when my nest was rudely and violently tipped over, I can see that there were one or two key events which set the ball rolling.
As you go about your daily tasks, hundreds of thoughts will flow through your mind. Many of them will arise from your subconscious. Some will come from Satan. Others will come from Yahweh. And knowing the difference is all-important. The thoughts which come from Yahweh are sometimes so challenging that we ignore them and push them right out of our minds.
Everything that I am doing today, and all that has happened over the last quarter of a century, stemmed from a single thought which Yahweh placed in my head in Oxford, England. He said, quite simply, that I was going to start a new church. This was in 1984. At that time I was churchless, having had another nest overturned by Him. And the day after I received this Word from Him, I was due to be baptised into another church. The apparent conflict caused consternation in me: "Why would He say that I am going to start a church when tomorrow I am due to be baptised into a church I know He has led me to?"
You see, in the back of my mind was the idea that this new church was going to be my 'creek' to comfortably settle in for the rest of my life. I had this mental image that my family would settle down there, my children grow up within a safe and comfortable environment in England, and I would be able to make my contribution to the ministry. And yet from the very beginning there were spiritual tensions - I did not agree with everything that church taught and indeed was subsequently to become a troublemaker there. The first church had thrown me out for not towing the doctrinal line, and that had been almost as traumatic as the destruction of my family that followed. So this time I understood that my stay in the second church was not to be for ever, but it was to be both a learning as well as a witnessing experience. So I eventually left it and, obedient to the original revelation, started a microscopic new church in Oxford.
It was to be short-lived. Yahweh was not finished with the nest-tipping. In truth, I was still in the nest. Finally, it was upturned for real, leading to a series of events that brings me to today. But it all started with a thought. A challenging and unbelievable thought. Start a new church.
Any businessman will tell you that the secret of success is finding a need in the market and then setting out to meet it before anyone else does so. I watched a fascinating documentary series in England last month about millionaires and what it was that made them successful. Though the documentary was primarily interested in their psychology - most of them were from very unstable backgrounds leading them to be very restless - what interested me was the fact that they exploited a market niche. Some of those niches seemed so trivial and silly at the time, and yet the need was met and they became rich.
Now the secret of success in the Kingdom is not very different. If you want to be successful for Yahweh, you must find a need and then set out to fulfil it. Though this was by no means how I started out my spiritual journey, it is certainly a truism. Back in 1984 I could see no need whatsoever for a new church. There were enough denominations already! Besides, who was I? A nobody. I was a scientist, not a theologian. But the point was not who I was, but the fact that Yahweh had given me a gift to discern the 'big picture' and to see what was missing in Christendom and what needed to be done. It didn't happen all at once. It was shown to me piecemeal. And that rebuilding of the church is still going on. Our mission has become something I could never have dreamed of in the beginning. It has been an adventure from the start. Many, many times I have wanted to give up, too many to mention. But the call has always been unmistakable, and all the alternative roads have consistently been blocked in ways that I have not always liked. Many people have tried to destroy this work. Fortunately, it is not my work, but Yahweh's, and will not be stopped.
Frankly, I am amazed as I look back. What has come into existence is still, in so many ways, young and unrefined, but there is the unmistakable hand of the Divine forming something quite marvellous. No one man can take any credit for it. I certainly can't.
Which brings me to a new thought. People often look up to me as the alpha and omega of this work we are engaged in, but they are quite wrong. I am but one cogwheel in the whole. I am but one organ in the body. From beginning to end, this Kingdom mandate we have been given has required the co-operation of everyone. Many have come and gone. A few have remained faithful. And now thousands are flocking to the banner. What has been the secret of its success, and what will make it successful in the future?
Firstly, it is full of people who have been kicked out of their nests. Those who have refused have simply run away. We are not a feathered nest except for new believers coming to Christ. We hope it's a very comfortable nest for them. We certainly try to make it so. But then, quite suddenly, the members are propelled into an unexpected spiritual endowment which upsets their comfortable nest. It is called the Chavurat Bekorot, or Holy Order, or Community of the Firstborn, the training ground for our Priesthood officers. And within it they get numerous shocks and a wide awakening. For what other Christians leave to 'chance', in NCCG we have been guided by Yahweh to systematise. Here the soldiers of Christ are trained to be what their carnal natures revolt at: they are trained to be spiritual.
The Chavurat Bekorot is not for a theological élite. It's not just for pastors and evangelists but for everybody who loves Yah'shua (Jesus) and His Righteousness. It is a discipling school of the most intense kind. No one is compelled into it, and no one is compelled to remain in it - it is for those who wish to offer their lives in priestly service to El Elyon, the Most High. And it begins with the youth.
I don't know how many of you like tennis, but those of you who do will know that there would be no tennis tournaments without ball-boys and ball-girls. Their job is to return straying balls for the service of the players, and make themselves generally useful. When we watch tennis we tend to have our eyes on the players, don't we? The ball-boys and ball-girls don't mean to much to us. But in the Chavurat Bekorot the ball-boys are just as important as the tennis players.
The Bible gives us three examples of useful boys. When blind Samson groped for the supporting pillars of Dagon's Temple, it was a boy who guided his hand. The supreme exertion of strength that brought the pagan temple down depended on the service of a boy (Judg.16:26).
Next we must note the boy who ran to collect Jonathan's arrow, thus innocently helping to warn David of the imminent danger to his life. Boys may perform meaningful service to great men - even when they don't know it. An obedient youth can perform a noble ministry (1 Sam.20:35).
And what of the time when Yah'shua (Jesus) fed a multitude? The apostolic larder was bare, but the boy offered his needy packed lunch. Andrew felt this was hopelessly insufficient, didn't he? However, in the hands of Yah'shua (Jesus) the "five barley loaves and two small fishes" were multiplied to feed a multitude. The meagre snack of bread was as sufficient as a bakery, the few tiny fish provided as gigantic a dish as a whale (Jn.6:9).
This whole ministry is founded on Deacons, not Elders. Every minister starts as a Deacon and ends as one. I am a Deacon. I am a Shamash. I am a servant. You also, who have entered priesthood service, are Deacons and Deaconesses for the rest of your lives. There is no Eldership without the Deaconate. Everyone is vitally important, including the boys and girls who serve with pure hearts.
The Kingdom of Yahweh is always described as starting with small things, be they mustard seeds or yeast cells. The great will always need the small, because it is the small who make them great. Thus the small become the great themselves. An ocean liner is berthed by the nudge of little tug boats, so little things will always have a key place in the work of spreading the Gospel and discipling Yahweh's people. Nothing is small with Yahweh-Elohim! For it is written:
"Yahweh has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and Yahweh has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised Yahweh has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Cor.1:27-29, NKJV).
Whatever is small is useful to Yahweh when it is dedicated to Him. Everything is useful, everyone is useful. When, in the nest life, we look back at what has been established in this work, we will not be looking at apostles or other so-called 'key players', but at the whole Body. What makes this work function is the harmonious labour of everyone in their allotted place. No one in NCCG is singled out for a glory that is any greater or lesser than everyone else. We are all equal before God.
The reason I am singling out the boys and girls today is to point out to everyone that as a community in Christ (church) we are often kicked out of the nest together. It happened in 1992 and again in 1995-6, times which were very painful for us. In 1999 we were kicked out again but this time it was a sheer joy, as we aligned ourselves more fully to Torah. As you grow accustomed to Yahweh's methods, your trust grows and you anticipate with pleasure the upturning of the nest. Who can say what the next one will be?
Which leads me to something about Yahweh's nature that we may not readily appreciate until our relationship with Him has grown. How many, for instance, understand these words of Scripture: "It is the glory of Yahweh to conceal a thing; and it is the glory of kings to reveal it" (Prov.25:2)? What does that mean? It means that our Heavenly Father carefully and quietly hides His most precious gifts so that we may become joyous 'kings' by discovering them. Some of my happiest moments have been uncovering His spiritual pearls. It is a universal truth that the most valuable treasures are hidden from clear view. The pearl is hidden within the oyster. The diamond is buried deep within the earth. The gold nugget is concealed in the heart of a great mountain. The Messiah was hidden up in Torah. Yahweh plans life in such a way that the greatest treasures are concealed, waiting for you to discover them.
You know, people have been members of this church for many years and haven't had a clue what it was about. People have lived with us in our family and have never understood who we were or what we actually believed, even though they were around us all the time. How can this be? Speaking of women, Peter gives us a clue:
"Do not let your adornment be merely outward -- arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel -- rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:3-4, NKJV).
People see what they are trained to see, or what they are looking for. As a teacher in school you notice the noisy pupils more than the quiet ones. People have shared their lives with our family and with our church who never once really saw into our hearts or understood our spirits because they were connected to a different spiritual universe and saw through distorted or tinted lenses. It is the same with unbelievers - to them, the Cross is just foolishness (1 Cor.1:18).
No matter how young or old you are, there remains the potential thrill of making great discoveries in Christ. When you do, you will feel like a king or a queen. Today - this very day - you must begin to discover the treasures that Yahweh has hidden within your thoughts. Be on the lookout for His 'deposits' in your mind. An idea will come to you and at first you will say, "Go away, go away!" but learn to ask yourself: "Is this what Yahweh is saying to me?" Don't push a thought away because it is too challenging. Welcome it. That doesn't mean, of course, that every big and great idea must be acted upon. It has to be considered, weighed, evaluated and analysed to see whether it has really come from Yahweh. Take more time in looking at your thoughts. Perhaps today, hearing me speak, Yahweh will drop an idea into your mind that will transform your relationships, your service or your vocation.
Allow Yahweh to make you more creative in your thinking and living. Those of you who are old will know all about hardening of the arteries. But far more dangerous than that is what Dr. Douglas Speere calls "hardening of the attitudes". When we do that, we harden our viewpoint and refuse to look at anything beyond that viewpoint. We groove our thinking and acting, and the grooves get deeper and deeper until they become graves that bury us. It is nonsense to say that people 'grow old' - you get old by not growing. And so some people are dead at 40, although their funerals are postponed until they are 60. For many Christians, life has settled into ruts - mental, physical and spiritual ruts. And a rut is a grave with both ends knocked out.
Life for such people is not an adventure. It holds no surprises, offers no excitement and is uncreative. Please open your minds to Yahweh today and don't resist the Divine Eagle as Yahweh prepares to push you out into a more creative way of thinking, acting and living.
Let the ceaseless Creator above make us into ceaseless creators here below. May He break the moulds of our thinking patterns and give us new ones. Amen.
1. Selwyn Hughes, The Divine Eagle, in 'Every Day With Jesus' (CWR, Sept-Oct, Walton-on-Thames, 1981)
2. Aaron Linford, Ball-boys in 'Just a Thought' (Aleph Publishers, Preston, 1998).