Category Archives: Ministry

Universal Freedom

I have titled this piece as I have because I see a common theme of freedom all around the world: ordinary believers from all faiths, denominations and cultures are realising that God is simply available to all who call on Him, and He releases them into the freedom to serve Him as He calls them, and not according to the whims, doctrines and dogmas of other humans.

I wrote, in an article I published a few weeks ago, about how I am ministering in a group for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. On the back of that article, then, I present here an extract from the book Crisis of Conscience, by Raymond Franz, a man who for sixty years was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and who for the final nine years of that time was one of the Governing Body (the ‘GB’), the supreme council of that religion.

In his book, Ray Franz describes in detail much of the way in which the GB works, and he also describes the ‘witch-hunt’ and inquisition that led to his dismissal from the GB, and eventually his ‘disfellowshipping’ from the Jehovah’s Witnesses entirely. I mention this in order to give context, because what Mr. Franz speaks of here describes perfectly the freedom one feels when one emerges from under the domination of man-made religion and the need to please men in accordance with their doctrines. In my previous article, I  talked about people I had met in the ex-Jehovah’s Witness community who are now living free in the Spirit. I would say that in fact complete freedom in the Spirit is not really possible until one has shaken off that need to please men; this shedding of the need to follow the ‘doctrines of men’ (Mt 15:9) is what my friends in that group have progressed to, and this is what this extract speaks of.  Note also the parallels with dealing with Religious antagonists of any persuasion – especially the ‘judging adversely one’s standing with God’. Heaven’s gatekeepers at work again!

Over to Ray Franz:


The mind which renounces, once and forever, a futile hope, has its compensation in ever growing calm. I have found that saying true in my own case. I know that it has proved true in the case of many others.

Whatever the initial distress— a distress that sometimes follows the demeaning experience of being interrogated by men who, in effect, strip one of human dignity, make the weight of their authority felt, and presume to judge adversely one’s standing with God— however torn one may feel inside, afterward there does come a distinct feeling of relief, of peace.

It is not just knowing that one is finally outside the reach of such men, no longer subject to their ecclesiastical scrutiny and pressure. Truth, and the refusal to compromise truth, brings freedom in other fine and wonderful ways. The more responsibly one makes use of that freedom, the finer the benefits. The greatest freedom enjoyed is that of being able to serve God and his Son— as well as serve for the good of all persons— untrammelled by the dictates of imperfect men. There is freedom to serve according to the dictates of one’s own conscience, according to the motivation of one’s own heart. The sense of having a great burden lifted off, the lightening of a heavy load, comes with that freedom.

If genuinely appreciated, this gives one the desire to do, not less, but more in service to the Ones giving that freedom.

– Franz, Raymond. Crisis of Conscience: The story of the struggle between loyalty to God and loyalty to one’s religion. (pp. 453-454). NuLife Press. Kindle Edition.


I think that’s absolutely brilliant and, like I said, people from all faith walks are finding this freedom today all over the world. It makes no difference whether they are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Evangelicals, whatever; God is doing this.

What’s even more remarkable is that Ray Franz had this epiphany some decades ago. God was moving in the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses even back then.

Wow.

Ponder and digest, for there is great freedom in this.

Grace and Peace 🙂

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Who’d ‘a Thunk It?

Early in my Christian walk, I did a lot of study on the beliefs and doctrines of the major cults, with a special emphasis on the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs), or at least as far as I could understand those beliefs; they seem to me to be quite convoluted! 😉

I did those studies so that I could talk to the visitors who arrived on my doorstep, and actually be able to talk to them with some understanding. So, for nearly 40 years, I have always thought that people in cults were trapped in their legalism, and pretty-well ironclad and unreachable, save by a move of the Holy Spirit.

Well, recently I have had some very surprising experiences.

You see, over the past couple of weeks, I have been sharing and ministering in an online group for, shall we say, ‘Retired’ Jehovahs Witnesses

And I have to tell you that I have been welcomed with open arms, listened to, agreed with, and I have learned a lot from these lovely people too, about acceptance and patience and tolerance and how to deal with miserable naysayers (these latter not being people in the group!)

And I also want to tell you that there are ex-JWs in that group who have undergone the same deconstruction process that I have. And just like many ex-Evangelicals I know, they too have suffered grievous hurts from leadership, former friends and in many cases family members too; in many cases what they have suffered is far worse than what many British ex-Evangelicals have had to cope with themselves, because the cultic control mechanisms are far stronger.

And I have met people who are moving out into the freedom of the Spirit, reading the Bible with unshackled minds and listening to the prompting of the Spirit of Truth; I have met genuine God-seekers and I have met people who walk with Jesus despite the alien, man-made doctrines they had been taught for so long.

Friends, let me tell you that deconstruction and reconstruction is not just happening in Evangelicalism and/or in mainstream Christianity. It’s also happening in other places, including the cults, wherever in fact people’s hearts are turned towards the Lord. I’ve even seen people exhibiting relaxed attitudes towards LGBTQ+ relationships, surely one of the main bastions of legalism in any faith system.

I mean, it’s not all of the group members, of course; just like in deconstruction in Evangelical circles, people are at different stages in their faith walk and all their deconstruction stories are different. But still, it is happening, and it’s happenning far and wide.

And I can tell you it’s been a real eye-opener. We have far more in common with these people than I could ever have imagined. These people are walking in Grace and recognising it for what it is; they are walking free of legalism and they are living in the Spirit.

This is just sooooo encouraging! This is part of the major worldwide work of God that is happening in our time – people coming out from under legalism in all its forms and finding true Grace – and it’s even happening in the cults! This makes me laugh for joy 😀

It’s amazing!

Who’d ‘a thunk it?


For anyone reading this who is from that group, I welcome you to my blog in the same way as you welcomed me into your group! I hope you find it a blessing 😀

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No Better Place

Here is one my my favourite worship songs, and it’s from my favourite Christian artist, Don Francisco. This track is from the 1988 album ‘High Praise‘, in which Don departs from his usual ‘story songs’ and instead presents a series of lovely praise and worship songs.

This song, No Better Place, reflects my heart of worship. There is indeed no better place than to be before His Throne, basking in His Presence and knowing His love. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

 

There is no better place
Than to be here and to look upon Your Face
In Your church or all alone
No better place than to be before Your Throne

God of comfort, Lord of mercy
Love that knows no bound
I adore you, worship and bow down
Worship and bow down

 

(Song shared here with Don’s kind permission)


Don’s music can be purchased for download or bought as audio CDs on his website, www.donfrancisco.com. There’s also a lot of his music available on YouTube.

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Autumn

As I said in a previous post, my supremely talented daughter Ellie had prereleased her first EP, the four-track album ‘Autumn’.

Recently, the album became available for download on Amazon for the very reasonable price of £2.36, so as her dutiful and very proud Dad I really had to post a link.

If you’re interested in getting hold of a copy of ‘Autumn’, just click the image below to go to its Amazon UK sales page. It will also be available on your own country’s Amazon page. All proceeds go to our local Hospice, Rowcroft Hospice, where Ellie’s Mum was looked after for her last few days on this earth.

 

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Three Years

This entry is part 37 of 37 in the series Fiona

Today, it is three years since my love and soul-mate Fiona passed into the Presence of her Lord.

I so miss the feisty, spirited, funny, gentle, talented, generous, gorgeous, wise and above all deeply loving lady that she was.

We have kept her memory very much alive, in so many ways, the chief of which is that we recall the things that she did that were kind, funny and generous, when we are reminded of her by doing those things ourselves. And that’s significant because it means that in a lot of ways we are continuing to be Fiona to ourselves and to others.

We will say things like, ‘Mum would have found that hilarious’, or ‘I think Mum would have done it like this’. And then we laugh about it. And we are sure that ‘that was what Mum would have wanted’ 😀 Because she was that kind of person.

I still dream about her often. I still see little signs of her around the house: pictures, of course, but also little things that she made or set up that had her figurative ‘fingerprints’ all over them. Processes she set in place that we still use. I still see myself doing things that I learned from her, either directly or by ‘absorption’. I still see her attitudes in things I do.

What a privilege! What an intimate, close-up way of remembering a life so precious! So much of what she was to us is still with us…but the house still lacks the light of her presence. The gap she has left is still immense. And yet, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that I will see her again. Even though I may have to wait some decades, and of course I am not ‘wishing my life away’, still I know that she is there ready to welcome me, alongside Jesus, into that glorious Place where she now is. What a day that will be! 😀

On the first anniversary of Fe’s loss, I posted on here a track of my talented daughter Ellie singing the lovely song ‘Fly to Jesus. Fe would have been so proud of her. Well this year she would have been even more proud of her, because just a couple of weeks ago, Ellie put on prerelease her first ever EP, Autumn. Ellie has created this EP in the face of a debilitating illness, putting in work on it whenever she has been able, and now the finished product is out there and soon to become available. I am so proud of her and, like I said, I know her Mum would have been too!

The album is due to be released on 9th November, and all profits from sales will be going to Rowcroft Hospice, the place where Fiona was looked after in her final days on this earth. Rowcroft do such incredible work with cancer patients during their illnesses, with their families, and with end-of-life care.

Here is the link, then, to Ellie’s EP album – Autumn, on Amazon (and it’s also available on places like Spotify and iTunes too). And there are preview clips too.

Four songs written and performed by one of the most talented young musicians I have ever known – and that’s not just parental bias, you know! 😉 But yes, again, Fiona would have been so proud of her! Click the album cover graphic below to go to the Amazon UK prerelease page (on 9th November, it will become the sales page):

She has also released one of the songs, 365, later today as a single. If you listen to this, you will need a big box of tissues…

Here’s the YouTube video:

…and it too can be purchased on Amazon, as a single:

Fiona, you would have been sooooo proud of our Ellie! 😀


Edit: I have just looked at the previous post in the series, ‘In So Many Ways…‘. It’s almost identical in content to this one (apart from the plug for Ellie’s EP!). I find that interesting because to me it suggests that what we have left, after losing Fiona, is reasonably constant in its occurrence and its quality. In other words, these little habits I describe in this piece, I also noted in the previous one. So to me that means that our lasting legacy from Fiona is already in place and established. And that’s good news.

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Oases of Light

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Dark Night

In this Dark Night of the Soul, I am having a lot of interesting insights.

Although at the moment I don’t always feel the burning Presence of God all the time like I usually can, He still gently reminds me – every so often – that He’s still there and still holding my hand.

I think of these reminders as oases of light in the dark valley. Or like pools of lamplight on a dark street, like in the header picture, which I think depicts the concept beautifully.

There are two recent examples in particular which stand out for me.

A couple of mornings ago, I woke up having just been in a dream in which I had been singing the chorus of the Don Francisco song, ‘The Power‘, with my hands lifted high in praise and gratitude. Singing the words, “Praise You, Jesus, for Your Holy Spirit!

In the dream, I knew that the song was just as real to me as it has always been, Dark Night notwithstanding. The dream, and the song within it, served to remind me of my deep knowledge that the Spirit of God lives within me, and that She is the guarantee of my inheritance in the Kingdom, both in the here and now, and in the hereafter too (2Cor 1:22, Eph 1:14). And I could indeed feel the ‘flood of joy’ that Don describes in his song. Ok, it was ‘just a dream’, but it was a dream that I needed and a dream that bore fruit. I have absolutely no doubt that it was from the Lord.

And then today a box of old worship tapes arrived, from a very kind lady who had contacted me through my website ‘Vintage Worship Tapes, with a view to donating some tapes to the ‘ministry’. In the box was a copy of the tape ‘Thank You Lord’, by David J Hadden, whose work I have featured on my blog before. The title track, unsurprisingly called ‘Thank You, Lord‘, I have known for about thirty years, but only today have I heard David’s own version of it. I’ve even previously shared the words for the song, but been unable to publish the audio track until now – because, of course, I didn’t have it! – but today I have made an mp3 track of the song and I share it with you below, along with the lyrics. But the thing is that the song has lifted me up again, on the back of the Don Francisco song and now this David Hadden song, and once again the joy is there and it’s real.

I don’t know if this is the end of the Dark Night or not; certainly it doesn’t feel as decisive as the last time I ’emerged’, five years ago, in February 2014. Here’s what I wrote on that day:

“What a morning. First time voluntarily in a church for fifteen years, and getting thoroughly zapped by God: weeping, laughing, complete acceptance, forgiveness. Wow, wow, wow! Going again tonight hehe 😉 “

It’s not like that this time! But then I appreciate that each time is going to be different. That said, I don’t feel like everything is sorted yet anyway, so we’ll wait and see. But for those of my readers going through a Dark Night of your own, and for those who simply wanted to get my perspective from within the valley, I thought I would post this today so that you have the information. I think it’s quite fascinating and in some ways this writing of these experiences here on my blog is enabling me to observe what is happening with a more analytical eye. And I trust that many of you are finding it useful. You see, there are oases of light in the dark valley, and God will lead you to them.

Anyhow, here’s David’s song, ‘Thank You, Lord‘, shared here with his gracious permission:

When I consider all you mean to me
My heart responds in worship
The songs you’ve given me, O Lord to sing
They’re songs of worship
They’re songs of praise
They’re songs of gratitude

Thank you Lord
Thank you Lord
Thank you from the bottom of my heart
Thank you Lord
Thank you Lord
Thank you from the bottom of my heart

You mean so much to me my God and King
My heart is full of worship
I long to bless you and to build a throne
Through my songs of worship
Through my songs of praise
Through my songs of gratitude

Thank you Lord……….

Great is the Lord and worthy of your praise
His name endures for ever
People of Zion come and sing your songs
Sing your songs of worship
Sing your songs of praise
Sing your songs of gratitude

Thank you Lord……….

(Words and music copyright David J. Hadden, 1985, used here with his kind permission)*.

 

Even as I Iisten to this song right now, it’s moving me to tears of gratitude, and to grateful worship, and to raising my hands in thanksgiving. I am just so grateful to Father for what He’s doing with me at this time.

And I am so especially grateful for these oases of light.

Thank You Lord, indeed 😀

Peace and Grace to you


*David is the lead vocalist on the track, and he’s also playing the keyboards and piano.

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In the Presence of Jehovah

Here’s another magnificent song from Terry MacAlmon, In the Presence of Jehovah, by Becky and Geron Davis.

Terry is just so talented on the piano, and this piece showcases this skill to excellent effect. And this song speaks of the healing that is to be found in the Presence of God. As you listen to this lovely music, just let your heart be lifted up by the Holy Spirit, and let Her minister healing to your innermost being.


While much of the recording is instrumental, I have also included the lyrics for the verses too.

In and out of situations,
That tug-of-war at me
All day long I struggle
For answers that I need
But then I come into Your presence,
And all my questions become clear
And for this sacred moment,
No doubts can interfere

In the presence of Jehovah,
God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended,
In the presence of The King

Through His love the Lord provided,
A place for us to rest
A place to find the answers,
In the hour of distress
Now there’s never any reason,
For you to give up in despair
Just slip away and breathe His name,
For He will surely meet you there

In the presence of Jehovah,
God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended,
In the presence of The King

Let your heart be lifted and your spirit refreshed. Feel the Presence of God right there with you.

Be blessed 🙂

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Spirit Of The Lord

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Terry MacAlmon worship song, so let’s put that right straight away, shall we?

Here’s a lovely number from Terry’s album ‘Visit Us‘. The song is called ‘Spirit Of The Lord’, and is very simple to sing. I’ll put the song up first and the lyrics, and then make a few observations on it.

Spirit of the Lord, fall on me
And fill me with Your glory
Spirit of the Lord, set me free
And fill me with Your glory

Terry MacAlmon is not only a talented and anointed worship leader, but he’s probably the best worship pianist I have ever heard. His style is flexible and varied, resembling a cross between a classical concert pianist style and a lounge music style. But the technical aspect which many will not notice – because he does it so masterfully – is the accompaniment style, which Terry’s songs work particularly well with. What do I mean by this? Well, if you listen closely, you’ll hear that when people are singing, he keeps the piano simple, but in between each line of the lyrics, he carries the music along and leads the congregation into the next line with a musical (piano) flourish, bridge or interlude – even though it’s only a couple of seconds long. So, for example, ‘Spirit of the Lord, set me free’ – (di-da-dumm – di di) – ‘and fill me with Your glory’. I hope that makes sense; if not, listen to it again and pay particular attention to the music when people are not singing the lyrics; where the lines of the lyrics are linked together by music. That’s what I’m talking about, and that’s showcasing the real talent of accompanying people in their singing – it’s providing a strong rhythm and key lead so that the people feel confident to sing out and that they won’t be left ‘hanging’ or – the opposite – come in too early. Worship leading is not just about hearing the Spirit directing what She wants you to play, say or do next – or indeed not play, say or do – but it’s about making sure that the people in the congregation feel as confident and secure as possible in their singing. Believe it or not, many people find it hard to sing in public, and having a skilled accompanist on the lead instrument makes a huge positive difference to their worship experience.

What I particularly love about this track is Terry’s imaginative use of the piano during the accompaniment ‘links’. The musical phrases he uses – yes, they really are called ‘phrases’! – are varied and uplifting, and in fact I think this is one of his best tracks yet for showcasing this talent that he has.

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Understanding the Gospel

One of my favourite blogs is that of Mike Douglas, and it’s called Getting Back to my Future‘. Here’s his title:

I’ve posted quite a lot of Mike’s content recently, including the post before this present one. And recently, he posted a superbly simple presentation of the Gospel: a presentation that clearly shows the Gospel as being simple, uncomplicated, and just Good News, which is actually what the word ‘Gospel’ means. So many people try to add more tasks, principles and Rules to the simple fact of Jesus’s death and Resurrection, reconciling humanity to God – and it’s really not that complex! Jesus has done everything necessary to bring us into right relationship with God. He has given us everything we need for life and Godliness (2Pet1:3). What part of ‘It is finished!’ (Jn19:30) do these people not agree with?

Anyway, over to Mike. This is a really great piece:


“Often, the way the ‘Gospel’ has been presented today is, ‘Jesus paid the price, but it’s not the full price. And until you repent of everything you have ever done and then live up to some standard, God can’t work in your life and you are not really saved.’

We are adding our own goodness, holiness, and effort to what Jesus has already done. That’s the message most churches are preaching today. And it’s wrong.

 No doubt everyone of us have been exposed to this and are left with the feeling that we must do ‘things’ to earn God’s favour. Or worse, made to feel that we would never be able to measure up.

 That’s also wrong.

 Before I continue, in case anyone is wondering, the ‘Gospel’ is simply a term we use to explain the way to become right with God by accepting the gift provided by Jesus. Literally, the word is translated, ‘Good News’. And it is… when offered truthfully and without added conditions.

 Please hear me.

 You are accepted by God because of what Jesus did… plus NOTHING. All you must do is receive it by faith. If you are thinking, ‘Well, I know Jesus died for me and He did all that stuff for me, but I also must be holy’, you are undoing what Jesus has done. Although probably unintentionally, you are saying it wasn’t enough.

 Please don’t believe this lie that you have been subjected to. It’s Jesus… plus NOTHING.

 What the Bible Says

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.
But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

(Romans 11:6 KJV)

 That’s just old English for, ‘you are either saved by grace [Jesus paying for all your stuff because He loves you] or by earning it based on our own merit’. It’s one or the other, but never by a combination of the two. That is very important.

Either you are saved by the grace of God and all you must do is received it by believing it is true OR you must be saved by your own goodness and merit [which cannot be done because then the standard is perfection]. It’s not a combination of the two.

It’s not Jesus providing the minimum payment and then you adding to it to earn the rest. Jesus paid it all! It is simply a matter of you believing and receiving or doubting and doing without. That’s how it works. The Bible could not be clearer.

The Problem

 Even after everything I have just said, most of us have fallen for this idea that there is more we must due to gain God’s favour. There are a few reasons for this.

 First, we know ourselves. We know how we can be. We know how often we have messed up and how we will continue to mess up. Add to that we never get to see, in our world, the unconditional love that Father offers. In our world we always must give something to receive love. We have been taught if something sounds too good to be true it probably isn’t.

 Second, because we have never seen it, we can’t imagine what it is like, so we change it to make it make sense to us. By doing so, our understanding becomes our god. The Bible calls that idolatry. We are not saying, ‘God’s not like that’. We are saying, ‘if I were God I would not be like that.’ ‘I would not forgive, I would make them pay’. I am very thankful I’m not God!

 Third, you have been taught wrong. When Jesus came to the earth He presented His father [God] as someone totally different than people understood up to that time. Instead of a vengeful, fire-throwing God, that required total perfection, Jesus presented Him as a loving Father who welcomed His children home, offering forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.

 Unfortunately, too many churches and Christians want to hang onto that old picture and insist that newcomers live up to sets of rules that they themselves could never attain. They want forgiveness for themselves but justice for others.

The Good News

The night before He died, Jesus met with His disciples. At that dinner, He introduced a new deal. He told them that the old way of ritual, sacrifices and being perfect was over. He said from here on there is a new way to be right with God. The new way was Him giving up His life for ours and by doing so paid for all our mistakes, wrongdoing and evil thoughts.

 To those churches and Christians who tell you are not welcome, not good enough or beyond God’s forgiveness or there is more you must do I want to say this, ‘YOU’RE NOT GOD’.

 Please don’t tie God’s goodness to your performance. It’s not how it works. He loves you, because you are you and you are His child. Period. Accept what Jesus did for you. And come home.

 It’s not, ‘too good to be true’. It’s ‘nearly too good to be true’!

And… it’s too good to pass up.

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The Glory of Your Presence

We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool.
Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength. (Ps 132:7-8 KJV)

Here’s a gorgeous song by Steven Fry, performed here by the brilliant Terry MacAlmon –
‘O the Glory of Your Presence’.

In the presence of God, in the glory of His Presence, the very air buzzes and sparkles. For those who have the eyes to see, the radiance of God’s Presence is real and tangible. In that Presence there is healing; there is forgiveness; there is reconciliation; there is peace and there is Love. There is simply nothing like being in God’s Presence.

There’s a lot of fakery involved in some worship services. Some people actually try to ‘duplicate’ the Presence of God with things like quiet background music, lots of hype, whipping up the crowd, that sort of thing. But that’s not even a poor substitute. The Presence of God is unmistakable; once you have tasted of that Presence, nothing else will ever do; nothing can take its place.

Have a listen to this lovely song; ask God to make Himself tangible to you as you listen, and as you lift up your heart to Him. Bask in His Presence. Bask there long after the music has stopped! This is not hype; this is not me trying to ‘whip up’ enthusiasm. I have never once done that in all my years of worship leading, although I have seen it being done (and it has a certain emetic effect on me!) No, this is simply a ‘vehicle’; an ‘aid’, to help your spirit rise up in worship, and God will respond, because He loves it. He loves the song and He loves you; He loves your worship and He loves it when you enjoy it too:

O the glory of Your presence
We Your temple give You rev’rence
So arise to Your rest
And be blessed by our praise
As we glory in Your embrace
As Your presence now fills this place

Sadly, some people miss the point of the lyric, ‘So arise to Your rest’. Sometimes they even think that it can’t be written right, and they re-write the lyric from the third line as ‘Come and rise from your rest’ or similar, as if God has to get up off His behind and get into the music. But it’s not that at all. A simple examination of the context of the source verses in Psalm 132:7,8 shows that it’s about God coming into His resting place; His temple as it was back then, and along with His people. And [to] the ‘Ark of Thy Strength’; the Ark of the Covenant, which was supposed to represent God’s Presence. In other words, then, for God to come to the place where He belongs.

But in our time, we have the Holy Spirit within us; we are God’s Temple. We don’t need an Ark anymore. God’s resting place is with His people; (Ezek 37:27, Rev 21:3). Asking God to ‘arise to Your rest’ is simply asking Him to ‘inhabit the praises of His people’ (Ps 22:3 KJV); to come and take up His residence. Of course, He’s already there; the thing is that you become more aware of Him as you worship because you turn your spirit and your heart towards Him. And so we become aware of His power and His Presence. God is where He belongs; He has indeed come into His resting place.

Wow! What better reason to worship?

 

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