Hazel Flood's thoughts on life as a Jesus follower.

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Secret Mercies and the Kindness of God

Whenever I hear the account of Jesus walking on water, and then Peter getting in on it too, I tend to wander in my thoughts, along the lines of ‘How did that look then?’

Come with me for a few minutes, let’s take a look.

‘Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”’

Matthew 14:22-33 NIV

First of all, why on earth did Peter ask Jesus to tell him to come to Him? He had no previous example to encourage him to expect this to be okay, yet he asked Jesus this most bizarre of questions.

Then he did the impossible. For a while.

(Just an aside, do we believe we need precedents to give us confidence to pray? Do we really imagine God has to have previously heard a particular request for Him to answer us? Surely not.)

My thinking doesn’t end there though. Even in Peter’s failure, a miracle is ongoing.

Peter began to sink, whoever begins to sink?

Try standing on water, you are plain sunk. Done. No beginning to it.

There is hidden mercy in this story, only a little thing I know, yet it shows the unnecessary kindness of Jesus.

He didn’t let Peter sink like a hefty fisherman, he let him start to sink slowly.

Time enough for Jesus to take his hand and return to the boat with him.

We kind of miss this bit don’t we. Even in Peter’s failure, his rising panic and draining faith, his loving Lord is making the water thick.

I wonder how many times Peter recalled the moment of Jesus’ secret mercy to him.

It seems to me He loves to share secrets with His friends, it communicates to us deep within when we know that God has done something individual and personally special for us. Something which to many would seem unnecessary, and ultimately it is, but He knows it demonstrates a level of particular love which gets under our guard and sinks into our heart.

How amazing is He, how kind?

Kind enough to pursue you down through all of your years. Catching your eye with this or that, making you curious. Drawing you in little by little, until you get to a place of knowing this is for real, He does genuinely love you in ways far beyond anything you might believe He has to as a Saviour, or as a Lord, but in addition to those, He loves as your best Friend, and as the perfect Dad, and as a Brother who says nothing is too much. Nothing.
From the extremes of the cross and the grave, to the detail of water being too thin.
That’s how kind He is. That’s how much He loves you.

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Prophecy and God’s Sense of Humour

Prophecies are mostly given with no apparent conditions but this doesn’t mean there isn’t change which needs to come about before the word will be brought into being. This isn’t often taught on though, so it can be a little tempting to assume it will be plain sailing from the receiving of the word through to its fulfilment. What should our response be when we receive prophetic words?

(I wrote this post sometime last week, we were away over the weekend, and received prophetic words which surprised, encouraged, and challenged us, and that was before we got to church, then, while at church both of us were picked out and given prophecies by a man who knows neither of us, nor anything about us. So we now have to think about this too, funny that, but I rather like God’s sense of humour.)

When we receive prophetic words from God they may seem to have no conditions attached, and if this is the way we see them, then we might be excused for thinking no action is needed to align ourselves for Him to move forward and bring about whatever He has spoken of. Do we imagine because He has spoken that we must be in great shape and therefore we don’t need to apply ourselves to becoming more like Jesus? If we put it like that, then, no, we would say we are still in need of change, but when we hear from God that He wants to do a specific thing then it can sound like a done deal. We must be aware that this is not necessarily the case.

Whenever we hear from Him we need to continue to examine our hearts, but also to see if there is anything we need to do or perhaps skills we need to learn to ensure we are in the best place for Him to bring about what He wants to do in or through our lives.

As we pray about the prophecy He has given we must be willing to hear Him along the way to its fruition too, He could have quite a lot to say.

We are eager to be used by Him however He chooses and we need to be just as eager to be responsive to the Holy Spirit as He provokes us to change and grow, keeping us in step with Him and so more likely to be ready for Him to put in motion whatever it is He has up His sleeve.

When He decides it is time, and of course that is another challenge as He doesn’t appear to view the passing of time in quite the same way as we do. Consider this, He can say something is going to happen soon, or that He is going to bring about some great thing in us or our situation, yet He’s well known for taking years, sometimes decades, when we assume He means to do something in the next few weeks or months. As the psalmist said, ‘Pause and calmly think of that.’

It is good for us to recall the stories from the Old Testament where we see His people waiting for many years before the promise comes about.

Abraham and Sarah spring to mind.

But, when He does decide it is time, that one day will be THE day when things shift and change happens, as we don’t know when that will be, we had best keep our eyes open and our hearts tender. We want to be ready, don’t we?

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Recalling those early days when I first met you, when I would put my little son to bed for his rest in the morning, make a cup of tea, and sit down cross legged to settle in and worship you…how lovely to know you remember it too, and so much more clearly than me.

I’d sing all the songs I could remember, I’d tell you all the stuff. So simple.

You’d remind me of my history and I’d see even more how you loved me..

You’d hear my cries for this and that.

You’d stir my heart for more, for unheard ideas, for unimagined roles.

You’d speak, even before I knew to imagine you might not.

You set my heart to desire great things before I knew to think they were impossible.

You filled me to make me hungry.

You drew me into a walk, step by step…

How kind you are.

Do I long for those days as some old, long gone, sweet memory? No, you are here and so am I.



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Paddle Out…

How’s your heart doing in this beautiful summer weather? Do you do well with the change in routine which comes around holiday times?

Get a cold drink and sit down with me for a while…

Imagine a riverbank with reeds extending some way out into the river. You’re sat low in a small boat, and you’re hampered by the reeds towering over you. You want to be free to follow the flow of the river, of course you do, why else would you be there?

You feel for the oars and struggle to fit them in place before getting into position yourself, you start to pull, first one then the other, occasionally both together… As the reeds thin out there’s more freedom to use the oars, finally you break through into the beginnings of the free flow of the river.

But you don’t want to stick to the side, your eye is on the centre of the river, the deep powerful fast flowing river.

So you row, your feeble attempts to paddle out into the river have paid off, now you feel the strain as you pull hard and see the boat push through the water to enter the faster flow…finally you merge and are free.

The breeze and the green scents remind you of childhood days out, walks, picnics, stupid dogs, and freedom….

Free again to follow the flow of the river, to go where it takes you….and so you go.

What do I mean by this?

If we’ve been around a while we know those rhythms which are beneficial to us, helping us make good progress on our journey.

For some it is getting out and walking in the open, the fresh air blowing the cobwebs of a cluttered mind and bringing a return to ease and aaahh…

Others need the stimulation of people, to be active in helping someone else brings their sense of being in step again.

Some simply want to worship, no time constraints but to linger for as long as they can, knowing they too have his smile over them.

You see, each of us has a set of oars. If you take some time to ponder you will recognise yours too.
Why not dust them off, put them in place and paddle out through those limiting reeds and get yourself out into the fast flow of the river of God again, feel the wind of His Spirit in your face…you know how you love it.

Let the beauty of summer provoke you to seek the presence and power of God, He loves to be sought, He tells us… Seek my face… Those who seek me find me…

He hides so as to be found… find Him.


Encountering Jesus….or Hit and Run?

We are full of memories, memories as varied as our individual lives, they define us, tell us who we are in some ways.
We need them to learn from and to push off from into a deeper future, a future which will be greater because we have learnt. Not to remember is not to learn.
Aristotle said: ‘Memory is the scribe of the soul.’

Some of our memories have left deep lines in the soul and we wish they weren’t there. These won’t be impacted by mere information, they need to be transformed into a pattern rather than a scar. Who can do this? Only a master craftsman. The designer of our soul no less.

We can know this transformation by encountering Jesus. Encountering him is the only way the very best of things has ever happened to us anyway. We might not have known it to be an encounter and perhaps we find such terminology makes us a bit squeamish, but encounter it is.

How else did we become believers if it wasn’t by hearing his voice, seeing things differently and responding to him? Sounds like an encounter to me.

How can we know an encounter with him then? Thankfully there isn’t only one way, but I’d like to tell you how to put yourself in the way of an encounter. It isn’t a one size fits all absolutely guaranteed method, there isn’t such a thing in a real relationship, but this is one way of making yourself more available and receptive to him.

Do you ever find the reading of scripture can leave you with a sense of dissatisfaction, a kind of ‘Is that all there is to it?’

If we read and leave then yes, sometimes that is all there is to it, sometimes it can leave no impact on us if we are reading without due care and attention, almost hit and run..
but…if we read and return, then we have more chance of those words sinking in and making their mark on our soul. Perhaps even making the lines in our soul into something beautiful rather than the dreary ugliness we suspect they trace.

A simple habit can change the way the words impact us, how simple? Very simple.

Take a short section of a narrative and read it aloud, if we do this daily the story becomes vividly detailed and we can start to see it much more clearly, maybe even imagine how we would fit if we were there.

I’m going to be reading these verses this week, would you like to join me?

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. NIV

Isn’t this time-wasting and playing with scripture in our imagination? Shouldn’t we be studying it instead?
Yes and no, study is great and helpful, but it does a different thing to this sort of reading, so yes we should be studying scripture, not instead of this, but in addition to it.
As for whether we should be using our imagination or not, well, funnily enough our imagination isn’t some aberration of our nature which has taken God by surprise. He has made us to see things with our mind’s eye as well as the physical.

As we spend time reading aloud and so hearing the story, we find our imaginations are fired up, we see things we hadn’t noticed before and can imagine how we would feel if we were there, we can wonder what we might have said, perhaps instead of dismissing the reactions of those who were there at the time, we may start to understand in greater depth the confusion they might have known on hearing Jesus tell a parable for the very first time.
Valuable clarity can come like a shaft of light shining on a text as it is read over and again, little things fall into place as they are looked at from various angles over a week of repeated reading.
Importantly we get to see Jesus in sharper focus, we see his character standing out against the backdrop of a broken and rebellious humanity as the beautiful nature it truly is.
We see the different ways he interacts with people, that he loves to intervene in lives, healing, restoring, delivering, lifting up, rescuing, any and all of the needs he sees, he meets.

The question is will we go to him and meet him so giving him the opportunity to make eye contact with us and say what needs to be said, or will we just read on without due care and attention?

I know you want to grow in favour with him to receive all you can from him, this is one way for this to come about. Respond to him. Let his words soak down to your soul and rework the lines, let him show you what he can do with those scars, see how beautifully he can change the dullness into a piece of craftsmanship that nothing and no-one else will be quite like. Your past and even your present can be made into the backdrop of a thing of great beauty, but no artist creates in a rush, so give him your time, because you can’t spend time with Jesus and stay the same.

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A Very Good Twenty Minutes…Or ‘I don’t know how to be quiet with God…’

Brennan Manning said of God:

‘He gives Himself to us completely in silence and solitude.’

He used these passages to read and ponder on:

Isaiah 43:1-5; Ephesians 2:6-10; 1John 4:16-19; Psalm 103.

Take about twenty minutes.

He says a biblical definition of fear is ‘Silent wonder..radical amazement..affectionate awe at the infinite goodness of God.’

This man knew what he was talking about.

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The Right Place at the Right Time

One last visit to Dutch Sheets’ book Intercessory Prayer. This is such a good book, it is both encouraging and helpful, funnily enough not all books on prayer are either of those..

These are my earlier posts on this important book. You’ll find a link to buy the book on the first of them.

After travelling all day Jacob needed a place to spend the night ‘because the sun was set’, verse 11 says he ‘lighted upon’ (KJV) a particular place and there he spent the night. Notice that Jacob had not predetermined to spend the night there, he didn’t choose the place in advance, but was guided by chance, ‘because the sun was set’.

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

Genesis 28:10-17 NIV

The place as it turns out was a very special place, Bethel, which means ‘house of God’. Jacob actually referred to it as a ‘gate of heaven’. Even though most translations say Jacob lighted in ‘a’ place, the literal Hebrew wording is ‘the’ place. What was simply A place to Jacob, chosen by chance, was THE place to the Lord and sovereignly chosen by Him. It was there that Jacob had a mighty, life-changing encounter with God.

It was there that he saw the angels ascending and descending from heaven. It was at that time that God extended to him the same covenant He had made with Abraham, and informed Jacob that through his lineage He would save the world. He also promised great blessing to Jacob, to protect him and bring him back to his homeland safely. In short, it was a place where Jacob’s entire destiny was foretold and his history shaped.

Nice story but how does that relate to intercession and to Romans 8:26-28? I’m glad you asked!
Like Jacob, who was not guided to this special place by his own reasoning or understanding, we are not always able to be directed in prayer by ours either. Consequently we often feel weak and anaemic in our ability to produce results. At times it seems the process is hit and miss, as though we have to land or ‘light upon’ the situation correctly ‘by chance’.

That’s okay…..And it isn’t really hit and miss because what is meant by chance for us is not to our Helper, the Holy Spirit. In fact ‘paga’ (a word related to intercession) also means ‘bullseye’.
They still use the word in this way in Israel today. Close your eyes and fire! When we allow Him to intercede through us, just as He sovereignly guided Jacob to the right place at the right time, He will cause our prayers to light upon (paga) the right person or place, in the right way, at the right time, bringing forth the will of God in situations. And that’s right good!

Bethels will occur!
Meetings with God will occur!
Heaven’s gates will open!
Destinies will be written!
History will be shaped!

‘Too dramatic’, you say? If you said that, you don’t know God well enough. Or perhaps you don’t believe strongly enough that we can involve the miracle worker in our praying. I submit to you that one of the reasons we don’t see more miracles is because we don’t expect more miracles. Our bible..on both sides of the Cross..presents a lot of them. They come from God, however, and the way to see more of them is to involve Him in more situations. Praying in the Spirit does this.

This sort of prayer is powerful and dynamic in its working, see what James says about it here:

The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]. Elijah was a human being with a nature such as we have [with feelings, affections, and a constitution like ours]; and he prayed earnestly for it not to rain, and no rain fell on the earth for three years and six months.
And [then] he prayed again and the heavens supplied rain and the land produced its crops [as usual].
James 5:16b-18AMP

I heard a talk on prophetic intercession recently, it was by Carol Wilthew from the Kings Arms Church Bedford. It’s a talk I want to hear repeatedly, to get it under my skin and to change the way I pray.
The book most like it I think, is this one by Dutch Sheets, so although I can’t give you a link to the talk, you can get similar teaching from him. Please take it on board.
As we pray according to the Spirit’s leading, and in the Spirit, we make differences we may never be able to quantify here and now, but God knows the changes He accomplishes through our prayers and one day we will know too.
We are all beneficiaries of someone else’s prayers on our behalf, let’s pass that same gift along to those around us.

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We Get To Know His Heart…

Carrying on from my last post I’d like to take you back to Dutch Sheets and his brilliant book Intercessory Prayer.

We finished with Dutch saying he sometimes, maybe quite often, feels an inability to know how or what to pray, I know this is true for me too, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

It’s a fact of life….
The Lord then says in this verse that one of the reasons we have this ‘inability to produce results’ is because we don’t always ‘know how to pray as we should’.
The word ‘should’ here us a very important word. ‘Dei’ is primarily a legal term meaning that which is necessary, right or proper in the nature of a case; what one must do; that which is legally binding for someone.
For example, Luke 18:1 KJV tells us, ‘Men ought always to pray and not to faint.’ It is declaring, ‘ It is absolutely necessary, binding upon you, that you pray.’

Jesus used the word when He said of the woman bent over from a spirit of infirmity, ‘And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?’ Luke 13:16 KJV.

His reason that she should be loosed from this spirit was her being ‘a daughter of Abraham’. In other words, she had a covenental right to it.
Because He had the ability to give her what she had a covenental right to, He said, in essence, ‘Is it not necessary and binding upon me that I deliver this daughter of Abraham from this infirmity?’

Now we understand the strength of the word, let’s put it back into Romans 8:26. The Lord is saying we don’t always know what needs to happen in a given situation. We don’t always know what is necessary or or right.

I find myself wondering at times, ‘How do I pray for this person or situation, Lord? What needs to happen?’
At other times I have felt led by the Holy Spirit to pray for someone, yet had no way of knowing why they needed prayer.

Sometimes mature intercessors are prompted by the Lord to pray and not only do they not know what they are praying for, but they don’t know for whom they are praying. They just feel a burden to pray.
Talk about a weakness, an inability to produce results. Talk about not knowing what is ‘necessary, right or proper’ in a situation.

What do we do in these circumstances? This is when the Holy Spirit wants to help us. He will lead us as we pray, perhaps revealing things about the situation to us, or bringing Scriptures to our minds so we can pray them in the situation. He will certainly help us by empowering our prayers. But another way He wants to help us is by literally praying through us as we pray in the Spirit.

God calls us His friends, He says we co-labour with Him too. The wise kindness He demonstrates to us in this is significant, it is not for nothing that He has made us to desire purpose.
We get to make a real difference, not just a token display of allowing us to appear to be involved but the genuine article, we get to take part in His work of changing the world and bringing in His ever increasing kingdom. When we engage with Him in this, we get to change culture, sometimes in small ways and at other times, ways which make a stark difference, whichever it is today, or this week, a smaller or greater impact, we never need feel we don’t know how to make a difference or how to play our part, at least in this He has made it plain, He wants us praying. He shares His very heart with us. He empowers and guides, and even gives us the words when we don’t have those.

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A Little Summertime Reading

As we are approaching summertime when many people will be away for weeks or even months, I thought it might be helpful to have some posts on a book or two which you might like to get hold of and read while you or your friends are away.
Maybe if a few of us read the books mentioned in the posts we would have food for thought when we get back together in the new term.
You might even be inspired to engage in new activities in God and find your growth in Him is richer and greater than you would generally expect from time out of your normal routines.

Anyhow, what are these books? The first one is Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets.

Here’s a taster for you:

This chapter is about our Helper, the Holy Spirit. Without any doubt the greatest single key to successful intercession is learning to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to be all He was sent to be in us. Jesus called Him our ‘Helper’ in John 14:26: ‘But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.’
Some translations use the word Comforter instead of Helper, but the word is Parakletos and means one called alongside to aid, help or support. It is such a powerful word that the Amplified version uses seven words to communicate its rich meaning: ‘Comforter, Counsellor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strenghtener, Standby, the Holy Spirit.’
I want to focus on Him as our ‘Helper’ and ‘Intercessor’.

We read in Romans 8:26-28

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Notice that verse 28 begins with the word ‘and’ which is a conjunction connecting verse 28 to verses 26 and 27, making it dependent on what is said there. In other words, all things DON’T work together for good in the lives of Christians unless certain conditions are met. All things CAN work together for our good, and God’s will is for all things to work together for our good, but this isn’t automatic. We have a part to play. It happens as verses 26 and 27 are being implemented.

I don’t believe the intercession of the Holy Spirit spoken of in these verses refers only to ‘tongues’. However, most of us in Pentecostal and charismatic circles believe it has to include this gift, which we believe allows the Holy Spirit to literally pray through us. It is not my intention in this book to prove this, nor am I implying that those who do not practice it are second rate in their praying.
If you do not pray in this way, it is my strong desire not to offend you. I have great love and respect for my non-charismatic brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet it is impossible for me to share what I believe The Lord has taught me concerning this passage without referring to praying in tongues, or as the Scriptures also word it, ‘ praying in the Spirit’. I will, therefore, be saying a good bit about this. From this point on, however, in an effort to be as inclusive and inoffensive as possible, I will only use the phrase ‘praying in the Spirit’. To charismatic readers, when you see this phrase, please know that I am including ‘tongues’. To the rest of you, please interpret with your belief of what it means to ‘pray in the Spirit’.

This passage says that the Holy Spirit wants to help us in our weakness. The word in Greek is astheneia and means literally ‘without strength’ or ability. An ‘inability to produce results’ is the concept communicated by the word.

Have you ever felt an inability in your prayer life to produce results? Have you ever come up against a ‘mountain’ you couldn’t move? I recall that happening to me a few years ago, or was that a few hours ago? It’s a fact of life…..

(To be continued)

There’s such a depth of richness in this book, I will post more very soon, but if I was you, I wouldn’t wait until the posts are completed, get and order it and by the time you’ve finished reading the bits I post here, you might have your own copy and you’ll be able to dive in and discover much more about this valuable way of praying. It is strong prayer, no passivity, but really engaging with God in the business of extending the Kingdom and building up the Church. Go get a copy!


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