Twice in 18 years of my ministry, I’ve had a powerful ‘encounter’ with Christ in a very particular way. Both times, it has been reminiscent of an Old Testament ‘appearance’ of Christ to Joshua – a ‘Christophony’. I’ve only recently had a similar ‘vision’, yet again – recurring theme!
In Joshua 5, as Joshua is preparing to head towards Jericho to take possession of it, to move forward in his mission God called him to, we read that ‘the commander of the Lord’s army’ stands before Joshua with his sword drawn (Josh 5:13). Joshua’s response is understandable: are you for me or against me? ‘Neither’, the figure replies…and he tells Joshua who he is. Joshua falls down in reverence and asks the figure for the message. The Commander says ‘Take off your shoes, for the place you are standing is holy’ (Joshua 5: 15). He has to consecrate himself for what the Lord is about to do in him and through him.
In both of these times, the churches I was leading were about to embark on significant periods of their life together. In both situations, I’ve been led to the passage to pray it through and someone, unaware of my thinking/leading, has come to reinforce the message. In fact, one time, I remember one of our church members running up the stairs to the office with a message: ‘you have to come down and hear this!’ A Christian passing by the church had a vision of an ‘angelic presence’ high in the rafters of the church with a sword drawn. I had been waiting for him, praying, as a sign to act.
I’ve had a very strong sense of God’s presence with me in my prayer in recent weeks – a heavy sense of expectancy. One of our church members said ‘I really think you should look at Joshua’…I’d already been reading, praying, waiting…and had already mentioned Joshua in a recent preach.
Here’s what has happened to me in these two previous situations, and that is likely to be significant now:
- There is a sense of, firstly, personal awakening…a rousing up. Like a trumpet call – which is particularly fitting seeing as what Joshua was about – a rallying, a call to a particular response. In other words, God is preparing to do something. And so I pick up my shofar, my ram’s horn trumpet, and give it a mighty blast. Awakens the senses, I tell you!
- Secondly, there is the call to get on my face and on my knees before the Lord and to call people whose hearts are similarly fashioned to do the same. A call to consecration…like a blessing and purifying before entering the spiritual battlefield where the expectancy is that the enemy’s work will take a significant blow.
- Thirdly – hard work. Always. We pray like mad, we seek the Lord, and then we put our boots on and get to it. And we return to praying, seeking, working, and the cycle continues until the ‘walls come down’.
In one place, it was in advance of a specific significant aspect of the mission. In another, it was about a strategic restructuring of how we operate. And here in Hertford, we have a major transition ahead of the church at this time.
In lots of ways, God speaks to us in ways that we can comprehend and understand. This is a way that he has chosen to speak to me in the past, and now, although no guarantees that it will ever continue like that, suffice to say.
In one sense, it is perhaps easy to respond in fear like Joshua – ‘what’s the story here?!’ But, I’ve learned that when it’s the commander of the army of the Lord in charge, there is no need to fear. It is HE who has the sword drawn…it is his battle. Our response is to consecrate ourselves, to fall before him in reverence, and then do as we’re bloomin’ told.
And so, we are ever reminded that we are always in that spiritual battle. Our weapons?
Here’s what Paul says:
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor 10: 3 – 5
So, I’m off to take my shoes off…commander’s orders. If you’re minded to pray, would appreciate your prayers!