Rain is a necessity of life. From it, rivers are formed bringing freshness and newness to everything they touch. Let 2012 to be our year of heavy rain! The problem with rain, however, is that it usually comes with menacing clouds of trouble that tend to overshadow our worlds. Yet don’t be fooled by trouble! Clouds are God’s Eddie Stobbard of the skies. They are giant transporters taking precious water back from the lowlands to the highlands to create great rivers of influence and blessings.
Your Clouds of Trouble are in reality giant Clouds of Promise. Clouds of insecurity and misunderstanding become clouds that rain fresh revelation of God our Defender and God our Father when we seed them with faith.
Isaiah 19:1 says, ‘See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt with fear.’.
The more clouds that clog up your view, the more nervous your enemy gets – God can turn every Cloud of Menace into a Cloud of Magnificence! He rides on your clouds!
All your clouds need in 2012 is the Wind of Promise and Proclamation to shift them of higher ground. Psalm 104:3 says, ‘He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.’ Clouds weren’t designed to sit above your mind and emotions but to head to the Highlands of Faith to replenish the Rivers of Blessing over your life and world. To do that we need to develop an attitude of gratitude and an attitude of magnitude!
The Lords Prayer begins with gratitude – Matthew 6:9 starts, ‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name’. It centres on our adoption, our new identity as children of Heaven, and on the permanent, non changing nature of God. It then moves swiftly on to the attitude of magnitude – the big issues of ‘your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.’ (Matthew 6:10). Stir up the Winds of Proclamation!
Our God is changeless. Clouds come and go and the water cycle continues to cycle. Everything changes, but God. Deep inside all of us is a cry for permanence. That’s why many want a BFF – a ‘Best Friend Forever’ to be the strand of security that runs through our changing worlds. The only thing that never changes is ‘Our Father in Heaven’! James says that He ‘doesn’t change like shifting shadows.’ Spurgeon says that the ‘wheel of providence turns on the axle of eternal love.’ He’s the same today, yesterday and forever.
In the midst of change, let’s not get too clingy towards the people around us. Let’s not create little cliques or a cliquey church. The truth is that many of the relationships that helped us get from A to B will change as we go from B to C. Even now, you’re probably wondering what’s gone wrong in certain relationships of yours. The answer is often nothing at all. It wasn’t a relationship designed to be with you from A to C. Some rivers dry up. The reason… because another is about to flow. God takes away our old wineskins because He’s about to do a new thing. New wine requires new wineskins. Matthew 9:17 says, “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
There’s new wineskins of relationship for 2012 that God wants you to explore. To give you a head start – everyone needs seven kinds of relationships in their lives –
1. A Jethro – a fatherly person who can tell you some very wise things you really need to know (Exodus 18)
2. A Barnabus – A big believer in your future (Acts 4)
3. A Timothy – someone you’re investing into (1 Timothy)
4. A Jonathan – An armour bearer – someone who watches your back in prayer and faith (1 Samuel 14)
5. A Lazarus – someone refreshing to kick back with (John 11)
6. A Lydia – someone who wants to know more about you, your faith and your God (Acts 16)
7. A Multitude of Counsellors – people who go beyond just pleasing you (Proverbs 15:22)
New wineskins don’t stop at relationships however. Often there’s new wineskins of provision and a whole new lifestyle that’s making a way for a new lease of life that’s about to flow.
When it rains in the Highlands of Faith within our hearts, God creates four rivers that flow out from our innermost parts. Each of these rivers answers some very real issues within our lives –
Firstly – Rivers on High Ground
Isaiah 41: 18 says. ‘I will make rivers flow on barren heights.’
Have you got unreachable, unattainable areas in your life that need unlocking? There is a river!
Secondly – Rivers on Broken Ground
Isaiah 43:19 says, ‘See, I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.’
Are there areas of your life that are burnt out, damaged and discarded? There is a river!
Thirdly – Rivers on Ploughed Up Ground
Psalm 65:9-10 says ‘…The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges…’.
Have you areas you’ve spent time praying over, working on and wrestling with? There is a river!
Fourthly – Rivers on Lost Ground
Psalm 46:4 says, ‘There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.’
Are there areas of sadness and loss that you would love to be turned into both joy and gladness? This is a river!
He has promised life giving streams to flow through your world in 2012.
Rivers need banks. Without banks, they become flash floods. Flash flooding is the way a lot of non-Christians experience life. They have unbelievable moments followed by life’s big hangovers. Many Christians are the same – blessings from Heaven that never move onto greater authority and influence.
After seven days in the desert looking for a river that never ran dry (that had actually run dry), God spoke to King Jehoshaphat, ‘make this valley full of ditches’ (2 Kings 3:16). God wanted the rain from the mountains of Eden to become rivers and streams in the desert. Jehoshaphat obeyed and God filled the ditches full of water that both refreshed the army he was leading and weakened the enemy he was attacking.
The Lords prayer begins proactively, then, turns pre-emptive as it seeks to create banks for an oncoming river.
We need to:
1.) Shift the Dirt of Self-reliance to create a Banks of Surrender. Matthew 6:11 says ‘give us today our daily bread.’ God leads us to a place of desperation where there is no longer a plan B. He’s out to shift some carnal dirt and make us reliant upon him.
2.) Shift the Dirt of Bitterness to create Banks of Forgiveness. Matthew 6:12 says, ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ They say holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping that the other person dies. Without this bank the river will fail. Romans 13:21 says ‘don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ To release someone from that apology that they owe you is to give grace to them and so become an overcomer. You set the stage for rivers to flow.
3.) Shift the Dirt of Rebellion to create Banks of Submission. Matthew 6:13 says, ‘and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ Disobedience and compromise are shifted by submission. This may be the very shift that creates your future influence.
In Ezekiel chapter 47, the Prophet Ezekiel had a vision of a river that flowed from the Temple (where God dwelt) to the Dead Sea. Everything it touched came to life. Some call it the anointing, others the supernatural power of God…. But for us it’s the river that Jesus prophesised would flow out from our innermost being to touch the world around us (John 7:38).
“Fruit tree’s of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river.
Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail”. (Ezekiel 47:12)
The journey began when ‘the man brought me back to the entrance of the temple.’ (Ezekiel 47:1)
In the midst of your Mountain of Faith is a solitary temple, inhabited by God alone. There’s no sound of children playing; there’s no green grass for a picnic and no familiar tunes in the background. It’s just you and God. Every so often God shakes everything that can be shaken and asks, ‘Do you still love me?’ If God took away your friends, your health, or your successes, will you still love Him? To answer ‘yes’ in the moment of crisis is to bring you back to the entrance of the temple where Jesus is enthroned once again as the Lord of your life – and everything begins from this place – even the river of God.
In the vision, an angel led Ezekiel into four entry points in the river he found himself ankle deep, knee deep, waist deep and then over his head. Each of these entry points hold a significant key to making the right Devotional Shifts in our lives.
Some commentators have described the vision as going deeper with God. I’m not sure if I agree! I’m not sure if I really want to be a ‘deep’ person who ‘experiences’ God. What I do want, however, is to be a person of ‘depth’ who ‘encompasses’ all God has for my life. I think that’s much better and a lot less deep! Here’s the four devotional shifts we need to make, each being an entry point to the river.
Devotional Shift One – Ankle Deep (Revelation Led Christianity)
Every now and then when your feeling ugly, knowing that you’ve failed miserably, let people down and feel completely useless, you need to come back to making a stand on the foundations of faith. You need to be up to your ankles standing on revelation truth.
It’s time to declare positional truths about the finished work of the cross – your victory, your forgiveness, your covenant, your strength and your covering. This could be your entry point into the River of His Power today.
Devotional Shift Two – Knee Deep (Application Led Christianity)
Knees are to do with walking. We need to not just hear the truth of God but apply it to our lives. Momentum is mass multiplied by velocity. For momentum to increase in our lives, we need to increase our ‘speed’! Our speed is the time it takes from hearing God’s word to putting that word into practice. It’s that time span that needs shortening. God often won’t speak the next thing to you until you have done the last thing.
Devotional Shift Three – Waist Deep (Reproduction Led Christianity)
At waist deep, the water covers our loin’s which is the place of reproduction. The immersion of our ‘creativity’ causes us to not just do as God says, but think as God thinks and see as God sees. It raises us from servants to sons and from parishioners to partners in the vision. It adds leadership and ownership to all we do. This may be the right entry point for you. It’s time to take initiative and own the vision that God has for His Church and His People! (This shift also includes a surrendering of our sexuality and our sex drive to the Will of Heaven. Don’t let these wild horses drive you to places you don’t want to go. Submit them to the river and let God help you move from inner struggle to inner success.)
Devotional Shift Four – Over Your Head (Immersion Led Christianity)
Every now and then, not just one thing breaks down, but everything does! The diary gets thrown out of the window and every plan collapses. It’s time to let the river take you in its flow to the place of promise. It’s time to let go and let God. It’s time for total trust that God know best and all things will work out for His glory.
All four Devotional Shifts are like the shifting of gears on a car. You need to alternate regularly between first and fourth to maximise speed and control.
Let this next twelve months be your best ever as you learn to turn clouds into rain, rain into rivers and rivers into fruitfulness and influence. Let momentum become your best friend as you make the right shifts at the right moments. Shift happens to the people who want to make the shift to the next big thing God has for their lives.
WATCH DAVE GILPIN PREACHING on SHIFT HAPPENS at Hope City Sheffield