Power and Imagination

“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And in his hand was a small scroll that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. And he gave a great shout like the roar of a lion. And when he shouted, the seven thunders answered.
Revelation‬ ‭10:1-3‬ ‭NLT

The Apostle John’s eschatological vision continues with the appearance of another angel. A mighty angel. This angel was surrounded by a cloud and had a rainbow positioned over his head. And John was struck by the brightness of the angel’s face and he also noticed that the angel’s feet were like pillars of fire. The angel obviously had something to say, related to the scroll he was carrying. And he must have been huge, to be able to stand astride on sea and land. He gave a “great shout like the roar of a lion”  and received a response from the seven thunders.

What is all that about, was my first thought. Do we accept the picture that is forming in our minds at face value or do we try and make sense of it, interpreting the vision in a way that imparts a meaning? Firstly, this episode takes place between the sixth and seventh trumpets. An interlude perhaps? Did the people still alive see this angel – something that big wouldn’t have been hard to miss – or was this a spiritual event portrayed for John’s benefit, and ultimately ours as well?

We can draw some associations between what we see and what has been written in the Bible. For example, we remember that God led the Israelite slaves through the wilderness during their exodus from Egypt from within a cloud. And Psalm 104:3 reads, “You lay out the rafters of Your home in the rain clouds. You make the clouds Your chariot; You ride upon the wings of the wind.” So the angel’s message from a cloud perhaps means that it has God’s backing, His seal of approval. Also we know about rainbows. In Genesis 9:13, God said, “I have placed My rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of My covenant with you and with all the earth.” We also have a Biblical precedent for a bright face. When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain, we read in Matthew 17:2 that “His face shone like the sun”. Regarding the “feet … like pillars of fire” we remember that God led the Israelites at night in the wilderness with a pillar of fire. So we, at the very least, can assume this “mighty angel” was someone of great importance. In fact, some have even suggested that He was Jesus Himself.

Regarding the mighty shout, we read in Hosea 11:10. “For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return trembling from the west.” In Joel 3:16 we read, “The Lord’s voice will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth will shake. But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel.” John didn’t record in his vision what the great angel shout was about, and neither do we really know what the seven thunders represent. But we do know that when God responded to Jesus’s prayer in John 12, some people thought it had thundered. But, everything considered, this event in Revelation was a momentous event. God was about to say something very important and significant through the mighty angel.

Is there a message in this vision for us pilgrims today? Not many of us, if any at all, will have received such a vision as John did that day. But that is not to say that God has overlooked us and has failed to deliver an important word, tailor-made just for us. Over the years I have received several important messages from God – one of them delivered with His audible voice. Something intensely personal and encouraging. God is always listening to our prayers, to our petitions, to the anguished cries from our hearts, and He will graciously and lovingly always provide the answers and encouragement that we need. 

Jesus said that when He left this earth, He would send the Holy Spirit as His representative. And through Him we will have access to the same power that Jesus had. In Acts 1:8 He said to His disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…”. Today we pilgrims are Jesus’s disciples with the potential to be powerful for God through His Spirit. I know that many claim that the power of the Holy Spirit was just for the original disciples and their generation and that it disappeared when they all died. But that is not my experience, and neither can I find any Scriptures that explicitly say that this is what happened. 

I have always been challenged with what Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Paul wrote that to a church fellowship located in the city of Ephesus. He didn’t pick out the apostles and the favoured few who knew them. This was written to all those in the fellowship of Ephesian believers. And I firmly believe today that it applies to us as well, and we all have that accessible power deep within us. Just waiting to be tapped. In the power of this Spirit, we can dream. We can allow our imaginations to be led by the Holy Spirit. There is no limit to what can be achieved through the power that is within us. So there may be a pilgrim reading this today who feels inadequate and is lacking confidence in who they are. They might be feeling inferior and incapable. But God wants to encourage us all today. In Ephesians 1:19-20 we read, “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honour at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” So let’s press in today, flexing our spiritual faith muscles, believing God for more of that Holy Spirit power to touch us and touch those around us. In Jesus there is no limit to what we can achieve, if we only believe.

Dear Father God. We confess that we feel most of the time like fragile clay jars. But we declare today our confidence in You, the One who uses such ordinary vessels as us to do great things for You. Thank You. Amen.


A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
Ephesians 6:10

Paul is in the final section of his lengthy letter. He has meandered his way through a maze of thoughts and instructions, doing a Holy Spirit-inspired brain dump, tailor-made just for his friends in Ephesus. And he now wants to leave them with a model that they, and so many since, have found very helpful. He introduces this section with the encouragement to be strong in our faith, our strength coming from the Lord and the power that is available to us through Him. 

Paul wasn’t the only Bible writer advocating the strength of the Lord. Isaiah 41:10 reads, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand“. Another verse is in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid“? The strength we find in God is freely available, if only we ask.

But to our ubiquitous Christian pilgrim, what does “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” actually mean? And how will such an inspiring exhortation help us? In our life journey, we will be attacked on all sides from an enemy who wants to stop us in any way he can, from entering into God’s presence. And he does that through temptations, lies, leveraging our human proclivity for sin; in fact in any way where he can find a weakness. So this verse in Paul’s letter reminds us that in God we have all the power and strength to overcome the devil’s strategies and stay on the path mapped out for us. An admirable example of this was when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, the devil even using passages of Scripture to try and trip Him up. But He stayed “strong in the Lord“. Jesus’ example of using Scripture is one we too can follow. So we need to read the Bible. There is an amazing wealth of strength and power in this Book. And as we become more and more familiar with the Scriptures, we will become more able to find the strength we need in the times of testing. Another powerful resource is the Holy Spirit Himself. Jesus said that He will be an Advocate, our Helper. God Himself standing alongside us, resourcing us when in need of power and strength.

So this “final word” really puts the icing on the cake of Paul’s letter. In the coming days we will look at the ways in which this power and strength can be distilled using the illustration of a Roman soldier’s armour and attire. An amazing resource for the pilgrim of today.

Power and Imagination

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Ephesians 3:20 is a verse that has impressed me, intrigued me, and challenged me over the years I have been a Christian pilgrim. Many times I have tried to get my mind around what Paul was saying, and what it means for me today. I keep coming back to this verse in my regular visits to this Epistle to the Ephesians. Straight away there is a temptation to look at this verse from a worldly point of view, imagining physics-defying feats of strength and courage. Although the power Paul mentioned can sometimes encroach into our physical world, such an interpretation was not what he had in mind when he wrote about God’s power. But was Paul really saying that this power, God’s power, is available and is to be applied in our own lives and the lives of the people, our family and friends and neighbours, around us? I think it does because God has one mission – the propagation of His love throughout mankind for His “glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever”. Every resource He supplies, His unlimited power, is designed with that in mind. This verse, I believe, is pivotal to Christian discipleship today. 

But it doesn’t stop there because God wants His servants to think outside the box. He wants people with the faith to use the power given to us to do tremendous works to further His kingdom. People with the faith of Jackie Pullinger, about whom I was reading recently. She embarked on a ship at the age of 21 praying as it reached each port about whether God wanted her to minister and serve Him there. She ended up in Hong Kong, working amongst so many needy people. Where drug addiction was rife. And through the power of the Holy Spirit she saw lives changed. The enemy’s frontiers were pushed back. Of course, we’re not all people like Jackie but we each have our own sphere of potential ministry and service.

But there are three things about this verse that get to me. The first is that God wants me to ask Him what He wants to do through me. Paul said that of course God is able to do far more than we ask – he used the word “immeasurably” – but God still wants us to ask. That’s the way we engage with Him and His Spirit. It is our openness to Him, and desire to serve, that allows His power to be used in whatever situation He requires. It’s our willingness to say, “Yes, Lord” when He prompts us to take the next step in our service to Him. A man called Ananias was in such a place when the Holy Spirit asked him to find a guy called Paul who was praying, blinded by an encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, and to pray for him, that his sight would be restored. That wasn’t just a light bulb moment in Ananias’s life – he was ready and prepared, open for his next God-assignment. He had already asked God to use him for the furtherance of His kingdom. We can read the full story in Acts 9. 

The second thing is that God wants us to use our imaginations. So often in our churches and congregations we are bounded by walls and stained glass, by a liturgy more suitable to a Victorian era, out of touch with the real world outside the walls. We’re cut off in splendid isolation, perhaps feeling holy but nevertheless totally ineffective in dispensing His power. A god-breathed imagination will open doors and windows into the very souls of our communities and families. It is only as we use our imaginations that opportunities will start to emerge from the fog of our pre-conceived ideas and conditions. To just sit in a pew, week after week, requires no imagination at all.

The third thing is that we have all the power we need – it is right there within us. But where and how should it be used? There is an answer to this question in Acts 1:8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. Note that the receipt of the power is followed by an action – being witnesses of Jesus. I believe this verse is highly significant, because it contains the last recorded spoken words of Jesus before He ascended into Heaven. And this didn’t mean just talking about Him, or doing Bible studies on the parables. Or sitting in our pews listening to eloquent sermons about His birth at Christmas, or His death and resurrection at Easter. Jesus was a real action man. He didn’t spend His time in pastoring the people in His local synagogue. He was out and about using His power to invite people into His kingdom. What Jesus said in Luke 5:31-32 is interesting. “Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.””. 

But back to our verse, Ephesians 3:20. God’s chosen method of reaching humanity is through pilgrims like you and me. Through willing people who dare to ask God what their next assignment is. Through open people with an active, God-breathed, imagination; who dare to think outside the box, who dare to break the mould, who dare to use their faith to leverage the power that is within them. People like Isaiah – we read about his encounter with God in the Temple in Isaiah 6:8 – “Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.””. Let us be asking and imagining pilgrims in our service for God.

Just one more thing – “to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations”. All we do is to, and for, His glory. With deeply thankful hearts for all He has done for us.


May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 3:19 NLT

The love of Christ. Just the very thought of it drove Paul to his knees in that prison cell. And he once again prays for his Ephesian friends, that his experience of the love of Christ would be experienced by them as well. But you can just imagine him shaking his head, sadly, appreciating and understanding that Christ’s love would be too much for them to fully understand. But he comforted himself with the thought that as they grew in the Christ-love-experience, they would grow in completeness, experiencing the “fullness of life and power that comes from God“. 

Have we experienced the love of Christ? Has it permeated into our lives, changing who we are and what we do? Are we grumpy pilgrims who have shut out the love of Christ from our lives, being bounded and constrained instead by our sinful natures? Or are we renewed people, with Christ’s love displacing the selfishness and anger that can so easily grow inside of us? Are we a people who are experiencing “all the fullness of life and power that comes from God”

I suppose it boils down to the question, what is filling our lives? Paul wanted his friends to be filled with everything that God had for them. He wanted them to live a life worthy of their calling. He wanted them to experience the power of God working through their lives, as they acted as “salt and light” in their communities. Nothing has changed in the centuries between Paul’s letter and today. The prayer Paul prayed for his friends has echoed through time, touching countless people throughout the world. And it is still alive and active in our own lives. The path before us has been well-trodden by many pilgrims over the years and as we place our feet in their footsteps, let us feel the love of Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us, as He did with them.

Perhaps it is a good exercise to personalise this verse. To adapt it to become our personal prayer. To allow our thinking to turn away from a few Christians in a past time, to instead touch us today. The prayer would look something like this, “May [I] experience the love of Christ, though it is too great [for me] to understand fully. Then [I] will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God“. And perhaps add something like “Please help me to fully understand Your love, allowing it to transform my life this day and forever”. This is a prayer that, if prayed sincerely, God will never fail to answer. Amen.

The Fourth Dimension

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.”
Ephesians 3:18 NLT

Another verse with that “power” word. Some would question how a helpless prisoner could write about power. But that would be because they don’t understand anything about God’s power and what He had planned for Paul’s life. In this verse Paul was praying that God’s people would grasp how extensive and complete God’s love is, but Paul thought that God’s power would be required to help them understand.

We live in a three-dimensional world. If we pick up any object we can see that it has length, height and depth. Three dimensions. If we consider our homes, they have three dimensions – length, height and depth. We have transport systems that switch between two-dimensional and three-dimensional travel, for example an aircraft. And in this technical age we have very clever computer apps that are able to design three dimensional objects and then we have 3D printers that will manufacture them. Amazing! But our physical world is just how God designed and created it, in three dimensions. 

But in our verse today, it was as though Paul was introducing a fourth dimension. He wrote about width, length, height and depth. So what did he mean? Was it just a repetitive slip of his pen? Or did he have something else in mind, in his thoughtful prayer? Something else relevant and to do with God’s love? 

I’m sure the theologians have their answers, but for me I believe Paul was saying something significant about God’s power. Whatever we think, or the Ephesians thought, there is something about God’s love that is, well, just complete. It is so extensive that we will never totally understand it, and then by a huge margin. It has depths that we will never be able to plumb. It has height that is unmeasurable. It has width that extends across every human being who has ever lived, or who is yet to come. Our world is permeated by God’s love. But this fourth dimension? I believe that this is eternity. For me, Paul was describing a love that was not only unmeasurable in our three dimensional space, but was with us for all time, for eternity. 

And so it is today. We pilgrims are traveling through an amazing cosmos. We have all that we need for physical life – air, water, food etc. – but we also have all that we need for our spiritual life. And it starts and ends with God’s love. I imagine it to be all around us like oxygen but for our very spirits. It is there all around us, but we cannot see it with our physical senses. It’s not something we can measure. But God’s love is so extensive and complete that words cannot describe it. Was that Paul’s difficulty as he wrote this verse from the confines of his mind, from the confines of his prison cell? We received a glimpse of God’s love at Calvary, when His Son, Jesus, gave His life for us, for the redemption of our sins. And the same love is still around us today. Seasoned with God’s grace. Disseminated by the Holy Spirit. Covering us day by day. And all we have to do is take deep spiritual breaths to receive it. No wonder in that prison cell, as the enormity of God’s love suddenly hit him, that Paul fell to his knees. What else could he do before our truly loving God? And the same for us. What else can we do? And on our knees we humbly express our praise and thanks, worshipping at His feet. 

In our pilgrimage through life, we do so, rubbing shoulders with our fellow members of society, with our family, with our friends. But do we individually bask in a God-love-bubble? In splendid isolation, keeping His love just to ourselves? There’s something about God’s love that has to be shared. We are wired to spread this love to those around us, the unloved, the lonely, the weary, the spiritually starving. There is something within us that bursts to tell others. We can’t keep it in. So in our war-torn world, we do what Jesus said, we love our enemies. We love the unlovely. Warts and all. And perhaps, through us, they too will feel the love of God in all its width, its height, its length, its depth; the oxygen of God’s Spirit infusing into their very own souls as well as ours. Jackie Pulling is quoted as saying, “God wants us to have soft hearts and hard feet. The trouble with so many of us is that we have hard hearts and soft feet”. She explained that we need to have soft hearts to love people, and hard feet to keep on loving them. Let us pray that we too have soft hearts, with the power to understand “How deep [God’s] love is“.