In January 2016 we spent, as a fellowship, the entire month praying. If you remember we prayed the first week for Each Other; the second week for an Equipping of and by the Spirit; the third week for Expansion, which included ministry and evangelism; and finally in the fourth week we prayed for Every Other Church. We counted a total of 61 separate church prayer meetings that were held over the course of January and in that time God spoke to us clearly in 3 ways.
To Keep Praying
One of the strongest messages that came out from the 61 prayer meetings was – we don’t want to stop praying! We connected as a fellowship in ways we dared not imagine a year ago because we took time to meet together and pray. We gained common ground because we prayed for each other and with each other. We were all in this together. I feel I want to sing a song from High School Musical but I shall resist…
Anyway, there was a clear direction to keep praying not just because it was good for us to do that but because we understand that prayer is powerful in the purpose of God and as we pray we find ourselves praying into His purpose and away from our own agenda’s.
ICF has a purpose statement of glorifying God, reaching the lost and developing the found. That is outworked by having, primarily, a personal relationship with God through Jesus. And through that personal relationship with Jesus that should automatically affect how we deal with people who are not yet believers and those who already are.
If you take the illustration of the cross, it is a vertical piece of wood, crossed 3/4 of the way up by a horizontal piece. Jesus died on that cross for us, for me. For my sin, for my shame. None of us can get to heaven by our own merit but only on what Jesus has done. His shed blood, His death and His resurrection. The vertical aspect of the wood is the larger piece of wood, which speak to me of the primary importance of our vertical relationship with Jesus. We need to have that right first of all.
The horizontal piece on which Christ stretches His arms, speaks to me of the horizontal relationship we have with those who are not yet believers and those who are. We reach out to them with the love that Christ showed to us.
And what the Lord confirmed to us in January was that our purpose was confirmed. We need to have that relationship with Jesus as a priority in our lives; we need to reach out in love to one another and also that there is still a community, a town out there that need Jesus. And God still wants to use us in His purposes. That’s encouraging for us!
Thirdly, the Lord gave us direction through a very short prophetic word, but clear. And it was this, to worship round the perimeter of the Merkinch area. Because we believe this – that worship enthrones Jesus and dethrones the enemy. There was the illustration that Jesus used in Matthew 12:29 in which He says, “how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties us the strong man? Then he can rob his house”. And what we felt God was saying was that we need to tie up the strongholds by declaring that Jesus is Lord.
And so as a leadership team, we felt that we needed to do what God has asked us to do for 7 months – for the months of February through to August 2015. And so, what we put in place is was 2 monthly prayer meetings and one prayer hour per week to enable us to keep praying. We planned the worship round Merkich on a monthly basis as the outworking of our confirmed purpose to reach the lost; and we’ve put in place a monthly expansion meeting on a Sunday night as the outworking of our confirmed purpose to develop the found and above all, we’ve consistently preached and focused on the need for that personal relationship with Jesus and how fundamental He is to our lives.
And at times, it’s been hard, but it’s important that we do what God asks us to do because if we are faithful in the small things, then God will trust us with greater things and I firmly believe that’s where God is leading us towards – greater things.
So, what now? What has the Lord been saying to us over these past 7 months. Well for me it all began at the end of February 2015 when as a leadership team we went away for the weekend together and we invited Jon Morgans from Aberdeen Church, and he and his wife Mandy came over to share with us that weekend.
There were many things that God spoke to us about but the main thing was this – being and doing.
Being is about how you view yourself in God.
You see when we feel down, or when we need encouragement, what verses do we run to in the scriptures? We run to our life verses – those verses that we always, always get encouragement from – Psalm 23v1 – the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want; Jeremiah 29:11 – I have plans for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you; Jeremiah 31:3 – I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving kindness; Romans 8:37 that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Doing is what we do and Jon shared that we can’t be doing effectively unless it comes from a place of being. But there are dangers in only being and only doing.
So the illustration was this. Your left leg is called being and your right leg is called doing. So he got us to stand up and stand on our left leg. This is a reflection of us being without doing. We’re not going anywhere. We’re happy just to be in the being but eventually you see we start to wobble. Now switch over to the right leg called doing and we try and move forward and we can, but it can be a struggle and we could just end up going round in circles or eventually just give up because it’s too hard to keep going.
Now the point was this – you can be a “being” person and that can get you by for so long. Or you can be a “doing” person and you can make some progress for so long. But what God wants you to be is a being AND a doing person, because out of your being (step forward) you can do the doing and to do more you need to get the balance of the being and then the doing and what you find is that you start to make consistent progress – you start to make great strides for God. But it needs a balance of being and doing – the doing comes out of the being. Put another way the works come out of the faith.
And that was such a simple illustration but it spoke volumes to us – because what we realised was this – the church is full of people. And in John 16v33 Jesus says this, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”. So let’s look at trouble…
People that are made up of spirit, soul and body. The spirit became new when we were born again. It became alive when we accepted Jesus as our saviour. That’s what our life verses communicate into, our spirit. That’s our relationship with Jesus, that’s our being.
Our soul is a life long outworking – Romans 12:2 says that we are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our mind. It’s a continual activity to not conform to the pattern of this world. It’s in the present that our troubles, where our trials in this life lie.
And our body, well, that’s future because it will be made new!
So our trouble is not with God. It’s not even with this tent we live in. It’s our souls that the trouble is in – where our feelings and emotions lie are – it maybe because our body is falling apart, and sometimes it’s because of behaviour – either ours or someone else? Sometimes it just how we feel. Church is high demand grace because lots of people will fail and let us down. I will fail and yes, you will fail. Church life is high demand grace!
So what is the priority in church life? Is it dealing with trouble? Is it sorting out disputes, dealing with emotions – yes these things will undoubtedly happen because there are people in church – but is it the most important thing that needs to be taught? No, it’s not – because the only way to master sin, to change behaviour, to go through trouble, to forgive one another, to be gracious to each other as Christ is gracious to us – is out of a place of being; out of our relationship with Christ.
Look at the Cain and Abel. God said to Cain that if you do not do what is right then sin will lurk at the door, it desires to have you, but you must master it. The sacrifice of Abel was acceptable because his doing was out of his relationship with God – out of the being – out of his genuine worship to God. The sacrifice of Cain was not acceptable because his doing was just that – a doing – a duty – not out of the heart. And sin crouched at the door. Now sadly Cain did not master it because he murdered his brother.
But at that point when trouble comes, we have a choice. Do we let that trouble lead us down a road where sin is allowed to breed, or do we run to Jesus and rest in the being. As Jesus says in John 16v33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace (there is the being). In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”.
So the being is vitally important for us in dealing with the troubles of this life. And the being is vitally important for us in doing what Jesus wants us to do.
So that was February and this then ties into what God has been speaking to us about constantly, almost like every month – Matthew 11:28-30 – and this is Jesus speaking, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”
And you know this is so so important. God has been telling us this month after month, again and again and again – so we really need to pay attention and get this or we will not move forward.
And this is the first thing that I want to share about what the next steps are for us as a fellowship. We really need to understand what this means for us, to be in the place of being. To have that complete trust in Jesus. To have peace in Jesus irrespective of the trouble that we face. To know that rest in Him for our souls. To understand what it means to be yoked with Jesus.
So over the coming weeks on Sunday mornings, we’re really going to unpack this looking at other scriptures that speak of the same thing and we are believing that God is going to deal with a lot of our insecurities. He’s going to challenging us to go deeper in our relationship with Him, to get to grips with what this really means — because trouble will come – indeed I am certain many of us, including me, have trouble in this life now that means we need to depend and trust in Jesus – to rely on Him and to see us through we need to be in a place of being, I need to be in a place of being.
I don’t know what is ahead but I do know our Lord is telling us to come to Him, rest in Him, learn from Him, walk with Him and find a rest for our souls through the trouble in this life. To be in a place of being.
But what will the “doing” involve? Will it’s actually a very natural progression from what we have been doing for the last 7 months round this community. We have been praying for this community. We have been asking God to show His love to this community. We have been asking God over that last 7 months to tranform the lives of people in this community through the uplifted cross of Christ and people placing their trust in Jesus, asking for His forgiveness and to come into a relationship with Him. Where there is rubble, there will be repair; where there are security fences round lives, may there be a breaking of the chains and people being set free. May there be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit into lives that they may know Jesus. These are just some of the pictures that have been consistently coming back month after month after the teams have come back from their designated spots round Merkinch.
What the doing involves is actually very simple but very challenging. We are simply looking for each of us, in various ways, to build relationships with people in the community. That may mean a bunch of guys going to watch the Clach on Saturday; that may be getting involved in some of the things happening here in the centre; there is stuff going on at the bike shed; there are things happening in various places within this community that we can get involved in. You don’t even need to be a volunteer, you could just attend things. The important thing is the building of relationships with people. Friendship evangelism. There is no point in ICF doing some specific thing to reach out to this community when the community have no relationship with us. We need to be church in the community before the community come to church. Interestingly enough this was one of the main things that the national conference Ablaze talked about this year. Evangelism through relationships – so we’re not completely detached from what God is saying to us as a national church.
And this maybe outside our comfort zone for many of us, I know, it’s outside mine because believe it or not, I’m quite a shy person when it comes to meeting new people, to doing something new. But I am encouraged by Gideon who, if you remember, took his first step of faith at night with a bunch of mates. We are not asking you to go and run something, or even attend / go to a community event on your own – go with some mates. Not even asking you to get involved in something every week, just to go in the strength you have – do what you can do.
The disciples went to Jesus when there were 5000 people beside women and children to feed and they were overwhelmed at the need and said to Jesus “what will we do?”. But Jesus said – you give them something to eat. The disciples brought to Jesus what they had and then as they starting giving the people something to eat, behold a miracle took place. Yes the need is overwhelming, and we have been praying Lord, what will we do – and Jesus is saying – you go and make disciples.
You know we can pray and pray and pray for God to save people, and for God to touch people’s lives and we can pray for Jesus to reveal Himself to them – and He can do that – but he chooses to use faulty people like you and me. He wants to use you in His purposes. And God is saying – you give them something to eat. You be my instrument. You open your mouth and I will fill it.
And to encourage that, our Sunday nights will be looking at how Jesus interacted with people – how did Jesus build relationships. The woman of Samaria, Levi, Rich Young Ruler, Peter, people with disease, you name it Jesus dealt with all kinds of people with all kinds of issues who had all kinds of reactions and we will be asking the question – what can we learn from Jesus about how we should interact with people – in other words learn from Jesus and walk with Jesus.
You see the link? In the morning services we focus of being – coming to Jesus, in the evening services we’re learning from Jesus and during the week we are walking with Jesus. A continual balance of being and doing.
Now I know many people are already involved in things, and building relationships in the community and beyond – great – keep at it, but for others, there is a challenge. Now I dont want anyone to feel guilty about what they feel they are not doing; neither do I want anyone to feel proud about what they are doing. That is not the intent. The encouragement and the challenge is stretch the tent pegs just a little more by using what God has given you ability to do and build relationships with people you already know and also those you don’t know with a view to reaching them with the love of Jesus.
And finally the first thing that we agreed that needed to be done – is we need to keep praying. We need to keep praying and praying because that’s our powerhouse. So we will still be having the monthly prayer meeting on the 2nd Tues of the month, the prayer on the 2nd Sun of the month after the service and still, God willing, having the prayer hours, as well as the intercessory prayer meeting. Plenty opportunity for everyone to be involved in praying together.
So to summarise what we feel led to do going forward for the next step in our journey is
Sunday mornings focused on “being” – really unpacking that scripture of coming to Jesus all who are weary and I will give you rest for your souls
Sunday evening focused on teaching regarding the “doing” – not only in the lessons from how Jesus interacted with people, but also doing in terms of exercising our spiritual muscles as part of the sunday evening service
Look to get involved in community activities to build relationships with people in the community – take church to community so that community will come to church – can be whenever you can manage, in whatever strength you have – on your own or with mates
And covered all by prayer, prayer and then more prayer.
This is not just a programme for the sake of a programme. This is the next step in the outworking of our purpose that God confirmed in January. This is something that, as a leadership team, together, we really sense that this is what God is asking us to do in the next step in our journey as ICF into all that God has for us. We sense something in God that thrills us of what He will do among us. This is what David Williams was excited about, ICF was almost poised… But like all steps of faith, it needs to be a step that we can take. And so this is a step that not overstretching us – not unachievable, we have faith for this – but it is stretching us and yes there will be trouble/ challenges which is why it’s so important that we know what it means to walk with Jesus and know his peace irrespective of what is around us.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. Are you ready to go deeper in God, to trust Him more, to love Him more, to surrender your life to Him more? Are you ready to learn to love people as Jesus did and to put that love into action by building relationships with people we don’t yet know? Are you ready to keep pushing on in prayer that His kingdom will come and His will be done – to keep praying for each other, equipping with and by Spirit, for expansion in ministry and souls being found and also praying for every other church because we are not alone – we serve with our wider church family to reach this city and this nation for Jesus.
Glorifying God, Reaching the Lost and Developing the Found. Out worked by being and doing for our God is faithful. He has not abandoned us. He has been guiding us and He is always in control. Thank you Lord for your faithfulness to us
as a church and we trust in your direction. Help us Lord we pray to be faithful to you by following you. Thank you Jesus.