PREPARING FOR CHURCH GROWTH

There are far more ingredients needed to cause a fellowship to grow than we may think even though the Lord has promised ‘to build His Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’.  God has placed within the Church the necessary gifting in order that it might grow. Ephesians 4 v 11 tells us that it was Christ who gave some to be Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers. These Holy Spirit gifted people are raised up to ‘prepare God’s people for works of service’ and, as each ministers, the body of Christ is built up. (Edified)  Three measurable outcomes happen as believers respond in a right heart; 1. Unity in the Faith. 2: Knowledge of the Son of God. (Relational Knowledge- not just facts) 3: Maturity in Christ. (Character transformation attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ)

The passage continues to remind us that further factors are vital that Church growth might really happen. Let me point them out for you:

  • SPIRITUAL STABILITY: It is vital that we become stable in our spiritual walk with Christ. The foolish man built his house on sand while the wise man built his house upon the rock(Christ is the rock) It is knowledge of the Word and application of Truth that will stabilise our spiritual life
  • SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT- to know, understand and judge in the realm of the spirit. In the early Church there were false teachers who presented something that was as near to the truth as possible, but was in actual fact as far away from truth as it could be. Error is error no matter how cleverly or deceptively presented. We are living in times when we need to discern that which truly is of God. The Word is our measuring plumb line which keeps us on the straight path. We walk the narrow way because the wide path leads to destruction. May God sharpen our spiritual discernment. HICC NEEDS TO BE A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE LEARN AND DISCERN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THAT WHICH IS OF GOD AND THAT WHICH IS NOT.
  • SPIRITUAL SUPPORT: The Church should be an environment shaped by support mechanisms that selflessly serve to support the weak and enable them to grow strong until they take their place in affective service. In our garden we have a nesting box that has become the home of nesting blue tits. They busily work away and prepare for babies to hatch. The other morning I saw that a cat had stealthily climbed up a nearby bush to try to reach the box. I burst into the garden and scared away the cat. I stepped in to protect. One day the parents will push the young to fly. When they know they are ready they will encourage them to leap and fly. Before that time they will practice and strengthen their wings until they are mature enough to take the step. HICC NEEDS TO BE A PLACE WHERE THE YOUNG CAN GROW STRONG AND BE READY TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP. TO SOAR ON WINGS AS EAGLES. This does not mean leave, it means achieve.
  • SPIRITUAL LOVE: There is nothing sentimental about pure spiritual love. This love is God produced and grows as Christ is shaped within us. It is strong love and yet gracious. We need to know this love that surpasses knowledge because we rely on this love and must live a life of love. Galatians 5 v 6 says………’The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love’. That which is of God manifest through the vehicle of our nature and lives. HICC NEEDS TO BE FILLED WITH THIS LOVE. LOVE THAT STANDS THE TEST AND STILL CONTINUE TO LOVE WITHOUT LIMITS.

FLORENCE

Pamela and I decided we would spend our first wedding anniversary in Florence; I had not been there before, but she had been three times. She eulogised about it, and it caught my interest. I had been to Italy once to preach many years ago and then on to Venice, so my knowledge of the country was meagre. The 25th wedding anniversary with my first wife was to Brittany in France, and after that we spent most years in California during the month of November. All I knew from my limited knowledge, was that Florence became the centre of medieval Europe and was and is noted for its Renaissance architecture, art, monuments, and culture. All fascinating subjects to me, for I once taught building to student architects.

We stayed in a hotel dating from the 12th century, and our room was large. It was about 6 metres to the ceiling and 8 metres square. The ceiling was hand painted in flowers and was exquisite. It had a super king bed, a five seater sofa, two leather chairs and a further divan which could convert to a bed, with plenty of room left over. We had a balcony overlooking a narrow street which was one car wide. In fact, many roads were like that. Most of those roads were cobbles or large dressed stones acting as cobbles. Thus, when we decided to have a horse and carriage drive around the city, the journey was more than slightly bumpy. Thankfully the horse was 24 years old and knew the route.

The first place we visited was the old prison now a museum called The Bargello. Amongst many sculptures it had a statue called the ‘Deposition’ or ‘Florence Pieta’ of the Christ taken down from the cross, with Nicodemus [possibly Joseph of Arimathea], Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary. Because of imperfections in the natural stone Michelangelo defaced the statue in his fury. He worked on it from 1547 -1553 and after his death it was completed by Tiberius Calcagni, who also restored it. It is said that the face of Joseph was his face. There was one statue I noticed of David and Goliath.  Goliath’s head was at David’s feet and had the stone still projecting from his forehead.  Goliath can be viewed allegorically as those who taunt and persecute God’s people of any nation, therefore, no wonder they do nutty things with that kind of impediment in their spiritual heads!

The other thing I noticed was that the zebra crossings are designed to kill people for no vehicle stops. It seems they accelerate as soon as someone wants to cross, and before one even contemplates putting one’s foot off the pavement, you stop and look around even look up as vehicles seem to come from nowhere. But, worst of all were the bicycles for the sound they produce is minimal. I was almost clobbered by a female cyclist who came towards me with amazing speed, as if pursued by the demons from hell, as I tried to cross at a legal crossing point. I came within a few millimetres of being seriously injured but was saved by Pamela.

The city was beautiful and full of artistry and a joy to behold. The most remarkable thing was the largest unsupported dome at the Duomo Cathedral, even more astounding was the simple tools they used to construct it. However, where there is a vision obstacles can be overcome. I am never surprised at man’s ingenuity, labour, output and patience. The skill was remarkable. The details were profoundly accurate and spoke for themselves as a silent witness to superb craftsmanship. In other words, what was worth doing was worth doing well.  Time appears not to have mattered; the job took precedence. Some buildings took centuries to complete.

It reminded me of our spiritual life, for God is in no hurry to perfect us. He has our lifetime to do it and his tools are very simple.  A relationship here and there, a few crisis points, a storm or two, a wilderness experience and famine. Job done; trust perfected, foundations deeply built, superstructure developed through fruits of the Spirit. Grace undergirding, mercy overflowing and love cascading everything. God’s ingenuity in making us faultless to appear before Him at a future time is beyond our comprehension. Florence is a statement of man’s creativity, and the church is God’s manifested inspiration before angels, demons and people of His supreme skill at taking flawed materials and making them into something unimpeachable. He must, like Michelangelo, get frustrated at our imperfections, but overlooks them to complete the job – Oh yes.

 

The Servant Queen

In the recent publication; ‘a tribute for her Majesty’s 90th birthday’ we are challenged by observing her life lived in service to her people. Her commitment to a lifelong vow made to God and the nation has sustained and enabled her to persevere in times of great challenge.

Our Queen clearly recognises that her authority comes from God and not just from our government. The book itself, which is beautifully produced by the Bible Society, HOPE and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, is entitled, ‘The Servant Queen and the King she serves’. This says it all and clearly states that we have a Queen who is not ashamed to confess her faith in the True and Living God. In her foreword to the Book she reminds us of a poem quoted by her father in his Christmas Day speech, broadcast in 1939, which was the year that our country went to war for the second time in a quarter of a century:

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the year; ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown’. And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.  That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.’

As a nation we are not at war in the conventional sense but we are engaged in a war against terrorism and all who oppose peace in the world. It is right that as believers we recognise in the spiritual realm there is a war being fought, and often this is played out in the natural across the face of the world as nation rises against nation. What happens in the spiritual realm is often mirrored in the natural realm because the Word of God says that ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ Ephesians 6 v 12

We have all gone out into the darkness because the Bible explains that this world lies in the arms of the evil one, but we are making our journey with our hand firmly fixed in the hand of God. ‘We are in the world but not of the world’ because we belong to God. We are called to serve the King of Kings who calls us to live with the same type of commitment we have seen in our Queen. God save the Queen and long may she reign over us.

 

 

 

 

 

The Stress of the Unfinished

The Stress of the Unfinished

“As the LORD commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.”  [Joshua 11:15]

We often get side-tracked into issues which are unworthy, unhelpful and unrewarding. Therefore, we must be diligent to ensure that we are not bamboozled by the devil who will endeavour to make us occupy too much of our effort in activities that go nowhere and achieve little. Joshua was conscientious to complete all the commands of God. There is a tendency to leave unfinished areas of ministry that need completion. Just enough is not enough. God’s greatest command to Joshua was to destroy and drive out the enemy. There is always a tendency to doubt God because we confuse human sympathy and divine compassion. God’s order was for their benefit not their punishment.

In another passage it says, “And Samuel said, what means then this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” [1] The bleating of sheep is the music of compromise. If we leave unfinished the commands of God we will find we are subject to continual harassment; our weakness will result in our captivity. Also, we will occupy our minds with issues that rob us of essential thinking to promote our destiny. When we are hurt we tend to brood on these issues to the exclusion of other necessary things. It robs us of our ability to make progress in other areas. The enemy has successfully tied our hands by inaction, but if you want to tie the feet of Satan wash the feet of saints.

The cry of Jesus on the cross meant our salvation was accomplished. Jesus finished His work, reached his destiny and made provision for our future. He sets us an example that we should follow. Paul says: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, and I have kept the faith:”[2] Do not give up, do not be side-tracked, but persevere to the end.

The tension of time

“Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, you are old and stricken in years, and there remains yet very much land to be possessed.” [Joshua 13:1]

Age strips our legs of pursuing power and we excuse ourselves from the fight because we believe that age militates against victory. 

We allow our call to be superseded because of the years. However, the growing epoch should not diminish the need for possession. The dynamics of destiny should not be moderated or curtailed by our birthdays; our advancing years ought not to diminish the need to possess our ‘mountain’ for God. David said:  “LORD, by your favour you have made my mountain to stand strong:”[3] Whatever our age or wherever we are in the progress of our life, our destiny waits. Do not let the dimness of the eye blur the fullness of the possession.

But, here is an interesting fact; the battle of the Western Bank kings which is recorded in Joshua 12:7-24 put that portion of land within the occupation of Israel yet it was 400 years after that the Jebusites were driven out by David [2 Samuel 5:6]. They failed to occupy what was theirs by divine grant. So near yet so far. Joshua because of his age delegated the possession to others, and they failed to fulfil it. “Kadesh Barnea is ours and we take it not”.

We must never be slack in driving out the dwellers of our nature both from original sin within and temptation from without. We should never cease to be amazed at the quantity of sin that still occupies our hearts and lives even with the passing of age to maturity. Older does not necessarily mean holier, but circumspection and diligence is a lifelong experience and process. It’s not starting but finishing.


[1] 1 Samuel 15:14

[2]  2 Timothy 4:7

[3]  Psalm 30:7

PLANET EARTH

On the 5th or 6th of June 2012 you could have bought yourself a silver shade 14 welding glass so you could see the black disc of the planet Venus crossing the sun for the last time this century. By doing that you could measure how far the sun is from the earth, which is an easier way of calculating the distance than those scientists who in 1761 and 1772 traversed the globe in an attempt to sight this phenomenon from all angles. The distance is 93,000,000 miles which is just right for our earth to function with a temperate climate; not too much heat, not too much cold, not too much rain, depending of course upon where we live. God has made all things in balance which enables mankind to flourish and develop the planet.

Some of the leading scientists of the day have therefore come to the conclusion that our globe did not arise from a big bang but a big God. There are too many apparent coincidences in science to believe that life is accidental or haphazard. Those who reject this philosophy stretch our imagination far beyond sense. We are too wonderfully made and by that miracle contradict fortuitous omega inclinations! 93,000,000 is about right, and when the Spirit said “let there be light,” there was light, and the sun hung in space blessing earth with its warming rays according to God’s formula.

If God got that celestial order right he can also get it right with mankind’s soul and its moral universe? Thus our recreated life can grow upward into the born-again likeness of God who sets in order three dimensional distances which allows our salvation-life to develop to maximum fruition? There is a distance associated with God and man which can be measured by the metaphorical depth of His grace, the width of His mercy and the height of His love.  Countless are the scriptural confirmations of this threefold overflowing to us, his children of the Way.

The depth of His grace is revealed by an all embracing acceptance of anybody who calls on His name. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” [Rom 10:13]. No matter the offence or the depths to which anyone has fallen, He will accept and forgive for eternity. His heart is so deep it is bottomless for the sinner, it can never overflow. Whosoever calls will be saved.
The width of His mercy is so embracing “for you have redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;” [Rev 5:9]. Colour is unimportant, for all are welcome in God. His arms stretch around the world reaching all peoples. No one has a longer reach, no one a tighter grip. At times our hold is weak due to trembling faith, but his covenant ensures that He will not lose anyone who trusts in His grace. “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” [John 10:28]

The height of His love reaches heaven where he intercedes daily; “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”[Hebrews 7:25]. Christ is in heaven making petition for us; he can get no higher, He is the ultimate authority and help “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” [Heb 2:18]. Further: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,” [Jude 24].


 

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is broader
than the measure of our mind
And the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

Was there ever kinder shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
the Saviour who would have us
Come and gather at His feet?

[F.W Faber]