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.
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.
What a joy it is has been to see people coming to Christ and being baptised. Many fellowships do not see or experience what we are walking through in HICC in these days. It is all by His grace and by His hand. It does however, bring great responsibility to each partner and attendee. Our responsibility is to ‘live a life worthy of the calling we have received’. We must operate in life in such a way as to release the full expression of God’s Kingdom among us.
How do we do this?
The answer is found in how we serve together. In HICC we use the Biblical term ‘partnership’. Partnership is about walking in the unity of the Spirit and aligning ourselves as one body to the purpose of God. What an exciting prospect for us all. Where else can one find such purpose and cooperation? It is spiritual work with eternal accomplishments. This lifts it beyond just being part of a secular organisation or club. We are part of the ‘Ekklesia of God, which is the community of heaven who are still on the earth because we are a ‘people belonging to God’. We must be willing partners and serve with a right heart and spirit. It is a joy and privilege to serve together in the work of the Lord.
Who should be involved?
The answer is found in our calling. We believe God called you to belong to Himself and has placed you in the Church right where He wants you to be so it is not an accident that you are part of HICC. We hope you will become a partner with us because Partnership is such a vital part of our DNA as a Church. We want you to be fulfilled and complete what God has called you to do, and the best way for this to happen in HICC is to partner with us. This is where we agree to walk together as co-workers with Christ. It lets the leaders and the family know that you are committed and willing to serve alongside others in the family of HICC. (Please complete the form in the newsletter and pop it in the white letterbox in the foyer and we will process your request)
Why build this way?
The answer is because wise building requires strong structures. You have perhaps heard me say that what holds a building together is unseen. The foundations and steel structures are mostly unseen, but without these vital components the building would collapse. Jesus is the foundation and His completed work is the only foundation upon which we can build, but we have the responsibility of building wisely upon rock and not sand. Our prayer is that every partner will serve to build the fellowship wisely and that you will remain at your post, belong to the family and serve with all your heart.
Finally; Miriam and I are available to support you as we walk forward together. Let’s enjoy the journey as God takes us into new days together.
Pastor Paul & Miriam
As the curtain closes on 2015 and dawn breaks on 2016 we may begin to reflect and contemplate in a way that perhaps we do not at any other time of year. Reflection and memories can trigger very powerful reactions and emotions in us. These can be helpful or harmful depending on how we handle them.
CELEBRATE THE PAST AND TREASURE EVERY GOOD MEMORY
I remember the excitement in my heart when, as a little boy, I skipped along at the side of my mum or nanna and made my way to the family home known as 37 Mill Lane, Billingham. The sound of crisp untrodden snow seemed mellow and hushed by the drifts as it crunched under my feet. The smell of fish and chips wrapped in newspaper tantalised my taste buds and made the walk from the top of the lane seem so much further for little legs. This was a typical Sunday evening after a service in the family Church that was experiencing a tremendous move of the Holy Spirit. If only one could go back and savour once again moments etched on the memory that have served to shape the people we have become. I remember being surrounded by the love of an extraordinary family who knew how to love, laugh and cry together as they journeyed through life on route to the higher calling of God.
While we treasure every memory we cannot return to relive any moment that has passed. It was just a few years ago that we as a family drove down the lane and parked where the old house once proudly stood surrounded by mature trees and high hedges. You can still walk through the same garden gate and walk the paths laid by the hand of my grandad. If I was to open the garage door that still stands today I am sure the smell of oil and leather would cascade over my senses and take me back to moments when I would watch my grandad standing at his workbench as he cobbled the family shoes. Sadly the actual house has been replaced by a modern pair of semi-detached homes that are void of character. The building may have gone but my memories linger long.
CULTIVATE THE FUTURE BY SETTING YOUR VISION ON THE ROAD AHEAD
It would be only too possible for me to allow nostalgia and memories of bye-gone days to affect emotions and distract my focus from the future. We rightly celebrate the things God has done in the past but we are called to press on in the purpose of God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit Paul the Apostle wrote these awesome words, Philippians 3 v 12 -14 ………. ‘I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus’. The previous verse reveals Paul’s highest goal for his life. ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead’. He speaks of the possibility of the Spirit filled believer living in the power of the resurrection of Christ.
There is a literal, physical resurrection in the future for us, but here Paul is referring to resurrection life being lived while we remain in the body. This is only experienced as our old self is being crucified with Christ. Not a literal crucifixion but a spiritual laying down of ourselves in surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. He also refers to the believer walking through times of suffering for the sake of Christ and his purpose. Whatever this year may bring, we all must set our vision on the road ahead. Be it smooth or rough we must live it for the glory of Christ. Sometimes our greatest moments of victory are experienced in the darkest hour. May God empower you to complete everything he has purposed for you in 2016.
I was recently driving my car, having picked up two of my grandchildren from school, when we began to talk excitedly about Christmas not being very far away. To my surprise my seven year old granddaughter responded in a very dramatic way stating; ‘Yes Papa; I was just saying to my friends today that it will soon be Christmas.’ She was so looking forward to it and then suddenly she said; ‘where does time go? Don’t the years fly by’? I giggled inside as I agreed with her statement. We must use our time well in service to God.
ARE YOU PLANNING A CHRIST FILLED CHRISTMAS?
Christmas will come and go as fast as ever and we will step into the New Year. It is actually possible for Christians not to focus on Christ at Christmas and to look back with disappointment at the Christmas season. This is not just family time for those who know Christ. It is more than a winter festival with the ‘tree tops glistening and children listening to hear sleigh bells in the snow’. It is the celebration of the birth of our Saviour which is one of our most important celebrations in the Christian calendar. We have the responsibility to ensure our Christmas is not ‘deep and crisp and even’ with all the glitter and tinsel, but that this Christmas is filled with the power, peace and presence of the Most High God. Set your heart in the right place and focus upon filling your Christmas with Christ rather than filling your stocking with worldly goods.
‘A SAVIOUR HAS BEEN BORN TO YOU; HE IS CHRIST THE LORD’.
This message rings out through every generation. In eternity past, present and future. The message of the coming saviour is the same, yesterday, today and forever. ‘A saviour has been born to you’. To you personally and to all the world. ‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him’. ‘He is Christ the Lord’. I am reminded of the words of the famous carol; ‘Jesus was born to raise the sons of earth, and born to give them second birth’. He existed in eternity past, stepped into time, did everything necessary to save us and return to the Father’s right hand. One day Jesus will return in power and glory and we will reign with him forever. We have every reason to fill our Christmas with thanksgiving and celebration. Hallelujah! Make your Christmas the most Holy Spirit filled Christmas you have ever known as you enjoy every moment the family at HICC is together in celebration.
The Bible makes it plain. Where your spiritual eyes are focused will determine the direction you will take. We cannot walk forward into God’s purpose without our eyes focused in the direction He is leading us.
Hebrews 12 v 2 instructs us to fix our eyes upon ‘Jesus; the author and perfecter of our faith’. Proverbs 4 v 25 – 27 gives us clear instruction about how to make spiritual progress as we move forward in life and service
- Let your eyes look straight ahead.
- Fix your gaze directly before you.
James 1 v 8 explains that a double minded man is unstable in all he does. One Christian writer called such a Christian; ‘Mr facing both ways’. We must operate in faith and strong belief in God’s Word, then we will not be blown around by circumstances and affected by the trials. Even the trials we face will become stepping stones to victory.
James teaches that spiritual stability comes from our perseverance of faith. I refer to very specific faith that breaks through and lifts us beyond the limitation of natural thinking and perception. It is faith that rests upon the Word of God and not just a human view or opinion. It is Holy Spirit produced in us as we stand upon truth being unwilling to move to the right or left. The promise of the Lord is that ‘’He will make level paths for our feet” as we walk in ways that are firm not swerving from the planned course of the Lord. We will keep our feet from evil.
In 2 Corinthians 5 v 7 the Apostle Paul challenges us to live by faith and not by sight. The unseen realm is the sphere where spiritual activity is always taking place and, although we exist in the physical, we are involved in the realm of the spirit. Our physical location is on the earth but our spiritual position is ‘In Christ’ and we are seated with Him in the heavenly realms. It is this positioning that enables us to operate in the finished work of Jesus. His victory in the cross and resurrection is ours but where our eyes are fixed will affect our approach to everything.
Seeing beyond the physical enables the Christian to pray effectively as he recognises the battle is not against flesh and blood but with spiritual wickedness in high places. 2 Corinthians 10 v 3 – 5 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 to make them obedient to Christ’.
We are in an exciting season as a fellowship as we prepare for the future together. We must not look back, we must not look to the left or the right. We must look up to Jesus. We must look straight ahead and face the future with perseverance and determination to finish everything God has called us to fulfil together.
‘Change is here to stay whether we like it or not.’
Change for some can be so exciting, while for others it can be their worst nightmare causing a very real issue in their heart and mind. I recall just how different our children were in this particular area. My son Ben was thirteen years old when we moved to Bristol on a beautiful Saturday in September 1992 and was to begin attending his new senior school on the Monday. Off he went full of confidence and excitement at all the possibilities for the future with no fear or uncertainty. He met a young man that first day who turned out to be a distant relative in our family and a Christian. They became firm friends; how amazing God is. My two girls were quite different from each other. My eldest daughter, Rachel, much preferred things to remain the same. Knowing how things would be and what she would have to face and handle was like a safety net to her, while my youngest daughter handled change face on and embraced all that a new challenge can bring.
When Abraham was called to leave his earthly father’s house and go to a land God would show him it involved several faith steps that we at times mirror in our walk with the Lord. God knew the end from the beginning but Abraham had to move in faith. This involved several facets we would do well to practice.
- He had to trust in the sovereign Word of His heavenly Father, not knowing what he would face on route.
- He had to set off resting in the knowledge God had communicated to him.
- He had to believe in the promise of God: God had spoken saying; ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you’.
This promise for Abraham was not just a prophetic Word for himself and his earthly offspring it was an eternal prophesy concerning Jesus because God was speaking of the blessing that would come through Christ. This included every person who would take the step of faith to trust in the sovereign will of the Father, rest in the Knowledge of God and believe in the promise of God.
For the New Testament disciples everything was about to change as Jesus began to speak about having to go away, even though He also promised He would return. The early disciples had no understanding that Jesus would not return for over two thousand years, after all Jesus had said to them; ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me again.’ Jesus may well have been referring to them seeing Him before the ascension in His resurrected state, however, two thousand years of time when measured in the light of eternity is a little while.
The early disciples had to learn and mature in the faith quickly and handle change in an environment of persecution. In the UK the hardship we have had to face is nothing when compared with those who live in countries where real persecution has broken out. The early Church was not concerned with establishing a comfortable life and secure future, although we must have wisdom and plan wisely, they ‘loved not their lives unto death.’ The changes we desire are not the changes that come through the influence of man, but that which comes through the influence of God. We can transition together into the new things God has for us as the family of HICC and embrace change without fear because our faith and trust is in the Lord.