When preparing this message I felt God say, 'speak stillness - preach My presence'. So that got me started in unpacking exactly what His presence is and how we can experience it. You can listen to this message via the Thameside Church website.
We understand God’s presence most vividly when we experience the place without it.
Gen 4:4-14 The story of Cain and Able
God looked at Cain (his heart) and his offering (his gift) and wasn't pleased. This led to Cain, through anger and envy, murdering his brother Able. The blood of his brother Able then cried out to God - this was an evil sacrifice in God's eyes and therefore Cain was cast out of His presence.
Gen. 4:14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
Hidden from His presence - characteristics
• Restlessness - Suspicious of other people's intentions
• Insecurity – Cain tried to redeem himself from his wondering state by the activities of his own hand - building cities etc. How much of what we make and do are built over insecurity?
• Vengence – bringing retribution with your own hands. Gen 4:23-24 Lamech continued to live under the curse of Cain and a heart attitude of revenge increased in him. Out of God's presence we live in unforgiveness – 'Seventy Seven times he will avenge!'
Ps 16 King David was an old Covenant figure that foreshadowed the state we can all have as Christians of being in God's presence.
Found in His Presence – characteristics
• Satisfied – He has assigned me my portion
• Sustained and protected – He is before me, and at my right hand!
• Joyful – I like joy, but I like fullness better!
• Eternity secure – not afraid of death
• Knowing the path of life – The path of life is a path where His presence is. What helps keep you on that path?
Old Covenant encounters with God’s presence always involved sacrifice
New Covenant encounters with God always involve Jesus as God's mercy for us
1. Surrender: the encounter of His presence
• Rom 12 our acceptable act of Worship is Surrender
• Surrender is not doing nothing. It’s doing everything for a different reason
• John 15:5 To be grafted into the vine, our original source for life must be left behind. Without surrendering our individualism we cannot be united with Christ.
• Apart from Him I can do nothing – because I am not functioning from my old source of life - insecurity outside God's presence.
2. Worship: the language in His presence
• Rom 12 New English Translation (NET Bible) Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters,1 by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God2–which is your reasonable service.
• By becoming more aware of God in our daily lives and making mention of Him in our hearts before and after all we do, loving worship will become a natural language for our soul – Brother Laurence - The Practice of the presence of God
3. Mission: the action in His presence
• Our mission is Jesus’ mission. What are the attributes of God’s presence we see in Jesus?
• John 5 Jesus lived in relation to the father always - so for us to be near the father, we must be on mission with Jesus.
• John 15:9-15 No longer servants but friends – Servants are task driven, Friends are heart driven. Friends function from ‘presence’, Servants function from ‘commands’.
1 John 3:11-20
• Don’t be like Cain but like Able.
• As Jesus laid down his life…
Jude’s Doxology v24,25
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
This is a day of celebration.
What are we celebrating?
We celebrate that we know God as our Father.
Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “…much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” (Rom 5:15)
We celebrate that the Holy Spirit has poured the love of God into our hearts, but much more than that, He empowers us to live godly lives, He is a down payment of the life that is to come when Jesus returns; and not only all that, but we also get to be used by the Holy Spirit as He works His gifts through us in words of knowledge, prophecy, faith, healings and so on in everyday life situations.
We celebrate that we have been called out of the world and called together to be a local church with a presence in many towns and villages that surround Reading, and with two Sunday meetings, one here and the other at the Burnham Resource Centre, near Slough.
Today I am going to tell you something at the outset of this talk that is NOT going to seem like it something to celebrate. But I believe that it is something to celebrate and that it is something visionary (which is an important part of these celebration meetings).
What I am going to tell you is that Andy and Debbie and Eric are going back into the market place to find jobs. They are no longer going to be on full-time paid staff at the church.
When we shared this on Wednesday night with the leaders, Remus said that we could look at this and think, “Everything is falling apart.” But he went on to say, “Yet I feel in my spirit that we are on the right track, that there is something wonderful happening, and that God is in this.”
I’d like to try and explain why Remus would say such a thing at the end of our leaders meeting.
There are three reasons why this is a good thing:
1. OUR CHURCH’S FINANCES
Here are some slides of our finances for the last 2 years and 8 months. This first slide is our income for this period, averaged every 3 months. The straight line in this graph is the trend line that the spreadsheet puts in.
Over the last nine months:
Our avg. monthly income has been: £15 710
Our avg. monthly expenditure has been: £16 932
Shortfall: £1 222
This slide is of our Bank Accounts. The straight blue line in the middle is our building fund which we don't touch as it is designated giving and can only be used for this purpose. The ski slopes are all the other accounts!
Our Alms account: £5; Apostolic: £5; Building: £5580; Savings: £192
Current Account as of Wednesday this week: £ 8 080
With all projected Income and Expenditures this month, we are, as of Wednesday, £ 4833 short, with three Sunday’s offerings to come.
We are praying and trusting God for this month. Andy and Debbie’s notice period is three months, Eric’s, two months, and so we will be trusting God to provide for that time.
The obvious truth is that we cannot and should not continue like this. The Charities Commission make the strong recommendation that a charity function with three months finances in reserve in case of emergencies. We haven’t had that for a little while now. Not good.
As I wrestled with this decision, I believe that the Lord led me to research the concept of “famine” in the Bible.
Please turn with me to:
Genesis 12:10 (ESV)
10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.
Genesis 13:1-2 (ESV)
1 So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb.
2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.
Genesis 26:1-6 (ESV)
1 Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines.
2 And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you.
3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.
4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,
5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” 6 So Isaac settled in Gerar.
Genesis 26:12-14 (ESV)
12 And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him,
13 and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy.
14 He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him.
Genesis 45:9-11 (ESV)
9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry.
10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have.
11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’
Ruth 1:1 (ESV)
1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
We learn two things from these passages:
1. When there is a famine where we are, God expects us to just do whatever is necessary. To move. To make a change.
2. When we do take the necessary action, but continue to trust in God, God does two things:
i. He not only takes care of our needs but actually prospers us, and
ii. He also uses our circumstances to work something wonderful for the Kingdom of God.
2. WE ARE ENTERING A NEW SEASON AS A CHURCH.
Prophetic Word from Dave Stroud at Churches Together at the Hayes 27/10/2010
Sean, I can see the Spirit resting on you and I can see that there is…I can see vision for you (you and I talked briefly last night in terms of you being in Reading) there’s fresh vision for you. You came with some things in your heart which have got lost over the last 10 years. The Lord wants to bring those things back and he wants to broaden them.
And I can see this river that has been flowing steadily but quietly, and then I can see rapids and I can see the Lord wanting to speed the whole thing up. And I can hear Him calling you. He’s calling you. He’s saying “My Son, I’m calling you to seek me at this time.” I even wonder Sean whether it may involve some fasting. One of the words I can see are “prayer and fasting”.
That you would seek the Lord, that you are not content with the slow steady pace of the river that is flowing. That you’re longing is for an increase, those rapids.
I believe the Lord says, as you seek me I will increase the rapids in your life and that will then open the door for the rapids to flow in other places as a result. Do not, do not, Sean, preconceive how I am going to work and what I am going to do but you’re to seek me my son and I will answer your own personal prayers for your own personal life that you have been asking me about and then I will take things on corporately as well but at this minute in time, my son, I want to meet with you, and I want to answer the prayers that you have been praying.
This new season is about fostering a discipleship culture throughout Thameside church, and being more missional as a church.
Let me try and illustrate what we are aiming at with a diagram.
Explain pastoral church as opposed to missional church.
I believe that in this change, part of it is a change in our staffing.
When staffing for a purely “pastoral” church, one tends to staff a little “top-heavy” to care for people, provide services, and hopefully to stimulate growth in an attractional church way.
With the emphasis on a discipleship culture and on being a “missional” church comes the ability, if not the requisite, to be “top-light” in staffing.
I also believe that there is a theology for church leaders to reengage with the marketplace in order to lead from the front when it comes to being missional. E.g. the apostle Paul, John Wimber, Chuck Smith (Calvary Chapel founder) returned to the marketplace for God reasons.
3. THIS IS GOD’S BEST
I am convinced in my knower that this is God’s best for us, and that it will be the best for the Crebas and for the Rutgrinks.
Please pray for them to find work locally and ideally suited to them.
Please also pray for the process as Thameside slowly changes into becoming a missional church as opposed to a purely pastoral church.