Friday, 26 November 2004

Another November Blog

The following passage from Deuteronomy 11:10-15 was a word which the Lord used some twenty years ago in initially opening my eyes to see that there was something more and better than the institutional church life in which I had been involved for nearly half a century;

"For the land which you are entering to take possession of is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it with your feet, like a garden of vegetables; but the land which you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land which the Lord your God cares for , for the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it , from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. And if you will obey my commandments which I command you this day to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your soul, He will give the rain for you land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be full."

For me the garden of vegetables in the land of Egypt was a picture of institutional church life in which I had spent most of my life. It demands so much human input like planning programmes, raising finance, recruiting personnel, advertising etc. It is all hard work, like irrigating the desert plot with a treadmill waterwheel. And the result is a small patch of productivity in the wilderness, which needs constant work just to keep it alive and going.

The land of God's promise on the other hand was to be entirely His care. He said He would provide the water by the rain from heaven in its due time, and He would see that the vineyards, the fields of crops and the cattle would all flourish. What a contrast!

What would be required of us? Just three simple things:
" Our wholehearted love.
" Our unquestioning obedience to His word.
" Our willing service.

It is these same three simple things that Jesus asked of His disciples in John 14:15-24. Read these verses for yourself.

It is my prayer that, for some out there who read this blog, these words spoken to Moses in the distant past of Israel's history, and the words of Jesus recorded by John will do for them what they did for me, and open for them a door of release from the realm of religious obligations to the institutional church system into the joyous freedom of living in the land which the Lord Himself cares for, and in which their only obligations are to live each day in close love-relationship with Him, and to obey His voice.

Note too that this land of promise is NOT LIKE what we have come out from. It is sadly possible to come out of the institution and end up with something just like what we had left. I see more and more evidence of this in some branches of the current so-called House-Church Movement We need to lay aside our ideas of what we think the land should be like, and simply walk into it in humble trust, letting the Lord determine the form and structure of our relationships with others who share our venture of faith. God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are our ways God's ways. His thoughts and ways are much higher than ours.(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

November Blog

You will see a new article on the site, "Zechariah Speaks Today" This is something I wrote a few years ago, after a long time of soaking in and meditating on the relevance of the messages of the Minor Prophets in our day. Over the next month or two I will add other articles based on these so-called Minor Prophets.

Part of this article on Zechariah underlines one of the major portions of T. Austin Sparks writing on "The Positive Ground of the Church" (August blog, "Prophetic Men") where he expresses his concern that those who come out of organized religious structures could yet end up with yet another man-made organization, and miss the purposes of God in calling them out. I share that concern. Having been part of a vibrant House church which set out so fruitfully, yet which has now become just like most other organized churches, I am speaking from experience. More and more I am coming to see that we must keep our hands off what God is doing. Our responsibility is to know Him, to cultivate our relationship with Him as our loving Father and to respond with obedience to the promptings of His Holy Spirit. He will build His Church and relate us to other living stones in the building, and we must let Him do it His way and lay aside any preconceptions as to what that should be.

Just this morning Margaret and I read this passage in Jeremiah 50:4-5 :
"In those days and in that time, says the Lord, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come; and they shall seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned towards it, saying,'Come let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant which will never be forgotten,' "

May we be such people whose priority is seeking the Lord and joining ourselves to Him, asking the way to Zion, His perfect way of Church, and listening for His answer.