There is an invisible thread running between the opening of the Genesis story, “In the beginning, God,” through the Law “love the Lord your God with all…” and the Prophets, “These are the Scriptures that testify about me,” into the salvation narrative, “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them,” and reaching Revelation as The King of Kings declares “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” The Book is the story of a magnificent God, His relentless love for His people, and the purposeful revelation of redeeming grace woven throughout the history, poetry and prophets, law and grace of the narrative.
IGNITE THE FLAME
It is quite fascinating that the biblical story is written over a period of around sixteen hundred years and by more than forty authors of such a diverse background as kings, scholars, peasants, fishermen, poets and herdsmen. This narrative is a compelling read and is highly recommended for participating in the revealing of the living God. Outstanding in wisdom, slow to anger and swift to bless. As we enter, learn and engage within the lives of these biblical people our own understanding of God’s greatness and transforming power will not be lacking. As a result, our own journey will carry a unique freshness and our lives will be wonderfully effective. He wants to ignite our lives with a flame that burns brightly with His love. He invites you today into a relationship that is infinitely better than anything you have ever known. Why not RSVP?
IDENTIFYING A GAP
However, within the last few decades of watching Christians closely within the life and growth of the Church, I see a gap. That divide is best described by two statements in scripture. The first is Jesus’ chat with Nicodemus and the conversation that focuses on new birth and life. The second is found in one of the apostle Paul’s letters, “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” We would agree that there is something wonderful about the new birth. In the natural world, we experience this in life when a mom gives birth and the baby becomes the centre of attraction. Can you hear Him whisper “You are the very centre of my attraction?”
DISCIPLESHIP IS A KEY
The challenges of decision making, tiredness and upheaval are soon the point of focus as the child grows up. The transition between childhood and maturity seems a long way off. I have heard it called, the eternal babyhood of the believer. But we are in fact called to grow up, and walk on our own two feet and to make decisions based upon the wisdom of Christ given to us. The gap I am referring to is discipleship. Birth is celebrated but growth can be neglected or channelled without purpose into everything but Him. It is vitally important that we learn to draw upon the life of God for ourselves. Stature requires real engagement with God’s Spirit and the result is healthy growth. He longs for that.
It is this purposeful wisdom agreed before time began that declares our God to be an awesome God who reigns over heaven and earth. His faithfulness reaches to the skies. The plan carried within the seed of God’s life is for Him to be central in our lives but also as the spectacular dimensions of His Story unfold so that He might grow within us. God is magnified, He must increase, I must decrease, and all the while the heart of God is for fullness. Yes, for you and me!
THE WINDOW OF HISTORY
When we read the Old Covenant prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah, they hold up a rather large magnifying glass which highlights the faithfulness, unfailing love and greatness of the living God in spite of prevailing conditions. In Babylonian captivity, God declared to Israel His deep affection. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.” The purpose of God unfolds over time showing forth a great love which will not be deterred nor thwarted. In spite of Israel’s distracting love for idols and the people’s preference to walk their own way, God’s devotion and purpose are clear throughout the story. As we enter into early Church life, we can certainly take a leaf out of Peter and John’s book. These men were recognised as ordinary and unschooled, but observers were astonished and took note that they had been with Jesus. This statement will fill us with strong hope, sensitive awareness and fresh devotion to spring up in adoration and worship. He longs for that!
BEHOLD YOUR GOD
These faith-full, God hearing, Spirit-controlled men and women bring profound hope in the midst of dark times and uncertain days for the nation of Israel. They also serve us with encouragement in our day and time to walk boldly with a BIG God. We hear their triumphant voices through a megaphone declaring, ‘Behold yourGod.’ In darkness and hopelessness, idolatry and sin they remind us that God is in control and is making ready a people for Himself! Unchanging in nature and incredibly patient with His people in spite of their careless ways. His plan is to reshape this world bringing heaven’s best to earth and populating it with His new creation people. We cannot read this story without being deeply and profoundly touched by the single-mindedness of God as He watches over His world. In the fearful land of Egypt and the gruelling heat of the desert, we are reminded how the Lord carried His people just as a father would carry his own son or daughter, all the way. He still carries us.
We are invited to return to the place of wonder and be in awe of God. Lives of consistent preoccupation with the Holy One and beholding once again the beauty of holiness. Our priority is to find ways to ensure that Jesus is firmly at the centre of our lives and His Church. Responsive to His promptings and allowing the ears and eyes of our hearts to be opened in fresh new ways. Jesus longs for us to take Him up on His offer of life. I confess that I feel deeply challenged while considering the need for us to break with much religious clutter that we have held dear over our lifetime.
HIS WAY IS ALWAYS BEST
It is not my way that will see His kingdom come, but His way. It is not our church that has a monopoly on the truth. It is His Church called into a holy relationship with Him which is called to follow the Truth – A Person! The Church that Jesus is building. When we visit our doctor, he diagnoses our condition and prescribes a course of medication. God’s diagnosis, which is necessary for change and health requires a course of action. We, God’s people have been suffering from a disease called spiritual myopia.
In other words, our focus has become our stuff – on our church and our life, our programmes and our ministries rather than on His Church and His life within us. God’s prescription when taken will awaken, revive and heal us from our half-hearted attitude and redirect us toward growing up into the fullness of Christ. I am convinced that as we take His diagnosis seriously and fulfil His divine instructions, we will experience a spiritual breakthrough. Keeping to His prescription in order to correct this near-sightedness. Our God has become way too small in our thinking and He wants to let us in on His extraordinary greatness, His exquisite beauty and His holy love.
LAYING IT DOWN
It is quite apparent, certainly within our own lifetime that many Christ-followers have been quick to initiate a ministry or launch church activities when they believe they have heard from the Lord. We have, however, not been as attentive when required by the Lord to lay these same activities, ministries, projects or pursuits down. It is as we allow these activities to dominate our focus that we drift from relationship into religion, from substance into shadow and regress from His divine purpose for our lives.
It is without a doubt that as Jesus lived His life in full obedience to His Father that the resurrection life could only be exampled because of His death. This is the road we are also called to walk, the road less travelled. Without this action, the result is obvious, too much activity within the church that is both empty and lacking in purpose and power. And, far too many men and women in ministry who started off in the power of the Spirit are feeling burnt out and running on empty. There is however an antidote.
A group of us had been gathering to pray in the mid-seventies. There was a deep hunger in our hearts and although we lacked mature wisdom, the Lord graciously heard the cry of our hearts. I’ll never forget the moments when I experienced the presence of Jesus in such a special way during one of those prayer times and without going into detail, I became deeply aware of Him calling me into ministry. I had no idea what that meant at the time and so held it close to my heart awaiting further insight. It was only two years later that I began to understand what being in the work of ministry actually meant.
GOD IS AWESOME
In those early years of serving in a pastoral role I met my wife and we worked together in both denominational and no-name brand church life. However, fifteen years later the day came when we both knew within our hearts it was time to lay down ministry as we knew it. A next step in the ongoing purposes of God involved in our lives, our marriage and our family. It was indeed a new day for us and a place to learn that God is much much bigger than our vocation. Our transition through this time was both challenging and exhilarating. I went to work in running my own business and we knew a peace in our hearts which has continued through the years. Our God is an awesome God in every way.
ENJOYING THE BEAUTY AND MAJESTY OF OUR GOD
As we learn to explore the reality of God we will come to know His nature and experience His character as well. We can read all about God and His ways, and as a result, learn to explore what that means on a day by day basis within our lives. I have actually been out hiking with friends who are more focused on reading their maps then enjoying the beauty of God’s creation around about them.
Similarly, if we sit in meetings only studying The Book as a theoretical source it will not prepare us for the challenges in the marketplace. It is no wonder that God seems too small when we consider Him. We are invited to receive His experiential knowledge of His character and His ways. Jesus, our example was finely tuned into His Father’s heart and mind and so, we are also invited to learn to walk this way carefully avoiding the frequencies which disturb our hearts peace. Teachers have explained the theory of God endlessly and this barely helps us to know Him more deeply. It simply fills our minds with information about God.
Our God is an awesome God who reigns over heaven and earth. His ways are different from our ways. What is the key that distinguishes those whose God is magnified in their lives? They have rejected the small god of the many and have set their hearts on pilgrimage! They have responded to His invitation to follow without reservation.
WE NEED HIS POWER
What characteristic within the salvation story frees men and women from half-heartedness and the shallowness of following a god who is too small in every way? The answer, I believe is profoundly simple. The angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah and promised him that he would have a son. His name would be John and he would be filled with the Spirit of God. The early followers of Jesus were told to wait in Jerusalem until “they had been clothed with power from on high.” And they were filled with courage and boldness. The early Church was born in power.
Clothed with power! Immersed in Holy Spirit life! That is our answer and our calling. Peter and John healed the man who had been crippled from birth. Stephen, at his death, saw heaven open and described as one full of the Holy Spirit. We only need to read the Acts of God’s passionate, purposeful, Spirit-filled men and women to know that their God was certainly not too small. He was in their minds awesome in power, glorious in majesty and faithful in His words to be with them at all times and in every place. If our God seems too small the key that opens the door is found in Paul’s instructions, “Be being filled with the Spirit.” The emphasis is upon an ongoing fullness which is described by Jesus as, “rivers of living water.”
The day has arrived for us to acknowledge that there is an incomparably great power at work within us. This same power was actively at work when Father raised Jesus from death and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms. There is no power exempt from His rule. He is in charge of it all and has the final word on everything. Let God be magnified within our lives – daily! So be it.