‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight/understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths’ (Proverbs 3: v 5&6)
May I wish you all a very blessed New Year, and I hope you have had a festive time celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and no doubt reflecting on 2017 and seeking God’s will for 2018. I know for some of us we may have had more time to reflect finding ourselves bed bound with flu, chest infections, colds, the norovirus, and other unwelcomed illnesses! However, I wonder if God has given you a particular Bible verse for the New Year as you have been praying and listening to His voice?
The above verse from Proverbs leapt out at me as I was discerning God’s guidance and direction for myself and for St. Mark’s in this coming year. As I said in the new preaching card we are continuing to seek God’s discernment about ‘Going Deeper’ – deeper with God, with each other, and going out deeper into the local community, and daily front lines.
It has been extraordinary that a number of books that I have read over the Christmas period have focussed on the two particular scriptures that I believe God is speaking to us through. Luke 5 about going out into deeper waters to cast our nets; and Matthew 14 where Jesus calls Peter to ‘come’ and he gets out of the boat and walks on water. I believe this is an invitation from Jesus to us; and He is calling us at St. Mark’s to become an apostolic and prophetic church. This might sound rather scary but all it means is a church that is seeing and hearing from God, and acting on His Word as we are sent out. Apostolic means ‘being sent out’; and prophetic is the spiritual gift that Paul says all Christians should eagerly seek (1 Cor: 14. 1) – hearing from God, seeing what He is doing, and obediently joining in with His mission. The gift of prophecy is given to strengthen, encourage and comfort others – and who would not want to do this for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and those yet to ask Jesus into their lives?
‘The gifts of the Spirit are the tools that God has given us to go out into the world and introduce people to Jesus…… Jesus used all of the Spiritual gifts in order to reveal the Father to others, to bring His kingdom on earth, and to open up the way of love….We ought to be hungry and thirsty for these things because we cannot live effective lives as followers of Christ without them’. (‘Learning to hear God’s voice…and live a prophetic lifestyle’ by Mark Aldridge p36 & 37).
As I have been praying I believe that to become an apostolic and prophetic church we need to, ‘Trust in the Lord with all our heart, and do not rely on our own insight/understanding. In all our ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight our paths.’ If Peter had relied on his own insight and understanding he would NOT have gone out again to fish in the middle of the day and cast his nets again; nor would he have caught such a huge catch and recognised his own sinfulness in the presence of Jesus. If Peter had relied on his own insight and understanding he would NOT have stepped out of the boat in the middle of a storm, and started to walk towards Jesus. But he didn’t – instead of looking at the rationale of the world, and his professional experience, he trusted in the Lord with all his heart, acknowledged Jesus in all his ways, and experienced two miracles – his paths were made straight!
Going deeper with God, with each other, (especially in our Life Groups), and out into the community is going to mean a gear shift for us all.
Up with God - I pray that in our busy lives we are carving out precious time to be with Jesus in prayer and Bible study (what Bible notes or Bible Apps are we using daily?). What Christian books are we reading? My heart was blessed yesterday when I heard from one of our university members what books he had recently read, and that his brother was reading one of the latest books on prayer.
In with each other – what books on discipleship have we recently read or planning to read? Are we giving time in our Life Groups to prophesy over each other with words of comfort, encouragement and strength? Are we challenging one another and praying for spiritual gifts? Where are we serving, and are we giving of our time, gifts and money sacrificially?
Out into the world – what books on mission and witness have we read recently or planning to read this year? What ministry, mission or service are we involved in where we can share the love of God with others amongst friends, families, work, school, college and recreation?
Jesus is calling us to go out deeper, cast our nets and then to pull them up! Jesus is calling us to ‘come’ - to trust Him, and step out of the boat and on to the water!
I am really excited, and I know I say this every year, but every year I am excited at what God is going to do in my life, in your life, and in the life of St. Mark’s.
As I finish I leave you with this question from Mark Aldridge’s book. How then do we deepen our friendship with God and position ourselves to flow in the prophetic? Answer: being available to God, being obedient to God, being humble before God. There are many things on the horizon this year including the possibility of a faith building project and so let us, in all things, Trust in the Lord with all our heart, and do not rely on our own insight/understanding. In all our ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight our paths.’ And to trust we need to be available, obedient and humble, and then we will not find ourselves trusting in our own insight/understanding, and personal experience.
I look forward to breaking new ground for Christ in partnership with each one of you as we build up the Body, and extend His Kingdom.
Yours in Christ
Some book suggestions you may want to explore and read:
Prayer: Dirty Glory by Pete Greig; Prayer by Timothy Keller; Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere; The Lord and His prayer by Tom Wright; Learning to Hear God’s voice by Mark Aldridge; Third Person (Work of the HS) by John Peters
Discipleship: Following Jesus by NT Wright; Growing in Circles by Paul Harcourt; Walking on Water by Paul and Becky Harcourt – all 3 very short accessible books. The Radical Disciple by John Stott
Mission: Mission-Shaped Grace by John McGinley; Encounters with Jesus and King’s Cross by Timothy Keller; Basic Christianity by John Stott
These are a few classic recommendations and you are most welcome to borrow them from me. I pray 2018 will be a year when we really hunger and thirst for more – feeding and watering ourselves by daily reading our Bibles and reading biblical books – not waiting to be fed once a week on a Sunday. God bless and remember He can do immeasurably more than we can imagine – how exciting is that!!