Saturday, 16 January 2016

Colin: Embracing A Year of Favour

Barnes family selfie!
So it’s the start of a new year; how does that affect you? Are you filled with optimism, or fearful of what it might hold for you and your loved ones? Some might argue that the way we feel will be determined by our circumstances, what we can see around us and what we can see coming down the road.

To a certain extent they are right, but what do we see? If we only see with our eyes, material things and the stories presented by our media, then we may well become fearful. There certainly are many challenges, including: terrorism, continuing economic instability, climate change and an unprecedented refugee crisis, and that’s before we get onto our personal problems around family, health, finance, career and relationships. But knowing God as Father, that we are His children, and that His kingdom is coming, trumps all these very real difficulties and changes everything!

As it says in Hebrews 10:39 and 11:13, we are not those who shrink back, but those who have faith and embrace God’s promises (even if we don’t see them realised immediately in our lives). We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), because we know that the unseen realm is more important than the one we can see with our eyes. The truth that God is love, He is our Father and that His love for us stretches higher than the heavens are above the earth, that He is working in us, with us and through us in all things for good, far outweighs every obstacle the enemy might put in our way. We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us!

I am not sorry to see the back of 2015. For me it was a difficult year in which some important aspects of my life were rocked: this included having my integrity challenged, my theology questioned and an earthquake destroying the training centre I had established in Nepal! But in the midst of all those trials God spoke some wonderful promises (through Sharon Stone) to confirm my calling and encourage my heart, Pioneer commissioned me as an apostle, and as I ministered at various Ignite courses around the country I found myself walking in the things God called me to 25 years ago! I imagine that most of us will have had years filled with a mixture, as well. In such times it is vital we dwell on and fill our hearts with the good things God says about us and does for us, and not to nurse disappointment by worrying about the challenges and the things He doesn’t appear to be helping us with.

When Jesus came He declared “The year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:19), that God was looking favourably upon men to bless them and not to judge them. That enabled Him to go about doing good to all who came to Him for help, not just the ‘good’ people. He knew that His Father was gracious and therefore wanted to bless all men beyond what they deserved. That enabled Jesus to confidently forgive adulterers and accept tax collectors and robbers as friends. Some, like Judas who betrayed Him, trampled on His kindness and grace, but that didn’t stop Jesus extending grace to everyone who came to Him.

The truth is, it is still the favourable year of the Lord! As ambassadors of Christ, those who represent the kingdom of heaven, we too may go about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the evil one. Undoubtedly, there are challenges for us to face, but Jesus has promised to be with us and to help us overcome them. So let us press on into 2016 with great courage, knowing He is with us; let us embrace the challenges and take hold of every opportunity to represent the kingdom of heaven and bring light and life to every situation we find ourselves in.

I pray you will know God’s favour this year and be blessed in every way, especially in every act of kindness prompted by His love. Let’s push on into 2016 with much faith, hope and love!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Colin: Heavenly Partnership

There are two contrasting errors we can fall into when we think about how God’s kingdom of love, joy and peace might come. The first is to think it all depends upon us, and that if we work hard enough, smart enough and for long enough, then we’re sure to see revival. The other is to think that it has nothing to do with us, that God has already planned when the next revival will take place and there’s nothing for us to do but wait patiently for Him to work out His plans and purposes, which are mysterious and beyond our understanding.

Within the River Churches, the openness of God is a cherished belief. We have a growing revelation of the freedom that is at the heart of our Father’s will for all His creatures. Therefore we have made openness one of our values, the ‘O’ in GOLD (Goodness, Openness, Love & Dynamic power). We value our own freedom and choose to exercise it in working for good together with our God (Romans 8:28). He’s working for good in all things and we love to join in as we long to be more like Him. Consequently, we work to bless our communities, helping people find freedom through following Jesus. Valuing freedom for all, we serve, refusing to dictate or manipulate to get our own way. We believe that God has given humanity the earth to rule over in order to fill it, make it fruitful and bring out its fullness (Genesis 1:26-28). Therefore He won’t work on the earth without us! At least, that’s what the prophet Amos tells us (Amos 3:7). Indeed, 2 Chronicles 16:9 tells us He is continually looking for men or women through whom He can work signs and wonders on the earth, people who are loyal to Him and trust Him.

On the other hand, Jesus taught us to depend on Him, saying, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Not meaning we can literally do nothing, but that we can’t produce the fruit the Father is looking for. He also taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10), asking Father to work His will on the earth. It’s a mysterious truth that more of His will gets done on the earth when we pray and ask for it to be done.

Now I would like us to work hard and use all our strength to see the church grow, but I know that, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it”, Psalm 127:1. To believe it all depends on us, is to choose independence and to fall into pride. When we think like that, we find God standing in our way because He opposes the proud, but shows favour to the humble.

I feel the Holy Spirit calling us to prayer. I hear 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

In 1746, Jonathan Edwards wrote “A humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of All God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.” Some say this book sparked a prayer movement that ignited the world in revival. Today, we see prayer movements such as 24/7 Prayer making similar ‘humble attempts’ to unite us in intercession for the world. Surely, revival cannot be far behind!

God seeks partners who will work with Him for good in all things and pray for His kingdom to come on the earth. Let’s give ourselves to work and to pray in His name, trusting that Jesus is building His church and that of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Ceri Francis: Encounter – being intentional about the unexpected

It's fascinating to me that Moses was the first person in the Bible to press in for a deep, one to one encounter with God. And it wasn't just another encounter for Moses – it was the first time God revealed His true nature – His overwhelmingly glorious goodness.

Moses had seen so much leading up to this point that it is all the more interesting to get a glimpse of his hunger for more revelation. Born a Levite, raised a prince of Egypt, he flees Egypt a murderer as a young adult. Then after his burning bush experience he reluctantly returns to Egypt to free the enslaved Israelites.

Ten plagues later he leads two million or so Israelites in a miraculous escape at night straight through the middle of the sea. His story continues with miracle after miracle – water production, manna, quail, healing, God's presence visible as fire and smoke and His voice audible as thunder. It was as if God used all five human senses and more to make Himself known. Moses had enough stories to give awe-inspiring talks and testimonies for a lifetime!

But after all the signs, wonders and miracles he begs God “let me know Your ways that I may know You” and “I pray You, show me Your glory.” Without the fire and thunder of his previous mountain encounter, the Lord calls him up Mount Sinai and allows His goodness, the fullness of His glory, to pass before Moses. It is then that God reveals His true nature and describes himself for the first time as “the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness and truth.”

Moses was described as the man God would speak with “face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” Yet what was revealed to Moses was just a foretaste of what has now been given to us in full. We don't have to beg God to reveal His glory or send His presence to be with us and stay with us.

Through Jesus, His glory is fully revealed and He is with us all the time, dwelling in us, changing us to be more like Him and revealing His nature through us wherever we go. His presence doesn't fade as it did for Moses, who had to put a veil over his shining face so the people wouldn't see the effects of being in God's presence diminishing. Paul writes that we have unveiled faces and see His glory as if we are looking in a mirror and being transformed into the same image. The fruits of the spirit are love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness etc – us becoming like Him.

This isn't about us striving to get God's attention; it's about how we position ourselves. He is speaking to us all the time, longing to reveal more to us than we could ever desire, and wanting us to make choices that enable us to see, hear and know Him more. The dictionary defines encounter as something unexpected – a chance meeting or something we stumble across. For me the challenge is to make time for Him so I don't miss the encounters He wants me to have, whether in meetings or when I'm alone.

Interestingly, the Israelites heard God speak audibly for themselves but incredibly they opted to hear Him instead through a man's voice. We too can learn so much from others but this can't replace having our own relationship with God.

Let's be intentional about how we invest in our relationship with the Lord, trusting and believing in His goodness whatever our circumstances or feelings and making time to hear Him for ourselves. I hope and pray we see miracles, healing and more as we focus on the one who is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think”!