Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message: Jesus Tent Debrief and Vision; Date: 14 April 2013
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Jesus Tent Debrief and Vision
This morning, I would like to debrief what happened at the last Jesus Tent of the Supernatural (29-31 March 2013) which was part of Easterfest (Toowoomba). Then, I want to offer my discernment of the big picture of what God has been doing and seems to be doing in and with our church.
First – if you look at the manifold testimonies that have come out of the “Jesus Tent” weekend, you could conclude that God has met our hearts’ desire. According to Martyn Lloyd-Jones: “Revival is nothing but a large number of people being baptized with the Holy Spirit [or experiencing testimonies of God’s salvation, healing and power] at the same time” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Joy Unspeakable, Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications 1984, p189-190):
[Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Joy Unspeakable, Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications 1984, p51: The difference between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and a revival is simply one of the number of people affected. I would define a revival as a large number, a group of people, being baptized by the Holy Spirit at the same time; or the Holy Spirit falling upon, coming upon a number of people assembled together. It can happen in a district, it can happen in a country.]
Isaac and Dakota (brother and sister below the age of ten) received the gift of tongues. Brooke was delivered completely from demons – finally. Barry was baptized with the Holy Spirit. Sharon’s knee was healed.
Sent: Wednesday, 3
April 2013 2:12 PM
Just in case you didn't understand my terrible croaky voice on your voicemail, thought I would email you as well. I came to the Jesus tent on Sunday, after joking about going; I was totally sceptical, sorry!! On Sunday after an awful couple of days at festival trying not to vomit on our headline artists, and putting on a fake smile at my husband’s side, a friend decided I had nothing to lose and should go for a healing. I have been unwell for nearly 18 months, and 12 of those months I was told there was nothing wrong with me and it was all in my head. 6 months ago they actually found I was indeed sick and I needed surgery. Since that time I have been struggling with severe nausea and awful chest pain. My doctor and the surgeon both recommended I go to chronic pain management, I have an appointment in May, I no longer need it. I came on Sunday at 1pm, and I fought the whole way. When the speaker referred to Psalm 91 I actually laughed out loud as that is the Psalm that I had been clinging to for months. I continued to fight even when the speaker prayed for me, I'm terribly stubborn! Anyway, for the first time in my life I let go of my inner control freak and fully surrendered it all to God, and I am so happy that our amazing God has taken away ALL of the pain and nausea. I was on 8 different kinds of medication for this issue, I have not taken any of them since, and I feel AMAZING!!
Thank you for stepping out in faith and putting on such an event. My life has been changed for the better, and I never expected for it to happen in that way. And thank you for being a wonderful support to my husband Dave, he raves about how awesome you are :o)
On Easter Sunday (31 March 2013), I preached on Luke 16 and gave an altar call for salvation afterwards. One of our regular worshippers came forward. Her name was Chandra and she completely surrendered to Jesus. I prayed for her with the laying on of hands and she fell down to the floor. As she was lying on the floor, she began whimpering. A demon manifested.
A few women tried to carry her to a side-room but did not manage to do so. Then, an old “bushy” in his 60s – a strong man – came and simply scooped up Chandra from the floor. She looked like a small child in his arms and he carried her out in full view of the congregation. It was such a picture of love.
Three women went out with Chandra and prayed with her. I said to the congregation that I had been waiting for this to happen – for months – because Chandra had previously manifested the same demon in a prayer meeting before the Sunday worship service. Back then, we had tried to set her free in Jesus’ name but did not manage to get the demon(s) out. She went home in bondage, ended up in a state of undress on the street and was put into the local Psychiatric Unit where they could not diagnose the condition but drugged her and were hostile to any Christian input. In time, Chandra was released but was not the same again.
When the demon came to surface again on Easter Sunday because Chandra’s renewed commitment to Jesus and the presence of God challenged him, we had the opportunity to have another go at deliverance. I joined the three women and Chandra in the side-room after introducing Holy Communion to the congregation.
We prayed but the demon was not moved even though Chandra was clearly aware of his alien presence and power. We took turns in trying to expel the demon(s) in Jesus’ name but nothing changed which made us desperate. This is how it should have worked. I finally prayed my best theological prayer which consisted of just one silent word: “Help.”
The thought came to me to invite the worship leader to sing over Chandra and this is what we did but the demon was still stubborn. By now, we were all standing and Chandra was hanging on my neck – hanging on for dear life – desperate and child-like. The thought came to me to sing “Amazing Grace” over her. This is the song that always comes to me when I am “prayer walking”.
As we sang, Chandra became free. She was smiling and relieved. There was such joy among us. One of the women sunk to the floor under the power of God’s presence. Previously, another woman had been crying over Chandra’s condition but now there was only joy. God is so good.
[Last time, Chandra kept challenging the sermon and Christian truth. She seemed to receive messages through some sort of direct inspiration which she then wrote down on a piece of paper. She even stood up during the preaching and said: “You listen to me.” But – this time – she had resolved to trust her pastor.]
Two weeks prior to the Jesus Tent, a single mother recommitted her life to Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit. At the tent (Saturday evening), she again received prayer and fell to the ground under the power of the Spirit. Her daughter (seven years old) was also happy to receive prayer and also fell to the ground and she remained lying there with a “modesty cloth” covering her.
I met up with the daughter when she was already lying on the ground. Suddenly, I had this sense that I wanted to bless her and, after asking for her permission to pray for her, I poured out my heart in blessing her. Then, I moved on.
Later I found out that the mother observed her daughter becoming teary and inquired whether anything was wrong with her. She answered: “When this man prayed for me, I’ve never felt that happy inside.”
Sent: Thursday, 4 April 2013 4:55 PM
To: Edgar Mayer
Subject: Re: Testimony
On Friday night 29/3/13 my intention was to go to the prayer meeting but Mandy intercepted and asked me to do the greeting at the door. Mandy was very specific in this and it surprised me. A young family came by and I assumed they were regulars and said to them to come in and enjoy the meeting. Chris replied: “I have never been in a church in my entire life.” He was nervous and it looked like it would not take much for him to take off.
I kept talking to him about the meeting which was not going anywhere and it then felt like God’s love flowing through me and then they went in. I asked several to pray for them. There were people being prayed for and falling under the power of God and others speaking in tongues. They freaked out at this and bolted to the door. I could see that he was looking for an excuse to leave and he said that the baby needed water. Amazingly, Adrian walks by and hands him a bought bottle of water. How did that happen? Chris then confides in me about his fear of people falling down and others talking in tongues. He was beside himself. I spoke again quickly explaining but then coming back to say how much God loved him and that I would sit behind them. They agreed to go back in. Their baby all but cried for 5 minutes and at this crucial point he was fully attentive to the message. The baby started again and I knew they were very gracious to have stayed that long. 5 minutes before the service ended, they left and I wished them well. I so much wanted them to be prayed for to experience God's presence and then the Holy Spirit said to go after them and thank them for coming. I did but did not see then until the very last and they were near the toilets.
I thanked them for coming and he opened up about his fears and anxiety about how to handle family life. I shared several scriptures and said to him how I would love someone in the tent to pray for him. The baby settled and, to my amazement, he said that he would go back in. They came in but baulked again when he thought about going to the front for prayer. I did not know what to do. I saw this lady with a name badge “Molly” and Molly began to share immediately with him and said exactly the same Scriptures as I said before. Molly challenged Chris to be saved. I was horrified as I knew he was not ready. But to my amazement, Chris said yes to Jesus. Molly asked me to lead him in prayer. I was shocked and took time to gather my thoughts. Chris prayed and I could feel it was from his heart. He looked up with red eyes and tears down his cheeks. The presence God was most unusual. You feel God’s mercy & compassion go into him and it was difficult to talk. Chris, his wife Yeating and their friend all got touched by God. They live at Gatton. How was it that they came up and went by the tent? Adrian said later when he gave the water that he has a call of God on his life.
Is this revival – a greater outpouring of God’s grace? It certainly represents an increase in the number of people receiving breakthroughs from God and I have to say that this is affecting me. For the first time in my life, I have become a little teary remembering the goodness of God – what God has done over the three days of the Jesus Tent. [When you are doing it tough (when you are in the wilderness), you hang on to the knowledge that God loves you and the world but you do not seem to experience much love. You live by faith. You discipline your resolve. But spending time in the Jesus Tent is different. You see – you witness – how people are being filled with the joy of salvation and set free from darkness, and it makes you fall in love again with God.]
In my wildest dreams, I would have never imagined that we – our church – would get into tent evangelism. I would never have thought that I would be any good in a mission tent. [Yet, when I received the call of God into the ministry at the age of fifteen, the call came at a mission festival (of the Liebenzeller Mission) which was held under a huge tent (accommodating thousands).] Therefore – after our first Jesus Tent – I was not sure whether this was simply a one-off occurrence. Many of us were cautious about doing another one because you do not want to go ahead of God and presume that what has worked once would do so again.
However – after our second Jesus Tent – I am feeling very differently. My sense is that, if we want the ministry, God is giving us the Jesus Tent as a tool for mission work. My sense is that we have permission to become intentional in planning and strategizing more mission tents in Toowoomba and other places. (Maybe – at first – we can concentrate on a 200 km radius around Toowoomba which would allow travel of team members from Toowoomba to the tent and back.) I had a conversation with Pastor Barry Cunnington (Gold Coast) who had been travelling Australia with the “Tent of Promise” for years (http://www.promisefaithcentre.org/top/index.html). Every week he was in a different town or city. I asked him: “Is tent evangelism a thing of the past?” He said: “No – not at all. Especially the country places are not being served by enough visiting ministries. People will come.” He would be available to us as a resource and could teach us more about this kind of ministry.
It would be great to bring the tent to another town – offer the outreach as a service to the local pastors and congregations – share with them the story of church unity in Toowoomba – and work together with them to bring salvation to people. We could train up local prayer teams and also teach on deliverance and inner healing. I would love to have some interns who would be with us for at least one year. They would not be paid but receive work experience in preaching Jesus Christ crucified with demonstrations of the Spirit’s power – salvations, healings, driving out of demons, miracles, signs and wonders. So far, there is not enough happening at Living Grace for interns to be kept busy but this could change with a more intentional tent ministry. I would love for our church to raise up the next generation into what God has been giving to us.
If we needed to buy a tent, the cost for a 600-seater tent (424 sqm) would be about $20,000. (It could be set up in three different sizes: 240-seater, 426-seater and 600-seater.) Once a year, Lutheran congregations in Queensland can apply for a mission stimulus grant which makes up to $25,000 available for one new mission initiative and project. We can lodge an application until the end of June.
I am being excited and hopeful but I also know that I can rush into things before the finer details are being worked out. We need collective wisdom and discernment here.
The question of what to do with the Jesus Tent is before us. What is in our hearts? What are we hearing from God? As a church, we have to be in agreement on how to proceed because tent evangelism is a group effort and not the ministry of one person.
I have a few more observations. God is so good to us. We have had many years where God needed to renew our minds (Romans 12:2) and bring us back to Bible basics. Ten years ago, we began by rediscovering prayer and then rediscovered obedience which caused great tension in the Toowoomba Lutheran Community. Do blessings follow obedience? Yes, they do. We learned about citywide church unity and, for years, we were chipping away at understanding the Holy Spirit and what was meant by the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Then, we wrestled with healing prayer while we were contending for the healing of Greg Storey (pancreatic cancer). At the end of 2009, God surprised us with the miracle of gold dust which made many of us feel uncomfortable. It took us a long time to be completely joyful and relaxed about this miracle and other ones. However, now the work seems to be done. Last week, Eden and her sister Maeve were playing and Eden somehow ended up with body glitter on her forehead (which had rubbed off her doll). Maeve’s first reaction was to raise up her hands and say: “Thank you, Lord.” Our children now grow up in a changed environment where the Bible basics of Holy Spirit baptism, prayer, church unity, healings and miracles have become normal again.
This gives me great joy because everything is now in place to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified – properly (according to the Bible):
1 Corinthians 2:1-5: “ ... I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified ... My message and my preaching were not wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Romans 15:18-19: “ … I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading people [original: the Gentiles] to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit … ”
We seem to be ready to preach Jesus Christ as he wants to be preached (according to the Bible).
I said before that I am no longer hesitant about the Jesus Tent. I sense that God is offering us the tent as a tool for mission. (What a gift to find an avenue for speaking to non-Christians in Australia about Jesus.) This goes together with a growing confidence in me about “the look” of the Jesus Tent. I have never previously been part of a tent outreach. There used to be the Tent of Miracles in Toowoomba but I never knew about its visits. Therefore, everything was new to me and I did not know how the ministry should unfold. However, there is a confidence growing in me and clarity of vision.
My sense is that the Jesus Tent – except for its (increased) mission focus – is not all that different from our Sunday morning services and I have been growing in confidence about our Sunday services as well. Let me explain. Years ago, I was so desperate for more of the Holy Spirit that I was reluctant to exercise any discipline in the church for fear of quenching the Spirit. Former Pentecostals joined us and – to me – they seemed so advanced in their faith. While we were still exploring spiritual gifts, they had practised them for years (e.g.: the gift of speaking in tongues, prophetic words). Some of these people indulged in behaviour which many at Living Grace considered to be “weird”. There was out-of-control jumping around at worship – (where you had to get out of the way or be hurt) – and the spontaneous yelling out of prophetic words – (sometimes a prophetic word in tongues with interpretation). I acknowledged the discomfort among our members but thought that these were necessary growing pains because we were uncomfortable about so many things (e.g.: falling under the power of the Spirit, the gift of tongues).
Then, I noticed that the spiritual people (I looked up to) were not as spiritual as I first thought. The passionate worship on Sunday did not translate into maturity during the week and the loudness of a spontaneous prophetic word did not guarantee the accuracy of the prophetic voice. In time, all of these people left the church again and – slowly – I learned the freedom to exercise discernment and trust my leadership enough to exercise discipline when I sense that something is not quite of God – “weird”.
Am I making sense? Living Grace – at the best of times – is a challenging place and enough happens that could be considered unusual and confronting to newcomers – gold dust, demons manifesting (just think of Hutty carrying out Chandra the other week), the falling to the floor at prayer, and singing in tongues. This is God and he is getting people’s attention but we do not want to increase the “weirdness” when it is not necessary.
Suzette Hattingh (international evangelist and prayer leader) keeps saying: “You don’t have to weird to be spiritual.” And IHOP (International House of Prayer) in Kansas City also keeps the “weirdness” out of its prayer meetings which have been going around the clock for about thirteen years. I am aware that, in church history, the Holy Spirit caused wild scenes in the ministry of John Wesley or Charles Finney – people shrieking, crying out in repentance, loud eruptions of emotions – and this may also happen among us but – if I am right – not in our current season.
My heart is to introduce people to Jesus with love and honouring their background. I think that God allows us to be gentle in our approach and much has to do with the culture of a place, and I like what we have. Demons may manifest or Holy Spirit joy erupts in laughter but we remain at peace and are not losing our awareness for each other. There is a lightness among us – (a freedom from over-the-top intensity) – that is welcoming and rational to others.
It takes humility to accept directions in worship but it is worth the effort because we establish a culture which is safe and healthy for everyone. (When the culture is in place, we can more easily take risks and not be held back.) Some years ago, we had a church member that dominated the free worship time which is the time when the band goes quiet and encourages us to sing more spontaneous praises to God. This church member sang at the top of his voice and he sang in tongues and he was so overpowering that he shut down all the people around him. Finally, I came alongside him, tapped him on the shoulder and encouraged him to blend in with the others. I explained to him how he was affecting the others. I explained to him how the Spirit moves in the entire church and that we can listen to each other and together join in with what God was doing in the church. He understood and was thankful.
People in the Bible faced the same situation:
1 Corinthians 14:6-19: Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
1 Corinthians 8:1-3: Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.
I also like the way prayer ministry happens among us. It is not all about “bam” “bam” – being slain in the Spirit and then getting up unchanged. Let there be the fire of the Spirit and high energy but the power of the Spirit is to bear fruit in a person’s live (love, peace, self-control and joy) and there will be none of the fruit without repentance, processing sinful habits and the renewing of the mind. Solid preaching sets up the prayer ministry and then it is good to minister as a team allowing time with every person.
One last observation (I will take a little time to expand on this observation): What impacted me at the Jesus Tent was our team work. There was something beautiful about our church which operated according to the Bible:
Romans 12:4-8: For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
All of us were needed – doing different jobs – but we were one in the goal of introducing new people to Jesus. I also thought that we were at peace with one another. There was no striving or selfish ambition – at least as far as I could tell. When the rain came and water came through the tent, there was swift thinking and swift crisis management – initiated by Mandy and taken up by others. Even then there was peace and humble serving. [My only challenge was to be resilient when Gordo was “paying me out” at the setting up of the tent and when we put it down again. Relief came when Bretto received the same treatment on the Monday.]
I did not expect to be so impacted by the way that we worked together. However, I realized that God had been doing something in me this year that made me ready to do tent ministry as a church. Last year especially (but maybe longer than only last year), I became standoffish to people. This was not the result of a conscious decision but was a way of dealing with disappointment and hurt. I did not want to handle any more rejection – not from those closest to me.
I became conscious of my attitude when Paul, Janelle and Hannah Priman joined the church. Paul immediately attended all of our prayer meetings which was great but I was wary of his enthusiasm. I have seen it before that people come in with a lot of fanfare but then try to take over and leave when they do not get their way. (For instance, last year someone left because I did not recognize him as an apostle who was above me in the Lord. Someone else left because I did not recognize him as the prophet of Living Grace. Another man left with his wife because – in the six months that they had been attending here – I did not promote his ministry enough.) However, Paul was different. He had no agenda – except to join us in prayer. He did not seek any positions or special attention. After some months – after seeing Paul at every prayer meeting and seeing the family at every worship service – I came to the place where I wanted to pay them a visit. Again – Paul and Janelle had no personal agenda except to be part of the church and then they packed my car with food – a sample of all the pre-cooked meals that their business is selling. This act of love touched me and softened my heart.
There are others that have shown love to me – and loyalty (e.g.: the family that kept giving despite disagreeing with the budget expenses) – and somehow this year – all of a sudden – I have noticed that I am no longer standoffish. Something in me has been healing. (I also had Clark Taylor pray for me in February.) This does not mean that everyone is now nice to me. While the Jesus Tent was on, someone from this church left two abusive phone messages on our answering machine which upset Francisca, my youngest daughter. This and other negative words keep happening but I am in a better position to cope with the disappointment.
In addition to what God has been doing in me, the same healing touch seems to work in others - [Someone else in leadership observed that the church has become tired because of the many great testimonies of conversions which have fizzled in a very short time] – because – over the last three months – new life has sprung up at Living Grace – everywhere. We have not changed anything but – suddenly – we have new home groups, a freezer ministry, new Acceler8 rooms are being built, the backyard is radically cleared and new tenants come into our church home, we have a new worship band, enough teachers for all Acceler8 classes and we are blessed by good offerings.
God is at work among us as a community and I am grateful because mission work is not simply saving the souls of individuals but changing the entire culture of a people – families, cities and nations – and this can only be done as a church. One person alone cannot demonstrate what the new culture – the culture of God’s kingdom – looks like but together we can:
Kris Vallotton: Heavy Rain, Ventura: Gospel Light 2010, p66-68: It is interesting that when Jesus promoted His disciples from learners to leaders, He didn’t call them “patriarchs.” They would have had some idea of how patriarchs led, as there was an Old Testament model already in place for them. Neither did He call them priests, prophets or rabbis, because again there were patterns of order already developed for those roles. Instead He called them by a Roman title that would forever define their ministry responsibility and authority. Like the Roman armies who first battled for territory and then educated the conquered people in the Roman ways, the apostles of Jesus were commissioned to displace the powers of darkness with the power of God and replace the enemy’s authority with the government of God, bringing the ways of the Kingdom to influence every aspect of society.
We see the mission of apostles expressed in the only “model” prayer Jesus taught His leaders to pray. Jesus said, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed by Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’” (Matthew 6:9-10). The emphasis in the Lord’s Prayer is that earth would become like heaven. In the same way the Romans were to make their conquered cities look like Rome, we have been commissioned to pull heaven down to earth until the will of God is done here exactly as it is there!
This commission defines the nature of an apostolic structure of government. An apostleship defines the three factors of government as follows: The leader is an apostle, one sent to establish the culture of heaven on earth. Those who follow an apostle are those who seek to have heaven manifest in their lives, and to be sent out to release heaven wherever they go. Apostleships thrive in a season when people perceive that their primary purpose is to transform the culture of earth with the culture of heaven ...
A leader can plant 100 churches in different cities around the world, but if those churches don’t bring cultural transformation to their cities, then they are not apostolic. Cultural transformation is synonymous with apostolic ministry. Think about it. If we gather 5,000 people week after week on Sunday mornings in a city of half a million, and yet the crime rate remains unchanged, the cancer rate is unaffected, the divorce rate continues to grow and the economy is in decline, what does that say about the people of God in that city? If we are supposed to be salt and light, and all the nations of the earth are to be blessed in us, then isn’t it true that the negative statistics of our cities are a commentary on us? Look at the commentary on the first-century church: The rulers of the city were crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6). What does it say about us if we can’t even change one city with thousands of believers ...
Apostleships ... are developed around the principle of training, equipping and deploying the saints to radically alter society. The primary message of apostleships is that the kingdom of God is at hand, and their main strategy is to demonstrate the raw power of God in the darkest places on the planet. The apostolic government, like Ezekiel’s river, creates a supernatural atmosphere that affects everything it touches, from the fish (people) in the river to the trees (nations and cities) along its banks ...
I am dreaming but would the Jesus Tent allow us to be more apostolic in nature in the sense that we minister together as a church and thus impart the kingdom culture in people which is more than a personal message of salvation? Could the Jesus Tent be a platform for bringing local pastors together and ministering to them? Could the Jesus Tent also be used to address social issues such as the plight of so many abused girls and could we do this together with the wider Toowoomba church (e.g. City Women)? Could we use the Jesus Tent to tell other towns and cities about Easterfest and Family Week? I am dreaming but God pays attention to our dreams:
Psalm 37:4: Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
John 15:7: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.”
John 15:16: “ … I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”
The challenge will be to grow a genuine – holy and loving and righteous – church culture among us. I do not know how this is done. How will we keep everyone happy, stop the negativity of the grape-vine, walk away from selfish ambitions and envy? How will we come into agreement about anything? When Pastor John Alley was here (on the 14th of March), he came with an encouragement. In their church, they had tried to build community for seven years and failed – (rearranged home groups five times, etc) – but then discovered that – according to the Bible – church unity – the culture of God’s kingdom in the church – is a gift from God and prayer released this gift among them:
John 17:22-23: I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Ephesians 4:2-3: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
When the Holy Spirit first came upon God’s people, he immediately built an amazing community. I close by reading what may happen among us and what may set us up to maximize the opportunity of the Jesus Tent:
Acts 2:40-47: With many other words ... he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and prayer and they devoted themselves to the fellowship – the breaking of bread – the eating together in their homes. Every day they came together – their hearts belonged to each other – they helped each other out – with the result that – daily – God added people to them. The world was turned upside down.
Enjoy each other. Love each other. It will bear fruit. Amen.