To avoid any misunderstanding, let me clarify that unlike many in the institutional church, many other believers around the world are discovering/re-discovering that Jesus is graciously with us and indeed in us 24/7 and 365 days p.a., individually and corporately, and not merely between 9 and 10.30 on a Sunday morning.
Having cleared the ground, let me humbly share with you our fairly representative experience (my wife and I) of last weekend.
For some time our house church (a-la-NT and Watchman Nee, without a senior pastor and a service time and a building) was aware of the personal pain of an intimately-known retired missionary couple who some years back had planted an indigenous church in the Peruvian Alps among an ‘unreached people group.’ Sadly the wife has sustained advanced cancer of the mouth. Thus, we believe by the leading of the Spirit, we gathered in their little cottage on Saturday morning with four other believers to stand with the couple in their hour of crisis (by Monday they had to decide between further drastic surgery or radium treatment), pray with them, confess our common frailties and ask the King of the kingdom for his divine intervention in healing and wisdom (cf Jam. 1:5-8, 5:13ff). We encouraged one another, a little bit of heaven came down, and A.W. Tozer’s words were realised, ‘We need never to shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul. Closer than our most secret thoughts.’ In that hour God imparted to us all a remarkable spirit of unity, peace and joy.
Still chatting and laughing at a few wise-cracks from one cheerful brother, we ‘coincidentally’ met a young man passing by while walking a dog. The merry brother, trying to help find a home for a beautiful puppy on behalf of one of us, jokingly asked him if he wanted another dog. His reply was negative, but his comment was interesting, ‘What have you folk been up to? You look so energised by the Spirit… have you been in a Bible study?’ ‘No,’ we replied, ‘a prayer meeting!’ Turns out he’s a fellow-believer, a South African expat from New Zealand, living in Auckland. Melanie and I pricked up our ears because our youngest daughter and family will be leaving within the next month to settle in Auckland. Our friend offered to help them settle in, if needed, and kindly offered his telephone number. He gave us some sage advice to pass on to our children in terms of settling into a foreign city and country. Now what were the chances, in terms of timing, etc?!
The rest of Saturday was spent in taking our energetic grandsons to the beach to paddle in the rock pools, followed by watching a game of rugby on TV, a national disease amongst many South Africans. On Sunday morning we met in our home for our weekly house church gathering. Young and old discussed something raised during the week, viz. God’s ‘bigger picture’ for his people. Yes, as trumpeted all over the world from many anthropocentric pulpits, ‘God has a plan for your life!’ ‘You are the centre of the universe. Your personal happiness, fulfilment and success is paramount to God!’ Really?? Tragically, such believers have missed ‘the bigger picture,’ viz. that at the end of the day God’s purpose, while including us, is essentially about his Son and his glorification as King of creation! A simple reading of Eph. 1-3, Col. 1, Phil. 2 and Rev. 21-22 among many other passages makes that abundantly clear. The apostle Paul writes so magnificently and Christo-centrically to the church in Colosse threatened by Gnosticism etc (Col. 1:16-17/NT), ‘Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – kings, kingdoms, rulers and authorities. Everything has been created through him and for him. He existed before everything else began, and he holds the creation together.’ I have moved in many church circles in my life-time – would it be true to say that many, perhaps most, believers just don’t ‘get it?!’ The psalmist exclaims (Ps. 115:1), ‘Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.’ (cf on this theme DeVern Fromke’s ‘Ultimate Intention’)
We are grateful to say that seemingly all in our group, through the revelation of God’s Spirit, once more got ‘the bigger picture.’ It directly influenced our prayers afterward as we interceded for local and global ministries and needs. We spoke of a new appreciation of ‘the Lord’s Prayer’ in Mt. 6 (cf ‘The Prayer That Spans the World,’ Helmut Thielicke): the focus is on our Father, who is in heaven, whose name deserves to be hallowed, whose kingdom needs to come (fully) and whose will needs to be done on earth as it is in heaven – only then do our communal and personal needs feature (in this regard one person testified to the helpfulness, some years ago, of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermon-series on the Beatitudes). One can’t look at the living God and his ultimate intention in Christ, and remain the same – impossible!
Sunday afternoon was spent quietly at home, with time to refresh and reflect, before tackling the new week. May God richly bless you and your community, wherever in the world, as you spend ‘every day with Jesus!’
PS. When Moses came down Mt. Sinai to share God’s law with the people, we read that he was unaware that his face was ‘radiant’ because he had spoken with the LORD (Ex. 34:29ff). Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his Joy Unspeakable (The Baptism of the Holy Spirit) recounts how during the Isle of Lewis revival of 1939, meetings were held not so much in chapels but in houses. A believer invited a disinterested friend along to one of the house prayer meetings. She wasn’t keen to go but was at last persuaded. ‘She failed to get in once or twice because of the crowd but eventually succeeded in getting in. And the thing that led to her conversion was the sight of a little child in that house. The woman suddenly saw the face of this child shining, and that was the means of her conviction of sin, her need of a Saviour, her salvation and her being filled with the Spirit.’ You just never know what God can do in the marketplace with a face that is shining with the Presence…