listening to God
The following are notes from the sermon on Sunday 28th June 2020, in our series 'Rooted to Thrive', with a focus today on 'listening to God'. The recording of the preach should be available shortly on our Vimeo page here or on our Facebook page here
In the early hours of Thursday morning I was woken about 4am with the words ‘Gather my people’ ringing in my head – and also reminded of words from the Prophet Joel, which Linda Currin took me back to the previous day – ‘Blow the trumpet IN ZION’
Linda wrote to me:
I must've been in a deep sleep and was struggling to come to consciousness, when I was aware of a fence with hens on it. They were standing on the fence and I was aware they were all making a noise, but it was an indistinct noise.
And then the words came to me - Blow the Trumpet IN ZION. ( to the Lord's people)
This is what came next - the trumpet call is the voice of the Spirit of God. It's clear and distinct. It's not a mixture but has clarity.
As I got up to write this down the Scripture came into my thinking - The wisdom that comes from above is first PURE, then peaceable, gentle ... James 3: 17
I had already been sitting with a sense that what I needed to preach in to today was hearing God’s voice, listening to him – in fact I’d shared that intention with the Leadership when we met on Zoom for our Leaders’ meeting on Monday evening.
At this time, we have issued a call to fast and pray for 10 days – if you haven’t joined in fasting and praying yet, it’s not too late to do so – there’s another 3 days to go, finishing on 1st July.
We are at a critical point, a critical time in history, a critical time for our nation, a critical point for the church of Jesus Christ, a critical point for the church at Coton Green – God is calling us to move on! To go deeper! To be more rooted in him than we have ever been before.
That means we need new wineskins for how we live out our lives personally and corporately – it’s not right that we go back to how we were before, go back to the good old days! We want to step into what God is doing now!!
Back in February last year Paul Wilcox brought a prophetic image of a book – one chapter written, page turned over and blank pages with a new chapter to be written.
On our Leaders’ day away, seeking God’s heart and vision, he gave us the whole thing about ‘rooted to thrive’, which we are living out of at this time – God wants us to thrive as a church – not just get by! He wants us to thrive as individuals, whatever is going on around us and in our lives – we thrive when we are thoroughly rooted in Jesus.
We were taken to 2 Kings 19:29,30 by Helen White:
This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah: “This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.’
Well, we are in the second year now. Any fruit that we are seeing is what is coming from what God has brought about in the natural realm of things, but during this year we need to be preparing so that in the third year we are ready to get down to the hard work of sowing, planting, reaping – and this all fits well with the promises God is making re the coming revival – but we need to be creating the new wineskins – so that we can contain the flood of the outpouring of the Spirit.
Revival doesn’t make things easy. It makes things tough!
We have to get real with God – no more Sunday service Christianity!
Whole life Christianity!
Rooted thoroughly in Christ. Living out our walk with him in every part of our lives. Structuring the wineskins of the church so that we are able to invest in, build up, send out all those that God brings to new birth – and taking those of us who are already there – knowing God for ourselves to new levels of commitment and devotion to God – enjoying the Presence of God – to new levels of commitment to one another – enjoying the presence of one another – and to new levels of taking the Kingdom to those who are lost without Christ – enjoying taking the Presence into the community.
To do all this we need to listen to God.
We started rooted to thrive in John 15 and Jesus saying how he was the Vine and we are the branches.
This past week I have been stirred with what he said just before that in John 14.
This is like the context for what it means to be in the Vine!
Jesus explains how he wants us to be in such intimate relationship with him – he talks of the Father, of himself and of the Holy Spirit coming to make their home in our lives – but we have to be a fit dwelling place for God in all his glory and purity and holiness to dwell!
Jesus says if we love him we will obey his commands – it’s a natural thing to do!
If you love someone, you will seek to do that which pleases them – so I make Julie (my wife) a cup of tea in the morning! (I’m sure I must do other things as well!! Oh yes, and a coffee, or a mocha, or a milky tea or…. ‘Would you make me a ……?’) And it’s a natural thing to do what she asks, because I love her and want to please her.
Jesus says that if we love him, v21 we will have his commands and we will keep them.
Now, there’s his general commands, which we have in Scripture, but then there’s also his specific commands, which he brings to us by his Spirit.
We don’t live for God on our own! He has given us the gift of his Spirit, so that we can Thrive!
V16,17 ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth…. He lives with you and will be in you.’
As a result, we are never alone. We are never left as orphans.
Jesus knew he was going to the cross, and he after his resurrection and ascension, the disciples would be left alone – but he wouldn’t leave them as orphans – they would have the Holy Spirit with them.
It’s the same for us in the midst of the coronavirus situation. We may be isolated as a result of sheltering or self-isolation, but we are not alone – if we know the Lord, he is with us by his Spirit.
The outworking of this is that we need to hear God’s Voice to know what is right to do in all things, but especially at this time
There is a longing to gather amongst many in the congregation I know – equally, there is a nervousness amongst others
Over in Guernsey, life is pretty much back to normal, except for coming in and out of the island – there have been no covid-19 cases for nearly 2 months so life has in theory returned to normal – except, when my Mum walked along the road recently, she saw a lady working in her garden with a face mask on….. We will all respond to things differently…
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The feedback from the survey will not determine what we do, but will help us to manage well what we do.
At our All Nations leaders’ Zoom meeting on Wednesday Steve Uppal used the phrase, ‘we need to be prophetic, not pragmatic’! Which just fits so well with what I was being stirred with in terms of our need to be listening to God if we are to be rooted to thrive, personally and corporately.
We hear God’s voice through intimacy.
V21b ‘The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’
This is more than living in the same home. It’s possible to live in the same home and not interact. During the week we talked in one meeting of how it’s possible to be in a crowd of people and still be alone. This is not what the Father wants for us, it’s not what Jesus wants for us, its not what the Spirit wants for us. He wants us to know that intimacy of a child with a loving Father; the intimacy of a Bride with her Groom to be; the intimacy of a deep friendship where you spend all your time together.
Jesus talks in John 10 of how we are to know his voice. Of how we are to know his calling of us out. And of how we are to follow him with confidence because we know that he is the Good Shepherd and he will lead us out at the right times.
Jesus is the shepherd for the sheep – he calls them all by name – they listen to his voice. We become familiar with his voice by reading his Word, so when he calls to us by the Spirit, we recognise his voice.
God’s written Word is where we learn to hear God’s Voice.
Once we’ve become familiar with that voice then we can become familiar with him speaking to us by his Spirit.
1 Corinthians 14 encourages us to eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
The promise of God, through the Prophet Joel, quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out said:
‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’
The promise is for all. Jesus says his sheep know his voice; they listen to his voice and they are led by his voice.
That’s where we want to be; it’s where we can be, as we live a life of intimacy with God, as we walk in his Presence, as we immerse ourselves in his Word.
If we don’t do that, we set ourselves up to be less than we can be; to miss his voice; and to miss out on entering into all he has for us.
We’ve had a couple of prophetic words brought to us as a leadership recently. The first is from Paul Wilcox and the second from Sue Milns……
Paul’s reads as follows:
“They grumbled in their tents” (Psalm 106 v 25)
This scripture is taken from Psalm 106 and is part of the psalmist story of the rebellion of the Israelites against Moses and Aaron in the desert – see Numbers 14 v 2. When there was a crisis the people grumbled against their leaders.
This is a clear Word for our church. Who is grumbling I cannot say this has not been revealed to me? This is the second time this Word has been revealed to me the first time was on 19.1.20.
God has heard the grumbling and wants it to stop now.
The enemy is distracting the people says the Lord.
God has created a foundation for his church at Coton Green, but he now wants the church to build on that foundation.
The church needs to move on. It needs to put the things of the past behind it.
The church needs to be as one going forward.
Through his Words over the past couple of years he has given the church clear instructions on what to do and what should be our focus. For example, from these extracts:
1. The picture of the large book. (3.2.19)
2. It is Time to leave Egypt so you can cross into the promised land. (11.2.19)
3. Have I not told you to prepare to cross the river. Have I not given you a vision of your future – a book. (17.2.19)
4. I tell you the truth it is time to forgive your brother and sister (17.2.19)
5. You are in my house; this is my house. This is a house of prayer. (3.3.19)
6. Today, you may be standing on dry ground but tomorrow, I will pour out waters on the dry ground. (7.3.19)
7. I have called you to be lights in the world. I tell you the truth it is time to push back the darkness. (17.3.19)
8. If you hold any bitterness against a brother or sister let it go. If there is an unkind word or thought let it go. (31.3.19)
9. You are the current custodians of this inheritance. Do not let it be misused, defiled, or destroyed because this is the time for my glory to shine in this place. (7.5.19)
10. Based on a picture of a path and 4 groups of people God says “Are you one who is looking back, Looking at the past. Turn around and Move Froward.” (25.5.19)
11. I am calling, and you need to hear my voice (7.6.19)
12. I have plans for you. So, prepare yourself. Turn back to me. Call on my name and you will see the plans unfold before your eyes. (18.7.19)
13. Turn to me and I will give you a new heart, a new heart. (28.7.19)
14. You need to put your trust in me. Put it in me not another. Not a man, or idol. In me. (25.8.19)
15. I tell you the truth choose you this day who you will serve. (29.9.19)
16. You either follow me and dwell in the light or do not follow me and dwell in the darkness. (5.11.19)
17. As the rain pours down so receive my joy. (22.12.19)
18. I ask you this question Do you have the full armour on? The days are coming when you will be tested. You will need all the armour on. (2.2.20)
19. “Life will continue”. (4.4.20)
20. My people need you! Where are you! What are you doing! Why are you not helping them? They’re crying out. Will you not help my people? (14.5.20)
There is a temptation for Christian’s to separate themselves from an increasingly evil world that feels alien from their beliefs and which asks difficult questions- abortion, wars, materialism, racism, gender identity, atheism etc. These can appear too difficult to answer or too wide spread to counter. We are tempted to hide or shelter in our churches or faith circles as it is a more comfortable place to live, with like minded people.
But Acts 1 v 8 tells us Jesus’s last recorded words on earth are-
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
The covid 19 lockdown has largely cut this safe haven off and thrust us back into the world. God has been asking us to examine the sincerity of our personal faith. God is asking us to face the world as His witnesses and put ourselves out into His fallen creation – a world of need, that so desperately needs to hear about Jesus.
As we emerge from this crisis, I feel we must change from an inward facing church to a more outward facing church. The infant church waiting in Jerusalem sheltered together away from the hostile world. But the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost changed that, and we must welcome the Holy Spirit and ask for Him to do the same for us.
The infant church waiting in Jerusalem sheltered together away from the hostile world. But the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost changed that, and we must welcome the Holy Spirit and ask for Him to do the same for us.
Shall we welcome him?
And if, as we welcome him, he gives us anything to share with others, or just to inspire and lead us personally ourselves, let’s share it with others.
Come Holy Spirit