If you missed Rachel McHugh preaching at our 9 o’clock gathering last week, you can have a listen to it here.
At morning prayers this week we have been looking at Colossians 4: 2 -18. There’s lots about prayer in it (as well as some difficult names!)…have a read – it’s really good!
The part that really got my attention was in verse 12 where it says that Epaphras, “is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in the will of God, mature and fully assured.”
It got me to thinking about what it means to wrestle in prayer. To wrestle implies effort, hard work, endurance and even struggle. It’s a wrestling that is not against God, in some effort to twist his arm or change his mind, but a wrestle in prayer before Him, standing on his promises to see His kingdom come more and more. A wrestle in prayer against the things that would get in the way of our relationship with him and with others, a wrestle in prayer against the things of the world, that we would see his kingdom come in our MSCs, in our schools, workplaces and families.
In Ephesians it’s says, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The battle is not ours – it belongs to the Lord and we get to join in with what He is already doing and wrestle in prayer to see His Kingdom come. What a privilege!
I guess it’s not surprising during Launch week that the Lord wants to encourage us with a word about wrestling in prayer with Him for breakthrough. Who is the Lord asking you to wrestle in prayer for? Let’s be encouraged, stay faithful and keep on praying!
Remember, we are on a journey. We’re a family of families led by God to frontiers; places where we get to join in with him making life better. As we go it is vital that we pay attention to the Father. As one of our vision team put it the other day “An MSC without Up is just a social action club!” It’s succinct and true. We can’t lose the connection to our Father.
Think, for a moment, about the things you eat during the day. Most of us split our food into two types – meals and snacks. Three (usually) times a day we sit with someone and eat a meal; sandwiches, cereal and fruit, hot dinner and so on. This takes a bit of time, it can feel like a bit of an investment, we may rush it, but we all take time to sit and eat.
Most of us also snack – we eat on the go. If you are healthy this might be fruit or some seeds, it could be a bag of crisps a cake or a chocolate bar. You don’t have to take lots of time on it and you don’t have to eat loads, just enough to get energy levels up.
This is a great way of thinking about our prayer and worship life together: how would you rate your community’s Up? Do you snack together regularly, do you ever take time to sit and eat? Here are a few ideas of things you could try.
If you’re gathering for (a real, non metaphorical) meal, make sure you do a decent grace.
Use texts messages, Whatsapp or Facebook to share community prayer requests, testimonies or things you feel the Lord is saying. These can be really good because they can be so instant.
Pause to pray in your day – talk about whether you stop at 12 with the rest of the church. Could you build in another time just for your community?
Watch a worship video – find a song, or an inspiring video and play it together for a few minutes.
Have a worship night: I love it when the communities I have been part of sing and wait on God together. There is something really special about these times. You can use a guitar if you want to but there are other ways of worshipping – a bit of creative planning and you’ll come up with some great ideas.
Discovery Bible Study: Lots of us have been finding these very helpful to get us regularly reading and digesting the bible together.
Thanksgiving – Spend a bit of time talking about the good things God is doing. You may have to work to prompt some people to spot these in their lives. Share your stories and then start to pray, thank God for his good work and ask him to deepen it in you.
Prayer walk a neighbourhood – want to hear God’s heart for the people around you? Go for a walk together with Jesus and ask him what he is thinking.
Explore a spiritual discipline – read together about a particular practice. Decide that you are going to commit to doing that together for a while.
Have a community night of prayer – Book a longer chunk of time and pray together – once again be a creative as you want to.
Share communion together, if you are actually eating together why not get bread and wine and turn it into communion. If you decide to do this from time to time Mark or I would love to join you.
2 things not to forget
Don’t forget the feasts that are layed on for us as a family of families, an encouragement to your community to come to gatherings – especially the Up might really help you learn to worship together
Also don’t forget individual worship – When it comes to up its good to regularly snack or eat a meal on your own. How is your individual worship life going
Want to go further? Here are two recent blog posts that explore worship and prayer more deeply.
Sustaining a life of Worship – from the Missional Communities Blog
Reflections on prayer and paying the price – from Jo Saxton’s Blog
Tell us what you think? My ideas are really just starters, there is so much more you can do.
How do you currently approach up together as an MSC, is there something you feel led to take on? Tell us in the comments below.
This morning at 9am prayers Rachel W shared these thoughts on Matthew 5: 12 – 16.
Salt – used as a preservative, stops meat going off, adds flavour, and depth of flavour. Salt makes other flavours stand out. Salt is also a natural cleanser, useful if you need to clean a wound.
Salt is essential to help balance fluids in the human body, and the blood pressure. but too much salt can cause madness, dehydration, hardening of the arteries and death. Too little salt can cause shock, coma death. So salt is essential to enable the body to work.
Salt that has lost its saltiness is just grit, and rubbish. Salt is essential, not to be over or under used, how often have you heard a pinch is just enough.
Jesus is challenging us to be an essential element for him. To be used with wisdom and sense, Too little is useless and a waste of time but too much is overpowering and potentially dangerous, and can leave a nasty taste in the mouth!
So what about light?
Well at the risk of sounding like an overused 80’s worship song Jesus is telling us not to hide, to be light dispelling the darkness. It doesn’t matter how small the light is in a dark room you can’t take your eyes off it. In pitch black a tiny speck of light can be mesmerising, whereas light is almost impossible to ignore you can’t hide it, it will escape confines, light sneaks through cracks. Light is a force to be recognised, plants and therefore humans and animals will not exist without light. It is vital for our very being. But we are being challenged to do more than soak up this useful resource, we are being urged to radiate light as well, share this valuable treasure, to show Gods love through simple actions, as praise for who he is. Sharing your light and holding it high so it reaches a long way enables it to become stronger and brighter; light will always force dark out.
The photo is by CCarlstead on Flickr
Dan Hetherington reflects on what God is doing in Step Up, the discipleship year we run with a number of other churches. You can find out more about Step-Up here.
The original plan for Step Up was quite different to what currently have. The thoughts when starting out was to fill churches in the area with young interns who would help to go out and plant seeds, develop vision and infuse congregations. In fact I was given a brief in my first year to research internship schemes with the plan on developing a year out option for the northern half of the then diocese of Ripon and Leeds.’
Even after the first year, and only having people ‘half-time’, we struggled to hear God, and continued pressing into the initial thoughts and plans for the scheme. It took until the end of the second year, after trying to run with a full-time and part-time balancing act, with disastrous recruiting, and appointments made for the full-time internship positions. Halfway through the year we saw more mature people who had decided to make the journey really start to grow, and this started to turn heads. The Management Team were really encouraged to see that even though this was not what we had planned, God was using us.
LIGHTBULB MOMENT: God wanted us to be discipling people in their context, not trying to take them away from where he had placed them, and bring them to Harrogate.
From that point we have worked solely to the brief that Jesus gave the apostles: “go make disciples.” We believe that this is what God is wanting us to do in and through Step Up, and since following through on this conviction we have seen steady and continued growth.
One of our early Council of Reference Members
decided to step down because they thought that Step Up had no future. When they did that, I would be lying if I said I didn’t also feel that it was not working and that what we were trying to do (offer an internship scheme similar to those offered by churches serving universities, without any of the churches in our area actually having a university) was just not the right thing.
Thankfully God stood by our intentions. We needed to allow Him to change our hearts away from a scheme that could benefit the churches involved in the short term, toward a scheme that would benefit his people and his kingdom in the long term. Discipleship is what it’s all about!
It’s also interesting reflecting on the need to go where we find the peace. We tried for years to ‘push’ step up, to get people and churches involved. But there was little peace there. When we changed the approach, and went fishing, it was amazing that in the space of a day or so, we had our first real bite. We invited people in, and let them have the opportunity to ‘suck it and see’. And it’s amazing what God has done.
This year we have 3 hubs, 5 weekly groups, 42 participants, and a growing team of people who are able to disciple and mentor others in an effective way – all this by the Grace of God.
What’s my lesson in all this? Don’t let the devil pull the wool over your eyes. It’s fine to have dreams of what things could be, or even what you want them to be, but these need to be grounded in what God’s overriding vision is. Jesus told his disciples
to throw the net over the other side of the boat, and they caught fish galore. We need to be prepared to do the same thing, to change approach when we feel God’s prompting. Happy Fishing!
Psalm 29 is one I keep coming back to again and again. It’s all about how when God speaks, stuff happens, and mighty stuff at that.
Here is a list of things this Psalm says happen when the voice of the Lord speaks…
– His voice echoes above the sea
– His voice is powerful and majestic
– His voice splits and shatters the mighty cedars
– His voice strikes with bolts of lightning
– His voice makes the barren wilderness shake and quake
– His voice twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare
This is powerful stuff! Whatever authority we feel we have (or don’t have!) when we speak, at work, with our kids, leading our MSC, in our community etc, that really dims in comparison to the authority and power that God’s voice has. God’s voice spoke creation into being!
This encourages me when I think about the difficult or impossible situations I face, and makes me even more desperate to hear the voice of the one who can achieve so much more when He speaks than I ever could. I want to hear the encouragements, promises and challenges from the Lord that will transform my life and the situations I find myself in, to make the wilderness shake, to split, twist and shatter the things that look immovable from my perspective. How about you?
Jesus quotes a verse from Deuteronomy when He is being tempted by the devil in the wilderness: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Deut 8:3) He later says that we are His sheep and the sheep know the Shepherd’s voice. One of the things I most often come back to in my walk with the Lord is a desire to hear Him speaking more clearly. I once heard someone say that it’s not the case that God isn’t speaking to us, it’s a matter of us learning to listen. That’s an important perspective shift. Jesus’ promise is that we sheep will hear His voice, we don’t need to persuade or plead with Him to speak. I am trying to get better at ‘tuning in’ to Him.
As we come towards the end of August, lets keep regularly coming back to listening to what the Lord wants to do for us, in us and through us. His voice is powerful beyond all others and is the voice we need to hear louder than any other voice, so it’s worth stopping to hear Him! I know in my life when I’ve done that – even just taking 5 minutes in a quiet(ish!) place in the middle of the day – then I’ve seen situations change, sometimes quite remarkably, and it’s so much easier that way than trying to force something by myself.
Let’s be a people who are known for listening to the Lord, hearing Him speak and then acting on it – what a privilege to be able to do that!
If you have any senses of what the Lord is saying to you for Kairos, our MSCs or things we can all be praying into for Harrogate do let us know.
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