Intimacy with God and the Christ-Centric life

Be careful COVID-19 infections are on the rise… 73 deaths and 7210 new cases… let us not get complacent…

As the pace of life begins to pick up, so many people are asking questions “What now?”  What will life post lockdown look like?  What will my job look like?  How will I provide for my family? What’s going to happen in the country?

And we can see, evil runs rampant. Possibly we may find ourselves backing away from social media and the news because of the constant reminder of fear and doubt that floods our news feeds.

I believe this is what happens to a society falling short on faith. The evil one wants nothing more than to see people fall away from faith, and to see society destroyed through fear and rebellion.

We see our society and the problems that we face.  We become so bogged down in the problems we are exposed to that we begin to lose sight of Him and His peace and purposes. 

Just looking at the COVID-19 pandemic, Eskom, SAA, government Corruption, crime, murders, rape, BLM, Gender based violence, farm murders… 

We may get angry and disillusioned, so we start becoming champions for causes…  And Facebook complainers 😊

We get involved in activism, feeding the poor and speaking out against injustice, and we must.

But what separates us from any other NGO or NPO? Jesus and hearing His voice!

When becoming champions against injustice, we must remain focused on Jesus, on hearing His voice – Jesus who should be the center, everything should lead to him and the healing He brings.

We must be Jesus-centric…

We can get so involved in championing that we stop hearing His voice and take our focus off Christ. That very championing, as good as it may be, can become an idol.

To be Jesus-centric in times like this it is critical that we hear God’s voice. And we allow scripture and His promptings to form and inform our lives. 

Hearing God’s voice is vital to us as believers. What is God’s desire for our lives, within our homes and families, as well as for our church?

2 thoughts I would like to submit to you today which will be the foundation of what I will be sharing:

  1. I wonder, would our lives look different if we were only doing things God Himself had initiated? 
  2. The real question isn’t, Is God speaking? The real question lies within our ability to hear His voice.

We are constantly bombarded with so much noise that the ability to hear and see what God’s up to can often be a struggle. Sometimes it feels impossible to hear His voice with so much distraction.

In fact, many times it can be downright frustrating to hear and understand what God is saying about our lives. No matter the distractions, God shares what He is doing or about to do with those who take the time to have knowledge of the One who holds all the answers.

To know Him is to know His voice. For the most part, every believer wants to know God’s will for their lives, but our discipline must match our desire.

If you want to know God’s will for your life, you must also be willing to invest in the disciplines that give us this clarity.

 If you want to have revelation, I believe you first must have intimacy and live a Christ-centric life…

And hearing from God all begins with intimacy with Him.

People often say to me that they want to know what God is saying, and they want to get revelation as to what He’s up to. I have found, that most revelation is birthed out of intimacy.

So how do we do this thing of Christ-centric life and intimacy with God?

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT THERE IS A TIMES FOR EVERYTHING

King Solomon put it this way: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Remember the time is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord!

We live in this microwave society that expects instantaneous answers to everything. 

  • We don’t save, but we buy lotto tickets
  • We don’t exercise and eat well, but we buy diet drinks, sweeteners and books on the latest fad diets
  • We don’t put the time into our marriages, but read a book on marriage and expect to have a perfect relationship
  • We get told our health is not good, we want to pill to fix our 50-year love affair with pizza, burgers, sugar and chocolate

But the sooner we realize that there is a time for everything and there are seasons in life, the sooner we can find peace in the circumstances, stop striving, be less distracted and focus on Jesus and His voice…

We will begin to renew intimacy with God…

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT TIME IS NOT LIMITLESS

Paul’s words in Eph 5:15-16 speak to this:

Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, (16) making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

We can learn to make the most of every opportunity, and our time, by becoming conscious of the fact that we may not have another day.

 

The song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw is about redeeming the time. While its focus is on pursuing earthly passions in the time we have left, the lyrics make an important point. They finish with this thought: Someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.”

We should start every morning by committing our day to the Lord and asking Him to help us do something that day that has eternal significance.

 

By beginning our day with eternity in mind, we become more aware of spiritual nudges in our hearts.

 

We look for ways we can honor the Lord, help someone else, or utilize our time in productive ways.

 

Sitting at a red robot, we can pray for our neighbor. Mopping the floor, we can worship in song. At a restaurant, we can leave an extra big tip with a card inviting the waiter to church.

 

We can evaluate our gifts and interests and find ways to invest them for God’s kingdom. 

 

If we do that we will begin to renew intimacy with God…

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT IF WE ARE NOT ENOUGH WITHOUT IT, WE WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH WITH IT

Remember Jesus’ words about the things of this world?

Mat 16:26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Finding contentment does not mean a lack of ambition, it means you have peace and joy in whatever circumstances you find yourself in. 

The writer of Hebrews says it this way:

Heb 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

If we find contentment knowing He will never leave us, nor will He ever forsake us, we will begin to renew intimacy with God…

Intimacy with God is the key to hearing His voice…

Remember the two thoughts that are the foundation of today?

  1. Would our lives look different if we were only doing things God Himself had initiated? 
  2. The real question isn’t, Is God speaking? The real question lies within our ability to hear His voice.

In the times we are living in, we desperately need to hear the voice of God.

But as I said, most revelation is birthed out of intimacy with Him,  and living Christ-centric lives…

Scripture records:

1Ch 16:11 Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

Look to Him and always seek His face!  When you do, you will her His voice.  You will hear the…

MIRACLE OF THE GENTLE WHISPER 

1Ki 19:9-13  There he came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the LORD said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"  (10)  Elijah replied, "I have zealously served the LORD God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I alone am left, and now they are trying to kill me, too."  (11)  "Go out and stand before me on the mountain," the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  (12)  And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.  (13)  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

As we endeavor to lead less distracted lives, press into lives lived in intimacy with Him, we will begin to hear His voice in the miracle of the gentle whisper.  In the prompts of Holy Spirit, in scripture, and in so many other ways. Perhaps you will find an answer the the question, “What am I doing here?”

The greatest example of how to live life is to be found in Jesus Himself. He looked to His Father always!

John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

John 8:28  So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

Jesus was deeply intimate with His Father. The words the Father spoke to Jesus were the only way Jesus could accomplish what He set out to do.

There is a big difference between doing things for God, and doing things with Him… Jesus only did what He saw His Father already doing…

It is the same today:

His still small voice hits us in the core of who we are, directing us in the same way the Father directed Jesus.

Jesus Himself modeled hearing and understanding what the Father is saying so that we can change the course of history too.

And my prayer for you today is if you take the time to be with Him, nothing else will be as important. It will bring your life into clear perspective of who you are, and what you’re made for.

And in your life, no matter the distractions, may His voice be the loudest.

 

 

Level 3 - Willows Way Forward

Friends,

As things move from level four to level three of the COVID-19 lockdown on the first of June we wanted to inform you of what we believe our way forward will be as a church. Willow Hill is a wonderful family and community and we know that gathering together on Sundays is deeply missed, but we will continue to make decisions based on what is best for the Health and well-being of our community. 

This is not policy, rather what we believe is a loving, principled, pastoral and wise way forward for us as a community.  What is communicated herein is a live and working communication which we as a leadership will prayerfully and in consultation revisit and adjust as things develop in terms of our COVID-19 response.

We have not come to these decisions lightly but in consultation with our leadership team, churches within Vineyard SA, many denominations, as well as advocates from Freedom of Religion SA.

While President Ramaphosa’s announcement allows for places of worship to reopen with a limit of 50 people or less when the country moves into Level 3 on the 1st of June 2020; We do not believe this is wise at the moment.  Our church moved out of the building in March.  We have had the most amazing times of worship, prayer and ministry.  We have had healings and ministry over Zoom and on our Live Facebook messages, our Father has been present, and people have found ways to engage with one another in new and meaningful ways. 

We have seen the kingdom advancing in the most amazing ways.  Checkout this link to see what has been happening with our engagement in terms of the poor - https://joynews.co.za/local-churches-and-npos-join-hands-to-feed-the-poor-and-needy-during-lockdown/?fbclid=IwAR20bW68D2fgR38YU6oCePy_IePaJ8MuaPM0mgdzSxgIfsAX1cwn_Lsgz6g

Lynda Smith put it this way, “The church is the people. We do not need a building to honor God. Our role, I believe at this time is to be the hands and feet, to feed, shelter and look after those who are vulnerable. To spread love and hope. Use the buildings for this but I do not believe now is the right time to be meeting corporately” Mandy and I, as well as our leadership team feel the same way.

The church has always championed the value of life. Our meetings are by nature tactile and draw together cross sections of society. Church gatherings could easily become a point of infection. We must choose life for the sake of the community and our church members.

For the moment we will not be meeting at our facility at Oakfield Farm on Sunday mornings.  We will continue with Facebook Live, YouTube, WhatsApp, Zoom and other forms of connecting.

In terms of Life Groups, at level 3 we cannot meet.  Life-Groups are classified as social interactions and as such are not allowed.  What would be different in a Life-Group from a dinner party with friends?  Nothing, the law stipulates church meetings in a place set aside for religious worship i.e. a church building.  Over and above the legal implications, our region has being declared a COVID-19 hotspot, we cannot endorse Life-Groups meeting in homes at the moment.

Friends, as was said earlier in this document, what has been communicated herein is a live and working communication which we as a leadership will prayerfully and in consultation revisit and adjust as things develop in terms of our COVID-19 response.

We at Willow are grateful to King Jesus for His hand over us, Holy Spirit for His guidance, empowering, comfort and authority, and to our Father Who is in heaven, may His name be hallowed at this time!

May His Kingdom come

Love

Andrew and the Willow team

 

Feel free to read on below the media statement made by the Jesuit institute for a balanced response to President Ramaphosa’s announcement.

MEDIA STATEMENT by the Jesuit Institute South Africa

ON OPENING PLACES OF WORSHIP

The Jesuit Institute South Africa has noted President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that places of worship may reopen with a limit of 50 people or less when the country moves into Level 3 on 1 June 2020. We wholeheartedly support the call for a National Day of Prayer on 31 May, Pentecost Sunday.

Many people of faith have suffered the loss and pain of not being allowed to gather in their respective communities for worship. We know this. Refraining from gathering was seen as a way of religious communities actively choosing to care by temporarily stopping a core practice ­­­– gathering for worship ­– for the common good. We do not need to open churches right now to practise our faith. Prayer, acts of kindness, reading sacred texts and service of neighbour can continue without gathering in the midst of this pandemic.

This sudden, seemingly rushed move is questionable. Evidence of cluster spread in other parts of the world suggests that even in places of worship where strict social distancing rules were upheld there were reports of infection. The more people mix, the more there is potential for spread. Places of worship are not immune to the virus. This move seems to contradict the President’s oft repeated phrase that we must be “guided by the overriding principle of doing whatever it takes to preserve life”.

The government is also sending mixed messages. While a ban on friend and family visits remains in place, it seems illogical that people can gather in places of worship.

The move creates yet another inequality at a time that has highlighted our profoundly unequal society: those who get to attend and those who don’t. How and by whom will this be decided - and monitored? It goes against the very spirit of being a community of believers to split that community. This is an almost impossible decision to make for religious leaders who may have to decide.

Many places of worship do not have the financial capacity to provide the prescribed personal protection equipment and/or personnel to sanitize the buildings, furniture and equipment that is necessary.

Will police check places of worship and break up gatherings of more than 50 persons?

The President insists that the government is learning from other parts of the world and listening to scientists. Fair enough. And we know opinion is divided, evidence uncertain, and the right course unclear. There is a logic behind saying that if we open up businesses, churches should follow. But there is a difference between opening up for economic survival, particularly as people start to starve, and opening institutions that could function differently in these times.

In ethical situations where there are no good options, an ethical response should err on the side of caution. Sadly, we do not believe this does.

 

ENDS

 

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