Sunday, 7 May 2017

Weekend Away 2017 - Part 2

The way the Israelites were to live was clearly important for them (hence tonnes of material in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy!). A key aspect was to teach these ways to their children, and children to their children (Deuteronomy 4:9). We deliberately talk about mentoring together with discipleship: leading alongside another so that they too can 'get it'. If we do that well, they will not only get it for themselves, but so that they too can walk alongside others and mentor them.

This should raise in each of us the strategic question: "Who are you discipling or mentoring?". Remember that if each of us discipled just a couple of others well enough such that they also go on to disciple a couple of others, a massive chain reaction would start! The true cost of mission surely is the time individuals need to spend discipling people new to the faith - since there really is no shortcut for this.

A legitimate answer to the question above is 'our children'. A recent Evangelical Alliance survey reminds us that parents spend the most time with their children than anyone else, and so are best placed for that whole life influence. Yet maybe there is a deficit of confidence in discipling our own children. Perhaps the church needs to provide some better tools.

But however we live and help others grow, we need to do it all in the provision of God. A strong image in the Bible is 'rivers'. The image may be used in different ways, with provision, boundary, showing judgement (and reversal of judgement) being among them. In addition of course a river is a place for baptism, a place for healing as well as all kinds of other examples.

Genesis 2:10 - 14 and Revelation 22:1 - 2 both talk of a river flowing from the location of God's special place. Both symbolise God providing and bringing life, flowing out to the many & varied. We should see the significance in this same basic image being used at both the beginning and the end of the overall Bible story. Eden of course has perfection, and the Revelation scene has trees with enduring fruit and leaves for healing ... God both providing and restoring.

Now if we read Ezekiel 47 we have another special place for God - this time the Jewish temple. Mysteriously a river is trickling from it! Even more mysterious the further the person travels from the Temple the deeper the river becomes. By v7 it is deep enough to swim in, and as with Revelation we are told there are trees growing, fruit and leaves for healing. The river flows into Arabah, a normally barren place with salty water. As the river mixes, the water is purified for fish to thrive in.

Clearly this is the same basic image of God providing, healing and restoring. Yet the interesting thing is that this activity occurs away from the Temple out in the otherwise barren place. What is it telling us? Perhaps that the place of the greatest miracle, the greatest work of God is the place where we will be out of our depth and the risk seems to be the most.

We need to be honest with ourselves about how much we are prepared to go out of our depth. Do we go just to our knees, our waist, or fully in? As a church we are praying for pioneers - people who are going where there is currently no map and potentially lots of risk. We are praying for community ministers - people who intentionally give their time to minister, who are finding God's strength to perhaps go that bit deeper.

The challenge for each of us is will we enter in, go into the deeper places where God is working. The risk and uncertainty may be great, but they are also places where there is the greatest blessing of God.

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