This week we explore the ONE key distinctive that defines us as God's people, and how prayer is an essential response to this.
As we launch our vision month for 2022, I want to get our hearts and lives freshly focussed on what is most important through some extended reflections and exercises on prayer.
Let's ask and answer this great question! More specifically, how does prayer help us focus on what is most important?
Well, let's try answering this through a different set of questions:
Have you ever thought about what makes us, as a church, distinct from any other gathering of people? When I say gathering of people, I'm talking everything from sports clubs, to gatherings of your friends at home or at the pub, to family gatherings on the weekends. What makes us distinct from any such other form of group of people gathering together?
It is simply this - we gather, first, to the living God. We gather, first, for the living God. To be present in our midst. Sports clubs gather to play sport and socialise around that. Friends gathering to enjoy food and drink and one anothers company. Family gathers because of the bond of blood and the keep that strong.
We gather as a church because God, the living God of scripture and Spirit, has called us to Himself.
Called to none other than the living God!
It's the consistent call of the Spirit of God throughout the pages of scripture. Check out a short sampling below:
From right after the fall in the third chapter of Genesis - "...the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”" [Genesis 3:9]
When Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem - "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." [2 Chronciles 7:14]
When Israel was lost to exile in a foreign land due to their unfaithfulness - "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." [Jeremiah 29:13]
From the mouth of Jesus, Son of God, himself - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." [Mt 11:28]
We gather to, and for, God! This is not only His invitation to us throughout scriptures, but further, it is our chief purpose in life. You have to realise something really important here - if this is not so, there is literally nothing that distinguishes us from any other form of human social activity. And here's a really challenging implication to that last thought - that there is no good reason to preference church gatherings over any other form of human social gathering or activity.
However, if gathering for Church (in prayer gatherings, Life Group gatherings, Sunday service gatherings to name a few forms of Church life) means gathering before, gathering for, and gathering with the Living God...is there anything else like Church on the face of the Earth?
Moses God it COMPLETELY
The Exodus narrative in the early portions of the Old Testament records Moses - leader of ancient Israel - having a very distinctive moment of prayer with the Lord on behalf of the gathering that was the Israelite nation. Israel was a collection of tribes. A network of many families. Many different types of social groupings, relationships, and interactions. But because of unfaithfulness to God, they were in danger of losing the one reality that made them a most distinctive form of gathering. And Moses simply would not let this happen!
I quote him now, because his words are worth considering in light of todays blog post:
"Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” [Exodus 33:12–16]
Moses is putting a stake in the ground at this moment in Israel's history. He was saying, quite clearly - the only reality that distinguishes us from any other gathering of people on the face of the planet is You, Lord God Almighty. Your real presence with us!
And you know what?
Nothing has changed in the thousands of years that have transpired since then.
We Are God's People
This is our distinctive, our one outstanding distinctive amongst all the different types of groups and gatherings that take place around the world. The people where God is!
Have you thought about the implications of this one distinctive for how you approach gathering together with each other as a Church? Have you thought through the possibilities in this reality? Have you thought through how challenging this distinctive is in it's implications for what we are to expect of ourselves as we gather?
Two great implications follow for us. Firstly, any gathering together by us with other members of God's church is no ordinary gathering - we're gathering for, and to, the living God! And secondly, we must avail ourselves of every opportunity to engage with God as the real and living being in our midst!
So join us for our regular Wednesday night prayer gatherings, as a key gathering priority over the next few weeks.
The fact that frequent prayer is a key part of our Vision Month activities leads me to the focus of our next series over the course of the remainder of this month - "Empowering Your Prayer Life."
We'll get practical with exercises and reflections that will Empower your prayer life - applied personally and as we gather together!
For the week ahead
Join us, onsite or online, this Wednesday night, 8pm. The link is HERE. And further, think on the implications of being a people amongst who God has chosen to specifically dwell in His reality!
Praying and thinking with you in the opportunities before us in the coming days!
Written by Ps. Rob.