01/01/2007

Thoughts of peace

This New Year post is a lot later than planned, but here it is anyway. Welcome to 2007! May this year be greatly blessed of the Lord.

This year our church scripture text is "I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer 29v11). We have one each year, and it defines the preaching, prayer and vision of the church for the year.

The church leadership seeks God and we find that a particular text witnesses with us all - and that becomes the text for the year. Having the text in my heart, I attended the Watchnight Service of the local Pentecostal church, Worldwide Mission Fellowship (WWMF), to find that the message was about peace for 2007! And what a powerful message it was. I had been invited there to pray for the blessing, unity and growth of all the churches across our area. But in God's mercy I received a feast!

WWMF is pastored by my good friend Dennis Greenidge. He is a mightily anointed preacher; and it seemed at this service, the Lord gave him a special anointing. He is by no means a classic verse by verse expositor, nor is he theologically reformed, but He is a man of God. He is a man of prayer, of the old school - arising around 4am each morning to seek the Lord, usually alone, but sometimes with close friends. Even to pray with him you sense the presence of the Lord in a very special way.

I could hear him preach all day. Every application and challenge shares stirs and humbles heart and mind. Many times I have sat under his preaching and had "the secrets of my heart revealed" (1 Cor 14v25) and left profoundly challenged, convicted and stirred by the Lord. It happened again on New Year's Eve, not only for me, but for a number of unbelievers who made commitments - new babies in the small hours of New Year's Day. Hallelujah!

Stop the thief - time for payback

Each year, WWMF has a theme for the year. 2006 was "Stop the thief". It was the theme of church conferences both here and in Barbados, and God's saints were equipped to face stand firm against the enemy of souls.

This year, the "motto" is "time for payback", and this was where the message started at the Watchnight Service. Proverbs 6v30-31, "People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; he may have to give up all the substance of his house."

The ultimate thief is satan himself. Dennis challenged us about our attitude to the enemy. The verse states that people do not despise a thief who steals when he is starving. Similarly we can have a casual attitude to the enemy. We can take the battering and the robbery of joy, peace, health etc as part of the deal, rather than have a holy indignation about the robbery.

satan has no right to keep our joy, peace and health. He has no right to leave us battered and bruised. Whereas 2006 the theme was learning to stand, in 2007 the focus will be winning back ground we have lost in the past. It is time for payback...

The central need of peace

However, when confronted with difficult circumstances, we often slip into panic mode. We are in no position to reclaim ground in panic mode. We fail to rest in the Lord, and we lack authority. We act in our name, in anger and stress, rather than in the name of Jesus. Panic, anger, and "losing the plot" does not defeat the enemy of souls!

Dennis then proceeded to highlight a number of scriptures about the need for our hearts and lives to have God's peace in 2007.

Firstly - he spoke to the unbelievers from Rom 5v1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God."

Secondly, the place of rest - Isaiah 26v3. The promise of perfect peace is given to the one whose mind is stayed (steadfast, focused) on the Lord - not distracted by the difficulties.

Thirdly, peace as part of everyday life. Rom 15v13 says "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Peace is part of our birthright and inheritance.

Fourthly, peace in all our dealings (Prov 16v7). For the man who pleases the Lord, even his enemies will be at peace with him. Wow! What a place to be!

Enough is enough

There was so much more to this message. There isn't space to include it all. I shall leave a link to it should it get placed online.

The final challenge, was for us as children of God to take our stand. Too many times we just resign ourselves to the enemy's battering. But it is time for us to say "enough is enough". Let us return to the Lord. Have peace with Him and in Him, rest in our souls, and no longer settle for being battered and bruised, discouraged and defeated.

Peace is one of the most precious aspects of the Christian life. Let us make every effort to grow in the peace of God. That quietness and rest which gives us the confidence to stand firm in every circumstance.

So may 2007 be a year of peace...

Rereading the above, I am not sure I have done the message justice at all, but I trust that even this skeleton outline will be an encouragement. "My soul finds rest in God alone [or "silently waits for God"]; my salvation comes from him. " (Psalm 62v1, NIV)

What can shake us, when we are at rest upon the Rock?

And from that place of rest, to experience the reality of this song: "I went to the enemy's camp, and I took back what he stole from me... he's under my feet... satan is under my feet." (Richard Black (c) 1991)

To God be the glory!

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