A Habitation of God and Lifelong Followers
I want to share some of what God has been teaching me recently. I pray that there is something God wants to teach you in what He has taught me. I encourage you to ask Him what He wants to teach you. Maybe He will encourage you through what I have learned, maybe not, but He desires to teach you.
Among other things, He has been teaching me through a book I read, a seminar and conference I attended, and by me doing a better job of letting Him speak. The conference I attended was called "Church Renewal Weekend" held at Southland Church in Steinbach, Manitoba. I was among a group of well over 200 people from all across Canada who came to taste and see, to experience a “renewed” church. The Pastor who invited us, Ray Duerksen, shared openly about the journey God has brought him on. He shared about how early on as a Pastor he was discouraged by the state of his church, so he decided to bring in some revival speakers. After two weeks of meetings, everyone was fired up for God, it was great, but then within six months everything fell flat to exactly where they were beforehand. The discouragement he felt when everything went back to the way it was, lead him on a journey of listening to God that taught him, a revival (visitation) from God is not what we need, but rather a Habitation. We need to see God inhabit and permeate everything we do, so we can be daily renewed.
On the Sunday night while we were at Southland Church they had a gathering they call their Prayer Summit. 1200-1500 people gathered to spend 2 hours praying. What stood out is not the number of people, but the joy, enthusiasm and anticipation everyone had. They couldn’t wait. Part way through the night all of us visitors were encouraged to spread out and let the people from the church pray for us. Not only did they pray for me, but they all stopped and asked God, “what do you want to say to Andy?” It was the same all across the auditorium. In fact, the whole auditorium went completely silent all at once. Everyone waited on God, it was His turn to speak.
Everyone I spoke with after shared about how God spoke by His Spirit and how affirming and powerful it was. We experienced a “renewed” church as everyone intentionally, humbly, and obediently let God lead. We saw it modeled from the Pastors to the janitors, through the elders and volunteers, in everyone we met, including kids to seniors and everyone in between.
What did I learn? What do we need to do to see renewal in our churches in our region? Foster authentic relationships, be listeners – first with God and then with family, friends and with those we lead and those who lead us. We need to be real and be honest with God, with ourselves and with each other. Let people in and then let God lead. It’s okay to have struggles and baggage, everyone does, but let God speak truth into your life, so you can be renewed. A church is renewed if the people in the church are renewed.
After seeing this culture of people who actively set out to listen to God, I have been challenged to be more intentional about asking God to speak to me. God can speak to us and lead us in many ways. What we need to do is make it a habit to keep asking what He wants to say, then He will lead us.
The seminar I had attended not long before I went to Manitoba, was very connected to what I was seeing and hearing at Southland. The seminar was about understanding our spiritual heart and letting God renew us from the inside. It was based on Proverbs 4:23 which says, "Above all guard hearts, for everything you do flows from it". Guarding our hearts is clearly a priority and it's easy to see why too - our heart guides everything we do (Jesus himself, reiterated this truth in Luke 6:45). The question becomes, how do we guard our hearts to ensure that they are full God's love and peace, full of light and not darkness?
As I was waiting in the Winnipeg airport after my flight home was delayed due to snow in Toronto, God made the answer jump off the page at me. I was looking at a Prayer sheet we had grabbed from the prayer room at Southland, when a pair of verses I have read so many times, jumped off the page at me. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6,7). There it was the same phrase "guard you heart". The answer to how we guard our heart is simple (of course). Be authentic with God, engage with Him and leave everything with Him, pray and then His peace will guard our hearts, so that everything we do flows out of His peace in our heart.
Let me bring in the book I mentioned reading and put it all together. I am a father to three amazing daughters and I work a lot in children's ministry, so there is a question facing the church that is very pressing to me. Why do so many kids who grow up in church end up walking away from God? The book I read was about teaching kids to worship. The author identified a huge gap, kids aren't gaining a proper grasp of how truly, wonderfully, awe-inspiring, and unimaginably amazing God really is. They don't fear God. They need to learn what it means to set aside self and circumstance to worship God, simply because He is worthy of it.
I believe the way to see lifelong followers of Christ (this applies to kids, but also to everyone no matter what our age or stage) is as easy as ABC - Awe, Bow, Confess. We must stand in awe of God, after all, He is the Almighty God, creator of the universe. We need to hold Him in the correct fear and reverence. We must bow before Jesus and actively listen to Him as our Lord. We must confess our sins and not just once, but with ongoing humility before God and with each other (1 John 1:9 & James 5:16).
I encourage you and me to learn how to offer genuine worship to God (there's more to it than just singing songs), to actually let Jesus function daily as Lord of our lives, and to be open, honest, humble, teachable, and authentic in our relationship with God and each other. If we can live like this, model it, and teach it to our kids and those with whom we have influence, we will see lifelong followers of God and a Habitation from Him.
May the Lord bless you as you look to Him,
Prayer in the Park Event Coordinator