I was stood in a church worshipping last week when something happened that I have never seen before in more than 36 years of being in church.
A family of strangers were standing to my left and beautiful Mairi was standing to my right as the service was in full swing. As I stood with my eyes closed singing in worship, the leader invited someone to come forward who had a word of prophetic encouragement for the church. The person went forward, brought the word and the leader then invited anyone who wanted to respond to come forward for prayer.
As I looked up, a young bloke in his thirties had immediately gone forward and stood at the front with his back to the congregation, facing forward. In the next second, he then jumped into the air and performed a backwards summersault flip and landed back on his feet! Flawless. 10/10. Perfect.
Have I just seen a bloke jump into the air and summersault at the front of the church during a worship service?
In that moment it was as though God had pressed His almighty finger on to my ‘joy button’ and I began to laugh deeply in a way that was beyond just finding something funny in the natural. I’d instinctively looked for the church leader’s reaction which was relatively non-plussed as though that kind of thing happened regularly in church (maybe it did). The meeting carried on as though nothing had happened.
But I found this hilariously funny! I don’t think Mairi had seen what’d happened so she was kind of looking at me as if to say what’s going on with you? and I knew the family to my left were also wondering what’s going on with him?
So I just carried on laughing until laughter turned into tears of joy.
In A Moment
When God moves in your life, He seems to take only a fraction of a second – the communication of His Spirit to your heart – but He really takes no time at all. I don’t know if that chap summersaults at the front of church every week or whether that was his first time, but I do know that it was something that got my attention.
God had shown me in a moment through my dear summersaulting brother, that, despite the distressingly ambiguous nature of the Church, there remains a joy to be found in her of such immensity that our previous points of reference are practically null and void. The joy of the Lord over His literal bride is beyond our ability to fathom and is not part of our normal experience. His Everest joy is in her (in us) just as she is though He loves her too much to not transform her into His likeness.
Solomon’s bride profoundly said, “Dark am I yet lovely…” (See Songs 1:5) because she’d come to understand that she was loved perfectly though she was imperfect; and that this unconditional love of her Bridegroom Lover was the only transforming power to redeem her flawed nature. The same is true of Gomer and the mighty love of Hosea. The same kind of hesed love that we see between Ruth and Boaz.
We’d gone to this particular church because we knew the church leader and we knew he was a great bloke. We also knew enough about the church to know that their convictions about some of the ‘big issues’ in this blog series were the same as ours. Mainly though, we’d gone to this church because we love the Church, a love that, by God’s grace, has deepened as some of the legitimate concerns of Into The Pray have been expressed.
So, picking up on the Kingdom Signposts that I promised you but that have been less clear in the last four weeks, as one final annotation in my notebook called Every day is a school day:
You can’t grow in the love of Christ for the corporate Church without feeling deeply distressed by her in just the same way that you can’t come to know the depth of His love for you personally without feeling deeply distressed by your own darkness.
The Coming King
Through this blog series my heart has been softened. It has been softened by the love of the Saviour for the darkness of His bride; it has been softened by the love of my Saviour for the darkness of my heart. It has only been through prayer and fasting that a deepening of the revelation about the love of Christ for the Church has dawned on us like a warming sunrise.
Yes, the Church is facing many challenges all across the earth ranging from the horrors of the persecuted Church to the confused nominalism of the liberal Church; from the stifled stiffness of the cessationist church to the self-inflicted anaemia of the charismatic Church.
But Jesus Christ is moving in our midst – He is on the move. It will only be the increasing ministry of the Holy Spirit within the Body that causes her to be ready for His soon return – a readiness characterised by the unleashed Spirit and the unchained Word. We have a role to play – to love and to serve as we should, to question and provoke and to challenge, to rebuke and to encourage and build.
However, God is also coming back for a Bride who has made herself ready (see Rev.19:7) and this preparation will never come about by a magic wand or a Sovereign God zapping us without our co-operation. We choose whether or not to ‘live ready’ in the here and now in the revelation of what He’s done and in the expectation of what He’s said He is about to do.
I encourage you to think about the other six posts in this blog series and to be like the Berean Jews who understood that the coming (and second coming) of Christ was not at all at odds with an eager, seriously joyful lifestyle of Biblical enquiry.
If you are a true lover and follower of Christ, and you’re not living like the Berean Jews, why are you not?
Love and peace, NF
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.