Be thou my vision

It has been an ‘action-packed’ week.  Last weekend I was preaching in the lovely city of Belfast in Northern Ireland, ministering to a godly group of Nazarenes on the Newtonards Road.  It was great to be in another part of the country in the company of people who love God’s word, who love to worship and who know what it is to pray.  Really good weekend.   After that, a few days in the Lake District with my family and then for me, this last two days, a solo retreat on Lindisfarne and in North Northumberland at St Cuthbert’s Cave.

There are a great many things on my heart and mind and I could think of nothing better than to give God the best part of two days quiet to speak in one of the places I love to go and find some stillness.  And speak He did.  Not in a ‘turn left, then take the third right and a fourth left’ kind of way.  I think God is interested in that kind of direction, but I think he is more interested in the direction of our hearts, devotion, holiness and the pattern of our lives and attitudes.

1795684_10152252892827069_195802778_n It was important for me to ‘look at me heart’ as I prepare myself for the Order of Saint Leonard service next Saturday, as I look again at reaffirming my ordination/commissioning promises.  I followed a solo retreat guide fashioned after the spirit an discipleship of Cuthbert, exploring his commitment to worship, prayer, intercession, spiritual warfare and ministry and servant leadership to the people God gave him.  Sitting with the wind battering me on St Cuthbert’s Island, I felt both at the same time the pressure of the ‘moods’ of being in Christian leadership and the strong power of the Holy Spirit.

1506890_10152252889192069_832260893_nSo, these last few days the wind, the sea, the birds, the sun, the tide and the land have been my teachers and it was a privilege to join with them all in worship and enjoying the presence of God with them.  Before I came home, I celebrated a simply bread and juice communion at Cuthbert’s Cave.  The rock was the altar, the trees raised their arms in prayer and the birds sang the song they’ve been given.  The sun provided a gentle warmth as the wind invoked memory of the Spirit’s origins and direction, going where He pleased.

In it all, I recognised that the past is behind and the future isn’t guaranteed in the way we think.  What we have, as a gift of radical grace, is the gift of the Present Moment.  Now.   Today is God’s moment to catch the breath of his Spirit, to align our spirits heavenward, and to take each step with Christ as he leads.

All that seemed right to do before climbing back into the car, was to get out my whistle and offer these words and this tune to the High King of Heaven.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
Both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
Be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
Be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
Be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might;
Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise:
Be thou mine inheritance now and always;
Be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of Heaven, my treasure thou art.
High King of Heaven, thou Heaven’s bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won!;
Great heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.
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Standing

I had a rare opportunity to take myself along to share in worship with another church in the city, an opportunity that I took having felt I wanted to visit the Tyneside Vineyard Church again.  The pastors there, David and Nic Bass, do a great job in good Vineyard fashion and have built a great church in 7 years which is actively reaching out into various areas of the city.

I was encouraged yet again to be in the presence of folks who are listening to the Spirit of God and who have the courage, boldness and naturally supernatural desire to bless and encourage.  I was obviously supposed to be there as God used his people to encourage me in a beautiful way.

During the ministry time, Dave spoke of someone standing on the bible and that he felt God saying that He wanted to encourage that person to continue to do so and to remain faithful and not lose heart.  Back in Salvation Army Training College I gave a testimony once, a bit of a declaration, that I was going to do all I could to stand on his Word and to encourage others to do so too.  In that meeting I placed my bible on the floor and literally stood on it to speak.  It was a firm commitment that I made that has continued to challenge me and provoke me to continue steadfast.

It was a timely word.  Its not that I’ve stopped standing on scripture…it remains central to the ministry I exercise.  However, I’ve been very much committed in recent years to re-evaluate my inherited ‘conservative evangelical’ doctrines I’ve been taught.  Not because I doubt them, but because in some areas I think there was much more to explore and relearn; some things to really think through.  I’ve come to see some aspects of evangelicalism as more culturally influenced than we like to believe.  I’ve been seeking to explore those inherited things in the light of Jesus message and ministry and to hold the balance.

It was a beautiful thing to be reminded of the principled stand I committed to that day, and although my understanding of what it means to stand on God’s word continues to grow and develop, that God wanted to communicate something of his encouragement when sometimes I face the pressure to shift focus, is heartening.

The Bible remains a vital source of inspiration and instruction for our spiritual lives in Christ.  It paints for us not a description of God that stays fixed, but a snapshot revelation of God through which he continues to speak to our day, age and generation.  That is a Word you can stand on.

Consecration

As I mentioned in my last blog, there were several very timely parts of scripture referred to last weekend at the Ignite Conference, all of which have had significant meaning for me over the years.  One in particular was Joshua 3:5 which reads:

Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’

When I heard it mentioned, my spirit quickened because every time this passage has sort of risen to the top of my awareness, it has been during a very significant time when I’ve sensed another important time ahead.  Coming from the ‘Wesleyan Holiness’ stall, the concept of consecration is a key part of the spiritual life.  It is the conscious act of preparing ourselves for an event of some sort, a rededication of one’s life to the purposes of God.

Last summer, I remember the precious evening before my silent retreat day in the wilds of Perthshire where God taught me so many amazing things.  The night before, we had an opportunity to take part in a solo act of consecration which was so special.  It was a key moment of surrender before God did something powerful.  That day, I became aware of God in a completely new way and felt more alive than I had ever had before.

On the 1st March, I have the opportunity to add another line in the sand as I both reaffirm my lifelong call to ministry, the continuation of that call from the first season of it as a Salvation Army Officer, as I’m consecrated into the Order of Saint Leonard.

There are several things that are significant in that for me.  Firstly, its a confirmation of my sense of call to be a minister of Word and Sacrament, to the whole church not just part of it, by the laying on of hands with permanent intention.  Secondly, its a fulfilment of my deep sense of call to be a part of a New-Monastic Order of men and  women committed to things like the unity of the church in a non-denominational way, the gospel imperative for the poor, the faithful preaching of the gospel and the reopening of the ancient wells of faith, especially Celtic Spirituality and Mission or Early Celtic Monastic wells which is particularly relevant to the North East.  Thirdly, I have no desire to be a lone ranger.  I’m accountable to my current church structures whilst I’m in my current role, but there will, eventually, be life beyond Trinity.  Whilst I know I belong to the wider body of Christ, I also want to have as many solid links with people as I can who have a similar heart.   I do believe the denominations are weakening and that networking is going to be the tool that is key to both survival but also renewal of the church and revival – whatever that will look like for the 21st century.

I simply have a building sense that God is beginning to do a new thing with me and that a new spiritual season is on the horizon in several ways.  I have a sense of being prepared for something and I’m content to wait on God to see what that will look like.  I have a real sense of anticipation of what God has for me.

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’

14 ‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’

15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.

Joshua 5: 13 – 15

Ignite

So, one of my favourite pictures of leadership is that of Moses standing on the hill above the battlefield, interceding, whilst his people tried to defend themselves against an advancing Amalakite enemy.  Moses arms grew tired.  When his arms lowered, the battle would suffer, when he raised them, the battle turned around.  When he could hold them up no longer, Aaron and Hur got him a seat and then stood alongside him and held his arms up.

This weekend we had some folks with us from Southampton, part of the Pioneer Network of Churches, to lead a worship and ‘encounter’ weekend for us – Ignite.  From the moment they arrived I felt truly uplifted.  They spoke so many beautiful and positive things into my life which really connected with years and years of all that God has been saying to me.  Only God can do things like that. Their messages and ministry in the main sessions touched so many people, God was moving amongst us.  So many beautiful things, so right for the moment, that seem like they can’t be spoken again here and they were for a time and place.

I shared with a couple of the guys that I felt like the cavalry had come.  They sat me down and they held my arms for a little while, and that was great.  Aaron and Hur have gone home.  The battle continues.

God knows what he’s doing.  This is good.  I yield.