I have to relate the story of God’s working by picking up the story in the middle, which would make it Sunday morning. We’ve just finished a “non-revival revival” (not a scheduled series of revival services) or as I liked to dub it, a “ministry sandwich.” We had Pastor Greg Farrell, and his wife Tina, from Busselton, West Australia here for our annual Marriage Retreat. “Sandwiched” around this was his preaching our Wednesday night midweek worship service, and then staying over to minister both services yesterday, on Sunday.
Greg and I have been friends for years and enjoyed a wonderful bond of friendship in Christ. One reason contributing to this is that we share some mutual loves and interests. We both love to fish. He has a major leg up on me in this department since he lives right on the ocean, and I am a desert dweller! We also both love to cook fish as part of our personal and family menu. In this department it’s probably neck and neck with each of us sharing with the other different ways to prepare and cook fresh fish (the key word here being fresh). While Greg can actually go out and catch his own fish, stocking his freezer, I have to buy mine at my local fishmonger which supplies excellent product. The final and most important link in this bond is that we both have a deep love for the Word of God. I would consider him one of the handful of people that I can sit around with and talk about God’s Word and the inspiration and revelation the Holy Spirit brings.
This is why I thoroughly enjoyed the richness of the preached Word this week. On Wednesday night the message from (Ezra 8:21-23) focused on how the God of the Book becomes the God of Experience; a spiritual alchemy which needs to take place in every Christian’s life. One of the aids available to all of us in this process is the “prayer factor” that Ezra practiced. Prayer is not just the means of us getting what we want from God, it is also indispensable in theology being translated into reality in our lives. The Marriage Retreat was truly an outstanding time, and I think one of the largest attendances ever. Launching everything was Thursday night’s message on Jealousy as the “silent killer” that resides in the selfishness of our hearts. Friday morning was a very practical message on Greed, or how money affects and cannot be divorced from marriage. The statistics bear this out that money, or better yet, disharmony on how we view and handle money, is behind the breakdown of many marriages. Friday night concluded with a masterpiece on the subject of Communication, the quiet achiever. The word communication literally means “to connect” and it involves a lot more than just words. In fact, we can speak words without really communicating. Words account for about 7% of communication. Real communication is made up of a number of important ingredients, beginning with words, yes, but also involving tone (around 38% of communication), and also gestures (accounting for another 55%). So, it’s not just what you say, but it’s also how you say it that matters.
Sunday morning was my first “back-to-back” since my surgery in late June, meaning I was able to be in both the Sunday morning and evening services. There was such an awesome presence of God, that having missed so many church services was like an elixir to my soul! This was the middle of the story that I began this article with. If Pastor Farrell was not preaching, I was almost prepared to give the altar call after the worship and prayer time. That’s how real and precious it was. He preached on “Gold Fever” and Rehoboam’s act of replacing Solomon’s gold shields with his bronze shields. We can hold the shields, they “look” like gold or the real thing, but deep down inside we know there’s something missing. The wonderful grace of God available is that the “gold” is not all that far away from any of us. Jesus admonished the lukewarm Laodecian church to “buy of Me gold tried in the fire.” I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where there isn’t some kind of advertisement on the advisability of buying gold as a means of protecting our assets or future. Jesus is telling all of us that the “gold” is not far away, we can have it back in our lives, our worship, and our service, if we desire it.
Sunday night we ended the week of ministry with a kind of “unplugged” ministry. A combination of excellent music, worship, and woven through all of it was truth about God’s reality, and stories that were a wonderful confirmation of that fact. (Use pictures I sent you). Like a fine coffee, all of this was a wonderful blend. The one thing that made all the difference in all of these different settings was a real manifestation of God’s presence. It is when God shows up that everything changes, people’s lives are helped and transformed, and nothing is impossible!