SIMPLE TRUTH

NativityAs we approach another Christmas, and many of us are caught up in a flurry of activity, in addition to carrying concerns for church and nation, we do well to remember that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago is a powerful statement of the premium God places on simplicity.

I was considering our pre-Christmas service in Golden Valley Church and I kept hearing the words “simplicity” and “simple.” I knew that Holy Spirit is wanting to impress this upon me – on us all.

In life we generally overlook the simple in favour of the complicated. The world mocks simple things, and ever looks for more sophistication. Our lack of simplicity breeds fear, control, pride, anxiety, strife, and unrest. But we actually miss much of what God has for us, because it is contained in the simple. He hides Himself; He hides our blessings – maybe our breakthroughs – in simple places. The sophisticated and cluttered minds will often miss Him there, just as they did in Bethlehem all those years ago.

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Modern lives are so full of noise, clutter, surplus, and overload. Conveniences and technology which are supposed to make life easier and simpler can end up increasing the demands with which we find ourselves juggling. Simplicity is ever-illusive, and no less so at Christmastime when the plethora of competing demands – many of them completely unnecessary  – shout loudly for attention. Even in modern church it’s easy to fall into living by a set of tick-boxes in our desire to grow and become all that God wants us to be. For example: “Four keys to this…”, “Seven steps to freedom…”, “do this course”, “attend this conference”, “read this book”, “master this truth”, “pray for this and that need”, etc. And so the plates continue to spin in overcomplicated lives.

The dictionary definitions of “simplicity” include, “the state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded; freedom from pretence or guile; restraint in ornamentation.” I like the “restraint in ornamentation” which is so apt in a modern Christmas where the true meaning is obscured – even obliterated – by the overload of lights, sounds, and Santa Claus.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1 that God has made the wisdom of this world to turn out as foolishness. He says, referring to Jesus and His cross, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men,”  and, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…” The ‘foolish simplicity’ of a baby laid to sleep in an animal feeding trough in a small out-of-the-way town is where God hides Himself, and where most people walk on by unknowingly.

The simple life – a life of walking daily with God and receiving everything from His hand – was stolen from mankind through deception, in the Garden in Eden, right in the beginning time of the Adamic race. But both the divine Baby in the manger and the divine man upon the cross are the wisdom of heaven to restore simplicity to us.

Last January Pope Francis tweeted the following: “In the simplicity of the nativity scene we encounter the tenderness of God which reveals itself in the Baby Jesus.” Tenderness. I think it is impossible to truly experience tenderness without – even for a moment – withdrawing from the overload, and finding a simple space.

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I have a friend who recently proposed to his girlfriend in city centre Paris. In the midst of the bustle, the sights, the lights, the sounds, the traffic, and the masses going about their business, he knelt down and found tenderness to engage with the one he loves. It was an age-old simple act, yet totally new and fresh; full of power, purpose, and long-term promise. Tenderness and simplicity go hand in hand. And that soil of the heart is poignant with hope.

This Christmas the Vatican has taken their understanding of the simplicity of the nativity one step further. More than 700 pounds of sand were brought into St Peter’s Square in lorries for a chosen group of artists to create a beautiful 52 foot representation of the nativity scene – in sand. Pope Francis commenting on the symbolism is quoted as saying, “The sand recalls the simplicity, the smallness with which God showed Himself at the birth of Jesus, in the precariousness of Bethlehem.” This is the unspoken message of their 2018 nativity scene.

It takes humility to embrace simplicity. Jesus chose to humble Himself to a level beyond our ability to humanly comprehend. From the Throne of Heaven he made the decision of love to become a baby in a manger in Roman-era Israel. His was outrageous humility! When we are proud – where we are proud – it is impossible to be simple. Pride by nature needs to exalt itself and seeks to impress by its accumulations.

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Nativity Sculpture in Sand at the Vatican 2018

It also takes trust to embrace simplicity. Jesus had to trust His Father in order to become that baby. He also had to trust His Father as He hung on the cross. On both occasions He stepped into trust that His Abba would come through for Him, would watch over Him and never let Him down. He was no longer in control. Simplicity demands that we stop trying to control everything and everyone, and rest in the Love by which we are held.

The first church was known by its lifestyle of simplicity of heart [Acts 2:46]. The Apostle Paul’s testimony of His team’s conduct was that they had conducted themselves in simplicity and godly sincerity [2 Cor. 1:12]. And writing to the same church again in chapter 11, verse 3, he expresses his deep concern that the same serpent that had deceived Eve was continuing his fraudulent schemes and beguiling them from a life of simple devotion to Christ. Sometimes spiritual warfare comes to us in the form of clutter, distractions, and deceitful feelings that we have to occupy ourselves with any number of seemingly important enterprises. There is always a battle on against divine simplicity.

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In the simple we hear Him; that ‘still small voice’. Elijah was unable to engage with God in the blast of the fire, the swirling of the winds, or the noise of the earthquake. He had to pass through these to the place of simple stillness.

Those who managed to find the manger in Bethlehem found the Messiah. Those who stooped to enter the cave, met with the Saviour. In locating the place of heavenly simplicity, they found hidden treasure.

As we again approach Christmas, it’s important for us to dial down on the clutter, the noise, and the assumed demands. Let’s focus in on the Babe in the manger – the simply powerful and powerfully simple birth of the Man from Heaven. Stop to savour ordinary moments, quiet times, and that Still Small Voice. Reflect again on Love come down to us. And somewhere as you savour it – Him – ask Him to help you embrace His simplicity in your life.

In Psalm 131 David testifies how he has simplified his posture from being overly concerned with too many things, to resting in God as a young child would on its mother’s lap. He has chosen to resist pride and arrogance. He has decided to stop looking at others with contempt and judgement. He has quietened his mind and heart, and focused on one thing – the simple child-parent relationship he has with God. From this place hope has risen in his life. He is able to encourage others to hope, because he has found the simple place where it grows, and where fear and anxiety die.

Jesus, for His whole life, lived from this same stance, beginning with the manger. And wherever He went hope grew. Love sprung forth. And faith began to return. Simple.

Let’s find the tender simplicity of His heart this Christmas as we find Him off the beaten track lying in the manger.

Wes Boxall

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CHOICES, DISTRACTIONS, AND DOORS

I’m attempting to take time to prepare sessions for next week’s School of the Heart in Golden Valley Church, but I’m feeling very stirred prophetically about a few things, which I feel the need to put on paper.

I am aware right now of the word I shared a couple of months back in GVC, that it was a “Year of Change” – that May 17 to May 18 was that year. Much change would happen or could happen. But there was an emphasis on “MAY” [which was interesting as it was also the name of the Prime Minister, who at that time was standing for re-election]. This is a play on words. It’s about choice and it’s about giving God permission to do what He is wanting.

Even in this nation, as the ruling name is ‘May’ I believe there is an unprecedented season of choice before us.

Even in this nation, as the ruling name is ‘May’ I believe there is an unprecedented season of choice before us. It is obvious in a way with issues like Brexit being negotiated, but I think it is more subtle than that as well. There is much that God is asking the church to lay hold of, to intercede over, to declare and to decree.

He is constantly saying “May I… Will you let Me do this or that? Will you give Me this decision? Will you allow Me to change this thing or that thing in your life; to take you where I have chosen.

I think it’s a time which has echoes of Jesus’s words to Peter, “Another will clothe you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Peter was no doubt freaked out by that ‘promise’, but he came round to making it his own choice. In effect he said to Jesus, “Yes, You MAY do that with me [because I love You, I trust You, and I believe that the greater glory will follow].”

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So I feel to gently challenge us not to treat lightly the choices that are before us, even those which are seemingly minor or insignificant, or those which have no emotional thrill attached. He is saying over and over, “What do you choose? Will you choose Me? Will you choose My Presence over your pleasures? Will you choose to listen attentively to what I am saying to you? Will you seek it out until you understand it, even if at first it mystifies you?”

The last few days, I keep seeing the equation, “DISTRACTION = DESTRUCTION”. This is serious, yet my soul doesn’t get it like it should! My natural reasoning tends to measure distractions by their perceived ‘size’ – just five minutes, etc. Yet, increasingly I think, some of the deposits of heavenly gold are destined for that ‘just five minutes’.

I keep seeing the equation, “DISTRACTION = DESTRUCTION”

What are we being distracted with? Ultimately we need to wise up that our enemy will literally stack up the distractions. They will stand like a queue of visitors outside our door, and we will have to choose over and over to say, “You know what, you can all wait outside the door right now!”

Why do these distractions come? To destroy! We see momentary ‘buzz’ but the devil sees longer term destruction. Sure, we remain saved. We’ll go to heaven…and to church again next Sunday. We’ll even pick up our Bible again the next day. But if something is a distraction, it has been assigned to us to destroy something. It’s the “little foxes” that creep in under the hedge and look so cute we can’t bear to shoot them! But they eat the grapes, or they knock them off the vine in their rough and tumble playtime. And when it comes to new wine time, we don’t have any, because the distractions came in and destroyed the wine before it could be fermented.

What is the obvious result? We have to go round another set of seasons to grow some more. Our destiny is delayed. Maybe when we are younger that doesn’t seem so bad as the years stretch ahead of us. But the reality is for all of us older or younger, there is something about right now being the accepted time – Heaven’s choice time. May it be ours. The nations are on a precipice. Political scenarios could go in either direction. There is a great harvest out there to be gathered in. Waves of revival are poised over the planet. And over and over, there is a call to us to “Come up higher”; to enter into heavenly realms and rooms where we have never or rarely been.

Take times when you tell Facebook to ‘split’! That is get in God’s FACE and get in His BOOK!

Connected to this is another element  that is in my atmosphere right now. It’s that of closing doors. I think Holy Spirit is gently – maybe not so gently – blowing on some of the parts of our present lives to close them off. This is because their time is over. They belonged to a previous season, but not to the next one. They were good then, but if allowed to remain into the next season they will become stale, and eventually disgustingly mouldy. Their staleness would permeate everything in the next season if He allows them to remain. But of course, again, there is a divine, “MAY I? Will you let me close this one off now?” And we can say ‘yes’ or we can say ’no’. But be assured, so much hangs on those little words.

Holy Spirit is blowing on some of the parts of our present lives to close them off

I’ve been spending a bit of time in Acts 16 recently. This is partly due to our own involvement in Macedonian Greece, and my desire to understand the initial wells which were dug in the Spirit two millennia ago. But one of the issues that is tugging at me again is that Paul and team HAD TO go through a period of CLOSED DOORS. It was in God’s plan for them. He set them up to encounter things that didn’t happen like they assumed they would. But He was using the closed doors to reposition a complete shift in their focus. They were looking one way, He was looking in the opposite direction. So I feel strongly to encourage us not to despise the shutting of doors, even if it seems like that season is more prolonged than you would like it to be. We must ‘GET it’. God shuts doors. God shuts things down. Within the sphere of earth, God works in seasons. Leaves which were luscious have to dry up and fall off.

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For Paul and team, the season of closed doors led them to a higher level encounter, which led to an open door into Macedonia, Greece, and Europe. The gospel hit our continent because of closed doors in the opposite direction! We don’t usually appreciate the ramifications of God closing doors and opening others. But in heaven’s purposes they are far reaching and often set up a legacy for others to experience, or be influenced by.

We are the DOORKEEPERS of our doors. What we open and shut affects everyone and everything on the other side of the particular door. Jesus said He was the ‘door’, and the ‘door of the sheep’. As the unique Saviour of the world He opened up a door for us which only He could do. He was and is our (only) door into salvation, redemption, and the Mountain of God. However, as a leadership principle, we are all ‘doors of the sheep’ wherever we are called to lead or pioneer (family, church, business, missions, community, etc.). What we are; what we allow; what we open and shut affects more people and more situations than we realise.

Often when there is a seasonal shift, the doors carry far more weight to them. And often there is a challenge to choose something that is beyond – maybe way outside – our comfort zone or the sphere of familiarity. But it it in those places – when they are ordained by God – that our true destiny is discovered, and a legacy is set up that stretches far beyond what our own eyes can see.

Wes Boxall

HOW EXTREME IS GRACE?

The subject of grace is a hot topic in some parts of the church right now. I have observed friends who have received greater revelation of the grace of God in Christ which has given them a new sense of freedom, joy, and peace. I applaud such fruit. Amazing GraceThe grace of God which is ours through His Son Jesus and His sacrificial death on the cross is meant to produce in us such results  .

What can we say about grace?

It is ‘amazing‘, as the hymn goes. It is meant to make us stand in awe and wonder at the goodness and kindness of God in dealing with our sins and sin-nature, once and for all.

It is ‘extreme‘. The Father welcoming back His prodigal sons and daughters and throwing a party for them, completely covering their shame and dirt with His own robe of righteousness sounds almost too ‘extreme’ to be true! Yet that is the grace that has been imparted to us through Jesus Christ. He came to bring us to this very Father as sons and daughters. Continue reading “HOW EXTREME IS GRACE?”

ISRAEL AND REVIVAL

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Catch the Fire Toronto – 20 years of revival

I don’t think it is without significance that on the morning of the twentieth anniversary of the “Toronto Blessing” I sat in my hotel watching Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressing the Israeli Knesset and pledging the ongoing support of his nation to Israel. Two poignant moments occurred together for Canada – honouring revival and honouring Israel. I believe the two are inextricably linked in the heart and mind of God. Continue reading “ISRAEL AND REVIVAL”

DISTRACTION OR DIRECTION

This morning in Golden Valley Church, Muriel brought a great preach on apostle Paul’s prayers in Ephesians. He reminded them of all the wealth they had received in Christ, and prayed for them to see it, so they could live it.

Paul penned the letter to the Ephesians who were not grasping their prosperity in Christ and were failing to live in what was already theirs.  God looks for a church of power, not mere words.

When we pray for each other, what do we see? What do we talk to Him about? Shortcomings, failures? We don’t need to remind Him of any of that stuff.  He already chose to forget them and put them behind His back. He sees our potential and who we are in Him. His heart for us is that we live in and access the riches of His grace.

When we live in the riches of God’s grace, we will have direction. If not, we easily become distracted. Direction or distraction – where are you?

We all know how easy it is to be distracted. The ploy of the enemy to take away our focus on the Kingdom of God. Allow Holy Spirit to shine into our hearts and show us our distractions, so we can repent and change.

Where are we laying up our treasure? THAT is where our hearts will be. And THAT is where we will reap.

There is a challenge today in a world of mess and stress, that we focus back on the One Who has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Get undistracted!  Distraction isolates. Direction of Holy Spirit unites.

PRAYER

It’s summer holiday time. A time for many, to relax, hang out with friends and family, go away, and enjoy the sunshine. Isn’t it great that in all our much needed rest times, God Himself  “neither slumbers nor sleeps” but faithfully continues caring for us and watching over His promises to fulfil them.

Our teaching in GVC the past two Sundays has been a reminder to us that in all our summer changes prayer is still absolutely vital!

We looked at the two prayers of Paul the Apostle in Ephesians chapters 1 and 3. The first is a prayer for revelation. The second is a prayer for impartation. In a world that is swamped in information – far too much information – what is needed is revelation and impartation from God.

Paul prays we would have revelation of three things: the Hope of God’s calling on us, the Riches of His Inheritance in us, and the greatness of His Power towards us. This can’t come by the human mind – only by the Holy Spirit. He has to reveal it all. As He does everything changes!

Paul also prays for that we would have an impartation of strength in our inner man, that Christ dwells in us by faith, and we are absolutely taken over by His love. Love changes everything.

We have another prayer that we will be looking at in a couple weeks time. This is Nehemiah’s prayer, when He is faced with news of the state of Jerusalem, in Neh. 1. He is so sensitized in prayer that he weeps and fasts and calls on God because the news has touched him deep inside. How often we are totally de-sensitized by life and the world around us; by sin and acceptance of ungodly things!

As we proceed from here. Let’s pray these prayers: Revelation, Impartation, Sensitisation. May God bless you this summer.

GET REAL!

Sunday 20th March 2011

by Jean Packer

Penny brought us a refreshing word through Acts 23 this week. She spoke about how Paul was a humble man. He apologised for speaking against a ruler, yet he cared enough to speak the gospel message to all who would listen. He was bold and stood up for what he believed. He was an honest, God-fearing man. He was full of the Holy Spirit and fully himself! He trusted God completely and stepped out boldly in obedience. Signs and Wonders followed!

How much do we long to have this purity of heart? To see that the fields are ripe for harvest and be able to gather in the harvest freely and joyfully! What stops us? Penny expressed this as fear of man. What would others think of us? Fear that we may become stumbling blocks if we wavered in our own opinions in order to accommodate others? What would happen if the way things are, changed? We worry about being contaminated? We want to be in control of how things should be… the list could go on and God can show each one of us our own personal fears if we ask Him to.

Yes people watch, and criticise us sometimes. Yet we need to grow up in these times, weigh up what is said, and discard what is not true. Die to what people say about us otherwise we will just go up and down in our emotions. We are loved and protected by God. Jesus died on the cross for our, and their sins. The Pharisees spoke against Jesus (Luke 6:7), yet we are urged to speak boldly (Luke 6:22). Lets not be man pleasers but God pleasers. Luke 6:26 actually says “Woe to you when all men speak good of you”! Lets stand bold and trust God! Don’t compromise our faith… get into His intimate presence to hear His voice… and step out in obedience to whatever He tells us. Know what we carry inside us and reach out to people and share His love.

Jesus spent time with outcasts! He was comfortable with them! He fitted in and accepted them… just as they were, and they knew it! They felt loved! God wants to change our theology, which is sometimes religious… He wants us to be available to Him whenever The Holy Spirit prompts us to act. In whatever ways that may be. These may not fit into our mindsets and expectations and we may worry what others may think, but He wants us pliable and open. He wants us dead to our reputations! It doesn’t matter what others think or say. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all accusations! He wants our whole hearts….minds and soul for Him and for others. It is love that convicts … we don’t have to do anything else but love one another as He first loved us.

Lets get real! Be fully ourselves through Him! Love ourselves as we are… He made us… love one another… let’s be open and transparent, like Jesus. The world sees who we are. We are called to be mighty warriors for Him – Fearless in all we do and to step out in faith and trust. We need to get rid of poverty mindsets and trust that all our provisions will be met as we need them. God wants to remove our limitations. We can do all things in Him!