Monday, October 25, 2010

The Week After a Solemn Assembly

Some have asked for my reflections regarding the Solemn Assembly held at Meadowbrook Church on October 16. Click here for a refresher on what a Solemn Assembly is and why I led one.

In December 2009 I went away to a cabin for two and a half days for a personal retreat with God. While praying and reading I felt impressed that God was calling me to lead the church in the experience of examination, confession, repentance and sanctification (the process of God making a person and a church holy). What’s more, I believe that God was calling me to be a catalyst to the churches in the Northwest that belong to the convention my church partners with. I was elected president of this organization in November.

From December 2009 to October 2010 I have been in constant personal preparation in order to follow through on this calling. It has been very intense for me and I’ve been deeply impacted by God.

What I’m describing has both biblical and historic precedence. From time to time God has called His church to stop wandering and drifting and to return to Him with great passion and commitment. Such seasons have sometimes resulted in a reviving of God’s people and an awakening (disconnected people seeing their need for God and running to Him) of the surrounding region. I believe God was stirring me to be catalytic for this kind of gracious manifestation of the Lord in our midst.

So, what happened? In short it was a very good day. Early in our time together I gave a prayer exercise to all that asked a series of penetrating questions through which the Holy Spirit may stir conviction over sin and confession. Following the personal time everyone paired up with another person of the same sex and spent some time verbally confessing their sins to one another. This could be the perfect moment for resistance and rejection of God’s work in us. I was most anxious about how everyone would respond to this step.

Confession proved to be powerful and though I called us to the next exercise some continued where they were with their partner until all of their confession was complete.

There was also intercessory prayer for one another and for church leaders in small groups. After breaking our fast with the Lord’s Supper and a mid-day meal we concluded the day by responding to God’s call for our church to be catalytic to our sister churches for revival and awakening. To a person all the participants stood with personal commitment to God and one another!

Following our gathering I collapsed at home in exhaustion, gratitude and wonderment. I wondered how deeply we collectively had been touched by God’s Spirit. I wondered how strongly passion for God was stirring in us. I wondered if we had a momentary “spiritual hiccup” after which we would return to “life as usual”.

Historically when God has moved upon a people, the people often melted in God’s presence with weeping over sin and cries for forgiveness and emotional expressions of commitment. We had none of that. And, I don’t personally think that we have to have the emotion but it does make me wonder. Our church is filled with thinking people and if something is percolating at a deep place of thought that results in Holy Spirit breathed transformation and resolve then praise the Lord.

How will we know if a reviving work of God has taken place among us? I believe that we will see the following 4 things be characteristic of us.

1. There will be greater humility in our lives where we make much of God and little of self.

2. There will be greater practice of confession of sins.

3. There will be greater appreciation for justification (this word alone deserves an entire post).

4. There will be greater burden for those who are still under condemnation for sin (this also deserves a full post).

For now we watch and see how responsive to God we become. Meanwhile I’m preparing for the annual meeting of our convention of churches where on behalf of God I’ll issue the call for our sister churches to engage God in Solemn Assemblies across the Northwest.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Evening Before a Solemn Assembly

Tonight I’m preparing my heart for a Solemn Assembly. For those unfamiliar, historically a Solemn Assembly was sometimes called for in the Jewish community following a religious feast and sometimes called for in a time of emergency (national and/or religious). It was the gathering of God's people in order to seek God intensely.

In more recent years a Solemn Assembly is a gathering of Christians who seek the Lord with prayer and fasting, confession of sin and repentance. It also is intense and requires a whole-hearted intent to be touched and changed by God.

Saturday about 65 of my friends will gather for 5 hours of prayer and worship. Pretty remarkable in this day where there is little time for anything much less extended hours for prayer and worship.

I’m anxious. Few attending really know what they are getting in to. I hope they are coming because they have been stirred by God’s Spirit to come because I called this gathering with the conviction that it is God’s invitation for us to draw near. But to draw near to a holy God demands that we be holy (meaning separated unto God and separated from the entanglements of this world).

The talons of our culture have a firm grip on most of us. We like our stuff, our comfort and our pleasures. A Solemn Assembly is an experience with God whereby we open our hearts and invite God to put His finger on anything that He doesn’t like and wants changed.

I’m anxious because this could be the most significant and dramatic life change any of us has experienced. And, if we experience it together then everything is multiplied exponentially!

I’m anxious because we could come nearer to God than we’ve ever been and dare to say no to God. One biblical snapshot that stays before me is found in Luke 18. The story is referred to as the rich young ruler. He apparently was successful and moral and presented himself to Jesus one day implying that he was confident that heaven would be his final destination. Jesus quickly saw that there was an idol (something more important than God) in his life and called for him to sell all that he had and give to the poor. And, Jesus said, "Do this and you'll have treasure in heaven. Come follow me." One of the most heart wrenching statements in the Bible follows.

“But when he heard these things he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.” At the crossroads of the most important defining moment of his life the rich young ruler walked away because his stuff was more important to him.

I’m anxious. How will I respond to God Saturday? How will my friends respond to God? Will we experience God and have a breakthrough or will we keep our distance from God and have status quo?

It is the evening before something glorious or grievous. How many through the years have anxiously sat through such an evening? I feel a kinship with my forefathers in the faith.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

God is not safe, but He is good

What is meant when the Bible says that God is awesome? The same ancient word that is translated “awesome” is also translated “terrible”.

The idea is that God is so holy and just, to catch a glimpse of Him stirs us with awe and fear. We both wonder at Him and tremble in His presence.

C.S. Lewis captures this sense of God’s fearsomeness and awesomeness in his Narnia story.

Aslan is a lion and a Christ figure in the story. Narnia is a land where it is always winter but never Christmas because of the evil workings of a witch.

Four small children stumble into this world and along the way they encounter a couple of small creatures who can talk. The creatures take the children in and give them something to eat.

They explain to the children about the dark and cold place that Narnia has become but then add, they have heard that Aslan is on the move.

They have hope that the mighty lion will overthrow the witch and Narnia will be transformed.

The youngest child asks about Aslan, “Is he safe?” and the little creature replies, “No, but he is good.”

God is not safe. He is terrible, fearsome, mighty and awesome. God is not safe, but He is good.

Currently the church that I serve is in a season of seeking God in all of His holiness. We are being impacted so that we’ve been confessional about sin; humbled to think less of self and more of Him; stirred to pull down the competitors in our hearts that displace God’s supremacy.

Aslan/God is on the move. He is pushing back darkness and deception and giving sight to blind eyes to see Him.

What will be the outcome of God moving among us? I don't know. What I do know is this, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord". (Joshua 24:15)