Warm greetings and Happy New Year to the Vineyard family far and wide! Winter has us firmly in her grip and I find this time of year ideal for burrowing into my writing den, steaming mug at hand, and engaging in another staring contest with the blank white page on my screen. I'm pretty sure I know who will blink first. Regardless, I savour the process of creativity and the wrestle of wrangling words that will hopefully lift off the page and take flight in the hearts and minds of all of you who are straining to hear His heart and know His mind for 2018. Amidst the chaos of this world and the Devil's campaign of Fear, we have the mind of Christ.
"We who have the Spirit understand these things, but others can't understand us at all. How could they? For, 'Who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who can give Him counsel?' But we can understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ." 1Corinthians 2: 15-16 (NLT)
I imagine the sound of a collective sigh released as we embark on a new year. That sense of putting whatever was in 2017 behind us, and embracing the pregnant possibility of what lies ahead. If you listen closely to the susurration of that sigh, you will hear a mixture of laughter and tears, travail and triumph. Much like the story of the rebuilding of the Temple in the Old Testament:
"Many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders remembered the first Temple, and they wept aloud when they saw the new Temple's foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud commotion that could be heard far in the distance."
Ezra 3:12 (NLT)
During Metanoia West in Langley B.C. this past October, this sense was prevalent throughout the gathering. The rustle of something new stirring in the foundations of Vineyard Canada. The promise and comfort from God that He wasn't finished with our tribe, but He was calling us again to remember our roots and identity. He was challenging us to examine the losses and trials, and to not shy away from the reality of their impact. We can only heal when we acknowledge that we are sick or broken. Jesus can only heal what we surrender to Him.
That begs the question; what has made us sick? There is no single answer to that, rather there is a plethora of symptoms that belie their source. Symptoms such as: isolation, loneliness, addiction, depression, anxiety, grief, despair, anger, eating disorders, insomnia, and Fear. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Fear is the kingpin that has been unleashed in ways not seen or felt for as long as I've been alive. Some of our parents and grandparents lived through World Wars and the Great Depression and I would never suggest any comparison. But the current climate seems saturated with Fear. What is Jesus asking us to do?
As I've pondered and prayed the last couple of days, I hear one word. Invitation. I hear the Spirit inviting me to commune, and to embrace community. Commune with Him, sit in His presence, return to my first love. And don't neglect community. Whatever that means for each of us, there is strength in community.
Hebrews tells us:
"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back again is drawing near." Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)
Accountability was always meant as a safeguard, not a prison as some rhetoric would suggest. The sense from those praying across the country, is that we are to persevere and contend for relationships and connection with one another. The word "contend" reveals that there is a struggle to surmount difficulty or danger, so we must not dismiss the warfare around our gathering together. Alone, we are a speed bump that the enemy might have to slow down to drive over. Together we are a wall he cannot climb over or push down.
There is an invitation to prayer and intercession. I heard the Spirit speak to me before Christmas that 2018 would be a year marked by His call to prayer. Prayer in all forms, from personal intimate connection in our own closets, to small groups committed to a scheduled meeting, and corporate gatherings where prayer impacts the landscape and the governance of cities and nations. I believe this call draws from the many years of tears shed during desert seasons that have filled the bowls to overflowing, and now the Lord is tipping them.
"And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God's people." Revelation 5:8 (NLT)
Notably, wherever the Lord walks, people fall at His feet. The connecting marker of those who encountered Jesus during His ministry in the New Testament, was their complete surrender or terror in His presence. I have noticed, as I'm sure that you have as well, that whenever Jesus encountered someone, He told them the truth of their condition, even if they presented with something else. Before He healed them, He revealed the hidden aspects of their lives. The connecting theme was always one of mercy. "Son of David, have mercy on me!" was the cry of blind Bartamaeus. The Samaritan woman at the well was surprised that Jesus would even speak to her, let alone request that she give Him water. But He gave her the gift of water that would never run out, so she might never thirst again. For the man who lived amongst the tombs, and shrieked "Why are you bothering me Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God's sake, don't torture me!" Jesus commanded the legion to go into the pigs. The man who had been an outcast, went into the city and testified of what Jesus had done for him. He was healed of his affliction and restored to community.
In the spirit of invitation, we are being called to turn around, to return, to come back to Him who called us to Himself. Repentance is His invitation. It's not an exercise in self flagellation, because He already paid that price. It simply means that we return. Turn around and look at Him, because He looks at you. With unimaginable love and compassion and grace. Why is repentance a prerequisite to God meeting us and overtaking all of our defenses? Because without repentance, we can seek God for answers and insight, but if our allegiances are divided and we have been idolatrous, we make ourselves open and vulnerable to deception. Simply said, it just means that we have sought comfort through avenues that appeal to our carnal desires and needs. I want to be told that I'm okay and lovable despite my behaviours, wouldn't you? But the truth is, I can't find true love or true freedom outside of death to myself and total surrender to Christ and the Cross.
So we look to the signs of the times as we were told. Unless you have been hiding under a rock somewhere, you can't avoid the current cultural signals being broadcast over multiple media sources. There is a cultural revolution happening as I write this. The surge of the Me Too movement cannot be ignored, the call for recognition and rights across all races, genders, and economic spheres is front and centre in the news. How do we respond, how do we posture ourselves as these issues permeate culture and therefore permeate the Church?
Jesus told us in Luke 12:2-3:
"The time is coming when everything will be revealed; all that is secret will be made public. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors, will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!"
In context, this was Jesus' warning against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and religious leaders at the time. I believe He was warning us to not respond to the upheaval with religious dogma and self righteous declarations, but to proclaim the finality of the work that was accomplished by Christ on the cross, and the amazing grace and freedom afforded to those who cling to that Truth. The message of Jesus and His sacrifice will always be culturally relevant.
Essentially, we have all been given the ministry of John the Baptist who said in John 3: 30 "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less." (NLT)
What could be more counter culture than that?
Grace and Peace to you as you seek His face.
VTribe PULSE Coordinator
Cathy Graham is a national catalyst for Vineyard PULSE and a part of the "on the ground" team in Kelowna.