Isn't it interesting how a tragic play on words reveals the heart of what is happening right now. Our Victorian government is using the phrase, "Staying Apart Keeps Us Together". It really is so sad to see it come to this. While there is some truth to those words and I understand what they are communicating, we must look for a different phrase that will best describe who we are in Christ and what God is doing in this season from Heaven's perspective, not man's. A phrase that protects us from falling into a fear mindset or into society's frustrations. A phrase that refuses to be isolated, restricted or locked down from what God is doing.
May I propose this phrase to live by...
"Today...I Surrender My Agenda and Align My Heart To God".
To surrender our agenda is to surrender the right to know, to surrender the need for an explanation and to surrender control in the hands of the One who knows best...there, I said it! I am sure we can all agree that this is relevant and a much needed realignment.
This way of life has been so instrumental in helping us focus on what really matters during this season that I had to spend a few weeks preaching a series about it. If you haven't checked it out, feel free to watch it online on our YouTube Channel. Those can be found in the messages from the 7th June onwards.
Bill Johnson wrote in his great book, "Hosting The Presence", these wise words,
"I can’t afford to live in reaction to darkness. If I do, darkness has had a role in setting the agenda for my life. The devil is not worthy of such influence, even in the negative. Jesus lived in response to the Father. I must learn to do the same."
It feels like there is so much darkness surrounding us and infecting our towns, state and nation. In Victoria we have just entered a second phase of lockdowns. Particularly in the Greater Melbourne suburbs, this will prove to be a very challenging and difficult six weeks ahead. I am praying hard into this so that all of the reports and forecasts that the professionals are making (such as a dramatic rise in mental illness, increasing infections of the virus and a growing tension of community unrest) will somehow be far less than what they expect...could I even believe for such a decrease that they will scratch their heads wondering how it is possible?
So if we, The Living Room Church family, are to live in response to the Father and what He is doing and saying, then what can that look like?
Firstly and above all other things, let's use this time to deepen our intimacy with God. Keep your vital connection with Him a top priority so that you are able to live from the secret place and live above the circumstances. Psalm 91:9-11 has become an important scripture for many during this pandemic. Look at it in The Passion Translation,
"When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High, our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm. How then could evil prevail against us or disease infect us? God sends angels with special orders to protect you wherever you go, defending you from all harm."
Oh...What a promise! It is in that place of knowing and belonging that you are able to have a solid expectation of your Father's protection and peace. So I encourage you, spend extended periods of time sitting with Him, speaking with Him, worshipping Him, waiting on Him, listening to Him and reading with Him the words that He gave you in His Word.
Go for a long walk (you're not restricted from exercise, so no excuses). Get some brisk air into your lungs and look up to the sky, stop and listen to nature and identify God's goodness all around you. I've come to depend on my daily walks with Jesus, not only for my physical wellbeing but also for my spiritual, mental and emotional health too.
Read a good book that will build your faith. Not being able to go shopping at the Christian Bookstore Koorong, why not download Amazon Kindle and read ebooks? I find that a good biography of God's work in a person or situation is always extremely inspiring and it brings me into a place of hightened expectation. At the moment I am reading a book titled, "God's Forever Family" by Larry Eskridge. It is a great eye-witness account of the Jesus People Movement that swept America and beyond in the late 60's - early 70's. Surprisingly what I discovered was that in the early stage of that revival the leaders started a meeting place and named it "THE LIVING ROOM", how cool is that!
Not only is it a priority to nurture your relationship with God, but also to make the relationships that we have in our Church family alive with an intentional effort to keep them healthy and strong. It takes all of us looking out for each other so that no one is left behind and the loving care is not left to only a few.
I am encouraged by the feedback that has come to Cazz and I about how many of you have been meeting online in the Zoom Life Groups, some connecting to a Life Group for the first time. Also the way you're texting and calling each other to simply make sure people are ok. Now, I realise that some would rather stay isolated and not connect in the multiple ways we have provided, so we will honour that decision and still say, You're not alone, unless you want to be. It is never too late to reach out and get connected.
Why not see it this way...BE THE BLESSING INSTEAD OF WAITING TO RECEIVE ONE!
Could it be that the blessing that you're looking for lies within the blessing you will give to someone else? In this season it is becoming very clear that unless we approach our spiritual lives differently we will be trying to live on yesterday's manna or trying to put new wine in old wineskins!
What we all know is that staying apart divides us if we allow it to.
We have put into place some great opportunities for you to stay connected to your Church family during this time of increased restrictions. The best place to stay up to date with these opportunities is on our Facebook page where Cazz is always providing current meeting links and other opportunities.
Now more than ever it is so, so important for us to pray together, dig into the Bible together, encourage and support one another and grow from this experience together. Here are some of the ways you can do this:
LIFE GROUPS - Until we are able to meet in homes we are making great use of the online video meeting platform Zoom. We have one here for our Torquay group on Tuesday's at 7pm, Morgan and Jenny have a group as do Rudi and Elfrida on Wednesdays for our Melton group and then Jason and Catena have thiers on Thursdays also for our Melton group. Cazz also runs a Zoom Life Group for the women on Wednesday mornings and then another one for the working women on Thursday evenings. If you're not connecting yet, let me know and we will send you the days, times and details.
WEEKLY PRAYER MEETING - It is so, so crucial that we are praying into this current season and seeking God's heart on what to say, do and how to move. We meet via Zoom every Saturday morning at 10am. The link can be found every Saturday morning on our Facebook page.
LIVING ROOM CHAT - After our Online Church Service every Sunday, we meet on Zoom at 11:30am to dig deeper into the message for that day and then take time to pray together as the Holy Spirit leads us. It is a great time together and I'm always encouraged after it.
As you can see, to feel isolated and alone is a choice and it is a choice that I encourage you to resist and push through into a place of blessing, friendship and support.
Finally, Cazz and I really want you all to know that though things have not turned out how we had hoped (expecting to meet together in person by the end of July), we are praying for you and believing that we will all get through this undamaged, stronger in our walk with God, wiser and more focussed on what the Father is doing and saying. Yes there will be changes and maybe much of what we were doing before may look different to how it was. But in the words of ALDI, "Good...Different". Yes, God is doing something good and different and we will not miss it because we are refusing to look backwards. We love you and have no doubt that you will be ok. This season is not permanent and we will be awe of what God will reveal when He is ready.
Reach out to anyone in the Church family should you need a listening ear or support in prayer. In a very real sense...Don't stay apart because to do so will not keep us together. Let's embrace what we have and use it for the glory of God.
Love and blessings to you all,
Mark & Cazz