"But if All Prophesy ... The Secrets of His Heart Are Disclosed; and so He will Fall on His Face And Worship God". (1 Corinthians 14:24, 25).
Tonight marked the finale to Terry Virgo's visit to Bristol on his "God's Lavish Grace" tour and WHAT a finale it was. It has been proved to me unquestionably that Terry Virgo is a prophet - and he DOES indeed know the secrets of my heart! I realise that is a somewhat outlandish statement that some have devoted hours to trying to disprove, so to prove my claims - here is a full report of what happened in Bristol tonight.
While Terry Virgo remains my number 1 hero, I was not at all keen on going to the meetings held over the weekend, due to the presence of certain church leaders I was afraid to be in the same room as. So I went tonight with a group of close friends under a certain amount of duress and with an overdose of Kalms. We went in and sat near the back, and then the worship started ...
It was led by the gorgeous and ever-stunning Lou Fellingham and without any warm-up, she led us directly into the Presence of God. While I was greatly affected by the first few songs, I was aware that I was "trying" too hard in worship. And suddenly God was there and spoke to me so powerfully telling me that I must learn to ride the wave rather than try and create it. It was God's business to send the wave of His Spirit's Presence. And such Presence is a blessing that we are simply to soak in, rapture in, bask in and enjoy.
But alongside that I began to notice that the worship and the prayers and the prophecies that were given all carried a theme; "Nothing can pluck you from My hand ... My life is hid with Christ on high ... All our shame and history gone!". I knew what God was on about! That I had allowed the same men I was so afraid of to become giants and strongholds in my life - that their assessment of me; "A sinner and hopeless" - had become the assessment that I carried over myself
Then Terry got up to preach ...
His text was 1 Kings 19:1-16. And this made me slightly suspicious. He was going to preach on Elijah hiding in a cave. The last time I went to the amazing Bradley Stoke Newfrontiers church, they preached on Elijah hiding in a cave and left me with the challenge: "What are you doing here Dan?". So I knew as he read his text that a "NOW" word was coming.
One of the things I love listening to is Terry praying. Being such a man of prayer, he (like my pastor Stanley Jebb) has the unique ability to teach something of his intimate relationship with the God he adores while he is speaking to him. His prayer went like this: "You know how to keep in your hand, those you have called ... Bring renewal, recovery and restoration into Your grace ... Give us a revelation of Your style".
He introduced Elijah by noting that while he is famous for his boldness - this text shows that indeed as the NIV says; "Elijah was a man like us". This cave incident is just after Carmel and Elijah had undergone an extraordinary transformation. What happened to him? Terry suggested that self-preservation had taken over and he took his eyes off God.
So his first point was: 1. How Did It Happen? Note once again God allowed me no warm up. This is the point where my jaw dropped, my heart began pounding and my eyes filled with tears. He suggested that the first thing that may have obscured Elijah's vision of God was his handling of rightous anger. This is a delicate area in the Bible, for we are told to "Be angry yet do not sin". There is a right way and a wrong way to do it and there may easily come a point where rightous anger is replaced by my anger. (*Note this*) You may have left a church because church leaders did something to you which was wrong ... and you know you were right. Yet you allow this anger to consume you and in that simple step you have stepped out of the Presence of the Spirit and something has soured your soul - and you lose your simple and beautiful joy in the Lord.
Another thing, Terry noted, that could have allowed Elijah to take his eyes of the Lord was to suddenly be in the public gaze. Public vindication came on Carmel - and he was famous! Yet sometimes it is too easy to look for appreciation as to what we did - rather than God's glory. There is indeed something exciting about the anointing of God - the favour of God, and it can allow us to take our eyes off the Lord and look to our own fame and our own ministry.
Thirdly Elijah could have been emotionally and utterly exhausted. So many things can drain us that we don't often realise. Disapointment can exhaust us and you cannot just ignore it! You must take that broken promise to God - the Psalms are full of it! If you carry disappointment and delayed promises and don't do something with them, then something begins to erode in your soul. It can be disappointment with church. Related to that can be self-disappointment. We can be so generous to others but very hard on ourselves! Beware of being disappointed with yourself.
Fourthly perplexity can drain us. Understanding of a disaster can bring endorsement but perplexity can lead to fear. If we understand why God does something and allows something then we can see the bigger picture. But fear can consume us and allow us to take our eyes off the Lord and look to ourselves.
Terry drew special attention to verse 3 of the text: "He left his servant". He asked the question - why did Elijah leave his servant? It is a bad sign when you don't want the eyes of the people who used to run with you to look at you anymore. (*Note - another jaw dropping moment*). You used to come to church and now you're withdrawing because you don't want to be with people anymore. You fear what they see.
So Elijah goes out to the wilderness - a place of total condemnation and he prays the suicide prayer. (*I prayed the suicide prayer last Sunday*). We fear to wake up - we hate the morning because we fear what it will bring. But this is the only prayer that Elijah didn't get answered! Hallelujah! He has run out of gas and runs into grace.
2. Recovery and Renewal.
God doesn't condemn Elijah - but neither does He ignore him. There is no answer from heaven to the suicide prayer. Firstly God lets him sleep. We must build rest into our quota! Secondly He brings him food. Now note this. When Elijah acted in obedience, he was taken to the Valley of Kidron and a raven brought him food. When he was running away in disobedience and fear, an angel came and ministered to him and fed him. The awesome grace of God!
So Elijah goes to Horeb - or Sinai - the Mountain of God. He went back to the place where God first met him. That is an excellent step for us - we must get back to the things we first knew were true. If you are a Christian, you've got some history! You know that there's a God - you have promises and prophecies underlined in your Bible. He is the Lord! He is wonderful! Didn't God promise wonderful things to you? Will you come back tonight? God's answer and way of recovery comes to him via a question: What are you doing here Elijah?
Terry noted that when we are despondant, we like and tend to lose our identity. Yet part of recovery is taking responsibility for our identity. The question ended: "Elijah". Elijah! My servant! We haven't ceased to be the person that God wanted us to be just because we run into the wilderness. Come back and repent - and you will find that God's plans for you haven't changed. You get a display of God's authority - ALL things are possible!
Yet startlingly enough, sometimes the greatness of God isn't where you are, and note that the Lord came to Elijah in a gentle whisper. This is the heart of the whole recovery. God comes in tenderness. God isn't like human employers - He rescued me because He delights in me!! "Delight" isn't defined well in the dictionary but in a thesarus, it says; "laugh, smile, get a kick out of, hug oneself, purr (!!!), rave, bask in, wallow, enjoy, have fun, relish, entoxicate, ravish!".
"One glance of your eyes, my sister, my bride!" - from Song of Solomon. Imagine! Just once glance from us, the people of God, is enough to thrill God's heart!
THAT is the place of ultimate recovery, even more than the fireworks display. Just to hear Him say; "I love you!". Then He waits eagerly to hear if we respond! Unchanging love! Where is the joy that we used to know?
Terry ended by telling a story that I have heard before of his son who walked away from the Lord. And Terry and Wendy gave themselves to true spiritual warfare to 'get him back'. And the Lord heard and answered, and one night his son came in and there was a Bible sitting on the table. He put it down and couldn't stop reading it! He knew he had to get some sleep due to work tomorrow and told the Lord so. The Lord's response: "But we haven't spoken for ages".
At this point I lost all control I had left. The awesome, amazing, unchanging love of God! That we aren't told off or rebuked or condemned for being away from God for that time - but His response is: "But we haven't spoken for ages!".
And then finally Elijah got a new commission. He was to rise and go and anoint kings, and anoint Elisha - his disciple. God wanted another like Elijah! Failure didn't equal disqualification in God's eyes! Terry challenged me (well it felt like me, because he was looking at me!) - Who am I discipling? There is a job to be done. There is work that He has for me. And I can get up and leave my cave of safety, because GOD IS FOR US!
So what? ...
That's all very well you might say, its good to have an emotional response to these sort of events, but what of tomorrow? I managed to get speaking to the local Newfrontiers church leaders and have re-committed myself with a vengance to going back. I must go back! Part of keeping myself in the grace of God is being with His people and where His Spirit is present. And I'm excited - THATS an emotion I haven't felt connected to church for a year! I'm excited - because my Lover is going to be there! And He is excited that I'm going to be there (so Terry says!).
And secondly I have realised that my anger towards certain church leaders was masking fear. Anger is a bit more butch than fear isn't it. I am (or was) afraid of them and what they could do to me - fearful of their assessment of me (a sinner) . But what Terry's made me realise tonight is that my life is hid with Christ on high! And that their assessment of me doesn't matter one bit - because God's assessment of me is: "We haven't spoken for ages!". I am one excited guy tonight. And I've realise that there's no probation period. God isn't going to make me "prove" myself by having to clean the church toilets for 5 years before I get to do something for Him (although there's nothing wrong with cleaning toilets - I used to do it!). But that His Commission for me stands - He has work for me to do!
A friend of mine noticed that I used to send "WOWWWWWWWWWWW" emails quite a lot a while back - just glorying in the grace and wonder of God. And she noticed that there hadn't been any for a while! Well Nicky ... this one is just for you ...