Together on a Mission - Day 4 - Final Session!
Coming in from the awe and wonder of encountering God in Rob Rufus's seminar, it was quite hard to adjust to the fact that this was the final session and we were indeed preparing to leave Brighton and go back. It seemed only appropriate that the final speaker was Terry Virgo and once again he was so stirring and so challenging. I've tried to summarise a couple of times but I think the best way to convey the feeling of the meeting is to again transcribe my notes.
His text was Numbers 11:1-6, 10-17, 21-30.
"When God has a plan, He's looking for men and women who will respond to Him. Even when Moses was a boy, God had His eye on him. And through Moses, the end of the earth. Never before has our vision been so clearly expressed at this conference. To keep going - seeing other generations come through, this is durability! This is exciting!
Moses had to get them from slavery to inheritance. Holy God - miserable people and the pressure point in the middle is Moses. Numbers 10 is the most exhilarating passage in the Bible. Positions of tribes are defined. There is a sense of momentum, an army is on the move and the glory of God is in the centre. "Come with us and we will do you good!".
(11:1) is surprising coming after the end of chapter 10. The people complained! Numbers 11 is a frightening and alarming contrast to chapter 10. The moaning is incited by "the rabble". Some suggest that they could have been non-Jews and living for the moment impressed by the phenomenal signs and wonders that took the people out of Egypt. Their complaints however proved to be a catching fever among the people of God. Even the apostle Paul knew of complaints. As a leader there is a sense of being sandwhiched between the people and God Himself.
Leadership is where you work out walking with God admist pressures. We live in a fallen world and the perfect has not yet come. Moses found it so quickly! The people came from 1. Ungrateful Hearts. They had just escaped from slavery! God had heard their cry and freed them. We must cultivate a willing spirit of thankfulness. Let that be your style. Gratitude is fundemental to the people of God. (Phil 4:11) In WHATEVER circumstances.
There is a secret of contentment. The whole world is looking for it! If we are not careful the rabble will get to us. We must learn the secret. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". The context of this is suffering! Yet contentment is required. Not healings or miracles. If you haven't learnt the secret of contentment you are very vulnerable. "The ability to see faults is a cheap and common gift" (Gene Edwards). The tongue can set ablaze a great fire. Churches can go through times of dry vulnerability and one foolish phonecall or piece of gossip can ruin it. God hates murmering.
2. Selective Memories. (16:33). They told Moses that he had brought them out of the land flowing with milk and honey. "Do you remember". Do we take God seriously when He says that murmuring makes Him angry? God's anger is something we must not be ashamed of. His anger is a pure demonstration of His pure holiness. God is not to be airbrushed but worshipped! That fury is not God having a bad day. (Prov 6) details seven things that are an actual abomination to Him. We should so long to know Him and Him alone. He does not apologise for His anger. True leaders cannot ask for another church. "Brothers, we are not professionals!" (Piper).
Moses did have pressures. The first was that he had had an encounter with God. Anyone truly called into ministry today will know that he has no choice. Yet he must face having to represent God often. When you are called God whispers things into your heart. That vision nourishes and excites you. Moses had seen the unseen whereas the rabble hadn't that. You are the one leading into the future therefore you become the problem. People in your ranks will get scared. Sometimes people aren't a clean sheet. They weren't at the burning bush! They have wounds and uncertainties. For some it is the unsettling of your comfort zone.
Leaders however love change. It should stir and excite! You will meet some difficulties because you are ahead. Leaders carry unexpected pressure. You may feel some resentment because you paid a great price. You might have given up a huge salary. Moses had given up a palace for these people! Yet Jesus gave up heaven itself and came down and washed their feet. Nothing compares with the Cross! We must win these battles of faith. Sometimes you may wonder - why this lot!? There can be huge questions.
We find the inside track between the leader and his God here. How can I feed them? How can I get faith - hope - courage - ? How can I lift them to my vision? You may feel that God is calling you to do more than you can. Fear is a huge weapon! Moses is essentially saying that maybe he hasn't got it. It is a dangerous place to be and lead him eventually asking God to take his life. It can be hard for wives to see their husbands go through that pressure. Leaders are vulnerable. "Why have you been so hard on your servant? Why have I not found favour?". This is pressure to produce something that he doesn't think he can.
Losing a sense of the pleasure of God is so dangerous. If the enemy gets your head down, he's already won the war. "Don't let me face my own ruin" (NIV). This is fear and deep depression. If you were a professional, this is where you ask the superintendent for a church move. We can't! Moses becomes completely preoccupied with the problem and is trying to work it out in his own head - writing God out of the equation! He is completely focusing on human resources and limitations (11:23).
"Is the Lord's arm shortened?". How did God's answer sound? Angry? Resigned? Sarcastic? Sorrowful? Deeply compassionate? Moses had celebrated the arm of the Lord as it had brought them through the Red Sea a few chapters earlier! What had happened to the Lord's arm? "Oh ye of little faith". How did God say it? (Numbers 14:11) "How long are you going to spurn me?". Or according to Eugune Peterson's, The Message; "How long will these people treat me like dirt?". That was a quick wake up call for Moses! God doesn't even answer the question notice!
His great and mighty arm brought them through the Red Sea and will bring them through again. Who is sufficient? Our sufficiency comes from God! As leaders we must die daily! He will catch us.
The Seventy Elders.
Two answers come through from God. Partnership and impartation and multiplication. 1. Gather to Me. This is not a human appointment. It is Gods' deal with God's anointing. It has huge charismatic implications! The Spirit or nothing! (v17) "I will come down and meet with you". God is profoundly involved! Serving God requires the Holy Spirit's anointing and nothing else. "I will take the Spirit". This Holy Spirit is identified with Moses. The Spirit who rested upon Christ and He then went doing good. "You know Him". Let us not dilute the Spirit!
We need to learn so much more about the Holy Spirit - no question. We need to learn so much more about the coming of the Spirit. The impartation of the Spirit - the laying on of hands. We need God! We need meetings that are charged with power! Two elders didn't turn up but they still prophesied. Joshua asked Moses to forbid them. The story starts with opponents of Moses and ends with supporters of Moses. The leader has pressure from all kinds of angles. He must handle loyal support as well as bitter opposition. Praise misplaced may distort!
Joshua didn't know that God had spoken to Moses and spoke of His fury with all the people. God wanted to wipe them out and begin again, yet Moses reminded Him of Abraham and Issac. Let's not see our private walk alone - but the big canvas! Moses won that battle. "Oh that all God's people were prophets!". We either keep growing or we stay static. Yet growth promises change. Numbers 10 tells us the picture. We are heading for the land! We are going to do this great thing!".
And so ended Terry Virgo!
Once again the Spirit was brooding heavily over the meeting and although Brighton Leaders Conferences traditionally finish promptly to allow us to depart, no one wanted to go. Kate Simmonds was especially moved and lead us in three songs of worship and response - crying out for the love of God to be manifest to us as we went back to our churches. I've noticed in all the Newfrontiers conferences that I have been to that Terry often ends each conference in a similar way saying a similar thing.
"Go with us Lord".
Or something similar. That used to make me feel really sad because I knew it was another year till we met again. This year however I was hugely excited and thrilled because I was going back to a superb church, a superb bunch of God's saints who were indeed desperate for more of God's Spirit and power upon our meetings. I knew that this wasn't just a conference for me to fill another notebook but this year is going to be a year of challenge and excitement putting this into practice!