God wants his church - his people - to be a community, a family, his family, his people living his way! Ephesians 2:22 tell us, "we are being built together … by his Spirit". So this building together relies not just our efforts, but is God's plan and God's work! And yet he needs our cooperation. Yesterday, Ruth and I spoke at OCC about 6 barriers that hinder this formation of God's family.
Andy (one of our Assistant Pastors) and Ruth O'Connell are just back from a 3-month sabbatical. We asked them to tell us some of what God had done with them while they were away.
What is a sabbatical?
A sabbatical is a period away from normal work. Most commonly taken by academics and church ministers, they provide time for rest, study and research away from normal responsibilities of work.
Before our sabbatical, Ruth and I spent time talking with colleagues and advisers about what the Lord might want to do during our sabbatical.
In a session of prayer ministry I was receiving from some trusted friends, one of them had a picture for us. The picture was of Ruth and I riding a tandem bicycle together. I was up front, focused on where we were going and attempting to ride as fast as possible to get there. Ruth was sat on the back seat, smiling and waving at passers-by, and generally enjoying the ride rather more!
Earlier in the summer, Ruth and I took a 2 week holiday in southern France; a delayed celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary 2 years ago. Part of it include some time on a canal boat.
Unlike a car which will normally go exactly where you point it, I quickly learned that driving a boat wasn't as easy as it looks! Unlike driving a car, you must also think about the wind, the currents, the momentum of the boat which means that you keep going in a previous direction for longer than you expect, and the uncertainty of which way the unseen rudder is pointing.
Before our sabbatical, we consulted various people about their experience of and advice about sabbaticaling. Something about the early days of British Christianity, and in particular the Celtic missionary-monks in northern England, had piqued our interest, and we sensed that a visit to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (Northumbria) should form part of our sabbatical.
Jesus has given us this wonderful mission to go into all the world and make disciples. God has done so much for us, so we want to tell everyone how great he is! Jesus tells us “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” When it comes to mission, we usually remember the second commandment. We believe that God is just, and one day we will all face his judgment.
Lent is an amazing opportunity to commit to God in a new way. Some people choose to give something up (or ‘fast’) during Lent, others choose to try something new to enrich their devotional lives. Whatever God leads you to do, we wanted to provide some suggestions for how we could approach this season together as a family.
At the start of this year, Steve Jones called on us as a church family to be ‘praying for rain’ – and there really is such power in our joining together to cry out to our loving God!