From the pastor’s pen: Ancient paths
Lately, I have been spending much time considering God’s call to the prophet Jeremiah:
“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is – and walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16)
That was certainly not the first time that God called unfaithful Israel back to himself through one of his prophets, and yet I find God’s choice of words quite interesting, because a return to God’s “ancient paths” is nowhere to be found except on the lips of the prophet Jeremiah. There is something captivating about this expression, something that I felt the Lord wanted me to grapple with until I understood its meaning.
Many years ago, I remember a preacher using this verse to call the younger generation in his Church to return to items of the past that were traditionally dear to him but that had become culturally irrelevant to their generation. Now I understand that his attempt was an imposition on God’s word, for the Lord never called Israel to return to “old” or “traditional” ways, but rather to “ancient paths”. More than once in the Old Testament we find the Lord reminding his people Israel about their very beginning – before the age of kings, before the Law of Moses even before the Promise Land, to highlight principles of their calling and relationship with him that somehow got lost over the centuries. When King David sought to build God a house (Temple) he reminded him that in “ancient times” he never really needed a physical dwelling place to be among his people. In the same way, God also reminded a religiously hypocritical generation that, in ancient times, he never asked for perfectly executed sacrifices but rather for obedience.
These reminders help us understand that, by a return to “ancient paths” God was calling his people to return to his original blue-prints, the original plans he designed for them, the original relationship and mission that God had established at the beginning – before centuries of religious and institutional development.
I firmly believe that the new work that God is about to carry out in the midst of his Church will not only be characterised by an unprecedented move of his, but equally by a call for us to return to the “ancient paths”, to God’s original blue-prints for his Church. For indeed, after over 2000 years of running with his torch, his Church has naturally evolved and changed together with the world it inhabited. And yet, the call to return to God’s “ancient paths” implicitly tells us that his Church (just like his people Israel) lost something very dear to him along the way – something that he is calling us to re-discover.
With regards to what exactly that is, only time will tell. But I have a sense that the Lord, as he will progress us further in our renewed mission to our generation, will cause us to re-discover a number of ancient and foundational realities that we seem to have lost or forgotten along the way, like:
a culture of signs and wonders
the exercise of our Christ-given position of authority over earthly governments and demonic strongholds
a more “scattered” view of the Church rather than a merely “gathered” one
a greater reliance on the Holy Spirit rather than merely human means
I do believe that, as we make ourselves open to the Holy Spirit, as we humble ourselves and follow his leadership unquestioningly, he will progressively restore crucial aspects of the original blueprints for our Church and take us back to days when God’s people did so much more with so much less.
Quite sadly there are a number of books in the Bible that most Christians would stay away from. From books perceived as terribly boring such as Leviticus, to others deemed too “doomy and gloomy” like most of the prophets. But at the top of the list of the least read books of the Bible, I would probably put the book of Revelation. Despite its incredible relevance to modern days and its fascinating topics, it is single-handedly the hardest book to understand. This mainly because it seeks to convey its message through visions, pictures and allegories whose significance is deeply rooted in the Old Testament.
And yet, it is the only book which boasts a promise of blessings to all those who read it (Rev 1:3) and it is also the only book which boasts a curse upon whoever attempts to tamper with its text (Rev. 22:18). There is a sense in which this is the one book of the Bible that is most hated by the Devil and most loved by Jesus. Not only because Jesus wrote the book himself (John only played the role of the scribe) but because it reveals His ultimate victory over the powers of evil.
With this new series, Ivan and I will seek to not only present its message but teach you how to navigate and understand this book for yourselves. The series is divided in 3 thematic blocks of teaching that will help you understand its chronology, the main events pointing to the end and its main characters:
First block - A countdown to the end
13th Feb - Book intro
20th Feb - 7 letters
27th Feb - 7 seals
6th Mar - 7 trumpets
13th Mar - 7 bowls
20th Mar - BREAK
Second block - Four visions
27th Mar - Two witnesses
3rd Apr - A woman, her child and the dragon
10th Apr - Two beasts
17th Apr - Babylon the great
24th Apr - BREAK
Third block - A new order
1st May - Christ's return
8th May - A new creation
Make sure to attend what will be a particularly enlightening, encouraging and empowering series. Sign up on ChurchSuite or simply show up.
Our next Vision Day is on Saturday the 16th of February at 2pm. The afternoon will be split in 2 main sessions.
The first one will centre on going through our various departments’ reports and celebrating the Lord’s goodness over the previous year. During this session, we will also cast votes for Gary Entwistle’s re-election to his position of leader and trustee of the Church. AGM reports are already available at the entrance (one copy per household). As per usual, any questions or arising matters are to be submitted in writing by no later than Sunday 10th of February.
The second session, on the other hand, will focus more on the coming year. Alongside the announcement of various outreach projects and further changes, we will be updating our members on our ongoing building project. God willing, we will have two proposed designs to present for your consideration, feedback and prayer.
Between these two sessions, there will be a chance to enjoy some fellowship over a cuppa and cakes.
If you consider yourself part of our spiritual family, make sure to come along for what will certainly be a blessed and inspiring afternoon!
RISE prayer at the Cathedral
On the 29th of January, local Christians from a wide range of denominations and Christian traditions got together for prayer and intercession at Blackburn Cathedral, an event organised by the RISE steering group. It was such a blessing to hear prayers for our nation eco throughout the Cathedral and to see such diverse crowd brought together by their love of Jesus and the nation.
The Dean Peter Howell-Jones (a born again, spirit-filled and kingdom minded man I must say!) did a great job at creating various prayer stations that celebrated various approaches to prayer, from the more extemporary to reflective and creative.
Our desire is to see more and more Churches and Christian leaders come together for the sake of mission and local transformation. Let us continue to pray that the Lord would make more of his people sensitive to his call to “stand in the gap” as the one Church he died to create.