Is anything blocking the river?

I preached yesterday from Ezekiel 47 about the River of God. The image of a river or flowing water is often used in scripture as a picture of the Holy Spirit or the Presence of God. The passage in Ezekiel reminds us that God’s presence brings life, that He wants us to experience His presence and that His Kingdom is an ever-increasing Kingdom.

But we also looked at potential blockages to the river of God in our lives. Just like this waterfall which I saw on a recent walk, stuff can get into out lives which blocks what God wants to do. Four things came to mind particularly, but I am sure there are more. These are:

  1. Unbelief
  2. Cynicism
  3. Lack of faith
  4. Sin

Unbelief is OK if it’s your starting point and you don’t stay there! A man who brought his son to Jesus to have Jesus heal him, exclaimed in Mark 9:24, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” God loves to help us overcome our unbelief.

If unbelief is not dealt with, it can lead to cynicism. Cynicism is dangerous – it says things like, “I’ve seen it all before”, “Yea, yea, I’ve heard it all before…”. Cynicism can quickly become a mindset and rather than it being the blockage to what God wants to do, you become the blockage. If you’re prone to cynicism, repent of it and ask God to give you faith and to help you overcome your unbelieving cynicism.

On one occasion, Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith (Mark 16:14). We should be people full of faith and those who are growing in faith.

Finally, sin can block what God wants to do in our lives, particularly if it’s persistent and habitual. God loves to forgive and offer a new start, so if you’ve got caught up in sin, turn to God, confess it to Him and repent of it and ask Him to make His river flow in your life once again.

The river that started as a trickle became a deep river that no-one could cross. Let’s be asking God to make that true of His work in our lives.

Learning from other streams

When I heard that the Salt & Light Preachers’ Training Course was coming to Derby this year, I snapped up the chance to attend. Newfrontiers have always been good at having in speakers from outside our network at conferences, but this opportunity to attend some training from outside our movement right on my doorstep seemed too good to miss. I have to say, I have been made to feel so welcome by those hosting the training and I guess having some good friends there from Community Church Derby has really helped that.

After we all gave short introductions to ourselves, the course started with Steve Thomas who leads the Salt & Light European Team teaching on “Is there still a place for preaching in the 21st Century?” The answer he gave was a resounding “yes”, but he went on to recognise that church life needs more than just preaching. He spoke from Acts 17, about when Paul was in Athens. Athens then was very similar to post-modern Britain today. We would do well to learn from how Paul communicated to his audience – seeking to connect with his listeners, quoting from their poets, recognising that the Athenians were searching for something – and he could lead them to see that was Jesus.

The second session was led by course tutor, Mike Beaumont from Oxfordshire. We looked at exegesis and hermeneutics – how understanding what scripture said to its original readers (exegesis) before we start applying it to now (hermeneutics) is so important. I hope to blog some more on this next week.

The final session today looked at different learning styles; how we all learn differently, and consequently for those of us who preach, are most likely to preach differently. I discovered I am an “almost off the scale” analytical learner. As with any learning style, this has its own strengths and weaknesses but most importantly, I need to be aware of how other people learn and ensure that I seek to teach in ways that help them too.

I am looking forward to being refreshed, stimulated and stretched this week. I am praying it will improve my preaching and help us in Jubilee to grow in all that God as for us. More thoughts to follow as the course progresses.