Last November I attended a leaders' school of ministry (if you are near Oxford at all, and can possibly attend this event, do so!) with some folks from my current church and it was fabulous. The teaching there, on the whole, was not new to me however I needed to hear it and it hit me hard. Particularly about walking in the "grace place" (I forgive) instead of the "justice place" (its not fair)
Since moving here, more than ever I have come to really understand that I need to be taught in order to teach others. The minute any of us say: I know that or I know how to do that is the minute the warning bells should start ringing; I don't think any leader is exempt from being taught or open to suggestion. And to have a comment or a suggestion made to you (us) is also not a reason to go on the automatic defence ...well, I know that... or yes, I have done that before....
I remember in October 2007 being taught about the characteristics of a heart of stone - it comes back to me often - is that me? am I doing that? hold on, if I think that there is no way that is me, then is it possible that it IS me?
Most clearly I remember that hearts of stone prefer to "do" rather than "be" and find it hard to be corrected, taught or prayed for.
So I found myself being taught again pretty forcibly about not being in the place of "justice". Hard going, over and over again recently. Oh God, you know me so well. You know what I need to learn.
It's been 20 months since we moved city, This weekend we returned to visit our previous church, where we had been since our teenage years. Apart from clapping and cheering because we were announced as being back for a visit (thanks! we were mortified!!) I wasn't as emotional as I had feared but what was so noticeable was that from the opening bar of the first song, there was complete engagement from the congregation towards God. I'd describe it in a new made-up word: one-heartedness. Heartfelt shouts, cries, whispers, prayers as well as sung words. Quiet moments of congregational adoration towards God. It felt as if people weren't worried about what others think. How I have missed that. I think I noticed these things more because I have been away for so long.
I deliberately didn't go to drop my children off in their groups, as I felt that would be insensitive for my successor as I was hugged by a number of the children earlier and I know I couldn't just have snuck in and snuck out of the hall without there being some warm greetings from the older children (which would most definitely have made me bawl)
Anyway, I'd had a hard and disappointing week. I'd been broken to pieces and asking God for help to be in the place of grace (where disappointment and hurt is OK...we are to let that out!) and not in the place of anger and judgment. A couple of the prayer team prayed for me and one woman with a prophetic gift shared a very significant biblical example with me.
The Daughters of Zelophehad were five sisters in the Bible who lived during the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, and who raised before Moses the case of a woman’s right and obligation to inherit property in the absence of a male heir in the family. Zelophehad's daughters argued before Moses and the other members of the court that it was unfair that they could not use their father's right to cast lots and that some provision should be made so they could inherit and preserve their father's name upon his inheritance. Moses took their petition before the Lord and received the following answer:
Numbers 27:7 "What Zelophehad's daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father's relatives and turn their father's inheritance over to them".
The daughters used legal means to get what was theirs. But significantly, Moses, whom they turned to, consulted the Lord.
Don't you love people who pray for you and utter not their own wisdom but ask the Lord what he wants to say? Not only did these verses speak very deeply into a painful and personal situation - but....six weeks ago I was given this passage to preach on - in June!