I was just reading 1 John, and the following verse really stirred something in me to write again today, to testify once more to God’s faithfulness and the veracity of His promises in the Bible: “…the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining”. 1 John 2, 8.
It is easy for a Christian to feel discouraged, bewildered, disheartened and disappointed when we come to the realisation that All is not as it seems; that there is disunity in the camp, private agendas, internal power fights, different loyalties, abuse of authority and a complete distortion and violation of what it is that identifies us as the true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ: Our absolute and undivided love for God above all else and our love for our neighbours (including, and specially, our enemies).
It is easy to listen and believe the lies of Satan who perpetually tells us there is no God, for if there was, if Jesus was indeed alive, how could there be so much suffering in the world, how could there be so much suffering in the Christians’ own quarters as envy, spiritual pride and self-centeredness lead members of the same battalion to tear each other apart and render each other ineffective in the Big Battle? The lie that God does not exist, that Jesus’ spirit is not in our midst can be so poisonous that before we realise it, those dark thoughts can begin to inundate and extinguish the wonderful light that is shining all around us, though perhaps not in the very place where one would expect and implicitly trust to find it.
Though individual churches all around the Western world particularly, are in many ways failing miserably to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth as they are so self-focused in their own preservation that the hearts of its members have become immune to the suffering and need all around them, we must never forget that The Church at large defined by the millions of souls whose spirit is driven, guided and loved by the spirit of the living God, whether serving alongside other Christians or ministering to others on their own, is very much advancing and gaining territory, for indeed we can know and trust that the darkness is passing and the True Light is already shining. For it is not the things which are seen by the eyes of men where we must put our confidence that God’s promises are coming to pass, but instead on those things which are not seen. For The Church, the Body of Christ, is a spiritual entity and not a building or buildings made of bricks and mortar. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom and so it is that as Christians we must search for those circles in which we find such freedom, such redemptive power, such supernatural strength glorified through men’s weakness, the True Light that is clearly shining and extinguishing with inexplicable power, the darkness in men’s souls, the slavery of their bodies and the guilt that holds them captive and bound to a life with no hope, faith or love.
“The light in the darkness” initiative which a group of us started in November 2008 has been and continues to be one of those unconventional, unruled and flexible pockets of grace and mercy which is shining the light of God’s love and power in countless lives destroyed by the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Sadly, this is an initiative which could not be birthed within the confines of the local church, because there were too many hoops to jump through, too many “quality controls” to satisfy, too many individuals seeking control and ultimately wanting the glory that belongs to God alone. The structure and hierarchy that men establish is born out of a desire to create a control system upon the fruit that the Spirit of the Lord freely gives us, to claim ownership upon something which was never to be owned in the first place, but voluntarily, freely and cheerfully passed on for the benefit, growth and salvation of others.
The Spirit of God alone continues to water the seeds planted through this initiative. All that is needed is the humility to be still for long enough to discern the next step in moving things forward, even if those periods of stillness are so long that to the world we seem inactive, ineffective and ultimately lacking in faith or commitment to the heart of Christ. God’s ways are not our ways, for if they were this initiative would not be substantially supported by individuals who are not members of the local church, in many cases of any church. Man’s understanding of The Church has become so ingrained in the way we do things that only the old wine is fit for abiding within the old structures, the traditional systems, the “in the box” way of doing Church. And so the God who created the whole universe is expected to comply with our own requests, laws and principles when it comes to bringing redemption and light to those still in darkness. And the saddest thing is that when the Spirit of the Lord does indeed operate outside the box, many in places of Christian authority or leadership will regard those God is using to operate outside the box, as heretics, rebels and harmful to The Church.
I promised a while back that I would publish an update about the “Light in the Darkness” initiative, but I felt it was only fair to give you the background and the context in which it was birthed and in which it continues to thrive and grow. We now have been able to donate over 350 food parcels both to families in need for very many reasons: low-income, single parents, the elderly, victims of violence or addiction, to name but a few, and also to the street homeless. During the winter months a soup kitchen was opened on Thursdays at the Salvation Army in order to provide another hot meal during the week for individuals who endured the freezing temperatures for hours and days on end. A considerable amount of the soup was made and delivered by members of the initiative. The number of guests attending the Drop-in on Wednesdays and Fridays remains steady and averages 30 per session. The newly refurbished premises at the Salvation Army offer a comfortable, clean and warm environment where the guests can play table-tennis, games, have a conversation, a bite to eat and more importantly a safe environment where they can express their fears, anxieties worries and get the help that nobody else other than the local agencies, wants to offer them, be it by means of prayer, practical advice and support, or simply a listening ear and a loving shoulder to cry on. Over the Christmas period more than 10 donors of food from the “Light in the Darkness” initiative volunteered at the Drop-in and got to experience first hand and to meet in person those individuals whom we are seeking to help by providing them with food, compassion, grace and mercy. Many of these volunteers are non-practising Christians (I hate that term because in Christian circles that is understood as not going to church, though many of them have more of a servant’s heart than the thousands who religiously attend church on a Sunday without fail, but will then turn away in the opposite direction when faced by someone in desperate need), and some others are not Christians full stop, and yet it is so tangible to see that God is doing such an amazing work in their heart and through their willingness to lay their life down so that others may live, to lay the comfort and abundance of their own life so that others may have some provision. There are now well over 70 families in and around our village who month after month donate food for the homeless and families in need through this initiative. About 50% of those who donate do not go to church, but though some of them don’t know it yet, they are being the church. Guests at the drop-in have been known in the last few months to join others in church, and though this is never the purpose of offering the food and the help in the first place, it is a step forward in making them aware that God is alive and that He can be known personally and intimately. Drawing them into church also offers them community and a support network by opening up to them relationships through which they can be nurtured and loved beyond the confines of the drop-in. God has been blessing the initiative also by bringing alongside the work done at the drop-in individuals who donate food who happen to be very well-connected in the community and gifted in specific areas which will contribute to the development of the work taking place already, specifically by spreading the word through the Media about the service that the Salvation Army offers to the homeless and families in need in collaboration with the “Light in the Darkness” initiative, and also by developing the fundraising side of things. God has also been stirring the hearts of many to make financial donations to the ministry that the Salvation Army is carrying out. This has allowed staff as well as volunteers to keep trusting in God’s provision and not focus on their own financial limitations. Again, so easy to focus on what we can see, when God is clearly lifting up our gaze away from our circumstances, encouraging us each step of the way, letting us know that it is in our weakness that his power shines, that his name is glorified. Every two weeks or so I get a complete stranger contact me asking to join the initiative, often friends of an existing donor who have been inspired by the work going on, but many times someone who shows interest simply from having read our flyer.
I am not going to lie to you. The drop-in can often be described as a time bomb which can explode at any moment. The issues, circumstances and problems that some of the individuals attending face are beyond my ability to comprehend and internalize. Some of their plights could easily make up the plot of a blockbuster horror story or drama. Some of the guests are individuals who at times are violent, aggressive, scary, intimidating and threatening, and yet the two occasions during which I have been present at the drop-in, I felt the presence of Jesus with more power and clarity than I have ever felt inside any church. For years I have been asking myself the question: If Jesus physically walked amongst us today, would he feel more at home inside our man-made institutions seeking to continually feed us with the word and satisfy us with the idea of HIM, or would he fit in better in the midst of a community service like the drop-in full of society’s rejects whose pain, fear and guilt as well as the hold that evil has on them has identified them in the eyes of so many Christians as being beyond the possibility of redemption? I think we all know the answer to that one, and yet a large majority of us Christians would rather seek the comfort and security of the four walls and familiar faces than venture out into the real harvest which we have been assured is plentiful but lacking in workers. Will the church system and the individuals who fight so loyally and ferociously to protect it ever wake up to the complacency and lukewarmness that is letting souls perish whilst feeding its own members and I should add supporters, not only spiritually but also materially ?
I would like to finish as a way of encouragement to anyone who finds themselves following the lead of the Holy Spirit outside the confines, structure, control mechanisms and limitations of a man-made church with the following scripture (emphasis in bold and capitals is mine):
“This SERVICE that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but it is also OVERFLOWING in MANY expressions of thanks TO GOD. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for THE OBEDIENCE THAT ACCOMPANIES YOUR CONFESSION OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be TO GOD for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9, 12-13
THANKS BE TO GOT FOR HIS INDESCRIBABLE GIFT, INDEED!