Talk given and prophetic word shared by Ivanna Giles on Sunday 1st January 2017
I'm currently reading 'Dirty Glory' by Pete Greig. Pete is the founder of the 24:7 prayer movement, which is now a non-stop, international and interdenominational movement of prayer, mission and justice (see www.24-7prayer.com). But it started small in 1999 when Pete and some friends gathered in a room on the south coast of England to pray. Dirty Glory, thesequel to Pete's book 'Red Moon Rising', chronicles some of the journey of this prayer movement. For two weeks over Christmas I got stuck at chapter seven, entitled Blue Camp 20. In this chapter Pete shares how he and his wife Sammy moved to Kansas, America and rented a place on the Old Santa Fe Trail, along which 300,000 pioneers migrated in the 1800s. The area where they lived had once been known as Blue Camp 20. 'Blue' after the Blue River nearby, 'Camp' as it had initially been a temporary settlement, and '20' because it was 20 miles, a day's walk, from the town of Independence at the beginning of the trail. The trail led 700 miles though wilderness and unchartered territory to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Adventurers travelled these 700 miles in search of gold, wealth and souls. But for some, Blue Camp 20 became more than just a temporary settlement: the opportunity for comfort and to settle down, outweighed the risk of the unknown and the cost of the journey. They stopped pioneering, renamed it 'Little Santa Fe' and they made it their home.
Pete talks about one Christmas day when he was taking a walk near his house and came to an old cemetery. Between the graves he could still see the furrows from the wagon wheels of those early pioneers. In that moment, as he looked at both the graves of the settlers and the tracks of those who had kept moving, Pete realised that God was speaking something to his heart, that his head was yet to catch up on.
As Pete thought about some of those with whom he had pioneered the 24:7 prayer movement this far, he realised that many people that he started the journey with, had been slowing down, settling for a smaller version of the original vision. But he was also profoundly aware that he had been struggling with the same temptation to settle down, to stop pioneering. His wife had been seriously ill, they had no money, they were exhausted. The temptation to bail out, settle down and stop moving was strong. Yet he recognised that Christmas day that God was inviting him on. Pete writes: 'The bones of the settlers lay buried beneath my feet, but my eyes were drawn to the furrowed tracks of those who'd kept moving, kept pioneering, pursuing their original dreams. In the hush of that winter dusk, I could almost hear their carts rumbling, shaking the bones beneath my feet, calling me on.'
For me as I read this chapter it spoke directly to my heart. I recognised in my own life that I had been slowing down, opting for a lower gear, settling for a more comfortable version of the original vision God had placed on my life. For me it was a mixture of materialism, getting comfortable, busyness, misplaced priorities and becoming distracted. But also if I'm honest, following a significant disappointment, I had opted for the less radical, less 'all in' journey, to protect myself from pain. If you shrink the vision then there is less scope for disappointment when it doesn't go to plan. Yet I also found that 'settling down' and getting comfortable, in reality did not satisfy. These past few weeks I have felt like God has been placing that same invitation to keep on pioneering, before me. I want to be 'all in', give Him everything; I want to live wholeheartedly for God all of my life and to finish well.
Pete Greig references the life of Abraham. Abraham is an example of someone who kept on pioneering, who never settled for less than God's call on His life, who finished well. In Genesis 12 God calls Abraham to leave Haran: ' The Lord had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." So Abram went, as the Lord had told him'
Abraham believed God and demonstrated immediate obedience. Hebrews 11 (verses 8 to 16) puts it this way: 'By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.'
I believe God is inviting us afresh as a church to keep on pioneering. There are all sorts of reasons why we settle for less: disappointment, loneliness, loss, fear, failure, unfulfilled dreams. To start pioneering the first time when the vision is fresh, we are full of passion and we haven't yet faced challenges, is easier. However the choice to pioneer again, to set our sights back on the dreams He has given us, when we feel jaded and have been hurt, feels costly. What does it even mean to pioneer? Pioneering can look different for each of us: it may mean being faithful in the home, faithfulness in marriage, faithful in the place He has placed you in. For others it may mean new jobs, new territories; for all of us it is about pursuing His Presence first, with everything we are. It's a call to live for God wholeheartedly.
God does not promise us that it will be easy, but He does promise to never leave us. He promises us His Presence. This life, this place we are in currently, is ultimately not our home. This temporary settlement is not our final destination. The One who has brought us safe this far, will lead us safely home.
Will you, with me, at the start of this year, recommit to God to being 'all in', wholeheartedand to keep pioneering, to keep pursuing the original dreams He gave you; to fix your gaze once again on Him.