VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams is at the New Wine Ireland summer conference in Sligo this week. She brings you summaries of all the Evening Celebrations and the morning Bible Teaching, so you won’t miss a thing!
Friday 19 July
Gavin an Anne Calver are leading the morning Bible Teaching in The Arena at #Sligo19 this week exploring lessons from the book of Acts. Anne is a Minister at Stanmore Baptist Church and Gavin is Director of Mission at the Evangelical Alliance UK and chair of Spring Harvest. They finished the week with a powerful message from Acts 12 - Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison.
Gavin: Acts 12: 1- 17: There are four things we want to look at from this passage.
We need to pray
Prayer changes the atmosphere. We need to pray believing that something will happen. We were having a healing meeting when I was a little boy. My friend had a verruca. So I prayed in Jesus name and the verruca disappeared. That experience has given me faith to pray for so many things.
We over estimate our activities and we underestimate our prayers.
We need to pray believing that prayer changes things. Too often when we say the word prayer, we think of someone sitting still in a chair. But that is not the case for everyone. I do my best praying when I am running.
Sometimes in our desperation, we cry out to God. One night when I was 11, we got burgled. It was scary. Later that day, my brother called - he had had a bike stolen at knife point in the local park. And then a bullet came through the back window of the house and barely missed my mum’s head. I was terrified. What was going on?
My mum gave me 20p to get a Mars bar. So all the way to the shop, I was crying out in prayer and when I got back home, I saw an angel on the house. The greatest promise is the promise in the presence of God. He is with us in the midst of those scary situations.
A wake up call
Anne: The believers were right in the midst of persecution and opposition, in this passage. It was getting really messy here in Acts 12. I can’t imagine what the believers felt when James was put to death. And then Peter is arrested.
An angel comes to Peter and strikes him on the side. There is an urgency to this wake up call. The time is now! I feel God is saying, “Wake up to what I am doing in the land. The enemy would want to keep us asleep.”
I had a picture of Sleeping Beauty, asleep in her bed and she had been there for 100 years. Outside the castle, the forest has grown up. And the prince comes and gets all the way to the castle. What is it that wakes her up? True loves’ kiss. I felt the Lord saying, “I am the one who comes to wake up my children. It is only love that will wake up the church.”
For some of us, we need to take the sword of the Spirit in hand and beat through the stuff that is stopping us from getting to Jesus. We need to believe in the power of God to cut through the things that hinder us.
Awake O Zion and clothe yourself with strength.
I remember one week, when I kept seeing a grotesque image of someone who was stuck in their chair and they were consuming, consuming and consuming. Towards the end of the week, I said to the Lord, “Is this from you.” And it came back stronger than ever. The Lord said, “This is a picture of what some of the western church looks like.”
I fell to my knees. As I began to read from John 21 and Jesus comes to the disciples on the beach. There is a beautiful re-instatement of Peter. “Simon, Son of John, Do you love me?… Feed my Sheep… Feed my Lambs…. Feed my Sheep.”
I simply heard these words. “ Stop feeding yourself and start feeding others.” He chases us down. He leaves the 99. He comes running after us to wake us up and they He says, “My children, now go feed my sheep.” This is not a bless up. This is a time to receive and be sent out.
Light shone in the darkness of the prison cell and the chains fell off. Peter is naked and in chains, guarded on every side. He is in this place of total darkness and then suddenly the power of God comes. There are layers of obstacles and chains. Some of us are in danger of seeing all the obstacles without realising that our God is powerful and He can break through anything. He is saying “I want you to believe that I can move in this situation.” The enemy says, “You are never going to see break through.”
A girl came to me who had been suffering from anorexia. She said, “Will you pray for me?” I said, “Do you really want to get free?” She replied, “I don’t know.” So I prayed that she would come back wanting to be free.
She did come back and she wanted to get free. I saw chains in her body breaking. Bit by bit, she was set free. About a year later, this girl came up to me and said, “Anne, it is me. How are you?” I said, “It is so nice to see you. Who are you?” She said, “Don’t you remember. I’m the girl you prayed for. The Lord set me free.” She looked completely different. She was radiant with the love and power of God and I said, “Praise Jesus.”
What we see in this moment is Peter being set completely free and able to overcome all these hurdles. However that does not always happen. We need to believe that we can break free but we also need to believe that He is right there with us in the midst of some trials.
God wants to teach us to sing in the darkness. To worship in those spaces where we don’t have all the answers.
The Lord wants to put tools in our hands to cope with what is coming. God is calling us to worship Him and press into His word.
An Iranian friend went into solitary confinement and she was terrified. “How do I handle this darkness?” She began to say 1,000 Hallelujahs every day. That is how she worshipped in the darkness and sustained herself in that difficulty.
In Isaiah 52 is says, “Clothe yourself with strength.” There is something that the Lord does in an awesome powerful way but there is something that we choose to do with the truth of who He is.
Believe for More
“You are only confined by the walls you build for yourself.”
Gavin: I totally and wholeheartedly believe that in my lifetime, we are going to see a major move for God. The only other option is I will die believing it is coming tomorrow. I struggle because Christians seem so negative.
We have to get hopeful. I’m a massive football fan and I always dream of winning the league. I don’t want to be foolishly optimistic but we have to be hopeful.
We sing about a Saviour who can move the mountains but we make God too small, too tame and too safe. We have got to believe for more. With my God absolutely nothing is impossible.
Peter doesn’t believe what is happening. The believers are praying but they don’t believe God will answer their prayers.
God can do anything. He can even do great things when we do stuff badly. My worse ever sermon was about 10 years ago at a youth event in North Wales. Like so often, I was told that there would be hundreds of people but in actual fact, there were nine young people. They had paid for a 10 foot high stage. I’m already 6 ft 3 so I was towering over these young people. I preached badly with a bad attitude but I did do it.
All the way home, I decided it had been an absolute failure and when I opened the gift I had been given, it was a five pound gift token. I had paid for the privilege of the worst day ever! Years later someone said, “Do you remember that youth event? I gave my life to Jesus that night. A few weeks ago we did our first outreach and 32 young people became Christians.”
With God, nothing is impossible!
I’ve had enough of being part of a church that wants to limit God to what we are happy with. We want to believe that God can move mountains in Ethiopia but don’t let Him do it here!
It is time that as a church we said, “Alright Lord. The land is getting darker but the light is getting brighter.”
Anne: We just need to be willing. When I feel uneasy, I can want to decide what we are doing but the Lord says, “Let go and let me train you for the ride of your lifetime.” I would encourage you to pray more as a church!
We were in one prayer meeting and I began to hear the sound of rustling and I asked whether anyone else could hear it. The next day, one of the ladies said to me, “When you said that, I remembered this song - ‘I hear the sound of rustling in the leaves of the trees…” So I looked up that old song and these are the words that I read…
The Spirit of the Lord has come down on the earth
The church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees
And dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth
Oh, this is now a time for declaration
The word will go to all men everywhere
The church is here for healing of the nations
Behold the day of Jesus drawing near
My tongue will be the pen of a ready writer
And what the Father gives to me I'll sing
I only want to be His breath
I only want to glorify the King
And all around the world the body waits expectantly
The promise of the Father is now ready to fall
The watchmen on the tower all exhort us to prepare
And the church responds-a people who will answer the call
And this is not a phase which is passing
It's the start of an age that is to come
And where is the wise man and the scoffer?
Before the face of Jesus they are dumb
A body now prepared by God and ready for war
The prompting of the Spirit is our word of command
We rise, a mighty army, at the bidding of the Lord
The devils see and fear, for their time is at hand
And children of the Lord hear our commission
That we should love and serve our God as one
The Spirit won't be hindered by division
In the perfect work that Jesus has begun