This being our third 'Foundations', Agnes and I have been completely won over by the completely 'outside of the box' experience - a feature which has successively developed and improved with each year. Although we are blessed with a great many fine conferences and teachers, it's not normal for Christian gatherings to challenge the stubborn structures of religion that can so easily leave us 'well-taught but still caught' in the sticky webs of western Gentile / Greek religiosity that we have never thought to question because ... we have never thought! Although I'm sure it's not the intention of organisers or speakers or the 'punters', I think that the effect all too often is to provide 'entertainment for the troops' that ensures them a good meal but essentially changes nothing and leaves moribund structures unchallenged. Not so Foundations!
F7 felt like closing a circle for me because about 30 years ago, Agnes and I led a fellowship of about 40 saints who worshipped 'panim al panim' (face to face) long before we learned that the Holy Spirit had led us to behave 'Hebraically'! Because we had no building of our own, we were often inclined to take church life outside of the box with drama and worship in the shopping mall. What a blessing to see the holy talent of the brilliantly Artless lads who have clearly discovered new visual challenges to make today's generation think the thinkable!
It was sheer joy to wander around and see F7 folks relishing the freedoms of Hebraic Church Day: prayer-walking a la Chris and Lindy - Galilee in Shropshire - and [sharp intake of conservative breath] enjoying solo communion with 'fishbowl confession'. To see brothers and sisters released to share rich testimonies, preach, spontaneously burst into praise, learn to worship by dancing was so precious... Absolutely amazing freedom and yet, enjoyed with reverence and respect, 'decently and in order' because the awesome Presence of Our Lord Jesus pervaded every moment and every heart on the site.
The highlight - for both of us - was the worship. Not just the 'worship times' but the way those times generated a worshipful context for every conversation, every event. Not just the freedom of our worship, but the beauty and reality of it. Jo has been gifted with amazing sensitivity to the Spirit's leading and when that's combined with Ginnie and Rosie's gift for teaching dance as worship and not mere 'performance', it gives a distinct 'lift' to the rest of us and jolts our normal self-preoccupation. It becomes strangely possible to be at once awe-struck in God's presence and yet experience the warmth of His smile as our precious Abba. When we celebrated Passover with dance I put my amateur video skills behind my camera viewer - only to discover that filming while tears of joy ran down my face produced some unforeseen difficulties. In the end, as the choir crescendoed O the Blood of Jesus... it was time to 'join the happy crowd' as we passed through the blood-framed doorway and exploded with praise! Hallelujah!!
I was blessed that my dear brother Chris gave a strong scriptural call to both the offensive and defensive aspects of our spiritual warfare. The former is so often fudged in these days when most of God's hawks have morphed into doves with the spirit of the age - never stopping to think that The God of Peace is also a God of War who achieves peace through victory not compromise. He punished an entire generation of Israelites for refusing to go on the offensive against the ripe evil of the Amorites because they doubted His character and His promise. These days we seem to be happy to be 'harmless as doves' but rebel at the very notion that we should also be 'wise as serpents'. Revelation 6:15-17 makes clear that Jesus is not returning as a pacifist - nor will the rebels of those days encounter Him as such. The church's first harvest of souls at Pentecost / Shavuot did not result from their being told 'Jesus loves you', but from their being "cut to the heart" so that God's forgiveness and mercy actually meant something to their guilty souls. What is the Gospel if not a godly aggression - an invasive warfare that carries Our King's undisputed authority right into the enemy's domain to liberate his slaves for the knowledge of their Redeemer? Without that holy offensive from Paul and others, the Gospel would never have turned our forefathers from idols to serve the Living God.
Sarah's moving testimony about her learning the awesome power of godly submission in her marriage to Jose was reinforced in several conversations with godly sisters who clearly long for and pray for God's restoration of the men to their proper places within the Body and the work of the Kingdom. This is emerging as a major we must not minor on...
I could not help noticing how God uses folks with the Servant's heart to 'make straight the crooked ways' for the rest of us. I suppose most of us were at least subliminally aware that folks like Monica and Joyce and Mike and Kate - not to mention the ubiquitous Danny - frequently passed through the midst of us but rarely had time to sit through entire sessions or enjoy the conversations over coffee that glue our fellowship. David and Peter - so gifted in their own right - blessed us with their gracious and sensitive chairmanship, and Paul and Deb missed a lot of fellowship just to ensure the free flow of our caffeine and cocoa! [With hindsight, they probably needed more helpers to spread the load. With my major input wrapped up by Tuesday lunchtime that hindsight could have included me...] It's a very special gifting that sees people pouring out their time and energy to ensure a flow of blessing to their brethren - truly they will be called great in the Kingdom of Our Father! Certainly, it's clear that the vision you are carrying is a servant vision - almost like you are the prism through which God's white light is refracted to reveal to the Church a whole spectrum of fresh possibilities as infinite as Our Creator's plans for each of us and all of us together. God be praised for gifting such servants to His cause!
One note for future reference. After my own morning session on the Tuesday, I became aware that many in the room might have had questions and practical issues relating to their home fellowship contexts that would have benefited from an extended mediated Q&A / discussion / sharing time. I don't doubt the same applies to Chris' stirring input on Thursday. Not that I can suggest how that should happen with a tight programme - except perhaps another element in Hebraic Church Day?
Thanks to Phil for the big group picture. Even though, sadly, some of our precious Foundations family were ill and absent, it's going up in our kitchen as an aide memoire to constant intercession over the next year.
My heartfelt thanks to you and Monica and the Team for what Agnes and I consider to be the best Foundations ever! And, I know you will agree... All glory to Our God!
Editor, Sword Magazine