Last week we took a look at what it means to live in this time between Jesus’ ascension and his return, a time that we are calling, “the time of mercy.” We noticed together that the scriptures never once tell us that our job is to build the Lord’s kingdom, but rather, to drink and be filled with the renewing waters of the Holy Spirit. The implications of that cannot be overstated. When Jesus sent us His Spirit, He didn’t put building plans within us. He put streams of life-giving water within us. And so what does that mean for our lives in the time of mercy? It means that we must be a people of renewal, those who are being renewed day by day by the Spirit of Christ and those who allow that renewal to flow through them and into the world around them.
That’s the big picture. Renewal is our starting place. But where are we specifically going. Today I’m going to be much more concrete. I’m going to ask you to listen closely to this vision for this church and let the Spirit of Christ speak to you. I like questions but if you have any, I’m going to ask you to save them for the end. Of course, I don’t mind an “amen” or a “yes” or a “preach it brother” here and there!
I want to ask you to look at this world, not in terms of how it is now, but with the eyes of eternity. If you could see its spiritual situation with your physical eyes, what would it look like? A desert, a wasteland, a barren place. It would look unfruitful, dry, forsaken. Now imagine that you are a pilgrim. Imagine that you know that all of mankind has lost the oasis of Eden but that the God who made it all has made a better Eden, a new oasis and He showed you the Way there. So now imagine that you are on your way to this new oasis but you had to pass through the desert place to get there. If you can imagine this, you are able to understand better your life on this earth in the time of mercy.
Thought they walk through the valley of weeping,
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain comes and covers it with pools. Psalm 84:7
Psalm 84:1-2 Our desire is for Him. The desire for Him is what set these pilgrims on their journey and it is no different for us.
Psalm 84:5,7 and our strength is in Him. We know that our strength has limitations but His strength is limitless. With Him, all things are possible. So we look to Him for strength.
Psalm 84:6a Therefore, we are oasis makers. Because we are on our way to the place where He is, walking in the strength of the Lord, we see the world with different eyes. We see not only what is there but we see what ought to be. And the conviction of “the ought” and our love for our Heavenly Father, rouses us to action. We know, it shouldn’t be this way. This is not how our Maker wants it to be. There ought to be….. here. So we get down on our kneed, get our hands dirty, and work to change the destiny of the place we’re in and the people who are there.
Psalm 84:6b who anticipate the coming rain. Our oasis-making work is not a goal in and of itself. We understand that this is the renewal of the Holy Spirit flowing through us, declaring in both word and deed that the Kingdom that is coming has already broken in now. We will one day be in that eternal oasis, but that oasis is breaking in now. So we work hard with faith because we anticipate the rain of the Holy Spirit who will come and bless and multiply as we walk faithfully on this earth. Because the Holy Spirit not only works in us, but through us and in the world around us.
Wij verlangen naar Hem en vinden ons kracht in Him. We zijn, daarvoor, oase makers en die het komende regen verwachten.
We are oasis makers. We bring renewal wherever we go. The vision of Oase Bergen is that:
- Each member learns to bring renewal to their personal life and relationships, the world around them and their community of faith. (Iedere lid leert vernieuwing te brengen naar hun persoonlijke leven en relaties, de wereld om hun heen en hun geloofsgemeenschap)
- We work together to change the spirit of Bergen and the destiny of its people in ways that are visible in this present age.(Samen werken wij om de geest van Bergen en de bestemming van haar mensen te veranderen op manieren die zichtbaar zijn in deze huidige eeuw)
In light of our mission and our dual vision, we have the following goal:
To be actively engaged in relational ministry with 5% of the Bergen population by 2027 (Actief betrokken zijn door “relationeel bediening” met 5% van de Bergense (gemeente) bevolking voor 2027)
The municipality of Bergen has a population of 30,000 people. So our first strategic goal is aimed at reaching 1,500 residents of Bergen. So where are we going to start our oasis making in Bergen?
There are many things I believe that we are going to experience together and do together as we step into this vision of being oasis makers. I believe that our gatherings on Sunday are becoming and will continue to become a moment in time where we experience the love of Christ, the encouragement of the fellowship, and the renewing work of the Holy Spirit among us. I believe these Sunday moments are going to be a place where people find freedom, forgiveness, restoration and new faith. A time when we open these doors and the songs that fill our hearts are going to spill out onto the Loudelsweg and the Geestweg. A time when skeptics walk in and find belief. When the demonised walk in and find freedom. A time when the lonely walk in and find that they belong. A time when people from every tribe, nation and tongue come in and drop all their heaviness and put on a garment of praise, when all their mourning is turned into dancing.
I believe we’re going to own our own building one day, maybe not too long from now. And that building won’t be a closed off place where only Christians gather and then they only do that on Sundays and in the evenings. But a place where everyday of the week ministry happens to the community. A building that looks less like an old church and more like a community center. A place where people gather to talk with a friend or to ask questions about our faith. A place where practical help is provided for people in need, whether clothes or food or emotional support for families going through divorce. Maybe there’s a garden there where we grow fresh fruits and vegetables, and some of us come and make gift baskets from them and bring them to the nursing homes in Bergen. Maybe there’s a youth center there where teenagers and young adults can gather and find mentors for their lives that believe in God’s plan for their lives. Maybe there’s a room there where we can invite the political leaders of Bergen to come and hold town hall meetings or small chats. (When they gather there they’ll know we’ve been praying for them!) Whatever it will be, it will be a place of peace, a place of love, a place where people find renewal, a piece of ground in Bergen into which the kingdom of God that is coming is already established as if it were an embassy of the Most High God and his Kingdom.
I believe we will see those things. I believe we have the privilege of working to make those things a reality here. I believe that as we are faithful in the little things, the Lord will give to us greater things.
But where does all this begin? How do we walk in this oasis maker vision when we are so small, so young and no real place of our own? Every oasis starts with fresh water and a few seeds.
You. 10 people. Easter.
If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, raised from the dead and seated in victory, coming again, you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. Streams of life-giving water are flowing inside of you. In every seed there is the potential for a forest. In the same way, in every believer there is the potential for an oasis. The oasis we will make here starts with you.
There are at least 10 people in your life that are not believers. 10 people who are not in your life by accident. I’m going to ask you over the next two weeks to pray to the Lord to show you who those 10 people are. I’m not going to ask you to “evangelise” them. Once you have that list, I am going to send you out to pray for them, fast for them, eat with them, bless them, involve yourself in their lives over the course of the next year. The waters of life are flowing in you. You are going to seek the Lord to let those waters flow through you into the lives of those 10 people. And we are going to believe together that every seed you plant, in whatever way the Spirit leads you to plant it, will bear fruit, just like those trees by the river that flows from the temple in Ezekiel 47.
But not yet.
In the next two weeks leading up to Easter we are each of us going to pray that the Lord would reveal the names of those 10 people to us. On Easter Sunday we are going to gather together and at a certain moment, we are going to write those names down on individual pieces of paper, fold them, and lay those names on the ground in the middle here. And as impossible as it may seem, as big as that might feel, we’re going to believe that the same Spirit that did the impossible thing by raising Christ from the dead, that did the impossible thing by bringing new life to you, is going to bring new life to those people during the course of this next year. And next year at Easter, we are going to celebrate the new life that the Lord rose up during the course of that year. And then we are going to begin the process all over again with 10 new people.
We’ll talk more about that on Easter. But we’re going to stop here for today and pray. We’re going to thank the Lord for the life-giving water he’s given us and for this pilgrims way he’s set us on.