How We Got Here
“I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I’ve seen miracles just happen,
Silent prayers get answered,
Broken hearts become brand new:
That’s what faith can do.”
(What Faith Can Do, Kutless)
Dreams recur frequently in the Bible. From Joseph’s dreams of sheaves of grain bowing down to his sheaf, through to Daniel’s interpretations of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to Joel’s prophecy that ‘your old men will dream dreams’, dreams have been seen as a way that God communicates with people.
Dreams are not always a ‘series of mental images and emotions occurring during sleep’, but are sometimes used figuratively to mean ‘aspirations’ or ‘a wild fancy or hope.’
The dream to own St Mark’s could well be said to fit that latter definition. It seemed, for more years than we care to remember, a ‘wild fancy’. Perhaps dreams, by their very nature, are open to ridicule and scorn, to doubt and confusion. Joseph’s brothers certainly didn’t like his dream and ‘hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.’ (Gen 37:8) There must have been times as Joseph was carted off as a slave to Egypt, wrongfully imprisoned, forgotten in jail, when he wondered if the dream could ever come true.
Dreams that come from God will always bear fruit, but there is nonetheless an uncomfortable principle that life only comes through death: “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24) We go through dark times and it seems as though the dream is dead. Maybe it is. But we have a God who specialises in resurrection.
Joseph eventually saw the dream come true. He became an influential man in Egypt, in charge of distributing food. His brothers had to bow down before him to gain the food they needed so as not to starve. And Joseph realised a fundamental truth we would do well also to grasp, namely that God is capable of working all things together for good: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20)
When the dream is in the languishing state and nothing seems to be happening, what do we do? We rest in God’s ability to fulfil His promises and wait. Waiting is not easy; it’s ‘the most bitter lesson a believing heart has to learn’ (Michael Card). But God’s promises are true and He is more than capable of sorting out the impossible, answering silent prayers and working things out behind the scenes in ways that leave us awestruck.
As we move into the new building and shake our heads in wonder, let’s be aware that God has more dreams to birth in our hearts than we can perhaps imagine and let’s look back on all He has done to sustain us through those periods when the dreams die.
This week has seen a lot of work go on as everything was moved from one building to another, a job that seemed never-ending to those packing, lifting, unpacking and tidying away all the belongings!
But, the end is in sight! This is how the community hall looked by the end of the day – ready for refreshments to be served tomorrow night and for youth meetings to be held there from Monday.
The new fire door warped and so another door had to be fitted this week. So it was back to the wood-staining again…!
The boxing in of the boiler in the children’s room was finished and more displays added there to make it a welcoming place for Sunday school tomorrow:
Fire extinguishers were hung in place.
In addition, stuff was tidied away; new locks were fitted; everything was washed down again and a new mat put in the kitchen. It was another busy day… another busy week.
Before you read any further, I have a confession to make. I loathe maths. I can see its usefulness. I have a son studying maths at university and an engineer husband who uses maths daily. But I myself absolutely hate maths. Nothing is guaranteed to bring me out in a cold sweat faster than having to do maths. Even simple maths (working out the cost of the number of photo frames we will need for the photo gallery we are creating for the building) is enough to induce terror in me. If I say that the job of Treasurer in any organisation is akin to thinking of burning in hell, you probably get the (only very slightly hyperbolic) idea that I don’t like maths.
God, however, does. I am convinced of that. Maths seems to be written into the universe itself. The links between maths, philosophy and theology seem to be integral to life. As I journey with God, however, I find that He seems to operate mathematically in ways that confuse me even more than the stuff I had to study at school does!
For example, in Leviticus 26, we read, “Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.” We read in Judges how God reduced Gideon’s army of twenty-two thousand to three hundred and said, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.” (Judges 7:7) We see how Jesus fed the multitudes from just five loaves and two fish (Mark 6). This kind of ‘God-maths’ goes beyond our understanding!
In 1 Kings 17, we read how God provided Elijah with food during a time of famine. He was sent to a widow in Zarephath and asked her for bread. Her answer was, “As surely as the LORD your God lives…I don’t have any bread — only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” (1 Kings 17:12) Elijah prophesied, ” ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.'” (1 Kings 17:14). And God’s word was proved true, with the handful of flour and the little oil feeding Elijah and the widow for much longer than was humanly thought possible.
Similarly, we have seen God’s mathematics at work over the new building. Even purchasing it in the first place was a miracle. The church committed in January 2009 to put all its financial resources into the bid for the building – a huge act of faith which both terrified and excited us. The rest of the money was provided through a grant – and the story of how we got that grant is a miracle in itself!
Yet by the time the building was ours, the church had more in its accounts than when it started. In less than a year, God multiplied the money. And as we have moved in and done extensive work on the building, our initial thought was that much of the repairs needed would have to wait until the sale of the Beever Street property. But as we are about to start holding meetings in the new building, we look at the new windows, new carpet, new floor, new fire door, paint, varnish, scaffolding, signs and say, “How did this happen? How could we afford to do all we’ve just done?”
We have received anonymous donations. We have reaped the benefits of Gift Aid. We have seen church members give sacrificially. But in the end, God has done something with the maths that we certainly couldn’t do.
There is still such a lot to be done. We still need to sell Beever Street and sort out many other financial things. But we have seen something of God’s provision and God’s faithfulness in visible and tangible ways. I can touch the windows. I can see the carpet. I am awed.
God is good!
One of the things that took up time today was moving all the instruments and sound equipment to the new building. It’s starting to look like we can hold a meeting in here on Sunday!
The Bible has much to say about worshipping God through song and with music:
“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving” (Ps 69:30)
“Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skilfully, and shout for joy.For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” (Ps 33:1-4)
Ultimately, however, there is so much more to worship than the noise we make. May our whole lives be poured out to God in worship and in sacrifice, and may our music be a sweet sound to His ears.