Very early on in my ministry experience, working as a pastoral assistant at a Methodist church on the outskirts of London, I learnt the value of using prayer and the Bible in pastoral situations. It sounds absolutely obvious, but the senior pastor kept instructing me to keep these 2 tools as foundational in all that I did. This stood me in really good stead when some years later I began to be involved in ministry to professional sportsmen in the UK. Oftentimes I'd be in situations that I didn't really have any experience in and felt out of my depth, but was released from the pressure of thinking I had to come up with all the answers for myself. So by the time I began traveling with Third Day, I knew very well that God was always going to speak more powerfully into the lives of people than I was able to do on my own or in my my own strength. Those two same foundations of praying together and reading the Bible, remain the major tools that I employ in pastoral ministry to this day, and perhaps the biggest spiritual challenge I face on the road is co-ordinating Mac, Mark, David, Tai, Scotty and myself to be in the same place at the same time so we can pray together and seek God's wisdom from His living word.
On this current Third Day Live tour, I've been on stage speaking about child sponsorship and our school project in India, at roughly the same time that we've been used to meeting together for our devotional time. Hence, our quality time in devotions has suffered a little. Today we met in the late afternoon and had a really honest time together when we were reminded of the importance of 'us' and 'together'.
The passage we drew inspiration from was Hebrews 10.22-25:
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
I focused on the 4 'Let us' exhortations that the writer gives out. Rather than being instructions to believers about simply their individual faith, these words are meant to bring us together collectively as the body of Christ.
Let us draw near to Christ-we are to approach God through Jesus, with a sincere heart ready to receive and give thanks for His cleansing and purification.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess-earlier in Hebrews the writer refers to our hope as an anchor for the soul, a shared hope which we celebrate, cling to and share with others.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on-the Greek word here for 'spur' is usually used to mean a disagreement or an irritation, but here it is used to mean being an encouragement to each other. A spur is used to prod a horse to go faster, longer, stronger. We recognized that to spur each other on may occasionally be challenging and uncomfortable, but also necessary and part of an incredible adventure together.
Let us not give up meeting together-Again, the Greek words here convey a sense of abandonment, even desertion. We all know people who have given up going to church or having any really deep fellowship with other believers, and we confessed that sometimes on the road we can all be coasting along and not wanting to make the effort to meet and encourage each other in Christ.
Realizing that we didn't want to meet just out of a sense of duty or legalism, and that we need to give time, focus, and togetherness to this, we spent some time praying-each guy prayed for the guy to his left, and we re-affirmed our desire to meet in the Lord's presence, and to have an intensity and an 'edge' to our devotions.
Only a few hours ago, I had nothing to say to the guys, a desire to focus on our 'togetherness' and in my own personal study time earlier today the Lord spoke to me so clearly through this passage and revealed to me His desires for our devotional time- a reminder again that He will always have something more powerful and fruitful to say than I will. If you want to minister to others, then let God minister to you first.