(January 22, 2018) Stuart Reynolds shares an interesting concept …
Muriel (not real names here) was a small town local church gossip. Unmarried, she was the self-appointed monitor of the church’s moral behaviour and was sure to keep an eye on people, sticking her nose into where it did not belong. Several church members were unhappy and uncomfortable with her extra-curricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.
And so, Muriel continued undeterred in her presumptions… until the incident with new church member, Harold. One evening just before the prayer meeting, she accused him of being an alcoholic… she’d seen his car parked in front of the town’s only bar that afternoon. Before several others she sternly told Harold off, saying that everyone seeing his car there would know what he was doing!
Harold, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment, then turned and walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny anything. He said nothing… but later that evening he quietly parked his car in front of unmarried Muriel’s house… and left it there all night!
Contrast that with this: Your car breaks down and you find yourself unexpectedly stranded at midnight in an unfamiliar, intimidating, dimly lit city back street. As you try to get your bearings, you hear the noise of voices from some young men who have just exited a building and appear to be loitering. Then they notice you, look at one another and start coming your way, their footsteps noisy on the cobbled pavement…
Wouldn’t it make all the difference in the world to know whether this ‘gang’ had just left a night club – or an anointed, exhilarating Bible study?
Two striking examples of loitering with intent – one presumptuous, the other pressing.
Loitering… legally, society deems ‘loitering with intent’ to be a crime, but scripturally, it is about a claim – God’s claim. It’s not about stalking but seeking. Loitering with intent for God’s purposes comes from…
1. God’s Appeal
‘Where are you?’ God asked Adam in Genesis 3:8… a question he asks all humanity, particularly Christians who are called to be his witnesses in today’s troubled society!
In doing so he is not seeking information about us – but extending an invitation to us for he wants the best not only for us but from us.
And it begins with us being cleansed from sin to being available for service…
This appeal continues all the way through scripture, through the likes of Isaiah: ‘Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are like… Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are crimson, they shall be like wool’ (Isaiah 1:18).
Point a: God is not looking for an argument but for us to come into agreement with him.
In Matthew 20:6-7 (the parable of the many workers needed in a vineyard), Jesus says, ‘About five in the afternoon he [the landowner] went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard”.’
Point b: When it comes to the fulfilling of potential, how God detests wastefulness!
The biblical record of invitations concludes with this further and final call: ‘The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life’ (Revelation 22:17). God’s favourite word is come!
Corporately and individually, humanity has been found loitering without good intent, lounging in places which destroy them, looking in the wrong direction, listening to misleading voices, being deceived by lies, living with no purpose, value, or vision.
In Jesus Christ, God calls to us in our mess, awakening us from our dark slumber of ignorance and indifference, drawing our attention to the better place of a better way because he is a better Master: ‘Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it’ (Proverbs 8:32-33).
2. God’s Agenda
Proverbs 8: 32-36 speaks of good loitering! The setting is a wise father instructing his son in setting before him two paths – wisdom and folly. Verses 34-36 add: ‘Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For those who find me find life and receive favour from the Lord. But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.’
Jesus concluded his sermon on the mount by setting before us two gates, two gates, two trees, and two builders (Matthew 7:13-27). In this technologically ‘enlightened’ age of instant communication, continuous news cycles, and never-ending information, these options are in our faces, at the end of our fingertips, literally, as never before.
Doors… there is a ‘door’ of –
- Political correctness – where everything, it seems, is embraced and endorsed in the claimed equality of human rights.
- Progressive morality – as humanity is seen to have evolved on every level, not just from our origins but in our new openness to what is now acceptable.
- Personal empowerment, enhancement and advancement – the modern church is, with its prosperity preachers and their best seeing books, is in the vanguard of this movement, where ‘it’s all about me’ and getting God to come to my door to be at my disposal!
Jesus says: ‘…anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber’ (John 10:1). Every proclaimed and professed ‘door’ is not truly a ‘door’! Some are just forced holes, and even other false because they are trapdoors:
- Some human rights are just plain wrong!
- What good is progress if it leads to destruction?
- That which is centred on self, because it applauds and is obsessed with self, is doomed to live in shallowness, smallness, and condemned sinfulness because God will not share his glory with anyone: ‘I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols’ (Isaiah 42:8).
We are found at many ‘doors’ – but what about God’s door? The wise Solomon declared of God,‘Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway’ (Proverbs 8:34). This is one door we shouldn’t miss…
- Intentionally seeking God past the point of convenience and carnality.
- Personally surrendered to him in a decided and settled commitment.
- Consciously aware of him and obedient to him first and before all others.
During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was asked if God was on his side. ‘Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side,’ said the president, ‘my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.’
My ‘door’ needs to be abandoned in favour of loitering at his… every day… in all things!
How true: ‘When our deepest desire is not the things of God, or a favour from God… but God himself, we cross a threshold… less self-focus… more God-focus… less about me… more about him!’
In many ways our greatest need is not for a new watch to maintain what we cannot change – time – keeping up with the pace, but a sound compass of deeper discernment and purer direction resulting in wiser living because of a personal and eternal transformation.
3) God’s Approval!
How precious and vital this is to live in the conscious awareness of God’s approval.
- RT Kendall talks of this in terms of ‘the anointing,’ saying this is the one thing we can never afford to live without or lose.
- John MacArthur rightly states that this is the assurance many professing Christ-Ones are lacking.
- Wise Solomon wrote:’For those who find me find life and receive favour from the Lord. But those who fail to find me harm themselves’ (Proverbs 8:35-36).
Such is never a secret, hidden from the soul. No-one stumbles or slides their way into heaven. There are none who are saved and don’t know it – but many who think and presume they are saved, but are not.
Many years ago now I heard Luis Palau coin the powerful phrase, ‘intentional radicalism.’ That’s what this ‘Loitering with Intent’ is all about – a conscious awareness of God in a settled commitment to seek him all the days of our lives, in all things.
The words I close with were written by a Rwandan man in 1980 who was forced by his tribe to either renounce Christ or face certain death. He refused to renounce Christ, and was killed on the spot. The night before he had written the commitment The Fellowship of the Unashamed – which was found in his room. I quote this commitment (adding an icon)as follows…
‘I am part of The Fellowship of the Unashamed.
The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.
I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colourless dreams, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.
I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labour by power.
My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear.
I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until heaven returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until he comes.
And when he comes to get his own, he will have no problem recognising me.
My colours will be clear.’
Personally I need these words to be written on my heart.
This is where I want to be found loitering… ‘Loitering with Intent’. What about you?
Stuart Reynolds, Ears 2 Hear Ministries, is UK based ministering as an itinerant preacher, teacher in evangelism and revivalism in the UK and USA. Links: email@example.com / mobile +44 (0) 7816 853 551 / http://sdhareynolds.wixsite.com/earstohearministries. His book The Broken Pastor speaks candidly to the church regarding the reality that many pastors are hurting, even on the edge of quitting.
tuart’s latest book Getting Ready for Revival seeks to stimulate our minds out of our ignorance of God’s Word and stir hearts over our forgetfulness of God, returning us to the ‘wells we did not dig’ (Deut. 6:10–12) of God’s provision, carrying an insistence that we may not die in the graves our own wells are. Available for purchase now on the Westbow Press online store (and also in e-book format) at the following link: Getting Ready for Revival. The book is available direct from the author firstname.lastname@example.org for £8.50 including postage.