This year we were pleased to have more than sixty members of the church travel over 5,000 miles to Bogota, Colombia to receive from God at the G12 International Conference in January. On Sunday we heard back from many of the team and Pastor James shared some of the highlights from the teaching that was shared at the conference. Here's a taste of what we learnt:

Hunger for an encounter that changes everything

Four of the messages this year, including one from Pastor Wes, focused on the encounter of Jacob as told in Genesis 32:22-29. Clearly this passage is important for us this year!

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered. Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’ Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’

All the years of his life, Jacob tried to live in the blessing of God but he was marked with a name meaning ‘deceiver’. He wanted the blessing of God but to receive it freely he needed a new name. He needed an encounter with God that would change everything, including his identity.

Once Jacob realised who he had been (the deceiver), he could have a personal encounter with God and have his whole identity and name changed. He became Israel; ruler or prince with God. We need to have our identity changed through an encounter so that we are aligned with God.

Signing up to Life Class is a fantastic way of setting aside time to seek this Encounter with God.

Thirst for the presence of God

To experience the blessings of God we need to have a heart like the early church in Acts 1:8;

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

The Holy Spirit brings power and transformation. Time in God's presence will form us to become more like Jesus. This transformation comes when you are face to face with God. Moses was in the secret place of prayer and intercession and for 40 days was face to face with the Lord. When he returned, even his physical appearance reflected the glory of God. Like the moon reflects the sun, our character should reflect the love and grace of God every day.

Setting aside time to read and pray every day is essential for anyone who wants to meet with God. Read here to learn how to be fed from the Bible, pray with faith, and fast with strength.

Determination to follow the good shepherd

In the Bible, we see how King David, once a shepherd boy, learnt to follow God as his own shepherd. He had a deep understanding of what this meant with the metaphor of his own life. We can see God as our guardian, protector and leader too, and read of David's experience in Psalm 23. 

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The Lord is our shepherd and He directs us in life. In the same way with a different analogy, we need God's GPS for our own destiny. When we accept Him as our shepherd we will discover many aspects of His guidance.

The Lord is the best shepherd, He gives you the best pastures, He is the best healer and trainer, He is the best protector, He gives us the best calling and ministry, and He is the best provider. If you want to make a decision to choose Jesus as your shepherd in life, or know of anyone that does, you can find out more about baptism (the symbol of that decision!) here.

Passion to overcome through prayer

Again looking for inspiration in the early church, we can see how prayer makes the heavens open over the followers of Jesus. We read in Acts 10:9-11 and Acts 7:55-56.

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners...But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.

To have this 'heaven open' atmosphere, we need to learn to pray according to His will, with the correct motivation of the heart. We must learn to seek the Lord with passion, not indifference, and we need to focus on our character formation. We need to fully jump into a relationship with the Holy Spirit and see what He will do for us. Learn more about the power and practice of prayer here.

For more scriptures to study around these topics, please read Romans 12:2, John 14:12-14, Jeremiah 1:4-10, Hebrews 11:8-10, Ephesians 2:10, Exodus 34:27-35, 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, Acts 1:13-14, 2:1-4.