29 November 2011

Earls Barton - The light in the middle

< 22nd November 2011 | Index | 5th December 2011 >

It's been far too long since I visited my friends here. Jim and I drove over to spend the evening with them and we had a discussion followed by a sweet time guided and encouraged by the Spirit.

Light in the middleAt first we talked about a range of topics. I wondered how unusual meetings like this might be. I'm not aware of very many, and this is something being discussed more widely in recent months. (See for example articles by Felicity Dale, Ross Rohde, John White, Bobby Auner, and even me!)

We also discussed prayer for healing and recognised that both the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit are necessary. Healing is good, but gentleness, grace and kindness are also necessary.

And we thought about grace in the sense that we find it hard to receive, often preferring to try to do everything for ourselves.

Then we moved on to a time of listening and sharing - here are some aspects that appealed to me personally.

Barbara read Isaiah 26:3 where we are told that he will keep in perfect peace those whose thoughts are fixed on him. This encouraged Jim to share a story about helping someone after a heart attack in which Isaiah 38:1-5 played a part.

Rachael shared a picture, she saw what seemed to be an aquarium with fish swimming in it, but as she looked she saw that the scene was really amongst the roots of a tree growing on a riverbank. There were flying insects in the water, too, although of course they would not normally inhabit that environment.

She felt the picture represented people who don't normally meet. But perhaps they might in special circumstances. She felt three strands stood out amongst these intertwined roots, someone with growing faith, someone with no faith, and the Father. Jody imagined the roots of the tree were like an umbilical cord with three strands in it.

Jim saw that Rachael needs to be encouraged and should be expectant.

Jody described a sunset she had seen recently. There was a line of bright light between heavy cloud above and the dark world below. The Lord is in the middle, he is the Light.

Glenn spoke about a 24 hour cycle of light and dark, he saw someone cowering down at night. But even the darkness is like light to the Lord.

Rachael had a sense that now is the time. He wants to deal with us now - not in our past, not in our future, but right now in this moment.

And I thought how appropriate it is that Yahweh told Moses that his name is 'I AM'. He is our light now, he doesn't deal with us in terms of our past or our future because he is I AM, he is our 'light in the middle'.

< 22nd November 2011 | Index | 5th December 2011 >

A rather difficult guest

Part 5 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< A pattern of blessing | Index | Blessings in the rain >

Visitors keep arriving at Ffald-y-Brenin, wanting to know what happens in this beautiful Welsh retreat centre. Roy and Daphne find that visitors are sometimes inconvenient or even difficult.

A door latch at Ffald-y-Brenin
Last time we heard how Roy came to see that visitors were an answer to his prayer. A regular pattern of blessing developed as visitors arrived daily at Ffald-y-Brenin. This seems a good thing, they like and enjoy what is happening and pray for more.

They do get more, but perhaps not exactly what they had bargained for.
It wasn't always straightforward. One afternoon I was interrupted by a knock at the door, and there stood another enquiring couple. Faced with a deadline for posting a form, I was internally wavering; but our hospitality habit prevailed and the kettle went on for tea. We did the tour, got to the chapel, but even before I could pray the prayer of blessing they were visibly touched by the Holy Spirit. I slipped away to post my form. Later I was able to talk with them and explain what God had been doing.

As they walked away to their car another couple walked towards me. 'No! I've got to get this work finished,' I thought, even as I outwardly smiled. 'Lord, I haven't got time for this now; please turn the flow off!'

I explained to the couple that I was a little pressed but asked how I could help. I wasn't anticipating the man's response: 'I was driving along, going through the valley, enjoying this beautiful summer afternoon, and the weirdest thing happened when I got to your drive. I've held my driving licence for over forty years, but I was compelled to come up your drive, and I'm absolutely convinced that if I'd taken my hands off the wheel, it would have just turned and the car would've found its way up here. I don't understand it. I've never experienced anything like it. Could you please tell us what on earth's going on here?'

I explained that we were a Christian retreat centre, a place where the presence of God comes and people's lives are changed because they encounter him.

'How interesting,' he said. 'That reminds me of the story of the bishop and the prostitute.'

By now we were at the kitchen table, and he was telling a pornographic story, while his wife just went pink.

I was finding all of this very difficult but nevertheless I offered them a cup of tea. To my intense disappointment they said yes. While the kettle was boiling he told another story that was even worse than the first one.*

Roy and Daphne are in the middle of an amazing time of blessing. People have been arriving every day for weeks, asking about the work at Ffald-y-Brenin, and having unexpected and dramatic encounters with the Mighty One.

But they are learning that blessing is sometimes inconvenient and can even be hard to handle. There are useful lessons here for all of us.

Suppose Roy had said to the first couple: 'Sorry, I've no time to see you as I have urgent business to finish. Form to post off and the deadline's today, you know the kind of thing. Can you come back another day?' Or suppose he'd looked at his watch and said: 'Yes, yes, come on in. Now what do you want? I have only a couple of minutes.' Or perhaps he might have spoken the right words but with just a hint of irritation or impatience.

It's likely the moment would have passed, the blessing would have been missed, two people would have gone away as empty as they had arrived.

The take away message is that we should pray fervently for blessing and we should expect to receive it - but we should not have preconceived notions of what it will look like when it comes, and we should guard against impatience and irritation.

The fact is, Father will answer our prayers on his terms and in his way - not ours. Our role is to accept what comes with deep gratitude, whatever it looks like.

Read a brief review of the book (includes several ways to buy a copy).

*Copyright 2008 Roy Godwin, Dave Roberts. The Grace Outpouring published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.

< A pattern of blessing | Index | Blessings in the rain >

28 November 2011

What is the Spirit saying to the church?

The Spirit is speaking to the church, but are we listening? And are we ready to live daily for Jesus with him front and centre in our lives and in our hearts and minds?

A graft unionSpirit and breath are the same word in both Hebrew and Greek. So when, in Old or New Testament writings, you read 'spirit' you might also read 'breath' and vice versa.

The Holy Spirit is the Breath of Truth (John 15:26), the Breath of Power (2 Timothy 1:7), but above all the Breath of Christ (Romans 8:9).

The Holy Spirit is always speaking to the church. How could it be otherwise?

The church is the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ. How could the breath not fill the body? How could Christ's Spirit not speak to Christ's Bride?

A new thing - We are at a time when the Spirit is again speaking to the church. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say we are at a time when the church is again listening to the Spirit. Don't misunderstand me, there are always those in the church who are listening raptly to the Spirit of Christ, but sometimes there is a wider, wholesale hearing that changes all our preconceived ideas and sets the church on a new track. I believe this is such a time.

There are a number of voices now speaking about different aspects of this new thing, and a number of people beginning to see some common themes. What it will become we do not know, but we will know.

Perhaps the central theme is that the Father and the Son and the Spirit matter, that they have a significance we can't overstate. Everyone will say, 'But we already know that!' Well, yes we do, but sometimes we know it in our minds without being driven by it in our hearts.

We know that without him we are nothing, yet without us he is still everything and will, if necessary, raise up the stones to worship him. We know that Jesus said, 'Apart from me you can do nothing' (John 15:5). We know that he said he does only what he sees the Father do (John 5:19), and says only what he hears the Father say (John 12:49-50). We know all these things but we still don't always live them out day by day.

It's all about him first, not us. It's about being in his presence, not being busy with our own stuff. It's really about knowing him, having a close and personal relationship with him - individually and as the church (his Bride).

Bullet points - Having said all that, here's a list of eight aspects that have come to my attention over the last few years. There may be more than this, of course. I've added a reference or two after each one, these are books, articles, or quotes that expand on the topic.
At first I thought it would be useful to put them in some kind of meaningful sequence, but I couldn't get that to work. I think the reason is that all eight need to be in parallel, not in sequence. In fact they are so intertwined and interdependent that any kind of structure seems to do violence to the underlying truth.

I need to shout this from the rooftops...

Focus ever more fully on Jesus!

Everything we are and everything we do needs to stem from having him full and central in our hearts and minds every day, every minute. Isn't that what it means to be 'grafted in' to Jesus? He is the vine, his Father is the gardener, and we are grafted-in shoots.

26 November 2011

A pattern of blessing

Part 4 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< Unexpected visitors | Index | A rather difficult guest >

Another couple arrives at Ffald-y-Brenin and they, too, are blessed. A rhythm of blessing is established as people arrive daily. Roy and Daphne pray for this to continue - and it does.

Ffald-y-Brenin and the hills beyondLast time, Roy explained how a passing couple felt compelled to visit Ffald-y-Brenin and ask about the presence and purpose of the centre. After a tour they were powerfully touched by the Almighty's presence. In this fourth part we learn what happened next.
Being a somewhat strange, fallible creature I didn't connect their visit with my earlier prayer. So God sent someone else to my door to help me join up the spiritual dots. The next day another knock on the door was followed by the same enquiring words: 'Hello, could you tell us what this place is and what goes on here?'

At last, as I went through the social pleasantries, it was dawning on me: this was God's response to my prayer. That became clearer the more we talked. They had no Christian faith and didn't seem very interested in God. They had sensed something and were simply curious.

While we may like to think that spiritual breakthrough will be surrounded by stirring worship and heartfelt preaching, we now began to observe a pattern which involved the simple hospitality of welcome, cups of tea, scenic tours and moments, and then a few minutes - or sometimes hours - of profound encounter with the Holy Spirit. Our latest couple were open to the idea of a prayer of blessing when they reached the chapel, so I mentioned our tradition. This time the Holy Spirit came with even more manifest power and they were weeping profusely. But still it seemed right to slip away and leave them to hear from God.

Later, as we prayed together with our ever-changing community, we said to God, 'Lord, we like what you're doing, and we bless what you're doing. Lord, would you please do more of it?' And he did. For a period of time, each day, we would pray and say, 'Lord, would you please send someone else?' And he would. Many people came up the drive.*

The repeat of the previous day's events enabled Roy to understand that this was indeed an answer to prayer. It was no longer an isolated event, there was a pattern. It's always easier to see a pattern. It's much to Roy's credit that two events were enough; many times I think we are far slower and have to experience something three or four times or more before we 'get' it.

There are some powerful take away messages for us. Notice that worship and preaching were not required, just simple hospitality. I'd suggest that underlying this was a willingness to take people as they are, to accept them.

Being welcomed and accepted opens hearts and minds. It eliminates suspicion and reduces anxiety. It enables people to be open and straightforward and relaxed: all too often we underestimate the value of simple hospitality. If we confront people with formality they feel the need to conform, to behave 'properly' in an unfamiliar environment. Roy and Daphne learned this very quickly; they touched people's lives simply and Father was then able to touch those same lives profoundly.

Consider the fruit of the Spirit described by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self control. If we have that fruit in our lives, and allow it to inform and direct our interaction with others, we will be able to touch people's live in the same way that Roy and Daphne do.

We can't change people, only Jesus can do that. But one way of introducing people to Jesus is to demonstrate his nature. Felicity Dale makes the same point in a different way. We need to stop trying to do things and learn to let the Spirit of Christ do things in us and through us. He's been telling us this for a long time. Check this post from eight years ago 'His work, not ours'. Take special note of the first and last paragraphs.

Read a brief review (includes several ways to buy a copy of the book).

*Copyright 2008 Roy Godwin, Dave Roberts. The Grace Outpouring published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.

< Unexpected visitors | Index | A rather difficult guest >

Recovering a portrait of da Vinci

Here's a great example of image recovery, a sketched self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci was discovered a couple of years ago, obscured when he reused the page as writing material.

Leonardo da VinciThe image has been recovered twice, once by professionals and then more recently (and much more quickly) by Amelia Carolina Sparavigna using freely downloadable software from the internet. You can read the story and see the results of her efforts on MIT's 'Technology Review'.

The self portrait shows Leonardo as a young man, the only other existing self-portrait is one he made when he was old (this is the image shown here).

It's fascinating how the text can be removed and at every point automatically replaced by an average of the surrounding area. That's what Amelia Carolina Sparavigna did using the packages she downloaded. She used The Gimp (image processing software) to superimpose the young face on the old face to check whether the eyes, nose and mouth showed the same relative spacings. They did! This helps to confirm that both portraits are of the same person - we may get wrinkles as we age but the proportions of our face remain the same.

Kudos to Amelia, but also to the science journalist who first noticed the presence of a portrait underlying da Vinci's text on bird flight.

25 November 2011

Speak to the bones

Part 4 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Taking a good look | Index | The word of Yahweh >

Now Yahweh says something strange to Ezekiel. He tells Ezekiel to speak to the bones, to prophecy to them. Is there any point in speaking to what is dead?

The complex structure of the ear
Let's look carefully at Ezekiel 37:4.

Then he told me, 'Prophecy to these bones. Tell them, "Dry bones! Hear Yahweh's word."'

There are several important points to notice. If Ezekiel hadn't understood these points the amazing things that are about to happen would not have happened. At least, they wouldn't have happened through Ezekiel.

Yahweh would have found another way, another person to serve him. Ezekiel would have missed out. Hearing is important, and the mechanism for hearing is complex.

Listen and speak - Yahweh spoke to Ezekiel. Ezekiel listened so that he could pass on what he had received. This is the place where we often go wrong. We see a need and we act to meet it, we say what we think best, we do what we think best.

It's good that we want to communicate and act, but it's not good that we decide what to say and what to do. Even Yahshua didn't do this, he set us a good example, he said only what he heard the Father say (John 12:49-50), he did only what he saw the Father do (John 5:19).

If we don't get this first step right we become unusable, no good for the eternal purposes of the Most High. Listen first. That's what Ezekiel did and so should we.

It may not make much sense - 'Prophecy to these bones', says Yahweh. Put yourself in Ezekiel's place, try to imagine it. Bones are not animate objects. At one time they were but now they are not. Here's a conversation that didn't take place - but it might have done. If Ezekiel had been like me it probably would have gone something along these lines...

Yahweh: 'Listen to me carefully.' - Ezekiel: 'Yes, Lord. I'm listening.'

Yahweh: 'I want you to talk to those bones over there, I want you to tell them that..' - Ezekiel: 'Wait, wait, wait. I must be hearing wrong, Lord. You want me to talk to who?'

Yahweh: 'Not who, what. I want you to talk to the bones'. - Ezekiel: 'No, Lord.'

Yahweh: 'No? What do you mean - no?' - Ezekiel: 'Er.. No ears, Lord. I mean the bones can't hear, they have no ears. They won't hear me.'

Yahweh: 'I'll deal with that, you just get on and prophecy, OK?' - Ezekiel: 'But my friends will think I'm stupid.' - Yahweh: 'And your point is?'

Yahweh: 'You're wasting time here, Ezekiel. I need a job done and I need it to be done right away. I'll find someone else.' - Ezekiel: 'No, no. I'll do it. I'll talk to the bones. Can I use a really quiet voice, Lord?'

Yahweh: 'I need a very loud voice for this job. If you're speaking to dry bones you have to speak up.' - Ezekiel: 'But, Lord, I have no idea what to say.'

Yahweh: 'Might that be because I haven' t told you yet? Hmm? You must command them to hear me, even though they have no ears.' - Ezekiel: 'OK-a-a-a-a-y'

Yahweh: 'Tell them, "Dry bones! Hear Yahweh's word."'

Hear his word! - Before Ezekiel can give the message to the bones, he must command them to hear. Assuming we can get past steps 1 and 2, this third step is something we often miss out. Before giving the message we need to command the deaf to hear.

This is a step of preparation. It may require months or even years of prayer. It may mean demanding to be heard over and over and over again. It may mean criticism and derision and even facing serious abuse. But it needs to be done.

There are no short cuts in hearing and speaking, seeing and doing.

Will we be like Ezekiel? Will we be unwavering in our obedience even if we appear foolish or unpopular or at risk?

And is it worthwhile speaking to something that's dead? Yes! Lazarus was dead, Yahshua spoke to him, and he came out of the grave.

< Taking a good look | Index | The word of Yahweh >

23 November 2011

Simple gathering of believers

Stephanie Bennett
I have a treat for you today - a guest post from Stephanie Bennett.

She describes how she experienced family with fellow students during her college days and how Jesus was right among them. It was an experience to be cherished and something special and unusual, then and today.

I think she really has captured the essence of what it means to follow Jesus.

Celebrating Christ’s life in the Simple Gathering of Believers - Stephanie Bennett

Growing up in the midst of a nurturing, caring family where everyone is committed to each other simply because they have the same blood running through their veins is a wonderful way to learn the essentials of surviving and flourishing later in life. While many other factors contribute to ultimate happiness, it is relatively safe to assume that children growing up in the environment I just described have a greater chance at success and happiness than those who grow up in abusive or dysfunctional homes. It is the same for our spiritual lives, is it not?

I love the Body of Christ, perhaps because my first years as a new believer were spent in an organic group of Christians of all different stripes and sensibilities; each of us pursuing God to different degrees of intensity; some having grown up in Christian homes, others, straight out of the occult or atheism. For all our diversity we had several very significant things in common. Our most important commonality was that each of us had already reckoned with our own ability to produce a perfect self and upon realizing that this was impossible, we subsequently surrendered our efforts and our hearts to Jesus Christ, acknowledging Him as Lord and Savior.

Another commonality was that a day did not go by without actively seeking God, asking the Holy Spirit to give us light and guidance. We read scriptures together and discussed the Bible, going to the Lord in prayer if there was any discrepancy about a verse or fogginess in our understanding. And believe me -- there was fog. We were young adults, extremely passionate and full of zeal as we attempted to live lives in accord with God’s plan. We knew nothing, but that did not seem to matter; our youth and weakness did not work against us. Instead, it was in the acute awareness that we had nothing – no plan, no pastor, and no strategy for growth – that we learned that Christ was enough. He was enough to bring about transformation in our lives, enough to bring us joy, enough, period. We quickly learned the necessity of clinging to one another in love, giving up offenses quickly, and drawing from the richness of Christ in each other.

We also learned that being in Christ was not a monkish life. While times of personal solitude and quiet prayer were regular features in our lives, we were not called to lives of isolated existence; rather, we were called together to share life and express His life together, in one accord. What did that mean? For four years we lived it, figuring it out as we walked together, sharing His love and the lives to which He called us.

Another bit of interest during this four-year span of lavish life in the Spirit is that the group of about 30 believers was not a previously established club or organization. We came together as college students during our first semester and watched in amazement how the Lord grew us up together in Him. I often wonder if the reason so many hurting, disgruntled, and disheartened Christians got that way is because their experience in the church was so different from mine. If so, did the disappointment they experienced just become too much to handle? Did those who once knew Christ and once walked in the joy of the Lord leave Him because they grew up in a dysfunctional “church family”—one that tried to build and grow itself instead of simply learning to relate to God and each other in love?

There are probably many answers to these questions, but it seems to me that not one of them is sufficient to keep us from pursuing fellowship with God and each other. The church is a family – the more focused on Christ, the Head, the more the church will be a caring, nurturing family that can help us experience God’s love and Presence in practical, purposeful ways. But like any other family, no matter how committed to each other or how strong, the family of God is not perfect. The church is made up of imperfect people seeking God together – spurring each other on – walking daily in a life that is not insular, autonomous, or walled off from the world. It is a life that advances from faith to faith and from glory to glory. It is a life that is full of meaning and purpose, a life worth seeking. It is true life. Life ever-lasting and full of grace.

About the Author - Stephanie Bennett, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, West Palm Beach, Florida, where she enjoys teaching and researching topics concerning mediated communication, interpersonal and relationship development, and the church and culture. (See also Stephanie's web space) An internationally published writer, she has long written for the popular press and has recently authored her first book, Communicating Love: Staying Close in a 24-7 Media-Saturated Society (also for Kindle),  Stephanie invites dialogue at steffasong@aol.com. She and her husband, Earl, make their home in sunny, south Florida, USA.

Note added by Chris J: There's a great deal of veracity and life in what Steph has written here. I can identify a series of important and lasting truths illustrated from personal experience. How many can you identify as you read? Please leave some comments on anything that particularly strikes you.

22 November 2011

St Neots (XT) - Reunion at Cornerstone

< 21st November 2011 | Index | 29th November 2011 >

We hired the local church cafe and bookshop and invited parents and children from last summer's X-treme Camp. We had a great evening with dance mats, games, pizza and chips, coffee, cold drinks and a camp slideshow.

Rafting at X-treme Camp 2011It doesn't seem more than three months since last summer's camp - but it is!

It was time for a reunion and an evening of fun so Paul hired Cornerstone Cafe and Books and invited all the families involved in the camp from the St Neots area. We met from 19:00 until after 21:00, playing Jenga (with giant blocks about 50 cm long) and giant-size Connect Four (discs about 30 cm diameter). The adults mostly sat and chatted over tea or coffee.

Then Paul Shinners, who manages Cornerstone, opened up the meeting room where professional dance mats had been set up. The young people got stuck into some competitive dancing and had a lot of fun in the process. At the same time we had a projector showing activities from last summer's camp - rafting, archery, rifle shooting, survival skills, fishing, singing and crazy fun and games on the last afternoon.

And to round things off there was pizza and chips from Hotspot, just along the street. Delicious and just what was needed.

We felt afterwards that it had been a great evening, some of the parents offered to help with the next camp and we all got to know one another a little better.

Enquiries about next year's camp should go to Paul Billington (the local St Neots contact) or Pete Stamford (other areas in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, or Northamptonshire). Enquiries about Cornerstone should go to Paul Shinners.

< 21st November 2011 | Index | 29th November 2011 >

21 November 2011

Eaton Ford (BS) - The fig tree

< 14th November 2011 | Index | 22nd November 2011 >

We worked through part of Mark 11, wondering about the significance of the withered fig tree and the events between the two mentions of the fig.

Large and small figs on the branch
Paul and I usually spend some time on Monday or Tuesday, reading and discussing a Bible passage. We didn't set out specifically to do this, we began Mark's Gospel on Fridays with Roger but some weeks we didn't have time to continue with it and Paul thought it would be useful to find a separate time for Bible study.

Today we were in Mark 11. We began by reading verses 12-26 with their double mention of the fig tree. We talked about how the fig might represent Israel and how the entire section then makes more sense. Yahshua was demonstrating that Israel had not produced the spiritual fruit required of it and was no longer expected to produce fruit but would instead wither.

Figs are interesting trees, they are never without fruit because as this years crop is ripening, next years fruit are already swelling and developing. To find a fig tree with no figs (only leaves, as Jesus said) would mean it was diseased or deficient in some way.

Israel rebelled against Rome. And in 70 AD, some forty years after Jesus spoke about the fig tree, the Roman forces defeated them. The Romans captured the city of Jerusalem, tore down the Temple, expelled, killed or captured the inhabitants, and rebuilt the city as a Romano-Greek town. Temple worship 'withered' at that time and has never returned since.

We noted that the course of events in Mark is that Jesus was hungry but found no fruit on the tree, only leaves. He said, 'May nobody eat fruit from you again'. When they arrived in Jerusalem they went to the Temple and Jesus drove the traders out. The officials started to look for a way to kill him. The next day the tree was withered.

In other words, the Temple was being misused for trading when it should have been 'a house of prayer for all nations'.

Meanwhile, in verses 27-33, the Jewish leaders take things further by asking Jesus who had given him his authority. They want to trap him and accuse him of blasphemy, but he doesn't tell them. He had already provided all the evidence they needed, for example by performing the messianic miracles. Perhaps he wasn't the kind of Messiah they had been hoping for.

< 14th November 2011 | Index | 22nd November 2011 >

Unexpected visitors

Part 3 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< A step forward | Index | A pattern of blessing >

Roy and Daphne show a visiting couple around Ffald-y-Brenin and they are surprised and deeply affected by a sense of the Almighty's presence, particularly when they reach the chapel.

The chapel (left) and retreat accomodation
In the second part of this story, Roy was feeling frustrated that he's not able to do what he feels he was born to do. So he prayed for Father to change something. Then there was a knock at the door and they met two strangers, a married couple. Here's part three.
We sat them down at our table, where we had just finished lunch, and the reason for their trek up our long and steep drive unfolded.

'Well, we were driving along here and we don't quite understand it, but we were compelled to come up your drive.' They had noted that it was a Christian retreat centre, but that meant little to them. We made them a cup of tea, always a good place to start, and then talked in general terms about the centre for a while and finally explained to them that this is a place where lives get changed because God is real.

They liked the idea of being shown round, so we guided them through the garden, with its special rockery, swiftly flowing stream and a beautiful view of the valley and surrounding hills. We took in the stone corridors of the main retreat centre, walked around the grounds and back to the final room, which happened to be the chapel. There they seemed to sense something of the presence of God, although they might not have been able to articulate what was happening to them. They sat down rather speedily, rather heavily, as if their legs had gone a little weak.

I immediately created a new tradition: 'We have a rule here about how we respond to our visitors. We like to bless them before they leave. May I bless you?'

They had no problem with that, so I simply said: 'I bless you in the name of Jesus, to know God, his purpose for your life, and his blessings on you and your family and the situations of your life. Amen.'

They started to weep. The sense of the presence of God seemed tangible. I quietly let myself out of the chapel so they wouldn't be embarrassed by my presence. It was time to let God do what he wanted to do for that couple.

A little later they came and found me, full of gratitude and rather shaken by what was for them the unexpected sense of God's presence. I was able to share a little more of the good news of Jesus before they left.*

On the face of it, this isolated event would not have seemed like an answer to Roy's prayer. But nothing quite like this had happened before and perhaps it should have made him wonder. It turned out later that this was the beginning of the answer to why Roy was at Ffald-y-Brenin - there was more to come - much more.

Roy could not see this at the time. Probably we are all the same, I know I am. I ask for something but don't expect the next thing that happens to be the first stirrings of Father's response. Sometimes I have the faith to ask, believing that he will do something, yet somehow I expect his answer to be within the bounds of my hopes and expectations. How silly!

Often (perhaps always) he does far, far more than we can ever hope or expect (Ephesians 3:20).

So next time you pray for something, expect to be surprised by the answer. You don't know how, or where, or when the answer will arrive; you don't know if it will be in the form you suppose. All you know for sure is that it's likely to be more than you expect, not less. And, like Roy, you may not even notice the answer at first.

Always remember, Papa won't give you what you want, he'll give you what he knows you need. He'll give you what he wants, he'll give you what will further the growth of his Kingdom, he will stretch you and develop your character. He is Love and he is also very wise.

Read a brief review (includes several ways to buy a copy of the book).

*Copyright 2008 Roy Godwin, Dave Roberts. The Grace Outpouring published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.

< A step forward | Index | A pattern of blessing >

19 November 2011

Taking a good look

Part 3 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Dry bones in the valley | Index | Speak to the bones >

Ezekiel has been brought into the middle of the valley and the Mighty One has a question for him. Ezekiel answers far more wisely than I would have done!

Scattered bones'He guided me back and forth amongst them and I saw a huge number of bones lying on the ground in the valley - very dry bones indeed. He asked me: "Son of man, is it possible for these bones to be alive?" I answered: "Yahweh Almighty, only you know".' (Ezekiel 37:2-3)

Take a really good look - So Ezekiel is there in the valley and Yahweh leads him about amongst the bones. This is not just a casual look, it's a really thorough examination of the situation. Notice how Ezekiel is guided back and forth, this is not 'Go and look and I'll wait here' on Yahweh's part. It's an intimate togetherness in which they both go, we can almost imagine Ezekiel as a child hand-in-hand with a parent.

I should warn you that the rest of this article might seem very gloomy. But please remember, this is a low point in a deep valley and things get better - much better!

For Ezekiel this is all about Israel in captivity under Babylon. For us it should also speak about the church in captivity under the thinking and dictates of the world. We can no more shake ourselves free from the influence of the world than Israel could have shaken herself free from Babylon. Yet we need to be free.

Because we are in the world it is very, very natural to apply processes like planning, teaching, organising and structuring, hierarchies, leadership, and Power Point. There is nothing wrong with these methods in themselves, but they do have the sneaky potential to replace an intimate walk with Papa day by day. Methods alone are death, Jesus alone is life. Where would you rather be? If you choose both, be aware there will be conflict and don't say I didn't warn you.

We can learn from Ezekiel's thorough examination of the bones. We really do need to be 'guided back and forth' amongst the remains of church. It's time to examine the situation very, very carefully and thoroughly. A casual glance is not going to be enough. Father's guidance is essential, not optional. The good news is that there are people being guided back and forth today. I am aware of some of them but I'm certain there are many more I'm not aware of. This is not something we initiate. It's something Father is initiating; guiding us to become aware of the situation.

Dry as a bone - Ezekiel sees that there are huge numbers of these bones. But he also notices that they are very dry indeed. This is significant too. These are not the remains of something that was recently alive. Think about the process of decay - the muscle and other soft tissue is the first to go, skin and hair takes much longer, sinew and cartilage require even longer, and to get to the stage where the bones are disarticulated and scattered and powder dry takes a very long time indeed.

This is true of the church too. Don't miss the point, I'm not saying that individual believers are dead or dry, this is about how we are fitted together and active together - church. What should be a mighty army is dead, dry and scattered; church has been in that state for a long, long time.

So here is Ezekiel arm in arm with the Great One, checking over the state of the remains. And Yahweh looks at Ezekiel and asks: 'Can these bones live?' Only a wise person would answer this correctly. Reason tells us dry, scattered bones cannot live - ever. They have already had their chance. But Ezekiel says: 'You tell me, Lord!'

If only we would stop talking to one another and begin listening to Father together instead. If only!

Death is in the world but life is in Christ. If careful inspection shows dry bones then we need to know that Jesus is our only hope. Every time we have come off the church rails it's because we've turned away from Christ and trusted instead in mission, or training, or... fill in the blanks. We do not need a new programme, we need a new vision of Christ!

When we examine the state of the church and how it needs to change, are we walking arm-in-arm with the King or are we going on our own, for our own ends, in our own wisdom and strength?

< Dry bones in the valley | Index | Speak to the bones >

18 November 2011

About us

Is it possible to write a short statement that captures who we are in Christ? It will need to describe much more than what we believe; instead it should outline our attitudes and behaviour in our day to day living.

An early creed
There are plenty of creeds out there, statements of what we believe. A creed tries to crystallise the main, significant and essential points of our faith. But faith is only part of the story, just as important are the attitudes and actions of our daily lives - the practical outworkings of our faith.

This is a first attempt to write out such a statement. It's not so much a statement of faith, more a statement of intended living.

I wrote a first draft some months ago, but I was encouraged to revise it and publish it by Ross Rohde's recent article on 'Viral Jesus'.

One of the problems with any written creed, and perhaps a potential problem with this statement too, is that agreeing to it or even saying it can become more important than following Jesus. Mere words can never be more important than a person, and no other person can be as important as Jesus.

Here's the current version; it would be good to have some comments. What do you think of the statement as it stands? Can you suggest improvements? Do the two main points (unity in the body and activity in the world) come over as clearly as they should? Are there other things that should be included? Would you feel able to use this statement or a similar one to describe your own life and witness?
We follow Jesus, meeting locally in a number of different places, and we recognise that we are each part of the Church in the places where we live. As far as Christ is concerned, his people are one people in every village, town, city or nation and we choose to have that same perspective because he is the Head and we are his body.
For this reason we recognise as our brothers and sisters all who have turned away from sin, believe in Jesus Christ as King, and intend to put him ahead of everything else in life. For our part we do not want matters of doctrine, tradition, understanding, personality, language, race, status or indeed anything at all to come between us and any other part of the local Church.
In following Jesus daily we want to bless the communities where we live. We wish to grow in grace and in love for one another, for our neighbours, and even for those who may oppose us. Our love compels us to share the good news about Jesus whenever we can, not only in words but also by the way we live our lives.

16 November 2011

Dry bones in the valley

Part 2 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Ezekiel in exile | Index | Taking a good look >

This time we're going to take a look at the first verse of Ezekiel 37, the start of the section on the valley of dry bones. Let's see what Father will show us in this verse.

Death Valley in the USA'Yahweh's hand was on me and he brought me out by the Spirit of Yahweh and set me in the middle of a valley. It was full of bones.' (Ezekiel 37:1)

We can't tell whether Ezekiel visited a real valley or whether the entire section from verse one to verse fourteen is a vision. Perhaps it's most likely to have been a vision. But it doesn't really matter, it's far from being the most important thing.

'Yahweh's hand was on me...' - That's what Ezekiel says. And this is always his heart toward us; unless his hand is on us we cannot move except by our own efforts. This is fundamental to everything the Almighty does. He speaks, he moves, he demonstrates, he heals, he forgives - and in all these ways he touches us.

Have you noticed how often Jesus touched people? He touched their eyes and mouths and ears when he healed. He touched what was ritually unclean - a leper, a dead girl. The most intimate thing we can do is to touch someone. Touch brings us closer than words ever can. What do we do when a child is hurt, or afraid, or anxious? We pick them up or hug them or kiss them better. We need to touch and be touched. So Yahweh's hand was on Ezekiel.

And notice that this is the first thing that happens, before Ezekiel sees the bones or even goes to the valley, Yahweh's hand is on him. This is the touch that says, 'I am going to use you'. The Almighty lays hold of us because we are his instruments and he plans to use us in some way.

Have you felt his hand on you in your life? I hope so! But if not, pray that he will touch you and use you in whatever way he chooses. If he knows you are truly willing he will use you. That's what he longs to do with all his people. He has chosen to use us to do his work in this world today. Isn't that awesome?

'...and he brought me out by the Spirit of Yahweh...' - He brings us out and he does it by his own Spirit. Out from what? Out from the place where we currently are! See how he is one with himself in doing this? It's explicit in the Hebrew, the name is used twice. Yahweh uses the Spirit of Yahweh.

Sometimes we get stuck in a place. I don't mean a physical place, I mean a place in our lives that we are unable or unwilling to move on from. Sometimes we are simply waiting for direction. It might be something we're doing or a thought pattern we return to or just that he has finished using us in one situation and now wants us in a different one. Whether we are stuck or not - he brings us out, he draws us on, he sends his own Spirit to lead us into the next thing, the next place. For an example read about Roy Godwin. The story is unfolding - if you want to go faster you can buy his book.

And notice this, if Ezekiel had not moved he would not have come to the valley. We have a propensity to cling to what we know and to keep doing what is already familiar. But we need to be ready to allow the Spirit to move us at any time so that we can receive something new, Father's next thing for you, for me.

'...and set me in the middle of a valley.' - And so Yahweh sets Ezekiel in the valley. Now a valley is a low point and must be surrounded by higher ground. Ezekiel is placed 'in the middle' of this valley, right at the lowest point. He is as far from the surrounding hills and mountains as it is possible to be.

We know this feeling don't we? Life is hard and promising to get harder yet. There are low points in our lives and there are also low points in the life of the church. This valley is a place of defeat, a place of no hope or joy or victory. It's assuredly not a 'mountain-top experience'. We've all been there. Ezekiel was aware of the state of Israel in captivity under Babylon. But Yahweh's Spirit brought him here so there must surely be a reason for it. Does it sometimes seem as if church is in a valley? A slough of despond?

'It was full of bones.' - What do bones signify to you? Might they be the remains of what was once alive? More on this next time.

< Ezekiel in exile | Index | Taking a good look >

15 November 2011

Coventry Pilgrimage

I've had a couple of letters about a pilgrimage to take place in Coventry next spring. Something about this seems significant, not least the fact that I have no idea why I am being included on the circulation list.

Coventry CathedralThe messages are going out to just a handful of church leaders - though I certainly can't count myself in that category!

And it's addressed to 'all churches in and around Coventry' although I live more than an hour's journey from that city.

But I have been impressed by Coventry Cathedral since my parents took us there as children to watch the progress of the building work. The old Coventry Cathedral, you see, was destroyed by German bombs during a major air raid. The new cathedral was under construction while I was still at school. Wikipedia covers all the basics of the story.

I wonder if there is some kind of revelation here. What was old and traditional was violently destroyed, burned in a fierce fire, so all that remains is ruinous. And after the destruction a new kind of structure has been raised up like a new beginning. The new is totally different in style and construction materials.

I think I need to retrace my childhood steps and revisit Coventry Cathedral and see if the Spirit will speak to me as I do so. (I did go there later, here's a brief report of what I heard.)

Meanwhile, here is the first of the two messages I received. The organisers would like me to pass these details on, so that is what I am doing. The letter contains contact details. You might also like to download the leaflet in PDF form and view the Sherbourne Trust website.




Coventry Pilgrimage


26th March to 1st April 2012


Letter to all churches in and around Coventry


October 2011

Dear Church leader

We are writing to you on behalf of the planning group for a Coventry Pilgrimage to be held in the week beginning March 26th 2012 and culminating in a service in Coventry Cathedral on the evening of Sunday April 1st2012, Palm Sunday. The small planning group is led by the Revd Robin Trew, Rector of Allesley, and includes Christians of different denominations.

The proposal for a pilgrimage has arisen from Robin Trew’s experience of leading several  groups from Coventry churches on the Camino de Santiago, from the recognition of Coventry Cathedral as an international centre of pilgrimage by the worldwide Community of the Cross of Nails, from the experience of a local group associated with the Northumbria Community of prayer walking along the River Sherbourne and parts of the Coventry Way, and from the inspiring story, told in Stephen Verney’s Fire in Coventry, of the Cross of Nails 40-day journey around Coventry and Warwickshire, in which Christians of different denominations participated, before the consecration of Coventry’s new  Cathedral on 25th May 1962.

The proposal for 2012, the Jubilee year of Coventry Cathedral, is to follow the route of the 40-mile way-marked circular footpath, the Coventry Way, by walking from Meriden to Berkswell, Burton Green, Kenilworth, Stoneleigh, Bubbenhall, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Wolston,Brinklow, Ansty, Bedworth and  Fillongley, then to walk down the route of the River Sherbourne via Allesley to the Cathedral. We hope that Christians from many different churches and denominations will join together to walk and pray for our city and the surrounding towns and villages.

A week event will cover the route with walks of 4 ½ to 6 ½ miles on weekday evenings between 5pm and 8pm from Monday 26th March followed by day walks on Saturday and Sunday, with pilgrims returning home each night.  A weekend event for experienced walkers, youth groups etc. will cover the route with long walks from Friday evening to Sunday, pilgrims being accommodated in Kenilworth and Bedworth en route.  A pilgrim service will be held each evening in a church on the route.

Monday               Meriden via Berkswell to Burton Green
Tuesday               Burton Green to Stoneleigh
Wednesday       Stoneleigh via Bubbenhall to Ryton-on-Dunsmore
Thursday             Ryton-on-Dunsmore via Wolston to Brinklow
Friday                   Brinklow to Ansty
Saturday              Ansty via Bedworth to Fillongley
Sunday                 Fillongley via Allesley to the Cathedral
Weekend Event
Friday                   Meriden via Berkswell to Kenilworth
Saturday              Kenilworth via Stoneleigh, Bubbenhall, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Wolston, Brinklow and Ansty to Bedworth
Sunday                 Bedworth via Fillongley and Allesley to the Cathedral


We would like to invite you to support and participate in this pilgrimage by:


·         Advertising it in your church community
·         Considering  registering a group – perhaps a youth group – for the weekend challenge
·         Nominating a “Pilgrimage Link Person” from your church to liaise with the planning group
·         Indicating your interest by joining our mailing list


We will shortly be able to send you a promotional leaflet and to give you a web address where further information and registration forms will be found.


With every blessing,


John and Margaret Lloyd
For the Coventry Pilgrimage 2012 planning group
1 Hill Top,
Coventry
CV1 5AB

14 November 2011

Brampton - Light and dark

< 7th November 2011 | Index | 21st November 2011 >

This week the Spirit led us on the topic of darkness and light. He showed us that darkness is the same as hiddenness, that our artificial light is no substitute for his real light, and that he himself is the Light. It was (ahem...) very illuminating.

Light shining in the darkness
We thought about the darkness that surrounds the Most High (see Exodus 20:21 and Psalm 97:2) .

The words darkness and hiddenness are distinct in modern English, but darkness once held both meanings. We talk about the 'dark side of the Moon', an old expression for the hidden side that never faces Earth.

The implication is that the Almighty is hidden from us. Jesus spoke in parables so that the truth would be hidden and revelation is required to grasp it. Otherwise we might take the credit for our understanding.

Another aspect is that light and darkness are the same to him (Psalm 139:11-13). Everything is revealed to him, nothing can be hidden.

I saw a pathway but instead of flowers along either side there were tiny lights in different colours waving gently back and forth. They looked like the optical fibre lights you can buy, hemispheres of  brightly lit cut ends. I had no idea what this meant.

Sean mentioned that 'the people who dwell in darkness have seen a great light' (Isaiah 9:1-3,  quoted in Matthew 4:15-17). The 'Great Light' is Jesus of course, so the question is 'Do we see Jesus?' He explained that in complete darkness it's easy to see tiny, little lights. But those little lights don't speak of a great and mighty light and are just distractions in our lives.

We need to see your light, Lord. The rest is distraction. We prayed to be overwhelmed by his light - the light of Jesus.

I remembered using plant growth cabinets at Long Ashton in the 1970s and 80s. The artificial light in the cabinets was not as bright as sunshine, it was more like a cloudy day. But even to generate this level of light was expensive on energy and required water cooling. To be as bright as Christ we'd need a new kind of light. Our best efforts don't come close!

Darkness can't banish or remove light. But even a little light can banish darkness and where there is perfect light there can be no darkness at all. I read 2 Samuel 22:26-32.

Then Sean spoke about Israel dwelling in tents and following God. Our work is to believe in him, and so was theirs. He provided manna daily. We need that relationship with him because when we provide for ourselves by our own labour it all goes horribly wrong.

How can we be relying on him when we live in brick buildings that we have made for ourselves? We can't pick up our houses and move! We need to be like Israel - living in tents. In his mercy he works within the constraints we put on him but this is far from his best for us.

I read Isaiah 11:1-11 which shows us that all the rules will change. What we think we know will turn out to be false. Everything will change. The lion will lie down with the Lamb.

And then Sean finished by saying that trying to do it ourselves is worse than useless. It is actually doing what Adam did, effectively telling God: 'I don't need you. I can do it myself.'

< 7th November 2011 | Index | 21st November 2011 >

A step forward

Part 2 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< A sense of direction | Index | Unexpected visitors >

In this second part of the story Daphne suggests Roy should pray and he demands some action from the Most High. And then there's a knock at the door.

The farmhouse at Ffald-y-Brenin
The publishers of 'The Grace Outpouring', David C Cook, have kindly allowed me to quote a series of extracts from chapter one.

In the first part, Roy was beginning to feel he should leave Ffald-y-Brenin, the Welsh retreat centre he and Daphne were running.

Here's part two.
Daphne, petite and blonde, is always full of incredible wisdom and insight, and she just calmly looked at me and said, 'Hmm. Well, if that's how you feel, and you feel so strongly, it's about time you told God about it.'

Suitably rebuked, I retreated to the upstairs office to pray. Fortunately I wasn't aware that her internal response was actually 'Well you can leave if you like, but I'm not!' That just might have affected my conversation with God, which was going something like: 'Lord, I need to be spending time with people who don't know you. I cannot survive unless I'm doing this, because this is what you made me to be, this is what I am ... somebody who introduces people to you, who connects them, or fans the flame.'

The pent-up emotions surfaced in my jumbled words. 'How can I be whom you created me to be unless I am sharing you with those who don't know you, or seeking to heal the hurting, or fanning flames of passion in those who are on the fringes of walking with you? What am I without you? How can I live unless I obey your call? How can I be someone else? Lord, something has got to happen. I cannot stay here unless you do something.'

My talk with God finished I returned to the everyday rhythms of life at Ffald-y-Brenin. Within hours there was a knock at the door. Tall and middle aged, the couple who greeted us were strangers.

'Hello, I hope you don't mind us calling like this, but I wonder if you could tell us what this place is.'*

Roy knows from experience that communication is fundamental to a healthy emotional life, just as eating and drinking is fundamental to a healthy physical life. On this occasion he communicates with his wife (by listening) and with the Almighty (by speaking). But both have thoughts hidden from Roy. Daphne doesn't want to leave Ffald-y-Brenin. And Father plans to answer Roy's prayer in ways he doesn't expect.

One of the great things about our heavenly Father is that he really is a Dad. It's simply the best description of what he's like. He listens to what we say and ask. But he replies out of experience and wisdom beyond our own, and out of love. He delights in our presence with him. He listens to what we say to him, and if we are listening we'll hear what he has to tell us. Telling him how we feel is always a step in the right direction. But when we're not paying attention he sometimes just shows us.

Perhaps on this occasion Roy didn't wait for Father's reply. But the answer still came - it began with that knock on the door and a question from two strangers.

If you're enjoying the story so far please drop by later for more. Or better still, buy a copy of the book and read it.

*Copyright 2008 Roy Godwin, Dave Roberts. The Grace Outpouring published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.

< A sense of direction | Index | Unexpected visitors >

13 November 2011

Ezekiel in exile

Part 1 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< No earlier items | Index | Dry bones in the valley >

For much of my life Ezekiel's words about the valley of dry bones have seemed highly significant. I now feel I should work through the passage in detail here. I'll take it verse by verse and we'll see what it has to say to us today.

Brightness at the heart of the stormFirst, a little background; Ezekiel saw the valley in a vision, as part of a series of visions. Right at the beginning of the first chapter he gives us the details.

'In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.'

'On the fifth of the month — it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin — the word of Yahweh came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians.'

'There the hand of Yahweh was upon him. I looked, and I saw...' (Ezekiel 1:1-4)

Living in exile - There are several things to notice right away. Ezekiel was an exile from the promised land and was among other exiles. In other words he was not alone, but along with others he was not where he truly belonged. Worldly powers had taken them far from the land of their inheritance. But Ezekiel was a Jew and of a priestly family, that personal inheritance could never be taken from him.

Is that true for us? Have we, the church (or at least the western church) been taken far from our true and full inheritance in Christ? I'm not talking about salvation here. Nor do I mean our individual lives in Christ and he in us. Those cannot be taken. I mean the life of the church.

The Almighty has permitted us to be captured by all kinds of worldly attraction and methodology. We have replaced falling on our faces in the presence of his glory and power with worship bands. We have replaced going in the name of Yahshua (Jesus) with outreach initiatives. We've replaced sitting at his feet, hearing him speak and watching him work with training sessions. We've replaced loving our neighbour with leaflets through doors.

Of course all these things have their place and all are useful - worship bands, outreach initiatives, training sessions and attractive leaflets are not bad in and of themselves. But they should not and cannot replace his glory and power, going in his name, listening and watching him or loving our neighbour.

But all is not lost! - As an exile from the land of promise, Ezekiel was by the river when the heavens were opened and he saw visions of (or from) the Most High. Do you think that might be true for us too? Is it possible that in the middle of this foreign place we have been taken to, the heavens might be opened and we might truly see the Most High? Notice what he says at the start of verse 4 - the hand of Yahweh was on me. I looked and I saw.

Is his hand not also on us? If we look, we too, will see. But we surely won't see unless we look!  I'm determined to look. Are you? King David wrote, 'Taste and see that Yahweh is good'. (Psalm 34:8) We need to look, listen, and taste. What does this mean? Simply this - it's time to check Papa out, it's time to hear what he is saying, see what he is doing, and taste the flavour of his nature and love. We will not be disappointed!

We haven't even started on the dry bones passage yet, but we have set the scene. We know that even if we are in exile the Master can reach us with a new vision, that he can touch us, and that we are free to look and see. Are you up for this?

Next time we'll look at those dry bones - I promise!

< No earlier items | Index | Dry bones in the valley >

12 November 2011

Enjoy the view

For several years I've been offering exciting alternative ways of reading the AAJ blog. These browse views depended on a Google service that had remained experimental until a few weeks ago. Now it's gone mainstream.

Google is calling these dynamic views - and that is what they are. Please take them for a spin, they're great fun! They are as different from the usual way of reading a blog, as flicking through a photo album is from reading a book.

We'll take a quick look at each of them in turn. Begin by clicking the 'Browse' tab below the main banner at the top of the page. Now click the image or the 'Go for it!' link (they both do the same thing). You'll see two gears turning and then you'll see the default, 'Mosaic' view. The only way back from here is to click the blog title 'All about Jesus' in the top-left corner.

  • Mosaic - This view lets you browse the images from the blog articles. More pictures appear as you scroll down. Hovering over an image makes it expand slightly and the article's title appears. Clicking an image brings up the full article but you can still scroll up or down to see more images. Point to 'Mosaic' in the black bar to select another view or click the blog title to return to the old, standard interface.
  • Classic - In the 'Classic' view you see the full text of the articles, as you scroll down more and more will appear.
  • Flipcard - Here you will see a regular array of images. As you hover over an image it will flip over to reveal the article's title. Click the flipped picture to open the article.
  • Magazine - This view shows a summary of the most recent article with images and extracts of older ones below. Once again, click and article to open it.
  • Sidebar - Here you will see the most recent article along with a left sidebar with small images and abbreviated titles for older articles. Click these to open them.
  • Snapshot - This view looks like a table top covered with photos. Hover over them to expand and straighten them, click to open them.
  • Timeslide - Finally, the 'Timeslide' view is good for scrolling far back very quickly. Only a few images are shown but in a good size.
And remember - click the blog title 'All about Jesus' to escape from these various browse views.

See also: Changing the website, A new look for 'All about Jesus'

11 November 2011

Valley of dry bones - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

A view of Ffald-y-BreninEzekiel's writing about the valley of dry bones has much to say to us about deadness and life in the church.

Is it now time for dusty dryness to be transformed into vigorous, vibrant life? This short series examines the implications.

  1. Ezekiel in exile - Ezekiel's words about the valley of dry bones seem significant.
  2. Dry bones in the valley - Ezekiel 37:1.
  3. Taking a good look - A question in the middle of the valley.
  4. Speak to the bones - Is there any point in speaking to what is dead?
  5. The word of Yahweh - The bones are to come to life!
  6. The bones come together - Ezekiel begins speaking to the bones.
  7. Sinew, muscle and skin - He watches as the bones are covered.
  8. Prophecy to the breath - Ezekiel is called to speak again.
  9. An overwhelming army - The bodies come to life and stand.
  10. The dry bones of church will live - A prophecy for the church today.

07 November 2011

Brampton - A vision of Christ

< 29th October 2011 | Index | 14th November 2011 >

It's been a while since we last met, but tonight the Holy Spirit once again opened up great truth for us. This evening he reminded us of who Jesus is and what he is like. We were caught up into heaven, it was a time of rich and undeserved revelation.

An interlocking pattern, by MC EscherI've just finished Frank Viola's 'Epic Jesus' and was intrigued by his first person modification of Colossians 1:15-22, so I read it aloud.
I am the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in me all things were created: things in heaven and things on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through me and for me. I am before all things, and in me all things hold together. And I am the head of the body, the church; I am the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything I might have the supremacy, the preeminence, the first place. For God the Father was pleased to have all of his fullness dwell in me, and through me to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through my blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now my Father has reconciled you by my physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

Sean commented that he often sees things in these terms anyway, and as the evening wore on we kept coming back to the fact that Christ is at the heart of all we are and do.

I had the thought that every home has repeating patterns everywhere. They are on wallpapers, curtains, floor coverings, bathroom tiles and so forth. And Father said, 'The repeating pattern in my house is my Son'. And it seemed to Sean that the pattern of Christ interlocks with itself somehow, rather like an Escher drawing.

Sean observed that the wise man built his house on the rock, so our house should always be patterned on Jesus. This morning Sean was reading from 2 Samuel 23:1-5 and saw that King David had seen this same pattern.

Then I described how technologies consist of components that consist of components and Sean extended this thought by saying that Christ is a component of himself. He is the entire structure yet he is made of himself. He is in each one, yet together we are his body. We need many things to perform just one function, but he needs only one thing to perform many functions.

The flow of thoughts carried on. I mentioned that a photograph only shows something from one angle, but the object itself can be seen from many angles. If we only see a 'snapshot' of Jesus there'll be much that remains hidden that we cannot see.

Pondering further on 2 Samuel 23:4 I thought about the sunrise on a cloudless morning. First the stars are overwhelmed and vanish one by one, the dimmest disappear first. Then the shadow of the Earth is carried away like a cover, visibly moved across the dome of the sky. And then the beautiful, pink 'Belt of Venus' appears right around the horizon until finally the sun rises and illuminates everything with the brightness of day.

And this is absolutely what Christ has done. He overwhelms all lesser lights (human wisdom and reason and learning). He is carrying away the darkness of the world like a curtain drawn aside. He is beautiful and causes beauty to be reflected from every direction. And finally he will arise and illuminate everything as his day arrives.

Then Sean read 2 Samuel 24:1-17 and we thought about this difficult passage for a while. Even here David seems to prefigure Christ. He is the shepherd of the people and offers to take their punishment.

And finally, thinking about Jesus again we understood that when he was anointed with fragrant nard (Mark 14:3, John 12:3) it would have dripped off his head and feet and soaked into the earthen floor of the house. The fragrance would have remained for weeks or months as a reminder. People would have thought, 'Ah yes, this is where she anointed him with nard'.

He is at the heart of all we are and do. He is a repeating pattern in our lives. He is the whole structure yet he is also in every part, every living stone. We see him only from one angle, much is hidden. He is like the rising sun, overwhelming other lights, carrying away worldly darkness, bringing great beauty, illuminating everything. He is our Shepherd and has taken our punishment. We still sense his fragrance after 2000 years.

What a Lord!

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