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.

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.

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?

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?'

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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'.

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. A scary privilege! But 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.

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.

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.

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.'

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)

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.

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.

A sense of direction

Part 1 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< No earlier items | Index | A step forward >

Here are the first few paragraphs of 'The Grace Outpouring', an amazing book from south-west Wales. Roy explains how he was misled by his view of Father's purpose for his life.

A meal at Ffald-y-BreninI first read 'The Grace Outpouring' and wrote a short review more than a year ago. Since that time I have given away many copies to friends and have found over and over again that it has found a special place in their hearts, challenged them, encouraged them, and sometimes deeply affected them.

So now I want to present the first few paragraphs of Chapter 1, 'We Bless You in the Name of Jesus'.
I was desperate. Despite a series of miracles that had enabled my wife Daphne and me to become directors of a beautiful Welsh Christian retreat centre I was frightened that I had made a mistake. As I thought about it I realised that for the first time in maybe thirty-five years, several months had passed during which I hadn't clearly brought somebody to the knowledge of Jesus. I believed I had a calling on my life to bring people to Jesus, so what was happening? 

RESPONSE - The nature of technology

I've just finished a book called 'The Nature of Technology' by W Brian Arthur. It's an interesting read and unexpectedly sparked some thoughts about how we perceive the nature of the church.

The book's cover'The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves' examines technology as a subject. It goes way beyond any other treatments of technology that I've read. There are many books about particular technologies (the steam engine, the computer, molecular engineering) but Brian Arthur has analysed the nature of technology itself.

Towards the end of the book, Professor Arthur discusses our ambivalent attitudes towards technology. At one time technology was seen to bring order and was regarded as almost heroic.
In the time of Descartes we began to interpret the world in terms of the perceived qualities of technology: its mechanical linkages, its formal order, its motive power, its simple geometry, its clean surfaces, its beautiful clockwork exactness. These qualities have projected themselves on culture and thought as ideals to be used for explanation and emulation.

06 November 2011

The Grace Outpouring - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

A view of Ffald-y-BreninRoy and Daphne Godwin run a retreat centre at Ffald-y-Brenin in Pembrokeshire. 'The Grace Outpouring' explains how they came to be there and describes some of the amazing events that have taken place as Jesus works amongst them and their visitors.

By kind permission of the publishers, here is chapter one of the book in twelve parts with comment and images.

  1. A sense of direction - Roy misunderstands the Father's purpose for his life.
  2. A step forward - Daphne suggests Roy should pray
  3. Unexpected visitors - Surprised by a sense of the Almighty's presence
  4. A pattern of blessing - Another couple arrives at Ffald-y-Brenin
  5. A rather difficult guest - Visitors are sometimes inconvenient or even difficult.
  6. Blessings in the rain - The Lord insists that Roy remains calm and patient.
  7. A pattern of blessing - Roy and Daphne start to look outwards.
  8. We bless you from... here! - A new tradition of blessing prayer.
  9. The abundant results of prayer - Reports from the neighbours.
  10. Grace outpouring - Grace can pour out from us as it does from our Father.
  11. Like light on the water - More on grace and blessing to others.
  12. A royal priesthood - The biblical background to blessing.

04 November 2011

THOUGHT - A pottery lesson

< No earlier items | Be like your Father >

Sometimes a piece of writing can be reworded in a way that makes it fresh and new. And setting the words to music may give them an ability to soak deeply into the heart where they can have real impact. 

A potter's wheelThe words - Here are some words that have been treated in this way. 'The Potter's Song' by Jonathan Asprey.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying...

Go down to the house of the potter
Watch him work the clay
Listen to what I say as you watch him
Go down to the house of the potter
Watch him turn the wheel
Know that's how I feel as I'm working.

02 November 2011

THOUGHT - Some old letters

Sometimes I see something that takes my thoughts deeper than normal everyday life. It happened again this morning as I was checking some local news. A bag of letters left at a charity shop in St Neots told an unexpected story.

Article in the News and CrierThe News and Crier carried an unusual story about a large collection of Victorian letters. They'd been handed in to the Oxfam charity shop in St Neots High Street - what a surprise for the staff who spotted them!

It soon became apparent that these letters told the story of a family over a twenty-three year period in the Victorian era. The detailed tale of life is sometimes hard, sometimes happy, sometimes very sad. Here's a short extract from the News and Crier article.
Sarah’s letters are quite heartbreaking: she writes to Allen about the death of Louisa’s son Joe, and about her own son Adrian: “I cannot see him improve. I don’t believe he is worse. I myself am so afraid it might turn to consumption.”
And you know there has been a death when the paper is edged with black.
What sticks with you is their obvious love and respect for each other. It’s touching that, even in ink, their affection has been safeguarded for so long.

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