30 January 2012

Organic church life

Alan Knox uses the term 'organic church life'. There's a certain flowing, difficult to pin down, deep life about church that is well described by the term 'organic'. When we share this life we are sharing Christ himself as well as sharing ourselves.

A bejewelled networkAlan Knox gives some thought to the question 'Why is it so difficult to find organic church life?' and I very much like his answer. It's closely related to my recent post 'Circles of friends'.

Alan decides to use the term 'organic church life' rather than the more usual 'organic church', and his reasons are very revealing.
When I write about “organic church life,” I’m not talking about a certain church gathering, or a certain type of meeting, or a certain group of believers, or a certain method of organizing (or not organizing). Instead, I’m talking about believers sharing their lives with one another as they also share life in Jesus Christ.
I simply could not agree more! And I could not express it better.

Yet our minds are so anxious to organise and structure everything that we overlook organic church life in our rush to find something organisational in its place. We have insecurities that seem best met by plenty of structure and tradition and hierarchy. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but they are not where the life is. They have served us well in society and civil government, but they do not serve us well in finding and experiencing organic church life.

Structure is required as human life grows in scale. Very little structure is needed by three small children at play (though it's there if you look for it). A great deal is necessary to manage a large company, a big orchestra, or a nation.

Structure, tradition and hierarchy are useful tools for running large organisations, but in the day to day life of a family freedom, spontaneity and shared responsibility are much more appropriate. So too with organic church life. And that is why it's so hard to find even though it may be there right under our noses. Perhaps the truth is that it's not really hard to find, just hard to recognise until you get your eye in. And then you'll notice it everywhere.

But on the larger scale of the church worldwide, structure, tradition and hierarchy become necessary - right?

Wrong! Jesus said, 'I will build my church'. If we each focus on organic church life amongst our own circle of friends we can (and should) leave the rest to Jesus. He is the only one who knows how to do the job properly, only he can properly integrate our overlapping circles into the bejewelled network of networks structure of his design.

26 January 2012

Prophecy about Britain - again

I've been directed to another prophecy about Britain, this time from Lance Lambert, and would like to share a link to it. Prophecy is about hearing and telling; both are needed.

The human earI hadn't expected to post about a second prophecy so soon after the previous one exactly two weeks ago. But yesterday evening I was chatting with two friends about our intention to pray regularly and today they emailed me with another prophecy, this time from Lance Lambert.

I'd encourage anyone who was struck by the first prophecy to visit Lance Lambert's website and read what he has shared about Britain. Both prophecies were given in the August/September period in 2011.

Of course, the two are not identical, but there are some common themes. I have heard that Mark Stibbe also shared something similar in Bedford at around the same time. There are coincidences in life, but I think this is not one of them.

I am not drawing conclusions here, or suggesting any particular response. But I do urge everyone to read these two prophecies prayerfully and thoughtfully and consider what, if anything, Father would have you do about the current state of Britain.

Prophecy is often thought about in terms of speaking, but it also involves listening and hearing. Hearing what the Holy Spirit is saying must come first; there can be no prophecy without discernment. But what is heard and discerned must then be shared if it is to have any effect. I am particularly interested in the hearing aspect and may revisit that topic again.

21 January 2012

Circles of friends

Help doesn't always come from the places we expect. Community may not be the shape we design it to be. Church structure is better recognised than defined. Practice and experience are very likely to differ from theory.

Mallow on the beach, messy but vibrantAll of us need a little help from time to time, or someone to listen or encourage. And if we're involved in local church life we expect to find that support from church friends as well as from family members and others. In particular, if we are in a cell or home group we expect the members to provide the help we need. It's often claimed to be one of several reasons for meeting in smaller, more intimate groups.

But what happens in practice?

When a friend recently told me that he was not getting the help he needed from his home group, I was able to identify a number of people who were providing help. It was coming from a rich combination of close friends, some involved in other home groups, some in entirely different churches. Most of these people had not been 'designated' as his close church family, yet they were there when he needed them.

And this made me wonder whether we have things 'back to front' in some sense.

Rather than organise people into groups, why not recognise that most people already have circles of friends around them? Does it matter if these circles overlap with one another and don't fit into a tidy pattern?

As usual, organic life is messy but vibrant and abundant. Let it be what it is. If I can see vibrant and abundant I'm willing to overlook messy, or even rejoice over messy! Far better messy, abundant life than organised sterility. Yahshua said, 'I came so they may have life, and have it more abundantly.' (John 10:10)

So may I suggest that the people Father has placed around us are more likely to be there when we need them than the people that even the best organised church has defined as 'our' group? (The two are not mutually exclusive, or course.)

The corollary of this is that 'church'  is a shifting network of unique yet overlapping circles around all the individuals. True community comes, not from human-defined groups, but from the Father himself guiding his people in loving one another. And if we saw church in this way we would lose our need to identify ourselves as members of this fellowship or that denomination. We would let all the buildings and programs go (we wouldn't need them any more) and we could focus on life as the church that meets at Jane and John's house or the church in St Neots. Wouldn't that be grand!

15 January 2012

SOPA blackout


SOPA and PIPA

The blog is now restored to normal use.


All About Jesus will be unavailable from 13:00 UT on January 18th until 01:00 UT on January 19th. These times correspond to 08:00 EST to 20:00 EST on 18th January when many websites large and small will be blacked out to draw attention to the issues around SOPA and PIPA.

Please read the Wikipedia article on the initiative for more detail.

11 January 2012

Prophecy for England

I was sent these words of prophecy today by a friend. They concern the future of the UK and I felt led to place them here on 'All About Jesus'. Your thoughts and comments will be welcome.

Listening is important, something I've posted on before and feel strongly about. Many who follow Jesus have never been encouraged to listen or given any guidance on how to listen. This is a real weakness in church life in the UK in our day.

England in the UKProphecy is the result of listening so I was encouraged today when a friend sent me and others some words from someone she knows, John Richards. Here it is, exactly as I received it.

Prophecy for England

In the next 20 years there will be a period of cumulative and intense emotional & spiritual poverty and ever-increasing suffering in the UK as my generation and those younger grow up and reach middle age. Relationship and marriage breakdown will become completely epidemic, serious sexual and physical diseases and problems will become overwhelming, people's health both mental and emotional will be corrupted and there will be intense poverty, both practically and spiritually in this nation as communities die, children are fatherless and families are destroyed. The papers will become full of stories that will lead people into debt, fear, hopelessness and apathy and a terrible disappointment and anger at what they are living in.

During this time, there will be intense challenge for the established church as the divide between their normal ministry, practices and influence and the intense and accelerating need in their communites grows at an exponential rate and it becomes painfully clear that the Church and Gospel as they are living it out and preaching and teaching it is NOT sufficient for the Redemption and wounds of their nation.

At this point, God will send prophetic words into the church, all over the country, carried in the mouths of prophets, begging the established Christian Church to repent and turn from their materialism, religion and fear that masquerades as Christianity and to move out in faith by FASTING, PRAYER AND A NEW KIND OF CHURCH BUILT ON DISCIPLESHIP AND INTIMACY. God will come strongly against the established order of things in the Church and it will be utterly exposed as being largely impotent and shallow as the country begins to bleed.....

But simultaeous to the suffering of the people and ever increasing impotence of the established and exisiting Church in the UK, AN IMMENSE HUNGER FOR SPIRITUAL REAITY AND REDEMPTION WILL SURFACE IN THE NATION, PARTICULARLY AMONGST YOUNG PEOPLE AS THEY SEE MATERIALISM, CAPITALISM, DEMOCRACY, INDIVIDUALISM AND SO-CALLED FREEDOM, EVADE THEM AND FAIL.

IF in these days the Church hears the prophetic messages to repent and change that God will make resound in music, the Arts, culture, prophetic preaching and spirit-filled conscience, then GOD WILL BRING A GREAT REVIVAL TO THIS NATION like has never been seen in history, BUT IT WILL NOT START IN CHURCH, BUT INSTEAD WILL BIRTH AS CHRISTIANS BREAK OUT OF THEIR COMFORT AND RELIGION AND FAST AND PRAY IN ACCOUNTABLE GROUPS AND THEN MOVE OUT IN FAITH TO THEIR COMMUNITIES via discipling. The young will need to turn to the old in respect and accountability in the church, and the old will need to be fully repent and let go of the past and let God change their preconceptions and then let the young lead and move out in adventure and faith.



JOHN RICHARDS

John has asked me to include two links, one to his website and another to a copy of his book. I'd like to add my thanks for permission to share the prophecy here on All About Jesus.

I believe these words were given and shared in order to touch hearts. They may not touch every heart, and they certainly won't affect everyone in the same way. Particularly if you live in the UK (and especially if you live in England) or if you have a special heart for this country, please read them prayerfully and thoughtfully and test them for yourself. I don't endorse what is written but I do want to place it before you for consideration.

Megan, who sent me John's words, also mentioned that they are strikingly similar to something she heard Mark Stibbe share recently.

Why am I posting this? - There is a particular reason for passing this on. Much of what John has shared touches chords in what I have been thinking and hearing over the last year or so, especially during the last six months. I don't think this is a coincidence.

I woke up one morning with the word 'subito' rattling around in my mind. My schoolboy Latin from about 1960 made me think it meant 'suddenly' and that turned out to be correct. So I thought perhaps the Holy Spirit was telling me there was going to be a sudden change in my life. I wrote about it when it happened, at the beginning of September.

I believe that change has begun and now feel I should collect together some of the other articles I've written about listening. I'll post again when I've done that.

At this stage perhaps my thinking sounds a little disjointed - it does to me as well! But I have no doubt that something is being revealed and clarity will come at the right time. Nobody can claim life with Jesus is dull!

Eaton Ford (BS) - Doing it our way

< 3rd January 2012 | Index | 27th May 2012 >

We read the first chapter of Acts and discussed it. I was interested to note that the disciples behaved just the same way we do; in the absence of Jesus they decided to do things their own way.

An icon of MatthiasLast time Paul and I met we finished Mark's gospel and decided to work through Acts next.

Today we made a start by reading Luke 1:1-4 to help us understand how Luke had written both books to give the best and most consistent possible account of the events concerning Jesus and the early church.

Then we read the first chapter of Acts section by section, stopping to discuss what we had read as we worked our way through. Here are some of the things I found especially striking.

The pattern of events is perfectly clear. Jesus was arrested, tried both by the religious and civil courts, was crucified, died, and spent the entire Sabbath (Friday evening until sometime before Sunday sunrise) in a sealed rock tomb. Then he returned to life and for forty days he was with the disciples in Galilee and then in Jerusalem before he returned to the Father in heaven.

The rule of Christ - During these forty days he gave 'convincing proofs' that he was alive (verse 3). And during this time he spoke about the kingdom, that is he told them about his rule, the extent of his reign. This realm is not only in heaven but also in the hearts and lives of every man, woman and child that will follow him and obey him. Simply put, a kingdom is that realm where the king reigns; the sum of the places where his commands are treated with respect and fully carried out. It's important that my heart and your heart are part of his kingdom. You're either in or you're out!

He begins to reign immediately; he commands them to stay in Jerusalem until they receive the promised gift. Did they know what this gift was? Yes, the gift of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Did they know what this meant? No, they had little idea of what would happen or how it would change everything! But they would certainly recognise it when it happened.

We're just the same. We know that if he is ruling in our lives he will bless us but we don't expect the amazing things he does. When they happen though, we recognise them and realise our expectations were too limited. It's not that we lack faith (thought often we do lack faith), but rather that he habitually does abundantly more than we could expect even in our most faith-filled moments. (Ephesians 3:20) This should encourage us immensely!

Back to the city - I was very struck by verses 12-26. This is also just like us, scarily so. Just pay attention to what they did.

Jesus has just left them to return to the Father, they walk back from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem without him. They must have retraced the steps they would have taken with Jesus many times before, the same route the Temple guards would have taken Jesus after his capture. The olive grove of Gethsemane is on this route, part of the way down the hill. Their thoughts must have been confused and every step would have held a mix of precious and painful memories.

They go back to the upper room, very likely the same place they had eaten that last meal with him at Passover. But he is not here now. He has left physically and his Spirit has not yet 'baptised' them. They are without any kind of heavenly counsel, left to work it our for themselves. And they do.

The wrong way - Peter stands up and takes charge (they probably agreed that someone had to). He speaks to the remaining ten disciples and those other men and women gathered in the room. He argues (perfectly reasonably) that Judas should be replaced to make up the number twelve again. In their own wisdom they decide on two candidates and then they draw lots. Effectively they decide between Joseph and Matthias by tossing a coin!

Does this sound familiar? An important decision needs to be made, Jesus doesn't seem to be around, so someone takes charge, and we make the decision by election and/or by chance.

The right way - What should they have done instead? What should we do? We should have faith and we should have patience. In other words we should wait expectantly for the solution to be given to us. Prayer would do no harm while we're waiting. Jesus had actually told them to wait - wait until the promised gift arrives, wait until you are baptised in the Spirit. How immediate was their lack of trust, their taking of things into their own hands, their failure to wait.

And how much pain and disappointment could be avoided in church life if we listened to Jesus instead of rushing off to fix things for ourselves!

The real replacement - And who was the new apostle? Matthias (and Joseph too for that matter) remain in obscurity. Who was the new apostle? Arguably he was a pharisee. He might have called for the release of Barabbas. He certainly attacked the early church and helped at the stoning of Stephen. Saul, a person the disciples may not have heard of and certainly would never have chosen - this same Saul is the Paul who became the apostle to the gentiles and wrote all those amazing letters that make up a large part of the New Testament. Wow!

We desperately need to learn this lesson. Pray, expect, wait - and do what we are told, not what we think to be best.

< 3rd January 2012 | Index | 27th May 2012 >

10 January 2012

A royal priesthood

Part 12 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< Like light on the water | Index | No later items >

Roy shares some Bible passages to clarify and support the idea of praying for blessing and the impact that flows from doing so. He finds Old and New Testament verses to back up what he and Daphne had discovered during their early times at Ffald-y-Brenin.

A servant King, a self-sacrificing PriestThis is the final section of chapter one, the last part I can share with you online. If you've been following along I hope it will have encouraged you to buy a copy of the book so you can read the entire amazing story.

There's a link at the bottom of the article that lists various ways to obtain a copy.

In this final part Roy provides some biblical background to the idea of speaking a blessing over people and their lives.

When the practice of priesthood was originally about to commence, God instructed Moses to explain to Aaron how he and the priests were to act. Not only were they to intercede for the people but they were to pronounce blessings over them as well. 'The Lord spoke to Moses saying, "Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."' (Numbers 6:22-26 ESV).

Then came a remarkable explanation and insight: 'So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.' God placed into the mouths of the priests the power to speak words that caused God to unleash transformational, life-changing blessings upon the people. This is in line with our understanding that when people on earth are in agreement with the word from heaven, the power of the age to come is released in the here and now on earth.

We make a great mistake if we believe that this is simply wordy theology. 'Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings' (Leviticus 9:22 ESV). Sounds rather formal and religious, doesn't it? Yet God's kingdom is not resting in words but in power.

So notice what happens next in verses 23-24: 'And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.' What a difference is made to the priesthood when the blessing comes from an encounter, a meeting with God himself! The supernatural is released, The glory of God is seen and praise arises to him.

In Deuteronomy 10:8 (ESV, reinforced in 21:5) we read: 'At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day.' Wow! What a ministry: to carry the presence, to minister to the Lord and to speak blessings in his name to the people!

Now here is a wonderful truth. When Jesus came he was revealed as our High Priest. He is the presence, filled without measure, ministering to God and releasing incredible blessings upon all who can receive, including us. Yet there is more. You and I are now called into a new priesthood, that of all believers. We are to carry the presence, minister to God and speak, pronounce, invoke, release blessings upon people. 'But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light' (1 Peter 2:9 ESV).

There is a wonderful hymn by Charles Wesley that says: 'My God, I know, I feel thee mine.' There is an important balance in those words. We need to know God at the level of our minds and our understanding, but we also need to experience him. The Bible encourages us to taste and see that he is good. If we can bless people, and the Holy Spirit comes and overshadows them and breaks them, they are eager to know who this God is that they've tasted. It's wonderful. If God wants to move with people like that as a response to blessing, I want to play a part in it.

And as these first inklings stirred in us - thoughts of what the practice of blessing people might bring - we were not to know just how profound a challenge would come to 'faith as usual' from this gentle but insistent work of the Holy Spirit.

Yahshua (Jesus) is a king in the line of David, and also our great High Priest. And because we have been adopted as his heirs we too are of both the royal line and the priestly line. How does it feel to be part of a royal priesthood? Because that is what you are!

At Great Staughton, near where Donna and I live, there is an Anglican church. The top of the tower is visible across the fields from the nearby main road and because of  the levels and the angle at which you see it as you drive by, it some times looks like an altar with four horns, and sometimes like a crown with eight spikes.

Like that tower, we too (through Jesus) have inherited an altar and a crown. We have priestly duties and royal duties. Jesus was a servant King and a self-sacrificing Priest and we are also called to serve and to give.

It seems to me that Roy has covered the priestly duties very clearly in this final part of the chapter, we are called to carry the Presence of the Most High, serve him, and release his blessing on the places and people around us. Similarly we have a royal duty, to carry the Authority of the Most High, represent him, and release his rule in the world around us.

So as priests we can bless and as members of the royal family we can take authority over the darkness. We are to be channels by which the Lord's grace and light can flow into the world around us. Isn't that amazing?

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.

< Like light on the water | Index | No later items >

Great design and usability

Good design combines clean looks with smooth and intuitive usability. The best devices are the result of a great deal of thought and planning effort, the iPhone for example more or less rewrote the rules for mobile phones. Here are some more great ideas.

The WVIL concept cameraThis is the WVIL concept camera (pronounced 'weevil' apparently). It's a very cool idea, separating the lens assembly with integral 31-megapixel CCD and the wireless 'viewfinder'.

Rather than explain it, just go to the website and look at the WVIL video, that makes it very clear.

While you're there, take a look at some of the other ideas. I particularly like the SWYP printer.

There's something about ideas that are just 'right'. Artefact (the company behind WVIL and SWYP) have taken artifacts (everyday objects) and seriously thought about how we use them. They're not the only people doing this, however.

Several years ago Donna and I needed a new set of bathroom scales, we decided to spend a bit more on the new ones and chose one from Withings. It seems they now offer a baby monitor and a blood pressure system as well. Their stuff is similarly well-designed and they are not a concept company, this is real stuff you can buy - today.

And another company, Nest, have similarly redesigned and re-engineered the room thermostat. Very nicely done.

Then of course there's the Eglu - really good if you're a chicken...

08 January 2012

Christmas lunch at Cornerstone

On 25th December Jim and some of his friends laid on a Christmas lunch for people who otherwise might have eaten alone, perhaps even spent the entire day alone.

Christmas lunch at CornerstoneCornerstone Coffee and Books provided the space, River Church funded the supplies for the meal, Jim and his family prepared and served the food, and the rest of us helped with setting up, waiting at table, chatting with the guests, and clearing up afterwards.

Quite unprompted, Waitrose provided some festive groceries for the guests to take home. Every guest also received an M&S voucher.

Paul and I arrived at 10:30. We spent some time sweeping the floor and setting out the tables (four tables with space for ten people on each). Then, as the guests started arriving we were on hand to welcome them, offer teas or coffees, and chat.

During the meal it was great to sit with the guests, pull crackers, and have some unhurried conversation.

At the end of the meal I had to hurry home as Donna's parents and brother were staying with us, but I think there were plenty of helpers on hand to assist with the washing up and tidying away.

07 January 2012

Science and faith

Can I have faith and accept science too? Is that an unreasonable position to hold? Recent discussions on Jesus Creed have provoked me to write on this topic again.

Tiffany window, 'Science and Religion'I've posted about this before (Apr 2010, May 2010), but a recent item on Jesus Creed brought the topic back to mind. And then I came across this earlier post where there was a more fundamental discussion and a useful reference to an article by Dr EB Davis, 'Christianity and Science in Historical Perspective'.

It's not surprising that the debate continues, there are strongly held opinions on both sides. There is also quite a bit of mutual misunderstanding. Personally, however, I continue to see no conflict between  my acceptance of science as a wonderful tool for better understanding the universe and my acceptance of a spiritual dimension that transcends the universe.

It seems obvious to me that if there is a creator he would necessarily exist outside and beyond everything that he created. How could it be otherwise?

I remain dismayed by the anger and impatience sometimes displayed by both sides, but it's encouraging to see that there is also plenty of well intentioned and good natured debate. I have friends and family on both sides and others who don't recognise any conflict. I get on perfectly well with all these people, we don't get annoyed with one another. For me, being able to differ amicably is by far the most important aspect of the entire debate.

What do you think? Here are some questions to ponder.

  • Can science and faith coexist peacefully or will the debate rage on indefinitely?
  • Is it possible that science could ever formally disprove the existence of a spiritual dimension?
  • Is there a way of explaining what is meant by 'faith' in such a way that all scientists would be able to accept it?
  • Is there anything wrong with my position that science and faith are not incompatible, or is that like trying to have my cake and eat it?
  • How should we respond in cases of strong disagreement?

06 January 2012

Like light on the water

Part 11 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< Grace outpouring | Index | A royal priesthood >

Behind the prayers for blessing and the abundant evidence of the results, an inner awareness was growing of the need for grace in dealing with people. A new understanding was developing in Roy and Daphne's hearts and minds.

Blessing and grace like sunlight on the waterIn this section, Roy continues to explain the need for grace towards others. The Almighty blesses us despite our faults and we should treat others in the same way. Praying for people to be blessed is part of that.

We are called to be more like him. When we ask him to bless people we are merely asking him to do what he has already chosen to do.
We found that there is often resistance to heart habits that incline towards grace. There were plenty of Christians who told me that our practice of blessing people who were not yet Christian was absolutely wrong. We were advised that it would be much better to cry out to God to make things much worse for them. Such people were not pleased to be told that this type of prayer was like a curse.

I cannot find a home in faith houses built on judgement. My personal experience is that God has had favour on me and shown me mercy when I don't deserve it. I have been disobedient and apathetic but the mercy that he's poured out on me has taken my breath away. When we hear the testimony of a wretched sinner who has found salvation we rejoice with them and the angels. The lower they have been, the greater the glory. It is not quite as straightforward when it is someone who is already a Christian, whose life has imploded, and that has been my experience. I know that if I were God I wouldn't have given someone like me another chance.

As these understandings had taken hold in my life in the years prior to coming to Ffald-y-Brenin, I concluded I didn't want to persuade people about the veracity or non-veracity of the words in a book. I believed they could encounter the living God and that the words would come alive to them as a result.

Asking people if we can bless them is an offer that few refuse. We're not saying, 'Can we pray for you in a general way?' We're not putting a difficult burden on those doing the praying. Blessing someone is simple and easy. The Holy Spirit comes because when you bless you are reflecting something that the Father is doing and speaking words that the Father desires to be said.

God's desire to bless is absolutely outrageous. Nothing can stop him. He has set himself with immovable intent to bless mankind. His longing is that Jesus shall have many brothers. That's us. Before we knew him, he knew us. Before we loved him, he loved us. He designed us for a purpose wrapped up in blessing. Heaven, our ultimate destination, is full of blessing and we are invited to pray for the coming of heaven on earth right now.*
Let's all aim to walk in step with the Father. We have nothing to lose and a very great deal to gain. Let's not resist him in our hearts, instead we simply need to accept that he was gracious towards us, is gracious towards others, and we should act and speak out of grace too.

Blessing and grace poured out onto the people we meet are like beams of bright sunshine pouring down onto the surface of a lake. Everything is transformed.

The Father, the Son and the Spirit are one, they are abundantly alive and want us to enter into their relationship of absolute love and grace and oneness. Furthermore they want us to draw others in. It's that simple!

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.

< Grace outpouring | Index | A royal priesthood >

04 January 2012

The dry bones of church will live

Part 10 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< An overwhelming army | Index | No later items >

Once again Yahweh speaks, this time in explanation and application. He spoke to Israel but through them he is also speaking to us. He can reach us wherever we are and he can transform us from death to life, from dry and scattered bones to a mighty army.

A small groupAnd now that the work is complete and the army restored, Yahweh speaks once more. This time it's by way of explanation as to the meaning of the valley of dry bones vis-a-vis Israel.

Yahweh speaks - And then he told me: 'Son of man, the bones are the Israelites. They say, "Our bones are dry, we have no hope and are disconnected." So speak to them and say: "This is what Almighty Yahweh says: my people, I shall open your graves and raise you up. I'll put my Spirit into you, you'll live, and I'll return you to your land. Then you'll understand that I, Yahweh spoke and did it, says Yahweh,' (Ezekiel 37:11-14)

Everything that happened in the vision and every word that Yahweh spoke applies to Israel in captivity. But like all biblical prophecy it applies again to the church as well - it applies to us. We'll come back to that.

Israel - First of all - the bones are the Israelites. This is presented as background information for Ezekiel, it is not something he is told to speak over the people. The Israelites had been carried off from the promised land as slaves. They felt they had no hope, they were literally disconnected from the land, from Jerusalem and from the Temple.

For the Jews in captivity this would have been very significant. For most of them the thought would be that Yahweh's Presence was in the Holy Place in the innermost part of the Temple in Jerusalem in Israel. They were hundreds of miles away in Babylon therefore they were hundreds of miles away from Yahweh. There was no hope of help!

But he can reach them where they are and he has more words for Ezekiel to give them. He says that he'll open their graves and raise them up into new life! He will put his Spirit into them and return them to Israel. And then they'll understand the inconceivable - Yahweh can reach them, will reach them, and has given his word! He has spoken and is responsible for achieving it.

The church - So how does this apply to us today, also his people, also broken and ineffective. Just look at the history of the church and the state of the church in the West today. Riven by schisms and disagreements over doctrine and practice. Separated into denominations and streams. It would be easy to write out a long list of problems and issues. We usually gather with others who are like-minded and this undoubtedly isolates us from some of the differences.

Notice that the rest of the chapter (Ezekiel 37:15-28) follows right on from the valley of dry bones and covers the important matter of unity. This is not a coincidence.

The Spirit of Christ has been drawing his people together, little by little. All down the ages he's dealt with one issue after another. Much has been done, beginning with doctrinal essentials like grace in the 16th century and going right on to a pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the 20th century. But our response has often been to leave the old and start something new.

In our own day we are seeing a lot of rearranging - the bones are being fitted together. Thousands and thousands of family-sized groups have already formed, people who will love one another and love those around them. Some of these are house churches, some are small groups in the larger churches, some are CUs in colleges and workplaces. There is great variety.

Flesh and skin are covering these bodies. All they need now is refilling with breath, to stand up, and to be united into a single army under Christ as head and commander. It will not be easy, in fact it's far beyond our ability to do, our King and Commander Yahshua will have to do the work. We will need to listen and watch and do what his Spirit tells us and shows us - no more - but no less.

Like Israel in Ezekiel's day, he can reach us, he will reach us, and he's given his word. He has spoken and is responsible for achieving it.

< An overwhelming army | Index | No later items >

03 January 2012

Eaton Ford (BS) - Arrest to resurrection

< 12th December 2011 | Index | 11th January 2012 >

Paul and I met to read the last part of Mark's gospel. We began at the beginning of  chapter 15 and read section by section right through to the end. Here are some of the things that stood out for me.

A rock-cut tomb in JerusalemAs far as we know the religious authorities handed Jesus over to Pilate because they were not permitted to apply the death penalty themselves. The Romans had decreed that only they could execute a prisoner.

The charge against Jesus was blasphemy and the penalty would have been stoning to death. Stonings were still comtemplated, even carried out (eg Stephen, the woman caught in adultery) but were presumably unofficial, illegal, and overlooked.

The Sanhedrin could hardly issue an illegal order right under the nose of the prefect. So they went to Pilate with a range of accusations, none of which they could prove. They knew a Jewish religious offence would not impress Pilate, so they chose something more promising - that Jesus claimed to be a king and was therefore a political challenge to Pilate, Herod, or even the Emperor in Rome. Pilate still didn't buy it, but sent Jesus for crucifixion to satisfy the mob.

It is striking that Simon, a passer-by, was forced to carry the cross. The presumption is that Jesus, weakened by injuries sustained from his earlier flogging, was either unable to carry it or perhaps collapsed after part of the journey.

Jesus refused to take the painkilling myrrh mixture in wine. They crucified him and then cast lots for his clothes. We decided he would have had a loin cloth, a tunic (rather like a T-shirt), a cloak, belt and sandals. The soldiers were not wealthy, clothing would have been expensive, so wasting it was unthinkable.

It's also interesting that the sign on the cross read 'King of the Jews'. Pilate ordered it written in three languages, he was making it clear one last time that in his view Jesus had committed no recognised crime. Those crucified with him would have been labelled 'Murderer, criminal, rebel' or something similar.

We also discussed the Aramaic words that Jesus shouted out. 'Eloi' is closely related to the Arabic word 'Allah' and the Hebrew 'Eloh' (plural 'Elohim') and simply means 'Mighty One' or 'Almighty'. The onlookers thought he said 'Elijah' which would have sounded like 'Ell-ee-yah' or 'Ell-yah' and means 'Mighty Yah' or in full 'Yahweh the Mighty One'. (See also an earlier post.)

I had a photo from Jerusalem of a similar tomb to the one Joseph of Arimathea would have used and we looked at it (see above). It seems Jesus had a few followers in the Sanhedrin itself, Joseph was clearly one of these and bravely did what he could to help.

We covered more than these few items of course, but these are the things I feel I should mention in this post.

Next time we meet we have decided to begin the book of Acts.

< 12th December 2011 | Index | 11th January 2012 >

02 January 2012

An overwhelming army

Part 9 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Prophecy to the breath | Index | The dry bones of church will live >

Ezekiel speaks to the breath, calling it to fill the slain bodies so that they may come alive. We need breath (that is, the Holy Spirit) if the church is to be filled, come alive and function properly.

The Chinese 'Terracotta Army'Once again Ezekiel is called to speak, this time to the reconstructed bodies. They are now complete and perfect in every way yet they are still not alive. He speaks and what happens must have stunned him, even if he was expecting it!

Ezekiel speaks - 'So I spoke out as he required of me, and breath came into them, they began to live and they rose up on their feet. They were an overwhelming army!' (Ezekiel 37:10)

As usual there are a number of things we should notice. Some of them are hugely important but easily overlooked.

First, we see again Ezekiel's obedience. Yahweh has said he is to speak some particular words over the dead bodies and he does it. No argument this time, no hesitation, just obedience. Listen and obey. If only we would always do that!

Breath enters - Although he doesn't tell us explicitly, the sense is that breath comes into them immediately, perhaps even while Ezekiel is still speaking. Breath (or Spirit) is the one thing they had been missing. It is necessary that the structure of church is as the Lord requires it. But if we have the right structure yet are not alive we cannot do the work intended for us. Yahshua builds his church, yet if we don't have his Spirit within us we are not alive. This final step is essential.

We can ask what would happen if the Spirit enters an incorrectly structured church. Thinking in terms of a lifeless body will help us address this question. What would happen if an incorrectly structured body was brought to life? Either such a creation would live in pain, crippled and unable to walk or speak or see. Or else it would survive only for a short time because of serious faults in essential systems like the lungs, heart or liver.

I believe there really is an example of this in recent church history. The Holy Spirit was poured out in a major way during the 1960s and 70s. But there was something wrong with the structure of church at that time so what came to life was unable to function properly.

Why was this structure incorrect? I lived through that time and I believe we could have made ourselves available as living stones and watched Christ build his church the way he wanted it - and it would have been amazing. But instead we built church the way we wanted it and this thing that was at first so full of life deteriorated and died in paroxysms of anguish and pain.

A better structure - But today I think we have seen new bodies built to a better design and when these bodies are ready the breath of the Spirit of Christ will bring them to an abundance of life.

But Ezekiel has more to tell us, 'They rose up on their feet.' This also seems to have happened immediately. From dead bodies to living bodies. And now to upright, standing bodies. We don't stand up in order to live, we will stand up because we live.

'They were an overwhelming army.' Not just standing bodies, but a body of standing bodies, a great and mighty army. There is a oneness that transcends our oneness in the local church. There is the oneness of the church worldwide, all the local churches working and cooperating together. The army has a single commander - Yahshua (Jesus)!

What a vision Ezekiel has received. It's a vision we sorely need to understand today.

< Prophecy to the breath | Index | The dry bones of church will live >

01 January 2012

Grace outpouring

Part 10 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< The abundant results of prayer | Index | Like light on the water >

Behind the prayers for blessing and the abundant evidence of the results, an inner awareness was growing of the need for grace in dealing with people. A new understanding was developing in Roy and Daphne's hearts and minds.

Rainclouds and sunshine over GalileeAs a result of the answers to prayer, it was now becoming clear that the best way to reach people is by first blessing them. Simply confronting people with truth and correction is ineffective and even counter productive.

Roy and Daphne start to challenge the accepted norms where these involve any form of judgement or criticism.
My old ways of giving away my faith were being changed as this understanding of blessing people began to not merely take hold of our hearts but actually bear fruit in our community.

I was no stranger to the 'truth and Scripture' method. This appeal to the mind is valid, good and powerful for many. But for people who don't consider themselves particularly literate and for those who have moved to a more visual, 'discovered in life' knowledge it can often fail to stir their hearts, minds and emotions.

I had started to challenge the 'faith as normal' mindset that I felt many Christians had slipped into. I had already begun to question a culture of faith that places a high value on correcting strangers. For example, we're very good at throwing stones at politicians and the media. Christians seem very keen on petitions. I started to ask people who wanted to publicise their petition objecting to a particular broadcast, for instance, whether they had ever previously commended the broadcaster for programmes that were wholesome. Were they praying for the media or was this simply mud-slinging?

Having a heart to bless will challenge the judgemental mindset that can colour how we look at those we live with and among. We can become a 'grace first' people. We're still asking people to turn away from rebellion against God but we're seeking to be part of the revelation from the Father that his primary desire is to bless those he created in his image.

If we will let the wisdom of God inhabit our thinking, a consistent 'grace first' pattern will emerge in our actions and words. 'Grace first' prayer for healing doesn't search for wrongdoing in a person's life, which needs correcting as a prelude to a miracle. There doesn't seem to be much evidence for that approach in the ministry of Jesus. We simply ask that the power of God should touch that life.

As goodness, grace and mercy are manifest we can remind people to change their ways - they're ready to hear the words of correction when they've heard the shout of love. Jesus, for instance, saved a sinful, adulterous woman from death and then gently suggested that she 'go and sin no more'.

Think for a moment about your experience with God. Sometimes a truth enters your life and you value it. It becomes a thread in your tapestry of faith. Then a season comes when you realise how important that insight is. The idea of blessing people, already growing in our lives, took hold of me in a new way as our life at Ffald-y-Brenin unfolded, despite the attacks that it also released.*
We can all learn from Roy and Daphne's experience. They found that a 'grace first' approach and prayer for blessing is a wonderful way to capture attention, hearts and minds and open the way for Jesus. We can take this approach too.

Why not look for opportunities to bless the people you meet in your daily life? Pray for them to receive a touch from the Lord. Ask him to bless their coming and going, their homes and families and jobs and businesses. And then, when you meet them at the supermarket checkout, in the street, at a school parent's evening or the cricket club or in the local pub, pray secretly in your heart again.

Ask for an abundance of good things for them, and when they start to tell you their stories you will be able to say, 'I asked Jesus to bless your business' - or family, school, garden, or whatever. And another seed will have been sown in a heart.

If we can all change our habits just a little here and there it will make a big difference. Here is one habit I want to cultivate in my own life - to pray for a blessing upon everyone who reads one of these blog posts. It seems such a little thing, but a lot of little things add up. A little habit consistently applied can achieve a lot of bad or a lot of good.

So why not develop little habits that will bring good results? Be like your Father in heaven who pours out the life-giving rain and sun on all people.

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.

< The abundant results of prayer | Index | Like light on the water >

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