Showing posts with label Death. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Death. Show all posts

13 March 2013

If there's a Creator...

If there's a Creator, why is suffering permitted? Perhaps we are looking at life in the wrong way, it's not about ease and safety. It's about living a more free and abundant life, about loving one another, about knowing the Creator intimately. Life is not supposed to be me-centred, it's other-centred.

A royal doll's house
Haven't we all heard this question? 'If there's a Creator, why does he allow suffering in the world?'

Or it might be, 'Why did he let my wife/husband/child/parent/friend die?', or ,'Why didn't he stop a terrorist incident?'.

Why are there earthquakes, why is there disease?

It's a question that comes from a great missing of the point. Our Father didn't promise us lives without trouble. Indeed, Yahshua specifically told his followers that they would face severe trouble in the world.

He himself faced ridicule, scourging, and a ghastly death. Why would we expect to suffer any less? And if we who have trusted in him and follow him face hardship, danger and loss, why would those who have not trusted and followed expect a better deal?

The fact is, he did not necessarily come to bring us health and happiness and security in this life, he came to set us free and pour into us the essence of a new life - a life that will never end. We begin to live the new Kingdom life now even while we still struggle daily in our old, temporary lives.

We rarely think about the alternative to a universe in which suffering is allowed. The alternative would be no free will, no self determination. Only chaos (in the mathematical sense) makes life possible.

Why is this so hard to grasp, so hard to come to terms with?

Perhaps it all depends where we are standing as we review the situation.

The view from this world - Looking at it from the perspective of this life alone it is natural for people to want comfort and security. If we expect to die and pass into an empty obscurity, why would we search for anything else but benefit now? More money, more fun, better health, more happiness, more time, less work, more to eat but a slimmer body, less working out but better fitness, less effort but more achievement. Are these reasonable goals? No!

As long as we think of heaven as a place of lazy happiness and easy joy we are trying to find the wrong reward. And if the truth be known, we are still wanting to enjoy that reward in this life.

The view from the kingdom of heaven - But Christ did not come to reward us. We did not (and cannot) earn a reward. We are too often like children opening a wrapped gift and saying, 'But I didn't want a key, I wanted a doll's house. This comes from a failure to understand from a grown-up perspective. Which is best for us, a doll's house now or the key to our Father's house so we can freely come and go?

We need to learn to live our lives from this new perspective. It's not healing now, or food now, or safety now that truly matters. By comparison with receiving the heavenly and eternal healing, food and safety and having them in the here and now are of little value.


Heaven invades the world - And if this is all true, why do we see people healed when we pray for them? Why did Yahshua tell his followers, 'Ask anything in my name and it will done for you by my Father in Heaven'?

One of the greatest joys and privileges we have as believers is the gift of being able to come to the Father in the name of the Son. It is one of the means by which the kingdom of heaven invades this physical universe in which we live. Other ways include direct communication through the action of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, through dreams and visions, in prophecy and teaching, words of comfort and wisdom, and above all the growing knowledge believers have of the Father's heart and nature.

Some will say, 'But it doesn't always work!' This is true, sometimes we pray for healing and there is no perceived change. It might be due to lack of faith in the heart of the one who asks or of the one who is prayed for. But it might also be because we have not clearly heard the Father's will and purpose. It may be because we give up instead of persisting in prayer. And sometimes it may even be because the hard experience is essential for our eternal well-being or for someone else's.

We need to become like Yahshua who said, 'If it's possible, let this cup pass from me. But even so, Father, let your will be done here, not mine.'

Isn't this what Paul had in mind when he wrote, 'Let your bodies be made spiritual sacrifices'? We must lay down our lives daily. Lay them down and not take them up again. Lay them down and leave them for Papa to use and bless in his own way and at a time of his choosing.

And while we are here, in this world, it is our responsibility to help other people whenever we have the means to do so. We must pray for the sick and feed the hungry. We are the hands and feet of Jesus.

Questions:

  • What does it mean to you, personally, to 'let your body be made a spiritual sacrifice'?
  • How do you answer someone who says that unanswered prayer shows you lack faith?
  • Has anyone ever said that to you or someone you know?

See also:

23 February 2013

The Ugandan bill

Legislation in Uganda is set to increase the penalties for homosexuality, possibly even to introduce the death sentence. How should believers and followers of Jesus respond? What does the Bible say about sin? What does it tell us about love? And how might we respond to the Ugandan bill?

The Ugandan flag
David Bahati, a Ugandan Member of Parliament (MP), submitted a private member's bill in October 2009.

Nothing unusual in that, you might think, just an everyday part of political life in Uganda. Except that in this case the bill, if passed, will change Ugandan law concerning homosexuality and has resulted in a great deal of strong, international criticism.

Current legislation in many African nations, including Uganda, makes same sex relationships illegal with severe penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment. The new bill proposes to significantly increase these to include the death penalty in some instances.

The situation is extremely complex involving widespread anti-gay public feeling within Uganda, criminal damage and even murder, international civil liberties and gay rights protests, and interference by certain religious people. As a result there has been a delay while a Ugandan parliamentary commission investigates the circumstances and implications of the bill.

But now the political process is moving again and the bill is being debated once more.

With that backdrop, how should we respond as followers of Jesus? I think there are two things we need to be very clear about. Two things that should underpin our responses. What does the Bible say about sin? And what does the Bible say about attitudes to others?

All have sinned - So what does the Bible say about sin? First of all we should recognise that all of us have sinned, there are no exceptions (Romans 3:23). But let's read the next verse too (Romans 3:24). All have sinned, but all have been justified by grace through Christ. Does this justification require anything from us? Yes. The sacrifice of Jesus requires my faith in order to apply to me (Romans 3:25).

There are many different ways to sin, but they are all equally effective in cutting me off from spiritual life with Papa. I have a very simple choice. I can continue in my sin, or I can turn away from it and receive spiritual life through faith in Christ.

Sin comes in many varieties. Murder, lying, theft, anything dishonourable or false. There are no severe sins, no minor and insignificant sins. Anything that breaches the standards set by the Almighty is sinful. We all fall equally short, murder is not worse than a tiny white lie because both are offensive to him. One kind of sin mentioned with others in the New Testament is sex between two men (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) This is not my opinion, it is right there in the Bible. If you disagree with this statement it's no good discussing it with me, you need to discuss it with Jesus.

I need to add one more point. It is not my place to judge others. It is not my task to punish people for sin. Whatever you may have done, I am just as guilty as you are and deserve exactly the same punishment. Only grace can save us, and as we have seen, grace comes through faith in Jesus.

How to treat others - What does the Bible say about attitudes to others? The ground rule that trumps everything else is love. (Luke 10:27, Matthew 5:43-45) We are called to love, not just some people but everybody. We are to love those who love us and those who do not. We are to love those who agree with us and those who oppose us.

What follows from this is very simple. Killing people (for whatever reason) is wrong because it is unloving. Therefore the death penalty is wrong, regardless of the crime.

Applying this to the Ugandan bill - The Ugandan government is democratically elected and is free to do whatever it wishes within its international obligations, and whatever it considers to be the will of the Ugandan people.

People who follow Jesus are free to love others, irrespective of their thoughts, words and actions. Love is not easy, sometimes it is very hard indeed. But there is no room for believers to hate others. Anyone who feels or expresses hatred towards other people has no part in Christ.

That leaves us to wonder about any religious people who would encourage legislation like this Ugandan bill. Are they really motivated by love? I don't think so. Are they even on the same side as Jesus? Are they following  him? Clearly not regarding this particular issue. What will they say to him when they have to account for their actions?

Protesters are free to openly discuss any issue that troubles them and to attempt to persuade others to join them in discussing and protesting. Christians who protest should do so in law abiding and loving ways. Non-believers who protest are not so restricted but will do well to understand that the most effective way to win hearts and minds is by being polite, kind and gentle. Anger, hatred and violence however expressed tend to make co-operation less likely and conflict more probable.

Please consider adding your name to a petition against the Ugandan bill. There are many other ways to  register your views, but you need to act quickly. Time is very short and every additional name counts.

Questions:

  • Do you know any people that you are unable to love? Does Jesus love them?
  • How do you think believers should approach politics?
  • What sins do you regard as most serious, and which as least serious?
  • Do we have the right to try to influence foreign governments?

See also:

30 January 2013

Psalms 22 and 23

Psalms 22 and 23 seem to be inextricably linked, death on the one hand and life on the other. Jesus received one, we receive the other. This post digs a little deeper as it examines these two psalms and those around them.

New life springing upA few weeks ago I was reading Psalm 22 which is full of references to the coming Messiah.

There are passages here that Jesus quoted about himself and there are descriptions of him in his bodily suffering and emotional torment. We'll come back to some of those things in a moment.

But what struck me quite suddenly and forcefully was how this psalm is followed by Psalm 23, a firm favourite for so many people.

Psalm 22 is about Jesus' suffering and where it will finally lead, Psalm 23 is about our inheritance as our Father's children. These two psalms are like mirror images of one another. Psalm 22 describes what we deserve but Jesus received. Psalm 23 describes what Jesus deserves but we receive.

Illuminating our hearts and minds - These two psalms would not have been seen that way when they were written, of course. But from the days of the early church right down to our own time they have had the potential to illuminate our hearts and minds in a new way by what they proclaim. And Yahshua himself clearly saw them in this way during his life and particularly as he was hanging on the cross.

I dare say it's been pointed out many times, but I was really excited to have seen the link between these two psalms. Isn't it amazing how he reveals truth while we read and consider his written word? This, of course, is just one of the avenues the Holy Spirit uses to illuminate our hearts and minds.

I wondered if this idea might be taken further.

Psalms 1 to 21 are full of references to Old Testament themes. There are references to creation, the  tabernacle and the temple, and so much more. But Psalm 24 describes the kingdom of heaven. And Psalm 25 and following unpack some of the details of this new kingdom life and inheritance.

But let's return to Psalms 22 and 23. Some of the words and imagery are very familiar to us.

Death in Psalm 22 - Take, for example, Psalm 22:1 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' It's worth mentioning that the Hebrew word translated 'God' is 'Eli' which is related to 'Eloh' and the plural 'Elohim'. The word simply means 'Mighty One' or 'Powerful One'. It is in fact the same word as 'Allah' in Arabic which also means 'Mighty One'. A good translation in English is simply 'Almighty'.

When Jesus quoted this verse from the cross they thought he was calling Elijah because the sound is similar. (Elijah means 'Yah[weh] is the Mighty One'.)

The onlookers shouting at him while he was hanging there unwittingly fulfilled Psalm 22:7-8. Psalm 22:14-18 is a very clear reference to the crucifixion. From verse 22 onwards the psalm turns from his death to what was achieved by it.

Life in Psalm 23 - But Psalm 23 deals with the personal benefits we receive individually in Christ. If we are not in him we have no part in these things although they're available to all who will come to him and believe on his name for rescue. Just as words from Psalm 22 were on Yahshua's lips as he hung dying, so words from Psalm 23 should be on our lips as we live this more abundant life that he gives us.

All these things in Psalm 23 were his, but now they can be ours because he longs to share them with us. He will be our Shepherd, leading us to safe places to eat and drink. A Shepherd makes all the difference, the sheep can safely feed even with a prowling lion in the area. He pours his Spirit over us like oil and we can live with him, not only 'all the days of [our] life' but 'for ever'.

Jesus is new Life springing up in a cold, dark world. Thank you, Lord! HalleluYah!

Questions:

  • What, for you personally, is the most meaningful thought in Psalm 22?
  • And what, for you personally, is the most meaningful thought in Psalm 23?
  • Apart from the snowdrop, what other examples of new life can you identify in the natural world?

See also:

23 November 2012

Understanding the idea of heaven

What and where is heaven? Who is allowed in?, How do we understand the term 'Kingdom of heaven'? We look at Matthew 13 where some parables of Jesus about the 'Kingdom of Heaven' clarify the meaning. It involves secrets, it grows, and it is immensely precious.

Umbrellas in Clifford's Tower, York
In an earlier post we considered other species related to our own and asked where we draw the line between human and non-human. In particular, if heaven is a place we go when we die (as many suppose), who and what will inhabit it? Will there be Neanderthals in heaven? Chimpanzees? Cats and dogs? Ants? Earthworms? Bacteria? Where do we draw the line? Do we draw a line at all?

The fundamental problem here is that we are misunderstanding the concept of heaven. In other words the view that heaven is a place is not really supported by the Bible.

Jesus clearly stated that the kingdom of heaven is among us now. Might it be that if we live in it now we'll find later that it is an eternal state, perhaps one that we do not expect? To help us understand the principles behind the idea of heaven, Jesus told a series of parables. Let's take a look at what those show us about the nature of heaven.

Parables of the kingdom - Heaven is a kingdom with secrets that not everybody knows (Matthew 13:10-11). His followers have been given these secrets because Jesus has brought a message about the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:16-18). Some people hear the message but don't understand it (Matthew 13:19). Some give up when there's trouble (Matthew 13:20-21). Some are just too busy with everyday worries and material things (Matthew 13:22). But some do understand the message and produce an increase (Matthew 13:23).

Although the original seed was good, an enemy has sown bad seeds in the same ground (Matthew 13:24-25, Matthew 13:28). The good and the bad will be separated later and heaven is like a farmer's barn where the harvest is kept safe after the bad has been removed (Matthew 13:30, Matthew 13:37-43).

Heaven is also something that starts small but grows until it is enormous (Matthew 13:31-32) and just a little of it goes a long way (Matthew 13:33). It's like buried treasure or a prize pearl, well worth finding and more valuable than everything I possess (Matthew 13:44-46). It's like a net containing good and bad fish that will then be separated. Only the good will be retained (Matthew 13:47-50)

So then, what is this kingdom? - The kingdom of heaven is not a particular place, rather it is the realm in which the King's commands are obeyed. It's a matter, not of geography, but of obedience. In a sense, the Father inhabits our obedience and our praise. He is present in our obedience. He is present when we worship in spirit and in truth. We are the stones of his living temple and he wants to inhabit us.

So revisiting our original question, will there be only humans in heaven? I think the answer is necessarily mysterious. Heaven is full of the Lord's glory and filled with his praises, so much is certain. It is also filled with everything that gives him glory - the trees, the stones, and yes,  people who glorify and praise him. So the simple answer is 'no', there will not be only humans in heaven. Every obedient created thing has a part to play.

So what does it mean to be obedient? What does it mean to glorify the Creator? Are you obedient and do you glorify him? If so, you are assured a place, you are a part of the kingdom of heaven. You will live in his presence for ever.

Questions:

  • What do you think it means to 'produce an increase'?  (Matthew 13:23)
  • Do you always obey the King? Sometimes? Never? Living in the kingdom is about obedience, are you in or out?
  • How much of your life are you willing to give up to secure the buried treasure, the very valuable pearl?
  • Is the separation of good and bad something you can leave until later? Or might it need to begin in your life right away? What if you put it off?

See also:

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 >

24 July 2011

RESPONSE: Norway and Amy Winehouse

Almost a hundred dead in Norway following a bomb and a shooting spree, and a great singer/songwriter dead before the age of thirty. Two tragedies that are not connected - or are they?

The Oslo bombingThere's no direct link of course, yet there is a common element (as we shall see) and the tragic events took place just a day apart.

On 22nd July Anders Behring Breivik set off a huge home made bomb in central Oslo and followed it up with a multiple shooting on the island of Utøya about 20 miles away.

On 23rd July Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home.

Amy WinehouseI feel deep sympathy for the victims of both tragedies, and for their friends and families who will be struggling emotionally and in practical ways to cope with the new reality of life without a loved one. Life with an unfillable hole in it. When my wife died in the mid nineties I was aware of a Judy-shaped hole in my heart and in my life. And I knew that our daughters, our parents, and our friends also carried similar holes within them.

In time (be it short or long) the hole will mend. My prayer for those suffering loss is that as the hole eventually fades it will fill in with many happy memories. These will remain for ever - they do for me.

Paul, writing to the Corinthians, explained that faith, hope and love remain. 'But', he wrote, 'the greatest of these is love' (1 Cor 13:13). In your losses cling to all three, but focus especially on love.

Lack of love (or a perceived lack of love) is always a killer. So is a sense of failure or defeat.

We read that Anders Breivik was a Christian fundamentalist of some kind. But Jesus told his followers to love the Father, to love one another, and to love their enemies. Paul wrote this description of the nature of love...

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Whatever Anders Breivik is, he clearly doesn't understand what Christ meant by love. If Jesus' love is in a person's heart, murder and harm are not among the possible outcomes. The immense harm he has done is not compatible with the word 'Christian' in its true sense.

Amy Winehouse, on the other hand, needed to know that she was loved. How can it be that a young star with a brilliant career ahead of her could throw it all away with drink and drugs? She was loved by friends in and out of the music industry and by family members. Many would have done anything to rescue her. But addiction is a trap that is hard to shrug off, even with willing help and support from close family and friends. It takes much more than human help and willpower to break free and build a new sense of worth and value.

We live in a broken and desperate world. It's a world in which anger and fear, hatred and despair, violence and loneliness are always crowding in and wanting to own us. Often they have their way with us as these two tragic events highlight.

The answer is more love, not less hatred; more light, not less darkness; more life, not less death. As with a serious illness, treating the symptoms can never cure the underlying cause.

The cure for a broken world is Jesus. Not a Jesus preached in church on a Sunday morning but a Jesus living in the lives of his people, making a difference in the world by pouring out abundant love, light and life.

Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life' (John 14:6). The Father 'is love' (1 John 4:8).

If you are a follower of Jesus, let his light shine! Let his love and light and life pour out from your heart daily and extravagantly. Let his love pour out on good and bad alike, just as the Father does. And remember, where your ability to love falls short, his goes right on. If Jesus is living in your heart he will fill any gap caused by your own limits. Trust him!

25 August 2010

RESPONSE - What inspires me?

Frank Viola recently asked his readers 'What inspires you?' It's a great question, isn't it? He's asking us to think about breathing. What do I mean by that? Read on...

My answer really centres on the idea of listening to Yahshua daily or, more accurately, moment by precious moment. I live each moment once, just briefly. And in each of those moments I respond to influences and pressures, to joys and fears, certainties and doubts. Some things I desire, other things repel me. And everything is in relationship to others. Even when I seem to be alone Christ is with me. Every little thing I do or say affects those around me. But through it all I try to pay attention to the voice of Jesus guiding me.

He speaks to us by living within us (Christ IN you, the hope of glory). We are containers for his life, his power, his righteousness, he is the bread of life, the living water, in him we can do ALL things. But we must listen.

Why? Because he blesses the obedient (his grace and his love are freely poured out upon us but blessing requires our obedience). And how can we obey if we don't hear what he tells us? And how can we hear unless we listen? (Hint: if you want some helpful ideas on listening, read about Church of Two.)

So for me inspiration is a matter of listening, hearing, and obeying. Let's look at this in a slightly different way.

To be inspired is to be breathed into. If I retain what is within me (stop breathing) I will die! It's no coincidence that the word 'expire' implies death. A body that is not breathing is dead, or about to die, or about to start breathing again. Breathe and live, don't breathe and die - there are no other alternatives.

There is physical breathing and there is spiritual breathing, physical life and spiritual life, physical death and spiritual death.

When I first recognised Jesus as the Messiah and believed that he was the Son of the Most High, he breathed his Spirit into me and I became spiritually alive with his life. The word 'spirit' and the word 'inspire' are closely related - both have to do with breath and breathing. Indeed, the Greek word 'pneuma' and the Hebrew 'ruach' can be translated 'spirit' or 'breath' according to context.

The Holy Spirit is the Holy Breath! When I was born my lungs inflated with air and I have been breathing ever since. If I stop I will die. When I was born again I was filled with spiritual breath (the Holy Spirit) and I have been breathing him ever since. If I stop I will die spiritually.

Do you think about breathing? Perhaps you are aware of breathing when you've been doing physical work and you are 'out of breath'. But most of the time it's a natural rhythm and you don't have to plan to breathe or set aside a special time for it. You even manage to breathe every night while you are asleep. Breathing is automatic.

Spiritual breathing is the same, it needs to be automatic. It is what 'inspires' us. The Holy Spirit was sent to lead us into all the Truth (Yahshua is Truth), to comfort us, to guide us, to be our advocate, to act in us on Christ's behalf.

I am inspired when I see Jesus in others, when I see the evidence of his life in them. I'm inspired by every action or word that comes from the fruit of the Spirit in others, such things as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-25). I'm inspired by beauty, grace, humility, wisdom, and everything that is good (Phil 4:8).

A more specific thing that inspires me is seeing others built up and growing in grace. And I am inspired by watching others reach out to share Christ's love in the community. What could be better than to see brothers and sisters living in unity of purpose, building strong bonds of peace and rejoicing together in the truth? This is church, this is life in Christ, that we love one another and share what we have with those in need around us. (There are physical needs, emotional needs, and spiritual needs. Our loving and sharing should cover all three.)

Inspiration comes from the Father through the Son as a result of their Spirit living inside us. And that inspiration floods out into every part of the body (the church), just as the air I breathe gives life to my fingers and toes and every organ in my body.

You have been called to be inspired and also to inspire. That is calling enough for a lifetime of fulfilling work.

21 June 2006

Eaton Ford - Dragonfly and pot

< 13th June 2006 | Index | 28th June 2006 >

We heard about the Bromsgrove meeting, some family news, life after death, a broken pot, and a geyser.

A dragonflyChris shared some details of the previous weekend's conference at Bromsgrove, and especially Andy White's little cards which he gives out to people when he buys them coffee or pays their parking fee. These form a point of contact, they break the British reserve and allow people to get in touch with Andy later if they want to. What a wonderful idea!

Rachael shared some exciting news from her son Tom. He'd dreamed that he was in heaven and was greatly struck by the bright light, great joy, and a sense of purity. He'd texted the details to Rachael and then later texted her again to ask how he should go about finding forgiveness. This is just amazing! We prayed for Tom, something is clearly happening in his life!

Di wondered if people who've died can speak to us in our dreams. Chris was sure they could not, but that there are reasons why we might think that they do. In the end this question was left open, although we noted that the Bible strongly opposes deliberate attempts to 'contact' the dead.

Pottery bowlJohn shared a delightful illustration of the principal of our present earthly lives and future heavenly ones, told to him long ago but never forgotten. Dragonfly nymphs live under water until they pupate and finally emerge, climb a reed or stem, wait for their wings to expand and dry, and then fly off as graceful adult dragonflies.

The story involves two dragonfly nymphs who wonder where fully grown nymphs go. They made a pact, whichever of them matured first would come back and get a message to the other one explaining what happened, where they went, and what it was like.

Time passed until one of the nymphs was mature and nature took its course. The nymph pupated and re-emerged as an adult dragonfly. Flying above the water he was able to see his old friend below, but realised there was no way he could get a message back to the old world below the water. And his old friend below didn't even seem to be aware of him flying by above the water.

Chris had a picture of a broken pot and said that there are two ways of mending it. The way we would try is to find the right kind of adhesive (does it need to be waterproof, withstand heat, etc), buy the adhesive and then glue the pieces back together. But in the vision the pot was not just glued back together, it was actually made new, it was turned back into an unbroken pot. Like the pot, we were broken people, but have not just been mended, we have been made totally new.

Rachael saw a picture too, a huge, hot geyser with the water falling down; so large that droplets were landing as far as hundreds of miles away, and falling onto people and making them wet. She also saw a spiritual 'earthquake' in which a mighty slab of brilliant light collided with a slab of darkness and overcame it. There were loud and continuing earthquakes during the collision.

< 13th June 2006 | Index | 28th June 2006 >

11 May 2004

Eaton Ford - Love and deadness

< 16th April 2004 | Index | 22nd September 2004 >

This evening was amazing, we felt we received such a revelation of Father's heart; but it was difficult to hold it clearly in our minds afterwards because the vision was so large and all-encompassing. Truth is sometimes like that, isn't it! Val wasn't able to be with us tonight, yet we felt she was included in everything we heard from the Spirit.

A spiral galaxyRight at the start while we were still chatting over coffee, Rachael explained that she'd had an image of two sieves in her mind for the past few weeks. First there was a sifter full of flour, and the fine flour was passing through, later she saw another, larger sieve with water pouring through and gold collected in it. She didn't understand what these images meant and had been puzzling over them.

And then, in the quietness as we listened, the Holy Spirit started to speak.

We received a word, 'My love is deeper than the deepest sea, wider than the universe - my love is everywhere. There's always a spark of light to hold onto'. And it occurred to us that we just don't value love enough. Love brought the universe into existence. Love welcomed back the prodigal son. Love let him go in the first place!

He spoke to us again, 'You are free! Free to run and jump in the sunshine. Don't be afraid; you are free.'

We were shown that we are being sifted, and the meaning of the two sieves suddenly became clear to us. When flour is sifted it is what passes through that is useful and the clogged lumps are thrown away. But when water passes through it is the gold that is retained and is valuable. Either way, the process separates what is pure and good from what is worthless, and that's what is happening in our lives. Either way, he is separating what will be thrown away from what is pure and holy.

Meanwhile we have a choice. We can cling to what is good and pure or we can cling to the impure and worthless in our lives, but we can't have both. And it seemed that we are to be washed in his glory and that because of the purity of his gold collected in us we may then reflect his glory - and someone else might notice the reflection and see him in us! But we must let go of the worthless stuff and cling to the pure during the sieving process.

Some people will tell us we should fear him, the Almighty who tears down strongholds, but we don't. He is our Father, when we see him we cry out, 'Abba, Daddy', he loves us and we're free! The only thing that can take away our freedom is fear; but perfect love (his love) casts out fear. Oh, thank you, Father!

A thrushThe Holy Spirit gave us another word.'Father is walking in the garden and you are like the birds, hopping and flying in the branches. You give him pleasure just as the birds in your garden give you pleasure.' But if they weren't so afraid of us, how much more pleasure the birds would bring by feeding from our hands and hopping around our feet. He wants us to realise that if we are not afraid in his presence, if we are free, we bring him the greatest pleasure.

And then he said something extraordinary, unsettling, and deeply significant. 'Don't be afraid for I will build up my church and I will cast death out from it. The church is the last place where death will be found, but it will be cast out.'

Thinking about this strange, enigmatic word, we felt that death being cast out is really much the same thing as life being poured in. Just the other side of the coin, perhaps? And we remembered Ezekiel 37 again and the valley of dry bones. Ezekiel had to prophecy that the breath would enter into the dead, and of course it did - and they came alive - a vast army (Ez 37:9-10). As with Israel in Ezekiel's day, so it is for the church in our day. We have been such dried-up bones. In the church today he's opening our graves and bringing us up from them. Verse 14 reads, 'I'll plant my Spirit within you and you'll come alive, and I'll bring you to live in your own land. And then you'll understand that I, Yahweh, have spoken, and that I've done it.'

And indeed, death is still in the church even though as individuals we have been born again and become sons and joint heirs with Yahshua. In the church are so many dead ideas, dead traditions, dead teachings, dead ways of thinking! Are we being called to prophesy that the Spirit will enter into the church (that 'dead army') and stir her up into abundant life? I think perhaps we are!

When we are sifted by him, all this deadness is removed and only what is good and pure will be kept. And when all in the church have been fully sifted, death really will have been cast out from her!

So what he told us at the start of the meeting holds true! 'My love is deeper than the deepest sea, wider than the universe - my love is everywhere. There's always a spark of light to hold onto'. Praise him!

Afterwards, Rachael wrote...
I believe what we have is real and genuine and from Him, and that puts us in a vulnerable position and makes us a target for evil to interfere. When I think about His message properly then I am not afraid, because I remember that He is woven into our being. But maybe there was also a warning at our meeting, to be vigilent, to be aware, to maintain the ultimate goal in our minds of 'His will be done' not ours.

< 16th April 2004 | Index | 22nd September 2004 >

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