Showing posts with label Hearing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hearing. Show all posts

01 April 2013

Miriam and Yoseph

Leaders in the church, Part 5
< Leading, Matthew 1:1-17 | Index | Herod and the astrologers >

Life will throw us curveballs from time to time, it's inevitable. Let's follow the example of Yoseph (Joseph) in paying attention to what we are told and basing our leadership on obedience. We may receive some explanations as well, and they can give us great confidence as we step out to lead.

A pregnant womanThis time we're looking at Matthew 1:18-25. This little section is so human, so ordinary. It's easy to read it as a family event (which, of course it is). But it's also easy to miss what it shows us about leadership.

Before we go any further let's be clear that these verses are not about the roles of men and women in the church today. They are about a Jewish betrothal two thousand years ago. There were traditional rituals and the bride and bridegroom had to play their part and follow the customary ways.

Because Miriam (Mary) was inconveniently pregnant it seemed clear to Yoseph that something had to be done. Miriam was not permitted to ask for a divorce, Yoseph would have to do that. And if he didn't do it carefully and quietly she could be stoned to death as an adulteress.

Reading between the lines we can sense his disquiet (even horror) at the possibility of her death and his desire to ensure her safety if possible. But the harder and better choice, to marry Miriam despite the pregnancy, had escaped him or he had rejected the idea. He might have done so from perfectly worthy motives.

The Almighty's messenger (the angel in Yoseph's dream) interrupted the process he planned to put in place. When he woke up he went ahead and did what he'd been told. This is obedience.

Leadership - But what has all this to do with leadership?

We need to see that Yoseph's part was to lead in this matter. This was required by tradition, social custom and the religious expectations of family and friends. He couldn't get out of it. He had to make a decision.

Let's look in a bit more detail at what he was told to do.

  • 'As he considered these things.' - It is important that we chew things over and consider our options. We must explore all the possible avenues and alternatives. It may be that the Holy Spirit will speak to us as we do so. This state of 'not yet decided' is not one we should move on from too quickly. Yoseph had 'resolved to divorce her' but was clearly still considering. As we consider, let's also pray. And as we pray let's expect guidance.
  • 'Don't be afraid.' - When the Spirit of the Most High speaks to us he will always encourage us.
  • 'Take Miriam as your wife.' - Here is some good, specific guidance. He will give us all the detail we need. Sometimes it might not seem enough, and then we need to trust him. Perhaps he will give us more once we've taken the first step.
  • 'Call him Yahshua'. - Guidance in advance, jot this down or store it in your heart. Yoseph would need this information later.

Action, not debate - Yoseph did what he was told. Notice that the angel gave him more than this; in addition to instructions he was also provided with some explanations. Expect explanation as well as instruction but do not confuse the two. Explanation may not always come, but when it does we are greatly encouraged by it and can obey with a great sense of purpose. Papa loves to encourage.

This passage shows us clearly that if we are to lead we must do so informed by what we are shown. If I lead I must do so in obedience to what the Almighty tells me. I must be prepared to hear and obey. Anyone who leads on a basis other than the will of the Father will lead others astray and undermine Yahweh's purpose. No wonder James writes that few should teach; that is a fearful responsibility indeed. (James 3:1)

Yoseph, faced with a dilemma, needed to hear, obey, and lead on the basis of what he heard. We will do well if we follow his example.

Questions:
  • When you hear from the Spirit, how do you distinguish instruction and explanation?
  • Can you think of other examples from the Bible of people who heard and then led out of an obedient heart?
  • Are there Biblical precedents for leading without hearing and obeying?
  • Is it enough to plan to the best of our ability and then do what seems best?

See also:

< Leading, Matthew 1:1-17 | Index | Herod and the astrologers >

16 March 2013

Obey, obey, obey

Our own efforts are not enough, we need to be obedient to the Creator. Not only that, we need to understand that he is involved in all of life, not just the part we might think of as 'church'. We should all follow the same basic principles, yet he deals uniquely with us as individuals.

Hand made furniture
Felicity Dale posted about how she started writing, and I left a comment. But now I think I should expand on parts of the comment here on my own blog.

One of the issues with church as we have known it is that we are inclined to work very hard at making it better.

We aim for better organisation, better teaching, more entertaining speakers, more professional music, more and better books and leaflets, exciting events, and so on.

So what could possibly be wrong with making things better? Well, nothing really. Better is indeed... better! But that's not where the problem lies.

His ways and our ways - The real issue is that we work out ways of making it better according to our own wisdom and knowledge. And all the time Papa might be watching what we do, appreciating our zeal and hard work, while all the time lamenting the fact that we are not doing his will, but our own.

His ways are his ways, not necessarily like our ways at all. Better in my opinion may even be worse in his.

We need to become a more obedient people. We need to hear more clearly, take what we do hear more seriously, and turn hearing into action. Something that is held to be almost self-evident in many parts of the church today is that men should take leadership roles and women should be quiet and submissive. But Felicity has been hearing very clearly (and so have I and many others) that this is not really what Papa is saying. It's generally based on a particular way of reading a handful of verses in the New Testament and on historical attitudes in society as a whole.

This latter point about society is part of a larger issue that needs to be resolved in our hearts and minds, and that is where church fits in society.

Holy and secular - You see, church is not separate from the rest of life. We often think in terms of church on the one hand and the world on the other. We 'go to church' on a Sunday morning and do and say and hear and see holy things. And the rest of the week we live our 'ordinary lives' and go to school or work or care for the home and devote our attentions to money, shopping, looking good, having fun, watching TV and doing a thousand and one other 'important' things.

But in truth there is no holy and secular, there is just life as a whole and society as a whole and Christ in and through his people bringing light and flavour into all of it, into all the aspects mentioned above and many, many more. Alan Hirsch makes this point very clear in 'The Forgotten Ways'.

The thing is, Papa is involved in all of life, he is indeed the source of all life. And if he is involved in all the aspects mentioned above, so should we be. If we are truly in the Son and he is truly in us, how can we avoid his involvement in every moment we are alive? And in any case, why exactly would we want to? If my heart is open to hear him he will continually tell me where to go, who to speak to, how to behave and what to believe.

Obedience - Understand that Felicity's writing, and Alan's are the results of obedience. They did what the Holy Spirit called them to do. It was already in the Father's heart and plan for them to write. He has things in his heart for you to be doing too - what are they?

And best of all, rather than all following the same understanding and the same ideas, we all follow the same principles but the detail varies. Papa's path for you will be different than his path for me; he deals with us individually. We should not see ourselves as factory-produced items, all made the same within very tight tolerances. Instead we are are all hand crafted, individually fashioned by the master craftsman.

Factory-made furniture is manufactured from laminated board and timber pre-cut and fastened with plastic blocks and metal screws and fittings. Craftsman-made furniture is hand sawn from selected timber of good quality and jointed in traditional ways. The maker is sympathetic to the pattern of the grain and turns imperfections into beautiful features. The surface is carefully sanded to a smooth finish and polished with real waxes or oils.

I commend Alan Hirsch's books to you, and Felicity and Tony's, and Neil Cole's too. There are a thousand clues to Father's ways of showing us his purpose in all these books.

But I commend the still, small voice of the Spirit to you even more.

Here's what we need to do, all of us who are willing and able.

  1. Tell Papa you're sorry for your failure to listen and hear.
  2. Tell him that you will listen from now on.
  3. If you don't know how to hear, ask him to teach you. Then expect him to find a way to do it.
  4. Decide to obey everything you hear from him.
  5. Just begin doing it!

Questions:

  • Have you read Alan Hirsch's book, 'The Forgotten Ways'?
  • Is the Father's wisdom greater or less than yours?
  • Do you suppose Father wants us to do his will or our own?


See also:

05 December 2012

More on the river

We need to be full of faith and urgent purpose to tirelessly pursue whatever it is that Papa gives us to do. But we also need to understand that without him we can do nothing and it's not about our actions but about his nature. The river verses in Ezekiel and Revelation help us understand this.

Life in the desert along the Nile
We need to be like Esther (Esther 10:4-9), people who will not shrink back in the face of danger but will be bold.

Just as Esther fearlessly facilitated life for her people, so we need to be fervently taking hold of the life that is offered to us and eagerly passing it on!

We desperately need the inner thirst that Chris Duffett expressed.

I long to bring some of that fresh faced faith that I saw in India, a burning desire for Kingdom and urgency in people meeting with God, right in the heart of what I do. I know it’s not down to me, yet I long to be willing…

Bursting with faith and urgency - We need to recognise the 'fresh-faced faith' we see in others and find it in ourselves, we need that 'burning desire for Kingdom' and the 'urgency in people meeting with [Papa]'. Like Chris, we need these things to be 'right at the heart of what [we] do', we need to 'know it's not down to [us]' (it's Jesus who will do it) and of course we need '[to] be willing'.

There are many we can reach who are dying for lack of the river of life within them. Doesn't this bring out the great significance of Jesus' words in Matthew 25:31-46? We have living water, are we going to withhold it?

But in all of this we should also remember that we are his people and that he will guide us moment by moment in our lives. It won't necessarily help to plan our own complex route into unknown territory. Better by far to trust the Guide who has already been there and knows the way - the One who indeed is the Way (John 14:5-7).

The river grows as it flows - Notice how the river grows (Ezekiel 47:3-5). This is not normal in desert country because rivers grow as tributaries join them and tributaries are rare in the desert. If Esther was the river in Mordecai's dream might we all be like rivers? Jesus said we'd do even greater things than him (John 14:11-13). He reached Galilee, Judaea, a limited number in Samaria and a handful of Romans and Greeks. Paul reached much of the northern Mediterranean, in the following 300 years almost all Europe, North Africa, and parts of south-west Asia were reached. And today this river we call the body of Christ has penetrated almost the entire world.

So the river that sprang from Christ flows into the desert country where there is no water, and brings life. The living water is the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). And those who are his tributaries are springs of life arising because he is in each one of us. But surely the river in the vision has no tributaries? Ah, but it does. As tributaries we are hidden because we are in Christ. Our little springs of living water are already mingled with his, we don't need to flow into him, we are already in him, we are hidden tributaries and have no independent existence. Apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:4-6).

Seeing it like that might tempt us to think that the river grows because we somehow add our independent little springs of water to his. But it is not like that at all. The spring welling up in me is the living water he provides because Christ himself is the Source living in me and living in you.

The mystery - The source of the river is the temple, specifically the altar in Ezekiel 47:1 or the throne in the city in Revelation 22:1. The altar speaks of the old covenant, of sacrifice and of priesthood. The throne speaks of the new covenant, of rule and of royalty. Jesus is the Lamb, a living sacrifice and he is the King of kings, who rules over all. And we are his royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), set apart for his use.

It's a mystery! Jesus is all in all for us who believe, he is absolutely everything we need. What a relief to know that nothing depends on us any more. That doesn't mean that we have no work to do. It means that whatever he calls you to do you will be able to accomplish because he is in you and you are therefore filled with his Spirit!

Part of your calling is already clearly expressed from Jesus' own mouth. Love the Father with everything you have and are (Matthew 22:37). Love one another as Jesus loved those around him (John 13:34-35). Go and make disciples everywhere (Matthew 28:18-20). And so on.

But part of your calling will be shown to you as you go along. The Holy Spirit will reveal it step by step on a need to know basis.

Everyone shout 'HalleluYah!'.

Questions: 
  • How do you demonstrate your love for the Father?
  • Think about your brothers and sisters in Christ, how do they know that you love them?
  • Are you actively making disciples?
  • How can you improve your listening to the Spirit?

See also: 

16 November 2012

Like a torch

Because we contain a source of power (Jesus living within us), we can illuminate the darkness and see clearly. The Holy Spirit gave me a picture of a torch, here is the picture along with its meaning and application in our lives.

Light from a powerful torch
While Jim and I were praying on Thursday the Spirit put a picture in my mind. I saw a torch shining a light onto the floor.

And as I watched I noticed that the light beam through the air was not visible, but the spot of light on the floor was clearly visible, in fact it drew my eye away from everything else. It was the most clearly visible thing I could see and I could also see the details of the flagstone floor - but only where the light fell.

And then He gave me a prophecy. Father said, 'You are like a torch, you produce light from the source of power that is within you, but the light you produce cannot be seen until it reaches and shines upon an object of some kind. Wherever the light shines, you can see clearly.' I felt that the word 'you' was plural, that it was spoken to both of us, that it's meant for others to hear too. That's why I'm sharing it now on the blog.

Jim incorporated these thoughts into his prayer and I just felt so grateful that I had been shown something simple and at the same time useful.

What can we draw from this simple picture of a torch?

Each of us is like a torch - We are stand alone creatures, self sufficient in so many ways. Yes, we are in an environment consisting of the physical world around us, but we are like islands in some ways, complete in ourselves and isolated. Most of us, if we so choose, can live self-contained lives in which our inner thoughts impinge little on those around us. We are like torches that are switched off.

However, we do contain a source of power just as a torch contains a battery. The Spirit of  Christ is within you if you are his apprentice. Jesus himself resides in you and provides all the power you need for whatever he wants you to do. You have the power necessary to be a light in this dark world because the One who is Light is in you.

Of course, you need to be switched on. Light only comes from you if you are prepared and willing for that to happen!

An invisible beam - The beam of Christ-light that shines from his people is completely invisible. It only becomes visible when it reaches across the void and touches a person or a situation. And even then, the light doesn't show itself as light.

Like a torchbeam, it reveals clearly whatever is already there. The effect of light is not so much in its presence but in what it reveals when it is focussed on a target. There's a very bright spot in the centre, while further away there's a more general, dimmer glow. And just as a torch can be pointed in any direction, so Jesus can direct the Light onto a particular situation or into the life of a particular person. The beam is moving all the time although we rarely give it a thought.

When you use a torch, you don't hold it still, but you sweep the beam about to illuminate the whole scene. You rarely shine a torch behind you, but direct it forward into the place you will go next.

We should be just the same spiritually.

Spiritual illumination - What we have to do is allow the light to be directed wherever Jesus chooses. Only then will it reach the places where it is especially needed. And how can we do that? There's only one way, we must aim the beam wherever he tells us to aim it. The Holy Spirit was given partly to guide us and when we trust him he is very effective in doing so.

So pray for guidance, expect guidance, and receive it when it comes. When the light is focussed on the right place you will be able to clearly see much more detail. The worst thing for any situation or condition that needs to be changed is for it to remain in the dark. In the darkness there's no way to see any detail, and it's entirely possible the problem will  not even be noticed.

The guidance may come in the form of a hunch or a nagging feeling, it may come through prophecy or an interpreted tongue. It may come because there is no peace to be found by looking elsewhere or it may come in a vision or a dream. And finally it might come as a spoken voice, though this is probably quite rare.

We can see this in action in the Bible.

  • Joseph has a dream - (Genesis 37:5-7) This dream angered Joseph's brother, but it foretold events far in the future. For the full story read Genesis 37:2-36 and Genesis 39:1-42:9.
  • Ananias visits Saul - (Acts 9:10-19) Ananias would not have gone willingly to visit a violent persecutor like Saul. But that is where the Spirit called him to go. The light of Christ had already shone on Saul with devastating effect. Now it was to shine on him again through Ananias. Read the rest in Acts 7:55-8:3 and Acts 9:1-22.
  • Peter visits Cornelius - (Acts 10:11-13) Peter falls into a trance and hears a voice. Read the entire story in Acts 9:43-11:18.
  • A change of plan for Paul - (Acts 16:6-10)  This time the Spirit hinders them from following their own plans but also provides a vision.

Notice how the Spirit focuses the brightest spot on the heart of the issue. Peripheral aspects would also have been illuminated, but not so vividly, but those broader lessons were also important. For example, the bright spot for Ananias would have been 'go and visit Saul'. The general issues would have been such things as 'if I send you you need not be afraid', 'I will often surprise you' and 'my ways are not your ways'.

These are powerful examples of guidance, but it can often be far simpler on a day by day basis. The Holy Spirit often hinders or encourages us by seeding uncertainty or peace in our hearts. Where there is peace, we are often on the right track and it may be fine to continue in the same way. But where there is uncertainty or turmoil it is best to pray and proceed with a cautious, open mind.

The light of Jesus shines into our lives and the situations around us and brings clarity, purpose and effectiveness. Praise him that this is so!

Questions:

  • How often are you guided by the Spirit, and how often by your own planning?
  • Can you think of ways to enhance spiritual guidance in your life?
  • In the four Bible examples above, how would things have worked out if the people involved had not be willing to listen to the Spirit?
  • Where did the brightest parts of the beam and the peripheral areas fall for Joseph, Peter and Paul?

See also:

22 March 2012

Like a big chicken

We often do things in our own strength and then blame ourselves when we fail. But there is a much better way; listen to Jesus and do what he says.

A big chicken?It's easy to make a decision, set off with great intentions, and then beat ourselves up when it doesn't work out. How many times have I resolved to speak to a particular person about Jesus and then chickened out? I can't count them!

But Jesus didn't work like that. Neither did Paul. Why not?

It's because they were tuned in to the continuous flow of the Father's plan, saying what they heard him say and doing what they saw him do - every moment.

Jesus did it perfectly, Paul less so, he made some mistakes. But he learned from them.

When I determine to do something for Jesus and then fail I beat myself up. Yet all the time I should not have been doing something for him, instead I should have been listening and obeying. So simple, but oh so hard!

This is something I must grapple with daily, we all must. No to deciding and doing. Yes to hearing and obeying. When the first method works (and sometimes it does work) some of the glory comes to me. But in the second method he gets all the glory!

So what am I saying? I'm saying that we all have good intentions rapidly followed by great failures, but really we do better when we do what Jesus did.

How can we help and encourage one another to fly with Jesus? Flying is easy for birds but impossible for people. I can run along the ground flapping my arms furiously like a big chicken but I can't get off the ground. Flying with Jesus is like walking on water. Peter could not have done it using any kind of technique. He could only do it by obeying Jesus.

When we listen and obey we can fly and walk on water with him. He enables us and arranges everything for us. He doesn't enable us by giving us a new skill or ability. He enables us by calling us, by commanding us. The doing is all in our obedience, not in our ability.

If we need one thing in order to do the work of the kingdom it's not training, or skill, or experience - it's hearing followed immediately by obedience. If you want to practice anything, practice listening, hearing, and obeying. We need to say what Jesus says and do what he does - no more - no less. Aim high. And always remember that his ways are higher than ours.

But please don't hear what I'm not saying. Training, skill, experience, planning, and intentional activity are all things Father will use in us. If we are listening the Spirit will show us when and how to obediently apply them. Just don't expect them to enable you to fly or walk on water.

Oh - one more thing. Why does the photo show a baby chick rather than a great big mother hen?

It's because Jesus looked at disobedient Jerusalem and said he felt like a mother hen that wanted to gather her chicks under her wings, but they would not (Matthew 23:37). Let's not be like Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, let's willingly gather under his wings. As a lonely little chick I am vulnerable and cold and must work everything out for myself. I need to be willing to be gathered into his presence - for safety, for warmth, but most of all for obedience and effectiveness.

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.

20 December 2011

Topics

Organic Wine - [ Home | Bible | Resources | CO2 | Topics | About ]

This page attempts to track blog posts and articles grouped by topic. The lists will help you read material from multiple sources on the same theme, all focussed on the 'Organic Wine' topic of exciting change as Jesus builds his church.

A selection of words from this pageHere are some blog posts and articles grouped by topic (most recent at the top within each topic). Articles are included in more than one place when appropriate.

You can treat these as reading lists if you start at the bottom of a topic, or news updates if you start at the top. Dates of publication and blog authors are included.

Authority

Building the church



Hearing, revelation

Outreach


Problems


Spiritual outpouring


Yahweh's presence

    25 November 2011

    Speak to the bones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    18 October 2011

    THOUGHT - Making things new

    < Missing the best | No later items >

    What does Haggai have to tell us about church life today? Do we need to carefully consider what we are doing?

    Stones from the Temple Mount in JerusalemFelicity Dale posted an article recently in which she explains how she and Tony were prompted to look at a passage from Haggai.

    She writes...
    We remember the days when, back in England, God's presence was almost tangible when we came together. Sometimes we were unable to stand in his presence. There were healings and miracles. We never dared go into his presence with unconfessed sin, because we knew that the Holy Spirit would reveal it publicly. This was not a manufactured glamor and glitz, but the presence of God--his glory-- among his people.
    I remember those days too, so do some of my other friends near and far. We still have meetings like that sometimes. But it doesn't happen often, certainly not every time we meet as it did in the late 1970s.

    Felicity continues...
    For a while now, Tony and I have been praying that God would fill these new wineskins of simple/organic churches, with his new wine, his presence. We've been praying for our situation that whatever we touch would bring the presence of Jesus with it--whether that's our business, our home or our gatherings.

    What does it mean for us to build God's house? For his house to be more important than anything we're doing ourselves? (This is not a theological statement: I know that Jesus is the one who builds his church.)

    I sense Jesus saying to us, 'It's time to let me do what I want to do amongst you. Stop getting in my way.' The book of Haggai has a great deal to tell us (so do many other passages, for example the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel and the people of Israel in the desert in Exodus).

    Haggai spoke out the word he received. 'Yahweh Elohim says, "Give careful thought to your ways"' .(Haggai 1:7)  We, too, need to give careful thought to our ways. Jesus was quite clear that he is the builder and we are the stones. (Matthew 16:16-18) Notice that he also says where his house will be built - on the rock. The Temple in Jerusalem was built on a particular rock, the one on which Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, the one where the lamb was caught in a bush. The rock is still there, the Temple is not.

    So the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah is the Rock on which the new house will be built. Let's begin to take the stones to Jesus so that he can get on with the building. We must carry the stones to the Rock.

    As long as I build my own house instead of allowing Jesus to build me into his house, water and bread will be withheld. (Haggai 1:9-10) Has our Father had us on a diet? Yes, I rather think he has! We've been on a spiritual diet for years, even decades. The Living Water and the Bread of Life are Jesus. He himself is Water welling up within us, he is the Bread that sustains us. He reminded the evil one in the wilderness that 'man doesn't live on bread only but on every word that comes from Elohim's mouth'. Jesus himself is the real Bread, he is also the Word.

    What is 'my own house' that I am always so ready to build? I think it can be many things. It can be a denomination, or a meeting place, or a tradition - but might it also be house church, a home, or my blog? Dare we ask ourselves the hard question? What is my house? Will I give that thing up so that Jesus can use me as a part of his house?

    It's not for me to tell you what your house is; it's for each of us to work out for ourselves. Give careful thought to your ways! If we listen and hear and are obedient, those amazing times of his presence amongst his people will return. You'd better believe it!

    Here are three more passages to send you on your way, what do they say to you?

    'Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.' (Acts 14:11-17)

    'See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.' (Isaiah 43:18-20)

    'You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new.' (Leviticus 26:9-11)

    See also: Who's house am I building? - Building the church - House and garden

    < Missing the best | No later items >

    07 October 2011

    THOUGHT - What next for the body?

    The church is the body of Christ here in the world. We are his current physical presence and he is the head. Where are we going next? There are some clues and we should pay attention to them.

    A hearing aid
    An obedient journey - As an individual follower of Yahshua (Jesus) I am on a path, a journey. Along the way are distractions, obstacles, and choices of direction. As the body, all of us together are also on a journey with distractions, obstacles and choices.

    Making the right choices depends on hearing what the Spirit of Christ is telling us, and that demands our willingness to pay attention. In this article I am going to try to share something about paying attention, listening, and the need to hear what the Spirit is telling us. Hearing is critically important. How will you and I obey without hearing?



    The breath of the Spirit - As individuals we obtain direction from a variety of sources. Reading the Bible, other good books, prayer, careful thought and planning, and direct leading by the Holy Spirit - all are important. Experience matters too, we can learn from our mistakes and hopefully we continue to grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). But the Spirit himself is the real source.

    Without him we can engage in all those activities (even the Bible and prayer) and have no insight or benefit whatsoever. With him they all become channels for receiving the truth. The Most High can communicate with us through anything in life. He does it by sending his Spirit to live within us, pouring out the light and life of Jesus. Living water wells up within us and flows out to a needy world. This is, of course, a miracle!

    For the body of Christ the process is the same. It's the Spirit of Christ acting in and through the body that brings life and direction. Without the Spirit the body is a dead thing. Read Ezekiel 37:1-14, now read verses 3-10 again remembering that 'breath' and 'spirit' are the same word in Hebrew - 'ruach'. The Holy Spirit is the breath of life in the body of Christ.

    Hearing as an individual - There's a useful technique that can help us hear, it's called Virkler. Please remember that it is only a technique; it's not important in and of itself; its has value only as a framework to help us with hearing. Think of Virkler as a spiritual hearing aid.

    There are four simple steps
    1. Clear your mind of the day to day stuff that fills it.
    2. Focus on Jesus.
    3. Pay attention to the flow of thoughts in your mind.
    4. Write them down.
    For more on Virkler check out the CO2 page, it contains fuller details and some useful links to what others have to say about it.

    Hearing as a body - When we meet together we are a local and temporal expression of the body of Christ in a particular place at a particular time. Yahshua said that when two or three meet together he would be there amongst us. Let's take him at his word!

    When we meet, the Spirit of Christ is in each one and Jesus himself is among us. That is the key to hearing. Just as Virkler is a useful aid for individual hearing, so a slight modification of it can be a useful aid when we gather together. Try these four steps when you are together (the first three are unchanged).
    1. Clear your mind of the day to day stuff that fills it.
    2. Focus on Jesus.
    3. Pay attention to the flow of thoughts in your mind.
    4. Speak them out.
    You may be surprised at the words and images that will be shared, and you may be even more surprised at the end of your time together as you realise that there has been a theme. The individual thoughts as they were shared may have seemed random, but together they will often be much more than the sum of their parts.

    Can I encourage you to try this when you meet? What did you learn about the way the Spirit leads? Is it better to listen to one another, to Jesus, or to one another and Jesus? What are the differences between these three choices? How can the church find direction for the future? Please come back and leave some comments here.

    01 September 2011

    Little Paxton - Finding rest

    < 25th August 2011 | Index | 13th September 2011 >

    This evening the Holy Spirit led us in a theme of peace and rest from struggling. Father wants us to follow him wholeheartedly, then we won't wander about in the wilderness.

    We shared information about friends facing change or difficulties in their lives, and we talked about our own lives and direction. We chatted about what we have been doing and what we plan to do. Jim's summer Sunday activities have finished for this year, Sean and I plan to be at the Moggerhanger Millenials meeting, and Paul is planning three events before next summer's kid's camp. Jim is thinking about future employment and also about the house of prayer concept.
    The Sinai desert
    Later in the evening we prayed for the various people and needs we'd identified.

    Thinking about our busy lives, Jim reminded us about the forty years the Israelites spent in the wilderness, going round and round. He felt that we have been doing much the same. We struggle with too much to do, overload and stress in our jobs, sometimes with little sense of peace or satisfaction. I sensed the Spirit saying that we need a real peace in our lives. He said, 'Peace is not in inactivity, it's in right activity'.

    In different ways, we all felt the need to be listening people. Sean said he hasn't been listening as he should, Jim thinks he's just an infant in terms of spiritual hearing, and I'm aware that I need to be more eager to listen. Jim added that we want Jesus to be in the house and that our peace and rest are in him. We asked for spiritual hearing. We all have it but we all need more of it!

    Then Jim told us about a scratch card he'd been given when he stopped to buy petrol. Apparently it was necessary to scratch the card to reveal a code, the next step was to visit a website and enter the code to find out if a prize had been won. All of this requires too much time, too much effort, and almost certainly for nothing.

    In contrast the gospel comes with no such rigmarole. The gospel is pure good news. Jesus says, 'Come to me if you are struggling and heavily loaded down - I'll give you rest' (Matthew 11:28). Rest is very good news. It's peace, shalom, wholeness, an end to searching, an end to struggling, and an end to going around in circles in the wilderness. Jesus is a destination, not more rigmarole. The rest he gives us is good news!

    < 25th August 2011 | Index | 13th September 2011 >

    THOUGHT - A dream yet not a dream

    One morning recently as I was in that dreamy state between sleep and wakefulness, Father spoke to me. I was soon fully alert and off to find my notepad so I could jot the thoughts down. Here's what I wrote.

    Suddenly - like lightningHe gave me the word 'subito'. There it was in my mind, a word from nowhere. And then he told me, 'I AM love'. The capitals seem very significant, he means 'I AM' as in 'Yahweh', his Name is love and his nature is love too.

    He told me, 'If you love me you will obey me (John 14:21). And therefore when you don't obey you show your lack of love. My sheep hear my voice (John 10:27).' I know that he means me, but I also know that he is entrusting these words to me because he wants me to share them with others. They're for me, but they are not only for me. He is looking for an obedient people, a people who are obedient because they love him.

    Listening - To obey we must first listen, so if we love him we will also listen to him. Jesus and the Father are one, they are in one another (John 10:38). They are one because they always love and always listen so they always communicate.

    If we love and listen we become part of this process of communication, we become part of their community. We become one with them. Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)! We will bear much fruit if we are in this place.

    Listening and looking means paying attention. When we truly hear and see we will stop attending to our own needs and aspirations and will refocus on the person who is speaking or doing. This is the case whether it's the Holy Spirit speaking, or another Jesus follower, or someone in the world, or even our enemy.

    If we won't focus on the One who is Love we won't hear him or see him. We'll be away in another place like the prodigal son. But the prodigal, although far off, turned and heard the truth in his heart, 'There is safety and sustenance in my father's house.'

    Sudden change - Back to that word 'subito'. As the word appeared in my sleepy mind I thought it might mean 'suddenly' in Latin. Sure enough, when I looked it up later I discovered it is indeed 'suddenly' both in Latin and in Italian. I wonder if things are going to change in a sudden, unexpected way? This would be so typical of Father's plans, he is always taking us by surprise!

    So now I am waiting for a change of course or direction. It will be initiated by Papa, not by me. I'm neither knowledgeable nor wise enough to change or begin anything - but he is! My part is to be alert and patient - to be listening and loving. Then perhaps I'll be ready to obey.

    30 July 2011

    RESPONSE - Are you listening?

    Listening is a skill that can be intentionally developed. Julian Treasure gives a fascinating TED presentation on this, but are there parallels between listening with our physical ears and listening with our spiritual 'ears'?

    Julian Treasure on 'listening'Yahshua told his followers about the importance of spiritual hearing and seeing. He spoke about people listening and listening but not hearing, looking and looking but not seeing. We are all prone to this.

    Julian Treasure presents a compelling TED Talk on listening. I suggest you hear what he has to say and then come back here to continue reading.

    ---

    Did you enjoy his presentation? I certainly did!

    According to Julian, hearing is something that our ears do pretty much autonomously, but listening requires intent, focus, and deliberate attention. But Jesus says that even though we listen (pay attention) we still may not hear (understand in depth). He says there are those who pay attention and hear the words but the spiritual meaning eludes them.


    The process, I believe, is
    1. Physical hearing
    2. Listening (paying attention)
    3. Spiritual hearing (spiritual understanding)
    To make this clearer, suppose you are in the crowd and Yahshua is speaking. Unless you are profoundly deaf, the words he speaks will enter your ears and the brain will receive the information. This is item 1 in the list above. If you are distracted by your child, someone else talking, or thinking about that job you need to do when you get home, the process may stop at that point. You have heard but you have not listened.

    But perhaps you were paying attention to Yahshua's words. You not only heard with your ears, but you noticed what he was saying. Perhaps you were puzzled, or offended, or confused by what he said. Although you heard the words clearly and they entered the attentive, thinking part of your mind, they made little or no sense. This is item 2 in the list.

    But item 3 demands an additional awareness that has nothing to do with the physical world of ears and brains. It requires, but goes far beyond, simply understanding the words that were spoken. Spiritual understanding is given and received, not merely earned by paying attention to words. If you lack spiritual understanding, ask Yahshua to provide it.

    The process is physical hearing > listening > spiritual hearing. That's why Yahsua said they listen but don't hear. He sometimes healed the physically deaf, he also heals the spiritually deaf. He is willing! So ask.

    Julian Treasure hints at step 3 but doesn't explore it. Yahshua took step 1 as a given and focussed on step 3.

    Physical reality always points to a spiritual reality; that's why Yahshua spoke so often in parables. Understanding the physical truth can help us grasp the parallel spiritual truth. The need to pay attention to physical sounds points to the notion that we also need to pay attention to spiritual 'sounds'.  We need to listen intentionally to the Spirit of Christ in the same way we listen to the words of the people we meet. The Spirit is a still, small voice. We have to pay close attention to him.

    In the physical we are exposed to sound, listen to the sound, and understand the meaning in our minds. In the spiritual we are exposed to truth, pay attention to the truth, and comprehend the truth in our hearts.

    So let's explore how Julian Treasure's thoughts on listening might apply to spiritual listening (paying attention to the truth).

    We are losing our listening - The church has substantially lost the ability to listen spiritually. Many believers are not even aware that listening is possible, others have no idea how to go about it.

    Making meaning from sound - A process of extraction, recognising the Holy Spirit's voice among all the other spiritual noise around us. What is 'spiritual noise'? Where does it come from? What will happen if you listen to the wrong sources? How can you distinguish the Holy Spirit's voice?

    Filters - These define what we pay attention to. How, for example, might our craving for authority, security, or independence affect our spiritual attention and listening? Can you think of more filters?

    Awareness - Are you tuned in? Are you aware of Father's presence, of his nearness, of his love, of his sorrow and grief, of his purity and holiness, of his exuberant joy and laughter?

    Sense of eternity - If listening with your mind provides your main source for a sense of time, might spiritual listening be the main source for your sense of eternity? I think so!

    Recording - Writing, sound recording, and video recording reduce our need to pay attention (we can always go back to check). Do you depend too much on books, speakers and musicians to provide your spiritual questions and answers? Do these sources reduce the effectiveness of your own, personal, spiritual listening?

    Conversation - Do you wear spiritual headphones? Are you regularly having good spiritual conversations with Father and with one another, or are you isolated in your hearing?

    Soundbites - Are you conversing spiritually or are you substituting this with 'personal broadcasting'. Do you speak and listen or just speak? We are supposed to ask in prayer, but are we supposed to only ask? Is your spiritual communication two way? Is it a conversation or just an expression of need?

    The quiet, the subtle, the understated - Do you hear the still, small voice? Do you pay attention to him?

    Listening creates understanding - We cannot understand without paying close attention. Do you want to grow in spiritual understanding? Are you prepared to pay the price of proper listening? There are serious and frightening dangers attached to not listening. What are they? Hint - lack of physical listening may lead to anger, even war. What might lack of spiritual listening lead to?

    Techniques to improve listening - Silence or quiet, channels of sound, savouring the mundane (hidden choir), appropriate listening positions, RASA, teach listening (encourage others to listen). Can these or related methods help us improve our spiritual listening?

    You might like to listen to Julian again with a view to spiritual listening. If you like, follow through the headings above as you do so. We need to listen to the Spirit of Christ in everything, every sight and sound and smell and touch - in pain, in comfort; in turmoil, in peace; in activity, and in stillness. If we are a hearing people, if we are not spiritually deaf, spiritual life will be rich and fulfilling and new every single day.

    Go for it!

    (Related post, 'RESPONSE - The need to listen')

    05 November 2010

    THOUGHT - This, not that

    I responded to a post on 'Simply Church' a few days ago, the post had piqued my interest for two reasons. Firstly, the topic being dealt with has been in my mind a lot recently, and secondly it reminded me of the meetings we used to have in the 1970s.

    The 'Simply Church' blogAs I started to write I felt the Holy Spirit taking charge of my thoughts and the words just flowed. That's always a good sign!

    The 'Simply Church' post was called 'Who is in control when we gather?'. Follow the link to see the original post and the comments. I duly sent off my response and later had an interesting reply by email. As I wrote back the Holy Spirit took control again and words appeared almost without any effort on my part.

    The Spirit is always ready to lead us if we will just let him. But first we need to turn to focus fully on Christ. The Holy Spirit is after all the Spirit of Christ, he is Christ in us (the hope of glory)! (Colossians 1:27) When Jesus is full and central in our hearts and minds then we may begin to see what he is doing and hear what he is saying. He reveals the father to us (John 14:7) so that we can shout out Abba (Daddy) (Romans 8:15) and run to him with arms outstretched knowing he will pick us up and whirl us around.

    Jesus said, 'I only do what I see the Father do (John 5:19), I only say what I hear him say (John 12:49-50).' Frankly, if that was good enough for him it should certainly be good enough for us. We really do need to stop what we are doing, keep quiet, watch and listen, and then do and say the things we are shown.

    As I wrote he gave me a list of short phrases along the lines of 'this, not that'. The more I think about them the more helpful they seem to be. In particular they are challenging me and reminding me, not my way Lord but yours, not my will Lord but yours, not my words Lord but yours. I'll just list them below, then expand one or two of them.

    • Life, not structures
    • People, not things
    • Community, not organisation
    • The Spirit of Christ, not our own reasoning
    • Love, not deeds
    • Stillness, not busyness
    • Hope, not despair
    • Acceptance, not rejection
    • Grace, not offendedness
    • Gentleness, not strength
    • Service, not leadership

    It's a list that could go on and on and on. Those things are not really opposites, some of them are but it's not as simple as that. For example, the opposite of life is death, not structures. But structures are apt to cause a sort of death or at least a paralysis.

    There is no real opposite to the concept of 'People', and if there was it wouldn't be 'things'. But the things in our lives sometimes prevent us reaching and touching the people around us. This is especially true for the precious things we cling to (events, ideas, hobbies, memories, chores as well as possessions).

    And how many of us have become frustrated, even angry, about organisations yet have an unfilled space in our hearts for real community?

    Maybe the best way to summarise it is to say that we need to avoid everything that stifles our ability to walk arm in arm with Jesus.

    I'd be interested to hear your response so go ahead and comment. In particular it would be good to see comments that suggest more 'this, not that' pairs. And also it would be good to see some comments that expand more of the pairs. What do they say to you? How do they challenge you?

    17 August 2010

    Cornerstone Cafe and Books


    Cornerstone has been keeping me very busy for the last few months. This great little cafe and bookshop has prevented me updating 'All About Jesus' for some time, and just as I was beginning to think I could move on to other things again, I seem to be in danger of getting drawn in even deeper!

    The Cornerstone websiteThe Cornerstone website will give you much more information about the project itself, but I'm going to share some more personal thoughts here.

    My life is indeed, 'All About Jesus'. I want him to be King in my life, I want to be obedient to him in the way a loyal subject would be obedient to a mediaeval king. Kings had absolute power in those days, disobedience was not an option.

    Yahshua (Jesus) is always benevolent, and the reason is simple - he loves me. He simply has what is best for me in mind at all times and will lead me and command me in ways that keep me spiritually safe. That doesn't mean things will always turn out well as the world understands and judges these things. Bad things happen to us in life. But the world doesn't comprehend the truth.

    So I have a dilemma. I want to help and serve my friends (and it is good to do that). But my overriding priority must always be to serve King Jesus. Cornerstone is a wonderful project and it is most assuredly a project conceived and enabled by the King. He has shown me without any doubt that I was to be involved in the development of the shop. But what is he requiring of me now? It's not enough to do what seems good or necessary, instead I must do what I am told. That's why listening is so important in our lives.

    And what he seems to be telling me right now is that he wants me to be involved in Cornerstone in some way, but volunteering to work in the shop may not be quite what he has in mind. I am still feeling my way in this. Cornerstone certainly needs people to do the work, in fact it needs many, many people. Am I one of them? In a way, yes, but perhaps not as I might expect.

    To be perfectly frank, I am not yet sure! My best guess as I write is that my role will be managing websites and helping provide direction. Straying into other areas could become a kind of disobediance. I need to be careful!

    I am sure that over the next days and weeks it will become clear to me. It's not a matter of likes and dislikes, or of whether I am competent or not competent. It's a matter of obedience! I must wait to find out. Father, show me the right way forward.

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