Showing posts with label Holy Spirit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holy Spirit. Show all posts

01 December 2014

Simple Church is now available

The twenty-four author, collaborative book Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity is now available to buy online and in bookshops. You can buy it direct from the publisher, Redeeming Press, or you can order it online from Amazon in both the USA and the UK. I was given the opportunity to write the third chapter, A Church That Follows the Lead of the Holy Spirit.


Simple Church, the paperback
Simple Church, the paperback
Here's a review I wrote for Amazon.

What has one purpose, but twenty-four authors?

This book does!

The editor, Eric Carpenter, has put together contributions from around the globe; and every single chapter describes an aspect of church life seen from the perspective of oneness and harmony. The book succeeds in its stated aim of filling a much-needed gap, expressing what the authors believe church can be, and doing so in a wholly positive way.

I am one of the authors, writing chapter three on following the lead of the Holy Spirit. But I have to tell you that I am blown away by the scope, insight and depth of the other twenty-three chapters that I did not write. The book contains sections on glorifying and enjoying the One we worship, living radically, building the body, impacting the world and proclaiming salvation. The focus throughout is on inclusive, positive and straightforward ways of living out what we believe. If you're looking for an uplifting read that will challenge and encourage you, this could be just the book for you.

It's refreshing to read a book so empty of criticism, yet full of insights and passion. Turn these pages and you will find personal stories, good analysis, and original thoughts. Expect to be changed and encouraged as you read, be prepared to laugh in some places, to cry in others, and to come away with fresh understandings and a determination to live more completely in the unity that is already ours in Christ.

Read this book, I don't think you will regret it.

And here's another review, this time from Jeremy Myers.

Lots of Christians talk about church unity, but usually what they mean is, "If you believe like we do and act like we do, then we can be unified."

This book seeks to look at several things that all people of all (almost all, anyway) forms of church can be unified about. Though most of the 24 authors of this book practice various "simple" or "missional" forms of church, this book is not for those sorts of Christians only, but for everybody who hopes and prays along with Jesus "That they may be one..."

The book is divided into 5 areas in which Christians can be unified: (1) Glorying and Enjoying God, (2) Living Radically as followers of Jesus, (3) Building up the Body of Christ, (4) Impacting the World through missions and service, and (5) Proclaiming the freeness of salvation.

The 24 authors of this book come from a variety of backgrounds and church experiences, with many of them coming from or currently serving on the mission field overseas. Several of the authors have published other books, and almost all of them have blogs about church, theology, missions, and following Jesus. By way of full disclosure, I am one of the contributors to this book, but have been challenged and blessed by every chapter in it.

If you buy the book and review it for us on Amazon, you will receive the unified and most heartfelt gratitude of twenty-four authors. With most books you'd do well to get the gratitude of more than one!

06 November 2014

Simple Church (the book)

There's a new book ready for publication, pre-orders are now being accepted by Redeeming Press and Amazon. It's called Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity.

Front cover
Front cover
Why all the excitement? This is a book with a difference, it aims to show how we can be one even though we are many. Unity doesn't mean uniformity, it means togetherness despite the differences. Indeed, the differences between us should be seen as a great strength. There is balance in diversity; it's a wonderful guard against the propagation of errors.

I'm including a preview of the book cover (click the image for a larger view) and an extract from Chapter Four, A Church that follows the lead of The Holy Spirit in all things. I was delighted to have the opportunity to contribute this chapter to the book and grateful to the editor, Eric Carpenter, for entrusting it to me.

You can also read the blurb from the back cover (again, click the image to enlarge it).
Back cover blurb
Back cover blurb
The Holy Spirit teaches us to be more like Christ. His fruit builds in our lives over time. He equips us by pouring out His gifts as and when they are needed. He builds us in relationship. The Holy Spirit sends us out on mission. He want us to live in the world as a blessing and a challenge. He is always doing new things. When we meet, the Spirit meets with us. After all, Jesus lives in each one of us and the Holy Spirit fills us to overflowing. Usually that overflowing serves to inform our meetings, guide our thoughts, lift our hearts into the presence of the Most High and speak to us moment by moment in our lives.

What would church be like without the Spirit? It’s quite hard to imagine. I wonder if it could even be called ‘church’ at all! Church without the Spirit of Christ? I don’t think so!

10 June 2013

Five colours of the rainbow

Ephesians describes a five-fold ministry based on spiritual gifts. But using only one of the five is like looking through coloured glass, everything becomes the same colour and essential information is lost. Is this what the church has done with the so-called APEST gifts?

A red postbox through green glasses
Ephesians 4:11-13 describes the so-called 'five-fold-ministry'. This is sometimes abbreviated APEST or APEPT, that is Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds (or Pastors) and Teachers.

There are many other gifts of the Spirit mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, but the verses in Ephesians make it clear that these five are specifically 'to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up'.

There's evidence that the early church employed them all just as Paul describes.

Separation - Yet in the traditional western church apostles and prophets were not recognised for hundreds of years, evangelists were hived off into mission organisations, teachers were often found only in places of learning and training, and only shepherds (or pastors) remained to equip church members.

This crippled the church and made her ineffective in many ways.

Colours - Lets assign a colour to each gift and consider church in terms of light. How would that work?

  • Apostle - Red
  • Prophet - Orange
  • Evangelist - Yellow
  • Shepherd (Pastor) - Green
  • Teacher - Blue
With the exception of indigo and violet, these are the standard colours of the rainbow. When all five colours are present we see something quite close to white light. Now, Jesus is the Light, he illuminates everything with the pure white beam of his glory. In the Light of Jesus (the Light sent to reveal the Truth) we can see everything clearly.

But with red and yellow sidelined as being unnecessary, with yellow moved off to the mission field, and with teachers moved out into seminaries, only the green light of the shepherd (pastor) remains. This makes life very difficult for the church as green objects appear green but all other colours appear in shades of green too.

A blind church - Such a partially blind church cannot function as she was intended to. Only by bringing back all five gifts can we benefit from white Light where Jesus is central and objects all appear in their true colours. And then the church will again be equipped for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Isn't this what we all really want? It should be! Green may be an appropriate colour for a shepherd, but we need more than a shepherd if we are to see everything clearly.


Questions:

  • Can you imagine a world in which everything appears green?
  • How might this affect your driving? (Think about red lights.)
  • How much do you know about the gifts other than shepherd/pastor?
  • How can you expand your knowledge? Hint, try some of the links below.

See also:

17 February 2013

Leadership and the New Testament

Leaders in the church, Part 1
< No earlier items | Index | Follow my leader >

How should we manage and govern our meetings? How is church to be led? Everything changed in the 1960s and 70s as the Holy Spirit swept into the denominational church. Existing churches were impacted, the house church movement began, and new streams of church sprang up.

Leading and following
My wife and I have a long-standing difference of opinion about church leadership. Let me explain.

Donna is a member of Open Door Church, part of New Frontiers, one of the new streams of churches that, like others, has its roots in the Charismatic Movement of the 1960s and 70s.

The bursting out of the new wine of the Holy Spirit wasn't easily retained by the old wineskins of denominational church. What was known as the British house church movement began at that time.

New Frontiers and the other streams of the time were based on the view that new organisations were needed. Of course, some Anglican, Catholic and non-conformist churches did embrace the fresh outpouring of spiritual gifts. The pentecostal denominations were already active in that way. But there were many 'refugees' from old fashioned denominationalism and also many new believers who had never tasted a particular form of church. The new streams aimed to cater for both groups.

Staying small and open - But there were many others (of whom I am one) who felt that the new streams of church life took on far too much from the old ways. Having a leadership structure and meeting in a large building were the most obvious of these old ways (though there are many others). Used as we were to meeting at home without leaders, sharing meals together, and giving the Spirit complete freedom to lead us in praise and worship, we were quite unable to feel comfortable with any kind of organisation.

And that's the basis on which Donna and I have different views. She is very much at home in an organisation with a structure, a building, and management. I am at home as part of an organism with very little structure, no building, and managed and directed by the Spirit of Christ alone.

Another kind of small group - We do overlap in one important way. She is one of three leaders of an Open Door Small Group that meets every Tuesday evening, and I am glad to be part of that group. The meetings are in some ways rather like organic church. We meet in homes, we usually start with a shared meal, there is plenty of opportunity to chip in with a thought, a prophecy, a tongue, a vision or a prayer.

On the other hand the meetings are structured around three main elements and are managed hierarchically. Meetings normally begin with a meal, then worship led by a member of the group, next questions and a discussion based on the previous Sunday's 'preach', and finally a time of prayer on topics raised by those present. The Small Group leaders report to neighbourhood leaders who in turn are responsible to the elders of Open Door and in particular to the lead elder.

Donna is comfortable with these arrangements, I am less so. But we both enjoy the meetings and are grateful to be able to share in them regularly together.

The role of the Spirit - But it's not just a matter of how meetings are organised. There is also plenty of evidence that the Holy Spirit fills every available gap that we concede to him. I have a great deal of experience of this going back many years and also in recent times. Meetings that are completely open, not planned or governed by us in any way, are little pockets of time and space that he joyfully, even gleefully inhabits. Many times I have witnessed him working amongst us in amazing and unexpected ways, but always when he is given the freedom to do it.

It takes courage to attempt this. Things can go wrong. People can get in the way. We cannot come to this place without taking risks. But when we are prepared to step aside and let the Spirit of Christ move among us freely, he will fill the place. The more space and time we give him, the more present he becomes.

And I am convinced that out of such a place of blessing we are better equipped to go out and, in our going, to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

Profitless discussion - A couple of days ago Donna and I had a rather profitless discussion about church leadership. (I take full responsibility for my unhelpful attitude.) I'm going to outline it here because it pinpoints the issues, points to a way forward and may be helpful to others thinking these issues through. Here's how it happened.

We were about to begin reading James together when Donna spotted Hebrews 13:17 on the opposite page. She asked me a direct question, 'How do you explain this verse if you don't think the church should have leaders?'

Indeed the church does have leaders. But they are understated and not people who rule or manage. They are recognised by those around them, not appointed by other leaders or by a committee.

But instead of saying this I responded to Donna's question by digging into the Greek and pointing out that you must translate any passage in sympathy with the general thrust of the entire New Testament. What Jesus did and said and what we read in the other letters must inform and guide us. Translation is not an exact art. The flavour of the English words we select to represent the meaning of the Greek must depend partly on that wider context. So we talked about the text rather than the concept of leadership.

The discussion went pear-shaped and we never did make it as far as reading James that evening. Partly because of this I feel the time has come to study church leadership in more detail and to be clearer in my own mind about the biblical background and the practicalities.

There are other associated issues and I think I need to look at them as a whole, not piecemeal. So I plan to come back to this topic from time to time as I make progress with the study.

Meanwhile, I would be very grateful for any thoughts or feedback you might have on the different approaches to church leadership and church government. Please leave a comment.

Questions:

  • Have you had similar or related experiences? Please consider sharing them in a comment.
  • What are your views on the Holy Spirit's involvement in your meetings? Is he fully present? Is he fully visible and audible?
  • If you could change one thing about your meetings, what would it be?

Challenge:

  • Try this at home. Meet with some close friends with no agenda and no preparation of any kind. Share a meal gratefully remembering Jesus' presence with you. After the meal sit in a comfortable place together and focus on Jesus. Don't mind silences, but share together anything  the Spirit shows you, including pictures, words, prophecy, Bible passages, persistent thoughts and more. What happened? Report back here with a comment.

See also:


< No earlier items | Index | Follow my leader >

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:

08 September 2012

Strategy? Who's strategy?

Do we need to follow good strategies, or do we simply need to obey everything the Holy Spirit shows us to do? I believe obedience, not strategy is the key to success. How about you?

Obedience training
I'm growing tired of hearing about strategy. Don't misunderstand me, there's nothing wrong with having a strategy but it had better be the right one, from the right source.

My strategy always misses something important.

My strategy is based on limited experience and the goal is one of my own choosing.

I select goals from a place of partial knowledge, poorly developed wisdom, and a proud and selfish heart.

Therefore my strategy will fail.

Perhaps I need an expert's strategy. If I read all the right books, listen to all the right teaching, get the right counselling and coaching, follow best practice and model my techniques on those of others who have succeeded, maybe I'll do much better.

So how, exactly, do I choose the right expert, the best example to follow, the best plan or programme or technique? However and whoever I choose, I am really just going around the same loop again. I am the one judging who represents the best example to follow. And I will be depending on the rightness of someone else's vision and judgement. I will still fail!

There is a solution, there is a way to succeed. It's called obedience.

I need to begin by listening to the Holy Spirit, then I need to do what he tells me. That's it, here endeth the method. There are good examples out there and it's good to be encouraged by the good examples of others. But the best examples are people who demonstrate obedience.

What do you think? Is obedience all we need if we are to follow Jesus into the harvest?

If not, why not?

What else, in addition to obedience, do we need?

03 September 2012

Beginning all over again

Beth Foster's blog is a story of movement and challenge. For the past year she has been learning to live for Jesus in a radically new way - and she is changing! Read 'Organic Life' for yourself and follow her progress. But beware! You might find yourself changing too.

Organic Life, Beth's blogHave you ever been at a place of new beginnings? Most of us have experienced the pain and anxiety when there's a disconnect between old and new. Usually there is expectant hope and a joyful looking forward as well, perhaps tinged with some apprehension or great sadness. Mixed feelings in many ways.

Whether it's a new job or retirement, a new birth or a family death, moving to live in a new home (and leaving an old one), a lot of things are going to change and we have to adjust. The same can happen when the Holy Speaks to us about a major change in our spiritual life.

I've been following Beth Foster's blog 'Organic Life' since she first started it almost a year ago. She doesn't post frequently, but everything she's written has been well worth reading.

If you are new to her blog I suggest you begin at the beginning and follow her story along from post to post.  Highly, highly recommended stuff. It's a page turner and it's challenging and thought provoking too. She is coming out of a new beginning, letting go of what was, learning to live in the 'now', prompted and guided by the Holy Spirit. She is a brave and determined lady and is unwilling to accept second best.

As you read, don't be surprised if you find yourself challenged and changed. And while you're there, I know she would appreciate a comment from you.

30 August 2012

Ten years in the wilderness

Responding to a post from Felicity Dale, here is my story of spending time in the wilderness. For me it spanned a ten year period and began when our friends moved on to other things but we knew that we were to stay put. It was a lonely and seemingly bleak experience.

Part of Gale Crater on Mars
In a recent blog post, Felicity Dale asked the question, 'Why do we go through wilderness experiences?' Thinking about this I quickly realised I wanted to write much more than would fit into a comment. So here goes...

I became a follower of the Way some time in the period between 1968 and 1970. I can't pin it down to a particular time or date, there was a time when I did not believe, and later a time when I did, and between the two a process of searching and growing understanding.

In late 1970 Judy (my first wife) and I began hunting for a place where we could meet other people with similar faith and a heart to follow Jesus simply and intentionally. We hunted high and low around Bristol where we had a flat, but failed to find what we were looking for. Eventually we found a little ex-Brethren meeting, Zetland Road Chapel, less than a five minute walk from our front door and we knew right away that this was home.

In 1975, buying our first house in the nearby village of Yatton, we found a similar welcome and good fit at Horsecastle Chapel.

After a few years at Horsecastle, we were very excited to discover other believers in the village with remarkably similar ideas to our own. We began meeting in our homes together and quite soon there were fifteen or so of us. We soon discovered the gifts of the Spirit and realised we were part of what was known at the time as the Charismatic Renewal.

Eventually we left the chapel to fully immerse ourselves in this new thing that Jesus was doing. They were exciting times!

But after a few years people began to join the new organisations that were beginning at this time. There was Bank House Fellowship in Clevedon, a new group in Yatton with clear leadership by a couple we knew, and several others locally. Most people were looking for leadership and structure of one kind or another while Judy and I were certain that meeting at home and led only by Jesus through the Holy Spirit was the right way to continue.

Gradually we found ourselves on our own, our time in the wilderness had begun, probably by 1980 but certainly before 1985. How this wilderness time ended about ten years later is another story. But what did we learn through the experience? Several important things, I think.

  1. We learned not to depend on other people, but to depend only on Christ. This was a valuable (if painful) lesson. It's not so much that we felt let down by people, but at first we grieved over them because we felt they had lost the most important thing.
  2. It seemed to us that our friends were following other people at least as much as they were following Jesus. I know that they did what they believed to be right and with clear consciences, but neither Judy nor I could follow them there. At first Judy was very hurt, I tried to build bridges. We learned to let people move on without blaming them and without resentment.
  3. It would have been natural to return to Horsecastle Chapel where we had many friends. But we knew that was not what we were called to do. Doing what seems natural can be the wrong thing. Another useful lesson.
  4. We learned that staying where we are can be an act of obedience. Sometimes we are called to move into new and perhaps difficult situations. Sometimes we are called to remain in changing and perhaps difficult circumstances.
  5. And above all we learned the need to listen, hear, and obey. Judy and I shared Tony and Felicity's feeling that the Lord had somehow moved on and left us where we were. Even reading the Bible and praying seemed empty sometimes, yet we persevered because the Spirit had shown us we were to meet informally, in homes, and led only by him.
  6. We learned not to confuse stubbornness and faithfulness. Stubbornness comes from wanting my own way, faithfulness from wanting Jesus to have his way in my life. To those outside the situation the two may appear very alike.
  7. We learned to respect the leading that others have, even when it is different from our own.
  8. And finally, we came to see that the wilderness is a place of value. It builds character. It teaches patience. It breaks down pride and self-sufficiency. At first it seems a place of failure and defeat, but it proves in the end to be a place of new beginnings and victory. The wilderness is a place of preparation.
See also: Related article on Felicity Dale's blog.

04 August 2012

Renewing the temple

Two visions at a recent meeting have some encouraging things to say about the future of the church. Both of them speak of something that has been destroyed, both of them speak of recovery and renewal.

Broken masonry
Donna and I and some friends visited Faith Camp at the Peterborough showground on Wednesday 1st of August.

Colin Urquhart was speaking that night, a veteran from the old days of the Charismatic renewal in the 1960s and 70s. He's still as good as he ever was! He spoke about the seven 'I AM's in John.

During a time of individual reflection and prayer and focussing on holiness and love, the Spirit gave me two pictures. I'd like to share them here, they are about holiness and love and the future of the body of Christ which is the church.

A broken plant - I saw a plant with the leaves cut off at ground level, as if it had been carelessly run over by the lawnmower. There appeared to be nothing left, no hope of recovery, a total loss.

But then I saw that there was a deep root and a tuber that were intact and I knew that stems and leaves and flowers would spring up fresh and new. And the Spirit showed me that it needed only a little time (patience) and a little rain (refreshment).

The broken temple - A little later I saw the ruins of a stone building. Just some broken, low walls remained, and some scattered stones. I had no idea what it represented.

While I was looking at these and wondering what they meant, the Son of Man came and sat on the stonework, and somehow I knew that this was the Temple and he was sitting exactly where a throne had been. (Yes, I know, the temple in Jerusalem did not contain a throne. But this is what I saw. However, there was the mercy seat, the Ark of the Covenant. Remember, Yahshua is our King as well as our great High Priest as well as being the Son, one aspect of the Mighty One whose name is I AM.)

And as I watched the ruins were transformed into a complete building. Stone fitted against stone, timbers appeared, and the entire structure was covered in gold and fine jewels. Jesus continued to sit there throughout this process. Indeed, I realised that the transformation came about because he was sitting there.

A song - And then the words of an old song came into my mind...

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his glorious face.
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

The meaning - I am convinced that the Spirit is saying that a time of revival and renewal is coming to the church, because Jesus is coming to the church in a fresh and extraordinary way.

I believe he is also saying that we will need to be patient, that the refreshing living water is a necessary resource first. Jesus needs to be sitting in his proper place amongst the ruins before any restructuring and renewing can begin.

He is already among us. He is going to sit amongst us in new ways. The church is not dead but it has been badly damaged. He is going to do a new thing (he always does a new thing).

The roots of the damaged plant are still there below the surface as are the foundations of the damaged temple as is the foundation stone of the church which is Christ.

So rejoice, be patient, and be full of expectation! This is a time for experiencing the Messiah's holiness and love. It is also a time for all of us - individually and together - to allow his holiness and love to pour out through us as a great flood. This flood from Jesus needs to flow between us one to another, and it will also flow out into the world.

Our response - Whether I have understood all this correctly and fully or not (probably not), it would be good to hear what others think.

What do these two pictures say to you? What have I missed or distorted? Have you or those you know had similar revelations and expectations? What do you think the Lord will do next amongst us? Do you see evidence for these changes in the world around you? In church life? In your own life?

See also: Another wave rolls in - from Felicity Dale's blog 'Simply Church'

13 June 2012

A letter from the heart

What follows is in the form of a letter - a letter from my heart to yours. It's a letter I imagine writing to people who will understand it and be excited by it. It's an invitation to experience Jesus more powerfully and to do so together, in community.

A letter to friends
Here's the letter. And yes, I have particular people in mind as I write.

In fact, I have in mind friends right here in and around St Neots. Are you one of them?

But wherever you live in the world, this letter is for you. This experience of Christ is your inheritance. It is your birthright. Don't let the world snatch it from you.


Dear brother/sister,

Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone loses themselves in Jesus and his Spirit soars and flows amongst us and around us? I love it when he has the opportunity to be really free amongst his people. It's what I have always wanted, but I've experienced it all too rarely over the years since I first tasted his overwhelming presence like this in the mid to late 1970s. Sometimes parts of meetings carry hints of that familiar aroma.

Why does this happen so rarely? I think that unless we can allow him the freedom to have his way we will miss the best he has for us. Nothing we can devise or arrange or intend can come close!

I'd love you to read this guest post by Steph. She captures the essence of life with the Spirit of Jesus far better than I can hope to do. See what you think.

I suppose I'm looking for people who might join me in the adventure of recapturing this life of community around the King. And as I grow older I'm looking for those to whom the torch can be passed. The church seems so needy and there is such treasure stored up ready for her - a mighty inheritance of everything that is Christ's - his intimate presence, his power, even his glory (John 17:20-22). He wants to restore things to be the way they began and should have remained. But to receive this we must let go of everything we have thought of as necessary. Structure, planning, goals, vision statements, all that hurly-burly of humanness has to be stripped away. It must be Christ and his bride without any interfering clutter. And that has been so hard to find all these years.

I am getting desperate! His call is so strong. Who will come with me? Or must I go alone? OK, not alone, Steph certainly understands. She is on the same journey but in a different continent :-) There are others here in the UK, too, who understand well. Father knows no boundaries.

But for those of you who live in or near St Neots, would you consider exploring these things with me? Maybe we can meet to talk about this and test it - what say you? I'm not suggesting leaving what you are already part of. I'm talking about exploring an extra dimension.

Grace, peace, blessings and abundant love in Christ,

Chris

PS - If this excites you please leave a comment below. This is a letter you can add to. Tell me about your own experiences of Jesus amongst his people. Or if something seems unclear, ask a question.

03 April 2012

Are we joyful enough?

[ No earlier items | Chain Index | Fruit of the Spirit ]

Defining joy is not easy, but it's well worth a try. It is an internal thing, yet it can have great external effects in the lives of those who have it.

Beethoven used the 'Joy Theme' in his 9th SymphonyOne of the things I remember about church from my childhood days is that it seemed dull. Church was a chore. We had to get dressed in our best clothes, we had to be quiet, we couldn't read a book or play with toys, we had to stand up and sit down at the relevant times and say words we didn't really understand when everyone else said them. Oh, and we had to listen to a man in strange clothes talk about things that didn't engage us and that we'd soon forget.

Church even smelled boring! The combination of ancient, polished timber, the cool humidity of the massive stonework even in the hot summer sunshine, and the leathery, musty paper of well-worn hymnbooks spelled dullness. I was always glad to get home and change into ordinary clothes. Then I could read books, ride my trike in the garden, or play with toys on the sitting room floor.

And later, as a young adult with children of my own, church was still relatively sombre and heavy. It was a serious matter and laughter was out of place except, perhaps, over a cup of tea after the service.

Where was the joy? What is joy anyway? What good is it and why do I need it?

Joy is listed by Paul as part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) yet it's not something we often study. We know the importance of love and peace, of patience, kindness and the rest. But joy? It seems to be an inner thing, not affecting those around us. It's like an inner smile, a peaceful sense that all is well, a deep gratitude that Jesus has saved us. But where is the fizz, the bounce, the excitement, the celebration?

In his autobiographical book 'Surprised by Joy', CS Lewis describes joy as an intense longing for something good. And described in those terms, surely joy is not only an inner smile, but also a sturdy force driving us to touch the hearts of others so they, too, may find joy in their inner being. Here's an extract from his preface.
How far the story matters to anyone but myself depends on the degree to which others have experienced what I call 'joy'. If it is at all common, a more detailed treatment of it than has (I believe) been attempted before may be of some use. I have been emboldened to write of it because I notice that a man seldom mentions what he had supposed to be his most idiosyncratic sensations without receiving from at least one (often more) of those present the reply, 'What! Have you felt that too? I always thought I was the only one.'
Joy is a tricky word to define. In some ways it suggests the opposite of dull and boring. The word also conveys a sort of inner energy, a hopefulness, and a patience in difficult circumstances. Yet it means more than that.

My friend Jenny, writing about anxiety in the Stamford Free Church newsletter for April 2012, puts it like this.
Lately I have been thinking about what we mean by worry and how we use that word when we mean all kinds of different emotions and feelings. Very often, when we say that we are worried about people, especially family members, what we mean is that we feel compassionate and have empathy with their problems and difficulties ... those sort of feelings are quite legitimate and show that we care.
Jenny goes on to describe other kinds of worry caused by financial difficulty, health issues, ageing and problems with relationships. She also mentions how negative reporting by the media may make us anxious about things we cannot influence. But then she reminds us...
Jesus told his disciples many times not to worry or be afraid and that he would give them peace, so let's give all the personal 'worries' to him, let's try to make prayer our first response instead of our last and as for the other things that the media would like us to take on board - why worry?
So perhaps it's fair to say that joy is also an absence of anxiety.

For Jesus, joy is a powerful and substantial motive force that enables him to endure. See, for example, Hebrews 12:2, 'For the joy set before him [he] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.'

On the face of it, joy is a personal and private inner thing, a component of the fruit of the Spirit that is not visible externally (like the stone inside a peach). Yet it has great power, just like the stone that contains a seed capable of generating a whole new peach tree.

So joy, although it is internal, has the power to achieve much. Perhaps it's easier to say what it is not  rather than what it is. Joy is not dull or boring, it does not leave room in my heart for worry or anxiety to take root, and it strengthens me for greater endurance in love, peace, patience, kindness and the rest.

Only love comes ahead of joy in Paul's list in Galatians. And for good reason. Without love and joy the other aspects of the fruit might not even be possible. Along with peace these two are internal parts of the fruit. The other six are the active outward expression of the love, joy and peace within.

This article is part of a chain blog on 'Spiritual fruit'. If you want to write the next article in the chain please check the chain index for details.

[ No earlier items | Chain Index | Fruit of the Spirit ]

19 February 2012

Coventry Cathedral - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

The new and old cathedrals are connectedIn November and December 2011 I began to feel Father wanted me to travel to Coventry and visit the Cathedral and that he would speak to me as I did so. I made the visit on 9th December and he did indeed show me a variety of things on that day.

This index page collects together a series of posts about the visit, what was revealed, and how the revelation has gelled and developed since then.

  1. Coventry Cathedral - Visiting the old and new cathedrals
  2. Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry - Truth poured out like a flowing stream
  3. The centrality of Christ - What does it mean for Jesus to be central in our lives
  4. Oneness and reconciliation - We are all one, in and through Christ
  5. New and old in church life - How the two relate and benefit one another

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.

02 January 2012

An overwhelming army

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 December 2011

Prophecy to the breath

Part 8 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Sinew, muscle and skin | Index | An overwhelming army >

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

The power of the wind
Ezekiel stands and marvels over the bodies lying around him (bodies which so recently had been no more than dry and jumbled bones). And  Yahweh commands him to prophecy again.

Then he told me, 'Speak to the breath, son of man, tell it prophetically, "Here's what Yahweh Almighty says - come, breath, come from the four winds and breath into these dead bodies so they can come alive."' (Ezekiel 37:9)

So what is going on here? Let's take it step by step and notice the details. It is absolutely fascinating.

Yahweh speaks to a man (Ezekiel) and commands him to speak to the breath (or spirit, or wind, or life). He is not called to speak to the bodies, he is called to speak to the breath.

Breath, spirit, wind and life are closely connected in Hebrew thinking. Breath and spirit are the same word - 'ruach', and anything with breath/spirit has life. Whatever does not have breath/spirit is dead. When we breathe we create a feeble wind, while the winds that can bend trees and raise dust from the ground are clearly far more powerful.

There is an underlying thought here that the winds can provide the necessary breath/spirit to fill these bodies and bring them to life. And the breath comes 'from the four winds'. In other words it comes from anywhere and everywhere. We cannot pin the Holy Spirit down, he comes and goes as he chooses.

The church in our day seems often to be limp and lifeless. At least in the West we are not seeing great, sweeping moves of new believers. It is happening in some eastern lands just as it happened in Jerusalem after Pentecost when three thousand were baptised and added in a single day. (Acts 2:41)

Why are we in the west left out? Perhaps it's because the churches are at best like dead bodies, and the people at worst like dry scattered bones. We need to plead with the Lord to renew us by sending his Spirit to transform us and reinvigorate us. The church in the West needs an Ezekiel to hear Yahweh and to obey him in calling the Life and Spirit of Christ to re-enter the scattered bodies.

We should all be calling out to our Father in heaven to send an Ezekiel (or even a band of Ezekiels) to call the life and breath of his Spirit to return in power and to fill us so that we begin to live again.

Why is it necessary to speak to the Spirit rather than to the churches? Might it be because the churches are dead?  Earlier in the chapter Ezekiel spoke to the dry bones, they were dead too. So what was the difference? Notice that both times Ezekiel spoke as he was commanded by Yahweh - and that is the key.

Our primary duty will always be to listen and do what we are told, to watch and do what we are shown. This is how Jesus himself lived while he was here in the world, he knows how hard it can be and how effective it is. And he called us to follow him.

< Sinew, muscle and skin | Index | An overwhelming army >

21 December 2011

Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry

< Coventry Cathedral | Index | The centrality of Christ >

Sometimes the Holy Spirit pours his truth into our lives like a flowing stream. That's exactly what happened to me recently as I visited Coventry. I went because he told me to go and said that he would speak to me there. But he did even more than he promised. Isn't that just typical of his grace?

The remains of the old visible through the newAs I was preparing to visit Coventry, the Holy Spirit began surprising me with thoughts and I started to write them down. There was more revelation as I visited the old and new cathedrals; much that I saw prompted further thoughts. And finally, after I arrived home there was a third flow of spiritual truth.

The major themes I have identified are...

  • The centrality of Christ, his majesty and glory.
  • Oneness with Jesus and in church life, reconciliation.
  • New and old in terms of church. They are connected. We need to remember the old but live in the new.
  • The old was brought down by intense fire.
  • The new is a different kind of structure.
  • Jesus expresses himself through the new.
  • The new touches the world and should transform it.

What follows is taken from the notes I made on the day. The notes themselves are in italics, the rest is comment added later. I have not expanded all of the notes, there is simply too much for one article. I may revisit these notes, perhaps under the seven headings listed above.

Before the journey to Coventry

The contribution you can make to one church is to encourage people in having good, welcoming attitudes to all believers.

The idea that there is only one church has been much on my mind, and it was immensely helpful to have this guidance. It's not for me to demand or build unity. Instead, I must encourage everyone to accept others with different understandings and vision. Oneness is not about everyone being the same, it's about hearts of love touching through the differences.

Remind them that we're all brothers and sisters.

The 'wheel' emblemEven the emblem I gave you speaks of unity. There's a centre where all the spokes meet, and the periphery is held in place by every spoke. I AM the centre. My people are the spokes, each of them in contact with me. The periphery is out there in the world, far from me, their only connection to the centre is through you. Pray that they, too, will become spokes.

Read more about the 'wheel' emblem and its origin. There's a call to prayer here too; that's something I must not ignore or forget.  Father, remind me - often.

My expectation had been clear. The Lord would speak to me when I reached Coventry, but at this point I was still at home and he was already pouring out so much. I was astonished!

In the old cathedral

The old still remains, but it's empty.

The pillars have all gone.

There is no roof, no protection.

The windows are empty.

This is a place of memories, but few people are here to remember. Most of them are here to look.

The architect says that the new should grow out of the old.

In the new cathedral

A canopy connects the old and the new.

The new west front reflects the old cathedral in its expanse of glass.

The old is clearly visible throughout the new, it is not forgettable and not forgotten.

The view is very different depending whether you are looking towards me or away from me.

I am far more weighty than you might think.

The cathedral has an enormous tapestry portraying Christ, it is so large that it weighs more than a tonne. It's hard to imagine a tapestry being so heavy, and it is even harder to imagine the full majesty and glory of Christ himself. I think he wants me to focus both on his nature and on my inability to comprehend his nature.

This building speaks of life, a progression from the cradle. It's all about reconciliation and has contributions from people of all faiths.

This is an echo of what he showed me before I left home. Reconciliation is a prerequisite for unity. Jesus is our reconciliation, not only with the Father but also with one another. Oneness with the Most High and oneness with one another both depend on the reconciliation that only Jesus can bring. We cannot do without Christ, yet we need nothing more.

Back at home

The old building was brought down by the intense heat of the fire. It cracked and flaked stone, melted lead and glass, and consumed timber.

Fragments of the old stained glass remain.

The old and familiar, the very things we lean upon and think we need, these are all burned up by the intense fire of the Spirit. The old must make way for the new. Yet the old is still more than just a memory. Parts of it remain lest we forget.

Everywhere in the new are expressions of his love, glory, grace, peace, presence, and oneness.

There's a strong theme of reconciliation throughout both old and new.

Old and new are intimately connected.

These seem to be important ideas and should not be forgotten.

The old was brought down by an act of war, but the war was external - it was not a war between old and new.

The inner roof is not attached to the walls.

The technologies of old and new are quite different.

The builders of the old would have found the new literally incredible.

They would have been astonished and unable to comprehend how it could have been achieved.

There's an emphasis in some of the memorials on working selflessly together for a greater good.

There is a swastika on the bronze effigy. See how visitors have polished the swastika and the nose by touching them. Touch is so important.

Touch is transforming, turning dullness to brilliance. We need to touch Christ, we also need to touch one another.

The old cathedral is part of an old town and an old society, now gone apart from a few buildings. The new cathedral is part of a new town and a new city - the university, the shopping centre and so on.

The new fabric is already showing evidence of decay and shabbiness - especially outside.

Although there is a new move of the Spirit coming in church life, the new will go the way of the old unless there is maintenance and repair. It will be needed continuously.

< Coventry Cathedral | Index | The centrality of Christ >

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

    Copyright

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