Showing posts with label Listen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Listen. Show all posts

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:

08 January 2013

A light on the path

It's important that we serve the community around us, this is how we show people in the world that they are loved. The basis for that loving service is that Christ first loved me, but beyond that he also goes with me and shows me who to speak to, who to bless, and how and when to do it.

A light on the pathJanuary's Synchroblog invitation reads in part as follows.

New Year’s Resolutions are usually somewhat self-serving. But is there a way you can serve others in 2013? Are there homeless people in your community? Maybe you could bring some food to them on a regular basis this year. Are there single mothers? How about coming alongside them to babysit their kids while they go shopping, or maybe you could change the oil in their car or mow their lawn. Do you know any alcoholics or addicts? What can you do to show them love and care this year? Are there elderly shut-ins in your neighborhood? How about running errands for them or going over to their place to play cards, read to them, or just talk?

Serving others - Works of service are important. We are here to serve one another, to serve those around us and to serve the Messiah first and foremost. The people around me can only know that they are loved if they are loved. So yes, I do want to serve the community where I live during the coming year.

But I believe the basis for service is critically important, so rather than resolve here and now what my service will be I plan to write about the basis for serving and how we can consider that and respond to it.

A New Year's resolution by any other name is still a New Year's resolution. And if I resolve to do something, it had better be the right something! All of the suggestions in the Synchroblog notes are great, but doing good things is not sufficient as an end in itself. So what should be the foundation?

Love - The immediate foundation is, I believe, love. If I don't have love, then my actions will be empty at best, or merely for show at worst. I need to step in to help when I see weakness, helplessness, hunger, thirst, injustice, sickness, imprisonment. My heart needs to go out on a daily, even an hourly, basis so that I will respond out of love as and when I witness the need. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 again. Whatever I do without love is void.

Obedience - But there is something else, a deeper foundation that underpins even acts of love. And that is obedience. Love and obedience are intertwined. I will meet the needs I see because I love the needy. And I will obey Jesus because I love him. I love him because he first loved me.

So he is the source, and the effect he works is in me and through me. First to love him and obey him, secondly to love those around me and serve them. So we really do need to consider obedience as well as love. If I am to serve those around me most effectively I need to love them but I also need to hear what Jesus is saying to me through his Spirit and act obediently. Not only that, but Jesus prepares the way for us. He leads us to people he has already made ready.

Obedience is a moment by moment affair. The Spirit whispers quietly to me, 'This is the way, walk in it. Go here, do that, speak to that person trusting that I will give you the words as you need them, go to such and such a place where someone needs your help. Sit here, watch, and see what I will show you.'

Now, I'm not saying it always works that way for me - but sometimes it does. When I am listening and trusting it always does.

Know Jesus and listen - So I encourage everyone, get to know Jesus if you don't already. He is Love, Peace, Power, Life, the Way, Light in the darkness. Believing in him is a good start but it's not enough - know him, walk with him, speak to him, listen to him. It's what his first followers did, and you can too.

Learn to focus more on listening than on speaking. We are told we should pray every day and read the Bible every day; and they are great habits to have. But above all, before even prayer and reading, listen. Be attentive. Be still and quiet and hear what the Spirit of Christ is saying to you. And obey him.

And then you will have the best and most helpful opportunities to serve those around you. Guided in the moment in all you do and say by the One who can shine real light on your path.

So if we resolve anything in this new year of 2013, let's resolve to know him, pay attention to him, hear him and obey him in all we do. And to do it more fully than in any previous year. Will you join me in that resolution?

Practical details - But the synchroblog asked for specifics.

For the January 2013 synchroblog, we invite you to share some of the tangible needs in your neighborhood or community you will seek to meet this year. Be concrete. Where, when, how, and to whom will you be the hands and feet of Jesus? As you think and write about this, it will not only encourage you to follow Jesus into the world this year, but will also provide the rest of us with some suggestions for how we can serve others in our own communities.

I don't yet know, in detail. But one thing I feel he is already urging me to do is print off a bunch of my photos in a reasonable size, perhaps A5, and sit in the market square with a spare chair beside me offering them free to anyone who will sit, choose a photo, and tell me what they see in it. I must get those photos organised right away!

People have physical needs, but they also have emotional needs and spiritual needs. Perhaps this will be an opportunity to reach hungry and lost hearts. Chris Duffett does things like this to great effect and you'll find abundant ideas on his website.

My wife is keen to find a community project of some kind to help people in practical ways and I might join her in that. She's a member of Open Door, a local New Frontiers church. It's likely the initiative will come through Open Door.

In the past I've helped a variety of people in little ways but was specifically led into each situation. Kid's camps; a couple, both seriously ill, with children at home and needing help with gardening; a couple suffering serious physical abuse from young people in the area; a friend needing company and occasional practical help; a conversation with a stranger on a train; serving Christmas dinner to lonely people.

I'm expecting more of the same in the year ahead - I just can't tell you what it will be yet!

Questions:

  • What do you find to be the most effective ways of listening, spiritually?
  • Is it better to do nothing, to do something unguided, or to do what you are told?
  • Do you agree with me that action and obedience are both rooted in love?

See also:


Other posts in this synchroblog:

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.

11 January 2012

Prophecy for England

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

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

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

Prophecy for England

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

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

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

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

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



JOHN RICHARDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02 December 2011

Doctors and patients, a lesson for the church?

Watch and listen as Abraham Verghese shares some thoughts on doctors, patients, and the relationship between the two. Could there be a valuable lesson here for the church?

Abraham VergheseI have just watched a TED Talk by Abraham Verghese; it was an experience to remember. In eighteen minutes of deeply significant sharing, Professor Verghese conveys the basis of an excellent relationship between doctor and patient. In his opinion it's a relationship at risk. I think he's right.

I must say that I was deeply struck by some parallels between how medicine is practiced and how we do church. It really was one of those precious 'Aha' moments that we all have from time to time.

I suggest you watch the video first and then take a look at the questions I've added below. While watching, if you follow Jesus, please bear in mind how you relate to those who do not. Otherwise, just enjoy the talk for whatever good things you may draw from it.



(If the video doesn't appear you can try this link.)

Now for those questions.
  • Can you think of attributes of doctors and patients that might be relevant as we seek to introduce people to Jesus?
  • Touch is an important aspect of the doctor/patient relationship. What might be equivalent to touch in the spiritual realm?
  • Trust is another critical factor. How can a physician build a patient's trust? Is this relevant spiritually?
  • What might be the spiritual equivalent of technical medical equipment?
  • Any other thoughts?
Please comment and include your answers to these questions. I will revisit this topic again in a few days time but hopefully we can have a useful discussion here first.

28 November 2011

What is the Spirit saying to the church?

The Spirit is speaking to the church, but are we listening? And are we ready to live daily for Jesus with him front and centre in our lives and in our hearts and minds?

A graft unionSpirit and breath are the same word in both Hebrew and Greek. So when, in Old or New Testament writings, you read 'spirit' you might also read 'breath' and vice versa.

The Holy Spirit is the Breath of Truth (John 15:26), the Breath of Power (2 Timothy 1:7), but above all the Breath of Christ (Romans 8:9).

The Holy Spirit is always speaking to the church. How could it be otherwise?

The church is the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ. How could the breath not fill the body? How could Christ's Spirit not speak to Christ's Bride?

A new thing - We are at a time when the Spirit is again speaking to the church. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say we are at a time when the church is again listening to the Spirit. Don't misunderstand me, there are always those in the church who are listening raptly to the Spirit of Christ, but sometimes there is a wider, wholesale hearing that changes all our preconceived ideas and sets the church on a new track. I believe this is such a time.

There are a number of voices now speaking about different aspects of this new thing, and a number of people beginning to see some common themes. What it will become we do not know, but we will know.

Perhaps the central theme is that the Father and the Son and the Spirit matter, that they have a significance we can't overstate. Everyone will say, 'But we already know that!' Well, yes we do, but sometimes we know it in our minds without being driven by it in our hearts.

We know that without him we are nothing, yet without us he is still everything and will, if necessary, raise up the stones to worship him. We know that Jesus said, 'Apart from me you can do nothing' (John 15:5). We know that he said he does only what he sees the Father do (John 5:19), and says only what he hears the Father say (John 12:49-50). We know all these things but we still don't always live them out day by day.

It's all about him first, not us. It's about being in his presence, not being busy with our own stuff. It's really about knowing him, having a close and personal relationship with him - individually and as the church (his Bride).

Bullet points - Having said all that, here's a list of eight aspects that have come to my attention over the last few years. There may be more than this, of course. I've added a reference or two after each one, these are books, articles, or quotes that expand on the topic.
At first I thought it would be useful to put them in some kind of meaningful sequence, but I couldn't get that to work. I think the reason is that all eight need to be in parallel, not in sequence. In fact they are so intertwined and interdependent that any kind of structure seems to do violence to the underlying truth.

I need to shout this from the rooftops...

Focus ever more fully on Jesus!

Everything we are and everything we do needs to stem from having him full and central in our hearts and minds every day, every minute. Isn't that what it means to be 'grafted in' to Jesus? He is the vine, his Father is the gardener, and we are grafted-in shoots.

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.

13 September 2011

RESPONSE - Anti-Jesus band

Are we truly following Jesus? Or are we deceiving ourselves into following something or someone else? He said, 'Follow me'. Where does he go that we should follow him?

Last week Chris Duffett posted a video. I'm reposting it here because it's so good and because it gets right to the root of what it means to follow Yahshua (Jesus). Not just paying lip-service but noticing how he did things and following him - in other words doing what he did and doing what he shows us to do.

View the video here or read Chris Duffett's article and view the video from there. But whatever you do - view it! The embedded video is pretty small, but you can also play it full screen (click the button with four arrows in the lower-right corner of the video - if that doesn't work try it on the YouTube website).




Of course, if we're going to follow it's imperative that we open our eyes and ears. We need to see what Yahshua does and hear what he says; unless we see and hear we stand no real chance of obeying.  I'm not suggesting we all go out and find an anti-Jesus band to offer space and time to. I'm suggesting that copying and following other people is not necessarily obedience to Yahshua. It might be, or it might not. Instead we have to look and listen for ourselves.

The Master is turning the world upside down. Strange and unexpected things will be commonplace in our walk with him. And that is one of the few certainties!


04 September 2011

RESPONSE - Giving a milkshake

I was very encouraged to read the latest post from Chris Duffett. Chris lives only a few miles from us and he excels at finding innovative ways of engaging people with the Good News that Jesus brings truth, light, and a new way of living.

If you want to know more, read his blog. Here are some extracts from his latest article.
Strawberry shakeI sense that I should give my milk shake away. The one I really love, strawberry, all thick and delicious. So I offer it to a guy who is selling the big issue and it turns out that it is also his favorite kind of milk shake.
But Chris didn't stop with the strawberry shake.
I also give him the sandwiches and yogurt too. The guy seems happy to receive his lunch and thanks me.
And then he understood a much greater truth.
This simple act of sharing opens up my heart as to what God wants to do in me and how he wants to meet with me and for me to enjoy his company. I fetch another lunch and ... simply enjoy the presence of God. Wherever and whatever I’m doing I am able to meet with the one who is so vast and mighty and holy and yet who is Emmanual, God with us, who enjoys walking with his kids and meeting with them and sharing strawberry milk shakes.
Why did this so impact me? It's because he heard (to give away a milk shake), obeyed, was willing to sacrifice (go without his favourite treat), went even further (gave away his lunch as well), and understood what the Father is like (enjoys our presence and shares with us). This is something we all need to practice every day - even every minute.
  • Listen
  • Obey (no ifs, buts, or maybes)
  • Sacrifice what we are and what we have for others
  • Go beyond what is asked of us
  • Understand what Father is like and how he enjoys walking through this life with us
It's really a question of being like our heavenly Father. He pours out lavishly on all of us. We should pour out lavishly too. What Chris has found is that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit love him and enjoy the time they spend with him. This is so awesome that most of us, most of the time miss it! But we only really understand when we do what our Father does, then we begin to see that his nature is also to give. Chris says that a simple act of sharing opened up his heart.

I'd suggest that love, hearing and obedience are the key, whatever we're called to do in this amazing Kingdom of Heaven. We may be called to do a new and different thing every day. As we hear and obey we'll always receive a rich blessing from our awesome Father and a deeper understanding of his greatness and love.

He is our supply and our inspiration and he wants us to know him more fully. 

HalleluYah!

01 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.

05 April 2011

RESPONSE - Obedience matters!

This is in response to a brief post on the Nomad Blog. By being obedient the team were able to do exactly the right thing without even knowing there was a need. Yahshua is, frankly, awesome!

A bouquet of flowersHere's an extract from the post on Nomad.

We felt God prompting us to go into a local housing estate, but we all felt a bit discouraged at how quiet things were. Two of the team felt God draw their attention to a certain house. They knocked on the door and asked the lady who answered if they could pray for her. She began crying and said that her husband had died a few weeks before. The team spent the rest of the afternoon listening to her story and praying with her.

The next day someone gave the team an undelivered bouquet of flowers to use. As we prayed a number of us felt God saying to give the flowers to the lady we’d met the day before. So two of the team went back to her house and told her that Jesus wanted to give her the bouquet. She began crying and told us that it was the day of her 40th wedding anniversary and her husband’s birthday! Again the team was able to spend the afternoon praying with her. God’s perfect timing!

There are several things to notice about this.

  • The team were prompted in a general way - to go into a housing estate. We may not get the guidance all at once. If we begin to follow, more will come as and when it's needed.
  • They felt discouraged as nothing much seemed to be happening. It's easy to feel discouraged, but it's important not to give up.
  • Two were drawn to a particular house. There's no certainty about these things, but they went prepared to see what would happen. We all need to learn to do this.
  • They knocked on the door. We have to take the initiative, we have to go for it! There's no point in wimping out; if there's a door knock on it; if someone comes smile and speak to them. People are unlikely to approach us; we must approach them.
  • They asked if they could pray. Bless people, don't discuss the Bible or tell them they are on the path to death or that they need to repent. Bless them! How simple can this be? Pray, listen, care, love - those are the things we are called to do. God is love. If Jesus lives in me love will leak out everywhere I go.
  • They listened and prayed with her. Nuff said.
  • Someone gave them a bouquet. Expect things like this to happen. Don't take the flowers home and put them into a vase. They were given for a purpose, ask Jesus to reveal it.
  • They asked Jesus what to do and he told them. How important to trust him like this. He will not let us down. He is teaching us to trust and expect.
  • Two went back and delivered the flowers from Jesus. Not from us - from him. We need to invite him to live and act and speak through us. Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
  • More prayer, more listening, the right time. HalleluYah!
More? You want more? Good! Also read this Nomad item and then ponder a couple of questions.

Yahshua sent out the disciples in pairs and told them to share the good news, cast out demons, and heal the sick. In other words he told them to do what they had seen him do. (Luke 9:1-6)

Q1 - What does he want you to do?

Q2 - Oh, and while you're at it why not listen to some of the truly excellent stuff on the Nomad Podcast?

25 August 2010

RESPONSE - What inspires me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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