Showing posts with label glory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label glory. Show all posts

17 February 2012

The centrality of Christ

< Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry | Index | Oneness and reconciliation >

This article returns to the results of visiting Coventry Cathedral late last year and considers some aspects of  what it means for Jesus to be central in our lives. It's all about him.

The tapestry of Christ at CoventryBack in December I posted some reflections on my visit to Coventry Cathedral. I always intended to revisit those thoughts and now I'm beginning to see how it all fits into the bigger picture.

Jesus really is building his church, just as he promised he would. I'm seeing it now much more clearly.

I'm seeing it in what is happening in my own life and I'm seeing it in what others are writing, saying and doing. This is so exciting!

Here are the topics from the previous post in this series. I'm going to expand on the first one this time.

  • 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.

At Coventry - There was so much about Christ in the two cathedrals.

The enormous tapestry at the northern end of the new building is very striking. It is so large (it weighs more than a ton) that it dominates that end of the building and is clearly visible from every part of the nave.

One thought that was sparked by looking around the new cathedral was this - 'The view is very different depending whether you are looking towards me or away from me.' And that is so true of our view of Christ. He can only appear to have a central place if we are looking towards him. If we look away from him we will not see him at all!

There is also a strong theme of reconciliation in both old and new, and reconciliation is essential if we are to be one.

The centrality of Christ - It's just not possible to overstate the importance of this. If Jesus is not central in my life, who is in control? Often we fail to see what it means to have him central in our lives, or we begin to see but shudder and quickly move on to an easier topic.

What does it mean?

He said, 'Pick up your cross and follow me'. He said, 'I will build my church'. He said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life'. And he said, 'Nobody comes to the Father except through me'.

Some negatives - I must lose any ambition I have, and cease any attempt to make my life 'safe'. I have to give up what I regard as mine and see that it is all his - and always was. I have to die to self and I have to let go. I have been called to a new life and a new way of life. I have to see that if I lose my life while honouring Jesus that will be better for me than keeping my life. I have to understand that just as the world was implacably against him, so it will be against me too. I have to appreciate that with Jesus in charge my life may at times be very hard and unpleasant.

It's taken me a long, long time to discover that I am no good at managing my own life.

The positives - But if some of this sounds very negative, it's because I'm relating it from my point of view. What will we find if we view it from Christ's point of view? In John 17, just before he went out to be arrested in the olive grove, we are allowed a glimpse of Yahshua at prayer. We get to hear him setting out his deepest heart's desire before the Father.

In verses 1-19 he prays for his disciples, and there are one or two principles we should consider carefully.

  • In verse one, Jesus asks the Father to glorify him (the Son) so that he can give glory back to the Father. He cannot give what he does not have. Make a mental note of that. It's true for all of us, isn't it? We cannot give something we do not have. Remember that.
  • In verse two he makes it clear that he has authority over everyone.
  • In verse three he says that eternal life is to know the Father and the Son.

But from verse 20 to 24 he prays for you and me. He prays for everyone who believes in him because of his followers' words. In the light of the three principles listed above, we need to understand these next five verses in the deepest places of our hearts and minds. Here is where we find the positive set out for us!

  • He prays that we will all be one, just as he and the Father are one. Just as he is about to give himself into the hands of those who will kill him, his thought and prayer is for our unity. Do we attach as much value to unity as he does? We should! It is the first thing he asks for us at this terrible time. He puts it ahead of everything else - and so should we. Jesus is our unity! We are one in him, he is central. That is the only basis for our oneness. If we are not one in him, we are not one at all.
  • There is a purpose for our oneness. We are to be one so that the world may believe that the Father sent the Son.
  • And now hear his words in verse 22. These words will change your life forever if you allow them into your heart. 'I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.' Hang on a minute... The Father has given his glory to the Son. And now the Son is giving it to you? Why would he do that? 'So that they may be one as we are one.' If you stop reading at this point and just reflect on this single verse for the rest of the day, that is OK by me.

In the last two verses of this amazing chapter Jesus prays again for his followers.

What Jesus wants - Now ask yourself, what does Jesus want from us? The answer has to be unity with one another, doesn't it? And remember that first principle - we cannot give what we do not have. We cannot give Jesus what he wants from us unless we have unity with one another.

So if Jesus is to be central in our lives the implication and the requirement is that we are one people, one church.

He has given us the glory that the Father gave to him so that we may be one. Our unity is worth everything to him.

Remember the other two principles - he has authority over everyone - eternal life is to know the Father and the Son. That authority and that life are also ours if we are in Christ. Truly Christ is central.

He is majestic - His majesty arises from all of these things. That majesty cannot be separated from the glory that he receives and bestows, from the oneness we have in him, from his authority over all, or from his life that lasts forever.

'The Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.' (John 5:19)

'Apart from me', Jesus said, 'you can do nothing' (John 15:5).

< Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry | Index | Oneness and reconciliation >

27 October 2011

THOUGHT - Tent pegs in bronze?

In some correspondence recently I wrote, 'Let the Kingdom be extended. Spread the tent pegs wider still'. What did I mean by that? For some, the tent peg reference may be clear, for some it may seem odd.

Can anyone supply these in bronze?When I wrote, 'Let the Kingdom be extended', it was me speaking in my own words. I am hoping, praying, and expecting to see Christ's Kingdom extending further and wider and deeper in my own life and in the lives and activities of others near and far.

But what about those tent pegs?

Tent pegs are mentioned in the Bible. Paul was a tent maker and sometimes used his expertise to earn a living. That meant he was not always dependent on the help of the people in the local churches. Just like Peter, Andrew, James and John who were commercial fishermen, Paul's spiritual work reflected his trade. They became people catchers; Paul became a maker of shelters in the form of new churches. (I might come back to this idea in another article, it seems interesting.)


But tent pegs first appear in Exodus (see this Bible Gateway search for more details). The pegs were part of the Tabernacle, the place where Yahweh lived amongst his wandering people. The instructions are detailed - they are to be made of bronze. And notice Exodus 35:21...
'Everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to Yahweh for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.'
The church is also a kind of tent, a tabernacle. Just as the Tabernacle was a mobile, temporary precursor of the Temple that would later be built in Jerusalem, so the church is a mobile, temporary precursor of the Bride that is yet to be fully revealed. Just like the Temple to come, the Tabernacle contained an innermost place where Yahweh rested in utter glory.

And where is his glory contained in the church? In the heart of every member, every part of the body, poured out in abundance at Pentecost and still burning brightly in every follower of Jesus today. The power and the glory of the Most High, the Father and the Son and the Spirit, is contained in us. We are the bride of the Lamb. That power and that glory is intended to be manifest in us today. It always was, it always will be.

Israel wandered in the desert for forty long years, sometimes grumbling, suffering needlessly because they had refused to go straight in to the promised land. Has the church done this too? Are we afraid of  'the giants in the land'? What are our giants? What prevented us going straight in? What did Israel learn in the desert? What has the church learned in 2000 years of 'desert wandering'?

And finally, one more thing to consider. In 1971 (the year is not precise) a great outpouring of Holy Spirit power and glory was underway in a house church movement - but it came to nothing. Since then forty years have passed bringing us to 2011. Coincidence? Perhaps...

But back to those tent pegs. I was quoting from Isaiah 54. (The word 'stakes' in verse 2 (NIV) is translated pegs in, for example, the NASB.) We noticed this chapter in the late 1970s and spent some time thinking about it prayerfully. I believe this passage is about the church, the bride of the Lamb. Forty years on, is it time for a fresh start into the place of promise? What does it mean to enlarge, stretch, not hold back, lengthen, strengthen?

But this comes with a warning. None of it will happen if we are looking for power or glory. Instead we need to have a burning hunger for Jesus - and only for him. And everything we think and do must be not only in his name, but for his sake and for his glory.

I'd like to hear what others think about this. Please comment.

22 October 2011

THOUGHT - His presence

When we think about the Almighty's presence among his people, clearly there's a difference between his presence personally and his presence corporately. Yet the two are inextricably linked.

A glorious solar haloAs far as his personal presence is concerned, we know that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, lives within us. Jesus expressly tells the disciples to expect him. He turns up at Pentecost and rests on each one - like a flame. He also dramatically energises and activates the church and they go out boldly sharing the good news. (Up to that time they had been prayerful, yet grieving, fearful and probably very confused.)

But notice that they were together in one place when the Spirit came upon them. The personal presence came in the context of corporate activity. There is something special about unity itself. The Father, Son and Spirit are one - a community - the pattern for all community. So we are intended to be one, a community as close as theirs. And even more amazing, we are supposed to enter into their community; the Son wants to bring his bride into the family home.

I cannot be the bride of Christ any more than I could marry a toenail. If we are to be the bride isn't it obvious that we must first become one? My wife, for example, is an entire person, not merely a collection of disconnected body parts. (Does this remind anyone of Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones?)

How badly do we want his presence, will we do what he says? Jesus' prayer was that we should be one as he and the Father are one and that we should be one with them. Read it for yourself in John 17:20-26. And immediately after that, Jesus goes to the olive field to be arrested and killed. We are so important to him that we're in his prayers at that terrible and particularly distracting moment.

Notice what he says about glory. He wants us to see and receive his glory (verse 22) - had you noticed that? The glory is surely the Father's presence within us individually and corporately. Just as his glory appeared as the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud and led the gathered people of Israel through the desert, so when we are in the dark he gives us light and when we are in the light he gives us direction.

As locally gathered expressions of his body, let's turn away from what we want and begin to focus on what he wants. Will we choose to be one and receive his glory? And will we choose, not for our own sakes, but for his sake?

Whenever we are one for his sake he will illuminate us and give us direction and pour out his glory. The enemy knows this and will do anything to prevent it. But resist him and he runs away because he can't stand in Jesus' presence.

Here's a suggestion to try next time you meet. Drop any plans for structure, don't prepare anything, don't have anyone 'in charge'. Just agree to be quiet in his presence and individually focus on Jesus. When he puts a thought in your mind, or a picture, or a few words, or a Bible verse - share it and then wait for someone else to receive. Don't be anxious about 'awkward' silences, just focus back on Jesus and get ready to share whatever he gives you.

See what happens. And why not report back by posting a comment below?

22 September 2011

Eaton Ford - Walking in the garden

< 20th September 2011 | Index | 23rd September 2011 >

Three of us met and Donna joined us for a while for a chat over tea and coffee. We talked a lot, shared bread and wine together, read parts of John 17, and prayed together.

DovedaleTalking about events and experiences led me to an interesting thought. Yahshua has opened the chance for us to walk in the garden again with the Father in the cool of the day. This is what Adam and Eve did in the beginning but we have since broken away and have been unable to return to that place of blessing. But now because of what Yahshua has done we are free to walk there again - and that's what our Father wants. We are once again welcome in his presence! HalleluYah!

With this thought in our minds I broke the loaf in half and shared it, then later Jim prayed and passed round the glass of wine. We do this in Yahshua's memory as he asked.

As we began to talk again, Jim mentioned the recent case of cage fighting involving children. 'How low can we go?' was his thought. This led on to a further thought, 'How would we modify our behaviour today if we knew it was going to be our very last day?'

We also talked about our tendency to judge others - we do it all the time. Jim told us a story about this. He and Pam were walking up Dovedale recently and as they were leaving he saw some people who appeared rather unfit; they were also wearing inappropriate footwear. Imagine his surprise when they later appeared at the top of Dovedale having walked it, Jim thought, almost as fast and he and Pam had done! He immediately felt guilty about his judgement of them. In the end it turned out they had arrived by car and had not walked the valley path at all!

Sean remarked that we make pretty much instantaneous judgements about others.

Then I read parts of John 17, much of verses 6 to 26. Some of the phrases that stood out for me are...

  • I have given them your word and the world has hated them. (verse 14)
  • They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (verse 16)
  • I pray ... that all of them may be one. (verses 20-21)
  • I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one ... so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (verses 22-23)
How amazing! It will be our unity that will convince the world. We still have a very, very long way to go on that!


< 20th September 2011 | Index | 23rd September 2011 >

18 December 2002

Eaton Ford - Reflections

< No earlier items | Index | 20th January 2003 >

Our meeting reminded me of the seventh day of creation, when He rested. Even God desires quiet times!

The other bit I particularly remembered was 'it's not for us to do, but for Him to do in us' (RK)
Reflections in mirrors
Four of us met and the Holy Spirit led us very gently. We felt encouraged and uplifted, it was a peaceful and quiet time with a variety of words and pictures.

There was a wonderful picture of still water, with a reflection of the Almighty's glory clearly visible in it; the water also reflected images of us towards him. Our feet were in the water; and he said that we should be careful not to make disturbances as this would spoil the reflection, only if we stayed quiet and very still would we be able to see his reflected glory.

We also had a word that the easy things he wants done are overlooked by the great and the learned, while the difficult things are only ever attempted by the weak and foolish.

Thinking about this afterwards I realised that the great doubly miss out, they miss the easy things because they think they're not worth doing, and they miss the hard things because they realise they're too difficult to attempt. But the weak are doubly rewarded, they're glad to do the easy things and by their childlike faith and trust achieve the hard things too!

We came away encouraged and strengthened - it was a great evening!

< No earlier items | Index | 20th January 2003 >

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