07 November 2011

Brampton - A vision of Christ

< 29th October 2011 | Index | 14th November 2011 >

It's been a while since we last met, but tonight the Holy Spirit once again opened up great truth for us. This evening he reminded us of who Jesus is and what he is like. We were caught up into heaven, it was a time of rich and undeserved revelation.

An interlocking pattern, by MC EscherI've just finished Frank Viola's 'Epic Jesus' and was intrigued by his first person modification of Colossians 1:15-22, so I read it aloud.
I am the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in me all things were created: things in heaven and things on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through me and for me. I am before all things, and in me all things hold together. And I am the head of the body, the church; I am the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything I might have the supremacy, the preeminence, the first place. For God the Father was pleased to have all of his fullness dwell in me, and through me to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through my blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now my Father has reconciled you by my physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

Sean commented that he often sees things in these terms anyway, and as the evening wore on we kept coming back to the fact that Christ is at the heart of all we are and do.

I had the thought that every home has repeating patterns everywhere. They are on wallpapers, curtains, floor coverings, bathroom tiles and so forth. And Father said, 'The repeating pattern in my house is my Son'. And it seemed to Sean that the pattern of Christ interlocks with itself somehow, rather like an Escher drawing.

Sean observed that the wise man built his house on the rock, so our house should always be patterned on Jesus. This morning Sean was reading from 2 Samuel 23:1-5 and saw that King David had seen this same pattern.

Then I described how technologies consist of components that consist of components and Sean extended this thought by saying that Christ is a component of himself. He is the entire structure yet he is made of himself. He is in each one, yet together we are his body. We need many things to perform just one function, but he needs only one thing to perform many functions.

The flow of thoughts carried on. I mentioned that a photograph only shows something from one angle, but the object itself can be seen from many angles. If we only see a 'snapshot' of Jesus there'll be much that remains hidden that we cannot see.

Pondering further on 2 Samuel 23:4 I thought about the sunrise on a cloudless morning. First the stars are overwhelmed and vanish one by one, the dimmest disappear first. Then the shadow of the Earth is carried away like a cover, visibly moved across the dome of the sky. And then the beautiful, pink 'Belt of Venus' appears right around the horizon until finally the sun rises and illuminates everything with the brightness of day.

And this is absolutely what Christ has done. He overwhelms all lesser lights (human wisdom and reason and learning). He is carrying away the darkness of the world like a curtain drawn aside. He is beautiful and causes beauty to be reflected from every direction. And finally he will arise and illuminate everything as his day arrives.

Then Sean read 2 Samuel 24:1-17 and we thought about this difficult passage for a while. Even here David seems to prefigure Christ. He is the shepherd of the people and offers to take their punishment.

And finally, thinking about Jesus again we understood that when he was anointed with fragrant nard (Mark 14:3, John 12:3) it would have dripped off his head and feet and soaked into the earthen floor of the house. The fragrance would have remained for weeks or months as a reminder. People would have thought, 'Ah yes, this is where she anointed him with nard'.

He is at the heart of all we are and do. He is a repeating pattern in our lives. He is the whole structure yet he is also in every part, every living stone. We see him only from one angle, much is hidden. He is like the rising sun, overwhelming other lights, carrying away worldly darkness, bringing great beauty, illuminating everything. He is our Shepherd and has taken our punishment. We still sense his fragrance after 2000 years.

What a Lord!

< 29th October 2011 | Index | 14th November 2011 >

A sense of direction

Part 1 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< No earlier items | Index | A step forward >

Here are the first few paragraphs of 'The Grace Outpouring', an amazing book from south-west Wales. Roy explains how he was misled by his view of Father's purpose for his life.

A meal at Ffald-y-BreninI first read 'The Grace Outpouring' and wrote a short review more than a year ago. Since that time I have given away many copies to friends and have found over and over again that it has found a special place in their hearts, challenged them, encouraged them, and sometimes deeply affected them.

So now I want to present the first few paragraphs of Chapter 1, 'We Bless You in the Name of Jesus'.
I was desperate. Despite a series of miracles that had enabled my wife Daphne and me to become directors of a beautiful Welsh Christian retreat centre I was frightened that I had made a mistake. As I thought about it I realised that for the first time in maybe thirty-five years, several months had passed during which I hadn't clearly brought somebody to the knowledge of Jesus. I believed I had a calling on my life to bring people to Jesus, so what was happening?

I wasn't to know it but God was hours away from showing me some unexpected answers. In the meantime the frustration mounted. It had been partly provoked by my visit to a business conference in Pembroke in the west of Wales. I had spent the day with 200 businessmen and women. I was at home among them. This was the type of pool I had fished in for most of my life.

As I reflected on my suit-clad outing to the hotel on the estuary the agitation grew. Instead of being with the Christians who came to the centre to recharge and reflect I needed to be with those who had no clear Christian understanding and commitment. I decided the only thing I could do was leave the centre.

The next morning I sat in our farmhouse-style kitchen and poured out, with some passion, the details of my agitated day with the businessmen to my ever-patient wife: 'It's just no good. I cannot stay here any longer. I need to immerse myself in the everyday lives of people without a Christian faith so I can just be me and share my faith with them.'*

How many of us  have repeatedly come to places like this in our lives? How many times have I thought I knew his plan for me only to discover that he had moved on but I had not? (The answer to that question is, 'more times than I care to mention'!) Perseverance is a good thing, deafness and stubbornness are not. Sticking to my view of Papa's purpose can be misleading.

And having got into this place, like Roy we tend to dump our frustration and anxiety onto those around us.

But Father didn't leave Roy in this place of confusion, nor will he leave you or me in a place like that. If you read the book you will quickly see that things were resolved quite soon afterwards and in a really extraordinary way.

As you can see, the book is very readable. The story it tells is touching hearts and changing lives all over the world. My advice? Get hold of a copy and read it.

Read a brief review (includes several ways to buy a copy of the book).

*Copyright 2008 Roy Godwin, Dave Roberts. The Grace Outpouring published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.

< No earlier items | Index | A step forward >

RESPONSE - The nature of technology

I've just finished a book called 'The Nature of Technology' by W Brian Arthur. It's an interesting read and unexpectedly sparked some thoughts about how we perceive the nature of the church.

The book's cover'The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves' examines technology as a subject. It goes way beyond any other treatments of technology that I've read. There are many books about particular technologies (the steam engine, the computer, molecular engineering) but Brian Arthur has analysed the nature of technology itself.

Towards the end of the book, Professor Arthur discusses our ambivalent attitudes towards technology. At one time technology was seen to bring order and was regarded as almost heroic.
In the time of Descartes we began to interpret the world in terms of the perceived qualities of technology: its mechanical linkages, its formal order, its motive power, its simple geometry, its clean surfaces, its beautiful clockwork exactness. These qualities have projected themselves on culture and thought as ideals to be used for explanation and emulation.
But since those days, further development has resulted in technology that is fundamentally more fluid, organic, and adaptable. If you want to understand why you will have to read the book, there is no room to give the necessary detail here. But Arthur writes
Our interpretation of the world is ... becoming more open and organic; and ... technology has a part in this shift. ... Not only is our understanding of the economy changing to reflect a more open, organic view. Our interpretation of the world is also becoming more open and organic; and again technology has a part in this shift.
Interestingly, I think we can see the same trend in our attitude to church life.

In Victorian times church was highly structured and hierarchical. Clergy (at least the better ones) worked hard to create learned, reasoned sermons, missions were like well-oiled machines. Military precision was applied to the task of meeting social need; the Salvation Army and the Church Army went so far as to adopt military-style uniforms as well as military names and ranks.

But by the 1960s there were early signs of change as some people began experimenting with informal, organic, more flexible ways of meeting. The home environment and smaller groups were popular on the developing fringes of church. This trend has accelerated during the last five decades as George Barna's recent statistics show very clearly in the USA. But the trend is affecting church life in many other parts of the world too.

Here's Brian Arthur again.
... we are now aware that as mechanisms become interconnected and complicated, the worlds they reveal are complex. They are open, evolving, and yield emergent properties that are not predictable from their parts. The view we are moving to is no longer one of pure order. It is one of wholeness, an organic wholeness, and imperfection.
That final sentence seems very relevant to church life in 2011 - 'an organic wholeness' coexisting with the imperfect. Perfection is in Christ, and Christ in us. Without him there is no perfection - not in me nor in us corporately. And quoting again.
We are replacing our image of perfection with an image of wholeness, and within that wholeness a messy vitality. This shift in thinking has more to do with the influence of evolutionary biology and the exhaustion of the simple mechanistic view than with any influence from modern technology. But it is reinforced nonetheless by the qualities of modern technology: its connectedness, its adaptiveness, its tendency to evolve, its organic quality.
And reading about the early church in Acts, and even the embryonic 'church' during Jesus' lifetime, we can see an absence of perfection but a very clear 'messy vitality'. Perhaps it's also true to say that we have exhausted simple, mechanistic approaches to being church. Maybe the words connectedness, adaptiveness, and organic are very suitable ones to apply to church today.

Here's another short extract in which I've replaced the word 'technology' with the word 'church'. 'Instead of fitting itself to the world, church seeks to fit the world to itself.'

Hasn't this been true historically? We have tried to force the world into our mould. But that doesn't work; it cannot work. We had better learn to fit ourselves to the world instead. Isn't that what Jesus did, and the early church? Jesus  was always relevant to people in their ordinary lives - fishermen, tax collectors, adulterers, foreigners, farmers, bridegrooms who'd ordered insufficient wine, the hungry, the sick, even Roman officers. This was in stark contrast with the stuffy, arcane, restrictive teachings of the religious establishment at that time.

What do you think? I welcome your comments.

(By the way, I highly recommend 'The Nature of Technology' for its wonderful analysis of technology and the economy. What I have written above is merely a diversion, some thoughts on another topic sparked by reading the book.)

06 November 2011

The Grace Outpouring - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

A view of Ffald-y-BreninRoy and Daphne Godwin run a retreat centre at Ffald-y-Brenin in Pembrokeshire. 'The Grace Outpouring' explains how they came to be there and describes some of the amazing events that have taken place as Jesus works amongst them and their visitors.

By kind permission of the publishers, here is chapter one of the book in twelve parts with comment and images.

  1. A sense of direction - Roy misunderstands the Father's purpose for his life.
  2. A step forward - Daphne suggests Roy should pray
  3. Unexpected visitors - Surprised by a sense of the Almighty's presence
  4. A pattern of blessing - Another couple arrives at Ffald-y-Brenin
  5. A rather difficult guest - Visitors are sometimes inconvenient or even difficult.
  6. Blessings in the rain - The Lord insists that Roy remains calm and patient.
  7. A pattern of blessing - Roy and Daphne start to look outwards.
  8. We bless you from... here! - A new tradition of blessing prayer.
  9. The abundant results of prayer - Reports from the neighbours.
  10. Grace outpouring - Grace can pour out from us as it does from our Father.
  11. Like light on the water - More on grace and blessing to others.
  12. A royal priesthood - The biblical background to blessing.

04 November 2011

THOUGHT - A pottery lesson

< No earlier items | Be like your Father >

Sometimes a piece of writing can be reworded in a way that makes it fresh and new. And setting the words to music may give them an ability to soak deeply into the heart where they can have real impact. 

A potter's wheelThe words - Here are some words that have been treated in this way. 'The Potter's Song' by Jonathan Asprey.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying...

Go down to the house of the potter
Watch him work the clay
Listen to what I say as you watch him
Go down to the house of the potter
Watch him turn the wheel
Know that's how I feel as I'm working.

That is how I need to mould you
Form a vessel in my hand
Just to let me have and hold you
Break you, make you to my plan

Go down to the house of the potter
Watch him work the clay
Listen to what I say as you watch him
Go down to the house of the potter
Watch him turn the wheel
Know that's how I feel as I'm working.

For I need these earthen vessels
Filled with life that overflows
Put my treasure in earthen vessels
Then the skill of the potter shows.

...so I went down to the house of the potter. And there he was, working at his wheel. Sometimes the vessel would spoil in his hands and he would rework it, as it was fitting for him to do.
Thanks go to the Community of Celebration for permission to use the lyrics.

The Song - And here is a YouTube video with the Fisherfolk singing the song, perhaps even with Jonathan Asprey on guitar. Much of their music is still available from the Community of Celebration's online store. (The Potter's Song is on the album Celebrate the Whole of it.)

What do these words, written 2600 years ago, speak into your heart today? Having read them and heard them, what will you be doing differently as a result?

We are clay in his hands, being reformed by him. We could not be in safer, more caring hands!

If I am willing, he will take me as I am, soften me, and mould me, and form me into what he wants me to be.

The history - Written in Hebrew more than 2600 years ago, the words were first translated direct from Hebrew into English as part of King James I's Authorized Version of the Bible (AV) and have since been translated many more times in a variety of English versions. (Versions prior to the AV were translated from Greek or Latin, not direct from Hebrew.)

Here they are in the New International Version (Jeremiah 18:1-6).
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 'Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message'. So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the LORD came to me: 'O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does? declares the LORD. Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel'.
The song uses these thoughts rewritten as poetry. The application is an interpretation in which Yahweh's people in those days (Israel) are understood to represent his people today. The words apply to all his followers down the years. He will shape us as he sees fit.

See also:

< No earlier items | Be like your Father >

02 November 2011

THOUGHT - Some old letters

Sometimes I see something that takes my thoughts deeper than normal everyday life. It happened again this morning as I was checking some local news. A bag of letters left at a charity shop in St Neots told an unexpected story.

Article in the News and CrierThe News and Crier carried an unusual story about a large collection of Victorian letters. They'd been handed in to the Oxfam charity shop in St Neots High Street - what a surprise for the staff who spotted them!

It soon became apparent that these letters told the story of a family over a twenty-three year period in the Victorian era. The detailed tale of life is sometimes hard, sometimes happy, sometimes very sad. Here's a short extract from the News and Crier article.
Sarah’s letters are quite heartbreaking: she writes to Allen about the death of Louisa’s son Joe, and about her own son Adrian: “I cannot see him improve. I don’t believe he is worse. I myself am so afraid it might turn to consumption.”
And you know there has been a death when the paper is edged with black.
What sticks with you is their obvious love and respect for each other. It’s touching that, even in ink, their affection has been safeguarded for so long.

Isn't that amazing? Life went on then much as it does today and all that remains are some scraps of paper with a few things that the people wanted to communicate to one another. All those heartaches and joys, all that experience lived, condensed to a few words that were almost lost.

Will anything more than that remain of my physical life a hundred years from now? Probably not!

It brings life into sharp focus, doesn't it. Life is temporary and short, we can take nothing with us when we leave just as we brought nothing on arrival.

Here is something Jesus said two thousand years ago: 'Everyone who drinks this [well] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'

I think that in this short life words like that deserve a second look. What do you think?

(Those words are from the book of John, you can read more online.)


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