04 December 2011

Blessings in the rain

Part 6 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< A rather difficult guest | Index | A pattern of blessing >

The latest visitor is very difficult to accept, but the Lord insists that Roy remains calm and patient. And when they reach the chapel it becomes clear that no intervention will be necessary.

Rain at Ffald-y-Brenin
In the previous extract, things were getting a little difficult for Roy. First he has to be patient while urgent business is put on hold, and then he struggles with the dirty stories being told by one of their latest visitors.

He soldiers on, offering hospitality despite the unpleasantness. But things are not about to get better! At least, not immediately.
I was ready to do some righteous rebuking - I didn't want this in Ffald-y-Brenin, in my house and in my kitchen - but God said to me, 'Don't you dare rebuke this man.' It was that clear. This worried me. It was not the prompting I wanted to hear. I wondered whether it was God's voice that I was discerning after all.

We heard a third filthy story and I explained more about the centre and what we believed about the presence of God there. When he got on to his fourth story I just wanted to be rid of them. But I had made a commitment to God in the previous weeks that if he brought people to the centre I would stop, however pressed I was, put them first and bless them. So I offered to show them round, hoping they would take the chance to make their escape and save me time and irritation. But his wife said yes, though the object of my wrath mumbled something about tagging along though not really being interested. I resisted the temptation to suggest he wait in the car.

The centre was packed with guests, so I walked them round via the outside paths, but we had to pass windows thrown open because of the heat of the day, and the stream of profane anecdotes did not slow down. Internally I was having an animated conversation with God: 'Please protect the hearing of the guests as this filth is paraded past their windows. Lord, I am committed to blessing this couple but this is a real struggle.'

I told them we were at the chapel, opened the door and ushered them in. The husband was in full obscene flow. Then he put one step on the stone floor of the chapel, fell headlong and began to cry like a baby. He cried out to God, 'I'm so sorry. I didn't know you were real. I've heard so much about you and not really believed, and not cared, but I didn't know you were real. Oh God, I'm so dirty. Oh God, how can you ever cleanse me? Oh God, can you ever have mercy on me?

His wife's legs had given way too, and she'd fallen very heavily onto the stone seating. She sat and wept. I quietly slipped out and let God do his work.*
There are some important things to notice in this extract from 'The Grace Outpouring'.

It was entirely natural that Roy should want to silence this most difficult of visitors. Most of us, in Roy's place, would have remonstrated with him or even asked the couple to leave and not return. We would have been wrong.

Father does not need our help in dealing with people. We cannot bring a person to belief. We may be able to bring a person into the Lord's presence but the rest is not for us to do. We will always need to love them and accept them as they are, warts and all. But it is not our role to change them, nor is it our role to reject them.

When the Lord deals with people, take a hint from Roy and avoid being in the way. Sometimes it may be right to remain physically present, but don't interfere. Watch and pray.

And concerning difficulties - remember that rain may seem disappointing, we might think it has spoiled our day. We prefer sunshine, but rain is a blessing too. Sunshine without rain causes deserts. Sunshine mixed with rain brings abundant growth.

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

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

< A rather difficult guest | Index | A pattern of blessing >

03 December 2011

The word of Yahweh

Part 5 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Speak to the bones | Index | The bones come together >

Now we come to the heart of the matter, here's the message that Ezekiel is to speak over the dry bones. They are to come to life!

A derelict church in Turkey
Before we look at the words themselves, let's briefly recap on what we've discovered so far.

The Israelites are in captivity in a foreign land and so is Ezekiel; we can see this as applying to the church as well. The world we live in is foreign and often at odds with the Kingdom of heaven.

Yahweh leads Ezekiel into a valley and shows him a lot of scattered bones, the remains of what was once alive. Ezekiel and the Almighty look at the bones very thoroughly. We need to go with Jesus and examine the state of the church carefully in just the same way; will we find life or dryness? And, like Ezekiel, we need to believe that Father can and will put back life into what has become dead. Recognising deadness and believing he will restore life are essential, not optional.

And now we must command what is dead, command the bones to hear what the Master says to them. 'Hear what the Lord says.' This is not only a command, it's also a declaration that the words we speak are indeed his words not our own. With that as background let's consider the words themselves.

'This is what the Lord Yahweh tells these bones: "I'll cause breath to come into you and you'll come alive. I'll attach tendons, cause flesh to appear on you and cover you over with skin. I'll put breath into you and you'll live - then you'll know that I'm Yahweh."' (Ezekiel 37:5-6)

It seems that one of the reasons Israel hadn't been treating Yahweh correctly was that they had not known him. Perhaps it was the overriding reason. You can almost hear the distress mingled with hope in the Lord's heart - 'Then you'll know that I'm Yahweh'. He wants a people who are not dry, scattered bones. He wants a people who know who he is and love him and treat him accordingly.

We need a right view of the Lord's power and authority and glory. We need a right view of his Father heart. We need to grasp the depth and height and breadth of his love for us. It was just the same in the time of Haggai. They had returned to the land of Israel at that time but they still didn't understand that their priority should be the Lord's well-being, not their own. If they had truly loved him they would have built his house. The problem is not the lack of building, but the lack of love that would have provoked building.

The word translated 'breath' is important. It is 'ruach' in Hebrew and it also means 'spirit'. He wants to fill us with breath so that we will live again. Or, he wants to fill us with his Spirit so that we will live again.

I believe that Father has a great volume of blessing and authority and effectiveness stored and ready to pour out on his people. But to some degree we will affect the timing. It will be poured out when we, the church, are ready. The question is - are we ready? And if not, is there anything we can do to come into that place of being ready?

< Speak to the bones | Index | The bones come together >

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.

01 December 2011

Western wall not built by Herod

Recent archaeological work suggests the Jerusalem Temple's Western Wall was built at least twenty years after the death of Herod the Great.

Large blocks of stone thrown down by the Romans
Two Roman coins dated to 17 AD were found in a mikveh (a ritual bath) underneath the bottom row of stone blocks of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Herod died 21 years earlier than this, so he cannot have been responsible for building the outer wall.

If this is right, then when the disciples discussed the Temple with Yahshua, the outer compound wall was only about ten years old; very possibly still under construction.

In some ways it makes the conversation even more striking. The Second Temple was the latest wonder, a fantastic piece of engineering, in some ways more than the equal of the Greek Parthenon or any of the buildings in Rome. Something to be proud of, a statement of the power of the Most High in the minds of all the people of Judea.

Yahshua left the Temple and was walking away when his awestruck, enthusiastic disciples came over to call his attention to its buildings. "Look, Master. See these huge blocks of stone, so new and beautifully fitted together! Just look at the amazing carvings and the expensive, donated ornament glorifying the Most High."

"Yes, just look at it all", he said. "In all seriousness I'm telling you that not one stone will be left standing on another, the whole lot will be thrown down". (Based on Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-6)

And that is exactly what happened. In 70 AD, less than 40 years later; the Roman army under Titus captured the city, tore down the Temple, and threw the stones over the wall where some of them lie to this day.

See also: Old coins force re-think on Jerusalem's Western Wall, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount Not Completed by King Herod

29 November 2011

Earls Barton - The light in the middle

< 22nd November 2011 | Index | 5th December 2011 >

It's been far too long since I visited my friends here. Jim and I drove over to spend the evening with them and we had a discussion followed by a sweet time guided and encouraged by the Spirit.

Light in the middleAt first we talked about a range of topics. I wondered how unusual meetings like this might be. I'm not aware of very many, and this is something being discussed more widely in recent months. (See for example articles by Felicity Dale, Ross Rohde, John White, Bobby Auner, and even me!)

We also discussed prayer for healing and recognised that both the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit are necessary. Healing is good, but gentleness, grace and kindness are also necessary.

And we thought about grace in the sense that we find it hard to receive, often preferring to try to do everything for ourselves.

Then we moved on to a time of listening and sharing - here are some aspects that appealed to me personally.

Barbara read Isaiah 26:3 where we are told that he will keep in perfect peace those whose thoughts are fixed on him. This encouraged Jim to share a story about helping someone after a heart attack in which Isaiah 38:1-5 played a part.

Rachael shared a picture, she saw what seemed to be an aquarium with fish swimming in it, but as she looked she saw that the scene was really amongst the roots of a tree growing on a riverbank. There were flying insects in the water, too, although of course they would not normally inhabit that environment.

She felt the picture represented people who don't normally meet. But perhaps they might in special circumstances. She felt three strands stood out amongst these intertwined roots, someone with growing faith, someone with no faith, and the Father. Jody imagined the roots of the tree were like an umbilical cord with three strands in it.

Jim saw that Rachael needs to be encouraged and should be expectant.

Jody described a sunset she had seen recently. There was a line of bright light between heavy cloud above and the dark world below. The Lord is in the middle, he is the Light.

Glenn spoke about a 24 hour cycle of light and dark, he saw someone cowering down at night. But even the darkness is like light to the Lord.

Rachael had a sense that now is the time. He wants to deal with us now - not in our past, not in our future, but right now in this moment.

And I thought how appropriate it is that Yahweh told Moses that his name is 'I AM'. He is our light now, he doesn't deal with us in terms of our past or our future because he is I AM, he is our 'light in the middle'.

< 22nd November 2011 | Index | 5th December 2011 >

A rather difficult guest

Part 5 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< A pattern of blessing | Index | Blessings in the rain >

Visitors keep arriving at Ffald-y-Brenin, wanting to know what happens in this beautiful Welsh retreat centre. Roy and Daphne find that visitors are sometimes inconvenient or even difficult.

A door latch at Ffald-y-Brenin
Last time we heard how Roy came to see that visitors were an answer to his prayer. A regular pattern of blessing developed as visitors arrived daily at Ffald-y-Brenin. This seems a good thing, they like and enjoy what is happening and pray for more.

They do get more, but perhaps not exactly what they had bargained for.
It wasn't always straightforward. One afternoon I was interrupted by a knock at the door, and there stood another enquiring couple. Faced with a deadline for posting a form, I was internally wavering; but our hospitality habit prevailed and the kettle went on for tea. We did the tour, got to the chapel, but even before I could pray the prayer of blessing they were visibly touched by the Holy Spirit. I slipped away to post my form. Later I was able to talk with them and explain what God had been doing.

As they walked away to their car another couple walked towards me. 'No! I've got to get this work finished,' I thought, even as I outwardly smiled. 'Lord, I haven't got time for this now; please turn the flow off!'

I explained to the couple that I was a little pressed but asked how I could help. I wasn't anticipating the man's response: 'I was driving along, going through the valley, enjoying this beautiful summer afternoon, and the weirdest thing happened when I got to your drive. I've held my driving licence for over forty years, but I was compelled to come up your drive, and I'm absolutely convinced that if I'd taken my hands off the wheel, it would have just turned and the car would've found its way up here. I don't understand it. I've never experienced anything like it. Could you please tell us what on earth's going on here?'

I explained that we were a Christian retreat centre, a place where the presence of God comes and people's lives are changed because they encounter him.

'How interesting,' he said. 'That reminds me of the story of the bishop and the prostitute.'

By now we were at the kitchen table, and he was telling a pornographic story, while his wife just went pink.

I was finding all of this very difficult but nevertheless I offered them a cup of tea. To my intense disappointment they said yes. While the kettle was boiling he told another story that was even worse than the first one.*

Roy and Daphne are in the middle of an amazing time of blessing. People have been arriving every day for weeks, asking about the work at Ffald-y-Brenin, and having unexpected and dramatic encounters with the Mighty One.

But they are learning that blessing is sometimes inconvenient and can even be hard to handle. There are useful lessons here for all of us.

Suppose Roy had said to the first couple: 'Sorry, I've no time to see you as I have urgent business to finish. Form to post off and the deadline's today, you know the kind of thing. Can you come back another day?' Or suppose he'd looked at his watch and said: 'Yes, yes, come on in. Now what do you want? I have only a couple of minutes.' Or perhaps he might have spoken the right words but with just a hint of irritation or impatience.

It's likely the moment would have passed, the blessing would have been missed, two people would have gone away as empty as they had arrived.

The take away message is that we should pray fervently for blessing and we should expect to receive it - but we should not have preconceived notions of what it will look like when it comes, and we should guard against impatience and irritation.

The fact is, Father will answer our prayers on his terms and in his way - not ours. Our role is to accept what comes with deep gratitude, whatever it looks like.

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

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

< A pattern of blessing | Index | Blessings in the rain >

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