31 December 2011

Systems of measurement

Everyone is familiar with measuring things, but two American authors have taken systems of measurement to what might be a logical conclusion. Their paper is a good read for anyone with a little science background.

Measuring devices
When we think of measurement most of us think of rulers, tape measures, kitchen and bathroom scales, filling up with petrol or how much paint to buy to redecorate the lounge. And it's true - all of these things involve measurement.

But when we talk about a system of measurement we are referring to a coherent, complete and consistent set of defined units that will allow us to measure anything. The best known system of measurement is the SI standard that has been officially adopted by every nation apart from the USA, Liberia and Myanmar. Amongst older systems of measurement the CGS, Imperial and Avoirdupois (mass units only) are some of the best known. And historically there have been many systems going way back to ancient Babylonian times and before.

30 December 2011

Prophecy to the breath

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

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

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

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

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

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

29 December 2011

The abundant results of prayer

Part 9 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< We bless you from... here! | Index | Grace outpouring >

Soon there is ample evidence that trusting, expectant prayer brings results. The community at Ffald-y-Brenin begin to hear extraordinary stories from their neighbours up and down the valley.

A poppy in PembrokeshireRoy and the others at Ffald-y-Brenin have been discovering the value of simply praying for blessing on local people, places and businesses. Now they start to witness the results of this prayer.

There are some remarkable stories and Roy shares from them in the next section of the book.
Before long we began to see the fruit of these prayers in quite miraculous ways. A man who rented a small stable in the community and did agricultural repairs had not been finding things easy. After we began blessing the valley in the name of Jesus his business suddenly began to take off. He had to take on larger premises and employ people and was able to buy his own house.

26 December 2011

Recycling Christmas tree lights


In China, waste Christmas tree lights are converted into chopped copper and brass for reuse and plastic feedstock for slipper soles.

Christmas tree lightsChina has become a powerhouse for recycling, and they're now making great strides in terms of cleaner, more environmentally-friendly recycling.

The insulation on junked electrical cable used to be burned off so that the copper could be extracted for refining and reuse. But today, in China, the plastic insulation is recovered and sold as a feedstock for shoe sole manufacturers. Even the water used in the processing is reused in the plant, nothing is dumped back into the environment.

The factory described in this article and video on 'The Atlantic' website takes in unwanted Christmas tree lights, sells copper, brass and plastic feedstock,  and consumes only electrical energy and a modest amount of water which is returned to the atmosphere as vapour.

That is a shining (groan) example of how waste can, and should, be handled. The biggest downside I can see in this is the energy cost of shipping the material halfway around the world rather than disposing of it locally.

23 December 2011

Atlas detector built in Lego

A Lego model of the huge ATLAS detector at CERN has been built by Sascha Mehlhase. The model itself is intricate and took a lot of work to design and build.

ATLAS in Lego
ATLAS has been in the news recently. It's a huge particle detector at the European particle physics lab CERN on the Swiss/French border. It's been in the news because it has found encouraging evidence for the Higgs boson, a much sought-after fundamental particle predicted by the leading theory of particle physics, the Standard Model. That model stands or falls on the existence or absence of the Higgs.

The detection of the Higgs is fundamental in every sense of the word, but it is not yet secure. The evidence from ATLAS is not yet adequate - a strong hint rather than a definite find. But ATLAS will collect more data next year and that should be enough to decide for sure.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a vast machine and ATLAS (just one of the LHC's detectors) is itself a very large and expensive multi-storey construction.

Sascha Mehlhase has built a model of Atlas entirely of Lego bricks, quite an achievement in itself. The design and construction took more than eighty hours work and contains nearly ten thousand bricks.

21 December 2011

Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry

< Coventry Cathedral | Index | The centrality of Christ >

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

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

The major themes I have identified are...

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

20 December 2011

Resources

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Links to websites, blogs, and other online resources.

Major resources

Blogs - See the list in the right hand column for more

Topics

Organic Wine - [ Home | Bible | Resources | CO2 | Topics | About ]

This page attempts to track blog posts and articles grouped by topic. The lists will help you read material from multiple sources on the same theme, all focussed on the 'Organic Wine' topic of exciting change as Jesus builds his church.

A selection of words from this pageHere are some blog posts and articles grouped by topic (most recent at the top within each topic). Articles are included in more than one place when appropriate.

You can treat these as reading lists if you start at the bottom of a topic, or news updates if you start at the top. Dates of publication and blog authors are included.

Authority

Building the church



19 December 2011

NEWS - To read and ponder

Here are three news items for you, there's a new report on simple church and the good news, Chris Duffett has something different to say in an interview, and there are some thoughts about why young people leave church.A megaphone
  • Mission Britain - The group published a report 'Simple/Organic/House/Missional Church in the UK and Ireland 2011' just a few days ago. I'll respond to their findings as soon as I can, meanwhile you can read the report online.
  • Chris Duffet - An interesting video interview lasting just over 8 minutes. Listen especially to the last part (from 6.00 minutes onwards). I just love this - what a guy!
  • Barna Group - This is a report from March 2011, and although it's not new it caught my eye. It seems right to share it again now. It lists six reasons that young people leave church. We should think about all of them, but 'Churches come across as antagonistic to science' stands out as something I'd like to comment on when I can.

16 December 2011

We bless you from... here!

Part 8 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< A pattern of blessing | Index | The abundant results of prayer >

This time we hear how the community at Ffald-y-Brenin eased into a habit and pattern of blessing the whole area around them. They asked the Lord to share out his abundant life more widely.

Blessing the land and its inhabitantsIn part 7 we heard more from Roy on the importance of letting the Lord himself work in people. And a new pattern developed of looking outward from Ffald-y-Brenin and blessing those in the wider community. In this part he elaborates on that.
Gradually a structure emerged as we continued in our new tradition of blessing prayer and we now pray in that pattern as a matter of course. We pray for people and we pray for households. We speak into every household, blessing it in the name of Jesus. We're not interceding; we're speaking to them in the name of Jesus.

15 December 2011

Sinew, muscle and skin

Part 7 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< The bones come together | Index | Prophecy to the breath >

Ezekiel watches as sinew, muscle and skin transform the newly organised bones into complete bodies. What might be the sinew, muscle and skin of church and are these sufficient?

Complete bodies
Now the bones are all in order and correctly arranged, the stage is set for the next steps. Ezekiel is still watching and he tells us what he sees.

'Before my very eyes sinew and muscle appeared on them and skin covered them, but they weren't breathing.' (Ezekiel 37:8)

Ezekiel has seen a remarkable change! What began with dry, dusty bones has now become dead bodies. Although there is no life, the structure has changed. Lets see what we can tease out of this.

First we need to remember that the bones form the framework of a body, the first thing that happened was that the framework was restored to the way it needed to be.

12 December 2011

Brampton - Trust and faith

< 5th December 2011 | Index | 3rd January 2012 >

Beginning with a thought about the nature of the Most High, we were led to consider how he changes everything, our lack of trust in him, what it means to have faith, and the goal of one church.

The fruit of the Spirit is, obviously, the fruit of his Spirit. Therefore this same fruit will be expressed in the nature of the Father and of the Son and the fruit can be taken as a description of them. Here is the fruit again from Galatians 5:22-23 - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. That is what he is like.

A small stream
He gave us a word. 'Everything that is lost will be found, every single thing that was ever broken will be mended. Everything big will be shrunk until it's small, every small thing will become big. I'm turning everything upside down and inside out. Foolishness will become wisdom, the wise will be shown to be foolish.'

Then I saw an ant trail, but these ants didn't wander about like normal ants, they followed one another in a precise straight line. And I saw that if each ant carried a single grain of sand, given time they would be able to move a mountain. I looked up 'ant' and found it in Proverbs 6:6-8 and again in 30:24-25.

What is the Organic Wine tab?

Organic Wine - [ Home | Bible | Resources | CO2 | Topics | About ]

No, we're not trying to sell you a bottle to accompany a fine meal - it's just a name. We look at wineskins and wine in terms of church life.

Red wineWhat's the Organic Wine tab all about? - There are early signs of a major change in organic church, not in the way it's organised or the principles behind it (person of peace, oikos, new church, networks) but in what happens as we meet. Only Father knows where he is leading us, our place is to enjoy the journey and give him all the glory for whatever he may do. This 'Organic Wine' tab is here to facilitate sharing about these things.

Wineskins and Wine - Let's define 'organic' church very loosely, generally we have in mind something small with the feel of family about it - friends in close community, brothers and sisters caring for one another. We also see organic church as something alive, its members going out into the world actively looking to share the good news, make disciples, and encourage them to gather as further, new, living expressions of church.

11 December 2011

The way forward

Something is going on, tectonic activity in the foundations of church. Yahshua is moving his people into something new again. He is leading me, I think, to collect material, collate it and make it available.

A new day dawning For some time I've been aware of the Holy Spirit nudging me in a particular direction. It's as if he's been urging me to move but I haven't always known what to do about it. But now things are becoming clearer for me and I feel I can share them a little more widely.

Back in the late summer, Tony and Felicity Dale were visiting Nettle Hill in the UK (see also the afternoon session and a meeting in Coventry). I contacted them beforehand to see if we could meet up and we were able to spend an afternoon together in the Cotswolds. We had a pub lunch and spent some time chatting.

I explained what I was experiencing. I told them that I felt there was a new move of the Holy Spirit coming, that we were at the beginning of a new phase. Over the last decade or so there's been a great move towards simplicity and organic growth in the church. In particular the CO2 and Luke 10:2 ideas, and a sense of the value of listening and hearing seem to be centrally important. Also I have felt more and more convinced that there'll be a major return of the gifts and fruit of the Spirit in every aspect of church life.

I was encouraged and excited to discover that they felt much the same. I don't mean to put words into their mouths, and they will speak for themselves, but I can tell you what I am hearing from the Lord.

After they returned to the USA I've had some correspondence, mainly with Felicity. They have been led to prayerfully examine the book of Haggai, and Felicity has blogged on that topic several times. I have been feeling the need to delve into Ezekiel. All three of us have been impacted by Roy Godwin's book The Grace Outpouring - the publishers have kindly allowed me to publish extracts from the first chapter.

One need I feel acutely is to create a space on the web for discussion around these things. I set up Organic Wine, a wiki, for that purpose. But it has never felt quite the right thing. And just a few days ago I visited Coventry Cathedral and the Spirit poured out more for me to ponder.

My mind is more settled now, things are becoming clearer. It's like a new day dawning out of the mist. Partly as a result of Coventry I now think that Organic Wine is not the way forward. Instead I'm going to move that information here, onto All About Jesus. It won't be open to editing here, but it will form a repository of material on the internet that I believe will be fundamental and important.

There are other voices saying similar or related things and I'll point you to them whenever I can. The discussion will take place, not on a special wiki site, but in the to and fro of comments on many of the blogs out there, at meetings, and via other internet facilities. This is already happening and I don't think another website is either necessary or helpful at this stage.

The next step (at least for me) is to reorganise the CO2 tab on this blog so that it becomes much wider and more general in nature. Watch this space!

10 December 2011

A pattern of blessing

Part 7 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< Blessings in the rain | Index | We bless you from... here! >

Roy explains the importance of slipping away to let the Holy Spirit deal with people directly and personally. And a pattern of prayer for blessing is set, not only for visitors but for the local area too.

Looking beyond Ffald-y-BreninLast time we saw how important it was to persevere despite the difficulties visitors might bring with them. And in the end the Holy Spirit would step in and take over. Roy shares why this is important.
This slipping away was an important part of our ethos. I wanted people to have direct dealings with God. When visitors left we didn't want them to feel that there was somebody at Ffald-y-Brenin who had led them and taught them, to whom they must speak when they had difficulties in the future. I wanted people to know that God himself had come and met with them, and that he was able to convict and counsel them, and that they could speak to him directly - they didn't need to be taught 'special words' to pray. If I had been present through these encounters they might have asked how to pray or been scared to admit that they didn't know how to. Afterwards, when people would come to tell us their stories of wonder and weeping, we would explain and encourage, offering them a context for what had happened and suggesting how to find out more about God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

09 December 2011

Coventry Cathedral

< No earlier items | Index | Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry >

On a trip to Coventry today, I visited the old and new cathedrals, expecting to hear from the Holy Spirit while I was there. But he began pouring out thoughts before I left and continued after I arrived home. He delights in abundance!

Remains of stained glassI spent much of today in Coventry, visiting the Cathedral. There are actually two buildings, the old cathedral and the new cathedral, they stand side by side linked by a canopy. The old one is a ruin, destroyed by fire during a night of German bombing in World War II. The new one is the replacement built in the 1950s and 60s. My reason for going was that I have felt for a few weeks that Father wanted me to visit and that he would speak to me while I was there. And he did.

This was the first day that has been both free in my diary and forecast to be sunny. It seemed important to go on a sunny day.

08 December 2011

The broken pot

A broken pot made me think about the church. Repairing the pot was tricky, but putting together the fragmented Humpty-Dumpty church in St Neots would be far, far harder.

A couple of weeks ago we had a bad storm during the night. In the morning one of the patio pots had blown over and the bay tree it contained was sprawled out horizontally. The bay was soon rescued and planted in the garden, but the pot was badly broken.

Normally I would have disposed of the pot and bought a new one. But this pot was rather special.

When Donna and I were married in 1998, our friends Tony and Faith ordered it as a wedding present. Not only was it made specially, it has our names and the date fired into the hand-decorated surface.

The pot just had to be rescued, so out came the Araldite and I spent some time yesterday glueing the shards back together. I learned a lot while doing the work.

For a start, you can't put the pieces together in a random sequence. Experiment (without glue) showed it would be easy to stick one piece back only to make it impossible to fit the next one. Also, it took gentle persuasion to get a snug fit. And I discovered that the adhesive itself takes a certain amount of space, only a little perhaps, but it mounts up and is significant towards the end.

The photos show some of my progress. The pot is now complete once more although the cracks are clearly visible. With some careful use of terracotta filler I hope to make them a lot less noticeable.

06 December 2011

Be like your Father

< A pottery lesson | No later items >

I think it will be useful to share the words of another Fisherfolk song, this one from 1979. The track (and the album) is called 'Be like your Father' and it's always been one of my favourites.

Part of the LP cover for 'Be like your Father'It's so easy to live my life with 'me' at the centre. It's called being self-centred and it's not a good thing, not a good thing at all. Yahshua calls us to be other-centred, not self-centred. In fact, I need to live a life focussed first on Father, and then on all those around me. That includes my enemies. What a challenge!

'Be like your Father' is based on Yahshua's own words as reported by Matthew (chapter 5:43-48)

So here are the words of the song. The image shows the album cover.
But I say unto you...

Love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you.
Give to those who ask, don't turn away. And

05 December 2011

Brampton - Elijah and Elisha

< 29th November 2011 | Index | 12th December 2011 >

This evening we dip into 2 Kings and make some interesting discoveries about Elijah and Elisha. There are some clear hints of Jesus in these chapters.

Elishah returning the widow's son
Sean and I hadn't met for several weeks so it was good to spend the evening together again. Instead of a time of prayer and listening, this time we thought it would be good to dip into the Bible for a while. Sean has been working his way through 2 Kings recently, and we mostly focussed on chapters 3, 4 and 5.

Before he was caught up into heaven, Elijah asked Elisha if there was anything he could do for him. And Elisha asked for a double helping of Elijah's spirit (2 Kings 2:9). Sean wondered why he'd made this request because it had been hard enough for Elijah with just a single portion! It's a good question and I don't have an answer.

We wondered about the names Elijah and Elisha, it seems clear that 'jah' is the shortened form of Yahweh (the Almighty's name), and 'Eli' is the short form of Elohim meaning 'Mighty One' or 'Almighty'.

The bones come together

Part 6 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< The word of Yahweh | Index | Sinew, muscle and skin >

Ezekiel begins speaking to the bones and the effect is immediate. There's a clear pattern of actions in a logical sequence; the preliminary need is met as Ezekiel speaks.

Bones in right relationship
'So I prophesied as I'd been told. As I spoke there was a rattling noise and the bones moved together and connected.' (Ezekiel 37:7)

There's a lot of important material for us in just these few words. Let's begin by noting that Ezekiel was obedient. He had been told to speak to the bones and he'd been given the words to say. And now, in obedience, he speaks them out.

Let's remind ourselves of what he was told to say. '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."'

Bible passages relevant to church

Organic Wine - [ Home | Bible | Resources | CO2 | Topics | About ]

There are a number of relevant Bible passages listed on this page.

The Old Testament is rich with passages about Israel's fall from favour and her restoration. All of them probably have useful things to tell us about the church. The New Testament contains many things direct from Jesus about both principles and practices, while Acts and the letters provide a lot of history and practical background.
  • Ezekiel 37 - The valley of dry bones. Indeed the entire book of Ezekiel may be useful, there is so much about restoration here.
  • Haggai - Building his house, not our own houses.
  • The wine and wineskins passages in the gospels.
  • John 17 - Very important passage on oneness. It's clearly what Jesus himself wanted.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

26 November 2011

A pattern of blessing

Part 4 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< Unexpected visitors | Index | A rather difficult guest >

Another couple arrives at Ffald-y-Brenin and they, too, are blessed. A rhythm of blessing is established as people arrive daily. Roy and Daphne pray for this to continue - and it does.

Ffald-y-Brenin and the hills beyondLast time, Roy explained how a passing couple felt compelled to visit Ffald-y-Brenin and ask about the presence and purpose of the centre. After a tour they were powerfully touched by the Almighty's presence. In this fourth part we learn what happened next.
Being a somewhat strange, fallible creature I didn't connect their visit with my earlier prayer. So God sent someone else to my door to help me join up the spiritual dots. The next day another knock on the door was followed by the same enquiring words: 'Hello, could you tell us what this place is and what goes on here?'

Recovering a portrait of da Vinci

Here's a great example of image recovery, a sketched self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci was discovered a couple of years ago, obscured when he reused the page as writing material.

Leonardo da VinciThe image has been recovered twice, once by professionals and then more recently (and much more quickly) by Amelia Carolina Sparavigna using freely downloadable software from the internet. You can read the story and see the results of her efforts on MIT's 'Technology Review'.

The self portrait shows Leonardo as a young man, the only other existing self-portrait is one he made when he was old (this is the image shown here).

It's fascinating how the text can be removed and at every point automatically replaced by an average of the surrounding area. That's what Amelia Carolina Sparavigna did using the packages she downloaded. She used The Gimp (image processing software) to superimpose the young face on the old face to check whether the eyes, nose and mouth showed the same relative spacings. They did! This helps to confirm that both portraits are of the same person - we may get wrinkles as we age but the proportions of our face remain the same.

Kudos to Amelia, but also to the science journalist who first noticed the presence of a portrait underlying da Vinci's text on bird flight.

25 November 2011

Speak to the bones

Part 4 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Taking a good look | Index | The word of Yahweh >

Now Yahweh says something strange to Ezekiel. He tells Ezekiel to speak to the bones, to prophecy to them. Is there any point in speaking to what is dead?

The complex structure of the ear
Let's look carefully at Ezekiel 37:4.

Then he told me, 'Prophecy to these bones. Tell them, "Dry bones! Hear Yahweh's word."'

There are several important points to notice. If Ezekiel hadn't understood these points the amazing things that are about to happen would not have happened. At least, they wouldn't have happened through Ezekiel.

Yahweh would have found another way, another person to serve him. Ezekiel would have missed out. Hearing is important, and the mechanism for hearing is complex.

23 November 2011

Simple gathering of believers

Stephanie Bennett
I have a treat for you today - a guest post from Stephanie Bennett.

She describes how she experienced family with fellow students during her college days and how Jesus was right among them. It was an experience to be cherished and something special and unusual, then and today.

I think she really has captured the essence of what it means to follow Jesus.

Celebrating Christ’s life in the Simple Gathering of Believers - Stephanie Bennett

Growing up in the midst of a nurturing, caring family where everyone is committed to each other simply because they have the same blood running through their veins is a wonderful way to learn the essentials of surviving and flourishing later in life. While many other factors contribute to ultimate happiness, it is relatively safe to assume that children growing up in the environment I just described have a greater chance at success and happiness than those who grow up in abusive or dysfunctional homes. It is the same for our spiritual lives, is it not?

22 November 2011

St Neots (XT) - Reunion at Cornerstone

< 21st November 2011 | Index | 29th November 2011 >

We hired the local church cafe and bookshop and invited parents and children from last summer's X-treme Camp. We had a great evening with dance mats, games, pizza and chips, coffee, cold drinks and a camp slideshow.

Rafting at X-treme Camp 2011It doesn't seem more than three months since last summer's camp - but it is!

It was time for a reunion and an evening of fun so Paul hired Cornerstone Cafe and Books and invited all the families involved in the camp from the St Neots area. We met from 19:00 until after 21:00, playing Jenga (with giant blocks about 50 cm long) and giant-size Connect Four (discs about 30 cm diameter). The adults mostly sat and chatted over tea or coffee.

Then Paul Shinners, who manages Cornerstone, opened up the meeting room where professional dance mats had been set up. The young people got stuck into some competitive dancing and had a lot of fun in the process. At the same time we had a projector showing activities from last summer's camp - rafting, archery, rifle shooting, survival skills, fishing, singing and crazy fun and games on the last afternoon.

And to round things off there was pizza and chips from Hotspot, just along the street. Delicious and just what was needed.

We felt afterwards that it had been a great evening, some of the parents offered to help with the next camp and we all got to know one another a little better.

Enquiries about next year's camp should go to Paul Billington (the local St Neots contact) or Pete Stamford (other areas in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, or Northamptonshire). Enquiries about Cornerstone should go to Paul Shinners.

< 21st November 2011 | Index | 29th November 2011 >

21 November 2011

Eaton Ford (BS) - The fig tree

< 14th November 2011 | Index | 22nd November 2011 >

We worked through part of Mark 11, wondering about the significance of the withered fig tree and the events between the two mentions of the fig.

Large and small figs on the branch
Paul and I usually spend some time on Monday or Tuesday, reading and discussing a Bible passage. We didn't set out specifically to do this, we began Mark's Gospel on Fridays with Roger but some weeks we didn't have time to continue with it and Paul thought it would be useful to find a separate time for Bible study.

Today we were in Mark 11. We began by reading verses 12-26 with their double mention of the fig tree. We talked about how the fig might represent Israel and how the entire section then makes more sense. Yahshua was demonstrating that Israel had not produced the spiritual fruit required of it and was no longer expected to produce fruit but would instead wither.

Unexpected visitors

Part 3 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< A step forward | Index | A pattern of blessing >

Roy and Daphne show a visiting couple around Ffald-y-Brenin and they are surprised and deeply affected by a sense of the Almighty's presence, particularly when they reach the chapel.

The chapel (left) and retreat accomodation
In the second part of this story, Roy was feeling frustrated that he's not able to do what he feels he was born to do. So he prayed for Father to change something. Then there was a knock at the door and they met two strangers, a married couple. Here's part three.
We sat them down at our table, where we had just finished lunch, and the reason for their trek up our long and steep drive unfolded.

'Well, we were driving along here and we don't quite understand it, but we were compelled to come up your drive.' They had noted that it was a Christian retreat centre, but that meant little to them. We made them a cup of tea, always a good place to start, and then talked in general terms about the centre for a while and finally explained to them that this is a place where lives get changed because God is real.

19 November 2011

Taking a good look

Part 3 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Dry bones in the valley | Index | Speak to the bones >

Ezekiel has been brought into the middle of the valley and the Mighty One has a question for him. Ezekiel answers far more wisely than I would have done!

Scattered bones'He guided me back and forth amongst them and I saw a huge number of bones lying on the ground in the valley - very dry bones indeed. He asked me: "Son of man, is it possible for these bones to be alive?" I answered: "Yahweh Almighty, only you know".' (Ezekiel 37:2-3)

Take a really good look - So Ezekiel is there in the valley and Yahweh leads him about amongst the bones. This is not just a casual look, it's a really thorough examination of the situation. Notice how Ezekiel is guided back and forth, this is not 'Go and look and I'll wait here' on Yahweh's part. It's an intimate togetherness in which they both go, we can almost imagine Ezekiel as a child hand-in-hand with a parent.

18 November 2011

About us

Is it possible to write a short statement that captures who we are in Christ? It will need to describe much more than what we believe; instead it should outline our attitudes and behaviour in our day to day living.

An early creed
There are plenty of creeds out there, statements of what we believe. A creed tries to crystallise the main, significant and essential points of our faith. But faith is only part of the story, just as important are the attitudes and actions of our daily lives - the practical outworkings of our faith.

This is a first attempt to write out such a statement. It's not so much a statement of faith, more a statement of intended living.

I wrote a first draft some months ago, but I was encouraged to revise it and publish it by Ross Rohde's recent article on 'Viral Jesus'.

16 November 2011

Dry bones in the valley

Part 2 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Ezekiel in exile | Index | Taking a good look >

This time we're going to take a look at the first verse of Ezekiel 37, the start of the section on the valley of dry bones. Let's see what Father will show us in this verse.

Death Valley in the USA'Yahweh's hand was on me and he brought me out by the Spirit of Yahweh and set me in the middle of a valley. It was full of bones.' (Ezekiel 37:1)

We can't tell whether Ezekiel visited a real valley or whether the entire section from verse one to verse fourteen is a vision. Perhaps it's most likely to have been a vision. But it doesn't really matter, it's far from being the most important thing.

'Yahweh's hand was on me...' - That's what Ezekiel says. A scary privilege! But unless his hand is on us we cannot move except by our own efforts. This is fundamental to everything the Almighty does. He speaks, he moves, he demonstrates, he heals, he forgives - and in all these ways he touches us.

15 November 2011

Coventry Pilgrimage

I've had a couple of letters about a pilgrimage to take place in Coventry next spring. Something about this seems significant, not least the fact that I have no idea why I am being included on the circulation list.

Coventry CathedralThe messages are going out to just a handful of church leaders - though I certainly can't count myself in that category!

And it's addressed to 'all churches in and around Coventry' although I live more than an hour's journey from that city.

But I have been impressed by Coventry Cathedral since my parents took us there as children to watch the progress of the building work. The old Coventry Cathedral, you see, was destroyed by German bombs during a major air raid. The new cathedral was under construction while I was still at school. Wikipedia covers all the basics of the story.

14 November 2011

Brampton - Light and dark

< 7th November 2011 | Index | 21st November 2011 >

This week the Spirit led us on the topic of darkness and light. He showed us that darkness is the same as hiddenness, that our artificial light is no substitute for his real light, and that he himself is the Light. It was (ahem...) very illuminating.

Light shining in the darkness
We thought about the darkness that surrounds the Most High (see Exodus 20:21 and Psalm 97:2) .

The words darkness and hiddenness are distinct in modern English, but darkness once held both meanings. We talk about the 'dark side of the Moon', an old expression for the hidden side that never faces Earth.

The implication is that the Almighty is hidden from us. Jesus spoke in parables so that the truth would be hidden and revelation is required to grasp it. Otherwise we might take the credit for our understanding.

Another aspect is that light and darkness are the same to him (Psalm 139:11-13). Everything is revealed to him, nothing can be hidden.

A step forward

Part 2 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< A sense of direction | Index | Unexpected visitors >

In this second part of the story Daphne suggests Roy should pray and he demands some action from the Most High. And then there's a knock at the door.

The farmhouse at Ffald-y-Brenin
The publishers of 'The Grace Outpouring', David C Cook, have kindly allowed me to quote a series of extracts from chapter one.

In the first part, Roy was beginning to feel he should leave Ffald-y-Brenin, the Welsh retreat centre he and Daphne were running.

Here's part two.
Daphne, petite and blonde, is always full of incredible wisdom and insight, and she just calmly looked at me and said, 'Hmm. Well, if that's how you feel, and you feel so strongly, it's about time you told God about it.'

13 November 2011

Ezekiel in exile

Part 1 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< No earlier items | Index | Dry bones in the valley >

For much of my life Ezekiel's words about the valley of dry bones have seemed highly significant. I now feel I should work through the passage in detail here. I'll take it verse by verse and we'll see what it has to say to us today.

Brightness at the heart of the stormFirst, a little background; Ezekiel saw the valley in a vision, as part of a series of visions. Right at the beginning of the first chapter he gives us the details.

'In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.'

'On the fifth of the month — it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin — the word of Yahweh came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians.'

'There the hand of Yahweh was upon him. I looked, and I saw...' (Ezekiel 1:1-4)

12 November 2011

Enjoy the view

For several years I've been offering exciting alternative ways of reading the AAJ blog. These browse views depended on a Google service that had remained experimental until a few weeks ago. Now it's gone mainstream.

Google is calling these dynamic views - and that is what they are. Please take them for a spin, they're great fun! They are as different from the usual way of reading a blog, as flicking through a photo album is from reading a book.

We'll take a quick look at each of them in turn. Begin by clicking the 'Browse' tab below the main banner at the top of the page. Now click the image or the 'Go for it!' link (they both do the same thing). You'll see two gears turning and then you'll see the default, 'Mosaic' view. The only way back from here is to click the blog title 'All about Jesus' in the top-left corner.

  • Mosaic - This view lets you browse the images from the blog articles. More pictures appear as you scroll down. Hovering over an image makes it expand slightly and the article's title appears. Clicking an image brings up the full article but you can still scroll up or down to see more images. Point to 'Mosaic' in the black bar to select another view or click the blog title to return to the old, standard interface.
  • Classic - In the 'Classic' view you see the full text of the articles, as you scroll down more and more will appear.

11 November 2011

Valley of dry bones - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

A view of Ffald-y-BreninEzekiel's writing about the valley of dry bones has much to say to us about deadness and life in the church.

Is it now time for dusty dryness to be transformed into vigorous, vibrant life? This short series examines the implications.

  1. Ezekiel in exile - Ezekiel's words about the valley of dry bones seem significant.
  2. Dry bones in the valley - Ezekiel 37:1.
  3. Taking a good look - A question in the middle of the valley.
  4. Speak to the bones - Is there any point in speaking to what is dead?
  5. The word of Yahweh - The bones are to come to life!
  6. The bones come together - Ezekiel begins speaking to the bones.
  7. Sinew, muscle and skin - He watches as the bones are covered.
  8. Prophecy to the breath - Ezekiel is called to speak again.
  9. An overwhelming army - The bodies come to life and stand.
  10. The dry bones of church will live - A prophecy for the church today.

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.

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? 

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.

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.

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.

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