Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts

27 May 2012

Oundle - Meeting at Rupert and Uli's

< 11th January 2012 | Index | 8th January 2013 >

Do we over design and structure our meetings? Should we simply let Jesus take full control? Can we trust him in this or do we think we can do a better job than he can?

Sitting at a table in the shadeSean, Melissa and I visited Rupert and Uli and their family on Sunday. Justine was there too though some others were unable to make it.

It was a lovely time of simple sharing. We sat in the shade of a big, old tree and talked about life. Jesus was never far from our hearts and thoughts. We talked about Ffald-y-Brenin and our visit there last year. We talked about people we know and where they are on their journeys. Later, Rupert suggested we dip into the Bible and we read and prayed and listened together. There was no agenda, no plan, just us and Jesus.

As we ate together the conversation continued and he was still right there with us. This was such a blessing to us and a contrast with the planned and structured times we sometimes experience when we meet.

Jesus is looking for a place where he can rest and be at peace. During his life on Earth 2000 years ago, the place he found was in Bethany, at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Looking back it strikes me that this meeting at Rupert and Uli's had the same flavour to it, the same aroma. Jesus was here and he was relaxing with us, chipping in from time to time, listening, enjoying our company and blessing us with his presence.

Shouldn't all our times of meeting be like this? Why are they not? Could it be that when he said, 'I will build my church', he really meant it? Should we stop trying to build? Should we simply behave like bricks and let him place us in his body and cement us together in love?

How does a brick behave? It does... nothing!

How, then, should a living stone behave?

If we don't - he will. If we do - perhaps he can't. Is that how it is?

What do you think? Comments please, they will be very welcome.

< 11th January 2012 | Index | 8th January 2013 >

12 April 2012

Small group, seven signs

The Seven Signs in John are a perfect basis for drawing people into relationship with Jesus. But they are also well worth the attention of those who already know him and walk with him every day. They are eye opening and mind expanding.

The purpose of JohnThe Seven Signs in John are a great way to investigate Jesus with people who don't yet follow him. When someone is interested enough to want to know more, rather than 'teach' them about Jesus it may be better to help them discover Jesus for themselves by reading and unwrapping the seven signs.

Briefly, in John 20:30-31, John explains that of the many signs Jesus performed, he has chosen to write down just seven 'so that you may believe'. The first two signs take place in the village of Cana in Galilee where Jesus turns water into wine (John 2:1-12), and later heals the son of a royal official (John 4:46-54). The other signs are listed by Neil Cole on the CMA Resources website. I encourage everyone to read that article and also listen to Neil speaking about the seven signs.

Clearly, these signs are written for unbelievers so that they can come to faith in Jesus and receive new life. But can these passages from the book of John be of value to those who already believe? Yes, they can. Discussing the first two signs with a group of friends who are already fully involved in church life has been an interesting experience for me.

As we discussed the passages I noticed a growing awareness of the power and depth of John's words. The four questions suggested by Neil brought this out very clearly for my friends. They quickly understood the value of using the passages to see that people are just the same today as they were 2000 years ago and that Jesus is approachable and able to help ordinary men and women. They could also see how the passages demand a response and recognized that others need to hear these accounts of the signs for themselves.

Based on this experience I would say that believers benefit from the seven signs in a variety of ways.

  • Recognising that the people in the Bible are 'just like us'. The Bible thus becomes more immediately relevant; it's no longer a book of merely historical and spiritual significance, but a book in which  the Father and the Son deal with ordinary people in very practical ways.
  • Seeing Christ himself in the pages of the Bible. Jesus, as described by John, is deeply relevant to us and to the people around us.
  • Understanding the need to get people thinking for themselves. The best approach involves reading the verses together and asking questions.
  • Viewing outreach as something we can all do. The seven signs are a very easy way to get started, either one to one or with a small group of interested people.

There is one caveat, however. There is a real danger that people who already follow Jesus may see the signs as a handy teaching technique. This misses the point. The whole idea is to encourage everyone to think for themselves. We don't need to teach people about Jesus, they will draw their own conclusions if we encourage them to read the passages and ask the right questions.

This fundamental shift in approach is something that may not come easily. But one way is to look at the way Jesus interacted with the people he met. And one way to do that is to try the seven signs for yourself, preferably as a group but if necessary on your own.

22 March 2012

Like a big chicken

We often do things in our own strength and then blame ourselves when we fail. But there is a much better way; listen to Jesus and do what he says.

A big chicken?It's easy to make a decision, set off with great intentions, and then beat ourselves up when it doesn't work out. How many times have I resolved to speak to a particular person about Jesus and then chickened out? I can't count them!

But Jesus didn't work like that. Neither did Paul. Why not?

It's because they were tuned in to the continuous flow of the Father's plan, saying what they heard him say and doing what they saw him do - every moment.

Jesus did it perfectly, Paul less so, he made some mistakes. But he learned from them.

When I determine to do something for Jesus and then fail I beat myself up. Yet all the time I should not have been doing something for him, instead I should have been listening and obeying. So simple, but oh so hard!

This is something I must grapple with daily, we all must. No to deciding and doing. Yes to hearing and obeying. When the first method works (and sometimes it does work) some of the glory comes to me. But in the second method he gets all the glory!

So what am I saying? I'm saying that we all have good intentions rapidly followed by great failures, but really we do better when we do what Jesus did.

How can we help and encourage one another to fly with Jesus? Flying is easy for birds but impossible for people. I can run along the ground flapping my arms furiously like a big chicken but I can't get off the ground. Flying with Jesus is like walking on water. Peter could not have done it using any kind of technique. He could only do it by obeying Jesus.

When we listen and obey we can fly and walk on water with him. He enables us and arranges everything for us. He doesn't enable us by giving us a new skill or ability. He enables us by calling us, by commanding us. The doing is all in our obedience, not in our ability.

If we need one thing in order to do the work of the kingdom it's not training, or skill, or experience - it's hearing followed immediately by obedience. If you want to practice anything, practice listening, hearing, and obeying. We need to say what Jesus says and do what he does - no more - no less. Aim high. And always remember that his ways are higher than ours.

But please don't hear what I'm not saying. Training, skill, experience, planning, and intentional activity are all things Father will use in us. If we are listening the Spirit will show us when and how to obediently apply them. Just don't expect them to enable you to fly or walk on water.

Oh - one more thing. Why does the photo show a baby chick rather than a great big mother hen?

It's because Jesus looked at disobedient Jerusalem and said he felt like a mother hen that wanted to gather her chicks under her wings, but they would not (Matthew 23:37). Let's not be like Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, let's willingly gather under his wings. As a lonely little chick I am vulnerable and cold and must work everything out for myself. I need to be willing to be gathered into his presence - for safety, for warmth, but most of all for obedience and effectiveness.

23 February 2012

Oneness and reconciliation

< The centrality of Christ | Index | New and old in church life >

This time we focus on oneness with Christ and reconciliation with one another. In the previous post we considered oneness in the church. Reconciliation underlies and leads to this, without it the church will remain disjointed.

I and the Father are oneContinuing the series based on revelation at Coventry, this week we look at the second topic - 'Oneness with Jesus and in church life, reconciliation'.

As we saw last time, Jesus really is building his church. We need to seize this as a source of supreme hope and comfort at a time when men and women (more often men) have been inclined to take control.

Last time we considered the centrality of Christ. We also took a look at the requirement for unity in the church which his centrality demands.

This time we will look at unity again, but this time unity with Christ rather than unity with one another. Both are essential, of course.

Oneness with Christ - Along the east interior of the new cathedral at Coventry is a series of Bible texts carved on large, stone tablets. One of them is shown in the photo above; it reads, 'I and the Father are one. He that hath seen me hath seen the Father'.

These words from John's gospel (John 10:30, John 14:9) spoke powerfully to me. Our oneness with Christ depends utterly on his oneness with the Father. How so? Read the whole of John 10 and then consider these points.
  • In verse 7, Jesus makes it clear that he alone is the way in and out.
  • Verse 8, others who had made this claim were thieves and robbers.
  • To be saved we must enter through Jesus. There's no other way (verse 9).
  • Verse 11, he lays down his life for the sheep.
  • Verse 15, he and the Father know one another. (They are one, verse 30). We know him and he knows us in the same way (verses 14 and 15).
  • And then John 17:20-23 - arguably the most amazing few verses in the entire Bible. 
'I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.'

Let's be clear. Yahshua says that the glorious Father (the Most High) is in him (Yahshua, Jesus, Isa) and has given the glory to him. He further says that he (Yahshua) is in us and that he (Yahshua) has given the glory to us.

In other words the Most High is in us and we have been given the glory. It's all the same oneness, we are included in their oneness.

If that doesn't blow you away, nothing will!

Reconciliation in church life - In the ruins of the old cathedral is a statue entitled 'Reconciliation'. It represents reconciliation between nations that had been at war, a war that caused the destruction of the cathedral and many other beautiful buildings all over Europe. Millions of lives were lost.

But this sculpture also spoke to me powerfully about reconciliation in the church. Like the sculpture we are surrounded by the wreckage of a broken and fractured building. We need to be reconciled to one another.

We saw in the previous part that Yahshua wants us to be one, just as he and the Father are one. The Father, Son and Spirit are three representations of the One. They are three manifestations of the Almighty.

ReconciliationIn the same way we are to be one. We are all to be representations or manifestations of church. Each one of us is to be representative of the love of Christ, our head. Unlike the Father, Son and Spirit we can be seen as many disconnected individuals, or many sub-groups within the church. But this is not how we are meant to be. Instead we are supposed to be one body to which Christ will be attached as our one head.

That's why Paul wrote to the Corinthians, 'I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.' (1 Corinthians 1:10)

And it's why in Ephesians 4:4-6 he wrote, 'There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.'

So you see why reconciliation is so important. Yahshua came to reconcile us with the Almighty, but he also came to reconcile us to one another. That is why the fruit of the Spirit is a reconciling fruit. Think about it! What are the characteristics of this fruit? They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It's the fruit of Jesus in our lives, it's the fruit of the Father. We are grafted in to the Son. Our Father, the gardener, did that work. Read John 15.

It's time to recognise our need for reconciliation to one another, and we will have to recognise it in our hearts, not merely as an intellectual exercise in our minds. It goes without saying that we should have the mind of Christ in this, but we also need his heart towards one another.

Every tiny, little step you can take towards reconciliation with a brother or sister or with a denomination or group (every little step) is a step towards oneness and the fulfilment of Jesus' mission. Every angry word, lack of patience, every unkindness is a step away from that supreme goal. I have been guilty of that so often.

It is impossible to have oneness without reconciliation. So hold nothing back in your striving for reconciliation! Ask Father to give you more and more of the reconciling fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life. It's the only fruit that has the flavour and aroma of the Father's love, made manifest in Christ our Lord and King.

< The centrality of Christ | Index | New and old in church life >

UK Fellowship Friday Blog Hop - This blog hop is for Christians who live in the UK to link to a post you have recently written that might encourage other Christians. Started by Rhoda, please visit her original article.

17 February 2012

The centrality of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does it mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

03 January 2012

Eaton Ford (BS) - Arrest to resurrection

< 12th December 2011 | Index | 11th January 2012 >

Paul and I met to read the last part of Mark's gospel. We began at the beginning of  chapter 15 and read section by section right through to the end. Here are some of the things that stood out for me.

A rock-cut tomb in JerusalemAs far as we know the religious authorities handed Jesus over to Pilate because they were not permitted to apply the death penalty themselves. The Romans had decreed that only they could execute a prisoner.

The charge against Jesus was blasphemy and the penalty would have been stoning to death. Stonings were still comtemplated, even carried out (eg Stephen, the woman caught in adultery) but were presumably unofficial, illegal, and overlooked.

The Sanhedrin could hardly issue an illegal order right under the nose of the prefect. So they went to Pilate with a range of accusations, none of which they could prove. They knew a Jewish religious offence would not impress Pilate, so they chose something more promising - that Jesus claimed to be a king and was therefore a political challenge to Pilate, Herod, or even the Emperor in Rome. Pilate still didn't buy it, but sent Jesus for crucifixion to satisfy the mob.

It is striking that Simon, a passer-by, was forced to carry the cross. The presumption is that Jesus, weakened by injuries sustained from his earlier flogging, was either unable to carry it or perhaps collapsed after part of the journey.

Jesus refused to take the painkilling myrrh mixture in wine. They crucified him and then cast lots for his clothes. We decided he would have had a loin cloth, a tunic (rather like a T-shirt), a cloak, belt and sandals. The soldiers were not wealthy, clothing would have been expensive, so wasting it was unthinkable.

It's also interesting that the sign on the cross read 'King of the Jews'. Pilate ordered it written in three languages, he was making it clear one last time that in his view Jesus had committed no recognised crime. Those crucified with him would have been labelled 'Murderer, criminal, rebel' or something similar.

We also discussed the Aramaic words that Jesus shouted out. 'Eloi' is closely related to the Arabic word 'Allah' and the Hebrew 'Eloh' (plural 'Elohim') and simply means 'Mighty One' or 'Almighty'. The onlookers thought he said 'Elijah' which would have sounded like 'Ell-ee-yah' or 'Ell-yah' and means 'Mighty Yah' or in full 'Yahweh the Mighty One'. (See also an earlier post.)

I had a photo from Jerusalem of a similar tomb to the one Joseph of Arimathea would have used and we looked at it (see above). It seems Jesus had a few followers in the Sanhedrin itself, Joseph was clearly one of these and bravely did what he could to help.

We covered more than these few items of course, but these are the things I feel I should mention in this post.

Next time we meet we have decided to begin the book of Acts.

< 12th December 2011 | Index | 11th January 2012 >

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.

What follows is taken from the notes I made on the day. The notes themselves are in italics, the rest is comment added later. I have not expanded all of the notes, there is simply too much for one article. I may revisit these notes, perhaps under the seven headings listed above.

Before the journey to Coventry

The contribution you can make to one church is to encourage people in having good, welcoming attitudes to all believers.

The idea that there is only one church has been much on my mind, and it was immensely helpful to have this guidance. It's not for me to demand or build unity. Instead, I must encourage everyone to accept others with different understandings and vision. Oneness is not about everyone being the same, it's about hearts of love touching through the differences.

Remind them that we're all brothers and sisters.

The 'wheel' emblemEven the emblem I gave you speaks of unity. There's a centre where all the spokes meet, and the periphery is held in place by every spoke. I AM the centre. My people are the spokes, each of them in contact with me. The periphery is out there in the world, far from me, their only connection to the centre is through you. Pray that they, too, will become spokes.

Read more about the 'wheel' emblem and its origin. There's a call to prayer here too; that's something I must not ignore or forget.  Father, remind me - often.

My expectation had been clear. The Lord would speak to me when I reached Coventry, but at this point I was still at home and he was already pouring out so much. I was astonished!

In the old cathedral

The old still remains, but it's empty.

The pillars have all gone.

There is no roof, no protection.

The windows are empty.

This is a place of memories, but few people are here to remember. Most of them are here to look.

The architect says that the new should grow out of the old.

In the new cathedral

A canopy connects the old and the new.

The new west front reflects the old cathedral in its expanse of glass.

The old is clearly visible throughout the new, it is not forgettable and not forgotten.

The view is very different depending whether you are looking towards me or away from me.

I am far more weighty than you might think.

The cathedral has an enormous tapestry portraying Christ, it is so large that it weighs more than a tonne. It's hard to imagine a tapestry being so heavy, and it is even harder to imagine the full majesty and glory of Christ himself. I think he wants me to focus both on his nature and on my inability to comprehend his nature.

This building speaks of life, a progression from the cradle. It's all about reconciliation and has contributions from people of all faiths.

This is an echo of what he showed me before I left home. Reconciliation is a prerequisite for unity. Jesus is our reconciliation, not only with the Father but also with one another. Oneness with the Most High and oneness with one another both depend on the reconciliation that only Jesus can bring. We cannot do without Christ, yet we need nothing more.

Back at home

The old building was brought down by the intense heat of the fire. It cracked and flaked stone, melted lead and glass, and consumed timber.

Fragments of the old stained glass remain.

The old and familiar, the very things we lean upon and think we need, these are all burned up by the intense fire of the Spirit. The old must make way for the new. Yet the old is still more than just a memory. Parts of it remain lest we forget.

Everywhere in the new are expressions of his love, glory, grace, peace, presence, and oneness.

There's a strong theme of reconciliation throughout both old and new.

Old and new are intimately connected.

These seem to be important ideas and should not be forgotten.

The old was brought down by an act of war, but the war was external - it was not a war between old and new.

The inner roof is not attached to the walls.

The technologies of old and new are quite different.

The builders of the old would have found the new literally incredible.

They would have been astonished and unable to comprehend how it could have been achieved.

There's an emphasis in some of the memorials on working selflessly together for a greater good.

There is a swastika on the bronze effigy. See how visitors have polished the swastika and the nose by touching them. Touch is so important.

Touch is transforming, turning dullness to brilliance. We need to touch Christ, we also need to touch one another.

The old cathedral is part of an old town and an old society, now gone apart from a few buildings. The new cathedral is part of a new town and a new city - the university, the shopping centre and so on.

The new fabric is already showing evidence of decay and shabbiness - especially outside.

Although there is a new move of the Spirit coming in church life, the new will go the way of the old unless there is maintenance and repair. It will be needed continuously.

< Coventry Cathedral | Index | The centrality of Christ >

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

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 >

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.)

24 October 2011

Brampton - A place of safety

< 10th October 2011 | Index | 29th October 2011 >

We were reminded about places of safety. What are they? do I need one? How do I find one? How can I be sure I'll be safe there?

The sun in the sky
Right at the start we had a reminder that 'where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be there with them' (Matthew 18:19-20). As I shared those words, Sean was prompted to explain that he'd seen a picture in his mind, two young children were running into the ark.

This in turn prompted me to mention three words that seemed relevant - ark (obviously), but also temple and mountain. If he's in one of those places we need to run there ourselves because he himself is our place of safety.

And if he's with two or three gathered together - that is the right place to be.

I was reminded of an old song -  'The Celebration Song'
In the presence of Your people
I will praise Your name
For alone You are holy
Enthroned in the praises of Israel

Let us celebrate Your goodness
And Your steadfast love
May Your name be exalted
Here on earth and in heaven above
And then I saw small, oval photos of people. They were just head and shoulders portraits but they were from different generations. Some were sepia prints, others were black and white, others were in colour. The whole thing seemed like a genealogy. We didn't understand the meaning.

We thought again about Sean's picture of little children entering the ark and remembered that Yahshua said. 'Let the little children come to me' (Matthew 19:13-15), and also, 'Unless you come like a little child you won't even see the Kingdom of Heaven' (Luke 18:17). We prayed that Father would make us as straightforward as little children.

By searching a little we found that the Mishnah says, of the cities of refuge, that if the High Priest dies the refugees would not be punished for their crimes and would be free to leave. This seems especially significant in the light of Christ's death.

Sean remembered how Jesus also said, 'If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children; how much more will your Father give to you the Holy Spirit? (Luke 11:9-13)' Sean saw himself as very small in the King's city. And Father said, 'Even your small is much too big'. We are so small and he is so big and powerful; this helps our faith as even our largest problems are small and easy for him. His desire is the very best for us and he encourages us to believe.

I saw a picture of a man struggling to pull a very heavy handcart up a steep hill. He was out of breath, sweating heavily, and working extremely hard for very little progress. But Father just reached in and turned the horizon slightly so that it became a gently downhill slope. Now the man only needed to guide and control the cart, not provide the power to move it. What had seemed almost impossibly hard now seemed effortless.

Sean said that we need to see things with Father's perspective, not our own. We need to believe that he wants good for us and not harm.

And finally he told us, 'If you look down you will just see the dust. But if you look up you'll see my sun in the sky and feel the warmth on your face.

< 10th October 2011 | Index | 29th October 2011 >

18 October 2011

THOUGHT - Making things new

< Missing the best | No later items >

What does Haggai have to tell us about church life today? Do we need to carefully consider what we are doing?

Stones from the Temple Mount in JerusalemFelicity Dale posted an article recently in which she explains how she and Tony were prompted to look at a passage from Haggai.

She writes...
We remember the days when, back in England, God's presence was almost tangible when we came together. Sometimes we were unable to stand in his presence. There were healings and miracles. We never dared go into his presence with unconfessed sin, because we knew that the Holy Spirit would reveal it publicly. This was not a manufactured glamor and glitz, but the presence of God--his glory-- among his people.
I remember those days too, so do some of my other friends near and far. We still have meetings like that sometimes. But it doesn't happen often, certainly not every time we meet as it did in the late 1970s.

Felicity continues...
For a while now, Tony and I have been praying that God would fill these new wineskins of simple/organic churches, with his new wine, his presence. We've been praying for our situation that whatever we touch would bring the presence of Jesus with it--whether that's our business, our home or our gatherings.

What does it mean for us to build God's house? For his house to be more important than anything we're doing ourselves? (This is not a theological statement: I know that Jesus is the one who builds his church.)

I sense Jesus saying to us, 'It's time to let me do what I want to do amongst you. Stop getting in my way.' The book of Haggai has a great deal to tell us (so do many other passages, for example the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel and the people of Israel in the desert in Exodus).

Haggai spoke out the word he received. 'Yahweh Elohim says, "Give careful thought to your ways"' .(Haggai 1:7)  We, too, need to give careful thought to our ways. Jesus was quite clear that he is the builder and we are the stones. (Matthew 16:16-18) Notice that he also says where his house will be built - on the rock. The Temple in Jerusalem was built on a particular rock, the one on which Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, the one where the lamb was caught in a bush. The rock is still there, the Temple is not.

So the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah is the Rock on which the new house will be built. Let's begin to take the stones to Jesus so that he can get on with the building. We must carry the stones to the Rock.

As long as I build my own house instead of allowing Jesus to build me into his house, water and bread will be withheld. (Haggai 1:9-10) Has our Father had us on a diet? Yes, I rather think he has! We've been on a spiritual diet for years, even decades. The Living Water and the Bread of Life are Jesus. He himself is Water welling up within us, he is the Bread that sustains us. He reminded the evil one in the wilderness that 'man doesn't live on bread only but on every word that comes from Elohim's mouth'. Jesus himself is the real Bread, he is also the Word.

What is 'my own house' that I am always so ready to build? I think it can be many things. It can be a denomination, or a meeting place, or a tradition - but might it also be house church, a home, or my blog? Dare we ask ourselves the hard question? What is my house? Will I give that thing up so that Jesus can use me as a part of his house?

It's not for me to tell you what your house is; it's for each of us to work out for ourselves. Give careful thought to your ways! If we listen and hear and are obedient, those amazing times of his presence amongst his people will return. You'd better believe it!

Here are three more passages to send you on your way, what do they say to you?

'Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.' (Acts 14:11-17)

'See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.' (Isaiah 43:18-20)

'You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new.' (Leviticus 26:9-11)

See also: Who's house am I building? - Building the church - House and garden

< Missing the best | No later items >

11 October 2011

THOUGHT - Missing the best

< Building the church | Making things new >

During the 1970s for some time (maybe a year or two) we met with a group of around twenty friends in our homes. The meeting moved from house to house, every week we would collect in a home somewhere - often at our house, Tony and Faith's, or Paul and Jenny's (also close friends). I remember three or four other homes too. We were drawn from a variety of backgrounds, Anglican, Evangelical, Roman Catholic and more.

People at a partyWhenever we met we would pray and sing, praising and worshipping the Father and the Son, feeling the presence of Jesus amongst us, reading the Bible with renewed minds and hearts, and expecting his Spirit to sweep through us releasing us in the use of tongues, interpretation, prophecy, visions and so forth. They were rich times of abundant blessing; we were encouraged and instructed by the Master. We knew that as long as we listened and did as we were told we would stay on track.

Going pear shaped - But eventually tensions and pressures developed and we were drawn in several new directions. We were unable to hold it all together and our focus shifted away from the one thing we had done together to a range of new things that we did separately. Some were drawn into a new home church and others to various larger new ventures further afield.

We had been drawn from many different backgrounds and traditions, gelled as one body for a while, and then were pulled away into myriad other new projects and groups.

Judy and I wanted, I think, to carry on as before - one big happy family of Jesus followers. But soon we were left pretty much isolated and alone. I tried hard to stay in touch with some of the things others were doing but it wasn't the same. I felt I could only take a peripheral and occasional part while Judy really wanted no part of it at all.

I don't think we were alone, I suspect we all wanted to move forward together, and perhaps we all felt we were doing the right thing and just wished the rest would come with us.

With the benefit of hindsight I can see that our focus shifted. We became muddled in our thinking, often following teachings about Jesus instead of following the Teacher himself. It was a trap and we fell right into it! Good teachers have an enormous responsibility to teach wisely (James 3:1).

And it wasn't just us. Others across the nation were being pulled this way and that resulting in many new 'streams' of church life. In some ways these groups have done well and have been mightily used. Our Father is patient and full of grace. But we are further than ever from the goal of one body, one church. There are more divisions now than ever before!

It could happen again - This same trap remains ready and open today wherever people are listening to Yahshua. Stephen Covey once said, 'The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.' And for us the main thing is listening to the Spirit of Christ and obeying him in everything. The moment we put more store in what is being taught than we do in the Teacher (Jesus), we are undone. And this can happen with the best will in the world, it can happen even while we sincerely believe we are following Jesus most closely.

Don't follow the teaching about Jesus, follow the Teacher who is Jesus! Earnestly and zealously following the teaching has a feeling of holiness about it. But the Son himself is the only one worth following; only he is life and light. He is our bread, our wine, and the very air we breathe. So cling to him and let go of everything else.

What I am not saying - Please don't hear what I am not saying. Some examples may help.

Peter Farmer teaches valuable things about making disciples and planting churches. John White teaches valuable things about listening to one another and to Jesus. Frank Viola teaches valuable things about the nature and history of the church. And of course we could easily extend this list.

All of these teachings are good, all are useful, all are helpful. But they are not the 'main thing'. If any one of them became more central and more important than Yahshua himself it would cease to be useful and instead turn into a burden and a stumbling block.

I'm not saying that such a thing has happened with the teachings of Peter, John or Frank - but I do know that it can happen. It happened all too easily in the late '70s and it could happen again today. We need to guard against that! I think it is a danger that arises every single time there's a fresh move of the Spirit drawing us into another new thing. And make no mistake, that is how Jesus builds his church, restoring one thing after another.

Can you share stories of Jesus building his church? Do you have cautionary tales to tell? If so please leave a comment and/or send me your contact details. Mine are on the 'Chris' page, scroll down part way to find them.

< Building the church | Making things new >

10 October 2011

Brampton - Stay in the light

< 25th September 2011 | Index | Index | 24th October 2011 >

Wow, what a meeting this was. Sean, me and the Holy Spirit. He swept us along, pouring out so much revelation. A series of disparate words and pictures and Bible passages just came together in the most amazing way.

Light around a cloud
I shared a word at the start. The Lord said, 'If you see a crown, a throne and a sceptre you will know you're in the presence of royalty. Even if you don't see me clearly, you will know I'm present when you see the crown, the throne and the sceptre.

I also told Sean about the picture of the building site (see 'Building the Church'). He said the thing that stood out for him as most important is the fact that we were children. I also thought that anointing is an important concept - Kings are anointed. I opened the Bible to find the passage about Samuel anointing David as king, but opened it initially at 1 Chronicles 11, verses 1 to 9 seemed very relevant.

Sean mentioned that God had told Saul to kill everyone and when Saul failed he said that 'obedience is better than sacrifice'. (1 Samuel 15:22) Saul had been anointed. He was a king although he was not intended to be king. Kings who are not meant to be will always have to give way to the King who is meant to be. This applies to us too, we are not meant to be kings.

It occurred to me that if we begin to behave like adults instead of behaving like little children we'll quickly become the same as Saul and do what is right in our own eyes.

Sean described how he is in the light as long as he is looking at Jesus. But when he looks away he is very quickly back in the dark. We badly need to keep looking at the source of the light.

Then I suddenly realised that Saul of Tarsus had the same name as King Saul. I've always known this of course, but it suddenly seemed very significant. Like King Saul, the young Saul of Tarsus did what he thought was right (and did it very zealously). But, like Sean, he saw the light of Jesus and then he was renamed because 'Saul' was no longer an appropriate name for him.

And then I  began looking for the verses that describe Saul's vision on the Damascus road and stumbled instead on Acts 4:1-22 (and especially verse 11). The Sanhedrin were building in their own light and strength but in doing so they rejected the cornerstone (Yahshua). We so much do not need to be building in our own light and strength!

< 25th September 2011 | Index | 24th October 2011 >

THOUGHT - Building the church

< No earlier items | Missing the best >

I need to share a picture with you, a picture Jesus poured into my heart many, many years ago. This is the right time to share it again, it's been on my mind a lot recently and an item on Ben and Catherine's blog makes me think now is the time.

BricksSome history - Back in the early days, in the mid to late 1970s, Judy and I were particularly close to a couple who lived in the next street, Tony and Faith. We had young children at the time and so did they, it wasn't always easy to get baby sitters, so we worked around it.

I forget how often we met, but it was pretty frequently. One evening Judy would stay at home and I'd walk down to Tony and Faith's for tea or coffee, a chat, and prayer. Next time either Tony or Faith would come to us, then Judy would go to their place and I'd hold the fort at home. Then one of them would come to us. And so it went on.

These were exciting times of revelation and learning; we moved in the newly discovered (by us) gifts of the Spirit, sharing pictures and tongues, interpretation and prophecy, we were earnest and enthusiastic and young.

The picture - One evening when I was at Tony and Faith's I had a picture. I knew it was from the Holy Spirit and I shared it with them then and there. And I shared it with Judy when I returned home. Pictures were not unusual for us, but what I didn't expect was that this picture would remain with me for the rest of my life and that it would be foundational. To this day it still underlies much of my thinking (and doing) so far as church life is concerned.

I became aware that I was a small child and I was with a number of other children on a building site. Looking around there were ruts and tyre marks in the earth, piles of sand and gravel, timber, machinery, scaffolding poles and connectors. These were all around and amongst them were half-built homes and partly made roads.

We were on the building site for one reason only - to play. We collected some bricks from one of the stacks and made little houses with them, a brick for each of the four walls and another one or two for the roof.

We were having fun, imagining tiny people living out their lives in our tiny houses.

But then the builder arrived, I don't know how he came to be there, but in the picture one moment we were on our own and the next moment he was standing quietly looking at us. He wasn't angry, he smiled at us and spoke to us. I shall never forget what he said.

'If you keep scattering the bricks around you will slow me down and get in the way. I am building a real house. You can help me by bringing the bricks to me, and I will build them in the places where they should go.'

Building the church - The meaning is probably as clear to you as it was to me at the time. Our task is to bring people to the builder, living stones that he can use in the structure he is forming. His task is to do the work of building each one in right relationship with the rest.

In other words our task is not to build, but to bring. (See also Ben and Catherine's blog on 'Living Stones').

In the next post I'll explain what followed in the late 1970s. There were fundamental changes and developments that turned out to be part of the path that brought us to where we are today in terms of church life and structure.

< No earlier items | Missing the best >

07 October 2011

THOUGHT - What next for the body?

The church is the body of Christ here in the world. We are his current physical presence and he is the head. Where are we going next? There are some clues and we should pay attention to them.

A hearing aid
An obedient journey - As an individual follower of Yahshua (Jesus) I am on a path, a journey. Along the way are distractions, obstacles, and choices of direction. As the body, all of us together are also on a journey with distractions, obstacles and choices.

Making the right choices depends on hearing what the Spirit of Christ is telling us, and that demands our willingness to pay attention. In this article I am going to try to share something about paying attention, listening, and the need to hear what the Spirit is telling us. Hearing is critically important. How will you and I obey without hearing?



The breath of the Spirit - As individuals we obtain direction from a variety of sources. Reading the Bible, other good books, prayer, careful thought and planning, and direct leading by the Holy Spirit - all are important. Experience matters too, we can learn from our mistakes and hopefully we continue to grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). But the Spirit himself is the real source.

Without him we can engage in all those activities (even the Bible and prayer) and have no insight or benefit whatsoever. With him they all become channels for receiving the truth. The Most High can communicate with us through anything in life. He does it by sending his Spirit to live within us, pouring out the light and life of Jesus. Living water wells up within us and flows out to a needy world. This is, of course, a miracle!

For the body of Christ the process is the same. It's the Spirit of Christ acting in and through the body that brings life and direction. Without the Spirit the body is a dead thing. Read Ezekiel 37:1-14, now read verses 3-10 again remembering that 'breath' and 'spirit' are the same word in Hebrew - 'ruach'. The Holy Spirit is the breath of life in the body of Christ.

Hearing as an individual - There's a useful technique that can help us hear, it's called Virkler. Please remember that it is only a technique; it's not important in and of itself; its has value only as a framework to help us with hearing. Think of Virkler as a spiritual hearing aid.

There are four simple steps
  1. Clear your mind of the day to day stuff that fills it.
  2. Focus on Jesus.
  3. Pay attention to the flow of thoughts in your mind.
  4. Write them down.
For more on Virkler check out the CO2 page, it contains fuller details and some useful links to what others have to say about it.

Hearing as a body - When we meet together we are a local and temporal expression of the body of Christ in a particular place at a particular time. Yahshua said that when two or three meet together he would be there amongst us. Let's take him at his word!

When we meet, the Spirit of Christ is in each one and Jesus himself is among us. That is the key to hearing. Just as Virkler is a useful aid for individual hearing, so a slight modification of it can be a useful aid when we gather together. Try these four steps when you are together (the first three are unchanged).
  1. Clear your mind of the day to day stuff that fills it.
  2. Focus on Jesus.
  3. Pay attention to the flow of thoughts in your mind.
  4. Speak them out.
You may be surprised at the words and images that will be shared, and you may be even more surprised at the end of your time together as you realise that there has been a theme. The individual thoughts as they were shared may have seemed random, but together they will often be much more than the sum of their parts.

Can I encourage you to try this when you meet? What did you learn about the way the Spirit leads? Is it better to listen to one another, to Jesus, or to one another and Jesus? What are the differences between these three choices? How can the church find direction for the future? Please come back and leave some comments here.

06 October 2011

THOUGHT - You or Me?

Look at any area of human endeavour and you will find two extremes of outlook, those that focus on self and those that focus on others. Between the two is a broad spectrum of attitude and behaviour reflected in society at large and affecting us all for good or ill.

ForgivenessMany of the issues we face in life can be viewed in this way. Take career for example. Should I do my best in exams and training, work hard, and hope for the best? Should I push others out of my way by fair means and foul? Should I defer to others and settle for a lesser role?

Yahshua (Jesus) was always clear - love the Almighty, love one another, love your enemy. Simple. But note that those three calls to love leave out only one single person in the entire universe - self. Yahshua calls us to love everyone but ourselves. In other words he calls us to unselfish love. And thinking about that, isn't love always unselfish? Could love possibly be any other way? I don't think so!

Sometimes people say, 'We need to love ourselves before we can really love one another'. There's an element of truth in that but only if we understand the implication that we need to be gentle and patient with ourselves. Perhaps it's more correct to say that we need to recognise our failings and forgive ourselves.

Forgiveness is always liberating, always beneficial, always brings out the best in people. That is why we do well to forgive ourselves and even better to forgive those around us. Since Christ is always ready to forgive, so should I be. Forgiveness redeems what was lost, in ourselves, in others, and in eternity. And the motive and power that drive forgiveness are found in love.

With that in mind, do you have any comments on the chart above? (Click it for a larger version.) If someone has something against you, how might you improve the chances of reconciliation?

Wherever and whenever forgiveness is offered we should receive it with grateful and thankful hearts. It is one of the greatest gifts we can offer others.

Yahshua said that providing the opportunity for others to forgive transcends sacrifice. (Matthew 5:22-24). Perhaps we should spend less time celebrating the fact that we are forgiven, and more time looking for opportunities to forgive one another. If we are truly driven by love that is exactly what we will do.

All honour and glory and praise to the King who sets us such an example!

27 September 2011

RESPONSE - Invisibility coat

'How do you become invisible? Just try wearing a 'Big Issue' seller's jacket.' This is one of the provocative thoughts in Chris Duffett's presentation, 'A Gospel for the City Centre'.

The invisibility coatListening to what Chris had to say in the video I was struck by how uncomplicated his message is. Why do we make church so difficult and messy? It's really not a big deal, or perhaps I should say that it IS a very big deal in one way, but not in another.

The creator of the universe has come to town and plans to make his home in me - and in you. Now that's a big deal!

But he wants us to respond in very simple ways, by making our home amongst anyone and everyone round about. We're not supposed to turn this into a programme or create an organisation, we're just to be there for people. Love them, be open and welcoming, listen, care about their problems, help them find their own solutions. It's often not our solutions and fixes that people want, it's our time. They don't need my opinion, but they crave my ear, my heart, and my attention.

Just read the Bible accounts of what Jesus did and said as he travelled from town to town. See how he interacted with people. See how present he was in their anxieties and woes, triumphs and joys. See how he brought peace and comfort and life to them. 'Come to me if you're struggling and heavily crushed; I'll give you rest.' (Matthew 11:28)

13 September 2011

RESPONSE - Anti-Jesus band

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

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

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




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

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


25 August 2011

Eaton Ford - Who do you pray to?

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We thought about the need to be prepared, and how the good news needs to come with power and deep conviction guided by the Holy Spirit.

Newspapers and magazinesJim mentioned 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5 and we thought about the significance of 'the gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction'. Jim went on to ask which Jesus we pray to. He explained that until we can pray to the Jesus on the cross we can't fully comprehend the Jesus that heals, feeds, loves and talks to us.

I had a word from the Spirit. He told me, 'Don't look for mountain top experiences, look for the lowest point in the valley because that's where the living water is.' This was certainly true for Yahshua, it was through the lowest point experience on the cross that the living water was released. And it's true for us as well, as we go through the difficult places we come to recognise and depend upon that living water. Yahshua told the Samaritan woman, 'If you knew who I am you would ask me for living water, if you drink that water you'll never be thirsty again!' (John 4:10-15)

And then Jim added some more thoughts. We are very often destructive as a result of the things we don't do. We are frail, think for example of the Japanese tidal wave, the recent English rioting, the dryness in the lives of so many young people in Britain (one in six teenagers are in neither work nor education). Dry, unfulfilled lives lead to frustration, anger and serious problems). These disasters cause loss of life and ruin to many survivors. The tsunami would have done less harm if adequate defences had been in place, the riots would not have happened if fewer young people had been left without hope or purpose. But lack of knowledge often prevents us being adequately prepared.

We need (and those around us need) the good news that comes with power, the Spirit, and conviction.

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