10 January 2012

A royal priesthood

Part 12 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
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Roy shares some Bible passages to clarify and support the idea of praying for blessing and the impact that flows from doing so. He finds Old and New Testament verses to back up what he and Daphne had discovered during their early times at Ffald-y-Brenin.

A servant King, a self-sacrificing PriestThis is the final section of chapter one, the last part I can share with you online. If you've been following along I hope it will have encouraged you to buy a copy of the book so you can read the entire amazing story.

There's a link at the bottom of the article that lists various ways to obtain a copy.

In this final part Roy provides some biblical background to the idea of speaking a blessing over people and their lives.

When the practice of priesthood was originally about to commence, God instructed Moses to explain to Aaron how he and the priests were to act. Not only were they to intercede for the people but they were to pronounce blessings over them as well. 'The Lord spoke to Moses saying, "Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."' (Numbers 6:22-26 ESV).

Then came a remarkable explanation and insight: 'So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.' God placed into the mouths of the priests the power to speak words that caused God to unleash transformational, life-changing blessings upon the people. This is in line with our understanding that when people on earth are in agreement with the word from heaven, the power of the age to come is released in the here and now on earth.

We make a great mistake if we believe that this is simply wordy theology. 'Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings' (Leviticus 9:22 ESV). Sounds rather formal and religious, doesn't it? Yet God's kingdom is not resting in words but in power.

So notice what happens next in verses 23-24: 'And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.' What a difference is made to the priesthood when the blessing comes from an encounter, a meeting with God himself! The supernatural is released, The glory of God is seen and praise arises to him.

In Deuteronomy 10:8 (ESV, reinforced in 21:5) we read: 'At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day.' Wow! What a ministry: to carry the presence, to minister to the Lord and to speak blessings in his name to the people!

Now here is a wonderful truth. When Jesus came he was revealed as our High Priest. He is the presence, filled without measure, ministering to God and releasing incredible blessings upon all who can receive, including us. Yet there is more. You and I are now called into a new priesthood, that of all believers. We are to carry the presence, minister to God and speak, pronounce, invoke, release blessings upon people. 'But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light' (1 Peter 2:9 ESV).

There is a wonderful hymn by Charles Wesley that says: 'My God, I know, I feel thee mine.' There is an important balance in those words. We need to know God at the level of our minds and our understanding, but we also need to experience him. The Bible encourages us to taste and see that he is good. If we can bless people, and the Holy Spirit comes and overshadows them and breaks them, they are eager to know who this God is that they've tasted. It's wonderful. If God wants to move with people like that as a response to blessing, I want to play a part in it.

And as these first inklings stirred in us - thoughts of what the practice of blessing people might bring - we were not to know just how profound a challenge would come to 'faith as usual' from this gentle but insistent work of the Holy Spirit.

Yahshua (Jesus) is a king in the line of David, and also our great High Priest. And because we have been adopted as his heirs we too are of both the royal line and the priestly line. How does it feel to be part of a royal priesthood? Because that is what you are!

At Great Staughton, near where Donna and I live, there is an Anglican church. The top of the tower is visible across the fields from the nearby main road and because of  the levels and the angle at which you see it as you drive by, it some times looks like an altar with four horns, and sometimes like a crown with eight spikes.

Like that tower, we too (through Jesus) have inherited an altar and a crown. We have priestly duties and royal duties. Jesus was a servant King and a self-sacrificing Priest and we are also called to serve and to give.

It seems to me that Roy has covered the priestly duties very clearly in this final part of the chapter, we are called to carry the Presence of the Most High, serve him, and release his blessing on the places and people around us. Similarly we have a royal duty, to carry the Authority of the Most High, represent him, and release his rule in the world around us.

So as priests we can bless and as members of the royal family we can take authority over the darkness. We are to be channels by which the Lord's grace and light can flow into the world around us. Isn't that amazing?

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

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

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Great design and usability

Good design combines clean looks with smooth and intuitive usability. The best devices are the result of a great deal of thought and planning effort, the iPhone for example more or less rewrote the rules for mobile phones. Here are some more great ideas.

The WVIL concept cameraThis is the WVIL concept camera (pronounced 'weevil' apparently). It's a very cool idea, separating the lens assembly with integral 31-megapixel CCD and the wireless 'viewfinder'.

Rather than explain it, just go to the website and look at the WVIL video, that makes it very clear.

While you're there, take a look at some of the other ideas. I particularly like the SWYP printer.

There's something about ideas that are just 'right'. Artefact (the company behind WVIL and SWYP) have taken artifacts (everyday objects) and seriously thought about how we use them. They're not the only people doing this, however.

Several years ago Donna and I needed a new set of bathroom scales, we decided to spend a bit more on the new ones and chose one from Withings. It seems they now offer a baby monitor and a blood pressure system as well. Their stuff is similarly well-designed and they are not a concept company, this is real stuff you can buy - today.

And another company, Nest, have similarly redesigned and re-engineered the room thermostat. Very nicely done.

Then of course there's the Eglu - really good if you're a chicken...

08 January 2012

Christmas lunch at Cornerstone

On 25th December Jim and some of his friends laid on a Christmas lunch for people who otherwise might have eaten alone, perhaps even spent the entire day alone.

Christmas lunch at CornerstoneCornerstone Coffee and Books provided the space, River Church funded the supplies for the meal, Jim and his family prepared and served the food, and the rest of us helped with setting up, waiting at table, chatting with the guests, and clearing up afterwards.

Quite unprompted, Waitrose provided some festive groceries for the guests to take home. Every guest also received an M&S voucher.

Paul and I arrived at 10:30. We spent some time sweeping the floor and setting out the tables (four tables with space for ten people on each). Then, as the guests started arriving we were on hand to welcome them, offer teas or coffees, and chat.

During the meal it was great to sit with the guests, pull crackers, and have some unhurried conversation.

At the end of the meal I had to hurry home as Donna's parents and brother were staying with us, but I think there were plenty of helpers on hand to assist with the washing up and tidying away.

07 January 2012

Science and faith

Can I have faith and accept science too? Is that an unreasonable position to hold? Recent discussions on Jesus Creed have provoked me to write on this topic again.

Tiffany window, 'Science and Religion'I've posted about this before (Apr 2010, May 2010), but a recent item on Jesus Creed brought the topic back to mind. And then I came across this earlier post where there was a more fundamental discussion and a useful reference to an article by Dr EB Davis, 'Christianity and Science in Historical Perspective'.

It's not surprising that the debate continues, there are strongly held opinions on both sides. There is also quite a bit of mutual misunderstanding. Personally, however, I continue to see no conflict between  my acceptance of science as a wonderful tool for better understanding the universe and my acceptance of a spiritual dimension that transcends the universe.

It seems obvious to me that if there is a creator he would necessarily exist outside and beyond everything that he created. How could it be otherwise?

I remain dismayed by the anger and impatience sometimes displayed by both sides, but it's encouraging to see that there is also plenty of well intentioned and good natured debate. I have friends and family on both sides and others who don't recognise any conflict. I get on perfectly well with all these people, we don't get annoyed with one another. For me, being able to differ amicably is by far the most important aspect of the entire debate.

What do you think? Here are some questions to ponder.

  • Can science and faith coexist peacefully or will the debate rage on indefinitely?
  • Is it possible that science could ever formally disprove the existence of a spiritual dimension?
  • Is there a way of explaining what is meant by 'faith' in such a way that all scientists would be able to accept it?
  • Is there anything wrong with my position that science and faith are not incompatible, or is that like trying to have my cake and eat it?
  • How should we respond in cases of strong disagreement?

06 January 2012

Like light on the water

Part 11 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< Grace outpouring | Index | A royal priesthood >

Behind the prayers for blessing and the abundant evidence of the results, an inner awareness was growing of the need for grace in dealing with people. A new understanding was developing in Roy and Daphne's hearts and minds.

Blessing and grace like sunlight on the waterIn this section, Roy continues to explain the need for grace towards others. The Almighty blesses us despite our faults and we should treat others in the same way. Praying for people to be blessed is part of that.

We are called to be more like him. When we ask him to bless people we are merely asking him to do what he has already chosen to do.
We found that there is often resistance to heart habits that incline towards grace. There were plenty of Christians who told me that our practice of blessing people who were not yet Christian was absolutely wrong. We were advised that it would be much better to cry out to God to make things much worse for them. Such people were not pleased to be told that this type of prayer was like a curse.

I cannot find a home in faith houses built on judgement. My personal experience is that God has had favour on me and shown me mercy when I don't deserve it. I have been disobedient and apathetic but the mercy that he's poured out on me has taken my breath away. When we hear the testimony of a wretched sinner who has found salvation we rejoice with them and the angels. The lower they have been, the greater the glory. It is not quite as straightforward when it is someone who is already a Christian, whose life has imploded, and that has been my experience. I know that if I were God I wouldn't have given someone like me another chance.

As these understandings had taken hold in my life in the years prior to coming to Ffald-y-Brenin, I concluded I didn't want to persuade people about the veracity or non-veracity of the words in a book. I believed they could encounter the living God and that the words would come alive to them as a result.

Asking people if we can bless them is an offer that few refuse. We're not saying, 'Can we pray for you in a general way?' We're not putting a difficult burden on those doing the praying. Blessing someone is simple and easy. The Holy Spirit comes because when you bless you are reflecting something that the Father is doing and speaking words that the Father desires to be said.

God's desire to bless is absolutely outrageous. Nothing can stop him. He has set himself with immovable intent to bless mankind. His longing is that Jesus shall have many brothers. That's us. Before we knew him, he knew us. Before we loved him, he loved us. He designed us for a purpose wrapped up in blessing. Heaven, our ultimate destination, is full of blessing and we are invited to pray for the coming of heaven on earth right now.*
Let's all aim to walk in step with the Father. We have nothing to lose and a very great deal to gain. Let's not resist him in our hearts, instead we simply need to accept that he was gracious towards us, is gracious towards others, and we should act and speak out of grace too.

Blessing and grace poured out onto the people we meet are like beams of bright sunshine pouring down onto the surface of a lake. Everything is transformed.

The Father, the Son and the Spirit are one, they are abundantly alive and want us to enter into their relationship of absolute love and grace and oneness. Furthermore they want us to draw others in. It's that simple!

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

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

< Grace outpouring | Index | A royal priesthood >

04 January 2012

The dry bones of church will live

Part 10 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
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Once again Yahweh speaks, this time in explanation and application. He spoke to Israel but through them he is also speaking to us. He can reach us wherever we are and he can transform us from death to life, from dry and scattered bones to a mighty army.

A small groupAnd now that the work is complete and the army restored, Yahweh speaks once more. This time it's by way of explanation as to the meaning of the valley of dry bones vis-a-vis Israel.

Yahweh speaks - And then he told me: 'Son of man, the bones are the Israelites. They say, "Our bones are dry, we have no hope and are disconnected." So speak to them and say: "This is what Almighty Yahweh says: my people, I shall open your graves and raise you up. I'll put my Spirit into you, you'll live, and I'll return you to your land. Then you'll understand that I, Yahweh spoke and did it, says Yahweh,' (Ezekiel 37:11-14)

Everything that happened in the vision and every word that Yahweh spoke applies to Israel in captivity. But like all biblical prophecy it applies again to the church as well - it applies to us. We'll come back to that.

Israel - First of all - the bones are the Israelites. This is presented as background information for Ezekiel, it is not something he is told to speak over the people. The Israelites had been carried off from the promised land as slaves. They felt they had no hope, they were literally disconnected from the land, from Jerusalem and from the Temple.

For the Jews in captivity this would have been very significant. For most of them the thought would be that Yahweh's Presence was in the Holy Place in the innermost part of the Temple in Jerusalem in Israel. They were hundreds of miles away in Babylon therefore they were hundreds of miles away from Yahweh. There was no hope of help!

But he can reach them where they are and he has more words for Ezekiel to give them. He says that he'll open their graves and raise them up into new life! He will put his Spirit into them and return them to Israel. And then they'll understand the inconceivable - Yahweh can reach them, will reach them, and has given his word! He has spoken and is responsible for achieving it.

The church - So how does this apply to us today, also his people, also broken and ineffective. Just look at the history of the church and the state of the church in the West today. Riven by schisms and disagreements over doctrine and practice. Separated into denominations and streams. It would be easy to write out a long list of problems and issues. We usually gather with others who are like-minded and this undoubtedly isolates us from some of the differences.

Notice that the rest of the chapter (Ezekiel 37:15-28) follows right on from the valley of dry bones and covers the important matter of unity. This is not a coincidence.

The Spirit of Christ has been drawing his people together, little by little. All down the ages he's dealt with one issue after another. Much has been done, beginning with doctrinal essentials like grace in the 16th century and going right on to a pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the 20th century. But our response has often been to leave the old and start something new.

In our own day we are seeing a lot of rearranging - the bones are being fitted together. Thousands and thousands of family-sized groups have already formed, people who will love one another and love those around them. Some of these are house churches, some are small groups in the larger churches, some are CUs in colleges and workplaces. There is great variety.

Flesh and skin are covering these bodies. All they need now is refilling with breath, to stand up, and to be united into a single army under Christ as head and commander. It will not be easy, in fact it's far beyond our ability to do, our King and Commander Yahshua will have to do the work. We will need to listen and watch and do what his Spirit tells us and shows us - no more - but no less.

Like Israel in Ezekiel's day, he can reach us, he will reach us, and he's given his word. He has spoken and is responsible for achieving it.

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