Everyone is aware of the restless tides that current currents are stirring up throughout the world – so we wanted to share two items that will bring deep peace to the soul and stir us in godly ways. This first piece is a meditation (see words below) set to a hauntingly beautiful piece by Marcello with an oboe solo played by Thomas Herzog that sensitively draws you into the prayer. It draws us into a place of peace where we are reminded that He is the One who holds all times and seasons in His hands. Continue reading
Linda and Epiphany (recently returned from ministering with Jackie Pullinger in Hong Kong) have just released this beautiful fully orchestrated Requiem that Linda has written. This is what Linda has to say about this beautiful piece of music.
It was ten years ago when I first felt the call to write this Requiem. I wanted to use the words of the Latin text that are common to most Requiems for the sake of familiarity but also to interweave my own Scripturally inspired songs. My aim was to marry the idea of, on the one hand, the wonderful if temporary rest that individuals experience in Paradise as they await their full resurrection (requies means ‘rest’, ‘repose’ but also ‘recreation’ in Latin) and, on the other, the process of the ultimate decay before the eventual and glorious renewal of our physical Earth.
Between the completion of the old and beginning of the new there is a Sabbath rest for the Earth, as described in the creation story in Genesis which tells us that God created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh. People don’t enter the narrative until the sixth day!
Requiem for the Earth places us at the transition between the sixth and the seventh days, depicting Earth as both victim and witness of the abuse she suffers at the hand of mankind, who was intended to be its caretaker but who became its plunderer. The Earth is at breaking point and in turmoil; she cries out like a woman in labour in intense pain, but yet anticipates the respite that awaits her when her destiny will be fulfilled.
Christ enters into the middle of the piece as ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’, opening up an entirely new window of hope.
The second part of Requiem for the Earth describes the hope of this New Creation. The struggle, labour and toil give way to the promise of new life for the earth and for its inhabitants; the seventh day dawns and the Promised Land emerges beyond the reality of the present age.
Requiem finishes with a plea for individuals to live in the light of this hope, to embrace the light and to shine in this world whose destiny is so intimately and intricately tied up with our own.
In his great song at the start of the gospel of Luke, Zechariah sang of a rising sun which would come from Heaven to shine on those who were living in the shadow of death, in order to guide our feet into the path of peace’ (Luke 1:78-79). This, he declares, would happen because of the tender mercy of our God. Right there in the caught-up-ness of this vision, Zechariah grasped something of the deeper purposes of God regarding human history. Continue reading
Applying Mercy in Practice (ii): The 80-20 Choice
Even on the night He was betrayed, when He was breaking bread and giving it to the disciples, Jesus still gave thanks. (1 Cor. 11:23-24) If He can give thanks at a time like that, what does His example have to say to us in whatever it is that we are going through?
I have some suggestions to make to help us cope with the things we find less immediately attractive in each other. Continue reading
A prayer for mercy to flow from the mercy seat of the Lord to wherever the Body of Christ is meeting to seek His face.
The music is by Colin Owen, with Jane Horsfall playing Celtic Harp.
© 2016 Ruach Breath of Life Ministries
The wounds of the unborn child
Rosalind was at a conference recently which focussed on how certain influences can have lifelong consequences on a child in the womb. The effects of alcohol or drugs are well known in this regard; and that a significant number of babies born to heroin users experience dreadful and horrible withdrawal symptoms; an incredibly distressing way to embark on life.
People are perhaps less aware that if an expectant or new mother is living in the grip of depression and anxiety, or even just surrounded by constant noise, the stress cortisones that her body releases can make it difficult for the neuron pathways in the brain to form and connect properly. This sows the seeds of trouble in a child’s inner being, and may be a trigger for serious illness later on in life. This is particularly common where there is marital stress or violence, or a toing and froing about who will have custody of the child.
All is not lost, however! In His great work of redemption, the Lord can heal the damage done by these things. How good and how great He is! Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted; He is close to the broken–hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit; He is the Rofeh (healer) of the Shevurei-lev (broken in heart), who binds up our wounds. (Is. 61:1, Ps. 34:18) The more trusting we are to open our hearts to Him, the more tenderly He reveals the reasons for the things that fragment our personality and, just as tenderly, shows us what to do about them.
This is such an encouragement for those of us who find it hard to handle stressful situations, and who may be inclined to shy away from things that we really ought to face; or for those who tend towards self-absorption and attention-seeking; to recognise what is happening and let His love light in – especially into areas where pride has secured a foothold, perhaps through some inherited family trait, or through some national characteristic; or where our own self-conceit has twisted our perspective, as haughty attitudes always do.
Whether these deficiencies and fragmentations stem from outward losses or inner deficiencies, all of us to a greater or lesser extent need release from patterns of response that owe more to unseen riptides than to the flow of God’s Holy Spirit.
Again and again the Scriptures remind us that the Lord has a day in store to humble all that exalts itself. May we be eager to cooperate with this process, and call out to the Lord while there is still time to root out all that is born of pride, and to lop off all that is arrogant and haughty.
Perhaps more than anything this speaks to the issue of control. We all have our lists and schedules in mind for what we plan to do in a given day, and we easily react when it turns out that others have been thinking along different lines. It’s so easy to get upset and to scream out inwardly, if not outwardly, “Don’t mess with my plans!”
When one interruption after another comes our way, it really helps to remember that our times are in His hands – say it consciously to the Lord when those interruptions come, “our times are in your hands, Lord, and you Lord have a wonderful way of disguising opportunities as interruptions.” It must have looked like a distraction when the woman with an issue of blood sidled up to Jesus just at the time when he had been making haste to attend to Jairus’ daughter but it was actually God’s plan both for that needy woman and for Jairus’s daughter.
Prepare people ahead of time to face tendencies that may be lurking in their subconscious. Lend a copy of Francis McNutt’s book Praying for the Unborn Child to pregnant couples to help them prepare their spirits and to prevent unnecessary tensions from being passed on to the next generation. Put the cross of Christ between those spirits and those tendencies and the precious next generation.
Take time to read eye opening and life transforming books such as The Transformation of the Inner Man and Healing the Wounded Spirit by John and Paula Sandford. Attend a session or two of Bethel Ministry’s “Sozo” sessions or some such equivalent that will help you to recognise the forces that have long been at work in your life and which require the Lord’s specific intervention.
Lord Jesus, I invite You to help me identify those parts of my character and inmost being that are damaged and fragmented. Come into these depths to comfort and to heal; to reshape and fashion me in Your image, that I may have the faith and patience of the Son of Man, and so be equipped to do His works in the power and strength of His love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Philip Spratley: Suite, In Outlaw Country, Op. 12B – Notturno
Dvorak: Romance for piano and violin, Op 11, played by Grace Lee and Christiane von Albrecht.
When Jesus said, “Gather up the fragments that remain,” (John 6:12) the word simply means “broken pieces.” Most of us are aware of at least some parts of our character and personality that feel less than whole and fully functioning even if not entirely broken. We’re going to invite the Lord to look in on aspects of our character that feel raw and fragmented, whether as the result of some present stress or past trauma – or simply because we haven’t recognised that the way we respond in certain situations is far less gracious than it could be.
In other words, we’re going to offer the chance to receive healing and forgiveness by inviting the Lord to come into some pretty murky regions. Let’s use the psalmist’s prayer as a starting point:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
James speaks of getting to the root of the wrong desires that battle within us (James 4:1) Peter likewise urges us to “abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against our soul” (1 Pet. 2:11) because these things are like a riptide that sweep us into doing and saying things we may never have intended, and of which we are certainly not proud. But like a rip tide, the source of these shortcomings is often hidden. We can’t afford to allow the fact that many parts of our lives and ministries are functioning well to blind us to the fact that there may well be other areas that the Lord needs to draw our attention to.
The blessings are a sign of His covering grace, and His honouring of the truth we bring; but they are not necessarily the same thing as the truth and humility that He desires in our inward being.
That’s why the Lord often has to send specific events and challenges our way to flush things to the surface to help us see them for what they really are. If we aren’t willing to heed the gentle zephyrs He sends in terms of quiet warnings and words to the wise, He may need to send much stronger winds. At that point we face a big decision: will we allow the authentic fear of the Lord to stir us to get to grips with whatever it is He is showing us? Or will we push these unwelcome revelations down, or even attempt to deny them altogether?
A senior business professional devotes much of his spare time to managing a youth football team. His way has long been to allow his players a certain amount of time and grace in which to prove themselves, but then suddenly he loses patience with the shortcomings, and goes in search of better players. But having appointed them, the cycle soon repeats itself as the new players in turn begin to disappoint.
After many such years one of the players commented that his team aren’t any better than they are because they never receive any serious coaching. This comment proved a revelation, and provoked my friend to repent and made him eager to provide what was lacking in terms of coaching. It also had the effect of helping him to see similar patterns at work in the way he manages his team in his professional career. One simple comment to a man who really wants to do God’s will God’s way has turned out to be a mighty catalyst for change.
May it be God’s leading that directs us rather than ingrained responses and prejudices! Some people cut and run and pull out of things prematurely, while others hold back when the Lord is asking them to step out and to move on, because they feel too ‘fragmented’ to step out into the unknown.
Some of our sense of being fragmented may be the result of being hit by the genuine fiery darts of darkness that are endlessly sent against those who are serving in God’s front line. Attacks can come at any time, but you have probably noticed how the enemy fires them at times when we are particularly tired, dispirited or in some other way off balance.
Lift up the shield of faith against these attacks – and ask others to raise it over you. Use scriptures such as Psalm 64 to reassure you that God will move to protect you when you are experiencing scheming satanic assaults.
God takes care to surrounds and encircle us with godly influences and resources, more so than we often recognise at the time. It is the devil’s way to seek to make us discontent, and who dangles the temptation to look elsewhere inappropriately. Thankfulness is itself a powerful spiritual weapon and antidote. And then it is all about being in the mode the Lord is in, and “keeping in step with the Spirit,” as Paul puts it. (Gal. 5:25)
There is one other way of handling the attacks we come under that we ca do nothing about, which do not just go away the moment we pray about them – and that is to make them an offering to the Lord.
Jesus warned quite clearly that those who follow Him will be spoken against. There may be nothing we can do to precvent that from happening, but how we respond can make all the difference in both this life and eternity. That’s why it’s so important that we consciously offer God our hurts and disappointments. What feels like meaningless shards and fragments at the time may actually become precious gifts when we give them to God that He finds ingenious ways to transform to His glory.
I love the fact that the Lord Jesus “has chosen us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” We who can be so complex and contradictory, even from one moment to the next, will one day share in the glory Jesus has always enjoyed with His Father. Eph. 1:4). That thought alone makes it worthwhile to seek out and to gather up that which is fragmented in our lives. As Jesus prayed,
“Father, I want those you have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world,” (John 17:24)
I keep asking the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers. Oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!
May the eyes of our understanding be flooded with light to see His truth; that we may know and cherish the hope to which He has called us; what rich glories there are in the inheritance He has promised His set apart people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Eph. 1:18-21)
With this portion in the ‘Gathering up the Fragments’ series, we are opening up the theme of woundings in our spirit that cause inner fragmentation. We will be looking at this in much more detail in the next two releases.
Treasures in Jars of Clay
God is not deterred by our fractured selves. He can and does gather up the pieces and fit them together again. And if He has to allow difficult situations to come our way in order to show us that something seriously out of kilter in us, that’s fine. Circumstances often work out in such a way as to make us aware of our need for repentance so that the Lord can heal and put the issue right – and He uses the fact that we have had to humble ourselves to make more of an impact and to inspire others for Him. This is how even our broken pieces become building blocks on which He safely builds so much.
Sometimes we need help to recognise the areas where our responses are distorted and fragmented by the experiences we have been through, and by the way we have been treated. What we feel and how we react is so often conditioned by the woundings we have received. For example, we may transfer the way we responded in childhood to authority, to our current relationships. If our parents were never satisfied with us, or if our teachers were harsh and unfair, we may find it very hard to respond positively when people rebuke us, even lovingly, or give us well-intentioned advice. A wife’s quiet request becomes a mother’s nag; a husband’s helpful suggestion becomes a father’s refusal to listen. We over-react because we are hearing through distorting filters. That is why it is so important to discern the roots of these distractions and to deal with them in prayer.
When God is bringing matters to a head, it is so important to be willing to do more than just try to get a quick fix; as Bob Mumford memorably put it, if we fix the fix God fixed to fix us, He’ll have to fix another fix! When we are willing to face these areas of brokenness in ourselves, we are making room for God to heal and restore us. Honesty before Him can make for extraordinary changes! And it can be especially sweet and cleansing to make the offering of our fragments in company with someone we love and trust. It’s easier than doing it on our own sometimes. But we have to humble ourselves to admit them first.
We do well too, to recognise the effects that fragmented and disturbed people can have on our own spirits. If a visit leaves a bad after taste, or if we have been praying for someone very vulnerable, then it pays to “cut off” spiritually. Even now, after all these years, Ros and I still forget to do it occasionally, and it is as though some of the fragments are left behind from the people or situation we were involved and they are clinging to us – and that has the potential to make us jittery or short tempered.
Gather up these fragments therefore so that no wrong spirit pollutes the atmosphere or sours relationships. Even when a meeting has gone particularly well it is wise to “seal it in” in prayer as it were, because there is often counter-attack after special blessings.
Let me ask you: what are the things that feel fragmented and incomplete for you? Maybe some promise you believe that God has given but which has not yet seen the full light of day?
There is no limit to what God can do as we hand these apparently random fragments of our life over to Him. He is always looking for ways to further His purposes. Even out of the wreckage of something that has gone terribly wrong we have often marvelled at how he has brought about entirely new and actually much deeper.
Our brokenness is the very reason why Jesus came to Earth. “Whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” When the scribes and Pharisees were accusing Him of eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
As we wait on the Lord and bring our souls to quietness in Him, we overcome those attempts of the enemy to get us het up. This is not a process to rush. “Do not be in a hurry to leave the King’s presence,” the Philosopher urges in Ecclesiastes 8:3, for hurry, as opposed to moving with clear purpose, is rarely of God. Let’s take the time to lay our requests before Him now, and then wait in expectation for Him to take these fragments – shards even – and weave something good out of them.
The Lord has made His home in our heart, and He wants us to commune with Him so that we become aware again of Himself and the things that matter: What would He say to you? What can you give Him to work with? Let’s take some time now to pray and reflect.
After focusing on so many serious issues here is an opportunity to return to the quiet of the Father’s presence. Julia Herzog, accompanied by Fontane Liang on harp, is the soloist in this beautiful Andante by Bach, and David Booth the guitarist on this piece he wrote himself and which he entitled Maria es libre.
There are external matters which the devil loves to apply at an over literal level in order to cramp our spiritual freedom. If God is stressing these “untils” – “You need to face this or . . .”, then that’s a conditional promise and a clear warning that we have to act on. But where these are only the words of man, they are a striving after the wind – and it leads to nothing but frustration and legalism.
These things will not go away until we quiet and still our souls as the Psalmist puts it, and yield them all up to the Lord. It may take a lifetime for some people to reach this place of inner quiet and yieldedness; to others it comes more readily, but it is always the key for letting God re-strand the fragments in our life.
The quieter our souls, the more yielded, the more likely we are to be able to bring and communicate such peace and quietness to others. This is especially important in terms of communicating with the primary people in our life.
It is amazing how even relatively small changes can make all the difference to our ability to communicate with them. It’s all the difference between frustration and tension building up on the one hand and a really smooth and welcoming reception for what we have to share with them.
Now I find that, with all the snippets of daily information I need to pass on to Ros each day, my temptation is to blurt out too much and fire off the “bullet points” at machine gun speed. But if she has come home tired with her brain overladen from work, it can come across as altogether too much of a splurge. We are learning instead to write down these necessary and worthwhile “fragments” so we can make our way through them logically at the right time together. May the Lord help us to evaluate how we communicate and to develop tools of communication that work for us and which avoid unnecessary tension.
You see, fragments can end up as being flaming darts that the enemy of our souls shoots at us, and they are capable of inflicting real damage. You know how it is – you are just about to do something, like pray for someone with a bad back, and a well-aimed flashback lands on you to remind you that not a lot happened last time you prayed for a bad back! Don’t let it land. When we pray, God blesses!
And when little things go wrong and our plans are thwarted, it is so important not to allow a foothold to frustration. The truth is that most of the things that we get het up about now are probably less important than we are inclined to feel at the time. “Don’t worry about tomorrow,” Jesus urges, because the more het up we get, (and that is the real force of the expression Jesus is using here in Matthew 6:34), the less energy we have to deal with more serious things.
As The Message says in its own distinctive way, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
Perhaps we have been expecting things to be handed to us on a plate instead of needing to go out after them to make them work. And then sloth or lethargy intervened and slowed us down. Or perhaps we recognise that much of our fragmented activity was actually self-centred, selfish even. We may even wonder if we have gone so far as to miss the Lord’s appointment for us – in which case, those thoughts can open the floodgates to regrets – which are particularly unpleasant and counter-productive shards.
“If only I had done this, if only I hadn’t done the other, I would not now be in this place now . . .; I would have borne more fruit; I . . ; I . . ; I . . . look where the emphasis has gone: it’s all about I instead of Christ.”
There may well be legitimate griefs for things that we can no longer put right when we’ve been disobedient, or whatever it may be. And of course the Lord has to prune us. (Matt. 7:19) But let’s take the emphasis away from how much I’ve failed and look to the Lord who delights to restore and re-weave and re-strand.
Regret is a snare, not a spiritual aid. These are not fragments that we should collect and store. We are weakened and disempowered if we constantly bewail our lack, our failure, our smallness. When we realise how much we have hurt others though, or cut corners we should not have cut, or failed to take an opportunity to witness or pray with so or in some other way acted against the truth, then we should repent deeply – and that repentance silences the piercing clamour of regrets and re-opens the flow of God’s living water.
Think of times when you have found yourself caught up in a cycle of regretting what you have (or have not) rather than embracing what you could be doing . . . what have you found helps at those times? What does not help? What would the Lord say to you about this?
Self-pity is such an intrinsically unattractive quality because it presents not only a distinctly gloomy outlook, but it stems from a kind of false pride and arrogance. We will often find at the root of it the unconscious thought that “I deserve more than I am getting – and I’m going to make people suffer for not recognising it!” Jennifer Rees Larkham calls it the POMs – the Poor Old Me’s – and it’s therefore a serious condition first to identify and then face up to. Most of us have seen people who have crawled at least into the shallows of self-pity’s swamp to know that this route leads nowhere good. It’s a mangrove swamp!
In its early stages, self-pity may actually look quite humble, full of cries as it is of “Oh, I’m no good!” But the deeper register of this is not humility but rather the transmission of the message that we are not trusting God. Self-pity leads us to put up barriers and filters between us and the grace of God – and that can lead to the devil’s most insidious temptation of all, despair. We’re doing the devil’s work for him, becoming an “accuser of the brethren” when we accuse ourselves. We try to run our own lives.
Self-accusation is like a sharp-edged flint – it’s doubly dangerous in that it is not only aimed at ourselves but usually at others too. It puts us on the road to becoming what I call “constitutional complainers”: people who may come across as highly plausible, experienced and discerning, but who are actually having a lethally discouraging effect on people’s spirits. There is everything to be said for refusing to play the blame game, or responding with passive aggression because we have had our own buttons pushed and end up taking it out on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3 NLT)
Those who have not learnt to do this risk becoming congenital complainers. I wonder if you know what I mean by this? Such people are usually highly voluble and, indeed, sound entirely plausible when they make their assessments of people and situations. But watch out: they can be highly indiscreet as well as souringly negative. No wonder that the spiritually sensitive feel uneasy in their company and want to steer well clear of them.
Constitutional complainers are often inclined to be indiscreet and to air the failings of others very much in public. You know, there are endless “fragments” of gossip and tale-bearing that we do well to keep well clear of, steer well clear of them, refuse to gather them up. Ask the Lord to show you clearly if and how this process is at work in your own life, and cry out to Him to find better, more positive ways to respond; and grace to know how to cope when you come across people who are constitutional complainers. They are operating in a sphere which is very closely associated with the Jezebel spirit. It does real damage and spreads great darkness in the Body of Christ.
This is very much the same sort of spirit that the Pharisees suffered from as they endeavoured to observe every jot and tittle of the Law – or at least to make sure that others observed them slavishly. They completely missed the justice, mercy and faithfulness that God was actually looking for. (Matt. 23:23) Pharisaism fights against intimacy with God and makes people focus more on what they feel they ought to be doing, than with getting on with what they can do. Pharisees suffer from a “hardening of the oughteries” and impose their shoulds and oughts on others.
A Pharisee attitude quickly takes umbrage and resents deeply when other people are more highly praised by others than they are, or if others appear to be experiencing a greater freedom in their spirits than they do. In other words, they are prey to constant jealousy as they measure themselves against other people, especially those who operate in their own area of “specialisation.” How truly Paul spoke when he said, in 2 Cor. 10:12, We’re not putting ourselves in a league with those who boast that they’re our superiors. We wouldn’t dare do that. But in all this comparing and grading and competing, they miss the point entirely.
And so we have to face the facts: some people really are stronger than we are, or have a greater aptitude for certain things we do. But if we allow ourselves to feel inferior to such prodigies, we easily end up chastising ourselves for not having the same giftings, all of which again reduces our appetite to do the things we can do, let alone to attempt something new. Remember the forces that are at work here – a combination of envy and discouragement, all of which are hemming us in, reducing us; whereas Love wants us to expand and break-out, and to accomplish things for Him that we wouldn’t have thought possible.
It is easy to allow our mind-set to deceive us into supposing that if only we had more of this or there was less of that at work in our lives (whether a difficult relationship, or the physical lack of something), then everything would be just fine and we could be the most wonderful Christians!