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I destroyed the Amorite …
though he was tall as the cedars
and strong as the oaks.
I destroyed his fruit above and his roots below
Amos 2:9

What an amazing statement of the Lord’s work of healing and deliverance, in our lives!

We’re having a bumper harvest of raspberries, this year! And it’s also going to be a good year for figs! Earlier, we had blackcurrant profusion! Going by the many requests we see from others to “please come and help yourself to our fruit/veg”, this looks like a year of fruitful harvests, all round. Even our tomatoes, that usually end up splitting on the plant, are beautiful and complete, this year!

How good it is and how thankful we are, when we can enjoy such abundance of good fruit. Then we know that the roots, too, must be good.

There are times, though, when we see the evidence of bad fruit in our lives. This may be in the form of negative self-beliefs, or damaging behaviour we can’t avoid, or relationships that are a constant source of hurt, or that nothing ever seems to go right, or any number of other negative experiences we seem unable to shake free from. And we know that the root bearing this fruit, lies deep within. And the root is not good. Yet we seem powerless to do anything about it.

The great news is that God’s promise holds true! In His words through Amos, the “Amorite” represented the enemy of His people. His promise is that whatever wars against us – the bad roots, however they got there, and the damaging fruit they produce – HE has destroyed, on the cross of Jesus, by whose wounds we are healed. We don’t need to live with bad fruit, nor with the roots that continue to produce them. As we take hold of the healing and deliverance available through the cross, we WILL receive and live in freedom!

At the 2016 Encounter Weekends we are exploring this in greater depth and uncovering the tremendous riches of Isaiah 53. There are still places available if you’d like to join us or know someone who would benefit. We’d love as many as possible to have the opportunity to be renewed, refreshed and restored!

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Easter Apr15

Out of the darkness
new life exploded
All sin’s deceptions
fully defeated
He lives! He lives!
Life’s fullness He gives!
Jesus, Your Kingdom
forever established

Naturalists tell us that animals which exist predominantly or entirely in the dark, possess particular faculties that enable them to live in a world that to the rest of us is so abnormal. Yet for these animals, this habitat of darkness for which they are so superbly equipped, is the most normal.

So we could ask what is normal, the darkness or the light? To which we would most probably say that it depends on our perspective – whether we are the night prowlers or the day workers!

We could also ask a deeper question. How much of what we take for “normal”, would be “normal” in God’s eyes? We could, maybe should, ask this over all facets of our lives – our attitudes, the way we conduct relationships, the way we work, the way we behave, the ethics and morality we consider acceptable, the state of our health, the fruitfulness of our work … are just some areas we could reflect on.

Darkness as a Biblical metaphor describes the state that exists when we are in rebellion against God. It is the result of sin and the legacy of sin. Here, the apostle Paul is not simply saying that we are saved from sin. He is referring to the controlling influence that darkness has over our world. Yes, by the grace and mercy of God, we see his goodness at work – without which we would be truly lost. But we can’t escape from the reality that so much of what we see and experience in the world, is compromised by sin. It’s like seeing the world through a distortion lens. Yet we have lived with the distortions for so long, that we accept it and its shortcomings as normal.

The resurrection of Jesus breaks the hold of sin and brings us into the freedom of his new life. In this new life, our perspectives are different. Though our knowledge and understanding may not yet be perfect, we have a new lens through which can view and experience life. It is the perspective of light, not of darkness. It is God’s normality, not the abnormalities of sin. It is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, working in us (Ephesians 1:19)! It is the strength and power to break through the bondages of sin to live in the abundant life that Jesus promises us (John 10:10). It is gaining God’s perspective that lifts us above the despair of failure. It is redefining normal in God’s terms, not accepting the damage caused by sin, as normality. It is experiencing God’s supernatural in the natural.

May the resurrection life and light of Jesus fill you through his Holy Spirit.

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God has given us a precious gift, in Jesus, of his rest and peace, which are to guard our hearts and minds for life. We in turn, need to keep our hearts settled in this gift. Too often, the voices that we allow to dominate us are those that arise out of the ways and views of the world, that shout to us of the need to achieve, to perform, to prove ourselves, to strive after what we desire and to assert ourselves if we want to move ahead. We even say to one another, “You’ve earned your rest”, or “You deserve that break”.  Yet, God’s way runs opposite to this. He doesn’t ask us to earn our rest. He invites us to enter his rest.

At times, even the idea of “remaining in Jesus” conjures up for us thoughts of whether we’ve done enough to ensure we remain in him. Have I prayed enough? Or attended sufficiently to studying the Scriptures? Or made the right choices in my decisions? We see rest as a reward for our effort. On the other hand, God gives us rest, as a gift of faith (Heb4:1,9).

Being a gift, we don’t have to strive to attain it or seek to find it. We simply need to receive it and remain in it. Which means, as Jesus told us, not letting our hearts be troubled, nor allowing fears to take hold, nor giving room for anxieties to crowd our minds (Jn14:27). Because when we allow these things to enter our hearts and minds, the natural consequence is for us to leave the rest and peace of God in which we are to remain and instead chew on the poisoned apple of troubles, fears and anxieties.

Entering and remaining in God’s rest is first and foremost not about whether we are doing the right things but about where our heart is settled. It’s a place we arrive at through faith and trust, not by effort and striving. It’s the place where in our heart of hearts we are truly surrendered to his goodness and sovereignty and will not fight him. It’s the place where Jesus “like a sheep before her shearers (was) dumb” (Is53:7) – a resignation, not to weakness, defeat and despair, but a resignation in trust to the purposes of One who was greater than him.

So, are you a ship, submarine or sunken wreck?

As a ship sails through the sea, so we could sail through God’s gift of rest. In contact with it, but never immersed in it. As the ship keeps out the sea, except when she needs some of it for ballast, so we could continue in life to our own tune, except when we feel a need for God, which is when we turn to him and try to take on board some of his peace and assurance. The danger is that living this way takes us further and further away from being close to the Lord and one day we find that we’ve lost the relationship and with it, his rest and peace.

A submarine enjoys life submerged in the sea. This may represent for us, life that’s immersed in the rest, peace and joy of God. But the submarine exists by keeping watertight compartments that keep out the sea. This may speak to us of the areas of our lives which we have not submitted to God’s rest. Usually, these are those issues that we see as being really important for our well being and therefore over which we want to keep control and so we don’t want to let go of them. The danger is that what we can’t let go of ends up dominating and controlling our lives and undermining our sense of well being. They take over our thinking and clutter our minds with anxious thoughts and burden our hearts with anxieties. It leaves us unable to hear the Spirit’s voice of direction and comfort, nor experience his peace.

The sunken wreck is totally in the sea and the sea is in the wreck. Although the two are separate, yet they cannot be separated. Here’s a picture of life that’s fully submerged in Jesus. He fills our all, with his all. His peace is like the filter through which we relate to the world. In our circumstances in life, the question whether “God will work it out” somehow doesn’t even get asked, as our hearts are fully settled in unconditional surrender to him and resting in him. The wonderful secret of the wreck is that in its “oneness” with the sea, it provides a place for the growth and development of all types of new life. As we remain in Jesus, through remaining in his rest, we find it to be the place from which we receive the power of his life – which is all we need to live life to the full, in his peace, love, joy and power … and to bring others into this life.

In repentance and rest is your salvation (wholeness), in quietness and trust is your strength. (Is30:15)

Click here, for the full podcast of this teaching (“Remaining in Jesus”, Parts 1 and 2), including added material to help us reflect on what keeps us out of God’s rest.

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Did Jesus know the future before it happened? Did he know how each “story” he was involved in would end?

Because we know the “full story” from the Scriptures, we could readily assume that Jesus also knew the ending, before he got there. We assume he had some sort of divine foresight that guaranteed he would make it across the water to the boat, or that the loaves and fishes would serve 5000+ people, or that a withered hand would be instantly restored, or indeed, any of his miracles and healings would be completed. Or even that he would endure and come through the terror of the cross and be resurrected.

Or did he? After all, he was God.

But let us not forget, too, that he was fully man. And as man, he gave up all the privileges of God – he emptied himself (Phil2:6,7). There is a divine mystery here, of how the Son of God could empty himself of being God, to take on our human frailties and limitations, whilst remaining God and man!

And yet he did. And by his own words, he told us so.

He said that he had to rely fully upon the Holy Spirit to show him what Father was doing (Jn5:19)and wanting to say (Jn12:49,50) and then set himself to follow Father’s lead (Jn14:31). Each word, miracle and healing he did, he did because that was what he heard from Father and saw that Father was doing at that time (e.g. Lk5:17). He acted as he was directed (Jn10:32). His complete reliance upon Father’s lead meant that he lived out each moment and situation in “real time”. He did not know the “end of each story” till it happened!

He studied the Scriptures and knew the prophecies. He had revelation and growing understanding of his mission and where it was leading and set his face for the cross. He knew Father could rescue him from the grave, but the only guarantee he had of this was Father’s faithfulness to his word. There was no divine intervention, ahead of time, to guarantee the outcome. Jesus had to walk the road of trust, obedience and prayer (Hb5:7,8).

In his humanity, he had no special advantages over us. Every moment of his life, he had to trust totally in Father ….

through the times of uncertainty
through persecution and oppression
for daily provision, shelter and protection
for wisdom, revelation and the right words to say
for the power of God to deliver him from all evil
for Father’s character – his goodness, love, faithfulness, mercy, compassion

….  just like we need to do.

Jesus learnt to live in trust and obedience to Father, how much do we! His relationship with Father shows us God’s desire for us – and how essential it is for us – to live day to day, moment by moment, in a relationship of trust with Father.

And relationship is the key. Trust doesn’t grow on trees. It’s not something we can just pick off and eat and all of a sudden, we have trust. It grows with relationship and with our increasing knowledge and experience of the Father, in whom we trust.

So let us throw off the things that get in the way of trusting. Let us deal with fears and doubts, any unhealthy absorption by our possessions and any proud self reliance. The biggest danger we face is not that we don’t trust Father at all, but that we deceive ourselves into thinking that we trust him in all things, when in fact we are only trusting him in some areas of our lives. And it’s where we don’t trust that has a habit of finding us out. Mistrust is like yeast. A small amount of it can grow and impact increasing parts of our lives where we think we are secure. And when we need to draw on it, we find the reservoir of trust doesn’t quite run deep enough.

Let’s make it a priority to invest in our relationship of trust with Father, each day. Jesus certainly did. And if you feel anxious that you don’t quite know how it’s going to end, then take heart that neither did he. But he proved that Father can be trusted. And with that he comes alongside us, by his Spirit, and tells us, “My peace I leave with you. DO NOT let your hearts be troubled and DO NOT be afraid. I have overcome the world.” (Jn14:27; 16:33)

Download a podcast of the full teaching, here

If you’d like a CD of the teaching, please request it through the Comments, below. Don’t forget to give us your name and address.

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I have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices … my eyes and my heart will always be there (2Chr7:12,16).

What an astounding promise God made to Solomon. This was the commitment of the living, holy and sovereign God, to his relationship with his people, Israel. He jealously safeguards this relationship and has stood by his promise, through the centuries, delivering them from their enemies, gathering them back from the nations and will bring them to a saving revelation of the Messiah, Yeshua.

This commitment of the Lord, gives us all hope. When we, through faith in Jesus, are grafted into the promise that comes through Abraham of righteousness through faith, we can be sure that he is as jealously committed to watching over us and safeguarding our relationship with him.

But let us not take this for granted and heed the lessons, first from Solomon and also from Israel. Solomon fell into a growing habit of ungodliness as he disobeyed God and took pagan wives and allowed pagan culture to seep into and take over and draw his heart away from God and contaminate the nation  (1Ki11:1-13). There are clear parallels for us. We can so easily take for granted our relationship with the Lord and absorb the values, culture and mindsets of our society, effectively shunting God to one side, taking his promises for granted, whilst we get increasingly lukewarm in our relationship with him. Let’s heed the warning and attend continuously and single-mindedly to deepening our relationship with the Lord, who is jealous for us.

True worship springs out of a living communion with God. As magnificent as it was, the Temple, in God’s eyes, was not an end in itself. It stood for the relationship between God and his people, a relationship that needed the commitment of their hearts to reach beyond the rituals and live a life of purity and obedience, set apart for the Lord out of which would come the transformation and renewal of their land and society (Is1:11-20). Instead, the Temple sacrifices and rituals became a hiding place for the people’s sins. They thought that as long as they observed the set rituals and paid lip service to the prayers, they could keep God happily contained and could get on with their lives as they wished. (Is58:1-4). In the end, God’s only remedy to shock his people into realising their plight and returning to him, was to remove the Temple altogether. It happened twice, because they still did not learn after the first time. The destruction by the Romans of the second Temple (70AD) was absolute, they (did) not leave one stone on another, as Jesus prophesied (Lk19:44).

The words of the Lord to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:11-22 are a declaration of his commitment to Israel, within the prophetic warning that he also gives Solomon of the shaking that is to come upon the nation and its people. And so God makes his urgent plea in v14, for his people to remember that the shaking is a siren call to them to return to seeking him wholeheartedly and to holiness.

As we are living through times when the nations are literally being shaken and some of the foundations of our societies are being dismantled, we need too, to heed this call of God. Yes, it is a call to pray and to intercede, but it is firstly a call to return to holiness and a single hearted seeking of God. We cannot point the finger away from ourselves at “godless society” and call upon God to change them, without first attending to our own house.

As he spoke to Solomon and then did, so he speaks now to us and is doing: his shaking is as much to shake the dross and contamination of the ways and thinking of the world off us, that we his people have allowed to infiltrate our lives, our service, our churches – that have compromised and diluted the single-mindedness with which we should seek the Lord. As he did to Israel, so he is doing now, in removing the hiding places for our sins.

Father is purifying the bride of Jesus. And as he says (v14), it is through our return to holiness and purity that cleansing and healing will come to our land and its people.

Download a podcast of the full teaching, here

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The first Encounter event for 2011 took place on 12 February. The Lord’s presence was with us as we worshipped and received Jesus’ promise that his truth will set us free. It was a morning for breaking free from burdens we’d carried within ourselves, locked in by the enemy’s lies. It was a time for embracing God’s promise of restoring what was lost.

Joel 2:25 gives us a promise of restoration – of bringing us back to the places where we will dream again. Not dreams of yearning for what was not, but dreams of fulfilment and hope.

In Jos24:13,  Israel is reminded that they acquired what they had not laboured to build. God didn’t just give them victory, he gave them a readymade conquest. This is a picture for us not just of the victory we have in Jesus, but that this victory includes the totality of God’s healing and restoring of our lives.

The promise of Joel and the picture of Joshua assure us that God alone can bring us to the place of fulfilment, where what we lost is not just paid back, but paid back with interest. When we stand in the place of God’s healing and restoring, we find that what we lost hasn’t held us back and in fact God has grown us so we are where we should be – if not even beyond that – had we not suffered the loss. So it’s like having our youth renewed AND soaring with the eagles.

The problem for us, so often, is that we live locked within the consequences of hurtful and damaging experiences of life – consequences that leave us with a burden of losses that we feel we will carry for life. Not just material losses, but loss of peace, health, character, self worth, innocence, abilities, relationships ….. The reality appears to us to be anything but the promise and the picture. We appeart to live in the opposite realm, where we are slaves to the consequences from the past.

What keeps us bound and unable to experience God’s healing and restoring?

A major factor is the lies of the enemy. Jesus called satan “the father of lies” and so identified a key weapon he uses. Because Jesus is Truth and he sustains all creation, truth is part of our essential DNA. Truth is ingrained into our very being. We are designed to be held together by truth – it is like a thread that keeps us together and aligned with what is right and good for us. We live in wholesomeness, balance and fulfilment when we live in truth. So when we embrace lies and accept lies into our beings, the result is an unravelling of our personalities, poisoning of our spirit and even destruction of our bodies.

No wonder that satan uses lies to undermine us in every way he can, to steal, kill and destroy all he can. No wonder he will keep us chained to lies that seek to convince us that we will never be free from damaging consequences arising from losses and bad experiences we’ve had in life.

How can we be free, to experience God’s healing and restoring – to know the reality of the promise and the picture?

The first step is to recognise and acknowledge the lies that we have accepted and chosen to believe. Because lies don’t just stick. They stick because we choose to accept them and believe them. We may then need to repent of any wrong attitudes we have held towards God as a result of accpeting the lie (e.g. not trusting him; not accepting his goodness). We need to renounce the lies (i.e. refuse to recognise them any longer; stop engaging with them). And then receive and affirm God’s truths for us.

It is not necessarily easy. And the longer we’ve  lived with the lies, the more they will seek to hold onto us. So we will at all times need the Holy Spirit’s revelation and enabling strength. But if we are willing, then he is certainly more than wanting (to free us) and is able to do more than we could ever imagine.

Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”.

Shalom.

You can listen to a podcast of teaching related to this topic, from the Encounter Morning of 12 February. Click here.

Use the Contact form or Comments (below) to request a CD – don’t forget to give us your name and address.

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These words from verse 5 of Psalm 103 have spoken very much into our spirits over the past couple of months. Even whilst we were mulling over these words, there in the sands of the Negev Desert in southern Israel, the two eagles appeared. Not just any eagles, but a pair of Bonelli’s Eagles – a species rare enough to be classified as endangered. In Israel, according to the Israel Bird Ringing Centre, they are an “extremely rare … passage migrant and scarce winter visitor”. How like our God to surprise us with riches we do not expect!

We have received this also, as an affirmation of his word  from the Psalm, for us personally (still digesting this!) and as the underlying theme for Breakfast on the Beach this year.

The promise of renewing your youth is so special. At times, we may find ourselves looking back on life and reflecting on what we see as lost or wasted opportunities. We can even lose ourselves in the world of “what if ….”. Corrie ten Boom wrote in The Hiding Place, “There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s world”. Renewing your youth stands with God’s other promises like restoring the year the locusts have eaten (Joel2:25, KJV).

And what a promise! Whatever the mess we may feel we’ve made of something in the past – an opportunity, a relationship, something entrusted to us – that leaves us with a sense of irrecoverable loss; or however much a hurtful experience may overshadow and even continue to control the present, leaving us with a sense of helplessness about the legacy we carry – God’s promise remains. He offers us his healing, renewing and restoring in our lives. It’s not that he erases bits of our past or rewrites portions of our history. But he is able to bring us to a place where the damage of the legacy of what went before is not just healed, but in the healing we find ourselves in a place where we have advanced from where we began.

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