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“The Heavenlies” – A Peretti Pastiche (Part 1 of 2)


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One

There was an unusual air of excitement in the city of Exeter that hot summer’s evening as the University students began to flood into the local pubs, bars, and Off Licences. In fact, it wasn’t quite evening, still late afternoon, and already the streets were seething with young revellers following the recent culmination of the academic year. The sweet smells of beers and wines fused together and seemed to linger everywhere with the still impressive heat of day. But in and around all of the celebrations, overhanging them all, was a more sober sense of an impending threat.

Paul stood patiently at the bar, waiting. Despite his athletically tall build it always seemed to take an age for him to get served. He was easily over six feet, and, with his striking blonde hair and sharp features, was popular with the girls. For the moment, though, Paul was with his mates. He definitely felt more comfortable when his Christian friends were there. He wasn’t sure why, just that he often felt overwhelmed with the whole drinking thing. He told himself, and the lads, that he wasn’t very good at it; but he knew that he could probably keep up with the likes of Adie and Pete, especially with the amount of practice they had. Paul knew more intuitively than he cared to admit that the sense of being awkward came from somewhere else.

Two other strikingly tall figures stood near to the bar where the group of friends were now gathered. They stood perfectly still and silent, intently watching the group as they laughed and talked together. Paul remained oblivious to their presence as the evening set in and even later when they were standing in the group, towering above and either side of him. Although they showed no intention of using them, both characters were concealing huge, monolithic swords and they were dressed in beautifully plain clothes with no recognisable style or pattern. They stood with perfect poise and posture, impressive in every conceivable way.

It was now dark outside and Paul’s friends were agitating to move on into the City to find more pubs and more fun. A lot of people were out and it seemed as though everyone he knew was either in the pub or roaming the streets. He could see that it was getting raucous.

As the group finished their drinks and moved towards the door, the two strangers moved aside like a vast automatic door, allowing Paul to return his glass to the bar. The barmaid caught Paul’s eye and thanked him, smiling attractively. He responded with a cheeky wink – he was feeling more comfortable now – almost relaxed.

Two

Apathy, Desire and Deceit were perched awkwardly on the corner of the pub’s roof, watching Paul leave from their evil vantage point. An argument had broken out among the three demons as they waited impatiently for a commanding signal to follow Paul.  To avoid any skirmishes with the Lord’s host, Kaalk’s instructions had been for them to remain unseen until his senior command.

Desire was complaining again. Their ambush seemed trivial and insignificant as he fantasised about diving down into the pub with the hoards of other spirits. He prided himself in creating havoc and calamity in the adolescents’ lives – it was his singularly insidious intent. Apathy sat breathing slowly and discontentedly, saying and thinking nothing while Deceit made vain attempts to persuade Desire that it would be better not to wait but to seize the moment right now.

Fortunately for Desire, an eerie cry suddenly resounded throughout the immediate spiritual realm as Kaalk thundered past, wielding a burning sword and screaming obscenities. The other three demons leapt into action, unfolding their leathery wings and brandishing their own swords. They were now in hot pursuit of Paul who was already drinking in the next pub.

As he started another drink, Paul had turned his attention for a moment to a crowd of second-year lads outside the pub. A fight had started. One of them was being badly beaten by another two as several others stared, watched and did nothing. Within moments the crowd vanished as police sirens were heard approaching. Something in Paul’s heart winced as he looked at the boy left lying prostrate on the curb, now unconscious in a pool of his own blood. He wondered how people could be so cruel and his failure to act bothered him.

The two other glorious figures had followed Paul closely into the pub and were now more animated with their hands gently touching his head and chest. They were completely surrounding him. A piercing white light filled the room that emanated from where the two angels stood, shining intensely with palatial majesty as they ministered to him. Aramouth and Guldin knew what approached as they looked at each other in agreement; and they understood why the Lord wanted Paul to stray from their protection.

Between slurps of his pint, Paul continued to stare out of the window, watching the paramedics arrive and the police question others too drunk to talk properly. Adie and Pete were both drunk now and Paul realised that he too was feeling under the influence. He began to think that he should leave when Pete threw a reassuring arm around him. He shouted something in his ear to do with a girl at the bar and handed him another drink, slapping his back as he always did when he was drunk.

Kaalk smashed into the pub as Paul looked at his fresh drink. Aramouth and Guldin rose instantly in billows of air as their wings flexed like a ship’s sail in a storm. They reached for their swords that now shone with heavenly brilliance, bracing themselves for a fight they knew they were not to win. But Aramouth couldn’t resist and defiantly swung his sword in a powerful arch that sent Kaalk flailing to the floor. The other demons had arrived and quickly found Paul still illuminated by the glow of Guldin’s glory. Apathy was first to sink his sharp talons deep into Paul’s mind despite the angelic efforts to prolong his protection. Suddenly, Guldin roared in pain as Deceit bit and clawed into his back. Desire began slashing into Guldin’s wings with his jagged sword, leaving the heavenly warrior crumpled on the floor like an aged cheek. Startled by his friend’s cry, Aramouth instantly spun from his own advance on Kaalk and lifted his companion to safety with his vice-like arm.

Both angels were overwhelmed with grief as they passed through concrete and rafters and steel and rested out of sight, some distance from the city that now echoed with evil laughter. They knew that they had done more than was asked of them and yet every part of them cringed at the thought of their encounter with the kingdom of darkness. All they could do now was wait.

© Nick Franks, 2002

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Paignton Paparazzi


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Last week-end I went out kayaking in the glorious October summer sun with a friend. It’s called the English Riviera down here for a reason – when the weather is like this it’s like being on the Continent: warmer temps, sparkling ocean, thousands of tourists, flip-flops galore and occasionally decent surf.

View of Preston Beach to Berry Head
Quality little beach where I grew up

I was thinking I’d take my camera out with me on the water to get some spectacular snaps but decided against it because I lost a pair of Oakleys the last time I kayaked. (I’d capsised when trying to retrieve a Tunnocks caramel bar from a million pound luxury craft who’d pulled alongside my kayak to offer the snack. That was the most expensive chocolate I’ve ever eaten).

Out on the water, it wasn’t long before I was wishing I’d taken the risk and brought my camera. Thatchers Rock is about 5 miles out to sea and it was a mission to get there across some (thanks to speed boats) choppy waters. The wild-life out there is pretty unusual too and the whole scene was just luscious.

About 5 hours later, when my friend and I got back to my parked car above Paignton Harbour, I noticed a bit of paper under my wiper saying “Kayak Photos” and  inside was an email address I could use as a contact to get my photos! Turns out that a photographer had spotted us walking down from the car to the beach about 5 hours before and, because of the blue lunch-box I was carrying, recognised me on the water as we kayaked off after that! (My lunch-box was on the front of the kayak).

I was blown away – better photos than I’d ever have taken!

This quirky moment reminded me that someone is probably always watching us and, even if they’re not, Abba always is. He does things like this occasionally just to remind me.

He will for you too.

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John 21 – (Hoofing) Fish, Beach-Fires and Worship #2


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I’m typing this post with fingers that still have the faint whiff of mackerel – despite several washings – reminding me that yesterday I was pulling fish out of the sea, left right and centre.

The annual Forged in the Fire Fishing Trip was very cool and being at sea for 10 hours filled my mind with snap-shot analogies, parallels, comparisons and pictures relating to the life of faith as a believer in Christ. Here’s just three:

The Boat:

Hoof! There were 12 of us aboard each trawler. Some of the guys were quiet, some were gobby, some were sleeping for hours, some were eating and some couldn’t because they were chundering over the side of the boat. Some seemed to be better and more experienced at fishing than others but, at some point, everyone’s strength came out. Some had all the gear while others had none. But it was a powerful picture of the church as equipment was shared, the sick were accepted & looked after, experience was used and some guys taught others how to catch and gut a fish or sort the tackle out, depending on what type of fish you were going for.

The Camp:

After the return to shore, all of us headed for a stunning natural balcony in the Whitby cliff-face where tents were set up and a fire was built. It was phenomenal to see 24 guys all pitching in, collecting firewood, hauling massive stones for the fire pit, lugging a keg of ale down the cliff-face, sharing tents etc. I’ll never forget it. Within 20 minutes of finding the spot the fire was roaring, (the best bbq I’ve ever seen), and soon after all manner of fish were being amazingly cooked. My friend, Rob, was like an American Bear (chocolate) Grills– cooking the fish with all his trans-Atlantic flare and getting things really going. The scene was like a glimpse of heaven.

The Fishing-Master – John:

The reality is, we might not have caught anything and the fire pit would have been empty if it wasn’t for this guy. He was responsible for taking us out to sea to the right places to drop our lines. Towards the end of the trip I was getting really irritated because the fish had apparently all swam off (we hadn’t caught anything for ages) and all we seemed to be doing is moving around the oceans, getting tossed around, lines up. But John was seeing what I couldn’t see. He had a radar-view of the wrecks that were the hot-spot areas to find fish and so, on his command, we let our lines down and, on his say so, we brought them back up. Sometimes there was only 2 minutes between each descent. It taught me that I had to be ready to ‘drop’. If my line was in a mess I’d miss the window and I’d miss the fish and I’d miss my supper later. John helped us catch 95 fish that day, some as big as 12 lbs! Enough to amply feed 24 hungry men.

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Adopted! Romans 8:14-16


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The Holy Spirit of adoption compared with the spirit of slavery. It’s like the difference between sitting on your Dad’s knee eating a Werthers Original compared to being trapped hopelessly in a child slavery camp: Loved unconditionally, understood, empowered, protected, believed-in, rescued, highly esteemed and cherished, pleasing. Compared to being over-worked, under-fed, beaten, abused, exposed, taken-advantage-of, unloved, forgotten. That’s why we cry “Abba!”

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RNX – Becoming What We Are


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My, my, my…what a very cool church we have here in Bradford, UK. (www.alm.org.uk). We are in the middle of celebrating 10 years of Rock Nations, a youth conference with plenty of differences.

When I was 15 in 1995, we had summer camps in vacated schools and for 2 or 3 days where we used to have meetings, tuck shops, day trips out where we used to get euphoric about all being out together in a new city (Bournemouth), and other Christian camp things. They were good days and God was doing precious things in us all then.

And God is doing something very awesome today as well: 1700 young people and leaders from all around the world are gathering in BD3 to encounter the living God, Jesus Christ. And it’s more than encountering Him for some emotional moments…there is a marking that is happening of young people’s hearts that will lead them to change cultures for Christ – hearts that have been sealed (Eph.1:13) by the Holy Spirit and that are being unleashed with insatiable zeal to see Him known, justice reign and freedom breakout. Sounds like a smaller band of men once upon a time to me.

And the fact is, RNX is about all of us continuing to become what we already are. We are sanctified and yet are being sanctified. We are justified yet are being justified and we are saved and yet we are being saved. That’s why Paul tells us in Colossians to ‘put on the new self’ which is ‘being renewed’. We’ve got it on already (because of the twinkling-of -an-eye-moment when we were reborn) but we’re still being renewed. We have the mind of Christ and yet our minds are being transformed in a daily way.

So I see RNX as a 10-year celebration of this conference but also as a celebration of His life in ours, that we are all becoming what we already are in Christ, whether we are 15 or 30 or 50, or any age. The Nations truly are being rocked!

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” – Phil.1:6 MSG

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Let’s Remember Them


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Living as a Christian in 21st Century England is easy. It might not always feel easy, but it really is. There are no laws prohibiting Bible reading or praying to Jesus or talking about Him in public places. There aren’t any government-sent army soldiers knocking on the door of your life-group to demand you stop worshipping Yeshua or pulling you off to a prison cell when you don’t.

  These realities are so far from our experience as Christians in the UK that we forget they are happening every day for a sizeable chunk of our Christian family around the earth. We forget. We forget what it really costs some to stand for the gospel and to bear the Name.

 

 

http://www.csw.org.uk/idop.htm

 Peter writes of trials that come to believers like this: “These have come so that your faith…may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor…” (1 Pet. 1:7)

In the absence of ‘life or death’ or ‘freedom or prison’ realities for us here, we should still remember that our own trials are still ‘proving’ our faith in our lives. Part of the high, high privilege of having a soft heart is the process of the maturing of our faith in Christ…a faith growing in wisdom. 
Whatever trial you’re in now consider it’s effect on your faith as one of proving and maturing. Trials mature us. Trials produce wiser faith….which is worth far more than gold, (1 Pet. 1).
 
Come on, let’s pray! Father, we pray now for every brother and sister around the globe caught in persecution. We pray you’d bless them. Keep them, protect and deliver them, and may their faith be shown to be genuine. Please strenghten their faith to the praise of Your Name – may your Name be known.
And for the trials in our lives, here in the Western world. Help us to respond well. Would you give us a wiser faith as a result, and that You’d be glorified – that is, known as the glorious One that You are. We pray too for subtle, governmental laws that persecute followers of Christ in the UK – in the midst of these cause Your gospel to shine. 
 
Amen 
 

 

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Love and War


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It is true to say that the right book in the right hand at the right time can literally save a life. And the power of someone’s testimony in the right hand at the right time is spectacularly powerful, let alone a husband and wife’s.

In “Love and War” John and Stasi Eldredge have ‘bared all’ to give any engaged or married couple an absolute must of a gift when it comes to preparing for and living in happy, glad-hearted marriage. Of course, it is also a must read for single Christian people to prepare their thinking in advance of finding the romance of love and the heart-ache of the relational war that will go hand-in-hand with ‘boy meets girl’.

Love and War combines profound insight, honest and refreshing directness as well as disarming humour that opens up the readers’ heart to better understand, and more deeply love, the one to whom they are betrothed. It is a cool, trendy, relevant exploration of this mysterious thing we call marriage and should be read prayerfully as it will require you to change, big time. Highlights include the chapter on sex, the perfect storm, the greatest gift you can give and a cracking sub-section on opposites do attract.

Thanks to the Eldredge’s for their testimony and not giving up that others might also get to 25years, and way beyond, as happily married Christian men and women.

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Get Low


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We all know that God likes it when we’re humble and He’s not very happy when we’re proud and arrogant. How is it then that we often struggle to take the last spot in the queue or the smallest bit of pizza from the Domino’s box? Why do we insist on giving ourselves the best shot instead of making room for God to do something far more glorious?

Living in Christian community can be very challenging. Getting on with people can be very challenging. Not taking offense is an on-going challenge. But the call from God is to ‘go low’.

I visited IHOP (see http://www.ihop.org) a couple of years ago and this is where I heard the phrase ‘getting low’. It means that whenever we are tempted to climb higher on the back of our own sense of ‘justice’ or ‘rightness’ or whatever it is that we think is the ‘way’, we need to forget that and place our own agendas down. Jesus said to consider the needs of each other….to prefer others to yourselves. And James talks about bearing with one another in gentleness (James 3: 17-18 MSG) as being a true sign of holiness and wisdom.

So, I am reminded again to ‘get low’, get on the floor, eat carpet, let go of offense and hurts, prefer others, love others, look to the interests of others…and when I see situations on the horizon to ‘get high’ for myself to instead resist and get down low.

Father, I ask you today for a greater anointing of humility on my life and for all who read this.

Amen

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Go And Make 2010 Happen


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Jeremiah 33:3 –  ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

One of the things I regularly think about is the future. It might be a future week, a future year or even a future decade. It might be that I’m thinking about a significant life event, like my 30th birthday in February. I spend a lot of my time, I’m realising, thinking about the future.

If you’re a futurist like me, Strengths Finders (http://www.strengthsfinder.com/113647/Homepage.aspx) suggests:

“Partner with someone…who can remind you that you do not discover the future, you create it with the actions you take today.”

“Surround yourself with people who are eager to put your vision into motion. They will feel exhilarated by your Futuristic talents, and you can harness their energy to propel the vision toward reality.”

Normally I dislike “self help concepts” or “lead the best life yet” type of teachings, because they are often void of Scriptural foundations or Biblical principles. For instance, Jesus did come to give us abundant life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a certain salary per year, 3 holidays and a caravan. Jesus was mainly referring to the abundance of knowing freedom from condemnation…the abundance of a life being a child of God. Having said that, there  are elements of helping ourselves in our co-working with God ( 1 Cor. 3: 5-9) that have to form part of our devotion – i.e. budgetting wisely, being careful to avoid laziness or slovenly habits that don’t encourage others.

So for us in 2010: I pray that instead of just temporary NY resolutions that fade that we have some new thoughts about how we can improve ourselves this year or some new ventures that will mould our presents into the futures we dream about. Some things are outside of our control but I know I want to get to grips with some things this year that I have God-given control over.

Ask God to help you find your strengths.  Think about them, invest in them, build around them and determine this New Year, with the Lord, to make your future. The God who knows everything, and specifically everything about you, invites you to pray Jeremiah 33:3 that He might help you make your future.


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Ginger beards and shell-suits


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DSC_9249

 

 

The other day I was running along a canal near to where I live in Bradford and I was praying as I started picking up speed.

 

 

As I was running this particular day, a young chap with a bright ginger beard, a caring face and a full-length shell-suit caught my heightened attention as I noticed him stroll past me as I’d stopped to stretch. My half-hearted attempt to respond to what the Holy Spirit was saying was to ask him for the time, which he didn’t have.

 

“So you’ve just asked him for something you don’t need instead of giving him what you do have and that he desperately needs?”. That was my canal-side conviction.

 

Off I went a few minutes later thinking I might see him again, and I did, coming back towards me. This time I bailed out again – silly thoughts overtaking the Holy Spirit  in me –  ‘what should I say?’ –  knowing full-well that I’d know right in the minute. 

 

I carried on running away from this chap who I’d just passed again. I didn’t get much past a minute down the canal and I had to turn back around. If you want it to, the love of Christ will compel you. Up ahead I saw the guy who I was just about to find out was called Adam. Jesus is awesome and He’s with you – that’s all he needed to hear.

 

The smile that crept across my face after we’d finished talking told me, “that’s it!!”. 

 

When we engage with what God is saying at any given moment we cast ripples across eternity. 

 

I kicked a few stones in the canal and praised God.

 

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