30 November 2009

Colworth (CU) - Money and stewardship

There was no plan for today's meeting so we did what we usually do in this situation, just enjoyed some good time chatting about life and about Jesus. World moneyWe decided we'd like to make a CU lunchdate for 22nd January (probably) and meet for food and fellowship at a local pub.

Andy dipped into some notes he happened to have with him and read out thoughts on love languages and how important it is to understand one another's ways of thinking. Not only does this apply to married couples, but also to us as brothers and sisters when we meet. Expressing our care for one another in a way that works for that person is so important.

Then we discussed stewardship. Luke 16:2 was mentioned and we read verses 1-8. It's clear that any steward needs to take care of the owner and of the owner's property and business transactions. How true that  the people of this world are shrewder than the people of the light! Worldly advantages can be gained by ignoring what is right and caring little for the Lord's business.

1 Corinthians 4 clearly shows us that everything we have comes from the Almighty. We need to look to the future. Sometimes we may need to take risks for the Master's benefit. However we should never look to our own benefit.

29 November 2009

Oundle - Jonah and the whale

The nascent group in Oundle invited me to join them for lunch on Sunday. We met at Matt and Justine's home in Peterborough, Jonah thrown up on the beachbut I'm referring to it as the 'Oundle' group because I think that is where they will end up (I might be wrong, of course).

We sat and relaxed together and talked for a while over cups of tea while the younger folk made a happy noise elsewhere in the house. They were working on a play to perform for us adults after lunch. Topics that came up in conversation included the 2008 House2House Conference as well as 'The Shack'. Although views differ about the book we agreed that love demands that we allow one another to make up our own minds without becoming offended over those differences.

I'd brought the DVD sets for the 2008 and 2009 conferences and left them behind so they could go through them at their leisure. I explained that the 2008 set includes some excellent material from Paul Young, the author of 'The Shack'; and I mentioned briefly that one of the topics Paul deals with is the place of women in the church. In my view he handles this extremely well, basing his thoughts on the first three chapters of Genesis. The DVD is well worth watching.

After a delicious Italian lunch we had more time to chat before moving to a different room where the young people were ready with their play. They'd put together a short production based on the book of Jonah. Jonah heard the call from Yahweh to go to Ninevah and disobediently took a ship to Tarshish in Spain instead. The sailors cast lots and Jonah was thrown overboard to save the ship, he was swallowed by the whale (cleverly done by the young actors).

Jonah repented and the whale spat him out and he agreed to go to Ninevah. There was a well-deserved round of applause for the players.

We spent a short time in prayer during which there was reassurance about the way forward. There are several practical issues on the horizon, both for Matthew and Justine and also for Rupert and Uli. But there's no need for anxiety about these. Sometimes Papa expects us to wait for the right time, but when the time comes he makes everything clear. It's all in his hands.

For me, there's a lot to rejoice about. It is so good to see this little group gathering weekly. Thank you, Father!

28 November 2009

Awesome video, great music, astonishing machine

Here's a fine video beautifully put together with excellent music and sound effects. Mike Interbartalo edited imagery of the Space Shuttle launch process from beginning to end. It really is an experience to watch and listen, even if you're not much interested in space or rockets.

It's strange to think that next year the Space Shuttle will fly for the very last time and there is nothing in place to take over. The USA will no longer be able to launch crewed vehicles into orbit.


STS-129 Ascent Video Highlights from mike interbartolo on Vimeo.

For anyone wanting a bit more detail, you will see the Shuttle stack on the giant tracked platform arriving at the launch pad. There are some details of the engine ignition sequence, the three main engines first, then the solid rocket boosters. You will see the solid boosters fall away and splash down under their parachutes ready to be collected by boat and returned for re-use. You will see the giant external tank released to return to a fiery destruction in the atmosphere. And then finally the shuttle itself heads on into Earth orbit.

There are shots from many angles here. Some from the ground or from the air, some from cameras mounted on the solid boosters, the external tank, and the shuttle itself.

27 November 2009

Offord d'Arcy (day) - Brief notes only

We usually meet in Eaton Ford, but today Paul and I travelled to Roger's home in Offord d'Arcy as he'd hurt his back. We ate lunch together, had some good conversation, and prayed for the village, for people we meet in our daily lives, for ourselves as we reach out to those around us, and for friends facing difficult times.

Roger read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 and we shared our thoughts on these wonderfully encouraging words.

26 November 2009

Eaton Ford - Floyd's camels

Jim was involved in another meeting this evening so joined us later, Sean and I began by chatting about computing.
A camel


It's an interest we share as we both work in IT. Then we settled down to listen to Floyd McClung talking about 'Camels in the Road', in other words distractions we meet in our lives that make it hard for us to follow Jesus. Here are the major points he makes as he develops this theme.
  • Dabbling - instead of being fully focused on following Jesus, we may become distracted by doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We're called to spiritual obedience, but we become absorbed in other things so easily.
  • Plateau-ing - we stop growing spiritually. There is no moving on in our lives, no breakthrough. Past disobedience can lie behind this.
  • Inner vows - we may say to ourselves, 'I will never do x, y, z again. Never!' This vow becomes an inner value that guides us. The vow is often to protect us, to avoid something, or simply for comfort. The Lord doesn't cause the problems in our lives but he does use them. He is able to use our greatest fears to create in us great strengths, but we need to embrace the pain if this is to happen.
  • Unclear vision - we need to get hold of a sense of our destiny. If we don't, we may become targets for other people's passions.
  • Financial security - we worry about such things and they can eat us up. Don't let materialism own you, live for a bigger dream!
  • Frantic pace of life - too busy to pay attention to what the Lord is doing.
  • Churchianity, religion - The Lord is really not impressed with our systems and organisations.
We discussed some of these ideas and noted how they have affected our own lives. 

Jim arrived at this point and we prayed for our friends and families asking for grace through the pain and the issues. We thought how necessary it is to pour our grace over them, forgiving wrongs freely, praising things that are well done and so on. Just as our heavenly Father pours his grace over us, so we are to do for others.

In connection with one particular issue that was mentioned, I saw a stone on a woodland path. I realised that the stone might just be lying on the surface or it might be larger than it looked with the bulk of it deeply buried. It's important to know which is the case. A stone on the surface may be easily moved but a part-buried stone could cause injury if we strain to pick it up or just try to kick it out of the way.

23 November 2009

Colworth (CU) - Julia Fisher

It was my turn to lead this week, I had agreed to talk about Julia Fisher's work in Israel and began with a potted history of her involvement which is summarised below. A tour party viewing the Sea of Galilee

In 1998 she became interested in the need for women to have short, inspiring breaks from routine. She helped with two women's tours visiting Israel in June and November of 1998 and on the flight home from the second trip, the Lord told her she would return in six weeks.

She was unexpectedly invited to report on millenium preparations by the Israeli Government Tourist Office. She soon heard about a pastor's meeting in Jerusalem but had no idea who to contact, then the night before the flight she was given a phone number that turned out to be that of the chairman of the meeting!

So in this rather amazing way, Julia was given an opportunity to meet church leaders in Jerusalem. They were able to put her in touch with many others in Israel and she has conducted interviews and written books about the extraordinary reconciliation currently happening between Jewish and Arab believers.

We used this as a stepping stone to discuss the ways in which we, too, are guided day by day, moment by moment. We can be encouraged to hear and do the Lord's will. Andy explained how he'd given his testimony and how it is necessary to know and seize the right time. David related how he'd once been given the same verse by a variety of people and how this had influenced him and encouraged him.

Andy then mentioned love languages, how we are all different and individually need the right approach. And I commented that indeed we can all see evidence that our father in heaven loves us and treats us all individually according to our needs. We have good reason to be encouraged, he is always ready to touch us and guide us.

22 November 2009

The coming of the electric car

I didn't know that Shai Agassi had spoken at TED until I read about it today on the Tiny Car| Smart Car News Blog. Shai's company, Better Place, is rolling out fully green, all electric cars and the infrastructure to support them. The plan is that they should be cheaper and more convenient than petrol cars. Quite a challenge!

Here's the video of his talk at TED, it's inspiring and convincing and describes an approach that is simple but original. My own belief is that this idea will fly - it deserves to. Watch and see.

20 November 2009

Eaton Ford (day) - People in ordinary life

After we'd listed some names of people for prayer, Paul mentioned that he still feels strongly the words, 'Stand up for the Lord'. He pointed out Mark 8:38 as confirming the thought. People in ordinary lifeHe has mentioned this feeling several times in the last week or so, it's clearly significant.

We talked for a while about reaching people, our friends, neighbours, people we meet in every kind of situation in ordinary life. We both sense the importance of getting alongside people where they are.

Then I played the Floyd McClung recording 'Courage to Change', stopping at the end of the first 'pillar of simple church' (carnational not attractional) just as we had on Thursday in Little Paxton. If we are all able to meet together this Thursday we'll all be at the same place and can listen to pillar two together.

Paul and I agreed entirely with Floyd's approach here. In fact, we decided that Paul is already active with the first pillar in a very natural way as he meets people wherever he goes.

After we'd prayed for the people on our minds we ate lunch together.

19 November 2009

Little Paxton - Sheep in the fog

Standing in Jim's kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil, we were already talking about 'iron sharpening iron' (Proverbs 27:17). This verse, quoted by Dale Hewitt at Moggerhanger, had especially impressed one of us. A foggy dayAnd we all felt that it was self-evidently true for us as we met together, we all feel we've been 'sharpened' and can see it in one another. Isn't the Lord great?

Jim said that we're sometimes reluctant to really go with the Lord. We realise that it might cost us something we're unwilling to lose, so we're careful not to go too far. He mentioned Martin Luther King who just did what he knew was right despite the evident dangers. And he paid the price. Jim was reminded of the Lord's words to Joshua, 'I will never leave you or forsake you' (Joshua 1:5). Proverbs 3:5 is also relevant here.

In our relationships with people, and non-believers in particular, we need to relate, make real contact, and live shared lives. Church life has damaged so many people, basically because of the many little rules we construct. We need to understand that people are more important than rules. This is what Jesus taught!

Jim also mentioned that seeing fruit in the lives of those we know is always very encouraging. I mentioned the events surrounding X-treme Camps last summer, we have seen so much impact and fruit from that.

We listened to the first part of Floyd McClung's recording, 'Courage to Change'. The long introduction is interesting and we also listened to the section on the first pillar of simple church, 'Church is incarnational, not institutional'. We may listen to the remaining four pillars on other occasions.

Working through what we had heard we thought about work, life in general, and things like shopping which in the extreme can be pure materialism but on a different level may also be regarded as good.

Jim raised the idea of prayers in parliament or in school assemblies, things which were normal in times past but  today would mean little or nothing to many people. He said that Britain has changed, we just don't do official prayer now, he encouraged us to see this as an opportunity because we are free to serve. I thought we should try to keep everything very simple and straightforward, just be followers of  Jesus in a sometimes difficult world.

We also thought about our personal response to violence. We shouldn't retaliate, but respond with life - not death. Jim felt we need to plan things, but Sean said he doesn't much like plans, we can live day by day, moment by moment, and he will guide us. This resulted in some good thoughts about Jesus, how did he lead his life? At this point I had a picture of sheep in the fog. Some of the sheep were huddled in a flock around the shepherd and were bleating to one another, others were scattered on the hillside. When the shepherd called, the scattered sheep headed towards his voice although all they could see was fog. And the bleating of the flock was added to the call of the shepherd in helping them to sense the direction to move. It's as if the flock amplified the shepherd's voice. Sounds travel long distances in fog, and we really do live in a fog.

Jim also had a picture, a shack in the mountains. There were garlands of flowers around it and all over it and Jim felt this somehow represented the fruit that we can bear in our lives. When we're in the mountains, sometimes it's bleak. But a time is coming when there'll be bright and colourful fruit in our lives if we are close to the Master.

Jim added that Father says to us in the fog, 'Trust in me and I'll show you the way.' Sean prayed that Father would enlarge our vision and that we'd devote more time to hearing him and being with him.

17 November 2009

St Neots (Open Door small group) - say cheese!

This evening I went with Donna to her small group.
A fine piece of Stilton
I'm always invited when they have social events and this time it was a cheese and wine supper. There were only seven of us as several were not able to get along.

But what a great time we had! There was an excellent selection of cheeses, Barbara had made scones, and with French Stick, grapes, crackers and a variety of other items there was no shortage of flavours. In fact the cheeses  featured in the conversation, along with many other topics.

Times like this are such a good way to get to know people better. The informality and fun help with this enormously. It would also be good to meet with Donna's group more often, in between the social 'events' (hint, hint). Maybe this will become possible.

16 November 2009

Colworth (CU) - Chat and prayer

We had nothing planned today, but four of us met and discussed various issues at work and also some old friends who have retired or moved to other jobs. We thought about the possibility of having a bring and share lunch and/or a pub lunch, maybe in the new year. We prayed together before heading back to work.

13 November 2009

Eaton Ford (day) - A greater one is coming

We started by chatting about events in our own lives, and then shared news of friends and family and spent some time praying for them.

Afterwards, to get a discussion started, John the BaptistI read Mark 1:1-8 and we noted several points. The people confessed their sins to John, and we are encouraged to confess our sins to one another. If we do, it can help build trust and community in the body.

The fact that Jesus forgives sins shows his great authority. It seems that during John's work of baptising many in Judea felt convicted and went en masse to see him in the desert. Roger reminded us that Jesus later said that John was Elijah.

We continued to read verses 9-20 and considered the question of what the 'good news' is. The best way we could express it was to say that it is the presence of the Kingdom, the place where the King rules unopposed. Basically this is a place in the hearts of his followers.

Paul said that 'we need to stand up and be counted', something that he's been feeling for some weeks recently. And he's right, we need to speak and live the truth in the world, in front of friends, neighbours, and colleagues.

12 November 2009

Eaton Ford - Playing on the field

We met at Paul's house this evening and started to think about the fact that we are already in the Kingdom of Heaven (or perhaps we could say the Kingdom is in us). I explained how I'd heard Floyd McClung saying that in football or rugby Playing rugbythe game is played on the field, not in the locker room at half time. That time with the coach is a time for advice and encouragement to prepare us for the second half. It's the same in church life, we meet to encourage one another and to grow in spiritual things, but the purpose is making diciples and that game is played in the world in daily life, not in our meetings!

Paul reminded us that whatever our age or physical condition we need to be able to say, 'But I'm OK because God is in me. I'm not worried about death.' Jim remarked that we have difficulties, illnesses, but we know that we have life in Christ.

We thought that people today are looking for some kind of spiritual experience, there's much more interest in the supernatural than there was. Jim thought this was partly because of the financial crash and partly because of terrorism. People are looking for security and for an answer and for spiritual power of some sort. But they don't know where to look.

Next we talked about Elijah and how Yahweh had not been in the earthquake, the fire or the storm, but in the still, small voice. Because of this we need to listen very, very carefully and we need to have time in our lives for Jesus. Sean said that to put it bluntly - it's a matter of what's most important to us.

I pointed out that there are many ways to communicate with people (voice, writing, body language, signing etc) and it's the same with the Lord, he has several ways of reaching us. I read Tracy's amazing words about how he wants to speak to us. Jim referred back to Ephesians 1:18 where Paul writes about our hearts being 'flooded with light'. And Jim explained that for him the presence of the Lord is like a white light and how awesome that is, like soaking in his presence.

This prompted me to ask, 'What is the most amazing thing he reveals to us?' Jim said, 'The Son, by revelation'. Sean pointed out that first we have to diminish in stature, that it's necessary but the hardest thing to do. And Jim mentioned the radiance of the Lord that had remained on Moses face after he was on the mountain with him.

And I had something of a revelation about this. Just as there are different parts of the body and each must obey the head, so it is in the church. It's not necessary for the toe to become less, but it is necessary for it to obey the head and to do the job it was designed for. So for us, it's not so much that we must diminish but rather that we must be appropriate in what we are and do. We must fit the role we have been given neither more nor less. And we must obey Christ.

11 November 2009

Cycling to Australia - and he has time to blog

Oli Broom is cycling to Australia and blogging as he goes. Oli Broom in the commentary boxHe left Lord's Cricket Ground in London on 10th October and is aiming to arrive in Brisbane in time for The Ashes in 2010. He plans to teach cricket to people along the way, now perhaps that's the real challenge!

He is sharing his experiences in a blog and on Twitter as he travels and it's going to be a fascinating one to follow. The best place to start is not his current post, nor is it his first. The best place is surely the post he wrote on 26th September, an introduction.

Well done, Oli! It's a heart warming thing to see someone really going for a goal, overcoming obstacles, ignoring doubts and fears, and just doing it. Perhaps we can all learn something about life from this. This is certainly an experience Oli will remember all his life.

Cycling to Australia is not my thing, it doesn't excite me. Probably it's not your thing either.

So what will it be for you? If you could only do one thing during the remainder of your life, what would it be? And would you be willing to put everything into it as Oli is putting everything into this trip to Australia? Most of us spend our lives sleep-walking. Oli will be really living his journey.

10 November 2009

The Offords - Prayer

I visited Roger and Ruth to pray with them for the village, for the church, for community life, and for their role as the Lord's people in this place.

We discussed how they feel and what aspirations they have, talked about the people they know and the issues they are aware of, wondered about the Lord's view of the situation, and prayed together for guidance and for signs of opportunity.

Jesus was clearly with us as we met.

09 November 2009

What, Lord?

This is a message from four years ago, a message from the prime mover behind this universe to one of his children. Lacy Haugan I think it's just awesome. The King of Kings wants to make us aware that he has something to say to us. The initiative is his, not ours. Sometimes we go to him with requests, sometimes we'd do better to listen and let him speak.

I won't say any more, the words that Lacy wrote four years ago speak most eloquently for themselves.

Here's a link to Lacy's blog where the words were originally shared.

There have been a number of times in my life with God when I have been just going about my daily business, and all of a sudden I feel this strong tugging that just won't go away. Like a child pulling on my shirt, or someone tapping their finger on my shoulder over and over. It's an obvious attempt to get my attention. And it happened this week.

I absoluetly love it when God does that. I mean how amazing is it that the God of all the universe (which fits neatly into His hand, by the way), the God who has access to billions of people on the planet, not to mention really cool heavenly beings to fellowship with - how amazing is it that this Person will tug on my shirt to get my attention.

I seem busy...He looks, He waits, He ponders...still busy...I wonder if she'll notice Me if I just lightly tap on her shoulder. Tap, tap, tap... She looks up briefly as if distracted from her work...then begins to type again. I know she is busy. I like the good work that she does. But just for a minute, maybe we could talk. Tug, tug, tug... She feels the pull and slowly finds a stopping place in her work. Tap, tap, tap... And then she realizes: it's Him. A deep breath and a rushing in her heart, and then she asks smiling, "What, Lord?"

And that's when it happens. He shares things that I know are what He wants, because He brought it up, not me. He shares His heart, His desires, His true thoughts. I have not convinced Him of something this time, I have not begged for it, I have not schemed up the idea myself, for it was He who pursued me to talk. Amazing. Simply amazing that God Himself has things on His heart that He wants to share with me. Even more amazing that He will seek me out to do that.

And when I feel that tug, that gentle yet increasingly more persistent tap on my shoulder (I actually feel it in my stomach, not on my shoulder), my heart races with delight, fear, and excitement. For the things that He says these times are the kind that often require action, faith, and getting out into my risk zone.

Tap on me, Lord. Tug on me. And interrupt me from my work. I long to be sought after by You. I long to know what is on Your heart to share. Tug on me.

Thanks to Lacy for writing this down and sharing it on line, and to the Holy Spirit for dictating it.

Colworth (CU) - Resurrection

Dave brought some thoughts from 1 Corinthians 15:1-20, he would have liked to cover the entire chapter but felt this section was all we could manage in the time available.Sunlight on the water We read the passage through and then had an open conversation about it. Some of the main points are set out briefly below.

Paul clearly relished the opportunity to present the gospel at every opportunity.

It is striking that Jesus appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at one time. First of all, who were these followers? Far more than the disciples and the women who also travelled with him. And the apostles evidently saw him more than once, two occasions are mentioned here. Paul also mentions that many of the five hundred were still alive at the time of writing, there could be little doubt of the resurrection.

Another point we noted was that Jesus didn't just return to life merely to die again later (like, for example, Lazarus who lived out his days at Larnaca in Cyprus). Jesus, in contrast, actually defeated death itself. Death, therefore, is much less of an issue for us now. I wondered if there were some Sadducees at Corinth. We know that Jews lived all over the Roman world and that Paul had the habit of always declaring the gospel first in the synagogue. Maybe the teaching that there was no resurrection came from some local Sadducees.

Dud thought it was most unlikely that the Romans would have allowed Jesus' body to be stolen. Historically it seems almost harder to disprove the resurrection than to prove it. Dave asked what difference the resurrection makes in our own lives and we agreed that it makes all the difference. We can spell it out by considering the converse of what Paul says in verse 17, 'And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.' In other words if Christ has been raised our faith is effective and we are free from sin.

Dud pointed out that verse 20 sums everything up very succinctly. We too are going to be raised - so why don't we live like it?!

Dave mentioned the song 'You are the King of every heart' by the band 'One Hundred Hours', the lyrics seemed relevant. 'Your love is bigger than our fear. You are the King of every heart.' All possible because Christ could not be held by death because he himself is life!

08 November 2009

Bedford (Kings Arms) - His way or mine?

Donna, Karen and I travelled over to Bedford for the evening meeting. A ravenAfter some great music and a chance to praise and worship freely there was something of a disconnect for me as the focus changed to notices and the need for money for the new building. Kings Arms has bought the Crayola Building and now needs to remodel it for its new function.

Simon Holley then spoke from 1 Kings 17:1-16. He reminded us that each of us is to love the Lord with all of our heart. Money is powerful in the world but the message is about living the adventure with the Lord regardless of other things.

Ahab and his wife Jezebel had drawn Israel away from Yahweh, the people were being forced to worship Baal instead. People will try to tear you down only when you begin to live the journey with Yahweh. We need to know that if we can stand secure before him, we can stand before anybody.

Simon made five main points about the Lord's provision.

Even if it seems crazy - we need to trust him even when it seems to make no sense. Don't quibble over the solution he offers. Elijah had to eat bread provided by a raven, would you eat bread dropped by a bird? It doesn't sound appetising, let alone wholesome. We need to learn to take what he offers trusting that it is good.

The brook dried up - just because he provides something in a particular way doesn't imply that it will always be the same. He may choose a different way to provide in the future. If Elijah had stayed by the brook he'd have died of thirst. We need to be willing to move on.

He will fulfill his word - The widow was there as promised but apparently she was unable to help. Yet this was a command from the Almighty. Yahweh commits himself to fulfill his word. We need to find out what he is saying to us because that is what he will do. His will not mine will be done.

To you and through you - expect him to provide what we need and through us what others need also. As we freely receive from the Lord we must also freely give.

Obedience - we must step out in obedience. It's no good just sitting tight where we are, we have to do the uncomfortable, possibly dangerous thing that he calls us to.

07 November 2009

Moggerhanger - Temporal or eternal?

Jim invited me to a River Church men's breakfast meeting at Moggerhanger Park. In the Moggerhanger dining roomDale Hewitt from Dreambuilders Church in Perth, Australia, spoke to us after the meal. He first met Rob Macfarlane in Harare in 1995, long before Rob came to St Neots and founded River Church.

After a marvellous full English breakfast we settled down to listen to what Dale had to say.

He began by pointing out the pressures on men to succeed, especially in modern times. And this is pressure that's always focused on achieving things that are temporal, things that will not remain for eternity. It occurred to me that this is just as true for women although the specific pressures are sometimes different.

Reading Ephesians 1:15-23 as a basis, Dale explained that this is actually Paul's prayer for the Ephesian church. At heart it's about the fulfillment of Father's purpose for your life - his purpose, not yours. Paul begins with praise (verses 3-14) before moving on to his petitions. This is such a good principle. There's an eternal perspective here, we should always praise with eternity firmly in mind, it's not just about the blessings we have in the here and now.

This raises a question, 'What am I going to leave as an eternal deposit when my life in this world is finished?'

Paul's prayer for the Ephesians is that they'd have greater intimacy with the Almighty, greater vision, and greater power. Why? So that they might grow! And how do we demonstrate our increasing knowledge and reverence of the Lord? Putting it another way, what do we do that is different from what the world does? We will give him more time in our lives and we'll have an increased passion for his presence and for his people. We are workers in his Kingdom, not rulers over our own kingdom.

Jesus is not just a friend, he is much more than that, he's the King of Kings, the creator of the universe and Lord over everything. Do people know that he's a priority in our lives? They should do!

The more intimacy we have with the Lord the more we can see where we're going, the greater our vision. Like the blind man at Bethsaida, getting closer is the key to having our eyes opened and opened fully. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells us that like him, we are the light of the world. As we touch people's lives they begin to see by his light shining through us, they begin to see 'like trees walking'.

If we're born of the Spirit we will know his power in our lives (Ephesians 1:19-23). As we focus on Jesus he will reveal the path for our lives and guide us along it - and he will be glorified in the process.

06 November 2009

Eaton Ford (day) - Life in the light

Stuart was with us this morning for the first part of the meeting. We spent some time chatting and then prayed with him for some of the things he needs in his life. Life in the lightRoger told us that his friend Andy starts a new job next week, and that is a wonderful answer to prayer. Paul's sister also has a new job and is loving it, while for Roger's sister things are looking more promising too.

We also talked about Roger and Ruth's desire to see new life in the church where they live. I felt the Lord saying about this issue in particular, 'Begin and end with love'. I hope to visit them at home on Tuesday to pray about life in Offord.

Then we briefly discussed whether we should add some more deliberate Bible reading to our weekly meetings. Roger thought it would be good to read through some Psalms and share what the verses might be saying to us. I felt it would be good to work through Mark's gospel. We decided to try both and made a start right away with Psalm 30.

Verse six seemed very relevant, 'When I felt secure, I said, "I will never be shaken."' We've all been in that place in our lives, we feel capable of dealing with anything without help, but when we hit real difficulties we crumble. We need the Lord to lift us up, it's a big mistake to try to lift ourselves up!

05 November 2009

Eaton Ford - Tossed on the waves of life

Mary began by telling us about a situation at work that had made her angry. She had made up her mind to retaliate but as she read Titus and Matthew 5 and 6 she felt the Lord speaking to her and calling her to be peaceful, A storm blew upboth in her heart and in her actions. This was a very direct revelation, clear evidence of Father's guidance and involvement in her life.

We shared news of a number of friends who need prayer right now and we prayed for them and for ourselves, expecting the Lord to meet all these needs.

Jim told us about a trip to the north where they went to minister to two very different churches. The first one was physically poor but spiritually rich with a great deal going on and lives being impacted. The second church was rich, had a grand meeting place and did everything in style, but they were formalised and spiritually poor. This had greatly impressed Jim who saw that we can be so rich in ourselves that we feel we don't need Jesus.

I had a clear picture of a river in the desert, like the Nile. Far from the river there were no trees or other plants because of the utter dryness. But closer to the river there was much more greenery. And the Spirit said, 'Stay close to the banks where you will grow strongly and bear a lot of fruit.' Jesus is the river, he is the flow of living water which we need to sustain us and make us fruitful.

Jim read Titus 2:1-15 and reminded us that the grace of God is the most important aspect for us. We have so much to be thankful about! We all have an appointed time to leave this life, but today is the day for all of us to say 'Yes' to Jesus. He wants to encourage us daily with the living word that cuts right through to the marrow.

The words of an old hymn ('It is well with my soul') popped into Sean's mind,
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
I shared some thoughts from Mark 4 which had come into focus for me when I read it recently. In verses 35-41 we see Yahshua sleeping peacefully while the disciples were very frightened. They didn't understand, as he did, that he was on an unfinished mission and his Father would not allow him to fail through a mere storm.

All the parables in the earlier section of the chapter help them to see the spiritual truth which he already fully understands. The physical world often mirrors the spiritual world and can help us grow in understanding. Yahshua himself is the lamp, the Light of the world that is meant to be disclosed. He told them to 'consider carefully what you hear'. Consider well and get a good dose of understanding. We grow in spiritual understanding in the same way as the growing seed, we don't understand how, but in the end there is a benefit - a harvest, a shady place for the vulnerable to rest.

This is why, when they were afraid, he said, 'Do you still have no faith?'

Jim told us about some men who were sharing the good news on the street and felt strongly led to go to a phone shop. They found the staff were Muslims and one woman told them, 'I'll believe your God is real if you can tell me something about my life only I could know'. And while they were looking at one another wondering how they could meet such a challenge, she suddenly shrieked! It turned out that at that moment the Lord had revealed himself to her in a vision and she could no longer deny him!

We talked about faith, and taking risks, and growing in wisdom and knowledge and grace. It was all very encouraging stuff.

04 November 2009

Weird and wonderful maps

I love maps and plans. I always have. Most likely I always will. They encapsulate a place, a landscape, an idea, a society, politics, history, The World at nightwhatever may be of interest to whoever created the map.

Maps convey so much in convenient, overview form. I can pore over a good map for hours and hours.

So imagine my delight at discovering 'Strange Maps', a blog that's updated every day or three with yet another wacky map. Some of these are awesome, most are amusing or intriguing, all are fun providing they're not taken too seriously.

Take a few minutes to view a few of the posts, you won't be disappointed. Here are some that I particularly recommend for the cartophiles amongst my readers.

03 November 2009

Great Doddington - Letting go

Jody spoke about the shrewd manager described in Luke 16:1-15. He was about to lose his job, so let his master's debtors off with part payment. A clenched fistThat way he was sure to have friends when he needed them. This was dishonest, but the master was impressed by his ingenuity.

She also reminded us of the widow in Luke 18, we should keep praying and never give up. I added that we need to have a right understanding about Yahshua. In all the varied circumstances of life concerning people and events, we need to know he's always with us and is more than able to do whatever he thinks we need.

Jody thought that we need to 'let go'. There's a temptation to, as it were, ball up our fists. But we mustn't do this, he wants us to relax. We are in Christ and he is in us so we can certainly have peace!

Rachael remembered the old Batman TV series. Batman and Robin were sometimes shown climbing up the side of a skyscraper but what they were really doing in the studio was crawling along the floor! Sometimes life seems such a struggle, it's as if Jesus want us to scale a high building. But our perspective is wrong. When we adjust and see it from his point of view, what seemed hard is really easy - all we have to do is crawl along the floor.

We spent some time in prayer for people we know, including one who has to undergo a rather difficult procedure in hospital. We also prayed for Jody and Peter's house and that it would be a place of blessing and peace for the people who move into it in future.

I commented on the still quietness that enveloped the meeting, it was not an uneasy quietness but seemed to me to be evidence of the peace and love of Yahshua in our hearts.

Rachael read Proverbs 27:9-10 which reminds us of the importance and value of local community.

02 November 2009

Colworth (CU) - Be wise

Andy brought some thoughts on the topic 'Wisdom' based on readings from United Christian Broadcasters Ltd (UCB). Wise as an owlThe comments covered Deuteronomy 32:29 and were published on 29th and 30th October. We read verses 24-47 for context.

Andy reminded us that wisdom is needed in deciding where to put our effort and how to spend whatever resources we have. In many ways it's the art of knowing what to overlook since we simply cannot aspire to do everything that might be possible. We need to avoid doing petty things and instead focus our energy and time on  what will be useful.

01 November 2009

St Neots (Open Door) - Obedience

Today I met with the saints in big church in town. Gavin and Fiona live near Peterborough and will soon be leaving Open Door to begin something new in their home area.Paying attention Gavin spoke about obedience - their own original plans and intentions have had to change as the Lord has unfolded his plan for their lives.

He read Hosea 3:1-5 which provides an example of obedience in the extreme. Hosea's wife was a prostitute and had ended up in the slave market, his love for her was such that he was prepared to spend all the funds he could raise to buy her back. He had married her in obedience to the Almighty and now he was showing his love to her again, also in obedience.

We need to see ourselves, as Hosea clearly did, through the Lord's eyes. And it's not just a matter of words but of actions and truth. Like Hosea's wife Gomer (and like Israel in Hosea's day) we need to know just how much we are loved and how much we've been forgiven. Obedience needs to be like Hosea's - motivated by love, progressive, in accordance with Father's will, and clearly set forth in his word.

Here is my own understanding of Gavin's analysis of obedience.

Motivated by love - there are so many other possible motives, but none of them is sufficient. We might want to please the Lord, or achieve something for him, or see more people join the church, or be useful. All of these may be commendable, but without love they will be worth nothing.

Progressive - we cannot see the end from the beginning, but Father can. When he guides us he will usually show us the way step by step and we need to take those steps in faith, trusting that he will show us the next step, and the next, and the next.

In accordance with Father's will - there is no point in trying to achieve my goal. The Almighty always has in mind his goal. Don't pray, 'Lord, please prosper my efforts to do something for you'. Instead find out what he wants you to to do and pray for that.

Clearly set forth in his word - the principles are all there. Obedience is not difficult to grasp, it's simply a matter of loving the Lord and loving one another. Those are his commandments, if we obey those everything else will follow.

Gavin and Fiona are clear where their future path lies, though of course not ultimately where it will take them.

Gavin continued with a reminder that we need to hear his word to 'go again', and it must be from the heart. Hosea heard and acted, and like him we must give up self in order to love and obey. Are we living messages of love and obedience in the world? Do others see the Lord through us? We must be good news, not merely preach it.

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