30 December 2009

Eaton Ford (day) - Church of Two

Paul and I met and shared information about the people we have been praying for. We also made a first trial of Church of Two (CO2), I explained how useful Sean and I have found it, ran through a brief description of the VIRKLER and SASHET components, and then we simply made a start.

Afterwards we both felt it had been a useful exercise and we will certainly try to run through it again, daily if we can.

Church of Two (CO2)

At the House2House Conference in Dallas in September, John White demonstrated Church of Two (CO2). Sharing an experienceWe all had a chance to try an aspect of it for ourselves, there and then. I was immediately convinced of the value of CO2 itself and of its constituent parts, SASHET and VIRKLER. Read more about CO2, SASHET, and VIRKLER on the CO2 Flyer.

In early December I began CO2 with a house church friend, Sean. After the first week we were clear that we very much wanted to continue, and after three weeks we both agree that our relationship with one another and our relationships with the Lord are deepening noticeably.

Because we can't meet face-to-face every day we decided to use Google Wave as our primary CO2 channel and I can tell you it works very well indeed. It's much better for this purpose than email. We create a new wave each day and we use clickable links to connect the days together, with an overall index to keep things organised. If we both happen to be online at the same time we can each see the other typing right on the screen. And when we're online at different times we can both add comments and make additions. Google Wave is a bit like email, instant messaging, and a wiki all rolled into one - but better than any of them alone.

Our experiences are similar to those reported by others commenting on 'Stories from the Revolution'. I had expected CO2 to be good, but it was trying it out for myself over a period of days that really convinced me. It's sometimes been difficult to keep going on a daily basis, but it is so worth the effort. My advice - don't give up, keep on keeping on and you will benefit.

Even if you don't have a partner for CO2, I would recommend doing the VIRKLER and SASHET exercises on your own each day. You will still see some useful benefit. But working in pairs or small groups will amplify the value greatly.

VIRKLER (particularly the hearing and journaling aspects) has deepened my awareness of the Lord's constant presence in my life.

SASHET has brought us closer to one another in mutual understanding, respect and trust.

As we pray with and for one another in the light of hearing the Lord's direction to each of us, I'm fully convinced we'll be led into church life and sharing the gospel in ways we could hardly have imagined at first.

In mid December I shared the idea of CO2 with the Christian Union at work and this is likely to lead to at least one more pair. Then this morning I did a first CO2 session with Paul, a friend from a different local gathering, and we'll try it for a week. I also expect to demonstrate CO2 to a group of friends some miles further west. And finally there's an opportunity opening up to begin sharing CO2 with a friend in the USA.

CO2 is not an end in itself. It is, however, a really useful framework for hearing from the Lord and at the same time developing broader and deeper relationships between individuals. In this way it stimulates spiritual growth and can act as both a building block for church and a platform for sharing the gospel. What a versatile tool!

Note: For a more recent update on CO2 see my article at 'All About Jesus'.

29 December 2009

Movements - Long term success

There have been many movements in the world's long history. Political movements - philosophical, art, and literature movements - scientific and technological movements - and not least, religious movements. Romulus Augustus, the last Roman Emperor in the WestAlmost all of these have failed after a few decades or centuries, many are forgotten, consigned at best to dusty tomes on library shelves.

Every organisation created by human ingenuity and effort has a lifespan and runs its course. Consider Communism, the idea that the Earth is flat, the Roman Empire, ancient Greek culture in what is now Turkey, the Gaulish language once spoken in Europe, the British Empire, Woolworths, or Real Tennis. All gone!

Some of these movements depended on repression, terrorism, crushing military might, or technological superiority for their spread and survival. Communism, Islam, and the Roman Empire are movements of this kind. Others have depended on ideas or beliefs that have been accepted freely, and paramount among these is the church. The first disciples followed Jesus by choice; he called them and they decided freely to follow him. And although the church sometimes depended wrongly on abuse of military or political power (as with the Crusades or the Inquisition) these were temporary and clearly contradicted Jesus' teachings about love.

Even within the church there have been monastic, doctrinal, denominational, and revival movements to mention just a few. Again, most of these have failed sooner or later. Consider some of the great Catholic and Anglican monastic orders. Most of these still exist, but as mere shadows of their former selves.

So what distinguishes successful and failed movements? It seems to me that coercion sooner or later fails, and fails absolutely. But the teachings of Jesus remain as powerful today as they were 2000 years ago. They are still seized upon eagerly by those who understand that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He was, is and will always be a success in the hearts of ordinary people because of his love and compassion. Alone among the originators of the world's religions, Jesus is an entirely attractive character who harmed no-one and called his followers to do the same. And his movement is alive and well today.

Where it has been complicated by methods and organisations it has failed again and again. But always the ideas and teachings of Jesus have moved on, leaving the methods and organisations behind and growing again in fresh pastures.

So let's be very careful to avoid any kind of worldly power, control, or system of management. And let's get right back to the roots of our faith - loving the Almighty with everything we have and everything we are, loving one another and our neighbours with the love we apply to ourselves, and yes - even loving our enemies. Those are the hallmarks of a movement that will know no failure or premature end!

Jesus alone is the one who leads us, our role is always to follow. He speaks clearly to his people, individually, day by day, guiding and encouraging. We must die to self in order to truly live. In poverty we are rich, the humble are lifted up, the powerful are brought low, it's an upside down Kingdom. But it works! And it lasts!

But all human ingenuity, system, power, and organisation will eventually fail - within the church and outside it. For only the Almighty can prevail, and he is love.

21 December 2009

Colworth (CU) - Love languages

Andy took today's meeting, basing it on 1 Corinthians 13 and parts of Gary Chapman's book 'The Five Love Languages'. The Five Love LanguagesAndy used the audio book version and played a couple of sections to us.

According to Gary the five love languages are quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Each of us will major in one of these, showing love mainly in this particular way and looking for it to be returned in the same way. When we and our partner have different primary love languages we may both have difficulty feeling loved. We need to learn to 'speak one another's language'.

Kevin explained that he and his wife run a marriage preparation course at their church and have used the five love language principles very effectively with many young people.

18 December 2009

NEWS - Global growth of house churches

I think it might be useful to post news and comment here from time to time. These items won't just be any old news picked at random, Rapid growth of house churchesthey will be reports I've seen that may be encouraging or challenging to those of us meeting in simple ways here in the Beds, Cambs, Northants region of England.

Just a few minutes ago I read an item from Joel News, I encourage you to click through and read it too. It's a report on the house church conference held in New Delhi, India, from November 11th-14th 2009. The meetings explored the growth of organic house church communities and movements worldwide. Two hundred representatives from forty nations took part (including our own Peter Farmer).

It's clear that in many parts of the world, and especially in Asia, home churches are growing at an enormous pace. In our little corner of England we would do well to ask what they are doing that we are not, and also what we are doing that they are not! There are two ways to stop church growth in its tracks, on the one hand we can fail to do the right things, on the other hand we can waste much time doing the wrong things.

Let's ponder the extraordinary growth in certain countries and see if there are ways for us to step up the pace here on our own doorstep. Part of it is a matter of freshness, enthusiasm, and expectation that if Father asks us to go here or there and do this or that he will bless us abundantly when we obey. Perhaps we need to begin in prayer combined with a willingness to act according to the answer we receive.

See also a recent blog post from Tony Dale, 'The Agony and the Ecstasy'.

17 December 2009

Little Paxton - Connecting with people

We thought about one another's lives and how some things are working out better this week, especially for Jim. We also thought about men and women in marriage, about church life and activities, and about finding a proper home/work/church balance in our lives. Mahatma GandhiIn a sense it's important to recognise that church life encompasses home and work anyway, it cannot be separated out. It's not a question of how much time church should take, but how deeply it becomes the important element in everything we are and do.

While we were discussing this, Sean was called away to help sort out an issue between two of his children. It struck me as ironic that we had this example of 'church/life balance' right at the time we were talking about it. Should Sean go to deal with the issue or stay for the church 'meeting'? For me it's a no-brainer, he should go, his family needed him and that is all part of Kingdom living.

Jim talked about connecting with people. He said that we need to connect more. We need to identify the needs that people have in the way that people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King did. And we need to meet people where they are, showing that we love them in practical ways, revealing the nature of Christ to them  by effectively being Christ for them. (We are his body here in the earth, all we need to do is obey the head like any healthy body does.)

Jim mentioned that the Lord does things bigger and better than we can imagine, this is true! Not only that, it's been proved true in our experiences during the past twelve months in so many ways.

He also said that we 'need to make good decisions based on the word'. The 'word' can refer to the written word, that is the Bible, or it can refer to Jesus who was the Word brought to life on this earth.

Putting women in their place

For many years there's been debate in the church about the place and role of women. From the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches right down to the smallest organic church meeting at home, it's often just assumed that men should take leadership positions while women should not. This has been the pattern throughout most of church history.

Jon ZensThere are plenty of exceptions of course, especially in the non-denominational, less structured groups. But even in the small, organic house churches it's not unusual to find reduced or limited roles for women. The view that women should be passive is generally reflected in church practice, supported by many Biblical scholars, and taught as both required and beneficial.

Often women are accepted or even preferred for work involving other women or with children and there are many other roles open to them. However, in many cases women are not allowed to teach men or have any authority over men. Authority itself is often misunderstood, but that's another story.

On the other hand, many of us sense that something is seriously wrong. It seems that half of the talent, wisdom, energy, and capability of the church is prevented from functioning or at best limited to functioning only in ways that are circumscribed and restricted.

But whatever we might think we have to accept the Bible's teaching on these matters, right? Right!

And we all know that the Bible is clear about this, authority is laid on men while women are to be in submission, right? Well - let's not be too hasty here.

Jon Zens has just published a careful analysis in reviewing John Piper's book 'What’s the Difference? Manhood & Womanhood Defined According to the Bible'.

Jon's review is well worth reading whatever your current understanding of these things. He writes refreshingly and thoughtfully and draws on a wealth of biblical knowledge and experience. You can read the review in the panel below and you can also download it, print it, or enlarge it to full screen using the options at the bottom of the panel.

You can find more from Jon on the 'Searching Together' website.

Women - Jon Zens Review

Since I published this blog post Jon Zens has written an excellent book on the same topic, 'What's with Paul and women'.

15 December 2009

Demolishing the old office - the video

A few days ago I promised you a video clip of the demolition. Here it is. This clip shows the hydraulic crushing jaws at work on a steel reinforced concrete floor in the building that once included my office.



It's an extraordinarily quiet way to bring down a building, there is no loud noise, no great vibrations underfoot as large pieces of masonry come down. It's all crushed in situ and the pieces that fall are relatively small. There is awesome power in these steel jaws. The machine eats through concrete like a child nibbling chocolate.

14 December 2009

Colworth (CU) - Church of Two

I had volunteered to take today's Christian Union meeting. I'd mentioned the idea of Church of Two (CO2) briefly before, The CO2 Flyerbut decided to share it more fully now that Sean and I have been testing it for a couple of weeks.

I introduced the idea in outline, explaining that it is simply two (or three) people agreeing to meet daily to do two short exercises together. The whole daily session may take as little as ten minutes, but the frequency and the nature of the disciplines encourages openness to one another and to the Lord.

We read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 which emphasises that two are better than one. And we also considered how Jesus sent his disciples out in twos, and how they are listed as pairs in the gospels.

I briefly explained the SASHET and VIRKLER disciplines. SASHET stands for Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, Tender. The idea is that the partners in the CO2 take turns to discuss their feelings under those headings, focusing on the way each feels today. The other partner listens without offering advice, though asking for clarification is OK. In this way, both partners learn to share their feelings more freely and at the same time hear about the feelings of the other.

VIRKLER is a simple technique to help a person listen to the Lord. It consists of four steps done before the CO2 meeting each day. First it's necessary to clear worldly issues from the mind. The second step is then to focus on Jesus. Then, with the focus where it ought to be, pay attention to the thoughts, ideas, pictures etc that pass through the mind. Finally, note these things down as they present themselves and consider what the Spirit of Christ is saying to you today. The conclusions can be shared when the partners meet and may guide a time of prayer.

It seems likely that at least one other person from CU will now try CO2, and he already has a friend in mind. If so, it was well worth sharing.

There is much more information online. Read more about CO2 from the following resources...

Cycling - The wrong way to do it

This is a bad idea. Do not try this at home! Watch these crazy cyclists in the video and then read on for more detail. It may be illegal, stupid, and unkind to other road users, but my goodness it makes for an interesting video!



There are some common-sense (but not necessarily legal) suggestions for safe cycling on the website where I first saw the video. The site is called 100 Mile Bike Ride.

13 December 2009

St Neots (Open Door small group) - A breakfast shared

There was no Open Door morning meeting today because the Priory Centre was not available for use. Donna's small group decided instead to meet for breakfast, six of us met at Tony and Barbara's for a traditional English Breakfast. A full English breakfastBarbara had prepared eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns, along with some fine bread, toast and the rest. Thanks Barbara!

It was great fun to sit around the table, share the morning meal with thankful hearts, and chat. What a great way to build closer relationships and get to know one another better! Sometimes the simplest things are very effective.

After clearing the table we decided to head for the garden centre in Huntingdon, browse the cards, books, and gifts on offer, and sit together for a final cup of tea or coffee before heading home again.

Not only did we enjoy the food and the company, we also shared information and stories about our life, about church, and about Jesus. Great fun.

12 December 2009

Bedford - Tough Talk

This evening Donna, Paul and I drove into Bedford for the X-treme Camps reunion meeting at Priory Methodist Church in Newnham Avenue. At the X-treme Camps ReunionThe numbers were lower than expected, but the evening itself was just great!

There was live music and Stacey made an excellent job of capturing the attention of everyone in the room, especially the younger ones. This, of course, was the object of the exercise. The music and singing were strong and enthusiastic and were followed by a sort of bush tucker competition during which volunteers were invited to consume such delicacies as lemon and lime slices, banana and gravy, anchovy and chilli. One young man stuck at it valiantly and took away a very worthwhile winner's prize.

Tough Talk had been invited to take the main part of the evening and they were very good. They combined an account of one man's very rough life with brief episodes of squats by another guy carrying a heavily loaded bar across his shoulders. Each time Chris returned he lifted an increased weight and in between the story of Simon's life continued. This created a sense of tension throughout, keeping us listening to every word.

The true story involved Simon's love of money for the power it gave and the final loss of everything. There was also loss of a job, involvement in a club brawl, a court case because of the violence, and then a remarkable phase in which Simon met a follower of Jesus who persuaded him to come to church. It turned out to be Holy Trinity, Brompton - the home of the Alpha Course! Nicky Gumbell prayed with him, he took an Alpha Course, and his life was transformed.

We heard a second life story from another member of the team, the band came back for more music, and then we all headed home. I was greatly impressed by what I'd seen and heard. I came away with a DVD of more Tough Talk stories and two books with even more of the same. It's great stuff. Highly recommended for any youth or adult audience.

See Tough Talk in action for yourself in the video below. Premier.tv has more Tough Talk videos online.

11 December 2009

Eaton Ford (day) - Prayer for friends

This was an unusual Friday morning for me as I had another appointment that would take me away before lunch.

Roger, Paul and I spent some time sharing news about our various friends. Some are in jobs that can be dangerous, one is in church work while another would like to be, there are some with serious illnesses or sick relatives.

After talking all these things over we began to pray about them until it was time for me to go. I crept out as quietly as I could, leaving Paul and Roger to finish on their own. Although I didn't get to share in the rest of this meeting I was glad to know that Paul and Roger would eat together and perhaps do some Bible study. I'm looking forward to a more complete meeting next week!

10 December 2009

Moggerhanger Park - Star-dusted fabric

We intended to meet at Eaton Ford this week, but Jim was working late and had suggested that if we could come to Moggerhanger, he might be able to join us. The night skySo when the time got around to 20:15 and there were still only two of us, we decided to drive to Moggerhanger.

When Jim was able to get away to join us in the staff sitting room, he found Sean and me talking about astrophysics. And in some curious way this led on to thoughts about Jesus as the morning star (2 Peter 1:19). The Magi saw his star 'in the east' and came to worship him. Stars rise in the east, and the morning star (the planet Venus) rises in the east just ahead of the sun. And just as the morning star ushers in the new day, so Jesus in his rising ushered in the new day of his reign and rule and triumph over death.

Jim recalled a time when he'd been angry with someone and the Lord told him to 'Just stop!' When he looked up he saw the enormous, star-dusted fabric of the night sky and was overwhelmed by the magnificence of creation. His anger was gone in a moment!

We also discussed the nature of teaching in the life of the church. Jim said we should be teaching one another and that all of us have something to contribute. I mentioned that traditionally it hasn't worked like that. In the past most of us were told that we should all sit and listen while one person taught from the front. Far from encouraging one another to contribute, we were actively discouraged from doing so. Jim went on to say that there's head knowledge like the science of astrophysics but there's also a completely different kind of knowledge, not of the mind but of the heart.

Next we moved on to thoughts of our future in the presence of the Father and the Son. Sean reminded us that we have an inheritance to look forward to (as in Hebrews 1). Heaven will assuredly not be boring! This brought us to thoughts of John's funeral which had been rich with thoughts of inheritance, redemption, and life in Father's presence. I explained how Donna and I had both been so sure in our hearts that John would be healed, and that is how we had prayed at the time. This leaves the matter of faith as a continuing conundrum. Prayer without faith is unfruitful, but so is prayer that is unaware of the will of the Father.

Jim raised the topic of witnessing, as in prayer we need to take risks. How many of us would have witnessed to the Tough Talk guys before they became believers? I mentioned that we also need to develop relationships with people and get alongside them in meaningful ways.

Sean had some thoughts about Jesus' prayer in John that the disciples might be one just as he and the Father are one. The disciples belonged to the Father who gave them to the Son. He didn't even choose his own disciples! (John 17:6-26) And so it is with us, we need to tell the people he gives us about him. Jim pointed out that we are his disciples too, we need to set off for the mountain together and walk in his presence. Where he goes, we go - just like the twelve or the seventy.

Sean's thoughts moved to the time when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. They were already grumbling by the time they reached the sea, but in truth they should have been praising the Lord before they arrived at the shore. I mentioned that Joshua and Yashua (Jesus) are the same name, and Joshua is an early picture of what Yahshua would do. Joshua went into the land ahead of the people and then returned and declared it good, he was with them in the wilderness, and then finally he led them into the land across the Jordan. And what Joshua did in the physical realm, Jesus has done for us in the spiritual realm!

Jim reminded us that when Paul and Silas were in prison they still continued to sing the Lord's praises (Acts 16:16-40). So should we - but would we? Good question, Jim!

Finally we prayed together, and then discussed possible dates for some future meetings, 21st January for a bowling evening as an X-treme Camps local reunion, and Sunday 7th February for a snowdrop walk at Moggerhanger followed by a light lunch and an afternoon meeting. These dates are not firm yet.

09 December 2009

Linked Data - queryable, extensive, public data

Tim Berners-Lee has done it again. This time it's not about hyperlinked text but about queryable data. In many ways this can be seen as the public domain, social software equivalent of Stephen Wolfram's proprietary system, WolframAlpha.

It's not hard to see that open will win out over proprietary once again.

Take a look at ReadWriteWeb's post on this topic. It's an excellent roundup. They recommend starting with Tim Berners-Lees's breathless presentation at TED, so do I. I've embedded it below for convenience. Then take a look at the DBpedia website to see how you can use the material for yourself. An online paper presents the technical aspects.

07 December 2009

Colworth (CU) - Advent

Dud led today's meeting and chose the topic of 'Advent'. He explained that it's an extra opportunity to reach people and that it's useful to consider how to approach different sorts of people.

Atheists, for example, have to decide whether to celebrate or ignore Christmas. Family records in an old BibleIn either case Christ is not central as far as they are concerned. They may be irritated, even angered, by the impression that believers are 'muscling in' on a festival that for most people is not about Christ at all. They might prefer that every person should decide for themselves.

Believers on the other hand will often be searching for ways of 'putting Christ back into Christmas'. If we want to avoid the excesses of present giving, card sending, eating, drinking and partying, here are some ideas that Dud had to offer.

  • Instead of or as well as giving Christmas cards, why not pray for the people we give them to? Make a note to pray specifically for them. Some people give Advent cards instead to encourage their friends to look beyond the snow, the robin, and the holly.

  • Read the Bible as a family, encourage each family member to read out their favourite passage.

  • Put Jesus back quite literally by making sure he is in everything you do or say.

  • Connect with your faith. Remember that Jesus was born in a simple way, and that his birth holds meaning and is highly significnt.

  • Go to a candle lit service. Remember that Christ is the Light in the darkness of our lives.
There's a welcome for every believer as an adopted son or daughter. We have a share in the life of Christ! This is indeed Good News! We read Matthew 1:1-17 and thought about the way the Lord had used all kinds of people in Jesus' family tree - many of them of rather dubious morals!

He clearly had no problem with human flaws or weaknesses, nobody is too bad to become one of his followers. All are welcome. We need to learn to let go of our flaws and give them to Jesus.

Finally we read Ruth 1:3-18 and thought about the utter faithfullness of this woman who was a Moabite (not even an Israelite).

04 December 2009

Newforms - Video meeting with Peter Farmer

Peter Farmer and I spoke for two hours online using Skype. Despite a number of drop outs and restarts we were able to cover a lot of ground in the time available. Connected networksI can recommend Skype for this sort of online discussion, it's very helpful to see the person at the other end of the connection at the same time as speaking and listening.

Focused on the King is a loose network of small groups in the Bedford, Cambridge, Northampton area and in our very informal way we are also connected more widely via Newforms, a UK-wide network of networks. Pete started Newforms in May 2008 and aims not only to connect the various networks of simple, organic churches that exist in the UK, but encourage further growth, provide training, arrange national meetings etc.

Some topics we discussed
  • Pete's travel to various parts of the UK which he calls Mission Britain, and his plans for visiting the London area in the next few weeks. I was able to give him some contact names. Another group we'd both like to have contact with is one in north east Scotland. They were visited by Alex Campbell and Floyd McClung in 2008 for training in church planting.

  • People and groups we know. We shared about local and UK-wide networks and individual groups. These seem to be developing more quickly now, and it seems to me that much of this growth is spontaneous. Pete mentioned the Salt and Light Network which I haven't come across previously.

  • Church of Two (CO2, see also Stories from the Revolution). I shared the basis of this with Peter, it turns out there are similarities and some overlap with the Pilgrims and Pioneers idea that he's been using in Nottingham.

  • International conferences and contacts. We exchanged some of our experiences from my Dallas trip in September, and Pete's trip to Delhi just recently. I put him in touch with contacts in the Netherlands and in Sweden and we talked about the work of Wolfgang Simson, Floyd McClung and others.

  • Meetings for the early part of 2010. We are considering some sort of gathering in our area in the first quarter of 2010, and Pete is planning two national meetings in the same period.

  • We also discussed training  and resources for making disciples and planting churches.
All in all it was two hours well spent. We both ended the conversation informed, encouraged, and connected. And staying connected was the reason for the conversation in the first place.

(You can also read Pete's notes on this meeting.)

    Eaton Ford (day) - Practicing praise

    Paul read 1 Peter 3:8-12 and we thought about the difficulty of forgiving, how easy it is to hold a grudge. Even though we know we shouldn't do it, Praise logosometimes it's hard and we wrestle with ourselves.

    We talked about friends who need prayer because of illness or other issues in their lives. And Roger raised the subject of praise; he said that we need to practice praise so that it becomes natural to us. The principle is similar to CS Lewis's description in 'The Great Divorce' of a persistent grumbler who runs the risk of eventually becoming, not a grumbler, but in fact merely a grumble. If we are persistent praisers perhaps we can finally attain the state of being a praise!

    Roger read Psalm 138 and I mentioned that we don't belong to ourselves, nor do we belong to the world, but we belong to one another and of course we belong to the Lord. Paul prayed for the Tough Talk meeting on Saturday week, then I referred to verse 8 and said that the Lord will fulfill his purpose for Paul, for Roger, and for me. Whatever he plans in our lives he will do. Referring to verse 3, Roger added that he will make all his people bold and stout hearted. We prayed for more of our friends.

    We thought about  the fact that there are two kinds of 'knowing' or relationship. For knowing in the mind reason, knowledge, and persuasion are the tools we need. But we need different tools for knowing people in the heart, they are things such as mercy, compassion, and love. Paul added feeling and understanding to the list. We need these to 'be there' for people, to understand how they feel.

    03 December 2009

    Eaton Ford - Small groups

    Jim was working very late today, Paul was unwell, and Mary couldn't make it so it was just Sean and me meeting this evening.

    We discussed the ideal size for groups of people sharing their lives together and thought that between twelve and twenty is the natural maximum. Greek icon of the twelve apostlesYahshua called twelve men to follow him and we know there were women who also followed him, so there is good precedent for twenty or so as a maximum. Larger numbers would make it difficult for people to relate closely and personally with one another. It's a good size for any kind of team - in business, sport, and it's typically the size of an extended family.

    We spent some time considering ways of reaching out to those around us. Both of us are keen to do this. We recognise that last summer's camp was one way to do this, and we know it was prepared and orchestrated by Papa, not by us. All we had to do was follow step by step. But we want to reach more people in the town and are sure that if we trust and expect to be led, the opportunities will come.

    I described what I'd learned about CO2 from John White and others at the House2House Conference in Dallas. Sean thought it sounded a great idea and is happy to try it with me so we plan to begin right away, do it for a week, and then see how we feel about continuing. We will do the VIRKLER exercise individually and report back when we meet to share what we think the Lord is telling us each day. And we'll step through the SASHET process at the same time.

    Here's a video of CO2 in action.

    C02 Overview from TSP on Vimeo.

    We'll let you all know how we get on. We hope to meet face to face two or three days each week for our CO2 sessions. On the other four or five days we will use Skype and/or Google Wave as communication channels. We'll also share how these worked for us as CO2 tools.

    Before finishing we prayed for our friends and specific things in their lives that we're aware of, particularly illnesses and family matters.

    01 December 2009

    Great Doddington - What is church?

    As we chatted over coffee and biscuits the conversation turned to thoughts about faith, healing, and salvation. What is church?Healing in particular seems to be quite common at some times and in some places, but not all the time and everywhere. So what should we expect in our own lives and those of people we know? What should we expect in our own towns, villages, and workplaces?

    Glenn shared about events in Argentina that he'd read about in a book years ago. Extraordinary events with strong evidence. And this prompted Barbara to tell us how she'd been praying for someone's health and had felt overwhelmed by a sense of peace, certainty, and faith. She'd been able to prayer in a different way as a result, knowing that her prayer was heard and answered.

    We also chewed over some of the great mysteries that are presented in the Bible. In particular Jody wondered how it could be that the Almighty would instruct Israel to utterly destroy defeated enemies like the ancient city of Jericho. To our human understandings there is a disconnect here. How can it be right to put  men, women and children to the sword? How can it be just? Obedience demanded it, but it seems a very odd instruction. Today it would be declared genocide and the UN would intervene.

    It's a good question and not easy to answer. It seems barely sufficient to argue that those were the days of the Law and today we live under a dispensation of grace. I pointed out that Old Testament events of this kind translate very powerfully into our own lives. Have I 'killed' all the dark and wrong things in my own heart? Am I clinging to remnants of my past, unsaved life? If so, they will surely come back to bite me. Yet there will be a kind of suffering (or at least discomfort) in giving them up. But the reason must be far deeper, something to do with the nature of Yahweh himself. He is love, but he is also jealous and just and pure and holy. He is gentle but also terrible.

    Another topic we considered was 'What is church?' We agreed that we need to grow into fellowship on an altogether different level. Are we really closely enough involved in one another's lives? If one of us feels lonely, or far from the Lord - how can we help one another? And are we reaching out into a lost world as we should?

    I recounted Floyd McClung's story about the young lady who asked for prayer. She said she wanted patience. He began praying for tribulation in her life - not at all what she had expected to hear. Some of us thought that asking for tribulation in someone's life was a dreadful thing to do, and I do understand why we might think so. But Floyd was not being unkind, he was encouraging her to understand the basis for the growth of patience in a person's life. It's not that our Father is being cruel to his children, he is actually working hard and at great cost to dig us out of the pit that we are in - but he didn't put us into that pit in the first place.

    We read Psalm 107 from verse 4.

    And finally we linked arms in a circle and prayed for one another.

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