31 January 2010

John's Gospel - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

This page is an index to brief studies in the chapters of John, all made during January 2010. Click a link below to jump to a particular chapter. The titles are the titles of the blog posts. The idea had its inspiration in a similar series posted on the same days by Rob McFarlane; the (Rob) links are no longer available, they used take you to his posts which were shorter, shared things that Rob saw as he read, and concluded with a prayer.

John's gospel is different in nature from the other three (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). It is less focused on history, and more focused on spiritual significance. I hope this is reflected in the individual posts.

30 January 2010

John 21 - Gone fishing

< John 20 | Index | No more chapters >

Chapter 21 of John takes us right back to the beginning of Yahshua's ministry and also looks forward to the future of the church after he returns to the Father.

At the beginning of the chapter Yahshua appears to seven of the disciples, the third time that he has been with them since the resurrection. Traditional net fishingAnd does he find them busy with the work he left them to do? No! Instead of fishing for men, they have returned to fishing for fish (compare Luke 5:1-11). The problem is that they don't know what to do or how to do it. And the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor that was promised, is not yet with them to guide them and encourage them.

At first they don't even recognise him, he's just a man on the beach. But then he does something that reminds them of an earlier occasion when he first called some of them to follow him, he repeats much the same process that's recorded in Luke. There are minor differences, this time he is not in the boat with them, and the net doesn't break. Do you notice how they're still not quite sure who he is? They want to ask him but don't dare. They know in their hearts but it just doesn't add up. They saw Lazarus come out of the grave but this is different, Yahshua rose without anyone to command him to come out. To perform a miracle is one thing, to be a miracle with nobody to command it was weird. They are still troubled and confused, emotions that are mixed with their earlier delight and rejoicing.

After sharing a meal with them Yahshua has a very interesting conversation with Peter. I can imagine him pointing to the pile of fish and saying, 'Do you love me more than these?'. And what does Peter say? 'Yes Lord, I like you - you know that.'

In English translations it looks as if Yahshua and Peter both use the same word - 'love'. But that's misleading. English doesn't have the same richness as the Koine Greek used here. Yahshua uses 'agape' which has shades of meaning around brotherly love, affection, good will, and benevolence. Peter uses 'phileo' which is less intense and means like, approve, welcome, or befriend. Agape is a deep love from the heart, phileo is lighter, more liking than loving.

To this response Yahshua says, 'Feed my little lambs'.

Then he asks Peter the same question, 'Do you love me?', Peter answers, 'You know I like you', and Yahshua says, 'Feed my sheep'.

But the third time Yahshua asks, 'Do you like me?' Peter is hurt because now he realises how half-hearted he has been. Ouch! Peter, headstrong Peter, needs to face reality. Perhaps he was ashamed to say a real, strong agape 'I love you' because denying the Lord is still so fresh in his mind. But the Messiah doesn't call us to be strong for him, he calls us to come to him in weakness so that he can be our strength.

And this is the part of the chapter that looks forward. Yahshua is looking forward to the long years, decades, and eventually centuries and millenia that lie ahead. Times when he will not be here walking and talking and cooking fish on the beach. Times when the church aided by the comfort and guidance of the Holy Spirit will need to learn and grow and thrive. He was looking forward even to today, and all through those centuries we have had the task of shepherding one another. When I am lost and struggling I may depend on you to lead me to good pasture. When you are lost and struggling I must do the same for you. This is the church, the living bride of the Lamb. How many times had he told them, 'Love one another as I have loved you'?

You and I were born for a time such as this. We're here to support and encourage one another, and we're to reflect Yahshua's love, treating the world the way he treated it. Reaching the poor and the hungry and the lost by showing them his living love working in us. Let's get to it!

< John 20 | Index | No more chapters >

29 January 2010

Eaton Ford (day) - Kingdom loving

Today we discussed aspects of our lives and interests in connection with church life. Roger, for example, with his interest in model aircraft is in contact with a number of friends that he can share with and pray for. Stained glass showing Bernard of ClairvauxPaul is in touch with a variety of people, neighbours, ex-army mates and contacts through the Acorn group. We all agree that church is not just going to a place once a week but is about community in the place where we live.

Paul, Roger and I demonstrated Church of Two (CO2) for David. He could see the potential value right away and wanted to read more about it online.

David and Roger both have an interest in seeing living communities of faith growing in the Offords and we talked about this for a while. We also prayed together, partly for the hopes and needs that were expressed through CO2 and partly for the Offords. We know that Father has a plan for each of us and for our effectiveness in sharing Jesus' life with others. We can't do it ourselves - he must do it through us.

David referred to Bernard of Clairvaux's treatise 'On Loving God' in which he describes a 'ladder' of love. The steps are first 'loving self for self's sake', then 'loving God for self's sake', thirdly 'loving God for God's sake', and finally 'loving self for God's sake'. The Bishop of Huntingdon, David Thomson, wrote about this recently in his blog. The original passage from Bernard of Clairvaux's work is in Chapter XV.

We were all encouraged in sharing these things together.

John 20 - Seeing is believing

< John 19 | Index | John 21 >

Now we come to the greatest event of all time. John 20 records the resurrection of Yahshua the Messiah, the one who gave his life for us and could not be defeated by death. A rock-cut tomb just outside JerusalemThis is so unexpected and astonishing that the people who first saw him struggled with the idea. Let's look at their reactions.

Mary Magdalene - Mary was the first on the scene very early, it was still dark. She knew something had happened for she could see that the stone had been moved. She didn't go in but ran to Peter and John. Mary assumed that someone had taken the body.

By the time Peter and John left, Mary was in tears. She looked inside and saw two angels who asked her why she was crying. Her concern was for the body. Then she turned around, looked away from the tomb, and saw Yahshua who asked her the same question. She didn't recognise him until he spoke her name. He sent her to tell the disciples.

John - He was the first to look inside. He saw the linen strips. He didn't go in at first, but after Peter had done so he followed. John saw and believed.

Peter - Peter acted in character, he dashed right inside. He saw the linen and the head cloth.

The disciples - In the evening Yahshua appeared in the locked room where they were meeting. They rejoiced! They later told Thomas (who wasn't there when Yahshua was in the room).

Thomas - Seeing is believing! Thomas was unable to accept the news until he could see Yahshua with his own eyes. He had to wait a week. When he saw, he believed.

What about us? What about you? Are you like any of the people mentioned here?

It's easy to jump to conclusions like Mary. Once we've entertained an idea it can be hard to get beyond it. Mary had no reason to think the body had been taken, nor that she was talking to the gardener. It was an assumption. Even while she was standing with the risen Lord her mind was working on ways of finding his body! What assumptions do we make about him?

John saw that the tomb was empty and believed. This is not like Thomas who saw Yahshua and believed. John believed because of what he did not see. This is faith! Do we believe what we have not seen?

Peter didn't hesitate, but he did investigate by looking thoroughly. We need to look thoroughly at the things we read and have been told about the Lord. We need to investigate them for ourselves. Do they hold up to examination? John doesn't tell us what Peter concluded, just that he was thorough in looking.

The disciples in the locked room rejoiced when they saw him! We can't help but rejoice when we realise that the One who died for us is alive. Our lives as believers are now in him! If he is alive so are we, for ever. Now that is good news!

Thomas - When he saw the Lord he believed. 'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.' So, if you have believed, Yahshua himself says you are blessed. it doesn't come much clearer than that!

< John 19 | Index | John 21 >

28 January 2010

Eaton Ford - seeing or experiencing?

Sean and I talked about our lives, the need for outreach, the value of CO2, Beach sceneand the potential usefulness of summarising what he's been showing us month by month.

Sean shared how he has been looking towards Jesus with an increasing desire to seek him and his kingdom, know his desire and leading, and find a way of doing it. He saw a picture in which the Spirit was moving and leaving a light trail of footprints. The footprints were not visible, they were spiritual footprints across the land. He said that he believes the Lord is trying to wake the United Kingdom up because it is sleeping and time is short.

We talked through a variety of topics and how they relate to the Lord and to church life. These included creation, evolution, fundamental particles, energy, and the sheer wonder of it all. How awesome is our Creator King! We also shared news about our families.

Jim arrived later after another meeting. We continued the conversation and considered the value of reading the Bible as well as some things concerning the work at Moggerhanger Park.

Jim shared a picture of a beautiful beach with only a couple of people on it, the sort of image you might see in a travel brochure. He said, 'But it's only a picture. Until you feel the sunshine on your skin and feel the sand between your toes you haven't really experienced it. Seeing it in a brochure or on the TV screen isn't the same - not even close! And it's the same with experiencing life in the Spirit.'

John 19 - See! Here's the man

< John 18 | Index | John 20 >

In John 19, Pilate's attempts to release Yahshua come to nothing. This chapter covers Pilate's final attempts to save his life, his eventual crucifixion, Yahshua with Pilatehis death, and his burial in the rock-hewn tomb.

Pilate has Yahshua flogged and ridiculed, then shows him to the crowd again to demonstrate that he can find absolutely no reason to charge him with any offence requiring death. Perhaps he thought that this lesser punishment would satisfy them. But they shout and yell for crucifixion. Pilate retorts, 'Crucify him yourselves, I can't find any reason to do so.' But when they tell him that Yahsua had claimed to be the Son of the Almighty, Pilate is very afraid. The Lord actually helps him out at this point, he explains that Pilate's guilt is less than that of the Jewish leaders. And after that Pilate kept trying to release him but in the end was given little choice and handed him over to the execution squad.

It seems that Pilate continued to have some sympathy towards this extraordinary man who did not deserve to die. He wrote 'King of the Jews' on the sign over the cross and refused to change it. He gave permission for the body to be taken down and buried in a rich man's tomb.

There is very little I need write about this chapter, I suggest reading it again because it speaks for itself. In fact, I'd encourage everyone to read chapters 18 and 19 again right through as they really do belong together.

I hope that by focussing on Pilate's part in the events I will have helped you see afresh how very determined the Jewish leaders were to do away with Yahshua. They were extraordinarily angry with him, they were in such a frothing rage that that were competely unable to see the truth. And it was staring them in the face! They crucified the only man who had ever performed the three Messianic Miracles - curing a Jewish leper, casting out a demon from a dumb man, and healing a man blind from birth. By their own requirements he had to be the Messiah!

The question remains, what are we going to do with this man, Yahshua (Jesus)? We can reject him like the Jewish leaders. We can love him like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. We can follow him like John, Peter, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea. We can think that perhaps he is right, certainly that he is innocent, yet like Pilate find it far too costly to abandon our responsibilities in order to follow him.

We must all make a choice. The one thing we cannot do with Yahshua of Nazareth, the King of Israel, is ignore him. Everything he claimed about himself is true! He demonstrated it beyond any doubt for those with open eyes, ears, and minds - then, and today.

And in the next chapter of John we read how he demonstrated it one more time, by rising from the grave and proving that even death could not hold him.

< John 18 | Index | John 20 >

27 January 2010

John 18 - Interrogation at night

< John 17 | Index | John 19 >

In John 18 we read of Yahshua's arrest in the olive grove, how he is taken first to Annas, then to Caiaphas, and finally to Pilate. Yahshua with CaiaphasDuring the night, waiting to find out what will happen to him, Peter denies three times that he knows him or was with him. Another follower is braver (verses 15-16), was this Nicodemus? We don't know but it seems quite likely. Pilate interviews the prisoner, quickly finds him innocent, and tries to get him released.

Pilate treats his unwanted prisoner much better than the Jewish authorities do. They don't seem to care whether he is innocent or guilty, they have already decided he must die because he claimed to be the Son of the Most High and also because he uttered the Holy Name, Yahweh, I AM. They are offended because they do not believe him. According to Jewish law, the High Priest would speak the Name once a year inside the Holy of Holies. If they had understood that Yahshua was indeed the Highest of High Priests, and the Son, and the Messiah, and the sacrificial Lamb, they would not have sentenced him to death. But as the Lamb, it was necessary that he die for the sins of the world.

They didn't understand who he was although they had all the evidence they needed, so according to them he was guilty of blasphemy and should be stoned to death. However the Roman authorities had banned the death penalty under Jewish Law, so only the Romans were permitted to kill a prisoner. That's why the Jews involved Pontius Pilate.

But Pilate proved to be a fair man. He told the Jews to try him under their own law which would have carried a lesser penalty than death because of the Roman prohibition. But they'd have none of it. So Pilate interrogated Yahshua. Pilate asks, 'What is truth?' As a Roman provincial governor, 'truth' was whatever he chose to make it. If Pilate said so, it was so! So he went back to the Jewish crowd, pronounced Yahshua not guilty, and offered to release him according to the Jewish Passover custom. But they preferred the rebel, Bar Abbas, and called for his release!

Let's look at the conversations with Pilate in more detail. First, he asks the Jews what charges they are bringing. Instead of giving a straight answer they say that if he was innocent they wouldn't have handed him over. That was no more than an evasive non-answer.

Next Pilate tells them to apply Jewish law but they complain they can't apply the death penalty.

Pilate then decided to have a conversation with the prisoner himself, 'Are you the King of the Jews?'

Yahshua asks him if this is his own idea or whether the Jews have suggested it. And Pilate replies, 'Am I a Jew?' which effectively means, 'Of course they told me. How would I know?' He wants to find out what this man has done to so upset his own people. Yahshua replies that his Kingdom is not of this world but from another place. To a Roman, 'this world' would mean the Graeco-Roman world. Was the man saying he was from India, or Parthia, or somewhere else outside the Empire?

So far, Pilate might have been anxious only about the political issues and the danger of crowd trouble. But as we'll see in chapter 19, this is about to change.

His attitude up to this point seems entirely reasonable. The man is not guilty and should be released, so Pilate does his level best to do just that. However, the Jewish leadership and the crowds are combining to make this difficult to accomplish, and in the end the death of one man must have seemed less important to Pilate than the many deaths that would result from a riot in Jerusalem. Furthermore, King Herod and Caesar himself would regard civil unrest at a major religious festival as failure and he would not be prepared to push things so far as to provoke that. From Pilate's perspective preventing unrest was essential, saving this man's life was not.

But Pilate was not the only man in Jerusalem wanting to avoid trouble. By the time Yahshua and Pilate were in conversation Peter was feeling a very wretched failure. He had denied even knowing the Master. Peter was afraid of losing his own life and spoke out of that fear. Sometimes we speak out of fear too, it can freeze us into inaction or denial on the one hand, or send us into full-blown and headlong flight on the other.

What is the antidote to fear? Love. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Later, the risen Lord would ask Peter, 'Do you love me?', as we shall see in chapter 21.

< John 17 | Index | John 19 >

26 January 2010

John 17 - Glory given and received

< John 16 | Index | John 18 >

In John 17 the time for teaching has finished, it is time for prayer. We have all been in situations where this is true. The glory of an evening rainbowWe can talk and talk but in the end if we want things to move forward we need to pray - for ourselves and for others. And this is precisely what Yahshua does; first for himself, then for others.

More particularly we need to pray when the situation is tough or desperate. Communication with others has to give way to communication with the Father who guides our paths and intervenes on our behalf. He is the One who hears and gives us what we ask (if we ask in Yahshua's name and in accordance with his will).

Notice that the Lord prays far less for himself than he does for his followers. Is there a lesson there for us too? We are likely to face tough times, but rarely as tough as those our Teacher and Master faced. Yet still his focus is on others. Even in praying for himself his focus is on the Father, the glory is for the Father. The Son asks for glory so that he can glorify the Father.

And there's a little reference to authority in verse 2, did you notice? The Son has been given authority over all people - all people. That includes Judas Iscariot, Caiaphas, and Pontius Pilate. Yahshua is the King of Kings, he has kingly authority even over Caesar. With a single word he could have escaped death! But true authority doesn't merely command men and women. Instead it commands respect in those who recognise it. What sort of authority do you and I have? Do we issue orders or do we earn respect? What a difference!

Next he prays for his followers, his apprentices. Some of them heard these words or they could not have been recorded. What did they make of them at the time? He confidently speaks of their faith and understanding even though just a short time before they were demonstrating considerable doubt and confusion. That is real trust! The Father told him it was so, it appeared as if it might not be so, and he prays with confidence knowing that the prayer has been answered. He asks for their protection and for their sanctification.

And then he tells us, a hundred generations later and every generation in between, that his prayer is also for us! Yahshua's prayer is that we would be one, and not just with one another but also with him and with the Father. Now surely this is utterly awesome! And not only that. The Father gave glory to the Son and now the Son has given that same glory to us! (verse 22). If that doesn't take your breath away, nothing will. We are to contain both the love that the Father has for the Son and we are to contain the Son himself.

Christ in us, the hope of glory!

< John 16 | Index | John 18 >

25 January 2010

Colworth (CU) - Dysciples

Today, David brought some thoughts on 'Dysciples', he read from Krish Kandiah's book of the same name. Part of the cover of the book 'Dysciples'David's chosen extract was about feeling dissatisfied and posed the question, 'Do we lose passion as we age?'

There is no way to tweak the truth, Jesus knows what he's getting but he chooses us anyway. He chose the twelve because he wanted to transform them (Matthew 4:12-22). We're impatient, we want everything now. But Jesus is patient. We feel dissatisfied because of our slow progress.

Jesus is our king and we need to obey him. If we're dissatisfied we need a change of perspective and behaviour (Ezekiel 14:6)

David reminded us that we need to be more on fire, more active. He told us that sometimes he feels guilty about this. I asked if we should be growing in the fruits of the Spirit, because it's really about character, not just what we do.

I had a vision of a map which I shared. I saw a map of a route, it was partly covered by a sheet of paper and I realised that more would be revealed as we needed it on our journey through life. Father has a good and safe plan for us and we need to follow it as he reveals it. David explained that we are like clay pots with treasure inside. We might not look like much, but the true value is in what is hidden!

John 16 - I have overcome the world

< John 15 | Index | John 17 >

In John 16 Yahshua explains further to his puzzled and anxious disciples, and he does so very plainly so that by the end of the chapter they are beginning to understand something of what he is saying. Trouble in this worldIt must have been hard for him and for them.

Hard for him because he was living in a human body with a human mind, and just as he longed to avoid the death that lay ahead of him (much as you or I would have done) perhaps he also had some lingering anxiety that even at this late stage the disciples just weren't getting their heads around what was happening and might not be able to continue after he was gone.

In the first case he prayed that, if possible, the cup might be taken away, that another way than a cruel death might be found. 'Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done, Father.' (Luke 22:42) In the second case he would have been in the same place we are sometimes - knowing what Father has told us will happen but not seeing it beginning yet and knowing that time is running out. Have you ever felt like that? I know I have. We need faith in those situations and so, I imagine, did the earthbound Son of the Most High.

Hard for them because he was telling them what logically could not be. Surely he doesn't mean... death? That's obviously wrong, what would we do if he was no longer here with us? Of course, they couldn't imagine having the Cousellor Spirit within them, they had no real idea what that meant. They didn't know whether to prevent him doing what he plannned, or whether to just give up and go home (It's all finished guys, the dream's over. For a while it seemed that he really was the Messiah but it was just wishful thinking on our part.) Later they tried both courses of action as we shall see in chapters 18 and 21.

The real difference between Yahshua and the disciples (or between Yahshua and us) is that his trust in his Father doesn't reach breaking point, whereas ours does. He knew the heart of the Father, he knew it was impossible that mere circumstances would get in the way of ultimate victory. And that, perhaps, is why his feeling of abandonment on the cross was so deep, so severe, 'Eloi, Eloi, why have you forsaken me?'. At that point he really was defeated, alone, lost, without hope. But his Father was not defeated and we all know what happened three days later!

Here in John 16 it's clear that Yahshua understood very clearly that he was going to die but that he would be returning for a little while (verse 16) before finally leaving again to be with the Father. And events proved him right. So it's hard for us to understand the abandonment, the forsakeness. Perhaps he was expecting even this but once the link with the Father was severed it was more than he could bear. Perhaps this loss of oneness with the Father was the true price of sin, paid in full on our behalf.

Did you notice the shallow basis for the disciples' faith in verse 30? They believed that he came from the Almighty because they wanted to ask a question and he knew what it was before it was asked! Like them, our faith wavers and is unsure, but then rises high again because of some minor circumstance. Our faith sometimes depends on 'evidence'. What we (and they) forget is that true faith is the evidence of things unseen. The true basis for faith is trust, not evidence!

In this chapter Yahshua shares the events of the coming weeks so that when these things happen, the disciples will remember that he told them. What they don't understand now, they will understand soon. 'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.' (verse 33)

< John 15 | Index | John 17 >

24 January 2010

John 15 - The true Vine

< John 14 | Index | John 16 >

The first words in John 15 are these - 'I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Gardener'. Who is the true Vine? Yahshua (Jesus). A grapvineJesus is the Life, Father is the one who tends and trains and nurtures that Life.

This chapter is just part of a long discourse that begins in John 13 while he washed their feet and carries on until the end of John 17. It begins as conversation, becomes a time of teaching, and ends in prayer. Yahshua said these things to the disciples but they also apply to us (see John 17:20).

Let's look at chapter 15 in more detail. There are statements here about the Son, the Father, the Spirit, the disciples, and the world. I have extracted them and rearranged them so you can read them as groups. If you follow Yahshua you are a disciple, this should make you very glad!

The Son - He learns from the Father - He did miracles - He will send the Counsellor - He is the true vine (so anything else that looks like a vine is false) - He is the cause of our fruitfulness - He chose and appointed us to bear lasting fruit - The branches must remain in him - He remains in us - He is essential - He speaks to us - He commands us - He will give us what we ask - He loves us - He calls us friends, not servants - He lays down his life for his friends - He came and spoke to the world - The world hated him - He was persecuted and disobeyed

The Father - He loves the Son - He is the source of the Spirit - He will give us whatever we ask in Yahshua's name - He is the gardener - He cuts unfruitful branches - He prunes fruitful branches to make them even more fruitful - His glory is that we bear much fruit

The Holy Spirit - He goes out from the Father - He is the Counsellor - He is the Spirit of Truth - He testifies about the Son

The disciples (including us) - We are the branches - We must remain in Christ - We cannot be fruitful by ourselves - We will bear much fruit if we remain in him - We can do nothing without him - If we are separated from him we will wither away and be worthless - We are clean because of the word he has spoken to us - We can ask whatever we wish - His joy is in us - We are to remain in his love - We must love one another as Christ has loved us - We are his friends (if we obey) - We are no longer servants - We know his business - We were chosen and appointed - We must testify about him - We glorify the Father by producing fruit

The world - It loves those who belong to it - They don't know the Father - They hate the Father and the Son - They hate us but hated the Lord first - They will not obey our teaching - They will persecute us - They have seen the miracles - Because of Christ's teaching, they have no excuse for their sin

The take home message is that we are here to glorify the Father and we can only do that by bearing much fruit. What is the fruit? Yahshua said that we will know a person by the fruit they produce (Matthew 7:16). The fruit of the Spirit is listed in Galatians 5:22-23 - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Have you ever thought that when you are patient you are glorifying the Father? Or when you are gentle? Or kind?

We don't need to do mighty works to glorify the Father. He is well able to do those himself! Instead, he is glorified when we grow to be more like his Son and bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit in abundance.

< John 14 | Index | John 16 >

23 January 2010

ANNOUNCEMENT - Moggerhanger Meeting - 7th February 2010

Don't miss the
Moggerhanger Meeting!

SnowdropSunday 7th February, 2010. Open to everyone with an interest in organic expressions of church.

(This is the second notice and contains new additional information.)

  • What? - People are gathering from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire for a snowdrop walk, a shared meal, to hear some visiting speakers, and for an afternoon of meeting together with Jesus.

  • Where? - Moggerhanger Park near Bedford (full directions) MK44 3RW.

  • When? - Sunday 7th February 2010 at 13:30.

  • Cost? - No charge, but there will be an opportunity to donate to Moggerhanger Park.

Numbers - If you are planning to come and have not yet told us the numbers in your party, please make sure you get those details to us as soon as possible (at the latest by the end of Friday 5th February). This is necessary so we can provide the right amount of food.

Dietary needs - If people in your group are vegetarian, have food allergies or intolerances, or have other special requirements do let us know that too. Thanks.

Children's room - We plan to have space and some activities for children and may be able to help supervise, but if you are bringing children please be prepared to help if necessary by spending some time in the children's room yourself. You are welcome to keep children with you in the main meeting if you prefer. Older teenagers can help with the younger ones or join the main meeting.

Music - We have not made arrangements for music, but if you're a musician we encourage you to bring and use an instrument.

Programme - We expect this to be a flexible framework, it's important to be responsive to the Lord as we meet and we'll make changes if necessary as we go along.
  1. Arrive at Moggerhanger Park by 13:30, the gates will be open before that. Once inside the grounds turn first left towards the house and park at the front. If you're early feel free to explore the grounds.

  2. The snowdrop walk will begin from the front of the house at 13:30 (weather permitting). It's an easy stroll on reasonably firm woodland paths. You might need boots if it's been raining (wellingtons, walking boots, or a spare pair of old shoes that won't be spoiled by a little mud).

  3. We'll aim to eat at 14:00. Make your way through the front door of the house.

  4. From 14:45 - After lunch we plan to have three short presentations - no more than 15 minutes each. If you have an unfinished drink, bring it to the meeting room with you.
    1. Peter Farmer - Church Networks and Church Planting
    2. Chris Jefferies - Church of Two (CO2)
    3. Pete Stamford - X-treme Youth Camps
    4. Q and A session

  5. From 15:45 - A time for open prayer, praise, and body ministry

  6. 17:30 - Cup of tea or coffee and a slice of cake

  7. Optional - There is no official end to the meeting. If anyone would like to stay on for more discussion, prayer etc after the tea/coffee that will certainly be possible. Some may need to get away quickly (if you have young children or a long journey, for example).

    For anyone interested in the house, the park, and the work that goes on there, it may be possible to organise an impromptu house tour. Please ask. The Moggerhanger Park website contains a lot of valuable information.
Looking forward to seeing you all on the day,

Grace, peace and joy,

Chris Jefferies

124 St Neots Road
Eaton Ford
St Neots
PE19 7AL

John 14 - The Holy Spirit

< John 13 | Index | John 15 >

It seems that the events of John 14, like those of John 13, tool place in the upper room. Yahshua is speaking spiritual truth, but the disciples are still hearing with earthly ears. Rays of illuminationAs far as they are concerned he is talking in riddles.

He assures them that he, himself, is the way to the Father's house. And he reiterates that if they really knew him, they would know the Father too. He tells them that the Father is living in him. (verse 10) And he says that they can ask anything in his name and he will do it.

They have seen his love for them and for the crowds, they have seen the miracles (including the Messianic miracles) so they should already understand and know what he is telling them - but they lack something. He knows what they lack - or rather who they lack. It's the Holy Spirit.

So in verses 15-21 Yahshua explains this to them. It is one of the most important bits of information they will need after he has gone back to the Father. He has been with them for a few years, but this 'other counsellor' who will be given will be with them for all generations to come. Notice that the world can't accept this counsellor because it doesn't see him and it doesn't know him. Isn't this true in your own experience? Those you know who are not believers don't accept that there is a person called the Holy Spirit. But, says the Lord, 'You know him for he lives with you and will be in you'. How awesome is that!

This is not just a matter of a sort of influencing force as some suggest (the Jehovah's Witnesses, for example). This is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, actually making his home within his people. He is not a spirit of fear but the Spirit of a sound mind. 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' is this same Holy Spirit! He is in you.

Think about this a little, let it sink in deeply. Yahshua is in the Father and the Father is in him. He is also in you and you are in him. The Spirit of Christ, sent by the Father is in you and has, in fact, made his home in you. Yahshua has gone to the Father to prepare a place for you in his Father's house of many rooms. The Father and the Son and the Spirit and the believers are all one! All living in one house, in other words all one family. No wonder the disciples found it hard to understand what Yahshua was saying to them, it is such an astonishing truth that it sounds as if it must be false! At this time he was still with them and therefore the Spirit had not yet been sent. But nevertheless it's true - read verse 23 if you have any doubts.

What a truth! What a Lord! What a great salvation!

< John 13 | Index | John 15 >

22 January 2010

Eaton Ford (day) - conversation and prayer

Only brief notes were made for this meeting. Roger, Paul, and I discussed some of the events and issues in our lives and in those of our friends. We worked through CO2 and then prayed for one another and for friends.

John 13 - Washing their feet

< John 12 | Index | John 14 >

There is so much in John 13. Again it's a significant chapter because Yahshua knows he is about to suffer a dreadful death and will now be with the disciples for only a very short time. A man's right footSo everything he says and does is focused on reiterating the most important things so they'll be fresh in their minds after he has gone.

And although there's much here about his betrayal and death, there is also a great deal about loving one another. It's a bit like a mother or father leaving home for a risky hospital procedure and knowing they may never see the children again. What is the last thing you would say in that position? Very likely it would be along the lines of, 'Be good children, always do what Dad (or Mum) tells you and look after one another. I want you all to take special care of your brothers and sisters.'

This is one of the things he has always taught his followers. 'Care for others more than you care for yourself, and especially - love one another'. Knowing they still barely get it, he demonstrates it for them, acting like a household servant and washing their feet.

Verse 1 tells us that 'having loved them, he now showed them the full extent of his love'. What does this mean? It refers to what he is about to do, making himself their servant, the King of the universe making himself nothing so that they could experience his love. And of course, in cleaning their feet so they were ritually pure for the Passover meal he was also showing how he would very soon cleanse them of sin so they would be pure for life in heaven. The foot washing was Love at work, cleaning the loved. The Messiah's death would be the same Love at work, cleaning the loved. And who is Love? Why, the Mighty One himself! If you have seen the Son you have seen the Father - and you have seen Love himself.

But the take home message is 'What I have done for you, you must do for one another'. (verses 12-17)

Will we be like Yahshua, pouring ourselves out for the sake of our friends and family? Will we love one another? There are some groups of believers who hold a foot washing ritual. But it's not about the act of washing feet! It's about a heart that will want to wash feet literally or metaphorically whenever there's a need. It's about becoming a bit lower in order to raise up a brother or sister.

< John 12 | Index | John 14 >

21 January 2010

Eaton Ford - hearing the Lord?

Sean and I spent some time chatting before Jim arrived. We discussed reading Old and New Testaments and the value of some of the other material not included in the Bible, particularly the Apocrypha. Antique hearing aid (click for source)We talked about visiting Israel, about having a relationship with the Lord, and about our experiences with CO2 and the listening component of that, VIRKLER. How can we tell when we are really hearing from the Lord? How do we distinguish between his thoughts and merely our own thoughts?

Sean shared that in reading through John recently he has been greatly blessed by so many gems of understanding coming out.

When Jim arrived, we were amused that he also raised many of the same thoughts and ideas. He mentioned that we truly need to hear from the Lord, and wondered how many people attend a church but don't really believe in a living way, and perhaps don't realise that there is more to it, that following Jesus changes the way we live every day.

We went through the CO2 exercise together, Jim in particular had had a really good week and mentioned many things under the 'happy' and 'excited' headings.

We prayed for one another, and we also prayed for the Moggerhanger meeting on 7th February.

John 12 - Responding to Yahshua

< John 11 | Index | John 13 >

People have always responded to the presence and activity of Yahshua in a variety of ways John 12 has examples of several of these.
  • Martha served him as a member of the family.
  • Lazarus relaxed in his presence.
  • Mary spared no expense to honour him.
  • Judas objected to his acceptance of honour.
  • The crowd came to see what he had done.
  • The chief priests wanted to get rid of him.
  • Those celebrating the Passover greeted him as their King.
  • His disciples were puzzled at what was happening to him.
  • Those who had witnessed the miracle told everyone what he'd done.
  • Many who heard went out to meet him.
  • The Pharisees were exasperated by the effect he had on the crowds.
  • The Greek Jews asked to see him.
  • The Father spoke to him.
  • Those who followed the Law questioned him.
Whether they realised it or not, all of them were responding also to the presence and activity of the Father (verses 44-50).

Are you like any of the people in that list? How are you responding to Yahshua, the Son of the Most High?

I suggest going through the list a second time and thinking prayerfully about each one. Let's take the first and the last as examples.

Martha served him as a member of the family - Do you treat him as he wants to be treated, a precious member of your family? Is he invited to every family event, every occasion? Is he welcome, not only for the happy times, but also in the times of weeping? Every family has such times. Is he like the best of brothers, always there to help you, encourage you, comfort you, suggest better ways to do the things you did badly, commend you on the things you do well?

Those who followed the Law questioned him - there's no harm in questions as long as we're looking for information. Are your questions for information? Or are they sometimes a subtle form of criticism. 'Why did you do this, Lord?' 'Why did you allow that?' Although those questions can be straightforward, they may also be asked in an accusing way.

Like all the people in John 12 we respond to the presence and activity of the Lord in our lives. Let's make sure that our responses raise him up and glorify him amongst our circle of friends and family.

< John 11 | Index | John 13 >

20 January 2010

John 11 - Fully on earth, fully in heaven

< John 10 | Index | John 12 >

In John 11 we see both aspects of Yahshua's life coming together. this is not surprising as events are coming to a focal point, Rembrandt's depiction of the raising of Lazarushis death on the cross and resurrection three days later.

First there is the deep love he had for his close friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (verse 5) - so much so that he wept with the tenderness he felt for them in their grief. They lived in Bethany just outside Jerusalem and he often stayed with them when he was in the city. Here we see the human aspect of the Lord, his fondness for these friends and his concern for them in their trouble. The disciples must have been surprised when he received the news of Lazarus' illness but didn't go right away to help him. Perhaps they thought it was because Jerusalem was unsafe for him.

So they are surprised again when, two days later, he does decide to head for Judaea. (verse 7)

Then we see his powerful heavenly aspect as he calls Lazarus out from the tomb. (verse 43) Is there any significance in the fact that this miracle came just before his own death? It would have been fresh in his mind as he was hanging between the two thieves. Those who witnessed his tears were agreed that he loved Lazarus deeply. Some of them referred to the Messianic miracle of healing the blind man and expressed surprise that he hadn't prevented the death of such a deeply loved friend. But later, divided as ever, many of them believed because of the raising of Lazarus. (verse 45) Those that did not believe went to tell the Sanhedrin.

Yahshua is totally focused on obedience to the Father in fulfilling all he had been sent to do, and care for the people amongst whom he lived. These two aspects of his nature, love for the Father and love for his friends are an outworking of the new commandment, the one that fulfils the Law in every respect - love the Almighty with all that is in you, and love your neighbour as you love yourself.

The Lord taught this throughout his ministry, demonstrated it throughout his life, and now demonstrates it finally again as his earthly life approaches an end that will be as extraordinary and unexpected as its beginning had been thirty years earlier.

Truly he is fully here on earth yet fully there in heaven, he is human yet also the great I AM. HalleluYah!

< John 10 | Index | John 12 >

19 January 2010

Great Doddington - a broken world

We began by chatting about work, and how staff cuts have made life harder - even for those who have retained a job.

Haitian earthquake 2010Barbara read from Isaiah 40:31 about how those who hope in the Lord will be renewed like eagles, soaring on wings. It seemed all the more significant because she had read it and then heard it again as the basis of a sermon on TV. Humble yourself and I will raise you up and honour you.

Jody mentioned Nehemiah. Although circumstances can bring us low, she still searches out the Lord. We do need to be humble. She also mentioned Haiti and the recent earthquake and the subject of prophecy came up. Why would the Lord not warn us about a disaster like that? Why does he allow us to be brought low? Some people have said that the earthquake was because of the presence of occult practices in Haiti.

I suggested that we live in a broken world and we must expect disasters to happen sometimes. When the tower in Siloam fell and killed people, it wasn't because they were more guilty than others (Luke 13:4). We must be prepared to follow Yahshua regardless of disasters. Rachael thought that trouble, if we face it in the right way, helps us grow to know him and understand him. And Peter pointed out that Jesus suffered and died in fulfillment of a great promise. We need to learn to see things through - come what may.

Glenn reminded us about the manna in the desert which was provision but also brought an important lesson (man does not live by bread alone). He told us the story of an island that escaped damage in the Tsunami. Pentecostals living there had prayed for safety for the people, not knowing what was coming. Everyone was saved while neighbouring islands had big death tolls.

Jody spoke about William Wiberforce and his portrayal in the film 'Amazing Grace'. He had some humbling experiences and difficulties in his life, but he honoured God. Rachael referred to Joel 2:28-29 where we read that the Lord will pour out his Spirit on everyone. What an amazing prophecy, he will pour himself into us! And Glenn reminded us that Jesus said, 'When you see these things happen, don't let your hearts be troubled.' (Matthew 24:6) Rachael said we should focus on him, listen to him and his voice.

I spoke in a tongue which Glenn interpreted. He saw a lion released from a heavily barred cage. The lion came bounding out, it had a big mane. He realised that Jesus has been released and his roar goes out to the nations and also reaches the church. 'Are you there? Are you listening? Are you coming?'

At this point Barbara saw the words 'Maple Leaf', and Jody described a picture of the aftermath of a forest fire. She saw a huge tree with charred debris all around it. She realised that charcoal can be used as fuel; even in the aftermath of disaster there will be something left in our hearts that is useful for our development. He can turn any disaster into something of value. Jesus is the light and the energy, he tells us not to focus on the problems. Instead we should focus on Jesus himself.

Rachael saw a bolt of lightning hitting a tree. And the Lord told her, 'This is my power, this is who I am. The lightning can destroy a tree but it can also light up the sky all around.

We spent a few minutes learning more about Church of Two (CO2) and testing it for ourselves.

John 10 - Shepherds and sheep

< John 9 | Index | John 11 >

In John 10 Yahshua uses shepherds and their flocks as an illustration. He gives an agricultural parable in the first five verses, but his hearers don't understand. A modern flock of sheepHe's not speaking to the disciples and crowds only here, but also to the scribes and Pharisees who were assessing his Messianic claim. (See verses 19-21)

It will help our understanding if we consider the role of a shepherd in 1st century Judaea, sheep didn't live in fields or grassy hill farms as they do in the British Isles. Sheep in fields are securely fenced and can't wander, hill farm sheep wander freely all year and have to be caught and penned for dipping and shearing. Judaean sheep were (and still are) quite different.

The shepherd lives with the sheep and does not use a dog, by day he walks ahead to a place where he knows there will be some greenery and the sheep follow. Much of the landscape is stony and barren. After the rains the countryside turns briefly green and flowers blossom and set seed, at other times the only green things are the leaves of deeply rooted trees and limited amounts of grass and weeds in creek bottoms, along riverbanks, or on dried out riverbeds. The sheep depend for food and water on the knowledge of the shepherd.

At night shepherds lead their sheep to sheepfolds, roughly built out of stones with a single entrance. A number of different flocks spend the night at each sheepfold, the shepherds take turns at keeping watch while the others sleep. The sheep form one, large, mixed flock - there's no attempt to keep them separate.

In the morning, the shepherds head off in different directions, calling their sheep. The sheep recognise the voices and follow their own shepherd. These sheep are not penned in fields, but nor do they wander wherever they like, they follow the shepherd.

Yahshua makes the following five points.
  • Anyone who climbs over the wall is up to no good.
  • Genuine shepherds go through the opening knowing that the one who's on watch will recognise him and let him through.
  • The shepherd calls his sheep and they follow him.
  • They recognise his voice.
  • They run away from people whose voice they don't recognise.
They didn't understand so he explained it for them. He told them that he is the gate, but all others who came were thieves. Everyone who goes in through the gate will be safe and come and go and be fed. Thieves come to destroy, Yahshua comes to give life in full.

He demonstrates that as his people (his sheep) we know him and follow him and he gives his life for us. Furthermore he has other sheep that are not from this fold, but in the future there will be one flock and one shepherd.

As before, some of them thought he was crazy while others were convinced. People today are no different, some think this is madness, delusion. Others are convinced.

How many flocks are there? Are there house church sheep, Anglican sheep, Pentecostal sheep, and evangelical sheep? No, we are all part of one flock.  That is what the Lord said, he made it plain. There is much broken in our thinking that remains to be mended. Our thoughts are not his thoughts. Whoever you are, however you meet, consider yourself to be part of Yahshua's one flock.

< John 9 | Index | John 11 >

18 January 2010

Colworth (CU) - Gone back to fishing

I had volunteered to bring something for today's meeting and decided to use John 8 as I'd already made notes on it for the Scilla Blog. Grilled fish from GalileeThere, I've been sharing a thought from a chapter of John each day.

I explained how some verses of John 8 had jumped out at me as I read the chapter, and how a quick inspection had identified nine ways in which the Father does something for the Son. There is some repetition of these points, but there are nine unique thoughts. Looking at them further they fell naturally into three groups of three. These groups deal with the Father's position in relation to the Son, the communication between Father and Son, and the Father's approval of the Son. You can see the detail from the original blog post.

After I'd shared these details, Dud suggested reading the chapter through. This was an interesting exercise as it put things into context and made the Lord's interaction with the Jewish authorities seem very real. His words would have been rather arrogant if anyone else had spoken them. Nonetheless, coming from him it's just the plain truth!

We discussed the chapter. One of the thoughts we had was that many people at the time struggled to understand what Yahshua meant by some of the things he said. This was especially true before the Holy Spirit began to work in the believers from Pentecost onwards. (Acts 2:1-4)

Aby pointed out that after the crucifixion, Peter and the other disciples went back to fishing. John 21:1-3. Although the Lord had told them, 'I will make you fishers of men', they were at a loss as to what to do next. They so much needed encouragement at that time, and Yahshua appeared on the beach with some grilled fish and gave them just the challenges and encouragement that they needed.

We thought about Saul's conversion on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-19). If Saul had been present he would have agreed with the Jewish authorities during the discussion in John 8. Later he was a prime persecutor of the church. But then everything changed and the renewed Paul was mightily used in spreading the early church through the Greek world.

We also had the thought that often we don't wait for the Lord to show us what to do. We should do! It's always better than heading off to do our own thing in our own way.

We finished with prayer before heading back to work.

John 9 - A man born blind

< John 8 | Index | John 10 >

Ah, John 9, one of my favourite chapters! First I'm going to explain about the so-called Messianic Miracles, then you'll see why I like the chapter.

The rabbis in Yahshua's day had constructed a lot of rules which were designed to ring-fence the Law. A guide dog for the blindAlthough miracles were not unknown in Israel, the Pharisees had specified three Messianic Miracles that nobody but the Messiah would be able to perform. These were healing a Jewish leper, casting out a dumb demon, and healing someone blind from birth. If someone performed these miracles there was a specified procedure for checking if he was the Messiah. First he must be observed at work, then he must be interrogated. Remember, none of this is in the Law given by Moses, it's just rabbinic teaching accumulated over the centuries.

Notice in verse 1 how Yahshua and the disciples see this man, blind from birth. Perhaps they had a conversation with him or with people who knew him. They had a discussion about the case after the disciples asked why the man was blind. And then the Lord made mud and put it on the blind man's eyes (which would have counted as working on Shabbat according to rabbinic tradition) and told him to go and wash.

Do you see how, in verses 8 to 12, the people who knew the man and his history want to know how he could now see? This was a Messianic Miracle and they knew it! And in verse 13 they take the man to the Pharisees who can't agree amongst themselves over this extraordinary event. They quizzed the man, they quizzed his parents, then they quizzed the man again and got more than they bargained for! (verses 30-33)

What they would have done next would be to observe Yahshua very carefully for a while, and then interrogate him. This is not the only Messianic Miracle he performed, he did all three. Notice that later, Yahshua himself pointed to the miracles when he says, 'The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me.' (John 10:25) And he mentions the miracles again in John 10:32 and 38.

Now can you see why I love this passage? It has hidden within it things that would have been obvious to Greek or Aramaic speaking Jews in Jesus day. These are some of the things Saul would have taught before he became Paul on the Damascus Road and they are details that speak loudly to modern Jews about the veracity of the gospel accounts as historical documents.

< John 8 | Index | John 10 >

17 January 2010

John 8 - Things the Father does for the Son

< John 7 | Index | John 9 >

John 8 is mostly a record of a conversation between Yahshua and groups of scribes and Pharisees. A father carrying his sonIt's a rather lopsided exchange with lengthy explanations from him, in response to short questions and statements from them.

There is a great deal here for us to investigate and digest. So let's look at just one small aspect, the remarks Yahshua makes that highlight what the Father does for him. There are nine of these, we'll deal with them in three logical groups (not in the order they are given in the chapter).

As we look at these remarks, notice how they are true of all healthy parent/offspring relationships. In other words they are true for fathers towards their sons and daughters, and for mothers towards their sons and daughters. Since everyone reading this must be a father, mother, son, or daughter (and in many cases two of those things) everything Yahshua says about his Father can be applied to our own lives too. Think about that as you read.

The first group is about the Father's position in relation to the Son
  • The Father sent him (verse 16) - Our children grow up and we send them out into the world to live their own lives. And although the Word was with the Almighty even before creation, he was sent into the world. And once here in bodily form he had to be born, feed on milk, wean, grow, learn to speak and walk, learn a trade, and prepare for his adult life. He was sent into the world to live as Elohim with us (Emmanu-El).
  • The Father stands with him (verse 16) - How could he not stand with his Son? Everywhere the Son goes, the Father is too, they are inseparable (except for that awful time at the Place of the Skull). That is why Yahshua could say to the disciples, 'If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.'
  • The Father is with him, he doesn't leave him alone (verse 29) - This is similar to the last point, yet subtly different. Standing is a passive thing, but when we are with someone we are not necessarily passive. I am certain that the Father and the Son are in constant conversation. And I know the conversation didn't stop while the Son was here on the earth. (See the next group of remarks.) Also, the Father's heart is for the Son.
The second group of remarks describes the Father's communication with the Son in more detail
  • The Father speaks to him (verse 26) - This is the conversation mentioned above. A constant flow of sharing.
  • The Father teaches him (verse 28) - Not only is there a conversation going on, but part of it is in some sense instructional. Yahshua often said that he only did what he saw the Father do.
  • The Father shows him things (verse 38) - There's great joy in a parent showing things to a child. This is a pleasure all parents should experience, and something all children should enjoy. It remains true even when the child is an adult. The same pleasure and enjoyment are shared between the Father and the Son.
The third group is about the Father's approval of the Son
  • The Father is pleased by the things his Son does (verse 29) - We all know the joy of being pleased with a child's achievements or knowing that a parent is pleased with us.
  • The Father is his witness and testifies for him (verse 18) - What better or more reliable witness can a person have than their own parent? What a tragedy it is when a parent will not testify on behalf of their own child!
  • The Father glorifies him (verse 54) - And in the end, the Father's purpose is to glorify the Son. This is one of those facts the Bible shares with us that shows the Father and the Son are co-equal. If the Father had precedence over all he would surely not glorify another, not even the Son. The Father crowns his Son with glory after glory.

< John 7 | Index | John 9 >

16 January 2010

John 7 - Organism or organisation?

< John 6 | Index | John 8 >

Now we get to the root of things. John 7 describes how Yahshua goes up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (an autumnal feast). It seems he remains there right through to the winter. Real and artificial rosesAt the Passover he will die and three days later he will rise again. Even in the autumn he is clearly aware the authorities are planning to kill him. He travels and arrives incognito (verse 10).

Halfway through the feast he went to the Temple and started teaching, amazing the scribes and Pharisees by his knowledge (verses 14-15). Slowly it dawned on people that this really was the man the authorities had wanted to kill. But because he was teaching openly and they'd done nothing to him, the crowd began to wonder if the authorities were now convinced he was the Messiah. (verses 25-26).

They believed that when the Messiah came, nobody would know where he came from. Yahshua was known to come from Nazareth in Galilee, so this ruled him out. Knowing what they were thinking he said, 'Yes, you know where I'm from. But the One who sent me is true. You don't know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.' (verses 27-29) They knew where he was from (Nazareth) yet they didn't know where he was from (heaven). We are all too capable of making similar mistakes. In very many cases, church is run as a earthly organisation, not a heavenly organism. Our rules tend to be about structures, Father's rules are always about life. What a contrast!

Chapter 7 of John reveals the Son living according to everything the Father shows him in the moment. And it also shows religious authority trying to impose 'correct' structure and behaviour. As Yahshua told them clearly, 'My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.' (verse 16)

And they tried to arrest him but no-one took hold of him. Four times in the space of a few seconds he has used the phrase 'I am'. That is almost certainly what enraged them. They tried to take him, but the crowd was dense, many had put their faith in him and nobody in the crowd would take hold of him and hand him over. How infuriating!

'I am' might sound like an inoffensive phrase, but it sounds very similar to the name of the Most High, Yahweh or Jehovah. It was probably pronounced something like 'Yah-Veh'. To the Jewish authorities it was an affront of the worst kind, he had uttered the name of the Most High, the name that must not be spoken except once a year by the High Priest inside the Holy of Holies. This was an outrage. To this day devout Jews say 'Ha-Shem' instead of 'Yah-Veh'. Ha-Shem simply means 'the Name'. To see this outrage in action again later, read John 8:58-59, John 18:4-6 and Mark 14:61-64 (if the name was uttered in his presence, the High Priest was required to tear his robes).

The important thing for us to understand is that earthly rules don't apply to Yahshua because he comes from the Father. He does not live according to the world but according to heaven. He was not playing by the rules laid down by the Jewish authorities, he was playing by the rules laid down by his Father. Suppose that a rugby team and a cricket team decided to play a match. Would it work? No! It would be chaos, everyone would be confused. Even the referee and the umpire would be at a total loss.

We, as Yahshua's followers, have to play by his rules, not by the world's rules. This has a massive impact on our daily lives (or at least, it should). Church is a living organism (the body, the Bride) not an organisation. Christ died so that we might have life - not structure! He gave us one way, love, not law. He came to make us free, not so that we could tie one another down with dos and don'ts. A living rose can grow and reproduce with no effort on our part, a paper rose cannot. Praise him!

< John 6 | Index | John 8 >

15 January 2010

Eaton Ford (day) - Purgatory?

Roger mentioned the 'Ship of Fools' website and recommended the 'Purgatory' discussion. The 'Purgatory' discussionI took a look at this after the meeting but didn't have time to explore it thoroughly. However, I was much more interested to learn that Roger and Ruth have been trying Church of Two (CO2) and glad that they seem to be enjoying it and finding it useful.

The three of us (Paul, Roger and I) ran through CO2 together. One of the things that was much on our minds, of course, was the recent earthquake in Haiti.

I agreed to send some CO2 literature to both Roger and Paul to help them understand the process better and also to pass on to others they may be interested in teaching it to.

We prayed for some of our friends and spent some time chatting, finishing off with a very fine chip shop meal.

Organic Church - What is it? What isn't it?

A discussion about the meaning of the term 'organic church' has broken out online and I thought it would be useful to summarise it here and provide links to some of the sources. Organic church at the beginningWe use various phrases to describe the nature of the life we lead and the meetings we have. House church, small church, gathering, organic church, home group, cell, small group are all terms I've seen or heard. There are probably others.

Whatever term we use, most of us are probably thinking of a life that is Christ centred and involves meeting with others who have the same focus. Additionally we may (or may not) be thinking in terms of a movement.

Taken together, the items below cover this debate pretty well. If you have time to read only one, read Frank Viola's contribution. It's a great statement and analysis and I agree with every word. Thanks Frank!

If you are aware of other items we could add to this list send the link as a comment and I'll add it in if it seems useful.

Chris Jefferies blog post - This was published before the discussion began, but it covers aspects of movements that are relevant to the debate.

Mark Galli's article - The debate began with this article in Christianity Today. Mark sees organic church as another movement that will eventually crash like other movements in church history.

Neil Cole's response - Neil explains that, for him, it's not about success or failure but about being Christ-centred every day.

Bill Heroman's blog post - Bill's humourous response suggests that death is part of life. He has a good point.

Chris Jefferies blog post - This item tries to draw further attention to the debate, and particularly to Neil's response.

Frank Viola's response - Here Frank provides a cogent and well-written definition of what is and is not organic church.

Mike Morrell's comments - Mike provides some comments on the discussion so far, adding more thoughts on the way.

Mike posts again - Some more of his own thoughts and experiences on organic church.

Related material

Henry Drummond - Writing in the late 19th century, Henry Drummond is best known today for his essay on love, The Greatest Thing in the World. But he wrote other works too. One of these, Natural Law in the Spiritual World identifies some of the striking parallels between the natural world and the spiritual world. You can read the whole thing online, but regarding organic spiritual life see especially the chapter on Growth.

Theodore Austin-Sparks - Possibly the originator of the term 'organic church'. See these items in particular.

Other relevant authors - Watchman Nee, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Communio Sanctorum, Letters and Papers from Prison)

John 6 - With him or without him?

< John 5 | Index | John 7 >

John 6 is another very rich chapter. Which part should I choose? To tackle the entire chapter would need a lot more space than a blog post! There's the feeding of the five thousand (verses 1-15), A Galilean boat from New Testament timesthe events on the lake (verses 16-24), Yahshua's discussion about eating the living bread from heaven (verses 25-59), and the loss of many followers as a result (verses 60-71). These events are connected and most of them involve eating.

I'm going to focus on the section about the lake (the Sea of Galilee). The disciples acted much the way we do ourselves, there's a valuable lesson for us here in Kingdom living. The twelve disciples had seen the five loaves and the twelve baskets of pieces that were left, but what happens next?

Yahshua heads off alone into the mountains, the disciples get into a boat and set out to cross the lake without him. (Matthew and Mark describe events slightly differently, Yahshua tells them to go ahead on their own. But this doesn't alter the principle that when we do it alone we are likely to find it hard going.)

A strong wind blows up and the waves rise higher, not only that, the wind must be in the wrong direction because they row for three miles or more. To add to their troubles it's now dark. Have you ever felt like that? Life seems such hard work, progress is a struggle, you can't see where you're going, and the Lord is not with you. Do you know that feeling? Are you going through a patch like that right now? We've all been there!

At last they see Yahshua coming towards them. This would normally be great, but he's walking on the water and they are just petrified! How would you cope with this? How would I? On the beach we'd probably have a screaming fit and run away inland, but the twelve are in a small boat bobbing on a heavy sea with a strong wind blowing in the wrong direction. There's nowhere to go, except over the side of the boat!

In Matthew's account this is exactly what Peter does. Yahshua called to them, 'Courage! It's me, don't be afraid.' And Peter, do-it-first-and-think-later Peter replied, 'If it's you, Lord, tell me to walk out to meet you'.

And notice what happens next. He gets into the boat with them and immediately they arrive at their destination.

What a contrast! Without him, instead of sailing they had to row against the wind. But with him, they arrived immediately.

I don't think I need to spell the lesson out, it's obvious to all of us. So when you embark on any course of action do you think you'll be better off with Yahshua on board, or would you prefer to do it all yourself leaving him behind?

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