23 March 2010

Great Doddington - Hard to find the way

Sean was away so Jim and I decided to visit Great Doddington this evening. The way is not always clearWe chatted over hot drinks and shared news until Jody encouraged us to focus more intentionally on the Lord.

I had a picture of a large sheet of paper rolled up tightly. It was a map, but instead of being rolled with the map on the inside, it was rolled so that part of the map showed on the outside. The Spirit said, 'This is a picture of the plan I have for your lives, it is hard to unroll and mostly you can only see a small strip of the map. However, the plan is complete even though you don't yet see it all.

Jody pictured a winding and twisty path and was walking with a hole in her shoe. She realised that sometimes we need a rest on the journey. When we're not sure of the way he picks us up or he lets us take his hand. Sometimes it's misty, sometimes the way forward is unclear, like the rolled-up map. We need to hear from him, he knows the way even when we don't.

Jim read Luke 12:22-34 and then spoke about the importance of wearing the right kind of shoes. What we have on our feet when we walk is rather important. he also mentioned the disappointments we face in life, like a failed house sale. But verse 31 tells us that we must seek the Kingdom first and everything else will be OK, even when it's not what we wanted. We aim to arrive at the mountain top, but sometimes we just end up in a valley of despair.

I pointed out that our treasure is the thing above all that we're not prepared to lose. It might be money, it might be Yahshua, it might be anything, but where our treasure is, there our heart will be too.

Jim added a story he'd heard about a vicar and a taxi driver who arrived together at the gates of Heaven. The taxi driver was put in a seat at the front, much to the surprise of the vicar. Then the vicar was given a seat at the back and felt he had to complain, or at least ask for an explanation. Peter said, 'Well, it's like this. You bored people with your sermons and instead of being saved they simply dozed off. But the taxi driver frightened people so much by his driving that many of them prayed fervently.'

Jody shared a prophecy, that people are like embers. If they are glowing you can be certain that they're hot and still on fire. If they're grey and dusty it's hard to tell, but you may still feel some warmth. I added a few thoughts about faith, hope and love. Love is the source of faith because the Almighty is love! If we think faith is the most important thing we're badly mistaken. Paul compares them and tells us that love is greater than both faith and hope.

Peter read Hebrews 12:1-13 (especially verse 12) and reminded us that we really need to help one another. It's often a simple thing to encourage and lift one another up, we should always do this.

Looking back we all agreed that this was an exceptional meeting in which there had been a very clear and sustained thread. Yahshua had been present and had guided us by his Spirit. We all felt uplifted, strengthened, and encouraged.

22 March 2010

Colworth (CU) - Punk Monk

David had offered to lead today's Christian Union meeting. He based it on a section from the book 'Punk Monk'.A Maori Hongi David told the remarkable story of a young girl in Malaysia healed through prayer after a serious accident involving a van.

The section from the book was entitled 'The ancient art of breathing' and was written by Pete Greig, the head of 24/7. He described the 'hongi', the touching of noses and foreheads by Maoris after which a person is no longer considered a visitor, but a person who belongs in the land and shares the hopes and goals of the people.

Like the hongi, prayer is a reciprocal activity. We need to be unconditionally attentive, like Mary at Jesus' feet.

There is the 'hongi of community' (1 John 4:20). We can reciprocate in community, community is messy in a way that teams are not. Community is free-form in nature, teams are not.

There's a 'hongi of hospitality' in which we reach out and offer a welcome. Christian communities are a 'welcome waiting to happen'.

21 March 2010

St Neots (Open Door small group) - The greatest thing

There was no meeting at the Priory Centre this morning as it was not available for Open Door to use. Chatting after breakfastInstead, Donna's Small Group came over to our house for breakfast.

Not everyone could make it so in the end there were just five of us, but it was good fun, relaxing, and we had some really good conversation. The photo shows Barbara, Tony and Clive - evidently all enjoying themselves.

As we sat and chatted together the subject of love was raised. I mentioned the idea that faith - often regarded as the greatest thing to find and cherish - is not only subordinate to love but is, indeed, the result of love. I explained that in Victorian times Henry Drummond had written a great treatise on love. He called it 'The Greatest Thing in the World'. Tony wasn't aware of Drummond or his writings, so I printed a copy a few days later and gave it to him.

If you haven't read 'The Greatest Thing in the World' I strongly recommend it. It's dropped out of popularity which is a shame. I think every follower of Jesus should have the chance to read this short, inspiring work.

19 March 2010

Eaton Ford (day) - On the shore of Galilee

Roger, Paul and I began by running through CO2 together. The Sea of GalileeWe shared hopes and fears, successes and difficulties, and some of the events and issues in our own lives as well as those of some of our friends. We spent some time praying through these things.

We shared a simple lunch afterwards, sausage, chips and onion rings from the local chippie. Roger needed to get home promptly so he left after we'd eaten but Paul and I read Mark 1:9-20, discussing it as we went along.

We noticed how Jesus was baptised and the Father spoke confirming and encouraging words to him in a short time, perhaps just a matter of seconds or minutes. Then, immediately afterwards, the Spirit sent him into the desert for a far longer period of time (40 days) during which the enemy speaks words of distraction and temptation to him.

In verses 14 and 15 we see Jesus beginning his work before the first disciples are called. It's interesting how he called them. He followed the same procedure as other Jewish rabbis saying, 'Come, follow me'. These words would normally be used as an invitation to the best students to come and follow a particular rabbi. Young men who didn't come up to scratch were rejected and sent home to follow their father's trade.

But Jesus invites the rejected men to follow him! He calls fishermen. They were fishermen because no rabbi had thought them worth calling, but Jesus does! No wonder they followed him, it was an amazing offer, too good to be true, better grab it now before it's withdrawn again!

17 March 2010

THOUGHT - Revival

Every picture tells a story, or so they say. Wild Arum (Lords and Ladies)This one certainly does!

Walking along a country road near my workplace yesterday I noticed little green shoots at the base of the hedge. I took this close-up shot.

This living green shoot is growing up from the root after a long winter. It is alive, it is healthy, it is fragile, and it is surrounded by the dead and dried debris of last summers growth.

This green shoot speaks to me about revival. Revival must always come direct from the root, that is where the life remains, preserved through the cold, harsh winter. Revival is never a matter of persuading the old, dead leaves to grow again. That's simply not possible. Those dead leaves are no longer connected to the tree, there is no potential for new growth. Old leaves have the shape of life yet they are dead.

In church life we need to see the difference between what lies on the surface with the shape of last years life and what may be hidden below the surface, connected to the living root. When this hidden life bursts up through the dead remains we will recognise it for what it is. The new leaves are vivid and vibrant, the old ones are dull and decaying.

Revival will always look like this. Vivid, vibrant, fragile, tender, soft, pliable, and growing.

Thank you, Father, for times of refreshment and glorious revival. In Jesus' name we ask for revival in our day. Fresh, new shoots that are bursting with life and energy, living because they're attached to and nourished by the root. They're there already - believe me, I'm beginning to see them all around!

Click on the image for a larger version, and read about this wild arum on Wikipedia.

16 March 2010

Little Paxton - Neighbours and community

Jim and I met at his home, just the two of us as Sean is on holiday. As we talked about life and work and following Jesus it became clear that both of us have been feeling the need to be more focussed on Christ and on him alone. A village community in CornwallEverything else (work, interests, home) must take its place at some lower level in our thinking and particularly in our hearts. What we are and what we do must come from relationship with Jesus first.

Jim read a section from 'Permission Evangelism', a book he's been finding encouraging and challenging.

We need such a deep vision of Jesus and his love for his people and for the lost. We need to learn to touch people, build them up, and encourage them. It's not primarily about how we meet (in small groups, in the home, in a hired hall, or a purpose built auditorium). What really matters is the foundation that we are resting upon. If that foundation is Christ we will do well. Everything we are and do, all we stand for, our reaction to circumstances, our response to our neighbours and our community, all of it springs from the Life of Christ within us.

12 March 2010

Eaton Ford (day) - In the library

We began as we usually do these days by checking in for CO2. We were interrupted when the BT engineer arrived to investigate a fault with Paul's broadband connection. A typical libraryAfter he'd gone we finished CO2, ate lunch and then prayed for some of the issues that had been shared.

Roger read Psalm 62 and picked out verses one to two and five to seven as particularly relevant. This was especially so considering recent events and situations in the lives of some of our friends and contacts. We prayed for some of them, read a letter from one, and then talked about society's offendedness on behalf of others.

Examples of this abound in Britain, it's not acceptable to say this or do that because someone might be offended. Roger told us about a situation in a local library where someone was refused permission to put up a notice for the Women's World Day of Prayer because 'it might offend Muslims and people of other faiths'. The library management only changed their mind when the local Imam complained about the lack of permission and explained that it was not offensive. Such overreaction is not uncommon among government and public bodies, it happens over and over again.

We also shared some simple stories of how we first began to follow Jesus.

Roger had heard a radio programme about Job and because of his interest in poetry, began to read it for himself. Then he found the Psalms to his taste as well, and this led him to faith.

I was broadly atheist in my views when I was young, but started reading the Bible because I wanted to find out why so many people seemed to find it true. Clearly it wouldn't take long to work out why so many were misled by reading it. I began in Genesis and worked systematically until I got bored in Leviticus or Deuteronomy and turned to the gospels. Then I moved on to Acts and gradually came to see that there was amazing truth in the Bible's pages.

Paul knew the basic facts from Sunday School. But it didn't begin to mean much to him until his army days. When he suffered an illness and almost died he began to read Matthew and was convinced that Jesus is the one and only way to the Father.

11 March 2010

MISSION - A picture of a toddler

Sean and I met again to discuss mission. We talked about the importance of the fruit of the Spirit. A happy toddlerIf we are to touch people's lives in ways that are remotely useful, if we are going to be a blessing to people rather than being irrelevant at best and perhaps even a curse at worst, we are going to need plenty of spiritual fruit in our lives.

Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians. If we are growing spiritually we should be increasing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. He points out that there's no law against things like these!

Sean had a picture of a toddler. He mentioned how amazing it is as a parent to see your child walking for the very first time. It's a wonderful, wonderful feeling! And he understood that this same sense of excitement is what our Father feels. He really gets very excited about seeing our growth and development. He's thinking, 'Wow! My child has just pulled himself up by holding onto the couch!'

09 March 2010

REVIEW - Web places to visit

This morning I'm sharing some websites that I've used in the last few days, The Nomad Podcastsites that have been heart-warming, eye-opening, or mind-blowing.

  • First off is the Nomad Podcast, a place with good blog posts and... some excellent podcasts. Here's one that I particularly recommend, Andy Hawthorne from Manchester taking about community, church, and mission.

    Jim, Sean and I listened to part of it last night. It's both challenging and helpful. I'd encourage everyone to listen to these podcasts. I've only heard a few so far, but they were all very good. Amazing what a small group of energetic people can achieve. If they can do this, why not us? Pray for direct guidance from Father in your own life as an individual or as a church, how will he choose to use you?

  • The latest e-letter from House2House is good (as always) and includes some links that are well worth following. Take a look at them. If your church is not already on the House2House directory I suggest you add it as soon as you can.

  • First Fruit Inc is one of the links provided by H2H - and it's a good one. You might find their page on Global Trends interesting, informative, and challenging. Collecting this data has been hard work. Are there ways you can use it to inform and benefit the life of your own church and mission?

  • Measure by Measure is another good site, in particular this article on moving to organic church. Do his points make sense to you? If so how? If not - why not?

  • Stories from the Revolution continues to inspire us with some great stories from people around the globe. Hear first hand from people and groups using CO2 and finding that it is deepening relationships, helping people hear from the Lord for themselves, and prompting mission in a variety of ways. These stories might help you to focus more on the most important aspects of hearing from the Almighty and from one another.

  • And finally, Bill Heroman's NT/History Blog in which he carefully considers the timings of events in the New Testament and how they relate together. Slowly, Bill is building a timeline of events, and in the process he asks (and attempts to answer) many interesting questions. Here's a good introductory article he wrote about himself and what he is doing.
Does anyone have thoughts on what Bill writes? If so he'd love to hear from you.

08 March 2010

Brampton - A bare table

We began with a cup of coffee and a chat about the idea of mission growing from hearing. Jim has been reading the book 'Permission Evangelism' and is finding it very good. The third Nomad PodcastHe shared with us how security is important to people. Some find it in property or possessions, owning a home, or having money in the bank. But real security is spiritual, in the heart. He reminded us of the parable about the man who wanted to build one more barn to store even more harvest so he could take life easy. But he died! There is no security in physical things.

I played the the third Nomad podcast and we all listened to the first section together. Mission comes from seeing (noticing opportunities) and hearing (direction from the Lord).

Jim read Acts 27:33-38 about Paul on the ship during the storm. Paul encouraged 276 people and told them they'd be safe. We are constantly on a journey. Our mission is partly to encourage one another. When it became clear the ship would sink Paul didn't say, 'I told you so'. Instead he said, 'We're tired. Eat and be encouraged, we're going to make it!'

Jim also shared some exciting news about plans for a new church facility in St Neots. It's in the early stages but probably will go ahead.

I had a picture of people sitting at a table. They had empty plates and cups, the table was otherwise bare. As I watched, Yahshua came in through the door and opened a large, walk-in cupboard. It was full of good things to eat and drink! The people were huungry and would have starved to death, yet there in the same room and within easy reach was more than enough for all of them.

Jim said that Jesus is the best grocer in the world! And he can come in and sit with us even without a door! His abundance is complete. He said it's as if we've lost the key to the cupboard. We needed to pray to be shown the key and how to use it to open the cupboard.

Sean asked an unusual question, 'What does a mercy fruit look like?' We didn't find an answer, but the question lingers in our minds.

Colworth (CU) - Mission

I had volunteered to bring a topic to Christian Union this week, and as mission has been very much on my heart recently, The harvest fieldI decided to open a conversation around that.

I shared some points that I felt are important as background for mission, things that perhaps need to be in place in our lives to prepare us for looking outwards more. These include involvement at a heart level with one or two other people; involvement in at least one local expression of church on a larger scale; and involvement in a group of others interested in the practicalities of mission. This third group would normally be drawn from a slightly wider area. And finally, I explained that it's necessary to notice opportunities to reach people who do not already believe. I also mentioned the idea of looking for a house of peace and suggesting such people should bring their friends and family together to learn about Yahshua.

David said that it's important to put the nets out in the right place. He referred to passages like Luke 5:4-11 and John 21:2-6. This is absolutely right! If we are going to be 'fishers of men' and catch people we need to hear Yahshua's instructions and follow them. We need to put the nets out in the right place. We need to listen more and our closeness to him will increase. It's our job to listen, he will make sure that we hear.

I read Luke 10:1-12 and we talked about it for a while. Some of the things we noticed are
  • That the disciples were sent out in pairs.
  • That we should ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers.
  • That we are commanded to go, and that we are like lambs among wolves.
  • That we shouldn't take what we need with us.
  • We are not to greet people on the way.
  • When we go into a house we are to speak peace over it.
  • We are to stay in the house, eating and drinking what we are given.
  • We are not to go from house to house.
  • We should heal the sick.
  • The Kingdom of the Almighty is near for those that welcome us and also for those that do not.
Finally we ended in prayer for one another, for reaching our work colleagues, our neighbours, for more labourers to be sent. and for our ears and eyes to be open.

05 March 2010

MISSION - Sheep and goats

We met at Sean's, just Sean and me. We began with an informal chat about anything that seemed useful.

We considered what the word 'religious' really means. Is it a helpful or unhelpful thing to be thought of as 'religious'? A female mouflon, perhaps similar to early sheep?We agreed that we'd prefer to be thought of more straightforwardly, perhaps simply as 'followers of Jesus'.

We agreed that we need to pray for our neighbours and that the coming Passion Play is a great opportunity and that we should pray for that too.

I had a picture of the ground being rotated under us as we walked. We didn't need to know the way, we just needed to walk forwards. Father rotated the ground so that forward was always the right direction to go. Like a train on a track, there is no need to steer. This is encouraging. Our job is to walk, his job is to guide us.

Father said, 'I didn't choose you because you are great orators, because you are persuasive, or celebrities. I chose you because you are humble and will follow me and keep me fully central in your hearts and minds. Think of Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, and all the other people who were poor speakers, helpless, afraid, or unclean.

He also spoke about sheep and goats. We feel like lost sheep, but we're not, we're found sheep! We recognise the Shepherd's voice, when he calls we run to him. When we come across lost sheep they will form a flock but the goats won't (they're independent minded). When we go towards the Shepherd the lost sheep will go too. We can't separate the sheep from the goats (middle eastern sheep looked very like goats). But we don't need to, they will separate themselves!

We prayed to the Lord to send more labourers into the harvest. This is a direct command from Yahshua himself and we feel it's hugely important. We briefly discussed the basis for mission in Luke 10:2 and thought about the steps involved and some ways in which we have already been presented with things to do as part of the process.

Eaton Ford (day) - Sharing a pizza

Roger, Paul and I met at lunchtime, continuing into the afternoon. Freshly baked pizzaWe began with an excellent pizza, accompanied by couscous with vegetables.

We spent some time sharing information about friends, and then prayed for them. We also used CO2 to focus on what the Lord has been saying to each of us and to share our feelings and emotions.

Roger shared extracts from Psalm 103:1, 9-12, but verse one in particular. He explained that we are who we are, and that includes every aspect of our lives, everything in us, even the illnesses, bad thoughts, and wrong deeds. All of it is involved. Because of Father's love for us and his grace towards us, his acceptance doesn't depend on how good or bad we have been but on whether we accept Jesus and follow him.

In addition, Roger is feeling more confident that they have been hearing correctly about the way forward in the Offords, he senses that there is some early evidence of change and there are several promising signs.

Climate change - An update

There is really no room for doubt that we are affecting the world's climate in a wide variety of harmful ways. BBC news item on the Met Offfice reportA new report from the Met Office finds the evidence has stacked up even more strongly since the IPCC report in 2007. Read the BBC's news item on the Met Office report.

There's more Met Office information on their climate change page. Well worth a look if you want to know more.

(This update is intended to add new information to my earrlier blog 'Climate change - Truth or deception?')

NEWS - Explosive potential

Roger Thoman writes An inflatable ring'The Simple Church Journal', a blog about simple, organic church life.

His most recent post examines the potential for mission which he argues is inherent in small, organic forms of meeting.

Roger asks
Could a small (but growing) movement of simple/organic church-lifers lead to a revolutionary impact upon world missions? There is something deep inside of me that says the answer to this question could be a resounding “YES.”
I agree with him! Something deep inside of me resonates with that loud, exclamatory 'Yes!' My own experience recently has been that the very smallest forms of church life are generally the easiest to spread and the hardest to stamp out. They tend to be deeply relational, focussed, and zealous in everything they do. They tend to consist of people who listen to the Spirit because they want to hear his voice and follow his direction and receive his encouragement. Small groups often reach out to the world, not to suck people in to the group but to birth new groups. How exciting is that?!

Roger is right to imagine how these small expressions of church might transform societies and cultures. They have the potential to do exactly that.

But small groups can run aground and stick fast just like larger groups can. It's not size that causes a boat to hit a reef or sandbar, it's navigating into shallow water. As long as we float deep in the things of the Lord supported only by the water we will go where the wind of the Spirit takes us. But the moment we take our eyes off Yahshua and fix them instead on growth in numbers, church finances, patterns of worship, forms of church governance, offices, structure, and the rest we are bound to stick fast and stop travelling.

Although this can (and does) happen to groups of any size, there is no doubt in my mind that smaller groups are less likely to be trapped and more likely to be refloatable in the event they do run aground.

And the smallest of all (CO2) is perhaps the most nimble of the lot. After all, what are the chances of running aground in an inflatable ring?

03 March 2010

The Human Genome Project - Ten years on

The first human genome was sequenced ten years ago. Replication of the DNA helixIt was a huge and expensive project that could be repeated today 500 times as fast at 100 000th of the cost. That's an indication of the rate of change of sequencing technology.

But what benefits has the project brought?

A very great deal! In the studies of diabetes and obesity alone, the existence of the sequence has enabled much more rapid progress in research and this will feed into improvements in medical treatments more and more in the future.

But there are still considerable areas where we lack understanding and larger scale studies sequencing the genomes of thousands of people are now underway. These will hopefully fill in further gaps in our knowledge and set the scene for even more novel and useful treatments in future.

For more detail, read Jonathan Wood's post on Oxford University's website.

02 March 2010

Kettering - Jeff Lucas and Saltmine

We visited the Church of Christ the King in Kettering for a Saltmine Theatre Company production with Jeff Lucas as the main speaker for the evening.

Saltmine very cleverly integrated Jeff into the production, beginning by introducing him as George Lucas and enquiring if any members of the audience were wearing Star Wars outfits in his honour. Needless to say this caused a lot of laughter!

The evening was fun though best-suited to an older audience. This was fine because there were relatively few young people there.

But the message Jeff and the team put across was clear. Although it was expressed in an entertaining way, the point was made that the church often treats outsiders in ways that make them uncomfortable and more likely to stay away than to come close enough to find out what it's all about.

We went home entertained, but thoughtful.

THOUGHT - Growing and spreading

I took this photo during my lunch break, just outside the office. A colony of winter aconitesWhen I got back to my desk I took some time to be quiet and intentionally spend time with Yahshua and listen to him.

I aim to do this daily as part of CO2. This is a transcript of the notes I made. I've decided to share them as they may also speak to others.
I saw a colony of beautiful, yellow, winter aconites growing under a tree. Thinking about them now I feel Father is saying -

'I created that colony in my mind before the universe was made, my Son brought into being everything just as I had imagined it. But the mechanism by which it was made was that the first few aconites were planted by the gardener and now, left to their own devices over the years, they have spread to make a large carpet of beauty every March.'

'That's the way I work. Take note of it! I place the ability to reproduce within every living thing and I speak my blessing over them - go out, multiply, and fill the earth.'

'I have placed the ability to multiply in my gathered people, each gathering is like an aconite, it has the ability to reproduce. I speak my blessing over them - go out, multiply, and fill the earth.'

'Don't be anxious, just go. Didn't I tell you that I would be with you? Don't you see my hand in all that's happening to you? Doesn't your heart leap within you like the hearts of the two on the Emmaus road? Don't you say to yourselves that this must be Yahshua at work?'

'It is the wind that carries the seeds of the dandelion and the maple. It is the wind that carries the pollen of the pine and the grass. My Spirit will be with you on the Road and will carry the message of Truth and Life into the hearts of all who will receive him. I AM the Road, the Truth, and the Life. I AM the Road you are travelling, the Truth you are carrying, and the Life you are imparting. I am doing it. I am doing it through you.'

01 March 2010

Colworth (CU) - Get out of jail free

At today's meeting, Dud brought some thoughts from the Evangelical Alliance's 'Friday Night Theology' series. A typical jailBoth the articles we heard about were well written and thought provoking.

First we looked at 'A brief theology of anger' which quoted Matthew 5:22, that anger aimed at another puts one under judgement. But in Matthew 21:12-13 we see Jesus himself showing anger at the moneychangers in the Temple. What are we to think?

The idea of good and bad anger is raised. We should never be hatefully angry, good anger is never hateful. Not only is it wrong, but this sort of response doesn't achieve anything useful. The Almighty himself displays anger, but it is always controlled (Romans 2: 5-8, Psalm 103:8-9).

I pointed out that it would be wrong not to feel angry when we see a neglected, starving child. Dud mentioned Ephesians 4:26 which teaches us that we must not let our anger lead us into sin.

Next we heard about 'Get out of jail free' which prompted us to think about the meaning and guiding principles of religion. Living our lives is the litmus test. We need to be doing what we say we believe, in other words we need to be proving that we believe. Other religions, maybe all religions, contain some good and useful moral teaching. But moral teaching isn't enough, we have to live right.

Climate change - Truth or deception?

Most scientists are agreed, we have a serious problem on our hands. A typical glacierPossibly less severe than we fear but just as possibly more severe than we fear. Meanwhile there are plenty of sceptics who claim the data has been fixed or incorrectly analysed.

It's no good speculating and it's no good just crossing our fingers. We need to know whether the science is sound or not. It makes a difference. Do we need to stop releasing CO2 and methane or can we safely continue as we've been going?

Whichever side of the debate you are on, I strongly urge you to take a good look at Dan Satterfield's latest blog post. He has no doubt which side he is on. I agree with him and I really want to encourage everyone to read his post and its two main references and draw their own conclusions. This is one of the best posts on this topic that I have seen.

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