26 January 2011

NEWS - Some items worth more than a glance

This brief article is a round up of some significant contributions from other people. All of them are worth some attention.A megaphone
  • The Jesus Virus - Ross Rohde shares some thoughts on servant leadership. Is it a paradox or an oxymoron?
  • Harvest Now - Steve and Marilyn Hill report on events in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. The church is growing in exciting ways, but there are also huge problems. Read about the situation and pray for the people involved.
  • The Nomad Podcast - Tim interviews Neil Cole on the topic of church multiplication. Neil talks generally about lowering the bar on how we do church and raising the bar on how we disciple. He explains about the Life Transformation Group (LTG) idea and how it can spark growth in small groups.
  • Simply Church - Felicity Dale asks whether we believe in leadership. The article is a brief precursor to a series on this topic, but already there are some interesting comments. Remember to scroll down to read them, and maybe leave a comment of your own.

20 January 2011

RESPONSE - Making Links

Someone is disappointed and upset, the local paper gets hold of the story, and before you know it the front pages of the national newspapers have jumped onto what is becoming a rapidly growing bandwagon. What am I referring to? The developing furore over a small group of women called 'Making Links'.

Local news articleI'll say straight away that I am not a member of and do not represent 'Making Links', St Neots Town Council, or the Open Door Church.

It's easy to understand how frustrating it is to be told that a particular organisation is not for you. And it would be very helpful for the people involved to be able to talk about the issues in a friendly way over a nice cup of coffee. But the heat and anger now being expressed in print using heavily loaded words like 'banned' and 'racist' is making gentle dialogue almost impossible. It may sell more newspapers, but it doesn't help anyone understand the situation. And it's a great way of polarising opinion, stoking up anger, and setting people against one another.

I'm disappointed that some news organisations should promote dissension over understanding. Selling extra copies of a paper is held to be more important than fostering cooperation and harmony. Using loaded words trumps explaining the facts.

What are the facts? Despite the angry headlines we don't really know! The reports tell us that two British mums were turned away from a group created to help foreign women. It seems the group is funded by a government department, the local authority, a local church, and several businesses. There's a little more detail, some comments from the mums involved, from the group's administrator, and from someone at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It's not much to go on.

As a result of the news coverage the local MP and some of the funding bodies have already expressed opinions and are considering closing the group down (again, according to press reports).

Meanwhile it must be very difficult for 'Making Links'. What are they to do? The money was granted for them to help foreign women, they would certainly have been criticised for spending it on local residents who are not from overseas! It might be helpful to have a few British mums involved, but where would they stop and how would they decide who to accept and who to turn away?

There are no easy answers. But talk of closing the group without knowing more is surely over reacting and premature. What is needed first (and soon) is for the group organisers, the funding bodies, the local MP, and the offended mums to sit down together over that cup of coffee and find out what happened, why it happened, and what might have been done better.

But hey, don't pay too much attention to the strong, divisive, angry words in those newspapers. (This Google search will provide links to the story as it develops.)

As a non-involved resident of St Neots and a follower of Jesus I am praying about this situation. I am asking for cool heads, for hearts filled with love and grace, and for wise decisions based on information about what happened. I'm confident that this will happen.

Father, please bless the two mums who were turned away, their children, the foreign women in the group, the organisers and volunteers who run 'Making Links', and the people who fund the group.

17 January 2011

RESPONSE - Permaculture

Peter Farmer posted a video and a link to Permaculture. I'm repeating them here along with the comment I left on his website 'Pioneering change' and some additional information.

Here are the links...
Permaculture is an idea that's been developed over many years. You can visit the UK Permaculture Website, One kind of permaculture in actionbut there are other sites for other parts of the world and wherever you live it's worth checking out the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

Wikipedia provides a really good overview

There are many other websites out there, but remember that permaculture is primarily an idea. The websites have a variety of slants and approaches, some you may like while others may contain elements you dislike. But what they have in common is that they all relate in some way to the basic idea of permaculture.

Here's the video...


And here's my comment...
Permaculture is a very old idea, but also a very good one. Before the industrial revolution most communities depended on methods of this kind. Although the underlying principles were not understood, societies were rich with handed-down methods that worked with the natural world.

But with technology we became free to work against nature and exert our independence. And now, in Western society, we hardly know what the natural world is! We have forgotten the valuable handed-down methods.

Permaculture can help put us back in touch with reality. It can help us take small steps back towards living with our environment instead of fighting against it.

We need to be whole in EVERY way – body, mind and spirit – individually and communally – but also in relation to the natural world.

Thanks for drawing our attention to this, Peter. Great stuff!

Additional thoughts
All my life I've been powerfully impacted by the idea that everything is rooted and grounded in love.
  • There is firstly the Father's love for us in sending his Son, Yahshua.
  • Then the Son's love in revealing the truth about his Father's nature.
  • Their great deposit of love in embracing all of us who would hear and receive them by pouring their love-essence, the Holy Spirit, into our hearts.
  • The way he (the Spirit) changes our hearts from selfishness to love.
  • The simple truth that we are to love one another (even our enemies).
  • And finally the duty we were given to care (lovingly) for this world that sustains us. In the beginning we were given the power to rule over everything in the natural world, but we were always expected to rule with the care and benevolence of love.
Permaculture is a practical outworking of this duty. Many of its proponents have not yet encountered the love that is there for them in Christ, but they have understood that the human race desperately needs to show that care and benevolence towards the natural world. We are not independent overlords, we breathe the air, drink the water, and eat the food that the physical world provides. We have been very foolish in mistreating it.

We need to become much, much wiser. The ideas espoused in permaculture can help us. We should all read and understand and ask ourselves, 'What is wisdom in this regard? What is our duty? What will a caring heart take from this? What practical steps am I called take?'

It might be as little as a few radishes in a window box, or it might involve a lifetime's work on a farm, there's a wide spectrum of opportunity between the two!

There are opportunities in every town and village, every garden, every public space, every school, park, hospital. Look for the opportunities and see what you can make of them.

15 January 2011

RESPONSE - Heart warming news

A friend on Facebook posted a link to this news report. In Egypt, where there have been recent attacks against Coptic believers, a grass roots move of ordinary people has resulted in Muslims attending church services. They have been acting as human shields.

Alexandria HarbourIt's the sort of thing that shows human nature at its best, people putting the safety and well-being of others above their own. Aren't people amazing! The population in Egypt is about 10% Copt and 90% Muslim and ordinary people have decided that their minority neighbours need help.

So often, when there is violence in the world the response is some kind of counter violence. It's tit for tat, an eye for an eye. But revenge has never been a successful strategy for peace. Both Muslims and Christians claim to be people of peace. How often that has not been true historically. But this time significant numbers have moved to resist in a peaceful way. And that is inspiring.

Pray for a blessing on all people of peace, in Egypt, in the UK, and all around the world. Ask that people will be blessed whatever their culture, language or faith. Isa (Jesus) is the Prince of Peace.

The prophet Jeremiah knew what trouble was like in a wicked world, he cried out, 'They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace," they say, when there is no peace.' (Jeremiah 8:11)

And Isa (Jesus) said in Matthew 5:3-12,
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Anyone who follows the teachings of Isa (Jesus) is doing what is right. Please join me in praying for all his followers everywhere, including both Copts and Muslims who read his words and study them and want to learn from them. May the Most High shine upon them and bless them in unexpected ways. May they find themselves coming closer to him in their hearts and minds. May his peace find a home in their hearts.

'Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.'

07 January 2011

TECHNOLOGY - Electric vehicles with a difference

Better Place have been beavering away for some years, agreeing deals with nations and states around the world, developing the technology, making the case for their approach to electric vehicles, running demonstrations.

The Renault FluenceFinally they are ready and are buying 115 000 Renault Fluence cars for the Israeli and Danish markets. They are also installing charge points and battery swap stations in Israel and Denmark and demonstrating taxis in some other countries.

A recent news article provides plenty of information about the current situation and is well worth a look.

You can read the background in earlier articles here on AAJ (scroll down after clicking the link).

Well done to Shai Agassi and his team. Lateral thinking of this kind is what the world needs right now if we are to make any impact on fossil fuel use.

Another example of the same sort (albeit much smaller) is the story of Dale Vince and Ecotricity. Articles in The Sunday Times and BMI Voyager cover that story well.

06 January 2011

ANNOUNCEMENT - 'Greatest Thing' republished

(See indexes on other topics)

I've just published a modern English version of Henry Drummond's 'The Greatest Thing in the World'. His wonderful essay on love was originally created in 1884, and it analyses Paul's famous chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians.

The Light of the worldDownload a copy - The modern English version is available free to download, choose from PDFKindle. (You can also read the modern English version and the Victorian original online.)

Article series - You might enjoy an ongoing series of short articles in which I examine Henry Drummond's essay in more detail.
  1. What is the greatest gift to grasp?
  2. The fulfillment of the law
  3. Love and other things...
Licencing - Copyright in the original has expired while the new version comes with a Creative Commons licence. So please feel free to print or republish either version and distribute it as widely as you like.

A new version for today - Why have I gone to the trouble of translating this essay into modern English? Basically, because it deserves a wider audience. Years ago The Greatest Thing was often reprinted as a booklet and was very popular. I remember buying a copy in Wesley Owen's on Park Street in Bristol back in the 1970s when the language was still less than 100 years out of date. It was a great read and it helped to change my life. The analysis excited me, Henry Drummond confirmed what I already knew to be true - this new life in Christ is all about love. At the same time the little book challenged me and drew me on.

Today it's hard to find - I don't know if the original remains in print. This great essay is no longer widely known or read. It deserves better. It will speak to readers today just as it always did. Read it!

I'm open to the possibility of releasing a printed version. I'll look into routes for self-publishing in the next few weeks, but would also be glad to hear from any commercial publisher that might be interested in The Greatest Thing.

Acknowledgements - And finally, I just want to thank the family members and friends who read my early drafts and made helpful suggestions, pointed out errors, or were just encouraging. You know who you are.

See also: Christian life can come to nothing - Cerulean sanctum

RESPONSE - Community and mission?

Felicity Dale has just written a great post about community and mission. Do we need to become a community before we launch out in mission? What does it mean to be a 'missional community'? Is that the same thing as a communal mission?

Felicity Dale's BlogFelicity has set me thinking and I need to respond at greater length than a blog comment will allow. If you want the context you can read her article now, or you can read my reply and then return to Felicity's article. But whatever you do make sure you read her wise contribution at some point!

She was asked the question, 'What do you do about mission if there is very little sense of community in your group?' Her post was in response to that.

The essential thing here is to let go of any preconceptions we may have, I can guarantee that some of them will be misconceptions. Better to clear a space in which the Holy Spirit can direct us and guide us. His job is to lead us, show us the way, encourage us, comfort us, and act as an advocate. Our job is to go and do the things he tells us. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Sonship, the Spirit of a sound mind.

Can I build Yahshua's church? No! He said he would build it himself. The best I can hope to do is play with the bricks so that he has to sort out my mess before he can begin building. Better to let him do it right from the start.

Mission - How did Jesus go about mission? He sent out his disciples in pairs and told them to go to the towns and villages. He told them to knock on the doors and, when they were made welcome, to go in, speak peace into the home, and eat with the people living there.

Community - A pair of disciples is the smallest unit that can be regarded as church. Greater numbers are not necessarily better. You, me and Jesus - that's enough! Church is not defined by size, structure, management methods, buildings, programmes, or mission statements. It is defined as two or more people on a journey together in community with Jesus.

The journey may be 'missional' at times - literally travelling from place to place to tell people the good news about Jesus. But much of the time it's more likely to be a journey of deepening understanding and growing depth of relationship with one another and with the Lord. If Jesus is leading us, reaching out will happen as part of that community life.

The source - What we most urgently need to know is that mission and community both have their roots in love. In his recent book Follow, Floyd McClung writes...

All followers and seekers of Jesus must wrestle with three simple yet profound truths. Worship. Mission. Community. They are simple, but they will affect every area of your life if you allow them to.

He lists and defines them again several times.

  • Worship: to love and obey Jesus as a lifestyle - with passion and purpose.
  • Mission: to love those who don't follow Jesus - with courage and decency.
  • Community: to love other followers of Jesus - with intentionality and transparency.

And later he writes...

'Worship - Love Jesus. Mission - Love the world. Community - Love one another.

Very simple. But building one's life on these three simple yet profound truths goes deeper than a first glance reveals. They might be simple, but they are not easy. They are approachable and touchable, but once you get close to them, they demand your whole life.

Love is the source of mission and of community as well as being the source of worship. If there is no love there can be no meaningful mission and no meaningful community.

But whose love? Mine? Well, yes and no. First and foremost it's the love of the Father poured out in and through the Son. And it's the love of the Son, Yahshua (Jesus) poured out sacrificially to redeem us and change us. And it's the love of the Spirit of Christ within us individually, and Christ in us communally - the hope of glory.

We love because we were first loved. The result of love in our hearts is threefold - worship, mission, and community.

It's not a question of mission and then community, or community and then mission. As we begin to love (and therefore worship) the One who first loved us, we will find ourselves in mission and in community too. Without love we will never get started with either of them.

Receive his love and you will inevitably begin to love him, then you will worship and everything else will follow as we are swept along with Jesus on his journey towards deeper community and mission.

There's a great example of this in practice on the Jesus Virus blog.

01 January 2011

RESPONSE - Building a coffin?

Steve and Marilyn Hill have given us food for thought in their latest message. They write about theological systems and how a coffin is a good analogy for them. Not that theology is a bad thing in and of itself, but no theological construct can be an adequate container for the truth.

An ornate mediaeval coffinHere are three quotes from the Hills' article...

We cannot make a rational system out of our relationship with our spouse and we try to do so with our relationship with God?

Every theological system is like a coffin. The only body you can get to fit into it is a dead one.

The universe is relationally ordered. God is a Father and God is a love relationship of Father, Word and Holy Spirit. Their union is a mystery of love and mutual honour.

Steve and Marilyn's message is well worth reading in full. I agree with them and I'm impressed that it's been a recurring (and increasing) theme throughout the church over the last few years.

The essence of this thinking is that church is about relationship much more than it is about behaviour or tradition. Jesus is much more about life than he is about teaching or knowledge. If I truly follow him I will love the Father, Son and Spirit enough to let them change me at the most fundamental level. The result of that change (and the evidence for it) will be that I love those around me enough to impact their lives - just as Jesus did 2000 years ago.

In a nutshell - I am first loved by the One who is love so that I may also love.

That is all the theology I need. And the box that contains that theology is not the shape of a coffin, but the shape of a living temple.

I'm in full agreement with Steve and Marilyn here. It's not about theological positions, it's about the Truth. As William P Young puts it, 'It's not about what I do, it's about who He is'.

Copyright

Creative Commons Licence

© 2002-2014, Chris J Jefferies

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. A link to the relevant article on this site is sufficient attribution. If you print the material please include the URL. Thanks! Click through photos for larger versions. Images from Wikimedia Commons will then display the original copyright information.
Real Time Web Analytics