28 August 2011

FAMILY - Suffolk holiday 2011 - INDEX

< No earlier items | Index | Cornwall 2011 >

An old boat on the beach at AldeburghWe had a great week with Debbie, Beth and their families. Ten of us all together again, what fun!

This index will take you to the individual daily posts.




These pages just record what Donna and I did and the places we visited. As usual, we did a lot as a group of ten together but we also did a lot independently as well.

< No earlier items | Index | Cornwall 2011 >

25 August 2011

Eaton Ford - Who do you pray to?

< 10th August 2011 | Index | 1st September 2011 >

We thought about the need to be prepared, and how the good news needs to come with power and deep conviction guided by the Holy Spirit.

Newspapers and magazinesJim mentioned 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5 and we thought about the significance of 'the gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction'. Jim went on to ask which Jesus we pray to. He explained that until we can pray to the Jesus on the cross we can't fully comprehend the Jesus that heals, feeds, loves and talks to us.

I had a word from the Spirit. He told me, 'Don't look for mountain top experiences, look for the lowest point in the valley because that's where the living water is.' This was certainly true for Yahshua, it was through the lowest point experience on the cross that the living water was released. And it's true for us as well, as we go through the difficult places we come to recognise and depend upon that living water. Yahshua told the Samaritan woman, 'If you knew who I am you would ask me for living water, if you drink that water you'll never be thirsty again!' (John 4:10-15)

And then Jim added some more thoughts. We are very often destructive as a result of the things we don't do. We are frail, think for example of the Japanese tidal wave, the recent English rioting, the dryness in the lives of so many young people in Britain (one in six teenagers are in neither work nor education). Dry, unfulfilled lives lead to frustration, anger and serious problems). These disasters cause loss of life and ruin to many survivors. The tsunami would have done less harm if adequate defences had been in place, the riots would not have happened if fewer young people had been left without hope or purpose. But lack of knowledge often prevents us being adequately prepared.

We need (and those around us need) the good news that comes with power, the Spirit, and conviction.

< 10th August 2011 | Index | 1st September 2011 >

21 August 2011

THOUGHT - The church is an army

The church is sometimes likened to an army. Armies require leaders, but they also require initiative from the troops.

Second World War German infantryWhen Germany decided to invade France during the Second World War, their mechanised forces and mobile infantry swept across the border and cleared major obstacles like the River Meuse very quickly. The French (and to some degree the British too) responded sluggishly and without flair. Because of this they lost the battle and northern France was quickly occupied.

The underlying reasons are interesting. They are relevant to church life, we can learn something useful from military history.

Organising an army - I've been reading 'The Battle of Britain' by James Holland. He explains that the French system didn't train the troops to use initiative. They were merely expected to obey orders. A plan would be created for the coming battle and orders were passed down the hierarchy. Everyone had detailed instructions to follow.

In contrast the German army gave people objectives and expected them to use whatever method they wished. A small group of infantry might be told to take out a bunker and would decide for themselves how to go about this task using whatever resources were available.

Both methods work well if everything goes to plan. But in battle things rarely go to plan! When it's necessary to respond to a changing situation the German approach works far better than the French system.

Organising the church - In the church, we should expect Jesus to guide us and provide us with objectives. But we should also understand that he expects us to use our initiative. He doesn't want to micromanage us, rather he wants us to become familiar with some guiding principles and use them to achieve the objectives he gives us. The guiding principles include such things as love, gentleness, grace, humility and patience. The Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ) will show us what needs to be done as and when we need to know. Sometimes his guidance will be very specific, but often he will expect us to achieve an end without giving us the specifics. He uses the two together as required.

For example, 'Make disciples', is a command but we have to work out how to achieve it. Sometimes he might tell us to speak to a particular person or share a particular story or do something practical or pray for healing. But in general we know we need to patiently love and pray people into the Kingdom.

How does this work out in your own experience?

20 August 2011

RESPONSE - The need to listen

Felicity Dale wrote about new wineskins having no value unless there is new wine to put into them.

Tony and Felicity DaleI suggest you read her post in full, I've included some extracts below (FD) as well as extracts from my reply. (CJ).

Jesus said that new wine needs new wineskins (Luke 5:36-40). A new wineskin is only needed if there is new wine. If simple/organic church is like a new wineskin, what is the new wine? Is there something about the life we have together in Christ that needs a new container, that would burst an old wineskin?

Changing the structure of church gains nothing unless it is a response to something that Jesus is doing which wouldn't be easy to contain within the old structures.

Jesus "in the midst" is what church is all about. An individual has Jesus within. Corporately, we have Jesus among us. (FD)

We really do need to listen. We desperately need to listen to one another, and we need to listen to the Holy Spirit even more desperately.

I truly believe lack of listening is one of the stumbling blocks we face in our lives as we work hard to follow Jesus. And that's the problem. We can't follow Jesus by working hard (doing what we think is best) but only by obedience (doing what He thinks is best).

We need to listen first so that we can obey. (CJ)

Here are some take home messages from 'hearing' in meetings. The dated links lead to descriptions of what happened.

This is Felicity's new wine in action, 'something that Jesus is doing which wouldn't be easy to contain within the old structures'. As you read the examples, think very carefully about how church structure (the 'wineskin') might affect the outcome.
  • Father's timing is more important than our timing. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • He can nudge us into doing practical things such as giving someone a particular book. Sometimes he may encourage us in what we have heard by things others say or do. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • He may give us pictures that make a point clear. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • We need to be planted in Jesus, very firmly planted and rooted in him. Obedience will follow without fuss or bother. (An address by an invited speaker at a large camp - Faith '11, 7th August 2011.)
  • Glory is greater than peace. (A meeting of just two people - or three if you count Jesus, 31st March 2011.)
Notice the variety and originality of the Spirit's touch. He may guide us in different ways in a single meeting, and several meeting formats work well for hearing. There is no 'right' way to meet. It's not about methods. He works through traditional and non-traditional church, he only requires that his followers meet and expect him to take charge.

But what about situations where people take charge, what happens then? I think we all know the answer. To a greater or lesser extent the Holy Spirit will be crushed and will let us carry on managing things ourselves. This is the great tragedy of human control in the body.

I used to publish meeting notes quite regularly, more recently I've stopped doing this. Perhaps I might begin doing so again.

(Related post, 'RESPONSE: Are you listening?')

19 August 2011

FAMILY - Ickworth on the way home

< Crabbing and friends | Index | No later items >

This was the last day of the holiday and we headed home during the morning. We stopped en route to explore another garden and stately home, Ickworth House.

Part of Ickworth House against a summer skyIckworth is a grand house surrounded by magnificent woodland and a series of small, concealed gardens. It was never enjoyed by its eccentric builder as he didn't live to see it finished. The house is circular and has a massive dome. There are long, curved wings on either side intended to hold collections of art.

It's a quirky home and we thought the gardens were disappointing. They are small and limited in scope. But the parkland near the house has some fine clipped yew and box. We strolled through the orangery and ate a packed lunch on a bench in the park.

Then finally, on towards home via the A14 and A428 - familiar roads and countryside.

< Crabbing and friends | Index | No later items >

18 August 2011

FAMILY - Catching crabs and time with friends

< Garden, castle, film | Index | Ickworth House >

Today was the last full day of the holiday. We visited Walberswick (famous for crabbing), met some old friends, and spent some time in the evening tidying and packing for the journey home.

Crabs caught by the grandchildrenWe spent the morning at the delightful village of Walberswick catching crabs and drinking take-away coffee and tea from the cafe on the pretty village green.

Steve, Debbie, Aidan and Sara caught 14 crabs from the beach car park, later Beth, Paz, Meredith and Verity caught some more from the river car park.

Our friends Ken and Gayna joined us between the two crabbing events and met the family, we haven't seen them for ages and it was great to spend time with them. We left the crabbers and took the rowing boat ferry across the river with Ken and Gayna for some excellent fish and chips - the first cod I've eaten for many years!

At Walberswick with Ken and GaynaWe ordered at the counter and then ate the food in the little restaurant, the entrance door is locked and has to be released by the guy behind the counter to let customers through. This seems a rather quaint idea but presumably stops hordes of non-customers trooping in and out to use the chip shop's loos.

By the time we arrived back on the north bank the others had left and we continued to Ken and Gayna's home in Yoxford and spent the afternoon chatting. Church life was the main topic of conversation. Ken has stepped back from managing the church's small groups and they're waiting to see what happens next. They're quite interested in SASHET so I need to go and visit them to spend more time explaining CO2 and answering any questions.

Back at home we enjoyed a relaxed evening and did a bit of tidying up and packing, ready for the departure tomorrow.

< Garden, castle, film | Index | Ickworth House >

17 August 2011

FAMILY - A garden, a castle, a film

< Ancient ship | Index | Crabbing and friends >

Today Donna and I visited a beautiful garden and a mediaeval castle while the others explored Orford Ness. Back at home we ate a simple but enjoyable meal, then Steve and I walked into town to see the film 'Senna'.

Helmingham HallWe drove to Helmingham Hall where there is a fine old house and a lovely series of gardens. The house was built from 1520 as a half-timbered structure but in Georgian times the lower level was faced with brick and the upper levels with matching tiles.

The house itself is not open to the public as the Tollemache family still live there, but we spent an interesting morning in the gardens. Helmingham's beautiful gardensThe house is moated, and the walled garden also has a moat around it, surely a very unusual feature!

We ate in the small restaurant in the old stables, then drove to Framlingham to look at the castle. Like so many British castles this one was badly damaged during the Civil War. There is plenty left to see, however, and the uppermost level of the curtain wall has been repaired suffiently to make it possible to walk right the way round. The views are magnificent.

Part of the curtain wall of Framlinham CastleThere was a re-enactment of the Battle of Agincourt going on in the castle grounds. Visiting children were invited to play the part of the English while the adults took the role of the French. There was a lot of laughter as the adults were frequently made to look silly by the man in charge of proceedings. But it was all good fun and very educational into the bargain.

Steve and I both loved the film 'Senna'. It consisted mainly of TV footage from the 1980s and 90s supplemented by snippets of amateur film and some stills. But the poor image quality was more than compensated for by the strength of the story, told as it happened by the people who were there.

< Ancient ship | Index | Crabbing and friends >

16 August 2011

FAMILY - An ancient ship

< Thorpeness walk | Index | Garden, castle, film >

We headed a little further south today, visiting the Sutton Hoo Saxon burial and returning via the charming little town of Woodbridge.

Excavating the Sutton Hoo shipSutton Hoo is the site of a Saxon ship burial. The site is owned by the National Trust and includes the area containing the burial mounds as well as the home of the owner who invited a local archaeologist to dig one of the mounds in 1938.

The visitor centre has a video presentation on the burial and a full size reconstruction of the dead warrior with his grave goods arranged around him. He is thought to have been Rædwald who ruled the East Angles and died in the early 600s CE. This was a time after Roman civilisation had faded away in what is now England and the Angles and Saxons had settled in the land. In East Anglia, they had already been living here for a couple of centuries and the Brythonic language was probably already fully replaced by a form of Old English.

The main shopping street in WoodbridgeDonna and I had lunch in the visitor centre, left the rest of the family exploring Sutton Hoo, and headed for nearby Woodbridge. Neither of us had been there before and we thought it was a delightful place. It has the advantages of being built on mainly high ground but including an area along the river Deben and easy access to the North Sea.

The main street is full of interesting little shops, cafes and restaurants and I found a book about the Battle of Britain that seemed particularly interesting as it is based partly on recently released material that was not available to earlier historians. I felt a little guilty (but only a little) because I left the shop and downloaded the Kindle version on my phone. Now I'm back in the holiday house with a cup of tea and have read part of the first chapter. We returned to the car via the marina on the riverside, then back to the house for the evening with the entire family back together again.

< Thorpeness walk | Index | Garden, castle, film >

15 August 2011

FAMILY - Walking to Thorpeness

< The beach | Index | Ancient ship >

The main event today was a long walk. We set off from the house and walked to Aldeburgh to see a lifeboat display. Then we headed on to Thorpeness for a picnic lunch and some boating. Then finally a walk back to Aldeburgh to see the carnival floats and visit the funfair. We walked home, ate our evening meal, and then Beth, Debbie and Donna set off again with the older children to see the fireworks.

Paz set off early for a walk north up the coast, Beth and the family followed later. The rest of us headed for Aldeburgh.

Lifeboat demonstrationWe're quite familiar with the walk to town now, every twist and turn, the houses and shops we pass, the trees and gardens and green, open spaces. Today was a little different as some of the roads were closed for the carnival, there were police directing traffic, and there were hordes of people milling about.

On the shingle beach a large crowd was waiting expectantly for the scheduled lifeboat display. Some men in the water lit a smoke generating flare and waved for help, then two lifeboats were launched and rescued them. A rescue helicopter appeared overhead and gave a bit of a display as the boats hurtled along parallel to the beach. The waves they created crashed into the pebble beach and made the children near the water leap back to avoid a drenching.

Boating on the MeareWalking to Thorpeness along the beach path we watched 'The House in the Clouds' growing closer and eventually turned into the village to settle beside the pond for our sandwich lunch. The Meare looked inviting so we hired a rowing boat; Steve rowed and Aidan did his best to steer, sometimes taking us in rather unexpected directions! Later, Steve and I shared the rowing until we got back to the bank for the return walk to Aldeburgh.

Back in town we saw the carnival procession start off and spent some time in the fairground at the other end of town. Aidan chose the Crazy House and then went on a faster ride with Debbie - and loved it.

The crowds at Aldeburgh CarnivalBack at home we met up again with Beth, Paz and family and shared a salad with cold meats and cheeses and some excellent sourdough bread.

As the sun was setting Donna, Debbie and Beth set out to walk back to town again with Meredith and Aidan for the evening's firework display. But I stayed in the house with Steve, Paz and the two younger ones. I've had enough of crowds for one day, I feel the need for some contemplation and quiet space to recharge my batteries.

< The beach | Index | Ancient ship >

14 August 2011

FAMILY - At the beach

< Schubert's 10th | Index | Thorpeness walk >

Donna and I headed for Snape Maltings again to visit the shops while the rest of the family headed to Framlingham Castle. After lunch we met up in Southwold for an afternoon at the beach.

Part of Snape MaltingsSnape Maltings, where we went for last night's concert, is also home to some very nice shops selling food, books, antiques, toys, garden plants, gifts and more. We drove over mid-morning and explored, then visited the cafe and sat outside until driven back indoors by wasps!

After lunch we continued to Southwold and met up on the beach beside the pier. The afternoon weather was warm and sunny and we had a lot of fun digging a pond in the sand, splashing in the water, and generally doing seaside things.
Steve, Meredith, Sara, Verity and Beth on the beach
It was lovely to watch the four grandchildren enjoying themselves. For Sara and little Verity it was an opportunity to explore an unusual environment. Isn't it astonishing how children take non-routine experiences and circumstances in their stride? They quickly work out how to make the most of what's on offer - in this case sand, pebbles, surging waves, and running in and out of the shallow water.

After that it was back to 'Curlew House' where we're staying, Paz and Donna cooked up pasta and salad for tea and Paz produced two magnificent plum crumbles made with 'Victoria' plums from the tree in their garden at home.

Beth and Donna had tickets for another performance at Snape, 'Jazz Jamaica'. They headed off for the music after the meal and the rest of us chatted, read or watched TV after the children were all tucked up in bed.

< Schubert's 10th | Index | Thorpeness walk >

13 August 2011

ARTS - Schubert's 10th Symphony

< Aldeburgh | Index | The beach >

This evening, Paz, Donna and I visited Snape Maltings for an evening of classical music. Schubert's unfinished 10th Symphony gave me unexpected food for thought.

The programme at Snape included pieces by Rachmaninoff and Lutoslawski as well, however Schubert's 10th Symphony was never completed and what we heard tonight was a reworking by Berio from the existing manuscript fragments.

Rather than fill the gaps in the style of Schubert, Berio chose instead to link the fragments using a very different and much more modern style. He incorporated the celeste in the additions, which lends an airy, ethereal quality and makes it very clear to the listener that these sections are not by Schubert.

Restored Roman potteryThis reminded me of the way ancient Greek or Roman pottery is restored for display in a museum. Usually, instead of trying to reconstruct the original in every detail, the restoration uses a slightly different colour and reduces or eliminates any attempt to recreate the details of texture, pattern and finish. In this way the overall shape and size of the article is clear, but the original sections and the restored parts are easily distinguished. Exactly the same approach is used for tessellated pavements and painted wall plaster.

Another example is the presentation of images from the Hubble Space Telescope where gaps are filled in using lower resolution sections from other telescopes.

So why did this give me food for thought?

We find much the same principle at work when we try to understand the nature of the Almighty and of the things he is doing in our universe. We have clear fragments - for example we know that his nature is to love - but we also have to fill some gaps.

Why is this? It has nothing to do with him withholding information. It has everything to do with our inability to grasp the fullness of the truth. His nature is beyond our capabilities to fathom. We have the overall 'shape' of his nature, a flavour if you will. And we have some of the detail, aspects that we can understand despite our limitations. So our picture is partly the full truth and partly an approximation.

The danger we face is often in thinking our filled-in approximations are the real thing. They are not! Always, always it's necessary to remind ourselves that we don't know as we are known. And the assumptions we make are frequently the causes of our disagreements.

< Aldeburgh | Index | The beach >

FAMILY - A day in Aldeburgh

< No earlier items | Index | Schubert's 10th >

We all arrived in Aldeburgh on Friday afternoon/evening so Saturday was our first full day. A rainy morning turned into a sunny afternoon and we all enjoyed the shingle beach, the seafront stalls and rides, and the shops in the town.

Our holiday home, 'Curlew House'Aldeburgh is on the Suffolk coast, a quiet little town of brick and pebble houses, but gearing up for festival week. Our holiday home is a ten minute walk from the main street and beach so the cars were unused today.

We explored the bookshops and quirky giftshops along the main street and spotted the fish and chip shop where some of us had eaten last night. Paz noticed there was a classical concert on this evening and we bought three tickets. Donna and I will join him for some pieces by Britten, Schubert, Rachmaninov and others.

Debbie, Steve, Aidan and Sara headed off in one direction while Beth, Paz, Meredith, Verity, Donna and I continued down the High Street to find somewhere to eat. Old boat on the Aldeburgh shingle beachWe chose a little cafe run by a Thai family, good simple food at a modest price. My bacon and cheese toastie was delicious and came with crisps and salad.

Donna and I went off on our own for a while to look through some of the shops. Strolling onto the beach we soon found Debbie, Steve, Aidan and Sara and spent some time throwing pebbles into the sea and seeing how close we could come to the water without getting wet feet. What fun!

Aidan on the slideNext was a stroll along the seafront stalls and fairground rides. Aidan had fun on an inflatable slide. Donna bought a pink scarf and a duvet cover. Then we headed home for a cup of tea and a sit down.

Paz, Donna and I are looking forward to the concert, that leaves Beth, Debbie and Steve to get the children off to bed and relax at the house for a while.

It was a good start to a week away.

< No earlier items | Index | Schubert's 10th >

11 August 2011

X-treme Camps - A meeting

< The problem | No later items >

When I visited a home in Bedford, I didn't expect to have an answer to my prayer for guidance and help dealing with some troublesome young people in St Neots!

Father has some surprising ways of organising things. Sometimes an apparently insuperable problem is dealt with by an unexpected revelation or an unplanned meeting. So it was for me.

Pete teaching survival skillsI'd been invited to Rupert and Uli's home to join them and some friends in a meal, and a time of prayer and praise. It was a warm, sunny day and I was the first to arrive; they suggested I take a drink out into the garden and that is what I did. While I was waiting there a man I had not met before walked in and we began to chat.

We introduced ourselves and he told me his name was Pete, we quickly warmed to one another and I began to tell him about the recent events in St Neots. (These are described in the previous part of this story, but in essence some young people had driven a couple out of their home by stone throwing and other abusive behaviour.)

As I explained I mentioned that I didn't even know who these young people were. 'He stopped me in my tracks by saying, quite emphatically, 'You will do'.

Pete continued by explaining that for a number of years he'd been running an annual summer camp for youngsters in the Bedford area. The camps are aimed at youngsters who might not otherwise have a chance to live in a tent, experience open countryside, try their hand at things like raft building or survival skills, or take part in competitive team activities. There are also short sessions where they can learn about caring for other people in the way Jesus taught us to do, discover what it means to follow him, and understand why he wants us to love one another.

This was an exciting development for me. It wouldn't help deal with the recent problem of stone throwing and intimidation but it might help head off similar anti-social behaviour by the next generation of teenagers. As I drove home later that evening I felt the next step would be to share the news with Jim and Sean, the two guys I meet regularly each week in the St Neots/Huntingdon area.

There is a useful lesson in all of this. If we see a need in the community where we live or in our own lives, even while we are wondering what to do about it our Father in heaven may be preparing a solution for us. He does this a lot, preparing the way for us to walk in later. If you read the gospels you'll see many examples in Jesus' own life and if you read Acts and the letters to the churches you'll see the same thing happening again to the early believers.

There's a pattern here, so next time you are struggling with a major issue in life, stop for a moment and think. Wait for him to prepare the way for you and see what he will do. Often it will be something unexpected and will arrive unannounced. When you see it, rejoice and give thanks. But don't be so distracted by the original problem that you don't recognise the answer when it arrives!

This of course is only one way that the Almighty communicates with us, by showing us. Watching and listening are important ways of discovering what he wants us to do.

< The problem | No later items >

10 August 2011

St Neots (Cornerstone) - Distressed by church life

< 3rd August 2011 | Index | 25th August 2011 >

I had arranged to meet a couple at Cornerstone this morning but was late arriving. In the end that was not a problem and we spent several hours together. These two lovely people shared a story of church life causing pain.
Cornerstone Cafe and BooksMuch to my shame I forgot about the meeting and was only reminded when I received a 'We're here, where are you?' text on my phone. By the time I arrived at Cornerstone they had already left.

I ordered a coffee, called them, and was relieved to discover they were just exploring St Neots High Street. Very soon we were finally in Cornerstone together sitting, drinking tea and coffee and chatting.

The conversation was encouraging. They told me about some of their history in church life, a not unusual mix of good and less good. Church life tends to be good when we are all listening to the Holy Spirit and obediently doing whatever he tells us to do. It tends to be much more difficult when we are 'doing the best we can'. Rather than doing our best (which is never good enough) we need to get out of his way and let him do his best in us and through us. Sometimes the things that other earnest, well-meaning people do to us in the name of religion is distressing and disappointing.

I felt Father nudging me to give my new friends a copy of 'The Grace Outpouring', and shortly afterwards one of them said something about 'grace pouring in'. I popped down to the book counter, Angie sold me the last copy on the shelves, I scrawled a brief note inside and passed it across the table to them.

Because we were rather late starting, we still had plenty to share with one another as lunchtime came along so we stayed together and had a light lunch - sharing food as well as thoughts and conversation.

I showed them the meeting room and the healing room and we spent a useful time praying together. Father gave me a picture and a word for them but I'm going to share it here too as I think it applies to all of us.

I saw a pathway leading slightly uphill amongst scrubby woodland. I knew it was the way we should be following despite its poor condition. There were large rocks blocking the path, potholes, nettles and brambles. And the Lord said, 'You are on The Way, it is the right way, it's the way I have planned for you. The road ahead is not going to be easy, the road I have walked wasn't easy either. You will have to move some of the rocks, pull out the nettles and thistles, and fill potholes. Move those you can and the road will be a little easier for those following behind you.

I had a sense that The Way as it originally existed was perfectly straight and flat, but two thousand years of religion and tradition have damaged it and made it unsafe. But as we pass along we all have opportunities to improve the Way. Perhaps this is a picture of church life, rough, uneven, hard and sometimes painful yet improving little by little by the action of obedient servants who hear the Spirit's murmurings and obey him.

All three of us enjoyed our few hours together and were encouraged. We will meet again for sure and we will keep in touch. And we will walk The Way in the church and in the world - wherever the Master sends us.

< 3rd August 2011 | Index | 25th August 2011 >

08 August 2011

SOCIETY - Riots in the cities

If you live in Britain you will be aware of the rioting going on in London and Birmingham right now. What are we to make of this, we know what is happening. But why is it happening? And why is it happening now?

Fireman dousing the flames
Last Wednesday a man was shot by police in Tottenham, London. He was travelling in a mini cab at the time of this incident. He died. The details of what happened are unavailable because the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating.

Bizarrely, I know the victim's cousin. This gives me an unusual perspective of the whole affair, I feel more involved personally, I can sense something of the family's pain.

Is there any link between this death and the current riots in various parts of London and in Birmingham? I think the link is extremely tenuous. As I understand it, following the shooting there was a peaceful demonstration in Tottenham. But the peaceful demonstration was overwhelmed and swept aside by other people wanting to cause trouble. Many of these people were not from the local community and had no interest in the shooting or in helping the man's family.

There is a pattern here. Similar disturbances have followed other peaceful events such as the student protests last November.

The people acting violently seem to be either angry or feel they have no future, sometimes both. They are almost entirely young, ranging from late teens to late twenties. They seem to be detached from the rest of British society. They lack empathy towards others and don't appear to care about harming people or property.

I believe most of these young people feel overlooked, discarded by a society that doesn't care about them. There are not enough jobs to go round, there is a squeeze on benefits, they have no chance to create a home or build a family or a career. They're trapped and the reaction of some is to hang out in groups with nothing useful to do and too much time on their hands.

Is it their fault? No, I don't think so.

What can be done? That depends on the rest of us. Are we prepared to spend the time and money and emotional energy to get involved? Are we willing to give up whatever is necessary to make it happen? If we just sit back and say, 'The government should deal with it', things are likely to get a good deal worse. The government will do their best, but it will be an impersonal and not very effective best.

Those of us who follow Jesus should be taking the initiative here. If you are one of his people you can begin by praying for your country with renewed vigour and asking him to reveal the practical things you could be doing in your local area.

Ask him to redeem the young people of Britain, to rescue them and give them hope and fresh opportunities.

Pray for the government, ask him to guide them and give them wisdom.

Pray for the rest of society, that they will realise the need for real change in their attitudes, words and actions towards the young and disenfranchised.

Pray for families, for fathers and mothers who care and love their children.

And pray for yourself, that you will hear and see what the Spirit is doing and saying in our day. Pray for a renewed spiritual life for yourself and others in the church, for a deep recognition that turning up on a Sunday morning and 'being a good person' is nowhere near enough.

And if you don't believe Jesus is the answer to Britain's dissolving society may I suggest you get to know him a little better. Begin by buying a good, modern version of the Bible and take a look at the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. Ask yourself if the Jesus portrayed there and his followers portrayed there might make a difference in Britain in 2011. Could you use some of those ideas? And while you're digesting those books, consider how you might help the hurting people all around you. Begin with your next door neighbours and also with the kids that hang out around your area. Are there things you could involve them in that are constructive and fun and will meet some real needs?

Think hard and if you believe pray hard. Then act. If significant numbers of us don't do this things could get a lot worse - and nobody wants that.

(Related post, 'SOCIETY - The London Protests')

06 August 2011

SOCIETY: Between a rock and a hard place

The USA's credit rating has dropped from AAA to AA+ and people are upset. Like most economies, our friends in the USA are between a rock and a hard place. Most nations have over-borrowed, financing current expenditure by selling government bonds and securities.

Euro notes and coinsThe only ways out are to cut spending or increase taxation (or some combination of the two). Neither is palatable.

So what will happen next? Nobody knows! The BBC's Mark Mardell writes on the political aspects and Robert Peston covers the financial situation.

Here are some extracts that strike me as particularly interesting.

From Mark Mardell
  • The decision by Standard & Poor's ... puts the USA below the UK, Germany, France, Singapore, Finland and 14 other countries.
  • All America has been saying: Washington doesn't work.
  • America's debt will continue to balloon and [S&P] have little hope of the politicians fixing it.
  • They single out Republicans for ruling out tax rises.
  • Americans are likely to bemoan the failure of politicians to bridge an apparently unbridgeable gap between two different world views. They may put their faith in Washington politicians, in an outburst of patriotism and goodwill, stumbling on a synthesis that suits all sides. But I wonder whether any of them will muse that the system itself may not be fit for purpose.
From Robert Peston
  • Almost everything in the world - loans, goods, services - is priced in or priced off the dollar ... the dollar has a status in the financial system once occupied by gold.
  • Whenever investors believe that the world is becoming a riskier place, their instinct is to buy US Treasury Bonds, to lend to the US government.
  • When the price of US government debt rises and the yield on that debt falls, that typically means investors believe prospects for the global economy have deteriorated.
  • Last week ... global share prices fell on the back of concerns that the eurozone isn't gripping the problem of investors declining confidence in the ability of Spain and Italy to repay their debts.
  • The US losing its AAA rating ... is a very loud statement that there has been an appreciable increase in the risk ... that the US might one day struggle to pay back all it owes.
  • The fiscal and economic challenges are conspicuous: a substantial and intractable gap between public spending and tax revenues in the US at a time of anaemic economic growth.
  • Chinese news agency Xinhua said: "China, the largest creditor of the world's sole superpower, has every right now to demand the United States address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China's dollar assets."
  • Probably the only thing to be said with any confidence is that the downgrade could hardly have come at a worse time, in that conditions in global markets are febrile.
In other words the world is at an economic crossroads and we have no idea where we will find ourselves in the future - but none of the options look very promising.

Meanwhile Europe and the USA are both struggling with debt issues while China, the major creditor, is anxious about losing its savings.

The future doesn't look good, does it. Things could easily get much worse.

05 August 2011

THOUGHT: Love and other things

< The fulfilment of the law | The Essay | No later items >

This is the third post in a series on Henry Drummond's essay on love. Clanging cymbalsHere we see how he checks through Paul's list of other great things.

Paul lists eloquence, prophecy, mysteries, faith, charitable giving and sacrifice.

Although Drummond writes that these things are self-evidently inferior, he still finds some useful things to say about them.

Paul begins by comparing love with other things that were treasured in the Graeco-Roman world. I won't cover them in detail; their inferiority is clear.

He draws a contrast with eloquence. It's a wonderful gift – it can influence hearts and minds, rousing people to high purpose and holiness in action. Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” We all know why. We've all sensed the brassiness of words without emotion, the hollow and curiously unconvincing eloquence that lacks underlying love.

Drummond draws our attention to something we all know to be true, the fact that fine words may not reflect what is in the heart. Love is greater than eloquence because words without love have no depth of foundation. We have the ability to notice this and it's important that we pay attention when it happens.

[Paul] also contrasts love with prophecy, mysteries, faith, and charitable giving. Why is Love greater than faith? Because the end is greater than the means. And why is it greater than charitable giving? Because the whole is greater than the part.

What is the use of having faith? It connects the soul with God. And what is the purpose of connecting with him? So that we may become like him. But God is love, so faith (the means) is so that we can love (the end). Love is clearly greater than faith. “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

It's greater than giving, once again because the whole is greater than the part. Giving is only a small part of love, one of its many avenues. There's a great deal of loveless giving. It's easy enough to toss a coin to a beggar on the street, in fact it's often easier than not doing it. But love is often in the holding back. A few pennies buys relief from our feelings of sympathy. It's too cheap for us, and it's often too costly for the beggar. If we truly loved him we'd either do more, or we'd do less. “If I give all I possess to the poor, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Drummond skips right over prophecy and the understanding of mysteries as not requiring any explanation. Love is clearly greater than those things. But he does give some attention to faith and to charitable giving.

He argues that the end is always greater than the means and shows that faith is merely the means for reaching the Almighty One who is love in person. And if we have faith but we still don't have him, our faith is worthless. Faith gets it value from the one it allows us to reach.

And in the case of giving, he points out that it's just a part of love and the whole is always greater than a part. Giving is one way of demonstrating love. We can even give without love, an empty and meaningless act. Drummond's illustration is interesting.

The beggar in the street is still with us. But giving a few coins is a poor substitute for real love. Perhaps it makes us feel better but it won't go very far and it may be spent on something that will make the problem even worse. It would be more loving to bring a cup of tea, a sandwich, a new coat, and a listening ear. Because of the harm mere money can do it might even be more loving to give nothing at all!

Then Paul contrasts it with sacrifice, even death. “If I surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Missionaries can take nothing better to the unsaved than the mark and reflection of God's love on their own characters. That's a universal language! It takes years to learn a foreign language but from the day they arrive, a love that everyone understands will be pouring out unaware but eloquently.

It's not words that are the missionary, it's the person. A person's character is the real message. In deepest Africa near Lake Victoria I've met Negroes who remembered David Livingstone. Their faces light up as they talk about the first white person they ever saw, the kind doctor who passed that way years earlier. They didn't understand what he said, but they felt the love that was in his heart. They knew it was love even though he didn't say so.

Take that simple charm into the workplace where you plan to spend your life, and your life's work will succeed. You can't take anything more, but you need nothing less. Whatever your
accomplishments and your readiness for sacrifice, if you surrender your body to the flames but are without love, it will benefit you and Christ's purpose – nothing!

Here, surely, Henry Drummond has touched on the core of my life as a follower of Jesus - my character (yours too). It's not about what I do, it's about who I am in Christ. If Jesus doesn't shine out in my words and actions I can go to the greatest lengths and remain utterly ineffective. That is why Paul wrote in Colossians 1:27, 'Christ in you, the hope of glory'. There is no other hope, no hope in us as we are. Only as Christ expresses himself through us do we see effective fruit.

< The fulfilment of the law | The Essay | No later items >

04 August 2011

THOUGHT: Planting churches

There is a notable lack of church planting in the West and an abundance of it in parts of Asia. Are we asleep?Are we in the West doing something wrong? Are we simply being disobedient? Are we asleep, or paralysed, or distracted?

Here's a communication I had recently from an Asian country...

Hi Brother, Greetings to you name of the Christ, Thanks a lot for your acceptation my request. I am K from ... I am House Church planter. I have a small registration Organization name is "..." We have 500 house Churches, Pray for us. My email id " ...@..." God bless you. K

K's photo shows his wife and child, but I'm not going to show you the photo, give you his name, or even tell you which country he's in. There are some parts of the world where it's best not to be identifiable. We're not used to persecution here in the UK, but there are places where following Jesus is dangerous - I don't want to prejudice the safety of K or his family.

But look at his message again, he mentions 500 house churches! Wow - we need an explosion in our level of expectation! I can think of only three groups that I have helped to start in the last ten years, all are small, none have planted others as far as I know. I'm aware of other meetings and have been able to help and encourage individuals in a variety of ways.

Will you join me in praying for K and the 500 house churches? Assuming an average size of eight to ten people, that represents perhaps 4000 to 5000 people following Jesus in this Asian, mainly Muslim, society. They are all risking their lives daily so pray for their safety and for Jesus to bless them, guide them and encourage them through his Spirit at work within them. May they be wise and bold in their lives and reveal the grace and joy and peace of Christ to their neighbours every day.

Will you also join me in praying for the church here in Britain? What a lot we can learn from K and his friends. Every person in the three meetings I have helped start was already a believer. In K's case almost everyone (perhaps all of them) were not yet followers of the King of Kings.

Why am I not out there making disciples and rejoicing as Yahshua builds them into new churches? Are you more obedient than me? Are you out there, making disciples? 'Go', said Yahshua, 'and make disciples of all nations.' (Matthew 28:18-20)

One of the problems is that we have been taught for many generations that the responsibility for making disciples and building churches lies with full time evangelists, missionaries and pastors while our role is to turn up once a week, listen and live better lives. We have been misled.

Making disciples is your job and my job, building the church is Jesus' job. We are called to obey him, encourage one another and love everyone he brings us into contact with - friends and enemies alike.

There is plenty of information online about making disciples and multiplying churches. And there's a good deal more about what the church is and what it is not. Here are some starting points...

UK
Worldwide
There are further useful connections on my Links page, and also on the sites I've listed above. You'll also find plenty of good books and other resources just by browsing through some of these websites.

03 August 2011

Peterborough - Faith '11

< 31st March 2011 | Index | 10th August 2011 >

Every year Kingdom Faith runs 'Faith Camp', a week of meetings at an agricultural showground. Most years we go along to one or two of the evening meetings, this is a brief account of a session at Faith '11.

An evening at Faith '11Donna and I went with two friends to Faith Camp's evening session on Wednesday (see also Kingdom Faith's website).

After parking and buying our admission tickets we wandered over to the food and drinks vendors where we chose light snacks and something to drink - in my case a freshly cooked doughnut and a coffee.

Then we headed for the meeting and found somewhere to sit. As usual the music was loud; my coffee was certainly not needed to keep me awake! But I felt more free in praise and worship than in previous years. I think this was simply because only one or two songs were used but the words were simple and were played over and over so I didn't need to keep reading. There was a rhythm and flow culminating in spontaneous singing in tongues, and I felt I had the space and time to dance and shout and be filled with a sense of Father's presence and holiness. It was good, very good!

As the music came to an end Steve Uppal (from All Nations in Wolverhampton) began to speak to us and he had some very helpful things to say. I jotted down the main points that particularly impressed me.
  • We're called to be like Jesus; he's our highest role model.

  • Like a tree, get the root right and the fruit will follow. We absolutely need to plant our roots in Yahshua.

  • We have to want to respond to everything the way Yahshua himself would do. We need to willingly go through whatever he wants us to go through. He doesn't offer an easy or comfortable journey, nor was his own journey an easy one.

  • We need to learn to live in the resting place of the Most High.

  • When we are close to him we grow, when we're distant we shrivel.

Steve told the story of Smith Wigglesworth and the Welshman called Lazarus. It's a story of faith and healing. You can read Wigglesworth's own account of it online if you like (read pages 16 - 20).

And then Steve read Colossians 1:15-20 where Paul writes about Christ's supremacy over all things.

After all this, we were able to spend more time in free praise and worship. It was a great evening, time well spent indeed!

< 31st March 2011 | Index | 10th August 2011 >

01 August 2011

THOUGHT: Bullets and nails

Yesterday I posted a link to Bullets and Nails, a track by Glass Artery, an upcoming British heavy metal rock band. The music is technically good although it's not my cup of tea. But is it spiritually good? What do you think?

(Here's my bookmark in full, sadly the text didn't come through to Facebook.)

Glass Artery's Bullets and NailsPaul's advice is, 'Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.' (Philippians 4:8) And if you read this in context you'll see that he was writing about agreement, rejoicing, gentleness, prayer, peace, and especially peace with the Highest One.

Those who trust and follow Yahshua are priests (we are a royal priesthood, no less) and Leviticus 27:12 tells us that we are the judges of quality and things have whatever value we set on them. This passage is about offering things to Yahweh, setting them apart for his use. This applies to anything we bring to him and it would not be too much of a stretch to say it applies to the music we listen to.

The friend who pointed me to this particular band and music track is following The Way, she is making an effort to go where Jesus goes, forgiving, loving, encouraging, helping, nurturing, believing. She is therefore a priest and has the authority to set a value on whatever she brings as an offering.

But what do you think? Can music of all genres honour the King of Kings? Is Bach better than Glass Artery? Is 'Jesu joy of man's desiring' holier than 'Bullets and Nails'? Does it depend on the words? Is the gentleness or harshness of the sound significant? Or is it all in the heart and mind of the listener? What does it really mean for a believer to be the judge and value-setter of things set apart for the use and glory of the King of Kings?

'Bullets and Nails' is technically good, even excellent. It's an outstanding performance for an up and coming band. Would Paul include it in his list of noble, pure, lovely and admirable things? Are these choices absolute or personal? 'Bullets and Nails' is just an example, what about the underlying principles?

Leave a comment giving your view on this, where do you stand? Can you add other examples and your own experiences? If there are enough good comments I might be persuaded to add my opinion, meanwhile I'm leaving it as an open question.

Over to you...

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