30 October 2011

RESPONSE - Getting real

Sometimes it just seems right to draw attention to something I've read. That's what happened this evening. We need to be real about life with Jesus - he's real and we should be too. We won't get far with discerning people if we are false, and our actions speak far louder than our words.

Simple Church JournalThe item I stumbled on is an article by Roger Thoman published over a month ago. I'd somehow missed it, but it bears repeating. Here are two extracts.
We need more from “the church.” We need “the church” to begin living their unique destiny as followers of Jesus audaciously. We need people who are not sleep-walking in religion or incapacitated by the franticness of our Disneyland culture. We need people who know who they are, who love Jesus more than life, who are willing to bring fresh and new ideas and innovations that change society. We need people who influence, not toward religion or church-going, but toward Jesus, and life, and hope, and faith, and transformation, and the power of the Spirit. We need people who have passion and are not afraid to step out and speak up about those things (including Jesus) that are burning on their hearts.
We need Change Agents for Jesus. We don’t need evangelists, just Jesus-people who live and act in a way that brings about change, that lifts the hopeless, that cares for the tired, that releases the oppressed and that simply says—“this is Jesus at work.” “Follow Him!” Those that need to and want to, will follow Him.
I recommend reading the entire article. And while there, read the comments too. They not only agree with Roger, they agree with passion. So do I.

IMAGE - The moon

(Click the photo for a larger view)
A dark evening sky with a bright new moon - Photo taken 29th October 2011
The sun had set some time earlier and the sky was getting dark. The bright young moon was following the sun and would soon be setting too, but for a while it hovered amongst the clouds. Beautiful!

Click the 'image' label below to see other image posts.

29 October 2011

Stamford - Fisherfolk evening

< 24th October 2011 | Index | 7th November 2011 >

This evening took me back to the 1970s and 80s in more ways than one. The music was great and a lot of good thoughts were shared, in the songs, in the form of short stories and experiences from the past, and in conversation afterwards.

Some friends from the 1970s, Paul and Jenny, had invited me to a Fisherfolk evening. They planned to play some of the wonderful old music created as part of the Charismatic Renewal, a revival that swept through the church at that time.

We gathered at Stamford Free Church where there was a warm welcome. When the band of five musicians began playing and singing I was astonished at the quality of the music. I'd known it would be good, but somehow they had really captured something of the original Fisherfolk feeling.

All the songs were familiar and I certainly enjoyed myself. But I'd like to explain how the evening affected me in other ways, ways that are relevant today, not just memories of the past.

Dot, introducing the songs, spoke eloquently about joy and family. She explained there had been no joy in going to church when she was young. She was very aware of the responsibilities laid on her, almost as if she had to earn her way to heaven. Many people still see things this way.

For Dot it all changed, she was filled with joy, she was baptised, and she discovered a sense of family. She was surrounded by brothers and sisters in this new life of fellowship! Dot reminded me how important family is. We are supposed to live in our Father's house. We are meant to be at home with him. And we are meant to be full of life and joy and love.

Whenever and wherever people follow Jesus wholeheartedly they will be full of life, joy and love. The fruit of the Spirit is more fundamental than the gifts. And when we live like that the world will see Jesus in his people.

Thank you Dot and Jenny (vocals), Mark (drums), Paul (guitar) and John (piano). Thank you for reminding me how we should all live today. I can hardly do better than finish with a few words from  one of the songs.
For our lives together, we celebrate
Life that lasts forever, we celebrate
For the joy and for the sorrow
Yesterday, today, tomorrow
We celebrate
< 24th October 2011 | Index | 7th November 2011 >

TECHNOLOGY - Ecotricity

Ecotricity is the utilities company that Donna and I use for our gas and electricity supplies. They are a company with a difference, quite unlike any other energy company in the UK and perhaps in the world - unless you know different...

Part of ecotricity's websiteWe switched to 'ecotricity' some years ago when they were smaller than they are now. They're still far smaller than their competitors and getting started in competition with international giants was no walk in the park.

But Dale Vince who founded and runs 'ecotricity' is full of unusual and effective ideas. He's also determined to make a difference and change the way we obtain and sell energy. Read Dale's blog for more on his thinking about green energy.

'Ecotricity' is different from the rest because it was built around a green and clean model. Take a look at their awards page to see how well they have been doing with that objective.

For electricity, their current mix is about 60% green (mostly wind energy). For customers like us who opt for a slightly higher cost plan, it's 100% green. And the profit earned by the company goes into new green generating capacity.

If you live in the UK please consider switching to 'ecotricity'. And if you live elsewhere in the world maybe you could build a windmill and go into business yourself!

28 October 2011

THOUGHT - Of wine and wineskins

In the 1970s and 80s we talked a lot about new wine and the older and newer wineskins we might use to hold it. Perhaps it's time to revisit this topic to see how it might apply to church today, particularly organic church.

A traditional goatskin water containerI'm sure we're all familiar with these words of Yahshua, 'Nobody pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.' (Mark 2:22)

The idea here is that new wine is actively fermenting and is full of fizz, it's literally alive with active yeast. Old wine is inactive, even dead; fermentation is finished. Wineskins were made of goatskin and when new were supple and stretchy, old ones were stiff, brittle and cracked.

New, fizzy, active wine will stretch a new wineskin but burst an old one. We felt Jesus was saying that the New Covenant could not be contained in the old wineskin of Judaism but needed a new, more flexible one, the church.

In the 70s we thought that old wine and old wineskins also represented staid denominations with their stuffy, inflexible liturgy and rigid forms of structured management. The new wine represented the fresh, vigorous outpouring of spiritual gifts and if these were released within the traditional church there would be an explosion.

The answer would surely be new forms of meeting at home without leadership structures and inflexible service patterns.

Well, maybe. But it didn't work out quite as we expected.

The new house churches ran into difficulties as leaders were recognised and given authority. Sometimes the spiritual outpouring faded away, but sometimes it continued unabated. And outrageously, even the denominations began encouraging the use of spiritual gifts, sometimes in special meetings or even in their normal Sunday services.

It seems the Holy Spirit was no respecter of our ideas about wineskins!

Perhaps the wineskins are not so much about organisations and structures as they are about the hearts of the people within those organisations and structures. That makes far more sense, Jesus is interested in people, not organisations. We bring people to him and he builds them into the structure as he chooses. We are living stones. Did you ever hear of stones deciding how to build a house?

More on wineskins in a future post...

Meanwhile, can you suggest things we could do as we meet to encourage the flow of new, fizzing, spiritual wine?

27 October 2011

THOUGHT - Tent pegs in bronze?

In some correspondence recently I wrote, 'Let the Kingdom be extended. Spread the tent pegs wider still'. What did I mean by that? For some, the tent peg reference may be clear, for some it may seem odd.

Can anyone supply these in bronze?When I wrote, 'Let the Kingdom be extended', it was me speaking in my own words. I am hoping, praying, and expecting to see Christ's Kingdom extending further and wider and deeper in my own life and in the lives and activities of others near and far.

But what about those tent pegs?

Tent pegs are mentioned in the Bible. Paul was a tent maker and sometimes used his expertise to earn a living. That meant he was not always dependent on the help of the people in the local churches. Just like Peter, Andrew, James and John who were commercial fishermen, Paul's spiritual work reflected his trade. They became people catchers; Paul became a maker of shelters in the form of new churches. (I might come back to this idea in another article, it seems interesting.)


But tent pegs first appear in Exodus (see this Bible Gateway search for more details). The pegs were part of the Tabernacle, the place where Yahweh lived amongst his wandering people. The instructions are detailed - they are to be made of bronze. And notice Exodus 35:21...
'Everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to Yahweh for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.'
The church is also a kind of tent, a tabernacle. Just as the Tabernacle was a mobile, temporary precursor of the Temple that would later be built in Jerusalem, so the church is a mobile, temporary precursor of the Bride that is yet to be fully revealed. Just like the Temple to come, the Tabernacle contained an innermost place where Yahweh rested in utter glory.

And where is his glory contained in the church? In the heart of every member, every part of the body, poured out in abundance at Pentecost and still burning brightly in every follower of Jesus today. The power and the glory of the Most High, the Father and the Son and the Spirit, is contained in us. We are the bride of the Lamb. That power and that glory is intended to be manifest in us today. It always was, it always will be.

Israel wandered in the desert for forty long years, sometimes grumbling, suffering needlessly because they had refused to go straight in to the promised land. Has the church done this too? Are we afraid of  'the giants in the land'? What are our giants? What prevented us going straight in? What did Israel learn in the desert? What has the church learned in 2000 years of 'desert wandering'?

And finally, one more thing to consider. In 1971 (the year is not precise) a great outpouring of Holy Spirit power and glory was underway in a house church movement - but it came to nothing. Since then forty years have passed bringing us to 2011. Coincidence? Perhaps...

But back to those tent pegs. I was quoting from Isaiah 54. (The word 'stakes' in verse 2 (NIV) is translated pegs in, for example, the NASB.) We noticed this chapter in the late 1970s and spent some time thinking about it prayerfully. I believe this passage is about the church, the bride of the Lamb. Forty years on, is it time for a fresh start into the place of promise? What does it mean to enlarge, stretch, not hold back, lengthen, strengthen?

But this comes with a warning. None of it will happen if we are looking for power or glory. Instead we need to have a burning hunger for Jesus - and only for him. And everything we think and do must be not only in his name, but for his sake and for his glory.

I'd like to hear what others think about this. Please comment.

24 October 2011

Brampton - A place of safety

< 10th October 2011 | Index | 29th October 2011 >

We were reminded about places of safety. What are they? do I need one? How do I find one? How can I be sure I'll be safe there?

The sun in the sky
Right at the start we had a reminder that 'where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be there with them' (Matthew 18:19-20). As I shared those words, Sean was prompted to explain that he'd seen a picture in his mind, two young children were running into the ark.

This in turn prompted me to mention three words that seemed relevant - ark (obviously), but also temple and mountain. If he's in one of those places we need to run there ourselves because he himself is our place of safety.

And if he's with two or three gathered together - that is the right place to be.

I was reminded of an old song -  'The Celebration Song'
In the presence of Your people
I will praise Your name
For alone You are holy
Enthroned in the praises of Israel

Let us celebrate Your goodness
And Your steadfast love
May Your name be exalted
Here on earth and in heaven above
And then I saw small, oval photos of people. They were just head and shoulders portraits but they were from different generations. Some were sepia prints, others were black and white, others were in colour. The whole thing seemed like a genealogy. We didn't understand the meaning.

We thought again about Sean's picture of little children entering the ark and remembered that Yahshua said. 'Let the little children come to me' (Matthew 19:13-15), and also, 'Unless you come like a little child you won't even see the Kingdom of Heaven' (Luke 18:17). We prayed that Father would make us as straightforward as little children.

By searching a little we found that the Mishnah says, of the cities of refuge, that if the High Priest dies the refugees would not be punished for their crimes and would be free to leave. This seems especially significant in the light of Christ's death.

Sean remembered how Jesus also said, 'If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children; how much more will your Father give to you the Holy Spirit? (Luke 11:9-13)' Sean saw himself as very small in the King's city. And Father said, 'Even your small is much too big'. We are so small and he is so big and powerful; this helps our faith as even our largest problems are small and easy for him. His desire is the very best for us and he encourages us to believe.

I saw a picture of a man struggling to pull a very heavy handcart up a steep hill. He was out of breath, sweating heavily, and working extremely hard for very little progress. But Father just reached in and turned the horizon slightly so that it became a gently downhill slope. Now the man only needed to guide and control the cart, not provide the power to move it. What had seemed almost impossibly hard now seemed effortless.

Sean said that we need to see things with Father's perspective, not our own. We need to believe that he wants good for us and not harm.

And finally he told us, 'If you look down you will just see the dust. But if you look up you'll see my sun in the sky and feel the warmth on your face.

< 10th October 2011 | Index | 29th October 2011 >

23 October 2011

TECHNOLOGY - Robotic cyclist

A Japanese hobbyist has built a robot cyclist. The video is quite amazing to watch.

The robot is much smaller than human size and this will account in part for the sometimes erratic and wobbly ride. But it's an impressive achievement. It's not the first time a robotic cyclist has been built, but as far as I know this is the smallest.


One day, no model railway will be complete with tiny robotic pedestrians, cyclists and road vehicles moving around the tiny landscape. Now there's a thought!

22 October 2011

THOUGHT - His presence

When we think about the Almighty's presence among his people, clearly there's a difference between his presence personally and his presence corporately. Yet the two are inextricably linked.

A glorious solar haloAs far as his personal presence is concerned, we know that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, lives within us. Jesus expressly tells the disciples to expect him. He turns up at Pentecost and rests on each one - like a flame. He also dramatically energises and activates the church and they go out boldly sharing the good news. (Up to that time they had been prayerful, yet grieving, fearful and probably very confused.)

But notice that they were together in one place when the Spirit came upon them. The personal presence came in the context of corporate activity. There is something special about unity itself. The Father, Son and Spirit are one - a community - the pattern for all community. So we are intended to be one, a community as close as theirs. And even more amazing, we are supposed to enter into their community; the Son wants to bring his bride into the family home.

I cannot be the bride of Christ any more than I could marry a toenail. If we are to be the bride isn't it obvious that we must first become one? My wife, for example, is an entire person, not merely a collection of disconnected body parts. (Does this remind anyone of Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones?)

How badly do we want his presence, will we do what he says? Jesus' prayer was that we should be one as he and the Father are one and that we should be one with them. Read it for yourself in John 17:20-26. And immediately after that, Jesus goes to the olive field to be arrested and killed. We are so important to him that we're in his prayers at that terrible and particularly distracting moment.

Notice what he says about glory. He wants us to see and receive his glory (verse 22) - had you noticed that? The glory is surely the Father's presence within us individually and corporately. Just as his glory appeared as the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud and led the gathered people of Israel through the desert, so when we are in the dark he gives us light and when we are in the light he gives us direction.

As locally gathered expressions of his body, let's turn away from what we want and begin to focus on what he wants. Will we choose to be one and receive his glory? And will we choose, not for our own sakes, but for his sake?

Whenever we are one for his sake he will illuminate us and give us direction and pour out his glory. The enemy knows this and will do anything to prevent it. But resist him and he runs away because he can't stand in Jesus' presence.

Here's a suggestion to try next time you meet. Drop any plans for structure, don't prepare anything, don't have anyone 'in charge'. Just agree to be quiet in his presence and individually focus on Jesus. When he puts a thought in your mind, or a picture, or a few words, or a Bible verse - share it and then wait for someone else to receive. Don't be anxious about 'awkward' silences, just focus back on Jesus and get ready to share whatever he gives you.

See what happens. And why not report back by posting a comment below?

21 October 2011

SOCIETY - Goodbye Facebook

Goodbye Facebook? Yes, I'm leaving, it was good to know you but I'm moving on. I'm tired of the constant changes. I have the feeling Facebook doesn't listen to its users as much as it should. The frantic response to Google+ was the last straw.

I won't be reading material on Facebook regularly from now on - follow me instead on Google+. You don't need to be logged in to read my public updates.

My Google+ pageI'll continue posting blog articles to my Facebook wall for the time being, but nothing else.

If you choose to sign up to G+ yourself you will be able to respond to my updates just as you have on Facebook.

I've been happily using Google+ almost from its launch in the summer. I like just more or less everything about it, especially its clean, uncluttered appearance. The only drawback is that so few of my friends are on G+ but I've decided to lead the way by closing down Facebook sooner rather than later.

So remember -  Visit Google+ to read most of my stuff even if you're not on G+ yourself.
Set up a G+ account if you want to respond to me. Or stick to good old email if you want to say something to me but don't wish to join G+.

18 October 2011

THOUGHT - Making things new

< Missing the best | No later items >

What does Haggai have to tell us about church life today? Do we need to carefully consider what we are doing?

Stones from the Temple Mount in JerusalemFelicity Dale posted an article recently in which she explains how she and Tony were prompted to look at a passage from Haggai.

She writes...
We remember the days when, back in England, God's presence was almost tangible when we came together. Sometimes we were unable to stand in his presence. There were healings and miracles. We never dared go into his presence with unconfessed sin, because we knew that the Holy Spirit would reveal it publicly. This was not a manufactured glamor and glitz, but the presence of God--his glory-- among his people.
I remember those days too, so do some of my other friends near and far. We still have meetings like that sometimes. But it doesn't happen often, certainly not every time we meet as it did in the late 1970s.

Felicity continues...
For a while now, Tony and I have been praying that God would fill these new wineskins of simple/organic churches, with his new wine, his presence. We've been praying for our situation that whatever we touch would bring the presence of Jesus with it--whether that's our business, our home or our gatherings.

What does it mean for us to build God's house? For his house to be more important than anything we're doing ourselves? (This is not a theological statement: I know that Jesus is the one who builds his church.)

I sense Jesus saying to us, 'It's time to let me do what I want to do amongst you. Stop getting in my way.' The book of Haggai has a great deal to tell us (so do many other passages, for example the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel and the people of Israel in the desert in Exodus).

Haggai spoke out the word he received. 'Yahweh Elohim says, "Give careful thought to your ways"' .(Haggai 1:7)  We, too, need to give careful thought to our ways. Jesus was quite clear that he is the builder and we are the stones. (Matthew 16:16-18) Notice that he also says where his house will be built - on the rock. The Temple in Jerusalem was built on a particular rock, the one on which Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, the one where the lamb was caught in a bush. The rock is still there, the Temple is not.

So the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah is the Rock on which the new house will be built. Let's begin to take the stones to Jesus so that he can get on with the building. We must carry the stones to the Rock.

As long as I build my own house instead of allowing Jesus to build me into his house, water and bread will be withheld. (Haggai 1:9-10) Has our Father had us on a diet? Yes, I rather think he has! We've been on a spiritual diet for years, even decades. The Living Water and the Bread of Life are Jesus. He himself is Water welling up within us, he is the Bread that sustains us. He reminded the evil one in the wilderness that 'man doesn't live on bread only but on every word that comes from Elohim's mouth'. Jesus himself is the real Bread, he is also the Word.

What is 'my own house' that I am always so ready to build? I think it can be many things. It can be a denomination, or a meeting place, or a tradition - but might it also be house church, a home, or my blog? Dare we ask ourselves the hard question? What is my house? Will I give that thing up so that Jesus can use me as a part of his house?

It's not for me to tell you what your house is; it's for each of us to work out for ourselves. Give careful thought to your ways! If we listen and hear and are obedient, those amazing times of his presence amongst his people will return. You'd better believe it!

Here are three more passages to send you on your way, what do they say to you?

'Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.' (Acts 14:11-17)

'See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.' (Isaiah 43:18-20)

'You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new.' (Leviticus 26:9-11)

See also: Who's house am I building? - Building the church - House and garden

< Missing the best | No later items >

15 October 2011

IMAGE - Audley Park

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View towards the bridge in Audley Park - Photo taken 15th October 2011
Here's a glorious view in the park at Audley End, work by Capability Brown at his best. The path, the posts, the trees and the bridge just work together so well. And it may be mid-October, but it doesn't really feel autumnal just yet.

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IMAGE - Kitchen garden

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Standing outside the kitchen garden, looking in - 
Photo taken 15th October 2011

The entrance to the organic kitchen garden shows that it's full of light inside. Comments, anyone? What does this say to you about... well... anything?

The photo was taken at Audley End in Essex. Donna and I spent an afternoon looking around the garden and the dairy, kitchens, laundry etc. The house itself will have to wait for another day.

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13 October 2011

SOCIETY - Food for free?

OK, who'd like some free, good quality food? Every year in the autumn there's a plentiful supply of free fruit ready for the taking - and almost nobody wants it or even realises it's edible.

Windfall pearsWalking home this afternoon I spotted an ornamental pear on a housing estate. The grass beneath the tree was strewn with little pears, ripe but only about 5 cm long and 3 or 4 cm in diameter. They will lie there until they rot, or the birds eat them, or they're carted away with the fallen leaves by the local authority.

What a waste! I had an empty shopping bag with me so sorted through them picking out undamaged and unbruised fruit. I imagine I took about a kg of fruit altogether. Back home I gave the pears a good wash and then sliced chunks off vertically, avoiding the cores and rejecting any slices with internal browning. No need to peel them, that would be a tedious job with so many small fruit.


Washed and sliced pearsI filled a medium saucepan with the washed pieces, added some sugar, and stewed them until they were soft; they created a lovely aroma. Then I took them off the heat and pulped them with a blender. Now to taste some. Ah, they had an excellent pear flavour but were distinctly astringent. They would have made good perry, maybe the tree is a perry cultivar or just a seedling from somebody's discarded pear core.

Not to worry, I roughly chopped some dates, stirred them in, and reboiled them for a couple more minutes. I used two or three dates to each tablespoon of pear mash. Check the taste again... Lovely. (Hint: If you find problems of this kind, experiment with small quantities before changing the entire batch.)

The finished crumbleNext I put the fruit in an ovenproof dish and added a crumble topping. I used brown sugar to make the crumble as it has a nice, rich flavour. The finished crumble went into a preheated oven at 180 C, and thirty five minutes later I removed my pear and date dessert from the oven and made a jug of custard. Not exactly free food I suppose, but at least the pears were free. And far more flavour than any pears you could buy at the supermarket.

Some people are anxious about food collected in this way, particularly where wild fruits, leaves or fungi are concerned. Providing you are absolutely certain about the identity of the material there is no need to worry. But please - if you are not sure of what you have - don't eat it.

As far as pears are concerned, the shape of the fruit, its aroma, the slighty gritty flesh, the characteristic leaves, the size and habit of the tree - all these are strong clues to identity. This was a form of Pyrus communis and therefore completely safe.

11 October 2011

THOUGHT - Missing the best

< Building the church | Making things new >

During the 1970s for some time (maybe a year or two) we met with a group of around twenty friends in our homes. The meeting moved from house to house, every week we would collect in a home somewhere - often at our house, Tony and Faith's, or Paul and Jenny's (also close friends). I remember three or four other homes too. We were drawn from a variety of backgrounds, Anglican, Evangelical, Roman Catholic and more.

People at a partyWhenever we met we would pray and sing, praising and worshipping the Father and the Son, feeling the presence of Jesus amongst us, reading the Bible with renewed minds and hearts, and expecting his Spirit to sweep through us releasing us in the use of tongues, interpretation, prophecy, visions and so forth. They were rich times of abundant blessing; we were encouraged and instructed by the Master. We knew that as long as we listened and did as we were told we would stay on track.

Going pear shaped - But eventually tensions and pressures developed and we were drawn in several new directions. We were unable to hold it all together and our focus shifted away from the one thing we had done together to a range of new things that we did separately. Some were drawn into a new home church and others to various larger new ventures further afield.

We had been drawn from many different backgrounds and traditions, gelled as one body for a while, and then were pulled away into myriad other new projects and groups.

Judy and I wanted, I think, to carry on as before - one big happy family of Jesus followers. But soon we were left pretty much isolated and alone. I tried hard to stay in touch with some of the things others were doing but it wasn't the same. I felt I could only take a peripheral and occasional part while Judy really wanted no part of it at all.

I don't think we were alone, I suspect we all wanted to move forward together, and perhaps we all felt we were doing the right thing and just wished the rest would come with us.

With the benefit of hindsight I can see that our focus shifted. We became muddled in our thinking, often following teachings about Jesus instead of following the Teacher himself. It was a trap and we fell right into it! Good teachers have an enormous responsibility to teach wisely (James 3:1).

And it wasn't just us. Others across the nation were being pulled this way and that resulting in many new 'streams' of church life. In some ways these groups have done well and have been mightily used. Our Father is patient and full of grace. But we are further than ever from the goal of one body, one church. There are more divisions now than ever before!

It could happen again - This same trap remains ready and open today wherever people are listening to Yahshua. Stephen Covey once said, 'The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.' And for us the main thing is listening to the Spirit of Christ and obeying him in everything. The moment we put more store in what is being taught than we do in the Teacher (Jesus), we are undone. And this can happen with the best will in the world, it can happen even while we sincerely believe we are following Jesus most closely.

Don't follow the teaching about Jesus, follow the Teacher who is Jesus! Earnestly and zealously following the teaching has a feeling of holiness about it. But the Son himself is the only one worth following; only he is life and light. He is our bread, our wine, and the very air we breathe. So cling to him and let go of everything else.

What I am not saying - Please don't hear what I am not saying. Some examples may help.

Peter Farmer teaches valuable things about making disciples and planting churches. John White teaches valuable things about listening to one another and to Jesus. Frank Viola teaches valuable things about the nature and history of the church. And of course we could easily extend this list.

All of these teachings are good, all are useful, all are helpful. But they are not the 'main thing'. If any one of them became more central and more important than Yahshua himself it would cease to be useful and instead turn into a burden and a stumbling block.

I'm not saying that such a thing has happened with the teachings of Peter, John or Frank - but I do know that it can happen. It happened all too easily in the late '70s and it could happen again today. We need to guard against that! I think it is a danger that arises every single time there's a fresh move of the Spirit drawing us into another new thing. And make no mistake, that is how Jesus builds his church, restoring one thing after another.

Can you share stories of Jesus building his church? Do you have cautionary tales to tell? If so please leave a comment and/or send me your contact details. Mine are on the 'Chris' page, scroll down part way to find them.

< Building the church | Making things new >

IMAGE - Wind damage

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Wind damaged tree in the Riverside Park - Photo taken 11th October 2011

This willow tree in St Neots Riverside Park succumbed to heavy winds recently. Today is still breezy, but warm. Some trees have already lost their leaves and others are following suit. But the bulk of our trees remain in their summer clothing and many of the plants are still happily flowering even this late into autumn.

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10 October 2011

Brampton - Stay in the light

< 25th September 2011 | Index | Index | 24th October 2011 >

Wow, what a meeting this was. Sean, me and the Holy Spirit. He swept us along, pouring out so much revelation. A series of disparate words and pictures and Bible passages just came together in the most amazing way.

Light around a cloud
I shared a word at the start. The Lord said, 'If you see a crown, a throne and a sceptre you will know you're in the presence of royalty. Even if you don't see me clearly, you will know I'm present when you see the crown, the throne and the sceptre.

I also told Sean about the picture of the building site (see 'Building the Church'). He said the thing that stood out for him as most important is the fact that we were children. I also thought that anointing is an important concept - Kings are anointed. I opened the Bible to find the passage about Samuel anointing David as king, but opened it initially at 1 Chronicles 11, verses 1 to 9 seemed very relevant.

Sean mentioned that God had told Saul to kill everyone and when Saul failed he said that 'obedience is better than sacrifice'. (1 Samuel 15:22) Saul had been anointed. He was a king although he was not intended to be king. Kings who are not meant to be will always have to give way to the King who is meant to be. This applies to us too, we are not meant to be kings.

It occurred to me that if we begin to behave like adults instead of behaving like little children we'll quickly become the same as Saul and do what is right in our own eyes.

Sean described how he is in the light as long as he is looking at Jesus. But when he looks away he is very quickly back in the dark. We badly need to keep looking at the source of the light.

Then I suddenly realised that Saul of Tarsus had the same name as King Saul. I've always known this of course, but it suddenly seemed very significant. Like King Saul, the young Saul of Tarsus did what he thought was right (and did it very zealously). But, like Sean, he saw the light of Jesus and then he was renamed because 'Saul' was no longer an appropriate name for him.

And then I  began looking for the verses that describe Saul's vision on the Damascus road and stumbled instead on Acts 4:1-22 (and especially verse 11). The Sanhedrin were building in their own light and strength but in doing so they rejected the cornerstone (Yahshua). We so much do not need to be building in our own light and strength!

< 25th September 2011 | Index | 24th October 2011 >

THOUGHT - Building the church

< No earlier items | Missing the best >

I need to share a picture with you, a picture Jesus poured into my heart many, many years ago. This is the right time to share it again, it's been on my mind a lot recently and an item on Ben and Catherine's blog makes me think now is the time.

BricksSome history - Back in the early days, in the mid to late 1970s, Judy and I were particularly close to a couple who lived in the next street, Tony and Faith. We had young children at the time and so did they, it wasn't always easy to get baby sitters, so we worked around it.

I forget how often we met, but it was pretty frequently. One evening Judy would stay at home and I'd walk down to Tony and Faith's for tea or coffee, a chat, and prayer. Next time either Tony or Faith would come to us, then Judy would go to their place and I'd hold the fort at home. Then one of them would come to us. And so it went on.

These were exciting times of revelation and learning; we moved in the newly discovered (by us) gifts of the Spirit, sharing pictures and tongues, interpretation and prophecy, we were earnest and enthusiastic and young.

The picture - One evening when I was at Tony and Faith's I had a picture. I knew it was from the Holy Spirit and I shared it with them then and there. And I shared it with Judy when I returned home. Pictures were not unusual for us, but what I didn't expect was that this picture would remain with me for the rest of my life and that it would be foundational. To this day it still underlies much of my thinking (and doing) so far as church life is concerned.

I became aware that I was a small child and I was with a number of other children on a building site. Looking around there were ruts and tyre marks in the earth, piles of sand and gravel, timber, machinery, scaffolding poles and connectors. These were all around and amongst them were half-built homes and partly made roads.

We were on the building site for one reason only - to play. We collected some bricks from one of the stacks and made little houses with them, a brick for each of the four walls and another one or two for the roof.

We were having fun, imagining tiny people living out their lives in our tiny houses.

But then the builder arrived, I don't know how he came to be there, but in the picture one moment we were on our own and the next moment he was standing quietly looking at us. He wasn't angry, he smiled at us and spoke to us. I shall never forget what he said.

'If you keep scattering the bricks around you will slow me down and get in the way. I am building a real house. You can help me by bringing the bricks to me, and I will build them in the places where they should go.'

Building the church - The meaning is probably as clear to you as it was to me at the time. Our task is to bring people to the builder, living stones that he can use in the structure he is forming. His task is to do the work of building each one in right relationship with the rest.

In other words our task is not to build, but to bring. (See also Ben and Catherine's blog on 'Living Stones').

In the next post I'll explain what followed in the late 1970s. There were fundamental changes and developments that turned out to be part of the path that brought us to where we are today in terms of church life and structure.

< No earlier items | Missing the best >

09 October 2011

I will build my church - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

Remains of the TempleJesus told us, 'I will build my church'. What can we learn of this process? Will we take control from him, designing and building a home of our own?

  1. Building the Church - A picture of the builder.
  2. Missing the best - Meeting at home in the 1970s.
  3. Making things new - What does Haggai have to tell us?

08 October 2011

THOUGHT - Fresh revelation

I've been moving old articles I originally posted elsewhere to 'All about Jesus'. One of these caught my eye recently, and I feel I should republish part of it and comment on it. Would you find a continual flow of fresh revelation useful? Read on.

Woven fabrics on sale
A word from the heart - Back in April 2004 I wrote...
He wants us to know that he's very, very close to us. Rachael shared that his presence is woven into the fabric of our being. 
What a wonderful thought! If he is woven into us like that, then of course we are all woven together into one piece, held together by his strong threads. He holds us all together in love. 
This seems to be related to the idea that we are all parts of one body with the Messiah as the head. But in this new form, the idea seemed fresh and very powerful, we are indeed one.

This was just a simple word from the Father's heart, conveyed by the Holy Spirit into Rachael's heart, and shared openly with everyone present. How all our hearts burned, recognising the deep significance of what he was showing us about our relationship with him!

The presence of the Most High is 'woven into the fabric of our being'. Wow!

Thinking it over - There are several things to be said about revelation of this kind.

  • It comes unexpectedly, even if we are expecting it. In other words we can't plan for this, he will speak to us if and when and how he chooses. But we can make ourselves available in our times together (and in our lives individually too). We can also fill our lives and meetings with so much activity that we are not really available.
  • He will share truth that we could not imagine or see for ourselves or understand by our own efforts. It's revelation, he reveals what was hidden or indistinct. What he provides is fresh and, in every sense of the word 'cool' - it's living water welling up within and providing life.
  • There is a clear sense of 'rightness' about what he reveals. We know in our hearts that it is truth from him. How? I have no idea except to say that the Spirit of Christ who reveals something to one person is the same Spirit of Christ who witnesses to its truth in the hearts of those who are listening. Together we test what is said, and recognise its source.
  • Whatever he says to his children will be based on his love for us. Sometimes it will be encouragement, sometimes it might be chastisement. He may challenge us, provoke us, calm us, pour out peace upon us, call us to action or simply inform us. But whatever he gives us is good - an egg, never a scorpion. (Luke 11:12)

If you want to see how this particular revelation fits with the other things that were shared read the online notes from that evening seven and a half years ago.

Over to you - Do you regularly receive revelation from the Father's heart? Does this flow of blessing arrive when you're alone or during times when you are with others (or both)? What might you do to make more opportunities for this - individually and corporately? What things that you do might make it less likely?

Please leave some comments. I'm interested to know how often and how widely we are receiving directly in this way. Can you share examples of your own experiences of this kind?

07 October 2011

THOUGHT - What next for the body?

The church is the body of Christ here in the world. We are his current physical presence and he is the head. Where are we going next? There are some clues and we should pay attention to them.

A hearing aid
An obedient journey - As an individual follower of Yahshua (Jesus) I am on a path, a journey. Along the way are distractions, obstacles, and choices of direction. As the body, all of us together are also on a journey with distractions, obstacles and choices.

Making the right choices depends on hearing what the Spirit of Christ is telling us, and that demands our willingness to pay attention. In this article I am going to try to share something about paying attention, listening, and the need to hear what the Spirit is telling us. Hearing is critically important. How will you and I obey without hearing?



The breath of the Spirit - As individuals we obtain direction from a variety of sources. Reading the Bible, other good books, prayer, careful thought and planning, and direct leading by the Holy Spirit - all are important. Experience matters too, we can learn from our mistakes and hopefully we continue to grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). But the Spirit himself is the real source.

Without him we can engage in all those activities (even the Bible and prayer) and have no insight or benefit whatsoever. With him they all become channels for receiving the truth. The Most High can communicate with us through anything in life. He does it by sending his Spirit to live within us, pouring out the light and life of Jesus. Living water wells up within us and flows out to a needy world. This is, of course, a miracle!

For the body of Christ the process is the same. It's the Spirit of Christ acting in and through the body that brings life and direction. Without the Spirit the body is a dead thing. Read Ezekiel 37:1-14, now read verses 3-10 again remembering that 'breath' and 'spirit' are the same word in Hebrew - 'ruach'. The Holy Spirit is the breath of life in the body of Christ.

Hearing as an individual - There's a useful technique that can help us hear, it's called Virkler. Please remember that it is only a technique; it's not important in and of itself; its has value only as a framework to help us with hearing. Think of Virkler as a spiritual hearing aid.

There are four simple steps
  1. Clear your mind of the day to day stuff that fills it.
  2. Focus on Jesus.
  3. Pay attention to the flow of thoughts in your mind.
  4. Write them down.
For more on Virkler check out the CO2 page, it contains fuller details and some useful links to what others have to say about it.

Hearing as a body - When we meet together we are a local and temporal expression of the body of Christ in a particular place at a particular time. Yahshua said that when two or three meet together he would be there amongst us. Let's take him at his word!

When we meet, the Spirit of Christ is in each one and Jesus himself is among us. That is the key to hearing. Just as Virkler is a useful aid for individual hearing, so a slight modification of it can be a useful aid when we gather together. Try these four steps when you are together (the first three are unchanged).
  1. Clear your mind of the day to day stuff that fills it.
  2. Focus on Jesus.
  3. Pay attention to the flow of thoughts in your mind.
  4. Speak them out.
You may be surprised at the words and images that will be shared, and you may be even more surprised at the end of your time together as you realise that there has been a theme. The individual thoughts as they were shared may have seemed random, but together they will often be much more than the sum of their parts.

Can I encourage you to try this when you meet? What did you learn about the way the Spirit leads? Is it better to listen to one another, to Jesus, or to one another and Jesus? What are the differences between these three choices? How can the church find direction for the future? Please come back and leave some comments here.

06 October 2011

TECHNOLOGY - Reusing plastics

Mike Biddle has found practical ways to recycle mixed plastics in the form of sorted raw material pellets. This is something that is urgently needed and appears to be an economically viable activity.

Watch the video of Mike speaking at a TED Conference in July. (Try this link to the video if you can't get it to run below.)



Does anyone have thoughts on how to spread the word about this and encourage our own local industries to use the recycled pellets? Will economic pressure (cheapness of the recycled pellets) be sufficient to move things forward?

THOUGHT - You or Me?

Look at any area of human endeavour and you will find two extremes of outlook, those that focus on self and those that focus on others. Between the two is a broad spectrum of attitude and behaviour reflected in society at large and affecting us all for good or ill.

ForgivenessMany of the issues we face in life can be viewed in this way. Take career for example. Should I do my best in exams and training, work hard, and hope for the best? Should I push others out of my way by fair means and foul? Should I defer to others and settle for a lesser role?

Yahshua (Jesus) was always clear - love the Almighty, love one another, love your enemy. Simple. But note that those three calls to love leave out only one single person in the entire universe - self. Yahshua calls us to love everyone but ourselves. In other words he calls us to unselfish love. And thinking about that, isn't love always unselfish? Could love possibly be any other way? I don't think so!

Sometimes people say, 'We need to love ourselves before we can really love one another'. There's an element of truth in that but only if we understand the implication that we need to be gentle and patient with ourselves. Perhaps it's more correct to say that we need to recognise our failings and forgive ourselves.

Forgiveness is always liberating, always beneficial, always brings out the best in people. That is why we do well to forgive ourselves and even better to forgive those around us. Since Christ is always ready to forgive, so should I be. Forgiveness redeems what was lost, in ourselves, in others, and in eternity. And the motive and power that drive forgiveness are found in love.

With that in mind, do you have any comments on the chart above? (Click it for a larger version.) If someone has something against you, how might you improve the chances of reconciliation?

Wherever and whenever forgiveness is offered we should receive it with grateful and thankful hearts. It is one of the greatest gifts we can offer others.

Yahshua said that providing the opportunity for others to forgive transcends sacrifice. (Matthew 5:22-24). Perhaps we should spend less time celebrating the fact that we are forgiven, and more time looking for opportunities to forgive one another. If we are truly driven by love that is exactly what we will do.

All honour and glory and praise to the King who sets us such an example!

05 October 2011

TECHNOLOGY - LibreOffice

If you use or need an office suite, it's worth considering LibreOffice. There are a number of reasons for this and some of them may surprise you.

LibreOffice in use
Microsoft Office (MS Office) undoubtedly remains the most widely used office suite today. I say 'most widely used' rather than 'most popular' because so many people have criticisms of it. The most unpopular feature is probably 'The Ribbon' that provides access to the multitude of commands and features.

Other major criticisms are the sheer bulk of the program code, the considerable purchase cost, slow loading and performance, cost of upgrading to newer versions, and the licencing terms.



What are the alternatives? There are some other commercial offerings but these still have some of the same issues and do cost money, albeit it often less than the price of MS Office.

But you may not realise there are two free alternatives with a comprehensive range of features. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are both freely downloadable, you can give copies away to friends, families and colleagues (this is legal and encouraged), there are versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux (LibreOffice comes as standard with Ubuntu and many other versions of Linux).

OpenOffice and LibreOffice have a common history but LibreOffice is beginning to look like the front runner. Check out Google's list of review articles on LibreOffice.

I strongly urge you to give LibreOffice a try. It's free, so what have you got to lose? It contains everything you need - word processor, spreadsheet, business presentation, graphics, maths editor, and database. All are built to professional standards, can load and save in a range of file types (including MS Office formats), can save PDFs, are regularly updated and upgrades are, of course, free. If you need more information, take a peek at the manuals and user guides (you might like to start with the introduction).

03 October 2011

TECHNOLOGY - Reusable rockets

SpaceX is an innovative space launch company with a number of impressive 'firsts' to their name and a large order book of reservations for satellite launches on their Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 vehicles.

The planet MarsThe company was founded by Elon Musk using capital earned by his earlier IT businesses, particularly PayPal which was sold in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Musk's share was more than 10% enabling him to start SpaceX as well as the electric car company, Tesla.

In September 2008 Falcon 1 achieved earth orbit, the first time a privately owned company had orbited a liquid fuelled rocket. All previous successes were by the government programs of a variety of nations.

In June 2010 Falcon 9, a much larger vehicle, also flew successfully to orbit. And in December 2010 Falcon 9 flew again, this time carrying a Dragon capsule which completed two orbits, successfully re-entered, splashed down and was recovered. This was another first for a private company.



A heavy rocket is planned (Falcon 9 Heavy) and a demonstration flight to dock Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS) is due in 2012.

But now, SpaceX has announced plans for full reusability. If they can pull this off it will be an utter game-changer, reducing the cost to orbit by perhaps 100 times.

Elon's recent presentation to the US National Press Club explains the reason for the attempt to operate a reusable rocket. His long term goal is nothing less than to colonise Mars. This might sound crazy, but he has a track record of doing things that were thought to be impossible. So maybe he will succeed. If anyone can, Elon and SpaceX can!

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