30 January 2012

Organic church life

Alan Knox uses the term 'organic church life'. There's a certain flowing, difficult to pin down, deep life about church that is well described by the term 'organic'. When we share this life we are sharing Christ himself as well as sharing ourselves.

A bejewelled network Alan Knox gives some thought to the question 'Why is it so difficult to find organic church life?' and I very much like his answer. It's closely related to my recent post 'Circles of friends'.

Alan decides to use the term 'organic church life' rather than the more usual 'organic church', and his reasons are very revealing.
When I write about “organic church life,” I’m not talking about a certain church gathering, or a certain type of meeting, or a certain group of believers, or a certain method of organizing (or not organizing). Instead, I’m talking about believers sharing their lives with one another as they also share life in Jesus Christ.
I simply could not agree more! And I could not express it better.

Yet our minds are so anxious to organise and structure everything that we overlook organic church life in our rush to find something organisational in its place. We have insecurities that seem best met by plenty of structure and tradition and hierarchy. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but they are not where the life is. They have served us well in society and civil government, but they do not serve us well in finding and experiencing organic church life.

Structure is required as human life grows in scale. Very little structure is needed by three small children at play (though it's there if you look for it). A great deal is necessary to manage a large company, a big orchestra, or a nation.

Structure, tradition and hierarchy are useful tools for running large organisations, but in the day to day life of a family freedom, spontaneity and shared responsibility are much more appropriate. So too with organic church life. And that is why it's so hard to find even though it may be there right under our noses. Perhaps the truth is that it's not really hard to find, just hard to recognise until you get your eye in. And then you'll notice it everywhere.

But on the larger scale of the church worldwide, structure, tradition and hierarchy become necessary - right?

Wrong! Jesus said, 'I will build my church'. If we each focus on organic church life amongst our own circle of friends we can (and should) leave the rest to Jesus. He is the only one who knows how to do the job properly, only he can properly integrate our overlapping circles into the bejewelled network of networks structure of his design.

26 January 2012

Prophecy about Britain - again

I've been directed to another prophecy about Britain, this time from Lance Lambert, and would like to share a link to it. Prophecy is about hearing and telling; both are needed.

The human earI hadn't expected to post about a second prophecy so soon after the previous one exactly two weeks ago. But yesterday evening I was chatting with two friends about our intention to pray regularly and today they emailed me with another prophecy, this time from Lance Lambert.

I'd encourage anyone who was struck by the first prophecy to visit Lance Lambert's website and read what he has shared about Britain. Both prophecies were given in the August/September period in 2011.

Of course, the two are not identical, but there are some common themes. I have heard that Mark Stibbe also shared something similar in Bedford at around the same time. There are coincidences in life, but I think this is not one of them.

21 January 2012

Circles of friends

Help doesn't always come from the places we expect. Community may not be the shape we design it to be. Church structure is better recognised than defined. Practice and experience are very likely to differ from theory.

Mallow on the beach, messy but vibrant All of us need a little help from time to time, or someone to listen or encourage. And if we're involved in local church life we expect to find that support from church friends as well as from family members and others. In particular, if we are in a cell or home group we expect the members to provide the help we need. It's often claimed to be one of several reasons for meeting in smaller, more intimate groups.

But what happens in practice?

When a friend recently told me that he was not getting the help he needed from his home group, I was able to identify a number of people who were providing help. It was coming from a rich combination of close friends, some involved in other home groups, some in entirely different churches. Most of these people had not been 'designated' as his close church family, yet they were there when he needed them.

15 January 2012

SOPA blackout


SOPA and PIPA

The blog is now restored to normal use.


All About Jesus will be unavailable from 13:00 UT on January 18th until 01:00 UT on January 19th. These times correspond to 08:00 EST to 20:00 EST on 18th January when many websites large and small will be blacked out to draw attention to the issues around SOPA and PIPA.

Please read the Wikipedia article on the initiative for more detail.

11 January 2012

Prophecy for England

I was sent these words of prophecy today by a friend. They concern the future of the UK and I felt led to place them here on 'All About Jesus'. Your thoughts and comments will be welcome.

Listening is important, something I've posted on before and feel strongly about. Many who follow Jesus have never been encouraged to listen or given any guidance on how to listen. This is a real weakness in church life in the UK in our day.

England in the UKProphecy is the result of listening so I was encouraged today when a friend sent me and others some words from someone she knows, John Richards. Here it is, exactly as I received it.

Prophecy for England

In the next 20 years there will be a period of cumulative and intense emotional & spiritual poverty and ever-increasing suffering in the UK as my generation and those younger grow up and reach middle age. Relationship and marriage breakdown will become completely epidemic, serious sexual and physical diseases and problems will become overwhelming, people's health both mental and emotional will be corrupted and there will be intense poverty, both practically and spiritually in this nation as communities die, children are fatherless and families are destroyed. The papers will become full of stories that will lead people into debt, fear, hopelessness and apathy and a terrible disappointment and anger at what they are living in.

Eaton Ford (BS) - Doing it our way

< 3rd January 2012 | Index | 27th May 2012 >

We read the first chapter of Acts and discussed it. I was interested to note that the disciples behaved just the same way we do; in the absence of Jesus they decided to do things their own way.

An icon of MatthiasLast time Paul and I met we finished Mark's gospel and decided to work through Acts next.

Today we made a start by reading Luke 1:1-4 to help us understand how Luke had written both books to give the best and most consistent possible account of the events concerning Jesus and the early church.

Then we read the first chapter of Acts section by section, stopping to discuss what we had read as we worked our way through. Here are some of the things I found especially striking.

The pattern of events is perfectly clear. Jesus was arrested, tried both by the religious and civil courts, was crucified, died, and spent the entire Sabbath (Friday evening until sometime before Sunday sunrise) in a sealed rock tomb. Then he returned to life and for forty days he was with the disciples in Galilee and then in Jerusalem before he returned to the Father in heaven.

10 January 2012

A royal priesthood

Part 12 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< Like light on the water | Index | No later items >

Roy shares some Bible passages to clarify and support the idea of praying for blessing and the impact that flows from doing so. He finds Old and New Testament verses to back up what he and Daphne had discovered during their early times at Ffald-y-Brenin.

A servant King, a self-sacrificing PriestThis is the final section of chapter one, the last part I can share with you online. If you've been following along I hope it will have encouraged you to buy a copy of the book so you can read the entire amazing story.

There's a link at the bottom of the article that lists various ways to obtain a copy.

In this final part Roy provides some biblical background to the idea of speaking a blessing over people and their lives.

When the practice of priesthood was originally about to commence, God instructed Moses to explain to Aaron how he and the priests were to act. Not only were they to intercede for the people but they were to pronounce blessings over them as well. 'The Lord spoke to Moses saying, "Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."' (Numbers 6:22-26 ESV).

Great design and usability

Good design combines clean looks with smooth and intuitive usability. The best devices are the result of a great deal of thought and planning effort, the iPhone for example more or less rewrote the rules for mobile phones. Here are some more great ideas.

The WVIL concept cameraThis is the WVIL concept camera (pronounced 'weevil' apparently). It's a very cool idea, separating the lens assembly with integral 31-megapixel CCD and the wireless 'viewfinder'.

Rather than explain it, just go to the website and look at the WVIL video, that makes it very clear.

While you're there, take a look at some of the other ideas. I particularly like the SWYP printer.

There's something about ideas that are just 'right'. Artefact (the company behind WVIL and SWYP) have taken artifacts (everyday objects) and seriously thought about how we use them. They're not the only people doing this, however.

Several years ago Donna and I needed a new set of bathroom scales, we decided to spend a bit more on the new ones and chose one from Withings. It seems they now offer a baby monitor and a blood pressure system as well. Their stuff is similarly well-designed and they are not a concept company, this is real stuff you can buy - today.

And another company, Nest, have similarly redesigned and re-engineered the room thermostat. Very nicely done.

Then of course there's the Eglu - really good if you're a chicken...

08 January 2012

Christmas lunch at Cornerstone

On 25th December Jim and some of his friends laid on a Christmas lunch for people who otherwise might have eaten alone, perhaps even spent the entire day alone.

Christmas lunch at CornerstoneCornerstone Coffee and Books provided the space, River Church funded the supplies for the meal, Jim and his family prepared and served the food, and the rest of us helped with setting up, waiting at table, chatting with the guests, and clearing up afterwards.

Quite unprompted, Waitrose provided some festive groceries for the guests to take home. Every guest also received an M&S voucher.

Paul and I arrived at 10:30. We spent some time sweeping the floor and setting out the tables (four tables with space for ten people on each). Then, as the guests started arriving we were on hand to welcome them, offer teas or coffees, and chat.

During the meal it was great to sit with the guests, pull crackers, and have some unhurried conversation.

At the end of the meal I had to hurry home as Donna's parents and brother were staying with us, but I think there were plenty of helpers on hand to assist with the washing up and tidying away.

07 January 2012

Science and faith

Can I have faith and accept science too? Is that an unreasonable position to hold? Recent discussions on Jesus Creed have provoked me to write on this topic again.

Tiffany window, 'Science and Religion'I've posted about this before (Apr 2010, May 2010), but a recent item on Jesus Creed brought the topic back to mind. And then I came across this earlier post where there was a more fundamental discussion and a useful reference to an article by Dr EB Davis, 'Christianity and Science in Historical Perspective'.

It's not surprising that the debate continues, there are strongly held opinions on both sides. There is also quite a bit of mutual misunderstanding. Personally, however, I continue to see no conflict between  my acceptance of science as a wonderful tool for better understanding the universe and my acceptance of a spiritual dimension that transcends the universe.

It seems obvious to me that if there is a creator he would necessarily exist outside and beyond everything that he created. How could it be otherwise?

06 January 2012

Like light on the water

Part 11 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< Grace outpouring | Index | A royal priesthood >

Behind the prayers for blessing and the abundant evidence of the results, an inner awareness was growing of the need for grace in dealing with people. A new understanding was developing in Roy and Daphne's hearts and minds.

Blessing and grace like sunlight on the waterIn this section, Roy continues to explain the need for grace towards others. The Almighty blesses us despite our faults and we should treat others in the same way. Praying for people to be blessed is part of that.

We are called to be more like him. When we ask him to bless people we are merely asking him to do what he has already chosen to do.
We found that there is often resistance to heart habits that incline towards grace. There were plenty of Christians who told me that our practice of blessing people who were not yet Christian was absolutely wrong. We were advised that it would be much better to cry out to God to make things much worse for them. Such people were not pleased to be told that this type of prayer was like a curse.

04 January 2012

The dry bones of church will live

Part 10 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< An overwhelming army | Index | No later items >

Once again Yahweh speaks, this time in explanation and application. He spoke to Israel but through them he is also speaking to us. He can reach us wherever we are and he can transform us from death to life, from dry and scattered bones to a mighty army.

A small groupAnd now that the work is complete and the army restored, Yahweh speaks once more. This time it's by way of explanation as to the meaning of the valley of dry bones vis-a-vis Israel.

Yahweh speaks - And then he told me: 'Son of man, the bones are the Israelites. They say, "Our bones are dry, we have no hope and are disconnected." So speak to them and say: "This is what Almighty Yahweh says: my people, I shall open your graves and raise you up. I'll put my Spirit into you, you'll live, and I'll return you to your land. Then you'll understand that I, Yahweh spoke and did it, says Yahweh,' (Ezekiel 37:11-14)

Everything that happened in the vision and every word that Yahweh spoke applies to Israel in captivity. But like all biblical prophecy it applies again to the church as well - it applies to us. We'll come back to that.

03 January 2012

Eaton Ford (BS) - Arrest to resurrection

< 12th December 2011 | Index | 11th January 2012 >

Paul and I met to read the last part of Mark's gospel. We began at the beginning of  chapter 15 and read section by section right through to the end. Here are some of the things that stood out for me.

A rock-cut tomb in JerusalemAs far as we know the religious authorities handed Jesus over to Pilate because they were not permitted to apply the death penalty themselves. The Romans had decreed that only they could execute a prisoner.

The charge against Jesus was blasphemy and the penalty would have been stoning to death. Stonings were still comtemplated, even carried out (eg Stephen, the woman caught in adultery) but were presumably unofficial, illegal, and overlooked.

The Sanhedrin could hardly issue an illegal order right under the nose of the prefect. So they went to Pilate with a range of accusations, none of which they could prove. They knew a Jewish religious offence would not impress Pilate, so they chose something more promising - that Jesus claimed to be a king and was therefore a political challenge to Pilate, Herod, or even the Emperor in Rome. Pilate still didn't buy it, but sent Jesus for crucifixion to satisfy the mob.

02 January 2012

An overwhelming army

Part 9 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Prophecy to the breath | Index | The dry bones of church will live >

Ezekiel speaks to the breath, calling it to fill the slain bodies so that they may come alive. We need breath (that is, the Holy Spirit) if the church is to be filled, come alive and function properly.

The Chinese 'Terracotta Army'Once again Ezekiel is called to speak, this time to the reconstructed bodies. They are now complete and perfect in every way yet they are still not alive. He speaks and what happens must have stunned him, even if he was expecting it!

Ezekiel speaks - 'So I spoke out as he required of me, and breath came into them, they began to live and they rose up on their feet. They were an overwhelming army!' (Ezekiel 37:10)

As usual there are a number of things we should notice. Some of them are hugely important but easily overlooked.

First, we see again Ezekiel's obedience. Yahweh has said he is to speak some particular words over the dead bodies and he does it. No argument this time, no hesitation, just obedience. Listen and obey. If only we would always do that!

01 January 2012

Grace outpouring

Part 10 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< The abundant results of prayer | Index | Like light on the water >

Behind the prayers for blessing and the abundant evidence of the results, an inner awareness was growing of the need for grace in dealing with people. A new understanding was developing in Roy and Daphne's hearts and minds.

Rainclouds and sunshine over Galilee As a result of the answers to prayer, it was now becoming clear that the best way to reach people is by first blessing them. Simply confronting people with truth and correction is ineffective and even counter productive.

Roy and Daphne start to challenge the accepted norms where these involve any form of judgement or criticism.
My old ways of giving away my faith were being changed as this understanding of blessing people began to not merely take hold of our hearts but actually bear fruit in our community.

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