29 February 2012

Tortola and Virgin Gorda

< Dominican Republic | Index | No later items >

We visited the islands of Tortola and Virgin Gorda today. We enjoyed the morning exploring the capital, Road Town. In the afternoon we visited an unusual beach scattered with big granite boulders.

The coastline of TortolaWe arrived in the British Virgin Islands and docked at Road Town on the south of Tortola.

We spent the morning in the town, walking along the main road from the harbour and then Waterfront Drive, Main Street and Pickenin Street up to St George's Episcopal Church.

Retracing our steps we stopped at the bakery for a cookie and some water, fed cookie crumbs to a hen and her three chicks, visited the museum, and bought and posted a card for Megan and our Tuesday evening Small Group.

The bakery in Pickinin Road, Road TownWe strolled back to the ship for a light lunch, then on to the harbour and a powerful catamaran for an afternoon trip to Virgin Gorda. Richard Branson's private island of Necker is not far from here. Once on the island we were taken by local bus to 'The Baths' a swimming beach and national park.

The area is littered with granite boulders, small, large and enormous (up to the size of a small house). These were ejected by a volcano long ago, enclosed in lava, and then as the lava eroded they were released. These boulders lie all over this part of the island - on the hilly ground inland, on the beach itself, and partially or totally submerged just offshore.

Beach and boulders on Virgin GordaA jumbled pile of these boulders forms a 'cave' network through which the next beach can be reached. It proved to be quite a scramble and there was little in the way of guidance. We made several false turns and had to retrace our steps to a familiar point and try again. While amongst the boulders Donna swam in the sea before we returned by a different route to catch the bus home.

In the boat we chatted with a Canadian couple who reminded us of of our old friends, Geoff and Dawn. We didn't learn their names, but began to think of him as 'Canadian Geoff'!

Back at the ship we went to the theatre to hear Jeri Sager sing some of her Broadway and other songs before dinner in the Aqua Restaurant and a relaxed evening. Cruising is most enjoyable, I could get used to it!

See also - More photos from our day

< Dominican Republic | Index | No later items >

28 February 2012

Dominican Republic

< Day at sea | Index | Tortola and Virgin Gorda >

We were ferried by tender boats to a small island near Samana in the Dominican Republic. We also spent some time relaxing on the ship. Having been ashore today, we're looking forward to some interesting visits to other islands during the rest of the cruise.

Several of the ship's lifeboats were used
Today was our first landfall in the Caribbean, at Samana on the south coast of a long peninsula in the north-east of the island.

After breakfast we decided to visit the town of Samana and then transfer later to Cayo Levantado where there's a tourist beach. But we changed our minds, instead staying aboard the ship and relaxing with a good read, having a light lunch in the Garden Restaurant, and then getting the tender to the Cayo.

By all accounts there wouldn't have been much to see in Samana and the crossing was longer in quite choppy conditions. The tender boats are the ship's lifeboats and it was interesting to travel in one. There is no deep water harbour at Cayo Levantado, and the ship has a deployable landing stage to make it really easy to board small boats.

The stalls on Cayo LevantadoThe lifeboat dropped us at a jetty right by the sandy beach. We found ourselves in an area of public parkland with shady trees, paved walkways, and a range of stalls and open air bars and little restaurants. We stopped for a refreshing drink and checked out the stalls, some selling artwork, others with T-shirts or hats, and some with gifts and local crafts.

A local bandThere was a band playing local Dominican music, they were very willing to pose for a photo in exchange for a small gift in their collecting box. The Dominican Republic is mostly quite poor and I think the band members and the stallholders are much better off than the folk on the mainland, particularly away from resort areas.

After exploring, we found a shady spot on a grassy bank right by the sandy beach and spent some more time reading.

I'm going through Jonathan Aitken's excellent book 'John Newton' on Donna's Kindle, while she's reading Jim Palmer's 'Divine Nobodies' on mine.

Back on board the ship in the late afternoon we headed out of the bay and Donna got a good look at some humpback whales as we passed from bay to open ocean. This is the same population we saw on our trip to Boston a few years ago. All I saw were waterspouts, but Donna might have caught a glimpse of a whale or two as well.

We've decided we really like the freestyle dining experience, and I'm enjoying the informal dress.

< Day at sea | Index | Tortola and Virgin Gorda >

27 February 2012

Day at sea

< Join the cruise and sail | Index | Dominican Republic >

Our first full day at sea took us further south and east. There was plenty to do and see, exploring the ship, an art auction, enjoying a restaurant meal, entertainment in the theatre, chatting with other passengers, and of course reading.

The art auctionThe ship headed east and south all last night and all of today, putting on the miles. The sea was quite choppy today, Atlantic weather rather than Caribbean weather.

We spent the day reading, chatting, learning our way around the ship, and investigating an art auction. I have no idea how much artwork was sold, but the display was busy as you can see in the photo.

We ended the day eating at the Aqua Restaurant this time. The menu is the same as the Venetian but the decor and lighting is more relaxed and pleasant. Like the Venetian it is a large space filling the ship's entire beam.

Our first full day at seaAfter eating we watched a show in the theatre, a tribute to the music of the 1970's and very well done. The theatre is surprisingly large, filling much of the front of the vessel, and it even has a rotating section in the middle.

Paul Scally, the Cruise Director, reminds us so much of Clive Urquhart from Kingdom Faith - his Luton accent and style of speaking are just the same! He doesn't look like Clive, but hearing him make announcements on the ship's public address system was uncanny!

< Join the cruise and sail | Index | Dominican Republic >

26 February 2012

Join the cruise and sail

< Fly to Miami | Index | Day at sea >

Today we boarded our ship, the 'Norwegian Dawn' and sailed out of Miami towards the south and east. The rest of the day we were busy exploring the ship and eating our first two meals on board.

The Norwegian DawnI managed to adjust to the time difference without a problem, going to bed a little early and waking up around 07:00 local time. We relaxed in our room, reading and writing. We had to vacate the room at 11:00 but the shuttle to the ship left at 11:30 so that was very acceptable timing.

In the hotel lobby we met several others aiming for cruises. We chatted with Doug and Diane who were sailing on the Norwegian Pearl and he gave me his email address, hoping to keep in touch with us. We boarded our cruise ship, the Norwegian Dawn, after one of the longest queuing experiences ever, about two hours. Our ship was on its first outing after a refit and the computerised boarding systems were new. Much of the delay may have been due to lack of familiarity with  the new system.

Following the Norwegian Pearl out of MiamiA welcome buffet was available in the Garden Restaurant. What a spread! Leaving port a little late at about 16:15 (we had to wait for some passengers who phoned from the airport to say they were just heading for the port), we sailed out into the Atlantic and some choppy water in a strong wind. There was a bit of rolling, but nothing too bad and I didn't suffer any ill effects.

We explored the ship systematically, it's a very nice vessel with lots of facilities and some excellent restaurants. We ate in the Venetian this evening, a large and ornate space filling the full width of the ship. The food on board is very good with something available 24/7 and an option for room service at no extra charge. Buffet in the Garden RestaurantThe restaurants range from an enormous buffet with an extraordinary range of hot and cold options, through pleasant restaurants like the Venetian, to some unusual alternatives attracting a surcharge.

We went to the theatre to see the day excursion presentation and left with a pretty good idea of the available options for each of the islands we are going to visit.

And finally, back to our bijoux cabin, officially known as our 'state room'. That's a rather grand term for a space just about large enough for a bed and an en suite shower and loo.

I wrote up the day's events and we turned in for the night.

< Fly to Miami | Index | Day at sea >

25 February 2012

Fly to Miami

< St Neots to Heathrow | Index | Join the cruise and sail >

We arrive at our hotel in Miami, tired but looking forward to exploring the cruise ship tomorrow. The eleven hour flight felt longer and the hotel was disappointing - but we're on our way!

The view from our hotel windowWe slept well but were up early as our flight with Delta was mid morning. The shuttle bus took us to Heathrow Terminal 4 and so to check in and an 11 hour flight to Miami. Somehow they'd given us seats that were not together, but the cabin crew sorted that out for us.

There's not a lot to say about an 11 hour flight (except it seems longer). I watched Dr Zhivago for the second time (the first time was when it was originally released back in the late 1960s)

I read some more of Ross Rhode's book 'Viral Jesus' and enjoyed it immensely. Dozed a bit, read a bit, listened to Igor Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, read a bit, dozed a bit.

By mid afternoon Florida time we were in Miami Airport trying to find the hotel shuttle - and failing. In the end we took a taxi (I almost lost Donna in the process) and made our way to the Miami Ramada Airport North. This place is actually quite some way from the airport and a bit run down, very different from our Holiday Inn experience at Heathrow yesterday.

We had slight hopes of relaxing by the poolside, although the hotel details online had mentioned that the area was being renovated. When we went to look we found that the pool area is currently a wasteland of gravel. 'Renovated' is a misnomer, it has been ripped out and a new pool is going to be developed. Back to the Kindle books!

We finished the day with a strange hotel restaurant meal, I had a pizza that looked and tasted like a frozen 'value' pizza from the local supermarket. Not great but it filled a gap. We headed for bed looking forward to joining our cruise ship in the morning.

< St Neots to Heathrow | Index | Join the cruise and sail >

24 February 2012

St Neots to Heathrow

< No earlier items | Index | Fly to Miami >

This was the beginning of the holiday - drive to the airport. All that will be needed in the morning is a ten minute transfer to departures, check in our luggage, and clear security. Our hotel was amazing, far better than we'd expected.

This might not seem much like a holiday, but Donna was home from work and won't need to go back until next month - so it is a holiday!

We ate a quick meal, completed packing the bags, said goodbye to Truffles (our elderly black cat), and headed off.

We decided to use the A1(M) instead of the M1 as there are extensive roadworks on the M1. It soon turned out that the M25 also had roadworks that we'd have missed if we'd used the M1. This is Britain, there are roadworks everywhere!

Donna had booked a night at the Heathrow Holiday Inn, a special deal that included parking while we are away. Airport parking is expensive and our cheap deal meant we got the overnight stay at very little cost. As you can see from the photo of the lobby on their website, this is a very plush hotel indeed. We were astonished to find rooms on offer at £130 per night at the full rate. We paid considerably less with a couple of weeks parking thrown in. It was a great deal!

< No earlier items | Index | Fly to Miami >

23 February 2012

Caribbean/Florida 2012 - INDEX

< Cornwall 2011 | Index | No later items >

Sailing ship off St KittsWe flew from Heathrow to Miami, Florida. We then boarded a cruise and island-hopped in the Caribbean for ten days, returning to Miami.

From there we caught a train to Lake Worth and spent nearly a week with our friends Steph and Earl.

This index will take you to the individual daily posts.


  • Friday 24th February - St Neots to Heathrow
  • Saturday 25th February - Fly to Miami
  • Sunday 26th February - Join the cruise and sail
  • Monday 27th February - Day at sea
  • Tuesday 28th February - Dominican Republic
  • Wednesday 29th February -Tortola and Virgin Gorda
  • Thursday 1st March - St Martin's
  • Friday 2nd March - Antigua
  • Saturday 3rd March - Barbados
  • Sunday 4th March - St Kitts
  • Monday 5th March - Day at sea
  • Tuesday 6th March - Day at sea
  • Wednesday 7th March - Dock in Miami, train to Lake Worth
  • Thursday 8th March - 
  • Friday 9th March - 
  • Saturday 10th March - 
  • Sunday 11th March - 
  • Monday 12th March - Train to Miami and fly out
  • Tuesday 13th March - Arrive at Heathrow and drive home

< Cornwall 2011 | Index | No later items >

Oneness and reconciliation

< The centrality of Christ | Index | New and old in church life >

This time we focus on oneness with Christ and reconciliation with one another. In the previous post we considered oneness in the church. Reconciliation underlies and leads to this, without it the church will remain disjointed.

I and the Father are oneContinuing the series based on revelation at Coventry, this week we look at the second topic - 'Oneness with Jesus and in church life, reconciliation'.

As we saw last time, Jesus really is building his church. We need to seize this as a source of supreme hope and comfort at a time when men and women (more often men) have been inclined to take control.

Last time we considered the centrality of Christ. We also took a look at the requirement for unity in the church which his centrality demands.

This time we will look at unity again, but this time unity with Christ rather than unity with one another. Both are essential, of course.

Oneness with Christ - Along the east interior of the new cathedral at Coventry is a series of Bible texts carved on large, stone tablets. One of them is shown in the photo above; it reads, 'I and the Father are one. He that hath seen me hath seen the Father'.

These words from John's gospel (John 10:30, John 14:9) spoke powerfully to me. Our oneness with Christ depends utterly on his oneness with the Father. How so? Read the whole of John 10 and then consider these points.
  • In verse 7, Jesus makes it clear that he alone is the way in and out.
  • Verse 8, others who had made this claim were thieves and robbers.
  • To be saved we must enter through Jesus. There's no other way (verse 9).
  • Verse 11, he lays down his life for the sheep.
  • Verse 15, he and the Father know one another. (They are one, verse 30). We know him and he knows us in the same way (verses 14 and 15).
  • And then John 17:20-23 - arguably the most amazing few verses in the entire Bible. 
'I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.'

Let's be clear. Yahshua says that the glorious Father (the Most High) is in him (Yahshua, Jesus, Isa) and has given the glory to him. He further says that he (Yahshua) is in us and that he (Yahshua) has given the glory to us.

In other words the Most High is in us and we have been given the glory. It's all the same oneness, we are included in their oneness.

If that doesn't blow you away, nothing will!

Reconciliation in church life - In the ruins of the old cathedral is a statue entitled 'Reconciliation'. It represents reconciliation between nations that had been at war, a war that caused the destruction of the cathedral and many other beautiful buildings all over Europe. Millions of lives were lost.

But this sculpture also spoke to me powerfully about reconciliation in the church. Like the sculpture we are surrounded by the wreckage of a broken and fractured building. We need to be reconciled to one another.

We saw in the previous part that Yahshua wants us to be one, just as he and the Father are one. The Father, Son and Spirit are three representations of the One. They are three manifestations of the Almighty.

ReconciliationIn the same way we are to be one. We are all to be representations or manifestations of church. Each one of us is to be representative of the love of Christ, our head. Unlike the Father, Son and Spirit we can be seen as many disconnected individuals, or many sub-groups within the church. But this is not how we are meant to be. Instead we are supposed to be one body to which Christ will be attached as our one head.

That's why Paul wrote to the Corinthians, 'I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.' (1 Corinthians 1:10)

And it's why in Ephesians 4:4-6 he wrote, 'There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.'

So you see why reconciliation is so important. Yahshua came to reconcile us with the Almighty, but he also came to reconcile us to one another. That is why the fruit of the Spirit is a reconciling fruit. Think about it! What are the characteristics of this fruit? They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It's the fruit of Jesus in our lives, it's the fruit of the Father. We are grafted in to the Son. Our Father, the gardener, did that work. Read John 15.

It's time to recognise our need for reconciliation to one another, and we will have to recognise it in our hearts, not merely as an intellectual exercise in our minds. It goes without saying that we should have the mind of Christ in this, but we also need his heart towards one another.

Every tiny, little step you can take towards reconciliation with a brother or sister or with a denomination or group (every little step) is a step towards oneness and the fulfilment of Jesus' mission. Every angry word, lack of patience, every unkindness is a step away from that supreme goal. I have been guilty of that so often.

It is impossible to have oneness without reconciliation. So hold nothing back in your striving for reconciliation! Ask Father to give you more and more of the reconciling fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life. It's the only fruit that has the flavour and aroma of the Father's love, made manifest in Christ our Lord and King.

< The centrality of Christ | Index | New and old in church life >

UK Fellowship Friday Blog Hop - This blog hop is for Christians who live in the UK to link to a post you have recently written that might encourage other Christians. Started by Rhoda, please visit her original article.

22 February 2012

From the archives...

Sometimes it's fun to look back. Here's what I was blogging in February in previous years. From trouble in the Middle East to ancient photographs.

The archivesA year ago - The trouble was starting in Libya a year ago, just as it now has in Syria. As we thought and prayed for the people and government of Libya a year ago, so we should also do for Syria now.

COMMENT: How things have moved on! History will not repeat itself, the situation in Syria is different, probably far more dangerous internationally than the upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. We can also now pray for the development of stable democracies in those countries, it's not a foregone conclusion for any of them. Don't forget the smaller countries too - Dubai and Yemen for example.


Two years ago - A word from the Spirit. He tells us to follow him, not one another. Our callings are different so if we are all obedient we will be doing different things. We shouldn't persuade others to do what we do, we should encourage one another, not criticise.

COMMENT: This is the key to peaceful hearts and minds as we share our lives together in Christ.


Ten years ago - I was just starting the adventure of blogging. Here's the third post I made, a brief thought about photography following a chat in the office with friends.

COMMENT: Photography records the past for us in a very special way. We can see what was present in a place up to 186 years ago - the oldest surviving image was made in 1826. When photography was invented it was a novelty, but now some of those early efforts are a source of historical information.

21 February 2012

Greening the city

This article considers ways of improving the city or town environment. There are some big projects here, growing trees and plants in the heart of our urban world. But there are also ways forward for smaller groups to run projects for themselves, right where they live.

Built to support a vertical forestCities already have parks, private gardens, urban farms, landscaped roadside verges and large buildings with atria containing tropical plants, but what else can we do to bring greenery into the city? There are some surprisingly innovative ideas out there.

Milan's 'Bosco verticale' project is currently under construction and will consist of two residential towers supporting ornamental woodland and shrubbery.

New York's Highline converted railway line has become a much-loved green space for walking and relaxing right in the heart of the city. It was inspired by an earlier project in Paris, the 'Promenade Plantée'.

In London, an old building has found a new use as a vertical garden.

Verge gardens get a write up in Australia, these use small urban spaces and are managed by the local people.

There's lots of scope for individual and group action. Contact your local town council. Form a local community project. There are some good ideas in Groundwork's toolbox document. On the whole group action may be best, you can plan together, work on the planting and maintenance together, enjoy the space together, eat together, become a real community in the process of creating a cared-for green space in your environment. What could be better?

20 February 2012

Review Award - Chris Duffet

< Living to please God | Index | No later items >

Our second 'Review Award' goes to Chris Duffett. He richly deserves it for his lively, fun and very different blog called 'be the light'. A very special blog from a very special guy - both focussed on sharing Jesus.

be the lightChris lives within a few miles of me in the East of England. We've met several times but not as often as I'd like. His blog is called 'be the light'.

The first time I went to visit him he was baking bread and we shared some straight from the oven with butter, cold meat and salad. Scrumptious!

Chris is a baptist, meets with a local church in Bedfordshire, and is very active in sharing the good news about Jesus in some unusual ways. Visit the blog and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Why I like the blog - I have to say right away that the thing I most like is the sheer, abundant, happy life and energy of this site. And that is a good description of Chris himself. He describes some of his city centre adventures with us - always fun, always unexpected, always exciting. And he meets people everywhere he goes, making no distinction on grounds of appearance but blessing everyone in some very inventive ways.

Another thing I love (and it has a lot to do with that inventiveness) is that he makes people think, he gets in 'under the radar' and touches hearts and minds. It doesn't work with everyone of course, but Chris doesn't give up or bear grudges or get disappointed. He just keeps on keeping on with a smile and a warm heart.

Selected quote
I have a passion to enable Christians to let all kinds of people connect with the good news of Jesus through creative initiatives such as ‘Get in the picture.’
Conclusion - We tend to be fairly inactive in sharing the good news with local people. There are probably many reasons for this, and one of them is lack of ideas. Most of us understand at a very intuitive level that handing out tracts or stopping busy people on the street is unlikely to be effective. But we don't know what else to try.

We need something more arresting than a tract. Instead of stopping busy people we need them to choose to stop because they are puzzled or intrigued or amused. Chris's website 'be the light' is crammed full of ideas. What's more, they are all ideas that have been tested on the street.

Chris's approach is not the only one open to us. But it is a useful component in our tool-kit. Don't forget the other tools including prayer, a compassionate heart, the day-to-day guidance of the Spirit, and the headship of Jesus. But armed with these (as Chris clearly is), any one of his ideas is likely to be fruitful.

Read through some of the many examples in the 'Stories' section of Chris's website. Here are a few of my personal favourites

See also: An earlier review of Chris's blog

< Living to please God | Index | No later items >

19 February 2012

Coventry Cathedral - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

The new and old cathedrals are connectedIn November and December 2011 I began to feel Father wanted me to travel to Coventry and visit the Cathedral and that he would speak to me as I did so. I made the visit on 9th December and he did indeed show me a variety of things on that day.

This index page collects together a series of posts about the visit, what was revealed, and how the revelation has gelled and developed since then.

  1. Coventry Cathedral - Visiting the old and new cathedrals
  2. Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry - Truth poured out like a flowing stream
  3. The centrality of Christ - What does it mean for Jesus to be central in our lives
  4. Oneness and reconciliation - We are all one, in and through Christ
  5. New and old in church life - How the two relate and benefit one another

18 February 2012

Snowdrops in the rain - INDEX

(Click the photo for a larger view)

Snowdrops in the rain at Moggerhanger - 
Photo taken 20th February 2011

Moggerhanger Park has a fine collection of naturalised snowdrops in its areas of woodland. Last year I was able to capture a photo of these beautiful flowers liberally coated with raindrops.

See some other image posts (scroll down when the page loads).

17 February 2012

The centrality of Christ

< Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry | Index | Oneness and reconciliation >

This article returns to the results of visiting Coventry Cathedral late last year and considers some aspects of  what it means for Jesus to be central in our lives. It's all about him.

The tapestry of Christ at CoventryBack in December I posted some reflections on my visit to Coventry Cathedral. I always intended to revisit those thoughts and now I'm beginning to see how it all fits into the bigger picture.

Jesus really is building his church, just as he promised he would. I'm seeing it now much more clearly.

I'm seeing it in what is happening in my own life and I'm seeing it in what others are writing, saying and doing. This is so exciting!

Here are the topics from the previous post in this series. I'm going to expand on the first one this time.

  • The centrality of Christ, his majesty and glory.
  • Oneness with Jesus and in church life, reconciliation.
  • New and old in terms of church. They are connected. We need to remember the old but live in the new.
  • The old was brought down by intense fire.
  • The new is a different kind of structure.
  • Jesus expresses himself through the new.
  • The new touches the world and should transform it.

At Coventry - There was so much about Christ in the two cathedrals.

The enormous tapestry at the northern end of the new building is very striking. It is so large (it weighs more than a ton) that it dominates that end of the building and is clearly visible from every part of the nave.

One thought that was sparked by looking around the new cathedral was this - 'The view is very different depending whether you are looking towards me or away from me.' And that is so true of our view of Christ. He can only appear to have a central place if we are looking towards him. If we look away from him we will not see him at all!

There is also a strong theme of reconciliation in both old and new, and reconciliation is essential if we are to be one.

The centrality of Christ - It's just not possible to overstate the importance of this. If Jesus is not central in my life, who is in control? Often we fail to see what it means to have him central in our lives, or we begin to see but shudder and quickly move on to an easier topic.

What does it mean?

He said, 'Pick up your cross and follow me'. He said, 'I will build my church'. He said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life'. And he said, 'Nobody comes to the Father except through me'.

Some negatives - I must lose any ambition I have, and cease any attempt to make my life 'safe'. I have to give up what I regard as mine and see that it is all his - and always was. I have to die to self and I have to let go. I have been called to a new life and a new way of life. I have to see that if I lose my life while honouring Jesus that will be better for me than keeping my life. I have to understand that just as the world was implacably against him, so it will be against me too. I have to appreciate that with Jesus in charge my life may at times be very hard and unpleasant.

It's taken me a long, long time to discover that I am no good at managing my own life.

The positives - But if some of this sounds very negative, it's because I'm relating it from my point of view. What will we find if we view it from Christ's point of view? In John 17, just before he went out to be arrested in the olive grove, we are allowed a glimpse of Yahshua at prayer. We get to hear him setting out his deepest heart's desire before the Father.

In verses 1-19 he prays for his disciples, and there are one or two principles we should consider carefully.

  • In verse one, Jesus asks the Father to glorify him (the Son) so that he can give glory back to the Father. He cannot give what he does not have. Make a mental note of that. It's true for all of us, isn't it? We cannot give something we do not have. Remember that.
  • In verse two he makes it clear that he has authority over everyone.
  • In verse three he says that eternal life is to know the Father and the Son.

But from verse 20 to 24 he prays for you and me. He prays for everyone who believes in him because of his followers' words. In the light of the three principles listed above, we need to understand these next five verses in the deepest places of our hearts and minds. Here is where we find the positive set out for us!

  • He prays that we will all be one, just as he and the Father are one. Just as he is about to give himself into the hands of those who will kill him, his thought and prayer is for our unity. Do we attach as much value to unity as he does? We should! It is the first thing he asks for us at this terrible time. He puts it ahead of everything else - and so should we. Jesus is our unity! We are one in him, he is central. That is the only basis for our oneness. If we are not one in him, we are not one at all.
  • There is a purpose for our oneness. We are to be one so that the world may believe that the Father sent the Son.
  • And now hear his words in verse 22. These words will change your life forever if you allow them into your heart. 'I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.' Hang on a minute... The Father has given his glory to the Son. And now the Son is giving it to you? Why would he do that? 'So that they may be one as we are one.' If you stop reading at this point and just reflect on this single verse for the rest of the day, that is OK by me.

In the last two verses of this amazing chapter Jesus prays again for his followers.

What Jesus wants - Now ask yourself, what does Jesus want from us? The answer has to be unity with one another, doesn't it? And remember that first principle - we cannot give what we do not have. We cannot give Jesus what he wants from us unless we have unity with one another.

So if Jesus is to be central in our lives the implication and the requirement is that we are one people, one church.

He has given us the glory that the Father gave to him so that we may be one. Our unity is worth everything to him.

Remember the other two principles - he has authority over everyone - eternal life is to know the Father and the Son. That authority and that life are also ours if we are in Christ. Truly Christ is central.

He is majestic - His majesty arises from all of these things. That majesty cannot be separated from the glory that he receives and bestows, from the oneness we have in him, from his authority over all, or from his life that lasts forever.

'The Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.' (John 5:19)

'Apart from me', Jesus said, 'you can do nothing' (John 15:5).

< Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry | Index | Oneness and reconciliation >

14 February 2012

Has the Bible been modified?

If we are to trust the Bible we need to know that it faithfully reproduces what was written by the original authors almost two thousand years ago, or earlier. It turns out that the Bible stands up to scrutiny better than any other ancient book.

Damaged papyrus of Matthew's gospelThe Bible is not really a book in the normal sense, rather it is a library of books written at different times and by different authors. Some versions of the Bible may include or exclude particular books for a variety of reasons.

But what can we say of the accuracy by which the books have been copied over the years and centuries since they were originally written? And how do the books of the Bible compare in terms of reliability with, say, Plato or Aristotle, Caesar or Cicero?

Surprisingly, we have a great deal of evidence for the reliability of both Old and New Testament books. Far more than we do for any of those other ancient books.

This is well-summarised in a web document by Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM).  Here's a claim made on that web page. Take a look at the page itself for the supporting argument.
The New Testament documents are better-preserved and more numerous than any other ancient writings. Because they are so numerous, they can be cross checked for accuracy... and they are very consistent.
Notice especially the table that shows how other respected ancient documents don't even come close in terms of early copies.

This section from an article on Wikipedia supports the accuracy of the New Testament, while another article, Textual variants in the New Testament, actually lists them for us. The majority are very minor indeed.

Whatever we may say about the comparisons to be made between the Bible and other ancient books, we may be quite certain that the Bible we read today has been faithfully copied. The New Testament we can buy and read today is very, very close to the original works written almost 2000 years ago. For the vast majority of the text (99.5%) the match is perfect across all copies.

Translation - Doesn't translation affect the meaning of the text, changing it from the originally intended sense? The purpose of good translation should always be to render the original meaning in a different language as accurately as possible. Many of the Bible translators have gone to extreme lengths in research, learned debate, discussion, checking, inviting critical comment, reviewing and revising. All this before they even consider printing a new version.

A far greater danger would be lack of translation, with less knowledgeable people trying to understand the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and probably making mistakes.

Paraphrase versions, like the Living Bible and idiomatic translations like The Message do their best to make the text more readable. These are not intended to replace the formal equivalence of more typical translations, but they can be an excellent way to introduce the Bible, making it more accessible and providing impact and immediacy.

Study aids - For serious study I recommend reading several modern translations along with Hebrew or Greek interlinears, good commentaries and Bible dictionaries (giving the range of meanings of the Hebrew and Greek words). There are excellent tools online, take a look at Bible Gateway and Biblos, but there are others out there. Try some out and bookmark those you find most useful.

And rest assured, the source material you are using (directly or indirectly) is of high quality and pretty much identical with what was originally written.

(Check linked articles on other blogs - please explore!)

13 February 2012

Review Award - Rhoda

< No earlier items | Index | Be the light >

It's time for the first 'Review Award' which goes to Rhoda's delightfully titled 'Living to Please God'. Why does she get the first of these? Because she sparked the idea recently so she deserves it!

Living to Please GodRhoda lives in Wales and has a blog called 'Living to Please God'.

Her husband is an American missionary leading a local church; they have a young family that Rhoda is home-schooling. That must be quite a challenge! She somehow finds time to write about many things including church, family, blogging, holiness and more - but all of them are rooted and centred on Christ.

Why I like the blog - That consistent Christ focus is one of the reasons I like Rhoda's writing. Another is her propensity for kindness and gentleness with her readers, even when writing on difficult or challenging topics, although she doesn't shy away from dealing with those issues. For a good example of this look at 'The dangers of questioning the Bible'.

What else? Ah well, the banner image is just wonderful. It shows a serene lake surrounded by mountains, possibly somewhere in Snowdonia which just happens to be one of my favourite parts of the British Isles. Am I allowed to like a blog for its banner? Of course!

And last, but by no means least, I have yet to see an article on Rhoda's blog that is not interesting and engaging. This blog is simply written, straightforward, and packed with good things.

Selected quote
This blog is here to share what God is teaching me about living for Him, in the hope that it will help and encourage others.
This simple statement sums it up, really. This is what 'Living to please God' is all about, and it's what Rhoda herself is all about. If we can't engage in ordinary, messy life and take Jesus there with us, we have failed to follow him as we should.

Conclusion - Jesus didn't call us to fine theological discourse or endless argument over small details, he left those things to the scribes and pharisees. Instead he healed the sick,  threw out demons, and made life better for ordinary people. He even provided wine for a wedding when it ran short. He covers our poor planning and our lack of resources in all that we do. He is - basically - a hero in every possible way.

If he's our hero what else should we do but learn to live for him, hoping to help and encourage others? If that is your goal you will find abundant hints and help in Rhoda's blog.

< No earlier items | Index | Be the light >

12 February 2012

The AAJ Review Award - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

Awarding a review and a badge to other bloggers seems like a good idea. It will be fun to do and will help link blogs together. Hopefully this and other schemes will encourage a developing sense of community.

The 'Review Award' is a new idea, sparked by a comment on one of my recent posts. It was really encouraging to receive an award, in fact it made me grin from ear to ear! And that's good; we should encourage one another.


Hopefully, review awards will help other bloggers by encouraging them, drawing new visitors to take a look, and strengthening the blogging community in general.

I like the idea of providing a badge and I'll start with the simple design displayed here - we'll see how it goes.

You can view recent awards, or pick from the list below (most recent awards are at the top).

2012


11 February 2012

Beech tree in the snow - IMAGE

(Click the photo for a larger view)

The beech tree in our neighbour's garden - 
Photo taken 10th February 2012

This beech tree grows next door but the branches cross high over our fence. With a fresh snow fall yesterday and a beautiful blue sky, what a glorious sight it is! If you enlarge it you can make out some of last year's beechmast husks still clinging on.

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

10 February 2012

Index to themed articles

This post lists the series indexes on 'Journeys of heart and mind'. Each index collects articles on a theme, often written over a period of time.

An early indexFrom time to time I write a series of themed articles, and usually I provide an index article to make it easy to find the entire set. Now that there are several such indexes it seems time to make 'an index of indexes' - and this is it.

Alternatively you can view all the indexes as one, long page; the link for this is always available on the 'About' page (scroll down part way to find 'INDEX' in the 'Topics' list). But the brief alphabetical list below will often be more convenient.

So here it is...

04 February 2012

Praying for Britain

Some of us are thinking we should begin praying for Britain, for England, and for our local area. Megan first suggested the idea after reading John Richard's prophecy (item 4 in the list below).

A boat on Galilee, a good place to pray!Recently we've become aware of a series of events related to prayer for Britain. They're listed here in the order in which we heard about them. However, it was item 4 that provoked our interest in prayer.
  1. Prophetic opinion from Clifford Hill that there is a five year 'window of opportunity' for the church in the UK, there would now be about three years of this window left.
  2. Some thoughts from Clifford Hill, Wolfgang Simson, and Peter Farmer in the Millenials Meeting at Moggerhanger Park.
  3. A word from Mark Stibbe concerning the 'seven pillars of society'. There are details of the seven pillars online. It's an idea that goes back to the 1970s.
  4. prophecy from John Richards
  5. A second prophecy from Lance Lambert
As an initial response we plan to meet on Tuesday afternoon, 7th February at 15:00 to consider how we should take this forward. We will review the five items above, consider the practicalities of prayer and perhaps fasting, and decide if and when to meet again and whether to invite others to join us.

My feeling is that we should involve anyone in the St Neots area who feels led to take part. Whatever we do would probably be  non-denoninational, informal and very flexible. If enough people are involved we could consider meeting in a variety of places and at different times. Others may have different ideas and we'll know more after we meet on 7th.

Here are some factors that I regard as especially important as we go forward. There may well be others that we can add as we go along.
  • Love Jesus ever more fully and learn to listen better as the Holy Spirit speaks to us.
  • Love one another so that we can act in unity of heart and purpose despite any differences that might divide us.
  • Recognise that there is only one living Temple and we are all stones built into it.
  • Wholeheartedly give ourselves to whatever he shows us to do, even if it seems very costly or very stupid.
  • Understand Jesus' call to mission in the widest possible sense, and be ready to urgently reach those in our lives who need to hear the good news he has for them.
  • Keep everything as simple as the Father has made it, not adding the complexity that we may find more amenable.
  • Remember that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are in charge and we are not. Give them the glory and honour and praise they truly deserve, and humbly exercise the authority we have in them (which we do not deserve).
  • Our prayer should be to bless (in the manner of Ffald-y-Brenin).
If you are interested in this and live near St Neots perhaps you'd like to contact me. You can comment on this post below or you can mail me (chris@scilla.org.uk). I will pass your comments on when we meet on 7th.

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