30 July 2012

Walking on water

Part 5 of a series - 'Seven signs in John'
< The crowds are fed | Index | The blind man sees >

Strange events take place at night on a dark and stormy Sea of Galilee. The disciples and the crowd lose track of Jesus but he later reappears on the lake. We can learn more about him and about ourselves by reading John's account of these events.

2000-year-old Galilean fishing boat
For the background to the signs in John and links to the other articles in the series, please read the index page.

Jesus and his close followers were very familiar with the Sea of Galilee. It was on the shores of this large lake that he called the fishermen Peter and Andrew, James and John.

As fishermen's kids they had known boats and fishing and the conditions of the lake since they were children.

Travelling by boat would have provided a good short-cut to walking around the circumference of this nearly circular expanse of water. This is something they must have done many times before. And it would have been a good way of escaping from the crowds.

28 July 2012

Jesus in Zechariah

We look at chapter six of Zechariah, investigate the meanings of some names, discover Jesus hidden in this Old Testament passage, and see that following in his footsteps we are truly a royal priesthood.

A crown for the KingSean and I have been working our way through Zechariah for a few weeks, and we've been finding a whole lot to ponder on.

Last time we read chapter six, and the section from verse nine to the end seemed rich with meaning (Zechariah 6:9-15). It's all about Jesus!

Zechariah is called to accept gold and silver from three returning exiles. Their name are Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah. These names are not accidental.

The meanings of the names - Curiously, Heldai can be translated 'mole' or 'worldly' or 'rustiness'. Moles dig underground, and rust reverses the hard work of smelting iron, converting it back to dust. So the name seems to suggest the world and its influence.

27 July 2012

Not rules, but relationship

How we need to get the basis of our faith right. But so often we have it utterly wrong! It's not about rules, it's about relationship. Jesus was quite clear about this - 'I and the Father are one', 'Love one another as I have loved you'.

Interview with William P Young
I've been listening to a two-year-old recording of an interview with the author of 'The Shack', William P Young. Kathleen Slattery Moschkau questions him and he explains the background to the book as well as some of his own, personal history.

The entire interview is moving, informative and gripping, but it also gives us glimpses of the real Paul Young as well as glimpses of the love of the One who just is. The One who was and is and will always be. The One who longs to find me in my lostness.

There are two snippets from the interview that I need to share with you here. Not because they are better than any other part but simply because I won't be able to rest until I have shared them. I have stopped working on another post so I can get this one out there first.

21 July 2012

Security in a button?

I received a message about a button from my friend Ash. The Spirit gave him a picture of the button and then showed him how it represents security. I like what he shared and I think it deserves to be more widely circulated.

A button on denim jeans
Ashley sent me a message about a button and wondered if I might use it on the blog.

The answer was 'Yes, definitely!' So here it is.

Read it first, then I'll comment on it, and finally you can comment too if you wish.

I hope we do have a conversation in the comments. It could be rather useful.

Put on your thinking-cap and start stroking that keyboard or tablet.

Secure in Jesus...

I belong to a small home group which meets on a weekly basis. This week we met as usual and we were encouraged to discuss, and then try sitting quietly and listening to God. As the group compromises of Christians young and mature, we shared how to go about getting to listening and hearing.

20 July 2012

So - who is my neighbour?

Henri Nouwen looks at the parable of the good Samaritan in a slightly different way. So who is my neighbour? Have I always misunderstood the main thrust of this story, or does Nouwen have it wrong. Or am I missing the point?

Henri Nouwen and the good SamaritanHenri Nouwen wrote some great books, full of depth and character resulting from a lifetime of learning and growing in Christ. He was a gentle, careful, caring person. He was an encourager and a calming influence. He had substance - not in himself but in Christ.

I've been reading the daily meditations from the Henri Nouwen Society (highly recommended, by the way). This is today's extract.
'Love your neighbour as yourself' the Gospel says (Matthew 22:38). But who is my neighbour?

We often respond to that question by saying: 'My neighbours are all the people I am living with on this earth, especially the sick, the hungry, the dying, and all who are in need.' But this is not what Jesus says.

18 July 2012

The crowds are fed

Part 4 of a series - 'Seven signs in John'
< An invalid is healed | Index | Walking on water >

People are hungry - and there are a lot of people. Jesus asks the disciples about feeding them and then shows that neither money nor large supplies of food are necessary. We finish with the usual four questions.

Traditional Jordanian breadFor the background to the signs in John and links to the other articles in the series, please read the index page.

At Tabgha on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee is a church at the traditional site of the feeding of the five thousand.

About 300 years after the crowd ate the bread and fish, a woman called Egeria visited and wrote of this site.

'In the same place (not far from Capernaum) facing the Sea of Galilee is a well watered land in which lush grasses grow, with numerous trees and palms. Nearby are seven springs which provide abundant water. In this fruitful garden Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish.'

So let's read the passage from John and then ask the usual four questions.

17 July 2012

An invalid is healed

Part 3 of a series - 'Seven signs in John'
< Healing at a distance | Index | The crowds are fed >

Jesus heals a lame man and tells him to pick up his mat and walk. As it's the Sabbath, this leads to trouble with the Jewish leaders. Once again we will ask four questions after reading the passage.

Remains in the vicinity of the Pool of Bethesda
Here is the third sign in John, for the background please read the index page.

Parts of the Pool of Bethesda are still visible in Jerusalem. The archaeology is not straightforward to understand because of the presence of later structures. But remains of the pool are definitely present.

The covered colonnades have long since gone, but they would have provided cool shade where the sick would have waited, hoping that the water would be stirred so that one person might be healed each day.

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralysed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’

15 July 2012

Throwing stones

The law brings judgement and death. Grace brings forgiveness and life. And what I receive I should also freely give to others. There is no advantage in receiving grace if I do not also share it around liberally. As I judge, so will I be judged.

Writing in the dust
While I was walking back from town two days ago I was thinking about the woman caught in adultery and brought before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. And I was struck powerfully by a sudden thought. I realised what Jesus had meant when he said that the one without sin should throw the first stone. he was talking about himself!

Looking the passage up later I discovered, of course, that others had come to this conclusion ahead of me. But the sudden revelation while walking left its mark nonetheless. It had been a revelation to me. It was an example of how abruptly and quite without warning we can grasp a new aspect of something. We suddenly 'get' it, and usually for no particular reason.

13 July 2012

Pink blackberry - IMAGE

(Click the photo for a larger view)

Pink flowered wild blackberry - Photo taken 13th July 2012
Plants vary considerably within a species. Seedlings are all slightly different from one another and this wild, hedgerow blackberry near my home is no exception. Its flowers are easily the most deeply coloured I've seen. The normal colour is from white to a very pale pink.

What does this image say to you? There are no wrong answers. Add a comment.

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

12 July 2012

David Black's convictions

David Black's list of convictions expresses the essence of a spiritual priesthood. The convictions are listed here for you to consider and comment on. Perhaps it's time for a list of this kind, similar to the theses nailed to the church door by Martin Luther.

The Wittenberg door where Luther nailed his theses
I came across the following list of convictions on Alan Knox's blog, 'The assembling of the church'. He in turn had found them on the blog of David Black (9th July 2012).

David suggests that the list expresses the essence of a spiritual priesthood. I agree. (See 1 Peter 2:4-10)

For me this list is quite delightful and very insightful. It deserves to be widely seen and discussed so please add a comment.

Are you convinced of each of these points? If not, which ones do you disagree with and why? Would you add any further convictions of your own? If so, what?

  1. I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.
  2. I am convinced of the normalcy of tent making leadership.

11 July 2012

Healing at a distance

Part 2 of a series - 'Seven signs in John'
< Water becomes wine | Index | An invalid is healed >

In the second of John's signs, Jesus speaks with a royal official in Cana and heals his son. The interaction between Jesus and the official is illuminating. It reveals much about them both.

The royal official pleading for his son
Here is the second sign in John's book about Jesus.

John explained the reason for including this sign as well as six others.

He wrote, 'Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.'

'But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.' (John 20:30-31)

Here, then, is his account of the second sign in which Jesus heals a boy without even having him physically present.

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay ill at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

10 July 2012

Water becomes wine

Part 1 of a series - 'Seven signs in John'
< No earlier items | Index | Healing at a distance >

Jesus was invited to a wedding in the village of Cana. While the wedding reception was still under way the wine ran out. How embarrassing for the bridegroom! There is so much to learn from the people and events in Cana that day.

A modern British wedding reception
This is the first sign in John's gospel. Just to recap, here is John's explanation about the inclusion of this sign in his book about Jesus.

'Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.'

'But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.' (John 20:30-31)

Now read John's account of this first sign.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’

09 July 2012

Seven signs in John - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

The seven signs in John are a useful way of engaging people's attention on who Jesus is. He is more than an historical figure, more than a wise teacher, more than many people realise. These particular seven events were written down to help us see his true nature and significance.

Seven signs in John
Near the end of John's spiritual biography of Jesus, he writes these words.

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

What 'signs' is John referring to here? - There are seven of them, and over the next week or two I plan to write short notes on each one. John wrote about these particular signs '[so] that you might believe'. He regarded them as especially useful in drawing people to believe that Jesus was the Son of the Most High. We should surely take note of them and use them in reaching others.

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