31 October 2012

Sandy storming in

Hurricane Sandy has caused devastation and continues to bring more trouble as it heads into Canada. Why do disasters like this happen? We consider some of the common views held by people of faith and by those who see no need to believe in any deity.

Hurricane Sandy in New York
The Caribbean islands and coasts and then the north-eastern coast of the USA took a major hit when Hurricane Sandy swept in. It has now weakened to post-tropical cyclone status but continues to drop large amounts of snow and rain as it heads north into Canada. Winds, although much reduced, remain dangerous and damaging.

Our hearts and thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by Sandy. Loss of life has been relatively low, things could have been far, far worse. But for families who have lost loved ones this is no real comfort. The losses in terms of property and flood damage and infrastructure are, of course, immense. Rebuilding will take a long time, countless homes and businesses are without power. There's no denying the scale and seriousness of this storm.

Global warming - We are living in changing times. Not only was this a powerful storm, it was also the largest Atlantic hurricane on record. Nothing this size has ever been seen before. The storm surge flooded considerable areas along parts of the US coastline.

What are we to make of all this?

Although no single event proves or disproves the reality of global warming and climate change, this record-breaking storm adds fresh evidence to that already accumulated. It makes it that bit harder to deny that the climate has altered, that bit harder to conclude we are doing no harm by pouring large volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Sandy should, at least, give us all pause to think and reconsider the evidence.

Considering faith - And what should people of faith make of Sandy's devastating effects? No doubt there will be voices from some supporters of Islam claiming that the storm is Allah's retribution upon  the 'Great Satan'. But most Muslims will not think of it in this way or say any such thing, instead feeling sorrow and sympathy towards fellow humans suffering pain and loss.

Atheists, on the other hand, will take the view that such things happen from time to time. It's regrettable and very sad, but it's how the world works. It's up to us to do what we can to avoid problems - don't build on flood plains, create structures that will withstand earthquakes and violent winds. Don't live at the bottom of steep slopes or close to volcanoes. Commendably, many will help to rescue and support those who are hurt or suffer loss.

But what about those of us who follow the teaching and example of Jesus? The majority may not give a second thought to wondering why such things happen. They too will feel sorrow and sympathy and many will pray for those affected by the storm. Others, however, will give serious thought to the question, 'Why?'

In particular, a common thought following any natural disaster is, 'If there is an Almighty Creator in charge of everything that happens, and if this mighty and powerful person is good, why are such things allowed to happen? Why was the world not created to be a safe place?

Some will see disasters as the consequence of sin coming into the world. Others may see it just as the atheists do - this is the way it is.

Another way - I believe we can do much better than this. I was drawn to express my views recently in a comment exchange on another blog. In the next few days I plan to take my comment and expand it as an article here. Watch this space. (Posted 2nd November, Why is life dangerous?)

Meanwhile, here's an earlier article that seems relevant. It records some thoughts we had during a meeting soon after the Haitian earthquake in 2010.

See also:

30 October 2012

A new look for the main article

This is the first post in a new format. A change of font and a focus on the current article will refresh the blog and make it easier to read. There are also several other ways to see 'Journeys of heart and mind'.

The old style blog
From now on I plan to offer articles in this new font and display them in their entirety.

Here's a sample of the old font.

I'm also widening the text area as screen widths have continued to increase and can usually accomodate the new size.

I'll only display a single article (in the past I've offered three truncated articles). Some adjustments and simplifications to the right hand column have further simplified the layout and the images will be larger in future.

I posted my intention to make this change several weeks ago, hoping for some feedback. But it's not too late! Leave a comment to tell me whether you think the new style is an improvement or not.

Dynamic views - There are several other ways to view the site, maybe you'd like to experiment with them. These are alternatives to the normal view so find one you prefer and bookmark it so you can revisit whenever you like. Or bookmark several if you like more than one.

  • Classic - See the current article in full, scroll down for previous posts.
  • Flipcard - An album of images, hover to flip them, click them for the full article.
  • Magazine -  Looks like a magazine page with articles arranged in blocks.
  • Mosaic - Pick a picture.
  • Sidebar - Titles on the left, article on the right.
  • Snapshot - Like a set of photos, hover and click for an article.
  • Timeslide - One photo, several extracts, and all titles month by month.

Mobile devices - There's a separate version of the blog for mobiles.

Sign up - Don't forget that you can also receive the blog posts by email or read them in an RSS feed. The 'Subscribe' tab has all the details.

See also: Changing the websiteEnjoy the viewA new look for 'All about Jesus'

29 October 2012

Biblos

< Bible Gateway | Index | No later items >

Biblos is a complex tool with extensive facilities for Bible research including dictionaries, commentaries, interlinears, concordances, versions in original and modern languages, word studies, parsing information and more.

The Biblos home page
The Biblos web-based Bible tool manages to do a very great deal. The only problem with this breadth of coverage is that it can be tricky to find your way around. But most users will find just a few features that they use regularly and will soon become familiar with those. In other words, don't be put off by the complexity of this tool but focus on learning the parts you need.

Home page - Here's some of the stuff you can find right away on the home page.

  1. Along the top, a row of national flags allow you to choose a language other than English.

26 October 2012

Loving more fully and widely

This is a second contribution to a chain blog on the topic 'one another'. We look at a verse from Romans in which Paul writes of debt, love and the law. It's amazing how much we can draw from just one verse.

British currency
So far in this chain blog we have, between us, looked at the phrase 'one another' from many different angles. The posts have been marvellously complementary.

But in this post I have felt the Spirit nudging me to do something entirely different.

We're going to see how much we can draw from a single occurrence of the phrase 'one another'. I think Romans 13:8 is the particular example I should take.

Here it is in context, verse eight is in italics...

25 October 2012

Bible Gateway

< Online Bible tools | Index | Biblos >

The Bible Gateway is a simple but impressive collection of online Bibles in many languages. If you want to read and search the Bible on your laptop, tablet or phone, it may be all you need. It's free, fast, and effective and comes with helpful extras like reading plans and devotionals.

The Bible Gateway website
Today we're going to take a look at The Bible Gateway. The main purpose of this free website is to provide online Bibles - and there are a lot of them. At the time of writing, there are thirty-four English translations as well as many more in a wide range of other languages. Take a look at the full list.

A clickable list of Bible books is available for each version, as an example, here's the list for the Knox Bible. But the normal way into the Bible Gateway is through its search facility.

24 October 2012

Halloween

Halloween is upon us again. But what is behind it? What are it's origins? We take a look at this autumn festival and see that under the surface it's a curious mix of pagan and early church thinking and tradition.

A traditional Irish celebration of Halloween
It's that time of year again. Small children will be 'trick or treating' - knocking on doors or ringing doorbells and demanding treats. If adults did the same it would be called 'making a demand with menaces'!

I don't wish to spoil anyone's fun, but where does this strange custom come from? Few people today will really know what Halloween is all about.

A little story - Earlier today I was passing some houses in the town when I heard someone calling. When I looked I saw a mum with two girls, they had a table set out, laden with various kinds of cakes decorated with worms and other seasonal designs. They explained that they were selling these Halloween cakes to raise money for a cancer charity - a really worthy cause.

21 October 2012

Online Bible tools

< No earlier items | Index | Bible Gateway >

There are many ways to read and study the Bible. Since the invention of printing this has included paper versions of the Bible as well as commentaries and tools of all kinds. Today we can also use software for Bible reading and study, both locally installed and online.

The Malmesbury Bible
Frank Viola has been writing brief reviews of Bible software, but has decided not to include web-based Bible tools because 'people can test out the free online programs on their own'. (See the comments to his post on WORDsearch.)

Even though the websites are indeed readily available, I think it's worth commenting on them. This will help anyone considering using tools of this kind.

Local or cloud? - First, let's just consider the main differences between local software that you install on your own computer, and tools provided remotely through a web interface.

18 October 2012

Changing the website

It's time to change one or two things about this blog, and it would be good to have some suggestions from my readers. I'm considering changing the way articles are displayed, and I've already modified the range of other blogs I link to.

The Journeys blog in October 2012
I like to check how well the blog is working from time to time.

If necessary I can make some changes. I don't like to change things often as it may cause some confusion, but sometimes a few improvements are necessary.

Recently I added quite a few additional items to the 'Other Blogs' section in the right-hand panel. In a later section of this article I'll explain why.

Current article - But first, I'm considering another change and I'd like to know what you, dear reader, think about it. At present, the default page includes extracts from the three most recent articles and you have to click a 'Read more' link if you want to see an entire article. I might change this.

16 October 2012

Debating science and faith

Science and faith sometimes appear to be at war. But is that inevitable? A conference in Switzerland is examining these issues and draws together influential scientists, theologians and philosophers.

The Whirlpool Galaxy
A conference is underway as I write, a conference with a difference. The whole affair is very refreshing and encouraging and exciting.

It brings together influential scientists, theologians and philosophers to discuss the nature of science and faith, and focusses on the Big Bang theory and the discovery of the Higgs boson.

The conference is being held in Switzerland and is called 'The Big Bang and the interfaces of knowledge: towards a common language?' The aim is to explore questions around the interface between science and faith and whether a common framework of knowledge might be possible.

You can download the programme as a PDF file (165 kB) or read brief details online from the website of the organisers, Wilton Park in collaboration with CERN in Geneva. There's also a very useful BBC News article about the conference 'Big Bang and religion mixed in Cern debate'.

15 October 2012

Bible Tools - Index

(See indexes on other topics)

For anyone wishing to read or study the Bible there are many good tools available to use online or install locally. To help you decide which to investigate further, this series of articles briefly reviews some of the offerings and explains their capabilities and scope.

Bibles and tools This list below includes my own articles about online tools and Frank Viola's material on locally installed software.

Groups of sixty to eighty

< Groups of six to twenty | Index | Dunbar and 130-160 >

Groups of around seventy are good for workshops, perhaps with an invited speaker or a small team. It's an excellent number for training and for networking, but much too large for deeper, family-like relationship.

A group of around seventy
Numbers larger than twenty lose the sense of family. Although it's possible to know everyone in a group this size, it's not possible to be intimate with so many.

This is too large a number for a circle, most likely there will be rows of seating and an area at the front for speakers.

But there are ways in which such groups are rather useful. It's a good size for training purposes with one person or a small team presenting material and opportunities to ask questions. A group this size can also divide up to discuss aspects of what has been presented or to develop answers to questions.

12 October 2012

Jesus is the pattern

What are the best methods for making disciples and planting churches? Are there techniques we can learn, best practices to follow? Becoming a beekeeper is a good analogy. What can go wrong and how do we get it right?

Learning beekeeping
Ross Rohde asks some good questions at the end of his most recent blog post. Ross describes three patterns guiding the way we work. He invites his readers to choose one of the questions and respond. I recommend Ross's article, refer to it for more detail. Also take a look at Felicity Dale's post 'Principles or techniques?'

Question and answer - I've chosen the question, 'Do you think we can do ministry Jesus style just by following the pattern ourselves or treating it as one more technique? Is the pattern itself enough?'

My answer is that doing what Jesus did is not enough. The gospels contain plenty of examples of what he does, and those examples form a clear and striking pattern. But underlying the pattern and the examples is a fundamental cause.

10 October 2012

Worship in the tracery

We are made in Yahweh's image and as he does all things well, so should we. In fact, working well and to a high standard can be thought of as a form of worship. We take a look at this in terms of mediaeval workmanship.

York Minster's stone tracery A few days ago I posted about York Minster and provided links to a small collection of photos of this famous building. This time I want to focus on one of those images and consider how worship can involve doing things well.

Right at the outset it's worth saying that true worship is 'in spirit and in truth'. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and he is also the Spirit of Truth because Jesus is Truth in person. If I worship in and through Yahshua (Jesus) I will indeed worship in spirit and in truth because that is who he is. But can a building be worship?

No it can't, but the act of building it may be. We are made in Yahweh's image and part of that image is creativity. He is creative and he made us to be creative too. It comes out in so many ways, we see it in art and literature, in business, in science and technology. His creativity far exceeds ours and we worship because of that greatness, revealed partly in what he has made. This universe is so far beyond anything we can make. Our creativity is limited to merely rearranging small parts of what already exists; he created it all from nothing.

08 October 2012

Accepting one another in love

All around us are people who seem to be difficult, unlovely, angry, and burdensome. If we follow Jesus we will find a way to love all these people. And the benefits of doing so are boundless.

The Henri Nouwen Society website
This is a repost of something I wrote in June. It seems appropriate to use it as link six in a chain blog started by Alan Knox on the topic 'One Another'.

Showing is more powerful than telling. Doing and showing is how Yahshua often revealed the truth. That doesn't mean he didn't use words, but he did things like washing his follower's feet and then used words (if necessary) to clarify the meaning of the action.

To love or to judge? - A difficult situation arose amongst friends recently, and the Spirit of Christ showed me that the best way to resolve it will be to demonstrate love. Isn't this always the best way? I think so.

06 October 2012

York Minster

(Click the photo for a larger view)

York Minster from the city wall near Monk Bar - Photo taken 4th October 2012
This cathedral church, the seat of the Archbishop of York, is the largest Gothic Cathedral in northern Europe. It dominates the city centre and is here clearly seen from the ancient city walls.

Like all mediaeval cathedrals, York Minster was constructed to reflect the glory of the Most High. In its day it would have been completely awe-inspiring to the ordinary working people, a building seemingly as far beyond their humble wattle and daub dwellings as heaven is from earth. (More photos of the Minster.)

03 October 2012

Surprises open us to change

< Where he treads I must follow | Index | No later items >

Here is a second set of answers to some questions about how Papa is dealing with his people in our generation. You might like to consider your own answers which may be quite different from mine. See what you think.

Full of surprisesThis is part two of of a series in which I'm sharing my answers to some questions posted on the 'Missional Challenge' blog. See the first part for the background.

Here are the next three questions, then we'll work through them one at a time.

  • How is God coming to this generation?
  • How is that different than any other generation?
  • Are you under God’s authority? How do you know?

How is God coming to this generation? - That is a huge question, and the answers we find are going to be game changing. If we get this wrong we will constantly struggle because we'll be working against the grain of everything he is doing. If we get it right we will be in tune with his purpose and swept along effortlessly by the wide, deep river of living water.

02 October 2012

Doggerland

The book 'Britain Begins' tells the story of the landscape and people who lived in these islands from the end of the last great ice-age (when they were still part of mainland Europe) right up to the end of the Saxon period. It's a great read.

Part of north-west Europe 10 000 years agoI'm currently working my way through 'Britain Begins', Barry Cunliffe's latest book. Sir Barry Cunliffe is a well-regarded archaeologist working at Oxford University. In fact he's Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology at the University's Institute of Archaeology.

In the book he traces the origins of human occupation in what is now the British Isles, though at the time of the early settlements some 10 000 years ago, most the North Sea was an extension of the North European Plain and Britain was part of the European continent.

Part of an illustration from the book (right) shows some of the Atlantic coastline of Europe around 30 000 years ago, along with the ice sheets in grey and today's coastlines in orange. (Doggerland in my title refers to the central part of what is now the North Sea. It was an area of rolling hills and river valleys.)

01 October 2012

Powerless!

A power cut was soon solved once the engineer was called. At first he arranged a temporary fix, then he brought in a team to make a permanent repair. Even in this ordinary event there's an analogy for a spiritual issue.

Power engineers at work
Yesterday was an interesting day. I was working on a blog post when I became aware the laptop screen had dimmed and I'd lost the internet connection. It dawned on me that we might have had a power cut and when I checked, sure enough we had.

Donna headed off to an all-day meeting and I began work in the garden where I'm dismantling our old greenhouse. Coming back in later I found the power was still out... hmm... Nearly an hour now, on the very rare occasions that we have a cut, it usually comes back within ten minutes or so.

I went next door to ask if they had power - they did! This might be bad news, perhaps something was wrong with our distribution box. I went the other side and they told me that yes, they had lost power too. Not just us then.

Copyright

Creative Commons Licence

© 2002-2014, Chris J Jefferies

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. A link to the relevant article on this site is sufficient attribution. If you print the material please include the URL. Thanks! Click through photos for larger versions. Images from Wikimedia Commons will then display the original copyright information.
Real Time Web Analytics