31 January 2013

Full Moon rising

We take an unusual look at our nearest neighbour in the Solar System, the Moon. Watch it rise, with some unanticipated activity in the foreground, and then ponder some things you may not have considered before.

Full Moon
This remarkable video by Australian Mark Gee shows the Moon rising in an unexpected way in the New Zealand evening sky. There are many things to notice about this scene and I'll go through them below the embedded video. But please watch it first, you will not be disappointed!

You can watch it right here on the page. But I strongly recommend that you click the full screen control (the four arrow symbol at bottom right) and if you have a good internet connection, also make sure you view it in HD.

Come back here after you watch it, scroll down the page a little, and we'll talk about what you have just watched.



Big Moon or small people? - Mark was using a good telephoto lens here. Imagine looking at a nearly full Moon rising above a distant hill line with people walking along the ridge. They'd be silhouetted against the bright Moon but they be almost too small to see. In this shot both the Moon and the people are magnified by the same amount.

Fuzzy and shimmering Moon - Look at the edge of the Moon. Do you see the constant disturbance of what would should be a sharp and smooth edge? This is due to temperature differences along the line of sight. The density and refractive index of the air depend on temperature. You can see the same effect above a road surface on a hot day, or above a hot roof. Objects behind the shimmering air wobble and move continually.

Steady people - Take a careful look at the people and the grass and the fence line. Are they shimmering too? No! But why not? The answer may not be immediately obvious. There's a great distance of air between the camera and the Moon, much less between the camera and the people. Most of the disturbed air is way beyond the people, between them and the Moon.

Where's the Sun? - As a full Moon rises, the Sun sets on the opposite horizon. At times other than full Moon this is not the case. Sometimes both Sun and Moon will be in the sky at the same time. At other times both may be below the horizon. New Moon, when they are both in the same part of the sky, is a good time for astronomers because the sky is nice and dark all night long.

So why is there no sunlight? - If the Sun is setting as the full Moon rises, why can't we see its light on the people and the vegetation? If you'd been there at the time you'd have thought the sky was quite light, there may indeed have been a lovely glow behind you as you looked at the Moon. But the full Moon would have been brighter than the remaining light from the Sun and the camera was set to record the Moon, not the people.

Also, this Moon is not perfectly full. Notice that the right-hand edge of the Moon is sharper and brighter than the left-hand edge. The Sun had already dipped below the horizon before the Moon made its appearance.

Isn't the Moon moving the wrong way? - In the UK where I live, the Moon moves steadily to the right as it rises. But this Moon moves steadily left! Why? It moves to the right in the USA too, and indeed anywhere north of the equator. But in the southern hemisphere the Moon moves left. If you're a northerner imagine standing on your head. Now which way would the Moon seem to move - left or right? It moves from east to west wherever you live.

And it's upside down! - Indeed it is. But so are Australians. Or we northerners are, it depends who you ask.

It's more yellow than I expected - That's because it's made of well-matured cheese. I thought everyone knew that.

The real reason is that we are looking at it through a lot of atmosphere. Air scatters blue light (which is why the daylight sky looks blue). Near the horizon both the Sun and the Moon appear yellow or orange, or even reddish. As they rise higher they have less and less air to shine through so the orange effect is lost and a Moon high in the sky appears white (though in fact it's a rather dark grey). The night sky is dark and the Moon appears intensely white because of the high contrast.

More about the video - Mark Gee tells the story of making this video in his own words; it's well worth reading so do go and take a look. Mark's video was made on 28th January and featured on 'Astronomy Picture of the Day' (APOD) on 30th January.

Questions:

  • We live in a truly astounding universe. What is the most amazing thing you have ever seen?
  • Are you surprised to see how fast the Moon rises?
  • How do you feel when you watch this video?

See also:

30 January 2013

Psalms 22 and 23

Psalms 22 and 23 seem to be inextricably linked, death on the one hand and life on the other. Jesus received one, we receive the other. This post digs a little deeper as it examines these two psalms and those around them.

New life springing upA few weeks ago I was reading Psalm 22 which is full of references to the coming Messiah.

There are passages here that Jesus quoted about himself and there are descriptions of him in his bodily suffering and emotional torment. We'll come back to some of those things in a moment.

But what struck me quite suddenly and forcefully was how this psalm is followed by Psalm 23, a firm favourite for so many people.

Psalm 22 is about Jesus' suffering and where it will finally lead, Psalm 23 is about our inheritance as our Father's children. These two psalms are like mirror images of one another. Psalm 22 describes what we deserve but Jesus received. Psalm 23 describes what Jesus deserves but we receive.

Illuminating our hearts and minds - These two psalms would not have been seen that way when they were written, of course. But from the days of the early church right down to our own time they have had the potential to illuminate our hearts and minds in a new way by what they proclaim. And Yahshua himself clearly saw them in this way during his life and particularly as he was hanging on the cross.

I dare say it's been pointed out many times, but I was really excited to have seen the link between these two psalms. Isn't it amazing how he reveals truth while we read and consider his written word? This, of course, is just one of the avenues the Holy Spirit uses to illuminate our hearts and minds.

I wondered if this idea might be taken further.

Psalms 1 to 21 are full of references to Old Testament themes. There are references to creation, the  tabernacle and the temple, and so much more. But Psalm 24 describes the kingdom of heaven. And Psalm 25 and following unpack some of the details of this new kingdom life and inheritance.

But let's return to Psalms 22 and 23. Some of the words and imagery are very familiar to us.

Death in Psalm 22 - Take, for example, Psalm 22:1 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' It's worth mentioning that the Hebrew word translated 'God' is 'Eli' which is related to 'Eloh' and the plural 'Elohim'. The word simply means 'Mighty One' or 'Powerful One'. It is in fact the same word as 'Allah' in Arabic which also means 'Mighty One'. A good translation in English is simply 'Almighty'.

When Jesus quoted this verse from the cross they thought he was calling Elijah because the sound is similar. (Elijah means 'Yah[weh] is the Mighty One'.)

The onlookers shouting at him while he was hanging there unwittingly fulfilled Psalm 22:7-8. Psalm 22:14-18 is a very clear reference to the crucifixion. From verse 22 onwards the psalm turns from his death to what was achieved by it.

Life in Psalm 23 - But Psalm 23 deals with the personal benefits we receive individually in Christ. If we are not in him we have no part in these things although they're available to all who will come to him and believe on his name for rescue. Just as words from Psalm 22 were on Yahshua's lips as he hung dying, so words from Psalm 23 should be on our lips as we live this more abundant life that he gives us.

All these things in Psalm 23 were his, but now they can be ours because he longs to share them with us. He will be our Shepherd, leading us to safe places to eat and drink. A Shepherd makes all the difference, the sheep can safely feed even with a prowling lion in the area. He pours his Spirit over us like oil and we can live with him, not only 'all the days of [our] life' but 'for ever'.

Jesus is new Life springing up in a cold, dark world. Thank you, Lord! HalleluYah!

Questions:

  • What, for you personally, is the most meaningful thought in Psalm 22?
  • And what, for you personally, is the most meaningful thought in Psalm 23?
  • Apart from the snowdrop, what other examples of new life can you identify in the natural world?

See also:

27 January 2013

Icy pond in St Neots - IMAGE

(Click the photo for a larger view)

An icy pond in the Riverside Park - Photo taken 22nd January 2013
We've had some quite cold weather recently in St Neots, with several light falls of snow. But now the temperature has risen and heavy rain last night washed the last of the snow away.

The photo shows things as they were just four days ago, but now there's squelchy mud everywhere. The first snowdrops are in flower and are early signs that spring will soon be on its way.

See other image posts.

24 January 2013

What are we called to do?

Rhoda PickensToday we have a guest post from Rhoda Pickens, who blogs from Wales in the UK at 'Living to please God'.

She brings us some great thoughts about how we can discover our role and function in the body, and how we can be more sure about it. Do you ever wonder, 'Am I living the life the Lord wants for me?' Rhoda investigates some useful pointers that help us examine ourselves and find a secure sense of direction.

How Do We Know What We Are Called To Do? - Rhoda Pickens

We all have things that God wants us to do, but how do we know what?

‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.’ (Ephesians 2:10)

There are some callings that we all have as Christians:

  • To seek God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • To seek to become more like Christ (Matthew 6:33)
  • To seek the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom here on earth (Matthew 6:33, Matthew 28:19)
  • To disciple others and teach them more about Him (Matthew 28:19,20)
  • We should aim to be ‘fruitful in every good work’ (Colossians 1:10)

But there does seem to be a pattern in the Bible of some people being specifically called to certain things, for example when He said to Abram to leave his country and family and to go where He told him.

It doesn’t record this of everyone though, so I don’t think everyone should necessarily seek a specific life calling. But I believe there are things that God has set aside for us to do so we should be praying that God would lead us to those things.

An area where I do believe we need to seek a call also, is for full time ministry. When we are in the trenches we want to know that God called us to be there so that we don’t go running home. Also we want to know God will provide our needs because He has called us to do that work.

How do we know what God might be calling us to? - Here are a few thoughts on this, though there may well be more to it than I have mentioned!

Look at your gifts - The Bible tells us to use our gifts, so if we are gifted in a certain area, at least spiritually anyway, then we should look for opportunities to use them. This may well lead you eventually to an area that God is calling you to work in.

‘As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.’ (1 Peter 4:10)

Be willing to do what He wants you to do - It is all very well asking God to show you what He wants you to do, but if you’re not willing to do it then there may not be much point in Him telling you!

Isaiah’s call is often quoted in the Bible, but it starts not with God calling Him specifically, but asking openly, “Who will go for Us?” and then Isaiah says “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) Isaiah was obviously willing and available to do what God was wanting done.

Ask God what He wants you to do - This may sound obvious, but often people don’t really take the time to pray about what God is wanting them to do with their lives. I know I didn’t until I was in the second year of university and I started feeling restless and then I started praying. Before that I was just headed in the direction of the combination of my parent’s and my decision making.

‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.’ (James 1:5)

A few tips for asking God:

  • Retreat - Try to get away from daily life to spend time with God. It is often when you are out on a long walk or up on the mountain side like Jesus, or at a retreat, that you can understand more how God is leading you.
  • Read the Bible – it is God’s word, so if we want to find His will we should definitely be reading it, and asking God to speak to us!

God may work through your desires - Often God will give you a burden for a specific people or place, or make you feel restless. I wouldn’t use this alone to guide me, but it can be a way that God prods you, like Nehemiah who sat down and wept when he heard that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates burnt with fire. That eventually led to him going back there to lead the rebuilding.

I think you do need to be careful with this one though, as your desires can also lead you the wrong way!

Give it time - Jim Elliot spent several years seeking direction from God before he finally had the peace he wanted about knowing that tribal work in South American jungles was his general purpose. It can take time.

Don’t think about your ability or lack of it - I love what Chuck Smith says, that God doesn’t want your ability, but your availability. He will provide all we need, just like He did with Jeremiah:

“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1:7-8)

Godly counsel - Just like with all guidance, godly counsel is very useful. Again we have to be careful with this one because well meaning Christians can try to persuade us away from what God is calling us to do! Try to find someone who has surrendered themselves, is serving God wholeheartedly and has some experience in the faith.

I liked what Pete Fleming said: ‘I think a call to the mission-field is no different from any other means of guidance, a call is nothing more or less than obedience to the will of God, as God presses it home to the soul by whatever means He chooses’

And I think that if you are really wanting to do God’s will, and persevere in prayer, then He will show you what He is calling you to – though it may take more time than you thought!

Questions:

  • Are you clear about he Lord's calling on your life or are you just drifting?
  • In your circumstances, which of Rhoda's points did you find most helpful?
  • Will you be putting these ideas into practice? If so how and when?

See also:

22 January 2013

From the beginning to atoms

The universe, Part 4
< In the beginningSeries index | Penzias, Wilson and some noise >

The universe grows larger, cooler and more complex at astonishing speed until it's a few minutes old. Further change is much slower and less dramatic. Fundamental forces and particles are generated, hydrogen and helium are formed and light is released.

The cosmic microwave background radiation
The first few minutes of the universe's existence see a huge increase in volume and a dramatic reduction in temperature. Gravity, light, and atomic forces separate from one another. And finally matter comes into existence in the form of hydrogen and helium nuclei and electrons.

More fundamentally we could say that the universe evolves from a simple, evenly distributed beginning and generates greater and greater complexities confined to smaller and smaller volumes as it expands. We'll explore this concept in a later post.

In Part 3 we discussed the beginning but also understood that we can't directly understand or observe it. A good theory of quantum gravity might help, but we don't have one yet.

So how near the beginning can we claim to have any real understanding? The answer is back to 10-43 of a second. If you want to see that as an ordinary fraction you would need to write 1 at the top with 1 followed by 43 zeroes at the bottom. So we understand the universe (in some sense) back to a very, very tiny part of a second.

What exactly do we know from that very early time?

Gravity and inflation - For one thing, gravity and the other fundamental forces may have all been of equal strength at first, with gravity separating out at 10-43 seconds. There is theoretical support for this. After gravity separated to become the very mild force it is today, the universe entered a time of extremely rapid expansion known as inflation.

This is not just something scientists have dreamed up; the observed properties of the universe can only be explained by such a rapid inflation during which it became unimaginably larger in a tiny, tiny fraction of a second. Before inflation the universe was smaller than a sub atomic particle. Inflation ended between 10-33 and 10-32 seconds, but by this time the universe was spacious (perhaps as large as a football) and packed with elementary particles that still exist in our own time - quarks, antiquarks and gluons.

How do we know all this? There are three important things that constrain what is possible.

  • Theory - Based on what we know of the later universe, theory rules out most hypotheses about the earliest eras. Only an early universe similar to what is described above could have resulted in what we see today.
  • Cosmology - Observations suggest a great deal. The cosmic background radiation (shown above) and the distribution of galaxy clusters, for example, can only be explained by inflation.
  • High energy physics experiments - By creating high energies in particle accelerators we can observe the properties and behaviour of particles in a similar state to these early phases of the universe.

Here's one more thing about inflation. If, as many think, our universe began as a quantum fluctuation, then without inflation it would have been the most transient of fluctuations and the universe would have been snuffed out almost immediately while it was still very tiny.

The electroweak epoch - The next stage in the evolution of the universe involved the strong nuclear force separating from the remaining two fundamental forces. Like the earlier events, this too happened at a very early time, around 10-34 seconds. More particles were able to condense out of the soup of energy at this stage, W bosons, Z bosons and Higgs Bosons became common. These are particles that can be generated in our most powerful accelerators today, so we are able to study them and understand them reasonably well.

The universe continued to expand and cool so that by 10-12 seconds bosons could no longer be created. 10-12 seconds is also called a picosecond (one quadrillionth of a second). Lasers with pulses as short as a picosecond are used for cutting and shaping materials, in medicine, and for removing tatoos. It's still a very brief time, but meaningful enough for real life use. Light travels just 0.3 mm in this time.

The quark, hadron and lepton epochs - The universe continued to expand and cool. After it was a picosecond old the electromagnetic and weak forces separated and the universe at this time was full of a dense quark-gluon plasma.

By the end of this epoch at around a microsecond old (one millionth of a second), the universe was cool enough that the quarks could combine to form protons, neutrons and their anti-particles. At an age of about one second the universe was cool enough for particles and anti-particles to annihilate, leaving a small excess of protons and neutrons.

As the universe expanded and cooled further and aged to about ten seconds, electrons and other leptons were also able to annihilate with their anti-particles leaving a small excess of mostly protons, neutrons, electrons, and photons.

Over the next few minutes conditions cooled to a point where atomic nuclei could form, mostly deuterium and helium with a little lithium. At this point the universe contained these nuclei, protons, electrons, and photons. After a further 380 000 years of cooling and expansion the protons and other nuclei combined with the electrons to form hydrogen and helium atoms (and some lithium atoms). This allowed the photons to move freely (the cosmic microwave background radiation), space became transparent and the earliest structures formed. These structures were simply volumes of slightly varying density and temperature. They are the first things we can 'see' directly and are shown in the illustration at the top of the article.

From this point on the universe becomes more and more recognisable to us, albeit still far hotter and denser than today. We will be able to see the rest of the story much more in terms of astronomy.


Questions: 
  • Are you surprised at the amount of change that took place in the first second?
  • Is the creation of the universe more complex than you had imagined?
  • How do you feel about a universe that started this way?

See also: 


< In the beginning | Series index | Penzias, Wilson and some noise >

15 January 2013

Cornerstone - Unexpected meeting

< 8th January 2013 | Index | No later items >

Meeting up again to think and pray about a house of prayer, Chris and I were pleased to meet another friend unexpectedly. Although we didn't spend the time as we had intended, there was a sense that we had spent it as Father intended. And that is far better!

Unexpected, yet glorious light
Chris and I had agreed to meet at Cornerstone again for more focussed prayer towards the goal of a house of prayer for St Neots.

I arrived first, ordered a coffee, and sat reading, praying, and chatting with the staff. After I'd been there a while I noticed someone coming from the healing room. It was Tendai.


She joined me for a drink and we exchanged news for a few minutes. Then Chris arrrived and I introduced my two friends. As I did so I felt there was something significant in our meeting like this, it seemed just right, perhaps even prearranged, as if we were here for a greater purpose. When I mentioned this later it seemed that Chris and Tendai both felt the same. Sometimes the light in our lives can be quite unexpected, yet glorious.

Exchanging information - She told us about some of the encouragement they are getting from offering hugs and a listening ear on the street in town. People are sometimes asking for prayer now. This idea comes from Chris Duffett and is a wonderful way of engaging with everyday people in everyday ways, reaching deeper into their hearts and minds meaningfully, making people smile, encouraging them and making the most of fleeting moments.

We in turn told her about the house of prayer idea and about Ffald-y-Brenin and The Grace Outpouring and the idea of speaking a blessing over people, places, and organisations.

After Tendai had left, Chris and I chattted a little longer and blessed Cornerstone and even the pavement as we walked back to the Market Square.

Questions:

  • Are there times in your life when the unexpected has been better than the expected?
  • How important is it that we network with one another?
  • Are you praying for the place where you live? If not, could you?

See also:


< 8th January 2013 | Index | No later items >

13 January 2013

Meet in houses

Choudhrie's steps, Part 2 of 21
< Clergy and laity | Series index | Small and informal >

For the second step in transforming church life, Victor Choudhrie urges us to meet in a different place. Instead of 'temples made by human hands' he recommends 'houses of peace'. What does he mean by this? How do we find 'houses of peace'?

Is there a house of peace here?This is Victor Choudhrie's second step for transforming the life of the church.

Move from meeting in temples to gathering in 'houses of peace'. 'God does not dwell in temples made by human hands'; rather He dwells in human hearts. For we are the mobile walking and talking temples of the living God, with a maximum of organism and a minimum of organization. Luke 10:5-9; Matthew 10:11-13; Acts 7:48-49; 2 Corinthians 6:16


As with step 1 there's a lot to digest. Once again, step 2 assumes the reader is part of a typical western church. We are comfortable with the idea of meeting as a large group in a spacious building, But Victor Choudhrie challenges us to read the New Testament with fresh eyes and open minds and calls us to meet somewhere entirely different. Let's unpack this a little.

Temple or house of peace? - Are we 'dwell[ing] in temples made by human hands'? Surely not! The Temple was in Jerusalem, not here in my town. Why does he say we are meeting in 'temples'?

What is the essence of a temple? It's a special place where people come to worship their chosen god. Is that what we do on a Sunday morning? Well, yes, in a way it is exactly what we do. We all know that the place where we meet is not special, yet we treat it reverentially. Or, if we hire a building once a week, although the building is ordinary we regard the gathering itself to be special in some way.

And what is a 'house of peace'? Reading the Luke and Matthew passages it's clear that travelling is involved here. When we arrive in a new place we're to search for a home where we will be made welcome. So rather than meeting in a special place, we might consider meeting in any home that will welcome us. That implies smaller numbers (200 people won't fit in a typical house) and it implies lack of organisation (no worship band, no pulpit, no rows of seats).

There are at least two ways of looking at this.

Mission or community? - The first one involves going out to find people of peace, spending time with them sharing the good news of Jesus, asking them to gather their close friends and family in their home, coaching them to lead the new house church so created and teaching them to repeat the process themselves. That's one view. This is what the disciples and early church did. Meeting as part of a small community in a home means you are part of a network of such meetings and actively planting out new ones.

The second way of looking at it is that the small meeting at home is a family, a stable group of people that love and care for one another, help one another out, build one another up, and encourage one another.

In practice, most home-based churches will have elements of both viral spread and family group. The proportion of the mix depends on environment. Where there is a large harvest in the local area the missional aspect may be the major one, where there are already many believers, the community aspect may the most widely expressed.

This second step requires additional, fundamental change of a most demanding kind. In the first step we lost our leaders, now we are losing our building!

How many conventional churches would be willing to take such a major and seemingly foolhardy step? Perhaps not many. And what sort church would do so? Perhaps the answer to that is one who's members are looking to follow Jesus closely and are paying attention to what he says.

Releasing resources - How much money and time does it take to manage church in 'temple' mode? Add up the cost of a building, either rented weekly or purchased outright, and the expenses involved in staff salaries, office space and equipment, lighting, heating and other running costs and the annual bill for just one church is very large. Now factor in the time people spend supporting all of this church infrastructure. The time and money absorbed by non-essential activities is immense.

Now multiply that by the number of churches (over a dozen in St Neots where I live) and you can begin to comprehend the resources that would be released if we all met in homes. Most of those resources could be used to support mission work, to help one another, and meet everyday needs in the community.

It's not that conventional churches don't spend time and money on the community or on mission, some make considerable efforts in that regard. But how much more could we do?

And here's the main point. How often do we stop and ask the Spirit of Christ to guide us in these things? If we asked him, what would he say to us? Would he command us, 'Go and make bricks and build a physical structure for me'? Probably not, that's what Pharaoh commanded the Israelites.

No, he is much more inclined to tell his people, 'Go in my name and feed the hungry, heal the sick, share the good news, look for the house of peace and the person of peace and allow me to build my church there, a body made of living stones'.

Probable responses - How will traditional churches receive the suggestion to move out of a 'temple' and into 'houses of peace'? As with step one there are three possibilities.
  1. Some may reject the step out of hand because it goes against church tradition and destroys what we have been accustomed to. Many may feel it's an unsafe and unwise move, a step into the unknown.
  2. Others may try to adjust what they already have. For example, they may stress the value of home groups and reduce the importance of the Sunday service in a large, central location. This meeting may become a celebration held once every month or two.
  3. And some might take hold of step two enthusiastically, replacing the main location altogether and focussing all their resources on growing healthy gatherings in homes.

Questions:

  • What arguments do you foresee being used to retain the use of a large meeting place?
  • Small and large meetings both have advantages and disadvantages, how many you can list?
  • What does Choudhrie mean by a 'maximum of organism and minimum of organisation'?

See also:


< Clergy and laity | Series index | Small and informal >

12 January 2013

Words - a poem

Here's a poem by Phil Groom, it's called 'Words'. He wrote it in 2009 but it was especially appropriate in an online discussion a few days ago. 'Words' is eloquent about the damage that words can do when they're used as weapons.

A brick and broken glass
This is a poem written by Phil Groom in 2009.

Just a few days ago he dropped it into a debate that had turned a bit nasty. It didn't seem to register in the debate but I read it and thought how appropriate is was, and what a wonderful bit of creative poetry it is.

It speaks of the damage words can do, and how they come back to haunt us.

We can put words out there by what we say and what we write, but we can never take them back once they've been heard or read.

Jesus made this point when he told the Pharisees that it's not what goes into a person that makes them unclean, but what comes out. The Jews had strict food laws, but it's not wrong food that defiles us, it's wrong words (Matthew 15:11).

Phil graciously said I might reproduce his poem here. But you can also to see it in it's original context on Phil's boring blog (which is not boring at all).

Words

I threw a brick
through a window last night.
The brick just laughed
while the window cried -
bits of broken glass lying bleeding on the floor,
no one picked them up:
no one knew what they were for.

Throwing bricks
through the windows
of other people’s lives
leaving jagged edges jutting
out at us like sharpened knives:
we think we are so clever
with the careful words we choose
and we feel so much better
when they leave a nasty bruise.

Words are free —
but we’ll pay the price,
Words are weapons —
but we’d best think twice
before we draw them
to join in the fight —
will we speak in love
or will we speak in spite?

Did no one ever tell you
that a word is like a sword?
Good for slashing,
good for stabbing,
and it brings its own reward
as the blood flows freely down the polished blade
to leave your best friend reeling with the mess you’ve made…

Words are like a rainbow,
dancing in the sky,
filled with golden promises
that hide behind a lie:
for when the storm is over
the rainbow can’t be found
and the pot of gold
it promised you
is gone,
without a sound.

WORDS!
They can pick you up
or they can knock you down,
they can creep like mice
or they can dance like clowns,
tumbling like an avalanche
to bury me alive,
whirling like a boomerang,
there’s nowhere left to hide,
coming back to haunt me:
like a brick between the eyes.


Questions:

  • How often have you said something in haste and later wished you hadn't?
  • Can you think of times when words ('mere' words) have deeply hurt you?
  • Have you forgiven the people who spoke those words?
  • Do you stop to think before speaking?

See also:

11 January 2013

In the beginning

The universe, Part 3
< How does science work?Series index | From the beginning to atoms >

The beginning of the universe is hidden from us although we know it's about 13.75 billion years old. We can theorise about it using mathematical tools, but we can't see it and we can't measure it. Everything began at that point - space, energy, even time itself.

Maths is an essential tool
We can't see the beginning itself. People sometimes talk about the Big Bang and they imagine a huge explosion crashing out into an empty expanse of endless space.

But that's not right. If you see it in that way you are really not seeing it at all!

Nothing existed before the Big Bang. At least no physical thing that we can see or know inside this universe existed.

There was a singularity, though it's difficult to imagine one of those or what it implies.

  • Time began at the beginning, so before the beginning is meaningless.
  • Space began at the beginning, until then there had been no room in which anything could have existed. There was nowhere to explode into.
  • Energy began then too, beforehand there was no energy.
  • And there was no matter because matter is just condensed energy.
  • Even the laws of physics began at the beginning

Time, space, energy and physics all had their origins at the beginning, and we can't investigate that extraordinary phenomenon - the beginning. We can't see it, we can't visit it, we can't measure it, we can't really imagine it. Not only is it far more extraordinary than we think, it is far more extraordinary than we are able to think.

And perhaps the most amazing thing about the beginning is that eventually we came from it; we are here and are able to think about how extraordinary it all is.

Theoretical problems - It's almost as if the universe doesn't want us to understand its origin. Our best models for the earliest moments of the universe are mathematical. OK, really our only models for this are mathematical.

However there's a serious issue, even with that. If at the beginning the universe was infinitely small then some of the numbers in the models become zero, or they become infinite. Not only does the universe seem to explode, so does the maths.

Maths doesn't always handle zeros and infinities especially well, they can be a problem. It makes mathematical models difficult as we try to apply them closer and closer to the beginning. This is driving some mathematicians and cosmologists to think that there may not be a beginning at all, just a certain minimum size and maximum density before which the universe was larger and, perhaps, time ran the other way. Or something.

Is there room for intelligence? - We can only think about it because we are here. There are no other animals on this planet that even know there was a beginning. We are unique on Earth.

I imagine there must be many other intelligent minds in the universe and it's likely that all of them give some thought to the beginning. Each in their own, unique way no doubt. The fact that there is a beginning is one of the reasons I believe in an even greater intelligence that caused the universe to begin. What is certain is that intelligence is almost inevitable given the properties of the universe, but it couldn't appear until a lot of other things were in place.

But for a moment, let's consider the alternative that the universe has always existed and will always exist with new energy and matter appearing to 'fill the gaps' as it expands. In the 1950s and 60s many cosmologists argued this was the case, it was called the 'Steady State Theory'. But it's since been shown to be incorrect.

But if it was correct I would still feel the need for a first cause, a greater power and intelligence to make it exist. So whether there was a beginning or not, I will still believe in a Creator.

What is the alternative? It's all just causeless?

After the beginning? - But there was a beginning, and we can understand some of the things that happened soon afterwards when the universe, time, space, energy and physics were all very new. And you'll be astounded to learn that we understand some things about it even a tiny fraction of a second after the beginning. A much tinier fraction than you think (unless you're a cosmologist).

It all began roughly 13.75 billion years ago. Our Solar System and this Earth are around 4.5 billion years old or about a third of the age of the universe. The universe was smaller then too.

If you made it this far, congratulations! After this things get easier as the universe grows bigger, older and more familiar. Next time we'll pick up the story at that point where we think we know something, and we'll find out just how awesomely near the beginning that is.


Questions:

  • How comfy are you with the idea of a creative intelligence causing this universe?
  • How comfy are you with the idea of the absence of any such creative intelligence?
  • Does your head hurt yet? Go and get a cup of tea, or coffee, or a glass of wine.

See also:


< How does science work?Series index | From the beginning to atoms >

08 January 2013

Cornerstone - Prayer for St Neots

< 27th May 2012 | Index | 15th January 2013 >

Two of us met at Cornerstone to talk about a Ffald-y-Brenin style house of prayer in St Neots. That's not going to work well with just the two of us so we're interested to meet anyone else who is like-minded. Meanwhile we plan to meet weekly to talk and pray further.

Part of the river front in St Neots
A friend (another Chris) and I met at Cornerstone for coffee yesterday to consider the way forward for a house of prayer for the town. We've discussed this before, last time we met at Costa some weeks before Christmas.

Chris feels quite strongly drawn to the Ffald-y-Brenin approach to the house of prayer, I'm feeling that I'd like to be involved but can't offer a large amount of time as I'm already so busy. We agreed to meet weekly for a time and see how it goes. Today we spent quite a while chatting about the situation and finding out a bit more about one another's views.

We prayed specifically that Father would send workers into the harvest here in St Neots and the area around it. In particular we asked for more people to be sent initially to join us in prayer. We also prayed for blessing on our local area and for protection for Cornerstone in the midst of some difficulties they've faced recently, for the manager Paul and his wife Michelle, for the staff and the volunteers, and for the customers.

Others in the area - If you're reading this, and you live in or near St Neots, and you feel called to pray for the town, please drop me an email - chris@scilla.org.uk . We'd love to meet you!

We also thought about visiting other groups of believers around the town, the Baptists, The River, Open Door, and two of the three Anglican congregations got a mention. I'd like to visit every group in the town. There are at least a dozen of them.

Chris and I plan to meet in Cornerstone again next week, and after that we'll probably decide what to do as we go along. It's going to be an interesting journey of discovery in praying for St Neots.

Questions:

  • Have you read the book about Ffald-y-Brenin ('The Grace Outpouring', link below)?
  • Are you involved in praying for the area where you live?
  • Can you pray out of blessing and call blessing down on those around you?
  • Are you in touch with other groups of believers in your area?

See also:



< 27th May 2012 | Index | 15th January 2013 >

A light on the path

It's important that we serve the community around us, this is how we show people in the world that they are loved. The basis for that loving service is that Christ first loved me, but beyond that he also goes with me and shows me who to speak to, who to bless, and how and when to do it.

A light on the pathJanuary's Synchroblog invitation reads in part as follows.

New Year’s Resolutions are usually somewhat self-serving. But is there a way you can serve others in 2013? Are there homeless people in your community? Maybe you could bring some food to them on a regular basis this year. Are there single mothers? How about coming alongside them to babysit their kids while they go shopping, or maybe you could change the oil in their car or mow their lawn. Do you know any alcoholics or addicts? What can you do to show them love and care this year? Are there elderly shut-ins in your neighborhood? How about running errands for them or going over to their place to play cards, read to them, or just talk?

Serving others - Works of service are important. We are here to serve one another, to serve those around us and to serve the Messiah first and foremost. The people around me can only know that they are loved if they are loved. So yes, I do want to serve the community where I live during the coming year.

But I believe the basis for service is critically important, so rather than resolve here and now what my service will be I plan to write about the basis for serving and how we can consider that and respond to it.

A New Year's resolution by any other name is still a New Year's resolution. And if I resolve to do something, it had better be the right something! All of the suggestions in the Synchroblog notes are great, but doing good things is not sufficient as an end in itself. So what should be the foundation?

Love - The immediate foundation is, I believe, love. If I don't have love, then my actions will be empty at best, or merely for show at worst. I need to step in to help when I see weakness, helplessness, hunger, thirst, injustice, sickness, imprisonment. My heart needs to go out on a daily, even an hourly, basis so that I will respond out of love as and when I witness the need. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 again. Whatever I do without love is void.

Obedience - But there is something else, a deeper foundation that underpins even acts of love. And that is obedience. Love and obedience are intertwined. I will meet the needs I see because I love the needy. And I will obey Jesus because I love him. I love him because he first loved me.

So he is the source, and the effect he works is in me and through me. First to love him and obey him, secondly to love those around me and serve them. So we really do need to consider obedience as well as love. If I am to serve those around me most effectively I need to love them but I also need to hear what Jesus is saying to me through his Spirit and act obediently. Not only that, but Jesus prepares the way for us. He leads us to people he has already made ready.

Obedience is a moment by moment affair. The Spirit whispers quietly to me, 'This is the way, walk in it. Go here, do that, speak to that person trusting that I will give you the words as you need them, go to such and such a place where someone needs your help. Sit here, watch, and see what I will show you.'

Now, I'm not saying it always works that way for me - but sometimes it does. When I am listening and trusting it always does.

Know Jesus and listen - So I encourage everyone, get to know Jesus if you don't already. He is Love, Peace, Power, Life, the Way, Light in the darkness. Believing in him is a good start but it's not enough - know him, walk with him, speak to him, listen to him. It's what his first followers did, and you can too.

Learn to focus more on listening than on speaking. We are told we should pray every day and read the Bible every day; and they are great habits to have. But above all, before even prayer and reading, listen. Be attentive. Be still and quiet and hear what the Spirit of Christ is saying to you. And obey him.

And then you will have the best and most helpful opportunities to serve those around you. Guided in the moment in all you do and say by the One who can shine real light on your path.

So if we resolve anything in this new year of 2013, let's resolve to know him, pay attention to him, hear him and obey him in all we do. And to do it more fully than in any previous year. Will you join me in that resolution?

Practical details - But the synchroblog asked for specifics.

For the January 2013 synchroblog, we invite you to share some of the tangible needs in your neighborhood or community you will seek to meet this year. Be concrete. Where, when, how, and to whom will you be the hands and feet of Jesus? As you think and write about this, it will not only encourage you to follow Jesus into the world this year, but will also provide the rest of us with some suggestions for how we can serve others in our own communities.

I don't yet know, in detail. But one thing I feel he is already urging me to do is print off a bunch of my photos in a reasonable size, perhaps A5, and sit in the market square with a spare chair beside me offering them free to anyone who will sit, choose a photo, and tell me what they see in it. I must get those photos organised right away!

People have physical needs, but they also have emotional needs and spiritual needs. Perhaps this will be an opportunity to reach hungry and lost hearts. Chris Duffett does things like this to great effect and you'll find abundant ideas on his website.

My wife is keen to find a community project of some kind to help people in practical ways and I might join her in that. She's a member of Open Door, a local New Frontiers church. It's likely the initiative will come through Open Door.

In the past I've helped a variety of people in little ways but was specifically led into each situation. Kid's camps; a couple, both seriously ill, with children at home and needing help with gardening; a couple suffering serious physical abuse from young people in the area; a friend needing company and occasional practical help; a conversation with a stranger on a train; serving Christmas dinner to lonely people.

I'm expecting more of the same in the year ahead - I just can't tell you what it will be yet!

Questions:

  • What do you find to be the most effective ways of listening, spiritually?
  • Is it better to do nothing, to do something unguided, or to do what you are told?
  • Do you agree with me that action and obedience are both rooted in love?

See also:


Other posts in this synchroblog:

07 January 2013

The climate in 2012 and 2013

Global warming is real and is coming to a country near you. In fact it's coming everywhere and the effects will be very serious. Here's a report on some of the main points as discussed in a recent series of New Zealand radio shows. What can you do about it? Try to make more people aware of the facts.

A frosty scene in EnglandA series of ten minute slots in a New Zealand radio show provide a useful climate update. Listen to Glenn Williams discussing the climate with Gareth Renowden.

They review some of the worst weather events in 2012 including Hurricane Sandy, and look to the coming year for hints of what to expect next.

The stunning lack of official action to reduce our impact on climate also gets a mention.

We're now in a place where we must expect a severely changed planet, perhaps four or even six degrees celsius warmer than it is right now. Carbon dioxide levels are continuing to rise and are likely to top 400 ppm in 2013. The consequences involve considerable sea level rises, ocean acidification, serious ocean ecosystem damage and further loss of Arctic sea ice.

My own conclusion is that we are doing nowhere near enough to limit our carbon dioxide output at a time when the pace of change is proving to be far faster than we expected just a few years ago.

There's much more detail about all these matters at the Skeptical Science website.

Oh, and if you don't live in New Zealand don't think you don't need to listen. You do. You really, really do. We all need to listen.

Questions:

  • Is there anything you can do to help make more people aware of the facts?
  • What do you think will happen if we do nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
  • On present showing, do you think humans are looking after the Earth well?

See also:

06 January 2013

How does science work?

The universe, Part 2
< Introducing the universeSeries index | In the beginning >

We need to understand the basis upon which science operates and justifies its findings. Without this basis we would be unable to understand and describe the universe in any meaningful way. We see that science has a rigorous method and underpins reliable technology.

The famous Miller-Urey experimentBefore we look at the story of the universe, there's some groundwork we need to put in place. In the previous part I explained why I wanted to embark on this project and why I thought I'm suited to it. But this time I want to address science itself.

How do we know science works? Why should we accept its claims, for the universe or for anything else?

There are two lines of argument that should encourage us to accept the ability of science to produce valid conclusions. One is theoretical and is based on how science works. The other is practical and looks for evidence that science has worked.

How does science work? - At its most basic, science is pretty straightforward. It's really just good observation, making a best guess as to what might account for the observation, devising an experiment to test the guess, and then either rejecting the guess because it failed or making a new guess and trying again.

When a guess (science calls it an hypothesis) has been tested for a prolonged period of time and has passed every single test thrown at it, we become convinced it really is correct and then science calls it a theory. And we're not talking about ten tests, or a hundred. It may take fifty years or more of serious effort before a theory is widely accepted.

The words 'observation', 'hypothesis', 'experiment' and 'theory' are scientific jargon and should not be taken to have their everyday meanings. In the area of science they have precise definitions that we must keep in mind if we want to understand scientific debate and writing. 'Theory' in particular is commonly misunderstood.

(That is a simplified description of science, for a more thorough version read the Wikipedia article on the scientific method.)

The image above is a diagram of the apparatus used in the famous Milley-Urey experiment. This experiment disproved the hypothesis that organic chemicals could not form naturally in early planetary atmospheres.

So what does science look like in practice? - An example will help.

Let's say we notice that grass doesn't grow well underneath mature trees. That's an observation.

We might guess that grass doesn't like to be covered in dead leaves. That's an hypothesis.

We decide to grow grass in pots and then cover some of the pots with dead leaves gathered from the woods. That's an experiment.

We let the experiment run for some time and then come to look at the results. All the grass is still growing happily. So it looks as if the hypothesis was wrong, there must be some other reason that grass doesn't grow under trees. The hypothesis can't become a theory because we've shown it was wrong.

Suppose instead that we had guessed that grass needs plenty of light to grow. This time we'd find we couldn't disprove the guess. We might do dozens of different experiments and find grass always dies if it doesn't get plenty of light. We could now make a theory - 'grass needs plenty of light to grow'.

We can now say that grass almost certainly needs plenty of light to grow, and dead leaves definitely don't prevent it from growing. That's an advance in scientific knowledge.

Because of the way science works there is little room for argument. A single negative result kills an hypothesis stone dead. Hypotheses become reliable theories when they have passed many unsuccessful challenges. For example general relativity, evolution, quantum mechanics and electro-magnetism are regarded as theories. They have very, very high likelihoods of being correct and long histories of passing experimental tests.

Technology stands on the shoulders of science - Technology also gives us great confidence in the results of science. Technology often depends on the results of scientific understanding in order to make something useful or to make it more efficiently. If the underlying science was wrong, the technology based on it would fail.

The fact that technology works as well as it does is strong, additional evidence that the scientific method produces reliable and correct results. We are surrounded by proof that science is trustworthy. Cars, ships, computers, TV sets, radio communications, plastics, medicines, heart pacemakers, electricity, fridges, washing machines, microwaves, air conditioning, central heating, felt pens, emulsion paint, rubber, plant and animal breeding - all these technologies and many, many more depend on the reliability of science.

There are also examples of technology that failed because it was not based on sound science. The best example is plant breeding in the Soviet Union during the cold war. It was based on Lysenkoism, a falsified theory of inheritance.

If we can be sure science is reliable and produces correct results, then we can also be confident about what it tells us about the universe.

Questions:
  • If science is purely well-tested observation, on what grounds can we question it?
  • The nature of the universe makes technology possible, what can we conclude from that?
  • Can you imagine a world in which there were no underlying rules?

See also:



< Introducing the universeSeries index | In the beginning >

05 January 2013

The Shakers

The Shakers were an offshoot from the Quakers in the UK. They settled in New England and built villages in various parts of the USA. Their extraordinary  lifestyle and beliefs contain both lessons and warnings for the church today.

Shaker cowbarn at the Hancock Village
In September 2009, Donna and I visited the Hancock Shaker Village near Pittsfield, Massachusetts. This post is based on some notes I made at the time.

We enjoyed a wonderful holiday travelling from Boston up the coast as far as Kennebunkport, then south through the Appalachians, back up to Cape Cod, and flew home again from Boston.

Origins - The Shakers had their origin in England where they were founded in 1747 by Mother Ann Lee in the rapidly growing industrial city of Manchester. They originated as an offshoot of the Quakers, both groups being named by the public because of their sometimes ecstatic movements during worship. The early Shakers moved to the New England colonies, initially New Lebanon and Watervliet (the 'Niskayuna Shakers'). By the final years of the 18th century the Shakers were living in village communities.

Their rules included celibacy, equality of men and women, community living (men and women separately but often in the same building), and joint ownership of all property and possessions.

In 1790 the Hancock community was established and this is the village we visited. We'd recommend this open-air, living museum to anyone finding themselves near Pittsfield with a day to spare. It was a fascinating experience. The land and buildings are owned and managed by a preservation trust as a working farm and museum managed as it would have been 100 years ago. It's a beautiful museum and all the buildings and equipment are maintained to a high standard.

Shaker beliefs - The Shakers had diverged considerably from the Quakers and other followers of Jesus. For one thing, they held Ann Lee to be the female Christ, a view that is easily dismissed by studying the Bible. They also had some strange views about spiritual guidance, did a lot of shaking, and were very fond of music and dance.

One of their melodies remains well known today - 'Lord of the Dance'. You can listen to one of their other songs, 'The River of Love', on YouTube along with more photos of the Hancock Village.

Some commendable points - Despite some oddities they held to much that was good. To accept women as equal to men was extraordinary in their day. They also believed in the equality of all races, on one occasion they bought a slave simply in order to rescue him. They took him in and treated him as any other brother.

The Shakers understood that everything should be done as well as humanly possible, so as to recreate Heaven on Earth in some sense. As a result they were careful and thorough workers and their furniture, boxes, seeds, and many other products were much valued and sought after.

Unlike the Amish, they had no qualms about using modern methods. They used water power in their workshops, adopted electricity, photography, motor vehicles, and other technologies.

A warning - The Shakers are a challenge and a warning to us. They were commendably serious about their lifestyle, their morality, and their thoroughness. We might learn a lot from them in that regard. But they came off-track in terms of their theology and seeking after spiritual experiences. We need to be careful to seek only Jesus, not experiences of Jesus; we should look for spiritual fruit more than for spiritual gifts.

There's nothing wrong with spiritual experiences or spiritual gifts. But if they become the thing we put first we are in a very dangerous place indeed. The lesson is clear. Seek first his kingdom and righteousness and all the other things you need will be given to you (Matthew 6:33).

So the question then becomes, what are the things in our spiritual lives that we accept as normal, even essential, that get in the way of kingdom living? Some of them are being discussed quite widely these days. A major problem may be that we are very busy with meetings and writing blogs and reading our Bibles and living good lives so that we forget our prime directive which is, perhaps, 'Go and make disciples'. That is, after all, one part of 'seeking his kingdom'.

Note: There's a good book on Mother Ann and the Shakers by Richard Francis. It's called 'Ann the Word' gives a lot of background and history, and is very readable.

Questions:

  • Are you doing everything to the highest possible standard, like the Shakers did?
  • Are you seeking the kingdom and righteousness ahead of everything else?
  • How do you see the connection between what we believe and how we live?

See also:

04 January 2013

SOAP Bible reading

Keeping a SOAP journal may help make your Bible reading stick. Dave deVries posted about it recently and I want to share it further. Scripture-Observation-Application-Prayer (SOAP). Give it a try and see if it will help you stay spiritually fresh and clean!

Liquid and bar soapsDave deVries, writing at 'Missional Challenge' a week ago, recommended SOAP Journaling. It seems like a good idea that might help many of us read and digest the Bible more effectively, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Not only that, SOAP can help with discipling others and if you are doing that (and you should be) it's a technique you can teach them so that they in turn can teach it to others.

Like all simple ways of doing things it's easy to understand, easy to learn, easy to describe and easy to teach.

There is a caveat, however. Like all methods it's what you make of it that counts. There is no benefit or value in going through the motions; methods are tools, not an end in themselves.

So what is SOAP? How does it work? You can read about it in more detail in Dave's article. A brief outline and my own thoughts are below.

SOAP - The acronym stands for Scripture - Observation - Application - Prayer.

Begin by consciously clearing your mind. As with CO2's Virkler, one way to help with this is to jot down in your notebook every intrusive thought about things you need to do. Write things down as they occur to you and dismiss them until later.

Once your mind is clear and calm, ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you, then read the Bible passage from a version that flows easily for you. Consider what you are reading, ask the SOAP questions and write down the thoughts that occur to you.

The questions are listed in Dave's article, he provides several for each letter of the acronym.

Scripture - the questions focus on the context. When it was written, who wrote it, why they wrote it and to whom. Write down verses that speak to you strongly and personally.

Observation - Look for commands and promises. Consider anything concerning the nature and actions of the Father, Son and Spirit. What questions arise in your mind?

Application - What effect does this have, what changes are necessary, what will you do today as a result of what you have read and considered?

Prayer - Aim to cover your needs for help and forgiveness. Be thankful. Write them down as a prayer.

It's easy to read in a vague way and remember almost nothing later. Using a method like SOAP will help you lock in some of the things you read. Writing things down (or sharing them with someone else) are effective ways of getting them to stick in your own mind and heart.

SOAP is more than an acronym, it's an idea. What do you use soap for? To help release the dirt when you wash your hands, to stay fresh and clean. So remember, using SOAP regularly will help you stay spiritually fresh and clean! But as with ordinary soap it's of no value unless you use it.

Questions:

  • Are there ways you can improve your Bible reading? Might SOAP help?
  • What do you think of the SOAP questions? Can you add more of your own?
  • Have you some experience using SOAP? If so, please leave a comment below.

See also:

03 January 2013

The universe - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

This is the index page for a major series on the story of the universe. I'll be adding sections from time to time and provide links to all the parts below.

Where does it begin and end?I would like to attempt a major project in which I'll do my best to describe and explain the universe as we understand it in 2012 and 2013. The first part of the series is an introduction and explains why and how I am doing this.

The list below will expand as fresh parts are written. It's a story with no beginning as we cannot currently investigate the state of the universe right at the start (assuming 'the start' has any rational meaning for the universe). And it's a story with no end because it seems unlikely that the universe will have an ending in the sense of ceasing to exist.

Besides, time itself might be seen as part of the universe. In that case we would be talking about the beginning and end of time. What would that mean?

One of the truly astonishing things about the universe is that it contains tiny blobs of matter (us) that are capable, in some sense, of comprehending it. This should seem far more extraordinary than it does to most people most of the time.

Here's the list of parts so far.
  1. Introducing the universe - Why am I attempting this project?
  2. How does science work? - So, why should we accept the claims of science?
  3. In the beginning - Even time and space began at the beginning.
  4. From the beginning to atoms - Forces and particles condense from energy
  5. Penzias, Wilson and some noise - How the cosmic background was found.

Questions:

  • Do 'beginning' and 'end' in science and in religion refer to the same thing?
  • Scientific and religious - do they overlap or conflict or are they distinct?
  • What lies beyond the universe? How could we know?

See also:

02 January 2013

A list for a holy life

Colin Urquhart is the founder of Kingdom Faith, an author, and an internationally known speaker. He recently published a list of key qualities that he thinks should be found in every believer. The list focusses mainly on what we are, not what we do, though action will inevitably result.

Colin Urquhart speakingColin Urquhart has been living as a Spirit filled believer and follower of Jesus for most of his life. He is serious about his walk with Jesus.

He was a leader in the Charismatic Movement in the 1960s and 70s and has written many books, led churches, published a New Testament translation, spoken at countless meetings, runs a Bible college and has long been a pastor in Kingdom Faith which he founded.

Here is his list of fifteen key qualities that should be found in every believer. It's an interesting list, focussing on holiness and based on much personal experience. Read through it and give it some thought. Notice that the items are more about being something than about doing something. Although most of the statements begin with verbs, the sense is mostly about a state of being. For example, 'being full of praise and adoration' is not a call to action, it's an encouragement to a state of mind and spirit.

  1. Love for God that is expressed in obedience to Him. 
  2. Wholehearted consecration to His will.
  3. Living in the fear of the Lord, not wanting to grieve Him in any way.
  4. Seeking God's glory in all things.
  5. Living with complete trust and confidence in Jesus.
  6. Living at one with the Lord in the communion of His presence at all times.
  7. Living a life of watchful prayer.
  8. Being full of praise and adoration for the Lord.
  9. Diligent use of your time.
  10. Standing strong against temptation.
  11. Being devoted to a life of serving God by serving others.
  12. Walking in humility, not judgement.
  13. Living a life of self-denial, taking up your cross to follow Jesus.
  14. Keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus at all times.
  15. Being submitted to the leading of the Holy Spirit as a child of God.

It seems clear to me that Colin's whole approach is geared more to what we are than to what we do. Inevitably what we are results in doing certain things and not doing others. But the actions are results, not causes.

You can read the list on Colin's website along with his short explanation not included above. You might also find some of his audio messages interesting.


Questions:

  • What (if anything) would you add to or remove from this list? Why?
  • Which is the more fundamental, what you are or what you do?
  • Does reading this list affect your understanding of what it means to follow Jesus?
  • If you lived like this, how would it affect the things you say and the things you do?

See also:

Copyright

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