Showing posts with label Father. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Father. Show all posts

23 April 2013

To Egypt and back

Leaders in the church, Part 7
< Herod and the astrologers | Index | John the Baptist >

Joseph takes his family to Egypt to escape from Herod, and later they return and head for Galilee. This shows us how important it is to lead from obedience. But what do we do when the information is incomplete? And what does this say about leaders and about followers?

A painting of the escape to Egypt
When I began my trawl through the New Testament for information on leadership, I had no idea that by the seventh article I'd still be in the second chapter of Matthew!

But that is right where we are, looking at Joseph and Mary's escape to Egypt and then their decision to settle in Nazareth in Galilee. (Matthew 2:13-23)

Once again, dreams are an important feature. I've occasionally been guided by dreams in the past, I wonder if you have too? This time, the angel in Joseph's dream instructs him to take his family to Egypt because Herod is going to hunt down the baby to kill him. As before, Joseph was obedient, he got up and set off in the night for Egypt.

Later, when Herod was dead, he was told to return to Israel (again by an angel in a dream) and was finally guided (in another dream) to settle in Galilee in the town of Nazareth.

Leadership - What can we learn from this about leadership? Right away we  can see the importance of acting on what we hear from the Father.

Leading is not about following our own plans and visions, it's about following the Father's plans and visions. In other words, leading is about obedience. It's not about my wisdom, it's about Father's wisdom expressed in whatever way he chooses.

In Joseph's case the Almighty's will was expressed in dreams, it may sometimes be the same for us. However, the Holy Spirit may choose to speak in many different ways. It's up to us to be alert and notice his communication - whatever form it takes.

Acting on incomplete information - Something else we can glean from this story is that leading through obedience is not always easy.

'Escape to Egypt and stay there until I tell you' meant that Joseph's obedience would be open-ended. Not only would they go to Egypt, they would stay there for an unknown period of time. Presumably he would have found work as a carpenter and there was a large ex-pat Jewish community in cities like Alexandria. Should they settle, build a house and set up a business? Or would it be better to do contract jobs and find temporary lodgings?

Similarly, 'Go to Israel' is incomplete information; apparently Joseph was not told what part of Israel to choose or how long to remain there. Guidance and obedience don't always result in the clarity we might like.

There's also the important matter of using our own brains, wisdom and experience. When guidance lacks detail we may need to depend on our own resources to fill the gaps. Joseph decided for himself that it was unwise to go to Judaea. In a further dream he was warned again and decided to settle in Galilee in the small town of Nazareth. He worked the rest of his life and died in Nazareth without seeing what Jesus would eventually do. We rarely see the end from the beginning.

For us and for others - Leading implies followers. We have responsibilities to others and to our heavenly Father. Here is Joseph having to make decisions that also affect Mary and the infant Jesus. Here's the One who has come as Emmanuel ('Elohim with us') placing his safety in the hands of a carpenter! Even those with great authority (even Jesus) must learn to put their trust in the hands of other leaders.

This is true in the church, isn't it? Christ himself is the head of the church yet he has entrusted his body to the leading of ordinary men and women, not because he needs to but because he chooses to. And it's the same for us.

One of the primary ways leaders come off the rails is when they begin to think people should follow them. Demanding to be followed will never be effective because true authority is always given freely, not demanded. If people don't want to follow you no amount of cajoling or threatening or persuading will change their minds. But if you are worthy of respect and trust they will follow you without hesitation, even without conscious thought.

Joseph was followed into Egypt, back to Israel and on to Galilee because Mary respected and trusted and loved him. And the infant Jesus, the fullness of the Most High in tiny, helpless, human form was also entrusted to his care and to that of Mary. Have you ever thought how truly awesome that is?

And have you ever thought how awesome it is that the Father trusts us to lead one another? Jesus lives in every believer, he has planted his Holy Spirit and nature in us individually. If you lead you are leading people who are filled with the presence of the King of Kings! So be very careful and ever so humble in all you say and do and think.

This is why we are told that few should teach (James 3:1) and none should be called Teacher (Matthew 23:8). And it's why Paul wanted the churches to recognise elders who would be true and faithful (Titus 1:5-9). Much depended on it. Much depends on it still.

Leading by doing - Notice how an angel was sent repeatedly to show Joseph what to do next. He was given dreams that showed him the need to journey and provided clear destinations. There's a clue for us here if we are willing to see it.

If anyone aspires to lead the body of Christ they must lead by their actions, not merely by talking. If the lesson is to love one another then leading will involve practical and sacrificial loving. Isn't that how Jesus did it? If the lesson is sharing the good news in every day life then leading will involve inventive ways of sharing it daily.

Unlike Father, we can't insert a dream into a sleeping person's mind. However, we can insert a dream by demonstrating it in our own lives, by acting it out. In the church we are, I think, surrounded by many, many sleeping people (certainly in Western society). So go and show them the dream, reveal it to them by your actions. You are a leader, in many ways we all are. So get to it!

Questions:

  • What would have happened if Joseph had ignored the dreams in his leading?
  • Can you think of examples of local leaders in your own life who show the way?
  • How might you lead, or lead more effectively?
  • Had you considered that when you lead you are leading people who contain Christ?

See also:


< Herod and the astrologers | Index | John the Baptist >

09 November 2012

Child support

Our future as a nation depends on the well-being of our children. They will be the leaders, politicians and educators of the next generation. Where children are not getting the support they need it's essential that the government steps in to help.

Roman sculpture of children playingChildren are precious. They are, in a very real sense, our future. How the next generation is supported, educated and encouraged will have more effect on the future of a nation than almost anything else.

Today's children are tomorrow's policy makers, employers and employees, teachers, police etc. They will shape the societies of the next generation.

To a considerable degree, therefore, the future also depends on today's parents and educators. But underlying all of this is the means by which our children's practical needs are met. In an ideal world this would be through the love and care of two parents in a stable and safe home environment with an adequate income. But we don't live in an ideal world.

What happens when marriages break down or a child is born to a single mother? Single fathers are less common, but death of a Mum or marriage breakdown can lead to situations where single dads face the same issues as single mums. One of these issues, perhaps the simplest to fix, is adequate income. It's usually difficult for a single parent to sustain full-time work. When children are small it may be all but impossible, when they are older the situation may ease to merely very difficult.

In this post we're going to focus on the role of the Child Support Agency (CSA) in securing an income where a marriage has failed. Earlier today my wife and I were chatting with a friend who is a single Mum. It turns out that this month there is a difficulty, the father's bank account has failed to fund the monthly payment to the CSA and they, in turn, are unable to pay our friend until the problem is resolved. Meanwhile there are bills to pay, not least for food. (Of course we and/or other friends will help out, but that is not the point.)

This is a very common situation. Sometimes the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months and  the children suffer. It's not the CSA's fault as far as I can see. They are following the rules and guidelines under which they were formed by the British government in 1993.

The way it works is that the CSA acts as a clearing-house or go-between for funds. The CSA will typically rule on the level of monthly funding that is appropriate. They can either take the money direct from a salaried income and pay it to the partner caring for the child, or they can agree to take a monthly payment from a bank account and pay that to the caring partner.

So far, so good. However, when the payment to the CSA fails for any reason, no payment is made to the caring partner and the children suffer.

It seems to me that the rules of operation need to be changed. The CSA should have a legal obligation to provide the agreed level of support to the caring partner (technically, the person/parent with care) and would become responsible for collecting funding from the funding partner (technically, the non-resident parent). In this case the children would be properly supported whether or not the funding partner paid up. In cases of non-payment it would be up to the CSA to pursue recompense, if necessary through the courts.

This would improve security for caring partners and children and make it far harder for individuals to avoid their obligations.

I urge the British government to examine the issue and modify the legislation if necessary. As a nation we cannot afford for any of our children to suffer like this during their formative years. The future of the country will one day be in their hands.

Legislation is no replacement for love and provision by willing parents living in harmony. But where this fails the children deserve much better from us.

Questions:

  • Are you a single parent? If so, do you feel the CSA is doing a good job?
  • If you could change one thing about the CSA, what would it be?
  • If you're a single parent, how important is the support you get from friends and family?
  • Do you know any single parents? What informal opportunities have you found to support them?

See also:

24 October 2011

Brampton - A place of safety

< 10th October 2011 | Index | 29th October 2011 >

We were reminded about places of safety. What are they? do I need one? How do I find one? How can I be sure I'll be safe there?

The sun in the sky
Right at the start we had a reminder that 'where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be there with them' (Matthew 18:19-20). As I shared those words, Sean was prompted to explain that he'd seen a picture in his mind, two young children were running into the ark.

This in turn prompted me to mention three words that seemed relevant - ark (obviously), but also temple and mountain. If he's in one of those places we need to run there ourselves because he himself is our place of safety.

And if he's with two or three gathered together - that is the right place to be.

I was reminded of an old song -  'The Celebration Song'
In the presence of Your people
I will praise Your name
For alone You are holy
Enthroned in the praises of Israel

Let us celebrate Your goodness
And Your steadfast love
May Your name be exalted
Here on earth and in heaven above
And then I saw small, oval photos of people. They were just head and shoulders portraits but they were from different generations. Some were sepia prints, others were black and white, others were in colour. The whole thing seemed like a genealogy. We didn't understand the meaning.

We thought again about Sean's picture of little children entering the ark and remembered that Yahshua said. 'Let the little children come to me' (Matthew 19:13-15), and also, 'Unless you come like a little child you won't even see the Kingdom of Heaven' (Luke 18:17). We prayed that Father would make us as straightforward as little children.

By searching a little we found that the Mishnah says, of the cities of refuge, that if the High Priest dies the refugees would not be punished for their crimes and would be free to leave. This seems especially significant in the light of Christ's death.

Sean remembered how Jesus also said, 'If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children; how much more will your Father give to you the Holy Spirit? (Luke 11:9-13)' Sean saw himself as very small in the King's city. And Father said, 'Even your small is much too big'. We are so small and he is so big and powerful; this helps our faith as even our largest problems are small and easy for him. His desire is the very best for us and he encourages us to believe.

I saw a picture of a man struggling to pull a very heavy handcart up a steep hill. He was out of breath, sweating heavily, and working extremely hard for very little progress. But Father just reached in and turned the horizon slightly so that it became a gently downhill slope. Now the man only needed to guide and control the cart, not provide the power to move it. What had seemed almost impossibly hard now seemed effortless.

Sean said that we need to see things with Father's perspective, not our own. We need to believe that he wants good for us and not harm.

And finally he told us, 'If you look down you will just see the dust. But if you look up you'll see my sun in the sky and feel the warmth on your face.

< 10th October 2011 | Index | 29th October 2011 >

22 October 2011

THOUGHT - His presence

When we think about the Almighty's presence among his people, clearly there's a difference between his presence personally and his presence corporately. Yet the two are inextricably linked.

A glorious solar haloAs far as his personal presence is concerned, we know that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, lives within us. Jesus expressly tells the disciples to expect him. He turns up at Pentecost and rests on each one - like a flame. He also dramatically energises and activates the church and they go out boldly sharing the good news. (Up to that time they had been prayerful, yet grieving, fearful and probably very confused.)

But notice that they were together in one place when the Spirit came upon them. The personal presence came in the context of corporate activity. There is something special about unity itself. The Father, Son and Spirit are one - a community - the pattern for all community. So we are intended to be one, a community as close as theirs. And even more amazing, we are supposed to enter into their community; the Son wants to bring his bride into the family home.

I cannot be the bride of Christ any more than I could marry a toenail. If we are to be the bride isn't it obvious that we must first become one? My wife, for example, is an entire person, not merely a collection of disconnected body parts. (Does this remind anyone of Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones?)

How badly do we want his presence, will we do what he says? Jesus' prayer was that we should be one as he and the Father are one and that we should be one with them. Read it for yourself in John 17:20-26. And immediately after that, Jesus goes to the olive field to be arrested and killed. We are so important to him that we're in his prayers at that terrible and particularly distracting moment.

Notice what he says about glory. He wants us to see and receive his glory (verse 22) - had you noticed that? The glory is surely the Father's presence within us individually and corporately. Just as his glory appeared as the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud and led the gathered people of Israel through the desert, so when we are in the dark he gives us light and when we are in the light he gives us direction.

As locally gathered expressions of his body, let's turn away from what we want and begin to focus on what he wants. Will we choose to be one and receive his glory? And will we choose, not for our own sakes, but for his sake?

Whenever we are one for his sake he will illuminate us and give us direction and pour out his glory. The enemy knows this and will do anything to prevent it. But resist him and he runs away because he can't stand in Jesus' presence.

Here's a suggestion to try next time you meet. Drop any plans for structure, don't prepare anything, don't have anyone 'in charge'. Just agree to be quiet in his presence and individually focus on Jesus. When he puts a thought in your mind, or a picture, or a few words, or a Bible verse - share it and then wait for someone else to receive. Don't be anxious about 'awkward' silences, just focus back on Jesus and get ready to share whatever he gives you.

See what happens. And why not report back by posting a comment below?

04 September 2011

RESPONSE - Giving a milkshake

I was very encouraged to read the latest post from Chris Duffett. Chris lives only a few miles from us and he excels at finding innovative ways of engaging people with the Good News that Jesus brings truth, light, and a new way of living.

If you want to know more, read his blog. Here are some extracts from his latest article.
Strawberry shakeI sense that I should give my milk shake away. The one I really love, strawberry, all thick and delicious. So I offer it to a guy who is selling the big issue and it turns out that it is also his favorite kind of milk shake.
But Chris didn't stop with the strawberry shake.
I also give him the sandwiches and yogurt too. The guy seems happy to receive his lunch and thanks me.
And then he understood a much greater truth.
This simple act of sharing opens up my heart as to what God wants to do in me and how he wants to meet with me and for me to enjoy his company. I fetch another lunch and ... simply enjoy the presence of God. Wherever and whatever I’m doing I am able to meet with the one who is so vast and mighty and holy and yet who is Emmanual, God with us, who enjoys walking with his kids and meeting with them and sharing strawberry milk shakes.
Why did this so impact me? It's because he heard (to give away a milk shake), obeyed, was willing to sacrifice (go without his favourite treat), went even further (gave away his lunch as well), and understood what the Father is like (enjoys our presence and shares with us). This is something we all need to practice every day - even every minute.
  • Listen
  • Obey (no ifs, buts, or maybes)
  • Sacrifice what we are and what we have for others
  • Go beyond what is asked of us
  • Understand what Father is like and how he enjoys walking through this life with us
It's really a question of being like our heavenly Father. He pours out lavishly on all of us. We should pour out lavishly too. What Chris has found is that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit love him and enjoy the time they spend with him. This is so awesome that most of us, most of the time miss it! But we only really understand when we do what our Father does, then we begin to see that his nature is also to give. Chris says that a simple act of sharing opened up his heart.

I'd suggest that love, hearing and obedience are the key, whatever we're called to do in this amazing Kingdom of Heaven. We may be called to do a new and different thing every day. As we hear and obey we'll always receive a rich blessing from our awesome Father and a deeper understanding of his greatness and love.

He is our supply and our inspiration and he wants us to know him more fully. 

HalleluYah!

13 August 2011

ARTS - Schubert's 10th Symphony

< Aldeburgh | Index | The beach >

This evening, Paz, Donna and I visited Snape Maltings for an evening of classical music. Schubert's unfinished 10th Symphony gave me unexpected food for thought.

The programme at Snape included pieces by Rachmaninoff and Lutoslawski as well, however Schubert's 10th Symphony was never completed and what we heard tonight was a reworking by Berio from the existing manuscript fragments.

Rather than fill the gaps in the style of Schubert, Berio chose instead to link the fragments using a very different and much more modern style. He incorporated the celeste in the additions, which lends an airy, ethereal quality and makes it very clear to the listener that these sections are not by Schubert.

Restored Roman potteryThis reminded me of the way ancient Greek or Roman pottery is restored for display in a museum. Usually, instead of trying to reconstruct the original in every detail, the restoration uses a slightly different colour and reduces or eliminates any attempt to recreate the details of texture, pattern and finish. In this way the overall shape and size of the article is clear, but the original sections and the restored parts are easily distinguished. Exactly the same approach is used for tessellated pavements and painted wall plaster.

Another example is the presentation of images from the Hubble Space Telescope where gaps are filled in using lower resolution sections from other telescopes.

So why did this give me food for thought?

We find much the same principle at work when we try to understand the nature of the Almighty and of the things he is doing in our universe. We have clear fragments - for example we know that his nature is to love - but we also have to fill some gaps.

Why is this? It has nothing to do with him withholding information. It has everything to do with our inability to grasp the fullness of the truth. His nature is beyond our capabilities to fathom. We have the overall 'shape' of his nature, a flavour if you will. And we have some of the detail, aspects that we can understand despite our limitations. So our picture is partly the full truth and partly an approximation.

The danger we face is often in thinking our filled-in approximations are the real thing. They are not! Always, always it's necessary to remind ourselves that we don't know as we are known. And the assumptions we make are frequently the causes of our disagreements.

< Aldeburgh | Index | The beach >

23 November 2004

Eaton Ford - Water and stars

< 1st November 2004 | Index | 15th December 2004 >

Five of us met this evening (six if you include Donna's cat)! We spent some time chatting and sharing tea and coffee, and then settled down to see what Father would show us; he did not disappoint us, bringing pictures and prophecy that came together with a strong theme. At the end we felt we'd been encouraged, taught, filled with fresh peace, and strengthened.


Swirling water
Right at the beginning we were already thinking of old cartwheels as these had come into our conversation. It seemed that an old wheel was a picture of the church. Although we are all joined together in relationship with one another, the rim of a wheel cannot function without the hub. Yahshua himself is the hub of the wheel and we are all joined directly to him. If we are not in relationship with him as our hub, our relationships with one another are not going to be truly useful.

Next, the water of life was mentioned, and we read John 4:4-14. Val shared an amazing picture of some people splashing in a pool at the bottom of a waterfall, while others at the top looked down and worried that the water might be too cold or the jump too dangerous. The people at the bottom called out to them and encouraged them to jump. Finally they did, and were able to enjoy the water at the bottom in the 'bowl' of the waterfall. And as they splashed and enjoyed the refreshing water, some of it slopped over the sides of the bowl so that it was shared more widely and could bring life and refreshment to others.

A field of start
Father spoke to us through Gayna who prophesied that we should leave our toys and just come to him and be loved by him. And we realised that when he is there amongst us he's more important by far than anything else in our lives. The things we do when we are on our own are worthless by comparison. These things include our best efforts at work, at home, and in the church. We do need to come to him for refreshment and to receive his love and his wonderful touch.

With this still fresh in our minds, Rachael shared the idea of a hammock. Like a hammock, the Lord supports us all around. Even though the hammock moves in the wind we are still safe, held gently but securely.

And as Ken shared, our Father trims the vine to make it more fruitful. We're grafted in, we did not inherit our place as a birthright but as a gift. But if we remain in him, he cleans us and restores us, prunes away the damaged and diseased parts so that we can flourish with new growth in the springtime and bear fruit in season. But we need to let him do that for us! (See John 15:1-6)

What a rich evening it was, more and more good stuff kept flowing out for us, blessing after blessing! Thank you Father.

Next we heard from Gayna as she described how her burdens are like a heavy, leaden ball. She struggled to carry the weighty ball, struggled even to lift it! But Yahshua said, 'Give it to me, I will deal with it for you'. And when she gave it to him the leaden ball became a bubble, floated away into the air, and - popped! It was gone!

Ken was bold enough to share a picture with a meaning that was obscure to him. He saw the stars above the earth at night, but they disappeared in the sunshine on the other side of the earth. He had no idea what this picture might mean. But Val pointed us to Philippians 2:15 and 16 where we read that we 'shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life'. He has placed his light within us so we shine like stars for him in the darkness, but of course when his light shines we are hidden in his brilliance, far brighter than the sun (see also Walking in the Light).

Val read several verses from this passage (Philippians 2:12-16). We are to 'do everything without complaining or arguing so that ... [we may] shine like stars in the universe'.

< 1st November 2004 | Index | 15th December 2004 >

15 July 2003

Eaton Ford - Fallen and lifted up

< 23rd June 2003 | Index | 6th August 2003 >

Rachael brought some verses from Revelation (Rev 2:5). It was striking that the church at Ephesus was told, 'You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen.'



Somehow this seemed very relevant to the church today, we need to recover 'our first love', we need to see how far we have fallen. Only then will we have things properly in perspective. We belong in a high place, we belong with Him!

We were also aware of our need for fellowship with other people. We can't do anything alone, we want others around us, we need them to be there.

Father spoke through the Spirit, he said, 'Step onto my hand, I'll lift you up, there's no need for you to learn to climb or fly.' So we felt we can relax in him and let him do the work. He will lift us up and we will see him face to face. He told us to rest in him, to rest in his love, he said, 'I will do the doing'.

He also reminded us that our place is to encourage one another, not to criticise people, not to disagree with them, but to build one another up. We felt that when we meet with others it's often the differences that spring out and appear to become important. But this is a trap for the unwary, the differences are often less important than they seem and they're less important than the things we share - salvation, blessings from above, communication with Him and with one another.

If there was a theme to this meeting it was 'connectedness'. Once again he reinforced for us a sense that we are to be connected strongly to him but we are also to be connected to one another. This seems very important and something we should remember.

< 23rd June 2003 | Index | 6th August 2003 >

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