Showing posts with label love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label love. Show all posts

09 March 2016

Ben chooses love

Ben Scott and donations
Ben Scott and donations
Ben Scott has discovered first hand what it means to love. He's volunteered to help the people living in the mess and squalour of the Calais 'Jungle'.

The French authorities are closing it down, demolishing  the flimsy structures that so many have called 'home' for so long. The problem is being moved on, but not resolved.

Read Ben's account of his experiences. It's powerful, gut wrenching, heart changing stuff. Don't miss it.

29 April 2015

Love and forgive, or forgive and love?

It's impossible to love someone you have not yet forgiven. Or, to put it another way, if you truly love a person you will certainly forgive them. So we cannot say which comes first, love or forgiveness. We must conclude that they arrive together, as a package. Love and forgiveness cannot be separated, if you have one you also have the other.

Reaching to touch
Reaching to touch
It's the same with the Father's love towards us. If he says he loves us - and he does - then he also forgives us. And if he forgives us, we know that we are already loved by him.

But beware, for hatred and condemnation (or judgement) go together in just the same way. Do not hate/condemn anyone.

We can't take any of this for granted. Remember that love and forgiveness must be received as well as given, and receiving requires repentance as the first step. We should be constantly grateful to Papa for his love/forgiveness and for sending his Son into this broken world to demonstrate that love/forgiveness. And we should also be grateful to our friends who show us the love/forgiveness we so badly need from them, a pale image of the love/forgiveness of the Father.

So praise you Father for everything you have done for us, praise you Jesus for coming into our world, and praise you Holy Spirit for remaining in us as a deposit of what we will inherit.

And thank you to all my friends (who are many) for everything you have done for me. Thank you for reminding me by your gifts of love, of that greater, heavenly gift of love that we all share.

And remember that this is also the root of mission. How can I receive this great gift without wanting to share it with everyone who will listen? It's just a matter of reaching out to people in ways that will touch them and cause them to search for spiritual truth and discover that Jesus loves/forgives them too.

02 February 2015

Loving more fully and widely (Repost)

Here's another reposted article, this time from 26th October 2012. It was originally part of a chain blog. I've removed the material related to that, but you can read the original if you want to see it.

British currency
One another - Today we're going to see how much we can draw from a single occurrence of the phrase 'one another'. Romans 13:8 is the particular example we'll consider.

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

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

Wider context - There's a wider context too, that we need to bear in mind. Paul first writes about civil government, making it clear that goverments are there because the One who is Authority puts them there. They have a function and a purpose, we must submit to them.

Then come the verses above.

And finally Paul writes that time is short, we need to act now while we still can. Jesus is returning - soon! We need to be found ready and obedient and already covered by him. Romans 13 is relevant in its entirety. We should read this chapter often and let it sink deep into our hearts and minds!

Three statements - But in verse eight, Paul makes three statements.

  • Don't let any debt remain.
  • Continue to love one another
  • This fulfils the Law

What does he mean? He is not simply saying that I should pay off any debts I owe. He is saying that I should allow no debt to stand. He is saying I should pay my own debts but I should also, if necessary, pay yours. The important thing about debt is that it is paid, the effect is the same no matter who pays.

Jesus paid my debt so if I want to be like him I will pay yours. And Paul is not writing merely about money, he has just explicitly used the words respect and honour as well. These things apply to one another as much as (or more than) they do to governments.

There are to be no debts amongst us, not only because we pay them off but because we forgive them. When I lack the means to pay I become dependent on your willingness to forgive. Jesus is our example in this. He is the ultimate debt payer and forgiver. We are called to be like him in our dealings with one another.

Will I pay my monetary debt to you? Will I forgive your debt of money to me? But also (and often harder) will I pay the respect and honour I owe to you? And will I forgive you if you disrespect and dishonour me? This is the nitty-gritty of not allowing any debt to remain.

If I continue to love you I will indeed pay and forgive in all situations where debt might remain. Love will cause me, compel me to cover every kind of debt. If not, do I have love at all?

The debt that remains - And it goes further yet! Paul writes that there is one debt that should stand, the 'continuing debt to love one another'.  Love is not just for today but also for tomorrow and for tomorrow's tomorrow. I owe you love and that is a debt I cannot pay off. Love goes forward without ceasing. 'Faith, hope and love remain', writes Paul, 'And the greatest of these is love'. Love remains, even in the kingdom of heaven, especially in the kingdom of heaven.

So, just as love is the fulfilment of Torah, so love is the fulfilment of civil law and indeed every kind of law. If I truly love I will not be able to commit any sin at all. The fact that sin remains is just a clear sign that love is not yet complete in me.

Let's go forward in our lives understanding that love remains and is greater than anything else. And let's remember who 'one another' means. It's not limited to the church.

Jesus made it pretty inclusive. What begins with brothers and sisters becomes all encompassing. Love the Father, love one another, love your neighbour, love your enemy. My love is to extend out and become fully inclusive, not in any way for club members only. 'One another' is just a starting point, the nursery slopes of loving.

    25 June 2014

    Pray in faith, hope and love

    How do faith, hope and love work together in prayer? Should our emphasis be on whisking up fervent faith? Or should we just hope for a good outcome? And where does love come in?


    Prayer focussed on Jesus
    Prayer focussed on Jesus
    Paul writes that faith, hope and love remain, and he adds that the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). And when we think of these three great concepts in their own right we don't have too much trouble agreeing with Paul.

    But when we begin to think about faith, hope and love in relation to prayer, we may have a little more difficulty. After all, the New Testament tells us very clearly that we must pray in faith.

    James says that the prayer of faith will heal the sick (James 5:15). Jesus himself tells us that if we have faith, we may pray for anything and it will be done for us (Mark 11:24). And Paul tells us that righteousness and justification are through faith in the Messiah (Romans 5:1).

    So what place do hope and love have in prayer? We might imagine they have no place whatsoever. But hold on a moment, Paul also tells us that if we have faith that can move mountains but lack love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). The presence of love in our hearts is worth much more than the most effective prayer imaginable. It's not that we should pray without faith, but we are to pray with faith and love. And the love is greater than the faith.

    Have more faith - We are sometimes told that we should have more faith. People may urge us to pray in full expectation of healing or the receiving of whatever we ask. Yet this cannot always be right. Paul asks, 'Do all have the gift of healing?' (1 Corinthians 12:29-30) In context this question clearly implies that some do, but not all. Paul himself prayed repeatedly for his thorn in the flesh to be taken from him. But in the end he had to accept that it would remain (2 Corinthians 12:7-8).

    Does this suggest that Paul somehow lacked faith or was unable to believe for healing? No! We desperately need to free one another from the false expectation laid upon us by this kind of thinking. It's true that amazing healings take place in answer to prayer, but they don't depend on a mindless frenzy whipped up by wild enthusiasm or false expectation.

    A gift of healing - We should always pray in faith, and in hope - but especially in love. We should not always pray in expectation of a particular outcome, but in expectancy of an answer rooted in love. If we have (or receive) a special gift of healing we will have complete confidence, knowing that we are asking what is in line with Father's purpose. But it's not always like that.

    Without that gift of knowledge and faith we may still bring the prayer of love and the prayer of trusting hope as well. So pray often, pray always when there is need. Pray in love to the King of Love for the needs and cares of those around you. Pray in hope of an amazing outcome. [Tweet it!] Pray in faith when that is granted to you as a gift. Pray in expectancy, and live in expectancy until the answer is seen.

    Expectancy - Expectancy knows that the Mighty One will always answer out of his great love. Expectancy always decides in advance that the answer will be good and for the very best. Expectancy will receive every answer in gratitude and great joy.

    And if you have a gift of faith, or receive special faith at a specific time for any need, pray with rejoicing that your asking is already fully aligned with the intentions and purposes of the Most High. But however you pray, remember that the focus is not on you, nor is it on the person you're praying for, the focus is always on the Father through Jesus.

    Questions:

    • Most of us have experienced what seems to be both success and failure in answered prayer. Do you think success or failure depends on how you asked?
    • Or might it be that our expectations lead us to a distorted view of what is successful and what is not?
    • Do you see the difference between expectation and expectancy?
    • Will you be more expectant in prayer in future?

    See also:

    23 February 2013

    The Ugandan bill

    Legislation in Uganda is set to increase the penalties for homosexuality, possibly even to introduce the death sentence. How should believers and followers of Jesus respond? What does the Bible say about sin? What does it tell us about love? And how might we respond to the Ugandan bill?

    The Ugandan flag
    David Bahati, a Ugandan Member of Parliament (MP), submitted a private member's bill in October 2009.

    Nothing unusual in that, you might think, just an everyday part of political life in Uganda. Except that in this case the bill, if passed, will change Ugandan law concerning homosexuality and has resulted in a great deal of strong, international criticism.

    Current legislation in many African nations, including Uganda, makes same sex relationships illegal with severe penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment. The new bill proposes to significantly increase these to include the death penalty in some instances.

    The situation is extremely complex involving widespread anti-gay public feeling within Uganda, criminal damage and even murder, international civil liberties and gay rights protests, and interference by certain religious people. As a result there has been a delay while a Ugandan parliamentary commission investigates the circumstances and implications of the bill.

    But now the political process is moving again and the bill is being debated once more.

    With that backdrop, how should we respond as followers of Jesus? I think there are two things we need to be very clear about. Two things that should underpin our responses. What does the Bible say about sin? And what does the Bible say about attitudes to others?

    All have sinned - So what does the Bible say about sin? First of all we should recognise that all of us have sinned, there are no exceptions (Romans 3:23). But let's read the next verse too (Romans 3:24). All have sinned, but all have been justified by grace through Christ. Does this justification require anything from us? Yes. The sacrifice of Jesus requires my faith in order to apply to me (Romans 3:25).

    There are many different ways to sin, but they are all equally effective in cutting me off from spiritual life with Papa. I have a very simple choice. I can continue in my sin, or I can turn away from it and receive spiritual life through faith in Christ.

    Sin comes in many varieties. Murder, lying, theft, anything dishonourable or false. There are no severe sins, no minor and insignificant sins. Anything that breaches the standards set by the Almighty is sinful. We all fall equally short, murder is not worse than a tiny white lie because both are offensive to him. One kind of sin mentioned with others in the New Testament is sex between two men (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) This is not my opinion, it is right there in the Bible. If you disagree with this statement it's no good discussing it with me, you need to discuss it with Jesus.

    I need to add one more point. It is not my place to judge others. It is not my task to punish people for sin. Whatever you may have done, I am just as guilty as you are and deserve exactly the same punishment. Only grace can save us, and as we have seen, grace comes through faith in Jesus.

    How to treat others - What does the Bible say about attitudes to others? The ground rule that trumps everything else is love. (Luke 10:27, Matthew 5:43-45) We are called to love, not just some people but everybody. We are to love those who love us and those who do not. We are to love those who agree with us and those who oppose us.

    What follows from this is very simple. Killing people (for whatever reason) is wrong because it is unloving. Therefore the death penalty is wrong, regardless of the crime.

    Applying this to the Ugandan bill - The Ugandan government is democratically elected and is free to do whatever it wishes within its international obligations, and whatever it considers to be the will of the Ugandan people.

    People who follow Jesus are free to love others, irrespective of their thoughts, words and actions. Love is not easy, sometimes it is very hard indeed. But there is no room for believers to hate others. Anyone who feels or expresses hatred towards other people has no part in Christ.

    That leaves us to wonder about any religious people who would encourage legislation like this Ugandan bill. Are they really motivated by love? I don't think so. Are they even on the same side as Jesus? Are they following  him? Clearly not regarding this particular issue. What will they say to him when they have to account for their actions?

    Protesters are free to openly discuss any issue that troubles them and to attempt to persuade others to join them in discussing and protesting. Christians who protest should do so in law abiding and loving ways. Non-believers who protest are not so restricted but will do well to understand that the most effective way to win hearts and minds is by being polite, kind and gentle. Anger, hatred and violence however expressed tend to make co-operation less likely and conflict more probable.

    Please consider adding your name to a petition against the Ugandan bill. There are many other ways to  register your views, but you need to act quickly. Time is very short and every additional name counts.

    Questions:

    • Do you know any people that you are unable to love? Does Jesus love them?
    • How do you think believers should approach politics?
    • What sins do you regard as most serious, and which as least serious?
    • Do we have the right to try to influence foreign governments?

    See also:

    15 February 2013

    Noted from the web (1 - Feb 2013)

    The blogosphere is full of interesting things to read. Here are some items I spotted recently that are well worth passing on. Chris writes about not compromising, Jim about organic church, and Kelly about kindness in love. Three great writers, three great topics, three great articles.


    It's not always about finding the middle ground - Here's a great article from 'Life with Da Man CD' in which he explains that finding holy ground and finding middle ground are by no means compatible.

    Da Man CD (aka Chris Dryden) suggests that compromise is not always the way to go. He points out that society approves of compromise until its assumptions are challenged (a very good point and one worth remembering).

    But in following Jesus we go way beyond any middle ground! By living the truth in love we challenge society in ways it cannot accept or tolerate.

    Read the original article...


    Finding organic health - Jim Wright at 'Crossroad Junction' has posted an excellent article about the current state of organic church in the West. In my view he expresses it just right.

    He says organic church is beginning to come out of a time of serious difficulty and is catching up with the rest of the world. He adds that we are leaving behind some really weird stuff that was unhealthy and that we are networking better than before. There is much about good, local, unpretentious leadership, and much about community, fellowship and accountability. All Jim's observations are helpful and he is encouraged by what he sees as a growing outward focus, touching and learning from one another.

    Read the original article...


    Why good enough love is better than amazing love - Kelly Flanagan writes at 'UnTangled' and wrote about the need to accept one another without expecting perfection. Real love accepts me just as I am.

    He uses Valentine's Day as a springboard to get us thinking about the bondage of expectation from others and the freedom of acceptance. As he says, somewhere inside we all know that we fall short, we all know we are broken.

    To be accepted, brokenness and all, by those who love us is therefore a great gift. Pressure to be amazing will only damage us, but permission to be broken releases us.
    Kelly focusses on acceptance within marriage, but the principle applies across every aspect of life and relationship.

    Read the original article...

    01 January 2013

    How, then, should we meet?

    Alan Knox has posted a blog article about the way we meet as church. His post is not only informative and useful, it is also gentle and wise. This is very important yet often forgotten. Heated argument is not effective as a means of communication, Evidence and gentle persuasion are far better.

    Alan Knox's website
    I'm posting a quote from Alan Knox in the USA. I believe his message is important, partly because of what he writes and partly because of the way in which he writes it. But first, read the quote...

    If the authors of the New Testament were correct (and I think they were), and if we should consider what they wrote to be important (and I think we should), then we should also recognize the importance and necessity of mutual edification whenever we get together with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    You can read Alan's full article 'Remembering the importance of mutual edification' on his blog 'Assembling of the church'.

    What is Alan saying? - He's saying that when we meet together as church, what we do and how we do it are important. We would probably all agree with him on that.

    But he is further saying that we don't always get it right and we should go back to the Bible to check our current practice against what we find written there. And he's saying that mutual edification comes into it. But you can read all that for yourself.

    How is he saying it? - The other point I want to make is that Alan writes in a most gentle and inoffensive way. And he's right to do that. We can hardly edify one another while beating each other up with the big sticks of disagreement!

    We can all learn a lesson here, perhaps me more than most. Gentleness and wisdom often go hand in hand. We are called to have the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, things like peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness. There is, Paul assures us, no law against such things as these. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13). And all of them are underpinned by love, the greatest thing in the world.

    Questions:

    • How do you react to gentle persuasion and a reasoned argument?
    • How are you likely to respond to anything that seems like criticism?
    • What do you understand the Bible to say about the way we meet?

    See also:

    27 December 2012

    Israel and Iran love one another

    Remarkably, Ronny Edry has started a viral peace campaign on the internet. Initially it was 'Israel loves Iran', then 'Iran loves Israel', and now it's worldwide and growing apace. Take a look at the Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts. What a great idea!

    Ronny Edry's Peace FactoryIsrael and Iran are at best very suspicious of one another, at worst sworn enemies. Iran would like to see Israel destroyed, Israel is considering a strike at Iran's atomic research infrastructure.

    Ronny Edry started something bigger than he expected when he put up a simple poster on Facebook expressing love towards Iran.

    After a while it built quite a bit of momentum with replies from people and places he didn't expect.

    It's not merely that his poster has gone viral (although it has), but rather that the whole idea of loving one another has gone viral. Quite a movement!

    Ronny, knowingly or unknowingly, has reiterated Christ's message to his followers to 'love your enemies' (Matthew 5:43-48). To our shame we have not always done that as we should. Well done, Eddy. And well done everyone who has taken the idea and run with it.

    Watch this video of Ronny speaking at TEDx in Jaffa, Israel. It's a video you really should definitely not miss.



    Questions:

    • Do you think Ronny's love movement has lasting value?
    • How many people might a viral idea like this reach?
    • Can you think of further and novel ways to contribute to Ronny's idea?
    • Is there anything greater than love? Who might you offer love to today?

    See also:

    12 December 2012

    Death of a nurse

    The tragic death of a nurse following a prank phone call from Australia should make us all think about how we deal with other people and how we respond when hurt. We can only behave as we should if we have hearts that are full of love for others.

    Most people will have heard about the tragic death of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse involved in the hoax phone call to the London Hospital treating the Duchess of Cambridge.

    Amidst all the media activity and comment, maybe it's time to take a look at what happened and consider how we should respond.

    The bare facts are quite straightforward. Mel Greig and Michael Christian are radio hosts working for an Australian station, 2Day FM. They decided it would be fun to phone the hospital pretending to be Prince Charles and the Queen asking for an update on Kate's condition, and were quite surprised when Jacintha took the call and put them through to the ward nurse.

    The nurse on duty answered their questions. Later, when the news of the incident reached the hospital and Jacintha realised what she had done, I can only assume she must have been horrified, very, very embarrassed and upset. Later, she tragically committed suicide leaving her husband and children bereft of a loving wife and mother.

    The suffering - Jacintha's family, her friends and colleagues, the hospital management, the Duke and Duchess and their families are all suffering some level of distress as a result. When news of the suicide reached Mel and Michael they, in turn, were dreadfully upset at what had happened.

    Something that began as a prank has turned into a nightmare for so many people. Who should we feel most sorry for? Frankly, I feel sorry for almost everyone involved including Mel and Michael. What they did was foolish and unkind, but clearly not intended to cause a death. However, I have little sympathy for the management of the radio station.

    It seems there have been previous incidents for which the station has been criticised (this is the fourth such event mentioned in the Wikipedia article about the station). But it's clear that listener ratings and company profits were once again put before caring behaviour and ethical procedures.

    The company's CEO, Rhys Holleran, had the audacity to say it was not possible to foresee the suicide. That is true, but hardly relevant. It's a shameful failure to take responsibility. What was perfectly foreseeable is that any prank of this nature is certain to cause very serious embarrassment and distress. Isn't that the whole point? Embarrassment and distress amuse and excite audiences, keeping ratings and profits high. The station is now going to review its operating procedures, but changes should surely have been made when they were criticised for similar behaviour in the past.

    What should happen now? - As a bare minimum Jacintha's family need immediate financial support to cover the costs of counselling, loss of income, and to cover whatever extra facilities are necessary for the family to function in her absence. Additionally there will be a need for significant compensation. A wife and a mother cannot be replaced, of course, nor can the lifetime experiences that she has lost.

    It seems to me right and fair that the radio station should be required to meet all these costs as a bare minimum. And they need to change their standards of behaviour or face closure. I'm glad to hear that the radio station does plan to offer some financial help. This is to their credit, but should not prejudice any independent rulings on compensation or operating standards.

    The hospital is also raising an appeal for Jacintha's family. They are not guilty of doing anything wrong, but it's possible their handling of incoming phone calls could be improved in some way, especially out of hours. They are looking into this.

    What can we learn from this tragedy? - Surely the fundamental lesson is that we must always treat people with kindness. Deliberately embarrassing and distressing people, whether for commercial gain or for any other reason is simply not the right way to behave.

    Paul, writing to the Ephesians almost 2000 years ago makes it very clear. He writes that 'the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control'. There is, he writes, no law against such things. (Galatians 5:22-23)

    I hope that Mel and Michael will recover from their shock, grief and sorrow. Their lives will be changed by what has happened, hopefully they will warn others of the dangers of treating people unkindly. The worst thing that could happen now is for anyone else to be harmed. My prayer for Mel and Michael is that they will find the strength to endure this difficult time and to move on, not forgetting what has happened but learning from it. The same prayer goes out for all the managers and staff of the radio station.

    My prayer for everyone else is that they will be able to forgive. A world without Jacintha is a poorer world, especially for those who knew her. Sorrow and grief are inevitable, nothing can bring her back, the only way is forward. They will all need time, courage and strength to take those forward steps. Father, bless them as only you know how - in Jesus' name.

    Love - But what we all need in this amazing rainbow world of technology, war, natural beauty, knowledge, suffering, joy and wisdom is more love. Love for one another, love of what is good, endless love, love that never gives up, love that always hopes and believes the best. Only the heart of love can forgive and bless.

    Here's Paul again (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    Love never fails.

    Consider reading what the Scot, Henry Drummond, wrote about love in his amazing essay 'The Greatest Thing in the World'. Love is the one thing we need, both to give and to receive. We can't manage this, only Jesus can provide it. He is the source of love, both to give and to receive. Learn more about him from the seven signs in John.

    If even one person learns about love something good will have come from this desperately regrettable incident.


    Questions:

    • How do you think the radio station might have prevented this?
    • How do you think the hospital might have prevented this?
    • Are you always guided by love in your dealings with other people?
    • How do you measure up to the standard Paul set out? How will you get help?

    See also:

    07 November 2012

    A Bible free of religion?

    The Religion-Free Bible is a project by Jim Palmer to develop a new paraphrase of the Bible. The objective is to inspire people to greater love, peace, compassion and harmony. It's a collaborative venture with everyone invited to be involved.

    Life and religionJim Palmer, best known for his book 'Divine Nobodies', is working on a new project (Jim and a whole series of helpers, that is). Anyone can volunteer to help with the work of The Religion-Free Bible (RFB) Project. There are several ways to get involved. But first, what is the RFB?

    I suggest you go to the RFB website and take a look. On the home page Jim provides twenty-five reasons for creating a religion-free Bible. One of his reasons is that the Father 'has no religion'. Another is that 'in the hands of the people, the Bible can be an instrument of love, beauty, peace, acceptance and harmony in the world.'

    Here are two extracts from the RFB 'About' page...

    The Religion-Free Bible Project exists to inspire more love, peace, beauty, goodness, acceptance, compassion, justice and harmony in the world by offering humankind a paraphrase of biblical passages, which combine texts and images to creatively capture the spirit and meaning of the Bible, free from the bias and baggage of man-made religion. The goal of the RFB Project is to make the Religion-Free Bible accessible to all people worldwide, and for 51% of our world population to have a copy of the RFB in some form.
    ...
    Jim believes that the value of the Bible lies in its capacity to transform people’s relationship with themselves, God, others, life, and world, not perpetuating theological dogma or religious rules and rituals. In frustration about the disempowering spin on the Bible he often saw online, Jim wrote out a paraphrase of one of Jesus’ sayings and posted it on Facebook. He added and image to his post and referred to it tongue-in cheek as the JPV – Jim Palmer version. A significant response to this and other JPV posts, led to the idea of the Religion-Free Bible, which combines Jim’s paraphrase and images he has selected for each entry.

    What does the RFB text look like? - This Bible is a paraphrase, a rewriting of the meaning using entirely new wording. It should not be regarded as a translation, there are plenty of those in many of the world's languages.

    Other paraphrases include the 'Living Bible' and 'The Message', both of which are widely known and used. Unlike these, the RFB is luxuriously reworded in order to emphasise the meaning in all its richness. Like any paraphrase there is, of course, a degree of interpretation involved. It's the Bible as understood and experienced by Jim Palmer.

    Here is John 3:16-17. Compare it with some other versions.

    • NIV (UK version) - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
    • The Message - This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
    • Religion-Free Bible - Love gives. Love is what brought me into this world. I am a gift, offered in love. Love desires your freedom. Love desires your wholeness. Love wants you to know yourself as complete. Love wants you to be at peace. My life was an invitation to this freedom, wholeness, peace and love. But my invitation is a choice. You have also been fed a lie about yourself that will ultimately destroy you. The lie says you are bad and worthless, irreparably flawed, defective and unacceptable, and undeserving of love and acceptance, even from God. I’m here to say that’s not true, and I’m asking you to believe me. Even when everything in your head or everything in your life seems to be evidence of the lie, I’m asking that you believe me instead. I’m going to be gone soon, and I need you to get this because I need your life to be that invitation as mine was. You are as much a gift to the world as I am, and I want you to accept and own that for yourself. Love never stopped giving. Love keeps birthing new expressions of the truth to awaken those lost in the lie. First, you have to wake up yourself and then your life naturally becomes the smelling salts this world needs.

    Is the RFB going to succeed? - You will have to be the judge of that. All of you who choose to read it for yourselves.

    The language is different from anything we've seen before. Does it put the sense over well? Will ordinary people understand it? Some people will feel it is a misleading version, that religion is an essential part of the Bible. Some will be unhappy that it leaves certain things out or adds other things in.

    We must remember that it is an interpretation. I'm asking Papa to use it to open hearts and minds to the fragrance of his presence in this world and to reach many who reject religion but in doing so may also reject the truth of the Father's love for his creation.

    I know this project won't please everyone and will offend some. But on balance I think it's a great idea and a worthy project and I will be supporting Jim any way I can.

    All I ask of you, my readers, is that you take a look at the RFB Project and make up your own minds.

    Getting involved - If you want to help, the RFB website has all the information you need. They are looking for financial support for the process of publication, of course. But they are also looking for practical help with photography, the writing/editing side and in getting the word out by telling friends and contacts.

    Questions:

    • What do you mean when you use the word 'religion'? What do you think Jim Palmer means by it?
    • Is it possible to tell people about Jesus without being religious?
    • Was Jesus religious in what he said or in what he did? What sort of people liked him? What sort of people despised him?

    See also:

    02 November 2012

    Why is life dangerous?

    Why is there so much danger in the world? We examine how random chance is necessary if we are to have a choice and how choice is necessary if we are to be capable of love. The most surprising thing is that there are not many more disasters.

    Mount Pinatubo in 1991
    What underlies the fact that life is dangerous and the Earth is such a dangerous place? Wherever we look we see danger and catastrophe lying in wait for us. Road accidents, volcanic eruptions, storms (like Hurricane Sandy), diseases of all kinds, violent crime; there's no denying the risks we face daily.

    Some of these hazards can blamed on human wrongdoing or failure. Violent crime is an example of wrongdoing and most road accidents result from failures of judgement, design, construction or maintenance. But what of a volcanic eruption? Who is to blame for that?

    Let's put dangers into three broad categories - deliberate human action or inaction, unintended human action or inaction, and natural events. Of the three, natural events form the category we want to consider in this article. We need to begin by understanding that the universe has always been open to the effects of chance.

    Let's elaborate a little. We don’t know how the universe came into being, all we can say is that we have a pretty good idea how it developed after the first tiny fraction of a second (10-35 s). But we do know that since that first fraction of a second, randomness and chance have been (and remain) fundamental to its development. Sub-atomic particles flashed into existence and then, just as suddenly vanished again. They still do that today, what we regard as a perfect vacuum can be shown to be a sea of churning activity.

    Chance is absolutely necessary in a universe where there is to be some freedom of choice. Why? Because we can only choose if we live in a universe where things are not normally determined in advance. My understanding is that Yahweh created a universe in which intelligence would arise and in which any intelligent life forms would be able to know him and choose to love and follow him.

    Perhaps we see a glimpse of this in 1 Kings 19:11-13. We'll be exposed to many things during our lives, but Yahweh is not present in the outward tumult and danger; he communicates quietly. We may fail to notice him if we are focussed on the loud and dangerous things.

    Let's put it very simply. Love requires a universe in which things are not directed. Volcanoes can erupt, earthquakes can shatter cities and hurricanes can flood coastal plains. The chain of  dependency is that love depends on the ability to choose, and choice depends on the existence of chance. In other words chance makes choice possible and choice makes love possible.

    It seems to me that the real wonder is not that bad things sometimes happen, but that they happen so rarely. We certainly shouldn't blame Papa for random disasters, but we should thank him for such an exquisite combination of personal freedom and relative day to day safety. This supreme balancing act is something worthy of great praise, awe and gratitude.

    In conclusion we have to take a small amount of rough with the surprisingly large dollop of smooth. Thank you, Father, for doing such a great job of designing this universe! Truly you are worthy of praise.

    (This article is based on a comment I left on an article on the Jesus Creed blog.)

    Questions:
    • People sometime ask, 'If there's a God, why does he allow suffering?' How do you answer this?
    • Has this blog post provided any unfamiliar arguments about suffering?
    • Do you believe a creator is free to create things without regard to logic?
    • Is a universe possible in which something could be simultaneously true and false?

    See also:

    26 October 2012

    Loving more fully and widely

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

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

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

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

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

    This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.

    Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

    The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

    There's a wider context too, that we need to bear in mind. Paul first writes about civil government, making it clear that goverments are there because the One who is Authority puts them there. They have a function and a purpose, we must submit to them.

    Then come the verses above.

    And finally Paul writes that time is short, we need to act now while we still can. Jesus is returning - soon! We need to be found ready and obedient and already covered by him. Romans 13 is relevant in its entirety. We should read this chapter often and let it sink deep into our hearts and minds!

    But in verse eight, Paul makes three statements.

    • Don't let any debt remain.
    • Continue to love one another
    • This fulfils the Law

    What does he mean? He is not simply saying that I should pay off any debts I owe. He is saying that I should allow no debt to stand. He is saying I should pay my own debts but I should also, if necessary, pay yours. The important thing about debt is that it is paid, the effect is the same no matter who pays.

    Jesus paid my debt so if I want to be like him I will pay yours. And Paul is not writing merely about money, he has just explicitly used the words respect and honour as well. These things apply to one another as much as (or more than) they do to governments.

    There are to be no debts amongst us, not only because we pay them off but because we forgive them. When I lack the means to pay I become dependent on your willingness to forgive. Jesus is our example in this. He is the ultimate debt payer and forgiver. We are called to be like him in our dealings with one another.

    Will I pay my monetary debt to you? Will I forgive your debt of money to me? But also (and often harder) will I pay the respect and honour I owe to you? And will I forgive you if you disrespect and dishonour me? This is the nitty-gritty of not allowing any debt to remain.

    If I continue to love you I will indeed pay and forgive in all situations where debt might remain. Love will cause me, compel me to cover every kind of debt. If not, do I have love at all?

    And it goes further yet! Paul writes that there is one debt that should stand, the 'continuing debt to love one another'.  Love is not just for today but also for tomorrow and for tomorrow's tomorrow. I owe you love and that is a debt I cannot pay off. Love goes forward without ceasing. 'Faith, hope and love remain', writes Paul, 'And the greatest of these is love'. Love remains, even in the kingdom of heaven, especially in the kingdom of heaven.

    So, just as love is the fulfilment of Torah, so love is the fulfilment of civil law and indeed every kind of law. If I truly love I will not be able to commit any sin at all. The fact that sin remains is just a clear sign that love is not yet complete in me.

    Let's go forward in our lives understanding that love remains and is greater than anything else. And let's remember who 'one another' means. It's not limited to the church.

    Jesus made it pretty inclusive. What begins with brothers and sisters becomes all encompassing. Love the Father, love one another, love your neighbour, love your enemy. My love is to extend out and become fully inclusive, not in any way for club members only. 'One another' is just a starting point, the nursery slopes of loving.



    This post is the fourteenth link in a chain blog, started by Alan Knox, on the topic 'One Another'. Please have a look back through the other links and comments to join in the topic. You can even join in the chain – read the rules below to participate.

     Links in the 'One Another' Chain Blog
    1. Chain Blog: One Another - Alan Knox
    2. Linking One Another - Swanny
    3. What Does It Mean to Love One Another? - Chuck McKnight 
    4. The treasure of 'One Another' - Jim Puntney
    5. This is how the world shall recognise you... - Kathleen Ward
    6. Accepting one another in love - Chris Jefferies
    7. One Another-ing: A meta-narrative for the church - Greg Gamble (also see part 2)
    8. Individualism and 'one another' - Pieter Pretorious
    9. All Alone with One Another - Jeremy Myers
    10. When it's OK for Christians to compete - Joshua Lawson
    11. Jesus Christ: the Corner Stone for One Another - Peter
    12. Be Superficial With One Another - Jon Hutton
    13. The Unmentionable One Anothers - Alan Knox
    14. Loving more fully and widely - Chris Jefferies
    15. The one another weapon - Dan Allen
    16. Corporate one anothering (Part 1) and (Part 2)- David Bolton
    17. The last revival - Tobie van der Westhuizen
    18. Love: a 'one another' comic - Dan Allen
    19. I can only love you if... - Rob
    20. Who will write the next link post in the chain?
    Chain Blog Rules
    1. If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment on the most recent post stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
    2. Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both this post and the other link posts in the chain).
    3. When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

    08 October 2012

    Accepting one another in love

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

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

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

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

    We are not called to put one another right. We are called to accept one another just as we are, to love the unlovable. If I cannot do this, how will I ever love anyone? And if those around me can't do this, how will I ever be loved? Papa loved us long before we began to love him. If I am truly made in his image I will love others before they love me. Sometimes this may be very hard - but it is also very necessary.

    If I demonstrate love and others copy my example, great benefit and joy and peace will result! If I demonstrate judgement and others copy my example, great misery and shame and angst will result. Why do we find it so hard to go first in love? And why do we find it so easy to go first in judgement?

    Henri Nouwen understood these principles. The quote below is a meditation from the Henri Nouwen Society website. You might consider signing up for these emails yourself, they are always helpful and always so gentle and wise.

    Small Steps of Love - How can we choose love when we have experienced so little of it? We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity. A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit ... all these are little steps toward love.

    Each step is like a candle burning in the night. It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness. When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey.

    In the life of Jesus - Here are some other examples from the life of Jesus (there are many more, the gospels are full of them). Jesus was quick to feed the hungry crowd, speak to the woman at the well, call to Zacchaeus in the sycamore fig tree, die for our sin, release the woman caught in adultery, heal the sick, cast out demons, turn water to wine. In every case people were needy, inconvenient, sinful, unlovable, pressing in, without hope. In every case Jesus touched them in their need and error and unloveliness.

    Here's a challenge. Who will you find to love today? And how will you express that love?

    See also

    • Henry Drummond wrote an essay called 'The greatest thing in the world'. It's on love and is available as a free download. Highly recommended.
    • Greg Gamble's list of 'The One Anothers' as basic rules of engagement for believers.



    This post is the sixth link in a chain blog, started by Alan Knox, on the topic 'One Another'. Please have a look back through the other links and comments to join in the topic. You can even join in the chain – read the rules below to participate.

     Links in the 'One Another' Chain Blog
    1. Chain Blog: One Another - Alan Knox
    2. Linking One Another - Swanny
    3. What Does It Mean to Love One Another? - Chuck McKnight 
    4. The treasure of 'One Another' - Jim Puntney
    5. This is how the world shall recognise you... - Kathleen Ward
    6. Accepting one another in love - Chris Jefferies
    7. One Another-ing: A meta-narrative for the church - Greg Gamble (also see part 2)
    8. Individualism and 'one another' - Pieter Pretorious
    9. All Alone with One Another - Jeremy Myers
    10. When it's OK for Christians to compete - Joshua Lawson
    11. Jesus Christ: the Corner Stone for One Another - Peter
    12. Be Superficial With One Another - Jon Hutton
    13. The Unmentionable One Anothers - Alan Knox
    14. Loving more fully and widely - Chris Jefferies
    15. The one another weapon - Dan Allen
    16. Corporate one anothering (Part 1) and (Part 2)- David Bolton
    17. The last revival - Tobie van der Westhuizen
    18. Love: a 'one another' comic - Dan Allen
    19. I can only love you if... - Rob
    20. Who will write the next link post in the chain?
    Chain Blog Rules
    1. If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment on the most recent post stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
    2. Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both this post and the other link posts in the chain).
    3. When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

    05 August 2012

    A story of encouragement

    Are you an encourager? Has anyone ever encouraged you? If so, and especially if not, this is for you. We can all learn to encourage and it's probably more important than we realise. Here's a good story about encouragement.

    A treasured piece of paperFloyd McClung posted a story on his blog this morning. He writes that he doesn't know if it's a true story, but it is a story of truth. He is right about that.

    We are called to encourage one another. This story is about encouraging, how to encourage, what it takes to tend to a person's heart so that the growth that happens in them becomes permanent. It's a good story. We should all try to find ways to encourage those around us.

    No doubt we'll all find different ways to do it, but the important thing is not how I encourage, it's that I do encourage, that I am an encourager, that I have a habit and a heart to encourage.

    Here's the story...
    One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.

    Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.

    It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

    That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual

    On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. ‘Really?’ she heard whispered. ‘I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!’ and, ‘I didn’t know others liked me so much,’ were most of the comments.

    No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn’t matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.

    Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.

    The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.

    As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. ‘Were you Mark’s math teacher?’ he asked. She nodded: ‘yes.’ Then he said: ‘Mark talked about you a lot.’

    After the funeral, most of Mark’s former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark’s mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.

    ‘We want to show you something,’ his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket ‘They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.’

    Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.

    ‘Thank you so much for doing that,’ Mark’s mother said. ‘As you can see, Mark treasured it.’

    All of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, ‘I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.’

    Chuck’s wife said, ‘Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.’

    ‘I have mine too,’ Marilyn said. ‘It’s in my diary’

    Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. ‘I carry this with me at all times,’ Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued: ‘I think we all saved our lists’

    That’s when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.

    The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end one day. And we don’t know when that one day will be.

    So please, tell the people you love and care for, that they are special and important. Tell them, before it is too late, tell them while you have time. Tell them in carefully crafted but simple, heartfelt words of love why you appreciate them, the good you see in them, the love and hope you carry in your heart for them.

    27 July 2012

    Not rules, but relationship

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

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

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

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

    First, here's the link to the interview so that you can hear it for yourself.

    The two segments I feel compelled to share are around 10:43 and 19:30 minutes into the interview.

    Rejection - At 10:43 Paul mentions that churches sometimes reject people who are beginning to be open.  He explains that he was once involved in a fellowship where this happened. The way he puts it is 'when their cracks showed up we just kicked them out'. If that sounds harsh it's because it is! But it happens because we are lost. Instead of loving the person we are afraid of the cracks we see. We can't handle it. We preserve our rules and structures by rejecting the 'misfits' who would cause the entire facade to collapse.

    Acceptance - And at 19:30 Paul explains that 'Jesus came to destroy religion by introducing a relationship'. It's not about rules. It's about love. It's about relationship.

    Those two segments are saying exactly the same thing in two different ways. We often handle those around us by rejecting whatever threatens the things that seem important. We don't want our world to crumble.

    But Father (Daddy, Papa, Abba) simply pours out his love over us (and his grace, and his peace, and the fragrance of his presence, and even his glory - John 17:20-22).

    He wants me to do the same. He wants me to love and pour out grace, peace, and the fragrance of his Spirit and glory. He wants me to do it freely and abundantly and with gay abandon. It's never too late to start.

    Do you have stories of  times when rules took precedence over love? Can you identify good and less good experiences in you own life? How would you describe Papa's yearning for relationship with us as his children? How can we learn to better accept one another in life-giving relationship?

    20 June 2012

    Belonging or activity?

    Belonging and activity are both essential for healthy church life. As individuals we need to be widely connected and part of close family with Jesus. Belonging and activity are at the heart of all we are and do.

    Belonging and activity
    In the world of on line collaboration we can think in terms of social networks, like Facebook, and platforms for activity, like Wikipedia. Facebook connects people who know one another - family, work colleagues, neighbours. Wikipedia is a place where strangers collaborate on building an encyclopaedia.

    Of course belonging and activity overlap to some extent, and relationships change. It's possible to make friends with others editing the same article on Wikipedia, and Facebook includes pages for people who share common interests.

    But even if the distinction grows a little fuzzy in the middle, it's still a valid (and useful) distinction.

    In terms of church life we see the same thing. Sometimes we have a sense of belonging, we see other believers as our church friends and family. Jesus tells us to love one another, we are called to care deeply. But we think in terms of activity when we work on projects of various kinds. We may do this alone or with others. Jesus tells us to feed the hungry, take in the homeless and give water to the thirsty.

    If belonging becomes dominant in our thinking. If we think the purpose of the church family is solely to be together often for close community, for encouragement, and for worship we may miss opportunities for wider connection. One of the failures of church in our day is the silo mentality that fails to communicate across the divide - even in the same town. It's like family life becoming so important that we never speak to our neighbours! And we may also miss opportunities for practical action in our own district or worldwide.

    But when activity looms too large we may focus so much on mission or helping the poor or praying for our nation that we have no time left for meaningful, local belonging. Either we feel we have no brothers and sisters or we abandon them through busyness.

    We need both... belonging and activity... family and projects. One of the joys of a life following Jesus is that the two can (and should) be combined. But they are distinct.

    Belonging and activity
    The diagram (repeated here for convenience) shows the four possible combinations. At upper left are those who are well connected but don't do very much. Those of us in the lower right are actively and abundantly engaged in activity but have no roots in the church family. At greatest danger are those in the red area, loners who do little or nothing. And the best place to be is in the green zone, supporting and supported by close local church family and connected widely, but also busy with whatever tasks Papa has provided.

    Pray for the right balance in your own life and in the lives of those around you. Encourage one another to move to or remain in the green zone, the place of healthy belonging and activity. Also pray that the places of belonging and the activities will be those chosen by the Father and revealed by the Spirit. Only by remaining in Papa's love and doing the things he shows us can we live in true peace and joy.

    Note: I have made some changes in the light of Ashley's helpful comments (see below). The diagram shows that some people might be disconnected (ie alone, not in community) even though they may be active in prayer or other ways. Parts of the the text suggested otherwise.

    15 June 2012

    Accepting one another in love

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

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

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

    We are not called to put one another right. We are called to accept one another just as we are, to love the unlovable. If I cannot do this, how will I ever love anyone? And if those around me can't do this, how will I ever be loved? Papa loved us long before we began to love him. If I am truly made in his image I will love others before they love me. Sometimes this may be very hard - but it is also very necessary.

    If I demonstrate love and others copy my example, great benefit and joy and peace will result! If I demonstrate judgement and others copy my example, great misery and shame and angst will result. Why do we find it so hard to go first in love? And why do we find it so easy to go first in judgement?

    Henri Nouwen - understood these principles. The quote below is today's meditation from the Henri Nouwen Society website. You might consider signing up for these emails yourself, they are always helpful and always so gentle and wise.

    Small Steps of Love - How can we choose love when we have experienced so little of it? We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity. A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit ... all these are little steps toward love.

    Each step is like a candle burning in the night. It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness. When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey.

    In the life of Jesus - Here are some other examples from the life of Jesus (there are many more, the gospels are full of them). Jesus was quick to feed the hungry crowd, speak to the woman at the well, call to Zacchaeus in the sycamore fig tree, die for our sin, release the woman caught in adultery, heal the sick, cast out demons, turn water to wine. In every case people were needy, inconvenient, sinful, unlovable, pressing in, without hope. In every case Jesus touched them in their need and error and unloveliness.

    A challenge - Who will you find to love today? And how will you express that love?

    07 June 2012

    Sheep, goats and judgement

    What does it mean to be chosen? How will we be judged? What must I do to be saved? These questions and others like them are often answered with the advice, 'Believe in Jesus Christ, confess him as Lord and Saviour.' But is that the full answer?

    A way up, and a way downThis article is based on a response I made on the Koinonia Life Discussion Forum.

    There had been some discussion on the topic of  'unforgiveness' and this had brought us onto the related matter of judgement.

    Here's what I contributed to the discussion, follwed by some further thoughts and Bible references.

    What are your views on the topic? Perhaps things are not as clear cut as we sometimes think.

    Leave a comment at the end of the article.

    There's one place in particular where Jesus describes the judgement process - and it's not quite how most people imagine it.

    Read Matthew 25:31-46, this is clearly about judgement.

    Sheep and goats in Jesus' time looked pretty much alike. People who are 'in' and those who are 'out' look pretty much alike too. But, Good Shepherd that he is, Jesus separates and divides.

    The interesting thing is that it has more to do with people's care for others than anything else. Had they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, invited in strangers? Of course, it's also about obedience - these are the very things we are commanded to do.

    Verse 46 is pretty clear, our eternal destination depends on how much we cared for others.

    Paul puts the emphasis on faith (eg Romans 3:22), and James on actions (James 2:14); though both agree that faith without actions is dead. Paul and Peter also agree that love is greater than faith (1 Corinthians 13:13, 1 Peter 4:8). John (1 John 4:8) tells us that the Almighty is love, and of course it's love that causes us to care for others.

    Note that we can follow Jesus even if we don't know him. How can that be? Well, I think many who would not call themselves 'Christian' follow him by feeding the hungry, or inviting in strangers, for example. And we can fail to follow him even if we know him quite well. Are these the people who say 'Lord, Lord...' yet he says he doesn't know them?

    And also note that it's what we did or did not do for the very least of these that is important here. We are called to have loving pity in our hearts for all who need, but especially for the weak, the helpless and the insignificant. We are called to be merciful. Read Matthew 5:3-12 because this passage is so closely related to the separation of the sheep and goats. 'Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.'

    As I was writing I saw an opening like a trapdoor. And I realised that there's only one door through which we may go up or down. But there is no place 'in between'. If we are not in the Kingdom of Heaven we are in the place of punishment and vice versa. Heaven and hell are not places we go to from here. They are surely places we are already in right now. The prodigal son's older brother is a good example, all his life he had done everything a good son should do, yet his heart was full of jealous bitterness rather than welcoming love. And he refused to go in (Luke 15:28).

    Jesus always knew what was in a person's heart (Mark 2:8, Luke 5:22). And that is why he was able to say, 'You are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven', or, 'Truly, today you will be with me in Paradise'.

    Finally, remember the wealthy man who asked Jesus how to obtain eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22). Jesus told him, 'Go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and then follow me'.

    You might also like to read an earlier article on sheep and goats.

    23 May 2012

    Little and large

    We live in exciting times. In every part of the world Jesus is building his church in ways that are appropriate to local circumstances. For example house church networks are growing explosively in countries where there is persecution.

    Cooperative handshakeIn the west, evidence is building that Jesus is moving small, organic groups and the more established church organisations to engage with one another in mutually helpful ways.

    It has been all too easy to see the small and the large as somehow on opposite 'sides'. But they are not. Cooperation is both possible and essential. We should seek and embrace it.

    I was prompted to write about this after a brief conversation with Donna and our friend Ash, and a comment on Neil Cole's blog this morning.

    A conversation - Donna was talking about a series of meetings at the Kings Arms in Bedford (The 'Heaven Touches Earth' Conference), and was thinking she might book to attend some of the sessions. Ash expressed some interest too, but I was less enthusiastic. Then the conversation moved on to the need for structure and organisation for managing larger sizes of church or meetings like those in Bedford. On the other hand, really small groups can meet with little or no planning, just listening and responding to the Holy Spirit in the moment.

    A blog article and a comment - In September 2011, Neil Cole posted an article about his forthcoming book, 'Church Transfusion'.  Here's his first paragraph.

    My newest project is called Church Transfusion: Releasing Organic Life into Established Churches. We are offering a two day training, much like our Greenhouse, for those who lead an established church but would like to see more vital health and reproduction from organic church principles. There will also be a book forthcoming, published by Jossey-Bass in the Leadership Network series written by myself and Phil Helfer.

    On 22nd May 2012 Kathleen wrote a comment.

    I'm really excited to find a reference to your new book, "Church Transfusion", coming out later this year. I am currently writing a similar book, called "Church in a Circle." Of course, I don't know if they are similar at all - but my husband and I are passionate about seeing elements of organic church move into the established church, and change it from within.

    Why does this excite me? - It's exciting because this is so much what Father has been showing me recently. I kicked over the traces of 'big church' back in the late 1970s. I wasn't always wise or careful in the way I went about it. For much of my life I was in or out of small meetings, but always wishing to be in. Sometimes there was no opportunity.

    In 1998 I joined Open Door Church here in St Neots where we live. I joined because I thought it was a good idea, not because Father led me to do so. That was a mistake and a few years later I had to ask to be released (which the leaders graciously did).

    Today I am glad to be part of Donna's Small Group, itself a part of Open Door. But I am not officially a member of the church and I'm still much involved with others following Jesus in the area where we live.

    Here are some other articles from my blog that relate to this.


    Some of those links cover several articles. Even so, it's not an exhaustive list and you will find many older articles here on related themes, oneness in the body has long been a central hunger in my heart.

    Let me share a heart-warming story from the House2House conference in 2009. Just before the conference was to start, the person responsible for the audio and video equipment was called away for the unexpectedly premature birth of his child. How was the gap to be filled?

    A local megachurch heard about the problem and sent their audio-visual unit with all the necessary equipment and the people to operate it, all at no cost to House2House. This is love at work. This is cooperation at its finest. The small has good things to offer the large - and vice versa.

    Loving one another - In the end, it all boils down to love. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. We are drawn into their love and become part of their community. We are the body of Christ!

    Therefore it follows (and Jesus commands) that we love the Father, we love one another, we love the lost and those who suffer and struggle, and we even love our enemies.

    So reach out across the divide in your own town or city. You may have much to offer to your brothers and sisters who are doing things differently.

    Copyright

    Creative Commons Licence

    © 2002-2014, Chris J Jefferies

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