Showing posts with label series. Show all posts
Showing posts with label series. Show all posts

06 August 2013

Gifts, prayer and needs

Leaders in the church, Part 13
< Some issues to grapple with | Index | No later items >

As we grow in living the way Jesus calls us to, we become examples for those around us, those coming next. If we live wrongly and make bad choices we will mislead others and that would be a fearful thing.

Bread of life
Bread of life
It's becoming clear to me that everything in Matthew's Gospel is of value to all believers and also to all leaders. In other words there is nothing here so far that applies only to leaders or only to followers.

Instead, the pattern is a progression, from new believer to disciple and from disciple to leader. As we learn and grow we should all aspire to guide and encourage and build those around us. Even at the earliest disciple stage we can do what Jesus' followers did; bring more people to Jesus.

We need to learn to exercise ourselves in these activities, bringing people into Jesus' presence, helping them to grow as disciples, and continuing to grow in the process ourselves. In a sense there is no distinction between leader and follower; we are, without exception, called to be both.

Giving and praying - So here in Matthew 6:1-4 we see Jesus speaking about giving to those who have insufficient and doing it secretly without show or boasting. And in Matthew 6:5-15 he tells them that it's the same for prayer. Pray privately, just between yourself and the Father. Nor is it about fancy words, the most striking thing about the prayer Jesus taught them is its simplicity. Even so, each of those simple words is loaded with meaning and significance. This is not a prayer for those who do not mean business!

Again, fasting is not for show but to be done secretly (Matthew 6:16-18).

Focussing on heaven - Matthew 6:19-24 shows how Jesus wants us to focus on heaven, not earth; to be full of light, not darkness; and to serve the Almighty, not material things.

And we are not to be anxious about food, drink, clothes or time (Matthew 6:25-34). Instead we must search for the kingdom of the Most High and for his righteousness.

By doing all these things we will become living books that people can safely follow. 'Do what I do' needs to consistently bring people right into the places where Jesus is present.

Questions:

  • If I do not give to those in need or those who ask, how will this affect my friends' understanding of Jesus?
  • Can you list some ways in which secret prayer is better than public prayer?
  • Now list the ways in which public prayer is better than secret prayer.
  • How will this affect the way you pray in future?

See also:


< Some issues to grapple with | Index | No later items >

10 July 2013

Some issues to grapple with

Leaders in the church, Part 12
< Back to front truth | Index | Gifts, prayer and needs >

Speaking to his disciples, Jesus stresses the importance of avoiding anger, lust, divorce and swearing; he also tells them how important it is to be selfless. He was speaking to leaders in training and it's important that we understand these things are especially significant when we lead.

An angry man
An angry man
Matthew 5:21-42 records some of Jesus' teaching about negative things - anger, lust, swearing oaths and retaliation. After these are dealt with he continues with some positive essentials.

As we pay attention to what he says about both negative and positive, we should bear in mind that he is speaking here to leaders in training, the followers he will later send out to work on their own.

This stuff applies to everyone, but it applies especially to anyone who leads. And if we are truly following Jesus we will do what he does (and that includes leading others into the truth).

The highest standards are demanded of people who lead others. We need to be very serious in understanding the harm that we can do, and we need to accept that we are held accountable by Jesus himself.

Anger - In Matthew 5:21-26 Jesus explains that murder is illegal and will be judged. But then he says something quite astonishing. He tells us that anger, insults and even calling someone stupid will be judged equally seriously.

He tells his apprentices that even if they're in the middle of an important and public religious act at the Temple, if it occurs to them that they've wronged someone in any way they should drop what they're doing and go and put things right straight away.

Or, if someone has a legal case against you, come to an agreement with them before the court appearance. It's just common sense really. But it's an illustration of spiritual common-sense too. We are called to love one another, and amongst other things that means keeping our relationships with one another healthy. If we let anger, differences, grudges or hostility creep in we are failing in love. That is a more serious matter than we may realise and it goes against the new, great commandment to 'love one another as I have loved you'.

Lust - Once again, Jesus' standards exceed those of the law. Even looking is condemned as adultery. It is the heart that counts, not just the actions of the body.

Jesus presses this message home by using a Hebraic figure of speech, absurd exaggeration. Hopefully nobody will take these remarks about gouging out an eye or cutting off a hand literally! But the point about lust is important enough to warrant such words.

Truly loving other people is the key to resolving this issue, as with anger. We cannot hurt those we truly love.

We don't need to list recent examples of sexual misconduct in church circles. It happens more often than we like to think. It's usually well hidden for as long as possible and it's always shocking when the truth comes out.

Divorce - Once again, Yahshua insists that the parting of husband and wife is more serious than many assume. The paper certificate is not the issue here. As with anger and lust we need to see that love will prevent this. But we'd better not mix up the different kinds of love in our minds, I don't mean romantic love here, I mean the kind of love Jesus himself calls for, sacrificial and compassionate.

Swearing - Yes or no is enough. Does this apply only to everyday conversation or does it also apply in a court of law? It applies in both cases. When asked to swear in a court of law, find out if there's an option to affirm that you will tell the truth instead. Such an option exists in both UK and USA law.

Whether or not you consider yourself a leader, remember that you are setting an example that others may follow. In this sense whenever we speak or act we are leading those who are watching and listening.

Selflessness - We must be humble, accepting injustices and giving over and above what is asked of us. This, too, is Christlike. He went to the cross without complaint and neither should we complain when harmed or taken advantage of.

We are to love our enemies. This is an astonishing statement! We are to pray for them. What is this all about? It's a matter of being like our Father who is perfect. The more we are like him the better. Jesus told his disciples that if we have seen him we have seen the Father. So it's just the same as saying we are to be like Jesus.

This is what leadership is all about, becoming daily more like Jesus. Jesus is on a mission and we must follow him in that. And out of mission will come discipleship. Others will follow us as we follow Jesus - that's what it means to 'make disciples'. Jesus reveals the Father to us and we must reveal Jesus to those around us.

We can do nothing greater then lead; we dare do nothing less. All of us. And we can copy Jesus in one more thing. If we remember that he was speaking here to trainee leaders we should understand that we, too, need to be training leaders. It is the most important and effective thing we can do.

Questions:


  • Can you think of some ways in which you could become more like Jesus in thought and deed?
  • In what situations have you led others by your actions or words this week?
  • Which of the negatives and positives above do you find most problematic?
  • Are there strategies you could use to better deal with those problem areas?
See also:


< Back to front truth | Index | Gifts, prayer and needs >

14 November 2012

Blog post links and questions

There are a variety of ways to make blog articles more useful and interesting. These include the addition of a question section and a links section. Questions stimulate thought and discussion. Links make an article part of a wider network on a particular theme.

Typical 'Questions' and 'See also'
I've begun regularly adding 'Questions' and 'See also' sections at the end of blog posts. Both are intended to make the articles more useful.

An invitation to respond - I've noticed how some other bloggers include open questions at the end of their articles and it's been really helpful.

For one thing it encourages me to think for myself when I've finished reading. It's so easy to read something and then move straight on, but the questions interrupt that automatic urge to see what's next and instead provoke me to think through the implications of what has been written.

Sometimes I leave a comment purely because one of the questions has helped me to agree or disagree with something the author has written, or has taken me beyond what is mentioned in the article.

A list of links - I've also noticed 'See also' sections in some blogs, but this seems less widespread than the inclusion of questions. However, from now on my intention is to provide links in the 'See also' section for every post.

Some bloggers only post links to their own articles, but I'm going to try to link to other blogs and websites too. Expect to find links to other relevant blog articles, Wikipedia articles for topic overviews, recent articles from news organisations, and other stuff that seems relevant from time to time. For completeness the list always includes the links provided in the main body of the blog post.

It's my hope that readers will use the links to explore a trail from one blog post to another, not just within my own blog but much more widely.

I encourage other bloggers to pick up this idea and run with it. If enough of us engage in this rich linking all our blog articles will act as entry points into the wider discussion. It would be very helpful to our readers and it would also bind us into a wide and deep community of writers, commentators and commenters. Along with chain blogs and synchroblogs it would help us transcend the boundaries of individual blogging.

Organic Wine - Some time ago I set up an area on this site called 'Organic Wine'. It has its own tab below the banner. The idea was that this would list links to specific topics that are important to me, specifically around the subject of church in general and organic church in particular.

I haven't kept this up-to-date recently and I hope that the lists of links in articles will be a more flexible way of achieving the same end - linking to relevant material elsewhere in the blogosphere.

We'll see how it goes. If, over a period of time, the new linking arrangement seems successful I may freeze the 'Organic Wine' feature permanently and eventually take the dedicated tab away.

Previous, Next and Index - I have always added these links to the top and bottom of articles where they're part of a series. These links always refer to other posts on 'Journeys of heart and mind'.

When I write a series on a particular theme it's particularly useful for readers to be able to skip to the previous and next articles in the series. It's also useful to see a list of the entire series on a single page (the index). Doing it this way also means the series does not need to be continuous, I can intersperse stand-alone articles that have nothing to do with the series.

To see this in action, here's a list of the series index pages on this blog.

Questions:

  • Do you find the 'Questions' section useful? How? Why?
  • Do you find the 'See also' section useful? How? Why?
  • Do you think I should continue with 'Organic Wine' or not?
  • If you're a blogger, do you think you might begin cross-linking in a similar way?
  • Are there other ways we could make blog articles more useful to our readers?

See also:

05 September 2008

Just do it!

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We're in the early stages of planning for a youth camp for St Neots in 2009. We didn't decide to do this, it is just happening to us - and it's great! The riverbank in St NeotsWhy is the church sometimes so sluggish in getting things done? We'll come back to that question later, but first you should hear a little news.

Last Monday (1st September) we had a meeting to pray, discuss, and think about young people in St Neots. Jim, Sean and I were joined by Ben and Pete. After introductions, Pete told us about his background and explained about the camps he runs for young people in the Bedford area. By the end of the evening we had the beginnings of a plan, Pete had been proactive and booked space for a hundred young people next summer. We were astonished and encouraged. 'Just do it' is an effective way forward!

So, back to our question, 'Why is the church sometimes so sluggish in getting things done?'

It all comes down to an inability to 'just do it'. What prevents us? The answer to this lies deep in our understanding of what church is. The New Testament writers often refer to the church in a particular place, sometimes it's a city or town, sometimes it's a house, but significantly it's rarely anything between these two extremes.

Paul could write to the church in Corinth or Ephesus, but if he was writing today and addressed a letter to the 'Church in St Neots' or the 'Church in Cambridge' who would read the letter? Would it be delivered to the largest Anglican Church in town? Or would it go first to the Catholics, or the Baptists, or the United Reformed Church? Middle sized organisations of that kind were unknown in Paul's day, when he wrote to the church in a city he was writing to a single entity consisting of all the believers in that place.

But when he mentions the church that meets in Nympha's house or the church that meets in Priscilla and Aquila's house he knows exactly what he means. Not a gathering of 200 or 300 believers meeting in one place, but a small group meeting in an ordinary home. Clearly, a number of these small groups cooperated as the church in the city.

When we meet in large groups of several hundred we need a system of management and we need committees or a hierarchy to make decisions. Proposals have to be approved, resources must be made available, and discussions held to agree the details. This may take significant amounts of time. When we meet in a home decisions can be made there and then as we pray and share our thoughts and receive guidance through the Spirit.

Yahshua did not spend a lot of time planning. Instead he reacted to whatever he saw or heard. He always reacted in love towards the Father or towards the people he met, or both. Sometimes he reacted in anger, usually his reaction came in the form of teaching, questions, or action of some sort, but kindness and grace were present in everything he did - always. Everything he did was for the Father's glory, he healed the sick, he revealed the truth, he comforted the distressed and the broken-hearted. Not only did he bring good news, he was good news. Indeed he is The Good News. The good news is the news that the Messiah has come and brings healing and reconciliation.

What he did we are called to do too. If we plan less but begin to react to whatever we see and hear he will work in us and through us to glorify the Father. Acts of heavenly kindness and grace will replace acts of earthly mind and will. This is a hard lesson to learn because it runs counter to intuition and common sense, but it's a lesson we must learn if we're to become more fully fruitful and effective in the Kingdom.

This is not to say that larger organisations cannot react quickly or spontaneously in response to specific issues, just that they find it much harder than small groups.

We need to learn to be like the Master, to be good news wherever and whenever possible. Not merely to speak the good news, but to live it individually by responding right away in love and grace.

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16 August 2008

Living in fear in St Neots

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I've just read a distressing news report about a local family that are having their lives ruined by thoughtless, cruel, young people throwing stones at their home, calling out abusive remarks, and even breaking windows. The news report is online, take a look for yourself.

Let's list out a few basic facts about the situation and about me. After all, I live in St Neots, I am involved whether I wish to be or not, I'm part of this community.
  • The young people doing this are probably bored, perhaps they have nothing useful to keep them occupied. They probably get swept along in the moment, they each want to outdo the others. It's cool to do this stuff. There may be one amongst them who leads them into stuff they wouldn't otherwise do.

  • The police are only able to respond to crimes that are committed, they don't have the remit or the people to deal with any underlying problem.

  • The church will feel sorry that this has happened, but will think, 'What can we do?'

  • The people being victimised can do little to help themselves.

  • The neighbours will feel, 'I'm not getting involved otherwise I'll be next.'

  • I'm thinking hard about what I should do...



Mallard Lane is not the most prosperous part of town, hardship is a reality for some and local people are struggling with issues which include vandalism. Here's a map of the area (you can also view a larger map). The pin in the map just marks the street, not the position of the household under attack.

So what can I do? What can anyone do?

Here's what I propose, I will begin by praying.

I'll share this story with the friends I meet with on Thursdays, we can pray together.

If you're reading this and would like to pray too that would be great. The main things I'm asking as a start are
  • That I'll be shown clearly what, if anything, I am to do.

  • That the trouble will stop and the pressure be lifted.

  • That the woman in the story will be healed.

That's a start. But in practical terms here's what I'm thinking.
  • Make contact with the people who are being victimised.

  • Invite them round for a BBQ some time soon.

  • Send letters to the local church explaining the background and asking for prayer and any practical input they feel led to offer.

  • Consider encouraging a meeting to include the victims, the police, young people from the area (if possible), the church, neighbours, other organisations that might be able to offer support, help, or advice.

So far I have little idea where the Lord will lead me in this, but I know it would be wrong to 'just forget'. I'll post to the blog again to let you know what happens next.

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05 August 2008

FAMILY - Travelling with friends

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Since 27th July Donna and I have been travelling around the UK with friends from Florida. This has been a time of blessing and fun for me personally, a time I'll always remember.
Earl, Steph, Donna, and Chris
We have packed so much rich experience into just a few short days of living. And it seems to me that this is the way the whole of life should be lived. Life is short, so everything we experience in it should be treasured as a special privilege.

The holiday is not yet over, but it's getting closer to the end. Thinking about that brings some sadness, but reflecting on what we've done together brings great joy. Perhaps all of life is like this holiday. It has a beginning and a not-yet-experienced ending. It is a journey. It's a far richer journey when we dwell on the good things and allow the less good to flow quietly into the past and learn patience, wisdom, and trust in the process. The quality of our lives, like the quality of a holiday, is based partly on what we choose to hold onto and what we choose to let slip away without bitterness, anger or regret.

Here's a list of the outstanding things we've included so far, the things to remember and dwell on later.


  • Travelling home from Gatwick Airport with two friends, and catching up with our news
  • Taking the park-and-ride bus
  • Visiting Oxford and eating ice-cream in 'The Eagle and Child', a popular haunt of CS Lewis
  • Preparing and eating meals together, another time for informal chat
  • Driving through the British countryside
  • Visiting the old cathedral town of Lincoln
  • Looking at a Norman house - yes, Norman!!
  • Spending an evening with my eldest daughter, Debbie, and her family
  • Travelling through the Pennines
  • Visiting Hadrian's Wall and looking around Vindolanda
  • Travelling to Edinburgh via Carlisle and Glasgow (don't ask!)
  • Living on the Royal Mile as the Edinburgh Fringe gets under way
  • Doing the open-top tourist bus thing
  • Viewing the paintings in Edinburgh's National Gallery
  • Taking friends who've never seen Edinburgh Castle to see Edinburgh Castle
  • The Scottish Crown Jewels
  • Driving the east coast road and stopping at the English border
  • Durham and it's wonderful cathedral
  • Rain on a leaf
  • Spending another evening in York, with my younger daughter and her family
  • Visiting York Minster and the undercroft
  • Arriving home again
  • Meeting with others at home, sharing a meal, prayer together, bread and wine, a great chance for people to chat, a time of blessing and encouragement
  • Another trip to Oxford, a pub lunch, the CS Lewis walking tour
  • Taking our friends to the station to visit London on their own
  • Collecting them again at Kew Green tube station
  • Visiting Kew Gardens
  • Visiting 'Talkin' Headz', a drum shop in Woburn Sands
  • Sitting on the patio chatting
  • Taking our guests back to Gatwick to fly home
It would be easy to write a whole blog post on each of those events. Maybe I'll do just that, it would certainly be fun to write and would make a great diary of the trip.

So many happy memories, and still a few more to come. Life is rich, and good, and full. Life is like a meadow in the summer, filled with every kind of flower, dancing with butterflies and shimmering on a hot, dry day. As I write, the rain is pounding on the conservatory roof - but that, too, is a wonderful thing, what a sound! In the garden it's soaking into the good earth and making the plants flourish. They need the sunshine, but they need the rain too. Sunshine and water combining to generate abundant and carefree life. The rain today and perhaps the sunshine tomorrow.

We're rather like those plants, we need sunshine and rain in our lives to truly thrive.

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18 July 2008

What's the purpose of the Scilla blog?

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Most blogs focus on a particular topic, but this one covers all sorts of topics. One reason for this is that to post enough items to keep a blog interesting takes time. Posting to two or three more focused blogs would take two or three times as much effort, otherwise they would be updated two or three times less often.

I have lots of interests, lots of stuff to share. I want this blog to reflect real life, I want it to be a way for my friends to keep track of what I do and also perhaps an introduction to areas of my life they might know little about.

Do you compartmentalise your life? I do. Not deliberately, but when I'm with scientists we talk science, when I'm with Christians we talk faith, when I'm with photographers we talk about images. It's natural. To help you I've provided a tag cloud at the top of the left hand column, click on topics that interest you and you will only see posts on those topics.

Over the next few days I plan to begin posting brief introductions to each of those topic areas explaining why I'm interested, what it involves, and how it affects my life. These are not going to be technical posts, they'll be light and easy to follow - for anyone. I promise!

Have you ever thought that there must be connections between all the different things you do? If in no other way they are linked because they're all things you enjoy, or else you do them because something else about your life demands it. Either way, there's a link.

I'll try to draw out some of the links I see as I go along. Some are clearly linked, like astronomy and photography, or photography and garden, or transport and environment. But what about garden and persecution?

I plan to work through in alphabetical order so I'll be starting with astronomy and working right through to underground church.

These posts will be interspersed with others. There are bound to be items just waiting to be written on a host of other things.

Watch this space...

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