Showing posts with label wisdom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wisdom. Show all posts

23 April 2013

To Egypt and back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions:

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

See also:


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

03 March 2013

Ecotricity - greener, greener, green

Ecotricity builds wind and solar generating systems. They also supply green energy to commercial and domestic customers in the UK. Starting from small beginnings they have made a significant impact in the market and continue to grow rapidly in capacity and popularity.

Turbine blades transported by road
Ecotricity was started by Dale Vince who built a small windmill generator from reclaimed components for his own use.

Friends asked him to build similar generators and eventually he made a much larger one for a local farmer.

He then wanted to build something even larger to connect to the grid, but hit all kinds of difficulties and additional costs imposed by the larger companies and distributors.

Through persistent effort he managed to negotiate a deal and since then Ecotricity, the world's first green electricity company, has built many more large wind turbines and wind farms.

Innovation - Dale has had many interesting and innovative business ideas and has never been willing to take 'no' for an answer. He raises extra finance by issuing bonds, his company also sells wind and solar generated power to end users and offers (at slightly higher cost) a 100% renewable deal.

They have a policy of not having shareholders; instead, profits are ploughed back into building additional generating capacity. The company encourages new customers to sign up so as to use their power bills wisely, in other words to help build additional capacity. Their customer service is exceptionally good, polite and helpful.

More recently Ecotricity has also developed a green gas plant, generating methane by biodigestion of waste. Dale has built record breaking electric vehicles, both a motorcycle and a high performance car that recently set a new world land speed record for electric vehicles.

Caring for the planet - Surely we have a duty to care for the planet on which we live? Dale Vince is certainly doing his part to reduce environmental damage. If you live in the UK you could help simply by changing your electricity and/or gas supplier to Ecotricity.

In other parts of the world you may be able to help in other ways. We can all do our part by reducing our use of energy, by walking or cycling instead of driving, by flying less often, by taking the train, insulating our homes, turning down the thermostat, showering more quickly - the list is long.

But many small actions by large numbers of people add up to a significant difference.

Making the switch - You can switch to Ecotricity online (if you use this link I'll get a partner contribution from the company). If you prefer to speak to them by phone call 08000 302 302 and quote 'SCI1' and I'll still receive the contribution.

Questions:

  • Have you heard of Ecotricity before?
  • Are you doing all you can to reduce your household and business energy use?
  • Are you using green sources of energy where available?

See also:

05 March 2010

Climate change - An update

There is really no room for doubt that we are affecting the world's climate in a wide variety of harmful ways. BBC news item on the Met Offfice reportA new report from the Met Office finds the evidence has stacked up even more strongly since the IPCC report in 2007. Read the BBC's news item on the Met Office report.

There's more Met Office information on their climate change page. Well worth a look if you want to know more.

(This update is intended to add new information to my earrlier blog 'Climate change - Truth or deception?')

01 March 2010

Climate change - Truth or deception?

Most scientists are agreed, we have a serious problem on our hands. A typical glacierPossibly less severe than we fear but just as possibly more severe than we fear. Meanwhile there are plenty of sceptics who claim the data has been fixed or incorrectly analysed.

It's no good speculating and it's no good just crossing our fingers. We need to know whether the science is sound or not. It makes a difference. Do we need to stop releasing CO2 and methane or can we safely continue as we've been going?

Whichever side of the debate you are on, I strongly urge you to take a good look at Dan Satterfield's latest blog post. He has no doubt which side he is on. I agree with him and I really want to encourage everyone to read his post and its two main references and draw their own conclusions. This is one of the best posts on this topic that I have seen.

13 January 2010

REVIEW - Organic Church, how long will it last?

Neil Cole has just published 'Long Live the Organic Church: A Response', a short article in Christianity Today. Long Live the Organic ChurchIt's well worth reading. (And see also a fine post by Bill Heroman.)

In particular, Neil reminds us that we shouldn't 'live for success, but to follow Christ every day'. We need to be planting seeds that will grow and bear fruit for the future, not building structures that look alive but are not. A fossilised seed might look pretty much the same as a living seed, but plant them both, water them in, and wait... eventually you will see the difference!

Father's purpose and plan for each of us is a living seed, bursting with potential. This is what it means to have a heart of flesh. My own personal purpose and plan would be a mere fossil, a heart of stone. He has given me a heart of flesh in place of my original one of stone. Now I must use it in loving obedience - his plan not mine.

Neil quotes Bob Logan who said, 'Success is finding out what God wants you to do and doing it.'

Here's an extract from Neil's article. If you like what you see click through and read the whole thing, it's only two pages. It's also worth reading Mark Galli's earlier article to which Neil Cole is responding.

If we truly saturate our society with vital followers of Christ capable of making disciples, the world will change. I believe that simply connecting God's children to their spiritual Father in such a way that they listen to his voice and courageously follow his lead will transform society in broader, more holistic, and longer lasting ways than anything else we try.

The change, however, will not be for every generation. In fact, it could very well be that our most serious problems are caused by thinking the decisions we make today will be permanent. We end up establishing methods without the people hearing from God themselves and making their own choices. The result is a lifeless religious institution.

Homer Simpson once said, "I guess people never really change; or, they quickly change and then quickly change back again." In a real sense, all transformation is only momentary. There is a reason for this: We are called to live in the moment. Love is the fulfillment of all righteousness and it is always a choice. We are to love God with our whole being … every day. Who you are is really a lifetime of decisions made in specific moments, which make up the person you see in the mirror. God wants us to choose him every moment of every day, not just once at a middle-school retreat campfire.

Each generation must face its own tests and make its own choices. Our children do not become Christians because we choose to follow Christ, but because they do. If they are only living out the choices of their parents, their faith is not true and will remain fruitless religious conformity. This is also true for religious organizations.

29 December 2009

Movements - Long term success

There have been many movements in the world's long history. Political movements - philosophical, art, and literature movements - scientific and technological movements - and not least, religious movements. Romulus Augustus, the last Roman Emperor in the WestAlmost all of these have failed after a few decades or centuries, many are forgotten, consigned at best to dusty tomes on library shelves.

Every organisation created by human ingenuity and effort has a lifespan and runs its course. Consider Communism, the idea that the Earth is flat, the Roman Empire, ancient Greek culture in what is now Turkey, the Gaulish language once spoken in Europe, the British Empire, Woolworths, or Real Tennis. All gone!

Some of these movements depended on repression, terrorism, crushing military might, or technological superiority for their spread and survival. Communism, Islam, and the Roman Empire are movements of this kind. Others have depended on ideas or beliefs that have been accepted freely, and paramount among these is the church. The first disciples followed Jesus by choice; he called them and they decided freely to follow him. And although the church sometimes depended wrongly on abuse of military or political power (as with the Crusades or the Inquisition) these were temporary and clearly contradicted Jesus' teachings about love.

Even within the church there have been monastic, doctrinal, denominational, and revival movements to mention just a few. Again, most of these have failed sooner or later. Consider some of the great Catholic and Anglican monastic orders. Most of these still exist, but as mere shadows of their former selves.

So what distinguishes successful and failed movements? It seems to me that coercion sooner or later fails, and fails absolutely. But the teachings of Jesus remain as powerful today as they were 2000 years ago. They are still seized upon eagerly by those who understand that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He was, is and will always be a success in the hearts of ordinary people because of his love and compassion. Alone among the originators of the world's religions, Jesus is an entirely attractive character who harmed no-one and called his followers to do the same. And his movement is alive and well today.

Where it has been complicated by methods and organisations it has failed again and again. But always the ideas and teachings of Jesus have moved on, leaving the methods and organisations behind and growing again in fresh pastures.

So let's be very careful to avoid any kind of worldly power, control, or system of management. And let's get right back to the roots of our faith - loving the Almighty with everything we have and everything we are, loving one another and our neighbours with the love we apply to ourselves, and yes - even loving our enemies. Those are the hallmarks of a movement that will know no failure or premature end!

Jesus alone is the one who leads us, our role is always to follow. He speaks clearly to his people, individually, day by day, guiding and encouraging. We must die to self in order to truly live. In poverty we are rich, the humble are lifted up, the powerful are brought low, it's an upside down Kingdom. But it works! And it lasts!

But all human ingenuity, system, power, and organisation will eventually fail - within the church and outside it. For only the Almighty can prevail, and he is love.

17 December 2009

Putting women in their place

For many years there's been debate in the church about the place and role of women. From the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches right down to the smallest organic church meeting at home, it's often just assumed that men should take leadership positions while women should not. This has been the pattern throughout most of church history.

Jon ZensThere are plenty of exceptions of course, especially in the non-denominational, less structured groups. But even in the small, organic house churches it's not unusual to find reduced or limited roles for women. The view that women should be passive is generally reflected in church practice, supported by many Biblical scholars, and taught as both required and beneficial.

Often women are accepted or even preferred for work involving other women or with children and there are many other roles open to them. However, in many cases women are not allowed to teach men or have any authority over men. Authority itself is often misunderstood, but that's another story.

On the other hand, many of us sense that something is seriously wrong. It seems that half of the talent, wisdom, energy, and capability of the church is prevented from functioning or at best limited to functioning only in ways that are circumscribed and restricted.

But whatever we might think we have to accept the Bible's teaching on these matters, right? Right!

And we all know that the Bible is clear about this, authority is laid on men while women are to be in submission, right? Well - let's not be too hasty here.

Jon Zens has just published a careful analysis in reviewing John Piper's book 'What’s the Difference? Manhood & Womanhood Defined According to the Bible'.

Jon's review is well worth reading whatever your current understanding of these things. He writes refreshingly and thoughtfully and draws on a wealth of biblical knowledge and experience. You can read the review in the panel below and you can also download it, print it, or enlarge it to full screen using the options at the bottom of the panel.

You can find more from Jon on the 'Searching Together' website.

Women - Jon Zens Review

Since I published this blog post Jon Zens has written an excellent book on the same topic, 'What's with Paul and women'.

22 November 2009

The coming of the electric car

I didn't know that Shai Agassi had spoken at TED until I read about it today on the Tiny Car| Smart Car News Blog. Shai's company, Better Place, is rolling out fully green, all electric cars and the infrastructure to support them. The plan is that they should be cheaper and more convenient than petrol cars. Quite a challenge!

Here's the video of his talk at TED, it's inspiring and convincing and describes an approach that is simple but original. My own belief is that this idea will fly - it deserves to. Watch and see.

11 November 2009

Cycling to Australia - and he has time to blog

Oli Broom is cycling to Australia and blogging as he goes. Oli Broom in the commentary boxHe left Lord's Cricket Ground in London on 10th October and is aiming to arrive in Brisbane in time for The Ashes in 2010. He plans to teach cricket to people along the way, now perhaps that's the real challenge!

He is sharing his experiences in a blog and on Twitter as he travels and it's going to be a fascinating one to follow. The best place to start is not his current post, nor is it his first. The best place is surely the post he wrote on 26th September, an introduction.

Well done, Oli! It's a heart warming thing to see someone really going for a goal, overcoming obstacles, ignoring doubts and fears, and just doing it. Perhaps we can all learn something about life from this. This is certainly an experience Oli will remember all his life.

Cycling to Australia is not my thing, it doesn't excite me. Probably it's not your thing either.

So what will it be for you? If you could only do one thing during the remainder of your life, what would it be? And would you be willing to put everything into it as Oli is putting everything into this trip to Australia? Most of us spend our lives sleep-walking. Oli will be really living his journey.

17 October 2009

We don't need no more trouble

I'm reposting this You Tube video which I first saw on Kent Burgess's Faithfully Dangerous blog.Bougainvillea in Jerusalem

It's a lovely, laid-back piece of music from 'Playing for Change' with artists from all over the globe. It has a gentle but insistent theme. Everywhere is war. Some dying, some crying. We don't need no more trouble. What we need is love. Beautiful!

While we're on the subject of peace, for some extraordinary stories of reconciliation at work, read Julia Fisher's book 'Israel: the Mystery of Peace'.

And finally, back to the music. If you haven't already heard it, here it is...

06 August 2009

Something silly

OK, it's time for something incredibly silly. Wendy Francisco wrote a new song a couple of months ago, now she's produced a video to go with it.

For best results, watch this in high definition and full screen if possible.



Despite (or perhaps because of) it's utter silliness, this song has a disarming way of getting its message across clearly and deeply.

Here's a link to Wendy's website for anyone serious enough to want to know more.

22 July 2009

Walking like Enoch

We're like Enoch. If we walk with Yahweh, staying close to him at all times and in all situations, we will hear his voice all day every day. And he will take us out of this world into a place we could not have imagined and we will be hidden from view.

Do you see how this applies to your own life? Do you sense how true it is in the here and now, how Enoch is a prototype of all who believe and become deeply focused on Christ?

We will no longer be bound by the world's ways, demands, and needs. We will fly! We'll be hidden from view because the world will not understand us, will not see what we do, will not comprehend the source of the new life that flows in us and through us.

We will be no more because Yahweh will take us away (Genesis 5:24)

In other words the old 'me' will no longer be present in the world, the new 'me' will be 'hidden with Christ' (Colossians 3:3).

There is a rich and encouraging truth here. All of us who walk with the Lord are like Enoch and are affected like Enoch.

HalleluYah!

06 July 2009

His Church and His Heart

I wrote the following text and posted it on the Relational Christianity website almost four years ago. The original postYou can still find it there.

It provoked little interest, but the Spirit impressed upon me at the time that 'it will return to you and then you will know that its purpose has been fulfilled'. I thought this had happened two years ago though now I'm not so sure.

But Frank Viola's book 'From Eternity to Here' and 'The Jesus manifesto' (written with Leonard Sweet) have made me wonder if now is the time.

For that reason I'm republishing it. The text is covered by Creative Commons copyright but free for anyone to copy, edit, and republish.


Christ's love for the Church

Perhaps these words are a wake-up call to the Church. Turn away from worldly ways, put all your energies into just loving Christ - it really is that simple. For all those who read it and understand it, this letter is a challenge. It is a call for real and lasting change in the way we 'do' church. The focus must shift from adherence to traditions, structures, and practices to merely loving the one who says, 'I will build my Church'. Does his Church love and trust the King more, or does she love and trust the World more? She can't choose both, it has to be one or the other.

A Letter to the Church – His words

My dear people, I love you so very much and I know the love that you have for me as individuals. But I have to explain to you that it's not enough that you love me as individuals, I also need to feel the warmth of my Bride's embrace, I need to see her eyes filled with adoration and love for me. The Church is greatly loved yet she's estranged from me, and I want you to know and understand how I feel.

When you are far away from someone you love there is a deep longing in your heart, a sadness, an incompleteness, a hollow emptiness. And when the one you love is devoted to someone else, then your heart truly grieves. Every thought, every movement, every sight and sound is changed to heaviness and sadness and yearning. And that's how I feel towards the Church.

How can this be?

My Beloved, my Church, my Bride-to-be, where are you? How can you be so far from me? Who has stolen you from me? It is the World that has stolen away my Beloved. Every day she gazes lovingly into the eyes of the World, she walks in the World's ways, talks with the World, rejoices in the World's companionship.

I am grieving for my Bride-to-be. Every moment of every day I think of you and long to be with you, but you don't hear my voice calling. My love goes out but doesn't return to me, my heart aches to be close to my beloved, but she gazes into the eyes of another. I want to walk with you, talk with you, hold your hand, spend each day with you. But my Beloved prefers the company of another. Now do you see how I feel?

Ah, what pain you cause me. How you wound my heart as with a knife. I watch you pass by, hand-in-hand with another. I see you talking and laughing with the World, planning your life with the World. How I long to be close to you, but you are already close to the World. How I long to see you smile at me, and laugh with me – but you smile and laugh with the World. I want to take you to my favorite places and show you all the wonders of creation along the way, but all the time you are walking with another.

Now do you see how I grieve over my Beloved, and why? To understand, to truly understand, you must see how the tears rise in my eyes, feel the wretched hollowness that fills my being, know how I yearn and yearn to gather you to myself.

I will never tear you from the world. Love cannot do such a thing because love does not coerce or demand. Love will only wait in desperate hope, broken-hearted and full of emptiness. I need to show you this, you need to understand how I feel even though it will be no more than the merest hint of what is in my heart.

I am calling you to turn away from the World and return to me. I am calling you, my Church, to stop and retrace your steps.

I am calling you to hear and obey my guiding and leading voice, not the voices of men and women. Turn away from every method, every technique, every system and turn instead to me for I am the Source, the Truth, the Light, and the Life. Above all I am Love. Look into my eyes and see yourself reflected there for I am always gazing upon you.

Don't misunderstand what I say, there are many individuals who love me, walk with me, and dance with me. I love you as individuals, but I also love the whole and it is of the whole Church that I speak here. The fullness of my desire is for my Church. I will dance with her, my Bride, my Beloved. I will rejoice in her when she returns my love, but until then I will walk in pain and anguish as she gazes into the eyes of the World.

Some further thoughts – Merely my words

We must track back before the House Church, back, back before the Charismatic Renewal, back even before the Pentecostal Azusa Street outpourings. We must retrace our steps back before the Methodists, before the Puritans, before Martin Luther. Back, back, back, before Paul wrote his letters, before the events of Acts. Right back to Calvary where our Lord poured out his very life in love.

And when we arrive back at that point of beginning, then and only then can we see the Church stripped of all her love for the World. Why? Because love of the World began to creep in right there, right after the beginning. Just as, in the Garden of Eden, love of the World crept in right at the completion of creation, so in the Garden of Gethsemane it began to creep in at the completion of the work of redemption. We see it even before Love gave himself up to death, we see it in Peter's use of the sword. We see it later in Peter's denial. We see it in Ananias and Sapphira, in the divided Corinthians, in the foolish Galatians.

Now is the time for the Church to throw off her love of the World, and to turn to Christ who loves her and aches unceasingly for her love in return. He demands her undivided attention, He will accept nothing less.

What does this mean in practice? It means we must stop working for Christ and instead just love him and let him begin working in us. It means we must stop looking for the latest book, and listening to the finest teaching; instead we must look into his eyes and listen to his sweet voice as he teaches us and reveals his purpose. There are many who already know him as a personal Saviour and friend, now the Church as a whole must come to her Lord as Saviour and friend. Do you see the distinction between the many and the one? Although he loves us greatly as individuals, his best and finest is saved for pouring out on his Bride, the Church, in her wholeness. But this can only happen when she turns to him and walks with him along the paths he will choose.

Come, Church of Christ, come. Turn and see his love upon you and respond. Receive his love, dance with him, rejoice in him, make him glad. He is waiting for you, patiently and in great pain.

Chris Jefferies – August 2005


This work is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution License. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.

20 June 2009

A turning point for Iran

Today is a turning point for Iran.

Either there will be a change of direction as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backs down and is, perhaps, replaced by the Assembly of Experts; Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameneior more likely he will continue along the path he's chosen and will try to stifle the opposition and return to some semblance of the repressed normality that has been Iran for so many years.

If he does continue to threaten violence and pretends to pin the blame on the opposition, there could be a rapid growth of upheaval and things would then become extremely unpredictable.

So, if there is violence, who will really be responsible for it? When a member of the Basij points a gun at unarmed people in a crowd and fires indiscriminately, fear has become cowardice and the responsibility for injury or death lies with the one who fired the weapon. To say that peaceful disobedience to the Supreme Leader shifts the blame for violence onto the crowd or onto Mr Mousavi is a strange argument. Surely it is an argument rooted in fear and desperation!

If you strike me or shoot me or burn my house it's my fault, not yours? I don't think so! Responsibility lies with the one who pulls the trigger and with those who give the orders to do so or try to justify such an act in advance.

Ali Khamenei is no more a Supreme Leader than I am! The very title is an affront to the Most High in heaven for he alone is Supreme Leader over Iran, the entire world, and indeed the Universe. It does not befit men or women to act as leader because there is One who has true authority. The Koran instructs its readers to also read the Injil (the gospel), and there every seeker of truth will find Isa (Jesus) who said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life'. He is King, he is the Great Shepherd of the sheep.

No mortal man or woman has a heart great enough, a mind wise enough, a spirit true enough, or an ego humble enough to be a Supreme Leader. No, not one! And we also know that every single one of us has sinned. Let no one stand against the Most High, for he alone has the true authority and power over the lives of men. He will have his way, better not to stand in his path for he will sweep aside everyone who opposes him.

What did Isa say about the law? He said that to love the Most High and to love the people around us (even if they are our enemies) is the fulfillment of the entire law. How can anyone do harm to those they love?

To the reader I say, 'Pray for the people of Iran, for Khamenei, for Mousavi, for Karroubi, for Khatami. Pray for peace, pray for wisdom, pray for the Almighty's will to be done. Pray for those who may decide to go out on the streets today, for the police, the army, the Basij. Pray that they will all hear and obey the voice of their Maker.'

This is a turning point for Iran, a turning forward or a turning back. It could be a disaster or it could be a wellspring of hope. Time will tell.

05 January 2009

Prophetic Word - Same old?

If you're involved in church in any way this may sound pretty familiar. The Harvest Now website
It's the start of a new year, 2009. It's time for resolutions, plans, and... prophecy? Same old prophecies you heard last year? Hmm... Read this from Steve Hill.

Steve and Marilyn are missionaries and church planters working in Central Asia. They know what it means to struggle against the powers of darkness. They know the meaning of praying without giving up.

No kidding!

Steve writes...
The flood of prophecies for 2009 have begun to come in. They sound remarkably similar to most I have been hearing for the past 15 years! "This is the year of revival! This is the year of His power. This is the year of increase! This is the year of harvest." You mean it really, really, really is going to happen this time?

Read the whole of his message 'A Prophetic Word for 2009' at his 'Harvest Now' website.

21 December 2008

The Drew Marshall Show

Drew Marshall presents a Christian chat show in Canada. He has the most amazing guests and some truly extraordinary conversations. The Drew Marshall Show
And most of them are available online, not only live but as a library of MP3 files for download.

I encourage you to go and listen.


As a starter you might like to try one or more of these...

Drew has such a wonderful, relaxed, jokey yet serious manner. He puts everyone at ease and his guests just settle down and talk openly and easily. Despite his chilled manner, Drew asks some very direct questions and expects straightforward answers. This is radio interviewing at its best.

But to see the full breadth of the interviews you need to go to the show's website and browse around a bit. Once there, click the 'Listen' button just below the banner and you'll find a page for each year. Each of these pages is filled with interview notes and links to MP3s, you'll need to scroll and scroll to see it all.

The files are added to the website once a week, six or seven days after each show goes out.

Hint: Do you have to drive to work every weekday? Many of us do. Download some of the MP3s, load them onto an MP3 player or cut them to CD and listen as you drive. The journey will fly by, I guarantee it.

14 November 2008

Release it and let it fly

Have you ever held a wild bird in your hands? It's an extraordinary experience, the soft warmth of the feathers, the bright, shiny eyes, A blackbirdthe quivering of life held captive and quietly biding its time until it can be free again.

Some people keep birds as pets - budgies, parakeets, canaries, or finches. My first wife and I had three budgies over the years and it was a great way to get to know their individual personalities and foibles as well as the more general awesomeness of minutely patterned feathers and the miracle of flight.

But a wild bird held in the hand and then released to freedom, that is something altogether different.

First catch a bird - This is no easy task! Nor would I encourage anyone to try to catch a wild bird, it is certain to cause distress and perhaps injury. But several times I've had to catch a bird that's been accidentally trapped in a building. I've found that a quiet approach is best, confining the bird in a corner and cupping my hands around it gently and slowly has always worked in the end.

I remember this happening at Long Ashton Research Station (now long gone). I worked there from 1970 until 1998, there was an upstairs corridor bridging two of the main buildings and I found a frightened male blackbird trapped there when I came in to work one Saturday - there was nobody else around. The corridor had glass sides and doors at either end that were usually kept closed. The bird flew up and down the corridor and then backed into a corner where I was able to catch him quite easily.

Release - I carried the warm, passive bundle downstairs and out to the main entrance. I set him down on the concrete steps just outside the lobby, he looked around for a moment, spread his wings, and flew away squawking madly. What a joy to see him go, free again at last!

Even more delightful was the immediate appearance of a hen blackbird, evidently his mate. I have no idea how long the sleek, black male had been trapped, but she had hung around waiting for his return. And now, here he was, none the worse for his ordeal.

Freedom for the Church - There's a reason for relating this story just now. Just this morning I read a post by Prayeramedic on The Irony of Actuality. He writes,

I've been reading some more Kierkegaard -- very deep stuff, but profound (when I can make sense of it).

After showing that he has indeed made very good sense of Kierkegaard's words he quotes from another post entitled Uncontrollable. In it, Daniel writes,

Lately, we've been remarking on just how many different people we keep coming across, different spheres of where God is stirring things up, challenging his people to question the status quo, and ask Him once again how it is that He wants us to live as His disciples. What is so remarkable is that the more we scan the horizon, the more we begin to glimpse the scope and the massive scale of this response to the Spirit's prompting. One of the key characteristics of this shift, is that there is a growing understanding that the Kingdom is not run by a chain of command, no hierarchy, and that in fact there never was. As that reality is grasped, it is almost like seeing the ocean for the first time. No one owns it. No one controls it. No one person, and no one group, can claim to even to be able to monitor and record all that is happening amongst those who belong to Christ around the world.

We see people awakening to the idea that they do not in fact need to meet in special, religiously-oriented buildings, but can in fact meet anywhere, be it a coffee shop, park, beach, or home.

Trapped in a corridor - I was reminded of the blackbird. Like the bird, the Church has been trapped in a corridor. In the Church's case it's a corridor consisting of rules and regulations, power struggles, structures, organisations, and doctrines.

Just as the bird can see out, but not get out, so many in the Church have seen outside the box and have wanted to find the way out. But we can't get out on our own initiative, we need outside help. We need the Holy Spirit to steer us, we need the Shepherd to call us on, we need to be rescued and released.

Just in our day, it seems, people are catching a new vision of what it means to be a believer and follower of Christ. It doesn't mean sitting in a pew once a week, it does mean getting out into the world and living transformed lives in which friends, family, colleagues, and strangers alike can begin to see, not us, but Christ in us.

We are being lifted up by the gentle hands of Grace and deposited on the outside of this structure that has trapped us for so long. Now we are free to fly! Sometimes we need to be 'backed into a corner' like the blackbird before we can be lifted and removed from the place where we've been trapped.

Go on, stretch those wings, take a great leap into the air and fly. You have the freedom to do it, right now.

Begin to live - Let's be clear, it's quite possible for us to fly free - yet immediately start work on building a new structure! That's not what we are called to do. Yahshua told us, 'I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life'. He is the Way so we need to be guided by him and follow the course he has set. He is the Truth so we are to believe all that he says about himself and about the Father and about our place and role in this world. And he is the Life so we are to live his life here in the world, not our own life.

Living our own lives is what got us into this mess in the first place. But now we can fly free and truly be his people in this place.

22 October 2008

Clergy and laity

The concept of clergy and laity is entirely unknown to the writers of the New testament. It's just not there. In his Prayeramedic Blog, Dan O'Day asks a series of questions about this and I'll attempt some answers here. Police and plumberThis is not meant to be a point-by-point response, instead it will focus on two underlying issues that inform our thinking.

Dan's questions are not his alone, there are many others looking for answers to the same or related questions. The answers I give here are my own and are based on my particular spiritual journey.


Priesthood - Dan writes,
But didn't they have priests in the Old Testament, and doesn't that carry into the New Testament with pastors? Not that we need priests, but pastors simply serve as "ordained" leaders.


Indeed there were priests under the old covenant, but almost everything changed when Yahshua returned to his Father in Heaven. As his body here on Earth, Jew and gentile, man and woman, slave and free, we have all accepted Yahshua as Lord and King. We are a royal priesthood, HalleluYah! We are all, therefore, priests. And priests serving under a High Priest of the order of Melchizedek (see Hebrews 7). In other words everything has changed, the old arrangements no longer apply. We are priests in Christ's line, not priests in Aaron's line.

What does this mean? If I am a priest and you are a priest, which of us has priestly authority over the other? There is of course the Great High Priest who is Christ, and he has authority over both of us. But we are obedient to him alone, not to one another.

And again, what is a priest? A priest is one who offers a sacrifice on behalf of others. But there is only one sacrifice, Christ the Lamb, who offered up himself. Everything is brought together in him, he is Sacrifice, High Priest, King of Kings, Head - but also Emmanuel, 'Elohim with us'. It's no coincidence that there are no priests and no Temple in Jerusalem today. We are the royal priesthood and the living temple.

There is simply no room in this new convenant household for a priesthood over the Lord's people. We are the priesthood!

Authority - If we can conclude that government and shepherding by elders and pastors cannot come from a priestly source, where else then can it come from?

Notice that I avoided the word 'authority' in that last sentence. I wrote 'government and shepherding' instead. Why?

Before discussing that I think we need to look at that word 'authority' in a bit more detail. There are two kinds of authority, two distinct meanings that we hold in mind when we use that English word. This has caused many people to become confused because the distinction is not often made clear. Let's think about two people - a policeman and a plumber.

Let's take the policeman first. What do we mean when we talk about the authority of a police officer? We mean that if he tells us to get out of our car, we'd better get out of the car. If we're wise we'll do it in good time and without arguing. A policeman has been given authority from above. It arrives via his sergeant, and on up through an inspector, a superintendent, and eventually right up to the Chief Constable at Police Authority level. (This is the British system, others will be similar if different in detail.) Ultimately that authority goes to the Home Secretary, and on to Parliament, and then to the Queen.

So when that policeman stops you, he draws upon all that hierarchy for his authority. The law is on his side.

Now lets look at the plumber. He has no authority in the sense that the policeman does, yet he is rich in another kind of authority. Suppose a pipe bursts in your kitchen and starts to flood the floor. You need a plumber and you need one quickly. This is the authority of knowing what to do, the plumber's power is not delegated, but he has the skills to help you when you're in a fix. If a policeman tells you to leave the car you do it because of the law. If a plumber tells you to leave the kitchen you do it because he knows something you don't!

Sometimes we say a person is a great authority on butterflies. We don't mean they have been invested with the right to order us around, we mean they are an expert and we would naturally call on them if we wanted to know more about a butterfly we spotted in the garden.

Paul makes it clear that he has in mind that second sort of authority for the believers. There was no delegated, hierarchical leadership in the early church. There were no priests, no paid clergy, it simply did not work like that!

Elders and pastors - When we read about 'elders' the Koine Greek word is 'Presbuteros' which really means an older, wiser, more mature person. This would be a person with the 'plumber' kind of authority, not in any way like a policeman and with no hierarchy to answer to. When the church was struggling with some issue (and there will always be issues!) they would naturally pay particular attention to these people. This is the 'double respect' that we read about, it does not refer to payment but to the regard such a person would be held in.

It's not hard to find these people in the church today. Look around and you can identify them in any group of believers that have been together for a year or two. They are often humble, quiet, gentle people. They don't parade their wisdom, but everyone respects them and listens when they express a view on something.

Similarly with a pastor (a shepherd). Jesus made a point of explaining the difference between a good shepherd and a bad one. Sheep are not driven by a shepherd, they follow because they know him.

We shouldn't be looking for appointments in the church, we should be looking for functions. Let's begin to recognise the elders and pastors (and prophets and teachers and the rest). They're there in every congregation, in every cell group, in every house church, wherever two or three are gathered in the name of Yahshua. Look and you will see them.

Submit and obeyHebrews 13:17 is very interesting. I've looked hard and long at the Greek words translated 'obey' and 'submit'. They need not be as strong as they appear from those English words. 'Obey', for example has something of the meaning of 'defer to' or 'allow to persuade'; and 'submit' carries the sense of 'yield', or 'allow room'. It's also worth mentioning that the Greek contains no word for 'authority' in this verse, it's simply been inserted in translation.

The idea of leading or leaders is rare in the Bible except in connection with the state or the army or the priests (look up 'leader' and 'lead' in a concordance and look at the contexts). The word translated 'leaders' here is one of those rare occasions. Personally I'm not clear how to understand this verse, I'd be glad to hear from any Koine Greek scholars out there who would care to explain the range of possible interpretations.

My best guess is that the verse either means, 'Obey your leaders and submit to them because they watch over your souls as those who will be held accountable', or alternatively it might be translated, 'Be open to persuasion and give way to those that lead because they watch over your souls as those who will be held accountable.'

The reason I wrestle with this verse is that in its usual translation it doesn't seem a good fit with the rest of the letters to the churches, not does it sit well beside Christ's teaching. He said, for example, 'You are not to be called Rabbi (Teacher) because ... you are all brothers' (Matthew 23:8).

This doesn't cover everything that you raised in your post, Dan, but I hope it helps with some of the points. At any rate, this is more than enough for one blog post! Maybe I can come back another time to the other verses you listed, Dan. My prayer is that the church will understand these things in the way Yahshua intended. How desperately we need to see things his way, not ours.

And in the end, it's not just a matter of correctly interpreting Greek texts (important though that undoubtedly is). The work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is even more fundamental, only he can open the truth so that we see, only he can shine the light into the dark places, only he can lead us into all truth.

26 August 2008

How many times?

How many times can you repeatedly fold a sheet of paper in half? It's widely accepted that about six or seven times is the maximum possible, and a quick experiment with a piece of writing paper, a sheet of newspaper, or any normal paper you can find around the home will prove that this is correct. Or will it? What does 'correct' mean? What does 'proof' mean?

A mathematician will tell you that however many times you do the experiment and find you can't fold the paper a seventh time, that is not proof. You cannot prove something to be impossible, only that something is possible. Folding a piece of paper six times and failing to fold it seven proves that six is possible, but not that seven is impossible.

Remarkably, someone has managed to fold a piece of paper twelve times! Was there something special about this piece of paper? Yes and no.

The paper was a long roll of toilet paper. The relevant attribute of this paper was not that it was especially thin (try folding a single sheet of toilet paper yourself) but that it was especially long.

Britney Gallivan, a high-school student from California, was not prepared to take 'no' for an answer. She began by developing some mathematics for paper folding, and this showed her that a piece of paper that is long enough can be folded many more times along its width than a shorter piece. Armed with this knowledge she did the experiment - and managed to fold it twelve times.

There are several lessons to be learned from this.

What seems to be impossible may, in fact, be perfectly possible if we go about it in the right way. Technology has shown this to be true over and over again. Here are a few things that were once thought to be completely impossible - travelling to the moon, ships made of iron, building a flying machine, sailing round the world, the earth moving, continents moving, orbiting a satellite.

Common sense often lets us down. It would be a wonderful thing to learn the value of not making assumptions or jumping to conclusions. But we are designed to assume and conclude, this serves us well most of the time and enables us to deal relatively simply with a very complex world.

Britney Gallivan's paper folding achievements are described online. I encourage everyone to read them, if mathematics is not your forte you can skip that part, but please understand that it was the mathematics that led her to a simple, elegant, but entirely unexpected conclusion. With hindsight it seems obvious, but nobody had thought of it before Britney. Clever young lady!

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