30 September 2012

Where he treads I must follow

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We take a look at three questions about mission and our lives in Christ. Do we know what he is doing in us and around us? Are we playing our part in the things he is doing? How can we find out? How can we begin to do better?

A mediaeval baker and apprenticeIn his 'Missional Challenge' blog, Dave DeVries reposts some questions posed originally by Don Snell. The questions are intended for coaching. In particular the aim is to help people 'align [their lives] with Jesus' disciplemaking mission'.

I think these questions are so good that I've decided to take them a few at a time and  share my answers, at least in outline form. Here are the first three.

  • What is God doing right now?
  • Are you aware of what God is doing?
  • How are you part of what God is doing?

Notice first that the old English word 'disciple' has the sense of  'apprentice'. It's about learning by working alongside an expert. Jesus is the expert. 

What is God doing right now? - The simple answer is 'many things'! But for this question to help me align my life I will need to consider what he is doing in my own life and in the area where I live and among the people I might be called to influence.

We might usefully ask whether Jesus has any other mission or agenda than making disciples. My answer is that making disciples covers it pretty well. If Jesus intends to heal the sick he will do it through his followers. If he wants to teach us, or guide us, or encourage us he will do so through our brothers and sisters who are his followers. He told the Twelve to 'make followers of all nations' and to 'teach them all the things I have taught you' (Matthew 28:18-20). And that includes making disciples.

So what is he doing in me right now? I think he's showing me that his way is very simple, so simple a small child could do it. It involves listening to what he says and doing it. It involves loving the Father, loving his other followers, loving my neighbours, and loving my enemies. That'll be love everyone then! He's showing me that it's not about learning methods but about moment by moment obedience. It's not a matter of authority but of humility.

And what is he doing around me? He is preparing people to hear, to ask questions, to respond to him. He is trying to reach everyone. Not everyone is ready to listen - yet. I need to know the difference.

Are you aware of what God is doing? - Sometimes. I try to be, but I'm not always hearing and seeing. Often I'm just too dim-witted to understand what he's doing while he's doing it. Later it dawns on me, 'That was Jesus at work', 'Father had a hand in that', 'The Holy Spirit showed me that for a reason'.

Sometimes I manage, somehow, to cooperate with him. Sometimes he works through me and in me even while I don't realise it.

I'm simple and foolish; he is all wise, all knowing, and very, very capable of getting over, under or around my mistakes.

How are you part of what God is doing? -  Mostly by accident, it seems. But in truth it's by his design. He is not accident-prone even though I am.

And I know he wants me to be part of what he is doing. He doesn't need me, but it's his delight to involve me; what a priviledge! I certainly have to become a better and more constant listener and responder. I am part of what he is doing when I'm obedient.

He uses me to begin conversations with people who don't yet know him. He also uses me to encourage others who are on this journey with me. And he uses me on this blog, to touch people in a variety of ways. He uses me to care for others like a shepherd, guiding them to places where there is spiritual refreshment and nourishment. He gave me Isaiah 61 as a description of some of the things he wants me to do - proclaiming good news, binding up the broken hearted, speaking of freedom, light and his favour. There's a lot more in that chapter and it was all fulfilled in Jesus. But he wants to engage me in some of those activities with him, using me as his hands and feet and voice.

I did not choose to be part of this; he chose me!

And what about you? - How would you answer these three questions? We're all different and father has unique plans for each of us. Your answers may be very different from mine.

Do you find the questions useful? What is he doing in and around your life? How is he using you in his work? 

< No earlier items | Index | Surprises open us to change >

29 September 2012

Don Snell's Questions - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

We take a look at some interesting questions on mission and disciple-making and have a stab at some answers.

Don Snell's questionsIn his 'Missional Challenge' blog, Dave DeVries reposts some questions posed originally by Don Snell. These questions were originally intended for coaching. In particular the aim is to help people 'align [their lives] with Jesus' disciplemaking mission'.

I think these questions are so good that I'm taking them a few at a time and sharing my own answers in outline form.

I hope this will be helpful to others. Don't expect my answers to agree with your own, but do be encouraged to go through the questions yourself and think about them carefully.

  1. Where he treads I must follow
  2. Surprises open us to change

The case of Megan and Jeremy

The story of Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest is major British news, but in France the story has struggled to make the headlines. Why the difference? One French news source explains differences in law and opinion between the two countries.

French news article
France and Britain are just a sleeve apart. On a good day the two nations can see one another across the world's busiest sea lane, the 'English Channel' to the Brits, 'La Manche' to the French (literally 'The Sleeve').

But that little stretch of sea water divides two great nations who disagree on just about everything.

The latest example is the case of Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest. Opinion in the UK is certain that she is an abducted child and he a kidnapper. French opinion is expressed with a shrug and a smile, they are two people in love who made a foolish but understandable choice to run away together.

Compare an article in 'The Sun' with this from 'France 24' and you'll see what I mean.

So who is right? There are two ways of looking at this, according to the law on one hand and according to common sense on the other.

Legally, in the UK a fifteen-year-old is a child. Parents or legal guardians make decisions on the child's behalf, so taking a minor away from home (even down the road and back, let alone another country) requires parental permission. In France a fifteen-year-old is an adult and is therefore responsible for his or her own decisions.

And of course anyone who is professionally involved with children must follow strict standards of care and behaviour.

Common sense, however, suggests that around the ages of fifteen and sixteen there is some uncertainty about where to draw the line. That much is clear from the fact that the law differs from country to country.

There will be mixed feelings when Megan and Jeremy are safely home again. Both families will feel great relief, for sure. Megan may be less than happy, and Jeremy will be spending at least a few days in custody before possibly facing criminal proceedings. He is also certain to lose his job and will be unemployable in any work involving children.

Both of them will find family life is not the same as it was before, that's inevitable. And they will feel the pain of loss that those in love suffer when it's no longer possible for them to remain together. My heart goes out to Megan, Jeremy, and to their families and friends in what is just the beginning of a very difficult and distressing time for everyone involved.

Is this a legal issue involving distraught families and criminal behaviour by a man in a position of trust? Or is it a tragic story of young love that never stood a chance? Or is it somehow a confusing combination of the two?

Add a comment below. Let me know how you see the case of Megan and Jeremy. How do you justify your opinion?

28 September 2012

Floods in York

(Click the photo for a larger view)

Flooding in the city of York - Photo taken 27th September 2012
Here we see serious flooding in the city of York. I was there visiting family, thankfully few homes were flooded and most of the city centre escaped apart from some car parks built on the flood plain.

The River Ouse reached its second highest level ever recorded following two days of constant rain.  The flood waters are now receding and a clean-up operation is underway (midday 28th September).

Here are some more images of the flooding.

What does this image say to you? There are no wrong answers. (Add a comment).

Click the 'image' label below to see other image posts.

27 September 2012

Grasshopper at SpaceX

Reusing spacecraft instead of throwing them away after each launch would massively reduce costs per launch and costs per kilogram of payload. The Space Shuttle was largely reusable, but the work involved in making that possible was costly and safety was jeopardised.

SpaceX's Grasshopper
SpaceX have a number of projects going on in parallel. Perhaps they are best known for launching their Dragon spacecraft in May, successfully docking with the International Space Station (ISS), delivering cargo, and bringing a return cargo safely back to Earth. They plan to fly their first contracted operational flight to the ISS for NASA on 7th October.

But one of their objectives is to further reduce the cost of launching spacecraft. Their Falcon range of launchers are already cheap enough to take launch contracts from other operators, including Ariane. But to make a further reduction in costs SpaceX have always expressed the importance of making Falcon stages reusable.

Normally, the launcher stages plunge back to earth and are destroyed on impact with the ocean. The one exception to this in the past was the Space Shuttle's solid rocket boosters that descended by parachute and were refurbished, refilled with solid fuel, and restacked for another launch.

SpaceX is working on returning Falcon stages under rocket power (the 'Grasshopper' project) and the first test last week involved lifting a first stage tank structure to a height of just six feet and landing again. The test was a success and will lead to higher and longer flights attempting a return to the launch area.



If they can develop a commercial version of this powered recovery technique with the first stage (and it will be a major challenge), the company will then focus on techniques to recover the second stage of the launcher.

This will be a far greater challenge as the speeds, altitudes and horizontal distances involved will all be much larger.


24 September 2012

Seven times?

How many times must I forgive a person who wrongs me? We take a look at forgiveness in terms of Cain's murder of Abel, Israel's history, and the teaching of Jesus. There's a pattern, a thread running through all these themes. We see how forgiveness is protective and comes without limits.

Forgiveness at its source
When Yahshua told Peter he should forgive not just seven times, but seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22), he was clearly making the point that forgiveness is something that should be seen as having no limits.

But this is not the first time these words are found in the Bible.

All wise and all knowing as he is, Jesus would have been very familiar with the earlier texts in Genesis 4:15 and Genesis 4:24. He intended Peter (and us) to get the deeper message. So what is that deeper message?

Cain - Read Genesis 4:8-26. In verse 8 we see how Cain attacks his brother and kills him. Which is the greater sin, attacking my brother or killing him? Most of us would agree that murder is worse than injury. But is it? We'll come back to that.

Cain's punishment is more than he can bear, he understands he is to become an exile, hidden from Yahweh's presence, and a restless wanderer at risk of death. Even so, Yahweh protects him by placing a mark upon him and decreeing seven-fold vengeance on anyone who dares kill him.

Cain goes into exile but raises a family and builds a city. His descendent Lamech also commits a murder and claims seventy times seven-fold vengeance. Notice in verse 26 that it was after these events that people began to call on the name of Yahweh.

Israel - We can see much in the history of Israel that mirrors these events. The life of Cain is, in a sense, prophetic. Joseph's brothers were jealous, they sold him to Egyptian traders and told their father that he was dead. For all they knew it was true.

The nation passed into slavery in Egypt, hidden from Yahweh's presence. When they were released from Egypt they became restless wanderers at risk of death, but they carried the mark of circumsision and were protected from destruction at the hands of the Egyptians and other nations.

They began to call on the name of Yahweh and worshipped him - first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.

Forgiveness - Let's move on again, to the conversation between Peter and Yahshua. Peter wanted to offer the protection of Cain to his brother, but Jesus requires the protection of Lamech. What is really going on here?

Peter's forgiveness is just like the forgiveness of the Father. It is the thing that protects from vengeance. Peter either forgives his brother, the fault is forgotten and the relationship restored, or he does not. And he needs to treat every repeat offence as if it's the first. And like Peter, we too are called to forgive without limit, without counting. It's what the Father and the Son have done for us, forgiven without limit. How can I do less for my brother, my sister?

It is the word of the Father that he will demand life from anyone who harms us. We have only one enemy - the evil one - and he cannot stand against our Father.

The pattern set by Cain and Lamech (pre covenant) comes down via Israel (Old Covenant) to the church (New Covenant). Cain was offered a mark and a seven-fold protection. Lamech claimed a seventy times seven-fold protection.

Israel (before the Messiah) was given the mark of circumcision and protection through repeated but temporary ritual sacrifice.

In Yahshua we (with Israel) are given the mark of the Holy Spirit and protection through ongoing and indefinite forgiveness. But like Lamech we must claim that protection. In our case we can only do so by believing and confessing Jesus as Lord.

Oh yes... Murder or injury, which is worse? Jesus pretty much equated anger and murder - don't murder, don't injure, and don't even be angry. Anger is the source of murder in my heart just as it was for Cain.

Read Matthew 5:21-22, 1 John 3 and 1 Corinthians 6 for more on this topic.

Did you know? There's a 'Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance' that was formed to promote forgiveness in all situations. The organisation declares that 'Forgiveness is the greatest healer of them all' and 'Without forgiveness there is no future'. They have some great stories about forgiveness.

I'd say that Jesus is the greatest healer and without him there is no future. But Jesus came to open the way to forgiveness, healing, and eternity.

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