30 December 2009

Eaton Ford (day) - Church of Two

Paul and I met and shared information about the people we have been praying for. We also made a first trial of Church of Two (CO2), I explained how useful Sean and I have found it, ran through a brief description of the VIRKLER and SASHET components, and then we simply made a start.

Afterwards we both felt it had been a useful exercise and we will certainly try to run through it again, daily if we can.

Church of Two (CO2)

At the House2House Conference in Dallas in September, John White demonstrated Church of Two (CO2). Sharing an experienceWe all had a chance to try an aspect of it for ourselves, there and then. I was immediately convinced of the value of CO2 itself and of its constituent parts, SASHET and VIRKLER. Read more about CO2, SASHET, and VIRKLER on the CO2 Flyer.

In early December I began CO2 with a house church friend, Sean. After the first week we were clear that we very much wanted to continue, and after three weeks we both agree that our relationship with one another and our relationships with the Lord are deepening noticeably.

Because we can't meet face-to-face every day we decided to use Google Wave as our primary CO2 channel and I can tell you it works very well indeed. It's much better for this purpose than email. We create a new wave each day and we use clickable links to connect the days together, with an overall index to keep things organised. If we both happen to be online at the same time we can each see the other typing right on the screen. And when we're online at different times we can both add comments and make additions. Google Wave is a bit like email, instant messaging, and a wiki all rolled into one - but better than any of them alone.

Our experiences are similar to those reported by others commenting on 'Stories from the Revolution'. I had expected CO2 to be good, but it was trying it out for myself over a period of days that really convinced me. It's sometimes been difficult to keep going on a daily basis, but it is so worth the effort. My advice - don't give up, keep on keeping on and you will benefit.

Even if you don't have a partner for CO2, I would recommend doing the VIRKLER and SASHET exercises on your own each day. You will still see some useful benefit. But working in pairs or small groups will amplify the value greatly.

VIRKLER (particularly the hearing and journaling aspects) has deepened my awareness of the Lord's constant presence in my life.

SASHET has brought us closer to one another in mutual understanding, respect and trust.

As we pray with and for one another in the light of hearing the Lord's direction to each of us, I'm fully convinced we'll be led into church life and sharing the gospel in ways we could hardly have imagined at first.

In mid December I shared the idea of CO2 with the Christian Union at work and this is likely to lead to at least one more pair. Then this morning I did a first CO2 session with Paul, a friend from a different local gathering, and we'll try it for a week. I also expect to demonstrate CO2 to a group of friends some miles further west. And finally there's an opportunity opening up to begin sharing CO2 with a friend in the USA.

CO2 is not an end in itself. It is, however, a really useful framework for hearing from the Lord and at the same time developing broader and deeper relationships between individuals. In this way it stimulates spiritual growth and can act as both a building block for church and a platform for sharing the gospel. What a versatile tool!

Note: For a more recent update on CO2 see my article at 'All About Jesus'.

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.

21 December 2009

Colworth (CU) - Love languages

Andy took today's meeting, basing it on 1 Corinthians 13 and parts of Gary Chapman's book 'The Five Love Languages'. The Five Love LanguagesAndy used the audio book version and played a couple of sections to us.

According to Gary the five love languages are quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Each of us will major in one of these, showing love mainly in this particular way and looking for it to be returned in the same way. When we and our partner have different primary love languages we may both have difficulty feeling loved. We need to learn to 'speak one another's language'.

Kevin explained that he and his wife run a marriage preparation course at their church and have used the five love language principles very effectively with many young people.

18 December 2009

NEWS - Global growth of house churches

I think it might be useful to post news and comment here from time to time. These items won't just be any old news picked at random, Rapid growth of house churchesthey will be reports I've seen that may be encouraging or challenging to those of us meeting in simple ways here in the Beds, Cambs, Northants region of England.

Just a few minutes ago I read an item from Joel News, I encourage you to click through and read it too. It's a report on the house church conference held in New Delhi, India, from November 11th-14th 2009. The meetings explored the growth of organic house church communities and movements worldwide. Two hundred representatives from forty nations took part (including our own Peter Farmer).

It's clear that in many parts of the world, and especially in Asia, home churches are growing at an enormous pace. In our little corner of England we would do well to ask what they are doing that we are not, and also what we are doing that they are not! There are two ways to stop church growth in its tracks, on the one hand we can fail to do the right things, on the other hand we can waste much time doing the wrong things.

Let's ponder the extraordinary growth in certain countries and see if there are ways for us to step up the pace here on our own doorstep. Part of it is a matter of freshness, enthusiasm, and expectation that if Father asks us to go here or there and do this or that he will bless us abundantly when we obey. Perhaps we need to begin in prayer combined with a willingness to act according to the answer we receive.

See also a recent blog post from Tony Dale, 'The Agony and the Ecstasy'.

17 December 2009

Little Paxton - Connecting with people

We thought about one another's lives and how some things are working out better this week, especially for Jim. We also thought about men and women in marriage, about church life and activities, and about finding a proper home/work/church balance in our lives. Mahatma GandhiIn a sense it's important to recognise that church life encompasses home and work anyway, it cannot be separated out. It's not a question of how much time church should take, but how deeply it becomes the important element in everything we are and do.

While we were discussing this, Sean was called away to help sort out an issue between two of his children. It struck me as ironic that we had this example of 'church/life balance' right at the time we were talking about it. Should Sean go to deal with the issue or stay for the church 'meeting'? For me it's a no-brainer, he should go, his family needed him and that is all part of Kingdom living.

Jim talked about connecting with people. He said that we need to connect more. We need to identify the needs that people have in the way that people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King did. And we need to meet people where they are, showing that we love them in practical ways, revealing the nature of Christ to them  by effectively being Christ for them. (We are his body here in the earth, all we need to do is obey the head like any healthy body does.)

Jim mentioned that the Lord does things bigger and better than we can imagine, this is true! Not only that, it's been proved true in our experiences during the past twelve months in so many ways.

He also said that we 'need to make good decisions based on the word'. The 'word' can refer to the written word, that is the Bible, or it can refer to Jesus who was the Word brought to life on this earth.

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'.

15 December 2009

Demolishing the old office - the video

A few days ago I promised you a video clip of the demolition. Here it is. This clip shows the hydraulic crushing jaws at work on a steel reinforced concrete floor in the building that once included my office.



It's an extraordinarily quiet way to bring down a building, there is no loud noise, no great vibrations underfoot as large pieces of masonry come down. It's all crushed in situ and the pieces that fall are relatively small. There is awesome power in these steel jaws. The machine eats through concrete like a child nibbling chocolate.

14 December 2009

Colworth (CU) - Church of Two

I had volunteered to take today's Christian Union meeting. I'd mentioned the idea of Church of Two (CO2) briefly before, The CO2 Flyerbut decided to share it more fully now that Sean and I have been testing it for a couple of weeks.

I introduced the idea in outline, explaining that it is simply two (or three) people agreeing to meet daily to do two short exercises together. The whole daily session may take as little as ten minutes, but the frequency and the nature of the disciplines encourages openness to one another and to the Lord.

We read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 which emphasises that two are better than one. And we also considered how Jesus sent his disciples out in twos, and how they are listed as pairs in the gospels.

I briefly explained the SASHET and VIRKLER disciplines. SASHET stands for Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, Tender. The idea is that the partners in the CO2 take turns to discuss their feelings under those headings, focusing on the way each feels today. The other partner listens without offering advice, though asking for clarification is OK. In this way, both partners learn to share their feelings more freely and at the same time hear about the feelings of the other.

VIRKLER is a simple technique to help a person listen to the Lord. It consists of four steps done before the CO2 meeting each day. First it's necessary to clear worldly issues from the mind. The second step is then to focus on Jesus. Then, with the focus where it ought to be, pay attention to the thoughts, ideas, pictures etc that pass through the mind. Finally, note these things down as they present themselves and consider what the Spirit of Christ is saying to you today. The conclusions can be shared when the partners meet and may guide a time of prayer.

It seems likely that at least one other person from CU will now try CO2, and he already has a friend in mind. If so, it was well worth sharing.

There is much more information online. Read more about CO2 from the following resources...

Cycling - The wrong way to do it

This is a bad idea. Do not try this at home! Watch these crazy cyclists in the video and then read on for more detail. It may be illegal, stupid, and unkind to other road users, but my goodness it makes for an interesting video!



There are some common-sense (but not necessarily legal) suggestions for safe cycling on the website where I first saw the video. The site is called 100 Mile Bike Ride.

13 December 2009

St Neots (Open Door small group) - A breakfast shared

There was no Open Door morning meeting today because the Priory Centre was not available for use. Donna's small group decided instead to meet for breakfast, six of us met at Tony and Barbara's for a traditional English Breakfast. A full English breakfastBarbara had prepared eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns, along with some fine bread, toast and the rest. Thanks Barbara!

It was great fun to sit around the table, share the morning meal with thankful hearts, and chat. What a great way to build closer relationships and get to know one another better! Sometimes the simplest things are very effective.

After clearing the table we decided to head for the garden centre in Huntingdon, browse the cards, books, and gifts on offer, and sit together for a final cup of tea or coffee before heading home again.

Not only did we enjoy the food and the company, we also shared information and stories about our life, about church, and about Jesus. Great fun.

12 December 2009

Bedford - Tough Talk

This evening Donna, Paul and I drove into Bedford for the X-treme Camps reunion meeting at Priory Methodist Church in Newnham Avenue. At the X-treme Camps ReunionThe numbers were lower than expected, but the evening itself was just great!

There was live music and Stacey made an excellent job of capturing the attention of everyone in the room, especially the younger ones. This, of course, was the object of the exercise. The music and singing were strong and enthusiastic and were followed by a sort of bush tucker competition during which volunteers were invited to consume such delicacies as lemon and lime slices, banana and gravy, anchovy and chilli. One young man stuck at it valiantly and took away a very worthwhile winner's prize.

Tough Talk had been invited to take the main part of the evening and they were very good. They combined an account of one man's very rough life with brief episodes of squats by another guy carrying a heavily loaded bar across his shoulders. Each time Chris returned he lifted an increased weight and in between the story of Simon's life continued. This created a sense of tension throughout, keeping us listening to every word.

The true story involved Simon's love of money for the power it gave and the final loss of everything. There was also loss of a job, involvement in a club brawl, a court case because of the violence, and then a remarkable phase in which Simon met a follower of Jesus who persuaded him to come to church. It turned out to be Holy Trinity, Brompton - the home of the Alpha Course! Nicky Gumbell prayed with him, he took an Alpha Course, and his life was transformed.

We heard a second life story from another member of the team, the band came back for more music, and then we all headed home. I was greatly impressed by what I'd seen and heard. I came away with a DVD of more Tough Talk stories and two books with even more of the same. It's great stuff. Highly recommended for any youth or adult audience.

See Tough Talk in action for yourself in the video below. Premier.tv has more Tough Talk videos online.

11 December 2009

Eaton Ford (day) - Prayer for friends

This was an unusual Friday morning for me as I had another appointment that would take me away before lunch.

Roger, Paul and I spent some time sharing news about our various friends. Some are in jobs that can be dangerous, one is in church work while another would like to be, there are some with serious illnesses or sick relatives.

After talking all these things over we began to pray about them until it was time for me to go. I crept out as quietly as I could, leaving Paul and Roger to finish on their own. Although I didn't get to share in the rest of this meeting I was glad to know that Paul and Roger would eat together and perhaps do some Bible study. I'm looking forward to a more complete meeting next week!

10 December 2009

Moggerhanger Park - Star-dusted fabric

We intended to meet at Eaton Ford this week, but Jim was working late and had suggested that if we could come to Moggerhanger, he might be able to join us. The night skySo when the time got around to 20:15 and there were still only two of us, we decided to drive to Moggerhanger.

When Jim was able to get away to join us in the staff sitting room, he found Sean and me talking about astrophysics. And in some curious way this led on to thoughts about Jesus as the morning star (2 Peter 1:19). The Magi saw his star 'in the east' and came to worship him. Stars rise in the east, and the morning star (the planet Venus) rises in the east just ahead of the sun. And just as the morning star ushers in the new day, so Jesus in his rising ushered in the new day of his reign and rule and triumph over death.

Jim recalled a time when he'd been angry with someone and the Lord told him to 'Just stop!' When he looked up he saw the enormous, star-dusted fabric of the night sky and was overwhelmed by the magnificence of creation. His anger was gone in a moment!

We also discussed the nature of teaching in the life of the church. Jim said we should be teaching one another and that all of us have something to contribute. I mentioned that traditionally it hasn't worked like that. In the past most of us were told that we should all sit and listen while one person taught from the front. Far from encouraging one another to contribute, we were actively discouraged from doing so. Jim went on to say that there's head knowledge like the science of astrophysics but there's also a completely different kind of knowledge, not of the mind but of the heart.

Next we moved on to thoughts of our future in the presence of the Father and the Son. Sean reminded us that we have an inheritance to look forward to (as in Hebrews 1). Heaven will assuredly not be boring! This brought us to thoughts of John's funeral which had been rich with thoughts of inheritance, redemption, and life in Father's presence. I explained how Donna and I had both been so sure in our hearts that John would be healed, and that is how we had prayed at the time. This leaves the matter of faith as a continuing conundrum. Prayer without faith is unfruitful, but so is prayer that is unaware of the will of the Father.

Jim raised the topic of witnessing, as in prayer we need to take risks. How many of us would have witnessed to the Tough Talk guys before they became believers? I mentioned that we also need to develop relationships with people and get alongside them in meaningful ways.

Sean had some thoughts about Jesus' prayer in John that the disciples might be one just as he and the Father are one. The disciples belonged to the Father who gave them to the Son. He didn't even choose his own disciples! (John 17:6-26) And so it is with us, we need to tell the people he gives us about him. Jim pointed out that we are his disciples too, we need to set off for the mountain together and walk in his presence. Where he goes, we go - just like the twelve or the seventy.

Sean's thoughts moved to the time when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. They were already grumbling by the time they reached the sea, but in truth they should have been praising the Lord before they arrived at the shore. I mentioned that Joshua and Yashua (Jesus) are the same name, and Joshua is an early picture of what Yahshua would do. Joshua went into the land ahead of the people and then returned and declared it good, he was with them in the wilderness, and then finally he led them into the land across the Jordan. And what Joshua did in the physical realm, Jesus has done for us in the spiritual realm!

Jim reminded us that when Paul and Silas were in prison they still continued to sing the Lord's praises (Acts 16:16-40). So should we - but would we? Good question, Jim!

Finally we prayed together, and then discussed possible dates for some future meetings, 21st January for a bowling evening as an X-treme Camps local reunion, and Sunday 7th February for a snowdrop walk at Moggerhanger followed by a light lunch and an afternoon meeting. These dates are not firm yet.

09 December 2009

Linked Data - queryable, extensive, public data

Tim Berners-Lee has done it again. This time it's not about hyperlinked text but about queryable data. In many ways this can be seen as the public domain, social software equivalent of Stephen Wolfram's proprietary system, WolframAlpha.

It's not hard to see that open will win out over proprietary once again.

Take a look at ReadWriteWeb's post on this topic. It's an excellent roundup. They recommend starting with Tim Berners-Lees's breathless presentation at TED, so do I. I've embedded it below for convenience. Then take a look at the DBpedia website to see how you can use the material for yourself. An online paper presents the technical aspects.

07 December 2009

Colworth (CU) - Advent

Dud led today's meeting and chose the topic of 'Advent'. He explained that it's an extra opportunity to reach people and that it's useful to consider how to approach different sorts of people.

Atheists, for example, have to decide whether to celebrate or ignore Christmas. Family records in an old BibleIn either case Christ is not central as far as they are concerned. They may be irritated, even angered, by the impression that believers are 'muscling in' on a festival that for most people is not about Christ at all. They might prefer that every person should decide for themselves.

Believers on the other hand will often be searching for ways of 'putting Christ back into Christmas'. If we want to avoid the excesses of present giving, card sending, eating, drinking and partying, here are some ideas that Dud had to offer.

  • Instead of or as well as giving Christmas cards, why not pray for the people we give them to? Make a note to pray specifically for them. Some people give Advent cards instead to encourage their friends to look beyond the snow, the robin, and the holly.

  • Read the Bible as a family, encourage each family member to read out their favourite passage.

  • Put Jesus back quite literally by making sure he is in everything you do or say.

  • Connect with your faith. Remember that Jesus was born in a simple way, and that his birth holds meaning and is highly significnt.

  • Go to a candle lit service. Remember that Christ is the Light in the darkness of our lives.
There's a welcome for every believer as an adopted son or daughter. We have a share in the life of Christ! This is indeed Good News! We read Matthew 1:1-17 and thought about the way the Lord had used all kinds of people in Jesus' family tree - many of them of rather dubious morals!

He clearly had no problem with human flaws or weaknesses, nobody is too bad to become one of his followers. All are welcome. We need to learn to let go of our flaws and give them to Jesus.

Finally we read Ruth 1:3-18 and thought about the utter faithfullness of this woman who was a Moabite (not even an Israelite).

04 December 2009

Newforms - Video meeting with Peter Farmer

Peter Farmer and I spoke for two hours online using Skype. Despite a number of drop outs and restarts we were able to cover a lot of ground in the time available. Connected networksI can recommend Skype for this sort of online discussion, it's very helpful to see the person at the other end of the connection at the same time as speaking and listening.

Focused on the King is a loose network of small groups in the Bedford, Cambridge, Northampton area and in our very informal way we are also connected more widely via Newforms, a UK-wide network of networks. Pete started Newforms in May 2008 and aims not only to connect the various networks of simple, organic churches that exist in the UK, but encourage further growth, provide training, arrange national meetings etc.

Some topics we discussed
  • Pete's travel to various parts of the UK which he calls Mission Britain, and his plans for visiting the London area in the next few weeks. I was able to give him some contact names. Another group we'd both like to have contact with is one in north east Scotland. They were visited by Alex Campbell and Floyd McClung in 2008 for training in church planting.

  • People and groups we know. We shared about local and UK-wide networks and individual groups. These seem to be developing more quickly now, and it seems to me that much of this growth is spontaneous. Pete mentioned the Salt and Light Network which I haven't come across previously.

  • Church of Two (CO2, see also Stories from the Revolution). I shared the basis of this with Peter, it turns out there are similarities and some overlap with the Pilgrims and Pioneers idea that he's been using in Nottingham.

  • International conferences and contacts. We exchanged some of our experiences from my Dallas trip in September, and Pete's trip to Delhi just recently. I put him in touch with contacts in the Netherlands and in Sweden and we talked about the work of Wolfgang Simson, Floyd McClung and others.

  • Meetings for the early part of 2010. We are considering some sort of gathering in our area in the first quarter of 2010, and Pete is planning two national meetings in the same period.

  • We also discussed training  and resources for making disciples and planting churches.
All in all it was two hours well spent. We both ended the conversation informed, encouraged, and connected. And staying connected was the reason for the conversation in the first place.

(You can also read Pete's notes on this meeting.)

    Eaton Ford (day) - Practicing praise

    Paul read 1 Peter 3:8-12 and we thought about the difficulty of forgiving, how easy it is to hold a grudge. Even though we know we shouldn't do it, Praise logosometimes it's hard and we wrestle with ourselves.

    We talked about friends who need prayer because of illness or other issues in their lives. And Roger raised the subject of praise; he said that we need to practice praise so that it becomes natural to us. The principle is similar to CS Lewis's description in 'The Great Divorce' of a persistent grumbler who runs the risk of eventually becoming, not a grumbler, but in fact merely a grumble. If we are persistent praisers perhaps we can finally attain the state of being a praise!

    Roger read Psalm 138 and I mentioned that we don't belong to ourselves, nor do we belong to the world, but we belong to one another and of course we belong to the Lord. Paul prayed for the Tough Talk meeting on Saturday week, then I referred to verse 8 and said that the Lord will fulfill his purpose for Paul, for Roger, and for me. Whatever he plans in our lives he will do. Referring to verse 3, Roger added that he will make all his people bold and stout hearted. We prayed for more of our friends.

    We thought about  the fact that there are two kinds of 'knowing' or relationship. For knowing in the mind reason, knowledge, and persuasion are the tools we need. But we need different tools for knowing people in the heart, they are things such as mercy, compassion, and love. Paul added feeling and understanding to the list. We need these to 'be there' for people, to understand how they feel.

    03 December 2009

    Eaton Ford - Small groups

    Jim was working very late today, Paul was unwell, and Mary couldn't make it so it was just Sean and me meeting this evening.

    We discussed the ideal size for groups of people sharing their lives together and thought that between twelve and twenty is the natural maximum. Greek icon of the twelve apostlesYahshua called twelve men to follow him and we know there were women who also followed him, so there is good precedent for twenty or so as a maximum. Larger numbers would make it difficult for people to relate closely and personally with one another. It's a good size for any kind of team - in business, sport, and it's typically the size of an extended family.

    We spent some time considering ways of reaching out to those around us. Both of us are keen to do this. We recognise that last summer's camp was one way to do this, and we know it was prepared and orchestrated by Papa, not by us. All we had to do was follow step by step. But we want to reach more people in the town and are sure that if we trust and expect to be led, the opportunities will come.

    I described what I'd learned about CO2 from John White and others at the House2House Conference in Dallas. Sean thought it sounded a great idea and is happy to try it with me so we plan to begin right away, do it for a week, and then see how we feel about continuing. We will do the VIRKLER exercise individually and report back when we meet to share what we think the Lord is telling us each day. And we'll step through the SASHET process at the same time.

    Here's a video of CO2 in action.

    C02 Overview from TSP on Vimeo.

    We'll let you all know how we get on. We hope to meet face to face two or three days each week for our CO2 sessions. On the other four or five days we will use Skype and/or Google Wave as communication channels. We'll also share how these worked for us as CO2 tools.

    Before finishing we prayed for our friends and specific things in their lives that we're aware of, particularly illnesses and family matters.

    01 December 2009

    Great Doddington - What is church?

    As we chatted over coffee and biscuits the conversation turned to thoughts about faith, healing, and salvation. What is church?Healing in particular seems to be quite common at some times and in some places, but not all the time and everywhere. So what should we expect in our own lives and those of people we know? What should we expect in our own towns, villages, and workplaces?

    Glenn shared about events in Argentina that he'd read about in a book years ago. Extraordinary events with strong evidence. And this prompted Barbara to tell us how she'd been praying for someone's health and had felt overwhelmed by a sense of peace, certainty, and faith. She'd been able to prayer in a different way as a result, knowing that her prayer was heard and answered.

    We also chewed over some of the great mysteries that are presented in the Bible. In particular Jody wondered how it could be that the Almighty would instruct Israel to utterly destroy defeated enemies like the ancient city of Jericho. To our human understandings there is a disconnect here. How can it be right to put  men, women and children to the sword? How can it be just? Obedience demanded it, but it seems a very odd instruction. Today it would be declared genocide and the UN would intervene.

    It's a good question and not easy to answer. It seems barely sufficient to argue that those were the days of the Law and today we live under a dispensation of grace. I pointed out that Old Testament events of this kind translate very powerfully into our own lives. Have I 'killed' all the dark and wrong things in my own heart? Am I clinging to remnants of my past, unsaved life? If so, they will surely come back to bite me. Yet there will be a kind of suffering (or at least discomfort) in giving them up. But the reason must be far deeper, something to do with the nature of Yahweh himself. He is love, but he is also jealous and just and pure and holy. He is gentle but also terrible.

    Another topic we considered was 'What is church?' We agreed that we need to grow into fellowship on an altogether different level. Are we really closely enough involved in one another's lives? If one of us feels lonely, or far from the Lord - how can we help one another? And are we reaching out into a lost world as we should?

    I recounted Floyd McClung's story about the young lady who asked for prayer. She said she wanted patience. He began praying for tribulation in her life - not at all what she had expected to hear. Some of us thought that asking for tribulation in someone's life was a dreadful thing to do, and I do understand why we might think so. But Floyd was not being unkind, he was encouraging her to understand the basis for the growth of patience in a person's life. It's not that our Father is being cruel to his children, he is actually working hard and at great cost to dig us out of the pit that we are in - but he didn't put us into that pit in the first place.

    We read Psalm 107 from verse 4.

    And finally we linked arms in a circle and prayed for one another.

    30 November 2009

    Colworth (CU) - Money and stewardship

    There was no plan for today's meeting so we did what we usually do in this situation, just enjoyed some good time chatting about life and about Jesus. World moneyWe decided we'd like to make a CU lunchdate for 22nd January (probably) and meet for food and fellowship at a local pub.

    Andy dipped into some notes he happened to have with him and read out thoughts on love languages and how important it is to understand one another's ways of thinking. Not only does this apply to married couples, but also to us as brothers and sisters when we meet. Expressing our care for one another in a way that works for that person is so important.

    Then we discussed stewardship. Luke 16:2 was mentioned and we read verses 1-8. It's clear that any steward needs to take care of the owner and of the owner's property and business transactions. How true that  the people of this world are shrewder than the people of the light! Worldly advantages can be gained by ignoring what is right and caring little for the Lord's business.

    1 Corinthians 4 clearly shows us that everything we have comes from the Almighty. We need to look to the future. Sometimes we may need to take risks for the Master's benefit. However we should never look to our own benefit.

    29 November 2009

    Oundle - Jonah and the whale

    The nascent group in Oundle invited me to join them for lunch on Sunday. We met at Matt and Justine's home in Peterborough, Jonah thrown up on the beachbut I'm referring to it as the 'Oundle' group because I think that is where they will end up (I might be wrong, of course).

    We sat and relaxed together and talked for a while over cups of tea while the younger folk made a happy noise elsewhere in the house. They were working on a play to perform for us adults after lunch. Topics that came up in conversation included the 2008 House2House Conference as well as 'The Shack'. Although views differ about the book we agreed that love demands that we allow one another to make up our own minds without becoming offended over those differences.

    I'd brought the DVD sets for the 2008 and 2009 conferences and left them behind so they could go through them at their leisure. I explained that the 2008 set includes some excellent material from Paul Young, the author of 'The Shack'; and I mentioned briefly that one of the topics Paul deals with is the place of women in the church. In my view he handles this extremely well, basing his thoughts on the first three chapters of Genesis. The DVD is well worth watching.

    After a delicious Italian lunch we had more time to chat before moving to a different room where the young people were ready with their play. They'd put together a short production based on the book of Jonah. Jonah heard the call from Yahweh to go to Ninevah and disobediently took a ship to Tarshish in Spain instead. The sailors cast lots and Jonah was thrown overboard to save the ship, he was swallowed by the whale (cleverly done by the young actors).

    Jonah repented and the whale spat him out and he agreed to go to Ninevah. There was a well-deserved round of applause for the players.

    We spent a short time in prayer during which there was reassurance about the way forward. There are several practical issues on the horizon, both for Matthew and Justine and also for Rupert and Uli. But there's no need for anxiety about these. Sometimes Papa expects us to wait for the right time, but when the time comes he makes everything clear. It's all in his hands.

    For me, there's a lot to rejoice about. It is so good to see this little group gathering weekly. Thank you, Father!

    28 November 2009

    Awesome video, great music, astonishing machine

    Here's a fine video beautifully put together with excellent music and sound effects. Mike Interbartalo edited imagery of the Space Shuttle launch process from beginning to end. It really is an experience to watch and listen, even if you're not much interested in space or rockets.

    It's strange to think that next year the Space Shuttle will fly for the very last time and there is nothing in place to take over. The USA will no longer be able to launch crewed vehicles into orbit.


    STS-129 Ascent Video Highlights from mike interbartolo on Vimeo.

    For anyone wanting a bit more detail, you will see the Shuttle stack on the giant tracked platform arriving at the launch pad. There are some details of the engine ignition sequence, the three main engines first, then the solid rocket boosters. You will see the solid boosters fall away and splash down under their parachutes ready to be collected by boat and returned for re-use. You will see the giant external tank released to return to a fiery destruction in the atmosphere. And then finally the shuttle itself heads on into Earth orbit.

    There are shots from many angles here. Some from the ground or from the air, some from cameras mounted on the solid boosters, the external tank, and the shuttle itself.

    27 November 2009

    Offord d'Arcy (day) - Brief notes only

    We usually meet in Eaton Ford, but today Paul and I travelled to Roger's home in Offord d'Arcy as he'd hurt his back. We ate lunch together, had some good conversation, and prayed for the village, for people we meet in our daily lives, for ourselves as we reach out to those around us, and for friends facing difficult times.

    Roger read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 and we shared our thoughts on these wonderfully encouraging words.

    26 November 2009

    Eaton Ford - Floyd's camels

    Jim was involved in another meeting this evening so joined us later, Sean and I began by chatting about computing.
    A camel


    It's an interest we share as we both work in IT. Then we settled down to listen to Floyd McClung talking about 'Camels in the Road', in other words distractions we meet in our lives that make it hard for us to follow Jesus. Here are the major points he makes as he develops this theme.
    • Dabbling - instead of being fully focused on following Jesus, we may become distracted by doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We're called to spiritual obedience, but we become absorbed in other things so easily.
    • Plateau-ing - we stop growing spiritually. There is no moving on in our lives, no breakthrough. Past disobedience can lie behind this.
    • Inner vows - we may say to ourselves, 'I will never do x, y, z again. Never!' This vow becomes an inner value that guides us. The vow is often to protect us, to avoid something, or simply for comfort. The Lord doesn't cause the problems in our lives but he does use them. He is able to use our greatest fears to create in us great strengths, but we need to embrace the pain if this is to happen.
    • Unclear vision - we need to get hold of a sense of our destiny. If we don't, we may become targets for other people's passions.
    • Financial security - we worry about such things and they can eat us up. Don't let materialism own you, live for a bigger dream!
    • Frantic pace of life - too busy to pay attention to what the Lord is doing.
    • Churchianity, religion - The Lord is really not impressed with our systems and organisations.
    We discussed some of these ideas and noted how they have affected our own lives. 

    Jim arrived at this point and we prayed for our friends and families asking for grace through the pain and the issues. We thought how necessary it is to pour our grace over them, forgiving wrongs freely, praising things that are well done and so on. Just as our heavenly Father pours his grace over us, so we are to do for others.

    In connection with one particular issue that was mentioned, I saw a stone on a woodland path. I realised that the stone might just be lying on the surface or it might be larger than it looked with the bulk of it deeply buried. It's important to know which is the case. A stone on the surface may be easily moved but a part-buried stone could cause injury if we strain to pick it up or just try to kick it out of the way.

    23 November 2009

    Colworth (CU) - Julia Fisher

    It was my turn to lead this week, I had agreed to talk about Julia Fisher's work in Israel and began with a potted history of her involvement which is summarised below. A tour party viewing the Sea of Galilee

    In 1998 she became interested in the need for women to have short, inspiring breaks from routine. She helped with two women's tours visiting Israel in June and November of 1998 and on the flight home from the second trip, the Lord told her she would return in six weeks.

    She was unexpectedly invited to report on millenium preparations by the Israeli Government Tourist Office. She soon heard about a pastor's meeting in Jerusalem but had no idea who to contact, then the night before the flight she was given a phone number that turned out to be that of the chairman of the meeting!

    So in this rather amazing way, Julia was given an opportunity to meet church leaders in Jerusalem. They were able to put her in touch with many others in Israel and she has conducted interviews and written books about the extraordinary reconciliation currently happening between Jewish and Arab believers.

    We used this as a stepping stone to discuss the ways in which we, too, are guided day by day, moment by moment. We can be encouraged to hear and do the Lord's will. Andy explained how he'd given his testimony and how it is necessary to know and seize the right time. David related how he'd once been given the same verse by a variety of people and how this had influenced him and encouraged him.

    Andy then mentioned love languages, how we are all different and individually need the right approach. And I commented that indeed we can all see evidence that our father in heaven loves us and treats us all individually according to our needs. We have good reason to be encouraged, he is always ready to touch us and guide us.

    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.

    20 November 2009

    Eaton Ford (day) - People in ordinary life

    After we'd listed some names of people for prayer, Paul mentioned that he still feels strongly the words, 'Stand up for the Lord'. He pointed out Mark 8:38 as confirming the thought. People in ordinary lifeHe has mentioned this feeling several times in the last week or so, it's clearly significant.

    We talked for a while about reaching people, our friends, neighbours, people we meet in every kind of situation in ordinary life. We both sense the importance of getting alongside people where they are.

    Then I played the Floyd McClung recording 'Courage to Change', stopping at the end of the first 'pillar of simple church' (carnational not attractional) just as we had on Thursday in Little Paxton. If we are all able to meet together this Thursday we'll all be at the same place and can listen to pillar two together.

    Paul and I agreed entirely with Floyd's approach here. In fact, we decided that Paul is already active with the first pillar in a very natural way as he meets people wherever he goes.

    After we'd prayed for the people on our minds we ate lunch together.

    19 November 2009

    Little Paxton - Sheep in the fog

    Standing in Jim's kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil, we were already talking about 'iron sharpening iron' (Proverbs 27:17). This verse, quoted by Dale Hewitt at Moggerhanger, had especially impressed one of us. A foggy dayAnd we all felt that it was self-evidently true for us as we met together, we all feel we've been 'sharpened' and can see it in one another. Isn't the Lord great?

    Jim said that we're sometimes reluctant to really go with the Lord. We realise that it might cost us something we're unwilling to lose, so we're careful not to go too far. He mentioned Martin Luther King who just did what he knew was right despite the evident dangers. And he paid the price. Jim was reminded of the Lord's words to Joshua, 'I will never leave you or forsake you' (Joshua 1:5). Proverbs 3:5 is also relevant here.

    In our relationships with people, and non-believers in particular, we need to relate, make real contact, and live shared lives. Church life has damaged so many people, basically because of the many little rules we construct. We need to understand that people are more important than rules. This is what Jesus taught!

    Jim also mentioned that seeing fruit in the lives of those we know is always very encouraging. I mentioned the events surrounding X-treme Camps last summer, we have seen so much impact and fruit from that.

    We listened to the first part of Floyd McClung's recording, 'Courage to Change'. The long introduction is interesting and we also listened to the section on the first pillar of simple church, 'Church is incarnational, not institutional'. We may listen to the remaining four pillars on other occasions.

    Working through what we had heard we thought about work, life in general, and things like shopping which in the extreme can be pure materialism but on a different level may also be regarded as good.

    Jim raised the idea of prayers in parliament or in school assemblies, things which were normal in times past but  today would mean little or nothing to many people. He said that Britain has changed, we just don't do official prayer now, he encouraged us to see this as an opportunity because we are free to serve. I thought we should try to keep everything very simple and straightforward, just be followers of  Jesus in a sometimes difficult world.

    We also thought about our personal response to violence. We shouldn't retaliate, but respond with life - not death. Jim felt we need to plan things, but Sean said he doesn't much like plans, we can live day by day, moment by moment, and he will guide us. This resulted in some good thoughts about Jesus, how did he lead his life? At this point I had a picture of sheep in the fog. Some of the sheep were huddled in a flock around the shepherd and were bleating to one another, others were scattered on the hillside. When the shepherd called, the scattered sheep headed towards his voice although all they could see was fog. And the bleating of the flock was added to the call of the shepherd in helping them to sense the direction to move. It's as if the flock amplified the shepherd's voice. Sounds travel long distances in fog, and we really do live in a fog.

    Jim also had a picture, a shack in the mountains. There were garlands of flowers around it and all over it and Jim felt this somehow represented the fruit that we can bear in our lives. When we're in the mountains, sometimes it's bleak. But a time is coming when there'll be bright and colourful fruit in our lives if we are close to the Master.

    Jim added that Father says to us in the fog, 'Trust in me and I'll show you the way.' Sean prayed that Father would enlarge our vision and that we'd devote more time to hearing him and being with him.

    17 November 2009

    St Neots (Open Door small group) - say cheese!

    This evening I went with Donna to her small group.
    A fine piece of Stilton
    I'm always invited when they have social events and this time it was a cheese and wine supper. There were only seven of us as several were not able to get along.

    But what a great time we had! There was an excellent selection of cheeses, Barbara had made scones, and with French Stick, grapes, crackers and a variety of other items there was no shortage of flavours. In fact the cheeses  featured in the conversation, along with many other topics.

    Times like this are such a good way to get to know people better. The informality and fun help with this enormously. It would also be good to meet with Donna's group more often, in between the social 'events' (hint, hint). Maybe this will become possible.

    16 November 2009

    Colworth (CU) - Chat and prayer

    We had nothing planned today, but four of us met and discussed various issues at work and also some old friends who have retired or moved to other jobs. We thought about the possibility of having a bring and share lunch and/or a pub lunch, maybe in the new year. We prayed together before heading back to work.

    13 November 2009

    Eaton Ford (day) - A greater one is coming

    We started by chatting about events in our own lives, and then shared news of friends and family and spent some time praying for them.

    Afterwards, to get a discussion started, John the BaptistI read Mark 1:1-8 and we noted several points. The people confessed their sins to John, and we are encouraged to confess our sins to one another. If we do, it can help build trust and community in the body.

    The fact that Jesus forgives sins shows his great authority. It seems that during John's work of baptising many in Judea felt convicted and went en masse to see him in the desert. Roger reminded us that Jesus later said that John was Elijah.

    We continued to read verses 9-20 and considered the question of what the 'good news' is. The best way we could express it was to say that it is the presence of the Kingdom, the place where the King rules unopposed. Basically this is a place in the hearts of his followers.

    Paul said that 'we need to stand up and be counted', something that he's been feeling for some weeks recently. And he's right, we need to speak and live the truth in the world, in front of friends, neighbours, and colleagues.

    12 November 2009

    Eaton Ford - Playing on the field

    We met at Paul's house this evening and started to think about the fact that we are already in the Kingdom of Heaven (or perhaps we could say the Kingdom is in us). I explained how I'd heard Floyd McClung saying that in football or rugby Playing rugbythe game is played on the field, not in the locker room at half time. That time with the coach is a time for advice and encouragement to prepare us for the second half. It's the same in church life, we meet to encourage one another and to grow in spiritual things, but the purpose is making diciples and that game is played in the world in daily life, not in our meetings!

    Paul reminded us that whatever our age or physical condition we need to be able to say, 'But I'm OK because God is in me. I'm not worried about death.' Jim remarked that we have difficulties, illnesses, but we know that we have life in Christ.

    We thought that people today are looking for some kind of spiritual experience, there's much more interest in the supernatural than there was. Jim thought this was partly because of the financial crash and partly because of terrorism. People are looking for security and for an answer and for spiritual power of some sort. But they don't know where to look.

    Next we talked about Elijah and how Yahweh had not been in the earthquake, the fire or the storm, but in the still, small voice. Because of this we need to listen very, very carefully and we need to have time in our lives for Jesus. Sean said that to put it bluntly - it's a matter of what's most important to us.

    I pointed out that there are many ways to communicate with people (voice, writing, body language, signing etc) and it's the same with the Lord, he has several ways of reaching us. I read Tracy's amazing words about how he wants to speak to us. Jim referred back to Ephesians 1:18 where Paul writes about our hearts being 'flooded with light'. And Jim explained that for him the presence of the Lord is like a white light and how awesome that is, like soaking in his presence.

    This prompted me to ask, 'What is the most amazing thing he reveals to us?' Jim said, 'The Son, by revelation'. Sean pointed out that first we have to diminish in stature, that it's necessary but the hardest thing to do. And Jim mentioned the radiance of the Lord that had remained on Moses face after he was on the mountain with him.

    And I had something of a revelation about this. Just as there are different parts of the body and each must obey the head, so it is in the church. It's not necessary for the toe to become less, but it is necessary for it to obey the head and to do the job it was designed for. So for us, it's not so much that we must diminish but rather that we must be appropriate in what we are and do. We must fit the role we have been given neither more nor less. And we must obey Christ.

    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.

    10 November 2009

    The Offords - Prayer

    I visited Roger and Ruth to pray with them for the village, for the church, for community life, and for their role as the Lord's people in this place.

    We discussed how they feel and what aspirations they have, talked about the people they know and the issues they are aware of, wondered about the Lord's view of the situation, and prayed together for guidance and for signs of opportunity.

    Jesus was clearly with us as we met.

    09 November 2009

    What, Lord?

    This is a message from four years ago, a message from the prime mover behind this universe to one of his children. Lacy Haugan I think it's just awesome. The King of Kings wants to make us aware that he has something to say to us. The initiative is his, not ours. Sometimes we go to him with requests, sometimes we'd do better to listen and let him speak.

    I won't say any more, the words that Lacy wrote four years ago speak most eloquently for themselves.

    Here's a link to Lacy's blog where the words were originally shared.

    There have been a number of times in my life with God when I have been just going about my daily business, and all of a sudden I feel this strong tugging that just won't go away. Like a child pulling on my shirt, or someone tapping their finger on my shoulder over and over. It's an obvious attempt to get my attention. And it happened this week.

    I absoluetly love it when God does that. I mean how amazing is it that the God of all the universe (which fits neatly into His hand, by the way), the God who has access to billions of people on the planet, not to mention really cool heavenly beings to fellowship with - how amazing is it that this Person will tug on my shirt to get my attention.

    I seem busy...He looks, He waits, He ponders...still busy...I wonder if she'll notice Me if I just lightly tap on her shoulder. Tap, tap, tap... She looks up briefly as if distracted from her work...then begins to type again. I know she is busy. I like the good work that she does. But just for a minute, maybe we could talk. Tug, tug, tug... She feels the pull and slowly finds a stopping place in her work. Tap, tap, tap... And then she realizes: it's Him. A deep breath and a rushing in her heart, and then she asks smiling, "What, Lord?"

    And that's when it happens. He shares things that I know are what He wants, because He brought it up, not me. He shares His heart, His desires, His true thoughts. I have not convinced Him of something this time, I have not begged for it, I have not schemed up the idea myself, for it was He who pursued me to talk. Amazing. Simply amazing that God Himself has things on His heart that He wants to share with me. Even more amazing that He will seek me out to do that.

    And when I feel that tug, that gentle yet increasingly more persistent tap on my shoulder (I actually feel it in my stomach, not on my shoulder), my heart races with delight, fear, and excitement. For the things that He says these times are the kind that often require action, faith, and getting out into my risk zone.

    Tap on me, Lord. Tug on me. And interrupt me from my work. I long to be sought after by You. I long to know what is on Your heart to share. Tug on me.

    Thanks to Lacy for writing this down and sharing it on line, and to the Holy Spirit for dictating it.

    Colworth (CU) - Resurrection

    Dave brought some thoughts from 1 Corinthians 15:1-20, he would have liked to cover the entire chapter but felt this section was all we could manage in the time available.Sunlight on the water We read the passage through and then had an open conversation about it. Some of the main points are set out briefly below.

    Paul clearly relished the opportunity to present the gospel at every opportunity.

    It is striking that Jesus appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at one time. First of all, who were these followers? Far more than the disciples and the women who also travelled with him. And the apostles evidently saw him more than once, two occasions are mentioned here. Paul also mentions that many of the five hundred were still alive at the time of writing, there could be little doubt of the resurrection.

    Another point we noted was that Jesus didn't just return to life merely to die again later (like, for example, Lazarus who lived out his days at Larnaca in Cyprus). Jesus, in contrast, actually defeated death itself. Death, therefore, is much less of an issue for us now. I wondered if there were some Sadducees at Corinth. We know that Jews lived all over the Roman world and that Paul had the habit of always declaring the gospel first in the synagogue. Maybe the teaching that there was no resurrection came from some local Sadducees.

    Dud thought it was most unlikely that the Romans would have allowed Jesus' body to be stolen. Historically it seems almost harder to disprove the resurrection than to prove it. Dave asked what difference the resurrection makes in our own lives and we agreed that it makes all the difference. We can spell it out by considering the converse of what Paul says in verse 17, 'And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.' In other words if Christ has been raised our faith is effective and we are free from sin.

    Dud pointed out that verse 20 sums everything up very succinctly. We too are going to be raised - so why don't we live like it?!

    Dave mentioned the song 'You are the King of every heart' by the band 'One Hundred Hours', the lyrics seemed relevant. 'Your love is bigger than our fear. You are the King of every heart.' All possible because Christ could not be held by death because he himself is life!

    08 November 2009

    Bedford (Kings Arms) - His way or mine?

    Donna, Karen and I travelled over to Bedford for the evening meeting. A ravenAfter some great music and a chance to praise and worship freely there was something of a disconnect for me as the focus changed to notices and the need for money for the new building. Kings Arms has bought the Crayola Building and now needs to remodel it for its new function.

    Simon Holley then spoke from 1 Kings 17:1-16. He reminded us that each of us is to love the Lord with all of our heart. Money is powerful in the world but the message is about living the adventure with the Lord regardless of other things.

    Ahab and his wife Jezebel had drawn Israel away from Yahweh, the people were being forced to worship Baal instead. People will try to tear you down only when you begin to live the journey with Yahweh. We need to know that if we can stand secure before him, we can stand before anybody.

    Simon made five main points about the Lord's provision.

    Even if it seems crazy - we need to trust him even when it seems to make no sense. Don't quibble over the solution he offers. Elijah had to eat bread provided by a raven, would you eat bread dropped by a bird? It doesn't sound appetising, let alone wholesome. We need to learn to take what he offers trusting that it is good.

    The brook dried up - just because he provides something in a particular way doesn't imply that it will always be the same. He may choose a different way to provide in the future. If Elijah had stayed by the brook he'd have died of thirst. We need to be willing to move on.

    He will fulfill his word - The widow was there as promised but apparently she was unable to help. Yet this was a command from the Almighty. Yahweh commits himself to fulfill his word. We need to find out what he is saying to us because that is what he will do. His will not mine will be done.

    To you and through you - expect him to provide what we need and through us what others need also. As we freely receive from the Lord we must also freely give.

    Obedience - we must step out in obedience. It's no good just sitting tight where we are, we have to do the uncomfortable, possibly dangerous thing that he calls us to.

    07 November 2009

    Moggerhanger - Temporal or eternal?

    Jim invited me to a River Church men's breakfast meeting at Moggerhanger Park. In the Moggerhanger dining roomDale Hewitt from Dreambuilders Church in Perth, Australia, spoke to us after the meal. He first met Rob Macfarlane in Harare in 1995, long before Rob came to St Neots and founded River Church.

    After a marvellous full English breakfast we settled down to listen to what Dale had to say.

    He began by pointing out the pressures on men to succeed, especially in modern times. And this is pressure that's always focused on achieving things that are temporal, things that will not remain for eternity. It occurred to me that this is just as true for women although the specific pressures are sometimes different.

    Reading Ephesians 1:15-23 as a basis, Dale explained that this is actually Paul's prayer for the Ephesian church. At heart it's about the fulfillment of Father's purpose for your life - his purpose, not yours. Paul begins with praise (verses 3-14) before moving on to his petitions. This is such a good principle. There's an eternal perspective here, we should always praise with eternity firmly in mind, it's not just about the blessings we have in the here and now.

    This raises a question, 'What am I going to leave as an eternal deposit when my life in this world is finished?'

    Paul's prayer for the Ephesians is that they'd have greater intimacy with the Almighty, greater vision, and greater power. Why? So that they might grow! And how do we demonstrate our increasing knowledge and reverence of the Lord? Putting it another way, what do we do that is different from what the world does? We will give him more time in our lives and we'll have an increased passion for his presence and for his people. We are workers in his Kingdom, not rulers over our own kingdom.

    Jesus is not just a friend, he is much more than that, he's the King of Kings, the creator of the universe and Lord over everything. Do people know that he's a priority in our lives? They should do!

    The more intimacy we have with the Lord the more we can see where we're going, the greater our vision. Like the blind man at Bethsaida, getting closer is the key to having our eyes opened and opened fully. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells us that like him, we are the light of the world. As we touch people's lives they begin to see by his light shining through us, they begin to see 'like trees walking'.

    If we're born of the Spirit we will know his power in our lives (Ephesians 1:19-23). As we focus on Jesus he will reveal the path for our lives and guide us along it - and he will be glorified in the process.

    06 November 2009

    Eaton Ford (day) - Life in the light

    Stuart was with us this morning for the first part of the meeting. We spent some time chatting and then prayed with him for some of the things he needs in his life. Life in the lightRoger told us that his friend Andy starts a new job next week, and that is a wonderful answer to prayer. Paul's sister also has a new job and is loving it, while for Roger's sister things are looking more promising too.

    We also talked about Roger and Ruth's desire to see new life in the church where they live. I felt the Lord saying about this issue in particular, 'Begin and end with love'. I hope to visit them at home on Tuesday to pray about life in Offord.

    Then we briefly discussed whether we should add some more deliberate Bible reading to our weekly meetings. Roger thought it would be good to read through some Psalms and share what the verses might be saying to us. I felt it would be good to work through Mark's gospel. We decided to try both and made a start right away with Psalm 30.

    Verse six seemed very relevant, 'When I felt secure, I said, "I will never be shaken."' We've all been in that place in our lives, we feel capable of dealing with anything without help, but when we hit real difficulties we crumble. We need the Lord to lift us up, it's a big mistake to try to lift ourselves up!

    05 November 2009

    Eaton Ford - Tossed on the waves of life

    Mary began by telling us about a situation at work that had made her angry. She had made up her mind to retaliate but as she read Titus and Matthew 5 and 6 she felt the Lord speaking to her and calling her to be peaceful, A storm blew upboth in her heart and in her actions. This was a very direct revelation, clear evidence of Father's guidance and involvement in her life.

    We shared news of a number of friends who need prayer right now and we prayed for them and for ourselves, expecting the Lord to meet all these needs.

    Jim told us about a trip to the north where they went to minister to two very different churches. The first one was physically poor but spiritually rich with a great deal going on and lives being impacted. The second church was rich, had a grand meeting place and did everything in style, but they were formalised and spiritually poor. This had greatly impressed Jim who saw that we can be so rich in ourselves that we feel we don't need Jesus.

    I had a clear picture of a river in the desert, like the Nile. Far from the river there were no trees or other plants because of the utter dryness. But closer to the river there was much more greenery. And the Spirit said, 'Stay close to the banks where you will grow strongly and bear a lot of fruit.' Jesus is the river, he is the flow of living water which we need to sustain us and make us fruitful.

    Jim read Titus 2:1-15 and reminded us that the grace of God is the most important aspect for us. We have so much to be thankful about! We all have an appointed time to leave this life, but today is the day for all of us to say 'Yes' to Jesus. He wants to encourage us daily with the living word that cuts right through to the marrow.

    The words of an old hymn ('It is well with my soul') popped into Sean's mind,
    When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well, with my soul.
    I shared some thoughts from Mark 4 which had come into focus for me when I read it recently. In verses 35-41 we see Yahshua sleeping peacefully while the disciples were very frightened. They didn't understand, as he did, that he was on an unfinished mission and his Father would not allow him to fail through a mere storm.

    All the parables in the earlier section of the chapter help them to see the spiritual truth which he already fully understands. The physical world often mirrors the spiritual world and can help us grow in understanding. Yahshua himself is the lamp, the Light of the world that is meant to be disclosed. He told them to 'consider carefully what you hear'. Consider well and get a good dose of understanding. We grow in spiritual understanding in the same way as the growing seed, we don't understand how, but in the end there is a benefit - a harvest, a shady place for the vulnerable to rest.

    This is why, when they were afraid, he said, 'Do you still have no faith?'

    Jim told us about some men who were sharing the good news on the street and felt strongly led to go to a phone shop. They found the staff were Muslims and one woman told them, 'I'll believe your God is real if you can tell me something about my life only I could know'. And while they were looking at one another wondering how they could meet such a challenge, she suddenly shrieked! It turned out that at that moment the Lord had revealed himself to her in a vision and she could no longer deny him!

    We talked about faith, and taking risks, and growing in wisdom and knowledge and grace. It was all very encouraging stuff.

    Copyright

    Creative Commons Licence

    © 2002-2014, Chris J Jefferies

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