29 November 2008

Salvation and unity

Two items that appeared in my email inbox this morning encouraged me to write something myself. One was a blog post by Prayeramedic, the other an email from 'The School of Christ'. Meeting togetherThe blog post questions the process by which people are encouraged to join the Church, the email questions our idea of unity within the Church.

They are strong messages and they demand that each of us consider where we stand on these important issues.

The two messages
Prayeramedic pulls us up short when he writes on 'The Heresy of the Sinner's Prayer'...
I'm not saying it's wrong to use a prayer to help people confess Christ, but to convince people that they are saved simply because they pray a prayer is ridiculous -- it is not the Gospel of the Scripture. This runs deep, it runs at the heart of how the Church never talks about sin anymore.

Chip Brogden ('The School of Christ') also yanks on our reins when he writes on 'Spiritual Unity'...
People will pick up on this phrase, "that they may all be one", and try to create a unity that embraces everyone equally, no matter what they teach, what they believe, or how they live. In this false unity, every path to God becomes a valid path of spiritual expression and should not be criticized. Of course this contradicts what Jesus had just said about Himself being the only Way to the Father, but it certainly makes it easier for us to create unity for everyone. Is that what Jesus wants - quick and easy unity through compromise and concession?

What are we to make of these messages? Are these challenges valid? Does it matter?

Their validity
I believe the challenges are valid and it matters very much indeed. In the first case, unless we understand what Christ did and why, we cannot fully engage with the process of becoming a believer. And in the second case, if we don't understand what Christ meant by 'being one' we will stand very little chance of living in unity as he intended it.

In both cases we see that there is the same principle at work. Either we understand what Yahshua said in his terms, or we see it on our own terms. If we see his words through our own wisdom we are certain to miss the point. And these are two very important points indeed. We need to be sure that we are walking in his powerful light, not merely in the darkness of our own intellect and emotion.

This is not about what we would prefer, it's about the facts as they have been explained to us by the One who really knows.

In Romans 8:1-17 Paul writes about living in the Spirit of Christ. In verse 9 he writes, 'If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ' (emphasis mine).

Chip Brogden quotes from Yahshua's amazing prayer in John 17:20-26. The prayer is intended to include today's believers, this is clear from verse 20, 'I pray also for those who will believe in me through [my disciples'] message'. And he wants us to be one in the same way that he and the Father are one (verse 21).

So it's impossible to deny that unless we have the Spirit of Christ we do not even belong to him, but also that if we do have the Spirit of Christ we will be drawn into oneness with Yahshua, with the Father, and with one another.

Reasoning it out
Why is this? It is because if I am in Christ I must have his Spirit in me. I cannot be in him unless he is also in me! This is salvation, to have his Spirit in me.

And if I am in Christ and he is in me, then where he is I am also. And as he is in the Father and the Father is in him, I too must also be in the Father and the Father in me! And as the Spirit of Christ is the Holy Spirit, if Christ is in me the Holy Spirit is in me too.

So now we can see that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are one, and all of us who believe are also one because we are all in Christ together. We can't help but be one. So our unity is not dependent on our will or attainment, but like salvation itself it depends only on being in Christ.

So the Kingdom of Heaven is not something to be attained, and it's not a place we will go when we die, the Kingdom is the place of unity with the Father, with the Son, with the Spirit, and with one another. The Kingdom of Heaven is here right now and it's attained solely by the will and purpose of the Father.

The purpose of unity
But there is one final point. What is the purpose of the Father in all of this? To find out we need to look again at John 17:23, 'May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me'.

There we have it. The unity has a function. It's so that the world will know that the Father sent the Son and loves us the same way he loves the Son. The unity is there to stand as evidence, but not just any old unity will do. 'Complete unity' is what the Almighty is looking for in his people, absolute unity with him and with one another.

28 November 2008

Look, no connection!

You are in a remote African village, in the middle of Antarctica, on a small Scottish island miles from the nearest town. You have no mains power, no internet connection, no phone connection - not even mobile coverage. SolarNetOne serverYou need to provide full internet and Wi-Fi services to hundreds of people.

How can it be done? Read on!

One solution is SolarNetOne, designed and built specifically for the purpose.

It uses a solar panel and battery system to provide a reliable long-term source of energy, and a low-power server using a satellite connection to access the internet. Internet cafe service is based on a client server system as this reduces the power requirements, and Wi-Fi coverage over a two mile radius is included so anyone with their own computing system and power supply can connect to the internet very simply.

SolarNetOne really is a complete solution.

Zee M kane writes...
SolarNetOne is a collaborative effort spanning several continents, organizations, and technical disciplines. The goal of the effort is to develop a feasible, sustainable solution to bring the internet to places that have no connectivity, no phone service and no electricity.

Developed by Florida based GNUveau, the system is a solar-powered Internet “hub” (running Ubuntu GNU/Linux). The terminals includes access to web browsing, email, voip, office, multimedia, software development and web development tools as well as 15,000 other applications. Wifi coverage spans a 2-mile radius, with no fuel costs, no polluting emissions and a long lifespan of up to 20 years with proper maintenance. The entire system, in fact, operates on about the same amount of power as a 100-watt light bulb, GNUveau says.

It's not the most elegant approach in terms of appearance, but much more significantly it's robust and readily maintainable and consumes only 100 W of power. The entire system can be delivered in a single small van (if there are adequate roads). The small bulk means delivery by small aircraft or boat would also be possible.

The guy behind all this is Scott Johnson. Well done Scott, you get my vote! This is real, practical help to people who need it. Katsina State University in Nigeria is already benefitting. Hopefully many more installations will follow.

For more information take a look at the following resources.

27 November 2008

Little Paxton - Germinating seeds

We chatted over hot drinks and just enjoyed one another's company for a while. Jim explained how lost he would feel without a Bible and the opportunity to read it often. We thought A seed germinateshow remarkable it is that there is something relevant for us on pretty well every single page.

Chris turned up Numbers 1:41 and read it out as a tongue-in-cheek challenge, 'The number from the tribe of Asher was 41,500'. Sean and Jim considered this and almost instantly came out with the thoughts that Asher was greatly blessed, that the 41 500 were also richly blessed, and that we are blessed too because the passage expresses how the Lord pours out abundant good things on his people. It seems Jim and Sean are right, there is something valuable to be found in every verse!

We prayed for our children and for our wives, and Sean told me that a seed has been planted in my daughters. That I don't need to be anxious about them because it has been planted, it has not died, and one day when the conditions and the time are right those seeds will sprout and grow.

Thinking about children and wives, Chris said that we are not perfect fathers or perfect husbands so the situations with our families are not, and cannot be, perfect. But despite this it's important to remember that his love in us stretches, but will not break. We don't love our children because they always behave the way we would want them to behave. We accept them despite their imperfections because we love them! And Father's love towards us is exactly the same, he doesn't love us because we are good. But because we are in Christ, he loves us despite our faults.

25 November 2008

Great Doddington - Smoke or cloud?

Jody had prepared something from Job and took us through the entire book, picking out particular verses and passages to focus on how Job's understanding of himself and God changed. Smoke or cloud?We go through a similar process in life (and especially in mourning).

In Job 2:1-10 we see how he is resisting defeat and remains strong in spirit. He confronts his wife, 'Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?'.

But in chapter 3:1-5 we see that Job is now in deep despair and is cursing himself. He wishes he'd never been born.

In chapter 12, verses 1-4 he feels the world is laughing at him, he has become bitter.

Eventually Elihu comes on the scene; as the youngest person present he has been listening quietly but now feel he must speak up to say what the others have overlooked. In Job 32:1-5 he reminds Job and his friends that we may feel the need to justify ourselves but the Lord is beyond criticism. He does not need our justification, he can do whatever he wishes and cannot be held accountable. He is always right.

And in chapter 40, verse 7, the Lord himself speaks.

As we talked and prayed with Job fresh in our minds, the Spirit brought thoughts and images to mind.

Rachael described walking down some stairs, out through some heavy double doors, into the garden, and straight into his presence. We can relax in his presence and we can see and feel all of the good and amazing things that are there.

She also spoke about the difference between smoke and clouds, although they can seem superficially similar. Father tells us not to confuse the two and that he is showing us how to see the difference. And he told her, 'As you go back up the stairs - I am with you.'

Jody pointed out that smoke smells of burning, but clouds in the mountains smell clean, pure, and wonderful.

We laughed together at the idea of 'spiritnav' (like satnav, 'spiritnav' guides us). And just like satnav, where does the signal come from? From above!

20 November 2008

Eaton Ford - Cable and thread

There were just two of us this evening as Jim was late home from work while Roger and Ruth remain unavailable on Thursdays until 4th December.

Sean and Chris talked together about a range of things over coffee and cake. Cable and threadDuring a time of prayer the Lord gave us a picture of his love. He told us,

'Your love is like a very thin cotton thread, the kind you might use to sew on a button or perhaps even finer than that. My love is like a huge, steel hawser that you might use to moor a mighty oil tanker. The thread and the hawser are connected, tied together.'

'My love is awesome in its power, your love seems feeble and fragile by comparison. It looks as if your love could easily be broken. But my love is not only powerful, it is also gentle. You are safe in my love, you will not be harmed.'

Thinking about this later it was clear that when his love pulls on us he does it so gently that our little thread is not broken. When our love tugs on him, we could never hope to move the steel hawser even a millimetre, but he moves gently towards us in response to our puny pull. When we tug on him he does move, not because we are strong but because he cares.

18 November 2008

Great Doddington - Shipwrecked!

Continuing with our recent form of meeting, this week it was Chris's turn to bring some prepared material. He decided to share more detail about the trip he and Donna had made to Israel in November 2007 and he brought a few pictures from the outward journey.

The plane had to wait about 20 minutes before it could land at Tel Aviv, Clearing Mediterranean storma heavy thunderstorm and a very wet runway meant that it was impossible to land on schedule. That first night in Israel was spent in a coastal Kibbutz hotel and the storm continued all night with torrential rain and frequent, violent bursts of thunder and lightning.

This reminded Chris of Paul's shipwreck on Malta in weather conditions that must have been much the same. At the time he was a prisoner on his way to Rome to appear before Caesar, and one of these winter storms had blown up. We read Acts 26:32-28:16 and recognised that Paul's life was very much like our own. He was trapped by circumstances, things happen and we, like Paul, must just deal with them as they arise. Paul was not anxious, he was not frustrated by the delays, he didn't complain, he just took life day by day, moment by moment, knowing that the Lord would use it all. The passage reads just like any typical diary.

As we talked and prayed we recognised that we are not special people doing special things, we are ordinary people being used in special ways. There is a world of difference.

Rachael described a vision of a waiting room. In this situation people tend to remain alone even though they are together, each one reads a magazine and they don't talk to one another or interact. But it need not be like that.

Father told us, 'Life is a place where you are waiting for me, you can interact with other people, you don't need to be alone.' As eh looked, Rachael noticed a broom in the corner, it was worn out and had only a few bristles left. And the Lord said, 'It's not fit for its purpose. If you all pull together you are like a broom with many bristles - fit for me to use.'

Jody also described a picture, she saw a specialist workshop where cellos were being made, several workers were busy there. She saw one cello neck and fingerboard which already had strings but was not yet attached to a soundbox. She realised that it can't be used to make a useful sound until the two parts are properly joined.

In the same way, we are not quite finished yet, but when we are completed and are all gathered together we'll make a wonderful orchestral sound. She understood that it's most important that we allow the necessary work to be done.

16 November 2008

Moggerhanger Park - Together!

People came to Moggerhanger Park on 16th November from all around the area including St Neots, Royston, Bedford, Milton Keynes, and Wellingborough.

Some came early with children and walked in the park, now passing from late autumn towards early winter. Moggerhanger Park in the springOthers arrived as darkness fell. We all gathered in the Park's 'Garden Room' and chatted together, old friends greeting one another, and some meeting for the first time. The children chatted, played, coloured, and ran about as children do. How quickly and naturally they get to know one another with almost none of the guardedness of the adults!

Jim's sandwiches were marvellous, described as 'lovely', 'really great food', and 'top sandwiches!' by some of those who tried them. Tea and coffee was welcome as it was a crisply cool day.

We quickly discovered that we'd done some things well, others not so well. If we meet again one thing we'll be sure to do is put up signs showing visitors where to go. Moggerhanger Park is a large site and has several roadways, the permanent signs needed some temporary supplements - especially as some of us arrived in the dark.

Some of those with young children left early, those that remained sat in a large circle and we had a delightful and encouraging time of sharing, praise, and prayer. People were not shy and there was plenty of variety including pictures, prayer for healing, singing, and prophecy. As we had hoped and expected, Jesus was right there at the heart of all we did and said.

Everyone who added contact details to the clipboard also noted that they would like to meet again in future. There was a general feeling that we'll all benefit from keeping in touch informally from time to time.

Fomalhaut b

What, you may ask, is 'Fomalhaut b'? If you are interested in astronomy you will already know. Fomalhaut bFomalhaut b is a planet circling one of our Sun's nearest neighbour stars.

Fomalhaut b has been imaged twice by the Hubble Space Telescope, once in 2004 and again in 2006. This is important because it's the first time a planet outside our own Solar System has been seen to have moved in its orbit around its central star.

This is extraordinary news indeed. It's the same scale of forward step as Galileo seeing craters on the Moon for the first time, or discovering the rings of Saturn, Halley predicting the return of his eponymous comet, or the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969.

Why is it so important? It's a milestone because astronomers have long assumed that other stars have planets. In recent years the presence of such planets has been indirectly detected, but this is the first time we can claim to have seen the light reflected by an exoplanet. You may not have realised it, but you have just lived through a truly historic moment.

The difficulty of making these images is difficult to grasp. Look at the picture again (you can click the image to see the full-size version).

The star - In the middle of the full image (but near the upper left in the article's thumbnail picture) is a small white circle. This is not part of the image, it was added later, but it marks the position of the star (Fomalhaut). In reality the star would be far smaller, just the tiniest speck, it's shown much larger to make it easy to see.

The obscuring disk - if the Hubble telescope had just been pointed at the star, the overpowering brightness would have flooded the image with light so that nothing but glare would be visible.

To see details really close to the star, it's essential to block the direct starlight. This was done by moving an obscuring disk in front of the star, and this is seen in the image as the irregular black area around the central white dot.

The halo of diffracted light - Outside the black zone, some starlight is still diffracted into the surrounding area. This is the circular zone that looks like the iris of an eye, close inspection of the large version of the image reveals that it's made up of lines of light radiating out from the position of the star. This not a real, distant object, it's created by subtle interactions between the starlight and the structure of the telecope.

The debris disk - The oval shape (clearly visible only in the full-size version) is a band of dust, gas, and orbiting rock and ice particles. It's part of a disk of material which is in the process of condensing into planets. Fomalhaut is a young star and is still developing a planetary system.

The planet - Just inside the inner edge of the dusty band is where astronomers thought there might be a planet, and sure enough when they looked they found one! This is a gas giant, probably much like Jupiter though something like twice as large, and it is so bright that many astronomers suspect it must have a ring similar to Saturn's (but larger).

The real clincher is that the planet appears in two Hubble photos of Fomalhaut, taken two years apart. It has moved, as expected, in its orbit around the star.

For more information see

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.

13 November 2008

Little Paxton - planning for Moggerhanger

Very brief notes only for this meeting.

We travelled over to Moggerhanger Park to make some final decisions about the planned celebration on 16th. The main decision was whether to use a room in the main house or to use the 'Garden Room'. We quickly agreed that the 'Garden Room' was ideal with plenty of space and a mix of tables and chairs at one end and an open area with rearrangeable seating at the other.

We retired to Jim's office and spent the rest of the evening chatting and in prayer.

11 November 2008

Great Doddington - Madeleine McCann and David Beckham

Tonight it was Rachael's turn to bring something to the table, and the evening turned into a discussion about family, both worldly and spiritual, loss, grief, hope, and the Lord's healing.

We thought about Madeleine McCann again, and prayed for her and her family in their continuing search for their beautiful daughter. Beacons of lightJody prayed that Father pour our His holy spirit upon Madeleine and her family, that they may continue to receive the blessing of hope, and she received a word that although we do not know the future, nevertheless He does, and that He continues to be very close to Madeleine at all times and holds her in His heart. We were reminded that all things work to His purpose, however impossible that may seem to us at the time. We prayed for Kate and Gerry McCann, that they might be gently guided to a place of acceptance, and for them and ourselves, that we might recognise Him as He really is, in the ordinary, everyday things in life.

We read aloud and discussed a prayer for Madeleine, single lines taken from different parts of the bible, strung together like a beautiful necklace with a distinct meaning for her, a love letter from her Father in heaven. This included the lines 'my dear child, I knew you even before you were born' (Jeremiah 1:4-5), 'my plan for you future has always been filled with hope' (Jeremiah 29: 11), and 'when you are broken hearted I am close to you' (Psalm 34: 18).

Peter prayed that we can be beacons of light, and that we might be strengthened to carry His word beyond ourselves. This led Jody to pray that we be enabled to leave everything worldly behind, and do the things that He speaks of, and be in the places He want us to be. We thanked Him for reminding us that He always loves us.

Rachael shared a picture. She was walking slowly down a beautiful winding flight of stairs. At the bottom were some French doors, fully opened, and a gentle breeze moving the voile curtain at each side. She walked out into a beautiful garden, where everything was perfect, with wonderful flowers of fabulous colours and scents, melodic birdsong, a peaceful and tranquil place that gave her rest and healing. This is His garden, where we can visit at any time, just by thinking of Him. He will transport us to a place of calm filled with His love when we call upon Him for help.

Jody also saw a picture, of an angel fish swimming in really dark water. There was a chemical phosphorescence in it's scales, which meant that even when a very tiny ray of light hit it, it shone and lit up. Jody described a feather like fin on the fish, green, blue and red, iridescent, which glowed in the darkness. God is saying that He is the fin that propels us forward, even when it is dark He knows the way, even when the water is really black, He is still very colourful and is able to move us around in the world for His purpose.

Rachael read some short extracts from David Beckham's autobiography. David is not a Christian, as far as we know, but nevertheless some of the things he has written about in his book about family, lit up with a meaning beyond his own. For example, where he says that until he loved his own children, he never really realised how much his mum and dad loved him. As parents ourselves, with the birth of a new baby, we have all experienced anew the realisation that this special joy must be a reflection of how much our heavenly Father loves us. In knowing how deeply we feel for our own child, we get some inkling of His attachment to us.

David describes the birth of his second son, when he had expected, having experienced it once before, to be ready for the emotions it brought. But then says 'that's not how it was for me at all. ...the feelings of excitement and happiness, of pride and awe, just flooded through me with all the same intensity they had three years before.....it took my breath away....I could feel my heart grow to make room for the new life'. It seemed amazing to us that our Father in heaven feels something like this when one of us is reborn. That each one of us is special to Him, that He has enough room in His heart for all of us to thrive and grow in the spirit.

06 November 2008

Eaton Ford - Searching and forgiveness

Brief notes only were kept for this meeting.

We considered Psalm 130, and especially verse 4 which speaks of forgiveness. Then we thought about John 6:16-69.

The people searched really hard for Yahshua, they looked everywhere. Verse 26 shows that they were looking because they'd been fed whereas what they really needed was to believe in Christ (verse 29). They were looking for proof, edible proof! (verse 31).

In verse 60 we see that this is a hard teaching. If Jesus is the sacrifice for sin then the Temple and the priests and the Law are superfluous. Everything changes!

It's a very hard and unpalatable teaching - throw away everything you think you know and start again!


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