29 October 2010

Eaton Ford (day) - Grain in the field

Paul and I met in the morning. We'd hoped to see one or two other friends but in the event this didn't work out.

Grain ripening in the fieldWe worked through CO2 together, first SASHET and then the things that Father has been telling us. Then we prayed for people that we know and for the work that he's doing in us and also through us.

And finally we read some sections of Mark together, picking up where we left off last time.

Mark 2:23-28 - We thought that this shows life is about people, not about rules. Jesus and the disciples were probably enjoying their walk through the countryside. They were probably talking and laughing together and discussing something prompted by the grain they were eating. They might have talked about the life that is in a seed, how it germinates and grows, how the life of the Father is in everything that was made.

But the Pharisees hold only the rules important, making them more important than people.

Mark 3:1-6 - This again shows the same thing, life is about people, not rules. These verses show us the anger and distress felt by Jesus faced with this attitude or rule following even if it prevents good being done for someone.

Mark 3:7-12 - Jesus was followed everywhere by the crowds. No doubt he could speak to more people by standing in the boat. They were pressing in because they knew he could heal them, this reminded Paul of the woman with the serious bleeding who just wanted to touch the edge of his cloak. The evil spirits recognised he was the Son of the Most High but he commanded them not to share what they knew.

Mark 3:13-19 - Paul wondered why Jesus gave some of them new names, could it be much like us calling a friend 'Rocky' because of his nature?

'Petros' (Peter in English) is Greek for 'rock', presumably a Greek translation of the Aramaic word for rock which is 'Kepha', the name Jesus gave Simon. 'Shimon' (Simon) is clearly an Aramaic name and means 'a man of Judah'. So Peter was originally 'A Judahite' and Jesus called him 'A Judahite Rock', more or less.

28 October 2010

Brampton - Traffic lights

We met at Sean's this evening, talked about a range of topics, and prayed together about the things Father is doing in this corner of England and our involvement in them. I felt that there is a huge move going on just under the surface.

Traffic lightsHe doesn't necessarily show us the details but he says, 'This is the way, walk in it.' We may not know what's going on, but it's enough that we know we are in the right place at the right time and travelling in the right direction.

The subject of the 'Filling Station' meetings at Moggerhanger came up again. This is intriguing and seems to have begun in and around Bath in North Somerset. The next meeting is planned for 15th November. Apparently Simon Holley (Kings Arms, Bedford) was at the October meeting so the interest is quite wide.

I had a vision of an autumn day, there was an area of grass and I knew that winter was about to begin. It started to snow and I expected that when the thaw came the ground would be muddy and unkempt. But as the snow melted I saw that a carpet of snowdrops and crocuses had grown up. Instead of mud there was a glorious carpet of colour and a wonderful fragrance. And the Spirit said, 'Remember this vision. When everything seems to be falling apart and you expect to see a mess remember this vision and be encouraged.'

Jim thought that God is putting us in positions where we can make a difference. There will be more beauty as we see more of Jesus. Our role is to talk with people and draw alongside them. We can have a positive effect on somebody's day merely by listening. I believe we have an awesome privilege and also a great responsibility to hear and see and share the vision.

We prayed for our friend David for continued blessing and to have the path made straight in his life. We also prayed for his family. Jim had a picture of traffic lights and knew it was for Sean in particular. He senses that Sean sees a stop light but the signals are beginning to turn green. The message was to be prepared for the green light and not to remain at the traffic lights too long.

I had a vision of oil and as I watched I knew that the oil represented the Holy Spirit. Oil acts to prevent sticking, whether we put it an engine or use it cook and egg. Oil releases us, it frees us to move.

Sean had said very little until the end of the meeting when he reminded us of the most important thing of all. He said that God is always the same. He told us of the value of a proper view of the Lord, this is foundational. We need to grasp this vision, this truth. We can only reach others when we have first imbibed the truth.

THOUGHT - Unbreaking the pot

If I drop a pot it will shatter into a thousand pieces, some of them quite large, others very small, some just the tiniest specks of dust. And what I have broken I can in no way repair.

PotsherdsI may decide to sweep up the mess and throw the remains in the bin, the broken pieces are no good for anything. If the pot has sentimental value the best I can do is gather the larger pieces and spend a while with a tube of glue. But it won't fool anyone, it will never be the same again. What was shattered in a moment cannot be mended even if I labour with adhesive for all eternity.

I'm happy to say that Papa is a whole lot cleverer than I am.

When a person is broken, shattered into a thousand disjointed shards by circumstances or by the unaware (or all too aware) actions of others, he is capable of making truly invisible repairs. He will never sweep up the mess and throw the remains in the bin. He can rebuild a person so that they are not just mended, but repaired, renewed, and fully restored.

This is a miracle, of course, but what we cannot do is possible for him. It may take much time but he is infinitely patient and he does the work with extreme care and attention, motivated by his perfect love.

He gave us free will and had his reasons for doing so. He will not prevent us from harming one another. Nor will he force restoration when we are determined to resist it. But he is a great encourager, he will leave no stone unturned, and he will never tire in his attempts to woo a broken heart or a shattered soul.

I cannot restore a broken pot to factory new condition. But he can! Just don't ask me how he will do it. I have no idea. All I know is that he reaches out to every one of us in ways we can respond to - even when we believe we can't. Sometimes people say, 'Oh, I understand, I know how you feel', when in truth they have no idea at all. But he does understand.

Mags posted something special and touching yesterday. As I read it tonight I saw a picture of a broken pot. I understood that nobody can restore a broken pot and nobody can restore a broken person. And in that moment I knew I must write about the broken pot.

A pot may have all kinds of functions. It might contain something precious like the jar of nard (John 12:3). But a broken pot can contain - nothing! Restored, it can again contain something precious.

The jar of nard was made to be deliberately broken to release the precious contents - but broken at the right moment and in the right way. The jar was not made to be carelessly dropped, trampled underfoot, or hurled against a wall in anger.

There are two kinds of brokenness. There is the empty brokenness of damage and there is the brokenness of sacrifice. They should never be confused. We must first be restored so that we can contain a treasure, and then we can be broken in a pure, fulfilling, and purposeful way. Broken for glory, broken to bless others, broken to release the treasure contained within us.

How great is the One who restores us, fills us, and shows us how we can be broken for glory and for blessing to release a treasure. He is the treasure! The enemy wants to break us by crushing us, but Abba will break us by loving us. Our breaking will be beautiful like a fragrant flower breaking from the bud or a butterfly breaking from the pupa.

See also:

26 October 2010

Corby and Little Paxton - Helping the move

This evening, instead of our usual meeting, Sean and I helped Jim, Pam and their daughter Beth with a house move.

BarmbrackJim and Pam's oldest daughter and her partner were leaving their flat in Corby and moving to a house in Eynesbury (a district of St Neots). The house is not yet ready so for a few weeks they'll be living with Jim and Pam in Little Paxton.

We travelled to the flat in Jim's car and spent the first part of the evening cleaning the flat, packing items into boxes, and loading them into cars for the trip to Little Paxton. After the drive home we stacked the boxes in Jim and Pam's lounge turning part of it into a temporary store room! And then it was time for a cup of tea and a lovely slice of barmbrack with butter.

It's good to do practical things together, this is church life too.

19 October 2010

Brampton - Filtered from harm

It was good to have Rachael with us this evening. There was no meeting in Great Doddington as Peter and Jody are visiting Canada, so Rachael travelled down to Brampton instead. Jim also joined us as he expected to be busy on Thursday.

Anti-virus softwareJim began by asking whether we really ever give 100% to Jesus. We had to admit that it was never possible to give 100% all the time. Some people might manage it occasionally, but not consistently!

Jim explained that Moggerhanger Park has started a regular 'Filling Station' meeting and the topic of 100% had been mentioned there. He said that the meeting was very good so I'd like to get along some time to see what it's all about. Future meetings are planned for the third Monday evening of each month, there's a schedule online.

Sean mentioned Zac Poonan, a church planter from Bangalore's Christian Fellowship Church. Sean had come across Zac's material online and had found some of it very good. One particular theme was asking for grace in times of temptation.

Jim said that we used to live under the law that told us, 'Don't do this, do that.' But we do need to live under grace and to treat others with grace too. We tend to make assumptions about people, but we have enough sin of our own without thinking of judging others. I was reminded of Galatians 2 where we read of a situation much like today with differences of opinion about law and behaviour.

The idea of sowing seeds also came up. Jim pointed out that I'd given Cornerstone free drinks cards to Sean who had passed them on again to a friend at work. This led me to thoughts about watering young plants. Paul wrote, 'I sowed the seed, Apollos watered it, but the Almighty made it grow.' (1 Corinithians 3:6). We can only do our part, we work with one another but we are not responsible for the growth. Jim then shared how, when Jess had prayed for healing of someone's badly swollen finger, the swelling had vanished while they watched. He mentioned Colossians 3:1-5 and how this brings us back to the idea of 100% for Jesus. We must 'set our hearts on the things above'.

We discussed how, if we're to follow Christ, we must have been given the capacity to follow him. We can pray to be drawn closer to him day by day. I had a picture of a man in prison, I saw the iron bars and at first thought I was seeing a caged animal. But no, it was clearly a man in prison. We can still come alongside a prisoner even if there are iron bars between us. We have the Spirit of Christ within us and we are to draw alongside those are 'imprisoned' in sin and despair.

Rachael saw a PC screen and noticed a tab saying, 'God's spam free virus filter'. He keeps harmful things from us. He is very protective of those he loves.

SCIENCE - 500 planets

Not that long ago (pre 1994) we only knew of nine planets, and one of those has been demoted to dwarf planet status. Today we know of nearly 500!

An artist's impression of an exoplanet systemThe reason for the huge increase is that astronomers are discovering planets around stars other than our own Sun using several techniques.

Sometimes this can be done by accurate measurements of the parent star's brightness. If a planet orbiting the star happens to pass in front of it, it will block part of the light and the dip can be measured and timed.

Another method involves tracking the position of a star very accurately. If it wobbles to and fro ever so slightly this is evidence of a smaller object in orbit around it - a planet or a faint companion star.

More recently it's become possible to image some of these planets directly by detecting the light they reflect from their parent star. This is pretty tricky, but just about doable using current telescopes. Of course we can't see any details, the planetary image is essentially a highly blurred point source. But it's still a very impressive feat of technology.

'Discover' magazine's website presents a gallery of these images, with good explanations in terms most people will understand. It's well worth a look.

The number of exoplanets will continue to rise and will soon pass the 500 mark. And one day, with better telescopes, it may even become possible to see some basic detail on some of these planets. But that is probably a long, long way off.

See also: Fomalhaut b

17 October 2010

NEWS - Worth taking a look at these

Listening to the Lord in Denver, USA, a book from Floyd McClung, focussing on the simple.A megaphone
  • Stories from the Revolution - John White discusses the ideas around 'smaller still and wider yet'. This involves Church of Two (CO2) and regional networks.

  • Felicity Dale's Blog - Felicity writes a short note on Floyd McClung's book, 'Follow'. See what she has to say and consider reading the book.

  • SimpleChurch Journal - Roger Thoman posts, 'Sometimes I think that, rather than focusing on simple church, we should really be focusing on the true simplicity of the Gospel'. Amen to that! Take a look and see what he's getting at.

  • Stories from the Revolution - John White writes about the important difference between a relationship with a book and a relationship with a person. He includes a video interview that reveals this difference in terms of personal experience.

St Neots (Open Door) - Singleness

This morning I joined Donna at Open Door in the Priory Centre in St Neots. The music and singing were good, and then Ian Hoile gave a helpful address on the topic of 'singleness' as part of the series they've been running, 'Sex and the City'.

The Priory CentreIan pointed out that there are rising numbers of single people in the UK and gave some statistics to support that claim. People may be single for a variety of reasons, perhaps they simply haven't found a partner yet, a spouse has died, or they've been divorced etc.

Ian referred particularly to 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, 25-40. He said that the main theme is learning to serve and honour the Lord. Singleness and marriage are both gifts ('gift' has the sense of 'gracing'). Sometimes it may be best to remain single and in this context Paul refers to the 'present crisis'.

There was a famine and considerable social upheaval at the time he was writing. Under such circumstances it may well be easier for those who are single. Being single also brings opportunities as there's no requirement to consider other family members.

Verse 39 provides some advice for finding a spouse.

However there are also challenges to being single. These have to do with putting life on hold, we are not called to do that. Our lives are for honouring and pleasing the Lord. Single people sometimes run the risk of becoming over committed and burning out, leading over full lives.

Loneliness and isolation can become serious issues. It's important for single people to have good circles of friends, talk about the issues in their lives, and have mentors. Families in the church should remember single people and invite them for meals and for other family events.

16 October 2010

Bedford - Father's Heart, Session 6

In this session Mark Stibbe spoke about 'The Dynamics of Displacement'. He began by looking at the cycle of captivity that can hold us and then the cycle of liberty which can keep us free.

Break a link to break the chainMark read Psalm 27:10, a verse that reminds us that even if our natural parents forsake us, Yahweh has promised to receive us and stand by us.

The Cycle of Captivity - Negative experiences -> Negative beliefs -> Negative expectations -> leads back to further negative experiences and the cycle continues.

The Christian life is a journey of completion. Such things as abandonment, rejection, abuse (verbal or physical), neglect, and bereavement allow the enemy to lead us to negative beliefs about ourselves. The enemy is the author of all lies and negative experiences allow us more easily to believe them.

Negative expectations often involve the words 'always' and 'never' about ourselves. A negative expectation can only be displaced by a supernatural counter-experience - the Father's love. Only divine love can displace an earthly wound. We need to experience Romans 8:15 for ourselves, it's the experience of the Holy Spirit.

The Cycle of Liberty - Positive experiences -> Positive beliefs -> Positive expectations -> leads back to further positive experiences and the cycle continues.

When we experience the Father's love we find that Jesus, the Son, is the Wonderful Counsellor that we needed. This is good news, great news!(Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 138:8)

It's for freedom that Christ set us free. Spurgeon once said that happy saints are attractive. (Romans 5:5, Romans 8:15)

See also:

15 October 2010

Bedford - Father's Heart, Session 4

In this presentation, Mark Stibbe discussed 'Going to the Next Level'. He spoke about forgiveness, freedom, fulfilment, and finishing.

Larry in his lawnchairMark has been involved in some cross-party meetings at Westminster on the issue of fatherlessness in British society. He also mentioned that he is working towards creating a DVD of 'The Running Father' as a gift to every athlete at the 2012 London Olympics.

He introduced his subject by describing the adventures of 'Lawnchair Larry' who spectacularly went to 'the next level' in 1982.

In Mark 2:1-12 we see how the faith of the paralysed man's friends led them to 'go to the next level' in getting him before Jesus. We need three things to go to a new level in our lives, faith, friends and foes. Faith and friends are obvious, foes often irritate us like the thorns in the eagle's nest. The young bird might never try to fly if the nest remained cosy and comfortable.

Forgiveness - The man is forgiven first. Jesus speaks of his healing later, but first he announces that he is forgiven.

Freedom - After forgiveness he receives freedom - freedom to stand up, freedom to walk about. Can you imagine that freedom after many years of imprisonment in a body that is paralysed?

Fulfilment - The need to pick up the mat is prophetic, it's not an accidental detail, Jesus told him, 'Pick up your mat'. But why? The man is healed, he no longer needs his mat! In picking up the mat he is taking hold of the very thing that had previously taken hold of him. Instead of having to lie on his mat, now he is able to pick it up.

Finishing - It's so important to finish well. He can go home now. Jesus tells him, 'Pick up your mat and go home.' We need to finish well. When we're done people need to say, 'We've never seen it done like this before!' (verse 12)

See also:

Bedford - Father's Heart, Session 3

During this session we heard Mark Stibbe speak on 'Varieties of Encounter'. He is an amusing and interesting speaker and had us in stitches at times. But he also makes some excellent points and there's a structured clarity in his thinking that provides a memorable framework.

Mark Stibbe
Mark began by explaining that we must all encounter Father's love for ourselves, we are all different. Yahshua said, 'I have made you (Abba) known to them.' (John 17:25-26) And he is still doing it!

We heard about the dentist's lie that, 'You won't feel a thing.' But cessationism isn't true, we can (and should) still experience spiritual life in all its fullness. However we all need to be hugged in different, tailored ways. Mark explained that the kind of hug he gives his son would be inappropriate for his daughter. So we mustn't all expect to receive Father's touch in the same way.

He may touch us dramatically, or gently, or somewhere along the continuum between the two. In the same way our experience may come suddenly or gradually over time. But the testimonies people share are usually dramatic and sudden, much more rarely gentle and gradual.

His touch may be mediated or unmediated (it might come through another person's prayer or a touch by their hands, but it may also happen without anyone else's involvement. And it may be sought or unsought by us (see Isaiah 65:1). Finally it may come through an experience of pain or an experience of joy (perhaps as a result of having a bad father or a good one).

See also:

Bedford - Father's Heart, Session 2

'Touching the Father's Heart' was a conference organised by 'The Kings Arms' and held in their new building. Session 2 was on the subject of Repentence and was presented by Simon Holley.

Touching the Father's Heart ConferenceThis was the first session Donna and I could get to.

During the time of singing and praise before Simon began speaking I had several thoughts prompted by the Holy Spirit which I jotted down.

When you are in danger and struggling I will come to be with you - walking across the water if necessary. When you are thrown into the fiery furnace I'll stand there with you too. You will always be safe in me and with me.

Whatever the world throws at you, even death itself, I will not forsake you, abandon you, or leave you. Let no-one stand between me and my children.

Simon reminded us of the parable of the prodigal son. (Or the prodigal father - it depends how you look at it. The father was extravagant with his love.) He made the point that, like the son, we need to turn back to our Father (repent). We need to turn back from the 'pig styes' in our lives.

Self-reliance is a pig stye which is trusting in ourselves rather than in him. It's the opposite of resting in the knowledge that Father knows what I need. George Muller used to say, 'Let's see what Father will do.'

Fear clogs the machinery of our lives and wears us down. But we know that perfect love casts out fear.

Judgements are another pig stye. We have no idea what others exeriences and circumstances might be. Simon quoted Matthew 7:1-2.

Unbelief severs me from Father's plan for me. It's a spiritual poison. Fear results in prayer as a last resort, I may prefer to work things out for myself. When I think things will never change in my life I am revealing my unbelief.

Control is freedom but on my terms as in Luke 7:30. Many people welcome freedom and spontaneous zeal as long as there's not too much of it. But we need the rushing wind of the Spirit regardless of the cost to our desire to restrict him.

See also:

14 October 2010

Eaton Ford - Sharing a meal

Tonight we had decided to simply share a meal together, there was no plan beyond that.

Makizushi (rolled sushi)We met at our house, Donna and me, Jim, Pam, Sean, and Joe. Sean had prepared some sushi (fish free as he knew I wouldn't have liked that). Pam's reaction when we talked about it showed that she didn't much like the sound of raw fish either! We followed it with jacket potatoes, vegetable chilli, beef chilli, and salad. Jim had brought an amazing pear and chocolate dessert.

It was enjoyable, fun to chat and good to eat together, but the conversation was centred mainly on events at Cornerstone. It's not surprising as most of us are involved with the shop in one way or another! There's a lot to talk about.

We're feeling our way with this and the conversation was different from our previous meetings when we haven't shared a meal. I'm keen to persevere, I have the sense it's important.

12 October 2010

Brampton - The King or the King's book?

Sean and I met for coffee and a chat, we talked about life and some people we feel led to spend a little time with. Then we prayed briefly and devoted the rest of the evening to reading Galatians 1 and discussing our thoughts about it. Some of my main impressions follow.

Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the UKPaul sets out, right at the beginning, by stating clearly that he was not sent from or by any man, but by Yahshua the Messiah and by the Father who raised him from the dead. And as usual, the letter is not just from Paul but also from the the other believers who are with him.

In verses 3-5 he provides a miniature recap of the gospel message, wrapped up in just a brief sentence. It's as if he wants to remind the Galatians right from the start that they're here by grace alone, rescued by Christ.

He writes that he is 'astonished' that they are already turning to a different 'gospel'. They've been confused by wrong teaching. Paul doesn't want them to remain confused so he explains in verse 11 that he didn't just make it all up, nor was he taught it by others, but he received it as a revelation from the Messiah.

Thinking about this it seems extraordinary that this Paul, this persecutor of the church, should have had such a powerful experience on the Damascus road that he has turned from his previous passion (legalistic Judaism) and has moved to something completely different. And of course it is extraordinary but we often miss the contrast because we are so familiar with Paul's letters that we forget how much he had changed.

It would be a complete and unexpected transformation, a little like the present Chief Rabbi suddenly having a revelation about Yahshua and, without hearing it from other people first, beginning to teach this new way. We expect that every kind of knowledge must be imparted by logical persuasion and by eloquent argument. Not so!

And Paul gives them the full story, perhaps to back up his earlier claim that he received his revelation direct from Yahshua, not by teaching from the Jerusalem church. It's a story that continues into chapter 2.

We thought how the truth comes from the source, who is Christ. Yes, it also comes through the Bible, but the Bible is not the source any more than the apostles in Jerusalem were the source. They (and Paul) wrote the New Testament so the revelation they received from Yahshua that enabled them to write must itself be more fundamental than the words they wrote.

The Bible matters to us and is important because it is our source of information about Jesus and the early church. We dare not ignore it. But knowing Jesus personally is much more important than knowing the writings about him. Walking with him daily is more important than reading the New Testament daily. Hearing and obeying him is more fundamental to our lives than following even the best traditions and habits. Everything we can plan and do is dead works, we must 'seek first the Kingdom' trusting that everything we need (including guidance) will be added in as part of the package!

ENVIRONMENT - The cost of damage

This article from the BBC News website spells it out pretty clearly. Environmental damage comes with a heavy price ticket, but the underlying and far bigger issue isn't mentioned. Because our population is way more than the planet can support (and still growing rapidly) it may not be possible to chart a way out of the mess we have created. We have left it far too late.

BBC article on the cost of environmental damageBut it's encouraging that a major news provider is publishing an article like this one. At last, after many decades of warnings from the scientists there is growing evidence that the media, governments, and businesses are beginning to accept that we really do have a problem.

Of course there are useful things we can do. We have already started to do some of them (renewable energy, fishing quotas, emission controls, banning persistent pesticides, and much more). But we are in a phase of the human story where improvements are becoming harder and more costly to achieve while the costs of not making those improvements is also rising rapidly. And I don't mean financial costs alone, but costs in terms of living standards, health, and human safety.

The first step towards any hope of recovery is to recognise that we have a problem. It's becoming clear that at last we're taking that step. Now we're in the phase of broadening and deepening our understanding of the issues we face. That, at least, is good news.

See also: Biology and the economy, Climate change - an update, Nitrogen trifluoride - should we be concerned?

10 October 2010

NEWS - Simplechurch.co.uk and more

This time there's an item about a new UK website for those interested in simple, organic forms of church, as well as the usual roundup of other items of news.A megaphone
  • Simplechurch.co.uk - This new website takes over from Alex Campbell's earlier version using the same URL. It also acts as the replacement for the Newforms site which is no longer in use. Visit the site for news, articles, and a growing list of groups and contacts in the UK.

  • Interview with Paul Young - Premier Christian Radio interviews the author of 'The Shack'. The session is interspersed with phone in comments from listeners with stories of how the book has affected them. If you want more detail listen to the fourth item listed in my post about Drew Marshall a couple of years ago.

  • Spring of Hope - This charity working with children and parents in Uganda is doing a wonderful job. I know the young woman who started and continues with this work, and I know her parents who support her from the UK. They are making a real difference. Catch up with their news and find out more about what they do.

  • House2House - This time Tony and Felicity write about church as they found it in Myanmar and Nepal. There are also short items and links about structure, resources and stories.

08 October 2010

Eaton Ford (day) - New skins for new wine

Paul and I met at his home and enjoyed a great mix of talking, thought and prayer for friends and family, and Bible study. We're picking up in Mark's gospel where we left off back in the spring.

We read Mark 2:13-22, here are some of the main things we thought about together.

A man carrying a wineskinThere seems to be evidence here that Yahshua didn't plan what he did in quite the way we might do. It seems much more likely that he was just responding to his Father's guidance on a moment by moment basis. He went out for a walk by the lake and people gathered there, so he started teaching them. Then, still walking along, he spotted Levi at work. He called him to follow - and Levi did. He must have left the tax booth with the money and equipment - and just walked away!

Levi clearly invited him for dinner that evening, and Jesus went!

Doesn't he call us to live the same way, not planning but listening? He wants us to say what he says, and do what he does. He wants us to pay attention to him and then live his life in the world day after day. He wants to live inside us so that our words will be his words and our actions his actions. He wants the world to know him by seeing and hearing us! That is awesome!

The Pharisees asked Yahshua's disciples, 'Why does he eat with people who do wrong?' They thought that living according to rules would make them righteous and acceptable to the Almighty. But Jesus tells them that he came for sinners, not for the righteous.

The fast referred to would have been a religious festival and the righteous were certainly expected to adhere to it. It would have been like Ramadan for the Muslims, failing to take part would show contempt for the accepted religion. In that case, why were Yahshua's followers not taking part?

His answer must have been perplexing. He refers to himself as the bridegroom. Perhaps they wondered if he was going to get married!

Verses 21 and 22 are fascinating. Yahshua mentions an old garment and old wineskins. Surely he's referring to the rules of the Pharisees, the idea of fasting because it's customary, the need to avoid eating with sinners. These old patterns of behaviour will be utterly ruined and broken by the new thing that Jesus is ushering in! He's turning the world upside down.

The old rules no longer apply. For example, it's no longer enough to use a ritually cleaned cup to avoid defiling yourself; from now on the words that come out of a person's mouth will determine whether they are holy or profane.

07 October 2010

Watton at Stone - Doing battle

It was an exciting evening. Jim had offered to drive and as I walked towards his house I fell heavily on the paving. I have two minor bruises to show for it, but nothing more serious. Perhaps someone didn't want me visiting Watton this evening.

Mediaeval knights joustingJim drove down to The Bull at Watton at Stone and David arrived soon after we did. A round of drinks started the proceedings and we chatted about events in our lives.

We also discussed the world's way of doing things as opposed to the Kingdom way. It's not that we need to make a better job of living according to the world. We actually need to live according to the Kingdom instead. Of course the world doesn't like this! The systems that the prince of darkness has put in place are bitterly opposed to all that is good or true or right.

What does it mean to turn the other cheek, or go the extra mile? How do we fight evil with good? How do we love our enemies? We touched on some of these issues and we also gave some thought to the need to obey Father in the moment. David and I shared some things from 'The Grace Outpouring', especially a story about a young American who, having met with Christ, immediately and simply began obeying him.

We invited David and Heather to join us for a meal next Thursday with Jim's family, Sean's family, and mine.

05 October 2010

Eaton Ford - Accused in the garden

Sean came over and we watched the DVD of Paul Young speaking about the events in the garden when Yahweh, the man, the woman, and Lucifer faced one another over what had happened. (Part of the DVD set for the House2House Conference 2008.)

In the gardenPaul sets the scene by first telling a ridiculous (but funny) story to show how theologically impressive he is. In a way, this suggests that Paul thinks theologians may sometimes get things a bit mixed up and make something out of nothing. He follows it up with another story about an experiment with monkeys wearing shock collars, and this time the point seems to be that theological tradition may sometimes be based on little more than thin air.

Then he begins his analysis of Genesis 2 and 3. He has studied this material long and hard, perhaps for some 35 years in all. Everything he says made sense to us although Sean wants to investigate some of the Hebrew words and concepts for himself. I'm very interested to hear what he discovers.

To condense Paul's address into just a sentence or two, his conclusions are as follows.

Lucifer begins by asking Eve if it's true that Yahweh had really said they mustn't eat the fruit of any tree in the garden. She ate and she gave some to Adam.

Questioning them about what happened, Yahweh asks Eve, 'What did you do'. She answers (correctly) that the serpent deceived her and she ate the fruit. But when a moment earlier he had asked Adam what happened, the man joined Lucifer in accusing Yahweh saying, 'The woman you gave me offered me the fruit and I ate it. Eve accused the serpent, but Adam accused Yahweh.

They had both depended on Yahweh to give them worth and value, but now with the relationship broken Eve will look to Adam (from whom she was taken) for these things. He will look to the ground from which he was taken. So which of them is the most damaged, Eve or Adam? In Paul's view Adam has to be in a worse place.

TECHNOLOGY - Dragon readies for launch

Most people are aware that the American Space Shuttle fleet is being retired. The last flight is currently scheduled for next year, 2011. After that, the only way Americans will be able to travel to orbit and dock at the International Space Station (ISS) will be to buy seats from the Russians.

SpaceX's Dragon capsuleThe Constellation Program that was intended to replace the Shuttle has been cut and modified several times and is unlikely to provide a crewed launch facility soon or, perhaps, ever. China has a crewed vehicle, and Europe and Japan both have operational cargo craft from which crewed vehicles might be developed. India is planning and building a crewed launch system.

What the USA does have however is something quite unique. It has several businesses designing and building crewed spacecraft as commercial ventures.

One of these is SpaceX, based in California. They launched the first of their Falcon 9 rockets carrying a dummy Dragon capsule in June 2010. In November they plan to launch another Falcon 9 with a fully functioning Dragon cargo capsule to test the re-entry and landing systems. If all goes well, next year they will be in a position to begin carrying and returning cargo for the ISS - and they already have a full order book from NASA and other clients around the world.

Dragon was designed from the ground up to be capable of carrying seven astronauts in place of cargo. SpaceX is hoping that once Dragon is proven as a reliable cargo system NASA will decide to fund its upgrade and testing as a crewed vehicle.

I wish SpaceX well and hope the mission in November will be a complete success.

(For full details and more photos visit the SpaceX Updates page.)

See also: Up, up, and away

04 October 2010

SCIENCE - The biggest collisions

We all know what happens when two objects collide, don't we? It depends on the speed of collision and the nature of the objects. Two balls of dough will stick together, billiard balls will bounce apart, slowly moving cars will stop one another, fast moving cars will crumple.

The bullet cluster collisionAt some of the largest scales imaginable colliding galaxies pass through one another in a shape-distorting ballet that takes tens of millions of years. Where there were once two spiral galaxies, eventually there will be a single elliptical galaxy. To understand this process it becomes necessary to take into account the presence of dark matter in and around the two galaxies as well as the collisions of gas and the gravitational interactions of countless stars.

But what happens at an even larger scale? What happens when clusters of galaxies collide?

To understand this process more clearly, scientists at three prestigious labs in the USA have run a very large, very complex computer simulation. It took a long time to create and run the model, but you can watch the results in a movie that takes less than three and a half minutes.

What are you watching? First you will see the dark matter interactions, then the mixing of the intergalactic gas, and finally the combination. I should mention that what you see is a series of stop-start movies. In each one some interaction is shown, then the movement stops while the stationary scene is rotated to give you a better view and help you visualise the shapes, then the action moves on again.

For more information about the simulation and what you are seeing, visit Ian O'Neill's article on Discovery News.

03 October 2010

THOUGHT - Planting the seed

< Prepare the ground | Index | No later items >

As we have already seen in previous posts on church planting, a seed has been found and the ground is prepared and ready. But how do we go about sowing the seed?

A young seedling in the soilWe should remember that the plant that will grow is not an individual, but a church. It will be composed of individuals and it may be quite small, even as small as two or three people. The maximum is probably about twenty, but such a large number is less likely.

Father has remarkable ways of arranging things. Jesus said quite clearly, 'I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.' It might well be that he is already building this particular manifestation of his church. Planting a church may already have been done, in secret, by the Lord himself.

Remember that the person (seed) that we are working with is a hospitable, open, caring sort of person. They will already have a community around them, perhaps family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours or a mixture of all four. This community or part of it may itself become church. So the work you will be doing might be planting a church or it might just be recognising the baby church that is already there.

Now do you see the importance of not attempting to draw the person into your existing church? That would just add one person to a group. Instead there is a golden opportunity to add an entire new group. If this is what Yahshua is telling you to do - don't miss it!

It would be foolish to prescribe a church planting method or a series of steps to perform, but there are one or two guidelines. Planting a church is just as much a miracle as is the establishment of a plant in a field. We know that it grows, but we have no idea how. What we can do is encourage the growth as much as possible.

So encourage the person you are working with to share their story with their natural community. They'll listen to someone they know far more attentively than to a stranger. Meet with them and be prepared to answer questions, but don't bring a list of topics to be covered. Be available, but be careful not to meet with them every time, especially so as the new church begins to be established and finds its feet. Give them space to discover for themselves. Their roots are in what Jesus will reveal to them, not in anything you might say.

Encourage them to listen to Jesus, they can do this by reading the gospels together and sharing their thoughts on what he said and did. They need to be willing to put what they learn into practice, they can pray for one another and help one another with practical aspects of their lives. They can begin to eat meals together, do things together, and read Acts and the New Testament letters to find out how church worked in the early years. Again they should begin to put these things into practice. The emphasis will naturally be on loving the Father, loving Jesus, loving one another, and loving those around them.

< Prepare the ground | Index | No later items >

02 October 2010

REVIEW - Have you had enough?

It's a great question. What is enough? There are some other great questions too - Why do so many people always want more? - Does it matter? - What can we do about it? - What can I do about it?

Take a look at this excellent and challenging video. Then visit Conspiracy of Freedom, the people behind it. There are more great ideas, suggestions on how to take this forward (perhaps with a group of friends), and more videos on related topics.

(Thanks to Peter Farmer for drawing my attention to this material.)


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