Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts

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.

25 August 2010

RESPONSE - What inspires me?

Frank Viola recently asked his readers 'What inspires you?' It's a great question, isn't it? He's asking us to think about breathing. What do I mean by that? Read on...

My answer really centres on the idea of listening to Yahshua daily or, more accurately, moment by precious moment. I live each moment once, just briefly. And in each of those moments I respond to influences and pressures, to joys and fears, certainties and doubts. Some things I desire, other things repel me. And everything is in relationship to others. Even when I seem to be alone Christ is with me. Every little thing I do or say affects those around me. But through it all I try to pay attention to the voice of Jesus guiding me.

He speaks to us by living within us (Christ IN you, the hope of glory). We are containers for his life, his power, his righteousness, he is the bread of life, the living water, in him we can do ALL things. But we must listen.

Why? Because he blesses the obedient (his grace and his love are freely poured out upon us but blessing requires our obedience). And how can we obey if we don't hear what he tells us? And how can we hear unless we listen? (Hint: if you want some helpful ideas on listening, read about Church of Two.)

So for me inspiration is a matter of listening, hearing, and obeying. Let's look at this in a slightly different way.

To be inspired is to be breathed into. If I retain what is within me (stop breathing) I will die! It's no coincidence that the word 'expire' implies death. A body that is not breathing is dead, or about to die, or about to start breathing again. Breathe and live, don't breathe and die - there are no other alternatives.

There is physical breathing and there is spiritual breathing, physical life and spiritual life, physical death and spiritual death.

When I first recognised Jesus as the Messiah and believed that he was the Son of the Most High, he breathed his Spirit into me and I became spiritually alive with his life. The word 'spirit' and the word 'inspire' are closely related - both have to do with breath and breathing. Indeed, the Greek word 'pneuma' and the Hebrew 'ruach' can be translated 'spirit' or 'breath' according to context.

The Holy Spirit is the Holy Breath! When I was born my lungs inflated with air and I have been breathing ever since. If I stop I will die. When I was born again I was filled with spiritual breath (the Holy Spirit) and I have been breathing him ever since. If I stop I will die spiritually.

Do you think about breathing? Perhaps you are aware of breathing when you've been doing physical work and you are 'out of breath'. But most of the time it's a natural rhythm and you don't have to plan to breathe or set aside a special time for it. You even manage to breathe every night while you are asleep. Breathing is automatic.

Spiritual breathing is the same, it needs to be automatic. It is what 'inspires' us. The Holy Spirit was sent to lead us into all the Truth (Yahshua is Truth), to comfort us, to guide us, to be our advocate, to act in us on Christ's behalf.

I am inspired when I see Jesus in others, when I see the evidence of his life in them. I'm inspired by every action or word that comes from the fruit of the Spirit in others, such things as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-25). I'm inspired by beauty, grace, humility, wisdom, and everything that is good (Phil 4:8).

A more specific thing that inspires me is seeing others built up and growing in grace. And I am inspired by watching others reach out to share Christ's love in the community. What could be better than to see brothers and sisters living in unity of purpose, building strong bonds of peace and rejoicing together in the truth? This is church, this is life in Christ, that we love one another and share what we have with those in need around us. (There are physical needs, emotional needs, and spiritual needs. Our loving and sharing should cover all three.)

Inspiration comes from the Father through the Son as a result of their Spirit living inside us. And that inspiration floods out into every part of the body (the church), just as the air I breathe gives life to my fingers and toes and every organ in my body.

You have been called to be inspired and also to inspire. That is calling enough for a lifetime of fulfilling work.

25 April 2010

Science and faith - war or peace?

The origin of the universe, the origin of life, evolution - these are some of the topics that seem to be endlessly debated across the science/faith divide. Molecules of lifeWhy does this happen, what are the root causes of the sometimes strongly-worded arguments? Perhaps it's time to take a fresh look.

Science is based on such things as reason, deduction, inference, and testing by experiment. At the most fundamental level science is simply a formal way of observing how things are. And it has an excellent track-record. We depend daily on the technologies that science has made possible. We drive our cars, watch TV, depend on medical help when we are sick or injured. All of these things and many more are rooted in generations of observation, hypothesis, and testing.

On the other hand faith is not based on observation and experiment but on assertion, often about matters that are untestable and are unknowable in the scientific sense. The existence of a powerful personality outside the universe and this personality's influence within it are not things science can investigate. Science doesn't reject faith (indeed it might investigate faith as a phenomenon) but it does not (and cannot) investigate the claims of faith.

There is therefore no reason for science and faith to do battle with one another, but historically this has happened repeatedly. An example of past 'warfare' concerns whether the earth or the sun is the centre of the solar system, one current skirmish centres on the origin of life and on evolution, another one on theories about the origin of the universe.

The usual pattern is that science draws a conclusion that offends people of faith in some way. Instead of understanding the scientific arguments and accommodating them within the framework of faith, believers often try to find holes in the science. Scientists continually refine our understanding in a formal way, believers sometimes lash out at new ideas they don't like.

How can we take this forward? Here is some advice for scientists and believers who have become embroiled in debates of this sort.

Scientists - Don't become angry, recognise that if the science is sound you have demonstrable facts on your side. State these straightforwardly and point detractors to the evidence calmly. If you are vilified and your integrity is questioned, recognise that these are the actions of desperate people who have not yet understood that facts are a form of truth. The battle will rarely centre on those facts, instead it will usually focus on attempts to discredit the people involved. Don't engage with these attempts.

Believers - Don't interpret statements from scientists as provocation, they are simply sharing factual information. Respect the people even if you don't like their thinking. Christ called you to love so speak in love, not in anger. Look at the scientific claims calmly, facts about the world cannot possibly contradict truth. Look for ways of accepting the science within your framework of faith. Remember the battles about the place of the earth in astronomy, why is that no longer an issue? Understand that if the Almighty exists, scientific and spiritual truth will be able to coexist, because he is the author of both.

Where there appear to be contradictions there is an opportunity for mutual understanding. Science deals with the realm of materials and energy, faith deals with the realm of the spirit. There is no overlap in subject matter and there is no clash of ideas that can't be accommodated.

30 December 2009

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'.

17 December 2009

Putting women in their place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women - Jon Zens Review

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

11 November 2009

Cycling to Australia - and he has time to blog

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

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

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

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

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

17 October 2009

We don't need no more trouble

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

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

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

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

03 September 2009

Pita chips in bulk

Ho hum, I'm in the USA. Food comes in larger quantities than I'm used to!

Last night I felt peckish, not hungry enough for a full meal, I just wanted a light snack. Morning over Dallas AirportThe hotel offers these in an area with comfortable seating and low tables around the TV between the dining room and the lobby. I ordered pita chips with houmous and olive paste - just a light snack.

I was served a very nicely presented dish containing enough pita chips for four people (I kid you not!) and as much houmous as you'd expect to put on the table back home for six. It was delicious but it was not a snack, not in my terms at least! Nor was it healthy eating, too much salt in the chip coating and too much deep-fry oil - but very tasty. I didn't finish my 'snack' although I made a pretty good attempt.

I'm still not hungry this morning.

Grand to be in Dallas, though. I'll take a stroll in the morning semi-cool and spend the day relaxing and getting organised for this evening's pre-conference session. I didn't take a photo of the pita chips, so I've included one of the Dallas sunrise instead.

24 August 2009

A stark choice

I think this is worth a read, Milt Rodriguez gets my vote for what he writes here. The RebuildersHe has it spot on.

But before you read it, spend a moment or two pondering Gal 6:14 which he quotes at the outset.

What did Paul really mean when he wrote these words?

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

It's so easy to read without really thinking, without applying the thought to myself. How about you?

To Paul, the world and everything in it was dead, empty and devoid of life. And to the world, Paul was dead, empty and devoid of life. The new life that is in us makes no sense to the world, and the world should make no sense to us. This is radical in the extreme! 'For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain' (Phil 1:21).

Can I say that for myself? No, not completely. But I feel it's closer to being true now than at any earlier time in my life. I still need to come to the place where Christ alone matters and everything else in life is secondary/dead. (Delete as appropriate. Question - which will you choose to strike out? Will it be 'secondary' or 'dead'?)

That is a hard question. If I am truly his follower I will follow him, not my hopes, wishes, or choices. He does not want to be merely central in my life, he wants to be all.

22 July 2009

Walking like Enoch

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

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

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

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

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

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

HalleluYah!

20 June 2009

A turning point for Iran

Today is a turning point for Iran.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 June 2009

A free vote?

Here are the crowds in Tehran, protesting about the election results. Crowds in Tehran protesting about the electionThis picture was posted on Twitter just a few minutes ago.

Read the latest news from Tehran as it develops on Twitter. Some of the streams of tweets are coming from people on the streets in Tehran, posted from mobile phones (this guy deserves a medal but is probably in line for something much harsher). Others are comments from others not involved in the protest. And then there are also comments, good wishes, prayers, and thoughts from people world wide.

There are more photos online, and the major news channels have reports, for example the BBC. It'll be all over tomorrow's front pages for sure.

Live news reporting is one of the things that Twitter does best.

21 December 2008

The Drew Marshall Show

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

I encourage you to go and listen.


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

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

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

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

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

14 November 2008

Release it and let it fly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 October 2008

Clergy and laity

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 October 2008

The fruit of our lives

Hmm... Fruit... Can you smell it? Juicy and ripe, melt in the mouth strawberries, apricots, oranges, rasberries, melons, pears, bananas, blueberries. Fresh, ripe, fruitCan anything be more delicious and fragrant than perfectly ripened fruit? Sun-drenched, hand picked, unblemished, and perfect. What a contrast with fruit that has gone mouldy!

But there's another kind of fruit, the fruit produced in our lives. Is that also fragrant, perfect, and unblemished?


One way to identify a tree or bush is to take a good look at the fruit it produces. It turns out that this is a very reliable way to identify a tree. Can you tell the difference between a coconut palm and a date palm? If you're an expert or a local you can, but suppose you live in Wales or Ontario? But what if one palm has coconuts on it and the other carries a huge bunch of dates? You don't need to be an expert now, it's a no-brainer!

It's the same with people, look at the fruit they produce in their lives and you will be able to judge right away what kind of person they are.

The fruit of the Spirit - The Bible has something most important to say about this. Paul writes to the Galatian church (Galatians 5:16-26) that 'the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control'. He contrasts this good fruit with the mouldy fruit of the sinful nature, and he writes that if we live by the Spirit we will produce the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit here is the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth and Power and Righteousness and of a Sound Mind. And what does it mean to live by the Spirit of Christ? Simply, it means that I no longer live but Christ lives in me. It's the only way!

I used to work as a scientist studying the development of apple and plum fruit. Development begins with something small and almost unrecognisable as a fruit, initially it's just an insignificant part of a flower. But the young fruit grows in size and develops in character until it becomes ripe and mature and fully recognisable by its shape, texture, colour, fragrance, and flavour.

As these fruit of the Spirit develop in a person they make themselves known, each of them in maturity has it's own distinctive shape, texture, colour, fragrance, and flavour. Shape describes the boundaries of a thing, its limits if you will. Texture tells us how a thing feels to the touch. Colour is something that must be seen, a purely visual thing. For fragrance we must inhale and savour the aroma carried in with our breath. And flavour can only be sensed by taking the thing in and absorbing it so that it becomes a part of us. To make this clearer we'll take love as an example.

Concerning love - What is the shape of love, what are its boundaries? It has none! Love is without limit, it will stretch any distance, in any direction. Love is utterly determined to reach the one that is loved - no matter how distant.

But love also has a texture, a 'feel' to it. When you touch love you feel its warmth like a glove. Love is not hard or rigid, it responds to pressure by giving way yet remaining in contact. We could say it has a spongy, foamy, stretchy texture. If you draw away from love, love will always try to maintain contact. There's a flexibility here, a constancy.

What of the colour of love? It has to be a warm colour so we can set aside blues and greens. Love is always pure so we could imagine an admixture of white. There is no darkness in love so consider a delicate pink, light tangerine, or a pale mauve.

Fragrance is interesting because breathing is involved and breath always signifies the spiritual. Love has an aromatic fragrance that we recognise immediately, it can't easily be confused with anything else, nor can it be convincingly counterfeited. It's never pungent or harsh, always pleasant and attractive. The aroma of hyacinths or bluebells fits quite well, or the fragrance of balsam downwind of a stand of poplars in the spring.

And the flavour of love is like honey. Anyone who has opened themselves to receive love will know this flavour, it is unforgettable. If you do not open your mouth you don't taste the honey. Some people are like that, they will not (or cannot) open, they don't receive, the honey may coat their face and drip from their chin but they have no idea how sweet it is. The Song of Solomon speaks of a lover's lips being 'sweet like the honeycomb' (Songs 4:11). Why do you suppose the Bible describes Israel as a 'land running with milk and honey'? It's because the love of Yahweh is poured out on the dwelling place he has chosen for his people, just as his love is poured out on all who belong to his Son. Those who believe have opened their mouths, ingested that love, and tasted the sweetness for themselves. Those who reject Christ have closed their mouths and cannot taste.

Taste it for yourself - The world needs to know that where the Father's love is concerned there is no third state. A person is open and has tasted, or is closed and has no idea of love's flavour. Nobody can put this choice off as if it's something to consider for the future. For all of us the die is already cast, if you want to change your mind and taste - do it now while there is still time. A time is coming when everyone must accept the choice they have already made.

28 September 2008

Golden threads

Connections between believers are like braided bands (actions, conversations, thoughts etc). Most of the threads are made of ordinary brown or grey cord, but woven in among them is a golden thread which is the Lord's presence. KingfisherWe need to ignore all the worldly threads and search out the golden one!

As we grow, do more and more threads of gold replace those worldly cords? They should! The bands hold us together and the golden thread, weaving this way and that, touches each of the worldly threads, again and again.

I think this idea came out of one of our meetings, though I can't be sure. Whatever its origin, I jotted it down as something to develop as a blog post. So here goes.

The idea is that as we live in relationship with one another, much of the traffic between us is the stuff of normal life. We talk about family issues, our children, our jobs, places we have visited, things we have done. We talk about the weather, politics, what we have grown in the garden, recipes we have tried, the car, the dog, TV, a new song at church. This is normal. It's the conversation of the world.

But in amongst it there are threads we did not put there. Threads that have come from heaven.

It's not just a matter of words, the same is true of what we do or fail to do. We express ourselves to one another by our actions as much or more than by what we say. Whether in word or in deed, such golden threads were visible most clearly in the life of Yahshua as he interacted with his followers and with the religious and government authorities of his day.

Fishermen - Let's look at a few examples. The first one is very simple, Yahshua was walking beside Galilee and saw two men casting a fishing net. He must have seen this often before, yet on this occasion he said, 'Come with me - I'll make you fishers of men'. And they just dropped their nets and followed him (Matthew 4:18-20). In amongst the everyday things of walking along the shoreline, casting nets, and friendly conversation comes this golden thread moment. There is a spark of otherness here, a flash of spiritual life. The Master speaks the words the Father gives him, and the hearers respond as he knew they would. Words like this do not come from human intellect, they come straight from the mind of Yahweh.

These moments are like the blue flash of a darting Kingfisher seen out of the corner of your eye - gone again before you can pay proper attention to it. Although you didn't see it clearly, you know that something significant happened and you hold your breath in wonder.

Loving enemies? - Here's another example, from Matthew 5:43-48. 'But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.'

Once again we sense a golden, heavenly thread. There's an other-worldliness about the idea of loving our enemies. How could that arise in ordinary, worldly conversation? It's the wisdom of another place, sheer foolishness to humans. Yet if we live this way it reveals us to be the children of the Most High!

New testament letters - The four gospels are full of such threads, and Paul and the other writers explain the principles in their letters. See for example Ephesians 3:7-13 where we learn that 'the gift of the Almighty's grace' is involved. Paul says he explains 'unsearchable riches' - how can anyone share what is unsearchable? Only when a higher power acts where we cannot. How otherwise could anyone make a mystery plain? How can Paul's sufferings be for the Ephesian's glory? Do you see strands of heavenly gold here? They are inexplicably woven into the lives both of Paul and his Ephesian readers.

So what of our lives today? - Yes, these golden moments still happen for those who have faith in Yahshua. The Kingdom of Heaven touches believers in just the same way it did in New Testament times. The illogical logic of eternity, the foolish wisdom of the Most High, these invade our hearts and minds and change us forever.

It's merely a matter of moving our attention away from the mud beneath our feet, the earthy worldliness of the river bank, and looking up to see the living water flowing in the river, the Temple which is its source, and the Glory of the Almighty that surrounds us. He is with us (Emmanuel) and he fills us, there are golden strands running everywhere in our lives. And we recognise them every time we catch the flash of one of those golden moments.

Sometimes it's a sudden insight, sometimes it's a word spoken in a meeting, sometimes it's a certainty or an assurance that wells up in the most difficult circumstances. But the golden threads are always there.

Just read Paul's words as he writes to the church in Philippi 2000 years ago (Philippians 2:13-16). They're just as true for us today as they were for the Philippian believers.

The Almighty is at work in you to bring about his good purpose in your lives. Do everything without grumbling or arguing so you may be blameless and pure and become Yahweh's own offspring without fault in a twisted, ruined age. You shine like the stars in the heavens as you offer to others the word of life.

08 September 2008

FAMILY - A new life

I'm a grandpa for the third time! Debbie and Steve have a baby girl. Aidan (aged two) is slightly confused, he thinks he has two new sisters, one at home and another at the hospital. My other daughter, Beth, also has a two-year-old so the next generation is well under way.

It was amazing to see this little person for the first time, so tiny, utterly dependent on her carers, not aware of the difficulties and dangers of life, primed to feed and grow and also to learn and learn and learn. She can only achieve her full potential if she is nurtured carefully; she needs to be fed, kept warm, and given all the contact and love she can absorb. Then she will grow in size and in ability until she becomes an adult and can leave home to begin an independent life of her own. But those days lie far, far ahead.

Meanwhile she is a precious gift to her family, a constant source of amazement, and a constant cause of work. Not that she will make demands - yet! But she has needs of which she is unaware although her family notice them daily, hourly, minute by minute. She will keep them busy even in her unawareness, and later when she can see and think and speak she will keep them busy with explicit demands and requests.

They won't let her down, they'll be there when she needs them. Mum, Dad, brother Aidan, grandparents too, aunts and uncles and cousins - all of them will help when necessary. Little Sara has landed on her feet even though she doesn't know it yet. There is nothing better or more needed than family. There can be no adequate substitute. Where there is family there is security, comfort, and above all love. For family love is the motivation that supplies all the rest.

(There are more photos online.)

05 September 2008

Just do it!

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We're in the early stages of planning for a youth camp for St Neots in 2009. We didn't decide to do this, it is just happening to us - and it's great! The riverbank in St NeotsWhy is the church sometimes so sluggish in getting things done? We'll come back to that question later, but first you should hear a little news.

Last Monday (1st September) we had a meeting to pray, discuss, and think about young people in St Neots. Jim, Sean and I were joined by Ben and Pete. After introductions, Pete told us about his background and explained about the camps he runs for young people in the Bedford area. By the end of the evening we had the beginnings of a plan, Pete had been proactive and booked space for a hundred young people next summer. We were astonished and encouraged. 'Just do it' is an effective way forward!

So, back to our question, 'Why is the church sometimes so sluggish in getting things done?'

It all comes down to an inability to 'just do it'. What prevents us? The answer to this lies deep in our understanding of what church is. The New Testament writers often refer to the church in a particular place, sometimes it's a city or town, sometimes it's a house, but significantly it's rarely anything between these two extremes.

Paul could write to the church in Corinth or Ephesus, but if he was writing today and addressed a letter to the 'Church in St Neots' or the 'Church in Cambridge' who would read the letter? Would it be delivered to the largest Anglican Church in town? Or would it go first to the Catholics, or the Baptists, or the United Reformed Church? Middle sized organisations of that kind were unknown in Paul's day, when he wrote to the church in a city he was writing to a single entity consisting of all the believers in that place.

But when he mentions the church that meets in Nympha's house or the church that meets in Priscilla and Aquila's house he knows exactly what he means. Not a gathering of 200 or 300 believers meeting in one place, but a small group meeting in an ordinary home. Clearly, a number of these small groups cooperated as the church in the city.

When we meet in large groups of several hundred we need a system of management and we need committees or a hierarchy to make decisions. Proposals have to be approved, resources must be made available, and discussions held to agree the details. This may take significant amounts of time. When we meet in a home decisions can be made there and then as we pray and share our thoughts and receive guidance through the Spirit.

Yahshua did not spend a lot of time planning. Instead he reacted to whatever he saw or heard. He always reacted in love towards the Father or towards the people he met, or both. Sometimes he reacted in anger, usually his reaction came in the form of teaching, questions, or action of some sort, but kindness and grace were present in everything he did - always. Everything he did was for the Father's glory, he healed the sick, he revealed the truth, he comforted the distressed and the broken-hearted. Not only did he bring good news, he was good news. Indeed he is The Good News. The good news is the news that the Messiah has come and brings healing and reconciliation.

What he did we are called to do too. If we plan less but begin to react to whatever we see and hear he will work in us and through us to glorify the Father. Acts of heavenly kindness and grace will replace acts of earthly mind and will. This is a hard lesson to learn because it runs counter to intuition and common sense, but it's a lesson we must learn if we're to become more fully fruitful and effective in the Kingdom.

This is not to say that larger organisations cannot react quickly or spontaneously in response to specific issues, just that they find it much harder than small groups.

We need to learn to be like the Master, to be good news wherever and whenever possible. Not merely to speak the good news, but to live it individually by responding right away in love and grace.

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31 August 2008

FAMILY - Dan and Kerry's Wedding

My nephew Dan married Kerry yesterday, what a wonderful event. It turned out to be a real family reunion. Dan and KerryThey threw a party for friends and family in delightful surroundings. They'd booked the village hall in Crondall, there was a hog roast, and a village cricket match was in progress in the field at the side. The weather was lovely, everyone was happy, and The Rooters provided some excellent music. A great day!

It's lovely when families and friends get together - for any reason. So good to renew contact with those we love but rarely see.

The journey was a bit of a nightmare with serious traffic jams on the way down and again on the return trip. British roads at their worst (and believe me, that's bad). It took more than three hours to get home, it would have taken only two if the roads had been clear.

There's a lesson there, don't you think? Sometimes in life the journey is hard. It's good to know what the destination is and grand to know there's a party or a home at the end of the trip.

The party was a family occasion in more ways than one. My brother-in-law, Neil, plays lead guitar with The Rooters, Kerry had decorated her own cake, and I was just one of many family photographers there to catch the scene for posterity.

Just to add to the family atmosphere one of my sisters couldn't make it. Why? Because her daughter gave birth to a son! More rejoicing and congratulations.

So, in conclusion - Dan and Kerry we wish you wonderful years together and much happiness - little Will, we wish you a wonderful life too. Abundant blessings for all of you! You are in our thoughts and prayers.

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