Showing posts with label Response. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Response. Show all posts

30 October 2011

RESPONSE - Getting real

Sometimes it just seems right to draw attention to something I've read. That's what happened this evening. We need to be real about life with Jesus - he's real and we should be too. We won't get far with discerning people if we are false, and our actions speak far louder than our words.

Simple Church JournalThe item I stumbled on is an article by Roger Thoman published over a month ago. I'd somehow missed it, but it bears repeating. Here are two extracts.
We need more from “the church.” We need “the church” to begin living their unique destiny as followers of Jesus audaciously. We need people who are not sleep-walking in religion or incapacitated by the franticness of our Disneyland culture. We need people who know who they are, who love Jesus more than life, who are willing to bring fresh and new ideas and innovations that change society. We need people who influence, not toward religion or church-going, but toward Jesus, and life, and hope, and faith, and transformation, and the power of the Spirit. We need people who have passion and are not afraid to step out and speak up about those things (including Jesus) that are burning on their hearts.
We need Change Agents for Jesus. We don’t need evangelists, just Jesus-people who live and act in a way that brings about change, that lifts the hopeless, that cares for the tired, that releases the oppressed and that simply says—“this is Jesus at work.” “Follow Him!” Those that need to and want to, will follow Him.
I recommend reading the entire article. And while there, read the comments too. They not only agree with Roger, they agree with passion. So do I.

27 September 2011

RESPONSE - Invisibility coat

'How do you become invisible? Just try wearing a 'Big Issue' seller's jacket.' This is one of the provocative thoughts in Chris Duffett's presentation, 'A Gospel for the City Centre'.

The invisibility coatListening to what Chris had to say in the video I was struck by how uncomplicated his message is. Why do we make church so difficult and messy? It's really not a big deal, or perhaps I should say that it IS a very big deal in one way, but not in another.

The creator of the universe has come to town and plans to make his home in me - and in you. Now that's a big deal!

But he wants us to respond in very simple ways, by making our home amongst anyone and everyone round about. We're not supposed to turn this into a programme or create an organisation, we're just to be there for people. Love them, be open and welcoming, listen, care about their problems, help them find their own solutions. It's often not our solutions and fixes that people want, it's our time. They don't need my opinion, but they crave my ear, my heart, and my attention.

Just read the Bible accounts of what Jesus did and said as he travelled from town to town. See how he interacted with people. See how present he was in their anxieties and woes, triumphs and joys. See how he brought peace and comfort and life to them. 'Come to me if you're struggling and heavily crushed; I'll give you rest.' (Matthew 11:28)

13 September 2011

RESPONSE - Anti-Jesus band

Are we truly following Jesus? Or are we deceiving ourselves into following something or someone else? He said, 'Follow me'. Where does he go that we should follow him?

Last week Chris Duffett posted a video. I'm reposting it here because it's so good and because it gets right to the root of what it means to follow Yahshua (Jesus). Not just paying lip-service but noticing how he did things and following him - in other words doing what he did and doing what he shows us to do.

View the video here or read Chris Duffett's article and view the video from there. But whatever you do - view it! The embedded video is pretty small, but you can also play it full screen (click the button with four arrows in the lower-right corner of the video - if that doesn't work try it on the YouTube website).




Of course, if we're going to follow it's imperative that we open our eyes and ears. We need to see what Yahshua does and hear what he says; unless we see and hear we stand no real chance of obeying.  I'm not suggesting we all go out and find an anti-Jesus band to offer space and time to. I'm suggesting that copying and following other people is not necessarily obedience to Yahshua. It might be, or it might not. Instead we have to look and listen for ourselves.

The Master is turning the world upside down. Strange and unexpected things will be commonplace in our walk with him. And that is one of the few certainties!


20 August 2011

RESPONSE - The need to listen

Felicity Dale wrote about new wineskins having no value unless there is new wine to put into them.

Tony and Felicity DaleI suggest you read her post in full, I've included some extracts below (FD) as well as extracts from my reply. (CJ).

Jesus said that new wine needs new wineskins (Luke 5:36-40). A new wineskin is only needed if there is new wine. If simple/organic church is like a new wineskin, what is the new wine? Is there something about the life we have together in Christ that needs a new container, that would burst an old wineskin?

Changing the structure of church gains nothing unless it is a response to something that Jesus is doing which wouldn't be easy to contain within the old structures.

Jesus "in the midst" is what church is all about. An individual has Jesus within. Corporately, we have Jesus among us. (FD)

We really do need to listen. We desperately need to listen to one another, and we need to listen to the Holy Spirit even more desperately.

I truly believe lack of listening is one of the stumbling blocks we face in our lives as we work hard to follow Jesus. And that's the problem. We can't follow Jesus by working hard (doing what we think is best) but only by obedience (doing what He thinks is best).

We need to listen first so that we can obey. (CJ)

Here are some take home messages from 'hearing' in meetings. The dated links lead to descriptions of what happened.

This is Felicity's new wine in action, 'something that Jesus is doing which wouldn't be easy to contain within the old structures'. As you read the examples, think very carefully about how church structure (the 'wineskin') might affect the outcome.
  • Father's timing is more important than our timing. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • He can nudge us into doing practical things such as giving someone a particular book. Sometimes he may encourage us in what we have heard by things others say or do. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • He may give us pictures that make a point clear. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • We need to be planted in Jesus, very firmly planted and rooted in him. Obedience will follow without fuss or bother. (An address by an invited speaker at a large camp - Faith '11, 7th August 2011.)
  • Glory is greater than peace. (A meeting of just two people - or three if you count Jesus, 31st March 2011.)
Notice the variety and originality of the Spirit's touch. He may guide us in different ways in a single meeting, and several meeting formats work well for hearing. There is no 'right' way to meet. It's not about methods. He works through traditional and non-traditional church, he only requires that his followers meet and expect him to take charge.

But what about situations where people take charge, what happens then? I think we all know the answer. To a greater or lesser extent the Holy Spirit will be crushed and will let us carry on managing things ourselves. This is the great tragedy of human control in the body.

I used to publish meeting notes quite regularly, more recently I've stopped doing this. Perhaps I might begin doing so again.

(Related post, 'RESPONSE: Are you listening?')

30 July 2011

RESPONSE - Are you listening?

Listening is a skill that can be intentionally developed. Julian Treasure gives a fascinating TED presentation on this, but are there parallels between listening with our physical ears and listening with our spiritual 'ears'?

Julian Treasure on 'listening'Yahshua told his followers about the importance of spiritual hearing and seeing. He spoke about people listening and listening but not hearing, looking and looking but not seeing. We are all prone to this.

Julian Treasure presents a compelling TED Talk on listening. I suggest you hear what he has to say and then come back here to continue reading.

---

Did you enjoy his presentation? I certainly did!

According to Julian, hearing is something that our ears do pretty much autonomously, but listening requires intent, focus, and deliberate attention. But Jesus says that even though we listen (pay attention) we still may not hear (understand in depth). He says there are those who pay attention and hear the words but the spiritual meaning eludes them.


The process, I believe, is
  1. Physical hearing
  2. Listening (paying attention)
  3. Spiritual hearing (spiritual understanding)
To make this clearer, suppose you are in the crowd and Yahshua is speaking. Unless you are profoundly deaf, the words he speaks will enter your ears and the brain will receive the information. This is item 1 in the list above. If you are distracted by your child, someone else talking, or thinking about that job you need to do when you get home, the process may stop at that point. You have heard but you have not listened.

But perhaps you were paying attention to Yahshua's words. You not only heard with your ears, but you noticed what he was saying. Perhaps you were puzzled, or offended, or confused by what he said. Although you heard the words clearly and they entered the attentive, thinking part of your mind, they made little or no sense. This is item 2 in the list.

But item 3 demands an additional awareness that has nothing to do with the physical world of ears and brains. It requires, but goes far beyond, simply understanding the words that were spoken. Spiritual understanding is given and received, not merely earned by paying attention to words. If you lack spiritual understanding, ask Yahshua to provide it.

The process is physical hearing > listening > spiritual hearing. That's why Yahsua said they listen but don't hear. He sometimes healed the physically deaf, he also heals the spiritually deaf. He is willing! So ask.

Julian Treasure hints at step 3 but doesn't explore it. Yahshua took step 1 as a given and focussed on step 3.

Physical reality always points to a spiritual reality; that's why Yahshua spoke so often in parables. Understanding the physical truth can help us grasp the parallel spiritual truth. The need to pay attention to physical sounds points to the notion that we also need to pay attention to spiritual 'sounds'.  We need to listen intentionally to the Spirit of Christ in the same way we listen to the words of the people we meet. The Spirit is a still, small voice. We have to pay close attention to him.

In the physical we are exposed to sound, listen to the sound, and understand the meaning in our minds. In the spiritual we are exposed to truth, pay attention to the truth, and comprehend the truth in our hearts.

So let's explore how Julian Treasure's thoughts on listening might apply to spiritual listening (paying attention to the truth).

We are losing our listening - The church has substantially lost the ability to listen spiritually. Many believers are not even aware that listening is possible, others have no idea how to go about it.

Making meaning from sound - A process of extraction, recognising the Holy Spirit's voice among all the other spiritual noise around us. What is 'spiritual noise'? Where does it come from? What will happen if you listen to the wrong sources? How can you distinguish the Holy Spirit's voice?

Filters - These define what we pay attention to. How, for example, might our craving for authority, security, or independence affect our spiritual attention and listening? Can you think of more filters?

Awareness - Are you tuned in? Are you aware of Father's presence, of his nearness, of his love, of his sorrow and grief, of his purity and holiness, of his exuberant joy and laughter?

Sense of eternity - If listening with your mind provides your main source for a sense of time, might spiritual listening be the main source for your sense of eternity? I think so!

Recording - Writing, sound recording, and video recording reduce our need to pay attention (we can always go back to check). Do you depend too much on books, speakers and musicians to provide your spiritual questions and answers? Do these sources reduce the effectiveness of your own, personal, spiritual listening?

Conversation - Do you wear spiritual headphones? Are you regularly having good spiritual conversations with Father and with one another, or are you isolated in your hearing?

Soundbites - Are you conversing spiritually or are you substituting this with 'personal broadcasting'. Do you speak and listen or just speak? We are supposed to ask in prayer, but are we supposed to only ask? Is your spiritual communication two way? Is it a conversation or just an expression of need?

The quiet, the subtle, the understated - Do you hear the still, small voice? Do you pay attention to him?

Listening creates understanding - We cannot understand without paying close attention. Do you want to grow in spiritual understanding? Are you prepared to pay the price of proper listening? There are serious and frightening dangers attached to not listening. What are they? Hint - lack of physical listening may lead to anger, even war. What might lack of spiritual listening lead to?

Techniques to improve listening - Silence or quiet, channels of sound, savouring the mundane (hidden choir), appropriate listening positions, RASA, teach listening (encourage others to listen). Can these or related methods help us improve our spiritual listening?

You might like to listen to Julian again with a view to spiritual listening. If you like, follow through the headings above as you do so. We need to listen to the Spirit of Christ in everything, every sight and sound and smell and touch - in pain, in comfort; in turmoil, in peace; in activity, and in stillness. If we are a hearing people, if we are not spiritually deaf, spiritual life will be rich and fulfilling and new every single day.

Go for it!

(Related post, 'RESPONSE - The need to listen')

24 July 2011

RESPONSE: Norway and Amy Winehouse

Almost a hundred dead in Norway following a bomb and a shooting spree, and a great singer/songwriter dead before the age of thirty. Two tragedies that are not connected - or are they?

The Oslo bombingThere's no direct link of course, yet there is a common element (as we shall see) and the tragic events took place just a day apart.

On 22nd July Anders Behring Breivik set off a huge home made bomb in central Oslo and followed it up with a multiple shooting on the island of Utøya about 20 miles away.

On 23rd July Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home.

Amy WinehouseI feel deep sympathy for the victims of both tragedies, and for their friends and families who will be struggling emotionally and in practical ways to cope with the new reality of life without a loved one. Life with an unfillable hole in it. When my wife died in the mid nineties I was aware of a Judy-shaped hole in my heart and in my life. And I knew that our daughters, our parents, and our friends also carried similar holes within them.

In time (be it short or long) the hole will mend. My prayer for those suffering loss is that as the hole eventually fades it will fill in with many happy memories. These will remain for ever - they do for me.

Paul, writing to the Corinthians, explained that faith, hope and love remain. 'But', he wrote, 'the greatest of these is love' (1 Cor 13:13). In your losses cling to all three, but focus especially on love.

Lack of love (or a perceived lack of love) is always a killer. So is a sense of failure or defeat.

We read that Anders Breivik was a Christian fundamentalist of some kind. But Jesus told his followers to love the Father, to love one another, and to love their enemies. Paul wrote this description of the nature of love...

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Whatever Anders Breivik is, he clearly doesn't understand what Christ meant by love. If Jesus' love is in a person's heart, murder and harm are not among the possible outcomes. The immense harm he has done is not compatible with the word 'Christian' in its true sense.

Amy Winehouse, on the other hand, needed to know that she was loved. How can it be that a young star with a brilliant career ahead of her could throw it all away with drink and drugs? She was loved by friends in and out of the music industry and by family members. Many would have done anything to rescue her. But addiction is a trap that is hard to shrug off, even with willing help and support from close family and friends. It takes much more than human help and willpower to break free and build a new sense of worth and value.

We live in a broken and desperate world. It's a world in which anger and fear, hatred and despair, violence and loneliness are always crowding in and wanting to own us. Often they have their way with us as these two tragic events highlight.

The answer is more love, not less hatred; more light, not less darkness; more life, not less death. As with a serious illness, treating the symptoms can never cure the underlying cause.

The cure for a broken world is Jesus. Not a Jesus preached in church on a Sunday morning but a Jesus living in the lives of his people, making a difference in the world by pouring out abundant love, light and life.

Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life' (John 14:6). The Father 'is love' (1 John 4:8).

If you are a follower of Jesus, let his light shine! Let his love and light and life pour out from your heart daily and extravagantly. Let his love pour out on good and bad alike, just as the Father does. And remember, where your ability to love falls short, his goes right on. If Jesus is living in your heart he will fill any gap caused by your own limits. Trust him!

02 May 2011

RESPONSE: The death of Osama bin Laden

We live in a violent world. Today's news that United States forces have killed Osama bin Laden in a reinforced hideout in Pakistan just emphasises that. What are we to make of it?

Osama bin LadenViolence seems to be everywhere. A civil war is under way in Libya, pirates are active off the Somali coast, in Iran retribution is quick and severe for those who dare to oppose the authorities, the battle continues in Afghanistan and Iraq is racked by shootings and bombings. Closer to home trouble is stirring again in Northern Ireland and in Bristol there have been clashes between protesters and police over (of all things) the opening of a small, local Tesco shop.

Let's face it, there's nothing new about violence, it's as old as the human race. But it certainly hasn't gone away!

The latest news about Osama bin Laden's death is astonishing and raises many questions. You can read some of the background in an article by the BBC's Mark Mardell. No doubt more detail will emerge over the coming days and weeks. There is also likely to be strong reaction from Pakistan and perhaps from Russia and China too.

The principles - But what about the principles involved? For those with no faith it just comes down to a matter of morality and personal opinion. Is it reasonable to kill someone who has done bad things? Is it acceptable to mount a raid into another country, even if the purpose seems noble? Everyone will have opinions on these matters and we will not always agree.

Many religions teach that violence is wrong or that it is justifiable only in certain circumstances.

Love and forgive - But what for those who follow Jesus? Three things, I think.

First, it's clear that we are to love the Father. We are to be like him, pouring out love on one another and even on our enemies. Yahshua told Peter that those who choose to live by the sword will die by the sword. It is surely better for us to die by love than to die by the sword. As we judge, so will we be judged. 'Be like your Father in heaven', is not a suggestion - it's a command. But be warned, loving may cause us to die. If we truly love we will certainly die to self. But we may also die physically in situations where violence might have 'saved' us. It's better to be saved by grace than to be 'saved' by violent action.

And secondly, we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. If someone murders my wife or my child I am to forgive them. That's hard, isn't it? We are not called to seek revenge or punishment. We are not even called to seek justice. We are called to forgive.

Forgiving a wrong often seems like excusing evil. In fact forgiving and loving our enemies pours fire upon them. Forgiving is harder than lashing out with the tongue or with the fist or a firearm. Grace and patience lead us to love and forgive. Anger leads us into sin.

The actions of others - And the third point is this. Not only are we to forgive our enemy, we are not to judge others who make different choices.

So what about Osama's death? It's not for me to say. All I can say is that it would have been entirely wrong for me to kill him, but others must decide for themselves. My Father gave us freedom of will, freedom to choose. He expects me to extend the same freedom to others. I may not judge, I may only love and forgive.

05 April 2011

RESPONSE - Obedience matters!

This is in response to a brief post on the Nomad Blog. By being obedient the team were able to do exactly the right thing without even knowing there was a need. Yahshua is, frankly, awesome!

A bouquet of flowersHere's an extract from the post on Nomad.

We felt God prompting us to go into a local housing estate, but we all felt a bit discouraged at how quiet things were. Two of the team felt God draw their attention to a certain house. They knocked on the door and asked the lady who answered if they could pray for her. She began crying and said that her husband had died a few weeks before. The team spent the rest of the afternoon listening to her story and praying with her.

The next day someone gave the team an undelivered bouquet of flowers to use. As we prayed a number of us felt God saying to give the flowers to the lady we’d met the day before. So two of the team went back to her house and told her that Jesus wanted to give her the bouquet. She began crying and told us that it was the day of her 40th wedding anniversary and her husband’s birthday! Again the team was able to spend the afternoon praying with her. God’s perfect timing!

There are several things to notice about this.

  • The team were prompted in a general way - to go into a housing estate. We may not get the guidance all at once. If we begin to follow, more will come as and when it's needed.
  • They felt discouraged as nothing much seemed to be happening. It's easy to feel discouraged, but it's important not to give up.
  • Two were drawn to a particular house. There's no certainty about these things, but they went prepared to see what would happen. We all need to learn to do this.
  • They knocked on the door. We have to take the initiative, we have to go for it! There's no point in wimping out; if there's a door knock on it; if someone comes smile and speak to them. People are unlikely to approach us; we must approach them.
  • They asked if they could pray. Bless people, don't discuss the Bible or tell them they are on the path to death or that they need to repent. Bless them! How simple can this be? Pray, listen, care, love - those are the things we are called to do. God is love. If Jesus lives in me love will leak out everywhere I go.
  • They listened and prayed with her. Nuff said.
  • Someone gave them a bouquet. Expect things like this to happen. Don't take the flowers home and put them into a vase. They were given for a purpose, ask Jesus to reveal it.
  • They asked Jesus what to do and he told them. How important to trust him like this. He will not let us down. He is teaching us to trust and expect.
  • Two went back and delivered the flowers from Jesus. Not from us - from him. We need to invite him to live and act and speak through us. Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
  • More prayer, more listening, the right time. HalleluYah!
More? You want more? Good! Also read this Nomad item and then ponder a couple of questions.

Yahshua sent out the disciples in pairs and told them to share the good news, cast out demons, and heal the sick. In other words he told them to do what they had seen him do. (Luke 9:1-6)

Q1 - What does he want you to do?

Q2 - Oh, and while you're at it why not listen to some of the truly excellent stuff on the Nomad Podcast?

20 March 2011

RESPONSE - Comments on BBC News from Libya

Here are clippings from two BBC viewers writing in. They can't both be right...

Jamal, from Bradford, UK, writes: "I am originally from Libya and I am outraged that the foreign forces are bombing Libya. They say they want to protect lives but I think hundreds more will die. The rebels are nothing but a bunch of murderers, they are undisciplined and are the real threat so if you want to attack anyone it should be the rebels."

Khaled, in the UK, writes: "I just have been told (on Sunday 20 March) by my sister who lives in Misrata that Gaddafi forces are shelling residences and homes with massive force. Everyone is hysterical and there is lots of screaming. I am very worried."

See more as it happens from the BBC's Middle East page.

Continue praying for the people of Libya.

24 February 2011

RESPONSE - Noah in Christchurch

It's still possible (even likely) that a few more survivors may be pulled from the devastation that is Christchurch right now. But the focus is already moving to recovering bodies and restoring vital services. In the middle of the destruction comes an item about Noah and Kate Cremisimo.

Position of Christchurch (red circle)Noah and Kate moved to Christchurch, New Zealand from Denver, USA. They are church planters focussing especially on starting small, organic and reproducible expressions of church life, mostly meeting in homes, offices, and other small settings.

Noah writes that although their home suffered only minor damage and seems to be structurally sound, there is no power, no water, and no sewerage and none of those services are likely to be restored soon because damage is so widespread. Clearly, repairing the city's infrastructure is urgent and important but saving lives has to be the priority.

We should all pray for the people of Christchurch in their current distress and need. But in addition to that, Noah has a further prayer request. He writes...

Please pray that God will birth hundreds of simple communities from this situation... especially considering that SO many institutional churches will be unusable for quite a while.

Every church family is precious, whether it's small and informal or large and institutional in nature. But perhaps these small, local forms of church have the nimbleness and local knowledge to help their immediate neighbours in ways that are particularly appropriate during the aftermath of an earthquake.

Pray for Noah and Kate, for their friends and neighbours, and for the local church in every size and shape and form, that they will be at the forefront of helping those around them. Together as one family serving one Almighty Father may they be able to make a real difference.

Matthew 25:31-46 seems relevant here. There will be many in Christchurch and the surrounding area who will be hungry, thirsty, friendless, sick or without shelter or money or suitable clothes. There will be some who are grief-stricken, not knowing where to turn, without friends or family. Some will need practical help, many will just need a listening ear. And some may need emotional support for years to come. May the church bless them all and provide whatever they need.

Noah and Kate will be in the thick of it. And later they will have some extraordinary stories to tell - but not just yet.

You can learn more about Noah and Kate at 'Stories from the Revolution'.

20 January 2011

RESPONSE - Making Links

Someone is disappointed and upset, the local paper gets hold of the story, and before you know it the front pages of the national newspapers have jumped onto what is becoming a rapidly growing bandwagon. What am I referring to? The developing furore over a small group of women called 'Making Links'.

Local news articleI'll say straight away that I am not a member of and do not represent 'Making Links', St Neots Town Council, or the Open Door Church.

It's easy to understand how frustrating it is to be told that a particular organisation is not for you. And it would be very helpful for the people involved to be able to talk about the issues in a friendly way over a nice cup of coffee. But the heat and anger now being expressed in print using heavily loaded words like 'banned' and 'racist' is making gentle dialogue almost impossible. It may sell more newspapers, but it doesn't help anyone understand the situation. And it's a great way of polarising opinion, stoking up anger, and setting people against one another.

I'm disappointed that some news organisations should promote dissension over understanding. Selling extra copies of a paper is held to be more important than fostering cooperation and harmony. Using loaded words trumps explaining the facts.

What are the facts? Despite the angry headlines we don't really know! The reports tell us that two British mums were turned away from a group created to help foreign women. It seems the group is funded by a government department, the local authority, a local church, and several businesses. There's a little more detail, some comments from the mums involved, from the group's administrator, and from someone at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It's not much to go on.

As a result of the news coverage the local MP and some of the funding bodies have already expressed opinions and are considering closing the group down (again, according to press reports).

Meanwhile it must be very difficult for 'Making Links'. What are they to do? The money was granted for them to help foreign women, they would certainly have been criticised for spending it on local residents who are not from overseas! It might be helpful to have a few British mums involved, but where would they stop and how would they decide who to accept and who to turn away?

There are no easy answers. But talk of closing the group without knowing more is surely over reacting and premature. What is needed first (and soon) is for the group organisers, the funding bodies, the local MP, and the offended mums to sit down together over that cup of coffee and find out what happened, why it happened, and what might have been done better.

But hey, don't pay too much attention to the strong, divisive, angry words in those newspapers. (This Google search will provide links to the story as it develops.)

As a non-involved resident of St Neots and a follower of Jesus I am praying about this situation. I am asking for cool heads, for hearts filled with love and grace, and for wise decisions based on information about what happened. I'm confident that this will happen.

Father, please bless the two mums who were turned away, their children, the foreign women in the group, the organisers and volunteers who run 'Making Links', and the people who fund the group.

17 January 2011

RESPONSE - Permaculture

Peter Farmer posted a video and a link to Permaculture. I'm repeating them here along with the comment I left on his website 'Pioneering change' and some additional information.

Here are the links...
Permaculture is an idea that's been developed over many years. You can visit the UK Permaculture Website, One kind of permaculture in actionbut there are other sites for other parts of the world and wherever you live it's worth checking out the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

Wikipedia provides a really good overview

There are many other websites out there, but remember that permaculture is primarily an idea. The websites have a variety of slants and approaches, some you may like while others may contain elements you dislike. But what they have in common is that they all relate in some way to the basic idea of permaculture.

Here's the video...


And here's my comment...
Permaculture is a very old idea, but also a very good one. Before the industrial revolution most communities depended on methods of this kind. Although the underlying principles were not understood, societies were rich with handed-down methods that worked with the natural world.

But with technology we became free to work against nature and exert our independence. And now, in Western society, we hardly know what the natural world is! We have forgotten the valuable handed-down methods.

Permaculture can help put us back in touch with reality. It can help us take small steps back towards living with our environment instead of fighting against it.

We need to be whole in EVERY way – body, mind and spirit – individually and communally – but also in relation to the natural world.

Thanks for drawing our attention to this, Peter. Great stuff!

Additional thoughts
All my life I've been powerfully impacted by the idea that everything is rooted and grounded in love.
  • There is firstly the Father's love for us in sending his Son, Yahshua.
  • Then the Son's love in revealing the truth about his Father's nature.
  • Their great deposit of love in embracing all of us who would hear and receive them by pouring their love-essence, the Holy Spirit, into our hearts.
  • The way he (the Spirit) changes our hearts from selfishness to love.
  • The simple truth that we are to love one another (even our enemies).
  • And finally the duty we were given to care (lovingly) for this world that sustains us. In the beginning we were given the power to rule over everything in the natural world, but we were always expected to rule with the care and benevolence of love.
Permaculture is a practical outworking of this duty. Many of its proponents have not yet encountered the love that is there for them in Christ, but they have understood that the human race desperately needs to show that care and benevolence towards the natural world. We are not independent overlords, we breathe the air, drink the water, and eat the food that the physical world provides. We have been very foolish in mistreating it.

We need to become much, much wiser. The ideas espoused in permaculture can help us. We should all read and understand and ask ourselves, 'What is wisdom in this regard? What is our duty? What will a caring heart take from this? What practical steps am I called take?'

It might be as little as a few radishes in a window box, or it might involve a lifetime's work on a farm, there's a wide spectrum of opportunity between the two!

There are opportunities in every town and village, every garden, every public space, every school, park, hospital. Look for the opportunities and see what you can make of them.

06 January 2011

RESPONSE - Community and mission?

Felicity Dale has just written a great post about community and mission. Do we need to become a community before we launch out in mission? What does it mean to be a 'missional community'? Is that the same thing as a communal mission?

Felicity Dale's BlogFelicity has set me thinking and I need to respond at greater length than a blog comment will allow. If you want the context you can read her article now, or you can read my reply and then return to Felicity's article. But whatever you do make sure you read her wise contribution at some point!

She was asked the question, 'What do you do about mission if there is very little sense of community in your group?' Her post was in response to that.

The essential thing here is to let go of any preconceptions we may have, I can guarantee that some of them will be misconceptions. Better to clear a space in which the Holy Spirit can direct us and guide us. His job is to lead us, show us the way, encourage us, comfort us, and act as an advocate. Our job is to go and do the things he tells us. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Sonship, the Spirit of a sound mind.

Can I build Yahshua's church? No! He said he would build it himself. The best I can hope to do is play with the bricks so that he has to sort out my mess before he can begin building. Better to let him do it right from the start.

Mission - How did Jesus go about mission? He sent out his disciples in pairs and told them to go to the towns and villages. He told them to knock on the doors and, when they were made welcome, to go in, speak peace into the home, and eat with the people living there.

Community - A pair of disciples is the smallest unit that can be regarded as church. Greater numbers are not necessarily better. You, me and Jesus - that's enough! Church is not defined by size, structure, management methods, buildings, programmes, or mission statements. It is defined as two or more people on a journey together in community with Jesus.

The journey may be 'missional' at times - literally travelling from place to place to tell people the good news about Jesus. But much of the time it's more likely to be a journey of deepening understanding and growing depth of relationship with one another and with the Lord. If Jesus is leading us, reaching out will happen as part of that community life.

The source - What we most urgently need to know is that mission and community both have their roots in love. In his recent book Follow, Floyd McClung writes...

All followers and seekers of Jesus must wrestle with three simple yet profound truths. Worship. Mission. Community. They are simple, but they will affect every area of your life if you allow them to.

He lists and defines them again several times.

  • Worship: to love and obey Jesus as a lifestyle - with passion and purpose.
  • Mission: to love those who don't follow Jesus - with courage and decency.
  • Community: to love other followers of Jesus - with intentionality and transparency.

And later he writes...

'Worship - Love Jesus. Mission - Love the world. Community - Love one another.

Very simple. But building one's life on these three simple yet profound truths goes deeper than a first glance reveals. They might be simple, but they are not easy. They are approachable and touchable, but once you get close to them, they demand your whole life.

Love is the source of mission and of community as well as being the source of worship. If there is no love there can be no meaningful mission and no meaningful community.

But whose love? Mine? Well, yes and no. First and foremost it's the love of the Father poured out in and through the Son. And it's the love of the Son, Yahshua (Jesus) poured out sacrificially to redeem us and change us. And it's the love of the Spirit of Christ within us individually, and Christ in us communally - the hope of glory.

We love because we were first loved. The result of love in our hearts is threefold - worship, mission, and community.

It's not a question of mission and then community, or community and then mission. As we begin to love (and therefore worship) the One who first loved us, we will find ourselves in mission and in community too. Without love we will never get started with either of them.

Receive his love and you will inevitably begin to love him, then you will worship and everything else will follow as we are swept along with Jesus on his journey towards deeper community and mission.

There's a great example of this in practice on the Jesus Virus blog.

01 January 2011

RESPONSE - Building a coffin?

Steve and Marilyn Hill have given us food for thought in their latest message. They write about theological systems and how a coffin is a good analogy for them. Not that theology is a bad thing in and of itself, but no theological construct can be an adequate container for the truth.

An ornate mediaeval coffinHere are three quotes from the Hills' article...

We cannot make a rational system out of our relationship with our spouse and we try to do so with our relationship with God?

Every theological system is like a coffin. The only body you can get to fit into it is a dead one.

The universe is relationally ordered. God is a Father and God is a love relationship of Father, Word and Holy Spirit. Their union is a mystery of love and mutual honour.

Steve and Marilyn's message is well worth reading in full. I agree with them and I'm impressed that it's been a recurring (and increasing) theme throughout the church over the last few years.

The essence of this thinking is that church is about relationship much more than it is about behaviour or tradition. Jesus is much more about life than he is about teaching or knowledge. If I truly follow him I will love the Father, Son and Spirit enough to let them change me at the most fundamental level. The result of that change (and the evidence for it) will be that I love those around me enough to impact their lives - just as Jesus did 2000 years ago.

In a nutshell - I am first loved by the One who is love so that I may also love.

That is all the theology I need. And the box that contains that theology is not the shape of a coffin, but the shape of a living temple.

I'm in full agreement with Steve and Marilyn here. It's not about theological positions, it's about the Truth. As William P Young puts it, 'It's not about what I do, it's about who He is'.

30 December 2010

RESPONSE - I'm not that Chris Jefferies

There have been almost 2000 hits on this website so far today. The normal pattern runs at around 100 to 150 visits per week, not high by any means but quite steady. So what is going on?

A graph of today's hits on this websiteMost of my visitors come from the UK with the USA in second place, the remainder are mainly from other European countries with a scattering from other parts of the world. But 2000 in one day?

It's all because of the arrest of another Chris Jefferies, the landlord of Jo Yeates who was so tragically murdered before Christmas. The big increase in hits is down to people searching online for the term "Chris Jefferies" and clicking through to my website.

Other people with my name will have found the same thing! Here's a blog post by a Chris who lives in London.

What else is there to say?

I lived in Bristol from 1970 until 1975. I worked at Long Ashton Research Station for more than 25 years. I know the area well and that makes it all so much more real to me. I had no idea that another Chris Jefferies lived in the area!

I can't end this without saying how much I feel for the family and friends of Jo, particularly her parents, David and Teresa, her brother Chris, and her partner Greg. There's nothing I can do for them other than pray that they will eventually come through the pain and distress. But first they will have to endure the unwanted attention the case will bring, the inevitable intrusions by reporters, and the constant question, 'Why did this happen to our Jo?'. My heart goes out to them.

I know they will be supporting one another at this dreadful time. I'm praying that as they do so they will also sense a much deeper support. The question, 'If there is a God, how can he allow things like this to happen?' is perfectly reasonable. A lifetime is not long enough to fully comprehend his nature, but I will always cling to the knowledge that his heart is to love and that he is as sorrowful and angry as we are about events like this. I hope they will (eventually) be able to understand that too.

I so feel for them. How I wish I could help.


2 comments:


Liz said...
Dear Mr. Jefferies, I am one of those people who found my way here due to that other Chris Jeffries! But I am so glad I did. I've been captivated by your blog for the last hour. I've been so uplifted and so needed to be. Thank you very much for your beautiful words. You have a truly wonderful gift. All the best, Liz
Chris said...
Hi Liz, I have no idea if you will read this, but I wanted to say, 'Thanks', for your kind and encouraging words. Kind regards from St Neots to wherever you may be! Chris

RESPONSE - HalleluYah!

This must have been quite a surprise for people grabbing lunch in a busy shopping mall. If you haven't already seen it I won't spoil the fun - just view the recording...



However, I do want to respond. Things like this always produce opportunities and it's a shame if they're missed. If you'd been there what would you have said to a friend or stranger sitting nearby? All too often I can't think of anything, but this would surely have been a great opportunity.

One person I know is good at creating opportunities of this kind and he's also good at using them effectively for life-changing conversation. Take a look at Chris Duffett's blog and read about some of his adventures in market places and malls. Dressing as an angel and handing out tea lights with 'You are Loved' written on them, using scrap doors to allow people to paint whatever they like into heart outlines.

On the face of it these are zany things to do. But they have a way of getting under people's radar. Most of the time we live alone in a busy world. We have things to do and we don't want to interact with the vast sea of humanity that surrounds us. Try having a conversation with the person sitting or standing next to you on the London Underground and you'll soon see what I mean!

But when something unusual happens people become more willing to communicate - temporarily. Let's not waste these opportunities to share life with others. It may not seem significant, yet these moments of contact and connection are so very precious.

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.

29 April 2010

RESPONSE - The dirt on organic leadership

Brian Hofmeister has tried organic church and found it difficult. Acorns and oak leavesHe writes about his experiences in a report in Christianity Today - Leadership. Brian's conclusion is that leading organic church was just too onerous, and was not achievable without some degree of professional input.

However, this has not been my experience, nor that of many others. And I don't believe it was the experience of the early church either. There's little evidence of paid leadership in the New Testament.

So what went wrong for Brian and the people he met with? To answer that we need to go right back to define what is and is not organic church. The word 'organic' implies an organism, whereas much of our experience of church comes from organisations. An organisation usually has a top-down management structure and a hierarchical authority structure. Something which is organic begins from a seed and grows until it reaches maturity and produces more seeds which grow in their turn.

In this way, one tiny seed may produce not just a tree, but an entire forest. It takes a certain amount of time, but it speeds up dramatically with each generation and will eventually fill the space available. Trees and forests can be managed, but they don't have to be. There were very successful forests in many parts of the world before human explorers arrrived to manage them!

I think that Brian simply tried too hard to manage and guide and educate and persuade. But that's not organic. The seed that germinates and grows amongst a small group of people is the expectation that Yahshua himself will do the managing, guiding, educating, and persuading. He said, 'I will build my church.' And he really meant it! He is the only one who truly knows how to do it.

Church is a community of people who love one another because Christ has first loved them. When we come together to meet it's just the tip of a giant, hidden core of fellowship and community. When we meet, Yahshua is there at the centre. He is with us because we are his and he loves to bless us and guide us. But he's also with us day by day as we live our lives, he is with us in defeat and in victory, in sorrow and in joy.

A group of new believers, if they focus on Jesus, will help one another along the road to maturity. The wiser and more mature will look out for the others. There will be problems, but rather than training programmes and theological studies the believers need to discover how to be disciples. They need to be walking with the Lord, listening to what he says and watching what he does. Reading the Bible together will provide a lot of useful guidance. Eating together when possible, helping one another with practical things, and having good, family fun together will help too. Encouraging one another, praying for one another, all these things help to build community.

But the key is listening to the Lord and doing what he says. Out of this will come mission, church growth, and all the rest.

Brian tried an alternative model of church and found it wanting. But it wasn't really organic church. My advice to him would be try again but to do a whole lot less while expecting Yahshua to do a whole lot more!

For some practical advice, browse through the 'Useful links' in the right hand sidebar, these will lead to other useful material - books, mp3s, DVDs, videos and more. But above all pray and ask Jesus himself to guide you, he won't let you down.

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