09 October 2004

What kind of dog would I be? (KN)

Walking along the river bank this afternoon I came across a woman exercising her dog. Some dogs collect things!The dog ran towards me along the river path, then obediently lay down at a command. As I came up behind him and walked past, his eyes didn't waver. He didn't so much as glance at me, he was watching his owner very intently, waiting for the next command. His owner said, 'Get it then! Go on!', and off he went like an arrow released from a bow, off to fetch a ball or something else she'd left behind for him.

As we passed I smiled and said, 'Very good!'. I got a big grin back as I carried on walking.

Is this dog typical? No! I don't think so! I can think of several examples of badly behaved dogs - and I'm quite sure you can too...

We are like dogs too, some of us are more obedient than others. My brother-in-law has a Boxer called Rosie, she has a mind of her own, she will obey - but only if it suits her - or if she can see a titbit waiting for good behaviour! She is wilful, and she wants to be in charge. There are other dogs that don't disobey deliberately, but they never learned the words of command, they don't understand what is wanted of them.

I doubt if any of us is totally obedient. Some of us are wilful and want our own way, others perhaps are not attuned to our Master's voice. Some make a determined attempt, but sooner or later get it wrong for one reason or another.

It seems to me that the obedience of dogs is a very good illustration of the principles. A dog needs a master and must learn to obey without hesitation, certainly a good working dog will never question an order. Think of a sheepdog, or a retriever, or a dog trained to find drugs or explosives. They are only useful if they are obedient and reliable.

So if we want to be useful to the Master we must begin by learning to hear and recognise his voice. We can't obey him unless we first know what he wants of us. And having heard, we must have a heart to do his will, not our own. We might think our own ideas and methods will do the job, but they will not; we would be no more use than a sheepdog that decided for itself where the sheep should go.

Nor should we expect a reward, we may or may not receive one; our main reward will be in heaven - eternal life with the Son in the presence of the Father and surrounded by a great host of brothers and sisters. But here and now there may be no reward that we can identify. Our motives must be pure, we obey because he is our Father and we love him.

And like the obedient dog we must fix our eyes on the Master, unwavering, undistracted, and patient. When he gives the word we will be ready and will obey instantly.

Here in this world we have a relationship, first with the Master but also with our brothers and sisters, we will do well if we keep our eyes firmly focussed on his wonderful face. We will learn so much from what we see there, is he smiling? Being one of his people means we must interact with others. If they are to be built up and encouraged we'd better be obeying orders, not just making it all up as we go along.

Where we are not sure we do well to look all the more carefully. Never take your eyes off the King! Where we are not clear we must practice listening. How does the obedient dog develop such acute powers of observation and attention? By training, by practice. Practice hearing and seeing and you will get better at it. I promise you! Practice obedience and you will get better at that too. So that is our goal, to practice and practice and become more attuned to hearing and obeying.

See! We can even learn from the behaviour of our pets. Our Master is really good, loves us well, and knows how to train us; if we are obedient we can expect to do exceptionally well.

Oh, and one last thing. A good dog must have only one master - so must we. We are not to follow teachers, or preachers, or elders, or any other man or woman. We have one Master, and our attention should be fixed unwaveringly on him. Then we won't be distracted or deflected from his purpose. And as we help and encourage one another, we do well if we remind one another always - 'Look to the King, keep your eyes on his wonderful face, see his love, hear his voice.'

Comments copied from the original Chris Jefferies' Blog.

Comment from: Steph [Member] Email · http://www.es-creative.com
Having "his heart," not our own, is a phrase that is resonating with me, Chris. How does that happen?

I think that some of it has to do with the 30, 60, and 100 fold story in the New Testament. A 30 fold return on investment is pretty darn good.... but it's not "all" there is to be had.

If we want his heart, we've got to give 100% of ours, with no holes barred. Unfortunately, the forces of our human nature and society's constraints around us are 100% opposite to that. Everything seems to work against that work of maturity and complete surrender.

Isn't that why we need each other? To help each other press on to the upward goal, the *prize* .....

which is "his" heart.
Thanks a terrific blog.
14/10/04 @ 04:27

08 October 2004

A handy Bible tool (KN)

Q - When you want to look up a Bible passage and you don't have a Bible with you, what do you do?The Bible Gateway website

A - Find an internet connection and browse to the Bible Gateway!

There you will find the entire Bible in a number of versions. You can display a verse or a whole chapter just by entering the details in a search box. Easy!

But you can do so much more than that with this well-designed tool...

If you've already used the Bible Gateway you'll know exactly what I mean, but if you're a newbie to this clever website - read on.

Keyword lookup - A second search box is provided for looking up words, type in 'fish bread' for example and click 'Search' and up pop those gospel passages about the feeding of the thousands, along with several other verses containing the same two words.

Changing versions - Once you've found the passage you need in one translation, you can read it straight away in another. It's easy to look at the same passage again and again in different versions; and there are lots to choose from.

Sometimes it helps to search in the King James Version (perhaps you remember that version of the verses you need), then, having found it, swap to a modern translation to read it.

If you've already used the Bible Gateway you'll know exactly what I mean, but if you're a newbie to this clever website - read on.

Audio versions - There are also audio versions in a variety of languages. This gives a different kind of experience and may be helpful.

Other materials - There are some study guides here too. Not as comprehensive or easy to use as some of the Bible software available on CD or traditional print, but very useful when nothing else is to hand (when you're travelling away from home, perhaps).

Foreign languages - There are versions of the Bible here in all kinds of languages. So whether you are from Albania or Vietnam you will be able to read and search online in your native tongue.

This mini review should be enough to get you started. Visit the Bible gateway website and hunt around to see what other features are available. And watch out for the new, improved version coming soon.

Happy reading, and happy searching! Why not bookmark the website now? - There are also audio versions in a variety of languages. This gives a different kind of experience and may be helpful.

07 October 2004

Everything I have (KN)

'Everything I have, was given to me.'

This simple line came to me today in an e-mail from a friend. It referred to something quite specific, but it's so true in a general way too.A young plant The more I've thought about it during the day, the more its meaning has become rooted in my heart, like a seed planted there. It seems right to share these thoughts more widely.

When I was first conceived I was no more than a tiny bead of protoplasm carrying a copy of the DNA that spelled my potential. As I grew, the meaning of the code worked out in detail until the day I was born and took my first breath.

We often think of birth as the beginning of life, but by the time I'd taken that first lungful and tested out my new voice with an ear-splitting wail, I'd already received so much.

First, the DNA code itself, donated by my parents but specifying a new, unique creature. And then all that realised potential - a heart that beats, lungs that fill with air, bones and muscles, fingers and toes, and all those amazing internal organs working away to keep me alive and healthy until adulthood. I earned none of these things. They are rich and wonderful gifts bestowed on me even before I was born!

Throughout my life from the morning of my birth to the evening of my old age I'll have received so much. The air I breathe, the water I drink, the food I eat and the clothes that keep me warm, I earned none of these things.Mature growth and abundant flowers I used my gifts of mind and body to 'earn' my way in the world, but I could create nothing without the means to do so, and the means came to me as generous gifts.

It seems to me that I have nothing at all to boast of, and absolutely everything to be grateful for. And look around at the world we inhabit! See the beauty of the sky, sun shining on leaves, the frost on twigs. Smell the fragrant orange blossom, the wonderful aroma of freshly cut grass, or bread straight from the oven. Ah, what a wonderful, wonderful world. And what a wonderful Creator who brought it all into being and planted me here amongst it for a season. I earned none of this!

And friends, family, just a smiling face in the local shop or at the bank, a kind word from someone who cares. Did I earn these blessings? No, I did not. All are gifts.

How true then it is to say...

'Everything I have, was given to me.'

Praise the King of Kings who has blessed me with so much. Honour and glory and power are yours, for ever and ever. Amen.

Comments copied from the original Chris Jefferies' Blog.

Comment from: Steph [Member] Email · http://www.es-creative.com
Oh yes -- just look around at the world we inhabit; it *is* amazing. Unfortunately, so many of us miss the little joys that are at our fingertips each day. Sometimes a simple glance, lingering on a thing of beauty or taking an extra moment to smile at a passerby is enough to remind us that there is more to this world than what we see, handle and touch. Just a glance can mean so much!

What I especially enjoy is when someone has the gift - an "eye" really -- to capture some of these glorious things and share them with others. Whether it's a melody, a phrase well turned, or a beautiful moment captured by photography. I appreciate these gifts so much. They inspire people like me to look higher, deeper, and live more meaningfully.

Thank you, Chris, for sharing these awesome photographs. I'm in love with this last one of purple heather and a dogwood bending low. At least that's what they look like from this vantage point.
08/10/04 @ 14:29

06 October 2004

Whose house am I building? (KN)

Quite soon I'll shake heaven and the earth, the sea and the land. I'll shake every country, the treasures of every land will come in, and I'll fill up this house with glory. (Haggai 2:6-7)

These are the words of Yahweh Elohim, the Mighty One of Israel, to the remnant of his people. He spoke through the prophet Haggai at a time when they had returned from captivity, they had built houses for themselves, but the Temple still lay in ruins.

The people had been saying to themselves, 'The time isn't right yet to rebuild Yahweh's house'. But his word to them through Haggai was, 'Is it then the right time for you to be living in your own, panelled homes while this house is a ruin?' (Haggai 1:2-3)

They'd built their own lavish homes, but done nothing to restore the Temple, the home of the Almighty himself!

And then he told them this...

Think about it! You've done a lot of planting, but there's not been much to harvest. You eat but you are never full. You drink but you're still thirsty. You wear clothes but they don't keep you warm. You earn money but you put it into a purse with holes!

Think about it! Go up to the mountains, fetch wood, and build the house so that I can enjoy it and be honoured. You expected a great deal but it turned out to be very little. You brought it home, A very fine house, I blew it away - why? Because my house lies in ruins while you're all busy with your own houses. (Haggai 1:5-9)

Does this sound familiar? We are his called-out people, we are his living Temple. But instead of building the one living Temple we've been so busy building a meeting here, a gathering there, a stream of churches, a denomination, an abomination. My friends, for almost 2000 years we have been building our own homes. We have been released from captivity and we have been building our own homes - and very nicely panelled some of them are! Expensive buildings, full-time paid staff, glossy publications, radio and TV broadcasts.

But it's not just the big names and the great denominations, we are all just as bad. My friends, until now we have almost completely ignored our Father's house, this living Temple of which we are all indispensable parts.

And his word is true, isn't it? Look how hard we have struggled to build and sustain our own efforts. Look at the ploughing and sowing and watering we have done, hoping for a good crop. How many exhausted pastors and worn-out preachers there are!

And where is the harvest? Oh, it's there all right, enough to survive, enough new people to keep our meetings ticking over, but where is the massive harvest that we looked for? We can all agree on one thing - we're not satisfied.

Why? Because our Father's house still lies in ruins while we have been building houses for ourselves. He tells us that he blew away what we brought home! Our Father did that to us! He will never accept our houses in place of his house. He will not bless our work, only his work in us.

What are we to do? We are to learn that building his house is the only goal that counts. Yahshua said, 'I will build my house'. We need to come to him, stand in his presence, repent of building our own houses, and become his labourers. We must follow him, do what he tells us, stop planning the work on his behalf, and allow him to surprise us with his plans and his way of doing things. Where will we find the materials for this work? 'Go', he said, 'to the mountains and bring wood', we must go to the holy mountain, only in his presence will we find the material to build! And we need to stick at it until the work is complete.

And what does our Father say about all this?

The silver is mine and so is the gold. The glory of this new house will be greater than the glory of the previous house. And in this place I will grant peace. (Haggai 2:8-9)

05 October 2004

Why not come and join us? (KN)

A Small Town CommunityIf you are enjoying the items on this blog, maybe you'd also enjoy discussing matters of relationship on the Koinonia Life Discussion Forum.

The list centres on how we share our lives as believers, how we relate to one another, and how together and individually, we relate to the Messiah. These are interesting topics and are at the heart of what it means to be a part of his body here on earth.

Of course, talking about these things in itself gets us nowhere. We must live the life, not just chat about it! But for those who are living the life (or trying to), a chance to bounce ideas around and hear the opinions and experiences of others can be liberating and helpful.

The group is a friendly and encouraging place where people try to help one another. The objective is to avoid argument and confrontation, but focus on building one another up in love.

If you want to know more, why not read the main information page at Koinonia Life and see what you think. If you want to join the list just click the 'Join This Group!' button at the top of the page to start the process.

Come on in and share with us, you'll be made very welcome!

04 October 2004

Leaves in the autumn (KN)

Autumn is here in Europe. Autumn leavesThe leaves are beginning to change colour and fall from the trees.

Walking across the car park at work this morning I watched the wind pick up some leaves and whisk them along the ground beside me. They looked alive, scurrying and hurrying, almost as if they were on an important errand, or playing a vigorous game.

But of course autumn leaves are not alive! They appeared active only because the wind moved them.

These autumn leaves reminded me that there's a huge, unfathomable gap between human life in the here and now, and the spiritual life we have in the Messiah. Just as a dead leaf is immobile, but a leaf whisked by the breeze is in vigorous motion, so it is for us.

This current existence in which we can so struggle with life and sometimes feel tired, frustrated, and disappointed; is being transformed daily by Yahweh's involvement, through the gift of life in the Son, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

In him we are refreshed and invigorated, as different from our old selves as the wind-borne leaves are from those lying limply on the ground. If we let him change us, we can all become creatures blown by the wind, we can all become active and mobile, like leaves on a mission!

So when you feel dejected or hurt or useless, remember that you are like an autumn leaf. You can achieve nothing on your own for you are lifeless, but if you will let him lift you and carry you along like a leaf in the wind, you will achieve much for he will be the power that moves you!


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