11 June 2012

Plucking blackberries

Some of us realise we're standing on holy ground, some just pick the blackberries. In looking for information about an author I stumbled across a verse by Elizabeth Browning - and it stopped me in my tracks.

Seeing the Creator in a brambleI've been chasing down a bit more information about Graham Buxton, mentioned in a recent 'Jesus Creed' piece.

My interest was piqued by the mention of dualism and the relationship between science and faith.

I haven't found any of Buxton's books for sale online so far, but I did find an interesting author profile. In it, he quotes Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Victorian verse...

… Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries …

I think that is so lovely! And so true. How delightful that such awesome and eternal truths can be contained in such ordinary, fleeting words. But that is our Father's nature really - the uncontainable Creator contained within the creations of his creatures. Truly we can know him.

How can we hold back from praising and worshipping and falling at his feet? And then we feel his hands on our arms, lifting us up so that he can embrace us as his children.

Father you are... unbelievable! But through your Son we believe. HalleluYah!

07 June 2012

Sheep, goats and judgement

What does it mean to be chosen? How will we be judged? What must I do to be saved? These questions and others like them are often answered with the advice, 'Believe in Jesus Christ, confess him as Lord and Saviour.' But is that the full answer?

A way up, and a way downThis article is based on a response I made on the Koinonia Life Discussion Forum.

There had been some discussion on the topic of  'unforgiveness' and this had brought us onto the related matter of judgement.

Here's what I contributed to the discussion, follwed by some further thoughts and Bible references.

What are your views on the topic? Perhaps things are not as clear cut as we sometimes think.

Leave a comment at the end of the article.

There's one place in particular where Jesus describes the judgement process - and it's not quite how most people imagine it.

Read Matthew 25:31-46, this is clearly about judgement.

Sheep and goats in Jesus' time looked pretty much alike. People who are 'in' and those who are 'out' look pretty much alike too. But, Good Shepherd that he is, Jesus separates and divides.

The interesting thing is that it has more to do with people's care for others than anything else. Had they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, invited in strangers? Of course, it's also about obedience - these are the very things we are commanded to do.

Verse 46 is pretty clear, our eternal destination depends on how much we cared for others.

Paul puts the emphasis on faith (eg Romans 3:22), and James on actions (James 2:14); though both agree that faith without actions is dead. Paul and Peter also agree that love is greater than faith (1 Corinthians 13:13, 1 Peter 4:8). John (1 John 4:8) tells us that the Almighty is love, and of course it's love that causes us to care for others.

Note that we can follow Jesus even if we don't know him. How can that be? Well, I think many who would not call themselves 'Christian' follow him by feeding the hungry, or inviting in strangers, for example. And we can fail to follow him even if we know him quite well. Are these the people who say 'Lord, Lord...' yet he says he doesn't know them?

And also note that it's what we did or did not do for the very least of these that is important here. We are called to have loving pity in our hearts for all who need, but especially for the weak, the helpless and the insignificant. We are called to be merciful. Read Matthew 5:3-12 because this passage is so closely related to the separation of the sheep and goats. 'Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.'

As I was writing I saw an opening like a trapdoor. And I realised that there's only one door through which we may go up or down. But there is no place 'in between'. If we are not in the Kingdom of Heaven we are in the place of punishment and vice versa. Heaven and hell are not places we go to from here. They are surely places we are already in right now. The prodigal son's older brother is a good example, all his life he had done everything a good son should do, yet his heart was full of jealous bitterness rather than welcoming love. And he refused to go in (Luke 15:28).

Jesus always knew what was in a person's heart (Mark 2:8, Luke 5:22). And that is why he was able to say, 'You are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven', or, 'Truly, today you will be with me in Paradise'.

Finally, remember the wealthy man who asked Jesus how to obtain eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22). Jesus told him, 'Go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and then follow me'.

You might also like to read an earlier article on sheep and goats.

27 May 2012

Oundle - Meeting at Rupert and Uli's

< 11th January 2012 | Index | 8th January 2013 >

Do we over design and structure our meetings? Should we simply let Jesus take full control? Can we trust him in this or do we think we can do a better job than he can?

Sitting at a table in the shadeSean, Melissa and I visited Rupert and Uli and their family on Sunday. Justine was there too though some others were unable to make it.

It was a lovely time of simple sharing. We sat in the shade of a big, old tree and talked about life. Jesus was never far from our hearts and thoughts. We talked about Ffald-y-Brenin and our visit there last year. We talked about people we know and where they are on their journeys. Later, Rupert suggested we dip into the Bible and we read and prayed and listened together. There was no agenda, no plan, just us and Jesus.

As we ate together the conversation continued and he was still right there with us. This was such a blessing to us and a contrast with the planned and structured times we sometimes experience when we meet.

Jesus is looking for a place where he can rest and be at peace. During his life on Earth 2000 years ago, the place he found was in Bethany, at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Looking back it strikes me that this meeting at Rupert and Uli's had the same flavour to it, the same aroma. Jesus was here and he was relaxing with us, chipping in from time to time, listening, enjoying our company and blessing us with his presence.

Shouldn't all our times of meeting be like this? Why are they not? Could it be that when he said, 'I will build my church', he really meant it? Should we stop trying to build? Should we simply behave like bricks and let him place us in his body and cement us together in love?

How does a brick behave? It does... nothing!

How, then, should a living stone behave?

If we don't - he will. If we do - perhaps he can't. Is that how it is?

What do you think? Comments please, they will be very welcome.

< 11th January 2012 | Index | 8th January 2013 >

23 May 2012

Little and large

We live in exciting times. In every part of the world Jesus is building his church in ways that are appropriate to local circumstances. For example house church networks are growing explosively in countries where there is persecution.

Cooperative handshakeIn the west, evidence is building that Jesus is moving small, organic groups and the more established church organisations to engage with one another in mutually helpful ways.

It has been all too easy to see the small and the large as somehow on opposite 'sides'. But they are not. Cooperation is both possible and essential. We should seek and embrace it.

I was prompted to write about this after a brief conversation with Donna and our friend Ash, and a comment on Neil Cole's blog this morning.

A conversation - Donna was talking about a series of meetings at the Kings Arms in Bedford (The 'Heaven Touches Earth' Conference), and was thinking she might book to attend some of the sessions. Ash expressed some interest too, but I was less enthusiastic. Then the conversation moved on to the need for structure and organisation for managing larger sizes of church or meetings like those in Bedford. On the other hand, really small groups can meet with little or no planning, just listening and responding to the Holy Spirit in the moment.

A blog article and a comment - In September 2011, Neil Cole posted an article about his forthcoming book, 'Church Transfusion'.  Here's his first paragraph.

My newest project is called Church Transfusion: Releasing Organic Life into Established Churches. We are offering a two day training, much like our Greenhouse, for those who lead an established church but would like to see more vital health and reproduction from organic church principles. There will also be a book forthcoming, published by Jossey-Bass in the Leadership Network series written by myself and Phil Helfer.

On 22nd May 2012 Kathleen wrote a comment.

I'm really excited to find a reference to your new book, "Church Transfusion", coming out later this year. I am currently writing a similar book, called "Church in a Circle." Of course, I don't know if they are similar at all - but my husband and I are passionate about seeing elements of organic church move into the established church, and change it from within.

Why does this excite me? - It's exciting because this is so much what Father has been showing me recently. I kicked over the traces of 'big church' back in the late 1970s. I wasn't always wise or careful in the way I went about it. For much of my life I was in or out of small meetings, but always wishing to be in. Sometimes there was no opportunity.

In 1998 I joined Open Door Church here in St Neots where we live. I joined because I thought it was a good idea, not because Father led me to do so. That was a mistake and a few years later I had to ask to be released (which the leaders graciously did).

Today I am glad to be part of Donna's Small Group, itself a part of Open Door. But I am not officially a member of the church and I'm still much involved with others following Jesus in the area where we live.

Here are some other articles from my blog that relate to this.


Some of those links cover several articles. Even so, it's not an exhaustive list and you will find many older articles here on related themes, oneness in the body has long been a central hunger in my heart.

Let me share a heart-warming story from the House2House conference in 2009. Just before the conference was to start, the person responsible for the audio and video equipment was called away for the unexpectedly premature birth of his child. How was the gap to be filled?

A local megachurch heard about the problem and sent their audio-visual unit with all the necessary equipment and the people to operate it, all at no cost to House2House. This is love at work. This is cooperation at its finest. The small has good things to offer the large - and vice versa.

Loving one another - In the end, it all boils down to love. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. We are drawn into their love and become part of their community. We are the body of Christ!

Therefore it follows (and Jesus commands) that we love the Father, we love one another, we love the lost and those who suffer and struggle, and we even love our enemies.

So reach out across the divide in your own town or city. You may have much to offer to your brothers and sisters who are doing things differently.

14 May 2012

Translate the articles on this site

Use the translation feature to display 'Journeys of heart and mind' in more than fifty other languages. If English is difficult for you to read, automatic translation may be very useful to you.

The distribution of systems of writingUnless you are an inveterate explorer and fiddler there may be some useful things you don't know about this blog. I plan to highlight some of these for you from time to time.

Today's highlight is the translation tool. You can choose to read the blog in dozens of different languages. If your first language is not English you may find this feature useful. Here's how to use it.

Scroll down and look in the right-hand column. You'll notice that it begins as a single column but then splits into two narrower columns. The translation button is at the top of the narrow columns, on the right. Found it?

Click the 'Select Language' button and choose one of the options - there are 53 languages to choose from (at the time of writing). There will be a pause before your chosen language kicks in, please be patient.

Once you have the page in the language of your choice you can just browse as normal. If you visit another web site translation will stop, but as long as you remain on 'Journeys of heart and mind' translation will continue (after a short pause).

The translation is done in real time using the Google Translate engine. The translated text will not be as good as a human translator would achieve. However, you can hover over text to highlight it in the original, English version. If you can read a little English, hovering may help you sort out any confusing sections.

Other issues are that much of the paragraph structure is lost in the translated version (though the text should still be readable), and that the 'Browse' button leads only to English versions of the text.

Despite these issues, we hope you may find the 'Select Language' button useful.

10 May 2012

Groups of two or three

< Church is a network | Index | Groups of six to twenty >

Groups of just two or three have benefits and limitations. They are the smallest possible forms of church life and may develop spontaneously. They are powerful in communicating.

Groups of two or threeLast time we saw that there's only one church and it consists of a web of rich, multiple connections. At the smaller, local scale we are typically involved mostly with a particular group of some size.

If you are part of a larger church group I strongly recommend you also consider meeting regularly on a much smaller scale with no more than one or two others. If this is new to you, you'll find the dynamics and depth of sharing completely different.

The new partner (or partners) don't need to come from your larger circle such as a cell group or local congregation. In many ways it's better if they don't. If you are a Baptist why not meet with an Anglican and someone from a home church? All of you will broaden your horizons. Information will begin to flow through you between those larger groups which might otherwise have little or no interaction. These are significant benefits.

Another advantage of such small groups is that it's possible to meet daily. If you choose to try this you might like to keep the meetings very brief. Church of Two (CO2) is one suitable pattern for groups of two or three and requires about five minutes per person.

There's really only one important requirement, and it's this - the people in your group of two or three must be friends. Either you will start meeting with an existing friend or two, or you will need to become good friends.

What happens if a fourth person wants to join, or a fifth or sixth? The level of intimacy is eroded and the dynamics of the group will change. But there's a very simple way to avoid this. Instead of creating a group of four, one of the original three can help the newcomer by forming another group of two. When a third member is added, the helper returns to their original group. Alternatively the helper might become temporarily or permanently part of both groups.

Groups of two or three often form naturally. Let me tell you a story from my own life.

Ten or eleven years ago I began meeting at home with my sister and one or two other friends. Sometimes there would be just two of us, other times as many as six or seven. Gradually, as others joined us, we began to meet as two separate groups in different towns as this reduces our travelling needs.

Later, I was temporarily part of a small evangelical fellowship that was considering its future. In the end the decision was made to close down. As a result of meeting with them I became friendly with  Jim. Jim invited me to his home where he was regularly meeting with Sean one evening each week, we would chat about life, read and discuss the Bible, and pray together. We still meet like this, we are church expressed as a group of three men. A while later, Jim joined River Church in the town, but the three of us continued meeting as before.

I have also been meeting with Paul and Roger once a week during the daytime. at first for CO2, these days more for Bible study.  And I meet regularly with Sean, just the two of us. We have focussed at different times on hearing the Lord, outreach, and much more.

A couple of years ago I began going along to my wife's small group, part of Open Door. I'm not a member of Open Door but I'm very involved with the small group, it currently has around a dozen people each week.

Because I am part of all these groups I have connections through them to Open Door, River Church and more. I enjoy meeting in all these ways but the deepest and most intimate times are usually with the very small groups - just two or three.

Here are some questions
  1. How well connected are you within your church?
  2. How well connected are you with people in other churches?
  3. What differences do you see between connecting individuals and connecting churches?
Please leave a comment - http://jhm-old.scilla.org.uk/2012/05/groups-of-two-or-three.html#disqus_thread so far.

< Church is a network | Index | Groups of six to twenty >

Copyright

Creative Commons Licence

© 2002-2017, Chris J Jefferies

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. A link to the relevant article on this site is sufficient attribution. If you print the material please include the URL. Thanks! Click through photos for larger versions. Images from Wikimedia Commons will then display the original copyright information.
Real Time Web Analytics