28 February 2013

Don't miss the dawn

Words from a few years ago now seem to be relevant. These words may be for you, if they are you will know because they will resonate for you. They are words from the Light about the Light. These are words about a journey, about an announcement, and about the glory of the coming day.

Like a new day dawning
Here's something I was given and wrote down a few years ago, but I sense that now is the right time to share it.

If this is for you I'm sure you'll recognise it.

There is a new light shining in the eyes of everyone who is looking for it. It's a new dawn, a new day, a new light yet it's the oldest light in existence, older even than the universe itself. It's the light of Christ shining into a dark world.

But I tell you, unless your eyes are open you will not see this light clearly. Unless you are looking for it you will see dimly and overlook the truth. Here is what the Lord says.

'A new thing is coming but not all will walk through it with me. The light of revival is already glimmering like a new dawn in the hearts of those who've been praying for it and searching for it and hoping for it.'

'Get up now while it's still dark, prepare yourself for a journey, light a lamp so you can see to make a meal and tidy up your affairs, set out the clothes you will wear on the road, get dressed, wash your face, and put on a warm coat. Then put out your lamp, step outside and close the door and begin walking to the place where the sky is bright and the sun is about to rise. Listen, the birds are already singing for the dawn.'

'Many of your neighbours are asleep in bed, they will awake to the full light of day. But you will have experienced the dawning and will be ready to call out as you journey, "Wake up, rise up, come outside for the Light is shining and the darkness is gone. Come out, come and feel the radiance and the warmth, come outside and see the glory of the day."'

'The day is short and there is far to travel.'


Questions:

  • Does this speak to your heart? If so, what is the Spirit saying to you?
  • Can you share this with others who might need to see it?
  • You may have more to add, if so would you be willing to make a comment?

See also:

27 February 2013

Robots dancing

Bruno's dancing robots are beautiful to watch, but what they do and the feelings they convey come through the robots from Bruno. They have no life or emotion of their own, but they almost convince us that they have. Does this tell us anything about our relationship with our Creator?

Robots dancing on stage
I simply had to share a recent TED Talk with you.

Bruno Maisonnier's demonstration of robot choreography and dance is really quite beautiful. He titles it 'Dance, tiny robots!'

Of course, the beauty and emotive content in the dance all comes from Bruno's heart and mind and is just expressed through the robots much as a musician expresses emotion through an instrument or a painter through brushstrokes. But it is exquisite to watch.

The robots don't have emotions, Bruno does. But because the robots dance, the feelings aroused in us, the audience, are strangely transferred from the man to the mechanical. This isn't surprising, when we are moved by music or art we may not even know who produced it.

But when the medium is a group of mechanisms that make human-like movements we can almost believe they are alive and have feelings.

What is it that is expressed in us? Is it the presence of the Creator in the created? We are not robots, but is he far beyond us in the same way Bruno is far beyond those dancing robots? If robots can move in ways that hint at their programmer's emotions, what do humans hint at about the Most High?




Questions:

  • Did you enjoy the performance?
  • How long do you suppose it took Bruno Maisonnier to program the dance?
  • What does this say to you about creators and the things they create?

See also:

25 February 2013

Simple church with children

Donna lives in Nottingham and is meeting children on the streets and simply involving them in church life. There is a pattern to what she is doing, a simple process at work. Watch the video and see for yourself. This is exciting. This is church at its simplest and best. This is Jesus doing his stuff.


My friend Donna is doing simple, organic church with children from her area.

You can watch a video of her with three of them and hear what she has to say about it.

Watch below or on the Simple Stories website. Either way be sure to visit the Simple Stories homepage afterwards, there is much more there to see and read.

Come back here after you've seen the video and let's think about this for a moment. There's a very simple process at work here, can you spot it? It has nothing to do with taking children to church. It has everything to do with being church. And it has a lot to do with making disciples just as Jesus told us to do (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Pattern - Here's an outline of the simple process Donna is following.
  1. Donna has met children on the street near her home.
  2. She has told them the good news that Jesus loves them.
  3. She is meeting with them regularly and showing them that they can pray for one another and have a lot of fun together and read the Bible together.
  4. She is getting to know the parents as well.
  5. She's encouraging the children to pray for their friends and to start their own, new simple churches with them.
These children are doing much more than most of us adults ever do. They are planting churches!


Papa, bless Donna and the children in Nottingham as well as their friends and families. Keep them close to you, Jesus. Help them walk with you every day and listen to what you are saying to them.

Oh, and teach us to be obedient just like they are!

Go! Go! Donna!

Thank you, Jesus. HalleluYah!


Questions:

  • Do you see how easy this is? Anyone could do it!
  • Can you see how you could use the same approach with the people you meet in daily life?
  • What is stopping you making a start today?

See also:

24 February 2013

On the Market Square

We offer 'Free Hugs' in St Neots Market Square and get a variety of responses from the local people. Along with those who disregard us and won't engage there are some who want a hug and others who want a conversation as well. One conversation went considerably deeper. Hearts were touched.

Cold day on the Market Square
Yesterday I met Mark and then Tendai for coffee and prayer at Cornerstone. We were joined briefly by Steve from New Street Baptist Church before heading out to the Market Square to offer 'Free Hugs'.

I quickly discovered that there are two kinds of people on the streets. There are those that behave as if you are completely invisible. And there are others who smile, engage in a brief conversation (or even a lengthy one) and sometimes accept the offer of a hug.

Some people want to know why we are offering hugs, or what the catch is. Some are not especially interested in those questions. Some accept a brief prayer or a blessing as well.

Relatively few younger people are interested in hugs, many seem quite embarrassed by the idea (perhaps because we are older than they are or their mates are watching). But there was one notable exception.

A guy was approaching on a skateboard and I waved my 'Free Hugs' sign and smiled at him. He jumped off his skateboard, beamed at me and said, 'Why not?' I had perhaps the warmest hug I got all day and he enthusiastically told me I'd made his day. 'More people should do this sort of thing', he said, jumping back on his board and heading off to the local skate park.

Good conversation - Towards the end of our time in the Market Square I had a long and lovely conversation with a local trader. She told me some things about her life, how she sometimes knows about things before they happen, and how she'd once been told by a pastor that she was cursed. Why do people say unkind things like that?

As we were about to leave I asked her if I could pray for her and bless her. She was OK with that and accepted a hug as well. I thought I detected tears in her eyes afterwards, unless it was just the bitter wind.

But it's not just the wind that can bring tears to our eyes. Bitter events in our lives can bring tears within our hearts as well. They blur our spiritual vision and prevent us from seeing what is right before us. We all need to know we are loved by a Father in heaven who truly cares about us.

Giving people a hug is always a good thing. But Papa can give us all the inner, spiritual hugs that we so desperately need, even though we sometimes don't know it.

Questions:

  • Are you connecting with people in the area where you live?
  • If so, how? Tell us about it, leave a comment.
  • Take a look at Chris Duffet's website, are there ideas here you could use?
  • Can you think of similar ideas for engaging people? Leave a comment to share them.

See also:

23 February 2013

The Ugandan bill

Legislation in Uganda is set to increase the penalties for homosexuality, possibly even to introduce the death sentence. How should believers and followers of Jesus respond? What does the Bible say about sin? What does it tell us about love? And how might we respond to the Ugandan bill?

The Ugandan flag
David Bahati, a Ugandan Member of Parliament (MP), submitted a private member's bill in October 2009.

Nothing unusual in that, you might think, just an everyday part of political life in Uganda. Except that in this case the bill, if passed, will change Ugandan law concerning homosexuality and has resulted in a great deal of strong, international criticism.

Current legislation in many African nations, including Uganda, makes same sex relationships illegal with severe penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment. The new bill proposes to significantly increase these to include the death penalty in some instances.

The situation is extremely complex involving widespread anti-gay public feeling within Uganda, criminal damage and even murder, international civil liberties and gay rights protests, and interference by certain religious people. As a result there has been a delay while a Ugandan parliamentary commission investigates the circumstances and implications of the bill.

But now the political process is moving again and the bill is being debated once more.

With that backdrop, how should we respond as followers of Jesus? I think there are two things we need to be very clear about. Two things that should underpin our responses. What does the Bible say about sin? And what does the Bible say about attitudes to others?

All have sinned - So what does the Bible say about sin? First of all we should recognise that all of us have sinned, there are no exceptions (Romans 3:23). But let's read the next verse too (Romans 3:24). All have sinned, but all have been justified by grace through Christ. Does this justification require anything from us? Yes. The sacrifice of Jesus requires my faith in order to apply to me (Romans 3:25).

There are many different ways to sin, but they are all equally effective in cutting me off from spiritual life with Papa. I have a very simple choice. I can continue in my sin, or I can turn away from it and receive spiritual life through faith in Christ.

Sin comes in many varieties. Murder, lying, theft, anything dishonourable or false. There are no severe sins, no minor and insignificant sins. Anything that breaches the standards set by the Almighty is sinful. We all fall equally short, murder is not worse than a tiny white lie because both are offensive to him. One kind of sin mentioned with others in the New Testament is sex between two men (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) This is not my opinion, it is right there in the Bible. If you disagree with this statement it's no good discussing it with me, you need to discuss it with Jesus.

I need to add one more point. It is not my place to judge others. It is not my task to punish people for sin. Whatever you may have done, I am just as guilty as you are and deserve exactly the same punishment. Only grace can save us, and as we have seen, grace comes through faith in Jesus.

How to treat others - What does the Bible say about attitudes to others? The ground rule that trumps everything else is love. (Luke 10:27, Matthew 5:43-45) We are called to love, not just some people but everybody. We are to love those who love us and those who do not. We are to love those who agree with us and those who oppose us.

What follows from this is very simple. Killing people (for whatever reason) is wrong because it is unloving. Therefore the death penalty is wrong, regardless of the crime.

Applying this to the Ugandan bill - The Ugandan government is democratically elected and is free to do whatever it wishes within its international obligations, and whatever it considers to be the will of the Ugandan people.

People who follow Jesus are free to love others, irrespective of their thoughts, words and actions. Love is not easy, sometimes it is very hard indeed. But there is no room for believers to hate others. Anyone who feels or expresses hatred towards other people has no part in Christ.

That leaves us to wonder about any religious people who would encourage legislation like this Ugandan bill. Are they really motivated by love? I don't think so. Are they even on the same side as Jesus? Are they following  him? Clearly not regarding this particular issue. What will they say to him when they have to account for their actions?

Protesters are free to openly discuss any issue that troubles them and to attempt to persuade others to join them in discussing and protesting. Christians who protest should do so in law abiding and loving ways. Non-believers who protest are not so restricted but will do well to understand that the most effective way to win hearts and minds is by being polite, kind and gentle. Anger, hatred and violence however expressed tend to make co-operation less likely and conflict more probable.

Please consider adding your name to a petition against the Ugandan bill. There are many other ways to  register your views, but you need to act quickly. Time is very short and every additional name counts.

Questions:

  • Do you know any people that you are unable to love? Does Jesus love them?
  • How do you think believers should approach politics?
  • What sins do you regard as most serious, and which as least serious?
  • Do we have the right to try to influence foreign governments?

See also:

21 February 2013

Follow my leader

Leaders in the church, Part 2
< Leadership and the New Testament | Index | A joy, not a burden >

We take apart the first section of Hebrews 13:17 and put it together again, examining each word and the range of possible meanings before writing out the sense in English. There are cultural, historical and political reasons for the standard translations of this verse, but the verse is capable of different treatment.

Change of direction, change of leader
Before beginning a trawl through the New Testament to study church leadership, I'd like to take a look at the verse in Hebrews that Donna and I discussed recently. Also, to set the scene, there's a basic point to make first.

As I mentioned in that previous post, any attempt at translation from one language to another will be informed by the translator's existing understanding of the subject matter.

When the translation is from New Testament Koine Greek to modern English, this understanding must be based on the flavour of the the rest of the New Testament. In particular, translating a verse about leadership will depend in part on how we understand leadership in the life of the church.

My understanding of this is that Jesus is head of the church (Colossians 1:18), that none of us should be called 'Rabbi', 'Master' or 'Teacher' (Matthew 23:8), that few should teach (James 3:1), that we are to edify and encourage one another (2 Corinthians 13:11), and that the church is built by Jesus himself (Matthew 16:18) as every part works together (Ephesians 4:15-16). As I work through the series of articles that will be my default position.

Analysing the verse - So now let's look at Hebrews 13:17. We'll take it word by word and then put the words together. I'm going to use the Biblos parallel versions to see how the verse is usually translated, and the Biblos Greek interlinear as a starting point for understanding the Greek. These are convenient as you can click through to check them yourselves.

(Notice that there is no word for 'authority' in the Greek. This was added to the NIV by the translators. Check other translations, the word is simply not there.)

πείθεσθε - This is the first Greek word in the verse, it's pronounced 'peithesthe' and is usually translated 'obey'. This is the only time the verb is used in this form in the entire New Testament but including other forms the verb occurs 53 times. The Strong's number is 3982.

'Obey' is by no means the necessary sense, the core meaning is 'persuade', 'urge' or 'have confidence in' and the root is from 'pistis' (πίστις) meaning 'faith'.  See, for example, Matthew 27:20 in the sense 'persuaded', Galatians 1:10 in the sense 'seek favour or persuade', Romans 8:38 'persuaded' or 'convinced' and 2 Corinthians 2:3 'having confidence' or 'trusting'.

When Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 2:3 he did not mean 'I obey all of you' but 'I have confidence in all of you'.

τοῖς - A form of the Greek definite article, meaning 'the' and applying to the next word, 'leaders'.

ἡγουμένοις - This is pronounced 'hēgoumenois' and is usually translated 'leaders'. Once again the word is only found once in this particular form but there are 28 uses of the word including other forms. The Strong's number is 2233.

The range of possible meanings include someone who leads, thinks, has an opinion, supposes or considers. And we need to be careful here because the English word 'lead' has at least two senses. It may mean 'to be ahead' (like someone running a race), or it may mean 'to manage' or 'control' (like a company CEO or a Prime Minister).

Other forms of this word are used to mean 'regard', 'think' or 'esteem' (Philippians 2:6, 2 Corinthians 9:5) and 'leader' or 'chief' (Luke 22:26). The verse in Luke is telling, because Jesus is saying that if you are going to be a leader you should behave much more like a servant.

ὑμῶν, καὶ - These words are the pronoun 'your' (modifying the previous word, so 'your leaders') and the connecting word 'and'.

ὑπείκετε - This word is a Greek verb, it's pronounced 'hypeikete' and the common translation is 'submit'. This is the only time it appears in the New Testament, the Strong's number is 5226 and it means 'retire', 'withdraw' or 'submit'.

The sense is not necessarily submit as in submitting to the law or surrendering in battle. It is just as likely that it suggests giving way, holding back or making space.

How can we assemble this? - Although we haven't examined the rest of the verse yet, we have enough to put the first part into everyday English. So here's my first stab at it.

'Trust those who lead the way for you and don't get in their way.'

But any translation must fit its context, so now let's take a look at that. The writer wants to make some final remarks as he reaches the end of his letter. My friend Sean pointed out that the leaders are also mentioned in Hebrews 13:7 . They spoke Christ (the Word of the Most High) and the writer urges his readers to consider the results of the way they live and also to imitate their faith.

This suggests that these leaders are indeed leading by example, not by command. Just like the cloud of witnesses in chapter 11 and the beginning of chapter 12, these are living witnesses to the right way to live and the right way to believe. 'Trust those who lead the way for you and don't get in their way' Don't interrupt them, don't argue with them, hear them out when they speak in a meeting, live the same way they do, believe the same way they do.

Why the normal translation? - All of this leaves a question hanging. Why are these Greek words assigned the meanings 'obey', 'leaders' and 'submit' in most translations? We have seen that they just as naturally suggest 'trust', 'those who lead the way' and 'giving way'.

The answer, I believe, is that we are used to the standard translation. Early English Bibles were intended to support the clergy/laity system and also the rule of the king as head of the Church of England. The Wycliffe translation makes this very clear - 'Obey ye to your sovereigns, and be ye subject to them' - a strongly political statement! Because we are used to the idea of hierarchical church leadership of one form or another we are rarely free to translate this passage differently.

But the Holy Spirit is always leading us on into fresh pastures. Perhaps the old way of viewing this verse is not in line with what he is saying to the church today.

'The Message' puts it much better, 'Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel.'

That's it for now, this blog article is already long. Next time we'll work through the rest of verse 17 and try to put the entire thing together.

Questions:

  • Should we translate the Bible according to tradition or according to Holy Spirit guidance?
  • If we are being shown something new about church life, should we re-examine passages that no longer seem to fit?
  • What are the dangers in making changes to the standard translations?
  • What are the dangers in not making such changes?

See also: (Note I added these links after writing my article. My purpose is to uncover the meaning of the verse for myself and then check it later against what others have written.)


< Leadership and the New Testament | Index | A joy, not a burden >

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