We were constantly surprised by the next unexpected vista
Every summer we go away somewhere different for a week – Donna and me along with two daughters, their husbands, and our four grandchildren. This year we stayed in a ski chalet in Haute-Nendaz in western Switzerland, just over the border from France.
Although prices are high in Switzerland, there are many wonderful compensations in terms of mountain scenery, clean streets and clean air, friendly people, and the walks. I had expected walks with big and tiring changes in elevation – and we certainly did our share of walks of that sort. But the bisses: what a wonderful experience!
I must admit, I had no idea what a bisse was when we drove from Geneva Airport, around Lake Geneva, and then south-west to Nendaz. I hadn’t even come across the word ‘bisse’. But we soon found a leaflet of local walks and discovered that several of them followed the local bisses. A bisse is an irrigation stream running gently downhill, almost following the contours of the mountains and hills. As a result the bisse paths are gentle and easy walking for the most part, and they wind around the slopes through woodland and meadow. The views of the mountains and valleys are spectacular; following the path through woodland and then coming out into the open again we were constantly surprised by the next unexpected vista.
All the way, the path is accompanied by the sparkling water hurrying down its channel, sometimes shallow, sometimes deep, and sometimes disappearing into a large pipe and reappearing beside the path again a little further on. Some of these paths follow one bisse gently uphill and then pick up a different one for the return, making a lovely, circular tour through the countryside.
the Holy Spirit … runs deep in [the] forgotten ways. He is … the Spirit of Christ and he was sent specifically to enable us to continue the work of Jesus.
What follows is an extract from JDMC, the first section on the Holy Spirit (page 37).
The work of the Holy Spirit is mentioned briefly in the previous part of JDMC, ‘Six – More than community’ (p 33). It is not explicitly presented in The Forgotten Ways, but it is certainly implied on every page. In the first edition of JDMC I closely followed the structure of Alan Hirsch’s work, but in this revision I have decided to add extra sections including this one about the Spirit.
I want to guard against any suggestion that JDMC is merely presenting an organisational mechanism for rapid missional spread. It’s much more than a worldly method or a management technique. Instead it is the pattern set by Christ himself, and therefore the Spirit of Christ is present throughout and waiting for us to hear his guidance and encouragement as we do the work the Master has entrusted to us. To depend on human technique alone won’t cut the mustard – far from it! One of the forgotten ways is keeping Jesus central, following only him, adding nothing in addition. This utter dependence on Christ surely implies and demands a dependence on his Spirit – how could it possibly be otherwise?
We need to recognise that this new life we live is not just about what we do, nor is it entirely about receiving from the Spirit. Jesus wants our co-operation. If there was no need for the work of the Spirit, why would Paul warn us not to quench him? (1 Thessalonians 5:19) And if there was no need for human effort and will, why would he tell us to strive? (1 Thessalonians 5:15, 1 Timothy 4:10)
So in this additional part of JDMC I want to highlight some of the ways we can recognise and value the Holy Spirit’s activity as we attempt to remember and activate the six forgotten ways. I also offer some advice on spiritual listening at the end.
To be clear, this section should not be seen as an additional ‘forgotten way’. It isn’t that at all. But the work of the Holy Spirit surely runs deep in each of those six forgotten ways. He is, as already mentioned, the Spirit of Christ and he was sent specifically to enable us to continue the work of Jesus. If we are the body and Jesus is our head, then the Spirit is like a nervous system – fundamentally centred in the head but with sensory and motor connections to every part of the body. When we resist him and are disobedient, part of the body is effectively paralysed. And if the body acts without the Holy Spirit it is sleepwalking and ineffective.
If all of this sounds hard – it is. We have to learn to die so that we can begin to live in Christ. It’s not that we have to work hard to be more like Jesus; rather we have to let go of all our own goals and desires and effort and planning and let Jesus live his life in us. He will tell us and show us what to do, when to do it, and how. The Holy Spirit is no less than the Spirit of Christ, he is our guide and walks with us in every situation. He is the heart and mind of the Messiah expressing himself through his people.
Talk together about the ways the Holy Spirit has interacted with you in your lives as you follow Jesus. Are there some encouraging stories you can share?
– o0o –
In 2015 I released the second version of JDMC, a discussion guide for Alan Hirsch’s ‘The Forgotten Ways’ in which he analyses the basis of movements throughout church history and identifies the essential ingredients for such movements to start and to be sustained.
Do we live every day, still dripping with Holy Spiritness, touching a broken world with Christ’s love and grace?
In Acts 1:5 we read Jesus’ words to his followers, ‘John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit’.
The photo shows a man who has just been baptised by full immersion in water; maybe you have experienced this too, or maybe not. As you will know (or can imagine) this experience affects people in a variety of ways.
Before baptism you are dry, afterwards you are drenched from head to toe. Being plunged into water takes your breath away, it makes you screw up your eyes. It’s exciting, a significant change in your life, you’ll remember it for as long as you live, and it’s a sign of the fact that your life has changed. Baptism is an outward expression that you’ve decided to follow Jesus in every way you can, and that, like him, you have been buried and returned to a new and fuller life.
The entire process speaks of this other kind of baptism, baptism in the Holy Spirit. and this, too, has a major effect. But unlike water baptism with its temporary impact, baptism in the Spirit is permament.
So what are the effects, the impact, of baptism in the Holy Spirit? As with water, you are plunged into a strikingly different element – not water this time, but the Spirit of Christ. You will be fundamentally drenched in his character and his power, you will be a citizen of his kingdom as it impacts this broken world. Baptism in the Spirit should take your breath away – utterly. It will cause you to screw up your spiritual senses through complete overload! There is an exciting and significant change in your spiritual life, you will always remember it and you will never be the same again. It’s a sign of the fact that your life has changed, you are redeemed, made new, and empowered because it is now Christ who lives in you and you are expressing his heart and his purposes. It’s evidence of a new life.
And how do we measure up? Do we remain permanently affected by the presence within us of Christ’s Spirit? Or do we treat spiritual baptism like water baptism? Is it something that happened in the past but no longer has any direct effect in the here and now? Is it something we remember, but have stopped experiencing?
Do we live every day, still dripping with Holy Spiritness, touching a broken world with Christ’s love and grace, sharing the good news of the peace and joy now available to all? I only needed to be baptised once, but the effects of this spiritual baptism are meant to last forever.
As heirs of the kingdom of heaven we not only have great privilege but we also have duties to perform.
If you are following Jesus and understand what he taught, you will probably already see yourself as set free and adopted as an heir in his kingdom. Paul makes this clear in his letters to the churches. For example, in Galatians 4:7 he writes, ‘You are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.’ But sometimes, although we know we are heirs and inherit life in all its fullness, we forget that there are also duties attached to adoption. This becomes much clearer when we think about adoption as it was practised in the Roman world 2000 years ago.
The kind of adoption that would have been familiar to Paul was unlike adoption today. The Romans didn’t make a habit of adopting orphans. Unwanted babies were often left in the countryside to die, this was regarded as a normal way of disposing of inconvenient infants. It’s a shocking thought today, but 2000 years ago it was normal.
The Wikipedia article Adoption in ancient Rome explains, ‘Adoption of boys was a fairly common procedure, particularly in the upper senatorial class … Adoption served to cement ties between families, thus fostering and reinforcing alliances. In the Imperial period, the system also acted as a mechanism for ensuring a smooth succession, the emperor taking his chosen successor as his adopted son.’ The photo below is part of a statue of Octavius who was adopted by Julius Caesar and became the Emperor Augustus.
This is why we can call the Almighty ‘Father’, or even ‘Daddy’. Jesus came to reveal the Father to us, he told his disciples, ‘If you have seen me you have seen the father’. We have the joy and privilege of becoming the adopted children of the Mighty One, and we have his power and his authority. But we need to understand that as heirs of the kingdom of heaven (co-heirs with Christ), we not only have great privilege but we also have duties to perform. It’s our function to carry on our Father’s work. What is that?
Think about Roman inheritance again for a moment. When the Emperor (or any high ranking official, army officer, wealthy business man etc) wanted to ensure his work would be continued, he would adopt an heir, not an infant, but someone already old enough to show the necessary aptitude and inclination for the work. The heir was adopted expressly to continue his new father’s work.
We know we are adopted, and we know we are heirs to the kingdom, to the power and also to the glory. We share these things in and with Christ. But sometimes we forget that it is our role and purpose as heirs to continue our Father’s work in this world. We are to be redeemers of the lost and broken, lovers of those around us (even our enemies), forgivers of wrongdoers, even justifiers of the guilty, providers of good things. What does it mean for us to redeem, love, forgive, justify and provide? Think about it in terms of things as well as people. If it’s broken, fix it; if it’s missing, replace it; if it’s overgrown with weeds, dig it and plant flowers. If you need permission to do some of these things, have the necessary conversations. If people are lonely, spend time with them; if they’re hungry, feed them. Speak words of life, be motivated by love, bless others abundantly, be the message, speak the truth. Be ‘good news’.
OK, it’s not magic. But here’s a promising technology that seems almost too good to be true. Aaswath Raman, an assistant professor of electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, has come up with a very cool idea – literally cool, that is.
Watch his TED talk to see how he began with a simple idea and developed it into an exciting, energy saving cooling device that may keep buildings comfortable in hot climates while reducing or even eliminating the energy currently used by air conditioning.
One day, we could be using the cold darkness of outer space to cool our buildings. In this TED Talk, physicist Aaswath Raman talks about the technology he’s developing to harness “night-sky cooling” — a natural phenomenon where infrared light escapes earth and heads to space, carrying heat along with it — which could dramatically reduce the energy used by our cooling systems, and the pollution they cause.
A private railway built to transport coal from the local pits…
Visiting my daughter and her family in York recently, we walked near Aberford just outside Leeds. This was my son-in-law’s suggestion, he does a lot of walking and is interested in wildlife, footpaths, history, good walks and a whole lot more. Parking in Aberford, we followed a bridleway west along the bed of an old railway line.
The Fly Line was a private railway built to transport coal from the local pits to the nearby Leeds and Selby Railway Apart from the removal of the tracks, the old line is remarkably well preserved. We walked under the bridge shown in the photo above, and through a rather muddy tunnel. The Ordnance Survey One Inch map for 1885-1900 shows the line (marked as a mineral line) and the Six Inch map for 1842 to 1952 shows it in more detail, as well as the the coal pits along the line. But it fell out of use in 1924 and is not seen on later maps. The line passes through delightful woodland and I’d recommend it as an easy and enjoyable walk for anyone.
The railway was built by the Gascoigne family who also owned the coal mines and lived in the nearby Parlington Hall. (There’s more detail about Parlington Hall and its railway on a dedicated website.) Most of the old house has been demolished, and although we didn’t visit the remaining wing, we did get a distant view of the triumphal arch, built to commemorate the American victory in the War of Independence.
Along the way we came across a great example of two (or possibly three) trees, cross grafted as saplings. Someone had clearly tied them together tightly, possibly after removing a slice from each and lining up the cambial zones carefully so that they would heal and grow as one. That must have been decades ago and the result today is most striking.
On the whole, a fine day out and a great way to break our journey back to Cirencester from York.