Seed days…

I don’t often re-blog other people’s stuff. But this post by my friend Chris Duffett deserves really wide coverage. So I’m re-posting to help spread it wider and further. Chris is an inspiration in so many ways – kind, peaceful, loving, encouraging, wise, arty – truly an excellent guy and alive with the life of Christ.

be the light

Recently I saw a dramatic illustration to prayer.

On my way home the other night I paused and pondered the day with the team whom I’m part of and realised that Jesus had been speaking very powerfully once more in the day that we had spent together.

Jesus appeared to have spoken to us very dramatically about our desire to plant seeds out of The Light Project. The seeds we’re seeking to plant aren’t franchises of what we do but rather pioneers who are willing to go to places that are bereft of good news and announce some!

As I stood and pondered the day I was struck how earlier on a past student called Lydia (from 10 years ago) had called by at the office, visiting from London and just so happened to call at the very time the leaders and I were meeting. Her visit wasn’t an…

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Our new home in the Cotswolds

Work is well under way now and we are close to moving back in.

I thought it was time to share something about our house project. In April 2018 we moved from St Neots to Cirencester, selling our 4-bedroom 1950 home where we’d lived since 1998, and buying a little 1960s home as a replacement.

The lounge in chaos
We used to watch TV here!

We already had some ideas about the changes we might make, so soon after moving in we searched for an architect. We found Rural Workshop online and invited Tim Francis to visit us and talk about some possibilities. We were impressed by his ideas, flair for design and clear explanations so we asked him to go ahead and draw up plans for us. Tim made it easy for us by arranging the planning permissions for us; we have ended up with planning consent for an en suite bedroom as a side extension with a sympathetically designed pitched roof, and a flat-roofed rear extension to contain our new kitchen and dining space. Both new rooms will open onto a patio connecting the house with the main part of the back garden.

Plans in hand, we started looking for a builder who would be able to turn the design into a well-finished structure and renovate the old part of the house at the same time. It needs rewiring, replumbing, and generally updating, repairing and refinishing. We found Jack Rzasa in the nearby town of Cheltenham and decided that his team management skills and ‘get it done’ attitude were exactly what we needed. Work is well under way now and we are close to moving back in after four weeks out while the dusty and messy tasks of rewiring, knocking through and plastering are completed. We’re delighted with progress so far.

 

 

Eat together

We enjoy the flavours and the aromas

Part 5 of a series – Eat together

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Most churches in western society have some form of communion service, based on the Bible’s accounts of the final meal that Jesus ate with his disciples. This usually takes the form of a well defined ritual involving bread and wine or fruit juice. But that is not the way Jesus and his followers would have eaten.

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Eating together (image from Schnucks website)

That final meal was a Jewish Passover and has special significance, but Jesus typically ate with friends in a home, in fields, or on a journey.

Reading about church life in the book of Acts, it’s clear that the norm for the early church was that when they met (usually in someone’s home) a normal meal was part of the process. OpenBible has a list of references about eating together. Bear in mind that ‘breaking bread together’ was a normal way of saying ‘eating together’. The people would have remembered Jesus as they ate bread and drank wine as part of normal life.

Victor Choudhrie’s 5th step for transforming the church is quoted below:

Dispense with wafer-and-sip Holy Communion and promote breaking of bread with simple Agape meals (love feasts) from house to house, that believers take with glad hearts, ‘and the Lord added to His numbers daily’. The Lord served roast lamb, bitter herbs, bread and wine ‘in a house’ for the Last Supper. Father God had lunch with Abraham under a tree and discussed Sarah’s pregnancy, Sodom’s ruin and Lot’s rescue plan. Acts 2:46-47; 1 Cor.11:20-23; Gen Chap 18

So – why does this matter?

When we eat a meal together everyone contributes to the conversation. We serve one another (‘Would you pass the potato please? Thanks.’) We smile and laugh, we become informal, we enjoy the flavours and the aromas. It’s a fun occasion and everybody, even the youngest, plays an active part. This is a time of bonding, especially when we regularly eat with the same group of people.

If your church has Small Groups, consider eating a meal together when you meet. Simple is good, bring and share, visit everyone’s home in turn, don’t make this into a complex or arduous task for anyone. If there are no small groups just get together regularly as friends. Let the Holy Spirit lead you in this as in everything. Be flexible, don’t make rules, keep it really simple and easy. Meet as often as you can, invite friends who are not yet following Jesus, invite people who have nowhere to go or are lonely or short of money to buy food. Be the good news in the neighbourhood.

Questions:

  • What is preventing you from sharing a meal with others?
  • Who are you going to invite to join you?
  • Church is a family; will eating together make you more or less like a family?

See also:

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Season’s Greetings 2017

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres

Whatever you choose to celebrate at this time of year, we’d like to bless you in Jesus’ name, that you will be able to enjoy good company and that excellent things may overflow for you in ways expected and unexpected. (For more, scroll down…)

DollarStreet-Cirencester-Portrait

More about the picture – The photo shows Dollar Street near the centre of Cirencester, taken on 10th December after the previous night’s snow. We moved to Cirencester in April this year, and the photo shows part of our walking route to the town centre. (You can download larger versions here – PortraitLandscape.)

More about love – Jesus came to bring good news; in fact, he himself is the Good News. He came because he loves people; he wants us to know him and love him; he wants us to love one another, too. Here’s a description of love at its finest:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour 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.

Jesus is love personified. Here’s one of the outrageous things he did as a result of that love:

A religious leader called Simon invited Jesus to dinner. In the town there was a woman who had broken the religious laws by doing some pretty shameful things. She made her way to Simon’s house and  crept in, coming up behind Jesus at the dinner table (in those days people reclined on a couch to eat). She was crying quietly, and some of her tears fell on Jesus’ feet; she wiped them away with her hair and poured perfume on his feet and kept kissing them.

Simon saw all this and thought to himself, ‘If this man, Jesus, had any idea what kind of life this woman leads, he wouldn’t have let her touch him like this. It’s disgraceful’.

Jesus said, ‘Simon – I have something to tell you’.

Simon asked, ‘What is it?’

And Jesus told a story to make the point clear. He said, ‘Two men were in debt with the bank, one owed half a million, the other £50k. Neither of them could pay, and the bank manager wrote off both debts. Which of them felt most favoured by the bank manager?’

‘Well, I suppose the one who was let off the bigger debt’, said Simon.

‘Right’, Jesus exclaimed. He looked at the woman – ‘See this woman? When I arrived in your house you didn’t provide the customary foot-washing water, but she washed my feet with tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t give me the customary kiss of greeting, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet. Nor did you put the customary oil on my head, but she’s poured perfume onto my feet. Her wrong behaviour has been forgiven and her love demonstrates it. But people who have been forgiven little, love little.’

Turning back to the woman he told her, ‘Every wrong thing you did is forgiven. Your trust has made you perfectly safe; go in complete peace.’

So – If you want people to love you more (and who doesn’t), try forgiving them. Let them off the hook. Be like Jesus; set them free.

Living the revolution

Engage with the people around us as people of peace

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“What if we read the Bible through the eyes of a revolutionary?” – George Barna

In his book, ‘Revolution’ (2012), George Barna suggests that if Christians want to be more effective, they need to read the Bible in a new way – as revolutionaries. In my own words, here are some of the attributes he ascribes to revolutionary believers.

  1. Live the revolution; it’s a way of life. Read the Bible not just to see what it says, or to memorise it, or to study it. Read it in order to actually do what it says.
  2. Victory through engagement, promoting peace. In other words, if we read the Bible through the eyes of a revolutionary we will do what Jesus did; we will engage with the people around us as people of peace. We will enter their culture, on their terms, to bring them the best news possible – that they are loved by a powerful presence who wants a personal relationship with them.
  3. Motivated by love and obedience. We will not only tell people they are loved, we will show them. A revolutionary follower of Jesus will listen to the lonely, feed the hungry, support the weak, heal the sick, take in the orphan and the homeless. If people engage with revolutionary readers of the Bible they will know they are loved.
  4. Take orders from Papa, accept he’s in charge and listen. To be a revolutionary means paying attention to the Holy Spirit all the time and every day. As he whispers to us, ‘Go there’, ‘Speak to that person’, ‘Invite those people to dinner’ –  the revolutionary believer will just do it.
  5. Leadership. Doing what’s right. Revolutionaries don’t lead by giving orders, they lead by going in front. Set an example by doing what you read in the Bible and inviting others to join you.
  6. Internal politics are absent. A revolutionary has no agenda or goal other than the revolution itself. Jesus’ revolution is about turning the world upside down. If you want to lead, learn to be a servant or even a slave. If you want to be rich, keep giving things away. If you want to be eloquent listen a lot and speak little. If you want to be strong, strive to be weak. If you want to be wise, be willing to appear foolish.
  7. A different dimension. In the end, to be an effective revolutionary you will need to see far beyond everyday things and events. Grapple with the spiritual realities that Jesus invites us to engage with. These have nothing to do with the way the world behaves or speaks or thinks. Find that different dimension.

A fresh Greek New Testament

The parable of the sower may begin a little differently

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The Tyndale Greek New Testament will be published on 15th November 2017, just three days from now. This is a rare event and will provide a new source for Koine Greek scholars and translators of the New Testament.

The new version sticks to the earliest Greek sources and draws on the most up-to-date research and scholarship available. The publishers write:

The Greek New Testament holds a special place in Christian thinking as the mouthpiece for God’s revelation of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ. While there are a few trusted Greek texts currently in print, significant advances have been made in Greek transmission studies of the New Testament since a standard text was last adopted in 1975.

Here’s one example of the way the new version may affect future translations. The parable of the sower may begin a little differently, simply because of the placing of a paragraph mark in the early manuscripts. It will take a long time for changes like this to feed through into the modern language Bibles we can buy and read, and translators may or may not decide to make changes. Watch this space!

Getting stuff done

It would be foolish…to crash through life without a care

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“He that leaveth nothing to chance will do few things ill, but he will do very few things.” – Lord Halifax

I found this quote in a book, ‘Heart of the Comet’. It’s a work of fiction about life on Halley’s Comet which returned in 1986; the book was published in 1986 too, shortly before the comet made its appearance. I remember looking at it through a telescope one evening with my wife and daughters, aged 8 and 11 at the time. It was just a faint smudge of light.

It would be foolish indeed to crash through life without a care, not considering one’s actions. But it is surely equally foolish to spend so much time pondering and planning that nothing is ever actually done. An exciting life demands a certain amount of spontaneity!