Friday, May 28, 2010

The inclusive Jesus

I'm currently reading Mark's gospel for my devotional reading. It reminded me of my probationer minister days. On one occasion I was involved in a discussion about the encounter between Jesus and the Syro-phonecian woman. There was some debate about what Jesus was doing and whether the story shows him changing his mind.

Having studied Mark's Gospel in some detail the previous year, I suggested an alternative view that he was acting out a parable. I wasn't prepared to concede that Jesus didn't know what he was doing, it seemed more than likely that he knew exactly what he was doing.

At this point in the gospel Jesus seems to begin to express his heart to be inclusive as he reaches out across cultural and religious boundaries. On Sunday we looked at the story of Cornelius and how God pushed the early church to break down barriers and cross boundaries in order to reach the people missing from the family of God.

Everywhere I look in the story of the Bible I see God reaching out, crossing boundaries, entering cultures in order to win the lost. So how come we're not so good at it? Have we become so insecure that we feel that we will be compromised if we let this group or that type into the church?

The co-housing folk seem to interview prospective members quite extensively before letting them join. Do we do the same? Do we make it difficult for the people Jesus misses most to find their way in because we are less willing to cross a few boundaries?

How can we follow Jesus across the fence?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Just amazing

I've spent the day working with my iPad and I must say it is quite amazing. I did wonder if Steve Jobs was over doing it in the keynote, and I did wonder if the advert wasn't a bit to other-worldly, but I have to say I can find little wrong with it.

Is it a laptop? No, it isn't. Will it do the job of a laptop? Yes it will. When the apps become available I can imagine that I will take this into meetings and seminars to make notes, draw mindmaps and all sorts of things.

So go have a look when the queues die down in a couple of days. I think you will be impressed even if you're not a Mac groupie!

On the road with the iPad

Okay, so I thought it might be quite neat to be the first person to sit in my local Costa Coffee with an iPad, but there is more to my being here than that!

The idea behind buying an iPad was to look for something lighter and easier to carry around than my MacBook. It is certainly that!

So far the set up has been typically straightforward and the interface and keyboard easy to use. It's a bit frustrating having to choose a different keyboard for some of the everyday symbols, but you get used to it pretty quickly. Perhaps having an iPhone makes it easier to adapt.

The keyboard is nice and big, which makes a change from the iPhone!

Once the Pages app is released I think it will be even more versatile. But for now I'll have to make do with notes if I want to write. Although there's probably a writing app out there already.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Living in community

Sadly a post I wrote earlier today from my iPhone seems not to have made it to the server. Maybe it's lost in cyberspace, who knows!

Anyway, I saw a really interesting piece on BBC Breakfast this morning about a "co-housing" project. A group of people have decided to live in a community together. Not a commune, but a community. They have their own homes but share social outdoor space, eat together regularly, share chores and even baby-sit for each other! A utopian experiment bound to go wrong, or a group of people who exploring the fundamental human need for community?

As a church we are a faith community. We're supposed to be leading the way in demonstrating to the world how you can live as part of a larger connected group of diverse people. Unlike the co-housing project, we don't get to choose our community members based upon compatibility. But what is interesting is that this experiment in community living belies a deeper human need as social beings.

Building community takes time and effort. It is costly. Just as a coalition government requires adjustments on both sides, building community will always involve compromise. It seems to me that shared values, core beliefs, are the things that bind a community together. The ability to embrace diversity it was enables it to flourish.

I guess the bottom-line question is are we willing enough and brave enough to build the kind of community that reflects our faith?

What to do while you wait for vision

Came across this quote in an email newletter:

If you can't see the vision, work God's mission until you get His vision.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Landscape or landfill?

I got one of those automatic book recommendations that come through various online book vendors. This time it was about a book about capturing our lives in a digital technology age. One comment struck me among the reviews. The reviewer remarked that he wasn't sure if capturing all this detail was the landscape or the landfill of our lives.

Now I'm sure there is at the very least an illustration in there and more than likely a sermon title.

There must be ideas in there about how we can choose to landscape our lives or simply clutter them up with the rubbish that accumulates, the landfill approach. Maybe it's more to do with looking to simplify. Whatever you make of it, something about the contract between landfill and landscape resonates somewhere, I'm just not sure where.

I'll mull it over and see what comes to the surface. Meanwhile, is your life more landfill than landscape? A place where you store old junk, or a place where you are planting new tress and flowers?

Friday, May 21, 2010

iPastor App fix

iPastor has been updated with a fix to the "review by strategy" problem. Just in case you were waiting for me to tell you!!

Mark 6:56

And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.
Mark 6:56
Here is a really simple question but of potentially profound importance, at least to me: How do we touch Jesus in the 21st century? It's not the best framed question, but it will have to do. The point is this. "all who touched him were healed". So how do we get to touch him?

I don't have a slick answer, just the question.

Guess who's coming to dinner

Have you ever done that thing were you try to work out the guests at a dinner when you can choose anyone from history? Even if you narrow it down, it's not that easy.

If I were to limit my choices to Biblical character and exclude Jesus, for no other reason than it's a given that you'd want him there, then who might I choose? It could end up as quite a long list.

I'd probably start with Abraham. I'd be fascinated to hear his story about how it felt to be called to make that epic journey. How he felt when things stalled and promises were a long time coming. Elijah would be on my list too. I'd ask him about how he dealt with the low points and how it felt when God spoke to him in the whisper and challenged him with that question, "What are doing here?" That's a question that follows me around a lot! I often sit down and talk with God about that.

I might invite the wife of Jeroboam. I wonder how the prophecy about the death of her son affected her. Did she make any changes in response to that or did she just carry on?  Human beings are strange creatures. They often say that they'll believe if only God would make things clear, but when he does, they just as easily turn their backs and pretend it isn't so.

Isaiah would definitely be on my list. To have had that kind of vision, showed that kind of commitment and courage and then discover that your ministry is all about decline in the nation, that must have been a hard road to travel. Daniel too would be an interesting guest. Remaining faithful throughout that long period of captivity, finding a way to serve God and serve the king with integrity. Many lessons to learn from Daniel.

From the New Testament there would be Peter. I just want to know how it felt to walk on water. Barnabas could share almost anything and make it encouraging. Synteche and Euodia. Did they ever make up?

The list could go on, but the dining table is already crowded.

The thing is, would I be disappointed with my guests or would I disappoint them? Heroes often turn out to be less impressive in person. They have their flaws. Perhaps Elijah wouldn't have any answers for  how to deal with my low days, maybe Isaiah would own up to carrying a crushing sense of failure even though he knew what God had called him to do. Maybe even Barnabas would hold a few grudges!

Who knows? In the end I'd hope that our dinner conversations would be like any other dinner. Lots of laughter, lots of stories. Lots of discovering that we are all human and that God still loves us, wants the best for us, calls out the best in us, and rejoices over us.

Time to face the day. I wonder what God has in store for me today?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Facebook privacy crisis

Here's a blog post about why we should consider leaving Facebook.

As many users will know, Facebook has changed much of its terms and conditions, most notably in the area of privacy. I was quite amazed to see how much. It would seem that the only things that you can now keep private are you birthday and contact information.

This may or may not be a problem to you if you use Facebook. On the other hand it does raise a question about who sees your data and how do you decide who can see it rather than letting the company decide that for you.

At the moment I don't particularly feel under threat, but given how many young people use Facebook, maybe we should be a little more vigilant about the erosion of privacy in social networking.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's finally coming

Ah the Apple iPad. Very soon to be available in the UK and anticipated with some excitement in the Pool household by at least two of us. Three if it dispenses cat biscuits!

I have pre-ordered mine and I'm looking forward to finding out if it's as good and useful as I hope it will be. I know some people can't get their heads around what Apple have done with the iPad. some people think it's just a big iPod Touch or iPhone.

I understand it to be far more than this. It won't, I suspect, replace my MacBook. Too many things i like to use on the MacBook won't be available on the iPad. But I don't think it will be long before some pretty impressive software starts to appear for it.

So roll on the 28th May and don't expect me to be anything but excited for the next week!

National Day of Prayer

Today is a national day of prayer for the police service.

Just in case you didn't know.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Can we make the jump?

Currently I'm working my way steadily through the Gospel of Mark. Mark has a sense of immediacy about it, so reading it slowly doesn't quite fit the pace of the writing style, but it's not a problem. And pacey doesn't mean rushed, Mark does some very clever things in the text to allow time to pass.

The problem is that we don't always spot these little devices and maybe we miss the bigger picture and the connections that exist. Take today's reading, the feeding of the five thousand. We get so focused on the actual miracle and all of its implications that we forget where it starts.

The apostles gathered round Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.

The miracle that is about to unfold comes on the back of their recent experience of ministry. They had just come back from preaching, driving out demons and seeing people healed. But they couldn't make the connection between that experience and the current experience. None of the disciples asks Jesus to help them join up the dots and see how they could feed all these people based upon what they've just seen happening elsewhere. They just seem to revert to type.

They couldn't make the jump. Jesus had to walk them through this new situation and many more besides.  We're no different. We struggle to apply faith lessons learnt in one situation to another. Jesus has to walk us through each new situation.

But the challenge still remains. Are we able and willing to make the jump in order to move forward in our daily discipleship. As I experience God's faithfulness in one area of my life, am I able to apply that elsewhere without having to start over.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Still in a fix

Well I thought we might have seen the end of the story with respect to the election by the end of the day yesterday, but Gordon Brown had other plans! His resignation seems to have thrown a spanner in the works and given Nick Clegg a headache to boot.

I do think it is high time the media began to educate listeners, readers and viewers about the constitution and how we actually go about getting a Prime Minister. All this talk about "unelected PM's" is a distraction  from the core issues that parliament might just need to become a place where democratic discussions lead to better policies.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Is there really an app for that?

Not sure what to make of this, but it is quite amazing what you can do with an iPhone!


I'm working on the next series for our Sunday Celebrations. It's based around the Sermon on the Mount and hopefully will explore the counter-cultural nature of the kingdom. That;s the idea anyway!

As I reflect and pray and gather idea and resources, I came across this audi only of an Early Mars Hill talk. Very interesting.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Early election reflections

Well, after many long weeks and even months of media frenzy, we appear to be headed straight into a balanced, or hung parliament. No surprise there then. In fact, watching the election coverage the only surprising thing seems to have been that this time they actually predicted the correct outcome. That and a few odd gains and losses that were not on the infamous hit lists. When the dust settles, it will be interesting to read the analysis of what has happened and why.

It makes you wonder what the politicians are now going to do if they actually have to win the argument in order to get a policy through parliament. It's bee a while since the party of government has had to work with a small majority let alone no majority at all. Might we see a little more thoughtful debate on key issues? The cynic in me suspects that deals will be done behind closed doors in order to get things through. The optimist in me hopes for a better outcome.

I do worry about the appearance of "The Christian Party". I'm all for Christian involvement in politics, but I'm far from convinced that all Christians should agree to the extent that we can form a party. And the large ad that appeared in the main street where I live read more like a piece of nationalistic propaganda that something I'd call Christian.

The thing that did surprise me was the turn out in some places. Seeing people queue around the block to vote is an astonishing sight in the UK. Of course the ranting and shouting by those who found themselves unable to vote was not so unusual. Perhaps the system has simply adapted to the so-called voter apathy of past elections. What we would we do if everyone turned out to vote!

If history repeats itself, then I guess we can look forward to doing this all over again in the Autumn.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Stories to tell

I thought this insight into outreach by Tim Chester was really interesting:

Everyone has their own version of the ‘gospel’ story:
  • creation – who I am or who I should be
  • fall – what’s wrong with me and the world
  • redemption – what’s the solution
  • consummation – what I hope for
The obvious and simple point here is that everyone has a story to tell. We can connect their story with the gospel story and our story through these intersections.

I wonder how our conversations might change if we listened out for these connections.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Adding a site meter

I don't actually write my blog for an audience, although it's nice to get the occasional comment so that I know someone somewhere is reading my rambling thoughts. I've often looked for a simple visitor counter just to see what kind of traffic comes my way, but hadn't found one until I stumbled upon sitemeter.

So I've added it o my site and I guess I'll begin to get a picture of the comings and goings of the blog. It will be interesting even if it turns out to be a bit disappointing! I will just have to console myself with the thought that maybe more people read my musing via Facebook and RSS than by direct visiting. well I can dream!!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A little restoration

This bench was in the garden when we moved in. It's not worth anything, but I thought it might be worth salvaging the cast metal ends.

The timber is rotten and I shall replace it with hardwood. It's not a complicated thing to do, just a matter of time.

Maybe I'll have it done by the time the summer comes around.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

The conundrum of church life

One of my daily prayers is that God would add to the church those who are being saved. It's obvious from where I draw this prayer, but it leaves me with a conundrum.

On the one hand I long to see the church renewed and reenergised. I long to see people who are far from God draw close and find faith, enter into a growing relationship with God and fellowship with others. I long to see them share in corporate worship, ministry and mission.

On the other hand filling a building with people once a week is not my understanding of the church. A large Sunday congregation is not my definition of success and not, I believe, the goal of the church.

I was listening to a short piece by a well-known missional thinker who quoted an unnamed source who said, "Your missional effectiveness is directly proportional to your relational capacity." Shall I translate? We can't reach people we don't know.

Traditionally, the way we have done church diminishes our relational capacity, we simply do not meet, or spend enough time with non-churched people. The result is ineffective mission.

More and more we find ourselves distanced from our communities, not just in terms of what we believe, but also culturally. There are barriers to cross, cultural and theological. We simply cannot wait for the unchurched to cross these barriers in order to get to our buildings and our meetings. We must find ways to cross those barriers first. And fast!

I'm thinking of joining the local Ramblers group, finding an evening class to do, and yes, spending as much time as possible in Costa Coffee. At least it's warm in there!

I long for the day when our church programmes are so light, so self-sustaining, that it takes up very little of our energy to engage in church as we know it. That would release so much potential into mission, would be so exciting and possibly church changing in the process.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Phil. 4:4

Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!

One thing I've noticed over the years of reading the Bible is its insistence on worship. Never once have I read a verse about worship that says I will worship God when I have more time or when I'm feeling up to it. No, the Bible calls us to worship in every situation.

In fact so consistent is this call to honour God with our worship that I've come to the conclusion that worship is always a valid response whatever the situation. Paul had certainly faced his share of hardship, yet he calls the Philippians to a lifestyle of rejoicing.

So maybe at some time today, right now wouldn't be a bad time, make the conscious choice to rejoice. It may not feel like the thing you want to do , but it is the right thing to do.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Phil. 4:20

To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen

It's the whole point really. To honour God and bring him glory all the time. Of course we fail, but why should that stop us trying? Of course it is easy to say that if a thing is worth doing then it will probably require some effort and there will be setbacks.

But maybe the point is about perspective. When you go about your ordinary tasks, how much do you stop to ask yourself if what you are doing at that very moment actually glorifies God? Perhaps many things are pretty neutral. I'm not sure working on the tool chest I made last year does anything particular to glorify God. On the other hand it's fairly easy to spot when we're engaged in stuff that definitely doesn't do it.

I'm reading John Burke's book Soul Revolution and exploring his 60-60 experiment, designed to help you reflect on and practice staying in constant communion with God. I fail a lot. But I refuse to give up just because I'm not good at it.

You see, the more connected I remain the more I know I can honour God. And if I'm honouring God I hope I'm not promoting myself.

So, to God be the glory in every situation, through every reaction and as a result of every decision we make.