Category: the art of discipleship


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All that isn’t
All that is
All out of my hands
but I hold it
just the same

All that is mess
All that is mystery
All that is ‘out there’
and within me
just the same

 

Talitha Fraser

 

God, what does Your Great Economy have to say to this who knows its worth? Let me trust to Your providing for what is pleasing to You. Drop what should be dropped, yield what should be yielded, share what should be shared, confess what should be confessed. Let some fall, let some break, let some call, let some run late. If it is not of You – let it lie, let it die, that I might know life anew in You.

 

He picked up some food from the table they were sitting at and said: You know what? Everybody eats. He raised a glass of what they were drinking and said: You know what? Everybody drinks. We all have these bodies.  These human bodies.  Different but elementally the same. Same blood and water runs in your veins that runs in mine.  Eat this food and drink this drink just like everyone always has and always will.  These lives are for  living and loving.

Some people might think that’s a ritual about remembering God but it’s not. It’s about remembering the Human One.  Let’s remember everyone is human – the other and yourself.  You are uniquely and specially yourself and just like everyone else at the same time. There’s a space and grace about that if you marinate in it for a while.

 

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We can sometimes find ourselves at a crossroads in our life – this job or that, this community or that, this city/country or that… these times can be terribly isolating as we wear well-worn tracks in our own minds going over what we know (again and again) but not knowing how best to move forward.

A Quaker Discernment Circle can be a good way to move forward through any liminal space. These circles hold space for deep listening to your own heart and wisdom and God’s call. This space doesn’t critique and is not intended to be intellectually analysing or deconstructing but hearing spiritually.

Invite as many people as you would like – but it’s easier if it’s not unwieldy and you can all fit around a common table or lounge room floor. This might be 6-10 people say. Good qualities are: people you trust, people who know you well, people that ask good questions, people that are invested in you, friends/mentors/elders…

Quaker expressions  use a lot of silence. Silence is active worship.You will be changed. There is an expectation of that.

In our silence we are together and connected to others present. Don’t worry about what you’re thinking (don’t stress if you start but a shopping list, but…) take a thought as it comes, dwell on it as you need to – it may or may not become ‘ministry’ (you might merely hold or pray it silently without expressing it aloud), someone else might say it, it may not need to be said.  In this listening silence there is no veil(s) between you and God and these intentional spaces can provide ministry that is uncanny to what’s on your heart and mind.

While someone might ask a question aloud…  They do not give “answers”.  Only you have your own answers to deepen your spiritual life.

A loose framework for a Discernment Circle might look something like the following:

Introduction – A facilitator/host says what the space is for and gives and overview of the circle

[silence as we become present to the person
and the purpose of the circle]

Presentation – when they’re ready, the person who is discerning takes as much time as they need to describe what the choices are that lie before them and any/all the ways that is conflicted in their heart/mind/body/spirit.

[silence – the voice of the discerner is held
without judgement or interruption]

Open and Honest Questions – those present may ask questions, they may not. The discerner may elect to answer aloud, they may not. The purpose of the questions isn’t to seek answers (resolve/close) but to open new channels of thought for consideration (broaden/open) thus the questions should be framed an open-ended queries rather than being binary.

[silence – explores the possibilities that may have been opened,
what might this mean for what was first shared]

Mirroring – those present may repeat words or phrases from the discerners presentation that have stood out/echoed/resonated and feel significant.  Sometimes when we are trying to make a choice we can lose sight of what is most important but as we talk there are often clues in our tone, emotion and vocabulary. In this space our community can echo these back to us and help us hear our own deepest yearning. n.b. don’t critique or explain, let the discerners own discernment speak for itself.

[silence – this time of holding the discerner at the center,
their fears and longings, can create a lot of vulnerability.
We are yet “holding”, what can be encouraged and strengthened
as we send this person out?]

Affirmations and Celebrations – it is likely that the discerner has shared a breadth of what they feel called to and responsible for, this is a space for those present to share encouragement that builds up and resources this person as they continue along their Way. What can be affirmed about their passion? What have they shown deep caring for and commitment to? What qualities are demonstrated in the desire to discern well and deeply in whatever choice is being made?

Note: some people might like to have pens and paper on hand for prompts or pictures and it’s sometimes nice to give these to the discerner at the end of the circle.

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 8: Travelling light

We value the difference that can be made when we sacrifice personal gain, pouring out our rich resources in an act of worship.  Through simplicity, good stewardship and a common commitment to sharing our lives with others, we seek to lessen the power imbalance in Footscray.

Biblical basis: Luke 9:23-24


 

Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

Basically the whole thing! Timing of this value feels significant when we are losing what has been our community home base and are working out what we can bring with us and what we can’t.

Giving out itself is worship

Don’t have a lot. Doesn’t matter whether it’s big or small, pouring out of what we have is the act of worship.

“Power imbalance” good to name, not only our power but our desire to share it.


 

Luke 9:23-24

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

 NRSV


 

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out? What can we learn from the bible about living the Value of “Doing the hard yards”?

 

“deny themselves” is another way of saying “living simply”

“will not taste death” we experience the privilege of glimpsing the kingdom (heaven) right here, before dying –  we see it at our community dinners, John reading grace, all the different people who come together around that meal, seeing the kids grow up in this environment that includes so much diversity.

No division between people – lovely watching Balal and Alex together…

We all of us have a desire for appreciation. But what comes from your heart, the value of that is more e.g. Kim could buy a cake but instead takes the time to make one and personalise it thoughtfully.  She uses her own money to buy wool – makes things that take time and money to create… we choose to value/appreciate that more.

If you’re not giving something from you heart then you’re not giving for the right reasons.

I think it’s worth contextualising this passage and reading it again – the birth of John is foretold, the birth of Jesus is foretold, John is born, Jesus is born… Jesus speaks out in the temple at 12 years old, he gets baptised by John, he gets tested in the desert, then his ministry kicks off  – healing lepers, paralytics and possessed – he calls his disciples. He teaches and preaches, we’re given parable and beatitudes. The 12 are given their mission and Jesus feeds 5000 when it seems like there is not resource enough to do it… who do you say that I am?  The disciples want to lift him up, want to exalt him, put him on a pedestal and give him titles and Jesus says nah… that’s not what I’m about.

 “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

We’re not in this for the titles, appreciation or recognition; or using power for our own gain, to gain a position of authority, or to act out of our own power instead of trusting God’s. Jesus says I’m not going to value those things the world values and invites us to make that choice too.

Taking this idea of “travelling light” – we are very directly in a place of needing to let go of some material things that have meant a lot to us: this house, its garden, the soccer pitch… a band called Invisible Boy out of Tasmania have a song “I’m going to hang your picture high” it’s about who and what you value  and hanging them high like photos of our family that are special or posters and pictures of what we like. If you look around the walls of this house you can see everywhere what and who we value in the pictures – who our family are and what we like. Let’s capture some of those ideas of what we want to “hang high”, of what we value that sometimes others don’t and capture it on bunting we make together – something light we can take with us!

 

 

Closing prayer

Dear God, we’re waiting

Let us wait with hope

We’re waiting for things to seem clearer

Let us wait with peace

We’re waiting for the world to feel safer

Let us wait with joy

We’re waiting for the love our hearts cry out for

Let us wait with love

May we be kind to one another.

May we strive to be the answers to some of our own questions.

Amen

Perspective

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Hey, here… I brought you something.

 

 

 

What is it?

 

 

 

It’s just a little branch I picked up. I think it’s beautiful.

 

Some trash you picked up somewhere?

 

 

One man’s trash is another…
Oh. You don’t want it?

No. Why would I?

 

 

Then I’ll keep it.

What for?!

 

 

That’s what I do.

 

Look for the beauty in things no one wants.

Look for the beauty in things that seem broken and useless and try and find a place for them.

It’s the way you see things that makes them matter.

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 7: Doing the hard yards

We value servanthood in the big and the small – choosing to do the “crappy” stuff.  We want to be people of personal and spiritual maturity (enduring personal cost) in order that the vision is accomplished.

Biblical basis: James 5:7-11


 

Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

“We value” – this is about making personal choices to value things differently than most of the rest of the world… not a flashy project, it doesn’t attract attention.

Trusting there is purpose in the crappy stuff.

 Need to acknowledge the way our current situation impacts my approach to this value, how would my/our interpretation differ if we weren’t crisis.

Is it ‘given’ that in order for the vision to be accomplished, it needs to cost me?




James 5: 7-10

My friends, be patient as you wait for the Lord to return. Be as patient as the farmers. Farmers sow their crops and then have to wait patiently, hoping for good seasonal rains, because the harvest that pays their bills ripens in its own good time. There is nothing they can do to hurry it up. You can’t hurry the Lord up either, so be patient. Stay focused though, and condition yourselves, because the arrival of the Lord is not far off.

My friends, don’t go whinging and putting each other down. If you do, you’ll find yourselves having to answer for it. The judge could reopen the case against you at any moment.

Take as your role models the prophets who brought us God’s message in the past. They really suffered for their stand, but they hung in there, never giving up, and their patience paid off.  11 That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

 

“This work could be a prayer; its results should not concern me”

Thomas Merton

 

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

John Lennon


Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out? What can we learn from the bible about living the Value of “Doing the hard yards”?

Being patient sounds passive – I’m bad at that!

It’s not passive it’s active! “stay focused”… “condition yourselves”… farmers till, plant, fertilise, prepare the soil… still required to exercise what is within your ability to influence, power, control. There are things we can do but then there are things we can’t… we have to rely on God for those.

Begin work or make choices with an outcome in mind but often things don’t go as we plan, despite this things work out.

You have to do what you can and trust the other stuff to happen. 

Often in Christian circles the personal cost component can become competitive and be worn as a badge-of-honour.

Perspective makes a difference – choosing, for example, to work part time could be perceived as a ‘cost’ but for us, from our perspective it feels like an opportunity.

You can love different people if you put you mind to it. A lot of people don’t go out of their way… instead they love to put people down.

Standing up for someone when you notice the truth. When they can’t stand up for themselves.

 

Taking this idea of where our influence ends and God’s begins let’s write down on these “seeds” what we know and what we don’t know, doing what we can, planting them and leaving the growing to God remembering “we need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and imperfections”

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…all we can do is plant our seeds and trust that the outcomes that come, while not what we might imagine,  work toward the vision of God being accomplished.

 

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 6: Being honest about who we are

We value the humility and forgiveness required to live transparent lives in community.  We want to submit to each other in accountability and honesty, allowing Christ to use our weaknesses and failings.

Biblical basis: 2 Cor 12:9-10, 2 Cor 3:18



Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

All of those words – humility, forgiveness, transparency, submission, accountability, honesty elicit an emotional reaction – they’re strong words, they’re challenging words.

Not only are we often not rewarded  for being honest ,  we can be penalised for speaking up.  

It often requires vulnerability in the first place ‘weaknesses and failings’  are on display so then you’re open to a “hit”.

Once you start hating people it keeps going. Sometimes you have to forgive people and walk away.


 

 

2 Cor 12: 9-10

…there is no reason to think I’d end up with egg on my face if I did talk big about my own experiences. It would be the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but don’t get me started! I’d rather let my actions do the talking for me. Let me be judged simply by the value of what I teach and what I do. Any spectacular revelations I may have experienced in the past should not inflate your opinion of me.

……..And believe me, God has seen to it that they haven’t given me an over inflated opinion of myself. To balance them out and keep my feet firmly on the ground, I have been given a special gift — a real thorn in the flesh, a condition that torments me and causes great anguish in my body. Satan used it to try to derail me, but it is probably what has kept me on track. Of course I couldn’t see that at first. Three times I put everything else aside and gave all my time and energy to seeking the Lord for healing and deliverance. But the Lord said to me, “My generous love is enough for you. Your weakness clears the deck and opens you to my strength.”

……..So then, if it means that Christ’s strength will be all the more active in me, I will gladly wear my weaknesses like a badge of honour. Indeed, given the opportunity to talk about them, you can’t shut me up! So nowadays, whatever comes my way — failure, bad-mouthing, tough times, harassment, tragedy —I take it all in my stride and just allow Christ to come to the fore. You see, it is when I am at my weakest that I find the greatest strength.

 

2 Cor 3.10-4.3

The people back then were as thick-headed as the people of our own day — they could hear the words of God’s law read out, but it never seemed to penetrate their hearts and minds. It’s as though the scarf has stayed in place ever since to prevent anyone from catching sight of the glory revealed by the words. Only Christ can uncover what is hidden. It’s the same for anyone who reads the scriptures without opening themselves to the Lord for insight: it is as though the wool has been pulled over their eyes and nothing gets through but the bare words. It all changes when we turn to the Lord, though, because the Lord is a real eye-opener. The Lord and the Spirit are one and the same, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the freedom to see clearly. The wool is pulled away from our eyes and we come face to face with the glory of God. This experience is truly transfiguring! We are set ablaze by the Spirit — lit up like the Lord — so that more and more we become like mirrors reflecting the glory of God.

……..We have nothing to hide then, and no reason to lose our nerve, for God has been incredibly generous in trusting us with a share of this work. We have sworn off any methods that we’d be ashamed to have brought to light. We don’t hide behind masks; we don’t do anything shifty or manipulative; and we don’t twist God’s word to promote our own agendas. Instead, we simply lay all our cards on the table and let our integrity speak for itself. By stating it plainly and living it openly in the sight of God, we give everyone the opportunity to make up their own minds about the truth.

 

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net


 

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out?  What can we learn from the bible about living the Value: Being honest about who we are?

“We have nothing to hide then, and no reason to lose our nerve. for Go has been incredibly generous in trusting us with a share of this work…” in our current situation this feels like an important reminder – encouraging, challenging and comforting.

“To balance them out and keep my feet firmly on the ground, I have been given a special gift – a real thorn in the flesh…”  radical idea to reach for, being grateful for the thing that gives you pain and seeing it as a gift. Thanks… thanks SO much for this pain.

“…failure, bad-mouthing, tough times, harassment, tragedy – I take it all in my stride and just allow Christ to come to the fore” Paul was a bit smug wasn’t he?

Sometimes to try to please people we can try to be something we aren’t but we have to be true to ourselves.

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The reference in the passage to the scarf/wool being over our eyes and nothing being able to get through felt like a good excuse to pull out the veil I made – “…wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the freedom to see clearly. The wool is pulled away from our eyes and we come face to face with the glory of God… we are set ablaze… lit up… we become like mirrors reflecting the glory of God.

These layers of the veil represent some of what I need to peel back (expectations, tradition, learned/taught behaviour, fear…) to be living as I was made to be.

What stops us from being able to be transparent?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity: The People’s Mike

Drawing on the idea of being one body – what holds you back is what holds me back. The People’s Mike is an exercise in naming and holding together.  As people call out words (anyone can have a go), the rest of the people in the crowd repeat the word in chorus affirming the speakers truth (perhaps our own) and confessing our own culpability because what harms you harms me – what is holding us back from being honest about who we are? What are we afraid of? One person calls it out and then we all repeat it together in chorus.

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Similarly, what leads one of us to wholeness might lead us all,  what makes it easier to be transparent? What helps us to feel ok about being honest about who we are? One person calls it out and then we all repeat it together in chorus affirming the speakers truth (perhaps our own) and calling ourselves into the community we seek to create.

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Closing prayer

Dear God, we’re waiting

Let us wait with hope

We’re waiting for things to seem clearer

Let us wait with peace

We’re waiting for the world to feel safer

Let us wait with joy

We’re waiting for the love our hearts cry out for

Let us wait with love

May we be kind to one another.

May we strive to be the answers to some of our own questions.

Amen

 

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 5: Becoming family

We value the intimacy of relationship we can have with Christ, and the belonging found in growing closer to God and therefore to each other.  Our goal is to be family for those facing loneliness and social isolation.

Biblical basis: 1 John 3:16-18, John 13: 34-35



 

Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

There’s a saying ‘You can’t choose your family’… yes we can.

We have family near and far, our actual relations and the people we choose to share our life with.

Family means the entire human race – regardless of colour, race status…

Family see us at our best and at our worst, we can come as we are and still be loved. We seek to be and provide that sort of space for one another.

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out?

What can we learn from the bible about living the Value: Becoming family?


 

1 John 3: 16-18

……..It was the example that Jesus set in laying down his life for us that put us in the know about real love. If we would love, then we need to do likewise, and lay our lives on the line for one another. How on earth can people claim that the love of God is at home in their hearts if they turn their backs on their needy brothers and sisters, even though it is quite within their means to help?

……..My dear friends, let us love; really love. Let us make sure we’re not just talking the talk, but walking the walk: being fair dinkum about our love and expressing it in action. This kind of integrity between what we say and what we do is a sure sign that our lives are genuinely grounded in God’s truth. It enables us to hold our heads high when we approach God, even though self-doubts may be trying to make us feel guilty and fearful. Our record of integrity can reassure us at such times, because God knows everything and can overrule our self-accusations. So when we are doing what God tells us to do, and thus living lives that please God, we can rest assured that when we approach God with our requests, we will get a positive response, whether we feel we deserve it or not.

 ©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

 

 John 13: 31-35

……..When Judas left, Jesus said to his disciples, “Now the moment of glory has arrived for the New Human, and it is God’s glory too. If God’s glory is made known in him, then God will pour out his own glory on him. It’s all happening right now.

……..“You are my children, but you’re about to be on your own because our time together is almost up. You’ll keep looking for me, but as I said to the people before, where I am going, there is no way you can come.

……..“I’ve got one new instruction for you — in fact take it as an order — love one another. I want you to love one another in the same way that I have loved you. If you do that — if you really have love for one another — then it will be apparent to everyone that you are following in my footsteps.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net


 

Reflection time… followed by sharing time.

Our record of integrity can reassure us… God can overcome our self-accusations – where we are small God is BIG.

Simple and powerful message: LOVE ONE ANOTHER

Love someone and they will love someone, and they will love someone, and they will love someone… the ripples go on and on.

Let’s get into groups of 2-3 and catch up with each other about life through the week…

…highlights, lowlights, needs, dreams

We do things we don’t like sometimes because it’s family. Belonging & interconnectedness. 

What’s your role in your family?  What are things you need from family?  What are things you have to give?

 

* trying to keep everyone together * practical support * there in ups and downs * advice * generosity * steadfast * conflict resolution * friend * peacemaker * LOVE * welcome * imperfect * support * conflict * time * making cakes * acts of service * taking care of each other * being friendly to everyone (even if they hate you) *

 

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 4: Seeking justice for the poor

We value God’s priority for the poor and seek to prioritise the marginalised of Footscray.  We do not want to just show mercy, but instead offer our lives, in voice and activity, with those who we seek to serve.

Biblical basis: Jeremiah 22:16, James 2: 1-5


 

Let’s read the value together… what words/phrases stand out?

Who do we think are “the poor”?

Those who are poor in heart? in spirit? or without money?  It’s those who are poor in spirit that are worst off = those who feel empty.  When you eat you’re full. If you don’t eat you’re empty.

We need to be helping one another more.

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out?
What can we learn from the bible about living the Value: Seeking justice for the poor?

Jeremiah passage brought to mind people such as Donald Trump and Gina Rinehart…

Who gets behind and left out? What kinds of people?

What does it mean to “have a huge head-start in the faith stakes”?
Know how to be grateful.


 

 

Jeremiah 22: 16-17

“Doom to him who builds palaces but bullies people,

who makes a fine house but destroys lives,

Who cheats his workers

and won’t pay them for their work,

Who says, ‘I’ll build me an elaborate mansion

with spacious rooms and fancy windows.

I’ll bring in rare and expensive woods

and the latest in interior decor.’

So, that makes you a king—

living in a fancy palace?

Your father got along just fine, didn’t he?

He did what was right and treated people fairly,

And things went well with him.

He stuck up for the down-and-out,

And things went well for Judah.

Isn’t this what it means to know me?”

God’s Decree!

“But you’re blind and brainless.

All you think about is yourself,

Taking advantage of the weak,

bulldozing your way, bullying victims.”

The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighbourhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

true from start to finish.

 

The Message

 

James 2: 1-10

……..Sisters and brothers, if you really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, how come you still play favourites? If people walk into one of your meetings and you make a fuss of the ones dressed up to the nines and looking a million dollars, ushering them to the best seats in the house, while at the same time turning up your nose at those dressed like battlers, down on their luck, telling them to stand out in the foyer, aren’t you practicing apartheid, segregating God’s children? You’re as crooked as a judge who bases your sentence on the length of your skirt!

……..Get this straight in your minds, dear friends. God has turned the world’s opinion polls upside down. Those who have been deprived of what the world values have a huge head-start in the faith stakes. Their names are at the top of the list of those who God has chosen to inherit the riches of the kingdom. All who love God have an equal share in God’s promises, but you’re insulting some of them by means-testing your welcome.

 

 

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net


 

Reflection time… followed by sharing time.

Who are “the poor” in Footscray?

Offer our lives – in voice and activity…

  • what ways are we doing this now?
  • what ways could we start?