Saturday, June 15, 2013

Showing Love

I'm starting to discover that writing is very therapeutic. It's also very frustrating when the things in my head and heart seem to get lost in translation on their way to the computer screen. Most of the time I write my posts in long-hand first, then type it all onto the computer. But today I'm going to try something new, which is supposed to be therapeutic as well, and write this blog post straight onto my computer.....

Everyone wants to be loved whether we know it or not. That's the bottom line of human existence because that's the way God made us. We are made in his image and the Bible declares that God is love.
If love is missing from our lives the we are empty vessels.

Often, love is looked for in the wrong places.
Whenever we hear phrases like 'I want to belong' or 'I want to be famous' what is really being said is 'I want to be loved'.
Kids will actually use those phrases. Adults will just think them.

Here, in New Zealand, almost every young boy wants to be an All-Black. The All-Blacks are the worlds best Rugby team. The American equivilent would be like being at the top of the NBL or NFL. The players are household names etc etc.
Why is it that boys want to be All-Blacks? Some will tell you they love the game but others will tell you that they want to be famous. In other words they want to be noticed. They want to be adored.

They want to be Loved.

It's the same with all of us. We're wired to be loved.

Unfortunately, modern western society has fractured communities to the point that 'families' often now consist of one parent and a number of children.

I love the old saying that 'It takes a village to raise a child'. Too often parents get the blame when children go off the rails. 

The reason children go off the rails is because they didn't find 'love' on that track.

To show children (and adults) that they are valued and loved is the responsibility of the community they live in, not just the small nuclear family they live in. (They're called nuclear because often a bomb has gone off within them!)

Because communities in general are very fragmented nowadays, the door is open for Christian communities to step up and show the world what love really looks like. 

We make it harder to show love than it should be. Simply take an interest in people and use your talents.
If you're a mechanic, offer to fix a solo mums car.
If you can cook, do some baking for a struggling family
If you're a photographer, offer to do portraits for a family that can't afford it.
If you own a car, offer to take someone shopping who doesn't own a car.
If you're financially well-off donate to community organizations.
If you're you.........

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Bible 'Story'?

Back in April I wrote a blog post for Synchroblog about 'What if the Bible is a myth?'
When I wrote that piece my definition of myth was 'a fabrication', 'something made up', 'a story', or 'fiction'. In my head I had retitled the topic 'What if the Bible is a lie?'.

It turned out that I appeared to be the only person, that I'm aware of, who used that definition of 'myth'.
Most of the other participants defined 'myth' as 'containing fiction that conveys truth' (my definition).
I don't think anyone, who participated in the discussion, considered the Bible to be all myth, but some did allude to portions of scripture being fictional in order to covey truth.

Some of the 'controversial' passages that lend them themselves to being myth are-

The creation story. Did God really create the world etc in six days?

Jonah and the Whale. Did Jonah really stay alive for three days inside a giant fish?

The Flood. Did the whole earth really go under water?

I don't want to get into an argument about the literalness of the Bible and I'm not taking on a particular point of view.

But, in the case of the Biblical stories mentioned above, is God not powerful enough to have these things?

Or, to personalize the question in a contemporary setting,

To convey truth, would you make a documentary (truth conveyed with fact) or a fictional movie (possibly conveying truth with myth)?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Being Vulnerable

This post is part of Junes Synchroblog about ordinary courage.
Other participating bloggers will be listed at the end of this blog.

To understand what courage and vulnerability mean I strongly recommend that you watch Brene Browns Tedtalk here.

The dictionary meaning of vulnerable is, in one word, 'unprotected'.
But Christians are never unprotected.

Ps 125:2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem so the Lord surrounds his people...

John 17:15 My prayer is not that you may take them out of this world but that you may protect them from the evil one.

Ps 37:28 The Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They are protected forever.

So, as Christians, the word vulnerable takes on a more positive meaning. It means to be open, honest, the 'real deal', not afraid to tell it like it is, genuine and authentic.
It's the opposite of 'fake'.

Prov 12:17 says 'A truthful witness gives honest testimony.'

So why does secular society so often see the church as not genuine, unloving and having a hidden agenda.

There are three reasons that come to mind.

1. We're not Wholehearted.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other... 
Rev 3:15

Jesus wants our whole heart so that we can be wholehearted.
Half heartedness turns people off. Wholeheartedness turns people on because it demonstrates passion and passion draws people in.
It's like when you haven't seen your best friend for a year and when you do you give them a massive bear hug. They know they're loved. That's what wholeheartedness does. It shows people they're loved.

By this all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 

2. We perceive that God loves us less when we make mistakes.

Perfect love casts out all fear. 1John 4:18

We often fall back to living under the secular definition of being 'unprotected'. We fear making mistakes and in doing so we never make anything. Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations.
We can only do that effectively through knowing we're protected and knowing who we are in Christ and, as a result, we cast off fear and replace it with authenticity.

3. We fear being authentic because we don't want the 'world' to see our 'worldliness'.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness 1John 1:9

We fear that if people see the real us they will be turned off christianity. In reality the opposite is true. When people see our genuiness it creates connection. Without genuiness we end up pretending to be something we're not.
It happens within the church as well. We want to look good to those in our church communities. But we're afraid that if they find out you're a Harry Potter fan or you've read 'Fifty shades of grey' they'll think less of you.
But the opposite should be true, especially within the church. Genuiness and openness creates connection.
And, used correctly, that connection can be used to bring correction when necessary.
Without authenticity in our church communities sin can creep in and destroy relationships.
There have been many church leaders who have publicly 'fallen' because there wasn't an authentic connection within the members of that community.
The fear of being vulnerable can be used to hide sin in our lives.

In her Tedtalk Brene Brown states 'Vulnerability is the birthplace of love'.
Love is the core of Christianity. God is love. It's the core of His being.
To show His love to this world we have to be real.

If we are not the 'real deal', how will the world know that God is?

Here's the list of other participating bloggers this month.

This Is Courage by Jen Bradbury
Being Vulnerable by Phil Lancaster
Moving Forward Takes Courage by Paul W. Meier
How to Become a Flasher by Glenn Hager
Ordinary Courage by Elaine Hansen
Courage, Hope, Generosity by Carol Kuniholm
The Courage to Fail by Wendy McCaig
The Greatest Act of Courage by Jeremy Myers
Sharing One’s Heart by K. W. Leslie
All I See Is Rocks by Tim Nichols
What is Ordinary Courage? by Jennifer Stahl
Loving Courageously by Doreen A. Mannion
Heart Cry: The Courage to Confess by Elizabeth Chapin
It’s What We Teach by Margaret Boelman

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Listen To Mum

Most of us were bought up on the advice to
"Listen to your mum"
So when Jesus mum, Mary, says something it's got to be in our best interest to listen.

We all know the story of when Jesus turned the water in wine (John 2) but we often overlook Mary's input into the miracle taking place.

Mary spoke five words that should still echo today in the life of the Christian but unfortunately we get drunk on the miracles and water-down the back-story that sparkles with treasure.

Mary says to the servants at the wedding

"Do whatever he tells you." John 2:5

Is it possible that the reason we don't see an abundance of miracles today is because we don't follow Jesus mum's advice?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Exploding Bridges and How to Help People

This post is part of Mays Synchroblog about how to help others who are going through tough times.
Other participating bloggers will be listed at the end of this post.

How to help people who are hurting? Hmmm. Big question.
Let me start off with a saying I dislike immensely.

'Build a Bridge and get over it.'

When someone says that to me I want to get some explosives and turn the bridge, that I'm supposed to be building, into a fireworks display.
The problem with sayings like that is they are usually said at the wrong time and they come across as being sarcastic and lacking in compassion.
So my first point is simply this. Don't give people 'off-the-cuff' answers that might work for someone else. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you say and do the right things.

Secondly. As I struggled to put my thoughts on paper I decided to ask my wife, who's a trained counsellor, what the keys are when it comes to helping those who are hurting.
"Oh, that's easy." she said.
What?! Easy?
"Act justly, Love mercy and walk humbly with your God."
That was my wife's answer, Micah 6:8. It's worth meditating on.
And that's my second point. If you're unsure how to respond to a friends needs and issues ask someone who's maturity and insight you trust.
Prov 15:22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

While I'm quoting scripture, here's my third point.
Our actions, words and attitude toward people going through tough times are embodied in the Fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22,23).

We need to show and be:-
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control.

If we, as individuals and community, focus on growing this fruit in our lives through prayer and application, then we will find ourselves with a wealth of talent/ability to help the hurting.

So, there you go. Three simple points.

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to help you say and do the right things
  • Seek wise counsel
  • Grow the fruit of the Spirit in your life
There's many more points that could be added but right now I'm off to fix a bridge.

The other participants in this months Synchroblog are:-

Sunday Quote 12 May 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Unconditional. What's the Catch?

It's interesting how sometimes a particular word seems to jump out from unexpected places and stick in your head.

At the moment that word is 'Unconditional'

What's amazing is that it's people from my home town, Palmerston North, New Zealand, who have used the word in the things they've been doing.

Tim Hamilton has created a short video about Palmerston North and its surrounding region called Unconditional. There's some stunning night-time footage in the video.

Rebecca Culver, who started Palmerston Norths free store, Just Zilch, was recently interviewed on Radio New Zealands National Programme with Jim Mora. You can listen to the interview here.
One of the key philosophies behind Just Zilch is to demonstrate unconditional love.

It's interesting how unconditional love doesn't always sit well with government departments.
Just Zilch is having trouble getting recognition as acharitable organisation because they have no boundaries/conditions on who they provide food to. You can read the article about that here.

Rebecca's situation shows just how foreign 'unconditional love' is in todays society. Because unconditional love has no boundaries/conditions it looks very suspicious in todays 'Whats-the-catch?' world.

Even the church doesn't escape suspicion. Historically, this has come about through many churches (not all) taking on a mission to indoctrinate people rather than loving them.
Now, when we demonstrate genuine love through church channels there's often a suspicious 'What's the catch?' response (sometimes verbal, sometimes not).

When Jesus fed the multitudes there was no 'What's the catch?'.

When Jesus healed the sick there was no 'What's the catch?'.

When Jesus turned the water into wine there was no 'What's the catch?'.

Why? Because Jesus radiated genuine 100% unconditional love for everyone. There was no hidden agenda.

Unconditional love is so big that it destroys suspicion, doubt, hidden agendas and 'What's the Catch?'.

PS. I should also state the obvious. Demonstrating unconditional love isn't easy. We all fail. But Gods grace, forgiveness and unconditional love are the ultimate safety net to help us bounce back and try again.

Monday, April 15, 2013

What if the Bible were a Myth?

This blog post is my contribution to Aprils Synchroblog topic, 'What if the Bible were a myth?'

I'll admit I've struggled to get my head around this topic. As a Christian it's not a thought I entertain.

When I started thinking about it I found the consequences of truth becoming myth are like never ending dominoes. So what I've written here are really just a few thoughts that have found their way onto paper/computer screen.
Some of these thoughts are poetic, some are not. But all of them are written as starters for much longer conversations.

Thanks for reading them.

If the Bible is a myth we might as well pack up and go home. But there's a problem. Where's home?

If the Bible is a myth then God is a myth.
If God is a myth then love is a myth
If love is a myth....we're dead.

If the Bible is a myth then does right and wrong still exist? It could only be defined in our own eyes.
That, in turn, would cause the disintegration of community and the consolidation of lawlessness.

If the Bible is a myth
The martyrs died in vain
And all the world will forever
Live in endless pain.

If the Bible is a myth, then the cross is just two sticks pointing in four different directions but offering none.

If the Bible is a myth then Love, joy and peace are nothing more than three unreachable stars in a vacuum of darkness.

If the Bible is a myth
Then the Church is a myth
And if the Church is a myth
Then who am I?

These are the links for the Synchroblog participants this month:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sunday Quote 14 April 2013

Friendly Fire Isn't Friendly

This week seems to be one tinged with sadness with the death of Rick Warrens son.
Another blog I read, Kathy Escobars, also mentioned a similar death in their church community.

A number of blog posts I read (Tall Skinny Kiwi, Frank Viola and Mark Driscoll) concerning the death of Ricks son reflect my feelings well. ie, If your reaction to Rick and his family at this time is to blame his theology for this tradegy or to run him down because you don't agree with his books, then you need to sit down and have a good think about whether your version of 'Christianity' lines up with the Bible.

A few verses that may help...

John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

1 John 3:10 .....Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

1Peter 1:22 one another deeply, from the heart.

Col 3:12 Therefore, as Gods chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion....

Eph 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another....

There's a time and place for challenging and questioning a persons beliefs etc but right now Rick and his family need our prayer, love and compassion.

I don't even know why I'm writing this stuff. This is Christianity 101. It should go without saying.

Love your Neighbour as yourself.

Ephesians 6:16 says to take up the shield of faith which can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.

We don't need flaming arrows coming from our own side.

There's nothing friendly about friendly fire.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Sunday Quote

Greater love has no one than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Love, Judgement and Computer Files

By this all men will know that you are my disciples,
if you love one another. John 13:35

I'm the type of person who likes lists.
My favourite types of sermons are the ones titled "5 keys to....." or "3 steps to.....".
I decide what political side people are on by a mental list of stereo-typical left-wing / right-wing traits.
I like everything to be to be neat and tidy in its own box in my head.

Or, to put it in computer terms, I like everything to have its own folder and/or sub-folder.

For most of my christian life I've managed to do this with 2 big folders. "Right" and "Wrong".
But nows there's some glitches and it appears that some of sub-folders may be in the wrong place.

So how did this happen?

I'll take the two biggest sub-folders challenging the church today. The 'LGBT issue' and the 'Gender Roles' issue.
I'm not going to debate which folder they should be in. In fact, you would have to break down the issues into lots of smaller sub-folders that could potentially end up in either main folder.

The main issue is what criteria was used to determine which folder these issues ended up in.

I believe that to a large extent we have used judgement instead of love to decide what folders go where.

I haven't read Phyllis Tickles book, The Great Emergence, but for me, part of the 500 year rummage sale within the church is the need to replace judgement with love.

For example. If a LGBT person becomes a christian, then surely, getting their life right with God is no different to a 'straight' person getting their life right. It takes time and ultimately it's between them and God.
Just as a side note. Gossip is a sin but I don't see christians picketing churches because they have gossips in their congregations. (This is probably because the gossips organize the pickets!)
My right/ability to to offer any guidance is determined by the the relationship I have with that person and the love that I show toward them (Not the judgement I show toward them).

If a mum decides she needs to go out to work to support her family shouldn't we show our love to her and her family by offering our support etc rather than judging her through our interpretation of the Bible.

Too often we go into a situation with an attitude of judgement - "I'm going to change that person no matter what." 
We don't change people. God does. Yes, God uses people to speak into other peoples lives but usually it's people who've formed relationships over time.
Instead, our attitude should be - "I'm going to love that person no matter what."

In Philip Yanceys book, What's so amazing about Grace, he asks why it was, when Jesus lived on earth, that sinners flocked to him but now sinners stay well away from the church?
His conclusion was that judgement has taken the place of grace.

Love and grace go hand-in-hand. You can't have one without the other.

So, getting back to my computer folder analogy.
I've got rid of the glitch and now have one main folder called 'LOVE' and everything else is a sub-folder of that.
A note of caution though. You've got to watch out for a virus that tries to return things to the old filing system. But don't worry....."LOVE NEVER FAILS" 1 Cor 13:8

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sunday Quote 24 March 2013

If our goods are not available to the community when it is clearly right and good, then they are stolen goods.
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Friday, March 22, 2013

Amazing Aunty

I recently attended the funeral for my Aunty (Cynthia Collier) and discovered (after being out of contact for approx 25 years) that she was a pretty amazing lady.
One of the things that stood out for me was that for almost all of her adult life she was an active member of 'Rural Women NZ'. During the funeral service a lady representing RWNZ read out their creed which is said at the beginning of every meeting.
The comment was made that my aunty lived up to this creed.
Here it is.

Keep us, O God, from pettiness;
Let us be large in thought, in word, and deed.
Let us be done with fault finding and leave off self-seeking.
May we put away pretence and meet each other face to face without
self pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgement and always generous.
Let us take time for all things; make us grow calm, serene, gentle.
Teach us to put into action our better impulses, straightforward and
Grant that we may realise it is the little things that create differences;
that in the big things of life we are one.
And may we strive to touch and to know the great human heart common
to us all, and O Lord, let us not forget to be kind.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sunday Quote 17 March 2013

"It's the Holy Spirits job to Convict,
It's Gods job to Judge,
And it's my job to Love"

Billy Graham, Evangelist

Who Sinned?

Isn't it amazing how negative our Christian thinking can be sometimes.

As an example. We come across a person or family with serious health issues, be it physical, mental or emotional, and that little voice in your head says something like 'What sin bought this illness on them?'.
There is, of course, a biblical basis for this thinking. There are continuous warnings throughout the scriptures that warn about the consequences of sin.

But I believe Jesus set the model for our response to sickness and illness.
In John 9 we see that the early disciples were just like us.
Jesus comes across a blind man and the disciples ask who sinned to bring this illness on him.
Jesus answer should be our immediate response to that little voice.
'This illness happened so that that the work of God might be displayed.'
But what does it mean '...that the work of God might be displayed'.
Does it mean that we pray for that persons healing and thats it. I'm not belittling prayer. Prayer is very important in every situation and God can miraclously heal people. But I think Jesus words go deeper than that.
The Bible declares that God is love, 1Jn 4:16, so if we go back to John 9 we can read this verse ' that the work of love might be displayed.' or to paraphrase the verse ' that love may be the prominent feature in that situation.'

To blame sin the the easy option. It puts the cause of the problem out of our hands, but when love is put in the equation, that puts the solution in our hands.

It's interesting that in the parable of the sheep and goats Matt 25:31-46, of all the examples Jesus could give he specifically talks about looking after the sick.
Prayer is very important but too often we leave it at that. We forget about the 'looking after' part so that the work of love might be displayed.
If we don't do the 'looking after' part then maybe the question really is 'Who sinned?'.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reflecting on Passionfest 2013

Last weekend I attended the Passionfest festival hosted by the Ngatiawa community near Waikanae.
It was a fantastic weekend (apart from the coldest night I have ever spent in a tent - there really was a frost on Saturday morning).
It was my first time there and a statement I often heard over the weekend sums up the spirit of the event - "If you see something that needs doing, it probably means you're the one to do it."
If only that philosophy was more prominent in my own life and the life of the church as a whole.

There were three keynote speakers.

Andrew Jones, who has one of the most popular Christian blogs on the planet, spoke on social justice and the need to connect rich people (those with resources) with the poor (those who need resources). ie, don't despise the rich.

Dave Andrews spoke twice. His first message was about his work with people of different faiths. It was very very thought provoking. His second message was about the beatitudes and being the change we want to see.
I enjoyed Daves new take on the Serenity prayer.

Lord, Grant me the serenity
to accept the people
I can not change,
the courage
to change the one I can,
and the wisdom to know
-it's me.

Alison Robinson, a chaplain at Rimutaka prison and part of Urban Vision, spoke on running the race 'til the end. She covered four main points.
1. Examining our core beliefs.
2. Recognising that life is a continuous choosing.
3. Throwing off everything that hinders us.
4. Hope. Those who hope in the Lord will renew there strength.

The only negative over the weekend (apart from being very tired - my fault) was that our team didn't win the Pub Quiz.

There's a good article here about this years event.

Heres a few photos from the weekend.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Limited Edition

The other day one of my teenage daughters made a strange comment (as teenagers do) to which my wife commented "You're weird".
My daughter replied "I'm not weird. I'm a limited edition."

If only we all realised that we are all

  • Limited editions
  • One-offs
  • Created in Gods image
  • Fearfully and wonderfully made
And that we were were all known by God before the beginning of time.
To me that means we were all loved from the beginning of........... the beginning.

It's a sad fact that here in New Zealand our youth suicide rate is one of the highest in the world. My daughter told me today that a high school student she knew ended her life last night.
I'm not qualified, nor do I understand, suicide and it's causes but I think that somewhere along the way the ability to receive and know love must have been severely damaged. I'm not blaming parents or families or friends. It seems to be something that happens over time invisibly.

I believe we need to install into each other, including the teenagers we know, that we are all special, limited editions, loved by God and us.

The question is how do we the 'church' achieve this?
Are we doing a good job?
What improvements can we make?