Thursday, March 31, 2011

Profound Video Give Insight Into The Kiwi Dream And The Words Of Ecclesiasties

Ecclesiastes 1

Everything Is Meaningless

1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”

says the Teacher.

“Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless.”

3 What do people gain from all their labors

at which they toil under the sun?

4 Generations come and generations go,

but the earth remains forever.

5 The sun rises and the sun sets,

and hurries back to where it rises.

6 The wind blows to the south

and turns to the north;

round and round it goes,

ever returning on its course.

7 All streams flow into the sea,

yet the sea is never full.

To the place the streams come from,

there they return again.

8 All things are wearisome,

more than one can say.

The eye never has enough of seeing,

nor the ear its fill of hearing.

9 What has been will be again,

what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.

10 Is there anything of which one can say,

“Look! This is something new”?

It was here already, long ago;

it was here before our time.

11 No one remembers the former generations,

and even those yet to come

will not be remembered

by those who follow them.

Wisdom Is Meaningless

I came across a profound short animated video called 'Kiwi' produced as a masters project by Tony Premedi. AS a Kiwi I to the video and found myself drawing parallels between it and the book of Ecclesiastes. I do not think I am breaking copyright here (original link  but I share it with you as  it picks up for me the Kiwi dream not only to fly but the Kiwi dream of a good education, a good job and the good life, doing the OE etc. A life where meaning and purpose is found outside of relationship with God.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Prayer Of Thanks For God's Revelation and People's Faithful Witness

This prayer is based on the fact that God is a God who chooses to reveal himself to us. Through creation through history and the Scriptures ultimately through Jesus Christ and then in our lives continues to reveal himself through the witness of faithful men and women lead by the Holy Spirit.
Loving Father

Full of mercy and grace

We come together this morning to acknowledge your awesome power and the great things you have done for us.

You are eternal and almighty and you know everything

You were beyond our ability to comprehend

So we praise you that we can know you because you have revealed yourself to us

You have shown us something of your self through your creation

You have shown us who you are through the scriptures

Spirit breathed words through the hand of human beings

You became one of us in your son Jesus Christ

And we beheld you up close and personal

You shared the best and worst of our human condition

You cared for the poor healed the sick spoke of your just kingdom

In your death and resurrection you transformed our lives

You forgave our sin and broke down the barrier between us

You invited us to live in a relationship with you both here and with you in eternity

You send your spirit to dwell with in us and lead us into all truth

Loving and faithful God we are so thankful for how you have shown yourself to us called us to draw near and know your love

We want to thank you this morning for all the people down through the ages and in our own time and our own lives who have shared the good news of Jesus Christ with us.

We thank you for those who have died for their faith in Jesus Christ

Paying the ultimate sacrifice for their witness

Men and women who have lived out and told about your great love

Parents who have kept the faith and passed it on to us

Friends who have been willing to tell about the wellspring they have found in you

Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, even preachers

Ordinary people who have shown your love and inspired us

Thank you lord Jesus for these people that have introduced us to you and encouraged us to keep walking our pilgrim path

AS Hebrews says surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses we want to press on fixing our eyes on you and run the race set before us throw off everything that would hinder us.

WE pray that you would forgive us for the things we have done wrong

For seeking our own good and our own comfort more than your ways and your kingdom

We do not love others, as you love us

We have been silent and inactive in the face of injustice and poverty

We keep the good news to ourselves

We have done what we should not have done and left undone much of the good you call us to do.

Thank you for the truth O Lord that if we confess our sin then God is faith and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”

Lord God thank you for your mercy and grace for your forgiveness

That as we have confessed our sin you have been faithful and just and forgiven us

That we have been reconciled with you

Lord God fill us afresh with your spirit that we may know you more

That we maybe empowered to witness to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

To the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reflection On Luke 5:10-11.

   Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

At studentsoul Auckland the church I am trying to plant, we are working through Luke's gospel. this week we are up to looking at Luke's account of  the calling of those first disciples.

I have to admit that I found myself really relating to the first half of Peter's reply to Jesus on being asked to go out into the deep and fish... "“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything." I hope i have the sense of Jesus to say "But because you say so, I will let down the nets." and even more to continue to emulate Peter and his partners when they "leave everything and follow him."

But I was struck by Joel Greens commentary on v.11 when he says that in  "leaving all that has been of value, they will now find their fundamental sense of belonging being in relationship to Jesus, (and) the community being built around him and his missional purpose".

I sense that I and in many ways the church in the west has been willing to find our identity and community based round a relationship with Jesus, but have forgotten that we are called to be the community based round "his missional purpose".

If I may use a metaphor I used in a sermon a few years back... we are called to be a 'blues brothers' church. A place where people see the light (like Jake and Ellwood do as they come to Triple Rock Baptist Church) and from that time onwards we are to be a people who are "on a mission from God".

The hope for me comes from Peter's response (echoing Isaiah's in Isaiah 6) to Jesus " I am a sinner" and Jesus response not to reject but to invite and call.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

God's Got My Number... Well He speaks through Numbers

1 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”  Numbers 14:1-4

Ouch! It is not often that I open up the scriptures and read and have the real sense that God is wanting to speak so plainly and seriously to me as i did as I sat down at Lunchtime to belatedly do my scripture reading for today.

I am using Tyndale's 'The One Year Bible' to read through the bible each year and as it is March I am working my way through the Pentateuch and in particular the story of Moses and Israel's wilderness wanderings.

For the past three years I have been involved in church planting amongst University Student's in Auckland City. I have to admit that I find it a very hard task and have found myself prone to winging and complaining about this. In prayer and in conversations with people who ask about how things are going. As I read the people of Israel's reactions to the spies who Moses had sent up to the land of Israel I realised that it echoes my own concerns and complaints. Yup the land looks fruitful, but to tell you the truth the problems feel like giants. I often feel very alone in things out numbered. I worry that I have lead my family up here from napier where we lived on a surf beach and somehow if it all falls to pieces and does not succeed that it will like they will be the ones who pay the price. I often thing well God maybe it would have been better if I had stayed down in Napier, which is not exactly a wilderness and we could have lived by the beach and simply kept on doing what we were doing there.

But to have ones negative attitudes so uncovered by scripture is rather a wake up call. So why this blog entry you may ask...

1. To remind me and keep it fresh in my mind... God hears the wrestling I am having, and wants to challenge that.

2. I don't really want to go back to Egypt.

3. I need to rehear the testimony of Joshua and Caleb... Yup it's a tough call but God is with us. It's Gods call, God's vision, God's work.

The Shadow Of The Cross: Hope In The Midst Of Suffering

The image that accompanies this blog post was taken in New Orleans during the aftermath of cyclone Katrina. You’ll notice that the streets are deserted that’s because people have been evacuated. The caption that went with this photo said that it was a photo of a cross taken on the wall of a building in the deserted 9th ward of New Orleans as aid workers waited to hear if the disaster was going to be as bad as they had feared. It’s interesting that their thoughts would turn to the cross. I guess in our western Christianised culture the cross has become associated with death. Along our highways (at least in New Zealand) white crosses are placed to remind us of people that have died on treacherous corners, intersection and even long straights. Likewise war cemeteries confront us with row upon row of white crosses. In this case it may have been a symbol of dread for the photographer that death and grave markers was all they faced as they continued their work. It may have been a symbol of hope a reminder of God’s presence with the people of the city and the aid workers themselves. That the God who loved us so much that he gave his son to die on a cross was with them. It may have been both at the same time.

We used this image in our Worship On Wednesday. It's context of a city in ruins after a natural disaster gave it significance for people in New Zealand dealing with our second city Christchurch being devastated by an earthquake. Placing it in juxtaposition with a video of psalm 146 which featured amazing computer graphics of Hubble telescope images and left you with the sense of a God who is majestic and mighty and also concerned for his world but distant. But here in this almost non-descript photo of the shadow of a telegraph pole is another picture of God... God who is with us in the midst of our suffering. A God who is with us and able to be a source of hope in the face of death, suffering and grief. Not beyond it or unaffected but present and having experienced it.

In times like this and indeed through all of life we need to know both the vast sovereignty of God and God's closeness.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Fruit of the Holy Spirit part 3: Peace ( Galatians 5:22-23, Psalm 46, Ephesians 2:11-22 )

Dorothy Thompson, an influential American journalist in the 1930’s and 40’s commenting on the world situation of her time said ‘They have not wanted peace at all; they have wanted to be spared war- as though the absence of war was the same as peace.’

This is part of a series on Paul’s list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit the character traits that develop within the followers of Jesus when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and we walk in step with the spirit. The third of those fruit mentioned is peace.

Peace is kind of one of those slippery words, like love, that we use a lot and that we can attach so many different meanings to.

Peace says Richard Longenecker is the ‘universal quest of humanity, though it is defined differently in various philosophies and cultures.’ That’s important when we come to grasp a biblical understanding of peace, because the New Testament is a collection of very cross cultural documents. The New Testament writers in the main part are Jewish thinkers writing in the Greek language to people from a whole raft of different cultural backgrounds held together by the ‘Pax Roma’ social peace backed and enforced by the military might of the Roman Empire.

Eirene The Greek word we translate as peace, Eirana, picks up the Greek definition and aim in life to find an inner tranquillity, and a quietness of mind. Expressed, negatively it means an absence of pain in the body or trouble in the mind.

The Jewish word which we translate peace is ‘Shalom’. It has more an idea of wholeness or being in right relationship. That for the Jews was their ideal for peace: A right relationship with God, a right relationship with each other, inside the covenant community and a right relationship with those around them, and with creation, and with their possessions. All of which were intertwined.

We shouldn’t be surprised that peace is the fruit of being lead and walking with the Spirit. Six times in the New Testament God is called the ‘God of peace’. At the core of our understanding of God is the trinity, three persons one God: A community of love, whose relationship are so right with each other that they model for us what it is to living in shalom, peace and wholeness.

Shalom is at the core of God actions towards us. Jesus is called ‘the prince of peace’, the one who has come to restore those right covenant relationships, the one who invites both Jew and gentile into right relationship with God and a new way of being humanity together, in the kingdom of God which the whole of creations Romans tells us is aching to see revealed .

It’s rather ironic that the Christian understanding of the inner peace that the Greek’s sought is best summed up in the words of the ancient Hebrew song or prayer, Psalm 46, which we had read to us this morning. “Be still” says the Psalmist, despite the idyllic illustrations that go with this verse it’s not that there is an absence of trouble or conflict, because the whole Psalm revolves round the fact that God is a help in a time of danger, a refuge and strong tower, its great that God can stop war and break the bow because you get the idea that war and conflict is raging all around. Some Christians wish that life was like they’d gone hang gliding and missed the fall. But the psalmist points to the thing that is able to give us that peace and stillness, in the midst of a fallen and broken world, he says that God breaks into that brokenness and says ‘Be still and know that I am God’. That desire for inner peace comes from a right relationship with God. It comes from knowing God. That peace that Jesus Gives that the spirit brings is not dependant on the situation but on the one who is in that situation with us and ultimately is the one who is sovereign in all situations.

Bob Glen my Church history lecturer at the Bible College of New Zealand, which is now Laidlaw college, used the illustrated being still as being like a bird feeding its young in a nest right next to a raging waterfall. Despite the roar and the embodiment of chaos right beside it, it kept about its business trusting in God. In his sermon on the mount Jesus also applied this peace that comes from trusting in God’s ability to look after us in terms of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. Telling us that we should not be anxious for anything, because the same God who feeds the sparrow who does not sow or reap and that clothes the wildflower that is here today and gone tomorrow, is the God who provides and cares for us. It’s amazing the amount of worry and anxiety there is in the western world at the moment with the deepening effects of the credit crunch. Jim Wallis the cofounder of the Sojourners community in Washing DC likened it to the aftermath of 9/11 when everyone was united in sharing the same concerns. It’s ironic, and I’m not wanting to down play the very real concerns of people round the world who are losing their homes and their savings and their livelihood, but it’s ironic that this is happening in a culture where its currency boldly proclaims in God we trust. For peace of mind we need to recapture that understanding

For peace of mind in the face of life’s storms and crisis we need to remember, which for the Jews was the same as having faith, that God is with us and for us. The last scene in the epic disaster movie twister has the two main characters face to face with a huge category 5 tornado over a mile wide that is causing havoc and destruction on what people in our post Christian society would say was biblical portions. They try and take shelter in a barn but even on the outskirts of this storm the barn begins to disintegrate and wood and corrugated iron swirls round them.

In desperation they run to a pump house where the pipes are embedded meters into the ground and they lash themselves to these pipes. The roar of the storm overpowers even their shouts to each other and the pump house dissolves round them and they are battered and bruised but the storm does not uproot them.

In saying that in knowing God we find an inner peace and stillness I’m not saying we are to be passive or fatalistic.

Again to quote Dorothy Thompson ‘Peace has to be created, in order to be maintained. It is the product of faith, strength, energy, will, sympathy, justice, imagination, and the triumph of principle. It will never be achieved by passivity and quietism.’

Jesus said that this trust in God should free us up to put first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.’

Martin Luther King Jr said ‘true peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of Justice’

We can easily forget that the context of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not primarily in our own personal life but it is in the community of faith. The fruit of the Holy Spirit are at the centre of how we can form the people of God together, they are the character traits of the Christian believer and of the Christian community. This understanding of peace is very much the Hebrew understanding of right relationships. Influential fourteenth century theologian and mystic

Thomas A Kempis summed it up when he said, ‘First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.’

In Ephesians 2:11-12’ Paul articulates the fact that Jesus is the one who is the peace across the great divides of humanity. He is the one who has broken down the dividing walls between us and it’s only natural that as we allow his spirit to lead us and we walk in the spirit that we should grow this peace between us. Again we don’t often pick up the irony in the scriptures, Paul was writing to the Ephesians while he was in prison awaiting trial in Rome. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem had accused Paul of taking a gentile past the court of the gentiles in the temple to where only Jews were able to go. Paul maintained he was innocent, but must have had a lot of time to reflect on the way that Jesus had broken down that dividing wall and that in Christ we all have that same access to God, he made a way for us all to be God’s children together. So a fruit of the spirit working within us is a peace between us.

In Galatians the fruit of the spirit are put in juxtaposition to the work of the flesh which are divisive and seek the good of the individual above that of the group. But the spirits work is to bring us together to unite us in Christ. The hope that we are able to bring to a world wrecked by conflict and hostility between individuals and groupings, between nations, races and tribes, is the peace we have with one another in the one who has become our peace, in the one in whom we have been made one.

It is why when we look at the fruit of the Holy Spirit we see that they all need to ripen and develop together. To achieve this peace we need love and a shared sense of joy we find in knowing and being known by God, we need patience and kindness and generosity, gentleness and self-control.

‘Christians often focus on the peace that is beyond understanding, its the peace that Jesus gives us as we come to know him a peace that the world cannot understand it because it comes from God and a peace that comes from knowing God. But we also need to be aware that the work of the Holy Spirit is to produce a peace between us.

The sort of work that Helen Keller summed up when she said, ‘I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.’

The great thing is that in Christ we can have both.

(once again I am indebted to the book 'Fruitg of the Holy Spirit' by Thomas Trask and Wayde Goodall  2000, Zondervan)