Monday, May 30, 2016

We Stop... A prayer of thanskgiving and confession amidst the churn and blurr of life (psalm 46:8 Be Still and Know that I am God').

When I am invited to pray with non-churched people I usually start my prayers "we stop".., It may not seem the most 'religious way' to start praying but I believe it actually does capture what people are looking for in prayer... a chance to stop in the midst of what ever is going on... joyful celebration... the fun and friendship round a meal... the demands of stressful situations or the perfect storm of sickness and tragedy. To stop and to focus on something beyond. Then I'll try and capture whats going on and draw it up before God.

This week as I'm preaching on Martha and Mary having Jesus over for dinner I was caught offguard by the fact that we can be caught up in the so many things that just need to be done, General Eisenhower's 'tyrrany of the urgent" that we can forget to stop and focus on God, to take the best portion of simply sitting at Jesus feet and listening to what he has to say... even our quite times can become a race to get them done and out of the way, ticked off 'the to do list'.  So I just felt to pick all that up and use it for a prayer of thanksgiving and confession... and even in the midst of a corporate prayer to remind myself and the congregation to stop... and be still and know that God is God... To stop and simply sit at the feet of God... to stop and wait on him... to stop and simply worship and enjoy his presence (the first question in the shorter Westminster catechism is what is the chief end of man and the answer is to know God and enjoy him always...).

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of everyday

The push and grind of incessant demand and routine

Amidst the tidal ebbs and flows of life’s long journey

Good times of plenty and tough times of seeming nought

As storm front after storm front passes over

And in-between, the short lived, calm blue sky respite

We stop and we acknowledge that you are God

From the over flowing deluge of our to do lists

The pull of the important and the tyranny of the urgent

From the demanding approach of deadlines

The catch up on and the long put off catching up with

Through times of just wanting to unwind and sleep

And amidst the rush to fill every moment of our limited leisure time

We stop; we come to your feet and listen to what you have to say

You invite us to be still and to know you are God

You call us to find our hope and strength in who you are

Through your Son you invite us back to intimate closeness and knowing

By your spirit you make it a reality as you dwell with and within us

You give peace that the world cannot take away

Joy that transcends circumstance and sorrow

WE stop to know and enjoy you and give you praise

We confess we have got distracted by ‘all these tasks’

We acknowledge we are worried about these ‘so many things’

We have lost sight of the few that really matter

We have lost focus on the only one that brings life

We have done so many things that are wrong

And left undone the things that are good and right

We stop and say forgive us Lord and wait on your forgiveness

You are righteous and just and as we confess our sin you forgive us

You take away the sin and remove even its stain on our soul

AS we stop today to focus on you meet with us again

Fill us afresh with your spirits presence and power

Centre us on Christ, allow us to listen and hear what he has to say to us

From that to see the life and joy of Christ well up and over flow

We stop, and we worship you O God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit   

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Compassion enroute To Eternal Life (Luke 10:24-37)... Walking the Cross Road: Jesus jounrey to Jerusalem in Luke's Gospel and what it has to say to us today (Part 2)

I awoke that morning to my mother in hysterics running up and down the hallway. She in turn had just been woken up by my father’s death rattle; he’d had a massive heart attack and died beside her in the bed. It was an understatement to say it was a hard day, one of the worst in my life, but one where I felt what it was like to be loved by my neighbours.

Immediate neighbours…About mid-morning, our next door neighbours actually whipped over with their lawn mowers and mowed our lawn; my father had taken great pride in keeping the garden very neat and tidy. He was an ex air force officer, so it had to be military style short. They wanted to honour him by doing that.

And the kind of neighbours that Jesus talked of in the parable of the Good Samaritan… Not only was it the day my dad died but it was also the day I left my job at the BNZ Queen Street, so in the afternoon, feeling very fragile and sad, I went in to say farewell to everyone. I took my car, a beaten up old triumph 2000…and as I was heading home again…up the steep part of Wellesley Street back to the western motorway on ramp… The car decided it was going to break down…break down on that steep hill…break down in the outside lane… break down in rush hour traffic…

There were businessmen on their way home, they obviously knew what was going on in my life because as they passed they waved fists at me and tooted, maybe to tell me to stay strong. Many of them pointed towards heaven with one figure hopefully to encourage me to put my faith in God… I’m trying to be nice here. But none stopped to help.

I’d broken down right outside the old hotel that used to be on Wellesley Street, where that bungee swing is now… and a bus load of tourist stopped and got out and looked around. They had obviously not seen a car like mine before because they took photos, but no one came to help…

Then over the noise of traffic and those ever increasing encouraging toots, I heard the sound of rap music and a group of young pacific island guys dressed in their street gear came down with a ghetto blaster at full volume. People gave them the once over then that look of disapproval. But they saw me in the middle of the road. They strode out into the traffic and said… ‘do you need a hand bro”… they stopped the traffic and they pushed my car over to the side of the road. I thanked them and they said no problems and headed off.

A friend had to come all the way in from Titirangi to tow me, and when they arrived, wouldn’t you know it, my car simply bust into life again… it was a vapour lock or something in the fuel system…it really was one of those days… But I knew the love of neighbours. I knew the kindness that Jesus beautiful articulated in the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan.’

We are working our way through Luke’s account of Jesus journey to Jerusalem. In Luke 9 verse 51 it says that Jesus knew his time was coming and so he resolutely set out for Jerusalem. It just so happens that that journey makes up the central third of the gospel and focuses on Jesus teaching on what it means for us to follow him walking the cross road… the road of discipleship. Last week, when he sent out the seventy two, we saw it was a missional road of going and telling people of Jesus and his Kingdom. This week we see it is a compassionate route when Jesus tells us to go and do likewise, to go and love our neighbour in a lavish radical over the top way that reflects God’s love for us in Jesus own life death and resurrection.

Often when I’ve preached on this passage, I ask people to tell each other the parable of the Good Samaritan and then to listen to it being read. Then I ask them to talk to the person they had told the parable to and see what they got right and what they missed out. In all those times there are three things that always come up.

 The first is that people miss the context. The parable is so powerful and memorable that they forget that it is told in response to some questions by an expert in the law. ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ It’s a good question it’s the salvation question… isn’t it. And Jesus asks the expert to tell him what the law says “how do you read It?” and the lawyer gives a great answer ‘to love the lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”, and “love your neighbour as yourself”.  That first part is the core of what Jews call the ‘shema yisrael’ from Deuteronomy 4:6-8. It is the focal point of the law and covenant in the Old Testament: that the Lord our God is one and they should love the Lord their God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’. It was to be nailed to their door posts, in a mezuzah, so every time they came in and went out they were to remember it. “Love they neighbour’ from Leviticus also captured the essence of the law, how being a people in right relationship with God is to be lived out in how treat each other. First and foremost that relationship with God needs to be addressed for us to have eternal and full life. Of Course Jesus came and lived and died and rose again so that we might be put right with God and though that be reconciled with each other.

But the lawyer wants to definitely know ‘who is my neighbour?’  There is a sense here that likes all lawyers they want to dot the I’s and cross the t’s. Define neighbour Jesus? Was it just the physical neighbour that lived next door? Is it just the people like us, our friends or our family or people in the church…? and Jesus really challenges that by saying it is the person who we come across who is in need. He bangs it home for the lawyer by making the hero in the story a despised Samaritan, those people of mixed race that the Jews looked down their noses at. He is the one who shows love to his neighbour. The lawyer may have wanted to quantify it, box it up, and put a limited to whom he should love but Jesus blows that apart for him and for us…

The second thing that people say they didn’t remember is the extent to which the Samaritan goes in showing love for the man, beaten and robbed by the side of the road. He goes out of his busy way as a merchant to help him, he takes him to an inn and tends his wounds and feeds him and pays for him to stay till he can recover, and he offers the inn keeper to cover any debt the man might incur beyond what the Samaritan has paid him. I wonder if it like someone in today’s society paying the bill for a homeless family staying in a motel…and then giving them the deposit they need to get a flat and the furniture they need to live. To love with a Christ like love calls us to give and love sacrificially. Who knows where it will lead.

Granville sharp is an ancestor of mine on my Mother’s side.  When we saw a photo of a plaque with his face on it we knew it was rue because of the sharp nose… and high cheek bones (I'm adopted so I don't have the family nose). Granville is known as the father of the movement for the abolition of slavery in England. He was the son of a bishop in the Church of England, and was a shipping clerk, one day he went to visit his brother who was a doctor and on the way he found a salve Jonathan Strong, who had been beaten by his master and left for dead on the street. Granville and his brother tended his wounds, got him a place in a prestigious hospital, paid for his four month stay there, that gives you a sense of the injuries he had sustained, when he was better they found him a job. When his master came looking for him again Granville Sharp engaged a lawyer to fight his being sold and shipped off to the plantations in the Caribbean. Granville Sharp spent two years teaching himself the law so he could argue in court that it was illegal for one person in England to own another, that when a slave stepped foot in England they were free.  The law lords at the time feared him because of the rightness of his cause. He published the first pamphlet against slavery. It wasn’t till a generation later, with new leaders like William Wilberforce, that the slave trade was stamped out. Random acts of kindness can lead to systemic changes and justice. It is the power of love for our neighbour, world changing.

The last thing that people forgot was the punch line... or application… ‘Go and do likewise’. Jesus asked the lawyer who was the man’s neighbour? and the lawyer rightly responds the one who helped him and Jesus says go and do likewise… Go and do likewise… It’s interesting but the two people you’d think would be the heroes in Jesus story, the Levite and the priest, were religious people, kept the letter of the law were doing good things in terms of religious observance. But it isn’t religiosity or ritual cleanliness, both important issues for the Jews that God was looking for it was love and mercy… It was kindness.

The passage calls us as followers of Jesus to go and do likewise, that our love for God is shown in our love for others, our reaction to the race and the mercy and the kindness of God is to show that to others around us. 

I found myself looking for something fresh in this parable today, and the thing that struck me was the way that he love shown by the Samaritan mirrored Jesus own love for us. We know what love is because God first loved us. He found us in our brokenness,
robbed and beaten, as we red in the psalm we used as a call to worship ‘he healed up the broken-hearted and  bound up our wounds’, he took us to a place where we could find wholeness and he paid the price for us to be made new again. And so Jesus calls us to go and do likewise. Be it simply acts of kindness and again in the parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus talks of simple acts of kindness like giving a glass of water, going and visiting the sick, the infirmed, the prisoner, clothing and housing those who are poor. Isn’t that a challenge that we find increasingly at our door. Juan Carols Ortiz a south American Pentecostal who lived in the kind of land of extreme wealth and poverty we sadly are finding ourselves in summed up love your neighbour as yourself as saying that if we have three meals a day and our neighbour has only one e should settle for two so they can have two, if we have two coats and they have nothing to keep the cold out we should give them one of ours.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the profound movie ‘Pay it forward’. It tells the story of a teacher who challenges his class of young people to come up with an idea that will change the world. One young boy comes up with the idea of doing three acts of kindness for people who have no way of doing something for themselves. He them says that instead of paying him back he was going to ask them to pay it forwards, by doing three acts of kindness for other people and only asking in return for them to pay it forwards, it had to be a costly act and one that the person couldn’t do for themselves. The boy is tragically killed in the movie and as his mother and teacher are comforting each other a great crowd of people gather, those who have been affected and shown kindness and love as part of this pay it forwards movement. Of course I’m sure as the parable of the Good Samaritan show us there is no limiting of showing the great love we have received in Christ.  We have received great love in Jesus Christ, the restoration of our relationship with God, that we can know God as our heavenly Father; let us pass it forwards by loving our neighbour.  Let’s open our eyes as we travel down the roads we live in and travel along and allow the spirit of God to show us where the robbed and beaten in our community and city are and allow the spirit to cause us to go and show love and kindness. The cross road following Jesus is the compassionate way that leads to eternal life.  

So I’m going to finish today by refereeing back to our light bulbs and asking you to continue to be that light … and ask today that we commit ourselves to three simple acts of kindness this week. Ask God to lead you to three people that you can show God’s grace and love to. Maybe they are on the list of people you are praying for from last week maybe just totally out of the blue.

Let’s pray. 

We pray you would fill us a fresh with your spirit
Help us to love our neighbour and our enemy
To show them the love we have received from you
Open our eyes to see them and their needs
Open our hearts with the compassion of Christ
Open our lives and our wallets to share what we have
Empower our words and our deeds to embody you in the world
May we love because you first loved us
May we show kindness because you have shown us your kindness
May we show grace and forgiveness because we are graciously forgiven
May we offer  the wholeness and healing we know that you bring
May people know Christ because they see your great love in us.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Prayer of thanksgiving and confession based on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

This week I'm preaching on Jesus parable of he Good Samaritan. It is  hard passage to come up with fresh insight into, but as I have focused on it this week I found myself seeing it as an expression of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. The Samaritan showed Christ like love to his neighbour... and I thought of the great passage in 1 John 4... calling us to love one another... because God first loved us and sent his son to be an atoning sacrifice...  So in my typically verbose way I wanted to express that in a public prayer of thanksgiving and confession... starting by saying we know what love is because Christ has fort loved us seeing that apply to our own life like in the parable...  and finishing by asking that God may enable us to show that love to others so they may know Christ's love as well.

Father God,

We acknowledge that we know what love is because you first loved us,

We know what kindness is because you have shown us your kindness

We know what grace and forgiveness are because you have forgiven us

We know wholeness and healing because in you we are new creations  

We know this because in Christ you have shown us your great love

You did not wait for us to come to you but came looking for us.

You saw us waylaid by our own sin, under the shadow of death

You came to us on the roadside where we had been left robbed and beaten

You healed our brokenness and bound our wounds

You clothed us in your righteousness, when ours was tatted rags

You paid the price for us to be free and made whole again…

Forgiven because Christ died for us

Alive again because Christ was raised from the dead

Filled with joy because you dwell in us by the Holy Spirit

Able to have peace even in the midst of the continuing storms of life

Able to have peace because you left your peace with us

We know that it is not all wonderful

We know that everything isn’t just going to be swell

You told us in this life we would have trouble

But we know you continue to journey with us

That you strengthen us and consul us

We know in Christ you have walked this path before us

That by your Spirit Christ walks it with us

That Christ has gone ahead to make a way home to you

WE confess  we have sinned and done wrong

We confess we have left undone the good you call us to do

And we ask you again today to forgive us

To wipe the slate clean and restore a right spirit within us  

We thank you that you are faithful and just

We thank you that as we confess our sin you have  forgiven us

We pray you would fill us a fresh with your spirit

Help us to love our neighbour and our enemy

To show them the love we have received from you

Open our eyes to see them and their needs

Open our hearts with the compassion of Christ

Open our lives and our wallets to share what we have

Empower our words and our deeds to embody you in the world

May we love because you first loved us

May we show kindness because you have shown us your kindness

May we show grace and forgiveness because we are graciously forgiven

May we offer  the wholeness and healing we know that you bring

May people know Christ because they see your great love in us.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

It's a Missional Road (Luke 10:1-24)... On the Cross Road: Jesus journey to Jerusalem in Luke's Gospel (ch 10-19) and what it means for us today (Part 1)

I want to give each of you a little gift this morning(sorry not available if you are reading this online). Something you can hold in your hand while I’m preaching and something I hope you will take with you and keep in your purse, I’ve checked it will fit even fit into a wallet as well, or you could put it in a prominent place in your car, or home or workplace. I want it to be a reminder of what we are looking at today, something that will hopefully inspire you to put what we talk about into practise in your everyday life.

It’s a light bulb, but not a real one because if you put one of those in your wallet and sat down you’d definitely get the point, but not of what I wanted to say today. Rather it’s a symbolic cardboard one.  Over the period between Easter and Pentecost we’ve been talking about the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the way it empowers us to be witnesses to Jesus Christ and how the gifts of the spirit enable us to serve and show his love to one another and the world around us. In one of Jesus parables he says that we are to be like a lamp, on a lamps stand, and updating it to our twenty first century world it’s like we are called to be light bulbs and as the power of the Holy Spirit fills us and enables us we are to shine Christ’s light in the world around us. WE bear witness to Christ, just as a light bulb bears witness to the fact that the power is on and flowing through them. We are going to talk about some practical ways of doing that today.

Today we start a new series, which is part of our ongoing Journey through Luke’s Gospel. Before Easter we left Jesus at the end of his Galilean ministry. In chapter 9:51 it tells us that as Jesus time was near 'so he resolutely set out for Jerusalem…' he started on the road that would lead him to the cross. It just so happens that journey actually fills up the central part of Luke’s gospel (ch10-19), it covers a lot of his teaching about what it means to be a follower of his. So the series we are starting today is called ‘on the cross road: Jesus journey to Jerusalem and what it has to say to us as his followers’. You know often I think we like to stay at the crossroads, the place where we chose which way we are going to go, the broad highway, that Jesus in Matthew 7:14 said but is the easy route through life but would lead to hell, or the narrow way following him the only way that leads to eternal life. We kind of like to sit at the cross roads, but Jesus teaching is about following him down that narrow way; that cross road: Being wholehearted about following Jesus. My hope is that just as we follow Jesus footsteps on the journey to Jerusalem that we will find real practical steps we can take to follow him in our everyday life and deepen our discipleship. We are staring today with a passage that tells us that this cross road is a missional road… That to follow Jesus is to have him send us out to prepare the way for him to come into the lives and situations around us.

The passage we are having a look at today, is Jesus sending of the seventy two to go out before him and preparing the way. They were not the advance guard of some logistics team, but rather were sent to proclaim that the kingdom of God was at hand: to tell people about Jesus. We have Jesus instructions to them, and then we have Jesus reaction and further teaching when they come back.

The passage starts with the statement that Jesus sent out the seventy or seventy two. There are manuscript differences as to the number… Bu the key thing here is that Jesus sending of people was growing. At the beginning of Luke 9 Jesus had sent out his twelve disciples, now we see Jesus send out seventy or seventy two. The number Seventy has to do with Moses on the advice of his father in law establishing seventy elders in Israel to help him. We’ve just looked at Pentecost where it talks of God’s spirit filling the one hundred and twenty gathered together in Jerusalem. There is a real sense that Jesus wants all who follow him to be sent out, it’s not just the twelve. Not just those leaders. It’s not just the minister. It is all of us.

His sending starts with prayer. That because the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few, that they should pray to the Lord of the harvest field to send out more workers.

This week I used a screen shot from google earth as the image for our service. It shows the area around our church, an area that is both the geographic and demographic centre of Auckland. That goes from the affluent hill suburbs, to streets where people really struggle to survive. It covers old established families, people moving here recently from other places, literally from all over the world. Google earth gives us what is called God’s eye view of the place, it is daunting as we look at it, but it also calls us to look at it
with Christ’s eyes. Eyes of compassion, in Matthew’s account of the sending of the twelve, Jesus  sees the crowds and sees them as seep without a shepherd and that inspires him to ask his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest field . and Eyes of expectancy that there is a plentiful harvest... that there opening  for the gospel message.

The first call for being sent then is to pray and seek the Lord of the harvest to send out people into that harvest field.  God’s work, God’s mission starts and ends with prayer.

It’s interesting then that the ones who are called to pray are then sent out into that harvest field. They are the ones told to go. I don’t know about you but we can often feel well Jesus I’m not ready for this sort of thing, I’m not equipped to share my faith or tell people about you. The interesting thing is here in this case Jesus sent them out without the resources and equipment you’d think you’d need for the journey either. They did bring sandals a bag or a purse. In fact he says he was sending them out as sheep amongst wolves. They like we were to go and trust in God to provide.

Jesus was upfront and honest about, that there would be places where they wouldn’t be welcomed. There would be nos and no thank yous, rejections and as we will see later on even opposition. He even said woe to some of the towns that would not accept him. But Jesus tells them that where they are welcomed that they were to allow God’s peace to settle on those places. I think we can be afraid of the negative responses we can think that people don’t want to hear so we don’t share what we’ve found. At the Pentecost gathering last Sunday night Jim Wallace spoke and he asked the question what is the worst thing that could happen if you invited someone to church?... that right they could say no… The he told the story of an eighty year old in his congregation who asked a friend to church who came and whose faith came alive… and she came bouncing up to Jim full of Joy and said ‘You know If I’d of known this would happen I’d have asked them years ago.” That negative response we shouldn’t let put us off neiither should we take personally, as Jesus says “if they reject you, they reject me, and they reject the one who sent me.”

Then the narrative moves to when they come back, and they have stories of people listening, and haling and that even the demons obeyed them. Jesus responds by telling them that he saw Satan falling from heaven like lightning… It’s an amazing image isn’t it, we can see the world in darkness and oppressed and held captive by evil, but all it takes for things to change is God’s people to be willing to share their faith. Sometimes we don’t believe that. My friend Jono Hesp, who is the head of Alpha in New Zealand, told me the parable of the starfish. “one night there had been a great storm and  all along the beach thousands of starfish had been washed up above the high tide mark, and as the sun came up they were dying. A man went for a walk on the beach and was disturbed by what he saw. Then he came upon a young boy, who was picking up starfish one at a time, and carrying them back down into the sea. The man went up to him and told him that he wasn’t really making a difference. There was no way he could avert the tragedy of the starfish dying. The boy didn’t stop he picked up another starfish and carried it down to the water and up it in. the starfish was revived and started to move its legs. The bot turned to the man and said ‘well it’s made a difference in that starfish’s life” and went back to his work. The man joined him. I think as Christians we are called to confront evil and stand for justice and peace on a systemic level but also to be about seeing God bring his life giving presence into one person at a time. Even we are to find our joy in our relationship with Jesus Christ, not that demons or evil submit to us in Jesus name.’

Then we have what I think is my new favourite verse in scripture in verse 21 it says at that time Jesus was full of joy, through the Holy Spirit” and began praising God that the things of heaven were being revealed to ordinary people. Not held bottled up for the wise and learned but even little children were hearing and responding to them.  Wow! what a wonderful inspiration to be about working in God’s harvestfeild... it fills  Jesus with joy.

Ok how do we apply this to our lives? Really there are many ways, for example if you want to look at short term missions I have a friend who runs a company where you can go on overseas holidays and be involved in building projects to help poor communities in Mexico and round the pacific. That’s up to you…
But I want to invite us all to take one step along the missional cross road this morning and who knows where it will lead. I’m going to ask you to pray for five friends or family members who do not know Jesus to become followers of his. It’s kind of that first step that Jesus asked the seventy two to take right… prayer. Maybe this whole area seems too vast for us but we can start with five friends. In fact when I shared this with someone who wasn’t going to be here today she said she already prays for more people than that. I want you to pray for them regularly, daily and consistently to keep praying.

Will that make a difference? The great evangelist DL Moody, had a list of one hundred non-Christian friends and he prayed for them fervently every day of his life. When one became a Christian he’d tick them off the list. By the time he died ninety six of those people had become followers of Jesus. At his funeral the other four made decisions for Christ. and if that seems a bit to big for us. AS a young adult I was part of our churches drama team…one night a women who was in the team came along bouncing of the walls. She had been praying for her non churched husband to become a Christian everyday for well over ten years, and before the drama team meeting he’d sat her down and told her a friend had shared his faith with him and he had become a Christian… he told her he’d waited few months to tell her as well because he just wanted to make sure it was the real thing. They are both church leaders today… It does make a difference. We are to pray to the Lord of the harvestfeild.

It may sound a bit contrived and you don’t want to treat a friend like they are some sort of Christian project or target? The narrative in Luke 10 finishes with Jesus pulling aside his disciples and sharing his joy with them… He tells them that there had been many kings and prohpets who had longed for and wanted to see what was happening in Jesus time. They wanted to see God’s saviour come and the kingdom of God begin to be established. We have good news, Jesus comes so that we might have life in all its fullness, we might have that relationship we were created for with God restored through Jesus Christ. When we are praying we are saying we want people to know the freedom and truth and liberty and wholeness that comes in knowing and being know by Jesus, To have their sins forgiven and be reconciled with God, one another, the world around them. I love the arch Bishop of Canterbury’s vision of revival. He says he longs to see the church filled up with the life and joy of Christ that it overflows to all around them and transforms society. All we are doing is asking God that our friends and family members maybe filled with that life and joy. I can't thnk of a better thing to hope for your friends and family. If you don’t have that in your own life I’m happy to meet with you and pray with you… It’s a joy and life that springs up even when we are facing hard times.

Lastly, maybe you feel like you don’t have the words to say and I’m not good at remembering… this is where the light bulb comes in. It will act as a reminder. And I have another gift for you. It’s a lamp shade for your light bulb, not to hide that light but as a way of saying I’m shining my light for these people, and on it is space to write the names of the people you are praying for. The other things is that the praying for five people comes from a campaign in the church of England called ‘thy kingdom come’ and our dear Anglican brothers and sisters are good at writing prayers so as an insert in the order of service today there is a handout they produced with ideas for remembering to pray for people on it and prayers that will help you to pray.

This is the first step, and my prayer is that in your going, at home at school where you work or shop as you met people in the street that you will be like your lightbulbs and shine Christ’s light and I long to hear the stories of the difference it makes.

I used it last week but I want to finish today with a prayer for the renewal of evangaelism fr the 'they kingdom come' campaign in the Church of England

Gracious God,

 We thank you that you have brought us to know and recognise you Through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We thank you for those who shared the Gospel of Jesus with us.

We ask that in turn we may pass the Good News on to others.

Give us confidence to speak of you,

Sensitivity to walk with others on their journey,

And love to inspire us to reach out to others.

Most of all, give us a passion to see your Kingdom come,

That we might take risky steps

To be your witnesses to your world.

Through your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Post Pentecost Prayer of thanks... and continued renewal...

After pentecost, where I experienced many people asking to be filled afresh with God's Holy Spirit, and God answering, both at St Peter's in our morning service  and in the evening at a Pentecost gathering across our Presbytery (the regional way us Presbyterians organise our church government), I just felt it was right to write a prayer giving thanks to God for keeping his promises. To Thank God for sending Jesus and the Holy Spirit... both then and there as a historical reality and here and know in a real and fresh way.  Also as I'm preaching on Luke 10:1-24 I felt that it was important to keep asking for God's spirit to be with us as Jesus asks us pray for and go work in the harvestfeilds he has called us to.

I'm aware that at the moment I seem to be writting prayers that are full of Church languge and sometimes I wonder if they are as real and honest as they need to be... Having just recently listened to a conversation between Bono and Eugene Peterson on the psalms... Thsi week however the metaphors i've mixed from scripture and the words of theology seem to fit and hopefully don't stop the joy of having a fresh encounter with Gods Holy Spirit come through.  I'm just a learner so I'll keep on working at it.    

Lord God,

We thank you that you keep your promises,

You sent your son into this world

 That all who believes in him would not perish but have eternal life

That you would make a way for us to be reconciled with you

Through Jesus death and resurrection we have received forgiveness of sin

You have drawn near to us: who were far off

We did not know your grace but now we have received your grace

Living God

We thank you that you keep your promise

Christ promised to be with us unto the end of the age

You promised to pour out your spirit on all people

Men and women, rich and poor, old and young

You promised to send power from on high

To lead us into all truth and be our guide

We thank you for sending your Holy Spirit

God with and within us

We thank you that you keep your promise

That it wasn’t just way back then and way over there

But that as we ask, seek and knock you pour your spirit on us today

That you fill us afresh, and nurture Christ like fruit as we walk with you

You enable us to witness to Jesus in our time and place

You equip us to live and love and serve as your people right here

You give us peace and joy that the world can’t take away

Lord of the harvest field  

We thank you that you keep your promises

Send out more workers into your harvest field

As you’ve filled us with your spirit cause us to go

Lead us in every word and action to proclaim Christs love

To shine your light in the darkness

Voice and show your justice and righteousness

That you, o God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit  may be praised


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Eli's sons in 1 Samuel 2:12-26 and the Deadly Temptations of Ministry...


The old whalf lamps along princes whalf
in auckland with the Sky tower casino in the
back ground. I've called this image which light?
which light will be guided by?
AS I was doing my regular daily bible readings today I came across the sad story of Eli's sons in 1 Samuel 2:12-26. Eli the priest had served Israel for many years and his sons had started to also minister, however as we read this account of their activities it turns from a man who knows God and honours him to two people who abuse their power in the areas of wealth and sexual misconduct. They took the best portions from the offerings given to the Lord, when questioned they used extreme standover tactics and abused the power they had been given, and as news came to an aged Eli who seemed not to have the energy anymore to confront them, that they were sleeping with women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting (I wonder if it was a consensual or if this as well wasn't an abuse of power).

My first thought was you know some things sadly never change. People in the church in positions of power and authority are always tempted by the three deadly temptations (In a Harry Potter kind of moment you could even say the deadly hallows of Ministry): Power, money and sex.

The passage that really struck me was "this sin of the young men was very great in the Lord's sight, for they were treating the Lord's offering with contempt" sadly (and I maybe overusing this word in this post but it is the one that fits) we see that there are people in ministry today who still do that.... They see money given to God and the purposes of God out of gratitude for what God has done for them as a personal slush fund, an entitlement. I wonder if Eli's sons didn't have some good well rounded theology to justify what they did... they definitely would name it and claim it... and if you got in the way well they were going to take it anyway. Recently we've heard of large ministries where the senior pastors have been stood down because of the abusive way they have treated staff and those who disagree with them or question them. It's a more subtle temptation that the other two but can be more devastating to those who are abused by it. AS for sex we'll all branches of the church find themselves saddened and maddened by the various sex scandals and abuses that have happened by people in positions of trust.

I looked for hope in this passage and I guess I found it in the fact that God will raise up you leaders who know the Lord and hold onto the truth. Samuel is the leader who will hear God and listen to him, and whom God uses to bring renewal and transformation in Israel. He's not perfect but he is used by God to bring about the change from 'the end of judges 'where everyone did what was right in their own eyes' to the monarchy in David who worked to see the covenant work its justice out in Israel... and yes even he fell to the deadly temptations... sadly.

God will raise up new apostolic leaders to bring renewal in a church that is compromised and idolatrous. Ultimately we see that in Jesus coming to fulfil the scriptures of the Old Testament and who came to serve not to be served and gave his life up for us.

There is also hope in Eli's behaviour in Samuel 1 and 3 where he is willing to see the error of his ways, and repent... In Samuel 1 he gets angry with Samuel's mother Hannah when he sees her praying with mumbled words in the temple and thinks she is drunk. He is aware he is wrong and backtracks by then blessing her and praying for her.

Then in Samuel 3 he is willing to see God's choosing and anointing of a new leader in Samuel and be willing to step back and encourage them to grow even though it means that his own plans for succession, his own sons are overlooked.

It speaks to us of humility and openness to God and correction that I believe is a good buttress to the deadly temptations of money, sex and power. Sadly for some it is too late and they simply will have to be removed for ministry and for others hopefully there is the openness to the Christ walked road of humility...

Monday, May 16, 2016

God's Spirited People: the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Bible and the Church today an Index

Between Easter and Pentecost I have been preaching a series of messages on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the New Tetsament. we started with jesus promise to send power from on high for the disciples to be his witnesses at the end of Luke's gospel, then worked through the passages in the New Testament epistles that contain lists of the gifts of Holy Spirit. we then finished on Pentecost Sunday by looking at the fufilment of Jesus promise to seen the Holy Spirit.

Each of the lists of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are part of teaching on what it means to be the church and as we worked our way throughthe series that became the focus. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are to be used in the context of being God's Spirited People.

As always I hope you find these messages helpful and inspirational... here are the links to the messages in the series.

Luke  24:36-49 Empowered to witness

Romans 12:1-16 Empowered to serve

Ephesians 4:1-16 Empowered to be built up

1Corinthians 12:1-11 Empowered for God to speak and move through

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a Empowered to be the Body of Christ

1 Peter 4:7-11 Empowered to speak and act for a common vision and the common good

Acts 2:1-47  Empowered by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Empowered by being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2)... God's Spirited People: the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Bible and the Church today (Part 7)

Over the period between Easter and Pentecost we’ve been working our way through a series looking at the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Bible and the Church Today. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the ways in which God has empowered and enabled and equipped the church to bear witness to Christ in the world. We started our journey with Jesus commissioning his disciples after the resurrection, recorded at the end of Luke’s gospel and the beginning of Acts, where he promises they will receive power from on high to be Jesus witnesses. We moved on to see the spirit being given so we can Show Christ like love in service (Roman 12). So we would lack in nothing for every good deed and be built up into maturity in the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4). We saw that these manifestations of the Holy Spirit are the ways God speaks and moves through us in a diversity of ways and that we are the body of Christ, where everyone belongs and has a part to play (1 Corinthians 12). Last week we saw how we should use the gifts God has given us with a Christ centred vision, and for the common good (In 1 Peter 4). We are finishing today by looking at God keeping his promise and  sending his Holy Spirit on that first group of  believers gathered together in Jerusalem, making them and us ‘God’s Spirited people’.

Stainglass windows in the chapel at
One of the visual motifs that has been running through this series  is stain glass art…  The wonderful image that has been on the screen during our service today comes from the chapel down at Mountainside Lutheran Church: These two wonderful panels speaking of the water of life and the fire of the Holy Spirit, and inclusion into the people of God through baptism in water and by the Holy Spirit. Thanks to pastor Joe Kummerow  for letting me use it. During this series we’ve used the idea of stained glass to talk of different pieces of glass, in a diverse shape and colour being fitted together to form a picture and that picture coming alive as the light shines through it, just as God draws us together and as we belong to each other in love and find the part God has called us to play, and as the spirit brings all that together and makes it alive that we show Christ to the world.

But we started with a piece of stain glass art at St John’s in Rotorua, that represented the gifts of the Holy Spirit the sun was supposed to shine through the upper windows and through the glass triangles and down on to the congregation, symbolising that the Gifts the Holy Spirit were for everyone, not just what was happening up the front. The problem as that the sun never shone through on a sufficient angle for that to happen. There was a disconnect between them and the congregation, which I felt was symbolic for a lot of us of a disconnect between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and our own lives. What I want to do today is use Acts 2 as a way of addressing a lot of the issues around that disconnect. If you go on to websites you’ll often see a FAQ page or frequently asked questions page and I want to provide us with that today.

Let’s have a quick look at Acts 2 first. It is the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit as promised and the start of the mission of the church as witnesses to Jesus. Basically it is split into three parts. the first details the events that took place as the spirit came upon those first believers gathered together.  It outlines what happened and peoples response. The central part of the narrative is Peter’s sermon where he explains what is happening and preaches about Jesus. The third section of the narrative is the peoples response, about three thousand were saved and then a concluding description of how this new community, God’s Spirited people, lived together being lead and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The first frequently asked question is ‘Do all Christians need to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit for every one or just the certain chosen few?

While we’ve been addressing that throughout this series, it is good to look at it again. The answer is yes it is for everyone. Look at the flow of things in Acts 2 it starts by says all the believers were gathered together (About 120), all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, in this case all of them spoke in tongues. When the crowd gathers it is the apostles, Peter and the elven that stand up to speak, that is the gift that they have been given, so they use it. They have been training for this moment with Jesus, the narrative ends with people living in a way that reflects the Holy Spirit’s presence in their midst, in all of them with the love they have for each other.

The other important answer to this question comes from the passage that Peter quotes from the prophet Joel , that he says is being fulfilled that day. That God would put out his spirit on all people, and it is a comprehensive list… men and women, regardless of socio-economic status ‘on your men servants and women servants as well, all would speak God’s word or prophesy… and regardless of age… young would see visions and old would dream dreams, and you can choose for yourself which category you are in. 

 WE are all to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. As Paul says ‘ he anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.’ 2 Corinthians 1:22

The second FAQ is ‘was it just for the people then, just to get the church kick started you know and it’s not for us today. I mean we have the New Testament?’… when it comes to the gifts of the Holy Spirit the church is split along those lies, those who believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit were for then and there but they’ve stopped now and those who believe that it is for all people at all times.

Focusing on what we have read to us today, Peter finishes his sermon by saying that those who repent and believe in Jesus will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That it is a promise for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ Some have seen this as saying it’s for the first couple of generations of Christians, which is a literal interpretation, but it is more likely a way of talking about it being for all generations to come. For all who God shall call.

People who talk of the gifts not being for today often point to the second half of 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul talks of tongues ceasing and prophecy ending… when the perfect comes. They see that as meaning the New Testament scriptures. It is hard to write back into Paul in one of the earliest letters which is included in the New Testament canon that he would see a time when we had such a collection.  He was writing to a church that had people who believed that the kingdom of God had come in its entirety and they were like heavenly spiritual beings and he has to remind them that this is not the case; they are to look forward to a greater fulfillment when Christ returns.

The fullness of the Holy Spirit, its presence and the gifts are for us today.

Another FAQ is … when you talk about the Holy Spirit we are bit worried you mean all the weird and wonderful stuff that seems to go along with it at ‘those churches’. do we have to become like them?

In Acts 2 there are very real manifestations that go along with the coming of the Holy Spirit. The wind, the tongues of fire everyone speaking in languages of all the nations gathered on that day. This was an important event an epoch changing event. The wind and the fire are symbols of the Holy Spirit from the Old Testament, the speaking in a language that all could understand was   a sign that this was God pouring out his spirit so that the people of God could and would witness to all the nations of the world, this was the revolution of God grace for all, so it was appropriate. We do tend to forget that the focus of the narrative is on what happened to God’s people and we see they had boldness to preach about Jesus. The majority of this passage is about peter explaining the scriptures and pointing people to Christ. The other thing is that it ends with a summary of the life of God’s Spirited people in Jerusalem.  The signs of the presence and moving of God’s holy Spirit are not really all the weird and wonderful stuff, but people repenting and turning to God, a hunger for God’s word, an increase in a dedication to worship and prayer, unity and love; shown in generosity and hospitality, a genuine and practical concern for the poor, a renewed passion for people to come to know Christ, and yes that God does move in signs and wonders.

I think we’ve just gotten to a point where we are not used to God being God in our midst… in the most recent edition of the voice of martyrs magazine, one Syrian pastor who has stayed on the front lines, talks of the church being full, and many Muslims coming to faith 80-90% of them because they have had a vision or a dream… one man asked to become a Christian after a dream where he was drowning in a river and a man came along and hauled him out, he wanted to become a Christian because he just knew it was Jesus, another who is now a pastor ‘ saw a vision of all the prophets coming out before him, Moses and then Jesus and he waited for Mohammad  to come but he didn’t . So he asked a man standing next to him is there anymore and was told no Jesus is the last one.’ We also don’t get our head round miracles but the Syrian pastor amidst tails of suffering and sorrow talks of a viscous unseasonal hail storm coming as they prayed just at the time terrorist had advertised they were going to attack the city he was in, it broke up the mob of 3000 and even the secular Syrian media reported  ‘God fought on our side’.    My Mum, who was about seventy at the time,  shared a vision she had in church one day, she was in vast fields of the most beautiful wild flowers, and she saw a man in the middle of them, that she just knew was Jesus, and he looked at her and said, ‘I know all these by name’. Affirmation that we are all known. Can I say that the most common thing I experience when I pray for people to be filled with the Holy Spirit is an overwhelming sense of God’s peace and love, which I think is the most amazing and awesome thing… God presences himself with his people.

Ok lets move on our next FAQ is ‘Is being filled with the Holy Spirit a one off experience that you need to be prayed for to receive or is it an ongoing day to day relationship?”  

In Acts chapter 2 it is a new experience a new encounter with God. We don’t know what the experience of the three thousand who came to faith that day. There are others like that in Acts, when the gentiles receive the spirit in acts 10, and throughout history as well times when God has met people and poured out his Holy Spirit in a new and fresh way, the Pentecostal movement, look back to the Azuza street revival in 1906 as the place where the renewal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit happened for them. You could look at the welsh revivial… there have been times of great revival and outpouring of the spirit in our own Presbyterian Church as well. In fact one church historian talks of the Presbyterian Church being born in the fires of revival. However We receive the Holy Spirit when we become followers of Jesus Christ. It is what brings transformation God comes and dwells within us. Paul talks of walking with the Holy Spirit, an ongoing day to day encounter with God through the Holy Spirit as the way in which the Christ-like fruit of the Holy Spirit are produced in us. Even when he says ‘be filled with the Holy Spirit , in the Greek it is in a tense which means be filled and keep on being filled by the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps it’s best to leave the last word on that to Jesus. We are so used to his words on Prayer ‘ask and it will be given, knock and it will be opened, seek and you will find’ that we forget that it finishes in Luke’s gospel by saying ’How much more will God give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him’. When we pray for people to be filled with the Holy Spirit be it in our own prayer life or in a meeting or gathering, it is God’s good grace to give it to us. In fact when we pray for that it is not the manifestations that happen that are the important thing But that we can trust God keeps his promise.

So I think the answer is yes, it can be an experience and it is an on going relationship, ask and you will receive. Keep on asking and receiving…

Lastly ‘How may I be filled with the Holy Spirit?’

The answer is that if you love Jesus Christ then Ask and you will receive. AS we’ve looked at the scriptures the amazing thing about the New Testament is that because of what Christ has done for us , God wants to live in us, God wants to fill us with his presence by the Holy Spirit, it’s simply a matter of asking him and believing that he will do what he has promised.  God will give us a fresh touch of his love, empower us to witness for him, fill us so much with his presence and reveal his word to us that it will flow out of us. WE will be so filled with God’s love and presence and joy that our vision of what is and what should be will be shaped by that, our dreams filled and directed by Christ. Our actions and reactions become more and more Christ-like, and Christ’s vision of the Kingdom of God will be our vision.

We are going to finish now by doing just that asking God to fill us afresh with his spirit.