Sunday, 5 June 2016

How great the pain of searing loss

Hi Team

Three years ago almost to the day our family and friends had an experience I thought I should write down and pass along to people we love. 

Our only son, Connor (12), went missing for three hours yesterday after his rep rugby practice. For an agonising period of time yesterday we thought we had lost him forever.

I went to pick him up from practice as usual and upon arrival (about 5 mins late) the clubroom was locked and no Connor to be seen anywhere. At first I didn't worry as I simply went and picked up a nearby friend who needed a ride and said to myself, "He'll call and explain and let me know his location." 

No call came.

Upon arriving back home minus Connor, Julia asked where he was and I told her I didn't know but I'm sure he would call pretty soon.

No call.

Elissa (17), my oldest daughter, and I then decided we should jump in the car and go back to the clubrooms just in case I missed him the first time. God had thankfully provided for us to have an awesome group of friends over for lunch after church who had kids keeping our youngest daughter Lily-Beth (7) totally oblivious to the angst and panic that her older brother was somehow missing. 

Elissa and I searched all around and couldn't find him. To make matters worse we didn't know if he had his phone on him as it would ring several times and go to voicemail indicating that the phone was turned on but not answered. 

I began to be worried. Elissa (and at home Rosie as well) covered it really well with stoicism but both were worried too as this is totally uncharacteristic of Connor, normally pretty responsible.

What happens next is such an awesome example of Community I just want to raise it up in thanks to the Lord. Several of his teammates parents and the coach heard he was missing and rallied the troops and ALL jumped in their cars and began searching for Connor. Even the friends at Greta Point cafe sent out one of their own upon my telling them of my only son...missing. 

If you live in Wellington you will understand this sacrifice. This sacrificing of the first sunny Sunday after a massive monsoon hit Wellington means ALOT to those of us who were cooped up indoors for 4 days while being pounded by the storm. We deeply understand the need to take advantage of those precious sunshine hours because we know in Wellington winter the next storm is coming pretty soon and so it shone out like a light in the darkness that these people cared about Connor and were going to search until we found him.

After searching for two hours I, in trepidation, made the call to the police to report Connor as a missing person. They immediately started searching as well. Once the police were involved it seemed to take on a new level for all of us. If you have never been in this situation let me tell you that your mind will take you to the outermost and heinous places and just drop you there and leave you there. I had to continually pray one of my favorite verses just to keep sane in these times:

Isaiah 26:3

New International Version (NIV)
You will keep in perfect peace    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
I actually prefer the King James translation of this verse:

Isaiah 26:3

King James Version (KJV)
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

God again thankfully provided that verse at the time I needed it.

At this point of course everyone involved is in panic mode fearing the worst and scrambling around the city trying to find Connor, my only son. 

The call finally came that Connor had been found! Safe! One of his teammates Mothers (bless her) found him casually walking home from Rugby practice (Kilbirnie to Khandallah) absolutely oblivious that anyone was even searching for him! 12-year old boys testosterone surge actually sucks most of the blood from the brain I think to attend to other areas of the body :-)

Needless to say, everyone stopped crying, threw their hands up towards The Lord and thanked Him for a most successful outcome -- Connor, my only son, is safe!

For a brief moment yesterday I knew the pain of searing loss. I will have to unpack God's plan in this for me (and Connor) but for a short time I felt only son is gone.

Today as Julia and I sat down to pray and thank the Lord for his return it hit us both LIKE A TRUCK that God himself felt the exact searing loss when He sent His only son Jesus into the world to be a sacrifice for all of us. God felt the searing loss of His only Son. All I can do at this point is worship an Almighty God who would know of this pain and still persevere with His plan of salvation.

Lastly, I will share the lyrics of the song that Julia and I thought of in prayer today:

How Deep The Fathers Love For Us" - Stuart Townend

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
And make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon the cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Thanks heaps to all and blessings


Saturday, 19 March 2016

The power of Peace

Why do men leave the church? I'm mainly talking to myself and my men friends here when I say, "don't be the guy who gets so many rocks and pebbles in your pocket that you get fed up and leave your church".  The reference here 1 Timothy 2:8

Don't be this guy!

Let me explain. I hope to present the problem here and suggest a solution or two. I call the solution the Power of Peace.

I have been in the same church (The Street City Church in Wellington, New Zealand) for 18 years now and, just like everyone else, there have been things about the church that I would have done differently and some of those things made me angry. Angry at who though? 

God? He is, after all, the overall leader of His church. 

How about the church leadership? They carry the brunt of the ire that is generated from people (like me) who, in a cruel irony, have set ideas about how 'church' should be done. How about the Head Pastor? Isn't he supposed to be the God-appointed leader who the buck stops with? 

I often found myself stewing over things that I had no control over and at the end of the day were really just 'Rocks and pebbles'. Rocks are big, substantial things that are sometimes due to real injustices that hurt us. Think child abuse or being wrongfully accused of a crime and serving time. Pebbles, however, are the small, personal injustices that are mostly acts of omission rather than commission meaning I am angry at the fact that someone DIDN'T do something as opposed to what they DID. Think about how many times you have been hurt because someone passed by you at church and didn't say hello or knew you were hurting and didn't offer any care or condolence. These omissions are simply what people didn't do or say when you thought they should. Pebbles.

Rocks carry absolute (yet only partial) responsibility on the part of the 'offender'. If your relative molested or abused you as a child then the relative carries the responsibility for that wrong and you have justification for blaming the relative. They acted wrongly in a sin of commission. Lets call this item a 'Rock'. However, if the relative just simply didn't call you when you thought they should or didn't send you the birthday card that they normally do well that is an 'act of omission' rather than a 'sin of omission' because we don't know what is going on with that person and it may well be that our not calling them at that point was a harsher act of omission. Everyone struggles. Let's call this item a 'Pebble'.

If you have rocks and pebbles in your pocket and jump in the ocean what happens? You sink to the bottom right? They key here is to get rid of the rocks and pebbles rather than hold on to them and be in danger of sinking! If you (or I) wind up throwing all our toys out of the cot and leaving our church then it is my fault (and yours) for not getting rid of the rocks and pebbles. At this point I can hear some of you saying, "my church has real issues though the leadership is not acting in line with how Jesus would have them act and the services are not teaching the Bible and x, y, and z." Some people may be right in leaving a church that doesn't have its act together. A Biblical model of church leadership is a good indication to make sure your church has it's act together with the right checks and balances with it's foundation in the Bible. Throughout the New Testament, principles of church leadership point to a central theme: plurality. The church is to be led by a plurality of godly leaders. By relying on consensual agreement of godly Elders selected from the congregation, the church creates a healthy checks-and-balances of leadership direction, financial accountability, spiritual guidance, and ministry implementation.

Most churches that have a Biblical model of church leadership (like mine) actually have the right checks and balances in place. Therefore, if I (or you) don't get rid of the stones and wind up leaving the church then it is actually on us to wear the responsibility for this decision...not on God or His church.

I mentioned at the start of this article a solution: how to get rid of the stones!

Firstly, be open to the fact that we are the issue. Not God. Not the leadership. Us.

If you (or I) are closed to the possibilities that WE are the problem then there is not a person on Earth that can help you throw the stones away. Be ready and willing to take full responsibility for the stuff you are thinking and you are on the right track to being able to swim through all the possible heartaches that come with being a human in a church. If you continue to put the blame for your wrong thinking on others you are sunk. Part of the good news is that the longer you live and stay in a good church the older and wiser you get and you by default you may be learning to throw the stones.

Secondly, use your God-given humility to approach your Pastor or Elder with your stone and let them know what it is you are unhappy about. The most likely outcome is that you will make a new friend or become a closer friend due to the fact that you have approached the issue in a Biblical manner (Matthew 18:15). You will also throw the stone away.

Lastly, use your stones to actually set up a bonfire to ignite your passion for His church! If you come out the other side with no stones in your pocket shouldn't the next logical thing be to put your own time and effort into building His church? If you find the power of Peace don't you want everyone to also find it...of course you do!

If you want relevance in your church -- Get involved! 
If you want to be involved in something bigger than yourself -- Get involved!
If you want a shot at greatness -- Get involved!
If you want to be challenged -- Get involved!
If you are looking for some different types of action, you want to be a leader, you just want some fun, you are looking for some brothers, just looking for healing. The answer to every one of these 2016 issues and goals is to get involved (and stay involved) in your local church. Just do it!

That is the solution.

In summary, if you make the decision to gather and carry your stones in your pocket until one day they weigh you down so much you decide to leave your church -- You alone have made that decision!

Lord, I pray for every reader to hear what I say in the right spirit: encouragement. Then decide to own up to the negative feelings and doubts they may have and take them to their leaders in a Biblical manner and, through this act of the will, be a better person and experience the power of Peace. Amen.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

I can be the best in the world at this...

If you have read some of the business books of late several tell you that you want to focus focus focus on what you could be the best in the world at doing...then do that a lot! Frankly, that makes a ton of sense in the marketplace.

I was out training for my 50th birthday party today (yep I am training for a party coming up on the 21st). You see some guys go to Vegas for their 50th birthday so I want to do the opposite -- run/walk up three of my favourite mountains with some friends and family in one day, Mt Victoria, Mt Albert, and Mt Kaukau. Running group will start at Kingdom Fitness and run Vic to Albert and back. We will then have a break for lunch at our house, then hit Kaukau. Everyone welcome! My kind of party.

Anyway, I was out on a training run today when I realised this fact: I don't have to compete with other humans for my character. Not only that but I'd also go as far as to say it is ONLY God who truly matters when judging my character. After all, it is really Him that I am trying to serve anyway. I serve Him through serving His people but it is not the people I am trying to 'compete with' by serving. I am simply serving. Here are a few pics of my run today:

Therefore, I think I have found what I can be the best in the world at. It is MY relationship with Jesus. You see my relationship with Him is only mine and His. By the sheer exclusivity of this relationship I am the only one capable and responsible for this relationship. Therefore, I can be the best in the world at my relationship with Jesus! That is what I seek. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The biggest name to drop

Imagine a scene: A rough group of Texans sitting around the campfire after a successful hunting expedition. The BIG stories start. Big John says, "I saw a huge buck today that had a rack that wouldn't even fit in my living room!"

Old Joe pipes up, "That's nothing! I's attacked by a cottonmouth just as I's lining up a 16-point buck in the crosshairs! I had to kill the snake instead of the deer. Slapped his head just as he's striking with ma bar hand then crushed his head with the butt of ma gun." Spit. "Reminded me when I brought Mike Rawlings out here, Anybody else know him he's the Mayor of Dallas? We both saw snakes that size that day but today I actually feared for ma life when that evil thang started after me."

Bubba speaks up this time, "that same thing happened to me when I took the Governor hunting, you guys know Greg Abbott, we were out in the swamp and we had gators and snakes all around us. If'n we didn't have some shotguns and fire we'dve been in a heap of trouble." About this time Lucius Tate picks up the pace and says, "you guys know George W. Bush?" On & on it escalates...

Name dropping.

We've all heard it. Most of us have done it. At heart what is it that drives people to name drop? Merriam-webster says name–dropping is the act of trying to impress someone by saying the names of well-known people that you know or have met.

Who is the most well-known person in history? It is Jesus. Have you ever tried dropping the name of Jesus to try and impress someone? If so, can you comment in this blog? If not, why not try it and comment on what happens.

Jesus says in Luke 12:8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God."

Imagine the same scene: A rough group of Texans sitting around the campfire after a successful hunting expedition. The BIG stories start. As they escalate there is one person around the fire who knows the real King of Kings, one guy there that knows the Creator of all that lies before them and the Maker of not only the animals they killed that day but also the very lives they are leading. This one guy waits until he has the right opportunity to share THE name above all names. He prays as he waits that The Spirit will enable the others to actually hear what He is about to say. Then he pipes up...

The success of whatever this one guy says at this moment has nothing whatsoever to do with the guy himself and everything to do with the person hearing the message. As our Pastor so aptly pointed out the other week at the Sunday service 2 Corinthians 2:16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?

Instead of group questions I am going to have you practice acknowledging Jesus in couples so pick a couple topics each and practice acknowledging Jesus before man.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Short play about the Apostles being minor celebrities

No doubt the Apostles were minor celebrities and came to kind of believe their own press if you read Luke 9. Imagine being in their sandals for a moment: Walking around with Jesus for a couple of years. Being one of the chosen few Apostles that God chose but at the same time being totally human with all our frailties of pride, lust, and insecurity. Human. Yet walking around close friends with the Saviour! It had to have been awesome but at the same time it had to have been very tempting to think, "I am all that!"

You can picture the scene: Huge crowds pressing in to try and get just a glimpse of Jesus. Everyone has heard that if you can touch his hem you can be healed. It had to have been like the red carpet on Oscar night only the stars are Jesus who has the power to actually do something for you.

Written over 4 scenes, here are the characters in this short play:
  • Peter
  • A Fisherman
  • John
  • A Woman
  • Judas 
  • A Thief 
  • Jesus
Scene 1 -
Fisherman: Hey you're the one that caught all those fish the other day. Come here I've got a deal for you. I'll give you a 100 Denarii if you can make that happen for me tomorrow.
Peter: That'd be great if it was me that caused the catch. It wasn't me man it was Jesus. He is our Lord.
Fisherman: You can ask him to do it then. Split the $ with him and he'll do it!
Peter: Jesus doesn't want your $! He wants your heart.
Fisherman: My heart? My heart? OK. If I give him my heart will he get me that catch?
Peter: No but He will make you a Fisher of men. Jesus will save you.
Fisherman: Save me from what? I'm fine! OK last chance here do you want the $ or not?
Peter: I actually don't need $
Fisherman: I do! I've got to feed my family by catching fish and selling it. You know what forget about it! I'll see if James or John wants this deal. Hey James! 

Scene 2 -
Girl: Hey John! I saw that girl get healed the other day. I’ll give you anything you want if you can heal me too
John: Jesus actually healed that girl you saw and He can heal you too
Girl: I’ve seen you guys heal as well in his name so how about it? Look at what you are up for here (body display)
John: (to himself) Jesus says if I look at her in lust that I’ve committed adultery with her in my heart.
Girl:I’m offering you my WHOLE self if you even agree to try and heal me!
John: I can’t
Girl: Why not?
John: We are both coming from wrong motives here
Girl: I just want to be healed. What else should my motive be?
John: Seek first His Kingdom and all things will be added to you. Repent of your sin and ask Jesus for forgiveness first then He may heal you.
Girl: May heal me? You mean if I do everything you say and repent in my heart then fight my way through the crowd to ask Jesus for forgiveness He still may not heal me?
John: If it is His will you will be healed
Girl: If it’s not His will you mean I have done all that for nothing?
John: That is a choice only you can make
Girl: Hmmm. How do I start again? Repentance?

All the Apostles had to be seen as minor celebs. Just like today’s celebs have to have bodyguards because people stalk them and want things from them and I am sure the same happened to the Apostles.

Scene 3 -
Thief: Hey Judas I know you have all the $ now give it up or I know where you live!
Judas: I don’t have the $ on me. It’s in another place.
Thief: Take me there right now
Judas: I can’t right now. I’m working!
Thief: Take me there right now or I’ll take your head
Judas: OK.OK. Let me tell the boss I’m leaving so there is no commotion. Make sense?
Thief: I will give you two mins
Judas: Jesus, I need to go for my break
Jesus: Judas don’t worry about that thief he won’t bother you anymore
Judas: Sorry. Thief. OK thanks. That’s freaky. Where is he? He’s gone! (Looks over at Jesus who nods knowingly)

Picture the scene back at the campfire with only the Apostles. Jesus is off by himself praying.

Scene 4 -
Peter: Hey John, I saw that woman coming onto you Man that must’ve been tough
John: Did you see how fine she was? I’ve had hundreds of women throwing themselves at me lately. They all want something.
Peter: I know what you mean! Me too! And I’ve had offers of $ and everything else.
Judas: You guys don’t know the half of it I have had threats on my life if I didn’t open up the money bag to these thieves!
Peter: Does that make you the greatest among us Judas? I don’t think so
John: Which one is the greatest then? Which one of us? I think it’s me. I’m the one scoring all the ladies.
Peter: Who has healed the most in Jesus name? Me!

Guys here is where Jesus in His usual style and wisdom, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”


1.     What if that were you and you were one of the Apostles with all that temptation and responsibility? How would you make sure you kept in His will and obeying Jesus?

2.    Again, stretch your mind and put yourself in the position of an Apostle. What kinds of things do you think you would’ve seen and heard? Are there things you could do and things you couldn’t do for yourself or others? What your boundaries?

3.    He says we are part of His Kingdom and are sent out into the world with His message of healing and salvation. We actually are just like the Apostles! What are you going to do with that?

Monday, 30 March 2015

I'm not a thornbush

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers."

I've often thought that once a brier always a brier but I've come to a different conclusion. He also states in Luke 6:46-48, "Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built."

Therefore, I now see that we all have the capability and opportunity to bear good fruit as long as we 'put into practice' the thing that will give us a strong foundation. 

What is that practice?

I love His Word as all the big answers to the big questions are there in black and white. Jesus says in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

Does this actually mean that I can become a fig tree bearing awesome fruit even though I was once a brier? Yes it does my brother and this also means that we can 'train' to be more Christ-like and actually start producing good fruit in our lives once we practice remaining in Him.

Good news!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

There's no app for suffering

Today's youth culture has a saying you may have heard, "there's an app for that".

What they are really saying is that there is a digital solution for most issues one may come up against.

This is urban myth as there is no app to remedy people actually struggling with real issues in life. Things like unemployment, low self-esteem, body images issues, sadness and/or loneliness, or just struggling to trust God. These are all things that no 'app' can solve or even assist with. I'm talking about the gut-level feelings that's these issues cause not the high-level stuff. At this point apps are just distractions from the real world problem with which one is struggling. They don't provide answers to any of these issues. 

For real world problems humans always need real world solutions. 

People contact generally helps when sought after in the right manner with humility. Let me explain: Let's call the one who seeks contact the 'sufferer' and the one sought out the 'saviour'. Firstly, if the sufferer were to seek someone else's friendship and companionship for the sole purpose of what one could receive from that person then that is a recipe for burnout as the saviour simply cannot live up to the expectation of solving the problem for the sufferer. Conversely, if the sufferer were to seek the saviour out of an attitude of self-confidence and false humility seeking to assist the saviour somehow whilst in their heart they know it is actually themself who is suffering and needs the people contact. This would be seen by the saviour as fake and not a genuine approach to friendship. This is why the right manner of approach from the sufferer is crucial and to an appropriate saviour.  Let's look now at who might be an appropriate saviour. One could start with immediate family: parents, children, siblings, cousins. These people have blood relationship to the sufferer and therefore have a built-in ability and desire to help the sufferer. After family, current friends and then old established friends that one may have even lost touch with also have deep investment in the sufferer. I'd encourage the sufferer to reach out for people contact but be careful who is seen as a saviour, especially if female sufferer reaching out to male saviour. One has to remember that boys generally have a one-track mind and some will use this opportunity to take advantage. 

There's also another saying in life: nothing is sure in life but death and taxes. Whilst that does sound true I have found a couple of sureties/guarantees in life that I will share with the sufferer. One is that God never fails you and the other is that His Word, the Bible, always helps. 

In fact, I would go as far as to say that there is only one Person and one app that really matters at this point and that is Jesus, the Saviour (capital S) and the Bible app one is choosing to use. Of course you can just as easily pick up the paper version of the Bible :-)

 From one sufferer to another I hope this helps.