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.