Better Together

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Last week I got called up for jury service and ended up being on a jury for a 6 day trial. One of the things that the judge kept insisting on was that our collective common sense and life experience would be enough to make a good decision. Sure enough, we worked well as a team, helped each other understand the evidence, showed patience as others caught up and, in the end, made, I believe, a sound decision. It reminded me afresh that life is meant to be lived in community. The give and take, the mutual respect, the patience and perseverance that we showed as a jury is meant to be the norm. It’s what we were made for. Every person needs to be honoured as an individual, but they also need to be part of a greater whole.

friends-1015312_960_720

If you don’t have the honouring, you don’t get the community. If people don’t feel valued by the community, then they will distance themselves from the community, or, seek to control it. The difficulty is that there are all sorts of reasons why people don’t feel honoured and we can’t always predict what they may be. People’s wounds come from many different sources and show up in a multitude of ways.

So, as individuals, one of the best things we can do for our community is to allow the Holy Spirit to examine our lives, name our wounds and bring healing to our wounded places. Let’s give permission for the Spirit to bring us to a deep and true repentance for our wrongdoings. Let’s drop the poser and be vulnerable enough to need each other. Let’s come out of hiding and take our place in the community, knowing that we are needed. Let’s remember that we need a loving community to help us become truly ourselves as we walk with God together.

What’s your community? Where’s the place where you interact with others in a way that makes you a better person and a more wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ? For many of you, I hope that place is a local church. I hope that you’ve found a community that’s safe, inspiring, seeking, Spirit-led and Christ-focused, with a humility that makes them dependent on grace. But for some of you that isn’t church in the traditional sense. For some of you it’s a 12 step community like AA or NA. For some of you it’s a small group  or house church. For some of you it’s your support group. But as long as there’s people, God’s Spirit, vulnerability and hope, you’re in a good place. Just know that it might not be your only place.

Churches can be good, and many are. So please don’t make any agreements about churches being the problem. Institutionalized power can be a problem. Spiritual abuse can be a problem. False beliefs can be a problem. Misogyny and racism are definitely problems. But church? Church belongs to God. He’s building his Church he tells us. Churches have problems but Church is not the problem. Instead, let us all start with the mirror. Let us allow the Spirit to examine our lives. Let’s seek healing, help and hope. Let’s become part of the solution, because, ultimately, churches and communities need people of grace in order to become gracious; they need people of hope in order to become hopeful, and they need people of love in order to become loving. May that be us.

Grace and peace everyone.

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Christianity, community, God, Holy Spirit, relationships, renewal, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Heart’s Wardrobe

Hello everyone. Rob here.

After a series of beautiful spring days, a southerly storm has decided to wreak havoc on the country and upset everyone’s wardrobe choices! It’s a reminder that life does not follow a carefully orchestrated, linear path. Shocks and surprises are always at the doorstep, for better or for worse. The key to navigating it all is, spiritually speaking, a well-stocked wardrobe.

blur-1850082_960_720

The spiritual wardrobe contains the beliefs that your heart holds about God. Here’s what I mean:

In the face of injustice, do you believe that God is just?

In the face of scarcity, do you believe that God provides?

In the face of despair, do you believe that God gives hope?

In the face of hatred, do you believe that God is love?

In the face of grief, do you believe that God comforts?

In the face of pain, do you believe that God heals?

In the face of brokenness, do you believe that God restores?

The deeper that those beliefs take hold in us, the more resourced we are for life’s shocks and surprises. These are the beliefs that we see in Jesus. As he feeds the 5000, restores a dead girl to life, delivers the oppressed from demons and forgives the soldiers at the cross, we see Jesus’ deeply held beliefs coming to the forefront of his life. As the pressure came upon him, where many of us would respond with fear, he responded with faith.

This is the faith that acts as the antidote to the lie told by the serpent in Eden; the lie that God cannot be trusted. As a result, this kind of faith is deeply opposed. It strikes at the heart of the enemy’s plans for humanity. He wants us fearful, distrusting and looking to ourselves for our own solutions.

Someone we know recently exchanged a life of false solutions for a life of faith. It was an act of courage and it wont be easy to sustain. But we can already see the appearance of joy and peace in the face of adversity. This is what a life of heartfelt faith and trust can bring. We can become well-dressed for the storms of life and the sunshine.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:12-14)

Grace and peace everyone.

 

Posted in Christ, Christianity, faith, Spirituality, trust, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Minding my Posture

Part of me feels like complaining about life right now. I’m sick, my kids are sick and we’ve felt like that for nearly two weeks now. It’s left us tired and depleted and we’re over it! But that hasn’t been the sum total of our lives. In the midst of the sickness there have been good gifts that remind us that God’s kingdom is on the move and far bigger than my temporary illness. Instead of complaining, I’m being asked to trust that at all times God is at work in the world. Therefore, instead of withdrawing into complaint, I need to adopt a posture of co-operating with God, even in sickness.

god-2025655_960_720

During the week I was part of a team that helped lead a couple to acknowledge Christ as their Lord, and to come against some things that had been obstructing them. I got to chat with my neighbour who is becoming very conscious of the presence of God in his life. I was part of my daughters 10th birthday party. These are all great and wonderful things, but they required a very deliberate choice to co-operate with God and be present in those moments. Tiredness and sickness wanted to steal those moments. They could have other moments but not those ones.

This posture of co-operation also helps me to receive the beauty of the spring season. Warmer temperatures, the burst of colour from magnolias, cherry blossoms and tulips, and the joy of being outside more, are all reminders of the God of life and the God of joy. It serves as medicine for weary souls and sick bodies.

I can’t write much more. The concentration is waning and the need to lie down is becoming urgent, but even then the invitation is to rest with God. So, may your posture be open to God and his love, may we all co-operate with the Spirit, and may Jesus be our hope and our strength even as our bodies are weary.

Grace and peace.

Posted in Christ, Christianity, God, prayer, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Life in Slow Motion

Hi everyone. Rob here.

One of our dog’s favourite activities is pretending to herd sheep. I heard that sheep dogs see sheep in a completely different way to us. Namely they have a wider scope of vision and see the sheep’s movements in slow motion – from our point of view anyway. Thus, they can anticipate the sheep’s movements and stop them before they cause trouble. For a good movie example of this see the scenes with Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past, where time seems to stand still because of his relative speed.prairie-679014_960_720

This gets me thinking about the basis on which we make our choices. Often, it seems, life is going too fast. We feel rushed in our decisions and pushed along at a pace that’s not of our choosing. Whether it’s at work or at home, making decisions in real time seems like a somewhat frantic business. But what if it could be different? What if we were able to gain God’s viewpoint on our life? God has a much wider scope of vision than we do. If we were able to see things from an eternal point of view, would that mean we would see things in slow-motion and respond accordingly?

One of the things you notice with Jesus is that he has a very different view of what’s urgent and what’s not compared to the other disciples. When Jairus’ daughter was gravely ill he allowed himself to be distracted looking for the woman who touched his cloak and received healing. In the meantime Jairus’ daughter died. We see the same thing in John 11 and the death of Lazarus. Jesus heard that he was sick so “he stayed where he was two more days.” In other words he waited for Lazarus to die and then went. Death to Jesus just wasn’t that urgent a matter it seems. One of the only times that Jesus seemed in a hurry was when he was wanting to get away from the crowds bringing him adulation. Otherwise you get a sense of a man, despite the crowds pressing in on him and criticism being hurled at him from the authorities, who was in control of his timetable. He made decisions in his time. Sometimes, like the selection of the disciples, he would make time by staying up through the night in order to pray. Other times he would simply reject people’s demands. Either way, he was in charge, and I suggest it was because he lived life in intimate relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

It’s matter of priority and a matter of authority. When we give our lives over to God, it also means that we give the decisions in our lives over to him as well. It means that we’re asking God to order our steps. We ask for the eyes of our heart to be opened so we can see where God wants us to be and do what God wants us to be doing. By bringing decisions before God I’ve been rescued from stepping in where I wasn’t actually needed, brought in where I was and slowed down so God could be revealed more clearly. I’ve received guidance and direction that have taken me in unexpected but beautiful directions. I’ve discovered that most decisions aren’t so urgent that they can’t be prayed over and surrendered to God for his will to be done. When you know that God’s in charge then you can let go of the world’s schedule and operate on his.

So this week, may you wake up and slow down. May the eyes of your heart be opened and God’s perspective revealed to you and may the Spirit give you courage to be more obedient to God’s schedule than the world’s. And may grace and peace be yours.

 

Posted in Christ, Christianity, God, Spirituality, surrender, trust, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Path

Hi everyone. Rob here.

In Matthew 6:31-34 Jesus says this:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

autumn-3193305_960_720It’s worth remembering that Jesus is giving this advice to people who were poor and needy. They had no food security. They lived day by day. To ask people like that not to worry almost seems cruel. How can you not worry in circumstances like that! But we all know that worrying is a pointless and fruitless activity. It just creates fear and never creates faith.

The alternative that Jesus offers us is to seek first the kingdom of God. Jesus asks us to seek God and trust God for what we need each day. His kingdom has enough for us. This principle of day-by-day trust runs throughout scripture. Soon after coming out of slavery, the Israelites were asked to trust God for their daily food. Manna came down out of heaven, but they could only collect one days worth. They had to trust God anew every day. The Lord’s Prayer says, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Part of what Jesus is saying is that we are not the masters of tomorrow. Tomorrow is too much for us. Today has enough trouble on its own. Trust God today. Trust him again tomorrow. Seek first his kingdom today. Seek it first again tomorrow. Cultivate a daily habit of surrender and trust. Give yourself over to a higher realm and a higher authority every day.

Jesus never pretends this is easy. Every day has trouble. There is an enemy. We carry wounds, not all of them healed. We are forgetful, fragile and fickle creatures. But we are also made for God’s kingdom. When Jesus tells us to seek it first he’s asking us to make our way home, trust the resources of home and trust the Father and Son who run the home. He’s also asking us to seek the kingdom’s glory before our own. That is, we are asked to give ourselves over to the kingdom so that we reflect the kingdom in all that we say and do.

It’s hard to imagine a life without worry, isn’t it? I used to combat worry by not caring, but that kind of self-protective posing has no place in the kingdom. It was clothing that didn’t fit. True freedom comes from surrender, from giving all things over to God, including our reputations. As we hand over our grip on the day we gain God’s perspective, God’s wisdom and God’s strength. But again, it’s not easy. It sometimes takes me days or weeks to fully surrender a problem. It’s hard to pull back from trying to take it back. It’s hard not to rush to our own solutions. But if we want God’s solutions then we need to give it to God. If that means doing it again and again until I truly trust God with it, then so be it.

Worry, stress and anxiety are common currency these days. We feel pressured to come up with the goods, but Jesus invites us down a different path – the path of the kingdom of God. May we surrender our burdens and travel lightly as we walk down it together.

Grace and peace.

Posted in Christ, Christianity, freedom, God, kingdom of God, Spirituality, surrender, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Working with God

Kia Ora everyone. Rob here.

For several months now, David and I have been working on a book, based on the prodigal son story in Luke 15. It’s a book we’re excited about and are keen to run retreats and workshops based on it. Watch this space! For a long time though, we were making very little progress. Honestly speaking, I was making very little progress. I was surprised at how hard it was. After all, I love the parable and can never stop talking about it and I love to write about things that are close to my heart. Why then was it so hard to put this book together? Another way of asking the question is, why did I expect it to be easier than it was?

laptop-1205256_960_720

What I realise now is that if God has put a dream in your heart, then you need to walk with God in order for it to happen in the way God intended. The book isn’t our dream. It’s God’s dream for us. For myself, I didn’t realise the level of writer’s fatigue that I had after doing my Master’s thesis. I still enjoyed writing these blogs but I couldn’t get my head around another long-term project like a book. I needed a break. I also didn’t realise when I started, just how different a book is to my other forms of writing. Blogs and sermons are different to books. What I thought was a chapter was merely a point made. I needed to learn how to frame a point more thoroughly like my favourite writers do. Most of all I needed to write more prayerfully. “God, what is it you want me to say, and how do you want me to say it?” Dependence and trust is always where God leads us to. The process is now leading to productivity and we look forward to sharing the book with you before too long.

There’s a bigger point to all of this though. Subconsciously I believe I was thinking something like this; “God has put this book into my mind and heart, God has given me the ability to write, therefore, God will make this process quick and easy!” After following Christ for many years, I should know better. It never works like that! The final product is not God’s goal. It is merely a means to develop our character, to enhance our trust and grow our dependence. The book isn’t the point. Walking with God in writing the book is the point. I’ve had to learn how to walk with him when I had no words, when I didn’t want to write, when He didn’t want me to write, when interruptions came, when a season of putting it down was needed and so on. There are some things that are disciplines, that you just have to do. This wasn’t and isn’t one of those things. Every Monday (book day) I have to ask, God what do you want me to do today, and try and get myself out of the way, knowing that God has my heart.

The book isn’t finished. There’s some more to say, editing to be done and the final product to be formed, but God is leading that too. So I ask you: where in your life are you needing to walk with God closely at the moment? Maybe it’s in parenting, maybe it’s walking with God in a new season of life, maybe it’s doing up an old chevy or building a deck. Whatever it is, God wants to do it with you. He wants to be invited in so he can speak to our hearts in that space. He wants to use the process to develop our characters and deepen our trust.

Enjoy your project and may God dwell with you richly in it.

 

 

Posted in Christianity, faith, God, Spirituality, trust, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Background Music

Hi everyone. Rob here.

I watched a fascinating documentary last night about the group of session musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew.” They were an incredibly talented collection of LA based players who played on some of the biggest records of the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. Think The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, Elvis Presley, The Monkees, Sam Cooke, The Byrds and many more of the great names of that golden era. Often, these famous bands would not play a note on their albums. It was all done by The Wrecking Crew. The music of the day had a public face, but a private workforce that was unseen and unrecognised by the public. Only Glen Campbell would go on to fame and fortune. There was a cost to their dedication. The hours were horrendous, there was a toll taken on relationships and health, and yet, years later, they had few regrets. This was because they got to participate in the early years of the Rock & Roll revolution, and play some of the greatest music ever made.

classical-music-1838390_960_720

We are also participating in something radical and revolutionary. As children of God we are participants in the kingdom of God which has invaded our planet through Jesus Christ. We belong to eternity but eternity has already begun. By pledging our allegiance to Jesus Christ we have broken the shackles of the old world and embraced the new. This, however, is a mustard-seed revolution. Like yeast in dough, the work is often unseen. The acts of forgiveness and selflessness, the kindness shown, the gentle response, the patience in the face of adversity and the prayers offered up in faith, are not headline material. We need to find a deeper reward than public admiration in order to persevere.

According to Romans 5 the rewards are several.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

There’s too much here to unpack in one blog, but we do see Paul describing an unglamorous life. We see suffering leading to perseverance leading to the building of character. This is hardly an advert for a new kind of lifestyle, but we also see that the rewards are internal and profound. We have right standing with God, peace with God, access to grace, access to God’s glory, hope and the love of God poured into our hearts. No headlines. No certificates to hang on the wall. No social media hits. One of the rewards is the freedom to not need the world’s validation, but to experience God’s settled ‘Yes’ over us.

As the eyes of our heart are opened we learn to see the way God sees. We get to see the value of a good choice, the beautiful first steps of a baby believer, the act of courage that helps someone move away from the old creation, the forgiveness that sets people free. Your role may be small, it may be subtle, it may be unnoticed, but it is utterly essential. The Wrecking Crew learned the value of playing their part well when it came to making great music. It was the final product that counted. In the same way, we are about the Father’s business and it’s his kingdom that matters. Be encouraged this week that even the smallest note helps make beautiful music.

Grace and peace.

Posted in Christ, Christianity, kingdom of God, relationships, Spirituality, trust, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment