The Need to Walk

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Last week I enjoyed a wonderful, refreshing Pastor’s Retreat by the shores of Lake Taupo. There was just one problem. I forgot my pillow. Yes, I’m now one of those people that has to cart their pillow everywhere to protect my poor old neck. Needless to say I came back with a sore neck! It’s not serious and it will get better but it did reinforce to me the value of knowing your limitations and intentional self-care. I love it when the Bible gets into the small details of life with offerings like:

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses (1 Timothy 5:23).

Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat (Luke 8:55).

If you find honey, eat just enough – too much of it, and you will vomit (Proverbs 25:16)

people-2567826_960_720Every person is hard-wired with enormous potential and gifts, but every person is also limited and needs to live life with wisdom. We can fall into the trap of being over-cautious, but also over-zealous. We are asked to live courageous lives of faith, but also with prudent thinking. There’s really only one way to do this, and that’s to walk with God. This is the one area where there is no compromise, no ‘sensible’ thinking, only passion.

The irony is this: we can’t think clearly about ourselves while our eyes are focused on ourselves. Only God sees us clearly, and so, we are invited to learn to see with God’s eyes. This is where it gets personal. Some people walk with God and hear his voice promising them healing that then ensues. Others walk with God and hear his voice telling them to endure faithfully through their suffering. Some walk with God and hear his voice telling them to cross oceans for the sake of his name. Still others walk with God and are told to be faithful right where they are. I sought God about my dodgy back and he told me to look after it!

At any one time God knows our wounds, our fears, our hopes, our gifts, the state of our ego, the needs of this earth, the needs of his kingdom, the needs of our heart and the very best way to see his name honoured, his people thrive and his kingdom grow. Our job is to trust him. He is love after all. He is good and he is sovereign. And he is also our Father who embraces us as we are, our Brother who asks us to follow him and watch how he does it, and Spirit who enters our hearts with divine love and power. This is a God to draw close to, to open our hearts and minds to and to give ourselves over to. In the mundane and the messy; the scary and the spectacular; the joy and the sadness, may we walk with Him.

Grace and peace everyone.

 

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The Rest Between Two Notes

Hi everyone, David here.

To wait is to learn the spiritual grace of detachment, the freedom of desire. Not the absence of desire, but desire at rest. St. John of the Cross lamented that “the desires weary and fatigue the soul; for they are like restless and discontented children, who are ever demanding this or that from their mother, and are never contented.” Detachment is coming to the place where those demanding children are at peace.

As King David said, “I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Ps. 131:2). Such a compelling picture.

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Today the word detachment creates unhelpful impressions.

It is not a cold and indifferent attitude; not at all. May writes, “An authentic spiritual understanding of detachment devalues neither desire nor the objects of desire.” Instead, it “aims at correcting one’s own anxious grasping in order to free oneself for committed relationship to God.”

As Thomas à Kempis declared, “Wait a little while, O my soul, wait for the divine promise, and thou shalt have abundance of all good things in heaven.” In this posture we discover that, indeed, we are expanded by longing. Something grows in us, a capacity if you will, for life and love and God. I think of Romans 8:24–25: “That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy” (The Message). There is actually a sweet pain in longing, if we will let it draw our hearts homeward.

This week may you come to know that waiting is an intentional activity. May you find in that waiting place the rest you need to hear the ‘what next’. Only in the presence can we see the future.

Grace and Peace.

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Put the Phone Down!

Hi everyone, Rob here.

A recent article in The Atlantic highlighted the dangers of excessive screen time and a heavy diet of social media for today’s teenagers. Feelings of loneliness, despair and worthlessness were common. They struggle to connect face to face with people with relationships being carried out via their smartphones. There’s a sense that they have no identity outside of their social media profile. This means they never feel known. Now, every new generation of teenagers causes their parents to shudder in some way, but these behaviours (which are not limited to teenagers by any means) have serious mental health consequences and leads me to ponder afresh how we can model healthy spirituality to this generation and our own children.

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The first thing we have to confront is our own relationship with the screen. Smartphones are our alarm clock, our calendar, our newspaper, our bibles, our encyclopedia, our entertainment, our mobile office and, thus, they feel indispensable. They have become an extension of ourselves rather than a tool. So while us older ones may not be as addicted to gaining likes on Snapchat we still struggle to put the screen in its place. I certainly do and my kids are noticing. My invitation is to remember how much better it is when the phone goes away and we play board games or do puzzles or work together on a project. It is to get everyone outside and active. It is to be fully engaged in conversation. It is to “forget” to take my phone on outings. It is also to model how to use it well. I need to model when to pick it up as well as when to put it down.

The second thing is to live a sensory life. The screen deadens the senses. You can’t taste or smell the food on Masterchef for example! Living a sensory life is to be present to every moment. It is to savour every bite of my meal. It is to notice the suns rays warming me as I walk round the park. The other day I was entranced by the cloud formations as I sat by a tree and took in my surroundings. A breeze was blowing and making the grass dance in front of me. God was bringing me back to the playfulness of his heart. I would have missed it if I was inside. It is to truly listen to music and for it not just to be background noise. If we’re truly present to the moment, engaging our senses, then even our daily shower becomes an exercise in experiencing joy.

The third thing is to seek adventure. I would love to hike the Himalayas but it doesn’t have to be that epic and expensive! It can be as simple as walking and not having an endpoint in mind. It can be driving down a road you haven’t been down before. One time, my wife Kiley, took us all on a night walk to see glowworms. It was just 10 minutes from my house and I had no idea they were there. Adventure is a mindset of intentionally stepping out from the familiar and the comfortable. I need it. my kids need it and I believe that God wants us all to have it. It provokes wonder and invites us to walk with Christ into the adventurous life of God’s kingdom.

This afternoon I head off on a pastor’s retreat. I’ll take my phone but it will be on mute and ‘forgotten’ often. I’m going to try and practice these 3 points and come back more whole. I pray that wherever you are you’ll do the same.

Grace and peace.

 

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The Practice of Delight

Hi everyone. Rob here.

My daughter (8) has taken to impersonating her Mum’s dancing. It is hilarious to watch. My son (10) went off on a passionate spiel the other day about a lesson he had learned at school. It was a joy to listen to him be so articulate and determined to make his point. A puppy followed us home and we’ve started an adoption process. She gives unconditional love to us and we delight in her as she does well in her new situation. This is life. Alongside and within the tragedies and disappointments is laughter, joy and delight. The practice of delight means that we learn to see life through the playful eyes of Jesus and give permission for our hearts to be light and free.nature-2193365_960_720

This practice requires our intentional cooperation. It needs us to continually hand over our burdens, the weight we carry, to Jesus. We then take on his burden, his yoke, which is easy and light (Matthew 11:28-30). This process can easily get confused with ‘sweeping things under the carpet’ or pretending that hard things don’t happen to those who ‘live in the joy of the Lord.’ But that’s something that Jesus never does. He confronted life on life’s terms and asks us to do the same. In facing hard reality though, he asks us to remember that he is the resurrection and the life. He is the one who makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. He is the one who opens the eyes of our heart. He presents to us another reality: the reality of the kingdom of God.

This is the reality where all is redeemed, where evil is conquered and love wins. Jesus asks us to locate ourselves in that reality right here and right now. This is the place where we bring our suffering, our burdens, our fears, our disappointments and our wounds. The power of the cross and the empty tomb reside here. Hope beyond hope resides here. Love that heals our hearts resides here. It is our true home. In this place we are delighted in and we can delight in all of God’s good gifts.

The practice of delight is an intentional decision to look at my life and see the kingdom of God present there. It is a rescue to me right now. I have been irritable and unsettled. It’s mostly physical as a niggly back prevents good sleep but it can easily become so much more if I don’t intentionally open my heart up to God right now. I’m grateful that my eyes were open enough to see joy. As a follower of Jesus I want to bear his yoke, see with his eyes, delight in what he delights in and dance to his rhythm in God’s kingdom. I trust that you do too. may your the eyes of your heart be opened this week.

Grace and peace

 

 

 

 

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No Pressure

Hi everyone. Rob here.

A talented pianist called Tokio Myers won this years Britain’s Got Talent. When asked who his hero was he named his music teacher from High School. The teacher had simply done his job, passed on his love for music and changed a young man’s life forever. Most of us have no idea of the impact we make on the world. When we let out what God has placed in our hearts we change lives and make a difference. It’s what God has called us to do.

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One of the problems is that we put too much pressure on ourselves to make a difference, as if it’s all up to us! The early chapters of 2 Corinthians give us a different model.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere (2 Corinthians 2:14).

He adds in 2 Corinthians 4:7,

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Once we belong to Jesus it is Christ in us that makes the treasure known, that spreads the aroma of Christ and makes an impact on the world in his name. It is his life in us that changes things. It takes our mustard seeds and makes them trees. It takes our yeast and makes it bread. It takes our feeble offerings and makes them treasure. When we put pressure on ourselves to perform for Christ we miss the point entirely. When we are given over to Jesus his life flows through us whether we know it, feel it, sense it or not.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we are without responsibility. Once we give our hearts over to Christ we are asked to pay attention to Christ in us and live from that brand new heart. The discipline and work comes from actively surrendering our lives so that all other voices may be put in their place under Christ’s Lordship. It is also to actively trust that God is achieving his purposes through us. It is to actively nurture our relationship and connection with God through Christ, but to realise that within that relationship there is no anxiety or pressure. The relationship itself is an aroma of Christ to the world.

At their core our best relationships are the ones where we feel the most free to be ourselves. But to get a relationship to that point takes work. It takes courage to be trusting enough to be vulnerable. It takes actively opening yourself up to the other and expanding our own capacity to love. It means a mutual receiving and giving of love. Worship is when we give and express our love to God. Prayer, which looks different for everyone, is when we receive that love.

Larry Crabb once wrote a book called “The Pressures Off!” It’s a great title because it’s true. We don’t need to be anxious about doing God’s will. Instead we need to nurture our connection, our relationship with him. Christ is in us and it’s Christ’s life in us that sends his aroma to the world. May you find freedom in surrender this week. May you smell like God’s kingdom! And may you know that by simply living out of your brand new heart you are changing the world in the name of Jesus.

Grace and peace.

 

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After the Storm

Hi friends, David here.

In three of the four Gospels, the writers record an incident that caused Jesus’ 12 disciples to be astonished and afraid. While crossing the Sea of Galilee, a turbulent storm put them in real peril. Jesus, strangely, was sound asleep. When the disciples awakened Him, He told the storm to stop, and it did.

In the Matthew 8:23-27 account, Jesus and His disciples got into a boat. Being fatigued, Jesus was asleep. It is written that “suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves.” His disciples wakened Him and said, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” His words to them were, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” He then got up and “rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” The disciples were in awe, and said to each other, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

Jesus asked His men why they were fearful. The word fearful translated means cowardly or intimidated. They were losing their nerve, panicking, or coming unglued, so to speak. Jesus questioned their faith, and then rebuked the winds. The wind and waves immediately became tranquil.

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Jesus spoke to a raging windstorm, and it immediately stopped. He wasn’t afraid or worried about His safety. He knew God’s Word and knew what He was destined to do, how He would ultimately die, and that His life and the lives of His men were not in jeopardy that day on the water. Jesus knew the source of the storm and the adversary’s intent to startle and paralyze with fear. Jesus knew the authority and the power He had and He used it responsibly and with wisdom.

May you this week know that you have the authority to calm the storm in whatever shape or form it comes to you.  Jesus is always in the same boat. While storms may test you faith, may you remember that this testing is for a purpose.  The purpose is to refine you and mould you for the coming Kingdom where boats lie on the tranquil shores, and storms are no more.

Grace and peace.

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Storms Will Come

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Last week New Zealand was hit by a powerful winter storm with wind, slips, snow and ice closing many roads and grounding flights and ferries. Many lost power. Some became trapped and had to spend a night or two in their cars. We were visiting family in Palmerston North and had to take a detour via the beautiful city of New Plymouth to get home.  By Saturday the storm had passed. As we wandered along New Plymouth’s wonderful coastal walk we soaked in the winter sun as we looked out to a flat, calm sea.supercell-139398_960_720

Storms do pass but in the midst of them there is enormous uncertainty and fear. The power of the present moment can overwhelm us and block out any thought of better days coming. Even when better days do come, the fear of more storms arriving can take away any joy or peace we may be experiencing. How do we ride out the storms of our life and enter into joy when they pass?

First, you have to name reality. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us straight:

In this world you will have trouble.

This winter storm was serious for many. Those who were experienced in storms knew to stay home, stay safe and warm, keep your loved ones close and wait for it to pass. Others who were more naïve, who didn’t see the signs, were the ones who got into the most trouble. Either way, the storm affected everyone, and even the most prepared were hit hard by it. The storms of life will come and we will all be impacted by them in different ways. Naïveté is not an option.

Second, and this is the hard part, we have to embrace hope and resist cynicism. The hope we embrace has to be based on the truth that we believe. Too often we base our hope on our own desires rather than the truth about God’s character and God’s mission. God’s whispers are in the storm but we have to enter into the storm to hear them. Wishing that the storm would go away isn’t a posture of faith even if you express that wish in a prayer. Believe me, I’ve tried. God invites us to put on his armour and enter in. Rescue workers did this in our storm and saved many lives. From within the storm they brought hope, nourishment and protection for many. They knew they could because they had trained for it. They were prepared and they trusted in their preparation. God trains us to be faithful in the storms of life. He wants us to trust him in the midst of them and love others even as things look very bleak. Sometimes the storms are very destructive and we simply keep breathing and survive. But even then, the posture is hope based on the knowledge that God is at work, even though that work seems unknowable to you.

Third, we need to give ourselves permission to experience joy. After a time of grief it is very hard to smile again. You feel like you’re betraying your sense of loss, but we need to let joy in through the cracks. Life isn’t all loss nor is it ever all smiles, but joy can permeate both states of being. Even those trapped in their cars threw snowballs.

Jesus then added,

But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Losing heart is very easy to do in a storm. They can cause great loss and take away almost everything we held dear. But they come to us all and so we need to hold onto something permanent, eternal. God entered into the storm through Jesus. he experienced it personally. He felt the pain and loss of it. He overcame the world and the devil in the midst of it. He rescued us. He gave us life and hope. May we put our hands in his in the storms of life. May we allow him to hold us up and see us through and, may we know his joy, always.

Grace and peace everyone.

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