God-Given Personality

Hi everyone. Rob here.

You may have noticed that our personalities carry strengths and weaknesses. For example I am an introvert who likes to engage in deep thinking and reflection. This is great for blogging, preaching and sharing. However, every now and again, it turns into introspection or navel-gazing. This is where thinking serves yourself only. It ends up going around in circles and being fruitless. A friend of my sons is spontaneous. This makes him great fun but can also lead to sudden anger. Fun-loving extroverts can hide their issues behind the party. Servers can neglect their own hearts even as they seek to help others. And on it goes. Our personalities are gifts from God and he asks us to commit them to him for his purposes.morning-2257689_960_720

It is as we grow in connection with God that our personalities really emerge. So much of what we think is our personality is actually learned behavior that we used to cope with uncomfortable situations. In other words, much of what we thought was our personality was a pose. I love humour and a quick wit, especially a dry wit. But when I was younger it was just sarcasm and cynicism, borne out of trying to look detached and cool. It wasn’t me. I also value an even temperament and a healthy perspective, but when I was younger it showed as apathy and laziness. The problem lies when we internalize these poses. Our mind makes an agreement with these postures that aren’t us. They don’t belong. Like a car using the wrong oil we will sputter along for a while until it all blows up on us.

Our true personalities, like anything in the spiritual life, emerge when we fully surrender ourselves to God and find our identity as his sons and daughters. As we allow the cross of Christ to work within us we become able to put to death all that doesn’t belong. As we live in Christ the things that don’t belong become easier to spot. They lead us away from the fruits of the Spirit. They lead us away from relationship and community. They lead us away from vulnerability and trust. Sarcasm and cynicism became intolerable to me as I saw that all people are made in God’s image and worthy of honour. It hardened my heart so I let it go.

Our true personalities are beautiful. They shine and point to the God who loves us. They reflect his character and creativity. That’s why he puts them all together and calls it his temple. He dwells among us through our personalities as we give them over to him. Do you remember how Jesus described his personality in Matthew 11:29?

…for I am gentle and humble in heart…

I wonder how he would describe you? Describe me? I hope that it would involve my heart being gentle and humble also. I hope that it would reflect God’s heart for us. I hope that it changes over time as I learn to love well in his name. I hope that it becomes completely free of poses and self-defensive postures. I pray the same for you. May our personalities point to the redemption that has been won for us and the freedom that calls to us from eternity.

Grace and peace.

 

Posted in Uncategorized, Spirituality, Christ, love, Father God, kindness, grace, freedom, humanity, diversity | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Walk of Life

Hi everyone, David here.

There is a story in the Bible in Luke about two men who were traveling down a road toward a village called Emmaus. This was just after Jesus had risen from his grave. The two men were walking and talking about the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. They were very sad and depressed. Another man walked up beside them and asked them what they were talking about and why they were so upset. The two men explained they were talking about their friend Jesus and how he was such a wonderful preacher and prophet. The man who had just joined the other two listened and walked with them for a while. After a while he said goodbye and left them. Later on the two men turned to each other and each suddenly realized who this man was, it was Jesus.

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
~ Luke 24:31-32

Why did Jesus do this? Why didn’t he just jump out in front of them and exclaim, “Behold it is me Jesus, risen from the dead!”  Perhaps because the two men  just wouldn’t have believed him. Jesus was looking for a relationship, he was looking to impart something of himself to the two men. He wanted to walk with them, support them, comfort them, and then, when the time was right,  move on. Perhaps this is what he calls us to do for other travelers also.

walk-down-road

Sometimes, when there is no answer to our question the best answer is to go for a walk.  It may be that when we no longer know the answer then the journey is just about to begin.  Sometimes we never know who will appear on our journey.Here’s how the poet Wendell Berry described this journey:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

We all walk down the same road. Sometimes it seems the road less travelled, devoid of people, life, and encouragement. Whether we realise it or not Jesus is always there walking beside us, not ahead of us, and not behind us, just right beside us, quietly prompting us, guiding us, and loving us.  Is there something that Jesus wants to whisper to you today? What does he need to give you? What guidance do you need? Do you need to take a walk?

Grace and peace.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Humanity, Humility and Hope

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Last week there was a fascinating show on TV called “What Next?” It looked into what our country will look like in 20 years time and what can be done in problem areas like the environment, entrenched poverty, losing jobs to automation and the difficulty posed by an aging population. It was a very hopeful show. There are solutions to these problems. We are an adaptable nation that’s coped with radical change before. The questions are how willing are we to engage with these issues and how willing are we to take risks as we find the best ways to move forward? One thing bugged me though. In a country with a desperately high teen suicide rate, don’t we need our hope grounded in something more substantial than the human ability to adapt?begging-1922612__340

Now, don’t get me wrong. Human beings are capable of amazing things. I think that the Church has historically held too low a view of humanity. Remember that we were created glorious with a God-given mandate to reign on the earth. Our vast resources of creativity reflect the fact that we are made in God’s image. But creativity, intelligence and the ability to co-operate are value neutral gifts. They can be used for good and for evil; for many and for a select few; for the community or just for those in power. So we have nuclear bombs and antibiotics. We have laser technology that gets used in warfare and in the operating room. Social media gets used to bring people together and by predators out to do evil. Our hope can’t be grounded in adaptability and technological advancement. It can’t be grounded in human character with its mixed motives of altruism and self-interest competing against each other. To put our hope in humanity alone is to say that we alone are responsible for the future. It is to say that our kingdom is the future and not God’s kingdom.

I am not denying that humanity plays a central role in shaping the future. I am saying that redeemed humanity surrendered to the purposes of God is the promise of the future contained in Scripture. Christ came to achieve this very thing. He calls people to himself as the One who redeems us, rescues us and makes us truly human as we follow him into the world led by the Holy Spirit. His coming again is not the end of the story. Scripture ends with humanity reigning for ever and ever under the glory of God.

The paradox is that for us to achieve our God-given potential we need to take the lowest place; right at the foot of the cross where we die to our desire to be gods, to be autonomous, to be competitors with God. When we do that it enables us to see the so-called lowest people as people loved as sons and daughters just as we are. It sets us free to the demands of power, pride and ego. We can say no to the games of status-seeking and possession gathering. Dying to self-interest sets us free to come alive to kingdom-interest. We learn to live as ambassadors of a kingdom that has sacrificial love at its centre. It thrives when we’re willing to die for our neighbor just as Christ died for us. I wonder what creativity could be unleashed for the good of the world when ego plays no part in its creation and distribution? It’s happening already in many parts of the world where people are starting to reject old models that simply enriched a few at the expense of the many. But for there to be no ego involved we need to die to our own. The kingdom of God has the humility of Christ at its centre.

May we all lay our egos down at the foot of Christ’s cross and come alive to the humility that leads to creativity and life. As we give ourselves over to our Creator may his creativity flow through us for the sake of his kingdom and our world.

Grace and peace everyone.

Posted in Christ, freedom, hope, kingdom of God, Spirituality, surrender, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Excess Baggage

Hi Everyone, David here.

In classic Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. Legend has it that the gods endowed her with many talents: Aphrodite gave her beauty, Apollo music, Hermes persuasion. The gods also gave her the gift of curiosity. Her name Pandora means “all-giving.”  Of course, all this is just a myth, as Eve was the first woman on earth, but let’s continue anyway . . .

Pandora’s box is an artifact in Greek mythology, commonly thought to be a large jar . The “box” contained all the dark things of the  world. When Pandora opened the jar, the entire contents of the jar were released, she hastened to close the lid, but the whole contents of the jar had escaped, except for one thing that lay at the bottom, which was Hope.  Today, opening Pandora’s box means to create things that cannot be undone.

luggage-1950628_960_720

We all have excess baggage or our own Pandora’s box.  In my box are memories and feelings of rejection, failure, low self-esteem, along with others.  Some of these I have worked through and some remain.  I am torn between leaving them in my box and opening them and letting them out.  Either way there is usually some collateral damage. The only real answer is to give my box away to God and let him deal my burdens.  I will keep and hold on to hope, but I need to choose to ditch the rest.

What’s in your box?  Is it open or shut? Have you given it away? Here’s my take on what I need to give away.  Grace and peace.

Pandora’s Box

Deep in my heart I need to make
Some room for you once more.
As my feelings and emotions
Wedge themselves against my door.

I hear you knocking at the door
Of my heart today.
But what lies between you and me
Is all my baggage in the way.

My feelings have cost me much
All that I hold dear.
Some friends have come, but mostly gone
I’ll lose more face I fear.

So I’ve found my Pandora’s box
To pack all my feelings back in.
I’m sitting on that box
And tying it up with string.

I’ll leave that box outside my heart
And wait for you to call.
I’ve addressed my burden, ‘To my God’
Please come and take them all.

Open the door to my heart
Please fill the empty space inside.
Come in and make me whole
From you may I never hide.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
~ Matthew 11:28-30

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Great Expectations

Hi everyone. Rob here.

One of the greatest burdens we bear is the burden of expectation. These expectations are sometimes spoken but are often unspoken and sensed. They are often not even real but perceived. There are the expectations we feel from our families, our workplaces, our churches and even friends. These expectations are usually centred around one thought: DO MORE!chains-19176_960_720

If we were to break down where much of our everyday anxiety comes from, the burden of expectation would be at or very near the top of the list. If you’re anything like me you imagine scenarios and conversations in your head. Your thoughts get captured by fear of failure or fear of accusation. Our fragile sense of self gets threatened and we can begin to wonder if we’re just posing, just pretending that we’re capable of living well. Clearly this isn’t freedom or joy. How do we begin to shed ourselves of this burden?

As we often talk about in this blog, naming the problem is our starting point. Once we discover that it’s the burden of expectation that’s weighing down our spirits then we can begin the work of finding  out where those expectations are coming from. That helps us to discern whether they’re real or not; appropriate or not; from God or not. And this is where the real work lies. It is answering the questions, what does God want from us? What are God’s expectations? What does he want me to carry? But we have to unload first. We have to give to God all the burdens that we weren’t designed to carry. This takes committed prayer work. It’s amazing how many rocks we end up carrying! The fact that we feel weighed down is proof that the rocks aren’t God given. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 that we quote often:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

I’m not sure how many of us go through our Christian life feeling like our burdens are light. I have glimpsed it. It happens when I am totally surrendered. I’m not feeling it now because I’m in the midst of the surrendering process. I’m still naming the burdens and unloading my rocks. I’m seeking patience and perseverance as I do this because part of me is finding it hard to let them go. However, I know the fruit of this exercise. It’s worth it. The freedom it brings is delicious. The joy of freedom brings strength to your soul and life to your bones.

But there’s a fear to this as well. It’s the fear of letting other people down. If we let go of others expectations and only take on the yoke of Jesus we have to start saying no to some things. It may mean standing up to our bosses or our parents or our siblings. It may mean conflict, or at the very least discomfort. Every act that moves us towards freedom requires courage, and therefore, vulnerability. One does not exist without the other. It’s the vulnerability that drives us to God. It’s our very need of him that causes us to throw ourselves upon him and to cry out to him from our hearts. When we do this we give him permission to make a way for us, to give us what we need and to provide his solutions. He will help us to overcome our fear, stand up the enemy’s lies and accusation, walk in his peace and say what we need to say to those whom we need to say it.

God wants to remove our burdens but we need to co-operate with his Spirit for that to happen. May you exchange your rocks for the yoke of Christ. May you know lightness rather than heaviness. May you know what it yours and what is not, what is God-given and is not. May you know the freedom to live out Micah 6:8,

He has shown all you people what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.

Grace and peace everyone.

Posted in Christ, freedom, God, renewal, Spirituality, surrender, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Standing at the Crossroads

Hi everyone, David here.

Standing at the crossroads
Trying to read the signs
To tell me which way I should go
To find the answer
And all the time I know
Plant your love and let it grow
~Eric Clapton

crossroads-997123_960_720

Not realising it is a journey of the heart that is called for, we make a crucial mistake. We come to a place in our spiritual life where we hear God calling us. We know he is calling us to give up what we cling to, that which has become so much a part of our identity, embrace our inner soul, and trust in his goodness.

I’ll go ahead of you, clearing and paving the road. I’ll break down bronze city gates, smash padlocks, kick down barred entrances. I’ll lead you to buried treasures, secret caches of valuables – I, God, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
(Isaiah: 45:2-3)

As we stand at the crossroads of God’s calling, we look down two roads that appear to travel in very different directions. The first road quickly takes a turn and disappears from our view. We cannot see clearly where it leads, but there are ominous clouds in the distance. Standing still long enough to look down this road makes us aware of an anxiety inside, an anxiety that threatens to crystallize into unhealed pain and forgotten disappointment.

We check our bearings and find no up-to-date road map but only the torn and smudged parchment containing the scribbled anecdotes and travelers’ warnings by a few who have traveled the way of the heart before us. They encourage us to follow them, but their rambling journals give no real answers to our queries on how to navigate the road we have decided to take. There is good news when we find ourselves here. Every road we travel we travel with God.

May you this week come to know that the road you have chosen has many crossroads.  In your quest behind your question may you know that God goes with you down any road as all roads lead to God and your destination. May you let God plant his love and may it grow.

Grace and peace.

The Road Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,which-direction-do-i-turn
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Growth Mentality

Hi everyone. Rob here.

As we know, the best people and the best organisations have a growth mentality. It’s not so much about getting bigger but about getting better. Take the All Blacks for example or the company Unilever or our local primary school just down the road. The opposite of a growth mentality is a deficit mentality. That’s all about what you don’t have or what you’ll never be or how things will never change. In your walk with God do you have a growth mentality or a deficit mentality? Do you live in self-condemnation or shame or a pervading sense of failure? Or do you feel loved, covered in grace, led by the Spirit, free to love others, free to try things?  20160514_141415

A growth mentality takes an honest look under the hood and is willing to go there into the mess so that it can be cleaned up. A growth mentality takes a belief in the unconditional love and grace of the cross into the muck and mire of sin, of addiction, of unhealthy desires, of avoidance strategies, past abuse, of the sins done against us as well as by us. A growth mentality says that I have a unique contribution to make so I’m going to stay in the game and trust the coach’s plan. To grow is to tend the soil of our lives so that when God’s grace comes upon us, when we look to the light of his love, we grow and we can’t do otherwise.

Think back 10 years. What were you like? Just a kid? What were the immature places within you? What annoyed you about yourself? Where were you stuck? What’s changed? What’s gotten better?

If you have a growth mentality you can answer that question. If you have a deficit mentality you are probably threatened by that question. God is in the business of growing us all up and we are asked to trust him with that growth. In order to grow in faith and hope and love, means to trust God with our lives and give ourselves over to him every day so that his life, the life of the holy and glorious Trinity flows in and through us. The Father and the Son have made their home in us through the Holy Spirit and we can trust that God is always at work in our hearts and minds and souls.

Why not take a moment today to do two things. First, give thanks for your growth. Give thanks that you’re not the same person you were 5, 10, 15 years ago. Celebrate the fact that the Holy Spirit is shaping you every day and helping you to live as Jesus would live if he were you (thanks Dallas Willard!). Second, acknowledge that you still need to grow. Name some areas where you need God’s help. Think especially of the relationships in your life and where you would love to see more evidence of God’s love shining in and through you. Give yourself over to Jesus and the work of the Spirit as you commit this growth work to his loving hand.

We don’t always feel like we’re growing. You only find out when you stop and take a measurement. Then you realise that growth is always happening. Christ is always at work. My job and yours is to trust him.

Grace and peace.

Posted in change, Christ, Christianity, God, relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment