I know You are here


To and From  Hamner

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 (NIV)

Today the Daily Bible Verse I got in my mailbox consisted of the verse quoted above, from probably one of the most famous of all Psalms.

Dave Whitehead reminds us how we have all known places of despair and subsequently how we can find comfort in his presence. For me what jumped out was the wording of the first part of this verse.

It does not say “I will fear no evil if/when your are with me”; it clearly states “for you are with me.” It is the certainty with which David speaks to us about God‘s presence. We all may go through times of spiritual dryness, cry out to God but it seems almost as if He is not there.

Our natural inclination may well be to give into this feeling and subsequently rely on our own strength and cope with the anxieties and stress that follows. David shows us a different way: there is no doubt in his mind that God is with him. And thus he walks through the valley of death boldly, sure of God’s presence.

I can’t but keep wondering. If I was a sure as David, that God was present all the time, what would that valley of death really look like? Would it still be as desolate and scary if we were absolutely sure, like David seemed to be that God was right there by our side? I think that it would actually light of the place substantially and as Christians we’d be enabled to walk boldly into those places/situations we so easily like to avoid because they seem dark and desolate and actually be the salt and light.

Where is Jesus in all this new social web technology? part 1


The other day I was present at a men’s breakfast meeting of one of our local churches.

The topic of this breakfast meeting:

 We’ll have plenty to eat and all your questions regarding Facebook, Twitter, the internet etc, etc will be answered!!

The questions were addressed at a panel of experts all involved in IT and internet in daily life. There were a lot of questions from a very basic level as to what are these social networking sites, how do I protect my children from them, to where is Jesus in Facebook, Twitter, Google+? ( I could not help wondering at times that not being “in the know”, distrust and a call for protection went hand in hand).

Christians and the social web: bipolarity appears to reign

The questions came a midst a seeming division of camps in the Christian world. Last year the Pope called out to Christians to embrace these networks as a way to proclaim the truth.

If technologies are used with wisdom, he explained, “they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.”

The “Christian way” of being present in the digital world means being “honest and open, responsible and respectful of others,” he explained. It is a way of communicating that is consistent with the Gospel, supported by actions worthy of the same witness in one’s daily life.

“New and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons (and) new forms of shared awareness” are opened up by new technologies and Christians are also called to proclaim their faith in God in these spaces, the Pope said.

“Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the internet from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others,” he said.

Christ’s truth is not a question of online popularity, the Pope added, rather, it is “the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks.”

While noting that “direct human relations” are always essential to sharing the faith, he invited Christians to”confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible.”

Having a Christian presence online is based not only on a desire to be there, but “because this network is an integral part of human life”
Source: Catholic News Agency 

At the same time however

Chicago parish advises churchgoers to keep kids away from social media 365 days a year, the Chicago Tribune reports:

“[Facebook] is exactly the opposite of the Christian culture where people go into the secrecy and sacredness of the confessional to blot out their sins forever,” St. John Cantius parish leaders wrote in the church bulletin.

The warning was directed at families trying to raise their children in a wholesome environment. It indicted social networking sites for encouraging vanity and dishonesty by providing an outlet for children to create their own electronic version of reality. It also pointed out, for example, that acronyms such as PIR (parent in room), POS (parent over shoulder) and GYPO (get your pants off) can lead children far astray.

“God entrusted parents with the care of their children for one particular purpose, and that is to teach them the way ‘to know, love, and serve God in this life and save their souls hereafter.’ Everything leads us to think that Facebook fits poorly into this plan and was devised for a very different goal.”

In an interview with NPR,Presbyterian pastor Bruce Reyes-Chow suggested worshipers not give up Facebook or Twitter for Lent or any other reason:

If social media is addictive and it’s holding you back from connecting to God and your understanding of spirituality, then, yes, by all means, pull back. But I think that oftentimes social media is allowing people to be church in a way that is unprecedented in our culture today. In fact, we should figure out, how do folks use social media even more effectively to be church during this time is another way to look at it.

There appears to be a bi-polar perspective so typical almost of the Christian world at large. The very relevant question “WHERE IS JESUS IN ALL THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY”  remained rather unconvincingly answered during that particular breakfast meeting. Hence an urge to expand on this a bit more in this series of posts.

Without  a doubt I can agree with the panel of experts that the internet is a great resource, makes it possible to be uplifted listening to worship music while doing other things. I can relate to that, I thoroughly enjoy listening to worship music myself, but in all fairness that is no valid argument to be online, I can go ad buy an album or listen to a Christian radio station for that. I do believe that as a resource the internet has opened everyone up to incredibly good teachers, from a church organisation and preacher/teacher’s perspective it is fantastic that your teachings may be available well beyond the wall of your church. From a personal perspective, I have had tremendous benefits from some of the sites out there with amazing speakers and sermons available to watch, listen, read, to name a few:

And there are of course hundreds more. All great resources all great places to hang out. But that does not answer the question Where is Jesus in all this new social web technology? 

The Great Commission

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18-20 NIV

Now the great commission applies to ALL followers of Christ, I think we can agree on that. I think we can also agree that as Christians we are “in Christ.” With that said, you could answer the question “Where is Jesus in all this new social web stuff” with the simple reality that it is in the participation of you and other followers of Christ.

Our participation, the sharing of our lives and thoughts, either publicly or using more private parts of the technology may well be part of that great commission. Sure enough I like facebook to stay in touch with friends, family and my home church Harmony, but over the past years, I have found it an invaluable tool to support others, ask questions, answer questions.

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Just as in daily life, the way we live our lives and the way in which we live out our relationship with God will make a difference and the visibility thereof may well be a better way to  “make disciples of all nations”  may well be a better way to teach than trying to be the next ‘sermonizer’ on the net.

From a personal perspective, I think every life is worth sharing; it is not ours in the first place, and social networking sites like facebook are a great way to exemplify and or illustrate what it means to be “in the world but not off the world” (John17:14-15).  Does that mean I NEED TO BE ON FACEBOOK, GOOGLE+, TWITTER, HAVE A BLOG ETC? Not at all, but if I want to be the world than that is part of it, a part I choose to participate in, and I have found it to be the way to get to know others well beyond the boundaries of my own community.

As a father I will add, it is pretty simply the world our kids grow up in and understanding what is happening around them I see as part of my responsibility as a parent and teacher and last but not least I think it is fun, so why not?  And please be clear I do not see it as a replacement for real face to face relationships but as a complement to those relationships and a door to a wider network of interpersonal relationships.

Does this mean that as Christians we have to be on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, that we have to have a blog: I think the answer to that can be a short and sweet NO, but we can, and I did.

In summary

I think the question as to why participate in all this social media stuff: because you can, because your children and their friends will. As a parent I see it as my responsibility to keep up (as good as I can) so I can guide my children. Besides that because it is one way to be a light in the world and love God and others. It may not be your way but that is between you and God.  I agree with pastor Chow

But I think that oftentimes social media is allowing people to be church in a way that is unprecedented in our culture today.

Where Jesus is in all this social media? In the participation of each and every follower of Christ in this new technological stuff.

More in part 2, about the fear and perceived dangers expressed during the meeting.

 

Book Review: Destined to Reign


Destined to Reign: The Secret to Effortless Success, Wholeness, and Victorious LivingDestined to Reign: The Secret to Effortless Success, Wholeness, and Victorious Living by Joseph Prince

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I became a follower of Christ it was after a long journey of exploration and discovery. In that time but more importantly after that time I could not help but reading the Bible and it seemed like the same book that I had been reading (the Bible that is) several times was completely new. Especially the New Testament, Paul’s letters were speaking to me in a way like never before. I saw this image of Christians being completely set free by the blood of Christ, a new covenant of grace similar as in the times prior to the time when Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai.

Yet as a fresh Christian there were still many questions to be answered and looking around me, what I understood to be great Christians, were seemingly not liberated at all. Arched backs walking under a heavy weight of judgment of self and others. But why? Did Jess not say on the cross “it is finished”? While it easy to understand that as the last thing one says before he or she dies, I understood it as the completion of the deal (covenant) between the Father and the Son. The latter would die for our sake so that we could be justified “for and and for all” and be reconciled with God the Father again.

It is pretty tough if, on the basis of what some may want us to believe, have lost your salvation, before you had a decent chance to enjoy it, so as to work your booty off to come under His grace again. It kept going through my mind over and over again? If Jesus came to set the captives free, what have we actually been set free off. Sure I knew in my mind that I understood it differently than let’s say may traditional religious Christian people I was speaking to and had been speaking in the past. But who was I to think that I knew better.

Joseph Prince, in destined to reign, outlines what it means to live under grace, very much the way I understood it initially. I remember so well how I once asked: if Christianity is really all about these works; what is the meaning of Christ death on the cross? Christ said “it is finished” and “”my yoke is light”, is this whole creeds and deeds mentality not a bit arrogant? Is it not implying or in effect saying that Christ’s death on the cross was insufficient, and therefore we need to add some of our own goodies to the mix, so as to really finish it? I remember the look of my conversation partner and we moved on to a different subject. I went back into the Bible to find out what I had misunderstood so much. And I could not find it no matter what I tried.

Joseph Prince’s book has been an incredible encouragement in getting an even better understanding of what it means to live under grace, to live in Christ, and along the way it has helped me strengthen my faith, my hope and much more. It restored so much of the initial joy I felt when becoming a follower of Christ. Moreover, I have so enjoyed the fresh perspectives on reading and understanding our Bible, New AND Old Testament. Thank you so much Joseph for producing a book that does not just affects the mind but changes the heart along in a lasting way by leading us straight back to and in Christ. And I see His unmerited favor showing up in my life again and again and again.

View all my reviews

Photo Journal: Flowers


Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. Song of Songs 2:12

… See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. Matthew 6:29

Summer to me, besides the beautiful weather is together with the spring the season of explosions of color and fragrance, of amazing flowers that never cease to amaze me, new ones that I had never seen before or golden oldies that look even more beautiful than before.  Hard to beat beauty, truly royal indeed, whether it is a magnificent big flower or the tiniest small one, they all have something of a very special beauty to be enjoyed while it lasts. The good news, next season WILL come, there WILL be a new summer again and again and again in which very often the flowers come out even more beautiful, in which the plant has grown to produce even more flowers.

And so it seems with my Christian journey, one day a blossoming flower the other day withered, just as Peter explained referring to Isaiah:

 “All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
1 Peter 1:24

But like I said there WILL be a new summer, in which like the flowers we come out even more beautiful than last season. Maybe that is what Paul meant when he said:

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Photo Journal: Love Your Neighbor


“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. James 2:8 NIV

14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

 

 

Photo Journal: Thoughts on Luke 2:19 head or heart?


Last Sunday after a few very busy weeks I did not go to church and instead I drove out with a Bible, journal and camera and spend some time alone while picking up my son in Cheviot. The route:  Christchurch-Kaiapoi-Amberley-WaiparaWaikariHurunuiCulverden-Rotterham via Mouse Point- Rotterham-Waiau-via Leader Road to Parnassus-Cheviot. Cheviot- Greta Valley -detour up and down to Motunau Beach-Amberley-Kaiapoi-Christchurch.

Amazing scenery that day.

In Balmoral  Forest I stopped for some lunch that I had picked up earlier. Sitting in the back of the truck eating and enjoying my coffee I opened my Bible and Journal. Luke 2: 18, 19 seemed to stick out particularly.

19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 NIV

Now that stuck out to me because as I understood it pondering was something more of a head matter. In the Merriam-Webster it says:

ponder implies a careful weighing of a problem or, often, prolonged inconclusive thinking about a matter <pondered the course of action>.

It seemed to indicate a head matter. Yet, Mary pondered with her heart? It reminded me of something Santana said before one of the songs during a concert.

If we take the time to see with the heart and not with the mind, we shall see that we are surrounded completely by angels.

Again the heart prevails over the normal sensory course. Maybe there is something there? Could it maybe be that the eyes, the ears, the mind provide order to our sensations whereas it is the heart that gives it meaning, truth.
Is it not coincidental that the heart is as the one place in our body that is associated with love. We speak of knuckle heads the Bible of hardened hearts.

The heart as the place where connect knowledge and meaning, purpose, God‘s purpose by the guidance of the Spirit, the place from where the Spirit speaks, the heart as the pathway to wisdom, the truth about everything and anything, ourselves included.

Lunch turned out to be satisfactory in more than one sense and with a smile on my face I proceeded. Further down the road I was sure God was smiling back to me. Something to further explore and try on my journey of life.

Journal: thoughts on John 16


Last night I had the pleasure and honor to be present at the baptism of one of my star students. A joyful occasion indeed, bringing good memories of my own baptism (see above) at Harmony Church

Prior to the baptism the pastor spoke about what baptism meant and words such as giving your life to God, living for His purpose, according to His plan, guided by the Holy Spirit.

It is in these times amazing in itself to see young people make such commitments. Beautiful. I know I have been there and still am there, so I was also reminded as to how that sometimes poses serious challenges and it reminded me of the story found in John 16.

Jesus tells his disciples that he’ll be going back to his Father and all of them are said at his words, not because they did not allow him the joy of being reunited but because their own interests stood in the way… or so they thought.

Jesus however saw the bigger plan and understood not only that he would be going away but also that it was necessary even, so that “the Comforter, the Holy Spirit could come. Jesus understood that we would actually be better off with His departure.

It is so easy, despite the fact that you made a commitment to live your life His plan, for His purpose, to be blinded for the bigger picture, the picture that you may not be seeing (yet).  I guess the story teaches us that quick relief is not always the best option in the larger scheme of things and that we may sometimes not be fully aware of what the true value or blessing is that comes with certain less pleasurable events situations in our lives. But He knows! Perhaps it helps to ask before being grief stricken straight away.   Nowhere in the Bible does it say that a life in Christ is a guarantee for a challenge and trouble free existence. There may be a meaning of things that needs to be clarified before we put our own, worldly agenda first. All I can add is that I fail regularly, get better at it every day and that He has not let, me down so far.