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.

A Chat with a Friend: Thoughts on Trust and Guidance, John 14 and Proverbs 3


Credits: Michael Pokocky

The other day I was talking with a friend and not long after that I came across some Bible verses that felt quite fitting in the light of our talk. Let me share some thoughts with you.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. – John 14:16-17 (NIV)

The Holy Spirit has is there to give us counsel and a pathway to truth. It is very natural for us, me especially, to think of truth as a body of knowledge to identify right from wrong. Jesus however was not referring to that. Earlier in John 14 Jesus advises that He is the way, the truth, the light.

So, truth appears not so much a set of answers; truth appears to be referring to a person: Jesus Christ!Truth is the tree of life, and not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We want clear, fixed solutions. It is part even of our survival mechanism. The Holy Spirit however wants to give us truth and with that life itself ultimately. But our human nature makes that we are almost naturally inclined to think that we can find that truth, on our own strength more often than not mixing up knowledge with life. I know I have been, and I still am regularly. This condition or human tendency is recognized and it is therefore no surprise that we read in Proverbs

 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3: 5-7 NIV)

I remember all to well how I reached a dead end, some years back. I had been searching and either not finding or been disappointed with whatever truth, life I did think I had found.  Christianity was no exception, and I was determined to expose it as a sham, a scam. It was at the time the last viable option. Ironically I ended up becoming a Christian and for the first time in many years, for as long as I can remember in fact, I have found the peace  I was so desperately searching for on my own strength. It is beautifully worded in one Jewish song: Ruach (Spirit).

“Not by might or by power, but by the Spirit of God.”

The matter of being comforted and guided by the Spirit, to follow the Spirit‘s lead, not to find answers but to find life, is not a quest but  a matter of trust. It is already available to everyone of us, its part and parcel of what being a believer is all about. It seems so obvious but in daily life it poses me challenges regularly. We are (I am) so used to living in a world in which we (are made to) believe that we have all the answers that it seems almost unnatural to place our trust completely in God. Yet that is exactly what Jesus did and while his life may have had some incredibly hard moments, he came out the winner. In all this and considering everything I remind myself of one thing: no matter how evolved we are as humans and as societies and civilizations, we have yet to find the answer as to why, if we are so advanced, pain and suffering are still not solved as a human problem?  All the advances we made over the centuries did not solve this problem and the scale has as far as I can see it only gone downhill.

Even though I fail in respect of placing my trust in God, in letting myself be guided, I have not been disappointed wherever I did, even where I did not understand the calls being made on my life. Sometimes matters become more clear along the way, sometimes not (yet).  I will try and am keeping on learning live with it and trust God, until one day I hopefully do see the purpose behind God’s way.  In any event I am peace, that is more than I ever achieved on my own strength for such an extended period. Christianity is not a guarantee for a trouble free life, but it makes a incredible difference to know that it may serve a purpose, you are not alone and that help is at hand to comfort and guide you through any storm.

 

Photo Journal: His Eye is on the Sparrow (Again) and Psalm 84


Last year I wrote a post in relation to this beautiful hymn after a sparrow was kind enough to make it possible for me to take a relatively close up pic. On or most recent walk in Hagley Park, I noticed, while feeding both ducks and eels that there was this little tree along the waterfront of the Avon River that seemed to almost be like a gathering place for the sparrow. Overhanging branches made it possible to hide under there, yet at the same time they could warm up in the sun on the top of the little tree sheltered from the wind by the surrounding higher trees.

What a chirpy group of birds they were and again I started to sing because I became happy just seeing this seemingly happy bunch of birds.

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Psalm 84:3

In this Psalm we read how David almost envies these little birds.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

Almost as by nature sparrows provide for themselves habitats in houses and buildings similarly to other birds in the woods or open country.  And David, uses the fact that the Temple was no exception to express how much he really loves God. While these little insignificant little birds live right there in the presence of God, he is living in a palace away from there, and it almost seems like he’d give it up just like that just so he could be there in the place where God lives.

And in seeing them again that day I realize how much of an example they are to us: seemingly happy, not waiting for God to offer them a place in His house but just doing it AS BY NATURE, living life day by day. We can learn a lot from this little sparrow.

His eye is on the sparrow

The lyrics to this beautiful song again:

Why should I feel discouraged / Why should the shadows come / Why should my heart feel lonely / And long for heaven and home / When Jesus is my portion / A constant friend is He / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches over me / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches me /

I sing because I’m happy / I sing because I’m free / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches me (He watches me) / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches / I know He watches / I know He watches me/

Do you get it, the song starts of with a lot of “why should I’s” . It is so amazing to get to the key point of the matter: by faith we are saved and more, when you realize that when Jesus died for our sins, he left with the promise of the Holy Spirit, and with Him living in us, we do no longer need to worry. We will never be worthy but Jesus paid the ransom so that we can be reconciled with our Creator, n0t because we deserve it (as we never will) but because of His will and His grace. It was never about us , it was all about Him. Not about what we can do so He may look after us, how we can deserve to be His children, it was already taken care off.

Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions or faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary. A serious moral effort is the only thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up the sponge. Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out of that Faith in Him good actions must inevitably come. (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity).

The Law, and adherence thereto cannot be our ticket, it is the promise, the fruit, that will come from the God’s Spirit  living in us and we listening to it, our comforter, our guidance so we may be lead from glory to glory, as chirpy as those sparrows.

Harmony Church hosts SHANE WILLARD


Shane Willard will speak in Christchurch on Tue 10 and Wed 11 May.

Shane is an international speaker, teacher, and motivator. His passion is teaching the Word of God in a relevant way, with a particular interest in revealing Jesus’ life and ministry from a hebrew context. Shane was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina and began preaching at age 15. He took his first pastoral position at 19 and served on staff for 7 years at two large churches. He speaks at pastor’s and leadership conferences as well as churches throughout the world.
http://www.shanewillard.org/

 

Meetings held each night at 7.30pm at Halswell Baptist Church, 6 Balcairn Street, Halswell

Offering will be taken.

Hosted by Harmony Church. More info Ph: 338 4253 or harmonychurch@ihug.zo.nz or www.harmony.org.nz

For the facebookers amongst us go here and RSVP and hopefully I will meet you there.

MINISTRY ENDORSEMENTS

“It is our honour and privilege to have this opportunity to recommend to you the ministry of Shane Willard. Shane has ministered in our church to great effect and his grasp of the Word and ability to communicate it is stunning. He has a deep knowledge of the historical context and original meaning that is fresh and revelatory and brings to life the most fundamental of the Christian doctrines. The demand for his book and CD series by our congregation is evidence of how much his ministry was appreciated. We look forward to Shane’s next visit and gladly recommend his ministry in building the local church.”

Pastor Merv and Ann Bassett
Annesbrook Church – Christ Church, New Zealand

“We recently had Pastor Shane Willard minister at the Invercargill Christian Centre over a ten day period. From the very first meeting it was evident that the ascension gift of the teacher was in operation among us. Secondary to this, but along side, was the manifest power of the Holy Spirit in re-enforcing truth, and demonstrating signs and wonders.

We have no hesitation in recommending Shane Willard to you. He has become a good friend and colleague in the Holy Spirit.”

Ian & Dayle Wright, Senior Pastors
Invercargill Christian Centre – Invercargill, New Zealand

 

Thoughts on Parenting


Father & Daughter

A Glimpse in the Future or a Sign

Young restless teeenagers. Did we get a glimpse in the future of what it is to have teenagers in the house or is this a warning to make sure that we give our children a place they can call home at all times, a place where they can feel loved and where they can feel safe and at peace. Some weeks ago we offered one of our boys’ rooms to a member of our church because he no longer had a place he could call home, a roof over his head  after the earthquake.
I can’t help but being sad to see how our young guest does not seem to have a clue as to what it is to be part of a family. Relatively unaware,  he pops in and out without ever thinking about the rest of the family here. No other consideration it almost seems, not for leaving us in doubt whether or not to include him in the cooking, for the fact that our oldest son generously parted from his room so that he could have a place to withdraw and get back at peace, and he decides late at night to not come home.  Restless.
A child (as that is what he still is) from a broken family with seemingly no father or mother to hang on to. It saddens me even more to realize that there are so many of these out there. Clueless, directionless, because they have basically been neglected by their own (broken) families and our education system is engineering them to think of themselves as the center of the universe, an education system that no longer teaches children to concentrate and go deep.
It is painful to see how much damage parents can cause (also thinking about the damage I may have caused already with my own boys) when children do not feel loved and are neglected. No discipline, no sense of participation, all self-centered if only because that was how to survive from a young age onwards, direction-less,  unsure of their self-worth. I find myself in pain for our young guest.  How can someone raise and maintain a happy family when he has never known one? Of course with the help of God, but as parents should we perhaps not keep in mind that we are not just participating in a family but also peparing the next generations to raise the families of the future? I guess this is something that I may want to reconsider while we try as good as we can to raise our own children. If they follow our example or if our example sets the norm than what an important responsibilty we have for the future to set an example worthy of following: an example of what it means to live according to the priority God, family, community.
It is in these last weeks I am realizing that I need to change, a lot, and that I will need God’s help to do just that. It is in the last weeks that I started to understand how important it is to provide a loving environment and most of all that love also means that you are not going to let your children live out their mistakes. Most of all I am starting to realize that teaching, instructing is best done by providing a leading example His Kingdom is one of power not of words. In that respect I may have a lot to work on and actually need God’s help more than ever. This is why we must be careful in everything we do. Along with loving God and being a godly example by committing ourselves to His commands, we could start by the command of Deuteronomy 6:7-9 regarding teaching our children to do the same, in words and action.

“7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Instruction so it seems from this verse is of an ongoing nature and can be done at all times – at home, on the road, at night, and in the morning, in word and in action. The Bible thus becomes the foundation in our home, for our family life. By following the principles of these commands, I can  teach our children that worshiping God can and should be constant, not reserved for Sunday mornings or nightly prayers or thanksgivings. Moreover that it comes from the heart and through thoughts, words AND actions.
God, family, community as the paradigm and leading by example as the strategy. An ongoing epiphany so it seems. Where do I start?  This weekend when talking to one of my boys, he expained to me that as a result of my example he and the boys will have a higher chance of becoming a smoker. I guess change is already taking place as for the first time I did not try to argue that with him. Instead  we ended up talking about how I started smoking, he wanted to know whether or not his Oma smoked (and yes  my parents did) and that is where I see how children are being taught at school. I should not feel guilty for my smoking as that was Oma and Opa’s fault, since they smoked. When will he realize that in saying this he already has the perfect escape for any wrong choices he may make when he grows up where he has seen me make them. Children are not taught to take responsibility but to transfer culpa.

Another point of attention for me. As for me, I need to step it up and make sure he sees me making the right choices (and persevere with God’s help) and be a good husband, father, head of the family and a member of the community.

Prayer

Dear God,
Thank you for trusting me with the raising of a child. But I cannot do this on my own strentgth. Forgive me for being a terrible example at times, forgive me for being angry and at times to hard for the boys, forgive me for all those times where I set a bad example as to what it means to be a loving and caring father and husband. In the name of Jesus I ask you to make me into the husband and father you want me to be, with You and Jesus  as my shining examples and guided by Your Holy Spirit, so that we as a family and my sons may become shining examples of Your glory, Your power, Your love, Your compassion, Your grace, Your Wisdom, Your patience, Your goodness, Your caring nature, Your plan for us, and everything else You are that I just forgot.
In the name of Jesus, Amen

Thoughts on God, Faith and Transformation: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader part 2


Faith

In part one I discussed how the Chronicles of Narnia related to my image of God. In this post I will zoom in a little further on the topic of faith, which is an important theme in the movie.

I love this scene.

To find all that you seek, there is the utter east, doubt not…

Lucy wondering if Aslan’s country is a place you could actually go and the mouse advising her that there is only one way to find out. Besides the clever world play as Aslan’s country as the end of the world, there is something very profound in the song and  this communication between the old friends. The mouse is actually laying out his faith very similar to what Hebrews 11:1 tells us about faith:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Our chivalrous little mouse is quite confident as to Aslan’s country where he one day hopes to live and even while there is no guarantee that there is such a country in the “utter east”: the fact that Aslan comes from the east when and if He comes is enough assurance for him it seems. Assurance enough to hope to one day earn the right to see this country. Our little mouse is ready to do whatever and go wherever it takes him so as to earn the right to see Aslan’s country. Again a parallel emerges with Hebrews, 10:39:

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

When Paul wrote this letter he was concerned about the perseverance in faith. And I guess that that is what it comes down to as a start and an end in Christianity. And that is not always easy in our western secular society with all it’s temptations and controversial opinions. I certainly have had my doubts over the past period, about Christianity in general, the church, God, Jesus.

It brings back memories of when I handed over the wheel to Christ slightly over a year ago. At that point in time besides being saved I felt like all I had left was faith in the sense of Hebrews 11:1. All the (traditional scientific) evidence I had been collecting for the previous years  turned out to be inconclusive as to whether God was a reality. Do not understand me wrong here: I could not find the scientifically sound and conclusive evidence for and against God. But there I said it: scientific evidence. It took me another year and the evidence of an American court case before I realized that I would always run around in circles because as per definition and creed, supernatural explanations are excluded from science. And there is in fact a good argument for such a naturalist, material approach. It will always keep on challenging us to keep on looking for natural explanations an in that we discover more about nature. But at the same time it will never tell us anything conclusive about whether or not a living God, that created the universe, that became flesh and was among us and died on the cross so that out relationship with God was again a possibility because the price for out sins was paid, a Holy Spirit that guides us and comforts us, a Christianity that comes with miracles and signs as a result of God among us and who’s working through us.   In order to appreciate a miracle you will need to know what is the norm or what is standard in nature. And that is exactly where science comes in.

Science and religion appear to be eachother’s greatest enemies yet they are in fact complimentary in that they cover overlapping areas of interest from different perspectives. If anything science is about knowledge while religion is about meaning, about wisdom. But I am wandering off here.

As said, when I converted to Christianity, all I had left to go on was faith. And in that sense I guess my first year has been a personal Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a journey in any event and a journey to my own dark island to be face to face with the evil trying to corrupt me. I have found that the evidence that has made the biggest impact has been experiential and subsequently science may provide some sort of explanation and  faith comes after that as a sort of trust and assurance that is indeed all to do with the God I am hoping to be in a relationship with. That assurance again is strengthened not so much by by experiences alone but on the basis that God is indeed working in my life. And if there is anything I learned from that it is that Christ is not a guarantee for an easy life, that suffering for whatever reason may well be part of the equation but the rewards are greater than any of the pain and or suffering. In a secular society the individual is placed in the center of the universe, his or her own universe for that matter.  Self empowerment, self power, self strength, self(ishness under a coat of humanism or new age spirituality) are very central in our thinking: Christianity opposes that with the empowering image of servant-hood. As Christians we hand over the throne of our lives to Christ, or that is what I understand it is we are to do. And even if I am wrong in that, I have found it to be a very rewarding exercise so far.

It is I think even though I may be on this journey only short that it is in faith that we find endurance and victory.  The more I think about it the more everything seems to be boiling down to faith. It is one thing to say: “He is not safe but He is good” but it is another to live it. It is one thing to have faith in God’s healing and transformational power but it is another to live it. It is in faith that we (I) find peace.

Throughout the Matthew we read about the importance of faith. It is in faith that Jesus was completely at peace when a storm broke out on the water.

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Here is a boat of men fearing for their lives, waves crashing over the deck and what does Jesus do? He’s sleeping! And when he’s woken up by disciples fearing for their lives he is sort of irritated about their lack of faith and subsequently calms the storm. I guess we, in any event I, am probably exemplary of Peter when he is invited to walk on the water. As long as he keeps himself fixed on Jesus he’s going great, but then he starts looking around and in worldly terms looks at what he is doing and starts to sink. It was faith that healed many, that made Jesus perform miracles, made the apostles and disciples live a supernatural life.

If anything I find that the past year has been one where I learned that nothing is impossible if I keep my eyes fixed on God but at the same time a year in which I am slowly but surely have been learning how difficult it sometimes is to do just that when your mind turns your attention to your circumstances and you look at them in worldly terms instead of Godly terms. Perhaps we should look for Jesus, Aslan first and the answers will come. I guess that is what all great men and women of the Bible have in common: they had a relationship with God and from that came the faith in His plans for them. But that means we’ll first have to seek Him and if we do He will be found.

In Prince Caspian Lucy makes a very good  The children and the dwarf have gone to find the Prince, and they have been following Peter’s direction. They come to a ravine where there’s a stream running many feet below.They decide that they must go around somewhere down the river.  Then Lucy sees Aslan, and he seem to signal that she should follow him. There are four different reactions to her statement:

  • The dwarf doesn’t believe there really is an Aslan.
  • Peter wonders why Aslan wouldn’t have made himself visible to him.
  • Edmund says that they shouldn’t question Lucy because she’d been right before.
  • Susan wonders why no one else saw him.

To Susan Lucy makes a classic response:

“Perhaps you weren’t looking for him.”

Is it not the same with many of us, myself included? We sing about a living and ever present God.  We say that we believe that He is at work, and at the same time do we actually look for Him? Do we give credit to the things that happen in our lives?  To what do we attribute blessings?  Who sustains us and allows us our very lives? We read our Bible and pray, we believe that that is it.  We think that He might heal our sickness or help us get a job. At the same time we (I) can be truly oblivious to what He is at work doing right now in our area or in our own hearts.

Lucy’s got it. Many times we don’t see God because we aren’t looking for Him.  He’s explained away or we attributed something that is His provision to ourselves, our abilities or our job.  As it proved to be the case in terms of crossing the ridge.  It ended up that He was there, and He did have a direction. Lucy asked later what the cost was of not following him, and so should we. But in order to follow we first need to listen and hear what He has to say. And as I am finding regularly that may well be not what I hoped to hear, I thought that would come, on other occasions  I am surprised and find it to be better than I could have hoped for.

So thus for now we have God as the beginning and the end, Aslan, Jesus as God becoming flesh and the savior, and faith as they key to our relationship with God. Our minds and hearts may well be closing our eyes for the good we are getting because we are so focussed on what we did not get or because he’s leading us where we do not what or imagined ourselves to be going. And that is where faith comes in “He’s not safe but he’s good”, and only by placing our faith completely in Him we’ll find out what He really has in store for us. I guess there’s my new years resolution. More on that in the final part in a next post.

Invitation: Clive Carr Speaking at Harmony Church


See You Tomorrow

Clive is pastor of New Heart Church & director of Ellel Int. Ministries in Ballyclare, Northern Ireland, UK.  He has been speaking at Greenlane Christian Centre in Auckland the last few weeks and we have heard fantastic reports!

He ministers with a unique pastoral and powerful prophetic gift. Not to be missed….

About Clive Carr

Clive Carr originates from Dublin, Ireland. His church background is made up of Anglican, Presbyterian, Brethren, Charismatic House Groups and Pentecostal. In 1975 he got converted and in 1977 was dramatically filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and received a call from God to serve Him in ministry. In 1979 he served with with Operation Mobilisation, in 1982 attended Bible College in England, and in 1985 he was ordained as a minister in the Elim Churches and was pastoring until 1998 with them. He has had the privilege to travel to over fifty countries and has experience in interdenominational events and cross-cultural ministry. He is an associate teacher of Ellel International Ministries in evangelism, healing and deliverance work.

http://www.ellelministries.org/uk/about/ellel-northern-ireland

In 1999 the Lord gave Clive a vision for a ministry that would touch the hearts of men and women with the healing power of God’s love. As an evangelist, Clive believes that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Hence New Heart Ministries was founded on Ezekiel 36v26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” He is now heading up this ministry which has a church base and a ministry to the further body of Christ. He is involved in directing and pastoring New Heart Church and Ministries and also has a travelling ministry to other churches and nations.http://newheartministries.org

As a PASTOR, EVANGELIST, and TEACHER, Clive believes in moving under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and loves to minister in a relaxed informal and spontaneous manner. He shares in an inspirational and exciting way with humour and yet is sensitive to the powerful move of the Holy Spirit. His teaching ministry is accompanied with the prophetic and word of knowledge gifts. He likes to give time for personal ministry, laying on of hands, impartation, etc. Clive ministers with the conviction that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today, and that signs and wonders do follow the preaching of the Word.

More information at http://www.harmony.org.nz, I look forward meeting you there tomorrow at 10. 00 AM