The journey

This video reminds me of being 15 again.

No car, just pushing down the street, hopping up onto the sidewalk, ollie-ing the gutters and busting out some power slides.

The destination was never the objective. It was the journey that made it special.

I find it weird that so much of my life is about my goals – about reaching for, striving for, attaining to and achieving something. these things are often tangible or measurable or quantifiable. and yet they never satisfy.

God however, doesn’t necessarily see that as being the most important thing. Scripture seems to allude repeatedly to the journey rather than the destination, that where we are on the path is more important than where we need to get to. That’s why words like “seek” and “follow” and “be” and “go” and “give” and “trust” and “establish” and “find” and “love” and “trust” seem to be so much more prominent than simply “achieve” or “attain.”

They are words that suggest and allude to a process, or a journey, yet the they very much keep us grounded in the present reality.

we are going somewhere, but we aren’t there yet.

and that is ok.

Because if we aren’t ok with that we miss the very special, and amazing point of where we are at right now. and what we are heading towards right now.

enjoy the journey for what it is, enjoy the things God is doing in you and through you now. Embrace and endure the struggles, and celebrate the victories.

and do not miss a moment, this moment, to delight in Him who is with you.

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Getting it right.

This is part two of a two part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 4th November. These two blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “Sexism, racism & Homophobia: Is the Church always right and what happens if I disagree?” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

I have wrestled over what to post this week. The question “is the church always right?” Is a tough one because in as much as I believe Jesus is the Way , the Truth and the Life, I also see a lot of churches preach things I find pretty unsavory. So this week I decided to instead post a picture for you to reflect on. Enjoy.

Is “right and wrong” wrong or right?

This is part one of a two part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 4th November. These two blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “Sexism, racism & Homophobia: Is the Church always right and what happens if I disagree?” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

I am currently sitting in St Stephen’s University in Canada where I have spent the last two weeks studying for my Masters. It has been truly wonderful, yet I am extremely sad that I will be missing the next Intersection service. Adding to this sadness is the wonderful conversations and opportunities that have arisen in the last few weeks of my travels, particularly around the exact issues that are up for discussion at the upcoming Intersection service.

What I have found myself confronted with time and again is the polarity that seems to exist in the world around us.

It seems, that in every circumstance, we can label things “Right” or “Wrong.”

But is it really that simple?

There are words in the bible that we can use to put things in each of those categories.

But then there are words we can use in the bible that put right and wrong completely out of whack.

Can women teach in Church? Can homosexuals be in Church? Is it “Right” or is it “Wrong” to even ask these questions?

And if you can answer that, how do you define the parameters by which you determine right and wrong? Just thinking about it makes me break out in a cold sweat.

An exchange in the garden of Eden sheds some interesting thoughts as we look at this subject. The serpent says to Eve  “For God knows that when you eat from it (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

We will be LIKE God? It seems that when we categorise things into right and wrong, we choose to put ourselves into the shoes of God, and as a result we pass judgement on another human.

Hardly shoes we are qualified to fill.

So it is with humbleness that I propose that we eat of the tree of life, based on God’s recommendation. This is a tree of relationship, of being in community with, of loving, and being. As we prepare ourselves for this discussion let’s walk humbly and love radically.

God bless you as you journey towards the tree of life.

Come on in.

This is part three of a three part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 7th October. These three blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “Is their god my God?: Being a Christian in a multi-faith world.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

In our church movement, Vineyard, we spend a little bit of time talking about bounded sets vs. centred sets in regards to evangelism. In talking like this, we find ourselves often saying that we are a place where you can “belong before you believe.” It’s all well and good, but not everyone gets what this is about.

So let me put it this way.

Jesus did not come to establish an “in” group, that, in becoming so, banishes others to an “out” group.

No. Jesus wanted to create a “come-on-in” group.

This group is not about being superior.It is not about conquering. It is not about harassing, and it is not about putting others down or belittling them.

THIS group is about saving, giving, blessing, redeeming, respecting, befriending, embracing and LOVING.

with Jesus at the centre there is no “in” and “out”, but rather a community of people inviting others in and walking alongside each other as they grow in the ways of Jesus’ kingdom and move to the rhythms of His grace.

Beautiful picture isn’t it?

Theoretically yes. But I ask you this – What does it look like for you to walk that walk alongside your muslim friend, your hindu friend, your buddhist friend and your atheist friend?

There is no fixed answer to that, But I guarantee the journey towards an answer is a good one.

Blessings.

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Children, Muslims and hugs.

This is part two of a three part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 7th October. These three blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “Is their god my God?: Being a Christian in a multi-faith world.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

As we contemplate our Christian faith within a world of other faiths, I would like to share an excerpt from a book called “Broken we kneel” , written by Diana Butler Bass.

One day, my daughter Emma saw a woman walking towards us covered in a veil and asked the inevitable, “what’s that mommy?”

“Emma,” I answered, “that lady is a Muslim from a faraway place. And she dresses like that – and covers her head with a veil – because she loves God. That is how her people show they love God.”

My daughter considered these words. She stared at the woman who passed us. She pointed at the woman, then pointed at my hair, and further quizzed, “Mommy, do you love God?”

“Yes honey,” I laughed. “I do. You and I are Christians. Christian ladies show love for God by going to church, eating the bread and the wine, serving the poor and giving to those in need. We don’t wear veils, but we do love God.”

After this, Emma took every opportunity to point to Muslim women during our shopping trips and tell me “Mommy look, she loves God.”  One day, we were getting out of our car at our driveway at the same time as our pakistani neighbors. Emma saw the mother, beautifully veiled, and, pointing at her, shouted, “Look, mommy, she loves God!”

My neighbor was surprised. I told her what I had taught Emma about Muslim ladies loving God. While she held back tears, this near stranger hugged me, saying, “I wish all Americans would teach their children so. The world would be better. The world would be better.”

And with that I simply pose the following question:

What would you teach your children?

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Defining truth.

This is part one of a three part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 7th October. These three blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “Is their god my God?: Being a Christian in a multi-faith world.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

All truth is God’s truth”

– Arthur Holmes

It can be a daunting thing to confront the beliefs of other religions. It can be scary observing their practices, and challenging studying their laws.

In fact it is difficult to do so because, by our own knowledge, understanding, and experience of truth, these other belief systems are simply not correct.

But as a Christian, I believe it is not ok to simply state that and throw it in people’s faces, but rather  that we owe a certain duty of care to our fellow muslims, buddhists, mormons and hindus. Now, that does not mean just “loving” people within these religious groups, but making an effort to understand them and their beliefs. After all, their truth is very real to them. That is why we need to have this discussion. How do we live out our Christian faith in a multi-faith world?

Before we enter the discussion, before we even consider these other beliefs and people,  we must develop somewhat of an understanding of our own truth, and our identity within that.

So…

What is truth to you?

And on a deeper level than that,

Is that truth absolute, fixed, and unchanging?

Or is truth to you something that is narrative and experiential? Something that grows as it is challenged and refined through conversation, conflicts, and the rigors of life.

What you believe to be true of God, your life, and your faith is instrumental to how you live out your life today, tomorrow and the next day. Either that truth is fixed, keeping you rooted in security and stability, or it lends itself to challenging you, moving you from content to perhaps uncomfortable.

And what if that is how God reveals his truth to us? The reality of His presence? What if, by pushing us “out of the boat”, we experience a bigger and more profound truth than what we perhaps knew before? Does a father, who holds his newborn child for the first time, have a more profound understanding of love than that of a high school boy experiencing his first feelings for a girl? Is our understanding of truth affected in the same way?

I can only offer questions and thoughts, but I encourage you to ponder them – I think it’s important before we hit the next stages of our discussion.

How have you defined truth?

And,

How has truth defined you?

 

 

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An eternity I want to be a part of, now

This is part four (point two) of a four part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 2nd September. These four blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “What comes next?: Exploring Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

I am excited that the guest blogger is my youth intern for the year, Cassey Locke

When I was younger I used to believe that heaven was a place I would go to when I died.

I would be magically transported to a new realm where I could do all my favourite things.

There would be no pain or tears, so naturally, faced with a cliff one could merely jump without hesitation and land safely on the ground – almost like flying!

My favourite idea was that I would be able to ride a lion or a polar bear, or any other ferocious beast for that matter, because of course; “the lion will lay down with the lamb”.

So all I had to do was wait out my life here on Earth…

But is that really all there is to it?

Would God create a planet we would eventually be whisked away from?

Won’t I get bored, here on Earth, where flying is impossible?

As I wrestled with some of these questions, I was hit with the idea that eternal life might start now.

Perhaps God doesn’t want to throw away the Earth, and instead has all along had a bigger plan for us – a plan to restore not to demolish. This would make more sense, surely?

In that case, I have a responsibility to uphold.

To be a part of assisting in the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth.

To pray as Jesus did; “your Kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven”.

The more I explore, the more it seems I may have been wrong.

But the more I want to be in on God’s eternity, now.

The burden of Eternity

This is part four (point one) of a four part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 2nd September. These four blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “What comes next?: Exploring Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

This particular blog is courtesy of Shore Vineyard Churches pastor Vic Francis

For me, eternity was settled 30-odd years ago in the newsroom of the Auckland Star newspaper when I first encountered saving faith in Jesus. As I did so, I felt a great burden lift almost literally off my shoulders.

Whatever heaven looked like, I knew I was going there – and I’ve committed my life to living that way ever since. I remember skipping down the front steps of my workplace, thinking, ”It doesn’t matter if I get run over by a bus!”

What I think about heaven has changed quite a lot since then. I no longer think it’s in some far-away physical location “up there” somewhere. I no longer think it’s like a long holiday where I don’t have to work and can eat sausage rolls all day without getting fat. I no longer think I have to sing “Holy, holy, holy” for hour after interminable hour. I no longer think it’s going to be like church every day.

In fact, there is much that I no longer think, and just as much that I plain just don’t know.

But one thing hasn’t changed. Ever since that day I met Jesus way back in 1981, I have known I could trust him for everything – in this life and the next one.

What will heaven be like? I don’t know; I’m not sure I’m meant to know. But I know I’m going there, and with that I am at rest.

Is your eternity secure? If so, you’ll share my confidence and certainty. If not, though, I’d love to help you meet this Jesus that I’m trusting for everything.

Treasure.

This is part three of a four part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 2nd September. These four blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “What comes next?: Exploring Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

What awaits you in heaven?

Popular ideas might tell of a great inheritance. A golden room with a giant television. Maybe you will have golden threaded robes and silk shoelaces. Oh and top it off you will get a crown with, like, a bajillion awesome jewels! The streets are also made of gold and there are piles of money everywhere. TREASURE! Yes!

I have even heard people who have supposedly had prophetic visions of heaven, and they describe this exact place – a place where everything is made of Gold and platinum and silver and it is all wonderful and shiny.

My problem is that when I hear these things, I have a few random thoughts. Here are a few:

1. Heaven is probably the best place in the universe to play indoor sports because with all that metal, nothing is going to break.

2. No interior designer goes to Heaven. Not because God doesn’t love them but because they refuse to be in rooms that only have one colour and texture scheme.

3. Heaven is a place where we all get to live like Kanye West (who legitimately insists on eating with golden cutlery).

My odd thoughts don’t really line up with what I look at in some scripture.

In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus tells us not to store up treasures on Earth, but rather store up treasures in Heaven.

And it seems to me that rather than seek Jesus’ version of what treasure is, we are simply just storing up EARTHLY treasures IN Heaven (which I think is contrary to Jesus’ point). It almost seems like we can relax our pursuit of earthly desires right now, because we trust that one day we get to be Uncle Scrooge and swim through a gold coin safe when we die.

Are we really that selfish about even our eternal life? Are we really that taken by the earthly elements of our world?

What if Jesus was proposing that treasure, in God’s realm and on God’s terms, is far bigger than the petty things we ascribe the definition “treasure” to? What if the imagery and symbolism in the Bible of crowns and castles and jewels and robes was actually just a tiny attempt to capture and represent the magnitude, majesty and sheer awe of God, His kingdom, and His glory?

It’s just another “what if?” question, but once again it calls us to confront some questions about ourselves and the life that we lead.

How might Jesus define treasure? How would He ask you to define it?

God bless you as you explore and are challenged by this question.

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Heaven, Hitler, and a whole lot of “what if’s?”

This is part two of a four part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 2nd September. These four blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “What comes next?: Exploring Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

This blog might be less of a thought, and more of a question. It isn’t there to present something wild and different, and it isn’t about Christians and non-Christians/in and out /us and them.

This is about you, and God’s grace.

So, let me ask you.

What if Hitler is in Heaven?

It is a question that arose for me last year, and I found myself journeying through some interesting thoughts and emotions as I grappled with it.

What would my response be? Would I get angry? Would I be furious that this man (if he deserves the title of “human”) who committed mass genocide is now spending an eternity in the loving embrace of our Lord and Saviour?

Perhaps I may even find myself angry at God for affording Hitler the same graces that are extended to me. Because, if I am honest, I consider myself a better person than Hitler – and, unlike Hitler, I know for sure I said my little salvation prayer!

Or would I be tempted to worship God even more than I ordinarily would, in awe of his amazing grace?

As I wrestled with some of these things, I found myself faced with a much, much bigger question.

What do my thoughts and feelings on this subject reveal about my own sense of entitlement to God’s grace?

We can have ideas, inklings, hunches and theologies about what happens when we die – we can even be fully convinced that what we believe is true – but that will never change the fact that God’s grace is His alone. We cannot earn it, we are not entitled to it. It is the Lord’s gift to freely extend in love and mercy as He sees fit.

Far be it from me to publicly define the parameters of grace extended by the all loving, all powerful, all knowing God that is our Creator, King, Friend and Saviour.

And with that, I would like to leave this blog in the most open-ended way possible.