Tag Archives: spirituality

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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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: a future worth putting your faith in, now.

This is part 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 week I am privileged enough to have Dan Sheed, Assistant Pastor at Shore Vineyard Churches, as a guest blogger. You can and should visit his website after reading this.

Firstly: Let’s talk about faith.

Faith, it’s like this: Some believe that faith is a thing of the mind, and others believe its a thing of the heart. What a tragic dualism. Does it really have to be one or the other? Can these two not exist together?

Faith, as Hebrews 11 can prove, is a combination of both of these wonderful positions – we believe in God with reason because we have thought well, and come to a conclusion that He exists, and then we also have this heart-moment – a conviction that He is an incredible God, mysterious and awesome.

Both of these two positions mysteriously merge, like black and white together making green, and we arrive at a new position – commitment. Commitment is the combination of having thought well of God and arrived at a reason of some sort, that combined with a conviction of His activity today, we now have this amazing movement of our lives being lived for Him.

This is what it looks like to have faith – to sign your life up to following Jesus: It’s not a sinners prayer prayed in a hype-induced moment but instead it’s to arrive at a position of reason, and conviction and decide: I’m in, and I choose to live here, in this place of faith right now.

We have a saying in the Vineyard, that “Faith is spelt R-I-S-K” and it is – but only on the one side of conviction. Deep down, we know that we need to step out in some sort of blind trust or obedience to see His hand move – but isn’t it also completely opposite?

Isn’t faith also spelt “I K-N-O-W”? Because we have engaged, thought, wrestled and arrived at a place of not having to risk at all; we know who this God of ours is.

Second. Let’s talk about hope.

In his book Mans Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychotherapist who survived spending the war in a German concentration camp, notes that the ones who survived were ones who had something to go home to. When someone found out their wife was dead, or their son was killed, or their life’s work would never be able to be complete, they gave up. They signed up for being with the dead. Frankl’s observation was that these men did not just simply give up – they lost faith in the future.

Lost faith in the future?

Can we have faith in the future? I thought our faith was in God.

We are hopeful creatures, and God is a God of fulfilling that hope-fullness. Hence why He says these wonderful words in John’s revelation: “Behold. I am making all things new.”

That is our Christian hope – our faith in the future; that is what we can put our faith in – that our God is in the restoration business. That his mission is still to redeem His world, not throw it out. That His mission includes us: we are the ones being made new and restored, and we have a role to play in continuing that job.

This faith in the future, changes the way we live right now. It has incredibly large effect.

Third, love.

A wise friend of mine once said that God’s kingdom – his heavens – is like a thunderstorm brooding over this age of this earth, and every now and then a bolt of lightning strikes down to it. Our job, he said, is to go out with golf clubs and try conduct lightning bolts.

Go out in storms and conduct lightning bolts? Really? We can conduct things of God’s future now?

What was it Jesus said the greatest commandment was again?

Love God, and equally love others.

So: love this awesome Creator who loves His creation, this God who loves it so much He is set in the mission of redeeming the brokenness and hurt in this world…

…and join him in doing it. We get to love others with this same heavenly restorative agenda. This changes the way we treat one another.

Jesus came with a message of God’s Kingdom breaking into this present world – and His Kingdom is one of restoration – it fixes things. This changes the way we pray. (Remember Jesus’ instructions on prayer was to pray heaven to earth.)

Jesus came and told us to get busy putting our actions where our faith was cashed in – to love the poor, to spend ourselves on those less fortunate. This changes the way we do mission.

Jesus came and told us that to see this Kingdom we would have to sell up everything for it and instead live this selfless life in service of this God who is making all things new. This changes the way we hoard our lives.

The common theme?

Love. God’s currency of doing all of this is love, and Jesus invites us to live it out too. To become people marked by love, defined quickly as the ones who love. Remember those words of Paul. He says that we can do all the amazing things of faith and hope, but without love we are useless.

We are useless why?

Maybe it’s because we have stopped living in the direction God is living – one of love for a world that so desperately needs it, so that it may be restored. So that it may be made new. So that it may be as it was always meant to be; perfect.

Could this position of living God’s future now be why John wrote such things as “Let’s not merely say we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”

Could this position of living God’s future now be why James wrote such things as “Faith or deeds? It’s both!”

Could this position of living God’s future now be why Paul wrote such things as “Love from the center of who you are – don’t fake it.”

Bold words: but from people who had firm faith in their God’s future plan.

A God who’s future plan is one of completing His restoration of sin, brokenness and pain. Now that is a God and a hope worth getting out of bed in the morning for, and future worth putting your faith in, right now.

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Missing the Revolution Train

“He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him”

– John 1:11

Is there a more devastating statement in Scripture? It kills me… and I am sure that in 10, 20, 30 years it will break my heart even more.

The creator God, The living Word and Light, takes on flesh and initiates plans to bring His creation back into alignment with its original purpose. He comes to usher in the kingdom of God – God’s will happening “on earth as it is in Heaven”.

and His people – set apart to BE the light and hope of the world DID NOT KNOW HIM.

Sometimes you have to wonder… How did they miss it?

God’s chosen people…. They knew the scriptures. Loved them even. Some of the Israelites deeply loved God and were passionate about His plan for the world. However they got so caught up in their interpretations of things. Their expectations of things. And these things perhaps were not essentially wrong – but lacked scope for God to move in His own all-loving and all-powerful way.

The Jewish people expected God to deliver a messiah that would restore Israel’s rule. A messiah that would overthrow the roman empire through military means and rebuild the temple. Instead Jesus came…and preached love. Peace. Submission. Generousity. His teachings of the kingdom coming through forgiveness and grace, healing and restoration had pharisees and leaders pointing the finger and calling out words like “blasphemy!”

Jesus wasn’t what they expected. So they rejected Him…to the point where they saw to it that His beaten and bloodied body was hung on a cross.

I think what really scares me is that we so often act like the Pharisees of old. We are quick to defend our views or interpretations of scripture and fiercely throw words around like heresy.

When what we should be doing is looking for the activity, movement and advancement of the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). We need to understand that what Jesus did was REVOLUTIONARY and CONTRARY to the expectations of his time and culture. And we need to be alert to the rhythms and movements of the Holy Spirit to make sure we do not miss our part in the ongoing revolution that is the advancement of the kingdom of God.

What are our views on homosexuality? Racism? Sexism? Vegans? Polygamists? The environment? On the sick, lowly and dying? The prosperous and the poor?

What are our views on anything?

We can have a wide range of theologies or interpretations or use language to justify our means or opinions, but ultimately, the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15), it is advancing, and (in my own opinion) our only outward expression in any circumstance should be a desire to step out of the way and invite God to have His way on His terms.

So, in the words of N.T Wright, are you “working to extend God’s kingdom in the world, or are you standing in the way?”

Blessings.

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Mud in the face.

Then Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam”. So the man went and washed and came back seeing!

– John 9:6-7

I think we are creatures of patterns. We like routine, we like consistency, we like predictability. And I think ultimately we like control. We like to know what is going to happen, how and why.

I also think we like to put God in a similar box. We pray, do our daily devotionals, give faithfully and bless others. And more often than not we are comfortable with that. Our faith is ordinary, manageable and understandable.

The trouble is, Jesus never did anything ordinary. He never had a routine. There was no method to the things he did.

Jesus, throughout the gospels, heals people of blindness. WHY in this particular circumstance did he spit in the ground, make mud and push it into a blind person’s face?

There are many theological ideas or cases for what Jesus may have been hoping to achieve with this little display, but ultimately, for me, it demonstrates the raw unpredictability of our God. Whenever we think we have Him figured out, or we think we have discovered a program or routine that keeps us “connected” with God or allows us to “see the Spirit move”, He does something different. That at least is true of my own life. And funnily enough, when things arrive in my life left-field, God takes me back to this verse to show me that He does things on His own terms – every time.

All through Scriptures we see the dynamic nature of God. He is Moving. He is active. He is vibrant.

And, in His sovereignty, His will always happens on His terms.

And it pays to embrace it.

 

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Easter Reflections.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried with Him therefore by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we too might walk in newness of life.

– Romans 6:3-4

I spent Easter weekend with 40 of my youth at an Easter camp that happened here in New Zealand. It was pretty powerful. 4500 young people from all different churches and communities gathering together to celebrate the amazing story that is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On the Sunday night I took the opportunity to turn my attention away from the stage and look to the four rows occupied by my youth behind me, and what I saw blew me away and moved me to tears.

Arms lifted high in worship. Young boys praying for their leaders. Girls holding each other and praying fervently. My youth were even praying for youth from other churches!

Simply put it was a snapshot of the new life. A picture of God’s kingdom breaking through. Words cannot capture the immense beauty and joy I experienced in this moment.

And then I found myself somewhat fearful of the future. You see, in the future I will inevitably have to face some tough conversations as these youth get older. Conversations around dating, sex, drinking, partying and more…. LIFE questions to be exact. It took God all of 5 seconds to bring me away from the future fear and call me back to the present reality.

The revelation of NOW needs to be a powerful one in our lives. Through the death and resurrection, we walk in newness of life RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. We need to love, lead and minister with passion, boldness and determination – every single day. We need to continually remind ourselves and those around us that the kingdom of God is AT HAND (Mark 1:15), and we need to live accessing it and praying for it at all times.

And I am confident that if I continually call my young people (and others that I spend my day with) to that NOW, God will take care of the future.

Jesus is risen. Risen indeed. And because of that we walk, we live, in newness of life right now.

Blessings.

 

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