• The Reluctant Butterfly

    I had a hunk of skin cut out of me —

    a cancer — set to do my body harm.

    The doctor was decisive as can be

    and diagnosed and sliced and stitched my arm.

    It made me think of my mortality,

    and realise that I’m clinging to this skin.

    My emphasis is not eternity,

    nor is it nurturing my soul within.

    One day I’ll shed all of my skin, I know.

    But before then there is much I need to do —

    I’ve sons to raise.  I’ve places still to go.

    And Lord, I’ve got my mission work for you.

     

    How ludicrous to think that it’s too soon

    to leave the dark confines of my cocoon.

     

    — Angela Harding
    (Sonnet written after the removal of a melanoma from an arm in March 2011)

     

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  • The Call to Serve

    Leighton Mossop

    The Spirit-filled Christian is one who sees service to God as a priority in life. God calls us to serve him. In light of this, it is important that we ensure our motivation for serving God is not out of a sense of duty, in a grudging way, “Because I have to” or because we feel we owe it to God and can somehow pay back this impossible debt. Rather, we serve God because we are so grateful for what he has done for us! Our response is an expression of loving gratitude to his great love for us.

    Easier said than done. The fact is, Christians respond in different ways to God’s call upon their lives. Some people remain uninvolved in God’s service for a variety of personal and selfish reasons. Procrastinators sit in this camp. They keep putting off taking those divine opportunities that come their way. They may have good intentions, but sadly these are not followed up with action. Then there are other people who consider themselves, or whom others see, as zealous. They end up doing whatever good works seem appropriate at the time. It produces much busy activity, but most of it can be of questionable value, where fruitfulness is lacking and frustration abounding. Then there are those who recognise, accept and pursue that specific sphere of service that God has called them to. Which response best describes you?

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  • The Regular Wonders

    The Regular Wonders

    I once entertained a guest from North Queensland on his first visit to New Zealand. He drove a rental car through the North Island and arrived at my place ecstatic about what he’d seen. I found him early the first morning looking at my back lawn and the neighbour’s hedge. “This is fabulous,” he said.

    Well, I thought the lawn looked OK, but — fabulous? Even at its very best, this would be a bit over the top. “Thanks Mac,” I said. “But it’s not a wonderland. It’s just the back lawn.”

    He looked at me and shook his head, and I knew he was seeing a Philistine. It had been the same the previous evening when he had arrived, agog about his trip. “We saw snow!” he said, and I’d said, “Oh, yeah. Ruapehu?” “You don’t understand,” he said. “Snow! I’m from Cairns!” I’ve been to Cairns. Suddenly, he’d made his point.

    I thought about him this week, when it snowed in Wellington. Actual snow, settling on the ground. The girls I teach were approaching frenzy. “Can we go out in it?” they asked.

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  • Face-to-Face with Grace

    We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping, but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it — and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.
    — Galatians 2:16

    As an earnest young monk of the Augustinian order, Martin Luther did everything possible to keep the rules, fully believing that he would please God this way. So when in 1510, at the age of 27, he was sent on a mission to the “holy” city of Rome, he eagerly seized the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the Lateran Church and climb its Holy Staircase. These stairs were said to have been transported from Pilate’s Judgement Hall in Jerusalem — the same stairs that Jesus climbed before he died — so the pilgrims believed that if they climbed all 28 stairs on their hands and knees, kissing each step and reciting the Lord’s Prayer as they went, then their souls would be instantly saved from hell. Did Luther ever reach the top? There are conflicting stories, but somewhere on that staircase he blurted out the words, “What if it were not so?” and came to the realisation that, however high he climbed, he was never going to be able to please God simply by following a set of prescribed rules.

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