• Help for Preachers

    Three daylong Kiwi-made Preaching forums are planned for October. Each forum will comprise 25 Questions designed to provoke preachers to think more deeply about creating sermons. Every one of the 49 ‘Question-askers’ nationwide is someone wrestling with preaching in the New Zealand context. The forums will occur in Auckland on October 25, Waikanae on October 27 and Christchurch on October 29.

    “We are looking to nurture an indigenous biblical preaching movement in Aotearoa-New Zealand”, says Paul Windsor who has been coordinating the Kiwi-made Preaching website (www.kiwimadepreaching.com). Each forum will open and close with a session from Dr Chris Wright (International Director, Langham Partnership International) who is coming out from the UK to journey through the week with participants.

    The forum is open to everyone. However the hope is that local churches will gather their preachers and send them together to a forum, spreading out to ensure maximum coverage of the Questions on offer, before returning home to discuss the implications for the preaching in their own church.

    Langham Partnership (NZ) is working with Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship (TSCF), Carey Baptist College, and the New Zealand Christian Network to bring the forums to preachers all around New Zealand.

    For further information (and to register): http://kiwimadepreaching.com/2011-forum/

     

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  • Growing in your knowledge of God

    Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.
    — Ephesians 1:15-17

    The Apostle Paul had a very special place in his heart for the city of Ephesus and for the Christians there. After all, he had spent three long years in that city and so much had happened during that time. He and his good friends, Aquila and Priscilla, had patiently taught God’s word there, in spite of considerable opposition from both Jews and Greeks. It had been hard going right from the start, for Ephesus was a city renowned for its sorcery; it was also the stronghold of the Greek goddess Artemis, and her supporters were not likely to give up easily. At least once he landed up in prison in Ephesus, and even suffered the threat of being taken out to the Great Roman Theatre to face the lions there. Things went from bad to worse and eventually there was a riot, stirred up by a man called Demetrius and his silversmith colleagues, who were understandably upset that they might be losing trade as a result of Paul’s preaching. On this occasion he barely escaped with his life, but such was his conviction in the importance of the task given to him that he never worried about his life anyway.

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  • Irreducible Minimum

    This month was always going to include a deal of looking back. Although we might wonder why a tenth anniversary causes us to reflect more than a ninth anniversary does, or an eleventh, the fact is that it just does. So we reflected on September 11, in various ways.

    For me, the most notable reflection came from a member of my church on the Sunday morning. “On September 11,” he said, “I watched what happened in the USA and I asked ‘Is God really in charge here?’ And as a result of that morning, the foundations of the faith as I had known it came tumbling down with the World Trade Center.” He went on to describe a youthful experience of faith remarkably similar to my own, one in which a premise followed a given and led to an outcome, and all that Christians believed and stood for became a package to cover the whole of life and living, in this world and the next. And the attack on the World Trade Center did not fit the package, and with the removal of a plank there came another, until the whole 110-storey edifice crumbled.

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  • 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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  • Corporate Responsibility

    Someone once said that when a butterfly flutters its wings the whole world is affected. I guess that’s true, in an academic sort of way. Less academic if a tactical bomber flutters its wings. No man is an island.

    I went to a school production a week or two ago, called 90 Years of Broadway. It consisted of extracts from various Broadway musicals, and it covered the range — from the spiritual to the sentimental to the social to the trivial. It was a good night, full of songs I’ve whistled for years and some I scarcely know at all.

    One of the “scarcely know at all” items came from Miss Saigon. I’ve never seen Miss Saigon, and I’m only vaguely familiar with the story and a couple of the songs. I’m a little more familiar with the setting — I did my national military service at the height of the Viet Nam war, and I lived in anxiety for three or four years until it became clear that the New Zealand government was not about to send its national servicemen over there. Some years later, Forrest Gump gave me a visual picture of what I had been spared, and I was grateful all over again.

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  • 40 Years On

    Queen’s Birthday weekend must be a special provision for people celebrating jubilees. This year’s marked the 50th anniversary of the school where I began my teaching career, Tawa College.

    There were the usual events — sports fixtures, photos through the decades, various dinners — and on Sunday morning, a church service in the college hall. I was especially interested in the church service, because the organisers had asked me to run it.

    My first act was to enlist the assistance of my old friend and former colleague, Bruce Murray, to preach the sermon. Bruce was the principal of Tawa College for a dozen years or so from 1989, and he would suit the service on a number of counts. Most important, I knew he would preach a thoughtful and challenging, and appropriate, sermon for the occasion.

    There were no prizes for guessing where he would start his thinking. The college motto, chosen by the foundation principal, is “Do justly,” from Micah 6 verse 8 — “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Alan Mackie, the man who chose the motto, said he had selected it because he wanted something Biblical but not too evangelistic, something well grounded in the highest authority and beyond the sectarian, intrinsically admirable enough so no one could object to it without being churlish.  So the school has “Do justly.”

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  • Treasure in Jars of Clay

    But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
    —2 Corinthians 4:7-9

    On a dull day in December 1946, Juma, a young Palestinian shepherd, was herding his goats up the dry, dusty Qumram Wadi, close to the shores of the Dead Sea. He had often dreamed of finding treasure in one of those hidden valleys, maybe stashed away by the bandits who roamed the rough roads, but this day his mind was on more mundane matters because one of his goats was lost and he urgently needed to find it before nightfall. Idly he tossed a stone into a nearby cave and listened for a bleat, but all he heard was a crack and a tinkling sound. Going inside to investigate, he discovered an old cracked pot and, inside it, an ancient leather scroll wrapped in a piece of rotting cloth. His face filled with disgust and disappointment, but little did he know that he had stumbled on a priceless treasure — a 2,000 year old manuscript of the Old Testament book of Isaiah, preserved for all those years in a plain old clay pot.

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