Monday, November 26, 2012

Advent Conspiracy 2012: FOOD DRIVE

 What if we turned Christmas upside down this year?  What if we thought "outside the box" of how the world around us celebrates Christmas, and instead of overspending, over stuffing and over scheduling, we actually gave of ourselves relationally and intentionally?   What if we worshipped fully, spent less, gave more, and loved all?  This is the idea behind Advent Conspiracy.

Once again New Hope Church has joined the conspiracy! This year we are hosting a much-needed food drive for our local Salvation Army Food Bank, whose shelves are far too bare at the moment.  In addition to donating funds and food, we are giving a little elbow grease in the month of December to fill and distribute very special Christmas parcels for the hungry in Whangarei. 

If you live locally and would like to join us, please see the list below and drop your items off at our church worship centre before Dec. 16th.  We are located at 7 Nixon St, Kensington, Whangarei, 0112.

Chicken Gravy
Biscuits and Mince Pies
Christmas puddings
Tinned Fruit
Reduced cream
Packets of soup for dips
Blocks of chocolate
Coffee/Milo/Choc Drink

For more information about The Advent Conspiracy as a worldwide project, visit

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Keri Keri Half-Marathon

  Yesterday I joined 2,500 other crazy Kiwis for the annual Keri-Keri half-marathon! It is a competitive race of 21.1KM (13.1 miles) across the beautiful terrain of the Northland near the bay of Islands. 

1:10:08 was the record time to beat for this particular race, but I was overjoyed that I crossed the finish line right at 2hours, a personal best! (I personally can't imagine how a human could run that far in only an hour, but apparently the world record is somewhere around 40 minutes- Wow!)

The energy at the start line was electric as everyone crowded in, ready to begin a journey that would take us from Okaihau to the Keri Keri city centre, over hills and valleys, through cold rain and wind.  (the not-so-fun part)

Once all the runners and walkers completed the race, prize-giving began.  The prizes included gift vouchers, sports equipment, cruises, camping gear, free flights and even a new car from the big corporate sponsors. Go figure, out of 2,500 people I actually won one of the spot prizes: a new tennis racket and tennis balls!

It was a great event and other than blistered feet and sore hips, I'm doing well.  :-)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Road sign saves a life. . .

        She wandered up the steps, slightly inebriated, with the scent of alcohol still lingering on her breath.  Swiftly greeted by my co-pastor and soon after by me, she began to reveal that the reason for her unexpected visit was to inquire about our church road sign that said, ". . .everyone valued, everyone loved, everyone welcome. .."

For the purposes of this blog, we'll call her "Betty". (This is not her real name.)  Betty, in her early 60s, had suffered abuse from her father as a child and was now estranged from her own children and grandchildren because of new information that had recently surfaced relating to this issue. The message fed to her by past and present circumstances was that she was not valued nor worthy of genuine love.  Low and depressed, she drowned herself in alcohol and made a trip to the pokies across the road to spend her last dollars on earth.  Betty explained to us that she was on her way home to take a bottle of pills and end her life when the words, "everyone valued" on our church sign struck her attention.

Feeling valued was the farthest from her reality at that present moment, but she could not ignore the words on our sign that claimed otherwise. She saw cars in the carpark and people milling around (it happened to be Wednesday night, right before our mid-week Bible Study), and was coherent enough to make the decision to approach our worship facility.  Donna and I were able to offer her words of hope in Christ's love and a hot cup of tea, pray with her, and exchange contact details. She declined other methods of assistance and walked back down the road.

Without a doubt in my mind, I firmly believe that the Spirit of God led Betty right to us, using our silly road sign as a spotlight to highlight his love for her when her path seemed so dark. I believe God used us to save a life that night.  We were tools in his toolbox, sharp and ready, and at just the right time and without warning, God pulled out in order to craft a new reality for Betty. What a humbling thought:by no merit of our own, but rather because of  God's grace and infinite wisdom, were we given the privilege of helping a woman choose life who could not choose it for herself.

 God is working, people!  Were the unseen made visible, we might see Christ the Good Shepherd walking alongside her at night with his staff and flashlight, yanking her from the edge of the cliff, turning her eyes to see his light pointing her to a new path. And why?  Because of his love.

We believe we will see "Betty" again very soon, perhaps even tomorrow. Please pray for her and others like herself that are deceived into believing lies that life is not for them.  Choose life.  Choose to love.  Choose Christ.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Handle with Care

Rock Solid Bonfire-Thurs
              “Antiques Road Show".  Ever seen it? For those of you whose fancy is discerning trash from treasure, this is your show.  Here in New Zealand, we are privy to the BBC version which often features ancient paintings, sculptures, jewelry, furniture, books, autographed records, etc.  These items are on display for the express purpose of having them appraised by a professional, in order to discover their worth, their monetary value. (Don't worry, this is not a paid advertisement; there is a point to this!)

It’s quite remarkable the estimated value of some items that make it on to the show.  Some people walk out of the showroom elated that the random lampshade they picked up at a garage sale is now worth tens of thousands of dollars!  On the contrary, others exit the showroom with sheer disappointment that the item in which they invested so much turns out to nothing more than a mass-produced fake, and therefore not worth much at all.
Gorgeous Roses!
To ascertain the value of an item,  the appraiser must research its origins, where it comes from,  who made it, how old it is and the significant events in its history that make could make it unique and valuable.  Surprisingly enough, when a person finds that her object is worth far more than expected, rather than plan to sell it and get the cash, she often decides it is too priceless to sell and chooses to keep it in the family line for generations to come.  If there is a famous name attached to the item, its value immediately increases.  Something as silly as a scrawny piece of tissue could instantly be worth millions if it once belonged to Elvis Presley! 
Rock Solid Bonfire-Thurs
How much are you worth?
 Imagine with me that you want to find out how much you are worth. You place yourself on the stand, quiver under the microscope, and listen as the appraiser begins to dive into your family history, investigates your genealogy and looks for significant personalities in your background. Perhaps he takes note of all the diplomas you possess, the feats you’ve accomplished, the good and bad things you’ve done with your life.  What would be your value? Could you put a number on your worth?

More gorgeous roses!

I want to suggest to you today that no amount of money could ever match your worth.  You are beyond price tag.  You are priceless and ought to be handled with great care.
How do I know? Well, why not put yourself in the seat of the appraiser for a moment.  Travel back in time and take a peek at your origins, identify your maker, discover your purpose, and find what you’re really worth. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is the account of the "beginnings" of all things and will give you  some big clues. Interestingly enough, you will read that at the inauguration of time, God created lots of crazy things like sea and sky, stars and galaxies, stingrays and lightning bugs .  . . all in just 5 days.  All of these he spoke into existence and said they were "good"!

But the 6th day was different. While God spoke everything else into being, to humans he gave special handling.  Mere words  didn't suffice for his prized creation;  He had to get his hands on us! God formed mankind from the dust and breathed into him the breath of life.  How odd of God!
God took extra care in using his own hands to craft the mind, body and spirit of humankind from the very dust he had created just days before.  . . and then breathed life right into him.  And  then God had the audacity to say it was "VERY good"! And do you know why it was very good?  Because God created man in His own image, to bear the resemblance of his designer and enjoy relationship with him.

Generations down the line we find YOU.  And you still wear the fingerprints of the Creator God, whose origins are of old and whose name commands more respect than Elvis Presley, or Barak Obama, or the Pope.  Your genealogy is full of notables, your Maker is unmatched, and your purpose is divine.  You are priceless and you have life because you were made on purpose.

The appraiser scratched his head with utter frustration and looks at you, speechless.  "I can't give you a price for her.  It's impossible; she 's too valuable.  She's priceless."

Life is precious.  Handle with care.