Saturday, May 25, 2013

More sweet reunions . . .

When you live and serve in a culture not your own, there are pockets of time when you feel like a stranger in a strange land.  The camaraderie of other expats and foreigners is especially comforting during these times, because you know that the similarities that you share lie in your  differences. You can all be strange together!

  This weekend I had the privilege of hosting our 2nd Children's Ministry training brunch down in Auckland.  I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that my good friends and fellow ministers Andrew and Jenna Stout were back in the country for a brief holiday!  We were able to catch up and share stories with our other beloved Kiwi-ized American, Denise, and enjoyed being Americans together for a few hours.

These sweet reunions are just another reminder of what a blessing it is to be part of a global family.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Following the tail lights home. . .

Two friends came "across the ditch" from Australia to host a very insightful and helpful youth leadership/ mentoring workshop here in New Zealand last weekend.  Thanks, Kenny and David!

As I made the 2 hour trek home from Waiwera to Whangarei in the dark that night after the workshop, I found myself rather grateful for the tail lights of the small silver car in front of me.  You've heard me say before that a straight lines are a rare find in New Zealand and often the roads are riddled with hairpin curves and blind corners. With the early evening fog descending on the hills and the sky growing black, I strained to see just a few metres beyond the bonnet (hood) of my car.

 But a sense of relief came when I came up behind a small car making the same pilgrimage back to Whangarei.  Their tail lights provided something clear that I could see, gauge distances by, and well . . .just  follow.  Ahh, someone to follow.

Recent events and the challenges of ministry had preoccupied my mind and left me not only straining to see the asphalt in front of my headlights, but also wondering about the future.  It was then when, in His kindness, the Lord seemed to speak to my heart, "Follow me. I've navigated these roads before.  There's really no need for you to see so far ahead;  that's my job.  Just follow my tail lights and you can't go wrong."

"Follow me."  That's what Christ asks for from all of us.  What a simple lesson. 

 Follow Him.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Hope Project 2014


2014 is going to be a very special year here in New Zealand. It will mark the bicentenary (200 year anniversary) of the first recorded Christian message coming to New Zealand.  It is well-known that Samuel Marsden was the first foreign missionary to preach the message of Christ here on the north island, but because of Marsden's limitations  in Te Reo Maori,  it was really the Maori leader Ruatara who gave the message to the people in a way they could understand.

200 years later this unique corner of the planet  is home to a most interesting mix of Pacific Island, Maori, Asian, and European cultures, giving life here a rather unique flavour. It is also now the most secular English-speaking nation in the developed world.  Both religious and cultural pluralism are alive and well in our land, which poses unique challenges for the task of evangelism, and for me personally as a pastor in Whangarei.

The Hope Project 2014 is a nation-wide endeavour to get the transforming news of life in Jesus Christ back into every home in New Zealand. Though this project is intentionally multi-media in nature (using social networking, websites, TV, radio and letterbox drops), its true beauty lies in its purpose: to get Christians having natural conversations with their neighbours about life and faith.  Nothing can ever replace real life relationships and conversations with real people who have had real life-changing encounters with the living God.

In our post-modern context where moral relativism is king, it is the goal of the Hope Project that:

Some sceptics will find reason to become seekers. Some seekers will find reason to become believers in Jesus. Some believers will find reason to become witnesses.

It is a call for all Christians across New Zealand to wake up and start talking with the people around them about Jesus and for churches to partner together for the greater good of seeing people saved and set free by Christ.

Could you please join me in praying for this project?  The logistics and practicalities of a project this size are quite large; they are God-sized challenges.   We must raise $1.2 million by July in order to move forward with the creation of some of the publications and websites so that they can be ready for distribution by Easter 2014.  We also need a great sense of unity and partnership among pastors and church leaders in every city nation-wide.  These are God-sized challenges. . .but then again, we have God!

Please feel free to check out the Hope Project 2014 website for more info:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"I don't do Jesus", she said.

"I don't do Jesus", she said. "But my kids do and that's okay."

These words poured from the lips of the well-meaning mum of a child whom I pick up for Kids Club each week. At 4:15PM every Sunday afternoon you'll find me strolling through town in my little 1993 Nissan Sentra making rounds in the nearby (and not-so-nearby) neighbourhoods,  picking up children for our "Energize Kids Club".

On my previous visits to this particular home, mum was no where to be found, refusing to come to the door, leaving the kids to be sent off by an older sibling or auntie.  But this time was different.  With a baby on the hip and a cigarette poised between her fingers, she wanted to make it clear that she doesn't "do Jesus". . .but her kids do, and that was okay.

I assured her of our gratitude in her allowing her children to attend kids club and that she is always invited to join us or call anytime. We exchanged cell-phone numbers and were on our way. 

What made this encounter so different, I wonder?   What motivated her to approach me this time? 

Was her bold proclamation that she doesn't "do Jesus" really a revelation of the insecurity that she felt inside, as if her heart were actually crying out for her children to experience something better than what she had?
Could it be that she didn't feel worthy of Christ's love and approval, that she was too old or too far gone?  Could it be that she had been burnt or hurt by someone claiming to "do Jesus" in the past , placing within her mouth a bad taste for the Christian faith?

At this point, I do not know what messages her life circumstances and relationships have communicated to her, but I do know this:

Jesus will keep pursuing her and so will we.  I can just see us chuckling together a few years down the road when she is free and whole in Christ, reminiscing about this conversation and how Christ has turned her around. At that point she'll say, "I DO Jesus..and so do my kids. . .and that's okay."

Please pray for this mum.  For the purposes of this blog, we'll call her "Sharon"  (That is not her real name.)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Some very special people . . .

On this blog, I endeavour to share encouraging stories and reports on the creative and mighty work of God in our midst here in New Zealand.  One of the most remarkable ways in which God chooses to work is through us earthlings!  Without the commeraderie of the special people within my community, life would be rather tasteless and lacking in meaning.  I thought you might enjoy some photos of some families and individuals here in New Zealand who have become to me very special people.