Tuesday, May 27, 2014

All this work for . . .THAT ?

"Te Matua a Pohe" is the multi-million dollar drawbridge that opened here in Whangarei less than a year ago, winning international design awards and putting our little town on the map!

 The bridge allows for both car and foot traffic, so I quite a enjoy a stroll across every now and again.  On Saturday, a friend and I took a walk, surprised to find ourselves on the bridge approach as bells started ringing and lights began flashing, signaling that it would soon be raised to accommodate for a sea faring vessel below.  Traffic was stopped and barricades were lowered as a mass of concrete and steel projected itself to the sky- remarkable to watch, really!

As we watched the bridge raise we looked to the right and left to find the reason for such a spectacle.  Why was the bridge going up at such an odd time of the morning?  We didn't see any big barges or cruise ships, or anything worth all the effort of raising this massive structure.  The we saw it: a tiny little sailboat towing an inflatable life-raft, sailed by a solitary old man heading out to sea.

What?  All this ruckus for. . .THAT?

It was almost comical. This was about the most exciting thing to happen in Whangarei on a Saturday morning!  All this show, all this work. . . for something so small. Why?

And then it hit me.  Of course!  This was a clear picture of servant hood, a lesson in self-sacrifice. God requires of all of us to humble ourselves before God and others, considering no task too small and no person too "insignificant" to serve and bless.

One would have expected all that bridge-raising work for a big boat that produced a bit of glamour and show, but here we saw an equal amount of effort given to the "little guy" just going about his daily work, minding his own business, not seeking attention. It looks a lot like Christ-like servant-hood to me, a lot like washing feet, caring for the sick, and doing hard things that may never get you recognition in this life.

Many are willing to go out of their way to serve and acknowledge the rich and famous, the ones with status. Are you willing to roll up your sleeves, do a bit of hard work, and pull out all the stops for the "average Joe"?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

40 Hour Famine

 Each year World Vision hosts the "40 Hour Famine" to raise funds and awareness for those suffering from hunger in underdeveloped parts of our world. Residents in Malawi will be the recipients of Kiwi fundraising efforts this year.

The famine is celebrated in each public school here in New Zealand and students are encouraged to gather sponsors and give up food (or some other luxury like lollies, PlayStation, or facebook) for 40 hours this weekend.

Imagine that, thousands of school kids learning to look outside themselves and see the needs of others  . . . and choosing to do something about it!  Way to go New Zealand!

Last night at Rock Solid we addressed in this issue of extreme poverty with our own "Starvation Solution" programme, complete with rice and water relays and our own "feast for the least" (well, that's my term for it anyway.  He he!).   Each child's name was put into a draw at the beginning of the night that would later determine what kind of supper they would receive at the feast.  Of the 30 kids present:  two were served fancy combo meals from McDonald's on a clean table and chairs, eight received a yummy chocolate biscuit (cookie) and fizzy drink, and the rest got a half cup water and a plain, rather tasteless biscuit on the cold floor.  This illustrated the disparity between the rich and poor in the world and the fact that less than 20% of the world's population controls over 80% of its resources.

Harsh and unfair?  Yep.  And that's the point.

It is our goal that the kids would in some small way be inspired to open their eyes to the needs around them and realize that they can play a role in relieving the suffering of children just like them.  This is not just a lesson for the youth, but for all of us.  If you're reading this blog right now chances are you're part of that small percentage of the world's population that has access to resources beyond just your daily bread.  You're using a computer and or some type of mobile device, probably enjoying relative safety and security in your daily life.  You probably have enough food to eat, clothes to cover your body, and clean water to drink whenever you want.  Of course I'm making some sweeping generalizations here and am not intending to overlook someone who is really facing hardship right now.   Hopefully, I'm just reminding us all that we've got a job to do in caring for God's most prized creation: people!

If you'd like to get involved, here are some great websites to visit to help you get started:

  • World Vision: https://www.worldvision.org.nz/Portal/famine/40th-year.aspx
  • TEAR Fund/ Compassion International: http://www.tearfund.org.nz/
  • Heart to Heart International: http://www.hearttoheart.org/
  • Nazarene Compassionate Ministries: http://ncm.org/

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

This is my Father's world.

Paddle from Ngunguru to Wellington's Bay
Most Monday evenings I have the privilege of embarking on a new outdoor adventure with a sister in Christ who lives near the coast. 
On any given day we might find ourselves climbing a mountain, kayaking, or just strolling through the forest talking theology and decompressing after a hard week. (Thanks to her artist's eye and steady hand with the camera, we've come out with these stunning photos from the water last night!)
 This is a regular part of my Sabbath-keeping practice, since the rest of the week (especially Sundays) is often hectic and draining as a pastor, youth worker and coach. 

My neighbour's roses
 I had an amazing night kayaking at sunset this week. As time passed by the sky gave off a mysterious, yet comforting glow that seemed to whisper, "This is my Father's world."
Walk from Sandy bay to Whanaki

Whau Valley Dam last Monday

Please enjoy a few photos from the last few weeks and let the words of the beloved hymn, “This Is My Father’s World” remind you that God is not absent from his creation. .. and that includes you!
"This is my Father's World" by Maltbie Babcock
Wooleys Bay-March
   This is my Father's world,
               and to my listening ears
               all nature sings, and round me rings 
               the music of the spheres. 
               This is my Father's world: 
               I rest me in the thought
               of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
               his hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father's world,
               the birds their carols raise,
               the morning light,  the lily white
               declare their maker's praise. 

               This is my Father's world: 

               he shines in all that's fair;

               in the rustling grass I hear him pass;

               he speaks to me everywhere.

 This is my Father's world.  

               O let me ne'er forget

               that though the wrong seems oft so strong,

               God is the ruler yet. 

               This is my Father's world: 

               why should my heart be sad? 

               The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! 

               God reigns; let the earth be glad!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Aunty Violet

We lost a special member of our church this week, Violet Hape, known as "Aunty Violet" to many of us.  Aunty Violet had been battling cancer in recent years, but finally won it and is now experiencing the fullest life imaginable with Jesus.  We will miss her sweet spirit and bright smile.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

No Innocent Bystander- Camp Returns With An Extra Passenger

Rock Solid "On The Road" Camp 2014 is now a memory, but only in the most technical sense.
 We pray that the evening "God Spots", relationships built, and significant experiences will continue to have their effect on us all, including a so-called "innocent bystander" that intersected our path on Cape Reinga ( the tip of the top of the nation).

A Wellington native, "R" (that is not his real name, obviously)  had just spent weeks cycling the entire country of New Zealand raising funds for an organization known as Youthline. Yes, I did just say that he CYCLED up the entire country! We encountered him on Day 4 of our trip, weary and eager to find a way back south on something other than a hard bicycle seat. We had an extra space in our convoy of vans, so this brave (or extremely desperate) soul  loaded up his bike and joined a bunch of looney toons for the next two days on our journey back to Whangarei!

He ate with us in carparks, slept with us on church floors, toured the Bay of Islands with us by boat and put up with a lot of silliness (as one would expect when travelling with a bunch of young people who haven't slept for days!).

Once in Whangarei, he made his way to the bus station and travelled to Auckland where he could then finally get a flight home to Wellington.  We may never know what happens to" R" from here on out, but pray that in some small way, God was glorified by the kindness extended to him, and that it was a learning experience for all.  Many may see him as just an innocent bystander who "happened" to cross our path at just the right time, but I believe it was a divine encounter, designed to teach us about our universal need for God and the necessity for God's people to be ready to help at all times and in all places.
Thank you for praying for our camp.  It was hard work, but work that is worth it!  We thank the Lord for 3 days of beautiful weather .  . . and even for the 2 days of not-so-nice-actually-quite-miserable weather.   Thanks to our camp directors, Scottie, Renate, and Mark, the kids enjoyed delicious camp cuisine, 4 wheel bikes, hikes, sand-boarding, boat rides, goofy games and host of other activities!  We even saw fur seals and dolphins on our boat tour! We thank the Lord for safety on the roads, especially with no relief drivers and hundreds of miles to cover on little sleep.  I often wonder how I made it through the week and still stayed on the road while driving, but that's the Lord for ya: He always turns my weakness into strength just when I need it.  :-)

Enjoy the photos!  More to come. (My camera battery went flat on the last day, so I am relying upon others for photos of the dolphins and fur deals.)