Thursday, June 26, 2014

Faith and Rainbows (A Re-Post)

 It's winter here in NZ and for most of us, that means rain.  I've seen three rainbows already today, which has inspired me to re-post "Faith and Rainbows", a blog entry from nearly 2 years ago. Enjoy!

Faith and Rainbows

This won't be the first time I've posted photos of rainbows on this blog.  I've developed a bit of an obsession with them over the years and the fascination continues to grow.  Due to the frequent passing of rain and sun here in New Zealand, rainbows are a common occurance and I see at least one nearly every single day!  Despite this fact, the phenonemon is anything but ordinary, and I still marvel at every single display of colour I see sweeping across the sky.

These grand demonstrations of God's creativity got me thinking.  Could a rainbow be both a symbol of and call to faith?  On a normal day, the colours of the rainbow are invisible to the naked eye.  They only become visible when the perfect combination of sun and rain collide, causing the white light to be reflected by the water droplets and refracted into different colours of the spectrum.  Basically, the water is the agent that takes the sunlight and divides up the colours so that they can now be seen by the human eye.

Like the rainbow, so many things in life are invisible and unnoticeable until our faith is put into action.  Faith is like our sixth sense that allows us to take in spiritual realities and see things that are not, as though they are. The collision of water and light make the invisble visible, resulting in a rainbow, something just as real and definite as the computer screen on which you are reading this blog.

Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as "the confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see." Faith is not merely a mental ascent or a superstitious feeling, but rather an orientation of life around the God who crafted the rainbows and calls out to us from his creation.  It is a continious active belief that God not only exists, but that he is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him. Faith is a shield against the fiery arrows of the devil and a protection against the lies and accusations he sends our way.  Genuine faith must always be accompanied by actions that serve God and serve people.  This is when faith becomes absolutely visible.  This is when the rainbow of faith arches across the heavens and everyone sees it!

Where is your faith today?  Or perhaps the question more appropriately would be, in WHOM is your faith?  Your faith can only be as effective as the object of your faith. Who is it?  If it is God, then even a mustard-seed of faith can move mountains, because the mountain-maker can move whatever he wants.

Be encouraged by the rainbow today.  Have Faith!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Age-Old Question

 Eager hands raised and voices squealed with excitement as the kids most accurately answered, "God!  God is here! We're going to pray to God!"

All but one hand that is.
With a sincerely puzzled look, a young visitor of seven years old asked, "Huh?  God?  Who is that?"   
(NOT pictured here.)

 Our pint-sized friend had genuinely never heard of God or his love. She'd never heard that there was a designer behind the stars in the heavens or the fish in the sea. In all her seven years of life she'd never once experienced the joy of knowing that the Creator of the Universe could be her best friend.  She was confused and worried, as if the other kids were privy to some kind of secret information that she didn't have. . . so she unashamedly asked the age-old question, "Who is God?"

I quickly reassured her that she had come to just the right place to satisfy her inquiry, for the Maker of the silky brown hairs on her head was also the One who loved her and gave his life for her.  Through the course of kids club that evening she had the opportunity to learn who this mysterious God is and even had the chance to talk to him in prayer. 

At Kids Club we are in the midst of a series on the Ten Commandments.  How appropriate, because it was in the giving of this very special Law that God was answering that same question for Israel and it's national enemy, the Pharaoh of Egypt.  Even Pharaoh was audacious enough to ask Moses, "Who is the Lord that I should listen to him."

 In answer to his question, God revealed his supremacy over the false gods of Egypt in the Ten Plagues; showed his power over the forces of nature by parting the Red Sea.  Miracles, signs, wonders.  But when the show was over and the smoke had settled for a time, God did something even more outragious . ..God willingly entered into a covenant relationship with an incredibly ignorant and stubborn group of people, namely Israel.  How odd of God!  He  God showed his love and desire for relationship by inscribing with his own finger the very words which would define what it meant to be a part of this covenant, the Ten Commandments.

These laws are not and never have been just tips for behaviour modification, or mere suggestions for a "better-than-most-people around-me" kind of life.  They are not killjoys or spoilsports.
God's law addresses the intentions and impulses of the heart, because after all, that is what God is after. . .the heart.  His laws are for our ultimate good and help us to know what it means to belong to God.  In kid language. "God's loving laws keep us safe."

Back to our young lass.
It was a true privilege to introduce this kiwi kid to the Lord that night, knowing that a bit of light had penetrated her dark mind that day, exposing her to a whole new way of being and living.  What a treat!  This is why I love children's ministry, namely our Sunday night kids club!
Sadly though, there are millions like her, with absolutely no understanding of who God is.  Millions go through life on the "outside" looking in, hungry to be filled with the love and freedom of a Saviour, but no idea how to make that a reality.  They may use different words or actions, but most people are asking the same question, "Who is God?"

Friends, if you and I don't show them, who will?

By the way, who is that little puppet-man the kids have created in the photo?  You got it; it's Moses.  I know, it looks just like him, don't you think?  :-)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Taupo and Beyond!

 Last weekend I was spoiled with a  very special early birthday present from a dear friend: a free trip to Taupo!  About 7 hours south of Whangarei, Taupo is a small town in the centre of the North Island that is home to a massive crater lake that bears the same name.  Lake Taupo is the largest in New Zealand, feeding the mighty Waikato River and Huka Falls.
 Because the area is a geothermally active and surrounded by volcanoes, there are mysterious spouts of steam shooting up out of the ground all over the place.  It's incredible, really!  Natural thermal hot pools abound and are open all year 'round.  (Who'd ever of thought we'd go swimming outside in the middle of the cold NZ winter!)

Our road trip took us to Waitomo Caves where we found thousands of luminous glow worms lining the cave ceiling and walls!  In truth, these little critters are not worms at all, but rather maggots whose droppings generate an enchanting green light.   How odd of God to make something like a glow worm!

As we continued to venture south we enjoyed mountains and canyons, rivers and waterfalls, even a  flying fox and helicopter ride!  (And just to put your mind at ease, let me remind you that I did not pay a penny for any of this.  No personal or mission funds were used for this excursion. I was truly just blessed and spoiled beyond anything I ever expected!  )

Our visit to Tongariro National Park gave us spectacular views of 3 active volcanoes: Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngaurahoe.  The air was cold and crisp, with a rare blue sky providing the perfect background for photos.  The Tongariro Crossing is a 4 day trek that takes you through the all the mountains and is not for the faint of heart.  It is my hope to return there someday to do the complete crossing.

We even watched three brave souls survive bungee jumping in Gravity Canyon, an extreme sport that originated here in New Zealand.  Though I was tempted to make the jump myself, I opted for tandem ride on the flying fox (zipline) that flies 160KMs/hour through the canyon carved out by the Waikato river below.  Great fun!

For those of you with the itch to travel to the southern hemisphere, Taupo is a definite must-see!  God's creativity and majesty is revealed in the natural beauty that defines the area. 


Saturday, June 7, 2014

" I thought I was the only one."

"Wow, it’s so good to know that I’m not the only one with problems”, she said with a sigh of relief and a smile on her face.  “I always thought I was the only one.”

 These words were spoken by a friend of mine after her first experience with our mid-week Bible study and prayer group.  After a riveting time of studying Jesus’ audacious invitation to “Follow me [. . .]”, the discussion quickly turned to the weighty matter of what it means to follow Jesus in the midst of dangerous and abusive home situations. Half of the women in our group have been victims of domestic violence and are in the process of securing support and taking the road to healing.  They deal with heavy stuff every single day and unfortunately they are not the only ones; family violence is far too common here in Whangarei.   My friend found herself in good company.
 Two of the women had never participated in the small group before, though they attend Sunday morning worship regularly.  I’m always encouraging folks in our congregation to take the plunge and get involved with a small group study knowing the benefits of accountability, support and intimacy that come with being part of a group like that.  Small groups are a tried and true weapon against the devil’s ploy to isolate and deceive.  When we feel alone and detached, our hearts become vulnerable and our minds begin to believe lies that we are worthless and weird. We begin to confuse the rut we’re in for the horizon, and are so easily led astray from God’s loving laws.  
The beauty of the Church (and I mean “Church” with a big “C”. . . God’s global family of Christ-followers) is that she dissolves the lies and readily says, “You’re not alone. You’re not weird.  We care about you as a person and want to see you succeed.”  In the context of a small group of people seeking Jesus together something supernatural happens: in the community of “we”, God can lead “me”.  Rarely does God write in the sky the instructions and solutions for solving our daily dilemmas.  God most often funnels his guidance through his Word (the Bible) and his people (the Church).  

This is exactly what happened for my friend Wednesday night.  She suddenly realized that she wasn’t alone, she wasn’t weird, and there was hope. Other women in the group identified with her struggle; practical help was offered and prayers were prayed on her behalf. While it is not the intention of a small group to commiserate endlessly the woes of life as if there was no hope, sometimes it’s just good to know you’re not the only one.

Consider the lyrics of this powerful song "You Are More" by Tenth Avenue North

“You are more than the choices you have made. 
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes. 
  You are more than the problems you create.
  You’ve been re-made.

'Cause this is not about what you've done,
But what's been done for you.
This is not about where you've been,
But where your brokenness brings you to
This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you new."

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Great Butter Rescue!

Last week as I entered the Salvation Army Food Bank I received some exciting news regarding a certain delicacy of the culinary world.  We received real butter. . .. 1,000 pounds of it! That's over 450 kilograms of the rich, creamy, clog-your-arteries spread that we all love!

This butter was destined for the dump in a local supermarket until our food bank supervisor got wind of the news and made plans to rescue it. Things like butter, cream and yogurt are a rarity for us at the food bank, so this was a really big deal. Due to mislabeling of the product, apparently this perfectly good butter was going to be destroyed, left to rot away in a rubbish heap somewhere, never to be consumed again.  How sad. How wasteful.  Thankfully we were able to give it a good home in our freezers and can now bless clients that come to receive food parcels with this dairy delight.

Who knew one could get so excited about butter!