Saturday, February 28, 2015


Life can be a very scary place for some people, so it's good to know that this life is not all there is. I can't tell you how grateful I am that Jesus is alive and well, roaring like a lion inside of me, assisting me, giving me hope, and interceding for me before the Father night and day.

But what if that weren't the case? 

 As we approach Easter, we've been considering this very simple question, "What if. . ."

  •    What if Jesus didn’t live a sinless life?

  •    What if Jesus didn’t die on a cross?

  •    What if Jesus didn’t rise again?

  •    What if Jesus didn’t ascend to heaven,     sitting at the right hand of the Father in a place of all  authority?

  •    What if Jesus didn’t promise to return?

 If. . . Then. . .

Then life here on planet Earth would be so dreadfully different.  Ponder this for a moment. 

If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again, you wouldn’t be reading this blog, because I wouldn't be writing it.  There would be no fellowship between you and I,  because we wouldn’t have anything in common.

There would be no such thing as grace, which at its very core is treating someone better than they deserve.  It is the completely unmerited favour and kindness of God.

And if there was no grace, there would be no forgiveness either,  for they go hand in hand.   Without forgiveness, the option for starting over, fixing something that broke, or erasing mistakes wouldn’t even exist.  What’s done is done. That’s it.  No erasers on the pencils; no backspace buttons on the keyboard.  No reverse gear for the car.  No such thing as the words, “I’m sorry.”   

 If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again, you wouldn’t have any friends, because the law of self would rule the day.  There would be no grace permeating throughout society, allowing humans the capacity to forgive and make accommodations for one another, because they wouldn’t have any example to follow.

If Jesus didn’t’ live, die and rise again, then there would be no one strong enough to save you from the devil who accuses you before God. Heaven wouldn’t be an option.  Hell would be the destiny for every human.


So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.(Romans 8:1)

10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens,  “It has come at last—    salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God,  and the authority of his Christ.[a] For the accuser of our brothers and sisters[b]  has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them  before our God day and night. (Revelation 12:10)

If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again, then you and I would still be dead in our sins. The ache of guilt that you feel over bad choices you’ve made would gnaw at your soul night and day, with no relief in sight.


He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)

If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again, then I wouldn’t be here in New Zealand, because I wouldn’t be a Christian. And if I wasn’t a Christian, I wouldn’t have been called by God to be a missionary. And if I wasn’t a missionary, then I’d have no reason to have moved 10,000 miles away from home to a foreign place with foreign people who live a foreign way of life.  I wouldn’t have a message to share.  And I surely wouldn’t have met many of you and been blessed by you. 

If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again, then what you see now here on earth is all you’re going to get.  So if your current experience here on this little blue dot in the Milky Way isn't so pleasant. . . Well, poor you.

If Jesus didn’t live, die and rise again, then the suffering you and your loved ones have faced would be wasted, of no purpose, and utterly cruel.


 18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,[j] including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (Romans 8:18-24)

If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again, then you would be powerless to ever overcome that secret addiction that so enslaves you.

If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again,  then that relationship you’re trying to mend would never come right, because there would be no power stronger than your own selfishness to break the cycle of un-grace. A pure example of what self-sacrifice wouldn't exist. 

If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again, then you would still be captive to your old way of life.


17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! ( 1 Corinthians 5:17)

If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again, then you would be hopeless.


26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers[l] in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together[m] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8: 26-28)

If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again, then you would be in charge of your own destiny.  Now that's a frightening thought.  You would be completely incapable to battle the devil who is out to wreck your life, because there would be no one more powerful to overcome him.  The irony is, then, that you really wouldn’t have any control over your life at all.  

If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again, then you’d have no hope of ever again seeing loved ones who have died. 

If Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise again, then most of us would be blind and mute because we’d all still be living eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.  By now we’d have plucked out each others' eyes and knocked out each others' teeth to even the score after every offense.   


“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’[o] 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.  . . . 44 But I say, love your enemies![r] Pray for those who persecute you!

(Matthew 5:38)

If Jesus didn’t live a sinless life, then there would be no one qualified to atone for our sins, because he would be no better than you or me.

If Jesus didn’t live a sinless life, then we’d surely have no hope of resisting temptation, because well, “If Jesus couldn’t do it. . .then how can you expect me to?”


21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,[a] so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (1 Corinthians 5:21)

If Jesus didn’t’ rise again and then ascend to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven, then there would be no power in the name of Jesus.  When you’re tormented by fear in the midnight hours, there would  be no one to save you.


12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then what makes you think there could be anything beyond the grave left for us?

If Jesus hadn’t made the promise to return and set up his Kingdom, then why would we be so urgent about sharing the gospel and introducing people to Jesus?


Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.
19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
What if Jesus wasn't who he said he was and didn't do what he said he did?

Simply put, you’d have no life.

Don’t you see?  Every part of living is wrapped up in Jesus! Jesus is life!

Now what if you lived like you believed this?  What if you prayed like you meant it?  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The grapevine taught me what I didn't learn in school.

As a youngster I did well in school, and dare say I even enjoyed it!  College and university days, though fraught with their own unique stresses, were even better.   And seminary. . .well I'm still in the process of completing my Master's degree, now eight years in the making.

As helpful and necessary as formal education is, we all know there are just some things that can only be learned in the classroom of life.  I feel as though my last 3.5 years here in New Zealand  have been nothing but new learning experiences, ones for which no textbook could prepare me.
How do you support women who are the victims of domestic violence and pastor a church where nearly 50% of its members live in that reality?

What do you do when one of your own teens commits suicide and you are left to support her family and peers, speaking life into the situation when so much around you seems to whisper death?

 What do you do when your closest friend is diagnosed with a brain tumor and you become a  care-giver?

How do you support someone you love who has become the victim of a heinous crime and relives the nightmare of that experience every waking (and sleeping) moment?

How do you convince people that God is in fact alive and well, despite the incomprehensible suffering that would otherwise indicate he must be either dead or asleep?

You don't learn how to deal with this in school.

So how do you cope?  What do you do?  Where do you go?

You go to the Vine.

I have an absolutely gorgeous grapevine in my backyard that is currently "chocka" with grapes ripe for the picking!  What is one to do on a sunny summer Saturday afternoon, but go to the vine to get some grapes?  Go to the vine I did!

 Under the archway I stood, with scissors and a bucket in hand, ready to steal a few of these sweet treats, when I was brought to tears.  The demands of life lately have left my inner self feeling a bit like the back of my neck on a hot summer day: sunburnt, parched, and a bit hot to the touch.  As I stood under that canopy of grapes, the Lord ministered to my spirit.

Jesus' words, spoken in John 15: 5 came to me,
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."

Wide-eyed and grinning from ear to ear I looked up at the grapes, astonished at just how plentiful they were!  It seemed that the more I fiddled with the broad leaves of the vine overhead, the more bundles of grapey goodness I found!  It was like being a kid in a candy store!  (. . .Or if you're like me, an adult in a candy store!  He he!)

Jesus soothed me with his reminder that despite the suffering I've felt and observed, there is much in life that is still beautiful and unspoiled.  The blessing of His presence is exquisite and abundant, like the grapes whose juice was now dripping off my chin.
He told me that I was made to bear fruit, fruit that is sweet and nourishing to those around me, and not only that, but fruit that will last.  These words renewed my sense of purpose in life, generating within me a sure hope for the future, and reminding me that He is my Vine and I can rest assured that if I stay close to Him, I will always have the capacity to give the love and care necessary to those who need me.

You don't learn these things in school.  Sometimes you just have to go to the Vine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

No Cosmic Accident

Day One of "God's DIY Project" was a blast!  What a joy it is to serve the precious children of Whangarei through our weekly Kids Club at New Hope Church!  For some, Kids Club is the only safe place where truth is spoken and the love of God celebrated, and it has become a favourite for many!
 Our session included a study of Genesis chapter 1, the creation of the heavens and the earth, and a discussion on what makes human beings unique from every other creature under the sun. We are stamped by the Divine, bearing the image of God in our very beings, making us His greatest prize.

Children need to know that we are not the product of some big bang or a cosmic accident, nor are we just a combination of chemical reactions.  As children get older and begin to face significant questions about identity, purpose, and destiny, evolutionary theory provides no help.  No big bang theory is going to offer you comfort when life loses its luster and the bottom falls out. These lies only strip mankind of intrinsic value, leaving it lacking in purpose and therefore hope.

The truth is that we are the product of a grand design, intended for extraordinary relationship with our Creator.  What a marvelous thought!  What words of hope!